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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: A 100% Positive Column About Wrestlemania XXXI
By Maverick
Mar 28, 2015 - 6:37:19 AM

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A 100% Positive Column About Wrestlemania XXXI

Dear readers, it's no secret that I have not been feeling the booking or build to Wrestlemania XXXI; the evidence is there in my column archive for everyone to see. However, following the 03/09 episode of Raw, I decided that rather than ruin my own experience of Wrestlemania season, I would instead check out of watching the flagship show on Tuesday nights after work, and lo and behold, it quickly did the trick. Watching some classic Wrestlemanias past and avoiding the soporific build to this year's event gave me perspective and allowed me to simply look at the matches on the card and get excited about the talent rather than their stories. So here we are with only a couple of days to go, and I promise no negativity. This is my "positive thoughts only" preview of the Show of Shows.

The expanded two hour pre-show contains two matches which should be straight up entertaining, and while they might have been badly short changed on minutes had they been placed on the main card, their presence on the kick off allows them room to breathe. The thrown together tag team of Cesaro and Kidd certainly works for me; if WWE don't know what they have on their hands with Cesaro in terms of an attraction, I have no objection to him tearing it up in the tag team division with the talented Canadian. The other three teams involved each bring something to the table; the charisma and big match moxie of Jey and Jimmy, the pure wrestling ability of the Colons, and the classic power/high flier combination of Big E and Kofi. I hope that it is elimination rather than one fall to a finish, but either way, the match itself should give us plenty of good action to get us pumped for the main show to come.

Meanwhile, the second annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal being moved to the kick off means that more of a storyline can develop, rather than it simply being a case of bodies flying for seven minutes until a winner is crowned. Spoilers indicate that Hideo Itami, the former Kenta, enters the fray after winning the NXT tournament to earn a spot, and that will interest me hugely; I've grown to love watching the puro star over the last few months, since he is a great talent who will bring something very different to the table on the main roster. Booking him to win would be a fantastic way to debut him as a permanent main roster performer and set him up as an important star from the jump. I can just see him stiff kicking his way through the entire jabroni filled field. However, the rumoured return of a heel Sheamus may mean that the Celtic Warrior takes the trophy, which would also be a good move, particularly if he cuts a promo declaring allegiance to The Authority immediately afterwards. The final potential winner seems to be Ryback, who tearfully declared his wish to honour the late Andre with a victory; mind you, I tend to consider this a red herring after The Big Show declared the same thing before last year's iteration.

Moving into the main card, I expect the best built feud of them all to curtain jerk, and that is Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton. I have gone on record on The Right Side Of The Pond recently in saying that I believe that this will be a huge Wrestlemania X type of night for The Architect. The first part of the equation is his match with The Viper, which is mouth watering even without the rather well constructed storyline behind it. Two of the very best pure in ring workers in the company going balls to the wall for twenty minutes to open the show sounds marvellous to me, and and fully expect them to conclusively steal the show. My expectation is also that Orton will get his revenge by downing his smarmy opponent; the chances of a new and spectacular catch RKO spot are, I think, rather high. Following the win for Randall, the down moment for Seth will become become the ultimate high when he cashes in on the winner winner of the main event. A cash in has never taken place at a Wrestlemania before, and with the brilliant heel nine months Rollins has had, there will never be a better time. I am excited to see if it happens; if it does, remember which LOP columnist called it!

Another hot encounter is likely to be the ladder match over the Intercontinental Championship, a bout filled with a mixture of main event talent, premier midcarders...and R Truth, though even there, don't forget that the guy headlined through most of 2011, and did so well. Forget the booking, forget the politics, putting that amount of talent in the match is likely to end up producing a classic of the genre given that the battle royal has been bumped, allowing this more minutes, or at least you'd have to assume. From the get go, this had felt like a vehicle for Dean Ambrose, and an entertaining run with the strap for The Lunatic Fringe would certainly be a fantastic outcome. However, the rumoured wish of Vince McMahon to have the midcard belts defended by Bryan and Cena in the headline slots during Lesnar’s lengthy absences with the top title may well mean that the Yes Man gets the eventual rub here. Certainly, the idea of two main event guys elevating midcard gold- think 2009 Jericho- is an interesting one, and so even though I would prefer Ambrose, I won't object to a Bryan win. What is certain is that there will be some crazy bumps, some awe inspiring spots, and with the storytelling ability of many the competitors, it should be much more than a cluster-you-know-what.

Looking at perhaps the least hyped match in terms of the time it’s received on television, we see good things there too. After years of meaningless divas encounters at Wrestlemania, the four top women in the division have paired up into two opposing tag teams, with the alternative "anti divas" Paige and AJ seeking to end the bitchy tyranny of the self-consciously alpha Bellas in a match which should at least get enough time for the participants to show what they can do. With the possibility of friction between the fiercely independent and competitive former Divas Champions keeping the match interesting, and a likely fatal fourway over the butterfly belt at Extreme Rules on on the horizon, this feels like the most relevant women's match at the Granddaddy for a good while.

My enthusiasm for Rusev over this this past year will be familiar to anyone who has been reading my work over that time period, and as he gets set to make his 'Mania debut- against John Cena no less- it is exciting to contemplate just how far he has come in a short space of time, and totally organically too. It has been a notably old school build for the Bulgarian Brute as he has gone through the dregs of the card, to the midcard, to headlining, being entertaining at every turn. Even better, he has shown in recent weeks that he can comfortably cope without mouthpiece and real life squeeze Lama. Meanwhile, Cena has played the grizzled veteran well and he continues to do do a very good job- no pun intended- of putting Rusev over. Although I fully expect Cena to win on Sunday in order to complete the logical narrative, that will not harm the Russian sympathiser at all; the feud has made Rusev for life. And if their match at Fast Lane was anything to go by, it should be a fantastic, hard hitting second act.

For a long time, I was on the fence about Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker, but like the Eater of Worlds himself, it has crept up on me without me knowing over the last few weeks, and suddenly, I find myself looking forward to it third most after the Rusev and Rollins showcases. There were a couple of things that helped me here: firstly, Wyatt has been on magnificent form on the microphone, and did a grand job calling out The Deadman over a period of weeks, at first not using his name, and then finally, at Fast Lane, using the casket and making it explicit. My colleague ‘Plan likes to define Bray’s character as one that preys on the insecurities and weaknesses of the great and mighty, and the loss of The Streak is perhaps the greatest example of that to date. Secondly, the recent photos that emerged of The Undertaker on Michelle McCool’s Instagram and on the usual wrestling sites show that Callaway has bulked back up to the muscular, intimidating giant he was around the turn of the millennium, a far cry from the increasingly skeletal, gaunt looking figure of last year. Could we be about to see the return of The American Badass? Think about it and it makes sense; The Phenom gimmick returned at Wrestlemania XX, “Where it all begins again”, and this coincided with The Streak being the defining factor in all of ‘Taker’s matches from that point. With Lesnar having stomped on the unbeaten record last year, could the kayfabe see The Deadman “regenerate” into Big Evil? I for one would mark out for the return of Biker ‘Taker. It allows Mean Marc to show more humanity, sell more, and be removed from the shackles of that long, long entrance. Imagine the crowd reaction if the gong turns into the footsteps and then “DEAD...MAN...WALKING” and those first bars of Limp Bizkit? How cool would that be? Regardless, I am looking forward to the bout, and with ‘Taker having trained for it, he will surely be equipped to take the very physical offense of The Eater of Worlds and give it right back. It’s always a pleasant surprise to find yourself looking forward to a match that you didn’t think you would be, and this is exactly that scenario for me. I’m pumped!

I’m still not quite certain what I think about Triple H vs. Sting, but with the former WCW mainstay finally cutting a promo- and a damned fine one at that- on Raw, I find myself a lot more interested than I was previously. In fairness, Hunter almost always brings it on the big stage, and the last matches of Sting’s I saw in TNA I really liked. For me, this match will likely go in an Attitude Era/Monday Night Wars type of direction, with a lot of shenanigans involved: interference, ref bumps, weapons shots, you name it. I imagine we’ll have Steph at ringside for at least a part of the match, and I also imagine that she’ll take some kind of crazy bump and be stretchered away too. The bat will come out, the sledgehammer will come out, and I have no idea who will win. This one feels very unpredictable; Sting has had the better of the entire build, but he is also the marquee signing of this season’s big event. Meanwhile, Helmsley has been on the losing end of the ledger in three of his last four Wrestlemanias, and you’d think that he needs a big win to maintain his heat as the big, bad authority figure. I’m certainly interested to see what happens.

And so finally, we come to the main event. In the aftermath of Fast Lane, and Reigns’ tremendous coming of age performance, I was finally in a place where I was reasonably happy to see the match happen, but then came that incredibly flat run through to Wrestlemania...until the news broke that Brock Lesnar had resigned. One of the existing issues with the match was the crowd reaction to Roman and the pre-determined decision to capitalise on Brock’s heat by having a new star defeat him on the grandest stage, but the three year deal The Beast Incarnate has penned changes the game entirely. Suddenly, we are in a situation where a clearly not-quite-ready Big Dog doesn’t have to be forced into a title reign (no pun intended) which a portion of the fanbase would reject. For me, the ideal scenario is that the two men have a knock down, drag out, balls to the wall FIGHT like The Undertaker vs. Batista from Wrestlemania XXIII, going around fifteen minutes, but it seems more likely that they will try the twenty five minute “epic” treatment. I guess there’s nothing to do but see how that goes. However, what interests me more is what happens AFTER the match. As I said earlier, this is the night to give Seth Rollins a night to match Bret Hart in 1994, losing his first match but coming on strong at the end of the evening. I would personally like to see Lesnar defeat a very game Reigns, who is elevated in defeat, bringing down the briefcase holder, who not only successfully cashes in on the Beast, but also puts him out of action afterwards with a curb stomp through the announce table or something of that sort. Then we could have a Reigns vs. Rollins feud through spring and early summer, with Lesnar returning as a massive avenging babyface for Summerslam to take on sneaky top heel Rollins in a potential classic. We’ll see how that bit of fantasy booking works out for me.

Overall, I believe that now is the time to set aside the troublesome build and get excited for the big night. What has saved this Wrestlemania for me is the unpredictability factor: most of the matches have a lot of intrigue around who is likely to win. Furthermore, having sat out most of the last two and a half weeks, my wrestling palate is very much cleansed and I’m looking forward to watching some wrestling on Sunday night. Lastly, I’ve always been a mark for the post-Wrestlemania season, where all the plot lines go off in very interesting directions; I loved the old Backlash pay-per-view, and Extreme Rules has carried on the tradition in fine style. So in closing, all I’d like to add is A HAPPY WRESTLEMANIA WEEKEND TO ONE AND ALL!

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This is Maverick, requesting flyby!