Barrett! Miz! Pre-show! Intercontinental Championship!
Two years ago, The Miz was main eventing WrestleMania 27. Last year, The Miz delivered a Skull Crushing Finale to Zack Ryder to bring the victory home for Team Johnny. This year...
The Miz has fallen a bit down the card.
For someone who was turned face in order to be more appealing to the fans, Miz's push has just died. He entered a feud with Antonio Cesaro as the year began with the United States Championship on the line. Somehow, though, both men came out weaker. At least Miz can say he is on the card; Cesaro is left praying a match ends early and he can squash R-Truth and/or Kofi Kingston in a cool down match.
And WWE has shown it couldn't give a crap about Wade Barrett, so why should I?
The Miz looks like he will take the Intercontinental Championship and find his way back to the midcard. But in all honesty, I cannot predict what will happen here. WWE has screwed the pooch with everything that is not the main event.
So don't be surprised if we see a double countout or something of that nature.
Tons of Funk! Funkadactyls! Rhodes Scholars! The Bella Twins! Intergender! Tag Team!
Tons of Funk -- Brodus Clay &
Tensai Sweet T -- went over Team Rhodes Scholars -- Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow -- at Elimination Chamber (Feb. 17). Which makes sense. The heel team was splitting up, so why not have them lose to the newly formed faces.
Except Rhodes Scholars have still been tagging together. But they aren't a tag team. Yet they are acting as a tag team in every sense of the word.
Because this is something that makes sense in WWE.
If Team Rhodes Scholars have any type of future, they need a victory here. If not, Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls will take the "W."
In either case, the tag team division will continue to sink like a bag of rocks.
Jericho! Fan! Dan! Go! Music! Dancing! Say My Name!
If we're being honest, Fandango does not deserve this. He hasn't wrestled a single match in the majors. He hasn't necessarily proven himself on the mic. The heat he gets are a mix between X-Pac and ironic "we're such a smart crowd pay attention to us" varieties. He hasn't done anything of value except shake his tight ass and drop a top rope leg.
Though, to be fair, that is a freakin' sweet leg drop.
Chris Jericho is a bona fide star, a future Hall of Famer who will forever be remembered as one of the best in the business. The man was wrestling for the WWE Championship just a year ago.
Now he may be putting the rookie over, just because he's cool like that.
I personally think Y2J will manage to escape the jobbers fate, but it is also likely Fandango picks up the win. If he is going to go anywhere in WWE, losing his very first match will be a huge setback. I think he will be able to come back quickly, but I recognize that it will be tough.
This is a weird position for WWE to put both men in. It seems as if there should have been a better way to do it.
At the very least, we'll get to see that freakin' sweet leg drop.
Ryback! Henry! Hoss Fight!
Ryback is very hungry. He likes to beat people up and scream random phrases. He is very large.
Mark Henry is very strong. He likes to beat people up and scream random phrases. He is very large.
These two men don't like each other. They will try to beat each other up and scream random phrases. They both are very large.
This match will be slow. It will be plodding. There will be plenty of rest holds.
Then Ryback will hit his finisher, and we will all go crazy.
Or he will botch it, and Ryback will be sent off to the glue factory.
Hell No! Ziggler! Big E! AJ! Tag Team Championship!
When Team Hell No formed on Sept. 10, 2012, everyone assumed it was a case of "Creative as nothing for you." Kane & Daniel Bryan would pair together for a short while, before their obvious issues drove them apart. Although they won the Tag Team Championship at Night of Champions (Sept. 16), it would only be a matter of time before they dropped the belts.
Now 203 days later, Team Hell No is still running strong. Although there have been feints towards their breakup, Kane & Bryan are still sitting on top of the tag team division.
Considering the state of the division, that's really not saying all that much.
Their opponents are Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston. Together with AJ Lee, this trio seems to have had the opposite luck as Hell No. Whereas the Tag Team Champions continue to retain and find their way onto every show. Ziggler & Co. have been known to disappear for weeks at a time.
Every time it looks like they are just a nudge away from greatness, they slide down a pile of...mud.
Tonight, though, could be different. Tonight be the time where these two stories intertwined and finally head in their proper directions. Team Hell No needs to drop the belts to a team of heels. Their reign has been fun, yes. But somehow it morphed into the fourth longest reign in the history of the WWE Tag Team Championship.
It should be noted this official lineage started in 2002 with the brand split. Still, though, that's a wicked long time.
Dolph Ziggler is still holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. At any moment, he can cash it in and be granted a World Heavyweight Championship shot. If history is any indication, he will most likely win the belt. Ziggler will have a real championship reign to call his own.
How sweet would it be if he could bet both World Heavyweight Champion and Tag Team Champion?
Or Hell No can retain, Ziggler & Co. will continue to job, and the theory nothing ever changes in WWE will hold true once more.
Del Rio! Swagger! Ricardo! Zeb! World Heavyweight Championship!
Alberto Del Rio defeated The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match on the Jan. 11 episode of SmackDown. The pair would have a great feud, with Del Rio playing the underdog and Show as the seemingly unstoppable giant. Their work together was brilliant, and it looked as if WWE had found a new face the fans could connect with.
Jack Swagger returned on the Feb. 1 episode of SmackDown after a five month absence. He was a man on a mission, booked strong over everyone he faced. He had Zeb Colter by his side, a Vietnam vet with strong anti-immigration beliefs. After winning the #1 Contendership in the Elimination Chamber, Del Rio and Swagger were on a crash course to meet at WrestleMania 29.
I still stand by my belief this could have been an amazing feud if it was handled correctly.
The whole world was watching when Fox News and Glenn Beck took up the cause against Swagger and Colter. The pair were sprouting xenophobic ideology that some people in America believed to be true. The key was they were made out to be bad guys, that their ideas of pushing immigrants out of the country was deemed to be over the top and evil. With Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez as stand ins, not just as Mexican heroes, but as representations of the American Dream, this angle should have raised above traditional pro wrestling feuds.
And yet it ended up falling flat on its face.
Looking back, I can't truly pinpoint what went wrong. It could have been Swagger's Feb. 19 arrest for driving while under the influence of marijuana. It may have been the fact Swagger and Colter refused to stray from the same talking points, unwilling to really evolve their rhetoric into something more than "we hate non-Americans." Or perhaps it was Del Rio's regression into a cliché WWE face, spouting off groan inducing comebacks and failing to be the hero he was earlier in his face run.
In any case, what was something special devolved into just another feud.
This being WrestleMania, the assumption has to be the face will retain. This angle has clearly outlasted its usefulness, and hopefully WWE realizes this. I can't watch these two head into Extreme Rules (May 19) playing on the same gimmick. Del Rio needs to retain, and everyone needs to move on.
As noted before, though, Dolph Ziggler is still holding onto the Money in the Bank briefcase. While it may be unlikely, we could see the World Heavyweight Championship change hands.
This is WrestleMania, where anything can happen.
Sheamus! Orton! Show! S.O.S! The Shield!
This will be the match that will show how far WWE is willing to run with The Shield.
After debuting at Survivor Series (Nov. 18), the trio of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have been unstoppable. The WWE roster has lived in fear of the triple powerbomb. Ryback, John Cena, The Rock, Kane, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Sheamus, The Big Show, and many others were assaulted and beat down. Why were The Shield running wild?
Well, at first it was to protect CM Punk's WWE Championship reign. Now, though, it seems they are just doing what they want for the simple reason that no one can stop them.
The team of Ryback & Team Hell No failed at TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (Dec. 16, 2012). John Cena, Ryback, & Sheamus failed at Elimination Chamber. It looked like no super group could match the NXT Trio's fury, aggression, and unity.
But we have one more group willing to try.
Sheamus, Randy Orton, and The Big Show do not like each other. That much is certain. While they stood strong on the last SmackDown that actually mattered (March 29) and managed to push back The Shield, all signs are pointing them splintering. You do not put a heel on a team without some sparks flying.
The question just becomes who is going to betray the group.
The Big Show recently turned with the sole intention of getting his payback on The Shield. Whether it is all a ploy, however, remains to be seen. It would not be out of character for Show to join the fight, only to turn around and knock his teammates out.
That almost seems a bit too obvious, no?
Randy Orton has practically begging to become a heel again. There would be no better time than on the grandest stage of them all. I'm not particularly fond of the idea that Orton would become a member of The Shield. But there's a way he could turn on his teammates, and simply form an uneasy alliance with the invading force. They won't be on the same team, but simply share a hatred for the status quo.
Orton has been a good guy for so long, though, I'm not sure if anyone in the back is willing to change that.
Sheamus is either the second or third top face of the promotion. Having him turn would be completely idiotic.
Which means it is entirely in the relm of possibilities.
Then there is the option of The Shield going down. The faces always have to go over in the end. That's the basic tenant of pro wrestling. If that happens tonight, it means The Shield's run is over. The story works as long as they keep winning. A loss would cut the legs out from under them.
There will be a day when The Shield suffer a loss. I truly hope this is not that day.
Trips! Lesnar! Forced Retirement! Michaels! No Holds Barred!
Following Triple H and Brock Lesnar's No Disqualification Match at SummerSlam (Aug. 19), both men would disappear for awhile. Lesnar "quit" WWE, stating he had accomplished everything he could possible do in the promotion. Trips "retired" on the Aug. 27 episode of Monday Night Raw, telling the WWE Universe that the time has come to hang it up. These two went their separate ways, leaving our screens for five months.
Now they are back, they are angry, and they want blood.
Both Lesnar and Trips are not alone, though. They both have allies by their sides. And with No Holds Barred in place, they are sure to have an effect on how everything plays out.
In Lesnar's corner stands Paul Heyman, the mastermind. He was the one who forced Triple H's hand into signing a contract blind. He was the one who made the No Holds Barred stipulation.
And he was the one who wrote into the contract if Triple H loses, he will never compete in a professional match again.
In Trip's corner stands Shawn Michaels. "The Heartbreak Kid" knows a few things about retirement matches at WrestleMania, having put Ric Flair away at WrestleMania 24 and lost to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 26. The man may be old, but he can always make a difference with the superkick.
Lets be honest. Last year's spot when The Undertaker kicked out of a Sweet Chin Music and a Pedigree is what most people remember from that match. I have a sneaking suspicion we may seem it replayed again.
Most people think Triple H will get his win back, which is entirely possible. But I have two counters points. The first is Brock Lesnar will be back in WWE for another year. Putting away Trips will make his stock soar, and will be huge for future matches.
The second is Triple H is starting to take up more and more responsibilities in the front office. While he is running a light schedule as is, there is a possibility that he simply can't go back and forth anymore. What better way to leave the ring than to really put someone over.
Or Triple H can stand tall again, whacking his crotch like he has jock itch. You can never tell with these things.
Taker! Punk! Heyman! The Streak!
This feud has received the least buildup of all the main events, and yet is the most interesting. While The Rock vs. John Cena has been two years in the making, and Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar has been in play since the summer. The Undertaker and CM Punk have only crossed paths a month ago.
Yes, there was the whole World Heavyweight Championship feud in 2009. But it hasn't been mentioned on television, so it never happened.
What was simply going to be a feud about The Streak radically changed with the passing of Paul Bearer. It became an opportunity for Punk to be the greatest heel he could possibly be.
And boy did he deliver.
First by stealing Taker's urn, and finally by dumping the ashes on "The Deadman's" body, this past month has been outrages, offensive, and controversial.
And I've absolutely loved it.
It's almost a certainty The Undertaker will be continuing The Streak tonight. It has risen to such great levels, I don't know if any mere wrestler can take it off him. In some ways, The Streak is representative of the character itself. A being from beyond this realm, controlled by a higher power. Something mythical, something people are never quite sure what to make of it.
It's a WrestleMania tradition, and I'm not sure if I want to see it fade away.
If there is anyone who can do it, though, it is CM Punk. "The Best in The World" has proven the moniker to be true time and time again. He is holder of the longest modern WWE Championship reign.
One more notch on his belt will surely push him towards greatness.
Tonight we will see how well Punk can carry a match. Taker's body is old, and his abilities waning.
Sometimes it's not always about the match, though. Sometimes it's just about the moment.
Rock! Cena! Redemption! WWE Championship!
Two years in the making. The Rock vs. John Cena. The star of the Attitude Era vs. The face of the modern WWE. The WWE Championship at stake. This could have been one of the biggest stories in pro wrestling history.
According to WWE, it played out exactly how it should have. According to everyone who actually has been watching for the past twelve months, it was far from it.
According to WWE, Cena's 2012 was the worst of his career. After losing to The Rock at WrestleMania 28, he went on a horrible losing streak. Nothing went right for him, and that loss would hang high over his head. The only way for him to right the wrong is to defeat Rocky, earning him the WWE Championship and -- more importantly -- redemption.
For those who actually watched the show, we witness something quite different. Yes, Cena had a down year. But he was winning feuds, ending shows and PPV's, and was still the face of the company. There was no doubt he was still the top dog.
And it's a damn shame, too.
WWE can pretend everything went a certain way, but we all know differently. The WWE Universe may be made up of marks, but they are surely not stupid. They will not believe a lie simply because it is told through hype videos.
Or maybe they do. But it would have meant so much more if the promotion actually followed through on the plan.
In any case, here we are. This is a story about Cena's comeback, and there should be no doubt the show will close with him raising the WWE Championship high above his head. We can hope something exciting happens. We can pray Cena finally falls to the dark side. That this match means so much to him he is willing to throw everything away to become champion again.
But I've seen this movie before, and it always wins the same way. John Cena rises above and wins -- the right way -- because that is simply who he is.
Until I see something different, I expect the script to stay the same.
Hopefully, this has prepared you for the night's festivities. Leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to, and please join the entire CSS Sunday night gang in the live blog TONIGHT!