With Wrestlemania XXX mere days away, I am for a third straight year bringing the TJR Faithful another edition of my annual pre-Wrestlemania column, which I have dubbed “A Matter of Interest”. This is always one of my favorites to write, and this year was no different, as there was a lot to talk about with this year’s Wrestlemania card.
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 XXX card has been at the center of a lot of criticism since rumors of it first hit the web, and rightfully so. Now that the card has pretty much ben finalized several of the matches feel like they were pieced together at the last possible minute and one or two are far worse than the rumored matches from months ago. Seriously, on paper this card looks worse than a Mike D’Antoni defensive playbook!
This week I will rank the matches on the Wrestlemania XXX 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. Let’s Do This!
8. Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational
Was there ever any question that this mess of a match would earn the worst grade I’ve ever handed out in any of my A Matter of Interest pre-Wrestlemania card rankings? If I could give this match a grade lower than an F-, I would have. What are all the factors that led to this being the least enticing match at this year’s Wrestlemania? For starters, the way it was obviously slapped together at the last minute. Is there anything about a 14 Divas match that has no discernable rules or regulations that seems like any long term or short term planning went into it? The answer is absolutely not, and its indicative of what the WWE thinks of their Divas on the main roster. I also hate that this match is heel Vickie stacking the odds against heel AJ out of nowhere. At least build up their animosity for a little while. Furthermore, am I supposed to like Vickie on some level for sticking it to villainous AJ, or feel bad that AJ is getting screwed over by the perpetually loathsome Vickie Guerrero? This match is as confusing as it will be bad.
Another reason this match deserves so much worse than an F- is the fact that I’ve never seen a collection of so many characters that I couldn’t care less about or wrestlers that I don’t want to see perform as little as a body slam in a ring. Half these girls haven’t been featured in any serious storylines ever. The ones who have still don’t interest me, especially in a match put together as haphazardly as this one was. You’re telling me you couldn’t have made it a simple triple threat with AJ (by far the best main roster Diva) defending against the Bellas (aka the WWE’s most improved wrestlers of 2013)?
Worst of all, this match makes me afraid for the future of Women’s wrestling in the WWE. On NXT, Paige and Emma put on a main event level match for the NXT Women’s Title, and at Wrestlemania the WWE is trotting 14 women (including the aforementioned Emma) out for what I can only imagine will be a cluster**** of a match. This match may just be proof that getting called to the main roster as a Diva is a regression rather than progression. I hope Paige stays on NXT (and away from the main roster’s Divas scene) until things change for the better on the main roster for these women, and that this match is infinitely shorter than Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus at Wrestlemania 28.
7. WWE Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. Los Matadores vs. The Real American vs. Ryb-Axel
I wish I had more to say about this match, but I just don’t care about it. I don’t outright have disdain for it like the Divas match, which I guess is something, but not by much. I’m happy that the Usos capture the WWE Tag Team Titles, I really I am. The Usos are without question my favorite Tag Team in the WWE. That being said, I wish that they were capturing the belts this Sunday. It would have been a great moment for Jimmy and Jey on the grandest of all WWE stages, and for some time it seemed like it was going to happen, but things changed, the titles were put on them at Raw in Chicago, and instead of having a career defining moment at Wrestlemania XXX, they’re wrestling in a pre-show match. I guess I’m a little bitter about that.
The match itself doesn’t offer any real challenge for the Usos either, as Los Matadores hadn’t appeared on Raw for over a month before the last couple of weeks, Ryb-Axel are a losers (literally almost every match) and the events of this match presumably will be the catalyst for the dissolving of The Real Americans, and facilitate the long rumored babyface turn for Cesaro (likely the next night on Raw). This match offers very little in terms of intrigue, and at best will feature some fun spots by The Usos, The Matadores, and Cesaro (here’s hoping for a Wrestlemania XXX sized Cesaro Swing!). At the end of the day, nobody can really say they are excited for this match, which is shame because I reiterate, I would have been very excited to see Jimmy and Jey capture their first WWE Tag Team Championship at Wrestlemania XXX.
6. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
I’m not all that interested in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. It’s not for the lack of effort by the WWE, as the cutaway video declarations for said Battle Royal were a fun old school touch during Raw and Smackdown. The superstars have done their best to build it up as something meaningful and exciting and I do commend them for that, but I can honestly only muster up my excitement for one Royal Rumble a year. I’m just not into the whole concept of having a second Royal Rumble at Wrestlemania, for a trophy that in the long run is fairly meaningless. There is no guarantee that a win here will elevate the winner (in fact it’s almost guaranteed it won’t given WWE’s track record with these kinds of things).
So while it will be nice to see a lot of these guys make it onto the Wrestlemania XXX broadcast, and possibly see a second astounding Kofi Kingston feat of athleticism to avoid elimination, I just don’t feel like the trophy or the match itself has any real importance for anyone. Maybe a stipulation will be revealed at Wrestlemania, maybe there will be a greater prize on the line than a bronze Andre The Giant figurine, maybe Brad Maddox will pull out a surprise victory (I got you Brad!) and maybe the action will be exciting and fun to watch, but my money is on the 2014 Royal Rumble Part II (aka The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal) being less than memorable.
5. Six Man Tag: The Shield vs. Kane & The New Age Outlaws
Having A Shield match on the lower half of this Wrestlemania XXX Card Ranking pains me. I’m saddened that I can’t give them a pre-match grade higher than a C+. I’m a huge fan of Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose as a collective, and their new role as renegade babyfaces is an interesting evolution of the characters that also prolongs their grouping for at least a little while, which is a decision I welcome by open arms. With that said, this particular match doesn’t excite me very much. Not that it won’t be good, because quite frankly what Shield match isn’t great, but the narrative behind it is very weak, which is not something I enjoy typing about a Shield storyline.
The Outlaws involvement in this is a bit suspect as their relationship with Kane came together seemingly out of nowhere. They were talking about getting their Tag Team Championship rematch one week, and then helping Kane attack the shield the next with zero explanation as to why. I guess we’re to assume they’re doing so on behalf of their buddy Triple H, seeing as Kane is his handpicked Director of Operations, but I can’t be certain. It just seems very hastily assembled, although not to the level of the terrible Divas Championship Invitational.
Let’s get to the big reason why this match just doesn’t do much for me. Nothing against Kane or the Outlaws (who I enjoy more than most apparently), but it’s hard to be excited about this six man match coming off of two very intense very, very exhilarating Shield vs. Wyatts matches. That’s the match I would want to see at the Showcase Of The Immortals! Shield vs. Wyatts III is exactly the kind of match that the Wrestlemania XXX card is missing, and I have no doubt they would have tore the house down. Instead we’re being given Shield vs. Triple H’s geriatric pals, and it doesn’t quite compare. In fact it’s just passable, thus the C+ grade. The match will be solid, but we’re all looking ahead to Extreme Rules when hopefully we’ll see another Shield vs. Wyatts encounter. Now that’s a match I’m interested in.
4. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
I’m going to come out and say right off the bat that the mystique of The Undertaker and “The Streak” has worn off on me. His mere presence simply isn’t enough to maintain my attention, and hasn’t been for quite a few years now. The entrance, the aura, etc. just don’t do it for me anymore. All that being taken into consideration, I think that the build-up to Lesnar/Undertaker has been considerably lackluster. They’ve done very little to make this match seem like something I need to see. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels felt special both times. Undertaker vs. Triple H felt special both times. Undertaker vs. CM Punk felt like it was a big time match. Lesnar vs. Undertaker should have a big time feel for me, I should be very excited to see it, but I’m pretty indifferent.
Paul Heyman has done his best to elevate the material, and his individual performance has been outstanding, but it’s not enough. I don’t feel any heat leading up to this match, but I do feel a bit of a sense of dread. Brock is a very stiff and physical worker, and I’m not sure that The Undertaker’s body in his advanced age can hold up to Brock’s physicality. I’m worried for the first time in the Streak’s history that Undertaker might physically be unable to deliver the goods in the ring, and that definitely contributes to at least my personal lack of connection to this matchup. I hope it will be fine, I want it to deliver in ring, because the build-up has left a lot to be desired. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m starting to doubt Taker as a performer, maybe it’s the fact that we’ve known this was the plan for a long, long time? For whatever season the streak itself isn’t enough to elevate the anticipation of this match, and that worries me.
3. WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan or Triple H
Now it’s hard to judge this match because we aren’t 100% sure who the third participant will be (although it’s pretty clear to me who it will probably be). If the third participant is Daniel Bryan, it somehow makes the match more interesting as far as the in-ring work and the potential of closing the show in a historically great moment. That said, the narrative heading into Wrestlemania has featured very little of Daniel Bryan interacting with either of the set in stone participants of this bout, which makes the story of these particular three combatants pretty weak. Triple H having interacted a lot with both Batista and Randy Orton recently, plus his long history with the two, would fit in the match better as far as story going into the bout is concerned, but it is certainly not what we want to see as fans. All of the above makes this match very weird to judge as far as its buildup and potential, because it has a lot of moving parts.
I will say that the two participants that will definitely be competing in the match have been doing pretty great work in the last few weeks. I unapologetically love heel “I don’t give a ****” Batista, and have been digging him since the WWE realized they were using him incorrectly within their narrative and turned him heel. I’m almost rooting for Big Dave to get the “W”… Almost. Randy Orton as the privileged suck up who is a few fries short of a happy meal has been pretty stellar himself, considering that he’s basically been relegated to fourth banana when it comes to this “WWE World Heavyweight Title/Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority” narrative. At the end of the day, I believe the world will be getting the outcome they desire and that alone is enough to make me settle on a B+ grade for what is likely one of the most convoluted main event (at least as far as story is concerned) in Wrestlemania history.
2. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
When rumors of this match were first floating around the Internet, I have to say that I wasn’t exactly thrilled. I just didn’t find the idea of Bray Wyatt and John Cena clashing all that appealing. Over the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania XXX, I’ve changed my tune. I feel like Wyatt is bringing the most to the table, and that my excitement about this match is based primarily on how great Bray has been individually as opposed to how great he and Cena are working with one another. Cena followed the great visual from this past Monday’s Raw, where he infiltrated the Wyatts in the ring dressed as a 4th Wyatt before attacking them, with an uninspired, typical yelling John Cena promo that only served to undermine the great stuff from earlier in the evening. He was also involved in a very corny segment where he was seeing the sheep mask in a bathroom mirror while splashing cool water on his face.
Now while those isolated moments alone would have verified my apprehension in investing in this particular feud, Bray Wyatt has been putting in work on TV to make me give a damn about this match, and I have to reward him for it. The fact is that Wyatt’s promo work has been outstanding. That the video package about the Wyatts trying to tear down John Cena’s legacy was pretty great, and don’t get me started on the genuinely spectacular visuals over the course of this feud, including Cena tied in the ropes wearing the sheep mask surrounded by the Wyatts.
I wasn’t into this match on paper, but these past few weeks have made me change my tune. Bray is working overtime to keep interest high for this match that nobody was exactly begging to see when first hinted at. Bray Wyatt has the gift of gab, and a dedication to his character and it’s believability that can’t really be surpassed right now. Even though I’d have rather seen Wyatts/Shield Part Three, and the in-ring work between Bray and Cena likely won’t be the best we have ever seen, Bray has me feeling more than satisfied with his slot at Wrestlemania, and thus I have to give this particular bout and my interest in it an A-. I’m hoping that on Sunday, they tell a great story and that the right man wins.
1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (Winner Goes On To Wrestle in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Main Event)
I’ll be shocked if anybody tries to argue that any other match at Wrestlemania XXX has had a better build-up than this grudge match. Feel free to try if you must, but I’m guessing most fans of the WWE are more excited for this match than any other on the card, and rightfully so. No other rivalry has as much heat as this one does. No other feud has had as many memorable moments as it has played out as this one has. From Triple H screwing Daniel over at Summerslam, to Bryan occupying Raw, to Triple H’s brutal beating of Daniel Bryan a couple weeks ago, and Bryan’s rousing attack from this Monday, there are just so many landmark moments that this feud has produced.
Triple H, in his role as the villain during this rivalry has been in rare form, particularly over the past few weeks. His open disdain for the fans and the reality era are practically dripping from every word he utters and every action he takes against his foe. He has completely enveloped every negative trait that has ever been attributed to him online and has made his character the version of Triple H that many complained about for years on dirt sheets. He’s burying talent (and using those words to say so), he’s helping out his old buddies, and he’s inserting himself (or at least trying to) into the Wrestlemania XXX main event. He’s villainously playing perfectly to any Internet fan with his choice of words, his actions, and the brief peaks he is giving us into what might actually be going on behind the scenes. It’s been spectacular.
Bryan has really grown into the unfulfilled hero role and has everybody fired up to finally see him succeed. He is the perfect hero to take down the villain that Triple H has morphed into over the last several months and that is what makes their match the best one at Wrestlemania XXX. We know because of the participants that it will deliver in the ring, and it has delivered in spades in terms of development, entertainment and intensity, especially when you consider they were backed into going in this direction. This will be the hottest match on the card (only moment that could surpass it would be when Bryan wins the title to close the show), in all likelihood the best match on the card, and the one match that we all remember most from Wrestlemania XXX.
OVERALL WRESTLEMANIA XXX CARD GRADE: C-
There you have it, the Wrestlemania XXX 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? Is the undercard the weakest it has been in years? Does a lot of the card seem slapped together at the last minute? What matches are you looking most forward too? The least? Are there going to be any big surprises this year?
My Wrestlemania picks this year are as follows: AJ retains her title, Usos retain their titles, Big E wins the Battle Royal, The Shield, The Undertaker, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan and Daniel Bryan.
Late Addition: I made an appearance on a good friend of mine's wrestling podcast today. It's called the No Sell Hotel and can be listened to here if you're so inclined.
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying enjoy Wrestlemania XXX!