3/26 Barnett's WWE WrestleMania Week Day 1: What can WWE do this week to improve the hype towards WrestleMania?
By Jake Barnett
WWE WrestleMania Week Day 1: What can WWE do this week to improve the hype towards WrestleMania?
Here we are, folks, it is finally WrestleMania week. Six days from now, WWE will embark on turning Miami into the biggest Pro Wrestling party of the year, and from my perspective it’s a little bittersweet. I’m perfectly willing to admit that this could be a “me problem”, but I’ve talked to quite a few friends that are fans of the WWE, and also quite a few that are not, and it seems to be that this year really isn’t drawing the same level of excitement as years past.
In terms of talent and wrestling quality, the last decade has really been an embarrassment of riches at WrestleMania every year. On paper, this year appears to be no different. C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan in high profile World Title matches? Count me in. The Rock and John Cena, who are arguably the biggest stars of their respective generations, colliding in the ring for the first and perhaps only time? Sounds like can’t miss stuff. Plus, there’s still more with the Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels being given another opportunity to cement the streak as the greatest WrestleMania phenomenon of all time.
From the standpoint of someone wanting to be entertained by the athleticism and the drama that comes with great Pro Wrestling matches, I don’t think this card will disappoint on any level. For someone like me, who watches just about every WWE show on a weekly basis, the stories being told heading into the show leave some to be desired. Tonight’s episode of Raw is ostensibly the last chance WWE will have to sell us all on WrestleMania. What would I like to see happen to improve the hype for WrestleMania? Well, read on…
The Rock vs. John Cena:
The Rock and John Cena have been excellent in selling this feud when they are kept apart. Their interactions together have been less than exciting in a lot of ways. Whether it is their dislike of one another, or perhaps just the generational difference, they haven’t gelled in the ring together and it has made for some awkward moments. What this feud needs is, what they call in role playing games (I know, nerd alert), a saving throw.
Tonight’s segment will hopefully be what we’ve all been waiting for, and that’s a confrontation where the chips are thrown down, and both men make a case for why they will be remembered as the greatest of all time. I know that sounds hyperbolic and cliché, but that’s what this is billed as, and it needs to find a way to deliver. Otherwise, I will not be any more excited about this match than I was a year ago when it was announced, and that’s a crying shame.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H w/Shawn Michaels as Guest Referee:
To be perfectly honest the build for this match has been near perfect, so there isn’t much to critique or second guess, but there is one thing to mention. On tonight’s show, I hope they really showcase the history of all three men in Hell in a Cell matches, and why that stipulation makes this the most memorable match in the rich history of The Undertaker’s streak.
As Triple H said last week on Raw, these guys have preposterous amounts of experience in the cell, and I think the cell structure itself needs to be sold as a threat to Undertaker’s streak to push this match over the top. The video packages shown prior to the match being made really focused on Triple H walking out of last year’s match and The Undertaker being unable to, so I think it makes sense to really send home the idea that competing in the cell one more time could be the end of Taker’s career.
C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the WWE Title:
I didn’t think this feud was going anywhere a few weeks ago, but Jericho has since turned the corner and really embraced being a sleazeball, I think this feud has picked up the pace. Tonight should really be a pivotal moment for the feud, as last week really set the stage for Punk to be embraced as a truly sympathetic character since being catapulted to superstardom back in July. The snarky facade has given way to reveal a character that has a troubled past, and perhaps personal demons to be exorcised, and I think fans really do want to see him put Jericho to sleep.
Raw tonight can really set the stage for WrestleMania by having Jericho get the best of Punk, and really get people excited to see him get his comeuppance. Whether that comeuppance is at WrestleMania or further down the road has yet to be seen, but no matter what happens I think this feud has legs.
Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship
This feud really needs some time on Raw tonight to spread its wings. Daniel Bryan has been great at being a complete dirt bag, and I’ve truly enjoyed his performances. Sheamus, on the other hand, has really failed to do any coloring outside the lines. It probably has nothing to do with him per se, but I’ve really been underwhelmed by the writing they’ve given him. The Irish Brawler character is fun for a while, but I was hoping we’d see a little more depth and development from him as he got involved with this World Title storyline for WrestleMania. It seems as if Bryan has left him behind, as his character continues to evolve, while Sheamus has done nothing but the Lucky Charms bit since The Royal Rumble.
What I hope to see tonight is something to take this beyond a paint by numbers affair with the Rumble winner chasing the Champ. These two have the potential to really steal the show on Sunday in terms of match quality, and it would be a shame if it continues to languish in terms of setting up a personality conflict that would make these two legitimately hate each other. I think they’ve succeeded in making everyone want to see Bryan get his ass kicked, but I have yet to really get invested in wanting to see Sheamus do it.
Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show for the Intercontinental Championship:
I think WWE has done a nice job of making Cody Rhodes look strong. This is another match where it appears they are setting up for the smaller trash talking wrestler to finally get squashed by the lumbering giant who has yet to get his hands on him. The Intercontinental Title has not been the focus of the feud, despite Cody Rhodes promise to bring meaning back to the title, and putting it on Big Show certainly wouldn’t do that either. The hype for this match could improve by injecting something to make the Intercontinental Title feel meaningful and important to both men. It will be difficult to do that in one night, but it’s worth a shot.
Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy for control of both Raw and Smackdown:
If you’ve been listening to the weekly Smackdown Audio shows with Chris Shore and I, this will feel like a repeat, but this match could not mean any less at this point. John Laurinitis has been entertaining simply because he’s embraced being the butt of everyone’s jokes, but that’s not a reason to really get emotionally invested in this feud. Teddy Long and Aksana are brutal, none of the other wrestlers seem motivated by the match as much as the opportunity to be on the WrestleMania card, and nobody really seems to care about the perpetual power struggle to control the show that has been going on since sometime in 1997 with interchangeable characters. The best thing that could happen at this point would be to add some star power to the match, which I assume they will be doing tonight on Raw. I’m not sure what could be done to save the premise.
Randy Orton vs. Kane:
The premise of this match is silly. They did finally manage to create something of a story for this match after several weeks of going through the motions, but in the end it just created more confusion than it did answer any questions. Am I expected to believe that Kane sat at home on his hiatus watching he and Randy Orton shake hands, and John Cena refusing to embrace the hate, and it inspired him to put the mask back on and attempt to kill people? Why, when faced with a guy who clearly attempted to kill Zack Ryder, is Randy Orton so cool and collected? Shouldn’t he at least attempt to show that he is worried about the possibility of Kane mauling him? And why has Orton been so dominant, when Kane as the heel initiated the feud?
So much about this match is completely tacked together, yet I’m sure it will be at least entertaining to watch at WrestleMania. If they want to improve their hype, having Kane dominate Orton in a big way on Raw tonight would at least cast some doubt on the outcome at WrestleMania.
Do you have questions, comments, and concerns? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @barnettjake.
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