Pomp and circumstance abound at WrestleMania, and with good reason. It is the biggest show of the year and a legitimate entertainment extravaganza. Fans travel from all across the globe to attend the event and the men and women lucky enough to work on the grandest stage in the sport are determined to deliver their finest performances.
Beyond the bright lights, the spectacular staging, overabundance of pyrotechnics and grandeur, the most important element of the broadcast is, and has always been, the matches. Whether it is the classic Intercontinental Championship match between Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage or the five-star bout between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the show has been built on the back of the tremendous matches that set it apart from other pay-per-view offerings on the annual calendar.
Sunday night, several of the announced matches have the potential to join those bouts, becoming instant classics that fans talk about in the days, weeks and months that follow. Just days away from the big show, here is a look at which matches fans can expect to excel.
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
The most obvious choice given Undertaker's recent performances at the event, the Phenom's match against Brock Lesnar has all the makings of a legitimate show-stealing instant classic.
While the story supporting the match may conform to typical Undertaker plot devices, the actual matchup itself is very intriguing. There are many questions surrounding the Deadman and his health heading into the bout, as there have been for a few years now. With an opponent who wrestles such a smash mouth, physical style, one has to wonder whether Undertaker can hold up physically.
If he can, and that is a big if at this point in his Hall of Fame career, the match could be the most celebrated of the entire card.
It was 12 years ago that the stars exhibited tremendous chemistry with one another as they clashed in a classic Hell in a Cell match at No Mercy. A year later, they competed in a Biker Chain match that, while not as good, laid the groundwork for what could come Sunday night.
In that match, they utilized counter wrestling late in the bout and several near-falls electrified the audience after a bumpy first-half. Undertaker's recent WrestleMania matches have leaned heavily on both counters and false finishes to create drama and fuel spectacular finishing sequences. If Undertaker can mesh that style with Lesnar's brawling tendencies, fans of differing styles would all have a reason to invest themselves in the contest.
With all of the hype that surrounds Undertaker's yearly defense of his WrestleMania undefeated streak and months to prepare for the match, it would take a major misfire by two Superstars very familiar with one another to prevent their bout from achieving greatness.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H
The most heated of all of the matches on the card, Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H is a bout that has been eight months in the making. Every obstacle put in front of Bryan leading into the Showcase of the Immortals has led him to this one match against The Game. Will the trials and tribulations of Bryan lead to a happy ending or will WWE's COO once again crush his dreams?
Bryan is an incredibly passionate performer that feeds off the energy of the fans. His ring work is already intense but when he gets an arena full of people chanting "YES!" at his every movement, it makes every forearm, every kick and every suicide dive that much more impressive. His speed alone is staggering and gives Triple H the perfect babyface to play off of.
The likelihood that Bryan will be left to fight from underneath, in desperate need of a comeback, are high given the basic formula of any wrestling match. This will allow Triple H to cut him off at several turns and keep the fans guessing as to what will come next. It will make for a molten-hot atmosphere so that when Bryan does unleash on his boss, the fans can come unglued.
Bryan should win the match unless, that is, WWE hates money. Since that is definitely not the case, the bearded Superstar should force a tapout from The Game and move one step closer toward becoming WWE World Heavyweight champion.
If Triple H can rediscover what made him one of the best workers in the sport throughout the course of his full-time in-ring career, this one has all the makings of a truly special match that could catapult Bryan to the top of the industry and re-establish the greatness of the King of Kings between the ropes.
Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista
As the centerpiece of the entire WrestleMania event, Bryan should make two in-ring appearances on the show assuming, of course, that he defeats Triple H earlier in the evening. If that is the case, look for the Aberdeen native to reward WWE's faith in him with another instant classic against two men who have suffered the wrath of the WWE Universe in recent months.
Batista and Randy Orton have been subject to unflattering and disrespectful chants from the fans since January and those chants were not unearned. It took the Animal quite a bit of time to get back in ring-shape and knock off some of the rust that he had built up during his four-year absence. That he did not get comfortable on the microphone again until turning heel early in March did not help matters.
Orton, on the other hand, has been booked so poorly as the heel champion that it is almost sad to watch him walk around, sucking up to The Authority on a weekly basis rather than embracing the inner Viper that got him so over in the first place. In many ways, he has become irrelevant heading into Sunday's show, an over-hyped display for the WWE and World Heavyweight championships.
Again, assuming Bryan defeats Triple H and is added to the main event Triple Threat match, the bout will have every shot at stealing the show. For all of the poor booking of Orton and Batista, both have been to the proverbial "dance" before, having main evented WrestleManias in the past. They know the expectations that are on them, especially once they are awarded the coveted main event spot.
Orton and Bryan have demonstrated absolutely superb chemistry over the last eight months, as seen in their never-ending series of pay-per-view and free television bouts. Their recent bout, a no disqualification match on Raw, was great and their series from last fall that stretched across three pay-per-views, was above average as well.
The brief exchanges between Bryan and Batista have indicated that, like the Animal's wars with Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, there is a great deal of potential for some superb matches between the two of them. Unfortunately, the lack of any real extended matches with a Batista in better ring-shape against Bryan makes their chemistry somewhat of a mystery.
Batista and Orton have wrestled one another on several occasions and their work together speaks for itself.
Expect to see Bryan and Orton carry the workload while Batista enters the fray and delivers his explosive, power-based offensive skill set in an attempt to leave New Orleans with the championship he so dearly covets. In doing so, the former Evolution teammates and the man once referred to as an "internet darling," may steal the show at the top of the card.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Two of the biggest questions come Sunday's broadcast center around the same match.
First, will the highly talented Bray Wyatt perform up to the magnitude of WrestleMania or will he melt under the bright lights and high pressure of the biggest show of the year, not to mention the biggest match of his life?
Second, will John Cena put Wyatt over the same way he did Bryan and CM Punk or will he revert to his "Superman" ways and destroy all of the momentum that the Wyatt character has built over the last four months?
The dynamic offense of Wyatt, the way that he throws himself at his opponents without plan or abandon lends itself well to, and compliments, Cena's style. The leader of the Cenation works best as the babyface that fights off adversity and, sometimes, beats it. He will be able to work his signature offense, including the Five Knuckle Shuffle, into the match but he must not do so in a way that makes Wyatt look like any other star who has fallen for the same shtick.
Cena, like Undertaker, has mastered the art of counter wrestling and his knack for reversals and show-stealing final sequences proves that Cena has become very comfortable with the WWE style. How Wyatt reacts to that style after competing in, and delivering his best singles performance in, a very smash-mouth match against Bryan remains to be seen.
If the two can mesh their styles well, there is no reason to believe they will have anything less than a stellar match. The story is strong and Cena typically puts on his proverbial working boots when it comes to making a bright young star look like a million dollars on a big stage.
With millions around the world watching, Wyatt could immortalize himself and elevate his star in the course of one magical night.