Still Searching for WrestleMania Excitement

Ten days to go and one episode of Raw left until WrestleMania 31 in California.  I thought about my post last week about searching for excitement for WrestleMania and I was trying to get to the bottom of what my problem was.  Along came Monday Night Raw this week and things began to improve, at least a little bit.  I’m still not convinced this year’s ‘Mania has the potential to deliver a classic match or go down as one of the all-time great shows, but it is starting to show some more potential.

To start, let’s consider what a typical WrestleMania is made of.  These days it usually follows a formula along these lines:

  • A card featuring 3-4 main event-level matches that would include:
    • A WWE title defense
    • A special attraction from a returning legend
    • A match featuring John Cena
    • The defense of The Undertaker’s unprecedented WrestleMania winning streak
  • A musical act
  • A “death spot” match, usually the divas match that gives the fans a break before the main event
  • The undercard, typically overbooked multi-talent matches

So, how is this year’s card shaping up thus far?  The musical act so far is LL Cool J.  I guess if I was an LL Cool J fan and it was 30 years ago, I’d be happy.  But this doesn’t have me as amped as when Motörhead played the entrance for Triple H at WM 17, or when Living Color played for CM Punk at WM 29.

How about the undercard?  It seems to be anchored by the 7-man ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental championship and the André the Giant Battle Royal.

On paper, the IC match appears to be overbooked with about 3-4 too many competitors involved.  While you can make a case that each man in the match is capable of delivering on his own, it is going to be hard to focus on any person and they are probably all going to try to outshine each other with high spots from the ladder.

Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, and Dolph Ziggler are going to try for a big WrestleMania moment.  R-Truth, I’m guessing, was booked out of respect to give him a high-profile match in the twilight of his career.  The last minute additions of Stardust and Daniel Bryan are curious.  I would have liked to see Stardust continue his feud with Golddust and there isn’t much of a story arc to this booking.

But how exactly did Daniel Bryan go from such a high at WrestleMania XXX last year by winning two matches and the WWE title to getting buried in a 7 person match for the IC title just one WrestleMania later?  Couldn’t he have been given at least a one-on-one grudge match?  Not since King Kong Bundy was forced to compete in a 6-man tag team match with two midgets on his team at WrestleMania III in 1987 has there been such a precipitous drop-off for a main event competitor from one ‘Mania to the next.  You have to wonder what Bryan did to get taken down to this level.  If they keep this up, even I’m going to start rooting for the guy!

I don’t have high hopes for this match. There’s too much going on, the late additions to the match were oddly placed, and there are too many people involved.

The André match doesn’t grab me either, mainly for the same set of reasons.  It feels like a consolation prize for talents wouldn’t have otherwise been included on the card.  It also minimizes a few feuds that have been building for a while, particularly the one between Miz and Mizdow.  WWE Creative went so far as to make those two tag team champs as part of the buildup for their eventual breakup, and now the culmination of their conflict is going to be overshadowed by the 28 other competitors in the ring with them.

The main event matches all have at least some sort of promise for one reason or another.  The recent events on the past few episodes of Raw have raised the interest level in them somewhat.

The Undertaker/Bray Wyatt match is tough to gauge.  Gone is the unprecedented and iconic Undertaker 21 match WrestleMania undefeated streak, having been thwarted by Brock Lesnar at WM 30 last year. The Streak had become legendary, and often overshadowed the WWE title match.  Now that it’s over and we haven’t seen Undertaker at all since he walked up the ramp after his loss in New Orleans, it is hard to understand what this match is even going to be about.

The Undertaker is unquestionably one of the best talents the WWE has ever seen and he is the best and most enduring performer in WrestleMania history.  However, I feel like he should have gone out in one of two ways, either by retiring undefeated at WrestleMania, or leaving after his first loss.  A return this year seems rather pointless.  As much potential as Bray Wyatt has shown in his short run on the main roster, he still has a way to go to be considered an elite talent.  It’s hard to get excited about this one, or even pick a winner.  I do, however, like the fact that they kept The Undertaker off of TV, at least it will be interesting to see what he looks like when his entrance music hits and he walks on stage.

I have my eye on the Rusev vs. John Cena match as one with potential.  Rusev is on a major roll and has earned the push he was given out of the gate when he was called up from NXT developmental last spring.  He has steadily improved and his presentation is solid.  The villainous anti-American heel is a type of character that appears on and off over the years and is almost always guaranteed to generate heat with the fans.  Rusev is the perfect foil for John Cena, himself a modern spin of a classic WWE character, the fighting babyface.  The two had a surprisingly interesting match at WWE FastLane and I would expect them to raise the bar at their WrestleMania rematch.  The undefeated streak of Rusev vs Cena’s patriotism add a level of emotion and intrigue to this match.  I have high hopes that this match will deliver.

I’m very excited about the Randy Orton/Seth Rollins clash.  This should be an emotional affair and a brutally physical encounter.  Seth Rollins has emerged from the breakup of The Shield as the unquestionable best of the trio now that they are on their own.  His in-ring work is among the best on the roster today, reminiscent of a young Shawn Michaels, particularly in how he takes his bumps and sells for his opponent.  His mike skills are among the best and he has proved himself in long segments such as his encounter with John Stewart in Newark a few weeks ago.  We were given a four month break from an over-exposed Randy Orton while he filmed a movie and he is riding high in his return.  Always an underrated in-ring performer, I expect Orton to deliver and his style to work well with Rollins.  This match could steal the show and could possibly go down as a classic.

The WWE title match itself is one of the biggest mismatches we have seen in years.  Brock Lesnar is having one of the best 18 month runs that we have ever seen.  He ended The Streak, he won the title in dominating fashion, and did it all while being mostly kept off-camera.  He truly is a special attraction and his absence from the ring during his off periods only serve to make his matches more special.  Paul Heyman, of course, is so good at his promos that it is becoming hard for him to generate heel heat for Lesnar because the crowd ends up cheering for him no matter what he says.  He is the perfect mouthpiece pairing for the mostly-silent Lesnar.  And when Lesnar does talk, you can’t help but hang on every word.  His interview on Raw this past Monday is among the best he’s ever done and it was punctuated by his admission that he is in the middle of a very real contract dispute with The WWE.  Nothing adds more interest to a wrestling storyline than reality.

Roman Reigns, on the other hand, is way over his head and way out of his league.  His appearance in a WrestleMania main event is at least five to seven years premature, and I’m not convinced he’d ever be ready for this spot.  There isn’t a single interesting thing about his character.  He’s got a banal catch phrase, it is impossible to tell what he stands for, and there are times that he can barely put a sentence together when handed the microphone.  His matches are predictable and boring.  He has trouble mounting a credible offense, and all too often falls back on the Superman Punch and spear, both of which are annoyingly similar.

Reigns was picked for this match based solely on his look and a hunch that WWE brass had years ago when they hired him that he would be big someday.  I’ve said time and time again that they are trying to brainwash us into thinking that he is our babyface savior, the one man who can step in to the ring and beat the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar.  Logically, you have to ask yourself if that even makes sense.  What has he ever done to indicate that he would be able to knock off someone that has as many dominant wins this past year as Lesnar?  Who has he really beaten one-on-one that would make you believe he has it in him to come away with a victory.

So, while I expect the undercard to underwhelm, I think we are still looking at a mixed bag of main event level matches at WrestleMania 31.  It doesn’t appear to be as stacked a card as Wrestlemania X-Seven was, nor does it look like any of the matches will be an instant classic like Michaels/Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV.  This past Monday’s Raw helped raise my level of excitement somewhat, I still don’t think that this is the best they can do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: