Although the WWE always seems to be moving forward, the biggest news of the week came in the form of a blast from the past. With WrestleMania approaching, the WWE has been announcing inductees for the WWE Hall of Fame's class of 2013. Arguably, the biggest splash in Hall of Fame history was made when Bruno Sammartino was named as an inductee on Raw.
Sammartino is the longest-reigning WWE Champion of all-time, and many would say that he is the greatest professional wrestler of all-time as well. It took the WWE years of prodding to get him to agree to be enshrined, but it finally has come to fruition. There has always been talk about the WWE Hall of Fame being illegitimate, but perhaps Sammartino's induction will quiet such criticism.
In addition to that, there is plenty going on with the current product as well. A former World Heavyweight Champion made his long-awaited return to WWE programming on Monday night. Also, a major match was announced for Elimination Chamber, a current TNA star's alumni profile was added to WWE.com and rumors are running rampant with regards to the potential location of WrestleMania XXX.
Here are the biggest news stories and rumors surrounding the WWE for the week of Feb. 3.
Although I can't help but feel like some people take the WWE Hall of Fame a bit too seriously, there is no question that there are some glaring omissions that need to be rectified. The WWE took care of perhaps the biggest issue on Monday, though, as it was announced that Bruno Sammartino would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden on the night before WrestleMania XXIX.
Sammartino had been asked by Vince McMahon many times in the past to enter the Hall of Fame, but The Living Legends always declined. Sammartino didn't like the direction the WWE went in following his career, most notably due to the rampant drug and steroid use. Triple H assured Sammartino that things are different now, however. And he must have been convincing because Sammartino has been impressed with the current product and finally decided to end his lengthy WWE boycott.
At 23 years of age, I never had the honor of watching Sammartino wrestle live, but I have seen many of his matches and fully understand the impact that he made on the WWE and professional wrestling, as a whole. The fact that he held the WWE Championship for more than 11 years in total is incredible, as is the fact that he headlined and sold out Madison Square Garden 187 times. It has always been said that if someone can make it in New York, then they can make it anywhere. Sammartino was one of the city's main attractions in the 1960's and 1970's, and he is one of the WWE's biggest stars ever.
A lot of people want to blame McMahon for the fact that this took so long, but I don't believe that's fair. Sammartino had preconceived notions about the WWE because of drug use in the 1980's and early 1990's, but things have been different for the past several years. I can't say for sure who is using and who isn't on the current roster, but it just seems like steroid and drug use isn't prevalent any longer. Luckily, Triple H was able to explain that to Sammartino and convince him to change his stance. The 2013 WWE Hall of Fame class was already a strong one, but Sammartino's inclusion makes it the best ever.
It has been nearly 10 months since Mark Henry was last seen in a WWE ring, but he picked up right where he left off on Monday night. Following a match between Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio, The World's Strongest Man's music hit and he was out to prove a point. Henry threw Bryan into the barricade and then destroyed Mysterio. Sin Cara attempted to make the save, but he received a World's Strongest Slam for his troubles. This type of attack was commonplace for Henry prior to his injury, so it was nice to see him dominating once again.
Henry's WWE future was certainly unclear, and there was no guarantee that he would ever be able to wrestle again. He is 41 years old and it's well known that injuries don't heel as quickly or completely as a wrestler continues to get older. Henry seemed to move around well on Monday, though, and is now poised to potentially enter the World Heavyweight Championship scene on SmackDown with Elimination Chamber just a week away.
I was never a fan of Henry prior to the summer of 2011, but things changed when he was given a monster heel character. Henry took that gimmick, embraced it and, ultimately, ran with it. It was by far the best work of his 15-year WWE career. Previously, Henry had always been a mid-card guy, and he was used far too often as a comedy act. There was nothing funny about Henry in late 2011, though, as he was all business, and that eventually led to him defeating Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions.
Henry only held the title for a couple months and was injured soon after, but his performance changed the way that fans look at him. Things have been pretty stale on SmackDown since last WrestleMania, with Big Show assuming Henry's role as the unstoppable heel. Henry is significantly better in that role, however, so hopefully he gets a chance to show that. I have to imagine that Henry will be included in the Elimination Chamber match to determine the No. 1 contender for the world title, and if he is, I certainly hope that he prevails.
The Elimination Chamber card was already shaping up to be a good one, as The Rock versus CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio versus Big Show and a No. 1 contender's chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship were in place. Things got even better on Monday, when John Cena announced after Raw that he would team with Ryback and Sheamus to take on The Shield in a six-man tag team match.
Since Cena has already said that he will challenge the WWE Champion at WrestleMania by virtue of his Royal Rumble win, there wasn't much for him to do in the interim. When The Shield attacked him a couple weeks ago, however, it became clear that he would get involved with them. Ryback and Sheamus have been on the receiving end of Shield attacks for several weeks, so they are logical partners to do battle alongside Cena. There should be plenty of hard-hitting action, but it's anyone's guess how the match itself will play out.
As a big fan of The Shield, I'm excited to see them in their second official WWE match at Elimination Chamber. They performed extremely well at TLC in beating Ryback and Team Hell No, and I even rated that match as the best of 2012. The Shield obviously has a lot to live up to, but Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are all very talented workers. They thrive in a hardcore environment, so the fact that it appears as though they will be wrestling a standard six-man tag is a bit disappointing, but it could allow the WWE to book a finish that ultimately protects both teams.
The big issue is that neither team can afford to lose this match cleanly. The Shield would lose a ton of momentum and could easily go the way of Nexus. Cena needs a win, as he is going to be headlining WrestleMania, and Ryback needs one as well after having lost at four consecutive pay-per-views. The best way to go about things would be to have The Shield lose by disqualification. The Shield is all about causing chaos and destruction anyway, so they would look strong if they disregarded the rules and beat the face team to a pulp. That way Cena, Ryback and Sheamus will get the win, but The Shield stands tall.
It has been a few years since Jeff Hardy last graced a WWE ring with his presence, but he is suddenly back in the WWE spotlight. Hardy's profile was added to the WWE.com alumni section, which is essentially a catalog of former WWE superstars. Most of them are retired, and many of them are involved with the WWE in some way, but Hardy is a departure from the norm. Due to the fact that he is still employed by TNA, his presence on WWE.com came as a shock to many.
Interestingly enough, this came on the same day that TNA signed Hardy to a contract extension. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, it is a two-year contract that ensures that he will be with the company through 2015. That means that any hopes that WWE fans had of Hardy returning to the WWE in the near future were dashed. Even so, it's cool to see the WWE embracing its former stars regardless of what they're doing now.
Nobody really knows for sure why the WWE decided to suddenly promote Hardy's alumni profile, but I have a theory. News travels pretty fast in the wrestling world, so there is probably a pretty good chance that the WWE learned of Hardy's contract extension with TNA before it was announced. If that was the case, then perhaps the WWE wanted to steal the spotlight from TNA. If that was indeed the goal, then the WWE certainly accomplished it. People were talking about the possibility of Hardy coming back to the WWE and his actual extension was overshadowed in a lot of ways.
I suppose that it could be a coincidence, but the timing is curious, to say the least. Another possible explanation is that TNA and Hardy have had an agreement in place and Dixie Carter decided to announce it once she learned of the WWE adding his alumni profile. Doing so definitely squelched the Hardy to WWE rumors, although WWE still seemed to make more headlines than TNA, as is always the case. I'm not much of a Hardy fan, so I'm fine with him staying in TNA. Even though TNA is never going to be a credible threat to WWE, it needs to keep its top talent in order to remain relevant to some degree, so re-signing Hardy was a smart move.
With WrestleMania XXIX taking place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J, it seems as though the WWE's tradition of holding every 10th WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden is unlikely to continue. Consecutive WrestleMania's in the New York/New Jersey area would be a major surprise, and the WWE has moved toward hosting WrestleMania exclusively at stadiums due to the huge amount of revenue that such large venues can generate.
Cowboys Stadium was considered a leading candidate for a while, but it was eliminated as a possibility over the past couple months. That doesn't leave the WWE with a ton of options, but according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has a stranglehold on the competition. Nothing is official, but the WWE stands to receive a large tax credit if the event is held in New Orleans. With Elimination Chamber taking place in New Orleans, an announcement could be made within the next week.
As a wrestling purist, Madison Square Garden was my preferred choice for WrestleMania XXX. MSG has been WWE's home base for years and shows always seem more special when they happen there. I understand that the wrestling business has changed, though, and MSG simply can't compete with large stadiums that routinely sell out for WrestleMania. With that in mind, New Orleans would be an excellent choice on the WWE's part.
New Orleans has never hosted WrestleMania, but it has been an ideal venue for many huge sporting events over the years. Super Bowl XLVII was held at the Superdome a week ago, and it was considered a rousing success—save for the 34-minute delay due to a partial power outage. I have to assume that those issues will be rectified over the next year, so I fully support a New Orleans WrestleMania. Perhaps no city in the world knows how to throw a party as well as New Orleans, so it will certainly provide an atmosphere that is fitting of a huge event like WrestleMania.