The Ringside Sermon Presents;
A Wrestlemania 21 Overview;
Well, I may pride myself on being different in the majority of the topics I choose to write about, but come this time of year, much like everyone else even remotely related to the industry, my thoughts invariably go to one and only on place;
As a columnist, sure, I do things as differently as possible, but as a fan, this is my Mecca, this is the wrestling show of the year, and it’s a must see for anyone who claims to be a fan of the WWE and wrestling in general. Lately, more due to circumstance than any actual desire not to do so, I haven’t been getting the WWE PPVs, even though some of them actually sounded good enough to shell thirty dollars to see. Mania is different, Mania is where I allow myself to be obsessive, and give in to my driving need to know everything I can about the business. It’s the biggest night of the year, and I have absolutely no choice but to go forth and see it.
The Hulk Hogan Hall of Fame;
This is of course not happening at Mania, but at the night before, and we can all probably expect to see something, though no one knows what, from the Hulkster at “The Granddaddy of them all” Hogan has contributed a lot as a performer, and deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. That said, the WWE Hall of Fame doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. I understand what Vince was trying to do by inducting Pete Rose, who’s been denied his spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame for years now, but inducting him into the WWE hall of fame for a series of Wrestlemania appearances as ‘comic relief’ devalued the entire establishment. The hall of fame should be for guys like Harley Race, Lou Thesz, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, Andre The Giant, The Undertaker, Captain Lou Albino, Gorilla Monsoon, Owen Hart, Bobby Heenan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Mick Foley. People who gave something immeasurable to wrestling, guys who did more than show up. Mick Foley gave his body, Heenan his wit, Hart his respect, Flair his blood, Hogan his charisma, Michaels his effort, Austin his attitude, Andre his stature and Owen Hart gave his very life to the business. That is how you build upon the prestige of such an induction, not by using it for Vince McMahon to air not-so-subtle statements like he did with Rose.
I should point out, however, that I am happier to see Roddy Piper inducted than Hogan. This, I don’t doubt, means very little to Hogan, who’s still one of if not the biggest name in Wrestling, who’s still got millions of dollars in the bank, who’s still got his fame and his legacy. Roddy Piper is the greatest heel of his generation, and one of the best ever not to hold the title belt, which I will always feel someone should be slapped upside the head for. Piper deserves this, because he gave an awful lot to the industry, did his very best to make people look good and make wrestling interesting. I look forward to hopefully hearing a couple words for him, though I suspect I’ll have to settle for a Hogan speech that may in fact turn out to be a bathroom break for me. I don’t care what Hogan has to say anymore.
Lastly, on this topic, I’d like to see Curt Hennig inducted in 2006, because he’s my favorite ever.
Roddy Piper and Steve Austin
Not a match so much, but they’re obviously pushing the potential for conflict. Steve Austin is going to go over, of course, with Piper putting him there. I’m not really looking forward to this, which isn’t to say I’d rather not see it, I’m lukewarm to the whole idea. Stone Cold hasn’t been involved in anything significant in some time, and I thought his whole sheriff angle was stupid. Worse, I found the fact that he drank and drove his ATV around every Monday, on camera, was despicable. Impressionable teenagers, and like it or not they exist in abundance, watched that and no doubt picked up on the fact that the WWE was pushing Austin as ‘cool’, making what he did cool by extension. Piper has been off TV even longer, after a run on Smackdown that he’s supposed to have lost for a candid interview, though I suspect there’s a bit more to the story. I just don’t think these guys have anything left to offer the company as performers. They should be honored for their achievements, and rather than see Piper’s pit, I’d like to see Austin inducted with Hogan, maybe even working a program with him as the two greatest draws in Wrestling history. That, at least, is something you could build to a bit.
Big Show vs. Akemono
If I misspelled the big sumo guy’s name, sue me, I’d never heard of him before, which doesn’t exactly set me apart from the rest of Smackdown’s fans. Word from those who attended the show is that the announcement that Big Show would be facing him in a sumo match got zero reaction, though the edited show did seem to have a reaction dubbed over. That’s something that hurts Smackdown in my opinion, the taped show, where they shoot retakes and make the audience wait while they set up elaborate “JBL Celebration of Excellence” type nights, which apparently had the audience sitting and doing nothing for around forty five minutes. That kills your crowd, and when you’re watching, regardless of the cheers you hear, you can see that no one in the first six rows is moving. This guy has no history with the North American audience, regardless of how big a superstar he is elsewhere. If it’s a legit sumo match, I expect Big Show to be destroyed in a matter of seconds, which would hurt the WWE, if it’s a work, I expect show to win after trying to carry a non-wrestler through a match, and then leave hoping he can forget the whole thing.
Me, I’d have made Big Show the sixth man in that ladder match, and move him over to Raw on a “Loan” until Mania. Not a full time move, but something where he could be built up as a favorite, only to use him putting one of the smaller guys over.
The “Money in the Bank” Ladder Match
I don’t like the name for this one, though otherwise it looks like a solid piece of entertainment. I don’t really care who wins, though my money is on Edge. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Wrestlemania column without predictions. Perry Frances wrote a whole column on this match, but I had some different opinions. I don’t see Christian winning it, as the winner is going to go on to challenge for the belt at some point, and Christian is a solid Mid-Card performer. I don’t mean to say he’s not talented, but he has a definite purpose on Raw, he makes the up-and-comers look good, and a couple times a year, he makes sure that the Intercontinental Title still matters. That alone makes me feel like he’s going to be saved for winning the belt from Shelton, who’s just not doing anything with it right now. I don’t think Shelton’s going to win either, since Batista is the heavy favorite in his match, and face vs. face isn’t going to cut it so early into Batista’s first title reign. The same is true of Kane, who’s physically compatible with Batista, but he would suffer if he switched back to heel so soon after turning face to feud with Snitsky. Kane is in the match so that he has something to do at Mania. Chris Jericho’s a possibility, if he turns heel, but that’d have to happen pretty quickly for it to make sense, and he is enjoying a recent resurgence in his popularity as a face, so that doesn’t seem particularly likely. Edge, on the other hand, has been gaining momentum as a heel for some time, including a PPV win over Shawn Michaels, and has been putting forth a top tier effort with his matches lately. If the WWE is planning on taking Triple H out of the title scene for a while, which I strongly suspect they will, maybe after a rematch at Backlash to establish Batista’s worth as a champion, maybe not, then we’re going to need someone else to step up and provide a credibly challenge. Edge has clearly been interested in the belt for a while now, and fits the bill perfectly. The match itself, with the exception of Kane, is looking to be one of the potential show stealers, though I can think of one match that I’m looking forward to more in terms of pure wrestling showmanship.
Paul London vs. Chavo Guerrero
In my opinion, and I know I’m not alone in this, Paul London is the most talented wrestler alive today, not only in the WWE, but the world over. He’s a phenomenal flier, an accomplished technician, and he has a well-earned knowledge of how to pace a match. On top of that, he’ll bump his ass off for anyone and everyone. This is my pick for match of the night, if it’s given enough time to play out properly, and I expect to see a nice, meaningful reign by London as the Cruiserweight champ. On this subject, I have to say that I’m disgusted with the petulant children that make up a significant percentage of the IWC, who have whined and bitched about not seeing enough of Paul London since he got signed. Now, when we’re seeing London in a feud, even a low-key one heading in Mania, how do these whining, pissing little bastards react? They complain about his coat and boots, upset at the fact that he’s dressed, in their opinions, like a pimp. I really do wish that I had the ability to reach through the internet and just cyber-slap some of these people, while yelling “learn to compromise, you little bastards!”
You cannot possibly get everything you want, nor will enjoy every part of every (any) show. That’s life, and expecting that someone is going to do better isn’t only unreasonable, but it’s a pretty clear indicator that you as a human being have a lot of growing up to do. I hate these fans, and I think that they’d be better of watching Friends repeats. They’re a discredit to those of us who aren’t fourteen or mildly retarded.
Chavo brings his usual stuff to the table, he’s a solid foil for anyone to work with, though I really expect this to be ‘The Paul London” show in terms of ‘oohs and ahhs’ throughout the match.
Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme
Probably the single most hated match on the card, I really don’t think people have a lot to worry about. I think, at the very least, we’ll get some entertaining stuff out of Trish, and I don’t expect it to be a terribly long match. I don’t think we’ll see Christy win, as the WWE have been taking the Women’s championship a bit more seriously these days, but if Hemme puts her hours in training, it could be quite passable, all things considered.
Randy Orton vs. The Undertaker
Of all the matches, this is the one I’m looking forward to the least. The Undertaker’s gimmick hasn’t held the same appeal to me that it did when he was in his prime, and the fact that he’s gone back to being the dead man after having a wife and home in Texas just doesn’t click anymore. On top of that, he’s older, and now he just looks like a man in eyeliner. Still, the fans like him, though this is maintained because of the WWE’s very sparse use of him in matches, I don’t think that Taker is going to be able to go the distance in this one, nor do I think they have time to build up a lot of heat for this match. Orton is looking to recover some of his momentum, and for reasons beyond me is apparently resisting a return to his heel roots with the writing team. Orton was on fire as the intercontinental champion, putting together fantastic promos and matches, and really exciting me as a fan. He did some great stuff with RVD, and his ‘Legend Killer’ gimmick had a ton of momentum pretty early on. Everyone is pretty clear on how badly Orton’s title run was botched, and while we all like to point fingers and say we could have done better, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and the idea looked pretty good on paper. The speed at which he went from face to heel, combined with the lack of buildup for his match up against Benoit hurt him, and the sudden turn from Triple H took the rest of the wind out of his sails. People fault Triple H for winning the title back off of Orton so quickly, but it was done to give him an appropriate amount of time to build towards a feud with Batista, which started with Triple H’s first PPV title defense in the Elimination Chamber. Orton could regain a lot of momentum if he defeated Taker at Mania, and spent weeks claiming he’d retired the big man, only to have the Undertaker show up on Raw several weeks later, coaxing Orton over to Smackdown to feud with him before ultimately moving onto a supposed ‘Dream-Feud’ against Cena. Orton started off and Smackdown, and I think that he’d fit in very well there.
There has been talk of this being Taker’s retirement match, but I honestly expect him to have one more run as champion before finally putting away his boots and eyeliner and taking a position as Road Agent with the company, if not higher up the management ladder. I am happy that they went this match instead of Undertaker/Kane vs. Heidenreich/Snitsky, even though Gene Snitsky is a passable worker these days, we’ve seen the individual feuds too many times for this match to have anything to offer besides the one-time pop for Kane/Taker teaming together again. It would have ended up as a terrible squash match, and I’m happier not seeing it.
Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
A lot of people are saying that this match is going to steal the show, and it very well could, if not for Paul London and the Ladder match. Still, I would have loved to see these guys go at it in their respective primes, because that would have been really something. As it stands, Shawn still has it when he wants, and it all depends on how he’s feeling that night. Angle is hurt, and we all know pretty well that his neck isn’t better at all, and his quick-fix surgery just didn’t get the job done. I doubt he expected it to, as Angle is a ‘play-through-the-pain’ kind of guy, and would rather work hurt than stay at home and rehab for a year. Angle is still the best overall performer on Smackdown, and Shawn is hands down one of the best ever in the WWE. The potential is there, and they’ve still got some time to build up some heat moving into it. They look to have some good chemistry, and Angle really carried the point across when he cut the video promo on Raw last week. Once again, there’s talk of this being Angle’s last match, which I doubt for the same reason as I doubt it’s Takers. I expect Angle to be the one to eventually beat John Cena, and I look forward to one more title run from my Olympic Hero.
JBL vs John Cena
I am one of the people who’s been fine with JBL from the beginning, as opposed to one of the growing number that have come to accept him as a decent or even good champion. I think JBL is a great champion, but then again, I’m looking at what it is he was expected to do. Sure, he’s not putting on the best matches ever, but that’s not exactly his purpose. People have complained endlessly about how few clean wins he’s had, including my good friend the Big Timboski, who wants very much for every match in every federation to be done as realistically as possible. I understand his point of view, I just think that he and those like him are doing exactly what it is that they’re supposed to. JBL is supposed to make you angry, he’s supposed to make you want to see him lose the belt. His one purpose was to hold the belt for so long that we’d be desperate to see him lose it and then hand it over to Cena. He’s supposed to be an inferior worker, he’s supposed to be seen as an undeserving champion, that’s the whole point, that’s the gimmick. JBL is loosely based on President Bush right now, and his story is one of mediocrity to self-professed greatness, and it fits perfectly. Cena is riding high lately, and if he can maintain his momentum into Mania, he’ll make a hell of a champion. Many people are saying it’s too early for Cena to hold the belt, but he’s been a solid contributor to Smackdown since the day he started, and has the support of all of the casual fans, whether we as smarks think he’s paid his dues adequately or not. It’s not going to win match of the year, but I’m looking forward to it.
Triple H vs Batista
This is the match of the night in terms of build-up and fan anticipation, and if the WWE can hold off putting Batista and Triple H together in Triple Threat or Tag Team matches prior to the show, if they can have Batista and Triple H meet for the first time (not counting dark matches/house shows) at Mania, then there’s going to be a fever pitch built up around the match. I myself am eagerly anticipating the match-up, and while I don’t think it’s going to be the best match of the night, it is going to be the most emotional, and it’s the one that has me most interested in the show. It is absolutely critical, in my opinion, that these two don’t meet in the ring prior to Mania, as neither one of them has the ability to wrestle two completely unique matches with the other. Batista, much as I like him, isn’t the caliber of worker as Triple H, not yet. Batista has time and potential to grow, and I anticipate a hell of a title run from him. This match is pretty much the lock of the night, and if Triple H does win, it’s a definite swerve on the behalf of the WWE, and one I can’t see a lot of fans reacting positively to.
That’s my Wrestlemania Rundown, I hope you’ve enjoyed it, I know it’s a pretty standard topic, but what can I say, I’m marking out a little bit as mania draws closer.
Until next time,
Take it easy
Peace and Love