Searching for WrestleMania 31 Excitement

17 days and two episodes of Raw to go until WrestleMania 31.  Normally, the level of excitement as a fan of the WWE is pretty high at this time of year.  Most of the WrestleMania card is in place and every episode of Raw is designed to build anticipation for the big event.  Right now, I’m not sure how I feel about the card from top to bottom.  There is some decent build up for some of the matches, but others feel uninspired, rushed, and forced.  Let’s take a look at some of the announced matches.

Starting with Triple H and Sting, the buildup for this match has the trademark of a Triple H “slow burn” angle that began at Survivor Series in November.  It began as a publicity stunt to get fans to watch the Pay Per View for free by teasing the first ever appearance of Sting in a WWE ring.  For reasons that were unknown to us at the time, Sting interfered with the main event, costing Triple H his job at the time.  A few encounters with a silent Sting between then and now lead to the challenge Sting made to HHH at the FastLane PPV.  During the last Raw, we finally heard Sting speak and explain his side of the story, one that had been pretty much one-sided in favor of HHH until that point.

The outcome of the events between Sting and HHH thus far haven’t surprised me in a bit, I am still convinced this match is a bad idea and will underwhelm.  While I like the slow burn approach to this angle, it hasn’t done anything to get me interested in the match between these two.  In fact Sting has come out flat on two big occasions when they finally gave us a chance to see him and have him make an impression.  First was the encounter at FastLane.  After months of teases, Sting entered the ring in the least dramatic fashion as possible, straight from the back with no dark effects or anything.  Didn’t say a word and silently challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania by pointing to the WM banner with his bat.  While it was somewhat unusual to get a wordless challenge like that, the follow up on Raw this past Monday was terrible.  Sting finally spoke, and when he did, it wasn’t even live, it was in a recorded vignette, the content of which could not have been more cliché.  All we got was a diatribe about how he wanted to avenge the demise of the WCW.  Come on, that was 14 years ago!  Even the fans that remember WCW could care less at this point.  Couldn’t they have thought of something else?

I stand by my earlier statement that his match is a bad idea.  The anticipation that was built around Sting’s arrival is going to fizzle when he actually sets foot in the ring.  He was never all that great of a wrestler to begin with, and now he is about 17-18 years past his prime.  Triple H can still bring a level of intensity to his matches but asking him to carry this match against a relic might be a bit too much to ask.  I have very low expectations for this one.

The André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal looks to continue to serve as a way to get the talents on the card that didn’t manage to land in a featured match.  A typical Battle Royal is difficult to follow, especially at the beginning when the bell rings and 30 competitors are in the ring together.  There isn’t much room for an individual talent to showcase much offense other than kicking and punching, and it is difficult to focus on any one particular part of the action.  Only after the first 25 or so competitors are eliminated does it begin to get interesting.

In the first André match last year, we were treated to a memorable spot when Cesaro picked up The Big Show and threw him over the top rope to seal his victory.  Unfortunately, it failed to get Cesaro over in the coming months and he is still searching for some sort of foothold with the fan base.

This year, it is difficult to predict who will win this match and what the outcome will be but it looks like they are going to attempt to settle several mini-feuds within this match, particularly between The Miz and Damien Mizdow, and The Big Show and Kane.  It is somewhat of a letdown that the long-running tag-team-destined-to-break-up storyline between the Miz and Mizdow is going to get engulfed by the number of other people in this match.  Same goes for Kane and The Big Show.  The conflicts between these men should really be settled in singles matches, not in one big Battle Royal match.  Either way, as I mentioned at the top, this match is difficult to predict and could surprise us with some high spots and a surprise victor, hopefully one that fares better with the win than Cesaro did last year.

The ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship could potentially steal the show.  Thus far, we have a good mix of up-and-coming and veteran talents in this match whose styles should complement each other.  A multi-way ladder match has been a WrestleMania staple several times in the last 15 years and has produced some of the most memorable high-spots in WM history.  I would expect this match to be no different.  The storyline around the feud between the competitors in this match who keep stealing the title belt from Bad News Barrett and then from each other has been surprisingly comical.  I am looking forward to seeing what the relative WrestleMania newcomers such as Ziggler, Barrett, Ambrose, and Harper are going to do to try to cement their own WrestleMania moment.  I also like the veterans in the match, R-Truth and Stardust.  Either one of them can surprise us with a high spot that we wouldn’t expect.

I’ll have more to say about the main event matches of Lesnar/Reigns, Cena/Rusev, and Undertaker/Wyatt after next week’s Raw.  Right now, I’m interested to see if any of these questions are going to be answered soon:

  • Who else is going to be in the André match?
  • Is Golddust going to participate somehow? Rumor had it that he was going to retire but he was victorious in his last match at FastLane and that didn’t feel like a career-ending send off to one of the most enduring characters we’ve seen in WWE history.
  • What role, if any, is Shaemus going to play at WrestleMania?
  • What is Daniel Bryan going to do? It seems as though they’ve teased his involvement in the IC Ladder Match but that would be a precipitous drop-off from his involvement in last year’s WM which included a victory over Triple H to start the show, and his championship victory over Randy Orton and Batista in the main event.  Certainly they can find a one-on-one matchup for the guy between now and WM, can’t they?
  • Are they going to be able to get Roman Reigns over any more in the next two weeks? The fans still aren’t convinced that he is our “babyface savior”, especially given the “you can’t wrestle” chants that keep popping up during his matches.

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