Checking in on the Road to Wrestlemania

Keeping it hood. See what I did there? Shut up.

With the Elimination Chamber PPV out of the way, the WWE’s focus is entirely on Wrestlemania, and with over a month until the big show, the company has an opportunity to slow build some of these angles and generate interest in the matches, a rarity in the modern wrestling landscape, where PPV’s usually come up every three-four weeks and many matches that make no sense get thrown together to pad out the card.

RAW this week [apologies if there are any Smackdown fans who bemoan my lack of commentary on that show, but there are so many hours in a week, so I focus on the flagship] was a mixed bag for me, I’ll just tackle them point-formsies.

BROSKIS BEFORE HOSKIS: I understand the whole John Cena/Kane/Zack Ryder/Eve Torres thing needed to get the door shut on it so Cena can focus on his upcoming match with The Rock, but the way they hotshotted Eve Torres into some sort of manipulative harpy, pleading for Cena to let her make out with him in the middle of the ring[!] was just creepy and more misogynistic than usual, which is saying something considering the way the company traditionally handles it’s women.  Now that the whole angle is over, I feel worst for Ryder.  Backstage Scuttlebutt [BSB] suggests that WWE Creative has been telling the talent to make their own opportunities, and Ryder played that card perfectly.  He amassed a loyal Twitter following, his ‘True Long Island Stories’ YouTube show gets hundreds of thousands of views, and most memorably, made his own title belt and declared himself WWE Internet Champion.  The crowds responded and demanded him on TV, and they got him.  And Ryder’s reward for his hard work?  Playing the loser in an angle that was lame to begin with.

I want to believe Creative can rebuild him once he comes back from his “injuries,” [and why the hell was he even at RAW when confined to a wheelchair? Why wouldn’t he be at home recovering?] but I’m not terribly confident.

THE DOCTOR OF THUGONOMICS RETURNS: No, he didn’t freestyle, but John Cena still gave one of the best promos I’ve ever seen him deliver last Monday, blurring the lines between the business and legitimate differences of opinion that exist between the two men.  The promo worked because it came across that Cena believed what he was saying, not an outright shoot like CM Punk’s instant classic of a promo last summer, but definitely airing out some real opinions Cena has about Rocky.  Watching the promo, I believed that Cena feels Rocky uses the WWE fans when he needs them, ducking in and out for special appearances; I believed Cena’s pissed with the way The Rock told the fans he wouldn’t leave again, then didn’t appear on WWE TV for months; I believed Cena thinks the only reason The Rock came back was to “promote Fast Five and launch his Twitter account.” 

The subtle nods to the backstage politics of the company, mentioning how Vince might fine him, apologizing before using the phrase “professional wrestler,” [Vince McMahon’s preferred term being “sports entertainer,”], it was a fascinating promo, but what I loved most was the old, ‘Doctor of Thugonomics,’ swagger that crept back into Cena’s delivery.  I saw it when he was pacing around the ring, and by the time he told The Rock that he “don’t have the club in the bag, son,” blowing a kiss and tossing the mic to the mat, I was howling at the television.  This is the Cena I adored back in the US-Champion/Smackdown days, the guy I forgot existed while he was being the t-shirt selling superman for the kids.  Hopefully the promo, and all the positive reaction to it, will show Creative that Cena can get a little dirty and still move a metric ton of t-shirts and ballcaps.

Not to say the match will be as legendary as Rock-Hogan was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if certain similarities emerge in the storytelling, with Cena becoming the heel by default, just because The Rock will be the face no matter what he does or how much he appears on RAW.

All I know is, The Rock already promised via Twitter that Cena had no idea what was coming next week, and if Dwayne goes in, it’ll be utterly fascinating to watch.

THE BEST IN THE WORLD: As expected, Sheamus laid out Daniel Bryan during the Elimination Chamber PPV, leaving the path open for Chris Jericho to win his spot to face CM Punk for the WWE Title.  There really isn’t much else to say on this front yet, but I look forward to the next month of promos between two of the best talkers in the industry, never mind the match itself between two of the few guys who learned their trade grinding it out on the indie circuit.

THE ONLY THING I CARE ABOUT: By about minute twelve of the Undertaker-HHH conversation, The Lady [who’d been half paying attention from another room] called out, “This is a really long promo, isn’t it?”

“It is,” I said, “and it’s a hell of a bit of business!”

With all the talk of wrestling apocalypse, and ending eras and being the last of their kind and such, it’s really starting to feel like this could be it for both of these guys.  For Taker, this is a guy who’s 46, injuries have taken their toll, for the sake of his health he should be thinking about hanging it up while it’s still his choice to make, and 20 matches at Wrestlemania has a certain poetic beauty to it. For HHH, he’s transitioning to a backstage role both on and off-camera, and he’s also the only guy with the pedigree [pun intended] to face Taker in what could be his last match.  And after that, what’s really left for HHH as a wrestler?  Where does his character go?  Maybe he does a gimmick match once or twice a year, but I can’t see how he fits as a member of the active in-action roster.

So HHH accepts the match, and says that if they do it, they go all the way: he wants Hell in a Cell.  In reply, Taker [in a nice bit of booking], smirks and gives Trips the same patronizing shoulder pat Hunter had given him two weeks ago. Pleased to have goaded HHH into taking the match, or amused that he wants to face Taker in a match that the Deadman’s made his trademark?

In any case, I don’t know have a clue how they’re going to book this match.  20-0 at Wrestlemania would be something no one else would ever achieve, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Calloway takes more pride in that than any title reign, given how linked it is to the Undertaker’s character.  It’s also something he deserves, after serving as locker room General through the company’s highs and lows, always following the booking and never complaining, working his ass off to put on great matches and make the younger guys in the process.

But not even Shawn Michaels got to retire on his feet. The logic of the business says: you always go out on your back.  It’s the ‘time-honoured tradition,’ of the wrestling business; if you’re leaving the company, you look at the lights.  But it just seems so wrong for Taker to go out at 19-1, and what would it give HHH as a character?  The streak has become almost bigger than the business, I don’t think there’s a wrestler working today who deserves to end it, not even Vince’s son-in-law.

Between Punk/Jericho, Cena/Rock and Taker/HHH, the Wrestlemania card is starting to get me excited.  Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.

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