Last night’s Raw from the Verizon Center in Washington, DC was a phenomenal go-home show. It seemed as if everyone was on their game when it came to putting the finishing touches on the big programs. Rock vs. John Cena and Brock Lesnar vs. HHH are clearly the two biggest matches. They’ve had the most consistent build from week to week and it feels like everything has been done as good as possible to garner interest.
I’m a bit more skeptical of Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk. The last few weeks of their build was lackluster to say the least, but they got it back on track with an excellent show- closing angle that did wonders in making Punk seem like a legitimate threat to end the 20-0 streak. However, I have little doubt they will produce a great match. Undertaker has been in the best match at every WrestleMania of the last five years and Punk always delivers on the big stage.
Of the undercard matches, I’m looking most forward to Chris Jericho vs. Fandango. Fandango is one of the more unique characters to be brought up to the main roster and I really like his cocky effeminate gimmick. The fans genuinely despise him and it’s a major feat for a new wrestler to get the fans to care about them that much. Jericho is the perfect opponent and has been great at putting Fandango over in key angles for the last couple of weeks. There must be big plans underway for Fandango because it’s not every year that a newcomer works their first major match at WrestleMania against an opponent of Jericho’s caliber.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio for world championship is a bit trickier. It’s universally acknowledged that Del Rio is a bust in his current role as a babyface. He’s just not the type of guy fans are willing to get behind. A large part of the blame must go to the writers who script him to deliver the lamest babyface lines I’ve heard in years. WWE has high hopes of him becoming next Eddie Guerrero/Rey Mysterio- level hero for the Hispanic audience, but it doesn’t appear to be working. At this point it may never happen.. Many feel the Swagger/Del Rio feud hasn’t reached the level where it should be at for a WrestleMania championship match, and Del Rio is completely at fault. If you replaced Del Rio with Mysterio then it would be one of the hottest feuds heading into WrestleMania. Del Rio’s lack of charisma has hurt every facet of this program and it’s my hope that a hostile crowd (as NY/NJ is sure to be) will be the impetus for WWE to drastically revamp his character.
The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus has the potential to be great. The Shield have been impressive in every PPV outing they’ve had and I have no doubt they will be at their best come Sunday. A big part of the intrigue to this match is the possibility of seeing the much anticipated heel turn of Orton. Whether he’s revealed to be The Shield’s leader or transitions into a feud with Sheamus, he needs to turn quickly.
That leaves Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston vs. Kane and Daniel Bryan for the tag titles as the final big undercard match. I think it’s the right time for Kane and Daniel Bryan to lose the belts. Ziggler and Bryan are two of the best workers in the company and I expect them go all out for however much time they are given. The match will also hold the distinction of being Langston’s first televised match since becoming part of the main roster. I like Langston and hope he has a strong outing. He was heavily cheered last night when he did a post-match beatdown following Ziggler’s match with Bryan.
The remainder of the show will consist of Mark Henry vs. Ryback; Brodus Clay, Tensai, Campell, and Naomi vs. Team Rhodes Scholar and the Bellas Twins, and AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn for the Divas championship. Last night, it was announced that Miz vs. Wade Barrett for the U.S. championship will be on the 6 p.m. preshow.
As with every WrestleMania, there will be a segment where the new Hall of Fame inductees are introduced to the crowd. I expect the fans to go crazy for Bruno Sammartino and Mick Foley. Aside from that, we’re guaranteed to see some celebrity cameos and about a million repetitive video packages. They should seriously consider cutting out these unnecessary videos so they can give more time to the matches. The wrestlers work hard all year just to get a spot on the card and it’s not fair to have their big matches for another Lesnar vs. HHH or Rock vs. Cena recap.
Overall, I have a feeling this will go down as one of the better WrestleManias of all time. My gut feeling tells me everything has peaked at just the right time. Aside from the individual performances and the time allotted for every match, the crowd will be most responsible for putting the show over the top. There is no more perfect location to host a WrestleMania than in the NY/NJ market. No other market on earth is as intelligent and vocal when it comes to going against the grain. For that reason alone I fully expect it to be the most hostile environment Cena has ever competed in front of. I also expect Rock, Jericho, Ziggler, Bryan, Punk, Paul Heyman, Rhodes Scholars, Mark Henry and even Swagger to be heavily cheered in their matches. It may be the one night of the year where more heels are cheered than faces.
This is the time of the year that wrestling fans live for and I’m confident this year’s show will not disappoint. Now hurry up and get here Sunday!