Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rasslin' Ramblings: WrestleMania XXVII Picks

You would think with all the writing about wrestling I’ve been doing the last few weeks, I’d get around to posting some WrestleMania XXVII prediction more than the day before (or day of depending on when I pull the trigger on this) the show, right? That would make logical sense, but I’ve certainly never been one for logic, and helping get the coverage of WonderCon set up (cheap plug) has mostly sapped my energy.

However, after a delicious dinner made by myself—bow tie pasta with sautéed spinach, pine nuts, garlic and sausage—and because my wife is in “don’t bother me when I’m studying mode,” now seems the perfect time to finally jot down some picks. Given that most of you probably won’t read this until Monday, the show will be in the books and you can hail me as the visionary or buffoon I’ll have proven to be.

Will try to keep these as quick and dirty as I can to get them up sooner rather than later, but neither has ever been my strong suit. Starting from the top…

The Miz © vs John Cena

I actually had the pleasure of speaking with The Miz for this past week for our Fightin’ Fanboys series. It was quite the experience as the fella is energy personified. I got him right before he went on Conan later in the evening but after about 20 other interviews and he was still going a mile-a-minute. Definitely a case where he seems like his character isn’t too far from his real personality, with the big exception being of course that he was extremely polite and seemed like a nice guy; still, impossible to get a word in with him—in a good way—as he had lots to say about just about anything I threw at him and was extremely quick-witted. Miz does WWE a great service representing them as their champion.

That aside, this will be a good match. People bust on John Cena for not being able to wrestle, but that’s dumb; Cena may not be Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but he has an excellent grasp of the fundamentals, tells great stories and has intensity that’s second to none. Cena also always brings his best stuff to the big events, WrestleMania in particular; I’m convinced Miz can hang with him, so again, good match.

The result? Not much in doubt in my mind as I’d assume Cena wins to presumably send the fans home happy. I say “presumably” since the return of The Rock and his verbal sparring with Cena has turned even more of the fan base than usual against WWE’s would-be top babyface, so a show that ends with the WWE title changing hands does not guarantee a standing ovation by any stretch of the imagination. The intrigue will be in what exactly The Rock does as far as this match, particularly after Cena left him laying at the end of Raw. I don’t think Rock will cost Cena the title—I bet Alex Riley gets his WrestleMania moment by brawling with Rock while the match finishes up in the ring—but I don’t see him pulling a Mike Tyson and raising his rival’s hand to pass the torch. WrestleMania is typically the end of the big storylines, but with Rock booked on Monday’s Raw and clearly open to doing business with WWE more in the future, I have a feeling this is only the beginning, and his face could be the last one we see as the show goes off the air, setting up a dream match down the line.

WINNER: John Cena

The Undertaker vs Triple H

As I told Tom Brennan on Twitter the other day, if the streak ever ends—and I don’t really think it should—it should not be at the hands of Triple H, who really gains nothing much from the win as his legacy is already secured and he’s perpetually over besides. This seems to be the prevailing sentiment of most fans, and I think Triple H is a savvy and intelligent enough individual to share it. Surveying the current landscape of WWE’s youth movement, I’m not sure anybody is currently deserving of the mega bump beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania will provide, but that could change in a year, two years, etc.

I have not been a fan of how this match has been built. The repetitive back and forth promos got old fast. I was annoyed from the start that Sheamus and Kane got shafted out of their roles of having taken out each of the participants months ago. And editing Taker’s win over HHH 10 years ago at WrestleMania XVII from the highlight packages has been just silly. Getting Shawn Michaels involved this Monday and his amazing sales job on how much The Undertaker broke him with the back-to-back losses helped a lot, I must say. I don’t think HBK should have been brought back in earlier, since it would have diminished the appearance, so I don’t know what I would have done differently.

Undertaker vs HHH from WrestleMania XVII is one of my personal favorite overlooked Mania classics; a great match on an amazing show. I’m not sure how this one will hold up to that encounter from a decade ago. Undertaker is that rare performer who has gotten better with age, but injuries have been worse on him than ever lately. Triple H was great then, had some off years, but has also been cooking with gas for years, though I’m not sure what kind of ring rust he’s carrying in. I think both guys are well aware of what a big deal it is for them to face off on this show and how much hype has been given both in and outside of the company, so I fully expect them to rise to the occasion; it won’t be an Undertaker-Shawn Michaels match, but it’s going to likely be the next best thing.

WINNER: The Undertaker

Edge © vs Alberto Del Rio

It’s insane to me that Christian is not in this match. It’s not such a highly anticipated showdown that doing a three way would have diminished it and Christian is more over now in WWE than he has ever been. They put him over ADR twice in singles matches so he could just stand in Edge’s corner? Seems like a waste of a chance to elevate a guy who has deserved it for years and I think WWE will regret it down the line.

The match will be fine, though truthfully I’m not expecting the star-making performance Del Rio could really use. Edge is as entertaining and charismatic as ever, but he hasn’t been the same in the ring since the Achilles injury and it’s been over a year now. He’s still managed to have really good matches lately with the likes of Dolph Ziggler, but Dolph is far better than a lot of people realized, and though Alberto possesses great talent as well, he won’t be able to carry a WrestleMania main event at this stage in his WWE career (there’s a reason this match will be third from the top at best). I feel like the finish is also more or less telegraphed with Christian causing Edge the title either on purpose or accidentally. I’m hoping for the latter and that they go with an Edge heel turn where he blames his buddy since Christian is on such a hot streak as a babyface right now, but I’m assuming it will be a retread jealousy angle instead that ends with the already established guy going over once again. Prove me wrong, WWE!

WINNER: Alberto Del Rio

Randy Orton vs C.M. Punk

A brilliantly-built feud between two guys who have never met on PPV and one that played on two-year old continuity in the set-up, which a comic book guy like me of course loves. It’s also nice to see two guys who could easily be in World title matches being given something of real consequence to do that bolsters the upper mid-card, a region often neglected at WrestleMania; matches like Orton vs Punk are what tip the scales as far as how this show will ultimately place on the all-time list.

I have a good feeling about how these guys will mesh as far as in-ring style. As far as crowd reaction, both are at the top of their respective games psychologically, so if WWE needs to get the audience revved up, this is the one to use (it honestly wouldn’t be the worst choice for an opener).

Even without anybody to interfere on his behalf, the New Nexus having been elegantly disposed of—I describe it that way as they got them out of the picture early enough to still keep Punk a threat on his own—I predict Punk will weasel a win here and be in WWE title contention for the Spring while this feud continues to simmer on the side.


Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes

Like Punk-Rhodes, a great addition to the middle of the card, and I really applaud that WWE devoted months to a feud that they’d normally relegate to mere weeks. It may seem very basic and a bit old school, but the motivations here—Cody is a vain bad guy, Rey accidentally injured his face, Cody wants revenge, Rey knows he did nothing wrong—are brilliant in the simplicity of it all; the old ways worked for a reason. Cody Rhodes has also been doing best character work of his career, taking a gimmick that was already nuanced and putting him over in the Dashing persona and twisting it perfectly to create a nice derivation.

This will be a good, fast-paced, pure wrestling match to break up the gimmicks. Cody deserves the win here and I’m inclined to think that Rey will put him over, given that he purportedly handpicked him as his opponent.

WINNER: Cody Rhodes

Michael Cole vs Jerry Lawler

Every WrestleMania needs—or should have—a “match” that is all spectacle with no hope of being any good as far as work rate, and this one would be that. Michael Cole may be the best heel in wrestling right now and his gradual turn from sour grapes commentator to full-blown nut job over the past year since he busted out the bad guy chops on NXT has been a sight to behold. He has run circles around Jerry Lawler verbally for much of this feud, though The King brought it in a big way at the buzzer on SmackDown with an awesomely intense promo. Lawler can still go in the ring, as he has proven of late, but that doesn’t really matter here; it is cool to see King finally get a WrestleMania match after nearly two decades of waiting though.

I’m not sure Stone Cold Steve Austin was needed as the ref here, but the idea that he’ll neutralize Jack Swagger—who is getting nice residual heat from this angle—isn’t a bad one, and of course he only adds to the luster of the event. Expect this to be pretty cut, dry and quick with Lawler getting the feel good moment he deserves.

Why the heck did they change The King’s entrance music a week before the show though?

WINNER: Jerry Lawler

John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki vs Dolph Ziggler & LayCool

Purists will bemoan this one and say Morrison and Ziggler should have a one-on-one match here, but again, celebrities and spectacle is a key part of WrestleMania, and while I’m no Jersey Shore fan by any stretch, it’s big right now and this got WWE mondo mainstream buzz. Besides, Morrison and Ziggler get their names out there as well as a chance to show what they can do—they’ll obviously be carrying the match—plus Snooki did a pretty impressive Lou Thesz Press on Raw. If anybody got screwed here, it’s Trish Stratus, who retired with dignity five years ago and whose return should have been a far bigger deal and not made the backburner story to this feud.

A celebrity is involved, so the babyfaces should go over and Vickie Guerrero will probably get her comeuppance.

WINNERS: John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki

The Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov vs The Corre

With Vladimir Kozlov getting jumped during Axxess by Corre, word is that Kofi Kingston will replace him here, which I’m certainly on board with; no offense to Big Vlad, but Kofi has earned the right to be out there a bit more and will only help the match quality here as well.

My complaint as this match came together was that The Corre should have the clear numbers advantage, so I was hoping it would end up being a handicap match with Show and Kane, or even those two and Diesel; despite all that Wade Barrett and friends have accomplished over the past year, they are still more or less rookies, so having them in there even with just two seven-plus-foot former World champions doesn’t exactly stack the odds in their favor, and heels should generally have the advantages in matches like this. However, the addition of Santino Marella actually provides a perfect weak link and fall guy (as well as giving another guy who deserves it a WrestleMania payday). WWE needs guys like Corre moving up the card, not the other way, right now.

WINNERS: The Corre

Sheamus © vs Daniel Bryan

The potential show stealer of the night if they’re given adequate time, and on a four hour show there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be. Fans of good old pure wrestling have to be psyched that Daniel Bryan has a singles match at WrestleMania—I am—but he’s also got quite the capable opponent in Sheamus. It gets lost sometimes in how quick he rocketed to the top of WWE, but Sheamus really deserved his push, as he’s far more solid in the ring than most folks realize. Sheamus can pull good matches out of simply ok opponents, shines against good ones, and has the chance to be great against Daniel Bryan. In their short Raw matches alone, these guys have already displayed tremendous chemistry, so this should be a treat.

It’s really a coin flip as far as who takes home the win. Bryan could certainly benefit from it more as he’s far more likely to get lost in the shuffle without the championship, but on the other hand, Sheamus isn’t too far removed from being buried for several months and he’s too valuable an asset to WWE’s upper echelon to hurt too much. Ultimately I’ll go with Daniel Bryan both because he’s my sentimental pick, but also because it feels like for WWE to go to the trouble of switching the title already on Raw means they’ll move it back to him here.

WINNER: Daniel Bryan


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