During WrestleMania season, there isn't much time for the WWE to stop and address other issues, but the company made an exception on Monday when it paid tribute to the late Paul Bearer. Not only did the company remember an all-time great manager, but it even managed to tastefully incorporate him into a storyline.
The Undertaker fittingly mourned Bearer's loss, but he was interrupted by CM Punk. Although Punk didn't actually say anything negative about Bearer, his presence was viewed as disrespectful by many fans. Kane got revenge on Punk by beating him later in the night, but Punk got the last laugh after he stole the urn and took off with it.
While that was the main thing worth keeping tabs on this week, there were plenty of other happenings as well. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman gave their answer to Triple H's WrestleMania challenge, two popular divas made their return to WWE programming and several rumored WrestleMania matches are being discussed right now, although it's unclear what is true and what isn't.
Keep reading for in-depth analysis on all of the aforementioned news and rumors surrounding the WWE for the week beginning on March 10, and a whole lot more.
It came as a shock to many last week when it was reported that Paul Bearer had passed away at the age of 58. Bearer was a huge part of the WWE product for a very long time, and he was integral to the success of The Undertaker as well as Kane. He was an incredibly unique individual and there is no question that he was among the greatest managers that the business has ever seen.
At the time of his death, Bearer was under a legends contract with the WWE and was still used by the company under special circumstances. Just last year, he was placed in the Kane vs. Randy Orton feud and he certainly added to the intrigue. Most fans always expected to see him again on WWE programming at some point, but unfortunately, that won't be the case. It is important to remember what Bearer accomplished and what he did for the WWE over the years, and the WWE did precisely that on Monday night.
There will always be detractors for everything the WWE does, but I am extremely impressed with the way the company handled Bearer's passing. The opening video package was fantastic, as it featured highlights of Bearer's career as well as commentary from Vince McMahon and many others. It was a fitting way to start the show and the fans certainly responded.
The WWE made another great decision by having The Undertaker kneel in front of the urn. Taker's WrestleMania opponent, CM Punk, then interrupted The Undertaker's tribute and talked about how he would end the streak at 'Mania.
During the commercial break, Kane attempted to attack Punk, which led to a match between them later in the night. Kane won that bout in order to get some measure of revenge, but Punk attacked him with the urn. Taker tried to make the save, however, Punk got away and took the urn with him. Not only did the WWE pay proper respect to Bearer with the opening video package and clips throughout the night, but it also managed to use his spirit to further an important storyline.
There are fans out there who are outraged by what Punk did, but knowing how much Bearer loved the business, there is little doubt that he would be proud of the way things were handled. Bearer's sons were also in attendance at Raw, and The Undertaker was obviously there as well. If any of them felt uncomfortable with Bearer's storyline involvement, then it wouldn't have happened.
After returning to stop Brock Lesnar from attacking Vince McMahon, Triple H issued a WrestleMania XXIX challenge to his rival on the old school edition of Raw. Lesnar gave his answer on Monday—and he gave it emphatically.
Lesnar interfered during a match between the New Age Outlaws and Team Rhodes Scholars. Lesnar destroyed Triple H's former D-Generation X cohorts, as he hit both Billy Gunn and Road Dogg with his patented F-5 finisher.
Paul Heyman then got on the mic and cut a terrific promo. He said that Lesnar would accept Triple H's challenge under one condition. The condition was that Lesnar can add any stipulations that he pleases to the match, but Triple H must sign the contract blindly without being privy to the stipulations. Heyman essentially goaded Triple H into accepting those terms after he insinuated that Triple H was a coward if he didn't give in to their demands.
It seems like there are plenty of fans out there who are lukewarm about Triple H vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania since they already wrestled at SummerSlam and since Triple H winning seems fairly obvious. Even so, the WWE has actually done a spectacular job of building up the feud thus far.
The opening brawl between Triple H and Lesnar a few weeks ago was great, as it announced Triple H's return and proved that he can go toe-to-toe with Lesnar after losing to him at SummerSlam. Triple H's promo was also solid, as it explained the reasoning behind his return.
The WWE kept things moving in the right direction on Monday with Lesnar's attack of the Outlaws. I don't believe that anyone saw that coming, but it was a brilliant move on the WWE's part because it allowed Lesnar to hit Triple H without actually doing anything to him physically.
As for the potential stipulations, I'm in favor of Hell in a Cell, but it seems more likely that we'll get a street fight, which is perfectly fine. Also, I imagine that Heyman may slip something in that says Triple H must retire if he loses. If that is the case, then it will certainly add a bit more intrigue to the bout.
One of the most surprising to developments to come out of Monday's episode of Raw was the return of the Bella Twins. The Bellas hadn't been seen since the night after Extreme Rules last year after they allowed their contracts to expire and opted not to re-sign. The Bellas came back as dates for Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes, but it seems as though they will be used as key cogs in the divas division moving forward, as they had some choice words for Kaitlyn.
Perhaps the Bellas coming back isn't the WWE news of the year, but it definitely came as a shock to me. The WWE has done a better job of keeping things under wraps lately, as the dirt sheets have been unable to scoop them. Chris Jericho's Royal Rumble return, The Undertaker's house show return and the Bellas all come to mind as examples. If nothing else, this goes to show that the WWE is still capable of surprising us, despite the current landscape of the world we live in.
Most fans are probably indifferent toward the Bella Twins returning, especially since the WWE has obviously put the divas division on the back burner as of late, but there is truly no downside to this decision.
Nikki and Brie aren't the greatest in-ring workers, but both of them have fairly strong personalities and are solid on the mic. They are also capable of being heels or faces, so they give the WWE a lot of versatility. Since they are twins, it is easy to view them as one entity, but they are two separate divas who have been added to the roster, which is a big deal when you consider how thin the current crop is.
I would imagine the fact that Nikki and Brie are dating John Cena and Daniel Bryan, respectively, has something to do with their return. Also, there has been some talk about the WWE offering past divas more money, but there is no way to confirm that.
If the WWE is looking to bring back some former divas, though, I would be on board with Maryse coming back. She has been out of the fold for a while, but she is engaged to The Miz and could possibly be convinced to return. All of this is speculation at this point, but maybe the Bellas have opened the floodgates for more former divas to reenter the fray.
Since Chris Jericho's return as the No. 2 entrant in the Royal Rumble, the WWE has been at a loss in regards to how he should be used. It initially looked like he was going to feud with Dolph Ziggler, but Ziggler has moved on in an attempt to become the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. When that conquest failed, Jericho set his sights on The Shield. He then took a couple weeks off in order to tour with Fozzy in Australia, and when he returned on Monday, he was suddenly involved with Wade Barrett and The Miz.
There has been no rhyme or reason to the way Jericho has been handled, and if the rumors are true regarding his potential WrestleMania XXIX opponent, then it appears as though the madness will continue. According to Gerweck.net (via Wrestling Observer Newsletter), Jericho is currently scheduled to face Fandango at WrestleMania. Yes, that is the same Fandango who has yet to compete in a televised WWE bout.
When I first saw this rumor I told myself that there is no way that it's going to happen, and while I still don't necessarily believe that the WWE is going to go through with it, it wouldn't shock me.
The obvious move would have been for Jericho to face Ziggler at WrestleMania, but it seems like the WWE has moved away from that. A continuance of his new feud with Barrett and Miz is also possible, but it seems more likely that Barrett and Miz will develop into a singles angle. That would leave Y2J with virtually no options, so Fandango suddenly becomes someone worth discussing.
The WWE loves to capitalize on mainstream popularity, so with Dancing With The Stars coming up, the WWE may see a window of opportunity here. Fandango's gimmick is that of a ballroom dancer, while Jericho was on DWTS in the past, so there is a connection. Also, Fandango's current trolling of the fans by refusing to wrestle is similar to Jericho not speaking for weeks following his return in early 2012.
I am intrigued by Fandango and I'm a huge Jericho fan, but this doesn't seem like the best utilization of Y2J. He and Ziggler would have a fantastic bout at WrestleMania, and that is the direction in which the creative team should go.
As "Mr. Money in the Bank," there is no question that Dolph Ziggler should be a featured player on the WrestleMania XXIX card. Having him face Chris Jericho would have been perfect for the mid-card and it would have made Ziggler look like a million bucks if he went over. Unfortunately, the WWE has gone away from that rivalry for reasons unbeknownst to me. Instead it seems like the WWE may be moving toward putting Ziggler in what may amount to be a throwaway match on the grandest stage of them all.
According to WrestlingInc.com (via PWInsider.com), Ziggler is currently scheduled to team up with Big E Langston against Team Hell No in a match for the Tag Team Championships. I wouldn't mind something like this on a normal pay-per-view, but WrestleMania represents a big opportunity for the WWE to showcase a guy like Ziggler. Overshadowing him with Langston, as well as with the turmoil between Kane and Daniel Bryan, is a curious decision to say the least.
As is the case with Jericho vs. Fandango, I understand that this is just a rumor, so I'm certainly not buying into it yet. With that said, Bryan did insult A.J. last week and Langston took out Bryan on Raw, so it's definitely possible that something is brewing.
A Ziggler and Langston tag team would be a great mix of athleticism and raw power, but this isn't the time or place for them to become an entity. Not only would this match rob Ziggler of a potential WrestleMania moment (save for a cash-in), but it indirectly hurts a lot of other guys on the roster as well.
Ziggler and Langston have never teamed together yet they're going to be given a tag title match out of the blue? That makes little sense when you consider the fact that teams like Team Rhodes Scholars, Prime Time Players, Brodus Clay and Tensai, The Usos and countless others should be ahead of them in line.
I figured there would be a tag-team turmoil match of some kind, but if this bout happens, then a lot of duos will be left off the card. Ziggler and Langston have no business competing for the Tag Team Championships, and hopefully, the creative team comes to that same realization.