It is WrestleMania season baby!
Around this time of year, everyone gets excited as WWE builds up for the best night of the year, WrestleMania. The promos and matches leading up to it are always brilliant and some of the TV matches this year such as CM Punk and John Cena's singles match on Raw the other night have been of pay-per-view quality themselves.
WWE normally manages to keep a relatively high amount of interest in the product from WrestleMania in April until SummerSlam in August before entering a "dry season" that runs until the end of the year.
All the same, there is still a significant drop in interest in WWE in the aftermath of WrestleMania. Part time stars like The Undertaker tend to disappear, mainstream interest in the product drops away and inherent flaws in WWE such as too much focus on John Cena and mismanagement of superstars' characters come to the fore.
Part of the problem is that WWE builds itself around WrestleMania to such an extent that most major storylines reach a logical conclusion there and slightly forced rematches tend to occur at follow-up PPVs. Guys like Triple H, who like a decent amount of time off between matches, are busy recovering from 40-minute long main events at WrestleMania where they put themselves through hell.
For once, however, it looks like WWE is building up its first post-WrestleMania PPV, Extreme Rules, as part of their WrestleMania 29 build. How? Lets have a look!
Recent reports suggest this matchup may actually be nixed but at present, WWE's provisional plan is for a WrestleMania rematch between these two at Extreme Rules.
Neither man is electric on the microphone, but they're both brilliant in-ring workers. Their feud will be overshadowed at WrestleMania by the three main events of the PPV—The Rock vs. John Cena, Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and CM Punk vs. The Undertaker—and the likely presence of WWE's other part-time superstars, Chris Jericho and the New Age Outlaws. It therefore feels appropriate to me that the feud be allowed to continue to a further PPV, where it will be allowed more time.
Both men are very technical wrestlers, specializing in submission wrestling that would suit the stipulation-heavy Extreme Rules theme of the show.
It is also rare for WWE to be looking this many months ahead with its programming, especially with the oft-neglected World Heavyweight Championship title. Even with the rumors that Vince McMahon is considering nixing the plan to extend their feud, it is a good sign that it is even being discussed at this stage so if they do pull the plug on the current program, the replacement will hopefully not feel last-minute and forced.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Wrestling Inc), The Rock has agreed to appear at several post-WrestleMania PPVs, including Extreme Rules. This story has some credibility as The Rock was briefly advertised for the show locally and on Facebook before his name was pulled from promotional pieces.
Reports leaked out a while ago that WWE was considering Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock for SummerSlam 2013, and The Rock has already confirmed he will be performing at WrestleMania XXX. In general, since The Rock's 2011 return, WWE has always had a long-term plan for him, so hopefully an Extreme Rules match would play into this.
A stipulation such as no-disqualification or hell in a cell would be an appropriate way to conclude his feud with John Cena that now spans over two years at WWE's most "extreme" night of the year.
Another possibility—which I consider very likely—is a triple-threat match for the WWE Championship between The Rock, John Cena and CM Punk. It seemed WWE was moving in this direction as an option back when The Undertaker's WrestleMania status was a bit up in the air and it remains a logical booking given these three men have regularly interacted with one another for years.
As soon as WrestleMania is over, WWE will want its top heel—CM Punk—back in the WWE Championship race, but the company must be aware that we have seen Rock-Cena, Rock-Punk and Cena-Punk often enough in the last few years that a triple threat would give us something fresh.
Even the Elimination Chamber poster (pictured) teased this match.
Regardless of how he is used, The Rock is the biggest star WWE has access to, so having him wrestle at Extreme Rules can only elevate the show by preventing it from looking like a weak roster at the PPV compared to WrestleMania.
Christian has been medically cleared to return to the ring, but it looks as if he will not do so until after WrestleMania.
Rather like having The Rock at Extreme Rules, the presence of Christian will avoid the card simply featuring the same superstars as WrestleMania minus a handful of big part-time names.
Christian remains one of WWE's best wrestlers and one of the few remaining Attitude Era veterans still with the company. While WWE does not always give him strong feuds to work with, he rarely ever has a bad match and having his PPV return on the card would give it something different.
WWE used WrestleMania 28 to build towards a proper match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan at Extreme Rules 2012. It also extended the contract of part-time star Chris Jericho so he could wrestle at the event and chose Extreme Rules to use up one of the three events Brock Lesnar agreed to wrestle on his last contract.
The show was well booked with good matches on the night and seeing part-time stars like Jericho and Lesnar there made it feel special. The match between Cena and Lesnar proved far more brutal and violent than many WWE fans felt WWE would ever have a match deliver in the PG era, shocking viewers.
It seemed like for once, WWE was serious about a b-level PPV in the lead-in to Extreme Rules and the PPV itself also delivered. With the company clearly using that year to help build the brand value of Extreme Rules, one would hope it would continue that this year.
WWE's roster in the last few years has been a transitional one, slowly improving.
Right now the top names in the company are arguably CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus, Ryback, Randy Orton, Big Show, Kane, Christian, Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, the three members of The Shield, Mark Henry and The Miz.
WWE is making a generally successful effort to elevate Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio to that level and still generates a pop on the rare occasion he shows up. The company seems to have worked out a deal where Chris Jericho will continue appearing on a part-time basis into the future on regular short runs, rather than occasional lengthy runs.
Compare that to late 2010 when most of the roster were the same stars as we see now but they were much less over with fans. Arguably the only person who has slipped down the card since then is Randy Orton, but he was already in his face turn at that point and if he turns heel, soon he will hopefully return to the level he was in 2009.
The presence of part-time wrestlers at WrestleMania has always been brought up a few times in this article.
The fact is that they will be taking up a large slice of the card, and means others will either have reduced roles or no roles at all. Sorry Zack Ryder, you won't be defending that internet championship anytime soon.
At WrestleMania 28, 34 individuals performed in matches. Obviously some had longer matches than others, but keep that figure in mind and think about the fact that this year will see more part-time superstars involved than ever (The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker and Triple H, bringing a total to five, with it looking entirely possible that the New Age Outlaws will also be involved in a match as they continue to feature prominently on TV). That's close to 15 percent, with it going up to 20 percent if the New Age Outlaws get on the card.
As well as not featuring on the card or only featuring in minor roles, many superstars will also not feature on television in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania. With WWE's increasingly brilliant roster, loaded with names, plenty will barely be seen and that means they will be fresh and eager to prove they are as good as any part time stars come Extreme Rules.
Working fewer TV matches may even mean they are in slightly better condition than usual for the show.
WWE fans have been salivating for close to a year at the prospect of a Dolph Ziggler reign with the World Heavyweight Championship, wondering when he will cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
With Ziggler set for a match at WrestleMania and plans for Swagger and Del Rio to continue their feud, which centers around the title to continue until Extreme Rules, the cash-in might not occur at WrestleMania.
However, where better place than Extreme Rules? It is a PPV which typically sees superstars get particularly battered and vulnerable. That is an ideal time for a briefcase cash-in title shot.
Even if Ziggler does not cash on, the possibility of him doing so will hang over the World Heavyweight Championship match, adding to the excitement.
The best part about the likely card for Extreme Rules is how well it picks up where WrestleMania leaves off, continuing storylines that will begin at the Showcase of the Immortals but not simply resulting in a lineup made up entirely of rematches.
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