By Mike Holland

There is something oddly satisfying about the uniting worlds of past and present that are currently occupying the headspace of World Wrestling Entertainment on its hard-charging way to the historically significant WrestleMania XXX. Monday Night Raw opened with the quintessential WWE figure of the '80s, Hulk Hogan, making his grand return to the promotion that in many ways he's never left. Hogan has plenty of faults (it took him all of a minute or two to screw up his intended push of the WWE Network), but no one can argue that he's about as over as anyone in the minds and hearts of WWE fans. If you had any doubt whatsoever about this, it should have been erased quite quickly when he came out to a very loud and deserved ovation. Hogan's new role as excited, over-the-top pitchman suits this moment in time perfectly for wrestling fans everywhere.

Couple that with the programming on the Network right after Raw aired, namely a retrospective on the excellent WrestleMania I main event that has gotten quite a bit of press of late, featuring the aforementioned Hogan teaming with Mr. T to face nefarious heels "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. This is an area that the WWE can exploit to no end, as what can mix the old and new in such a unique and fresh way as a wrestling show? It's like an entertainment time capsule with plenty of people beating each other up. It's difficult to view that match now and not get wistful, from Piper's theatrics to the "big fight" feel of the Garden to the celebrities milling all about the ring. Watching Muhammad Ali interact with wrestling's best set the stage for so much that happened after. And, of course, Hogan is still being Hogan and still getting those reactions many moons later.

Everything about this time period in wrestling stands as testament to the interdependent waxing and waning of history. Raw closed with another living legend, The Undertaker, once again dusting off the boots (and endless new costume changes) to suit up for the big dance and battle with Brock Lesnar. There can be no doubt that the visual of 'Taker glaring menacingly at both opponent and WrestleMania sign never gets old, even if he might. That point is rammed home rather literally with the absurdly good idea of having Lesnar both show a bit of fear and a lot of selling when the Deadman planted him through the table used for his impromptu contract signing. Paul Heyman might be the business's best marketer, but his services were barely needed here. We all felt the importance of the moment.

True moments of import in wrestling are defined in my mind by how we react to them. Some of you reading this may never have experienced an era where spoilers and insider info didn't run rampant, and I don't envy you. There was definitely something to be said for switching on the television and seeing storylines play out without being generally aware of the buzz behind them. Considering that the two stories I've mentioned so far in this column have been barely-kept "secrets" for months now, we've come a long way. That said, I'm also not of the mindset that simply being aware of potential occurrences or behind-the-scenes goings-on automatically ruins your enjoyment. The matches still have to be performed, and anything can change on a dime. We're not talking the Olympics on tape delay here. Just because someone says it's so doesn't make it so.

In addition, even when we love the business enough to write about it and immerse ourselves in it, there's always that inner fan inside. I could give you many examples of this, but a recent one for me was Mark Henry's unbelievably good "retirement" speech. Watching it unfold, I felt like I saw all the signs coming from a mile away. Then the emotion took over and I was a regular viewer again, wide-eyed and awestruck at the ability of a performer who I've never been an enormous fan of to paint a compelling tale with words and actions. Then I went right back to the cynical, clinical bastard I've become when reality snapped back and reared its ugly (and very entertaining) head. Well played, WWE. Well played indeed.

This is the feeling I had tonight watching two of the biggest names of the business (and certainly two guys who I grew up watching) getting back involved in wrestling in major (and majorly different) ways. Even with the rumors swirling as to the whats and whys, these events had a major feel to them. The sheer presence of these industry icons brought the point home in a major way: wrestling's past was reasserting itself even as the present shapes up.

And, without doubt, the present IS shaping up. Nowhere is that more evident than in the current battle between supergroups The Wyatt Family and The Shield, six men who weren't even on the radar not too long ago as it relates to the main event scene and now currently boast some of the hottest reactions in the business. Their long-awaited match last night was without question the best on the card, and the intensity of these two groups battling each other for dominance has put bold print on the standard, played-out "heels vs. heels until someone turns" angle. This isn't just a match between two young groups poised for greatness, it's two completely different styles (both effective in their own way) rearing their heads and bashing at each other full tilt. The impact of each troika's big gun, Bray and Roman, physically assaulting each other earlier tonight was symbolic of the ruthless aggression WWE has hinted at so often and so infrequently delivered.

They aren't the only ones, of course. Antonio Cesaro has been knocking on the door since his heralded arrival, and appears set to deliver on that promise with outstanding performances week after week. (Haven't decided when I'm dropping the Antonio, but clearly not this week.) Alexander Rusev and Emma show that WWE is more than comfortable dipping into the NXT resources more frequently than ever. For a company who traditionally has had a very hard time letting go of the past, the future is looking quite bright indeed. And getting more time to display that brightness.

All of this, of course, leads to the multi-billion dollar question: How will WWE handle the smallest elephant in the room, Daniel Bryan, along with everything else they are juggling? While the Elimination Chamber's answer to that question was less than satisfying (to the surprise of, wait for it, nobody at all really), it stands to reason that the WWE was on the cusp of needing to make a major decision in this regard even before the departure of CM Punk. With Punk out of the mix, and with crowds everywhere still not happy at all about that, it's become even more necessary. I don't know that anyone in the offices of Titan Tower actually thought that Batista vs. Randy Orton was a viable alternative to a crowd that has been tantalized with visions of a Bryan title reign for a year and change now, but those thoughts have faded so quickly that the concept is now cannon fodder for promos. Something's always had to give, but now potentially everything has to.

This could be taken further, of course. John Cena is potentially injured once again, solid citizens from Christian to Alberto Del Rio are all flirting with retirement, and big attractions like Lesnar and Batista have only mildly helped the attempt to land bigger ratings from an audience grappling with status quo fatigue. And Bryan has finally taken his seemingly endless battle with Triple H to its denouement, that being the erstwhile match with Trips himself. Should that be the payoff from the slowest of slow builds, it's hard to put it in the same class as those moments from the past. Should that be the ingenious way of furthering the ultimate underdog story, however, all could (potentially) be forgiven. For Bryan to exorcise the demons of the Authority and the championship chase in one historic evening, particularly one where icons are hosting and being inducted into the HOF, would truly be one of the most fitting and celebrated payoffs in the company's history.

This year's WrestleMania was historic long before WWE made history with its own Network. For once, the company's unending hype machine actually seems like it's right on the money. Bringing in some of their biggest names to tout one of the biggest moments in their history starts lacking proper superlatives at some point. The only thing that's missing is that moment. The one that can reach through whatever device we're watching it on and shake us into being that young, idealistic fan again, if even for a minute. I won't argue with anyone that feels that there's another way to achieve that moment that doesn't involve Bryan, but I'll argue vociferously that it's not one that will feature Orton vs. Batista. What better way to set the course for the future than by using the names of the past to make this next moment even bigger and more intense? WrestleMania I changed the business for the better, including plenty of ways that even the visionary responsible for it couldn't see coming. WrestleMania XXX has a chance to do the very same thing.

FOUR CORNERS

*Assuming that the Wyatts are turning their latest feud to John Cena, I can only hope that it hastens the Dean Ambrose descent all the faster. Ambrose, already excellent on the microphone and even more excellent with his reactions and pacing, will really get things moving when he's fully pitted against his former Shield cohorts. Whether Rollins turns with Reigns remains to be seen, but it would make a great deal of sense and would lead to some awfully great matches for the underutilized US Title. People that appear to be truly unhinged generally make very interesting wrestlers to watch, from George Steele to Sid and everywhere in between. Guys that can do that and still go in the ring are a bit harder to find, and that's where Ambrose excels. I look forward to seeing his character devolve into madness even further as the group unravels. This could be the rare moment where the sum of the parts is more than equal to the group. All three have a chance to secure main event status, but Ambrose's verbiage and dynamic mic work are eerily reminiscent of this year's HOF headliner Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Excellent stuff.

*I confess to being extra happy to see a block of ECW TV being used in the wee hours on the fledging WWE Network. As someone who grew up in and around Philadelphia, that particular promotion will always hold a place of reverence in my heart. Much has been said about ECW as being groundbreaking and innovative, and of course it was, but it also felt visceral and unhealthy in the best way, like downing a greasy brisket sandwich at the Reading Terminal. Watching the original ECW was a bit easier in this area than I'm sure it was in much of the country, and I'm sure a lot of viewers will be salivating at the chance to catch some of the mayhem and carnage that occurred on a nightly basis in that famous arena. From the announcing of Joey Styles to the presentation of the interviews to the crowd, ahem, interaction, it's nice to harken back to a time when different wrestling really was different wrestling. And, yes, now I want a brisket sandwich.

*It seems it's never too long before the Divas title goes into another period of stasis, and we're experiencing one currently. It seems to me that the WWE is rearranging deck chairs in a futile effort to make anyone a potential contender to AJ Lee's title reign. I'm not sure if the plan was to present Naomi as a viable candidate prior to her unfortunate injury (which would be as good a candidate as any, and go a long way toward eliminating the inherently useless cheerleaders for R. Truth & Xavier Woods gimmick), but it's doubtful anyone saw her teammate Cameron as having any type of shot at unseating the current champion. Some friction between AJ and cornerwoman Tamina was once again teased, but I'm not any more hopeful for that feud. Color me uncertain as to why Paige is not yet on the main event scene. This area needs an infusion of talent to make it relevant again. Otherwise it's essentially the Total Divas title.

*Last but not least, in a non-wrestling related note, RIP to Harold Ramis, a really funny guy in just about every way who was equally comfortable writing, performing, and directing. This extremely talented Renaissance man wrote some of the best comedies of all time in Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Stripes. That's a ridiculous amount of hilarity. With the rumors of another Ghostbusters movie being in the works, this should unfortunately put a final nail in that coffin. It wouldn't be the same without Ramis. Underappreciated and often overlooked, he will most definitely be missed. Do yourself a favor and pop in one of his classics this week. It's well worth it.

Twitter: @DharmanRockwell

Email: coffeyfan@hotmail.com