Unless you’ve been totally oblivious to the world of wrestling (and if so, why are you reading this?), Sunday marks Wrestlemania XXX from New Orleans. For all the pomp and circumstance, which in all honesty shows just how powerful this event has become, at the end it boils down to the product that takes place in the ring. However, before going into the lineup, let’s look at two names that were prominent parts of last year’s show, that have nothing to do with Sunday’s event: The Rock and CM Punk.
After putting over John Cena at last year’s event, ending a very long term storyline, The Rock has been absent from the WWE scene, with no indication of him returning anytime soon (so much for the “never leave again” interview). Obviously, WWE knew well in advance that he would not be a part of this show, and honestly, the one area they needed to worry about was the media attention that Rock can garner for an event. It is hard to get that kind of mainstream coverage with anyone else, but WWE has managed to somewhat compensate for it with Hulk Hogan joining the company and utilizing him for press events and media appearances for the show.
When CM Punk decided to walk out of the company three months ago, most figured he would return in time to claim a spot on the Wrestlemania lineup, possibly even in the main event. Well, time has run out on that happening, and while some still expect him to show up in New Orleans on Sunday (or the next night on Raw), he is not an advertised part of the show, and it is hard to imagine any scenario that has him in anything other than a run-in role on the show, and that’s probably more wishful thinking for Punk fans than anything else. WWE’s answer to not having Punk was to give fans (potentially) a double dose of Daniel Bryan. While the “Punk” chants still ring out, they’ve gotten fainter as weeks have gone on, showing WWE is weathering the storm thanks to their renewed push of Bryan.
Now, to look at what we will be getting on Sunday:
Preshow: WWE World Tag Team Champions Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Jack Swagger & Cesaro vs. Curtis Axel & Ryback. In recent years, it has been a crapshoot whether the tag titles would get on the PPV or the preshow, or possibly get left off entirely. They made the preshow this year with a four-way that should be quick (as preshow matches usually are), and given those involved, entertaining. Usos retaining or a possible Swagger & Cesaro win seems to most likely options.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal – WWE seemed to make a conscious effort to focus TV time on building up the top matches at Wrestlemania this year and pretty much relegate a good portion of the roster to this match, including crowd favorites and top stars such as Sheamus, Big Show and Rey Mysterio. There’s a number of potential winners, and someone like Big E. or Dolph Ziggler could use the push of getting the win in this match. That said, hard to not see Sheamus coming away victorious, or at least being in there at the end. Regardless, this old school fan just likes that they are paying tribute to Andre The Giant and at least more members of the roster get a Wrestlemania appearance.
Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational – AJ Lee is working on a record setting Divas title reign, and will be in a 14-Divas match where one fall ends it. Odds should be heavy on a title change, but I would not be shocked at all to see Lee escape with her title intact. Expect this to be fast as well, and see my above comment about getting more of the roster on the show.
New Age Outlaws & Kane vs. The Shield – After the Royal Rumble, you had to expect the Shield to be broken up, but WWE pulled their finger off the trigger and instead opted to keep the unit together and give them a babyface turn. The dynamic of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, who have all the potential in the world as rebellious future stars for the company, against “Attitude-era” veterans working for those in power is a simple one, but effective. Hopefully this match gets enough time to showcase what the Shield can do, although that will probably depend on how long the singles matches that headline the card go. Unless WWE plans on keeping this feud going, Shield should come out victorious and heading for another showdown with Bray Wyatt and Co.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt – I actually think WWE’s decision to give Cena a break from the main event picture this year is a wise one. Makes you feel that he isn’t being shoved down your throat, which is usually the biggest complaint I hear about him. Wyatt has been WWE’s hottest rising heel in a while, and has been delivering great matches this year. I fully expect a wild brawl with interference and chaos, and Cena might win, but regardless this match will be another step into the top of the card for Wyatt, who certainly doesn’t have the usual “look” or character for WWE.
Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar – To reference what I wrote above, The Undertaker is not a “part-timer” in my eyes, he is an attraction, and that is the difference. His annual Wrestlemania matches bring back memories of when the traveling NWA World Champion (Harley Race or Ric Flair) or Andre The Giant would visit a territory a few times a year to help draw a big house. Undertaker is at Wrestlemania to help draw that stadium size crowd, and his matches continue to deliver. This time, we have Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar, and I would expect some MMA-style grappling and striking mixed in with downright brutality. It will probably be Brock’s best match since returning to the company. You don’t really expect me to pick a winner here, do you?
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – If Triple H wins, we riot. Just kidding. I’m watching from home, so rioting would just result in me breaking my own stuff, and why would I do that? Seriously, most figure CM Punk would have been in this spot, but instead “The Game” will have the chance to pass the torch to Daniel Bryan, which I fully expect him to do. I think the real question is whether the WWE World Title match will be able to top this. On paper, Bryan vs. Triple H in a singles match just looks to have a lot more potential than the Triple Threat match.
WWE World Champion Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. the winner of Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H. As a rule, I’m not the biggest fan of three-way matches, as they usually fall into a basic formula of a rotating participant “taking a nap” on the floor while the other two face off, only for a “last minute save” and eventually a barrage of match-ending moves that get broken up. Obviously, I am expecting Daniel Bryan to be the third participant in the match, so it will be interesting to see the crowd reactions if he is out on the floor and we are left with Orton vs. Batista for any considerable length. Ending Wrestlemania with a stadium of fans doing the “Yes” chant would be an incredible visual, and I don’t see WWE ending their annual event with a heel victory this time.