The first three months of the year seems to be the time that everybody in the sports and entertainment industries talks about snubs. Whether it be the Oscars or the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, just as much brouhaha is made about who is left out as who is in.
Sports Entertainment is no different. WrestleMania has had its fair share of snubs over the years, where deserving wrestlers are either left off the show altogether, or bumped from the main card to the pre-show for a Miller Lite Girls Pillowfight at Mania 19 (sorry RVD, Kane and Lance Storm), a Kid Rock concert at Mania 25 (sorry Colons, Miz and Morrison) or so Rock can ramble for 10 minutes at Mania 27 (sorry Daniel Bryan and Sheamus).
With its card finalized this week, WrestleMania 29 continues the tradition of leaving deserving wrestlers off the show. Two matches were just made on WWE.com featuring Wade Barrett defending the Intercontinental Title against The Miz, and an 8-person mixed tag team match of Brodus Clay, Tensai, and the Funkadactyls against Team Rhodes Scholars and the Bellas.
From looking at the finalized card, I see two notable exemptions from the Granddaddy of Them All: Antonio Cesaro and Kofi Kingston.
Considering all that he has accomplished his first year in WWE, both in kayfabe terms and in real life, Cesaro more than deserved a spot on the WrestleMania card, but seemingly through forces beyond his control, Cesaro finds himself on the outside looking in.
Following the Elimination Chamber Pay Per View, it seemed like a no brainer that Cesaro would defend his United States Title against The Miz at WrestleMania. He had gotten himself intentionally disqualified at the Pay Per View, then lost a non-title match to Miz the next night on Raw, setting up the blowoff match for Mania. Around the same time, Sheamus and Wade Barrett seemed to be heading for a match based off Sheamus making fun of Barrett’s acting (or lack thereof) in Dead Man Down, but apparently the writers realized that they need three established babyfaces to face The Shield, so Sheamus was taken off Barrett, replaced Sheamus with Miz (which makes sense, given his own movie is out on DVD), but unfortunately, it left Cesaro out in the cold.
Cesaro was also unfortunately saddled with a gimmick that was so good (a pro-American heel), the writing team decided to use it for Jack Swagger, and Cesaro was forced to give it up (why there couldn’t be two pro-America heels, I don’t know). So without any real rhyme or reason, Cesaro has been de-pushed and left off the Mania card.
As for Kofi, he seems to be in this position every year. He’s a talented, over wrestler, but he never really receives any kind of storyline or feud around Mania time and always gets thrown in a multi-man match, be it Money in the Bank at WrestleManias 25 and 26, or in the Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny match at last year’s WrestleMania. He was even in danger of being left off the Mania 27 card altogether had it not been for Vladimir Kozlov getting attacked by The Corre on WrestleMania weekend (a scenario I actually called, by the way). Kofi faces a similar de-pushing scenario to Cesaro, but I’m used to it by now with Kofi. I’ve long since given up on any hope for him to get anything resembling a sustained push in WWE. I thought something big might come for Kofi after his series with The Miz over the Intercontinental Title, but he quickly dropped it to Wade Barrett and has been a jobber to the stars ever since. That seems to be Kofi’s story over the past few years: get a little push, seemingly with some steam, only to have the legs cut off immediately. It’s less of a travesty that Kofi’s not on the card than Cesaro, but still, he’s a solid worker, is over with the fans, and busted his ass for a full year.
I always envisioned the WrestleMania card to have two types of matches: the first being the spectacle matches that warrant bringing in part-time guys like Undertaker, Rock, Triple H, or Brock Lesnar. The second types of matches are those undercard matches where you get to reward the guys who worked hard for a full year by giving them the big payday and the extra exposure with being on the Mania card. Even guys like Triple H and Steve Austin have said that being on the Mania card validates what you’ve done the year prior. That’s why having Money in the Bank on the show was such a genius idea. It allowed hard-working midcarders who don’t have storylines to get thrown into one match, get the payday, and proceed to steal the show in the process. The addition of the Money in the Bank PPV in July led to the match being taken off WrestleMania, and it’s really hurt the midcarders.
So it bothers me that guys like Fandango and Big E. Langston made the cut this year and Cesaro didn’t.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Johnny Curtis, horrible gimmick aside. He’s been around WWE for a while and definitely busted his ass in NXT (and that top rope legdrop is extremely impressive), but Cesaro was killing it on the main shows and was getting over for months. For all intents and purposes, “Fandango” has only been around for a month. As for Langston, he makes the Mania card by association, being involved with Dolph Ziggler and AJ. The storyline of the Tag Team Title match is AJ’s past relationships with Daniel Bryan and Kane, and her current relationship with Dolph. Call me old-fashioned, but I never envisioned WrestleMania to be the event where guys have their very first match in WWE, unless they’re a celebrity like Lawrence Taylor.
In the end, it shouldn’t matter too much that Cesaro was left off the card. I was upset that Daniel Bryan was bumped from the WrestleMania 27 card, and later that year he became the World Heavyweight Champion. WWE has proven over the past couple of years that talent always wins out in the end, and Cesaro is extremely talented. I think WWE knows what they have in Cesaro, and that he can be a solid hand in the future. He just seems to be a victim of circumstance and is the odd man out. The book may already be written on Kofi, but the ceiling for Cesaro is pretty high, and if he keeps working hard, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a prominent match in New Orleans for WrestleMania 30.