Wednesday 8 February 2012

Jericho Versus Punk, and Other Stories

Jericho versus Punk has been a match rumoured for WrestleMania XXVIII for a while now. On the post-Royal Rumble RAW the feud officially began when 'Y2J' interfered in Punk's match against Daniel Bryan. Attacking Bryan first he cost CM Punk the match.
As Jericho had only uttered a handful of words since returning a month before it seemed unlikely that the February 6th RAW would hold many answers. Pleasingly, that assumption was wrong: Jericho explained his motives thoroughly.
Tired of other wrestlers stealing from him and fans allegedly supporting it Jericho returned to highlight all the "wannabes" that have sprung up in his absence. He mentioned Miz wearing suits and talking slowly. He mentioned R-Truth asking "What's up?" and compared it to his own demand that audiences "shut the hell up" (which I think is fairly tenuous). He mentioned Dolph Ziggler having, gasp, a female manager (again, tenuous). He told members of the audience they were wannabes and proudly declared he had trolled fans the world over.
His biggest problem was CM Punk referring to himself as 'The Best in the World'. Jericho granted himself that lofty moniker several years ago and he's annoyed that 'The Voice of the Voiceless' has pilfered it. He made no mention of Bryan 'Daniel Bryan' Danielson's use of the phrase in ROH and he likely never will. I can mention it here though. Yes, Jericho is just as much of a thief as Punk is.
Punk retaliated by emulating Jericho's behaviour of the last month. He entered the ring, made to speak and didn't. Then he left. The audience seemed to enjoy that. Later on in the evening Jericho sat cross-legged in the ring and posed with the WWE title.
I imagine the WWE champion will give a verbal response next week. Punk (both his wrestling character and the man behind it) cannot bring himself to stay silent for too long.
As a way of kicking off what is going to be a two month feud I think the approach taken on RAW was very effective. 'Y2J's' motives may seem fairly lacklustre at the moment but there's plenty of time for him to expand them. The general basis is sound and that's what counts. The examples he gave regarding Ziggler and Truth were poor but he does have a point about people lifting his material (or he does if he wants to be pedantic). The approach shouldn't last too long though, because for a WWE title match at WrestleMania to be based around the theft of a moniker would be beyond ridiculous. Both men are very gifted promo men and can make this feud something special if given the chance... while also being gently guided so that their verbal exchanges remain accessible to all viewers and don't become laden with insider jargon (I'm looking at you, Punk).

The WWE championship match for WrestleMania XXVIII?

Will they deliver in the ring? I'd be amazed if they don't get a healthy amount of time on the big stage. If they do Punk and Jericho should be a contender for the best match of the night. Probably the year too.
Elimination Chamber might give us a hint as to their chemistry. Jericho is due to leave his cell last thanks to his victory on RAW, and it strikes me as unlikely 'The Second City Saint' will be losing his title so he's likely to still be in the match when Jericho enters. If they wrestle we'll know how good a straight singles bout between the two can be. I say "if" because I think there's a chance Jericho may not actively participate in the match, opting instead to revert to his non-speaking ways of January. I wouldn't be surprised to see him simply stay in his cell or exit it only to demand release from the Chamber.
"Wouldn't that be a waste of a spot?" you ask. Absolutely. That's the point. He's trolling us, remember.
What else does WrestleMania XXVIII have in store for us? Well Sheamus has a ticket into the world title scene and as I doubt he'll be added to Punk v Jericho it seems likely that he will challenge for the World Heavyweight championship. Right now that would mean he faces Daniel Bryan at the Sun Life Stadium on April 1st.
That match depends on Bryan getting through Elimination Chamber with the gold. As only one of the challengers (Randy Orton) strikes me as a possible alternative to head into 'Mania with the belt I don't think it's too hard to imagine Bryan retaining.
So Daniel Bryan v Sheamus at WrestleMania? It looks possible. What looks even more possible is Randy Orton being added to the mix for a triple threat match. 'The Viper' is one of the promotion's most reliable wrestlers and would be a big name in the match. It's Bryan's first 'Mania and Sheamus's second. WWE likes established acts in their world title matches at their annual extravaganza.
Elsewhere on the card we're guaranteed the John Cena versus The Rock showdown that was announced last April. That feud should begin to pick up steam after Elimination Chamber. If WWE were smart they'd have booked Rock to appear in an angle with Cena on the show. It doesn't appear as if they've done so.
Undertaker v Triple H is also looking likely. If their match last year is anything to go by it should be something special. There are plenty of rumours about this one: mostly regarding the potential of Shawn Michaels returning as a special guest referee and one or both competitors retiring.
I'd like to see 'HBK' back as a referee. I think it would add something to the match, considering the history between he and 'The Dead Man' and his not-exactly-secret friendship with Triple H. It would add another element to the contest that would be hard to predict, which is never a bad thing. As far as retirement goes I can see 'The Game' wanting to hang on for a few more years to work the occasional match. The last three months of last year certainly seem to indicate that's the case. So I'd be surprised if a retirement stipulation was added for him.
I really don't see this being the Undertaker's final match. He loves the business and the company and understands his (and The Streak's) importance to WrestleMania. I can see him working one match a year for a few years to come. There are still big money matches with Brock Lesnar and John Cena to be had at the event, and cases could be made for Punk and Orton challenging The Streak (for a second time in Orton's case).
The final match that currently looks likely for WrestleMania is a Money in the Bank ladder extravaganza. I was originally against MITB having its own pay-per-view but I now see it as a great opportunity to start fresh storylines and feuds for the second half of the year. It could be the Royal Rumble to SummerSlam's WrestleMania. In short, returning the gimmick to an attraction on a larger show is a mistake.
It's tough to call who'll win the match right now, but Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes are all guys WWE seems keen to elevate and so ought to be favourites as the show draws near. Kofi Kingston, Christian, Zack Ryder, R-Truth and Miz all seem good candidates for filling spots but I wouldn't expect them to win without some drastic booking changes between now and then.
It's possible Mick Foley, something of a wildcard right now as far as booking goes, will be in the MITB match too. I can see him playing a part in the show, either here or in a singles match with a rising heel. Ziggler would be the most sensible choice there, though Cody and Miz wouldn't be bad fits either.
If WWE can give its bigger matches the storylines they deserve and avoid leaving the undercard to be an afterthought we should get a very good WrestleMania. Now we play the waiting game.

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