It seems my last pro wrestling post went over far better than expected (heck, Tom freakin’ Spurgeon chimed in), and I’ve got many thoughts as we head into Elimination Chamber tonight, so I figured I’d kick the tires on this topic one more time bullet point style as the road to WrestleMania continues.
-My topic du jour last time around was whether or not John Cena vs The Miz could be a credible WrestleMania main event. I ultimately determined it could be, but by a slim margin. However, this past Monday not only was The Rock revealed as the “host of WrestleMania” (a pretty ambiguous term), he also verbally berated Miz and, to a far greater extent, Cena (quite effectively, I might add). It would seem at this point as though they’ll go ahead and run Cena/Miz as the main event of the evening with some involvement by The Rock. Does this change the game and raise the credibility of the match? Absolutely. The Rock is not only one of the most (if not the most period) popular and charismatic performers in the history of WWE, he’s also a legitimate crossover superstar with mainstream recognition who elevates not only WrestleMania to greater significance overall, but obviously whatever program he’s most involved with. Cena/Miz was already at least on the cusp of being legit in my eyes before, but Rock seals the deal.
-However, will WWE still go with Cena/Miz now that Rock is in the mix? Certainly after last week’s Raw, the big money would seem to be in Rock/Cena straight up. Unquestionably that would be the more epic, iconic match, and probably one just about everybody would rather see; I’d also argue they could get away with Miz against longtime rival John Morrison—who’s ripe for a breakout and could win the Raw Chamber tonight—for the WWE title on the undercard of a Rock/Cena main event no problem. However, there are potholes for that scenario. First and foremost, while The Rock has kept in tremendous shape and likely could work a match, he’s still a working movie actor at least 10 months out of the year, so it would probably not be in his best interest to risk an injury that could put him out of work after Mania’s over. Second, placing Rock in a match would overshadow his “host” role and sacrifice hyping WrestleMania the event at the expense of one match. That said, I think both those hurdles could be cleared with ease. The one thing I’d get hung up on would be the third point, which deserves its own bullet…
-On Twitter following Raw, many of my fellow amateur wrestling pundits argued that Rock turned the ever-crowd-polarizing Cena heel with his promo. I disagree. John Cena, despite being probably the hardest working guy in wrestling and having plenty of talent to boot (people claim he can’t wrestle, but when it comes to big time main events he always delivers), a kid-pleasing PG hero for an audience that has gained in youth but still has a lot of guys over 20 in it who miss the days of Steve Austin and, yes, The Rock. Those people are going to boo Cena no matter how well he does the job assigned to him, and they were the ones jeering the loudest Monday; the kids in the audience were no doubt in awe of The Rock’s presence, but they were still wearing their John Cena merchandise and cheering when his name got dropped. The same guys who have always booed John Cena will continue to do so if he does feud with The Rock, but I believe the kids will stick behind him (the women will likely be split). So I don’t think it becomes a traditional heel vs face feud with John Cena as the bad guy, I think it becomes WWE PG vs WWF Attitude, with both guys as faces to their particular demographics and ending with grudging respect. As cool as that would be to see, it would likely mean that WWE is giving up on ever getting the adult audience behind Cena again, as there’s no way they’re going to actively root against him for two months with Rock egging them on and then reluctantly cheer him on against C.M. Punk or Sheamus in April. A few years ago when WWE was still at least PG-13 and a Cena heel turn seemed imminent, this wouldn’t be an issue, but today they are firmly PG and need Cena as their top face for at least as long as it takes to find a replacement who has not come yet; besides, he was as close to winning over the crowd fully as he’s been in some time during 2010 when he was up against Nexus. All that rambling is my way of saying that while I’d personally like to see a Rock/Cena feud and match as the centerpiece of the next month and a half, from WWE’s perspective, I can see why they’d be sheepish and want to keep Miz involved so they can hedge their bets and have him playing the full heel if they need to get the crowd back on Cena’s side earlier than the closing seconds of WrestleMania.
-So if Rock doesn’t wrestle John Cena, what will he do? I think he will most likely serve as “host” for most of the event, which will allow him to give an opening promo and some fun backstage skits, and then serve as some sort of guest enforcer for Cena/Miz ala Mike Tyson at WrestleMania XIV for Shawn Michaels/Steve Austin. I don’t think they’ll go the full special referee route, just a gut feeling. In the weeks leading up, they can play up that while Rock doesn’t care for Miz, he really doesn’t like Cena, which gives Miz a bit of the instant credibility as champion I felt he was lacking; of course the ultimate ending will be Cena winning and earning The Rock’s grudging respect in the process…but maybe a Rock Bottom would follow that and begin a year-long build to Cena/Rock at WrestleMania XVII in Rock’s hometown of Miami? We shall see. Regardless, it’s a far more exciting road now than it was a week ago, and depending on if John Cena wins tonight in the Chamber, I may need to write another post next week.
A few other notes…
-Before the Rock reveal, the big rumor was that Triple H would be back to main event against The Undertaker in a Career vs Streak match with Shawn Michaels as guest referee. I hope this does not happen. For one, with The Rock now in the mix, they don’t need it. More than that, five weeks isn’t long enough to build up a program that huge, particularly since both guys need to come back, establish the issue, introduce Michaels into the feud, etc. It would also be a shame to see HHH return for under a month and then wrap his career so abruptly when he has more left to give. And of course the continuity buff in me would have trouble accepting that HHH and Taker wouldn’t go after Sheamus and either Kane or Wade Barrett respectively upon coming back since those are the guys that took them out; if HHH ignored Sheamus, who has been bragging about ending his career for nearly a year now, that hurts Sheamus’ heat big time. As much as people may be sick of Undertaker/Kane, with Taker as banged up as he is, a brawling squash is the best thing for him physically right now. HHH/Sheamus is also a solid upper-midcard match and HBK could still be involved simply by accompanying his buddy to ringside or doing a run-in. Long story short: HHH/Undertaker is a card WWE has in their hand but don’t need to play quite yet.
-It would seem from the past couple editions of Smackdown that they’re building towards a Big Show/Ezekiel Jackson showdown, possibly at WrestleMania. If Wade Barrett doesn’t get the show against Undertaker—and Kane really makes more sense to me—as I alluded to last time, I’d go ahead and tag him with Jackson then have Big Show get backup in the form of Diesel, paying off that look they exchanged at the Royal Rumble. Gets another big name from yesteryear on the card to give it a special feel, and either Corre guy could benefit from going over a legend if they wanted to go that way.
-As much as I’d love to see Daniel Bryan get a solid one-on-one U.S. title defense in his first WrestleMania, who is there who could be a credible challenger? Ditto for Kofi Kingston and the Intercontinental title. For this reason, I’d say maybe a title unification match is the way to go, as has been rumored. I’m not personally for this, as I think WWE needs two secondary titles to keep the midcard interesting, but even a champion vs champion match wouldn’t work as they already have that every year at Bragging Rights. Singles matches at WrestleMania need to either have a title at stake or some major feud to give them weight, as I suspect Rey Mysterio/Cody Rhodes will in a Mask vs Mask match; the days of Rick Rude squashing Jimmy Snuka because neither had anything better to do are a thing of the distant past.
-Wrapping up, I hope they still have Money in the Bank at WrestleMania despite it getting its own pay-per-view. They can keep the element of the Mania MiTB being special simply by reinforcing that the briefcase can be cashed in on either major titles, whereas the others are brand-specific. It would be a shame to see MiTB gone from Mania simply because it would leave so many guys off the card, with this year’s potential field including the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, R-Truth and Jack Swagger, as well as guys I already mentioned who may get displaced like Morrison, Bryan and Kingston plus possible returning talent like Christian and Evan Bourne. Also, I like to see Mark Henry get a big pay day come March, and they need a big fella to catch the little guys.