The WrestleMania XXIX card was still quite unsettled heading into this week, but much of that was resolved on Raw as a few new matches were announced and others were made much clearer. When you add that to all of the WWE news that took place outside the ring, this has certainly been a crazy week as 'Mania approaches.
Raw's main segment this week featured Triple H signing the contract for his match against Brock Lesnar. Triple H had to sign the contract blindly without knowing the stipulations, which Paul Heyman revealed to close the show. Heyman told The Game that it would be a No Holds Barred match, but it would also be a career-threatening match as Triple H will have to retire if he loses.
A handful of additional WrestleMania matches were set on Raw, a new inductee was named for the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame class, a popular UFC fighter took some shots at Vince McMahon and rumors are swirling regarding the status of one of the WWE's biggest stars post-WrestleMania XXIX.
Keep reading for in-depth analysis on all the biggest news and rumors regarding the WWE for the week beginning on March 17.
A rematch between Triple H and Brock Lesnar has been in the works since Lesnar defeated The Game at SummerSlam, and it finally became official on Raw. Triple H first issued the challenge a couple weeks ago. Paul Heyman accepted on Lesnar's behalf last week on the condition that they be allowed to set the stipulations. This week's episode of Raw concluded with Triple H signing a contract despite not knowing the terms of the match.
Before doing that, Triple H beat down Heyman as he made inflammatory remarks about Stephanie McMahon. Once Triple H signed on the dotted line, Lesnar came out, which allowed Heyman to escape.
There was no physical contact between Triple H and Lesnar, but The Game was hit with a proverbial right hook when Heyman announced the stipulations. Triple H seemed happy that it would be a No Holds Barred match, but Heyman shocked The King of Kings when he said that Triple H will be forced to retire if he loses.
I was half right when it came to the stipulations for this match as I figured it would be a Hell in a Cell along with the retirement aspect, but the WWE decided to go with No Holds Barred instead.
The match between Triple H and Lesnar at SummerSlam was essentially No Holds Barred as well, so some fans aren't overly excited with the decision. I would have rather seen something a bit rarer, but when you consider how personal the feud between Triple H and Lesnar has become, there is no doubt that No Holds Barred makes logical sense.
The retirement stipulation was definitely a welcomed addition to the match as well. Most fans seem pretty confident that Triple H is going to win this match, and it can be argued that the retirement stipulation makes it even more obvious. At the same time, Triple H is only a part-time performer anyway, so it wouldn't be a big deal if he were to lose the match. Even if he is forced to retire, there are ways to bring him back down the line. Based on shock value alone, the WWE could easily give Lesnar the win. If nothing else, I'm sure there are fringe fans out there who are intrigued by the possibility of this being Triple H's last match, so perhaps the WWE will draw some buys based on that alone.
The WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class was already stacked prior to Monday night, but the company decided to add one more star to the proceedings. While many fans were anticipating and hoping for the late Paul Bearer, the WWE revealed Booker T as the next, and presumably final, member of this year's class. There was no doubt that Booker would make the Hall of Fame eventually, so it was a matter of "when" rather than "if".
Taking both the WWE and WCW into account, Booker is one of the most decorated wrestlers of all time. Perhaps he never quite reached the pinnacle of the WWE as the top guy, but he was always in the mix as a main-event-caliber performer. Booker also continues to be an important part of the product as the general manager on SmackDown. Booker T has done a lot for the WWE and the wrestling business as a whole, so it's only fitting that he'll be honored as a Hall of Famer.
As a fan of Booker T dating back to his WCW days as one half of Harlem Heat, I was definitely happy to hear about Booker being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not only is Booker a five-time WCW Champion, but he also captured the World Heavyweight Championship once, the WCW Tag Team Championships 11 times, the WCW Television Championship six times, the United States Championship four times, the World Tag Team Championships three times and the Intercontinental Championship once, as well. On top of all that, Booker won King of the Ring in 2006.
His accomplishments are undeniable, as is the mark he made on the sport. It can be argued that Booker T is the most successful African American professional wrestler of all time, and if he isn't No. 1 on that list then he is certainly very close.
Booker's development as a wrestler over the course of his career was quite impressive as he went from a tag-team specialist to a top-tier singles competitor. It took a while for him to reach that level, but he likely serves as an inspiration to many guys who are still in the early part of their career. That alone makes Booker a true Hall of Famer.
For essentially the past two years, CM Punk has really put the WWE on his back and taken a leadership role as a main-event performer. John Cena has still been the top guy during that time, but in terms of mic work and in-ring acumen, Punk has really been the company's go-to superstar. Once his 434-day WWE Championship reign came to an end at the Royal Rumble, however, fans were concerned about how he would be used and whether he might fall into an abyss of some kind.
That certainly hasn't happened, as Punk is currently feuding with The Undertaker and will face him at WrestleMania. Since this isn't likely to be Taker's last match, though, it stands to reason that Punk will come up short. If that is proven true, then it is anyone's guess what Punk will do next. According to WrestlingInc.com, Punk has been pulled off live events so he can remain healthy for his 'Mania match, but he may also be taken off live events and even off television for a period of time following WrestleMania.
As much as I and countless other fans like Punk, most would probably agree that taking a month or so off after WrestleMania wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for him. Punk has truly been a workhorse since he first joined the WWE several years ago and his breaks have been few and far between.
Aside from a couple short-term injuries, Punk has pretty much always been available to the WWE. It's clear that Punk is dealing with some nagging ailments just like most other superstars on the roster, so resting him leading up to WrestleMania is a good idea since he'll have to set the pace against Taker.
If and when Punk succumbs to The Phenom at WrestleMania, there won't be anything for him to do in the aftermath. The Undertaker will probably take a sabbatical as he always does, so there won't be a rematch. With The Rock being advertised for Extreme Rules, perhaps we could see the triple threat between Punk, Rock and John Cena that many have been clamoring for, but I doubt it. If there is nothing on the table for Punk post-'Mania, then he might as well take a break, regroup and return when the creative team has something worthwhile set for him.
Although they're very different in many ways, WWE and UFC are inevitably compared to each other on a regular basis. There are certain times when the two of them are linked in some capacity, such as Brock Lesnar jumping ship from WWE to UFC and back again, but they have largely remained separated. If Vince McMahon would have had his way, however, he and UFC president Dana White would have locked horns either in the octagon or at WrestleMania, according to RDS.
Once White revealed McMahon's desire to fight him, UFC star Chael Sonnen decided to chime in as he so often does. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Sonnen took some shots at McMahon on Twitter and even posed a challenge to him. He proposed a match, although it is unclear if he meant UFC or WWE, pitting himself and White against Vince and CM Punk. Sonnen talking trash is nothing new, but it will be interesting to see if anything ever comes of this.
As someone who loves professional wrestling, but couldn't care less about mixed martial arts, I'm hopeful that all of this will go away very soon. I respect what UFC fighters do and I don't blame people for enjoying it, but it simply doesn't interest me. At the same time, I realize that UFC is extremely popular and that McMahon is smart for wanting to get involved with it in some capacity. White would be wise to share those sentiments as well. As popular as UFC is, he could reach an even wider audience with a bit of cross promotion.
I agree that a fight between Vince and White isn't a good idea, but a WrestleMania match would have drawn a ton of interest and it wouldn't have been overly dangerous for either man. As for Sonnen, I find him somewhat entertaining as a talker, but I really don't have any interest in seeing him wrestle a WWE match. The WWE doesn't care about what I want, though, so I can definitely see Sonnen doing something with the WWE at some point if McMahon believes it can generate both buzz and money.
A WrestleMania XXIX feud between Ryback and Mark Henry has clearly been in the works for the past few weeks and it became official on Raw. Things started on the old school edition of Raw as Ryback and Henry stared each other down while crossing paths. This continued until a match between them was set for SmackDown last week. The match never happened, though, as The Shield interfered by attacking Ryback. Henry followed that up with three World's Strongest Slams on Ryback.
Despite the fact that Ryback was scheduled to team with Randy Orton and Sheamus against The Shield at WrestleMania, Vickie Guerrero changed things up and announced Ryback vs. Henry at 'Mania instead. A lot of fans were incredulous when they found out that Ryback wouldn't be facing Henry at WrestleMania, but it was clearly a ruse from the start. The WWE had to do something in order to force Orton and Sheamus into choosing Big Show as a partner, and this was clearly the best way to do it.
I'm not a big Ryback fan, but I have really enjoyed Henry's work and I'm looking forward to their WrestleMania encounter. It won't be a technical showcase by any means; however, Ryback and Henry are easily two of the strongest and most menacing men in all of professional wrestling. Even if the in-ring work isn't top notch, I expect the atmosphere and anticipation surrounding the match to be palpable. The WWE has done a nice job of carrying on with the feud without allowing two much physical contact between them aside from Henry attacking an already prone Ryback.
Although I'd like to see Henry win, there is no question that Ryback needs the victory more. He has lost at each and every pay-per-view since Hell in a Cell and he has obviously lost a lot of momentum. Ryback is still over with crowd and he still has main-event potential as well, but he has to get back on track. Beating a guy like Henry who has been a dominant force since returning from injury would be a perfect start. Once Ryback wins at 'Mania, perhaps the ball will get rolling so he can pick up steam and potentially get back to the level he once occupied.