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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
WrestleMania 28 Preview and Predictions
March 30, 2012

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

Normally, this is the column where I start off talking about it being a pretty special weekend, what with the convergence of so many cool things.
 
But alas, baseball's opening day is a week later than usual this year, I couldn't hate the participants in the Final Four any more (short of the Eggsavier Gangstateers making it in), and it's been lovely Spring weather since Thanksgiving so there's not even any reason to celebrate not having to wear a coat. Oh well...
 

But it's still WrestleMania weekend, and that's special enough for our purposes here on a wrestling website. And since it's MY wrestling website, we can also celebrate it being extra special, as Sunday will mark the 25th Anniversary of my very first WrestleMania.
 
Sure, that means The Rick is getting The Old (I canNOT get used to the fact that I'm now age-eligible to be President), but it's also a pretty cool milestone. I haven't missed one in all those years: 25 in a row and counting. Starting with WM3 on big-screen closed circuit TV, up through today's annual $60 PPV purchases (and even witnessing WM8 live and in person in Indianapolis), there's no excuse for skipping out on the Granddaddy of Them All.
 
And there's fewer than no excuses to skip out this year. The WM28 card is one that offers something for everyone, and is likely to provide entertainment and satisfaction in every match. OK, not the women's match. But the other 7 all have the makings of being solid, in all kinds of different ways. WWE may have taken a fairly underwhelming path to get here, but as I sit here pondering Sunday's show, I get a little antsy with anticipation, and my (justifiable) frustration with the last 6 weeks of TV is mostly forgotten.
 
[SIDE BAR: Sometimes, my frustrations with WWE are a matter of personal taste, and I just let that slide. But other times, my frustrations can be objectively shown to be based in reality, such as the frustrations I had with Randy Orton from 2004 through 2009 (when he was proven ratings death). My run-up-to-WM frustrations are a case of the latter. The ratings for RAW during the 2012 Rumble-to-Mania stretch have averaged a 3.1. This is, BY FAR, the worst RAW has performed in the "modern" (post-WCW) era. Previously, a few years (including 2011) have averaged a 3.6 rating for this span of time. This year, WWE lost a full half point from that previous low. Some of that is mitigated by the new fangled delayed viewing/DVR figures, but not all. Even with WWE's gains in that area over the past year, they're only adding 0.2 or 0.3 points per week, still totalling significantly below previous worsts. WWE and USA still take pride in RAW being the biggest fish in the Monday Cable Pond (i.e. relative to competition), but that doesn't change the absolute figures. Even with the Rock, WWE's lack of kick-ass content meant they played to 15% fewer people on the build-up to WM this year than last year. It'll be interesting to see if there's any "trickle down" to the PPV buyrate, which WWE expects to far exceed last year's.]
 
My suspicion is that you, too, are willing to overlook RAW's recent displays of mediocrity, because you've started to get the tingles that indicate WrestleMania is upon us, and it no longer matters how the matches were built up... it only matters that they deliver.
 
And boy howdy, does it seem like they're set to deliver in spades. Here's my thoughts on the 8-match card (note that I'll probably skimp on the onscreen backstories and focus on other notions, since Pyro did such a thorough job of telling those in his own preview):
 
THE ROCK vs. JOHN CENA
 
It's a match one year in the making. Sort of. If you want to be a dick, you can say it's a match 6 weeks in the making (since that's when Rocky actually bothered to show up on TV). Or if you want to be anal retentive, you can say it's a match 4-5 years in the making (since that's when Cena started sniping about Rock in the gossip pages).
 
But whatever, point is, it's a match that's been built up unlike any other in WWF/E history. Add in the fact that it involves two stars the caliber of Rock and Cena, and you've got the ingredients for something special. I've seen a lot of mention of this being a do-over of Rock/Hogan (which happened exactly 10 years ago), but to me, that's not quite right. Rock/Hogan didn't seem epic when it was signed; all the magic happened ON THAT NIGHT, organically and not as a result of it being a heavily hyped "Dream Match." Instead, I posit this has more in common with Hogan/Andre (which happened exactly 25 years ago, at my first WM).
 
THAT was conceived of and executed as a huge Dream Match between the dominant force of yesterday (Andre) and the dominant force of today (Hogan). The WWF took some liberties (pretending Hogan and Andre had never faced off, and pretending that Andre was undefeated), but told the basic story of a legend who felt his career wouldn't be complete unless he beat the current top guy and a current top guy who couldn't be taken 100% seriously until he vanquished the legend.

Sound familiar?
 
Maybe this isn't QUITE as big as Hogan/Andre (and maybe that has to do with the fact that I'm not a naive elementary school kid anymore), but there is something about Rock/Cena that makes up for that... to put it bluntly: these two are physically capable of having a halfway decent wrestling match to back up all the spectacle.
 
Let's face it, 25 years ago, Andre was broken and Hogan just wasn't very good. And 10 years ago, Rock was at his peak but it didn't really count since Hogan was now the broken one. This year, you've got two guys still in top condition; sure neither is a technical wizard, but both have had plenty of **** matches where brawling and atmosphere have more than made up for that. So even if Rock/Cena only ends up having 90% of the electricity of Hogan/Andre (or Hogan/Rock), it'll also have 100% less participation from cripples. I'll take it.
 
My Prediction: Cena wins. You just can't have the Rock come back, win a match, and then leave again, with Cena stuck carrying the company despite being a loser. Can you? I'll say this: at least they ditched that stupid "Cena vs. Rock for the WWE Title" promise that Cena made last year. That was SOOOOOOOO fricking stupid back then, and the world would have seen just how stupid now, if the Rock was actually in a world title match despite having no intentions of hanging around to make even one title defense should he win.
 
So I guess there's now a tinch more ambiguity than there would have been if this was a title match... but it's not much. For Rock to win, there would have to be a bigger plan in place. But Rock is super busy, and even if he intends to do special matches here and there, his schedule wouldn't permit him to do so until next WM... and a best-of-3 series with Cena that takes 3 years to complete just doesn't sound appealing.
 
Somebody on the OO Forums had a neat idea, though: Rock beats Cena, and comes out on RAW to declare "Now I've done it all. I'm the man." And then the Undertaker comes out and says, "No, you aren't. You haven't beaten me at WrestleMania." Rocky does a Vince McMahon Gulp of Fear. Taker issues a challenge for WM29. Rock nuts up and accepts. I could dig that. WWE's already decided they want to try the "one year build-up" again for WM29... and there are tons of wacky theories out there as to what match will get that special treatment. But to me, taking your two once-a-year performers and having them agree to perform against each other one year early just makes all kinds of sense. It'd be huge, but it'd also fit nicely in the background since neither guy has to go through water treading motions (like Cena with Kane, for instance), since neither is on TV until it's time to dance. Also: it'd be a chance for Rock to "show his range," since there'd be a lot less hilarity and dick jokes (and maybe even an injection of heelishness) if he's sparring with Taker.
 
But I digress. That's a neat idea that would provide justification for a Cena win... but that doesn't mean I'd bet on it happening. If there's one thing I've learned in my career of putting my wrestling related thoughts on the internet, it's that any time I propose a neat idea, that means it's one WWE would never end up doing. So instead, I expect a hard fought, brawl-y match won by Cena, and afterwards, Rock realizes he's been beaten by the better man and raises Cena's hand in victory. In as far as that goes, yeah, it probably WILL be a lot like Hogan/Rock 10 years ago.
 
UNDERTAKER vs. TRIPLE H (Hell in the Cell, Shawn Michaels as Special Ref)
 
I didn't have any particular expectations for these two last year (it seemed like they phoned in the hype until the very final week before the PPV), but they ended up blowing us away with a really well-constructed dramatic brawl.
 
This year, things are flipped, and my expectations are really high. Partly because of how good last year was, and partly because Hell in the Cell and Shawn Michaels are two of my more favorite things. So it stands to reason this year should be even better, right?
 
I just hope I'm not setting the bar TOO high.
 
The days of ultra-violence in the Cell are past, but even today's PG-rated Cell has had its moments. I mean, it's still flesh-on-steel, and even if there's no more pre-planned blood in WWE, it's a match like this where you may see some flowing just as a by-product of the Cell.
 
And while the special ref gimmick may open the door for some kind of lame or schmozzy finishy, I honestly think HBK will be a value-add. He's already been threatened by Taker, and by the time tonight's SD is done, he'll have been attacked by HHH, so it's pretty much a deal where he'll have beef with BOTH guys. Shawn -- even after 2 years of retirement -- is still the best worker of the three guys in the Cell on Sunday... I don't think he gets out of this without being involved and taking some bumps. But it'll all lead up to him calling it down the middle in the end.
 
My Prediction: Taker wins. You can take it to the bank. There's absolutely nothing to be gained by ending the Streak at the hands of a guy who's already destined for the HoF. [Hell, there's just barely, infinitessimally more to be gained by ending the Streak at the hands of an up-and-comer who could use the rub.] I think it's a hard-fought win, but it's a win where -- unlike last year -- Taker is still standing at the end, proving to himself that he is the better man than HHH. And more importantly, I think it proves to HHH/HBK how great Taker is, and they'll pay him some form of respect before powdering out, and letting Taker have his moment.
 
Said "moment" could even be milked as being possibly the last time Taker ever sets foot in a WM ring... but I would sure as hell hope that wouldn't be the case. If you're retiring Taker, you tell people ahead of time, instead of just letting it quietly pass (in other words, you Flair him, or HBK him; you do not Edge him)... that means Taker gearing up for at least 1 more Mania after this weekend. And keeping the "WWE wants to do a one-year build again" thing in mind, I think another neat idea could be to combine that with Taker's retirement: have him come out on RAW to say he's proud of his performance the night before, but now that he's outlived everyone else of his era, it's time for him to ride off into the sunset himself. He's retiring at WM29, and he's putting the entire WWE on notice one year in advance, because he wants somebody from TODAY's era to have the last shot at ending the Streak. And then spend 10 months of having younger guys trying to one-up each other for the WM spot, random appearances by Taker to remind us that he's watching, and then have Taker hand-pick his opponent around Royal Rumble time in 2013. Voila: you milk every last drop out of Taker's retirement AND do another "one year build" at the same time.
 
CM PUNK vs. CHRIS JERICHO (WWE Title Match)
 
Here you have one of my most favorite wrestlers of the 2000s going up against one of my most favorite present-day wrestlers, and the biggest title in all of wrestling is on the line. Yeah, I'm not fired up for this one, at all.
 
Not even the lame-ass melodrama has me too worried about the end result on Sunday. Well, maybe a little: after deftly deflecting talk of his dad being an alcoholic ("that's not news to me, Jericho, but maybe it's news to you that he's recovered and in a much better place now") and his sister turning tricks for crack (Punk pretty much dismissed that as a bald-faced lie), Punk decided to "snap" after Jericho did a little gestational math and called Punk a "bastard." You know, just like Big Bossman did to Big Show 12 years ago as part of a piece of genuine WrestleCrap.
 
I'm not sure why Punk would go all apeshit at THAT. For one, I've long considered it a compliment when somebody knows me well enough to declare I am a magnificent bastard. And for two, who the hell cares that CM Punk's parents had sex before marriage? Other than Rick Santorum voters? The rest of us are living in the 21st Century (and even those of you who aren't are probably not living in the 1950s, so you shouldn't be scandalized, either).
 
But unless Punk's insanity is featured to a ludicrous degree, I just can't see how two guys as talented as these could turn out anything less than a stellar outing. I think the WrestleMania atmosphere (generally "smarter"/more informed fans) should mean there's a certain level of "appreciation," too. I guess my one fear would be that Jericho takes "being a heel" a bit too seriously (it's something he sometimes does) and decides to antagonize the audience by not giving them anything to appreciate... but if we avoid that pitfall, and we get the Chris Jericho who was absolutely on top of his in-ring game a few weeks ago versus Sheamus, this match could be a joy to watch.
 
My Prediction: CM Punk retains the title. You get the sense that this is the start of the story between these two, which is the exact opposite of what normally happens at WrestleMania. So what's the best way to keep the door open for rematches? In my mind, you don't do the obvious (Jericho wins in his first try, and Punk chases)... you play to Jericho's strength as a whiney jackass who takes a few tries before getting the gold, and THEN Punk chases. To wit: we get a great match, totally even-steven, but then once they enter End Game, Punk takes command... at which point you can either have Punk finally lose it (a la Monday's RAW) or you can have Jericho push his buttons with a calculated last second display of jerkitude, and Punk gets DQ'd. Punk keeps the belt, but Jericho has plenty of traction to (a) demand another shot and (b) brag about how easily he's manipulating Punk's weak pathetic mind.
 
This finish also has the benefit of saving the decisive finish(es) back for the show(s) where Punk/Jericho isn't third on the depth chart. I have ZERO problem with both Rock/Cena and Taker/HHH being higher up the card for WM... but next PPV, there is no stunt casting, and Punk/Jericho is likely your main event. There's no need to be ashamed of using this outing to tell a little story, and then at Extreme Rules, you not only add a sweet stipulation to the mix, you can also add in the clean finish... the possibility of a Jericho/Punk series that starts at WM and then has the potential for upward trajectory in terms of quality is quite tantalizing.
 
DANIEL BRYAN vs. SHEAMUS (World Heavyweight Title)
 
Despite being as paint-by-numbers as it gets (Sheamus wins Rumble, Sheamus chooses to face Bryan, Sheamus and Bryan have a few random run-ins feuled more by the deus ex machina of the Rumble win than by any real gripping interpersonal rivalry), this is still a match I'm really looking forward to. I mean, if anything were to misfire during Punk/Jericho, I'm absolutely convinced these two have it in them to steal the show, and be Steamboat/Savage to Rock/Cena's Hogan/Andre, if you catch my drift.
 
There's a couple reasons why I feel this way: (1) Daniel Bryan has been spectacular in his douchieness the past 2 months or so. There's nothing subtle, nothng fancy about it. He's just hamming it up in an old school heel way, and the fans are lapping it up. Win matches cheaply + mistreat your girlfriend who is incongruously superhot even though you're a vegan dork = Nuclear Heat! And perhaps more importantly, (2) I get the very serious impression these are two men on a mission to steal the show.
 
Remember: last year, these two were on the WM27 card in a US Title Match... but then they got bumped due to time constraints, and had to have their match the next night on RAW. That had to upset them both, and now, here they are a year later, and ain't nobody bumping a World Title match. This is their shot. They had to wait a goddamned year for it, but it's here, and they've got a chip on their shoulders. Sheamus has even done interviews the past week or so where he kinda lets his guard down and mentions that stealing the show and being in the match that people are talking about are almost as important to him as walking out with the gold. You can win titles 365 days a year, but you can only own the WM stage once a year.
 
My Prediction: Bryan wins. I have no doubt that when WWE put the title on Bryan, it was with the plan of having his Napoleonic ass finally get dethroned at WM by the conquering hero. Problem is, they planned on Orton being said hero, but his health issues precluded that... then they rolled the dice with Sheamus winning the Rumble, instead, only to find that fans are now more anti-Bryan than pro-Sheamus. When you get yourself into a situation like that, you have to at least consider sticking with the hot hand. In this case, that means I'd love to let Bryan "honkeytonk" that world title for a while longer, to the point where fans are practically frothing at the mouth to see Sheamus upend that nerd.
 
Also: Bryan's loss should be tied into AJ dumping him... and again, it's just too soon for that. Sure, you could have AJ cost Bryan the title on Sunday, and it'd be the happy ending that this story needs. But on a PPV LOADED with guaranteed happy endings (there's not a true heel to be seen in either of the top two matches), why not deliver an upsetting ending, and wait until things are built up to the point that Bryan/AJ/Sheamus can have a super-duper happy ending that fans have been waiting for for months, instead of one they've sorta/kinda thought would be nice for weeks? I'm not done being entertained by Bryan/AJ segments, so ergo, I don't think Bryan should be done holding the title...
 
TEAM TEDDY vs. TEAM JOHNNY (Battle for Ultimate Control)
 
On paper, this is a no brainer. Even with Christian pulled from Team Johnny (probably because he'd undermine their Heel Cred, especially on a weekend when he's gonna be palling around with Mr. HoF Edge), Laurinaitis' squad is way stronger, including 4 former world champs (Mark Henry, Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, David Otunga, and Drew McIntyre). Teddy's got a comedy act and an announcer as his top 2 guys (Santino, Booker T, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, and the [redacted] Khali).
 
That said, I'm not sold on this being a foregone conclusion. Santino's entire act during his surprisingly hot run as US Champ has been predicated on being the mega-underdog, and it feels like that could rub off on his teammates.
 
I've also talked myself into believing this could be a really fun Sports Entertainment Segment. Dolph and Kofi could light it up from a workrate perspective (and everybody other than Khali and Otunga should be halfway decent from that perspective), but mostly you've got characters who should be way over with the crowd. Johnny Ace and Vickie Guerrero together are a Voltron of Heel Heat to be reckoned with, so add them (and Teddy and Hornswoggle) to the mix, and the extracurriculars should add to the entertainment value, here.
 
My Prediction: Team Teddy wins. It seems like it should be a blowout for Team Johnny, but I'm going with the upset. Partly because it does play into the "underdog" vibe that Santino's rocking... but mostly for a "smarky"/insider reason: if Johnny Ace wins, he's in full control, and there's no reason for Teddy Long to have a job. I mean, in real life: WWE would have no reason to keep paying him. And I've not heard any indications of WWE wanting to fire Teddy... on the other hand, if Team Teddy wins, Johnny Funkhauser still has a job and an onscreen roll, since he's still VP of Talent Relations. Not only does this allow Laurinaitis to remain an evil foil to Teddy (and without overstaying his welcome, which he would if his line-fumbling ass was on both shows every week), but it seems like a guy who is in charge of talent relations could be an interesting power broker (or rigger) for the upcoming Draft.
 
CODY RHODES vs. BIG SHOW (InterContinental Title)
 
All things considered, I think I'm glad WWE went this route, instead of Show vs. Shaq (as had been originally planned). Instead of Big Show adding to his record of futility in WM matches against non-wrestlers, Cody turned said futility into a compelling motivation for a match between Big Show and a real wrestler. A real wrestler who holds the IC Title, no less.
 
I'm not expecting an aesthetically pleasing mat classic, here, but I do think Cody's really found his niche after however many lame/failed characterizations involving nostril hair grooming and facemasks... and he's directed his newfound powers of assholery at Big Show, and it's clicked. It takes a lot to make one feel sorry for a 7' giant, but Cody's done it by mocking Show's chokeartistry at WrestleMania.
 
My Prediction: Big Show wins. Unlike Taker's streak, I think the "anti-Streak" card is one you can only play once... you can't have Show lose, and then do the anti-streak again next year and have it have the same impact. So "use it or lose it." I think this is one where you go with the satisfying/crowd-pleasing ending... not only does it give some sense of pay-off at the end of what probably won't be the most fast-paced match of all times, but it's also a nice "thank you" to Big Show, who probably doesn't have too many more WrestleManias in him. He deserves at least one moment to be proud of.
 
RANDY ORTON vs. KANE
 
Yeah, so this is happening. I can't say I've got any real desire to sit through it, but I also grant that that's a function of my personal tastes more than an objective assessment of things. Randy's been wholly watchable for the past year or so, and Kane's pretty talented for a big man.
 
But at the end of the day, I just can't shake my notion that Randall's kind of a douchebag and that WWE has already pissed away all the potential Kane had when he returned with his mask. Which is to say: this boils down to the guy I've never really personally cared about and the guy who I've always wanted to care about except that WWE puts him in the shittiest storylines and mistreats his character.
 
My Prediction: Orton wins. All week, I've been trying to psych myself up to predict Kane. But I've pussed out. There are lots of possible reasons why a Kane win MIGHT be best, but WWE has done a good job keeping Orton's health outlook murky. Maybe his two injury vacations so far in 2012 have taken care of things? But maybe they linger? And there's the pesky matter of Orton signing on to film "The Marine 3" this summer. If I could have gotten anything resembling concrete info about Orton getting back surgery and then making a movie during his recovery, I'd have pulled the trigger on Kane doing something nasty to decimate Orton... but as it stands, I'll play it safe. Orton with the win, because he's Orton and getting pushed is what he does. If necessary, the rest of my conspiracy theory can be dealt with on an upcoming edition of SmackDown (maybe have Randall get "seriously injured" by a returning Wade Barrett?).
 
KELLY KELLY & MARIA MENOUNOUS vs. BETH PHOENIX & EVE
 
WWE's misuse of the women's division combined with real life unfortunate circumstances (Kharma actually miscarried, and only revealed this 2 months after she'd been telling people she gave birth to a healthy baby, so it turns out she's sorting out her real life and not worring about returning to wrestling as previously scheduled), and that's why we're getting this as the Diva Entry at WrestleMania.

The babyfaces have plenty of spunk, but not a whole lot of -- you know? -- skill. For a non-wrestling celebrity, Maria has had 2 or 3 matches where she's been passable just due to the fact that she's a fan and she really prepared hard... but even that silver lining is missing here, as Maria has 2 broken ribs (suffered during training for "Dancing with the Stars," oddly enough, and NOT training for wrestling).
 
This one will not be pretty. I mean, the girls will be, but the match itself has all the potential to get Bowling Shoe Ugly.
 
My Prediction: Beth and Eve win. I know, I know: celebrities NEVER lose at WrestleMania. But circumstances dictate that they should, this time. And hopefully Maria is a big enough wrestling fan to understand that. Beth, simply put, can't take the fall under any situation; Kharma may not have been able to make it back for a WM28 match with Beth, where the two most powerful forces in women's wrestling would clash, but that match is still coming eventually, and you can't job Beth out now (also, if Kharma's close to ready, I wouldn't be averse to her running in to confront Beth after Beth wins and keeps beating on the barbies). And Eve should suffer a massive humiliation soon, but it should come at the hands of Zack, not at the hands of the Entertainment Tonight lady.
 
EXTRAS AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
 
Rock's gonna have some rapper guy play him to the ring, but The Rick is not into the rap, so he could care less. Mike Tyson will be around as part of the Hall of Fame recognition segment. But I think that's about it in terms of celebs who'll be participants on the show. I mean, they've even confirmed that Lilian Garcia's handling "America the Beautiful" duties, so no need to expect a C-level nonlebrity there...
 
You know there will be some legends onhand, and they'll be involved in a skit or three. I will be massively disappointed if I don't get me some Rowdy Roddy Piper on Sunday, no matter how fleeting. I'll be less disappointed if some of the wackier rumors don't come true; they never do. [For the record: Lita, Batista, and Brock Lesnar are all reportedly in Miami. Lita is just there as a guest of Edge's, Batista has another non-WWE appearance he's making, but who the hell knows about Lesnar. All I can say is if Brock's really thinking about an appearance, I vote that it have something to do with the Undertaker. Imagine Taker getting mad props from HHH and HBK, celebrating 20-0, only to have Lesnar interrupt. THERE's your "one year in the making match.]
 
But mostly, I'm mostly just looking forward to WrestleMania 28 being a damned good time. Four hours of it, to be precise (remember, this show starts at 7pm, an hour earlier than usual). Six out of eight matches have be genuinely intrigued AND should be quite good on top of that. A seventh will be competently worked despite my lack of interest. The less said about the 8th, the better. But hey: everybody's gotta pee sometime, right?
 
There will be the standard discussion/real-time results in the OO Forums throughout the PPV (and actually all weekend), and of course, I'll be back here with the detailed recap shortly after 11pm (eastern) on Sunday. I trust you all know how you can thank me!
 
Till then, kids....


  
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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28

 
 
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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


 

 


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