Let me first confess right off the bat that I barely had a chance to sneak in a viewing of the Monday Night RAW episode that just aired on 2/7.
I don't know about you, but after the first half of the Superbowl I thought everything was pretty much in the bag. My little eyelids were hanging heavy, miniature MITB briefcases weighting them down perhaps. So I headed to bed.
And wouldn't you know it, as soon as my head hit the pillow I was wide awake. On the upside, I got to see what was almost a fantastic comeback by the Steelers (I had picked the Packers so I didn't want the comeback to succeed, but hey, who doesn't like a close game).
On the downside, I had a long night of watching infomercials. Which begs the question, how many more modified slow cookers can be pitched before people start getting hit with lawsuits? They're all pretty much the same damn thing right?
There were a couple of early highlight's. As I mentioned before, Mason Ryan was being entirely watered down by being "assigned" as Punk's man-bitch. Whether creative is specifically listening to my every whim is anyone's guess (perhaps), but booking Ryan as unstoppable is the right way to go.
His finisher was a little goofy looking. Wrapping a guys leg around your head is just a little, awkward if nothing else. He'd be a great candidate for a sleeper, torture rack, or a full nelson as a finisher. Those huge arms and grotesquely muscular shoulders would convince me that he was submitting just about anyone on the roster.
Sadly the fact that R-Truth butchered the city (calling Milwaukee "Green Bay") totally distracted the crowd from what should have been a more memorable match in terms of building Mason as a monster. Way to go R-Stupid…
Does anyone for one second believe that the 2.21.11 promos are for anything other than the return of the Undertaker? The lyrics are pretty clearly stating "there ain't no grave can hold my body down". You see the guy standing in the door with the trenchcoat.
C'mon folks… Anyone know of any other WWE superstars sporting trenchcoats who may need to be coming back from the grave? If Sting is coming, this isn't the commercial for it…
And to WWE's credit, they are smart to start clarifying the promos. The rumours have already started about a certain "you know who" possibly debuting for the first time ever in the WWE.
And while it would be one of the OMG moments in wrestling lore were it to happen (this is RIGHT up there with Hogan turns bad and the Montreal Screwjob), the longer they let it remain ambiguous (and don't deliver), the bigger the hole they were digging themselves.
It's one thing to build up a return. It's another to try and trick your fans into thinking something HUGE could be coming to pass and then not making it happen.
Which reminds me. There are lots of people scrambling right now in the WWE. Many of them are accountants, the rest are the creative team. And they are a scrambling because this year's Mania is in dire need of an injection of life. They're lifting all the cushions and rolling their change.
As of this writing, I feel fairly confident that the main event for this years big show is probably still up for grabs.
They are clearly setting up the Undertaker's return because what is a Mania without the Dead Man? The streak is part of the lore, and the lore is part of what makes Wrestlemania the biggest PPV of the year. But with Taker having been out with a serious injury for the last few months, there has not been near the opportunity to have a solid build towards a credible match with his streak on the line like in prior years.
There is work to do, and the vignettes are just the beginning.
The backstage talk seems to revolve around Undertaker taking on Wade Barrrett. But between you and I and the other seven people who may read this column, can you think of any storyline that would make you give Barrett a snowballs chance in hell of beating Taker and ending the streak? Hardly.
So if indeed that is still their intent with that one, spare us all and don't even bother. It will do more harm to Barrett than good (strong showing from a loss is old news).
Another big thread that has just begun developing sees Punk changing his focus slightly from being a total pain in Cena's ass, to renewing an old rivalry (continuity explained well by creative this week on RAW) with Orton.
Rarely do the writers have the ability to string together storylines from week to week let alone are they able to draw back years into the past. But they did just that.
Now here's a quick and albeit mini statistic. Last year's champions heading into the Elimination Chamber PPV are batting a miserable 0 for 2.
If you recall, the WWE Champion going into the 2010 event was Sheamus while the World Heavyweight Champion was The Undertaker. By the time the event was over, we had new title holders in the form of John Cena (WWE Champion) and Chris Jericho (World Heavyweight).
So while Alberto Del Rio knows that he will be battling somebody for their World Heavyweight Championship belt come Wrestlemania, the rest of the title card is still pretty murky. In fact, the Wrestlemania card in general is, well (as already mentioned), in a "state of flux". Which is why I would suggest that something has to give.
There have been a number of high profile names tossed about, proposed angles, and "surprises". Nothing seems to have any serious credibility just yet. But as we near the big event itself, I for one, feel that at least one "big thing" has to pan out.
You can put on the best Punk vs. Cena match you want. You can bring back The Game and let him beat up Sheamus. And you can try to get me to emotionally invest myself in yet another "person x versus The Streak" match. And in my personal opinion, Wrestlemania will be a failure.
This is the biggest and most important event of the year. And on the heels of surprises like a returning Booker T and Diesel to the Rumble (which popped the crowd far more dangerously than probably even McMahon wanted), you've inadvertently raised your bar. One that you need to raise even higher on April 3rd.
Make no mistake about it. Vince McMahon has the power and money to do virtually ANYTHING he wants to. We will see the show HE decides to give us. That's why for Wrestlemania 27 to be a true success, I suggest to you the reader, that WWE needs to deliver on at LEAST one of the following headlining attractions and/or surprises:
1. Sting with or without The Undertaker (A+)
In my opinion, I'm not even convinced you would have to give me the full fledged one on one battle between these two outta the gates. A simple tease would probably still deliver a 5 star rating for best Wrestlemania ending/tease ever.
I could even handle some scenario whereby the following occurs. Wade Barrett (for example) challenged Taker for his streak. You can build it however you want, as long as it has some attraction to it. The match itself is all but irrelevant. The most important part of the match occurs when it ends.
You put them on second or third to last. Execute the match with a little drama (some CORRE guys do run in's, whatever, jam Kane in there somewhere) and you eventually give Taker the win. Then he's doing his usual pose on the floor. Flicking his hair back, rolling his eyes and sticking his tongue out, all that jazz. Then the lights go out and we have about 30 seconds of silence. People wonder if the power went out, or what's going on.
Suddenly you hear the thunder and lightning a la Starcade 1997, and they flash a strobe light into the ring. And whose shadow is standing behind the Undertaker but the one and only, Sting. The music. Perhaps you have yourself a scorpion on the floor.
And then the lights go back out. When they come back on, Sting is gone, and Taker is curled in the fetal position rocking in the corner. Holy sh**! Would you just not freak??
You might be able to literally drag that out over the course of a year. Tease a match between the two at every corner but don't actually face them off until the next year at Wrestlemania 28 (where Taker retires).
There are vignettes to be written, and you could have Sting pop up once a month on Smackdown in some creepy fashion. What a pop to the Syfy ratings. People keep tuning in to see when he'll show up next or what he's going to do. It takes a while for people to figure out whether he's bad Sting, tweener Sting, or what the deal is (perhaps Taker defends the streak as a true heel for a change). What would the crowd response be for that?
There's a lot of potential here. Steve Borden appears to be a free agent at this point. Neither guy has many great matches left. But between the two, I firmly believe that if given centre stage at WM28 they would be willing to go balls to the wall for one final match. Leave it all in the ring. The storytelling will be what makes it one of the best angles ever, not necessarily the chain wrestling in the ring.
Call me crazy, but it's even exciting just to write about it. And they could start the angle this year, at Wrestlemania 27.
2. John Cena heel turn (A)
Everyone has been clamouring for this one for some time. And with all of the goody good buildup of Cena for the last six to nine months, the chance of this happening is conceptually 0, right? So THAT is what would make it such a fantastic moment (as you can likely gather, exploring the opportunities sends me into "fan" mode).
Sadly, I won't spend much time on this one because it will never happen. Wrestlemania is traditionally your feel good PPV of the year where faces pop to end the evening. It's such a stretch my fingers are already revolting at the idea of typing anything more.
That being said, it would STILL be such an OMG moment, and it would be talked about for years.
3. Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker (B+)
This certainly has appeal to it. The history is there and I think there is a little more going on between Dana White and McMahon than everyone lets on. I find it pretty odd that White (who is supposed to be so adamate about Lesnar not going anywhere near WWE) didn't go ballistic at the staredown that occurred post match a couple of months ago.
I can't imagine that wasn't cleared beforehand and I can't imagine a little money didn't change hands.
And as far as UFC is concerned, everyone seems to be on the same page in terms of there being enough money for everyone. Brock has not been tearing it up in the ring as of late, and White has to have some number ($) in mind somewhere whereby he'd green light a deal.
This all assumes Brock would be down with this. And from that perspective, I believe that having lost a couple of fights now, he's maybe more open to dabbling back in wrestling if it pays his bills.
I think the spectator in us all assumes Taker would get the win, but there is always an ounce of us that wonders whether Brock would shoot in the ring. Maybe you play to both their ego and MAKE it a straight up, shoot match, everything is on the table. Ratings anyone??
I think for the right price, anything can happen. Brock isn't as valuable a UFC commodity with the recent loss and White knows it. McMahon has a big chequebook.
4. Goldberg vs Austin (B-)
It IS Atlanta, and it IS seemingly a WCW themed event and HOF (even though Michaels is the headliner from that perspective). I don't know whether there is any buzz still associated with Goldberg but I would still be interested if they brought him in one last time.
I don't see that he has any long term intentions to get back in the squared circle full time, but a one time thing, who knows. A big bald ass kicking machine, hmmmm, but who would he fight… ANOTHER big bald ass kicking machine??
Remember Austin sort of hinted at the fact that maybe he had one more match left in him not too long ago. We all just heard that Tough Enough (or whatever it's being called) is going to be coming back and Austin himself will be hosting. So he is clearly in the WWE fold somehow.
For anyone that saw the Expendables, he's clearly still in fantastic shape.
If I recall, he was not FORCED to retire, he just decided that he had taken enough abuse that he wanted to hang em up. So with that in mind, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he would consider having just one last match.
One loyal WWE employee, and one "WCW guy" in his own back yard. I would suggest the win would go to Austin.
Honourable mentions go to RAW GM Revealed (C) and the return of Chris Jericho (C).
Make no mistake about it, without a big splash, this year will be one of the most disappointing Wrestlemania's on record. WWE needs to come up with something to take those naysayers or customers who are on the fence (in terms of buying) and make them take the plunge.
It's Wrestlemania, and the fans deserve the very best. If it is not the all out best show of the year, and doesn't contain the best matches possible given the available talent, then Mania is somehow no longer the event it was always meant to be.
Here's hoping that on April 2nd one or more of the ideas above are still legitimate possibilities…