With only four days until Wrestlemania XXIX, I’ve decided to bring the TJR Faithful a second edition of special piece I wrote last year just before Wrestlemania 28, which I dubbed “A Matter of Interest”.
Inevitably everyone has matches they are looking forward to, and other matches they are not all that excited about for a variety of different reasons. The Wrestlemania 29 card has been at the center of a lot of criticism and rightfully so. This week I will rank the matches on the Wrestlemania 29 card. Each match will be awarded a letter grade for the interest it garners from me and I will go on to explain why each match deserves the grade it has received. Enough waiting, Let’s Do This!
10. Intercontinental Championship - Wade Barrett (c) vs. The Miz
Where do I begin to express how little this match interests me. I have quite a few issues with this “feud”, biggest being that the Intercontinental Title is an afterthought. This rivalry is about who is the best “actor” in a poorly received WWE Studios movie. While there could be a legitimate discussion whether being a bit player in a theatrically released movie is better than being the star of a direct to DVD flick, in the ring is not the place to have it.
To make matters worse, I am as anti-Miz and anti-Barrett as one could possibly be. I thought a face turn could work for The Miz, I was wrong (although to be fair, it could have worked; see my AMOC on The Miz from before Wrestlemania 28). I thought Barrett returning to his roots as a brutal bare-knuckle boxer was a great move to spark interest in the character, I was wrong again (and again, being fair, it isn’t Wade’s fault that he’s booked like a pansy and not a clever brute like he should be). Both are characters I disliked, and have grown to despise over the course of the last several months.
I would prefer they either stop talking about their so-called film careers and focus on the supposedly prestigious Championship, or go all the way with this “WWE Studios Match” and include the highest grossing wrestler turned actor in WWE Studios history, David Otunga. If they did, I’d be rooting for Otunga. That should give you an idea how little I care about this match, and thankfully it’s been relegated to the pre-show (take a moment to think about the fact that the Intercontinental Championship is being defended on the pre-show, the U.S. Champion isn’t even on the card, and Tons of Funk have a match on the main card… just wow).
9. Tons Of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins
This match is equal parts as awful as The Miz vs. Barrett on the pre-show. Having said that, I am slightly (I stress the word slightly) more interested in this match than the Intercontinental Title Match. Is it because this match had a better build up? No, because I quite frankly can’t tell you why this match is happening. The build up has been half-hearted at best. Is it the dancing fat guys? What do I look like, Vince McMahon? Of course I don’t care about a pair of dancing fat guys. And I sure as hell don’t care about The Bellas or Cameron.
The slight interest I have in this match is because of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, whom are a great pair that are being underutilized in this terrible match, and Naomi, who I consider to be the most exciting and athletic Diva on the roster. Hopefully all three will get a fleeting moment to shine through the pile of garbage this match is sure to be.
8. Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
I want to be more interested in this match, mainly because of the undercard matches this should be the best one. Having watched him on FCW for years, I know Fandango can wrestle and he should put on a good, if not great 10 or so minute match with one of the very best to lace up their boots in the WWE, Chris Jericho. Unfortunately I can’t give this match a better interest grade than a D.
The rivalry, if you can call it that, is ill conceived, dull, and predictable. I could see every moment, every development of this feud coming a mile away, and no development made it more interesting. It’s simply been a series of sneak attacks, terribly generic Latin ballroom music, and one guy being mad that another guy said his name wrong. I would have rather seen Jericho put over Cesaro, or a heel Kofi Kingston, but obviously someone is really behind this Fandango character (hey Vinny). The match should be good, but I could care less who wins, and can only hope that the dispute is settled so I don’t have to see it continue on WWE TV.
7. WWE Tag Team Championship – Team Hell No (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston
On paper, this match featuring Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler on opposite teams should be a pretty good one to watch. My interest in the match itself, isolated from the narrative, is pretty high because of those two (I also don’t mind Kane or Big E). Unfortunately, I can’t isolate this match from the narrative (or lack thereof) and because of that, it loses points.
Team Hell No lost a lot of steam form me in recent months and my affinity for them is at an all-time low. I wish they were taking on The Rhodes Scholars so they could get beaten and end this partnership that is struggling to tread water. The trio of Dolph, Big E, and AJ is as lifeless as it has been since it was introduced. I was hopeful that we’d get more insight into their relationship’s dynamic, but since the beginning we’ve been told nothing. Who is Big E to them? Is he loyal to Dolph, or AJ, or Both? I liked the idea that he was AJ’s heavy, and only cared for her, not Dolph, but that was quickly forgotten. I also like the dynamic AJ and Big E share on twitter, with Big E coming off as the friend-zoned best pal, watching the girl he digs make out with another guy like a schmuck. Unfortunately that isn’t played up on TV at all. We just have no sense of the relationships within that trio.
Frankly, this isn’t the Tag Title match I would have booked for Wrestlemania. I would have rather seen Hell No vs. Rhodes Scholars, or Hell No vs. The Shield. Either would have created a better story in my opinion, where in either case the heels would highlight the fact that even though they are trying to act like a team, Team Hell No still don’t get along. Rhodes and Sandow would focus on the fact that they’re actually best friends, and The Shield would emphasize the fact that they are the best team in WWE history. Either of those matches would garner more of my interest.
6. World Heavyweight Championship – Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
Last year, the World Heavyweight Championship match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan was ranked third from the bottom of my list, and the fact that I’m more interested in the World Heavyweight Championship match this year is a small victory. Having babyface Alberto Del Rio, the Mexican, World Heavyweight Champion go head-to-head with the immigrant hating Jack Swagger at Wrestlemania, with the title on the line, seems like a perfect matchup for the grandest stage of them all. So why don’t I care more? I have never liked Del Rio as a character more than I do now (despite my issues with the speed of his change of heart) and Jack Swagger’s new partnership with Zeb Coulter is the highlight of his career. These two characters were made to face-off, and yet I can’t muster up more than a marginal interest in this match.
There are multiple reasons why I just can’t get amped up for this one. First, years of marginalizing the World Heavyweight Championship have conditioned me not to care too much about this match. It’s just how the WWE wants me to view this belt it seems. Second, I give Jack Swagger an icicle’s chance in hell of winning the title due to his DUI and drug arrest on the road to Wrestlemania 29. Having him win the title would be a very bad message to send to the locker room, and I don’t see it happening. Finally, the only excitement this match will really provide will come after the bell, if Ziggler cashes in his Money In The Bank Briefcase, which I wholeheartedly expect to see him do. All suspense in this match is gone and it hurts my interest in the bout exponentially.
A more interesting bout would have been Dolph Ziggler winning the Elimination Chamber Match to get a title shot at Wrestlemania. His briefcase then becomes insurance in case he loses. Of course I’d buck conventional wisdom and have him beat Del Rio without the needing his insurance policy, and going forward the briefcase would serve as insurance for if he loses the Title. Just a thought.
5. Ryback vs. Mark Henry
In 2012, I lamented the fact that I was more interested in the intercontinental championship match than I was in the World Heavyweight Championship match. In 2013, I find myself more excited to see Ryback clash with Mark Henry than see Del Rio face Swagger. Why am I more excited to see these two monsters do battle than a championship bout? In short, the build has been better (aside from the needless misdirection where Ryback was booked to face The Shield). Seeing these two behemoths weasel their way around the no contact rule has been pretty fun, and Mark Henry hasn’t missed a beat since his return.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m pretty excited to see if Ryback can lift Henry up for Shell-Shocked. I’m no Ryback fan, but it would be a huge moment for him if he could pull that off at Wrestlemania, and lord knows after countless failed attempts at winning the WWE Title, Ryback could use a big moment (and if he fails, it’ll be a pretty funny Wrestlemania moment). That being said, this match probably won’t be that good, as neither of these guys are considered ring generals. Still I’m holding out hope that a great Wrestlemania image will trump what will likely be a lackluster bout.
4. Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show vs. The Shield
I’m almost looking forward to this match more than any of the “main events”. The Shield have yet to disappoint and I don’t see them doing so now, at the Showcase of the Immortals. Anything involving Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns immediately captures my interest as their matches always tell a captivating story. This should be no different, as another team of individuals band together to try to knock off the most cohesive unit I have ever seen in a wrestling ring.
I’m also hoping that there will be a Randy Orton heel turn during this match. I don’t want him to join or be revealed as the brains behind The Shield, I simply want him to become fed up with his teammates (particularly Sheamus) and lay him out with a punt. A Randy Orton turn could be the most “surprising” thing on this year’s paint by numbers card, and Randy could use the shake up, so I’ll be pretty happy if it plays out that way this Sunday.
3. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (No Holds Barred Match; If Triple H Loses He Must Retire)
It took me a little while to settle on a grade to give this match-up. I’m anticipating it more than most of the matches on the card but it’s been such a hit and miss rivalry. Paul Heyman’s involvement has been a big hit; the hollow stipulation is pretty big miss (kudos to Heyman for trying to make the whole retirement angle of this seem sensible on Smackdown last week). The confrontation this week and involving Shawn Michaels was a nice touch, but this re-match no one in particular was clamoring to see is definitely missing something.
The fact is, I think the stakes should be higher. I feel like Heyman and Brock should have something bigger in the works. This rivalry should have crossed over with the CM Punk and Undertaker feud heading into Wrestlemania 29. The participants in last year’s “End of an Era” match, standing now as pillars of the WWE, fighting against Brock and Punk respectively, who both want nothing more than to tear down these pillars that are holding up the WWE, and bring a tragic end to Taker and Trips’ era. The cross over would have added a lot to both matches, urgency, context, danger, and an element of mystery that this entire card severely lacks.
2. The Undertaker vs. CM Punk
A few weeks ago, this was the match I was anticipating the most. As sad as it was, this match had the best chance for a surprise ending that we wouldn’t see coming. The other two main events’ finishes were all but forgone conclusions, predictable to the point of boredom, and CM Punk beating The Undertaker and ending the streak was the best chance we had at a memorable and surprising moment coming out of Wrestlemania 29, as slim as those chances were. Then Paul Bearer passed away.
The WWE tends to push the envelope and use tragic real life situations to enhance their narratives. I’m usually a supporter of this, defending against the PC police that come out of the woodwork to complain about a storyline being offensive. While I do not find anything the WWE has done during the build to Punk/Undertaker at Wrestlemania offensive, I’m disappointed that the WWE felt that they HAD to use Paul Bearer’s death as the central focus of this feud, because there was a better narrative to be presented. Making this all about Paul Bearer and CM Punk disrespecting his legacy was the easy story to tell, but not the best story to tell.
I stand by my initial proclamation that CM Punk trying to end the streak as his way of burning everything great about the WWE around him would have been a greater long-term story to tell. Having Punk be frustrated that he was fooled into coming back to the WWE after outsmarting Vince McMahon in 2011 and leaving with the WWE Championship, effectively crippling the company, and now setting his sights on tearing the company down before his current contract is up, starting with the beloved Wrestlemania cash cow that is the Undertaker’s Streak would have been a wonderful tale to watch unfold. Having him end the streak under this narrative would have been the ultimate gut-punch, and him leaving for a month or two afterward to nurse the injuries he is apparently suffering from would have fit perfectly into that story.
The narrative as it has played out in recent weeks has closed the door on any perceived chance that Punk could win against Undertaker this Sunday. I wanted to be able to at least believe he had a shot, but now, this match is as predictable as the rest of the Wrestlemania 29 card.
1. WWE Championship – The Rock (c) vs. John Cena
Just like last year, The Rock facing John Cena is the match I’m anticipating most, except this time it’s for the WWE Championship. I wasn’t expecting it to be the match I was most interested in, as The Rock was absent more on the road to Wrestlemania 29 than he was on the road to Wrestlemania 28, but the last two weeks of promos have certainly garnered my full attention.
Here’s what I had to say last year before the two went at it:
“If Cena falls at Wrestlemania, it makes his later triumph more meaningful and special. Tonight The Rock should point out that last year under immense pressure, he failed to keep the WWE Championship from CM Punk. The Rock will tell Cena that this year under equal pressure at Wrestlemania, he will choke again. Then have Rock beat him at Mania, and begin the fall and rise of John Cena. John Cena’s character has been stagnant for too long and needs some true hardships, and this loss would definitely be one. Alas that will probably never happen. Despite that, I’m truly excited to see The Rock back in action against John Cena, in what I’m hoping will be one of the most memorable matches in the history of Wrestlemania.”
As you can see, I didn’t expect The Rock to win. I didn’t think the WWE had the patience or the balls to send John Cena on a slide and build him back up for redemption, but that’s exactly what they’ve done, so kudos to them.
Now while I think they could have made the plight of John Cena worse (he should have lost to Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules) and I don’t agree with them acting as if John Cena has never accomplished anything in his career, I loved the fact that in the last two weeks on Raw, John Cena has been acting like an entitled prick. John seems to think that since he’s there year round, and since he’s suffered emotionally and professionally since losing to Rock, that he is entitled to the WWE Title. Furthermore, he sounds as if he won’t be satisfied unless The Rock feels the despair that he felt, which comes across as petty and childish. He doesn’t just want redemption for his bad year, he feels he’s entitled to redemption for his bad year and that The Rock needs to suffer emotional and professional hardships for facilitating it. That’s just how it’s coming across to me, and quite frankly, it’s a side of John I’ve been waiting to see develop for a while. He just doesn’t seem to care about the WWE Universe right now, partially because they support The Rock and partially because he’s too focused on revenge as opposed to the redemption he speaks of.
It’s this side of John Cena and the emotionally charged promos he and The Rock have delivered in past few weeks about this match that has peaked my interest in this match again. It’s not an A like last year, but an A- is pretty good considering my interest in this match a month ago.
OVERALL WRESTLEMANIA 29 CARD GRADE: C+
There you have it, the Wrestlemania 29 Card ranked and graded according to interest, but as always I want to know what you think. What grade would you give this year’s Wrestlemania Card? What match are you most looking forward to? Which feud has had the best build up? Which has had the Worst? Are there going to be any surprises on this seemingly predictable show?
My Wrestlemania Picks are as follows: The Miz, Tons of Funk and the Funkadactyls, Chris Jericho, Hell No, Del Rio (Then Ziggler), Ryback, The Shield, Triple H, Undertaker, John Cena.
Until Next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying enjoy Wrestlemania XXIX!