One day and counting, Cagesiders.
WWE will hold its biggest event of the year when it broadcasts its WrestleMania 28 pay-per-view tomorrow night (April 1, 2012) live from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.
The show features an eight-match card headlined by a bout over a year in the making, as The Rock will participate in his first WrestleMania match in seven years against the biggest star in the business today, John Cena.
But that's not all.
Undertaker is back for his yearly showcase, as he takes on Triple H for the third time at "The Graddaddy of Them All." Only this time they'll do the deed in a Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee.
In other action, CM Punk defends the WWE championship against Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan puts his world heavyweight title on the line against Sheamus and Team Johnny goes up against Team Teddy to determine which general manager will run both Raw and Smackdown.
There's a lot to get to, folks, so let's take the jump for predictions on every match from your friendly CagesideSeats.com staff. Well, everyone except for Holzermann and Holland, because they were just too busy.
In we go:
The Rock vs. John Cena
Geno: They're counting on these two to have chemistry inside the ring that hasn't existed up to this point. Everything about this program has been stilted, though, and I'm not entirely confident things will change when they finally get physical past a Rock Bottom or an Attitude Adjustment. As far as booking goes, I can see a smoz finish now whereas before I just didn't think WWE would have it in them to pull the trigger on it. But really, what's the argument against it? You're not going to hurt later business by it. It's a one-off match. Rock will be back next year anyway. They can do this dirty and avoid a clean pinfall winner. And if that's what they choose, it has to be Cena laying Rock down for that three second tan. Which is what I fully expect to happen.
Sergio: If The Rock wins, the feud stays alive. And that means more TitanTron videos, more rock concerts and more wrist notes jokes. If The Rock goes over on Sunday, Cena is once again in a state of perpetual stasis until the Attitude Era star is free from filming any number of movies already on his plate. If Cena wins, he can move on and start feuding with full-time wrestlers, Superstars he can actually step inside the ring with more than once or twice a year. I have to admit a strange feeling The Miz will have an effect on the outcome, however...
Keith: I think there's little doubt that John Cena is going over, unless Vince McMahon wakes up on Sunday morning and gets spooked by what still promises to be a vociferously pro Rock, anti Cena crowd in Miami over WrestleMania weekend, despite their best efforts to guarantee a split reaction on the big day. However, the finish is unlikely to be clean, as the company wants to leave open the possibility of a rematch in the future. This suggests interference from a heel to feud with Cena immediately after Mania and The Rock at a later date. Miz's losing streak gimmick whereby he would miss out on the show he headlined last year seemed to be heading in that direction until he was put on Team Johnny at the last minute, so someone else will wisely get that role instead if they decide to go down that route. The favourites would be Alberto Del Rio who has been suspiciously kept off the card or Lord Tensai who could make a powerful impact by debuting on the biggest stage of them all.
Jason: I don't know if John Cena HAS to win this match, but he's the one who will be around next month and the one perceived by most fans as not as good (or at least not as big of a star). The only way I see Rock winning is if WWE is building to a rematch, and I very much hope that is not the case. It's time for both of them to move onto something else. Prediction: Cena, by pin.
Undertaker vs. Triple H in a Hell in a Cell match (Shawn Michaels as special guest referee)
Geno: Considering the three guys involved, they're going to do absolutely everything they can to steal the show. Rock vs. Cena has all the hype, but Taker vs. Trips could have all the substance. It's Hell in a Cell and with the combined political clout in the match, we can expect foreign objects aplenty. Not only that, we might even get to see some color in the co-main event of the evening. That said, the outcome isn't in doubt. At all. Undertaker is winning and the streak goes on. The only question is how Shawn Michaels plays his role as special guest referee and if it leads to HHH vs. HBK next year. I'm guessing no but wouldn't mind if that's the direction they chose.
Sergio: As much of a backstage politician Triple H was or is, there's no way he ends The Streak. The Undertaker, all the way.
Keith: Well, Triple H clearly has a high opinion of himself, but I don't think even the most jaded smark believes he would selfishly book himself to end The Undertaker's streak. More interesting is what role Shawn Michaels plays in his loss and how Hunter plans to steal the show from his nemesis Dwayne Johnson. I guess Shawn will play it down the middle, unless he's provoked and feels compelled to take action, reminiscent of the SummerSlam 1997 finish where HBK accidentally cost The Undertaker the WWF title after an errant chair shot meant for his archenemy Bret Hart struck the Deadman right on the noggin. Speaking of chair shots to the head, we all know that these two headliners have carte blanche to break the rules everyone else has to abide by, bogus fines notwithstanding. After last year's ballyhoo, chair shots to the head are a definite no no, but there will be other weapons aplenty and blood is a definite possibility for once.
Jason: I thought this match would end up being a bore last year and it ended up as my favorite match of 2011. So I won't bet against them delivering another classic, although this year's story has been less than compelling. I feel like Michaels does an effective job as a special referee for the first time in his life, and Undertaker continues the streak. I don't expect blood. Prediction: Undertaker, by pin.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the WWE championship
Geno: This isn't the culmination of this feud, it's the very first match of it. That means the potential for a title change will never be higher and the stars are lining up to make sure it happens. The very next PPV event on the WWE schedule is Extreme Rules in Chicago, which is also when Punk's upcoming DVD stops filming. If that doesn't spell out how to book the next few weeks, I don't know what does. Jericho goes over here and gets a ton of heat for it using nefarious tactics to further the idea that he's not really the Best in the World, he just does whatever he has to do to trumpet the title.
Sergio: There's a line of thinking amongst pro wrestling fans that whoever went over in the show right before the PPV will end up losing at the big show. I'm not sure if there was ever any truth in this argument but the fact is it no longer applies. Jericho has been dragging skeletons out of CM Punk's closet for the past three weeks, angering Punk so much this past Monday he knocked Christian off the WrestleMania 28 card. The aforementioned fuzzy logic would dicate Punk wins on Sunday, right? But if he does, then what? Where does the story go from there? Nowhere which is why Jericho needs to win. The fact that Extreme Rules will be in Punk's hometown of Chicago in a few weeks makes me even more sure he will drop the title only to win it back in front of his Chi-town brethren.
Keith: We all know that Chris Jericho is hanging about after Mania and that this will be the first chapter in what promises to be an epic feud with CM Punk, someone the WWE office is very high on at the moment, so this is a very hard match to call. To me there's more money in Punk chasing the dastardly Jericho, who has publicly exposed the WWE champion's family issues to knock Punk off his game, for the title going into Extreme Rules in Chicago than returning as the hometown hero again, so I think we'll see a title switch here. If not, expect Jericho to get his heat back after the match, so that the feud can still continue as planned.
Jason: This seems like the first chapter of a longer saga. Those types of matches often underwhelm at WrestleMania, as fans don't generally get the kind of cathartic moments you usually find at the end of a feud. I don't necessarily expect that to happen here, but maybe it won't live to up the massive expectations. I also think Jericho wins here, leading to Punk chasing him for a few months. Maybe Jericho cheats, knocks out Punk with a foreign object, and puts him in the Walls of Jericho for added embarrassment. Prediction: Jericho, by submission.
Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the world heavyweight championship
Geno: I hate everything about this match and how it's likely going to play out, though I understand the necessity for it. Sheamus has to go over to justify the monster push he was given over the past year. He won the Royal Rumble and at some point, WWE needs to remember that that's supposed to mean something. Bryan is interesting enough and did such a bang up job while he had the belt on him that he doesn't need it anymore to be taken seriously. Title change forthcoming.
Sergio: Like the Intercontinental Championship match, I find myself swaying back and forth on this match. Daniel Bryan has been a revelation as a cowardly heel, hiding behind his rail thin girlfriend, A.J. while Sheamus has slowly but surely become one of Smackdown's biggest fan favorites -- second only to Orton -- since his rivalry with Mark Henry. I'm going with Sheamus simply because I feel Bryan's character has gone as far as it can in its current state. The status quo needs to be shaken up and Sheamus winning the title from him is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Keith: It has been a staggering five years since the winner of the Royal Rumble has won their world title match at WrestleMania and I expect that to change here after Sheamus jobbed to World Champion Daniel Bryan thanks to Kane's chokeslam on Raw Monday night. WWE's booking mentality is that a new champion isn't affected by losing before winning the belt and the manner of Sheamus' defeat sets up two potential challengers for him post Mania. Sheamus hasn't been knocking them dead in his recent babyface run and Daniel Bryan has ran with the ball with his World title opportunity, but Sheamus losing here would be the kiss of a death to his attempt to get over. Even established stars like Randy Orton and Edge have lost momentum in the past by falling short at the final hurdle, so hopefully WWE has learned their lesson from those past mistakes.
Jason: I'm a bit torn here. Bryan's gained such momentum lately playing off A.J. and just being an incredible schmuck. It would be a shame to cut that off so soon with a loss here (though he could continue the character as champion). But then again, when in doubt with WWE, I always pick the bigger guy. And if Sheamus lost, he'd be the fifth straight Royal Rumble winner to fail to win the title, and I feel like that streak needs to end. Prediction: Sheamus, by pin.
Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show for the Intercontinental championship
Geno: I suppose Big Show could go over here so he can finally get his feel good WrestleMania moment but I would rather see Rhodes retain his title clean and get the rub that comes from beating a main event level player like Show. Rhodes could always win the belt back the very next night or next week or next PPV, even, but it wouldn't mean as much and would feel an awful lot like he's a solid mid-carder who can't win on the biggest stage.
Sergio: I'm leaning toward Rhodes simply because Show gains nothing at this point in his career by going over on the Intercontinental Champion. Rhodes, on the other hand, can use this win as a launching point to something bigger and better; perhaps a world title run. I still can't shake the feeling WWE will give Show his "WrestleMania moment," however. While Rhodes could lose this weekend, he could easily regain the title at Extreme Rules and effectively end the feud either then or soon after. I'm going with my gut: Rhodes.
Keith: With how this match has been set up with Cody Rhodes taunting Big Show at every opportunity about how he has never had his WrestleMania moment, Show would look like a right geek if he lost here. So I'm expecting a feel good clean win for Show, but a short-lived Intercontinental title run where Rhodes wins the title back in short order.
Jason: Big Show's futility at WrestleMania has been so emphasized that I feel like he ends that here. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cody win a rematch fairly quickly. Or move on to bigger (well, maybe not literally bigger) and better things. Prediction: Show, by pin.
Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy for control of both Raw and Smackdown
Geno: This is the "make yourself a star, this is your big time to shine" speech match. That's what Vince McMahon and company will be telling the 12 men performing here and there are definitely a few candidates within it to steal the show. But there are also far too many duds, like Great Khali, Jack Swagger and Drew McIntyre. I'm hoping to see something special but the important thing is John Laurinaitis gets to take over as general manager of both Raw and Smackdown. That's what I'm thinking happens, too. Thankfully.
Sergio: I really, really, REALLY hope Team Johnny wins out. Laurinaitis is leagues more charismatic than Long and I actually enjoy the segments he's involved in while I find myself rolling my eyes when Long shows up on my TV. Having him in charge of Smackdown is bad enough, I can barely imagine how awful it would be to have Long running both brands. "Funkmaster," though? Seeing him every Monday AND Friday is absolute money.
Keith: I love Teddy Long's schtick, but his run as GM of Smackdown is a bit long in the tooth, while I don't think John Laurinaitis has yet reached the full potential of his heel character, so I'm expecting Team Johnny to come out on top. It looks like they want to resuscitate The Miz's career after being buried for failing to protect R-Truth, so I predict he'll pick up the pinfall on Long's main man Santino, maybe with help from a heel turning Aksana.
Jason: This feud has been a more fun story than I expected, and it certainly seems to be over with the crowds. Though I despise using GMs as a wrestling storytelling device, Laurinaitis has been a surprisingly fun and effective character after a rough start. He still has shelf life as boss of both shows, whereas I don't see much storytelling that can be done with Long at the helm. Prediction: Miz pins Santino.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
Geno: This match isn't even worthy of getting on the worst of the worst PPVs on the WWE schedule. The only reason it was given a spot on the card was to get Orton in front of the huge audience expected to buy the show. Which means he goes over here.
Sergio: The most nonsensical feud in recent memory hopefully comes to an end on Sunday. Kane has nothing to gain by winning and really, Orton doesn't either but a loss isn't in the cards for "The Apex Predator."
Keith: Yawn, does it really matter who wins this match? Kane should win to make a strong monster challenger for Sheamus to face in the future, but my gut feeling is Randy Orton wins as he's the much bigger star and it would be a bit of a burial for him to lose such a meaningless match on a major show.
Jason: I, and I imagine most of you, could not possibly have less interest in this match. Prediction: I fall asleep ... er, Orton by pin.
Maria Menounos and Kelly Kelly vs. Eve and Beth Phoenix
Geno: Normally, a celebrity teaming with a babyface would surely mean victory for that team but Menounos suffered two broken ribs not long ago and she'll be severely hampered in what she can do. In fact, I can't imagine she'll be able to do much of anything at all. I've done as little as bruised my ribs before, and it makes even the most pedestrian task seem difficult. Like breathing. So Eve and Beth Phoenix might pick up a win here. Or Kelly Kelly does all the work (if you can call it that) before tagging Menounos in to get the pin after a hopefully short match.
Sergio: I guess with The Rock already on the event, WWE didn't make their usual push for mainstream exposure. Past WrestleMania included Donald Trump and Jersey Shore's Snooki but this year, we get a second-rate Melissa Hart. The fan favorites win this one in a match I hope isn't longer than five minutes.
Keith: The rule of thumb is that the celebrity goes over. Maybe this might change with Maria Menounos suffering injured ribs while practising for Dancing With The Stars, but I doubt it. Kelly Kelly will get beaten on for a few minutes, Maria picks up the hot tag, cleans house and eventually pins Eve Torres. Simple tag team 101 booking.
Jason: Celebrities always win in WWE. Prediction: Menounos pins Eve.
That's it from us, Cagesiders. Now we want to hear your WrestleMania 28 predictions in the comments section below.