Doctor's Orders: 2014 Wrestlemania Season Preview (Part 2: The Main-Eventers)
By The Doc
Dec 8, 2013 - 8:27:31 PM
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The best part of the wrestling calendar is right around on the corner. The WWE product is about to kick start its “Playoffs.” All due respect to the old WCW tagline, but Wrestlemania is where the “big boys” really play. Each year, careers are made and enhanced on wrestling’s grandest stage. Undeniably, it is the most exciting time to be a fan. Today, we preview the season that will lead us down the Road to Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans, taking an in-depth look at the key players likely to be involved in the top matches and attempting to make educated guesses as to the card, itself.
WM Season Preview, Part 1: Headliners and Other Prominent Stars
John Cena – Though I am not confident in the match that will main-event the 30th Wrestlemania, I am confident in one of the participants. Cena has main-evented three in a row. He is “The Man” in the WWE. Any thought that he will not main-event carries the same weight with me that did the arguments ten years ago from people who thought that someone other than Triple H would main-event Wrestlemania XX. I just do not buy it. The question is: who will be in the opposite corner when the bell rings? I see three legitimate candidates, but I think it all hinders on what the Undertaker ends up doing. If Taker faces Brock Lesnar, as rumored, then Cena’s match will close the show with the WWE Championship up for grabs against either CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. Conventional wisdom would state that a match which drew below expectations at Summerslam would not get a chance to be the final match at the biggest show of the year, theoretically ruling out Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena II. However, the WWE is going to have to come to the realization, at some point, that new stars cannot be built into draws with endless stop, start pushes. That time may be drawing nearer, but as of now, CM Punk looks like far more of a likely option to me. Recent trends have shown that WWE is reluctant to put anyone new in the last match. Since Cena main-evented his first in 2006, only one new star on the rise without consistent main-event level experience has gone on last at Wrestlemania; and that particular new star, The Miz, confirmed the fears of those who felt that it was too big of a spot for someone who had not already occupied it. Bryan is surely no risk, but he also has limited time at the top of the card. Coupled with Punk’s already well-established rivalry with Cena (which one could argue is Cena’s best), Bryan’s chances to close WMXXX seem slim.
The best option and, in my opinion, the strongest drawing option, would be to go with John Cena vs. Undertaker. Nobody, including Brock Lesnar, could go up against the Deadman and draw the same reaction or convince as many people that the Streak was in jeopardy quite as much as Cena. If Taker is the focal point of the card, then the best way to achieve the desired one million buys is to set him up against the man most likely to end his vaunted Streak. Lesnar has lost his mystique since his 2012 return. If we were to use Wrestlemania 26 as a standard for when there is not a huge, fresh match on the show nor a mainstream celebrity (and such things are difficult to predict this far in advance), then 880,000 buys is about what we could expect for a card featuring mostly current roster members and the usual returning suspects. Brock's matches have drawn an average of 60,000 more buyers for his events that did not also feature The Rock. I think maybe, if built supremely well, you could push that number to 80,000 plus. Well, that puts the WWE short of a million. Will the types of fans that add to the WM buyrate be more likely to accept Brock Lesnar, who they saw take a loss to Triple H a year prior, as a threat to the Streak or the guy that they saw defeat The Rock for the WWE Championship? My guess would be the latter, partly due to the fact that Brock’s MMA aura has worn away. There is simply no better choice for the main-event of Wrestlemania XXX than Cena vs. Taker.
CM Punk - There have been subtle teases that CM Punk would be in the main-event of this year’s Wrestlemania since he came back from his post-WM29 hiatus in June. Numerous times, it has been stated that his one remaining goal is to close Wrestlemania with another show-stealing story. Could this be the year? I think that it is certainly possible. Over the last few years, Punk has emerged as Cena’s best rival. Nobody pushes Cena to the limit in the ring the way that CM Punk does. Given their respective statuses on the current roster as the alpha and omega in the WWE, it would be fitting for them to go on last in a battle for the Undisputed WWE Championship. Yet, a question remains about whether or not the WWE has a strong enough draw in the undercard or a celebrity up their sleeve that can offset the fiscal queries naturally stemming from a battle between stars who, in facing each other in the past, have never produced more than 296,000 PPV buyers. Punk vs. Cena has always given a slight boost to lesser PPVs, but it underperformed at Summerslam 2011. Presumably, Brock vs. Taker would be the other top match at Wrestlemania XXX should Punk vs. Cena for the title take the main-event spot. Is it enough to garner the WWE another one million plus? I don’t think so. If Punk vs. Cena does happen, expect there to be a strong celebrity brought in – maybe Shaq to face Big Show in a match all but confirmed by ESPN two years ago before fizzling out. Cena is Punk’s best bet for the main-event, though; of that, I am certain.
If not closing the show with Cena, numerous options still exist for Punk in what has become the recent standard of three primary matches at Wrestlemania. For the last two years, he has occupied one of those spots and he will do so again in 2014. He could still win the Royal Rumble and compete for the WWE Championship, just opposite his former WM rival, Randy Orton, instead. Punk would seem a natural insertion into the Authority storyline, given how it has seemingly been based on non-standard main-eventers ascending to spots against the true desires of those in-charge who feel others would be “better for business.” There is a rematch waiting between Punk and Brock Lesnar, as well. Paul Heyman could return to reignite that feud. The problem is that the WWE values financial success over critical praise. Thus, a backstage standing ovation from his peers after his Summerslam match with Brock may pale in comparison to Punk vs. Brock – which I felt was the primary draw for the casual fan at Summerslam – garnering 60,000 less buys than Brock vs. Triple H from 2012. The final option would be for Punk to renew his 2012 workrate-driven (credit Maverick) saga with Daniel Bryan, but featuring a stronger creative direction. The pieces are being put in place, as we speak. Punk and Bryan are current tag team partners, so it would not be out of the question for Punk to turn on Bryan leading to a high profile battle that allow the company’s top heel (Punk whenever he plays that role) to put over the company’s unquestionable top babyface (Bryan).
Undertaker - The Deadman’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania is the most exciting match of the year. When he retired HBK, he also retired his greatest challenger to steal the show on the grandest stage. So, I assume that “The Streak within The Streak” will continue in 2014. The candidates who will attempt to give him the elusive loss is pretty short. The heavily rumored match is against Brock Lesnar. I can see it. I’d rather see John Cena vs. Undertaker, but ever since the 2011 UFC post-fight moment captured on video, in which Taker looked at a defeated Brock and asked, “Do you want to do it,” Lesnar’s return and a subsequent Wrestlemania match with Undertaker seemed plausible. The first step was accomplished in bringing Lesnar back to WWE. By the time the presumed match with Taker at Mania would take place, though, Lesnar would have been back for two years. Assuming no other Lesnar matches between now and then, Brock would carry a measly 3-2 record to New Orleans. The one of those two losses that matters most was to Triple H at last year’s Wrestlemania. That was the loss that was seen by the most people. If we look at the win over Punk at Summerslam, it took a ton of Paul Heyman interference to keep Lesnar from losing that match. I don’t believe it would take much to make Lesnar look like a viable contender to the audience that watches every week, but I think the WWE would be foolish to presume that the match with Taker in 2014 would be anywhere near as big as it would have been last year. I just don’t get that “Wrestlemania” feel when I see Lesnar vs. Undertaker on the marquee.
There are only two wrestlers alive that the broader audience, in my opinion, would really believe had a chance to beat Undertaker. The first and most obvious is John Cena and the other is not Brock Lesnar. Cena is “The Golden Boy” in the WWE with defeats over a who’s who of modern wrestling history including Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Batista, and The Rock. If the WWE Championship were up for grabs, I think that would add to the idea that Cena had a chance of winning. If the WWE put Taker’s career on the line and made it his final match, then I think that it would push the match to a place where it could be that 1 million buyer draw. Let’s be honest, here, Taker should probably retire soon. If not this year, then next year. I have been saying for the last couple of years that, if Taker's final bout is imminent, then the WWE should promote it. He’s got 25 years worth of fans to draw from who could theoretically be hooked to see his last match. John Cena vs. Undertaker (for the WWE Championship) in Undertaker’s announced final match? That’s a Wrestlemania XXX main-event (with or without the title). The best argument for that match over any other is that it is the one match (not involving Steve Austin or The Rock) that would really FEEL like a 30th Wrestlemania main-event. The second (wrestler who the broader audience would buy as a legit threat to the Streak), by the way, would be The Rock, but that’s a long shot. The other long shot option is CM Punk. Taker has had rematches with his previous two Mania opponents prior to Punk and, given the quality of their match a year ago, it’s not out of the question.
(The Rock - Naturally, if Rock is around, he’s a strong candidate for one of the top matches. It would seem as if the match with Brock Lesnar is going to happen if Rock wants it to. Though, I’ll admit, The Rock is best served – in my humble opinion – in staying away for another year or two. If they go to Dallas, they need a huge name like his to set a new attendance record)
The Doc’s Predicted Wrestlemania XXX Card (how I’d do it)
-John Cena vs. Undertaker
-CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
-WWE Champion Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan
-Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal
-US Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins
-Goldust vs. Cody Rhodes
-Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
-Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio
-Dolph Ziggler vs. anybody
-AJ Lee vs. Pick a Total Diva
The Doc’s Predicted Wrestlemania XXX Card (how the WWE might do it)
-WWE Champion John Cena vs. CM Punk
-Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker
-Triple H (w/ Steph) vs. Daniel Bryan (w/ Vince)
-The Shield vs. The Wyatts
-Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
-Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio
-Cody Rhodes and Goldust defend the Tag titles
-AJ defends the Diva’s title against a Total Diva
-Multi-man match for everyone else
QUESTION OF THE DAY: John Cena vs. Undertaker should be the main-event at Wrestlemania XXX - True or False?