Part 1: The Main-Eventers
Doctor's Orders: Wrestlemania Season Preview
By The Doc
Nov 27, 2012 - 10:44:49 PM
Part 2: The Headliners and Mid-Carders, pkus Predictions
Part 2 of our Wrestlemania season preview picks up where Part 1 left off in a discussion of the talents that I expect to main-event this coming year’s sports entertainment spectacular. To quickly recap the words below, we’ve got CM Punk as the likely WWE Champion come Mania facing off against Steve Austin or possibly the Undertaker or less likely Triple H, with The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar and Undertaker vs. John Cena as the co-mains. Rock could also face Cena for twice in their lifetimes, leaving Brock for Taker or Trips. Don’t think Austin has a chance to wrestle this year? Well, Notre Dame was left for dead three months ago, with “experts” predicting that they’d be lucky to get to eight wins. They’re currently 12-0 and headed for the BCS National Championship game. Three months from now, you never know what could happen. Expect big things and get big things…
Now, let’s switch gears a bit to the rest of the card, looking at the headliners on down to the mid and under carders before predicting the entire card, once with my head and the other with my heart.
Brock Lesnar - It would be surprising to see Lesnar go on last no matter who his opponent turned out to be, but he’s going to be on the card and his match will garner a lot of attention and hype. He has most of those rumored appearances in his 2012-13 contract still on the table, leaving the Mania season wide open for him to make a consistent impact. I like that. If we get any combination of Punk and Cena with Brock, Rock, Austin, Taker, or Trips, then that’s a roster befitting of a NY Wrestlemania. Lesnar seems to have three potential opponents. His utter dominance against Triple H suggests a match with Undertaker, who once appeared at a UFC fight and asked Brock, “Do you want to do it?” That was a suggestion for Mania 27. When it didn’t happen, Triple H stepped in and gave Taker two of the most competitive matches of his life. Brock just completely owned Trips at Summerslam and “ended his career,” so it would certainly make for a compelling situation if Taker were to come back and battle the guy that he never did defeat with that illustrious streak on the line.
Lesnar could also face Triple H again. The Game has unfinished business and his “retirement” seemed an excuse for him to go away for awhile more so than a legitimate goodbye (though it was extremely well acted to his credit). It is not a scenario that I favor if we already get a rematch of Rock vs. Cena, but it would still be interesting if handled correctly. The other option would be for Brock to face Rock in a Summerslam ’02 rematch.
Undertaker - I believe that last April was the “end of an era,” but I’m not sure that I believe that it was anything more than a catchy tagline or meant anything more than we’ll never see Trips, Taker, and HBK in the same ring again. It did effectively end their era, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t see those guys in other capacities.
Taker vs. Cena is not a dream match. It has happened before. What it is, though, is the golden boy of the current product and the face of Wrestlemania during its upward trend toward truly being, in every sense of the expression, the SUPER BOWL of professional wrestling VERSUS the man that holds the most visible Streak in sports entertainment history. Cena is the one guy remaining that would have a legitimate chance of ending the Streak and, if that match does get booked, then critics and casual fans alike would debate whether or not Cena could do it. That’s a perfect match to make a trio with Rock-Brock and Punk-Austin, in my opinion.
If not Cena, then he could come back for a match with Lesnar. I don’t view Punk as a legitimate option, as the rumors are suggesting. No offense to Punk or his fans (which includes me), but do you think Taker is sitting at home and thinks that the big payday he could receive from a NY/NJ Mania would be against CM Punk? No, it’d be against Brock or Cena. He could also never wrestle again…
Triple H - Given what happened in August, it would seem that it’s Trips vs. Brock or bust, in terms of the Game making a Mania appearance this year. He may be content to wait for his second match with Brock, as I’m sure he’d be a part of the team that signs him to that second contract for next year if and when it happens. Summerslam 2013 needs a main-event, too. If Austin comes back but Taker does not, I expect to see Brock-Trips II happen at MetLife Stadium.
I do think that there’s an outside shot that if Rock-Cena happens and Taker-Brock does too without Austin getting signed, then Trips could face CM Punk.
Sheamus - The World Heavyweight Championship has taken a backseat at Mania since Edge vs. Chris Jericho in 2010 and it would again with all the top heavy star power that could potentially enhance the Mania 29 roster, but the title will still be a prestigious chess piece for the WWE to move as they see fit. The Celtic Warrior is the focal point of that division, even without currently being the titleholder. Big Show is not a long-term answer, but having two very long reigning champions probably wasn’t the best call either. Variety is good, so Show is the transitional champ for now. Sheamus may or may not be the one to dethrone him, but I’m confident that the WWE is all-in with him being a major player. He’ll just have to wait one more year before ascending to that ultra elite level. More seasoning in a more heavily featured Mania 29 match would help get him there; that’s for sure. I think that Dolph Ziggler is a likely opponent. The longer that he holds onto the Money in the Bank briefcase, then the more that I think he will be World Heavyweight Champion at Mania. Don’t rule out Randy Orton, either. He seems ripe for a heel turn that would put him directly into the path of the Celtic Warrior. They could also do that as a babyface match.
If the WWE wants to move Sheamus into the forefront this year and in front of the NY crowd that they so adore, then putting Sheamus against Brock Lesnar or CM Punk might be the best option. Think of what a win over Lesnar could do for Sheamus and his prospects heading toward a big anniversary Mania in 2014…
Dolph Ziggler - It’s time for the WWE to fully embrace this guy. He’s a helluva talent and can give them something special if they allow him the opportunity. This current feud with Cena will put the spotlight on him like never before and, with that briefcase sitting there waiting to be cashed in, I think this is the year that we’ll see Dolph ascend to the spot of Mania headliner. Both Sheamus and Randy Orton would provide very good challengers for him, if he were to cash-in pre-Mania and win the World Heavyweight Championship. There’s also the possibility that his cash-in actually happens at Wrestlemania, which has never been done before and is perhaps the one remaining way to cash-in that would be extremely beneficial to the long-term future of the wrestler doing the cashing. My gut tells me that Ziggler will be a major part of the build to the World title match at Mania, but I think Sheamus vs. Orton seems like a better fit on paper. Ziggler cashing in at Mania might be awesome, as it keeps them from having to fit him into the logjam on the actual card, while also ensuring that his name will be one talked about at the end of the night…
Randy Orton - I think we’ll know whether or not the WWE is serious about the long-term future of their relationship with long-time headliner, Randy Orton, after this April. Orton has been on the backburner at Mania ever since his match with Triple H failed to live up to considerable expectation at Mania 25. He headlines throughout the year, but they don’t seem to trust him in that top spot anymore when it gets to the most important show. If he gets back into the World title scene in early 2013, then I think his future will depend solely on his ability to refresh his character and that it won’t be a matter of the WWE looking to cut ties. If we get to Mania and he’s the second or third match again with no big gold belt on the line, then I’d be worried for him if you’re a fan of the Viper as I am. This guy was brought up to be the “Chosen One” and has been nothing close to it in quite awhile, despite consistent in-ring performances that put him in the conversation for best in the game today. If he turns heel, Sheamus is the ideal opponent for a title match. If he stays face, he may get boosted ahead of Sheamus to face Ziggler for the title. This might be the ideal scenario for another dreaded triple threat, too. I predict he’ll be in the mid-card again, contributing a solid match much as he’s done for recent Manias; and, sadly, that he may be gone by 2013’s end.
Candidates to be the Other Featured Performers
Daniel Bryan - He’s a guy that could easily slide into an above spot if something opens up and/or if one of the bigger names fails to take part. With the year that he’s had in 2012, I think you can bank on him being involved in the top mid-card storyline, be it a part of Team Hell No or something else. If Orton slides, I think that Bryan would be an ideal opponent for him. They could have a great ten-minute match in the first hour. With the popularity of his tag team with Kane, though, it would not surprise me to see this year’s multi-man match be a multi-team tag title defense. That would be a way to keep the tag title momentum going and give several underappreciated acts onto the card in a meaningful way.
Ryback - With his current push, he could move up ala Bryan. However, I don’t see him being a major player for Mania, just yet. If he continues his upward arc with the speed that he has since October, then there’s a chance that Brock Lesnar could step into his feeding frenzy. I think that’s an outside shot and that, more likely, he’ll end up being fed a monstrous Big Show in one of the top matches of the undercard. Crawl before they walk with Ryback, if I had the book.
Big Show - It’s a virtual guarantee that he’ll be doing something of significance at this event. How high up the card it takes place is what needs to be answered. A match with Ryback gets my vote, as Show doesn’t need the win, does need to start winding it down, and is best served to move out of the way and give a younger guy the rub. That being said, he is the current World Heavyweight Champion no matter how bored I am with his schtick, so he could easily be up in the Orton-Sheamus-Ziggler conversation come April.
Team Rhodes Scholars - Cody Rhodes has been featured in a top mid-card match for the last three years and, ideally, I’d like to see that streak continue, perhaps against a Daniel Bryan. I just don’t see it this year, though. Past years saw him doing strong character work in the latter parts of the year leading up to Wrestlemania. This year, he’s in the tag team division. He’s doing well, but he seems to be in a holding pattern that might put him in a similar position as Ziggler in 2012 where he could and probably should be doing more, but there’s just no room for him. He’ll have to wait another year to take the next step. 2014 is when things will be most interesting. I think that’s when we’ll see the stars from the past clear out and make way for the next generation. Damien Sandow is likely to be on the card, but I predict that this pairing stays together and ends up in a 3-to-4 team tag title match.
The Miz - The main-eventer of Wrestlemania XXVII is in a place where he could be put right back in the thick of things up top and nobody would bat an eyelash. He reminds me of Ted Dibiase from the late 80s right now, in that he’s always doing something relevant, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to consistent top matches at Mania. He’ll get back to a prominent position, but this may not be the year. A face turn has altered his trajectory a bit, making his role at Mania 29 more difficult to predict. I think he’ll end up in the mid-card title scene, potentially facing the likes of Alberto Del Rio or, if he doesn’t cash-in until Mania, Dolph Ziggler.
Alberto Del Rio - This is an important upcoming few months for Del Rio. He has surprised many by staying in the limelight after many felt that he flopped as a main-event player in 2011. He may not end up champion again, but he proved to me that he can step outside the box and be an effective heel challenger for the title. Yet, one must wonder if his time has passed. There are several top guys in the making that are itching to take his spot – guys with more charisma and equal or better in-ring ability. I think Del Rio will end up lost in the shuffle at Wrestlemania. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara will be the Latino draws this year with their match, so ADR will end up in the multi-man match.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara - One prominent tag title challenger spot is about to open up. Last year, had both been healthy, we would have seen the rumored match between these two that would have set the world record for masks worn in one facility. This year, with both healthy, we will get to see it. Cara has noticeably improved since he began working with Mysterio and, hopefully, while the WWE is setting their desired record, Cara and Mysterio will have a very strong lucha match, perhaps as the opening contest.
AJ Lee - I think we’d be remiss if we failed to point out that AJ Lee could give the WWE Diva’s division its first legitimate star since Trish Stratus. It has been since 2006’s Stratus vs. Mickie James feud that Wrestlemania had a women’s title match worthy of being included. I think that Eve will remain champion and that AJ will step up to challenge her in a solid feud that will lead to a crowd pleasing moment for Lee.
Thinking with my heart (what I most desire to see)
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Undertaker vs. John Cena
The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar
World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
With Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan, Sin Cara vs. Rey Mysterio, Ryback vs. Big Show, AJ Lee vs. Eve, The Miz vs. Alberto Del Rio, and a fatal four way tag title match between champions, Team Rhodes Scholars, Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder, the Primetime Players, and a team involving Tyson Kidd.
Thinking with my head (what I think we might actually see)
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Rock vs. John Cena: Twice in a Lifetime
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H: The Rematch
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
Dolph Ziggler cashes in
With Ryback vs. Big Show, Sin Cara vs. Rey Mysterio, AJ Lee vs. Eve, The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler, and a fatal four way tag title match between champions Team Hell No, Team Rhodes Scholars, Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez, and Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you care to venture a guess to the overall card, how would yours look?
When I think of the NBA, NFL, and MLB, I don’t gauge their players based on what they do in the regular season. My opinion of Michael Jordan, for instance, was shaped on what he accomplished in May and June, not what he did from October to April. Major League Baseball Hall of Famers are remembered for October; not the 164 (THOUSAND!!!) regular season games from April to September. What do all-time great quarterback rankings get based on? Super Bowls. If you don’t win the big one, then your career will not be remembered in the same breath as the best of the best.
Maybe that is the American talking who has been brought up on easy access to sports media and all its gloriously overblown coverage. In American sports, the postseason is an entity all its own that takes complete precedent over the regular season. If you look at Europe, it’s not that way. The English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A titles are only a fraction below the Champions League crown on the prestige scale. I cannot tell you who won last year’s FA Cup, but I know who won the EPL. A premium is placed on the regular season trophy. Whoever has the most points after a 38 game schedule wins it all and earns the fame.
Personally, though, I’d take the Champions League final over the EPL or La Liga finales any day of the week. I’m a World Cup guy – not a qualifying round guy. Give me the Olympics. Give me the big tournament at the end of college basketball season. Give me the college football playoff that will redefine how we judge amateur athletes on the gridiron. That’s where the drama is, where the pressure is most packed, and where the big boys come to play.
Subsequently, WWE’s product from April to January matters a helluva lot less to me than what they put out from January to April. The superstars that deserve the most accolades, historically, are the ones that have been most on their games from the few weeks prior to the Royal Rumble until Wrestlemania goes off the air. That’s where the legends are made, in my opinion. It’s why Shawn Michaels is my favorite performer in wrestling lore – he has an untouchable track record when the lights are on brightest; why John Cena’s work last year lit a fuse under his all-time ranking that skyrocketed him near the top of my list; and why I’ll never think as highly of Triple H, Mick Foley, or Randy Orton as I’ll think of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, and Randy Savage.
Wrestlemania is what the WWE is all about. It’s about how you perform there; whether or not you’ve headlined there and how many times. If post-Mania to MLK, Jr. Day is the pro-wrestling regular season, then the two weeks before the Rumble to Mania is its postseason. The WWE postseason is upon us.
Every year, I look forward to the spring release of Lindy’s college football preview. I pick up the NBA preview of my choosing each August. The only Sports Illustrateds and ESPN the Magazines that I read from cover to cover are their college football, college basketball, NBA, and NFL preview editions. I’m a mark for previews. Thus, I welcome you, ladies and gentlemen, to the 2013 WWE Wrestlemania season preview, where I mix a variety of opinions, predictions, and assumptions together for a look the upcoming best time in wrestling.
CM Punk - The current WWE Champion will still be the reigning titleholder come Wrestlemania. Everyone keeps pointing to the January Rock of destiny, during which Dwayne will make his presence felt in what should be an epic match. The presumption has been since day one that if Punk makes it to this match as champion, then there is little chance that he walks out as champion. At the Royal Rumble, Punk is expected by most to drop the title. I’m calling B.S. on that one. The Rumble is approximately 10 weeks from Wrestlemania and Rock’s movie promotion schedule, while perfectly fit for a few appearances prior to the big dance, likely will not allow for the type of schedule that is expected of a WWE Champion. He won’t even be able to keep up a similar schedule as the Undertaker did three years ago. The Doc will believe it when he sees The Rock holding the WWE title for two months, making only a handful of appearances. Thus, I believe CM Punk is still in the driver’s seat to go on last and I believe that he will, indeed, face Stone Cold Steve Austin. The question will then become whether or not the WWE should have Austin go over him.
If Punk does not retain the title against Rock, though, then he could still face the Rattlesnake. At this point, I think most of the interviews that portray Austin as retired, happy, and willing to listen to offers from WWE are the types that only us internet booger eaters read and, subsequently, don’t really matter. I think Austin is signed, sealed, and will deliver. Undertaker could also be an option, as could Triple H, but Stone Cold has been the favorite from the beginning and he will remain so until reason is given to assume otherwise.
The Rock - 2013’s Royal Rumble challenger for the WWE Championship will again shape the landscape for Wrestlemania. It will all come down to whether or not he wins the title from CM Punk in January. A title victory would set him up to have his second match with John Cena, rendering last year’s “Once in a Lifetime” tagline completely irrelevant to critics, but opening the door for it to happen as organically as is possible via scripting for the casual viewer. I believe that it will sell whether or not the title is on the line, but I do not expect that it can top what it did last year. There’s only one first. Mania would have to rely on something the caliber of Austin’s return to get the numbers to the level of 2012’s if they decided to go with the rematch; unless of course it was a brilliantly booked story.
I see two possibilities for The Rock at Wrestlemania. The first is that he wins the title clean and Cena emerges as his top challenger. That is not the scenario that I either favor or expect. I think that his Wrestlemania dance partner will emerge at the conclusion of his title match at the Rumble, which would rightfully be expected to draw a higher than the already strong and usual January PPV buyrate. The unique viewers glued to the screen during a dramatic back and forth affair would see dastardly interference from one of two potential Mania opponents, making Rock’s WM match a big draw, but eliminating the need for him to be around throughout the build-up in February and March. The two candidates to interfere would be the obvious choice, John Cena, and the one that I’m going with: Brock Lesnar.
Brock is the ideal opponent for Rock, as Brock is the one guy that he’s never beaten. Plus, the box office implications are obvious. Lesnar has already proven during his limited run that he can sell tickets and Rock is the biggest draw in wrestling right now. If you combine those two elements, then you’ve got the WWE’s dream scenario for a celebrity-studded battle that involves actual wrestlers. It requires very little in the way of creativity, by the way. Rock can make a small number of appearances and quietly mention his match with Brock on the red carpet (and he can do that now that he’s well-established on the big screen). Brock can sit back with Paul Heyman as his mouthpiece and talk in circles on television while counting the dollars backstage.
John Cena - Cena’s character has an obvious reason to want another crack at The Rock. He may very well get it. Critically, he accomplished exactly what he needed to last year, but from the perspective of being a competitor and a personality that damn near preaches hustling your way back to the top to meet even the steepest of challenges, Cena naturally should get back in the ring with The Great One at Wrestlemania 29. If that is the route that the WWE takes, then Rock should win the WWE title in the main-event of the Royal Rumble. Cena, who earlier in the night should win the Royal Rumble match, should then come out to end the show and make his intentions immediately clear. There should be no involvement of the Elimination Chamber. If the people that tune in come January see Rock become champion, then immediately the rematch should become as clear and present as danger. The title is the only way to make Cena-Rock II worth it (as the main-event for a 2nd straight year) and potentially make it a bigger smash at the bank.
Yet, there is another match that could and should happen before Cena gets his second crack at Rock. Remember, Rock is a spring chicken compared to most of his Attitude era comrades. He could do several more Wrestlemanias in the years to come. It is not necessary to do Rock-Cena II right at this moment when there is a veteran seemingly on the way out that Cena has not yet faced at Wrestlemania but with whom he could draw huge money and have another critically acclaimed, top 5-10 of all-time Show of Shows match…and that’s the Undertaker. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Deadman is done. He had the perfect sendoff a year ago should he want to go ahead and hang up the boots for good. It wouldn’t be like him to say goodbye, anyway. He would be the type that would fade into the sunset without words. I just have a hard time seeing him going away without wrestling Cena first. It’s too epic to pass up. Even in loss, Cena would further his legacy by competing with Taker at this particular event. This one is special. It’s New York one year ahead of schedule. I’ll be there. I want this match. Badly. (Judgment clouding badly).
Stone Cold Steve Austin - Rumors of Austin returning for a final match have been ongoing for the last several years, but never have they been stronger than since he filmed and debuted that hype video for the WWE’s new video game. Since video games are important, but not that important, I don’t think that it was just for the purpose of promoting something that could be done on every video game that the WWE has produced since 2007. I think it was less to make it known that Austin could wrestle CM Punk in the sim-world and more to hint that it would happen in the real (ish) world. If Austin is coming back, then Punk will be his opponent. That’s the bottom line and “Oh hell yeah” I’ll bet a case of Steveweisers that it happens.