It surprised me to discover, upon opening up this ol’ tumblr, that this will be my first entry since last year’s Mania preview, especially given the fact that I think WWE is leaps and bounds better today than they were even a year ago, let alone 2 or 3 years when I watched with disdain, out of sheer habit. These days, I actually find myself excited to tune in Mondays, Fridays, even Wednesdays and Saturdays. And this has mostly to due with the re-found emphasis on truly entertaining characters, the Sandows and the PTPs and the Bryans, and less focus on the stale old Ortons and Sheamuses. It feels like we’re finally getting back to the days where there are true midcard feuds, angles going on that involve people away from the main event slot. I have to think that the realignment of NXT/FCW as a breeding ground for new characters is a big part of that, rather than the trainwreck that the NXT “reality show” was. So, big ups to WWE for abandoning what wasn’t working and finding things that do. So, with that said, my take on and rundown of the Wrestlemania 29 card.
Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins - Tons of Funk (Sweet T, especially) is a perfect example of that idea of abandoning what wasn’t working. I don’t know if it was the whole “Lord Tensai” gimmick that failed, or if American audiences just don’t want to take Albert seriously. But from Albert to A-Train, from Tensai to Sweet T, Ablie always seems to get more over with the American crowds as a comedy guy rather than the serious badass. And it’s working, and working well, with Brodus Clay. On the other side of the fence, you have the aforementioned Sandow, who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite guys on the roster. I didn’t even realize, until I was researching earlier, that he was Idol Stevens - a credit to the man’s talent as a character. And what a character he has - the subtle nuances, the facial expressions, the robe, the way he holds the mic like a wine goblet. Just fantastic all around. And with the Funkadactyls and Bellas involved, this looks to be a great little fun-loving comedy style match. I’d like to see Rhodes Scholars get the victory and a serious run at the tag titles, but this is Mania, and the kids will be happy with the ending of this one VERDICT: Funk is on a roll.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango - The me of 2 years ago would be outraged that something like Fandango has a Mania match while guys like Ryder and Kofi who work their tails off all year are left off the card. But I’ve grown, and I’ll get into that more later. I’ve got to give some props to Johnny Curtis - for a guy who won NXT and was supposed to be “the next breakout star,” it took him a while to crack the main roster. And I’m glad it did — plain old Johnny Curtis was nothing worthwhile. And while Fandango seemed like a horrible idea from the outset, Curtis has made it work. He comes out each week, and he’s just creative enough to pull off doing the same kind of thing with just enough growth and difference to keep it entertaining. And this feud with Jericho is a perfect one to start with - Jericho can get a great match out of a broomstick, and I’m sure Fandango is learning all kinds of things from him as this goes on. And it’s been a nice surprise that someone with a ballroom dancing gimmick turns out to be such a badass when he puts the boots to someone. VERDICT: FAHN…DAHHNG….GOOOOO.
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston - Ziggler is another of the character-driven heroes of the past year or so. It feels like he’s been ready to break out as a top level guy for months now, and I try to be patient, but it does get frustrating. And for him to be relegated to a tag match (albeit for the titles), it’s a little unsettling. His time will come, but I also hope they don’t wait so long that it just become anticlimactic. In a perfect world, he’d cash…. well, I’ll get into that later too. Such as it is, I think the Team Hell No thing has run its course. They’re still great together, but let’s face it, these guys are singles wrestlers. They need to drop the titles and get back to doing what they do - but I’m not sure that Ziggler and Big E (the surprisingly funniest dude on Twitter that you’re probably not following) are the ones to take it. Besides, the loss can frustrate Ziggler into doing what I get into later… VERDICT: I AM STILL THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS!
Ryback vs. Mark Henry - Sigh. I’m not really sure what to think of Ryback. I’ll give the guy credit for loving what he does, and wanting to be the top guy in the company, and all of that, but… really? Really?? There’s a reason he gets Goldberg chants. There’s a time and a place for big monster guys like him, and this match is exactly it — an undercard freak show test of strength. And Mizark knows his role, and knows it well - though his run with the title a while back was far more believable than Ryback’s involvement in the main event scene a few months ago. I love Mark, the dude is living his dream and I’m happy for him. Same with Ryback, I guess, but he’s just not that enjoyable to watch. A big dude who says just a few things and powers through opponents - big whoop, we’ve seen it before. At least when he was stacking jobbers 2 or 3 high, it was something different. As it is… VERDICT: Mark get Shellshocked; a bunch of fat Americans chant “Feed Me More!”
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett vs. The Miz (Interactive Pre-Show Match) - Nice of WWE to think to defend one of the oldest and most prestigious titles on the show. Er, pre-show. I know, I’m just being a bitter smark, but dammit, I love the IC title. It feels like Wade Barrett should be bigger than he is - dude has talent, can go on the mic (as seen by his leading of the Nexus), and has a great look, especially by tweaking him into a “bare knuckle boxing” champ. Miz, on the other hand, has been AWFUL as a face (see what I did there?). He’s fallen into the Orton / Morrison trap of losing everything that made him great when he turns face, and becoming the most vanilla, plain jane, zero-fun-to-root-for white bread snore on the roster. VERDICT: The Pikey wins, but what do I want with a caravan with no wheels?
Randy Orton, Sheamus & Big Show vs. The Shield - You know, I remember a day when Orton and Sheamus were two of my favorite guys on the roster. I’m not just a blind heel lover, but come on… Orton NEEDS to be a heel. At least when he was running around kicking people in the head and feigning man-boy love with Cody and Ted Jr, he was interesting. As a face, he’s been exactly as I described Miz earlier. And as they say on the internets, “ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” Sheamus is still at least somewhat watchable, when he’s doing less yelling about Brogue kicks and Fellas, and more talking about his Uncle Fargas’ lucky green testicle. And the Shield, what can I say? They’ve been a breath of fresh air, even if I would rather just see Ambrose being the Ambrose I fell in love with in FCW. We still see flashes of it, though, and that’s better than nothing. Can’t see this ride coming to an end quite yet. VERDICT: Believe in the Shield.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger - Man, it wasn’t long ago that I couldn’t stand either one of these guys. Del Rio is an example of a face turn done right (new moves, keep the confidence, play into the fans’ existing love for Ricardo), and Swagger finally has a mouthpiece so we don’t have to listen to his horrible lisp all the time. And giving him a seasoned vet like Dirty Dutch Mantel was an absolute genius move. This has become one of the most must-see rivalries on TV (sorry Miz, but no), and shapes up to be one hell of a match, with a Shyamalanian twist… VERDICT: Del Rio wins, Swagger gets frustrated and attacks, breaks Del Rio’s ankle… “I’M HERE TO SHOW THE WORLD” that Ziggler, also frustrated from his loss earlier, finally gets to cash in and walk out with the title. FOLLOW. THAT.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (No Holds Barred) - I’m not sure that this is particularly necessary. If Lesnar is going to be around, he has no business anywhere but the main event. But, in the absence of that, there’s not really any better spot for him than to be Heyman’s muscle in the ongoing hatred of the McMahon family. Given the “if Triple H loses, he must retire” stipulation, I think there’s no doubt… VERDICT: Game (goes) over.
The Undertaker vs. CM Punk - This will be the highlight of my day. Holy shit, CM Punk truly is the best in the world, and never has this been shown more eloquently than in this Mania buildup. The passing of Percy Pringle was most certainly a sad event, but it’s almost like it was meant to happen right now, right as they headed into this program. The way they’ve used Uncle Paul’s memory, the urn, the ashes… my God, I get chills just thinking about it. In a perfect and just world, Punk would go out there, wrestle circles around the crippled old Deadman, and break the streak. But… c’mon, this is Mania. VERDICT: 21-0.
WWE Champion The Rock vs. John Cena - I ain’t even mad. Something snapped in my head the other day, and finally, I got it. Wrestlemania isn’t about rewarding performers for their hard work throughout the year (though it should be), it’s about making as much money as they can. And in today’s Hollywood America, putting The Rock in the main event will sell far more PPVs than Punk ever would. So it is what it is, and I’m at peace with it (even if it does suck that Rocky has only shown up to Raw a couple of times in the past month). This match seems to be a foregone conclusion, that Cena overcomes the odds, Rock goes away to make more movies, and life in the WWE goes on. But the question, in my wormy, smarky little brain, is this - is it set up that way because it’s the perfect ending, or is it set up to look so obvious that we, as fans, will think it’s TOO obvious and second-guess it? Or should I just STFU, watch and enjoy the match, and whatever happens, happens? Yeah, I think I’ll go with that. VERDICT: The Champ…Is…Here…Again!
All around, this is shaping up to be a pretty damn good looking show. The next few hours will tell the story, and soon, we’ll be on the road to Wrestlemania xXx!
Oh, the difference a year can make.
A year ago, I looked at the Wrestlemania card and pretty much loathed everything on it, from Michael Cole and Snooki having matches, to Sheamus and D-Bry getting bumped off to a dark match, to “EntertainmentsMania.” But I gotta hand it to Vince and the boys — most of what I didn’t dig is no longer around, and it seems they’re finally starting to listen, once again, to the
fans WWE Universe. And they’ve cooked up what appears to me to be THE best Mania in years, if not ever. Compelling feuds, great storytelling, hashtags o’plenty - this show has it all. And with the show coming up tomorrow night (and me being home to watch it for the first time since the Not 25th Anniversary), I figured I’d give my take on the matchups.
Tag Team Triple Threat Semi-Dark Match: Primo/Epico (c) vs. The Usos vs. Kidd Gabriel
Full disclosure: I had to look up who the tag champs were when I heard they had announced this match, which will take place before the show begins and will be streamed for free live on wwe.com. More full disclosure: I haven’t really watched much of Smackdown or Superstars in recent months, so if that’s where the two not-Carlitos have been flourishing, I haven’t seen it. That said, since they unified the tag titles into these hideous giant pennies and there are only one set of champs, they really should be getting more screen time on all shows. THAT said, I have caught a bit of the Usos lately and I’m pleasantly surprised at how they’re coming around. First few times I saw them, I saw nothing but a charisma black hole, but the new entrance seems to have done wonders for who they are as a team. I also haven’t seen much of Kidd and Gabriel as a team, but from the sounds of things, they’ve come together quickly and people are taking notice. For a free last minute preview “if you haven’t bought the show yet, this is supposed to convince you to drop 60 bucks” match, I’m hoping they come out and do it up big. I can’t really pick a clear concise favorite, as I’m somewhere between “meh” and “okay” on all three teams. A title change would be an exciting way to kick off the show, though, and I think the Usos have a fair shot at some gold. Er, copper.
Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve
Also from the “things I had to look up” file: who the hell Maria Menounos is. Apparently she’s a host on some kind of celebrity gossip show, so there’s that. I try not to bash on the ladies too much (sorry, I still hate the term “Divas” unless Dana Ross is involved), but there’s a reason everyone refers to these matches as piss breaks. I’d much rather see Beth and Natty collide, or (had they known what to do with her and kept her around) a Gail Kim type of match. There’s just something so disheartening about watching Eve booty pop like it’s a wrestling move, or K2 giving a stinkface. I think it’s safe to place your money on some Snookiesque shenanigans and Maria Mewhoever getting the win over Eve.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
I feel for Randy. I really do. He hasn’t had a decent Mania storyline in a couple of years now - not since Legacy exploded (which, “decent’ is a matter of opinion) and the “IED / Torture The Levesque / MacMahon family” has anyone really had a reason to be invested in what Randal Keith has going on at Mania. A thrown-together match with Punk last year, and a thrown-together match with Kane this year. Randy’s a fine asset to the company (as is Kane), but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of involvement in creating a story as to why these two are fighting all of a sudden. The Kane/Cena/Ryder thing obviously had to come to a conclusion so Cena could focus on Rocky, and this whole thing has just felt like Creative said “eh, nothing else to do, you two go out and fight a few times.” I’d like to think that something big can come of this, but in the end, I’ll wager on Randy hitting an RKO and we all move on to the next thing.
Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny
Sweet merciful heavens! The clouds have parted, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping! All because finally, after 6+ months of agonizing boredom, Johnny Ace might FINALLY be removed from my TV screen. There have been a few characters that the IWC has latched onto in recent years that leave me screaming a loud WTF into the heavens (Muhammad Hassan, Alberto Del Rio, Braden Walker, Mike Adamle), but none leave me scratching my head more than the love of John Laryngitis. For one, especially coming from an IWC perspective, the guy is a known prickhead backstage, especially when it comes to the women. I can’t stand what I’ve heard of him in a backstage role, and I can’t stand his moronic sputtering on TV. For the love of all things good and holy, let Mr. Long win this one. Holla holla holla!
Intercontinental Title: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Big Show
What I said about Cody a year ago still stands - whoever taught him to be this awesome deserves a rabid hump. Love what he’s been doing with Show, but the mere fact that the whole thing has been about Show’s failures at Mania seem to be setting up for the big win for the big guy. However, that’s a lot of faces winning and you have to think they’re not just going to send the fans home happy on every match. And Cody’s fantastic in his role - a loss to Show would not only take the title off of him (obviously) but pretty much derail the momentum he has going. Cody retains. Show cries.
World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Sheamus
Remember when I said “what a difference a year makes”? This is especially true in this match, for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, before getting into the match itself, I think we as an IWC owe a debt of gratitude to Vince and the staff for giving us the pleasure of seeing “our” guys, not only Bryan but Punk as well, hold the two top tier belts in the world for the last several months. And if I can be greedy, I was hoping upon hope that those two holding the belts would lead to a title unification match at Mania and the official end of the brand split. Eh, a guy can dream, right? But what we do have is our main man, D-Bry, going up against the Royal Rumble winner, Sheamus. Sheamus has fallen under the radar at times, to the point where sometimes I forget how excited I was for him to finally get the callup to WWE. It’s a shame these two were bumped from the broadcast last year, but another year of maturity in each of their cases might just make this the match to steal the show (on an already star-studded lineup). AmDrag over Lobster Head to retain the title (though if any match will see a title swap, this might be the one).
WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho
Another smarky dream match. I have to say, for as disappointed as I was in WWE a year ago, so much of it turned around when Mr. Pipe Bomb began Summer of Punk II and did just what he said he wanted to do - made it fun again. For the most part, Raw has actually been pretty fun and entertaining in recent months, between R-Truth playing with his Little Jimmy, the absence of J-B-el Rio, the general depush of the quickly faltering Miz, the removal of Cena from the title picture, and most of all, Punk just coming out and being Punk. Funny how all it took for the show to be a little more interesting again was to let the genuinely interesting people shine and stop shoving things like a scripted Kevin Nash down our throats. As for Jericho, he’s long been one of my all-time favorites - but I sorely miss the old school Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah. Even so, this looks to be a fantastic matchup between two solidly skilled veterans - and with a compelling story to boot. Jericho takes him to the limit, but ultimately, Punk locks on the Anaconda Vise (not Vice) and walks out with his gold.
Hell in a Cell: Undertaker vs. Triple H (with special guest referee Shawn Michaels):
To be honest, I REALLY wish Taker was facing somebody else. I understand the story, 4 years in the making (between Shawn’s 2 failures and Hunter taking him to the limit last year), but you have to think that Taker’s looking at his final match either way - especially when they’ve been advertising it as an “end of an era” match, which really only happens when Hunter wins. BUT, I don’t think they can justifiably end the streak by giving it to Triple effing Haitch. If anybody is to end the streak, it absolutely has to be a young guy in a “passing of the torch” moment. What’s accomplished by Hunter taking this streak when he’s not really an active wrestler these days? Rather, I think we get a similar situation to last year: Hunter takes Taker to his breaking point, almost wins but can’t quite seal the deal. This time, his little buddy is reffing, so we get that whole dynamic thrown in. I think it’s inevitable (if not too predictable) that we end up in a situation where Hunter can win via nefarious means, Shawn refuses to count, and Taker rises from the ashes to put Hunter down and go 20-0. However, for this to live up to the last three years’ matches, as well as the “end of an era” moniker, I think the match ends with Taker winning and earning Hunter’s respect, as they both walk off into the sunset, effectively ending both of their careers.
Once in a Lifetime: John Cena vs. The Rock
When people talk about the biggest matches in Wrestlemania history, only a select few come to my mind: Hogan/Andre, Hogan/Savage, Hogan/Warrior, Hogan/Rock… sensing a pattern here. And this year, I think we have the potential for one of the all time classics. This generation’s answer to Hogan, John Cena, in a year-long feud with the returning Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Honestly, a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that they’d actually go through with this “sign the main event a year ahead of time” angle - but it’s indicative of the progressive forward thinking that WWE is finally showing. And if their intent was to build quite possibly the biggest Wrestlemania main event of all time, they just may have accomplished that. Given a full year (plus last year’s pre-Mania feuding), these two have come along with some classic promos and plenty of believability. And one of the biggest keys, and something WWE needs to be commended for, is (and correct me if I’m wrong) the fact that in this whole year, aside from what happened at last year’s Mania and the Survivor Series Rock Bottom, these two have not come to blows once. It’s been nothing but talk, and when the two get in the ring, face to face, you can see and feel the intensity building for the matchup, the hunger and desire in each man’s eyes. Cena’s final promo this past Monday night just may have been one that will go down in history as one of the best of all time. Truth be told, I don’t know what to think of this matchup. The dirt sheets said a couple months ago that WWE was committed to getting as close to a 50/50 split in fan support as possible, and if true, they’ve done a hell of a job with it. In terms of long-lasting repercussions, Cena said it best in the aforementioned Monday night promo - he HAS to win. Rock coming back to win this match would be a great nostalgia trip, but where does it go? This is a true passing of the torch, Cena defeating one of the all time greats to finally put a definitive close on an era that really just faded away over time.
So there we have it, folks. The potential is there, the magic is in the air, and tomorrow night, we might just get what I called it all along last year - EntertainmentsMania. Bring it on.
You think you can tell her what to do? -
So, apparently, Chyna’s next big move is exotic dancing. And according to some-dude-who-claims-he-was-there’s report, her final dance was to the DX theme. Now I’ve seen a lot of shit in my day, but that…. is…. AAWWWWEEESOME!
Little did I know, I was posing with a future World Heavyweight Champion. Listen, I’m a TNA fanboy, but I’ll call BS when I don’t dig something (Karen Jarrett, fake crowd noise, release of amazing X division talent like Lethal and Sonjay, wasted potential with the Global/TV title). But regardless of what the sheets want us to know/think about the circumstances surrounding the booking, watching @Cowboy_J_Storm win the big one reminded me why I’m in love with this business. Don’t dig it? Well sorry… bout your damn luck!
When did Punk get back together with Lita?
Goddammit, Kurt. Just... Goddammit.
ShaneHelmsCom: Insomniactical Musings . . . Enjoy -
Its about 4:30 am and once again Insomnia has unleashed it’s dreadful powers upon me, for which I have little to no defense. My left foot, which I nearly lost (along with my life) in a motorcycle accident on May 5th of this year, and all 4 plates and 23 screws that now reside within it, is alive…
This brought the lolz.
“I am the voice of the voiceless.” - CM Punk
That you are, sir. Tonight, and the last couple of weeks in particular but really starting around the time Punk was doing commentary, have been tremendous, especially for fans like me. Fans who have grown with the product and felt snubbed that “attitude” had now become “kiddie-tude.” Fans who have remained loyal to a product for nearly 30 years (in my case), yet felt like they’re on the outside looking in. CM Punk is the voice of a generation.
I know I’ve bagged on WWE a lot in the last couple of years. And with good reason — honest, hardworking would-be superstars like the Punk-mentioned Colt Cabana (known to WWE loyalists who didn’t blink for 5 seconds as Scotty Goldman) and Luke Gallows, talented guys who toil on the undercard in dark matches or on Superstars like Zack Ryder and Trent Barreta, who all have to step aside so that something like Michael Cole can have a Wrestlemania match instead of them. Incredible high-flying talents like Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston who get lost in the shuffle or yo-yo pushed because there’s no real cruiserweight / X-Division for them to stand out in. The best commentator to come along in years, Matt Striker, being taken off Smackdown to make way for King Bookah to come in and stumble over his lines (and hey, I have all the respect in the world for Booker but the announce table is not his forté). WWECW finally working its way into a solid, well-rounded program with a great premise (a launching pad for young guys like Sheamus / Swagger while offering a career resurgence for talent like Goldust / Hurricane), then unceremoniously being dumped for a horrible concept like NXT in which a bunch of guys are brought up from developmental to be made to look like absolute dogshit compared to their “pros” (and don’t even get me started on Daniel Bryan being mentored by The Miz - I don’t care if it was supposed to be ironic, that’s not good irony, it’s a waste). Not to mention the potential and then horrible botching of the Nexus angle.
But in just a few short weeks, WWE has redeemed themselves. For once, FINALLY, the voice of the common sense pro wrestling fan has been heard and represented by our savior, CM Punk. Now I’m wise enough to the business to know that none of this has, in any way, been a shoot. But it doesn’t need to be a shoot when it can FEEL real. And that’s what WWE has been lacking for a lot of years — that feel. That kick in the gut a fan can take when they know they just witnessed something big. If I’ve had just one complaint about WWE over these past few years, it’s been that everything felt like it was super scripted down to the letter. I don’t want that. I don’t know anybody who watches pro wrestling wanting it to feel like just another scripted television show — we watch it because there’s something that resonates in our souls, because we side with the hero or the villain and want to see the one we agree with come out on top, and get that satisfaction of “knowing” that something just happened. That’s why, 15 years later, I still get chills when I think about Sting breaking his silence and telling JJ Dillon “you got no guts.” That’s the kind of chills I got tonight when Punk said what he said, when Vince called him Phil, and when Cena was hung out to dry as the weakest link in an incredible main event segment.
TANGENT - can we all agree that CM Punk might just be the single most charismatic speaker WWE has ever seen? This man has gone from super-villain just a few short weeks ago to turning a friggin BOSTON crowd against Cena a week before a pay-per-view. Jesus H.
Where it goes from here remains to be seen. Maybe the whole thing will be swept under the rug, and it’ll be given the Christian treatment (go the “safe” route, keep the title on the status quo champ and return to business as usual). But maybe, just maybe, the tide is starting to turn and WWE can finally start feeling Raw again. If Vince has any sense in his ridiculous body, he’ll see how hot this angle has been and let it play out. Bring some feeling back into the product. Finally let “the next Stone Cold” happen, organically, as though it were meant to be rather than something some board of writers cooked up in a stuffy office. And that’s why I continue to watch. Why I continue to keep coming back after I feel like my generation has been pissed on and left unappreciated for our loyalty. Because I always hold out hope that things will get better… that shit will, once again, get real.
Even through the darkest days, this fire burns… always.