March 20, 2011
Legend breaks down the top Mania matches
By JOE E. LEGEND - For SLAM! Wrestling
Now that I've cleared the air on some of the basic things wrong with WWE -- you DID read last week's column, right? -- it's time to look at the overall WrestleMania 27 card and see where our money is going.
John Cena vs. The Miz
It's easily the most interesting thing on the bill and it pretty much comes down to The Rock's involvement. I know The Miz gets slighted a little bit as being a reality show goof instead of a "real wrestler" but consider the fact that most wrestlers start off working full-time jobs for low wages (especially now with most territories gone) and you'll see that Miz simply had his own, but it was broadcast huge and drew attention to him.
Now granted, he's kind of a nerd. But he goes out and tries to get heat instead of being a heel who works for the babyface pop like the whole nWo ordeal. I really believe they need to toughen up his image to have him be truly marketable but in the process of that, you risk him winning the crowd's respect and turning him babyface.
The sad thing is that he's the champ in the match, but the interest is in Cena-Rock.
They are getting a lot of attention over their war of words and it's gaining viewers and will probably sell PPV buys -- moreso than if Rock wasn't there.
But being that Rock is over 30 it could fail miserably!
This will be the Hulk Hogan-Rock segment that burns out the crowd before the main event (The Streak) and really should be the main event since it's for the belt.
But the hard-on for The Streak match will put that on top. Which kind of bugs me since they put Triple H vs. Chris Jericho in the main spot at Mania 18 because "the belt should be the biggest deal of the day."
How times change.
I figure Cena and Rock get it together and kill Miz so Cena gets the belt again. Though, to be honest, I would keep it on Miz to continue building his character. But I guess that's just me.
The Streak: Triple H vs. The Undertaker
In truth, there was really no one else they could main event WM27 with in a match with Undertaker and have any tension that he might lose.
My trouble with it is that most fans know Hunter is "office" so he might put himself over. So the interest in the possibility of Taker losing is there. But in regarding the "office" position, we take ourselves out of the constructed reality of the wrestling world and we can no longer get in to the suspension of disbelief needed to truly enjoy the match and get emotionally invested in it.
Also, since this business is worked, I can't really regard a "streak" as a milestone of greatness. I regard it in the way that it is best to leave it better than when it started. This comes by "making" young talent.
The best example of this is Ric Flair. He took some dire talents (did someone say Lex Luger?) and made them look like championship material and stars who drew some money. With guys with talent (Sting will tell you Flair "made" him), he worked on the future of the business and could maintain the greatness of the modern game with previously "made" stars (the Ricky Steamboat series... HOLY CRAP!).
I think it's about time for Undertaker to actually "make" someone. I can't think of one talent who has been brought to the main event level due to Undertaker working with them.
The best argument against this is Mankind (Mick Foley), but he made himself with the crazy dives in and out the cell and personality segments with Vince McMahon. Taker just happened to be in the ring with him at the time of the dives and was still put over.
You could argue for Kane, but Taker beat him so much before Kane ever came back that I can't really believe anyone will buy Kane being on par -- though I think he's very good.
But who could Taker "make"? There isn't a list of enough credible, over talent currently on the team that are at that top level that a Taker humbling would be the final push for.
The interest in Sheamus has come and gone. He's a guy who has a good look, an interesting style and a history of two world titles in his main roster rookie year... yet he's on a losing streak. He's a prime example of lazy booking, as he was a killer until he won the title, then he became a sissy, running away from a fight.
It was inconsistent and I think the audience sensed it and lost interest as he clearly was never being the man he really was. It was egregious and ultimately he's working the second tier in a rushed angle to try and keep him relevant.
It's a shame as I toured in the UK with him a few years back and really like the guy.
Either way, he's not gonna be the guy to end the streak.
Here is a list of new PPV main eventers for the past couple of years and they can't crack the top of the bill on the "grandest stage of them all?" Seems to me if the current talent scouting/building strategy was as good as they claim, at least one of these guys would make an appearance in or near the main event.
But they aren't because it isn't and the product as a whole suffers because of it.
So the only logical finish to this match is Taker goes 19-0. Someone beating him would boost a young career in a big way. Having Edge do it while he was the "ultimate opportunist" would have been the time. It would have solidified his status on top as a guy amongst the elite instead of a guy on top simply because of a lack of depth on the roster. He deserves a better legacy than that.
But it would do no great thing for Hunter at this point.
Unless it rolled as the new "screw job" to turn Hunter and they bounced Taker for most of a year and played it off as real. Would be a decent way of using a full year to build to a return match and milk some more out of the same type of Montreal angle they've been taking shots at since 1997.
But I doubt it.
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Punk is the most over heel in the company (and probably the industry right now) due to the fact that the gimmick is 100% real. From the times I've hung out with him he's really pushed the "straight edge" thing fully and I have no reason to doubt him on it.
He comes off arrogant and righteous and didactic and it gets under people's skin because he's right. He's right about drugs being bad for you. He's right about booze being (mostly) bad for you.
And I'm not just saying this because I don't drink or do drugs (I'm simply a control freak and to do something that would put me out of control on purpose scares me, so I don't do it) however I try not to judge people who are comfortable doing it.
I do, but I mostly keep it to myself.
But he does in a big way!!
So, the kid's got HEAT!
It happens the same way every time and it doesn't look dramatic, it looks like he's trying to remember his lines and is keeping busy until they come to him. (By the way, substitute Batista for Orton and you get the same thing.)
It's hard to get too much on him for this, as obviously the office likes what he's doing so he shouldn't change it simply for me (just like Cena -- everyone complains he doesn't wrestle enough but he's the top pushed guy in the biz with the top merch sales for the modern audience; If it ain't broke, and all that) but it isn't my favorite thing.
I would prefer they put Punk over as they are really on to something good with him (my big pal Mason Ryan could have a hand in it. He's a great guy and deserves all of the success he can achieve. Top man!) but I believe Orton will get the win here and Ryan will get his shots in but eat an RKO as well.
Edge vs. Alberto del Rio
This is the only match on the bill that has a real "build throughout the year and bring to the big stage" feel to it. Most other matches are "hot shots," last-minute, desperate bookings or ones you can watch on Raw or SmackDown any week, but this seems a little bit special.
As I mentioned last week, Edge has lost a bunch as champ, so to see him go down won't be as big a deal as it should. Del Rio has been handled pretty well so far, but he really should have never lost if he had a Rumble victory and a Mania main event in his future.
Years ago, this would have been handled differently.
Before WWE went public on the NYSE.
When it was all private, Vince McMahon could build angles over the long haul to really have a special feel when it was time to pay off. He could trust in the angles and stories and talent as he knew how long he needed to bring the whole angle to a head. He had the time and ability and patience to trust himself and his instincts and had no one to answer to but himself.
Now you have stock holders who demand a profit and higher numbers every quarter, so nothing has time to simmer in to a boil. Everything has to set up and blow off in three months to pop the quarterly ratings or people sell and the stock drops.
He made himself a billionaire through this, but it's also handicapped his ability to do what he does best over the long haul and it has cost him as well.
Look at the regular ratings before and after he bought WCW (it's around the same time that he became a billionaire) to see that numbers don't lie. Then look at how fast the angles play out before talent moves on to new challenges on TV and see what I mean.
It becomes a blur and you can't emotionally invest in a blur.
And chances are you won't buy a PPV of a blur.
Either way, I'm looking at Del Rio to win the belt. Cena will walk out with the other belt so I don't believe they'll have two babyface champs and Edge is already an 11-time champ. He'll draw what he's gonna draw with or without the belt and Del Rio needs that one big victory to solidify himself in a top spot.
Notice I didn't say he needed the belt? If the belt was a guarantee to top guy status we'd be looking at Jack Swagger or Sheamus in the main spot... but we aren't because the belt idea has been devalued so greatly (just like the ability to pin the champ) that it's just another prop at this point.
Which reinforces my statement about not having a cohesive battle plan. You can't devalue the belt so much and then think it will help bring value to a talent you have mismanaged in to being a "top guy."
And they are looking hard for new "top guys."
In a perfect world, Christian will look to be coming in to help Edge, but then a huge heel turn (Christian is always a GREAT heel) on Edge saying how Edge never helped him when Del Rio hurt him but he always was there for Edge. A nice house show tour ensues where the office finally sees that Christian is not only a top guy they overlooked, but a top guy who needs to be pushed A.S.A.P.!
Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler
Not much to say. Lawler will win and do it in a fairly basic fashion as he's never had a flashy arsenal.
But it does go a long way towards validating my argument about how new talent is presented when a former heavyweight champ of the company is used simply as a second to an announcer in the match and it's not the other way around.
Also validates my age argument when they need an interesting name like Austin to bring some pepper to this match... which already has a 61-year-old King involved.
So, Lawler goes over and drinks with Austin.
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes
Total filler match. Rey will pop his big moves, Cody will sell his face. Rey will win. Cody will blast him after and steal his mask, but we won't see his face. Then a big program with the mask like Jericho did with Juventud Guerrera in the mid-'90s in WCW.
That's as far as I can go on this as this is the card advertised so far. Heard something about The Corre (why the misspell?) versus Nexus (who are the villains?) and Big Show being involved. Guessing he'll have Kevin Nash as his partner and as long as Nash can avoid the injury bug in this match, it will get fairly over for what it is and Show, Nash and whichever faction is their partner will win.
So that's what I believe your Mania will be. Could be awesome, could be utter pants. Ultimately it'll all come out on the day and let the chips fall where they may.
I'd also really like to thank everyone for the lovely comments I've been getting for my previous columns. It's really nice to know someone other than my editor and I are reading this stuff and it's connecting somewhere.
Hit me with your thoughts on this column and if you have suggestions on other topics you'd like me to touch upon, lemme know. I have no life and plenty of free time to ponder such foolish things as my business and am always looking to see things in a different perspective.
All the best and God Bless.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Joe E. Legend's column will run whenever he delivers on SLAM! Wrestling. Be sure to visit every day to see if he's come through!
For more on Legend's career, see his biography in our Canadian Hall of Fame. The best place to figure out where he is in the world at the moment is his website www.legendwrestling.com. Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.