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Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents: Wrestlemania - What Happens to the "Elderly Eight"?
By Dave Fenichel
Feb 9, 2018 - 8:33:42 PM

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Where do you foresee the old timers on this year’s Wrestlemania card?

Hi kids.

Wrestlemania is only a couple of months away, and I have noticed a marked changed from years past. At this time every year, a large portion of the IWC groans when they start to project the Wrestlemania card. The main reason for this is that they can see the writing on the wall – the main event slots are littered with old timers and part timers, and the real estate for current wrestlers is scarce.

That simply isn’t the case this year. The WWE looks to be building Wrestlemania 34 around current wrestlers more than it has for any Wrestlemania in a long time. Sure, Brock Lesnar is going to be in the main event. The other title match spots are likely to be occupied by Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. The lead roles in the Women’s Title matches look to be going to Charlotte, Asuka, Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss. For anyone that hates part timer involvement at Wrestlemania, this should be music to your ears.

My question today is not about the youth and current wrestlers. My question is, “what about the old guys?”. There’s a group of superstars that I glowingly refer to as “The Elderly Eight”. These are the superstars of yesterday, the guys who traditionally dominate the top of the card at Wrestlemania. I don’t see many favorable paths for these wrestlers this year. It’s time to take a closer look:


The Eternal Optimist Presents: Wrestlemania – What Happens to the Elderly Eight?


The Undertaker.

When talking about the stars of the past showing up at Wrestlemania, it’s hard to start with anyone other than The Undertaker. His match has been one of the top matches on the show FOREVER, regardless of whether he even appeared at any other point that year.

Last year looked like the end. He put over the top dog of the current generation and laid his boots down in the ring. He showed up at Raw25 and cut a promo that was cryptic yet led the majority of the audience to believe that he wasn’t ever coming back. However, many still can’t shake the feeling that he’s going to return and face Cena at this year’s extravaganza.

The idea of Cena v Taker can’t be ruled out. Taker could be going nuts at home and want the break. I’m a married man – I get it. Taker v Cena is a dream match and I’d still be interested. However, the general appetite for this is far less than it was in year’s past. I think the Undertaker is a lot more like HBK than he is Ric Flair or Mick Foley. He wants his retirement match to have meant something. I think he stays on the shelf.

Prediction: No match – the retirement sticks.

Triple H.

Like The Undertaker, Triple H has ended up in a top match at every recent Wrestlemania despite not wrestling for the remainder of the year. While there was still a large yearning to see The Undertaker wrestle at Mania every year, the Triple H match has had diminishing returns for a very long time. That’s what happens when you’re treated like THE MAN when you’re really a second fiddle, simply because you’re banging the boss’s daughter.

It’s not a match quality issue. His match with Seth Rollins last year was very good, his match with Reigns the year before was better than its given credit for, and his match with Sting the year prior far out-kicked expectations. The problem is that no one that has worked with him has derived ANY benefit in years.

The 1 on 1 options for Triple H are scarce this year. He’s already faced the lion’s share of the plausible current stars. The WWE could follow through on the Survivor Series tease and put him against Braun. I don’t see it though. I think they have bigger plans for Strowmann – more on that in another column though. From a 1 on 1 perspective, for the first time in many years, Triple H is on the outside looking in.

It looks like Ronda Rousey’s arrival will throw him a life line. Ronda doesn’t have the wrestling experience. With how serious the WWE is treating the women’s division, they aren’t going to sacrifice it for a match involving a non-wrestler. Rousey and Stephanie McMahon are destined to be on opposite ends of a mixed tag match. There is NO WAY the WWE will run those two against each other one on one. Someone needs to be able to walk them through. Triple H is going to be that guy. Since he and Steph are married, the storyline writes itself. After this year though? With his increasing corporate responsibilities and the undeniable truth that a match with him doesn’t do what it used to do for younger wrestlers, don’t be surprised if Triple H is left off future Wrestlemania cards altogether.

Prediction: Triple H works the Rousey mixed tag match.


Kane and The Big Show.

It’s hard not to link Kane and The Big Show together. Unlike Triple H and The Undertaker, neither has been shoved down our throats over and over again. They are two wrestlers who show up sporadically throughout the year, and ALWAYS do what’s best for business.

There was worry that Kane was being put in position for a big Wrestlemania match this year. He showed up after being gone for months and inexplicably squashed Finn Balor on Raw. He was immediately inserted into the main event storyline with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowmann. There was legitimate concern that he could be given a “thank you” world title run. Instead, he was used as the fall guy so that Braun didn’t have to eat another L.

I’m not sure that anyone has been mistreated by the fans more than The Big Show. He’s a legend – arguably the best “traditional” big man of all time. Guys of his size have been booked like unstoppable beasts for the duration of their careers. Instead, The Big Show has put over every single wrestler that the WWE wanted to look like a monster – whether it be Braun Strowmann, Big Cass or Mark Henry. His reward? Being the recipient of “please retire” chants every time he wrestler in front of a snarky crowd. It’s completely undeserved and a crime that he hasn’t been lauded for the service that he’s given.

As for Kane and The Big Show’s involvement in this year’s Wrestlemania, I expect it to be minimal. The word on the street is that the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal will be receiving more attention this year. The WWE is hoping to draw attention to the documentary on Andre that they produced with HBO, and think that a bigger push for the battle royal named after him is the way to do it. I can’t really fault their logic. If the goal is to make the battle royal a bigger deal, both Kane and The Big Show need to be in it. I expect them to both look dominant and in the end do what they always do – put the winner of the match over in a big way.

Prediction: Kane and The Big Show work the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.


Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle.

The prospect of both authority figures wrestling at this year’s big event is one that has been met more with trepidation than intrigue. Although the reasons are different for each, NO ONE wants to see either step into the ring at Wrestlemania 34.

For Shane, we’ve been there and done that. The Shane McMahon match is great, but it’s the same thing over and over again – a brawl that leads to poorly set up yet breathtaking high spots. We’ve seen it with The Undertaker and we saw it with A.J. Styles last year. The difference this year is that there isn’t a storyline reason to give Shane a match. The angle with K.O and Zayn is going nowhere fast, and we’ve already seen the payoff earlier this year. To put Shane in a match this year would be doing so simply to get him on the card. No thank you.

With Kurt, the reason is much more depressing than it is for Shane. We need to face the facts – Angle simply can’t go anymore. His body is beyond beat up from years of abuse. He looked horrendously slow and plodding in both the TLC match and Survivor Series tag. I want to remember Kurt for what he is – one of the best workers of all time. I don’t want to see him struggle to keep up on the biggest stage of the year. With Jason Jordan going down with an injury, it’s the perfect opportunity for the WWE to put Kurt in the parking lot. I don’t want to see him wrestle Seth Rollins. Rollins v Angle in his prime would have been a dream match, but Angle simply can’t hang with him in 2018.

With all of that said, I think the WWE realizes that neither Angle nor Shane has to wrestle in order to make an impact, and the current roster is strong enough to carry the load.

Prediction: Shane thwarts K.O and Zayn in a non-wrestling capacity, Angle sticks to his G.M. role and is largely uninvolved.


John Cena.

John Cena is different from the previous six in that all of the other wrestlers discussed were holdovers from the Attitude Era. Cena was the lynchpin of the last fifteen years and only turned into a part timer over the past year.

John Cena hasn’t been in a main event role at the granddaddy of them all since Wrestlemania 29. Nonetheless, the WWE always ensured that he’d be in a featured 1 on 1 match. That changed last year. He was put in a throwaway undercard mixed tag match that had almost no buzz.

It seemed like Cena could end up in a main event role this year, but instead the WWE again moved him aside for a fresher face. Cena finds himself in a precarious position. Assuming that The Undertaker stays retired, there isn’t a singles match for him that reads like a marquee attraction. If he ends up paired against Samoa Joe or Elias, it’s destined to be a mid-card match at best.

I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with a solution, and here it is. With Ronda Rousey needing a partner to square off with Triple H and Stephanie, Cena is the perfect fit. He’s a reasonably big mainstream star, he can do the necessary carrying from an in-ring standpoint, and he can cover up any promo issues that may arise. Being the big John Cena fan that I am, sign me up.

Prediction: Cena teams up with Rousey to take on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.


Randy Orton.

I chose to wrap up with Orton because out of all the people I’ve discussed, his inclusion is the most surprising to me. Unlike the Attitude Era players and even unlike Cena, Randy Orton has been a full time performer for his entire career. Furthermore, he won the WWE championship at last year’s Wrestlemania. It is crazy to think about how much his stock has fallen since.

The fans just don’t care what he does. There isn’t any support to see him in any type of prominent match. It’s crazy when you think about it. He’s not really my cup of tea, but I can’t EVER remember another wrestler on his level ever falling to a position of being an afterthought. Yet that’s EXACTLY where we are with Orton.

Everything Orton could possibly do this year feels like a preshow match. Jinder Mahal? Baron Corbin? Dolph Ziggler? No thank you to all of them. I think the WWE sticks him in the U.S. Title match against Bobby Roode. Orton’s inclusion adds prestige to the title and it’s an excuse to give him a main card spot he probably doesn’t deserve.

Prediction: Randy Orton faces Bobby Roode for the U.S. Title


Conclusion.

The Undertaker is gone. Neither Shane nor Angle look to be on the card. The Big Show and Kane are in the battle Royal and Randy Orton could end up on the preshow. Only Cena and Triple H are likely to end up in a marquee match, and that in itself looks like more of a spectacle and less of a spot better served for current wrestlers. Along with the fact that Brock Lesnar is likely to be finishing up his run this year, it’s hard to ignore the GLARING REALITY that youth is in fact being served.

That’s a wrap kids. Agree to disagree? Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague

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