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This upcoming WrestleMania is one I just cannot seem to get hyped up for, and I have no idea why.
A WrestleMania that should feel like the biggest one ever just feels kind of... underwhelming. The Road to WrestleMania is like I-27 through West Texas: pretty lackluster in the way of scenery. Sure, there's plenty of potential for greatness when it comes to the actual show, but the build-up to the angles is just a bunch of the same ol' thing.
Also, much like the mesquite along I-27, the build-up to the angles for WrestleMania feels like it's only good for one thing. In the case of the mesquite, it's as grilling firewood. The angles? Only good for inching ever so slightly forward toward WrestleMania.
Perhaps I'm just being contrarian, or perhaps it's because in recent months I've had some difficulty finding much joy in anything. Or, maybe... just maybe... I'm actually not crazy and it's something wrong with the angles themselves. So let's break them down, shall we?
First, let's start with the matches we have confirmed for WrestleMania (or at least semi-confirmed):
The Rock (c) vs. John Cena
Last year, we had "Once in a Lifetime". This year? "Same As It Ever Was."
To WWE's credit, I think they've realized this, so they did try to give us reasons why this rematch would be different from the last time and why both men would want to face each other again. The problem is how poorly they're showing the alleged increased stakes.
For the Rock, the only thing he has at stake is the WWE Championship.
For Cena however, he has much larger stakes, as supposedly his personal and professional life suffered from the loss to the Rock last year. History shows differently, as Cena was treated just as well over most of the past year without the championship, as he ever was with it, even racking up a long chain of main events without holding the belt. Yeah, he's been on a slump over the last few months, but supposedly, the slide's been going on since last April (2012).
While Cena's ring work has been improving, Rock hasn't looked very good in his recent matches. In addition, on the microphone, both sound very trite. All in all, I'm sold on this match even less than I was when Cena won the Rumble and Rock the WWE title. And considering I wasn't sold on it at all then, that is an accomplishment.
CM Punk vs. the Undertaker
Looking at things from a business perspective, I get why this angle is happening. Having 'Taker at Mania is a tradition, especially while his Streak lives, and having Punk face him keeps the Straight-Edge Superstar up near the top of the card, where he deserves to be.
But, in Punk's case, I can't help but feel as if this isn't the most optimal situation to have put him in. I mean, yes, there are a myriad of worse alternatives (example: putting him with the Shield in an 8-man tag match against, say, Ryback/Sheamus/Orton/Big Show). But while a part of me wants to jump for joy that he's been put into the same position Triple H and Shawn Michaels were for the last four years, I still think Punk's story about his perceived lack of respect and "being screwed out of the title" needed to end in the title hunt.
In 'Taker's advanced age (and perhaps final year as a wrestler), facing him needs to bring up some kind of sense of finality on the part of the challenger. Even if Punk beats the Undertaker (and yes, I do think it's a win-win for Punk to even get to face him at WrestleMania -- since both are at stages of their careers where it'd mean something), the thread is still left dangling.
Punk is a heel, but he still has a point: he didn't lose the title clean, and that story doesn't end until he either does lose cleanly in a title bout, or wins the title back (and wins it from The Rock, not Cena).
Also, Undertaker doesn't have the vibe he used to, even as late as last year; seeing him just doesn't feel as awesome or foreboding as it did before. However small that may seem, it still hurts this angle.
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter)
As good as all involved have been at selling this angle, I still feel uncomfortable with it, and I'm not entirely certain why. I can only surmise it may have to do with the fact that the last time an angle like this was done in a title feud, it involved Eddie Guerrero.
Maybe someone else can help me figure this out, because I'm admittedly mostly drawing a blank. This angle upsets me in deep-seated ways that don't make me want to see Swagger and Colter get theirs. No discredit to the performers involved; I just... I dunno. At the end of the day, I guess I just want to see the Show Off show them both up.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
Okay, I admit it; this one's actually kind of compelling. Trips upholding the family honor (even as he empties his personal goblet on himself) against one very unstable invader.
It'll be a fun match to watch (Street Fight, maybe?). However, I can't help but feel like something is missing. It's not to say fighting for one's family is not just cause for laying the smackdown on someone. In fact, what's missing is something on Lesnar's end.
I mean, since reappearing this year, who has he attacked that's actually a threatening person, other than Triple H? Vince is pushing 70 and looking like it, and the Miz is...well, the Miz. Also, from last week, it looked like Paul Heyman definitely was giving him orders, and I kind of liked his monster character better when it seemed like he was a loose cannon who didn't listen to anyone, including Heyman. Both of those things diminish Lesnar just a little bit.
Picking nits here, I know, but someone has to, am I right?
Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz
It's a mid-card title, and mid-card titles have been getting the crap end of the stick off-and-on for about the last 7-8 years. And while Cesaro is impressive and the Miz is improving, there's been little build for these two outside of matches. So it's just Miz (with Flair) trying desperately to get one over on the US champ, even adding moves to his arsenal in hopes that it'll help. (Yes, an old-school guy like me is actually complaining about a feud not getting any outside-the-bell airtime. Feel free to laugh at my hypocrisy.)
The Shield vs. Sheamus/Orton/Show
If the Shield do win, it'll be unsurprising. If they don't win, it'll be infuriating.
Something involving the Divas
Because there's always something involving the Divas at WrestleMania. It's just that the *ahem* "brilliant minds at WWE Creative" can't be assed to build up what it could be.
Team Hell No (c) vs. a tag team that doesn't even really matter
The sad truth is, the most entertaining thing about this match will be watching Kane and Daniel Bryan finally go off on each other. (I probably should have phrased that better.) But yeah, the Spartan Belts will move to new hands, another tag team will bite the dust, and Daniel Bryan will still be a little shit. (THAT I LOVE.)
And that's pretty much the long and the short of it.
As I mentioned before, there's a lot of potential good on this upcoming WrestleMania's card. So far, though, it just hasn't been built up well. And yeah, I realize it's early on the Road to WrestleMania, but right now, there's not much glory in these 33 days.
If this PPV is going to be as big as it could be, WWE's going to have to step it up, sell their angles better, and get the undercard filled out. The scenery on this highway needs to improve, because I can't take much more flat nothing and mesquite bushes.
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