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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: Picking Up The 'Mania Pieces (It's All About The Undercard Now)
By Maverick
Jan 31, 2015 - 7:45:57 AM

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Picking Up The 'Mania Pieces
(It's All About The Undercard Now)

I think I made my feelings about the Wrestlemania XXXI main event quite clear on Tuesday and although I am not feeling quite so raw about it as I was, I must confess that I will have a difficult time investing in it, just as I found it very hard to get excited about Rock vs Cena II at Wrestlemania XXIX and Cena vs The Miz at Wrestlemania XXVII. 2011's edition of the Showcase of the Immortals had the added problem for me personally of the other big match on the card, The Undertaker vs Triple H, not interesting me in the slightest. In fact, the feud bored me to tears, and although I tend to catch a lot of heat for this, the match did too. When you get 'Manias like XXVII and XXIX with contentious main events, it makes it all the more important for the company to book a varied and exciting undercard. For me right now, barring some shenanigans being pulled at the inaugural edition of Fast Lane, my investment in Wrestlemania XXXI is dependent on the matches that take place elsewhere on the bill.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, since the undercard of the Granddaddy Of Them All has produced a score of stone cold classics down the years, including such beauties as the triangle ladder match from Wrestlemania XVI, Christian vs Chris Jericho from Wrestlemania XX, The Rockers vs Haku and The Barbarian from Wrestlemania VII and, of course, the match that influenced modern grappling more than any other, 'Macho Man' Randy Savage vs Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat from Wrestlemania III. If WWE are smart, they will heavily promote the other matches on the card this year, and then if Reigns and Lesnar produce a pleasant surprise, we might have another great 'Mania on our hands, rather than the XXVII or XXIX damp squib that loomed large as a possibility on Monday morning.

That's right dear readers, I have regained some of my sunny disposition over the past couple of days, and to a large extent that's due to the rumours of Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler getting the chance to conclusively steal the show together come April. While I would not have hated the idea of a heel Sheamus going after Bryan on behalf of The Authority- it would've been a terrific match in all likelihood- I think the Yes Man and The Show Off can have a truly great match, one for the ages. We all have incredibly fond memories of their sensational Intercontinental vs United States Title match at Bragging Rights 2010, and given how far both have come since then, I believe they could easily one up themselves on this go around. Give that we are on the Reality Era, I love the way this started, with a tweet from Ziggler to Bryan cordially inviting him to steal the show at Levi's Stadium. Allegedly, Ziggler lobbied hard backstage for his idea to get picked up, and sources indicate that it has. Although one could look at it cynically and suggest that it's a bone being thrown to the smarks, the match and the story has such potential that I am more than happy to take the bone and be grateful for it. My brethren on The Right Side Of The Pond, Mazza and Shinobi, have questioned the storytelling possibilities, but I believe that it is the ultimate undercard story and one that needs to be told.

First of all, if there's one thing WWE have missed since Shawn Michaels retired it's a regular "steal the show" special attraction at the Showcase of the Immortals, and as Dolph has based much of his career on that of HBK, it makes perfect sense for him to tick off that particular goal, and who better to do it with than Daniel Bryan, the man who graduated from Michaels' San Antonio wrestling school? The idea of them deciding to thumb their noses at the doubters and prove their greatness together has me very excited, and there's just so much to be said for a good babyface match. Even if they do nothing more with the story than that, I'll be all in, but there's potential for more, much more, oh yes. Mazza suggested on The Ride Side Of The Pond this week that The Authority could perhaps start messing with the two men and trying to make them bitter enemies in order to further their own nefarious cause and divide the resistance. Moreover, although I wouldn't advocate a heel turn for either man, a tweener role for Mr Ziggles could be very interesting. Another option is to turn The Show Off only for the duration of the feud due to his obsession with winning, similar to The Heartbreak Kid's programme with Hulk Hogan back in 2005. Whichever way they go, their match would likely lead to a handshake and perhaps even a kind kind of Mega Powers effect where Bryan and Ziggler, the men who have, in kayfabe, given The Authority the most trouble, join up to take them down once and for all. By the way, I imagine that Ziggler will win. He should. The rub will be huge.

Speaking of The Authority, my current guess work about the Wrestlemania picture has a former handpicked kayfabe face of the company taking on the current handpicked kayfabe favourite of the ruling dynasty of WWE. Yes, that's right, one Randall Keith Orton is due to return any minute, and as he has been available to wrestle for a month or so now without being used, the higher ups must have something in mind for him...something big. I was greatly excited for the new, passionate, unhinged Orton of October and loved the way they wrote him off TV through the medium of the growing ascendancy of Seth Rollins. My idea would be for the Legend Killer to return just when The Architect is at his most smug and RKO him out of his boots. From there, The Viper would continually ambush Seth, setting up a Wrestlemania spectacular between the two. With Orton's outrageous consistency over the past five years and with Rollins possessing what may well be the best in ring game in the business right now, they could seriously tear the place down. The idea of the former Shield man managing to rid himself of Orton on the night of Wrestlemania so that he can cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase unopposed after the Reigns/Lesnar match is quite compelling to me.

Meanwhile, the third member of The Shield, The Lunatic Fringe, is the likeliest candidate to win the second edition of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, should it take place again this year. Battle royals have a storied history at the event, and the one at Wrestlemania IV played a huge part in the rise to prominence of Bret Hart, whilst last year, Cesaro seemed to be on the verge of something huge until his heat died down in early summer '14. Why is this match perfect for the considerable talents of Dean Ambrose? Well, for one thing, Dean works best in chaos and the idea of seeing him as the whirling dervish amidst nineteen other superstars is all kind of awesome. Before I realised that us UK folk were going to be getting the WWE Network in early January, I had purchased the Payback '14 blu ray, which contains amidst its special features the battle royal for the United States Title, where Ambrose was screwed by The Authority by being forced to defend it i in that manner but fought valiantly to the end until Sheamus took him down in the final two. It was great to re-watch it and it then occurred to me that Triple H and Stephanie would likely insert Kane and Big Show into the match, allowing The Lunatic Fringe to gain revenge for the Rumble match by tossing them both over the top rope. With other heavy hitters such as Cesaro, Barrett, Swagger and Harper likely to be in there too, it'll be a great platform for Dean to go on to the road to Summerslam, where we may finally see that Shield triple threat...

One of the things that perhaps got lost on Monday morning was the outstanding performance of Bray Wyatt in the Royal Rumble. Entering at number 5, he lasted almost 47 minutes in an excellent ironman run, throwing 6 men over the top before the questionable booking that saw Big Show and Kane step all over younger talent. Rumour has held for a good while now that Wyatt is set to go one on one with The Undertaker, and while I, like many others, wonder if Marc Callaway is really in good enough health for such a physical encounter, the prospect pub the match certainly interests me, though I'll probably need to see the creative on the bout before I fully commit to it. One thing I will say is that the end of The Streak automatically makes any match involving The Phenom more interesting. For me, the unbeaten run at the Showcase Of The Immortals became hugely problematic as the result was always a foregone conclusion, until last year, when all of a sudden, it wasn't anymore. Now that 'Taker has been beaten, he may be beaten again, or may win again, and the sudden doubt will make a prospective feud between he and Wyatt more intriguing than it would've been if The Streak was still intact. While Bray's promo style and presentation occasionally misses the mark, it does seem ideally suited to a feud with The Deadman, putting The Eater Of Worlds in the Mankind role from 1996.

Speaking of enigmatic performers, how about the prospect of Sting, nicknamed The Vigilante by The Authority, taking on the man he screwed at Survivor Series, Triple H. With Hunter having rediscovered his mojo between the ropes following his put over job for Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX and his work as part of Evolution up against The Shield at Extreme Rules and Payback, don't bet against a well worked special attraction between two legends in San Francisco. While my investment in the match is going to be dependent on how often Stinger is able to show up on on TV in the run up to the big night, I am at the very least impressed with how they kicked off the angle in November and how they handled the second shot on the go home Raw before the Rumble. There's no getting away from the question of Steve Borden's age, but his final big matches in TNA with Bully Ray were more than decent affairs.

The Rusev vs Cena programme appears to be well and truly underway, following on from the Franchise Player's feud against a fresh face last year in Bray Wyatt. We all knew that this was coming, with Rusev's rather well booked rise through the midcard seeming to offer John Cena as an obvious destination point for some time now. As ever when the fifteen time champ takes on a new player, one must hold one's breath for Cena to put over his opponent in promos rather than bury them, but the match at Fast Lane has potential, so long as it isn't the paint by numbers "Cena takes takes a beating then comes back" routine. It's occurred to quite a few of us over the past few days that perhaps Rusev's unbeaten record is broken by Cena at Fast Lane with the big Bulgarian getting the big win back on the massive stage of Wrestlemania. Watch this space.

Finally, who will The Usos face for the tag straps (possibly on the pre show)? Cesaro and Kidd are gathering momentum and showing everyone what they can do in work rate terms, while The Ascension being put over the Dusts and Outlaws in quick succession rather suggests they are being pushed towards the sons of Rikishi. Perhaps a triple threat or fatal fourway elimination also involving the aforementioned Stardust and Goldust? Either way, a well put together tag match will always add something to the card.

In closing, I am still not sold on the prospective main event, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the build to the rest of the event. The idea of Ziggler and Bryan in particular has energised me, and so long as the company understands how important the undercard is, we could yet end up with a very cool Wrestlemania.

Lots more content coming from me in the next few weeks, but until then, this is Maverick, requesting flyby!