Pre-show - Wade Barrett vs. the Miz: The lesson of this match is, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, then challenge for the Intercontinental title instead. After what felt like months of chasing Antonio Cesaro's US title, the Miz has moved on to the Intercontinental title, which is basically the same thing. Cesaro's reward for having held on to the title since Summerslam is having the night off on the biggest show of the year. Both men are in WWE Films at the moment, so that won't factor into the outcome of the match. I predict The Miz will go over, based on his Nature Boy veteran rub and the fact that Barrett recently got kicked in the crotch by Triple H for no reason, perhaps in commemoration of his burial of Booker "Nappy Hair" T ten years ago.
Alberto Del Río vs. Jack Swagger: The opening match of the show (probably, considering that the last two Wrestlemanias opened with the World title match) is the culmination of a complex feud in which Dutch Mantel doesn't like Alberto Del Río because he's Mexican without saying that exactly except he did, but in a xenophobic way and not in a racist way, which is still okay in wrestling, right? Maybe WWE is just continuing a tradition of a racially-fueled feud over the World Title every ten Manias, which started with "that Jap" Yokozuna losing to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 9. Del Río will win the match against Dirty Dutch, who is borrowing the body of Jack Swagger for the match in much the same way that Eddie Guerrero won the World title at Wrestlemania 22 under the pseudonym, "Rey Mysterio." Jack Swagger will then suffer some injury that takes him out of action for 30 days.
Shield vs. Sheamus, Orton, & Big Show: I really do like the Shield. Not only do they always have good matches, but their ring attire sets them apart as a hit squad rather than a group of grapplers. I somehow wouldn't be able to take these guys seriously if they were wearing singlets. That said, their music needs a bit of work. The opening sound bite has them listing off code words spelling "Shield," but the word "hotel" just seems out of place in any wrestler's theme music, except perhaps Val Venis. Barring an earlier-in-the-year-than-usual heel turn by the Big Show, though, I think the Shield's unstoppable reign of occasional six-man tag matches ends on this night.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango: Johnny Curtis finally debuts despite having won NXT season 4 over two years ago. Rather than forming a team with fellow dancer and former NXT mentor, R-Truth to cash in on their guaranteed tag title shot from NXT, the 'Dango is going after Chris Jericho over the pronunciation of his name, which is surely one of the strangest sources of a Mania feud since Edge beat out Booker T for that Japanese shampoo commercial. Since Jericho is never in WWE for very long, I expect Fandango to eke out an underhanded win, followed by a rematch at Extreme Rules if either man's contract lasts that long.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry: Here's a match I'm looking forward to non-ironically. There's potential to create the kind of "can-you-top-this" monster match that should have happened in Brock Lesnar's match with Goldberg. All WWE has to do is keep Henry under contract and keep Ryback from jumping to the NFL. Of course, with negative reviews coming in about these two based on house show matches, there's always the possibility that this match will bomb horribly, just like the aforementioned Lesnar-Goldberg stall-fest. Ryback will win with Shell Shock.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar: The past two Wrestlemanias, Triple H has delivered some of the greatest matches ever by taking on the Undertaker. I know this because WWE drives this home at every chance possible, even awarding "Match of the Year" Slammy awards to both matches over much more deserving contests like Punk-Cena 2011 and Lesnar-Cena 2012. When WWE snubs its golden boy twice in a row, you know they're really behind Triple H. As for the "WWE Universe" itself, they seem to be divided over their opinions of HHH. Some see him as the legendary veteran who delivered a classic against the Undertaker last year, while others see him as a past-his-prime hanger-on who engaged in a melodramatic snail's pace marathon match against the Undertaker last year. His performance at Summerslam against Brock seems to indicate that the fans are looking forward to Aitch's impending retirement, given the post-match "You tapped out" chants last August.
One thing I take issue with in this Lesnar-HHH feud is that Brock and Paul Heyman had infinite possibilities for match stipulations against Hunter. Whatever the surprise stipulations, Triple H had to abide by them once he signed the contract. Why, then, settle for a win-or-retire stipulation for HHH? Why not a "Triple H must retire no matter what" stipulation? Why not get creative and opt for a "Loser castrates Triple H" match? If Heyman were half as smart as he's supposed to be, he would have chosen a "Brock must win by Kimura lock" stipulation and allowed WWE to just replay the armbar-fest Summerslam main event, giving Brock the night off. My ideal scenario for this match would be Triple H nearly beating Brock, only for Booker T to do a run-in as payback for Wrestlemania XIX. Booker hits Hunter with the Book End, and thirty seconds later, Lesnar pins the prone HHH for the victory. Whatever the case, Triple H retires "for good" after losing to Brock, and he will not be missed.
Brodus Clay, "Sweet T" Tensai, & The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins: It was only three months ago that I predicted that Tensai would transform once again into a goofy fish-out-of-water dancer, and it was years ago that I foresaw the pairing of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow under the name "The Rhodes Scholars" (albeit with The Genius filling Sandow's spot). WWE finally realizes how depleted their Divas division is, so they have brought back two recently departed Divas. Unfortunately, those two are Brie and Nikki Bella, rather than Beth Phoenix or Kharma. At least it's good to see Naomi finally get some solid in-ring time. Also of note is the Wrestlemania in-ring debut of Cameron, who infamously declared "Melina vs. Alicia Fox" to be her all-time favorite match on the most recent (and hopefully final) season Tough Enough. She gets to go to Mania, while winner "Silent Rage" Big Andy got released and never wrestled on TV. If I were Big Andy, I'd be in a rage (but not making a lot of noise). Team Funkasaurus will win, as their victory celebration is just long enough to allow fans to return from the restrooms for the next match.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston: This match surprises me in a number of ways. First off, who would have thought that the Odd Couple pairing of Daniel Bryan and Kane would have lasted so long and actually gotten over? Case in point: the Dr. Shelby character lasted an entire six months. The fact that Bryan and Kane have gone the way of Booker T & Goldust, rather than, say, Lance Storm & Val Venis is astounding. Another surprise is that the announcers haven't made a big deal out of the fact that AJ basically created Team Hell No by forcing the two into anger management. Then again, this is the same company that insists that an 18-second title loss is some sort of Wrestlemania record because they can't remember Kane-Chavo. This match could go either way. On the one hand, WWE probably doesn't want Ziggler winning a title so soon before he cashes in his Money in the Bank title shot, so AJ's team will probably lose. On the other hand, the event is in AJ's home town, so her team will definitely lose.
Alternatively, the match gets changed at the last minute to a four-man battle royal in which Daniel Bryan gets eliminated in the first five seconds.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker: I have already made myself perfectly clear on who should win this match, even before the match was announced or CM Punk lost his title. As for who will actually win, the live performance by Living Colour of "Cult of Personality" hints that Punk will win, since a live performance of one's entrance music always spells victory (except for Triple H at WM17 and WM 21, and John Cena last year, and, yeah, a lot of people). The Undertaker even admitted to the streak not being that important in the context of the Paul Bearer angle, which both hints at a Punk victory and really tarnishes the victory if Punk really does end up beating the streak. As for the use of Paul Bearer's death to drive the feud, this may be the one case in wrestling history where it is acceptable, nay, mandatory, to exploit someone's passing, considering that Bill Moody's entire WWE persona was built around death. My prediction: Punk wins, and WWE will donate the never-to-be-used DVD covers of "The Undertaker: 21-0" to impoverished countries.
|"But there are still several dollars to be |
made off the streak!"
Live performance by Diddy: It won't be very good, and the live audience will think it's even worse.
John Cena vs. The Rock: The anticipation for this match has been brewing for months, if not years. This match could go any which way, but I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Cena's new t-shirt will be navy blue and Red Sox-themed. The man only has two opportunities a year to introduce new merchandise, so he will deliver when it counts.
As for the outcome of the match itself, Cena is pretty much a lock. The question is how he will win. He's certainly been teasing a heel turn as of late, but he's done that so many times before that it's hard to believe that it will actually happen. Now, the last time that the challenger at Wrestlemania put so much emphasis on "needing" to win and doing "whatever it takes," Steve Austin turned heel in a move no one saw coming until they re-watched all his promos from before the event. Perhaps John Laurinaitis will help Cena win. Perhaps Cena will just go ballistic on The Rock with chair shot after chair shot (not to the head, of course). Whatever happens, Cena will walk out the champion, and most people will be booing him (unless, ironically, he does turn heel, in which case he will probably be cheered more than usual).