WWE WrestleMania 27: Is the Card Full of Aces, Diamonds or Jokers?
Considering my default setting is cynical and bitchy, I'm actually feeling quite optimistic about this year's big event.
The build up has, in general, been quite impressive and it hasn't hurt matters that while WWE has been building toward WrestleMania, TNA seems to have been building toward "The Demise of TNA" DVD, which will probably be hitting the shops pretty soon.
So how will this WrestleMania rank among the previous 26?
A couple of matches already look near-certain classics. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk ought to be a dream. Both men have been presented as deadly in the weeks leading up to their match, and both have the potential to hit their finisher out of nowhere.
Similarly, Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterio is hotly anticipated. Rhodes has been given an excellent gimmick to work with and has absolutely run with it.
Both performer and writers deserve credit, though the biggest thanks are probably deserved by the guy who got Rhodes to cover up his knees.
In street clothes, Cody looks threatening. In ring attire minus kneepads, he looks like a particularly lanky Boy Scout.
A major problem this year has been actually fitting everyone onto the card. With no MITB match and no tag team division, a number of guys who might have expected a match at Mania (Kofi Kingston, Christian, Drew McIntyre) will be missing out.
Of those who are on the card, none have been thrown together quite as badly as the Big Show, Kane, Kozlov & Santino vs The Corre. Essentially, all eight men are wrestling one another because Creative had no idea what to do with them.
This is hugely disappointing given that three members of Corre hold titles. At WrestleMania 20 there were enough tag teams on the roster for two fatal four-way matches on the card. This year, there will be fans in the arena carrying replica belts worth more than the ones held by Slater and Gabriel.
None of the midcard belts have been particularly well served. Wade Barrett's Intercontinental belt won't be defended and Eve Torres, the current Divas Champion, won't even be on the card.
Sheamus will defend his US Title but this seems more a case of finding something for the near-translucent Irishman, than any desire to have the belt featured.
The involvement of Snooki might conceivably make financial sense, but women's performers such as Natalya, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim and Eve Torres have legitimate reasons to feel deeply aggrieved.
Spending an entire year training, developing and working hard only to see your possible WrestleMania spot stolen by a talentless, spray-tanned hobbit can't be a good feeling.
Snooki will, without question, be woeful, and quite possibly drunk. It's a shame because every other performer in the match has something to offer, with Ziggler and Morrison both capable of putting on an epic encounter.
This Mania might arguably be a disappointment for those who love their gimmick matches. In previous years we've had MITB, gimmick Battle Royales and Hardcore 24/7 rules.
This year it's going to be the sight of Michael Cole cowering, begging and generally being bitch-slapped. It ought to be entertaining, but I hope it's ended before it starts to get dull.
The two main title matches look promising. Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio has been unpredictable in the build up and the supposed inclusion of Christian in Edge's corner raises the possibility for more unexpected events and possible heel turns.
The build up to Miz vs. Cena has been more problematic.
Arguably the most worrying aspect of this WrestleMania for WWE is the reliance on past stars and those past their prime.
Bringing back people such as Austin, The Rock and Trish Stratus makes sense, but it would be better for WWE if they didn't have to do so because they have wrestlers on the current roster of a similar level.
The sad fact is they don't.
John Cena has been such an overriding dominant force for over half a decade, that there simply isn't space for any other stars to shine.
The only stars, aside from Cena, who can claim to be equal in level to Stone Cold and The Rock are both fast approaching the end of their careers.
Undertaker will face Triple H in a match which, if Taker isn't too badly injured still, at least has the potential to come close to the Michaels vs. Taker match of Mania 25.
WWE can't keep relying on stars from the Attitude era forever, and in the next year a way to take performers such as Ziggler, CM Punk, Del Rio and Rhodes, among others, to the next level needs to be devised.
I'm not suggesting any of those mentioned will become the next Stone Cold. It would be extremely difficult to argue so. However, it would have been extremely difficult three years ago to argue for The Miz headlining WrestleMania.
It's very easy to become complacent and only view wrestlers from the current place they occupy on the roster. The Rock, Stone Cold and Mick Foley all went through periods where they looked like mid-carders for life, but they were allowed to shine and are now wrestling aristocracy.
The Miz has struggled to look convincing as champion and badly needs an impressive display at WrestleMania 27. Perhaps if he's allowed to deflate the aura of Cena a little, there might be room for another Super-Superstar in WWE.
My predicted winners, for what they are worth:
Big Show, Kane, Santino & Kofi Kingston (I see Kozlov being attacked backstage and replaced).
Over the next year, WWE should...
Morrison, Trish & Spray-tanned Hobbit
Alberto Del Rio
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