Early into the Rock vs. John Cena rematch at last year's WrestleMania, "The Great One" tore the people's abs and struggled to finish the match in one piece. According to reports, the plan was for Rock to come out on the Raw after WrestleMania 29 and congratulate Cena on his victory before getting jumped by Brock Lesnar. This would set up a WrestleMania 30 match between the two titans. It would have been a great mirror of the Raw after WrestleMania 28, when Cena called out Rock but instead got a returning Lesnar. Instead, Rock flew home and hasn't been seen since.
One year out , and already there was one strike working against WrestleMania 30.
Come SummerSlam, Rock was not really missed (except maybe in the TV ratings department). CM Punk and Lesnar were having a great number two feud and Cena was passing the torch to Daniel Bryan.
Then Randy Orton happened.
But no matter, Bryan won the title back the next month and...
Son of a-
Okay, that's fine, we'll just stretch this out do it again at Battleground.
Hell in a Cell?
By Survivor Series, Bryan was out of the title picture and replaced by Big Show. Orton was champion and doing the best character work of his career (he doesn't get enough love for the many DIFFERENT tweaks he's given his persona over the years, from legend killer to psycho punter to paranoid and insecure WWE world heavyweight champion). He was not, however, setting the crowds on fire the way Bryan was. It looked like the end game for Orton would come at WrestleMania, and it looked like Bryan would have nothing to do with it.
Strike two against WrestleMania 30.
And then Batista returned as the babyface foil to Orton...and Batista bombed. For a few weeks in January/early February it looked like they were going to push him down our throats like it or not (via Wrestling with Text):
Strike three against WrestleMania 30.
Then CM Punk, the last bit of 18-35 fandom we had left, the voice of the voiceless, never afraid to point out how stupid this booking decision was or how dumb that booking decision was, up and vanished like a fart in the wind. I choose to believe that, like Andy Dufresne, Punk ate the chokeslam from Kane at the Royal Rumble, dug a whole underneath the arena and tunneled to
Zihuatanejo Chicago, free from the crap he had to deal with on a daily basis. Either way he was gone.
Strike four against WrestleMania 30.
Then NXT ArRival happened. Watched by probably a tenth of the number that will see WrestleMania, it was the first live show on the WWE Network and a testing ground for WrestleMania's live stream...but you didn't see a good chunk of it because Tyler Breeze's selfie is probably still haunting your dreams.
Strike five against WrestleMania 30.
Needless to say, a month ago there were a few warning signs pointing to this WrestleMania -- one of the most important in the company's history (maybe third most important behind the first and WrestleMania 14) -- being a complete and total disaster.
And then things just started falling into place. And now we are barely over a week away, and I don't know about you, but I am very very excited.
Here are 10 reasons why (all photos via WWE.com):
1) IT'S ONLY $9.99
Okay, technically it’s still $60 like it is every year, but it FEELS like a discount. I would have been excited had there been no WWE Network, and the company just let me make six $10 payments. I've got a wife and kids and a moderate income. We're saving up to GO to WrestleMania next year. Sixty clams is a lot to drop for four hours of entertainment (only half of which will actually be entertaining...if I'm lucky).
If you can get the network and you haven't yet I don't know what to tell you. It's incredible and with so much history on it, you never get bored with it. The glitches and major problems that plagued it from day-one have largely been eliminated. I can watch anything flawlessly on my Roku, almost-perfectly on my Android app, and very well on my Firefox or Chrome browser.
We still don't know if they have the live streaming kinks worked out, but I haven't noticed a problem watching Raw Backstage Pass every Monday or Main Event every Tuesday. WrestleMania is the big enchilada, I know, and though I expect there to be some hiccups, I don't expect Tyler Breeze's selfie of doom to re-materialize.
2) THE ATMOSPHERE
There's something magical about the stage set up every year. The B-shows have devolved to glorified Raw sets, but I'm okay with that because I know I'm going to be blown away every year by the WrestleMania stage, pyrotechnics, and fireworks. It's a mecca of lowbrow entertainment but darnit if it's not entertainment. I love the shot of the crowd enveloping the tiny little white ring in the center of the stadium. I love the National Anthem/America the Beautiful, I love the over-inflated attendance records. I love it all. When the show is good the atmosphere makes it all the better. Even when the show is bad you can at least admire the spectacle of it all.
3) NXT PRESENCE
The superstars of NXT will be in New Orleans and rumor has it they will have an in-ring presence as well. Whether that means a blowoff spot in the Battle Royal or an actual match on the pre-show is too early to say. WrestleMania is always a show for watch parties and you know the Network is going to be advertised all over the show. NXT is a great flagship program for the new network and a big presence for the lean mean wrestling show would be a great advertisement to encourage old fans to jump back in and sign up.
4) CENA'S BIG ENTRANCE
Before his feud with The Rock, John Cena always had a special entrance for his WrestleMania match. In Chicago he was a gangster, in Detroit he crashed in with a mustang, in Atlanta a choir sang him out, in Houston he unleashed his clone army. This match has been built around Cena's legacy and there's no denying he has one. Remember, Chris Jericho had a full fireworks display as an early-thank you for working with Fandango. I expect a special entrance befitting the big performer working a lower-card match.
5) LEGENDARY CAMEOS
Stone Cold Steve Austin will be in town for the Hall of Fame, as will any number of past legends. That means they'll be around for the big show. Sure we may only see them in a dumb backstage skit, but every now and then you get a moment, just a split second moment, where two old rivals come face to face again, and for that magical split second you get goosebumps while all the memories of a bygone era rush through your mind.
And maybe Ultimate Warrior runs down the ramp, shakes the ropes, and slams Heath Slater. I'll take that.
6) SURPRISING FINISHES
Last year was as predictable as any WrestleMania had been in years. Every major match had an obvious conclusion. Rock or Cena? Obviously Cena gets the win back. Triple H or Brock? Obviously Triple H gets HIS win back. Alberto Del Rio or Jack Swagger? After Swaggies arrest, this one was as certain as the sunrise. Punk or Undertaker? Try as we might, there's little reason ever to think the streak will die until it does (which is why those really near falls work so well year after year). I think the only surprising finish last year was to the Ryback vs. Mark Henry hoss fight. There were more people predicting a Fandango upset than a Henry victory.
But the match sucked so who remembers it?
This year, however, things are a little murkier, both as a result of good booking and cheating. The big match is Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan (it's the biggest and best booked match on the card, and it's only the play-in game to the finale), but thanks to some booking cheating (either winner can get into the title match) we're left to wonder just how the finish will go down. I think most of us know what the last moment of the PPV will be, but how they get there is up in the air.
Uncertainty lingers in The Shield match as well. Certainly the trio is favored, but you never know if they are going through with the break up. If they are, a loss could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. The battle royal is another one that has a lot of potential winners in the cards. And then, apart from the W's and L's there's always the post match surprises that could happen. Real Americans could break up after their tag title match (more on that next). Sting could make an appearance from atop the WrestleMania 30 stage. There's a lot of potential for big surprises.
7) TAG TEAM BREAK-UPS
They’ve teased the breaking up of several teams a lot over the past several months, but other than Titus O’Niel and Darren Young, they haven’t followed through with any of them. Could this be the night? There's the aforementioned Real Americans with Cesaro waiting to explode as a singles star (hopefully). There's the already discussed threat of The Shield's face turn being a swerve (hopefully not).
Everyone has fallen asleep on Goldust and Cody Rhodes (including, it seems, WWE Creative), but they could always START their break up where most expected them to finish it, and then feud through the spring. Will the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal be the instigator or the big tag title match? It seems like they've been saving the big swerves and things like that for the Raw-after show, but we may be seeing the seeds planted at WrestleMania.
8) UNDERTAKER VS. BROCK LESNAR
Two years ago Taker injured his hip in the Hell in a Cell victory over Triple H. He returned to face CM Punk able to wrestle but slightly out of shape. They still put on the match of the night.
This year Undertaker is 100% healthy. He is also much leaner...so lean, in fact, he looks more terrifying and more like a walking dead man than he ever has in his career. I mean his early character was more of a zombie. Then he was just a goth-lovin' kinda guy. Then he was a satanic minister of hell and such, but too cartoonish to be scary. After his WrestleMania 20 return, he was a little bit of all three. Now? Now he's all thin and pale with that goatee and shaved head; he looks like the freaking grim reaper.
I don't expect his match with Lesnar to top their 2002 Hell in a Cell battle, but I expect it to be a brutal match with big spots, one good near fall, and a Tombstone victory. This will be Lesnar's first real match since SummerSlam and even though the bloom has come off the rose of his return, he's still one of the most captivating pro wrestlers in history. He's going up against the greatest gimmick/character of all time. A lot of people are worried, but I expect big things.
9) DANIEL BRYAN'S MOMENT
Even if the Triple H match leaves us wondering just what they'll do, it really is unfathomable that Daniel Bryan won’t end the night with the belts. I don't see anyway the final image of the show isn't a wide shot of 70,000 screaming "YES!" If Bryan can manage to coordinate a slow-chant the way he did atop the cage a couple months ago, that will be maybe the greatest WrestleMania "moment" of all time.
This is the main event of WrestleMania. You're not supposed to wonder about the end-result. How they get there you leave up to them, but so long as the right guy stands tall as the show fades out, they've done the main event right. Despite Batista being dead weight in the ring, I expect the main event to deliver on account of Orton and Bryan's great chemistry. This won't be Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. This won't be Terry Funk vs. Sandman vs. Stevie Richards. But it will live up to the moment I think. And at the end of it all, Bryan will be the man of the moment.
10) BRAY WYATT
Officially, this is Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania the same way WrestleMania 10 belonged to Bret Hart. But I am most excited to see Bray Wyatt, and assuming they go with the right finish, he could come out of this a made man. You might argue he's already that, but his biggest wins to date are against Kane in a bad match, against Bryan in a classic match, and against The Shield in a classic tag match.
As a singles competitor he has yet to have the statement win that pushes him into the stratosphere. And before you say it, he beat Bryan at the Rumble at the point when Bryan was out of the main event picture (he would start returning to it by the end of the night). Bryan was fodder for the "eater of worlds" on his collision course with Cena at WrestleMania.
I read somewhere that the difference between Wyatt becoming the next Undertaker (big time money making main event guy) or the next Kane (upper mid card paper tiger) rests on the outcome of this, his first match on the biggest stage. Will he be Undertaker to Cena's Snuka? Or will he be Kane to Cena's Undertaker? I don't know, but I'm excited by the match and I know the near-falls will have me on the edge of my seat.
Beyond that, I'm excited about seeing this character on the big stage. Last I heard he is supposed to have his entrance music, the brilliant "Live in Fear" played live. At the recent SmackDown taping I attended the crowd was clapping along to the beat of the music. Imagine 70,000 doing that and maybe even singing along. Chills. He's the hometown boy too (in terms of his character) so I expect a big reaction out of the crowd. If they let him cut a promo before the match (and they should) he just might have 80% of the audience behind him.
Bray Wyatt is what I'm most looking forward to this year.
What about you, Cagesiders? Are you as excited about the show as I am? Let us know your expectations, hopes, and fears about the night in the comments below.