As WrestleMania XXIX gets closer with each passing week, the news and rumors emanating from the WWE get bigger as well. Professional wrestling's biggest show of the year is now just a month away and that was very apparent over the past week as plenty of noteworthy things happened on WWE programming.
Even though this is a hugely important time for the WWE, some things simply take precedence. That was the case this week as it was announced on Tuesday night that Paul Bearer had died at the age of 58. Bearer will always be remembered as one of the best wrestling managers of all time, and no fan will ever forget his partnership with The Undertaker.
Coincidentally, The Phenom made his televised return to the WWE one night prior to Bearer's untimely death. Taker appeared twice on Old School Raw and will face CM Punk at WrestleMania. Additionally, a legendary tag team returned to action and could be back for the foreseeable future. WWE also settled on a name for its upcoming June pay-per-view, and there are huge changes taking place within the company's creative structure.
Here are juiciest news pieces and rumors regarding the WWE for the week beginning on March 3.
The wrestling community was shocked to learn on Tuesday night that longtime WWE manager Paul Bearer passed away. Bearer is unquestionably one of the most popular professional wrestling managers of all time, and he is arguably the greatest as well. Bearer was extremely successful in the South as Percy Pringle prior to joining the WWE in 1991, but he reached new heights after that point.
Bearer was immediately paired with The Undertaker due to the fact that they had worked together previously and because of his background as a mortician. As hellacious as they seemed on television, Bearer and The Undertaker were a match made in heaven. The two of them would remain together for many years and were real-life friends even after they split up from a storyline sense. Bearer is one of the great characters in wrestling history, and he will surely be missed by many.
News of Bearer's death certainly took me by surprise on Tuesday night. As far as I knew, he was doing well in terms of his health since getting gastric bypass surgery and losing a ton of weight, but apparently that wasn't entirely true. It isn't yet known what caused Bearer to pass, but according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Bearer was battling an upper respiratory infection at the time of his death. Whatever the case, 58 years of age is far too young, and it certainly puts things in perspective. Bearer and The Undertaker were always made to seem invincible, so the loss of Bearer doesn't seem real even though it unfortunately is.
I had the great fortune of interviewing Bearer on an episode of Ring Rust Radio a couple months ago and needless to say, I'm now incredibly grateful that I had such an opportunity. Although the interview was only a half hour long, I could have listened to him speak for hours. He was an absolute gentleman, and he had so many great stories about his time in the business. It wasn't hard for me to fathom the outpouring of support from the wrestling world following Bearer's death based on what I know about him as a person. It's extremely sad that we'll never get to see him walk beside The Undertaker again, but we can all take solace in what he accomplished as a manager and as a man.
Ever since his surprise return at a recent WWE house show in Waco, Texas, WWE fans have eagerly anticipated the on-screen return of The Undertaker. Taker didn't show up on last week's episode of Raw in Dallas, so that only fueled speculation that he would be present at Old School Raw in Buffalo, N.Y. That was indeed the case as Taker opened the show by appearing on the ramp. He also ended the show by standing on the stage once again.
After Taker's initial appearance, CM Punk cut a promo about how he aimed to end the streak at WrestleMania XXIX. Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show also expressed interest in doing the same thing though, so a Fatal 4-Way was set up by Vickie Guerrero in order to determine who would earn the right to contest the streak. Punk ultimately won the match as expected, and it led to a stare-down between he and Taker. There was no physical contact and there were no words exchanged between them, but a blockbuster match is officially in place for 'Mania.
As someone who had the good fortune of attending the show, I was hoping all day on Monday that Taker would be present. There were rumors throughout the day about The Undertaker being seen at the airport or being seen at First Niagara Center, but none of those things can ever be trusted. My hopes ascended even higher as the day wore on due to the presence of Taker's logo on the WWE Active app. Also, WWE sent me a text message that simply said, "I have risen." I was almost sure that The Undertaker would appear after seeing that, but it didn't hit me until he actually came out to start Raw.
It isn't as if Taker did anything other than stand on the stage twice, but seeing him live was surreal. I can't even remember the last time I saw The Undertaker in person prior to Monday night and there is certainly no guarantee that I'll see him live at a WWE event ever again. Because of that, I took the time to cherish the moment and soak in the atmosphere that his presence created. I've never actually considered Taker to be one of my favorites, but he's one of the best of all time, and I can't wait to see how his feud and subsequent match with Punk plays out.
It was fairly well known heading into Old School Raw that the New Age Outlaws would make an appearance of some kind. Triple H mentioned them on Twitter, so it was simply a matter of when and how they would be utilized. I figured they would cut a promo or do a backstage segment, and I would have been perfectly fine with that. It took many by surprise when Road Dogg and Billy Gunn returned to the ring and defeated Primo and Epico, however.
While Monday didn't mark the official reunion of the New Age Outlaws since they did wrestle Team Rhodes Scholars on the house show circuit a couple months back, it was the first time they teamed on WWE programming in well over a decade. The fans were treated to all of the Outlaws' typical antics as Road Dogg was gold on the mic and Gunn excelled in the ring. There were a lot of cool moments at Old School Raw, but seeing the New Age Outlaws competing together again may have taken the cake.
As a kid I was always a huge fan of Shawn Michaels, so I naturally came to love D-Generation X as well. Even after Michaels left the WWE due to injury, DX was among my favorite things in wrestling. When the New Age Outlaws joined the group they reached new heights and ultimately became one of the greatest tag teams in WWE history. I had the pleasure of seeing some awesome things at Old School Raw on Monday night, but the New Age Outlaws wrestling topped everything, including The Undertaker's return, from my perspective.
While the Outlaws wrestling would have been a cool, one-time thing, I'm hoping that they become part of the active roster and have at least one more short run. They have already accepted a challenge to face Team Rhodes Scholars on Monday, so perhaps the ball will really get rolling after that. I believe that the best thing the WWE can do is have the New Age Outlaws beat Team Hell No for the Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania. This would allow Kane and Daniel Bryan to break up and then the Outlaws can put another team like Rhodes Scholars over in a big way. It would be beneficial to the tag division and the fans, so it's really a no-brainer on the WWE's part.
The WWE's 2013 pay-per-view schedule has been settled for quite some time with the exception of one uncertainty. An event was scheduled to take place on June 16 from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., but that PPV was unnamed. That is no longer the case, however, as it will be called WWE Payback, according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com.
It's fair to say that the WWE Universe's reaction to the name has been split thus far. Some seem to like it, as it doesn't relate to a gimmick match and can be left open to interpretation. Others hate it for what seems like a multitude of different reasons. One of them is disliking the name in general and wishing for the WWE to revert back to a past name like Backlash or Vengeance. The hatred may also stem from the fact that King of the Ring used to take place in June, so I'm sure there were many fans out there who were anticipating its return.
I usually have strong opinions on anything related to wrestling, but I'm pretty indifferent about the Payback name. It admittedly isn't the greatest pay-per-view name the WWE has ever come up with, but it won't prevent me or anyone else from enjoying it, provided it's a good card. I'll take a normal pay-per-view with a lame name over most gimmick pay-per-views any day of the week because it actually allows the writers to have some creative freedom. They won't be married to a match type, and they won't be forced to build feuds around it.
With that said, I'm definitely one of the guys who would have loved the return of King of the Ring. I can understand why some people wouldn't want to see it, as the past couple winners haven't really benefited much, but there are ways to change that. Rather than forcing the winner to act like a king, perhaps they would simply earn a world title shot at SummerSlam. It would be very much like the Royal Rumble since the winner gets to choose what title they want to compete for two pay-per-views from the time of their victory. The WWE could have incorporated that into their summer schedule with King of the Ring and it certainly would have made SummerSlam seem more important.
Read More: WWE to Name Upcoming June PPV "Payback"
The WWE doesn't often offer a look behind the scenes, but there are some things that simply can't be kept secret. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, vice president of creative writing Eric Pankowski was relieved of his duties and the WWE is openly looking for his replacement. The report suggests that Pankowski didn't exactly get along well with the talent, so apparently the WWE is trying to create a better working atmosphere moving forward.
In all likelihood, the WWE will hire someone who is foreign to wrestling fans, so it's difficult to say what this change will mean for the on-screen product. Pankowski was hired back in October, and while there have certainly been some good things on WWE programming since then, there is plenty that needs to improve as well. I can't imagine that this job is an easy one, but it's definitely an integral one in terms of producing shows that the fans can enjoy and take pride in.
I know what you're thinking, but I regret to inform you that I won't be throwing my hat into the ring. In all seriousness, 10 years of television writing and producing experience is a prerequisite for the position, according to the WWE's corporate website, so I'm certainly not qualified. Truth be told, the WWE's lofty standards eliminate a lot of people from consideration. It makes sense that the WWE wants its vice president of creative writing to be well-versed in television since the WWE does produce TV shows after all. However, I can't help but think that knowledge of the product should be the most important quality a candidate possesses.
The biggest name that I have seen fans throw around thus far is Paul Heyman. Obviously Heyman would be a great choice, as he ran his own wrestling company in the form of ECW and did the booking as well. He also booked on SmackDown a decade ago and did a fantastic job. With that said, there are no guarantees that Heyman even wants to take on that much responsibility. Also, the WWE tends to gravitate toward people who have worked on sitcoms or soap operas, so I anticipate the company going in that direction.