WWE News: Reviews, Analysis and Rumors for Week of Feb. 24
Photo courtesy of WWE.com
Although it was already apparent to many wrestling fans, the WrestleMania XXIX main event was officially announced on Monday as John Cena beat CM Punk to retain his guaranteed title shot. By virtue of that impressive victory, Cena will face The Rock on the grandest stage of them all for the second consecutive year.
There are obviously mixed feelings about The Rock vs. Cena II, but there is no denying the fact that their second bout will bring in a huge viewing audience. The true challenge will be keeping the hardcore fans interested over the course of the next five weeks. Even for those who aren't excited about the match, though, plenty of other action is going on in the WWE right now too.
The Undertaker made a shocking return at a WWE house show last week, his longtime rival Triple H came back on Raw, the WWE announced a popular theme for the upcoming episode of Raw and a celebrity inductee was added to the WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class. Expect each and every week prior to 'Mania to be jam packed like this one has been.
Keep reading to see analysis on all of the biggest news and rumors involving the WWE for the week beginning of Feb. 24.
The Rock vs. John Cena Set for WrestleMania XXIX
Last year's WrestleMania battle between The Rock and John Cena was easily one of the most anticipated 'Mania matches of all time as it was announced one year in advance.
While they provided a big-match atmosphere, many fans were critical of the build toward their match as well as the quality of the match itself. Those fans had better brace themselves—they're in for a case of deja vu.
Cena finally conquered his demons and defeated CM Punk on Raw. Cena also stamped his WrestleMania ticket in the process as he retained his shot at The Rock's WWE Championship.
There was a strong possibility they would meet again the second that The Rock pinned Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII. A rematch is certainly a violation of the "once in a lifetime" tagline that fans love to point to so often, but the WWE is doing what it feels is best for business.
I like to see new feuds and matches at WrestleMania as much as any other fan, but special exceptions have to be made for rivalries that transcend professional wrestling. There is no question that The Rock vs. Cena fits in that category.
Not only do The Rock and Cena appeal to the vast majority of the WWE's fanbase, but they also garner mainstream interest. The Rock is a hugely popular actor, and Cena is the best-known professional wrestler in the world, so this matchup makes sense on so many different levels for the WWE.
It can definitely be argued that the time between the announcement of the match and the match itself was a negative last year, so the fact that the build will resemble a sprint more than a marathon this year should be viewed as a positive.
Also, while their WrestleMania XXVIII encounter wasn't among the greatest matches ever, I thoroughly enjoyed it because it felt important from start to finish. Provided The Rock and Cena bring that same intensity to the table this year, I'm sure myself and most other fans will walk away satisfied.
The Undertaker Returns at Waco, Texas House Show
The closer WrestleMania got, the more paranoid fans became with regard to The Undertaker's status. With the exception of a one-off appearance on the 1,000th episode of Raw, Taker hadn't been seen in a WWE ring since defeating Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Rumors ran rampant regarding The Undertaker's health and contract status, but the speculation can officially rest in peace as The Deadman made a surprise appearance last week.
During a house show in Waco, Texas, Taker was revealed as Sheamus' tag-team partner against Damien Sandow and Wade Barrett. The Undertaker's return whipped the live audience into a frenzy and had Internet fans scrambling to explain the odd circumstances. Taker has yet to make an official return on WWE programming, but at this point it is a matter of when he will return rather than if he will return at all.
Interestingly enough, even though I've been a wrestling fan since 1995, I have never really considered myself to be a huge fan of The Undertaker. Taker has remained present throughout my time as a viewer, however, so I have inevitably come to respect him in a major way.
I may not be as excited about his return as many others are, but there is absolutely no question that it is great for everyone involved with professional wrestling. The Undertaker is the personification of WrestleMania, and I would have had a hard time fully enjoying WrestleMania XXIX if he weren't on the card.
Luckily, that issue has been delayed for at least another year as The Phenom figures to face CM Punk in what could be one of the greatest 'Mania matches ever. Taker vs. Punk isn't set in stone quite yet, but Punk is outside of the WWE Championship scene and there isn't a big enough star on the roster for him to face outside of The Undertaker.
I also have to applaud the WWE's tactics with Taker thus far as the house-show return has built anticipation and has fans tuning in to see his televised return, which could very well take place this week.
WWE Announces Old School Raw for Monday
In order to break things up a bit, the WWE likes to add a theme of some kind to Raw on occasion. Some of those themes, such as Raw Roulette, are lame, while others are a lot of fun, such as The Slammy Awards.
One such theme that was extremely successful a few years ago but hasn't been utilized since was Old School Raw. The lone Old School Raw took place in November of 2010 ahead of Survivor Series, and it featured a throwback set, old graphics and plenty of legends.
Many fans have been hoping for Old School Raw to return, and they have finally gotten their wish. WWE announced on the most recent edition of Raw that next week's episode would be going old school.
There is no doubt that it is interesting placement as the road to WrestleMania is in full force, but if the WWE uses the theme to its advantage, it can certainly add a lot to the build. Whatever the case, old-school fans such as myself are sure to enjoy the festivities.
As a fan who has an immense appreciation for the history of wrestling, I am extremely excited for Monday's Old School Raw. As a native of Buffalo, N.Y. who will also be attending the show, I'm as giddy as a little kid on Christmas morning.
I realize that detractors believe Old School Raw will take away from the WrestleMania build or expect to see "the same old legends," but Old School Raw should be viewed as a special treat rather than a sideshow.
According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan are all confirmed for Monday's show.
That isn't particularly surprising since all of them were featured in the commercial, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless. They may be the usual suspects, but all of them are true legends and I certainly won't complain about them appearing.
In addition, Old School Raw is the perfect stage for The Undertaker to make his return as no wrestler on the roster represents "old school" more than he does. If that comes to fruition, then Monday's Raw promises to be one of the best in recent memory.
Triple H Returns on Raw
Triple H's last WWE match took place at SummerSlam as he was forced to tap out to Brock Lesnar's Kimura Lock. After that bout, Triple H appeared to be on the brink of retirement, although he never actually committed to hanging up the boots.
Even so, most fans realized that it was just a way for the WWE to get him off television until the road to WrestleMania. That school of thought proved right on Monday as Triple H returned to prevent Lesnar from attacking his father-in-law, Vince McMahon.
Triple H was sporting his new corporate look as he shaved his signature locks, but his demeanor was reminiscent of "The Game" from years past.
Triple H punished Lesnar and even busted him open on the ring post. Lesnar fought back as he tossed Triple H on the table and then attempted to use a steel chair, but Triple H countered and hit Lesnar with the chair instead.
Lesnar retreated, and it was blatantly clear at that point that a rematch between Lesnar and Triple H is in the cards at WrestleMania XXIX.
Triple H may very well be one of the most polarizing figures in wrestling as most casual fans seem to love him, while the hardcore, Internet fanbase has some irrational hatred toward him. Some contend that he buried his talent over the years and only got as far as he did because he married Stephanie McMahon.
I certainly don't fall into that camp as I can plainly see that Triple H has always had talent and was heading to the top with or without Steph in tow. With that said, I was very happy to see Triple H back in the picture and look forward to his WrestleMania match.
His match with Lesnar at SummerSlam was different from what we're accustomed to seeing as it took on the appearance of an actual fight rather than a wrestling match. I thought it was entertaining, though, as it made their feud feel personal.
There is still some bad blood between them from a storyline perspective, and a match announcement is certainly forthcoming. In a perfect world, their WrestleMania match will come with a Hell in a Cell stipulation, which would add to the brutality of what is sure to be a vicious encounter regardless.
Donald Trump to Be Inducted into WWE Hall of Fame
Since a celebrity hadn't yet been announced as an inductee into the WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class, many fans were wondering if the WWE might refrain from that this year.
It was announced on Monday, however, that business magnate and television host Donald Trump would be added to an already stellar lineup. Trump joins the likes of Mick Foley, Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Trish Stratus to form arguably the greatest WWE Hall of Fame class of all time.
Trump rarely got physical on WWE programming when he got involved, but he played a significant role in the product over the years. His love affair with the WWE started in 1988 when Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ played host to WrestleMania IV. Trump Plaza hosted WrestleMania V the following year as well, so Trump was firmly entrenched.
Trump's most memorable involvement came at WrestleMania 23 in the "Battle of the Billionaires" match. Bobby Lashley defeated Umaga, which meant that Trump earned the right to shave Vince McMahon's head.
There has been no shortage of vitriol spewed in Trump's direction since the announcement was made, and I can certainly understand it in some ways. Trump was obviously never a wrestler, so a lot of fans resent him making the Hall of Fame while a guy like "Macho Man" Randy Savage is still waiting.
Also, Trump has gotten more and more radical in his political beliefs over the years, so he has obviously rubbed a portion of the WWE audience the wrong way. Even so, we have to judge this based on the knowledge that the Hall of Fame has a celebrity wing. When compared to other enshrined celebrities, Trump is deserving.
He has been involved with the WWE for decades and has made multiple appearances, whereas guys like Drew Carey and Pete Rose, who are already in, have made less of an impact.
I'm no fan of Trump personally and find him brash and arrogant, but even I can see the value in putting him in the Hall of Fame. Even if you hate it, take solace in that the other four members of the 2013 class are legends in the wrestling business and will ultimately be the focus of the event.