Friday 1 April 2011

WrestleMania XXVII predictions

On Sunday April 3rd Atlanta’s Georgia Dome will host the biggest wrestling event of the year. As the hype videos are all too keen to tell you, this is the Super Bowl of wrestling. A British analogue would be the World Cup. It is the show WWE spends more money and time preparing than any other. No wrestling event this year, no matter how artistically rewarding, will make as much money as WrestleMania.

Looking at the card that’s been put together over the last few months certainly builds hope that this could be one of the better WrestleManias of recent times. After a couple of years of supershows that didn’t meet financial expectations the company has pushed the boat out and hired former megastars ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock, along with reality TV sensation (in the States at least) Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi, hoping that these big names will help to attract viewers.

Without doubt the biggest of these names is The Rock. Fans have wanted to see him back for years, and by finally giving in and bringing him back Vince McMahon has given himself the best chance possible of achieving a seven figure buyrate, without ‘The Great One’ even needing to wrestle. Rock’s greatest strength has always been talking, so as long as he does that live in the ring (he will) and gets involved in the WWE championship match in some fashion (again, he will) the crowd will be satisfied.

My intention is to do a rundown of the announced card, giving thoughts and predicted winners on each match as I go. As far as predicting winners goes I’m giving the name of people I think will win, not necessarily who I want to win or think should win.

WWE United States championship – Daniel Bryan v Sheamus (c)

This match has been cobbled together fairly quickly to give both men something to do. Sheamus isn’t really somebody I rate highly in any regard, but Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson is tremendous and will get at least an average match out of the current ‘King of the Ring’. I don’t think this match will have enough time to be anything special and will likely end up as filler between more important bouts, or very possibly the show opener (but that is a lucrative spot as the crowd’s always energetic at the start of the evening, and I can’t see Danielson being granted that boon).

Prediction: Sheamus

Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater and Ezekiel Jackson v Santino Marella, Vladimir Kozlov, Big Show and Kane

The only match on the card more hastily dashed together than Bryan v Sheamus. It’s irritating, because the booking has been hinting at this for weeks, and various websites have listed various combinations of babyfaces as opponents for the Corre. Had there been a quicker decision as to who the faces would be this could have meant more, as it is it’s just a disposable undercard match that will likely be placed between two far bigger matches.

I’m pleased Christian’s not involved, he’s better utilised as a distraction or corner man in the World heavyweight title match, but I’m disappointed Kofi Kingston’s not been given a spot on the team. He would have been more of an asset than Kane or Show. My guess is that there will be some sort of injury angle on a face, most likely Kozlov, and Kofi will be announced as the replacement.

The match won’t be good and it won’t get very long. I’ll pick the face team as winners, only because when a match has no reason to happen it’s always best to book a fan friendly finish.

Prediction: Marella, Kozlov, Kane and Big Show

Cody Rhodes v Rey Mysterio

This match has the potential to be a real highlight. Rey always enters a good performance and Cody’s been improving every week during this feud, so this should be good at the least. I think Cody Rhodes really needs to prove himself to the fans and the company’s decision makers during this match, to show that this spot isn’t wasted on him and that he can perform when relied on to do so. I hope they get enough time to provide a satisfying conclusion to what has been the best booked feud on WWE TV this year. The right decision would be for Cody to win, he needs the win over Mysterio far more than the other way round and as long as they don’t open the show (because it’s always best to start off with a babyface win where possible) I think that’s the result we’ll get.

Prediction: Cody Rhodes

Randy Orton v CM Punk

The uncertain status of the Nexus is something that probably deserves a mention here. I don’t think they’re going to be back until after WrestleMania, if at all. I suspect they were written off television having been dismissed as too green. Hopefully Orton and Punk will wrestle with no distractions, or just one big distraction at the end of a bout that’s been allowed to entertain the crowd.

I think the logical choice here is for Orton to win, as neither man really needs the win to move them further up the card while Orton, as a face, would theoretically get the best reaction. It should be a quality, heated match, and a contender for match of the night.

Prediciton: Randy Orton

Trish Stratus, Snooki and John Morrison v Layla, Michelle McCool and Dolph Ziggler

Does anyone really believe Snooki is going to be universally cheered at WrestleMania? While Laycool may be effective heels they’re also trained wrestlers, which fans are going to respect more than an untrained celebrity like Snooki. This is always the trouble with outside personalities wrestling at WrestleMania: fans have to pay hundreds of dollars for ringside tickets, which means that only the most dedicated fans will be near the ring and, knowing that the celebrities are there for a paycheque, they will be very vocal with their displeasure. It’s understandable. You’ve paid a lot to see wrestling, not an untrained reality TV star.

Hopefully WWE will realise this and leave the majority of the work to Morrison and Ziggler, two men who should be in big singles matches at WrestleMania XXVIII. If their work is interspersed with action from Laycool and Trish while Snooki is left to get involved in the finish then the fans’ wrath should be kept to a minimum. That’s the best anyone can hope for: damage limitation.

I’m going to pick the face team as the winners, as celebrities tend to be used favourably when they wrestle for WWE. Snooki getting the pin wouldn’t surprise me.

On a related note, let’s hope that the commentary team know who can wrestle who in this match, to save getting more bickering as we did on the March 21st RAW.

Prediction: Trish Stratus, Snooki and John Morrison

Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler v Michael Cole

Speaking of the commentary team brings us neatly to one of the most eagerly anticipated matches ever to feature a non-wrestler. While this match has been expertly drawn out and built over a number of months it does illustrate how shallow WWE’s talent roster is right now. Michael Cole has become a great on-screen character, and I think he’s very good in the role of an obnoxious heel. Frankly I think he’s better at that than he is at announcing (and that’s not to say I think he’s a bad announcer). Unfortunately, Cole has been made to look a lot stronger than the majority of WWE’s mid-card heels. That’s not a good move in the long-term.

It’s a similar story with Jerry Lawler. While he’s a trained wrestler, he’s also a sixty-one year-old. Because he stood up to a smug play-by-play man he is now one of the company’s top babyfaces. That’s nice for him, but not that great for WWE’s business, because he doesn’t wrestle regularly and doesn’t even appear on house shows. While this feud has been getting TV time it’s not helped sell tickets for any untelevised events because the two men involved don’t appear on them.

Both men are good announcers, and hopefully their roles will be toned back down following WrestleMania. I do think that WWE ultimately made the right decision by booking a match involving them on pay-per-view because they were capitalising on real emotions shown by their fans.

I imagine this match will get a fair amount of time and will feature a lot of stalling from Cole and an almost ECW level of interference from Jack Swagger and Alex Riley, and possibly some others too. It’s not going to be a classic, but fan emotion and the involvement of ‘Stone Cold’ will help to make it memorable. There’s no way Cole’s leaving without being pinned and getting a Stunner.

Prediction: Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler

World heavyweight championship – Alberto Del Rio v Edge (c)

The odd thing about this match is how unexcited I am by it. I’ve been a fan of Edge since 1999, and I think Alberto’s tremendous. I enjoy Broadus Clay, Roberto Rodriguez, and Christian too, all men who are likely to be at ringside and become involved in the match at some point. That’s five men I’m a fan of involved in one match, but I’m just not that bothered about seeing it. It’s not that I think it won’t be good, because I know everyone involved will make it very enjoyable. I think it’s more that this has been a slow moving feud.

Probably the biggest downside to the match is its predictable outcome. Most people believe that Edge is going to drop the belt to Alberto, allowing the Mexican to fulfil his “destiny”. The main source of uncertainty is whether or not Christian will betray Edge. It’s a shame, because with some thought this could have become a really hot feud.

Prediction: Alberto Del Rio

Triple H v Undertaker

With this match being contested under no holds barred rules expect to see all the regular ringside brawling shortcuts utilised. There’s a more than good chance Hunter’s trusty sledgehammer will be brought out to get a cheap pop too. And if any match is going to be permitted to feature blood (which I think there’s a slim possibility of), this one will be it. I can’t imagine they’re going to reach the heights of ‘Taker’s WrestleMania outings against Shawn Michaels, or even Edge or Batista, but it should be solid.

Finally, there is no chance Triple H is going over, but they’ve done a good job convincing some people he will.

Prediction: Undertaker

WWE championship – John Cena v The Miz (c)

While the match Cena v Miz, it’s definitely been a three man feud. The third man? WrestleMania’s host, The Rock. Over the last few weeks Rocky has indicated in interviews that he’s open to the idea of wrestling again, and that news has to be factored into the booking of this match. The likelihood is that no matter who leaves as champion, Rock will wrestle both men. At a guess, I’d say we’ll be seeing The Miz v The Rock at SummerSlam and, if WWE can keep themselves from rushing it, The Rock v John Cena at next year’s ‘Mania. The big question there is “can WWE hold off on that match for a year?”

But where does that leave us for this match? I think both men are going to be met by a lot of boos, but I think Cena’s will be closer to outright hostility. The hardcore fans of WrestleMania never warm to Cena, and I think that Miz is due for a face turn sometime this year, so the defending champion needs to be ready to play face.

I have really enjoyed Miz as champion, partly because I like his act and partly because it’s been nice to see someone break into a top spot that has worked hard for it and continued to improve whilst there. I don’t want (or need) to see Cena with the belt again. But I don’t see Miz getting the win. I think the company’s ready to put the belt back on Cena to get him across as “the man” for his upcoming feud with The Rock.

When Rock originally returned and directed negative comments at Cena I thought it would all end with Rock endorsing Cena as the new flagship of WWE. That was possibly the original plan, but after this Monday I don’t see it happening. What’s more likely is that Rock will end WrestleMania by giving Cena a Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow.

It’s a fascinating match to try and predict as there are so many variables involved. I think the ring work will be solid, but there are going to be better matches lower down the card.

Prediction: John Cena

That concludes this WrestleMania XXVII preview. I think overall it looks like a very strong card, with several matches having the potential to steal the show. There being no Money in the Bank match is a minor surprise, as it had become a regular feature and a nice way of including some of the younger talent. But its removal allows more time for the rest of the matches, so it’s not the worst decision in the world.

Rock as the host is going to be something special and will persuade a lot of people to watch on pay-per-view. Both Undertaker v Triple H and Miz v Cena would be fitting main events, and whichever goes on last I think the fans will give the competitors a warm reaction. By paying out for the big name stars of the past that people still want to see and creating a strong undercard WWE has created a show that will hopefully earn them a healthy buyrate and outdo the one match shows of the last couple of years.

This pay-per-view deserves to succeed. Everyone involved has worked hard for it.

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