Reviewing the Road to WWE WrestleMania 29 and Predicting the Outcomes
WrestleMania is the big one, allegedly. It's the most promoted pay-per-view, it has longest history, it has a card planned long in advance, and, crucially, it's bought by more people than many of the year's other PPVs put together. Despite this, though, often it isn't WWE's best PPV of the year. And yet, we always expect it to be the best and hold it in hallowed esteem.
Contributing to the WrestleMania mythos is its long buildup; aside from the two prior PPVs (Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber) being considered part of the "Road to WrestleMania," there's also a seven-week gap between the Chamber and Mania—the longest buildup of the year.
How good has the road been and what can we expect tonight?
Let's take a look.
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship)
The Miz once again proves to be so must-see that they put him on the pre-show where everyone can watch him. The wisest thing will be for Barrett to win; Miz is the Intercontinental Champion before last, and if he wins it'll just become circular. Really, this illustrates a lack of depth in the midcard. The Miz lost the IC belt to Kofi Kingston then had several unsuccessful attempts to take Antonio Cesaro's United States Championship, and now he's back at the IC strap once again.
With so many wrestlers who can plausibly be world champion and often have been before, it's too big a knock back for many to hold one of the midcard titles. As such, their worth is diminished and there are few challengers.
As for the buildup, this match is a fairly late addition. There had previously been hints that Chris Jericho would make an attempt for his 10th IC reign, and that The Miz may challenge Cesaro again for the U.S. title. As such, this match isn't one to get particularly excited about.
Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins
This is another match that's effectively an afterthought. It may be the least serious match on the card, but I really like The Rhodes Scholars and think it's about time that they held the tag team gold (or, rather, bronze). Hopefully then they'll be given the win; Brodus Clay and Sweet T might be fun, but it's not a gimmick likely to lead to any championships, and the hit to their credibility that the Rhodes Scholars would take by losing would take some time to recover from.
So far as the Divas aspect of the match goes, I hope both sides put in a good showing, and hopefully their feuding will carry through to fill out the sparse Divas division a little. These four put on a surprisingly good TV match recently, and the division could do with them.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
I'm aware that Fandango has already wrestled under another name, but I only watch WWE's main output, so I've never seen him in action. WWE must have a lot of faith in his abilities to give him his first major exposure on its biggest show against one of the greatest of all time.
His gimmick may be absurd, but if he can perform as well as expected then it would be quite easy for him to drop it and go on to great things. I'll be paying close attention to this one.
The absurdity of the gimmick has been the biggest fault in the buildup. A man obsessed with the exact pronunciation of his name, taking particular offence at someone then mocking his name sounds as weak an idea as possible on paper. Despite being very silly, though, I can't say it's been bad.
But maybe I'm just happy to see Y2J in action.
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
This match is teasing us. I long for nothing more than Triple H having to retire, and that fleeting chance is the only thing making this tolerable. This match has happened once after a mind-numbingly poor buildup, and the resultant match was average at best. The only good thing to come out of this repeat was Triple H appearing to have wet himself once on Raw.
It's practically a given that Triple H will go over. The people will cheer because he's a face, his ego will be serviced, and he'll be kept secure in his belief that he possesses some talent while a Brock Lesnar match is wasted. Or, just maybe, we'll never have to see the nepotist-egotist wrestle again.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston (Tag Team Championships)
The most interesting aspect of this is seeing how Big E Langston wrestles. With Dolph Ziggler carrying a Money in the Bank briefcase growing ever closer to expiring, I seriously doubt he'll be getting sidetracked with the Tag Team Championships. Assuming Big E is any good, though, we should at least be seeing some decent wrestling. I just hope AJ Lee isn't the deciding factor somehow. It's bad enough at any time, but WrestleMania really should be the place for clean wins and losses.
This match really seems thrown together for some talent with nothing else to do at the Show of Shows. The only common link between the two teams is AJ, and when it comes to her involvement with Daniel Bryan and Kane, it's a link I'd rather forget. The match is filler, but that doesn't mean it can't be good.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry
Both of these men are capable of working well, but only when given the right opponent. This could either be an interesting match or a complete car crash. So long as they focus on the storytelling, I think they might put on a watchable contest.
I'm certainly behind the idea of it. I was excited when it was hinted at in backstage segments and briefly aghast when it was then put forward that Ryback would be inserted into the Shield match instead. The result will be a conclusive push for one man and a conclusive de-push for the other.
Personally, I'm a mark for Mark.
Sheamus, Randy Orton and The Big Show vs.The Shield
Nothing demonstrates better how slow things can move in WWE than how tedious The Shield's story has been. For months we've had the catatonically boring spectacle of them coming through the audience to the ring and attacking whoever's a deserving face at that point. You can set your watch by it—it's happened at least once a week and sometimes twice—and it is an embarrassment to WWE that it has been passing this off as entertainment for this long.
This match ought to be great—the other few Shield matches have been—but its greatest gift would be advancing things with the group once and for all. I'm guessing that they'll win and start chasing championships. After all, what else is there? They've feuded with the top level and won every time so far. There's nothing left in terms of things to prove besides getting some gold. Maybe then I'll believe in The Shield.
The Undertaker vs. CM Punk
The Undertaker's biggest threat for the past two years has been Paul Levesque's ego, and the buildups to those matches (and the latter match itself) were so risible that I thought there wasn't much more that could realistically be done with The Undertaker.
The buildup to this year's match has, however, been impeccable. How it would have been without Paul Bearer's death, we'll never know, but rather than skirt around it they've let CM Punk thoroughly apply his heel skills to the situation.
So far as the question of how good the match itself will be, there's no telling. As amply demonstrated against The Rock, CM Punk isn't much of a carrier. It all depends on how much The Undertaker has left in him, but whatever the quality of the match, the story leading up to it has been by far the most entertaining out of all these WrestleMania matches.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger (World Heavyweight Championship)
The buildup to this has been reasonable, at least in comparison with most of the rest of the card. Jack Swagger's returned with a new manager and a fairly daring gimmick for this era's WWE. Really, Zeb Colter is the gimmick, and Swagger's just the muscle behind it. There's been a few twists and turns, including Ricardo Rodriguez's ankle being broken (which he sold spectacularly), and it's been fairly diverting for the most part.
Alberto Del Rio is a great wrestler, though Swagger's ring work has been worryingly lacking since his return. What's more, for a big-man heel, he's not been portrayed as very strong, usually winning his matches via distraction. It's difficult to know what to expect with this one, but a level of kudos should be given to WWE for trying to do something different in terms of story.
The Rock vs. John Cena (WWE Championship)
This match is a repeat of the supposed "Once in a Lifetime" match of last year's WrestleMania, and there's not really been much offered to hype it beyond last year's buildup. Last year John Cena worried about losing; this year Cena's worried about how he lost last year, and how he doesn't want to repeat that.
Worse still, The Rock's performances in his matches with CM Punk have been so utterly abysmal that he even seems to have lost the ability to be carried that he displayed at last year's WrestleMania. There are no doubt many people who'll be watching this excitedly. Personally, I'll be viewing this more with morbid curiosity. At least Dwayne is practically guaranteed to drop the belt.
There's my opinions on what we have seen and can expect to see tonight. The odds are that you'll disagree with some part of it, so let me know your thoughts in the comments. Most of all though, enjoy WrestleMania 29.