The weeks leading up to WrestleMania are always extremely busy for the WWE, and the past week has been no different. Although the WrestleMania XXIX main event scene has been in place for quite some time, the undercard needed some work. Much of Raw was dedicated to shaping it, and it seems as though everything is now in order.
Although the creative team has admittedly slacked when it comes to the midcard, things have come together in recent days. In addition to the matches that have been announced, the WWE also revealed the WrestleMania XXIX musical performance. While many fans were probably hoping that the WWE would skip something like that, it should appeal to a wide audience.
Several 2013 WWE Hall of Famers revealed who would be inducting them the night before WrestleMania as well. In other news, a top, part-time star is being advertised for a SmackDown taping in London a couple weeks after WrestleMania, while a superstar who has been on the shelf for a significant amount of time made his in-ring return at NXT.
Keep reading for analysis on all the biggest news and rumors surrounding the WWE for the week beginning on March 24.
WWE fans have known about WrestleMania matches such as The Rock vs. John Cena, CM Punk vs. The Undertaker, Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger for weeks, but some of the supporting bouts were unclear.
Although the build certainly hasn't been the best it can possibly be, the WWE did beef up the card a bit this week by adding Chris Jericho vs. Fandango, Wade Barrett vs. The Miz and Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins vs. Brodus Clay, Sweet T and The Funkadactyls.
There are now 10 matches on the WrestleMania XXIX card, which is one more than there has been the past two years. The WWE is making it seem as though all 10 matches will be contested on the main card, but there is an hour-long pre-show, so there are definitely some options.
Whatever the case, it is nice to see the WWE finding room for some deserving performers at 'Mania.
I haven't been a big supporter of Jericho vs. Fandango since it was first rumored, but the WWE has actually generated a lot of heat between the superstars over the past week, so my interest is at least somewhat piqued.
Jericho should really be facing Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania; however, I always look forward to seeing Y2J perform regardless of who it's against. Fandango has a lot of potential as a character and it should be furthered by facing Jericho at 'Mania. Even as a Jericho fan, I have to admit that the best course of action is to have Fandango win this match.
I'm also very pleased to see Barrett and The Miz involved in the proceedings. They had an entertaining match on Raw, which some people are angry about since they'll be wrestling again at WrestleMania, but I'm confident they can provide a solid bout. Miz doesn't really have a need for the Intercontinental Championship, but perhaps winning the title on the big stage will catapult him.
The eight-person tag match isn't overly significant, but getting Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow on the card was necessary. If this match makes the main card, it won't be more than a couple minutes long, although it should provide some comedic relief.
As is customary when it comes to the WWE Hall of Fame, a handful of this year's honorees have announced who will be inducting them at Madison Square Garden one night prior to WrestleMania XXIX.
According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, movie star and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger will induct Bruno Sammartino, hardcore wrestling legend Terry Funk will induct Mick Foley and television host Maria Menounos will induct Bob Backlund.
That leaves Trish Stratus, Booker T and Donald Trump without inductors at the moment, but those announcements are likely to happen in the coming days.
It's fair to say that Sammartino, Foley and Backlund have really diversified their choices from one another, but that makes perfect sense since all three men are very different from each other, although they're all legendary performers in their own right.
Since I obviously wasn't part of the selection process, I don't really know how the Hall of Famers decided to choose who will induct them. Foley's choice of Funk seems quite organic as Funk was one of Foley's mentors and had many brutal matches against him. Also, they teamed up as Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie for a while in the WWE, so they have some very obvious history together.
The choices of Schwarzenegger and Menounos seem to be WWE-driven, but I'm not privy to the relationships they have with Sammartino and Backlund respectively, so I could be off base.
Sammartino and Schwarzenegger have apparently been friends for quite some time, so the selection makes sense to some degree, but I'm sure there are many people in the wrestling business who Sammartino could have chosen as well. The WWE loves star power, though, so it had to push for Schwarzenegger.
Backlund and Menounos have done some work together and forged a friendship as well, but again, she has mainstream appeal and has done a lot with the WWE, so the company likely nudged Backlund in that direction. Even if the Hall of Famers didn't have 100 percent freedom when it came to choosing their inductors, I don't have an issue with any of the decisions.
It is no secret that The Undertaker is now a part-time wrestler, so aside from WrestleMania and the few weeks leading up to it, fans aren't really able to see him. The consensus seems to be that Taker will take care of CM Punk at WrestleMania XXIX, extend his undefeated streak to 21-0 and then disappear for 10 or 11 months.
That is the way things have gone for the past couple years, so there isn't much reason to think that this will be any different. With that said, a new piece of information suggests that The Undertaker could still be involved with the product following 'Mania.
According to TheO2.co.uk, The Undertaker is scheduled to appear at the April 23 SmackDown taping in London. It will be Taker's first London appearance in four years and that is clearly something that the locals are excited about. Since that is two weeks after WrestleMania XXIX, it will be interesting to see exactly how Taker is utilized by the WWE.
This announcement definitely took me by surprise and I'm sure that is true for many WWE fans. The Undertaker is a mysterious figure and it is never certain when or if he will appear again. A little over a month ago it was still unclear if he would even be a part of WrestleMania XXIX, so Taker being announced for a post-'Mania date is a big deal.
The smart money is probably on this being a non-televised appearance. Perhaps the WWE worked it into his contract that he was obligated to make a set number of appearances throughout the year at certain locations.
That wouldn't be ideal for those who are unable to attend the show, but there is no doubt that it has generated a ton of buzz and will fuel ticket sales. At the same time, maybe the WWE has shocked us all by getting The Phenom to stay longer than usual.
I can't imagine that he'll wrestle a match outside of WrestleMania, though, so my guess is that the former is true rather than the latter. If nothing else, the WWE Universe is suddenly talking about Taker beyond his usual WrestleMania foray.
The Undertaker Added to Post-WrestleMania Show (via WrestlingInc.com)
Whether the fans like it or not, it has become customary for a musical performance to take place at WrestleMania. Last year, the WWE integrated it into their main event as Flo Rida performed before The Rock's entrance and MGK did the same prior to John Cena's.
It is unclear what type of plans the WWE has for WrestleMania XXIX, but it announced on its website that Sean "Diddy" Combs will provide the musical entertainment at MetLife Stadium.
Although it was starting to look like the WWE might forgo a musical performance this year, it isn't overly surprising that it decided to go with Diddy. After all, he has worked with the WWE in the past and his hit song "Coming Home" is the official WrestleMania XXIX theme song.
That means he will almost certainly perform that song at some point during the night, but it remains to be seen when the WWE will trot him out.
I don't have anything against Diddy as I believe that he's a fantastic performer, but I'm admittedly one of those guys who isn't interested in seeing a musical performance at WrestleMania. It's definitely understandable why the WWE does it, as it hopes that a Diddy performance might draw a couple more pay-per-view buys, and it wants to create a big-event atmosphere for the live crowd.
Music stars have been a part of WrestleMania since the very start, and having Diddy perform at WrestleMania XXIX will allow the WWE to carry on with that tradition.
At the same time, musical performances tend to waste time and take opportunities away from deserving performers. Provided the nine matches that have been announced make it on the main card, a couple of them will inevitably get less time than they deserve.
Without a musical performance, those matches could all be featured properly, though. I suppose Diddy could come in handy later in the show as a buffer between big matches if nothing else. The WWE generally likes to put a lower-level match between two big ones in order to give the crowd a break, but perhaps the musical performance can serve that purpose instead.
Evan Bourne has been out of action for well over a year with a severe foot injury, but it appears as though he may be on the road to returning to a WWE ring. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Bourne competed against Sammy Sane (formerly known as El Generico) in a match at an NXT live event. Many fans were unsure if Bourne would ever wrestle for the WWE again, so this is obviously a huge step in the right direction for him.
Bourne looked good in the leaked video clip, but it's hard to say how close he is to being ready for the big time. Bourne was one of the WWE's best in-ring performers prior to the injury and his return could definitely help beef up the midcard, as there is a lack of credible faces. Superstars who have returned from injury such as Ted DiBiase and Alex Riley over the past year have gotten lost in the shuffle, though, so there are no guarantees when it comes to Bourne.
I've never been a big fan of Bourne as his lack of personality really limits him, but he is great in the ring and could be an asset to the WWE moving forward. The midcard is so devoid of quality faces that United States Champion Antonio Cesaro has nobody to feud with.
Cesaro tends to work very well with high flyers, so I would love to see him do a program with Bourne. It may be a while before we see Bourne on WWE programming again, as he has to work his way back into top condition. Even if he manages to do that, it's possible that he'll never make it back to the top.
In addition to the foot injury he suffered, Bourne was suspended for a second time for violating the WWE's wellness policy since the last time he competed. That is why he and Kofi Kingston had to drop the Tag Team Championships to Primo and Epico at a house show in early 2012. He figures to be on a very short leash because of that.
Guys like Randy Orton and Jack Swagger have been given chances to redeem themselves, though, and Bourne deserves that same chance. There is room for a guy of Bourne's ilk on the main roster, so hopefully he does everything necessary to make it back.