PRECAP: WRESTLEMANIA 21
The match: HHH vs. Batista
The stakes: HHH’s World Title
The hype: The single best-built feud in I-don’t-know-how-long culminates on the big stage for the big prize. Batista plays off HHH better than anyone (because he’s allowed to), and the tremendous build slow-burned until Dave The Barbarian finally got the chance to usurp his ex-Evolution captain. Why is this match so anticipated by fans? For starters, unlike every other one of HHH’s opponents over the years, Dave hasn’t been portrayed as a complete moron.
The hope: Batista is the NEXT “Next Big Thing.”
The hell?: HHH’s first promo building to the match was a forced bit of nonsense where he claimed to be Dave’s “father.” Ten years ago, Shawn Michaels cut the “you’re gonna meet your maker” promo on Diesel, only he did it much, much better.
Best-case scenario: Dave tears through HHH decisively. This match CANNOT go too long and Dave CANNOT spend too much time selling on the defensive. I think they ought to just rip the script from the HHH-Warrior match at WM12, myself. Pedigree, no-sell, finisher, pin.
Worst-case scenario: The match goes 20 minutes or longer, and Dave has to sell way too much. Oh yeah, and HHH pulls a last-minute power play before beating Dave clean with the pedigree using one of his bullshit excuses.
“This is just the first chapter of the story.”
“He hasn’t connected with the fans yet.”
“I’ll do the job at Backlash, I promise.”
So do I wanna see it? Nope. Not only am I sick of HHH, but Big Dave is unproven. Most of all, those who do not learn from HHHistory are doomed to relive it. Over and over and over again.
The match: JBL vs. John Cena
The stakes: JBL’s WWE Title
The hype: To earn the shot, Cena won an 8-man #1C tournament, besting Booker T, Orlando Jordan, and Kurt Angle respectively. As the conservative millionaire vs. the street-smart rapper, it’s another “class war” angle. To be fair, the promos have been decent enough, but not the level anything should be for a WM21 WWE Title bout.
The hope: Cena is their next breakout mainstream star, tapping into the youth of the nation (whom the WWE supposedly doesn’t market to).
The hell?: Four weeks before WM21, Cena lost his U.S. Title to JBL’s chief flunky Orlando on SD. Rick Rude-Ultimate Warrior this wasn’t, kids. Also, by doing the tournament, Cena has already knocked off his three most obvious challengers even if he does win the belt.
Best-case scenario: A hot brawl ends with Cena pinning JBL clean to capture the gold. SD fans then accept Cena as their new personal Jesus.
Worst-case scenario: It’s just like every other PPV match for either one of these guys over the last year that didn’t involve Kurt Angle.
So do I wanna see it? Hell, no. I don’t like either of these guys to begin with; throwing them together would be like a dogshit sandwich with extra pus.
The match: Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
The stakes: Two guys fighting over the right to be called “the greatest wrestler of our generation.” This is already a winner.
The hype: Michaels pitched Angle from the Royal Rumble, prompting Angle to do the “sore loser” bit and slap the ankle lock on Michaels at ringside after donging him with the steps. From there, the build has been balls-to-the-wall, between Angle leaving Michaels lying in a bloodbath, to HBK’s surprise receipt on SD, to Angle’s best promo in years (where he vowed to top all of HBK’s accomplishments in the weeks leading up to WM21). Great, great stuff.
The hope: A five-star classic fans will remember for years.
The hell?: As part of the “This Is Shawn’s Life” build, Marty Jannetty returned to the WWE for a cup of coffee (laced with GHB, no doubt). MJ wrestled on both Raw and SD in the same week. And the GMs approved this? No wonder no one takes the brand split seriously! Guys can just come back and run around willy-nilly wrestling wherever they please! Bah!
Best-case scenario: A true WM dream match that exceeds its high expectations, like only these two can deliver. If it happens, that would make it three classic WM dream matches in a row for both guys. (HBK-Y2J, HBK-HHH-Benoit; Angle-Lesnar, Angle-Eddie.)
Worst-case scenario: Angle breaks his neck lacing his boots before the match. Michaels loses his smile along with his luggage at LAX. But seriously, folks, even if this match falls below expectations, it should still be WELL worth watching.
So do I wanna see it? Absolutely! I can’t remember the last time the company built a match this well. Then there’s the fact that when it comes to match quality, these guys have produced more stars than Ron Jeremy’s casting couch.
The match: Undertaker vs. Randy Orton
The stakes: Undie’s unblemished WM win streak.
The hype: UT keeps breaking his own record, as Big Evil is undefeated at WM over the years. The Deadman’s precious 12-0-0 is on the line against Orton, who wishes to return to his roots as the WWE’s resident “Legend Killer.” And also, “over.” In 13 years, this is the first time UT’s streak is portrayed as truly being in jeopardy. (NOTE: I get into the ramapercussions of the streak itself a little later.)
The hope: Win, lose, or draw, Orton recaptures the magic he once wielded as the red-hot cocky legend-killing heel of yesteryear.
The hell?: It seems like a heel turn is on tap for young Randall, yet in the angle where he made the challenge, he RKO’ed Eric Bischoff, which was the most babyface thing he possibly could have done. And given Orton’s recent behind-the-scenes antics, is Jake Roberts really the right guy for him to be hanging around with right now?
Best-case scenario: It’s anywhere near as good as UT’s two other WM matches against members of Evolution.
Worst-case scenario: It’s like any of UT’s ten OTHER WM matches.
So do I wanna see it? No thanks. I’m interested in what the result is, but I have no desire to watch UT plod through a match with an injured Orton. I’ll be perfectly happy to read the result on the internet minutes after it happens, thank you very much.
The match: IC champion Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Kane (“Money In The Bank” 6-way ladder match)
The stakes: Winner gets a World Title shot “any time over the next 12 months.”
The hype: Possibilities abound. I fully expect the winner to get drafted to SD only to use the title shot as a loophole later on to shake things up. It’s just too convoluted for them NOT to do it.
The hope: Fans chant “ECW” and/or “Holy shit” for the spots.
The hell?: 12 months is a long time. What if one of them needs the dreaded neck surgery? Benoit did. So did Edge. Also, the burial of the IC Title continues. More on that later.
Best-case scenario: A well-booked spotfest where every guy has a moment to shine, but no one hogs the match.
Worst-case scenario: I don’t have a problem with any one of the six winning, but my biggest fear for this match is…well, what’s the title of my column again?
So do I wanna see it? Sure, I like all six of these guys, and I’m sure they’ll show us something new. With the three Chrisses in one match, you can’t go wrong.
The match: WWE Tag champion Eddie Guerrero vs. WWE Tag champion Rey Mysterio Jr.
The stakes: The honor of the Guerrero family.
The hype: Rey pinned Eddie clean on two consecutive SDs a few months back. They’re doing the “Rey has Eddie’s number” bit. Chavo Jr. got in his uncle’s ear and told him that in order to save face, he had to challenge Rey-Rey at WM21. Oh yeah, and they happen to be WWE Tag champs together, too.
The hope: That they’re telling the truth when they go around telling people they can TOP their five-star classic from Halloween Havoc 97.
The hell?: Rumors abound that the lads will do their split, followed by Eddie’s heel turn. Not only is Eddie the most popular wrestler of either brand, but to turn Eddie here is impossible. A Los Angeles crowd is just not going to boo Eddie Guerrero.
Best-case scenario: If they get anywhere NEAR the Havoc match in terms of quality, I’ll be one happy gringo.
Worst-case scenario: A non-finish, a run-in (cough*Chavito*cough), or just a screwjob in general. Like with HBK-Angle, it would almost take an act of God to ruin this match, especially in front of what is sure to be a white-hot LA crowd with a large number of Hispanic fans cheering on the two greatest Hispanic wrestlers to ever live. And I’m not being sarcastic in the least.
So do I wanna see it? Absolutely. Their TV match on 1/6/05 was tremendous and I fully expect this to exceed it. Great workers + Best friends = Bullseye.
The match: Big Show vs. Akebono
The stakes: A “sumo rules” match to determine, I dunno, who’s the baddest fatty in sports entertainment.
The hype: Well, they shook hands in the ring during the Japan edition of Smackdown. Then, weeks later, they farted out a weak television storyline, claiming that Akebono was talking smack about Show.
The hope: That this match gets a lot of pub in Japan, where Akebono used to be a big deal.
The hell?: American fans could care less about Akebono, and barely care about Show on a good day. Why this is a Wrestlemania match is anybody’s guess.
Best-case scenario: A quickie. In an edition of WON, Dave Meltzer suggested a ring-collapse for Show’s bodyslam of Akebono. That’s about the only thing that could salvage this, IMO.
Worst-case scenario: They go way too long (three minutes or more) and both are completely exposed as lummoxes. Then after the match, Akebono eats Rey Misterio and Eddie Guerrero, while Show eats the rest of the cruiserweight division.
So do I wanna see it? To channel David Spade from those Capital One commercials, Sum-NO rules! Akebo-NO! The Big NO!
The match: Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme
The stakes: Trish’s Women’s Title
The hype: Trish thinks Christy is a slut because she posed for Playboy. Hearing the word “slut” apparently gave Christy the idea of hiring Lita to train her for the big match.
The hope: That Christy’s Playboy sells strong enough to where fans accept her as the next mainstream diva. You know, like Sable and Chyna. Then she’ll quit right before her looks really go to hell. You know, like Sable and Chyna.
The hell?: Between her busy schedule of rehabbing her injured knee, being an animal rights activist, and cheating on her real-life boyfriend Matt Hardy with Edge, how the hell does Lita have TIME to train Christy? And what exactly is she training Christy to do, hmmmmmm? For that matter, how did Christy become the #1C for the Women’s Title on the biggest show of the year despite having never wrestled a match before?
Best-case scenario: Trish carries this to a passable match. A couple wardrobe malfunctions wouldn’t hurt, either.
Worst-case scenario: Christy does a worse job in her first big match than Jackie Gayda. Unlikely, but you never know.
So do I wanna see it? Pass. Real porn is cheaper, delivers better, and has more realistic storylines.
The angle: Piper’s Pit w/ Steve Austin
The stakes: Well, if Piper does a decent job, he just might get signed again.
The hype: Two of the most popular, outrageous characters in WWWFE history meet on-air for the first time.
The hope: Bowel-shaking pops for both. I’d file that under “G” for “gimmie.”
The hell?: Austin was originally scheduled to induct Piper into the HOF the night before WM21, which would have effectively blown the novelty of their first public meeting for the PPV. Someone finally realized this fact and remixed the HOF ceremony. Now Ric Flair will induct Piper.
Best-case scenario: A smart, fun diversion. If they can manage to sneak the rub onto one of the current guys, that would make it all the better. Unless it’s…
Worst-case scenario: …Muhammad Hassan. Also, I fear that the SAP feature might malfunction, leaving a nation of fans baffled as to just what the hell Piper is carrying on about.
So do I wanna see it? Ehhhhhhhh…not particularly. Piper hasn’t been lucid for years now, and there are limits to what even Austin can make watchable. Plus, I can guarantee that the “what” chant will be going in full force. I hate that damn thing.
Things I wanna see: 3
Things I don’t wanna see: 6
Trivbits and overall over-analysis:
This is the third WM in a row with no IC Title match. WM19 happened during a period when the IC Title was deactivated for several months. For WM20, then-champ Randy Orton was part of a 3-on-2 handicap tag match. If one match got me hooked on pro wrestling, it was Savage-Steamboat from WM3. I’ve always had a soft spot for the IC Title anyway, and its burial has been a huge source of frustration for me as a fan. That damn strap jumped the shark in 1998 the second they switched it from the classic best-looking-belt-ever to the “ovary” that’s been stinking up the lineage for years.
The World Tag Title matches haven’t sparked nearly as many show-stealers over the years (though the E&C-Hardys-Dudleys matches came damn close), but I still think it’s a damn shame that BOTH sets of tag titles have been so devalued that this will be the second WM in history with no tag title defense. (At WM3, Tag champs The Hart Foundation teamed with Danny Davis to beat The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana in a six-man tag.
Speaking of secondary titles, if the U.S. Title continues to be pooed uppon or even dropped altogether by WM22 (which is hardly out of the question), then John Cena and Big Show might just share history for being in the only U.S. Title match in Wrestlemania history (WMXX). A similar exclusive honor goes to Taka Michinoku and Aguila (a.k.a. Essa Rios) for having the only Light-Heavyweight Title match in WM history (WM14).
Note: Sharp-eyed readers have noticed my tendency to float in and out of Roman numerals. That’s because the milestone WMX and WMXX are largely referred to as just that, while it’s easier to list the others as real numbers. Besides, WMX and WMXX were two of the better WMs, and thus, they’re easier to remember. So what the hell, they deserve the Romies. I dunno, it’s just one of those weird things that a lot of us do when writing about WMs. Now you’re in the loop at no extra charge.
Now then, if we’re watching for anything on Sunday, it’s the three perfect WM streaks that are on the line.
1. Obviously, The Undertaker’s 12-0-0 monster.
2. Edge is also undefeated at WM, with 3-0-0.
3. And my personal favorite stat, Big Show has an “Anti-Taker” streak going as the least successful competitor in WM history; 0-5-0. While both Tito Santana (2-7-0) and Shawn Michaels (4-7-0) have lost more WM matches than Show, at least they WON a couple here and there. Not so for Show, oh no.
Ah hell, when you sound like a Shane McMahon promo it’s time to call it a column. Enjoy WM21 for me, people!
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).