For Your Consideration…The Long and Winding Road to Wrestlemania

Welcome to FYC.

First up, let me apologize for missing the last month (haven’t used that sentence in a while). Thankfully, I had a legitimate excuse. Yes, feel sympathy for me, as I had to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I know, get out the hankies. I was selected by my law school to compete in the Tulane Sports Law Moot Court Competition, which is a fancy way of saying a mock Supreme Court argument. Basically, I spent Tuesday through Friday in N’awlins drinking Grenades and seeing boobs under the guise of educational endeavor (and just in case my girlfriend is reading this, boobs was referring to yokels). Then two weeks later I got engaged to my incredibly understanding and incredible girlfriend (she was willing to sit through a Scrap Iron booked ROH show on a Friday night)

So, this consumption of alcohol and culture sort of obstructed my ability to watch WWE programming, which meant no column last month, which meant I missed out on my chance to say something I’ve wanted to say for a while now…

I TOLD YOU SO.

I called it and I called it first. Look back at my first column of this year and see how I called step by step the entire HHH/Orton situation. I talked about how Hunter had to confront Orton, and that this would free up Edge, and that having Matt and Jeff going at it would allow the two title matches to flow freely. I’m glad the WWE finally took the logical steps necessary to build a positive storyline towards Wrestlemania.

Rather than go forward with the column I planned on writing (entitled “The Passion of the Christian: How the WWE is not Misusing Captain Charisma”) but instead I’m going with a more in-depth look at the current Wrestlemania card. Namely, I’m looking at the goals that the WWE needs to achieve for each of these matches. This is not fantasy booking but rather an honest look at what the company needs to have happen in order for Mania to succeed on all levels.

    For Your Consideration…The Long and Winding Road to Wrestlemania

WWE Championship Match: Triple H v. Randy Orton:

This is the crown jewel of the card, the storyline that only Hunter could pull off. By revealing that he and Stephanie are married, the “worst secret in pro wrestling” is finally out. Great, now let’s make it count. The match will rightfully serve as the main event of the pay-per-view because it is the perfect 25th anniversary match; the heir apparent to the McMahon fortune (and the book) versus the guy that Hunter not only made but the guy that will be THE man in the coming months and years. The past/present versus the future.

The storyline has been met with criticism that Hunter’s gone too crazy, but I like it. I like it because the fact that the match is for the WWE Title is secondary. This is as personal a match as we’ve ever gotten, with the power hungry scorned protégé following his old mentor’s playbook and terrorizing the boss and his family. Orton is playing the part of Triple H and the part of Steve Austin; the cerebral assassin who has declared war on the boss. Randy has handled the role admirably well, with this past week’s handcuffing incident the best moment he’s had since his return. People will now pay good money to see Hunter get his revenge.

Ah, but this isn’t about stroking Creative’s ego, it’s about pointing out the goals of the match. First and foremost, this storyline will make Randy Orton a full fledged heel. No more tweener, no more “cool” heel, just a plain old heel. He’s part coward, part aggressor. He’s half psychotic and half calculating. Randy Orton will come out of Wrestlemania the biggest heel the WWE has had since Hunter’s heyday.

The next major goal is to cement Triple H as a babyface. He can no longer be the rebel if he’s the establishment, so why not make him human? He’s a guy who’s family has been targeted and attacked, and now the ghosts of his past are returning to destroy him. He has to face the mistakes he’s made and try to save those closest to him. Who knew that Triple H could be the most compelling and sympathetic character in the company? Now the fans have a reason to cheer for him and support him above and beyond the fact that he delivers a crotch chop.

The final goal is to put the belt on Randy Orton. That’s right folks, Wrestlemania 25 has to end with Randy Orton wearing the comically terrible spinning belt in order for this show to be a success. Imagine the heat he’ll have; Randy Orton wins the Rumble, takes out his boss, takes out his defacto bosses, threatens to shut down the company and then faces down the warrior who is sent to destroy him and…wins?!

Randy Orton with the WWE Title the night after Wrestlemania gives the WWE the ability to print money. The bigger question is how? How does Randy beat Hunter without Hunter losing his credibility? Granted, having Randy drop Triple H with an RKO and pinning him would be big news, but it doesn’t give Hunter any recourse. Having Legacy interfere doesn’t help either, as Teddy and Cody don’t have any true heat on them to make the run-in count. My suggestion? Why not revisit Shane?

Having Shane McMahon interfere to help Randy and be there to raise his hand gives you the great “holy shit” moment to end Wrestlemania. Picture the confetti and fireworks going off as Shane, Teddy and Cody raise Orton’s hand in victory. That image would signify that something new and different is happening in the WWE. But what’s Shane’s motivation? Well, he’s a third generation star so he fits the bill. But…didn’t Randy beat the crap outta him? Yeah, but Hunter didn’t come to Shane’s aid. Hunter came to Stephanie’s aid. Suddenly, Shane’s the guy getting muscled out of his inheritance and his role in the company is going to be marginalized. By aligning with Randy, he’s working with someone who could finally secure Shane the spot as #1 McMahon. Then, with Stephanie and Vince still neutralized, Shane makes his power grab and we’ve got several months of Hunter fighting his own brother-in-law and Legacy. This gives Mania an immediate impact point and a “moment” not seen since Wrestlemania X-7.

World Title Match: John Cena v. Edge v. The Big Show

This was the match I called months ago. The GM love triangle thing doesn’t make much sense, but you can’t argue that Show doesn’t deserve another Mania main event. After all, he didn’t come back last February just to get to feud with Khali. Putting him in the main event validates his return.

You can’t have a main event for the World Heavyweight Title without Edge. Edge has worked his ass off as champion and pulled off the Guerrerro storyline when everyone counted him out. Edge has been the number one heel in the company for months, and this is the reward that he deserves.

John Cena is the necessary evil. I know I’m the jackass because I think Cena’s great. He works harder than most of the roster and he keeps his nose clean. He does whatever he is asked of, and over the past twelve months he’s been asked to do a lot of extra promotion and even a few jobs. High profile jobs I might add. He needs to be in the match, even if he’s just tacked on. This is the second year in a row that Cena’s the odd man out, but after Mania he’ll have what to do. I don’t think the WWE is going to move him to Smackdown, so keeping him on RAW means he can feud with Orton while Hunter is busy freaking out about what happened with Shane.

So, onto the match itself and the goals. First and foremost, this is Edge’s match to lose. The WWE wouldn’t put the gold on Show on the biggest show of the year. Show’s reward is just being in a main event, so he’s superfluous. In fact, if I were Big Show, I’d try to take some time off so that my return would be fresh. John Cena’s not going to win the match because RAW is finally getting the WWE Title back (and I think we can all agree that it’s retarded that the Cena-inspired belt is held by Triple H on Smackdown). In the end, Edge can win the belt and reunite with his GM sweetheart to continue their dominance as the best heat seekers in the business.

Once Mania’s over, Edge can re-feud with Taker for a bit and maybe even drop the gold so that Taker can have yet another “one last run”. Cena can go back to feuding with Orton, maybe even headlining Summerslam. Big Show can continue to do his “damn, he’s big” shtick and maybe even feud with a champion Taker for some slow main events.

The biggest goal of this match is to not dwarf the Triple H/Orton match but still sound like a “big” match, and they accomplish that in spades.

Extreme Rules Match: Jeff Hardy v. Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy is making this feud count, and for that he deserves a whole lot more credit than he’s getting. Matt is a great whiney heel, and I think a heel Hardy can feud with everyone from his already proven foe MVP to John Cena (for a fresh match-up). Having this be Extreme Rules ensures that both guys can go out there and kill each other, and this blood feud is second only to the main event in terms of general storyline interest. My guess is that Jeff Hardy goes over, but I don’t think this is the definitive conclusion we’re hoping for.

Being Extreme Rules means that Jeff and Matt can do bad things to each other. Jeff’s actions against Kendrick and Dolph have been vicious, which makes me think he’ll turn it up a notch at Mania. He’ll beat Matt and beat Matt bad. Real bad. Bad to the point where Jeff regrets what he’s done. Matt can play it up and be wheelchair bound, preaching about how his reckless brother is sadistic as well. Who does that to flesh and blood? Suddenly the out-for-revenge Jeff Hardy is filled with remorse and self-doubt. Matt can continue his mind games for several more weeks and the WWE can make money off of the inevitable rematch before Jeff goes back for a World Title run.

MITB Ladder Match: C.M. Punk v. Kofi Kingston v. Mark Henry v. MVP v. Shelton Benjamin v. Finlay v. Kane v. Christian

This is hardly the most star-studded MITB match, and it is hardly the most capable. Henry and Kane can’t do high flying, Finlay’s brawling alone won’t dazzle, so it’s on the young high fliers to amaze us. Mark Henry and Kane are in this match because for the life of me I can’t think of how else to get them on the card. Mark Henry could sit out Mania and I’d be okay with it, but Kane deserves a prominent slot on the card. He works hard and is nearing the end, so why not put him in there? Hell, he could even win the match as a reward for his years of dedicated service.

Kofi Kingston is going to be in there to show he can do some spots without blowing them by half, which makes me wonder why he hasn’t been grounded. So we’re down to Punk, Shelton, Finlay, Porter and Christian. Finlay isn’t flashy so he won’t win. Punk won’t win it because having him get it two years in a row doesn’t do anything for him (not to mention the fact that there’s no interest in pushing him by the front office). Christian could get it, but does the WWE want to waste the MITB push on a guy going for the ECW Title, let alone a guy that Vince has minimal faith in?

So we’ve got MVP or Shelton. MVP’s losing streak would have turned around big time if he won the suitcase, but he already captured the US Title so this wouldn’t be a major asset to him. My guess? Shelton Benjamin gets it. Not only does Shelton win, but he’ll cash it in after a long run of teasing it. Against whom? How about the Undertaker? Shelton had a series of matches with Taker earlier this year, and having Taker face a younger skilled guy can only held the older Deadman. The best part is that Shelton can be the first MITB winner to LOSE when he cashes it in, so it makes the cash-in seem less predictable in the future.

This match would give us a new main event guy in Shelton Benjamin, undoubtedly taking the slot that would have belonged to The Brian Kendrick.

25 Diva Ms. Wrestlemania

While most will call this the useless T&A filler, I’ll call it the useful T&A filler. First off, the WWE Divas deserve a payday. They are now being used to fill at least three segments a week, and most of them do an admirable job. The WWE is in an awkward position because no Diva has yet to break out like Trish Stratus or Lita. Mickie James seemed like the crazy heel heir apparent, but her ill-timed face turn and subsequent push (not to mention her ever-expanding pudge) has made her a non-entity. Same goes for Melina, who is NOT a good face. She played a great evil heel and needs to be allowed to do that.

The remaining women’s roster is comprised of girls trying hard to not suck (Maria, Kelly Kelly) and girls who can work but just don’t have anything to work with (Beth Phoenix and the surprisingly capable Michelle McCool who is reveling in her heel turn). Picking a solid one-on-one match would be incredibly difficult. If they went champion versus champion, the crowd would sit on its hands. If they threw some of the hot girls out there (again, Maria & Kelly Kelly), the match would suck wind and die a horrible death. By tossing out a bunch of ladies, we get the much-needed T&A aspect of the show for the fans, we let the girls get their faces on television and we allow the WWE to cart out some nostalgia picks (I always love seeing Sunny make an appearance).

Anyone who has issues with this match clearly doesn’t understand the WWE philosophy. If we just got a four hour show with no filler, the live audience of 70,000 would burn out (after all, this ain’t an ROH crowd), plus having the Super Bowl of wresting without Diva action would be a sleight against the hard working women of the company. No, this isn’t a true match, but it isn’t a Playboy Pillow Fight or Paddle on a Pole contest either.

As for the winner, I think it’s a pick ‘em. The WWE does have two capable wrestlers as their women’s champions, so neither of them necessarily needs the push. If Michelle McCool wins, she’s cemented as the #1 contender and a monster heel. If Maria or Kelly Kelly win, the fans will get a nice pop. Hopefully the WWE doesn’t kneejerk and give it to a returning guest…unless it’s Victoria, who deserves a rightful sendoff.

WWE & World Tag Title Unification Lumberjack Match: The Colons v. Miz & Morrison

Everyone likes Miz & Morrison. They are by far the MVPs of the past year. How the hell did Creative turn a certified lower micard reality show star and a talented but directionless former tag champ into the hottest act in wrestling? Oh, by letting them go out there and do amped up versions of themselves. What a wacky formula! It’s like you can almost hear Vince’s gruff “Gawdamnit kid, let them go out there and be themselves with the volume turned up…now get me some Muscle Milk!”.

The Colons are another story entirely. Carlito is the preeminent failed push of the Ruthless Aggression era. He set the path for Mister Kennedy and MVP as the man who gets a skyrocket push and then fizzles out for a myriad of reasons. Carlito has at least three times by my count been on his way out of the company, only for him to get pulled back in. I don’t have a huge problem with Carlito. I don’t care for his attitude most of the time, but when he’s in the ring he usually delivers a decent match. Primo hasn’t shown me anything too incredible, but his limited appearances have served to highlight his strengths (speed) and hide his weaknesses (kinda sloppy). Carlito and Primo appearing at Wrestlemania is simply to appease Colon, who would have gone unused otherwise.

I don’t like the unification of the tag titles. I didn’t mind the fact that there were two separate tag belts, and I think that there were two decent tag divisions for the WWE to work with. On the other hand, whoever are the unified tag champs are the undisputed #1 tag team in wrestling, and for that reason alone, I think it has to go to Miz & Morrison.

The goal of this match is to highlight the fact that the WWE has the best tag wrestling in the industry. Miz & Morrison are great, the Colons can do some flashy moves, and the general fanbase will buy into whatever the company is selling. Putting the belts on the ECW branded Miz & Morrison would allow challengers from RAW and Smackdown to go after the gold while still keeping the illusion of split brands intact. I don’t see what giving the Colons the gold would do for anybody, especially considering no one is buying a ticket to see them.

Vince’s biggest knock was that no one pays for tag wrestling. I think people pay for Miz & Morrison. Their Dirt Sheet segments have been allowed to main event ECW shows, and their tag prowess has been spotlighted against DX and Cena. Putting them over as unified champs on the biggest show of the year will only up their stock. On the other hand, putting the belts on the Colons frees the WWE up to split Miz & Morrison. I personally don’t think it’s time for them to break apart, especially considering the mileage they can get out of an ECW exclusive tag division.

The last goal for this match is to give all of the other guys on the roster a payday. Without an ECW battle royal, this is the only way for hard working superstars like Jamie Noble and Evan Bourne to be on the big show. The match could be a great spotlight or it could be a quick train wreck, but on the plus side it’s tag belts being defended and it’s allowing a lot of superstars to get to show their faces (though it boggles my mind how Kozlov went from being pushed as a monster heel to being relegated to being a lumberjack while Mark Henry is in the MITB…really?!).

Rowdy Roddy Piper, Superfly Jimmy Snuka & Ricky the Dragon Steamboat w/ Ric Flair & Mickey Rourke v. Chris Jericho

I couldn’t hate this match any more if I tried. I know the original idea was for Chris Jericho to face Rourke, but THIS is the best Creative could come up with?! There are so many things wrong with this match that I don’t know where to begin.

First and foremost is the format of the match. Three-on-one doesn’t benefit anyone. By having the Legends look weak, you’re turning Hall of Famers into jokes. By having them look strong, you’re making a legit main event superstar look weak. Second, nobody really wants to see Piper and Snuka. Seeing Steamboat in the ring one more time is quite possibly one of the biggest draws that the company has, so why waste him here? If Ricky could possibly go, PLEASE give us one last one-on-one bout. If he can’t go, why sully his legacy with this? The third issue is having Flair and Rourke sitting ringside. Do I need to see Mickey throw a punch? Does it enhance Mania? Maybe we get a “moment”, but it’s going to be staged unless Jericho pulls a master stroke and makes it seem slightly natural.

Chris Jericho made the most out of this feud, I’ll give him that. His weekly promos were fantastic, but sadly they were building towards the Jericho/Flair match that can never be. I’m almost disappointed that they didn’t allow Shawn Michaels to be the guy to defend Flair’s honor, because another Michaels/Jericho Mania match would have ruled (even if it meant Taker/Vlad). Alas, we’re getting this (though for my money I would have voted on Lawler being the guy to face Chris.). What’s the point? I think I might know…

If the WWE wants a feel-good moment, then Jericho will pick apart the Legends until there’s a ref bump and Rourke and Flair help lay out Chris for the pin. That’s the first and most obvious scenario. Scenario two is that the ref is out and Steve Austin comes out to stun Jericho for the big fan pop. Scenario three, the scenario I think is most intriguing, is to have Flair turn on the Legends and align with Jericho. Having Ric Flair come to the realization that Jericho is right would give Chris Jericho nuclear heat. If Flair were to cut a promo about how he isn’t allowed to wrestle anymore despite being the greatest of all time yet washed up has-beens can still compete would be one hell of a firey promo. This would also preserve Jericho as a strong heel who can now impose his will as he sees fit. Suddenly, a Jericho/HBK feud makes sense. It also gives Flair a role on television for a little while without having to force him into a match. This would allow the match to actually “count” as opposed to just being yet another throw-away moment.

Shawn Michaels v. The Undertaker

This was another match I called quite a while ago, and I think makes the most sense. This is the 25th anniversary of Mania, so why not put the two “loyal” guys in a spotlight match? Putting the Undertaker’s streak against Michael’s Mr. Wrestlemania moniker is a great attraction that doesn’t cost the WWE anything. There’s no need for a special ref or a celebrity insert yet this still feels like a “big time” match. Neither superstar really needs anything from this match, so the only pressure they have is to just deliver something we know they are capable of…a big match on the grand stage that they built.

The outcome of this match is irrelevant but pretty clear, Undertaker has to go over. Shawn Michaels at this point in his career can take any loss they throw at him and still be a viable main eventer, so why not add him to the list of people who succumbed to “the streak”. While Taker might be undefeated, a lot of his wins were less than quality. A-Train, Giant Gonzalez and King Kong Bundy don’t hold the marquee value they once did (if ever), and putting him over HBK adds even more legitimacy to his claims. With Shawn, all he has to do is deliver a few moments and he keeps his nickname. This match doesn’t have a lot of longterm goals since it won’t have any longterm consequences. Think HBK/Hogan and Taker/HHH; they do the match, they have a finish, they move on. Shawn’s got some feuds waiting for him on RAW with Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and maybe even Triple H, while Undertaker’s got Edge, Big Show and maybe Shelton Benjamin.

Intercontinental Title Match: Rey Mysterio v. John Bradshaw Layfield

This match is an add-on like last year’s JBL/Finlay match. Bradshaw’s earned his slot on Mania. Rey’s earned his slot on Mania. Neither one of them have earned a main event slot this year, so this doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities about their value. JBL is eyeing retirement again and wants to retire with gold. Rey could take the loss and still bounce back to win the gold the next night. Then again, Rey could win, having retired Bradshaw twice.

I think the goal here is to let JBL have his final win at Mania, retire with the gold and ride off into the sunset. Then, the next night on RAW, the WWE can do an Intercontinental Title Tournament that can fill several segments for the next few weeks. Does it suck having Mysterio job again? Sure. But why not let him put over Bradshaw if it means freeing up a big slot on the roster? Oh, if only there was a way to fit JBL into a commentary booth. Hey, WGN Superstars might need a broadcaster…

This has been for your consideration.

Agree? Disagree? E-mail me at awheeler316@yahoo.com and next week I’ll print your Mania predictions.

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