Reviewing WrestleMania 29 and thoughts going forward
I will not go too in depth here, because we've seen time and time again that the first Raw after Mania gives us a much better picture going forward than Wrestlemania itself. So, this will be short and sweet.
Mania Pre Show
The pre-show was terrible, but it wasn't geared towards me. I don't watch American football, but it seemed like a very generic sports pre-show like those used for the NFL. Dusty just doesn't work in 2013, and I cringed at almost everything he had to say. Also, it was terrible to see Kofi in the announce booth. Not because he was bad at it, but because he should have been on the card. He earned a spot.
While not a science, Wrestlemania is an event that opens up with something crowd pleasing more often than not, so I guess many could say the Intercontinental Title match was predictable. It's a shame that The Miz needs to rebuild his momentum as a midcard champion, only 2 years after winning the WWE Title match in the Main Event of Wrestlemania, but he's on the road to being a much bigger star. It was a standard TV/midcard match, and ended well. Completely satisfied with what took place during this contest. The future is bright for both performers.
Too many video packages, and this continued into the show. In retrospect of the entire event it's a true shame any segments were scrapped, because during the entire 5 hours of the total runtime, I saw several video packages twice. It makes sense during the pre-show, to entice the people who have yet to order the PPV to get on it. But once people have paid to watch the program, they don't need reminders why 84 times. I think the main event had 3 packages during the PPV portion, 1 for both The Rock and John Cena, and then a hype package for the feud. By the time the main event come around, I was already sick of seeing the guys (though the 4 hours and 15 minutes of WWE before that match also tired me out). I doubt it's going to change, because recap videos have been increasing steadily over the last year, especially due to 3 hour Raws. But there's no doubt in my mind that they are the biggest problem with keeping me tuned in 100% as I used to during 2 hour Raws, and 4 hour Wrestlemanias.
The set was nice, though it didn't blow me away. Maybe because I'm not American the significance of the pieces didn't really affect me. Plus, the event was in New Jersey, while New York was represented. Perhaps it's because there aren't any attractions in NJ like the Statue of Liberty, and I know they promoted it was from both states. But to the international fans, I wouldn't be shocked if it came off oddly, as it did for me. I was mostly let down by the bridge structure on the entrance. When I watched the Vince reveal on youtube, I expected the side of the bridge to be a screen with the wrestlers names on it. But it was just blank the entire night. Maybe I missed it.
I didn't like the P. Diddy and Hurricane Sandy stuff. Again, to International fans, this isn't what people paid to watch. I understand sponsors during a PPV, and commercials. But to start the show off with the US anthem is strange enough (though I have come to accept it, especially since they have done the Canadian anthem when in Toronto), but to scrap it for a Hurricane Sandy relief video was upsetting. And then it was followed by another video to start off the actual wrestling and WWE of Wrestlemania. I think the Sandy stuff should have been in the middle, or tied into the Diddy performance. I wouldn't say it would have fixed everything, but it would have been better.
Oh, and Mick Foley should have been the top billing for Hall of Fame, not Bruno.
The Shield vs Big Show, Orton, Sheamus
I was quite shocked to see this open the show, but it worked perfectly. 6 man tags have been great PPV openers in the past, with SummerSlam 1991 and 2011 coming to mind. This match just seemed too big to open the PPV portion, but the execution showed how fitting it was. I was expecting a main event style match, but it was instead changed to a format more stylistically fitting to kick off a show. Just because I didn't get what I expected doesn't mean it sucked. In fact, it was a tremendous match, with a great story. The ending was perfect, as it kept Big Show heel without being the turncoat. I'm very intrigued as to where the Orton story goes from here. Normally, I'd assume Randy vs Big Show, but who would be the face in this one? Randy didn't turn, but I can't side with him for stealing the tag. Meanwhile, Show watched Orton fail to win the match after stealing the hot tag, and then suckerpunched his partners. Very interesting turn of events. Looking forward to see what all 6 men do going forward.
Mark Henry vs Ryback
There was a main page news story reporting interviews done by Paul Rosenberg, and the most interesting one was surprisingly the Ryback interview. During the discussion, Paul asked Ryan if he felt his match would be too short to tell the story. Ryback answered a company correct answer, saying something along the lines of “No, it looks like we will get the right mount of time.”
I couldn't agree more. After the bell rang, and they were facing off, I had nightmares of Brock vs Goldberg part 2. Thankfully, it never went that way. There were lulls, which are to be expected. Big Show vs Mark Henry from 2011 is not the standard for big man matches, yet that seemed to be the common expectation. Ryback needs more seasoning. That being said, this match was meant to keep Ryback as a future star. I suspect many online have jumped to the “he's being buried” line. Or, some will be disappointed he lost, and therefore isn't in contention for the WWE Title right away.
The match was built to keep this feud going. This wasn't Batista vs Umaga in a throwaway match. There will be a continuation of the story, leading towards Extreme Rules. If there's a rematch from Wrestlemania that is set in stone, it's this one. Ryback lost, but looked damn impressive. He lifted Mark up once during the match for Shellshock, but Henry managed to grab the ropes and end up in on top for the win. Afterwards, Ryback recovered, and gave us the monumental moment we anticipated, and dropped Mizark in the biggest Shellshock yet. I'm looking forward to where these guys take it going forward.
Tag Team Championship
Earlier, I mentioned how Kofi should have been on the card. That statement is much easier to stand by after seeing this match. If you've read my earlier columns about the build up to Wrestlemania, you know I hoped and expected a 3 or 4 team Tag Title match. Sure, it was meant to get more guys on the card, but I also thought it would help get over the Tag division. Instead, they inserted a team that have never wrestled together before in Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston. I wasn't so keen on it, but it eventually dawned on me that the goal might be to give us a great match by allowing Dolph and Daniel Bryan (who may have been the most over wrestler of the entire night) to display their skills. Well, that didn't happen either. What we got was a standard tag match. The start was well done, with the tease of the same finish from the World Title match last year between Sheamus and D-Bry. After that, the entire match had me wondering why Kofi and Truth couldn't have made this a Triple Threat match (and once I realized the mixed 8 person tag was scrapped, why Rhodes Scholars and Tons of Funk couldn't have been included, or the New Age Outlaws, or the Prime Time Players, or Team Co-Bro...). It was good and solid, but Dolph didn't steal the show, and it felt very anti-climatic. I don't really care where these guys go from here after this match in terms of what took place last night. Shame.
Fandango vs Jericho
Not too surprisingly, Fandango won his debut match. Also not too surprisingly, it was a damn good one. It didn't steal the show, but it was the match that caught me by surprise the most. By that I mean I didn't expect much, and it was pretty good. Fandango is being primed for something decent, and this was a solid starting point. Maybe not the best use of Chris Jericho, but he won't be hurt at all from this.
This match was much better than I expected it to be. Now, I do want to say that it felt like an old-school Intercontinental Title match more than a main event title match, but it doesn't distract from what I witnessed. Both guys put on a solid showing. As for a rematch, it'll need some work. The challenger lost fair and square. I know Zeb Colter might be calling for it, and I wouldn't be against it, but I hope we see a good reason come of it.
Jack Swagger continues to improve, and I really hope WWE works his career well for the next year. This angle is working for him, Zeb is great on the microphone, and his wrestling is showing true potential in a main event capacity. He always showed signs of it, but it felt like it was missing something considering his size. Since his recent return, he is looking and acting like someone bigger than most of his opponents, while mixing in his wrestling background. While he may never have the same insane definition, he is becoming more like Brock Lesnar, and less like Kurt Angle. Tremendous.
Del Rio continues to struggle to garner my attention. His face run is still forced, and I can't sympathize with his Mexican immigrant background. Ah well.
I have to give WWE and the Undertaker credit. No matter how many times we see the streak on the line, and how much we all know it won't end, Wrestlemania never ceases to deliver moments where you start thinking “maybe this is it?” Even though CM Punk was less of a threat than HHH or HBK, he still had me believing he was going to do the impossible several times. It was easily the match of the night, but I also have to say with CM Punk being my favorite current WWE wrestler, and the best build up over the last few weeks, it would have been hard for it to suck. CM Punk continued to show his worth in this one, bringing out a match that is easily on the same level of the past 4 streak threatening matches. It's a shame he's had to lose 3 PPVs straight after the 2012 he had, but as long as WWE doesn't promote his recent bad luck or losing streak, he'll be more than fine no matter what he does.
And to all CM Punk marks out there, fret not. WWE knows he's a true star. The Living Colour intro was a definite sign of this. CM Punk is in a great position, and WWE won't ruin it. Expect him to be a Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart type main eventer going forward. By that I mean he won't be on the level of Rock, Austin or Cena, but he will hang with these guys and deliver in the ring more than most others. I'd like to say he's moved beyond the World Title, and is in the Elite top echelon, but we could have said that about Orton after his WWE title runs in 2008-2009. Either way, CM Punk is being treated the way he looks and acts: like a star.
Brock vs HHH
Meh. I couldn't get into the first half of the match, but things picked up decently for the last half. Not better than Punk/Taker, but better than the main event. I didn't like the false finishes with the kimura on Brock, but the rest of the brutality fit quite well. Nothing surprising here, and at no point did I feel Brock had a chance (unlike Punk in the last match). Standard No Holds Barred match.
Now, I can say I'm interested in seeing where each of these guys go from here. Brock in only marquee paid appearances should continue, with Paul Heyman doing the talking over the next year. There's a decent list of guys I'd like to see Brock take on, including Punk, Ryback, Orton, Sheamus, or even Foley. Will we see those options? Most likely not. They'll save him for Taker or Rock for next Mania. I hope we see something different.
As for HHH, I wouldn't be against seeing him wrestle more in 2013. He isn't at his best, but something is needed to freshen up the WWE title picture. HHH vs Cena might be a decent option if we're about to be put through another Cena as champ run.
Rock vs Cena
I can't get over the fact that Rock's matches have become worse as his return continues. Last year's match vs Cena was his best, with the 2 Punk matches not quite at the same level, and then this one worse than all 3. This might be in the top 10 worse Mania main events ever. It was a sloppy mess, no matter who won.
Now, barring my disappointment with the booking of this match, and the boring and bland result, it was honestly the match we should have expected. The Rock was never a top level in ring performer, so has gassed quickly in everything he's done, barring the tag match vs Awesome Truth. I'm not angry, or rioting, or bitching. In all honesty, I'm glad it's over. John Cena can be a great character, and delivers in the ring more often than not, and the landscape is wide open, so I am interested in seeing what happens next. Not as much as I am interested in seeing the outcome of other angles, but I am not completely apathetic. I am hoping, like many Raws after Manias in the past, WWE throws a monkey wrench into everything and gives us something captivating with Cena and the WWE Title. I just don't think it's likely.
Heading towards Extreme Rules
Wrestlemania, or ReMatchMAnia, or WrestleMEHnia... whatever you want to call it, is over. No matter how you feel about the results of the event, Extreme Rules/Backlash is usually a solid event with great storytelling coming out the the much larger card. Just last year, WWE righted the wrongs in the Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan angle, and gave us the 2 out of 3 falls match in the rematch, along with an amazing main event with the return of Brock (which may have been the best match of the year), and a solid WWE Championship rematch. Extreme Rules was potential Event of the Year, due to decent booking and tremendous action. The buyrates for Extreme Rules 2012 were higher than 2010 and 2011, so here's hoping WWE sees something in the success of last year's event in booking this year's.
Ryback vs Mark Henry is a lock for a rematch. I'm not sure what gimmick could be attached to it, but expect a Ryback win in impressive fashion.
Fandango vs Chris Jericho is likely to continue, and Jericho will no doubt get his win at some point, be it on Raw, or on PPV. Fandango doesn't need to look like the WWE Championship #1 contender, just look like someone worth paying attention to going forward. He's already done that at Wrestlemania.
Apparently we are to expect a rematch for the World Title. A submission match has been rumored, making sense out of the finishers for both Swagger and Del Rio. If they do go this route, expect more time to be given to both men to perform, and deliver an improvement over the Mania bout. I might even see a Swagger win. Will Dolph get involved? We'll see.
I read a decent suggestion of a Triple Threat match between Sheamus vs Orton and Big Show. That could make sense, but I expect more of the situation to be explained on Raw tonight to give us the full picture.
Up in the air will be what happens with Barrett, Miz, The Shield, Team Hell No, Dolph, CM Punk, HHH, Brock, Rock, and Cena. I doubt we'll see too much of the same feuds we saw last night. I have no predictions, but I do have some hopes:
-The Miz holds onto the Intercontinental Championship for a few months, and continues to improve as a face. His reign will end at the hands of someone from The Shield, most likely Roman Reigns.
-Wade Barrett will find a partner, and join the tag team division. I'm hoping it's with Antonio Cesaro.
-The multi team match I advocated for Mania will take place at Extreme Rules, and Team Hell No will lose the titles. All titles (barring the US) are in the hands of faces. This will change soon, with the tag straps being most likely to change hands.
-Dolph Ziggler will remain rather directionless, but cash in the briefcase out of nowhere on Jack Swagger, turning Dolph face and starting a face run for the Show Off. He will turn his back on AJ and Big E. Langston. This will happen at WWE Payback in June.
-The main event of Extreme Rules will be Cena vs HHH vs CM Punk. Cena wins, but it leads to Punk vs HHH, and Cena finds a new challenger for Payback.
-Brock and Rock will take some time away, with one or both returning to build up to SummerSlam.
After Raw tonight, I'll have a more serious look into the next step for the WWE. Too much is up in the air, but after another 3 hour Raw, I think we (those who weren't interested in Wrestlemania, or were disappointed with the show) will be excited once again.
And on that note, Peace out
Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
Follow me on Twitter if you wish, though I don't really do much with it.