What WWE Did Right, and Wrong, with Wrestlemania XXVIII
As a life-long fan of WWE, I have no problem saying that the WWE product hasn’t been as great as it has been, or should be right now. WWE lately has been doing a great deal of things right, but they are still falling flat on their faces with other things. With Wrestlemania XXVIII last night, “The Showcase of the Immortals” is supposed to be the peak of the year for the WWE. In theory, you should be able to look at this PPV and see the best that the WWE has to offer, and last night’s Wrestlemania was the best the WWE has delivered in quite some time. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its fault.
RIGHT – CM PUNK DEFEATS CHRIS JERICHO
Going into this match, I was convinced that Chris Jericho would walk out as the new WWE Champion. A star of the caliber of Chris Jericho, coming back full-time with WWE, I was sure a World Title run was in his contract to come back. Something the WWE has failed to do in the past is allow the younger guys to build up properly and have a clean win over the established performers. Jericho is truly one of the greatest wrestlers of the past 15 years, and it would have made sense for him to defeat CM Punk. But, given the push the Punk has received over the past year, it wouldn’t have killed it, but knocked it off the rails for a bit. Last year when CM Punk announced his intentions to leave the company after his contract was up, Vince McMahon and Triple H decided to use it as part of the storyline, allowing Punk to air his grievances on-air. Once it was apparent that CM Punk could draw money and get over with the crowd, Punk was signed to a new, more lucrative contract (the night of his final match) that included a bigger salary and a tour bus to take Punk from venue to venue. After the pains WWE took to sign Punk to a new contract and build him up to be the top champion, it was almost a necessity for him to go over at Wrestlemania against an established former champion like Jericho.
RIGHT – THE UNDERTAKER’S UNDEFEATED STREAK CONTINUES, 20-0
The When you have a legend like Ric Flair saying that “The Undertaker” is the greatest persona in the history of Pro Wrestling, you can take that to the bank. After a 20 year career, Mark Callaway has earned the best reputation in the locker room of the WWE, being a “locker room General”. Though he’s only working a few dates a year, Undertaker is still one of the top draws the WWE has ever had. As a matter of fact, Understaker’s match at Wrestlemania was his first match since last year’s Wrestlemania, and he can still easily be a top draw. And having an undefeated streak at the greatest wrestling show ever is one of the best compliments any professional wrestler can be given. Going into this match, a lot of people were upset that Undertaker was facing a man he beat twice before at Wrestlemania 17 and 27. But going into this match, the potential 20th straight win at a Wrestlemania, you have to go in with a performer that can hold his own and give the best match possible. As Shawn Michaels has retired, Triple H is truly the only possible choice for that role. And it was poetic to have Michaels present as the special referee. Triple H, who truly is now one of the head creative forces behind the scenes at WWE, knew full well that to end the streak would be a blemish in the history of professional wrestling. Having Triple H lose was a compliment to two people, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. In one match, “The Streak” continued to 20 – 0, and Triple H was not able to do what Shawn Michaels couldn’t. If Triple H won, the streak would have ended (which it shouldn’t), and Triple H would have been viewed as a better wrestler than Shawn Michaels (which he isn’t). And to have Undertaker, Michaels, and Triple H walk out of the ring together to a standing ovation from the crowd was the best moment of the night. And yes, it was truly the “End of an Era”, because no matter how good guys like Cena and Punk get, they will never match what these three men have done.
RIGHT – THE BIG SHOW WINS THE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE
Something that was once one of the best things in the WWE was the Intercontinental Title. If you had this title, you were considered the best “worker” in the company. During the many years that Hulk Hogan was on top of the mountain, guys like Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Rick Rude, and Shawn Michaels were tearing the house down and having the best matches on the card. Even during the rise of guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels to the top spot, the IC title was still being held by amazing talents like Owen Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H. When the “Classic” title was redesigned, it seemed to end the run of great champions. The title was now being passed around to random guys, losing its prestige. Now that Cody Rhodes has been IC champion, WWE management decided to bring that prestige back to the title. First, have a champion that is a terrific worker. Second, bring back the title belt that the fans love and miss. Cody Rhodes is quickly becoming one of the best heels (villain) the WWE has had for years. Having him work against Big Show, the best “big man” to ever be a professional wrestler, was a perfect “David vs Goliath” story, but with a twist. The smaller man was champion, and was able to get in the head of the bigger man and break him down. Big Show doesn’t have many wins at Wrestlemania, despite his abilities. In fact, it’s because of his abilities that he’s used as the man to put over celebrities and make them look like they can actually fight in the ring. Not only did Big Show’s win elevate his legacy and give him a substantial win at the greatest show, it added another deserving champion to the legacy of a once great title.
RIGHT – THE HORSEMEN, EDGE, AND YOKOZUNA INDUCTED INTO THE HALL OF FAME
To non-fans, the idea of a WWE Hall of Fame is probably a strange one. Yes, this is “Sports Entertainment”, but there’s still a level of performance these people have to maintain in order to win over the fans and be successful in the business. The WWE Hall of Fame is meant to honor the people who did it better than others, and will have a lasting legacy that will live on. Yes, there are some political things that determine who goes into the Hall of Fame, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Edge retired shortly after last year’s Wrestlemania, making him a key contender for this year’s Hall of Fame. Yes, he’s one of the youngest people to be inducted, but he earned it. The same thing with guys like Eddie Guerrero who was inducted the year after his death, and Shawn Michaels who was inducted the year after he retired. Yes, it was early and instigated by either death or retirement, but those men earned it. Yokozuna, though he wasn’t around as long as other inductees, will always be remembered. Before Big Show, Yokozuna was the best “Big Man” working. The 500+ pound Samoan was packaged as a Japanese Sumo Champion, and his impressive speed and agility for a man his size shot him up the ladder and made him a champion quickly. Feuding with Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan, Yokozuna will always have a place in history as a great WWE Champion. And The Four Horsemem is a long overdue induction. The greatest faction in the history of the business, all of these men (Flair, Blanchard, Anderson, Windham, and Dillon) deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for their work as a group and their individual work. Inducting the Horsemen has made Ric Flair the only man to be in the Hall of Fame twice, and again, he earned that honor. And the fact that TNA was respectful enough to allow Flair, who is under contract to them, to appear on camera at the ceremony and Wrestlemania was the best thing they could have done.
RIGHT – THE ROCK DEFEATS JOHN CENA
To make this simple, John Cena had to lose because he’s still going to be around after The Rock goes back to Hollywood. Losing this match was the best thing that could be done for John Cena as a character right now. Winning or losing for The Rock would have made no difference for his character or his legacy. For quite some time, the audience has been polarized whenever John Cena comes out to the ring, with more and more boos filling the arena. Though Cena is still the most popular performer with younger fans and female fans, the male fans that the long-time wrestling fans are booing Cena more and more. Cena isn’t a villain, but he has become a stale character. Cena is the hardest worker in the WWE, going from a clumsy guy who was made Champion far too quickly, to a solid performer and someone whose popularity rivals that of Hulk Hogan in the 1980s. But Cena hasn’t changed in several years. He hasn’t brought anything new or different to the table, and many of the fans are getting bored by that. Going into this match with a living legend like The Rock, to have Cena win would have cemented and justified his lack of change over the past several years. But by having Cena lose clean to The Rock gives the character of John Cena something to work with and work toward. There is now that catalyst in the mind and story of John Cena that will allow him to change and evolve as a character. Having lost, after telling the fans and The Rock that he had to win, is going to eat away at Cena and by the time Wrestlemania XXIX rolls around and The Rock comes back for another match, John Cena will not be the same guy and that is a good thing.
And now where I feel WWE dropped the ball…
WRONG – THE SO-CALLED TAG TEAM TITLES DEFENDED BEFORE THE PPV STARTS
The Tag Team Titles are truly not what they used to be. 10 years ago, with battles between The Hardy Boyz, The Dudleys, and Edge & Christian, tag team matches would be the best matches of the night, and actually be the main event in several cases. The tag teams are just as important as individual performers, but the WWE has pushed them to the back so far that the Tag Team titles aren’t even defended during the main PPV. Primo and Epico defended their titles in a three-way match against the Uso Brothers (the only other actual tag team in the company) and the team of Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel. The state of tag teams in WWE is perfectly shown in that there are only two actual tag teams, and anyone they take on is just two individual wrestlers being put together because they aren’t getting over as individuals. Just a few years ago, Triple H and Shawn Michaels were WWE Tag Champions, probably the last great tag team, and actual tag team, to hold the titles. Now the titles look like glorified pennies and are defended before the PPV, for free, online. It doesn’t matter how good the match is if its deemed not even worthy of being part of the main show.
WRONG – THE WWE DIVAS MATCH
Like the Tag Teams, the WWE has been pissing away anything they have with the WWE Divas. At one point, the Divas were so popular that Lita winning the title from Stephanie McMahon was the main event of Monday Night Raw. With wrestlers like Lita, Trish Stratus, Ivory, Victoria, and Molly Holly, the 90s and 2000s were an amazing time for women’s wrestling in the WWE, having matches that would rival the hype and intensity of the men’s matches. As Trish and Lita bowed out, women like Melina and Mickey James came in to fill those spots. Both women were amazing performers, but (if the rumors are true) their true diva attitudes behind the scenes lead to both being let go from the company. As of right now, the WWE only have three women that can actually wrestle matches and be great performers, Beth Phoenix, Natalya Neidhart, and Kharma. Unfortunately, Beth Phoenix is being booked against women that can’t work well in the ring, Natalya was given a storyline where she kept farting, and Kharma has yet to come back to full-time action since her miscariage four months ago. Now we have Beth Phoenix teaming up with Eve, a great character but mediocre performer, to take on Kelly Kelly, another great character but a terrible performer, and Maria Menounos from “Extra”. Not only did Beth Phoenix, the current champion, have to face a substandard wreslter and a pseudo-celebrity, but she lost! The WWE has not taken the Divas very seriously over the past few years, going back to the 1980’s mentality of having the women be eye-candy first and foremost. Vince McMahon once said that its easier to teach a supermodel to be a wrestler than it is to teach a wrestler to be a supermodel, something that greatly upset several of the Divas within the company at the time. That mentality has damaged the Divas to almost a point of no return. Most of the Divas with the company rarely have matches, are rarely used as more than valets and managers, and are rarely even heard talking on the mic. And the fact that the Divas title belt is a damn Butterfly Tramp Stamp shows just how seriously WWE takes them. Yes, these women are sexy and beautiful, but you cannot go from beautiful ass-kickers like Trish Stratus and Lita, to beautiful women who can’t wrestle like most of the WWE Divas today.
WRONG – SHEAMUS DEFEATS DANIEL BRYAN FOR THE WORLD TITLE IN 18 SECONDS
Where WWE succeeded with making sure CM Punk continued his push, the WWE pushed Daniel Bryan right into a brick wall. The WWE career of Daniel Bryan has been a rough one already. Originally brought in as part of the original NTX rookies, fans were already familiar with Daniel Bryan’s work in “Ring of Honor”, where he was a top performer and one of the best pure wrestlers working today. Bryan was immediately the popular stand out among the NTX rookies, who were later formed into the villain stable “Nexus”. On the first night Nexus was formed, Bryan was fired for “choking” a ring announcer with his tie. Bryan wasn’t actually choking the announcer, but after the murder/suicide of Chris Benoit and his family, choking is a big no-no. After fan outcry, Bryan was brought back a few months later as a fan-favorite who fought against Nexus. But from that point, the WWE was still unsure about Bryan, allowing commentator Michael Cole to completely “bury” Bryan during his matches, ridiculing him and just talking him down completely. After some time, Bryan proved himself to be a great performer in WWE and was not only given the World Title, but a turn as a full heel. Since his title time, Bryan has won several title defenses, but only because he was able to cheat or sneak by barely. But on the positive side, the gimick was working and Bryan was a truly successful villain. Going into Wrestlemania, Bryan was set to take on Sheamus, a former WWE Champion. The fact that this match was the first match once the PPV officially started should have been a sign of how this was going to end. Not only was the opening match for the World Title, the longest running and most prestigeous title in the history of wrestling, it lasted 18 seconds. The bell rings, Bryan kisses his girlfriend, turns around and gets kicked sqaure in his face. A three-count later and Sheamus is the new champion. Sheamus is deserving of the title, and the obvious favorite to win, but not at the expense of stopping Daniel Bryan dead in his tracks.