Monday Morning Backlash: The Road to Wrestlemania 28 (John Cena, The Rock, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan)

So, I came back for this? Last year’s build up to Wrestlemania was epic. The show itself faltered, but Edge’s return with Del Rio’s ascension, Michael Cole getting unreal heat in his Jerry Lawler feud, Undertaker and Triple H’s Johnny Cash fueled promised epic, CM Punk’s tenure as Nexus leader coming to a head as he faced Randy Orton in the rare battle where WWE actually embraced continuity, and, of course, the Rock’s return and promised involvement in The Miz vs. John Cena. Sure, the show utterly failed to live up to it’s promise, but the card itself was built superbly. Much was left unresolved, but WWE seemed to be doing so in order to really build to this year’s Wrestlemania, and with The Rock and John Cena promised to headline, expectations were sky high.

All of this is to say, once more, I came back for this? The build to this year’s Wrestlemania has been historically bad – the last one this poorly constructed prior to the show was likely Wrestlemania 11. First of all, the show has precisely 3-matches set up, none of which could be called hot angles.

The two title matches, along with our dream match, which we’ll discuss momentarily, seem to be set. Both have the potential to be excellent matches, but a month out neither has much in the way of build. Sheamus won the Royal Rumble, and, while he’s over, he hasn’t had a real feud in months (was Mark Henry the real last feud for Sheamus? What am I forgetting?). He’s been casually beating people up for ages, but not in such a concerted push as to make him a guy fans are rabid to see take the belt. To counter this, WWE has Daniel Bryan, a guy getting superb heel heat as a mix between the Honky Tonk Man and Brian Pillman, which is both more strange and more entertaining than it sounds. Of course, he’s been booked to have no shot against Sheamus, and, barring a screwjob finish, which WWE unequivocally should not do at Wrestlemania, so the entire interest of the crowd rests in seeing Bryan get his comeuppance. Plenty of angles have worked where that’s the payoff, but unless it’s a total squash, Big Show is a far more natural fit here, since he’s who Bryan has been tormenting. There’s always a chance other Smackdown top guys Randy Orton and Big Show get inserted in here, but that only further waters down an affair already badly in need of a strainer.

The Raw title match has almost as little build as the Smackdown one, with Chris Jericho seemingly set to challenge CM Punk. Punk has been established as a top guy and best of the world, so the perennially jealous Jericho has been claiming that Punk is merely ripping this off. With two of the best promo guys in the world, this should write itself. They have an issue – let them go out and talk it up! So, instead of letting Jericho prove he’s the best and earn his title shot, they shoved Punk in the Elimination Chamber, made it for the title, and, again, diluted the intended money match. These two are remarkably skilled and, since they have a month, WWE can likely still make something memorable, but by this point fans could and should be rabid for Punk and Jericho to finally be in the ring together, not patiently awaiting some build up.

And, aside from the card’s “dream match,” that’s it. With John Cena and the Rock set to be a huge draw, it’s like WWE decided to take this year off of booking a compelling card. There are, however, two problems here. First is that Cena has been in the silliest feud in recent memory with Kane, Zack Ryder and Eve. Cena’s been on top long enough to not be damaged by this, but with no more PPVs between here and Wrestlemania, the silly love triangle must be dropped immediately. The focus should be on Rock and Cena, not Cena and Ryder, and Rock should in no way be made to feel even slightly less special by being involved in this soap opera.

And then there’s the other risk – no matter what, WWE will have a near unprecedented amount of eyes on them leading to Wrestlemania. Rock’s presence, let alone any other celebrity, ensures that. Old wrestling fans will be checking in to get the big build up, and, as they were once wrestling fans, could potentially be won back by a superior product. Instead of that, however, we get Cena fighting a demon who wants to bring out his darkside while he accidentally steals his best friend’s girl and tries not to punch that same friend in the face. And, hey, if that doesn’t hook the casual fan there’s always… the utter lack of storylines throughout the rest of the card. WWE seem to be putting all their eggs in the basket that if Cena goes heel at Wrestlemania, fans will tune in to see where it goes – but wouldn’t that be more compelling if WWE bothered showing that they were capable of compelling stories at all?

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