Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wrestlemania Predictions

So this is it: the "Granddaddy of Them All", the "Showcase of the Immortals", Wrestlemania weekend is here again! As literally the entire North American wrestling industry converges on Orlando, Florida (honestly! as well as WWE, TNA's home base is at Universal Studios, and Ring of Honor has two shows - last night and tonight - set up in Orlando in the leadup to Mania!), it's time to figure out how The Main Event (as opposed to a couple of indy shows - albeit with the potential to steal the weekend - or tonight's Hall of Fame ceremony - not to minimize the importance of that either) is going to play out.

Before that though just as a note, speaking of the Hall of Fame: tonight's ceremony will air in Canada at 11pm on the Score - and props to the Score for treating the WWE with more respect than TSN ever did by airing it! Now, on to the predictions.

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Triple H vs. John Cena

I'm going to agree with Jason Powell ( when he says the placement of this match on the card matters. While my prediction is that Triple H has the best chance, if this match is any earlier in the night, Randy Orton's chances of retaining his belt go up (Wrestlemania usually likes going out with a feel-good 'Face on Top' moment, which can be provided to us by Undertaker winning the title if this match is earlier). If it's the last match, Triple H is almost a lock, unless they bring out the Money in the Bank winner in a surprise swerve at the end, the possibility of which Mr. Kennedy teased a couple of weeks ago. What does all that come to? Let's say 75% chance Triple H wins; 20% chance Randy Orton wins (higher if the match is earlier in the card), and 5% chance John Cena wins - he's already had 3 big Wrestlemania moments in a row, while Randy Orton has never headlined, and Triple H has been gracious about WM losses for years. Sorry John - your time's NOT now.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge (c) vs. Undertaker

If Edge hadn't basically 'lost' at Wrestlemania last year, and still had his own 7-0 win streak going on, I would actually say Undertaker's 15-0 Wrestlemania winning streak was in danger; if this was a legit streak vs. streak match, Edge is a hard-working, hot (as in on fire) young guy, the type Mark Calloway would respect, and I could see this being an awesome way to vaunt him into some pretty elite status. However, Edge has had an injury-plagued 12 months, his title reigns have been either short or seemingly-undeserved (riddled with outside interference from his Rated R-my), and while he wasn't pinned, nor did he submit at least year's WM, he also didn't win his match. I think his stock has unfortunately gone down enough that he's no longer a real threat to The Streak. Undertaker wins.

No DQ Match: Floyd "Money" Mayweather vs. Big Show

As a slap in the face to both world titles and to Ric Flair, I suspect this match is going on last (shades of Lawrence Taylor's Wrestlemania XI match: such faith in champ Kevin Nash and a new-to-the-main-event Shawn Michaels). I also suspect, especially with the No Rules stip, that it won't be clean, since neither guy can really afford to lose here. Big Show 'hurts' Mayweather, a melee ensues w/Mayweather's posse and the WWE midcard, and the match is thrown out. Unless the so-called 'big swerve' I've heard was supposed to be a part of this match is any good, I really couldn't care less and I hope WWE has more sense than to put this match in the main event slot. But mainstream-wise, even I can acknowledge this is where their bread has been buttered this year, so it probably will be.

Career-Threatening Match: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

What I believe should be the last match on the card: Ric Flair has essentially been wrestling under the premise (edict by Vince McMahon) that he must retire following his next loss in singles competition. Wrestling-wise, I believe this is the Naitch's swan song, going out on the grandest stage of them all, the night after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, losing to one of his best friends and a kid who has looked up to him his entire career. It does not get any better, and the emotions, nostalgia and feelings involved in this match, and the end of a 35-year in-ring career are high. This match is what WM is about, and even if it is not in the top-of-the-card position, it will steal the show: despite both men's somewhat-advancing ages, they have every incentive in the world to tear the house down. And yes, I do predict Ric Flair retires tomorrow night. We'll just see if it stays that way (I actually believe it will; although I believe he'll remain involved in the on-screen product in a non-wrestling capacity).

Money in the Bank Ladder Match (winner gets a title shot contract)

For those of you who don't watch wrestling (ie friends who just check this out to be polite), this match's concept is simple in its complexity: seven men wrestle in a single match, in the middle of the ring is a ladder, which they must climb to claim the briefcase dangling from the ceiling. In the briefcase? A contract allowing the winner to challenge any World Champion in the WWE (Raw, Smackdown, ECW) - they can cash it in any time between tomorrow night, and Wrestlemania next year - it's like having 'Money in the Bank' (get it? get it?). Involved this year: Chris Jericho (the Intercontinental Champion), Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP - the US Champion), John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin, Ken Kennedy, Carlito, and CM Punk. Supposed to be involved: Jeff Hardy, until he was suspended for 60 days due to failing a drug test. Given Jeff was supposed to win (yes, he was and everyone knows it!), it does make the Money in the Bank outcome more interesting, though the match itself less so to watch. I'm going to predict MVP or CM Punk - Jericho is the obvious one, but the purpose of this match is to break glass ceilings and give guys who need that last push over the top, that push: Jericho doesn't need it.

*Side comment*: While I like the MITB format, it DOES wreak havoc on the WM midcard: the two secondary champions, and one half of the World Tag Team Champions (John Morrison) are all in this match: how does that make the value of those titles look, when the IC and US champs don't even defend them at the biggest event of the year, in favour of going after a bigger prize instead? It's times like this when, whatever you say, I miss Chris Benoit: he treated any secondary title he held with proper dignity and respect.

Smackdown/Raw Interpromotional Match: Batista vs. Umaga

Battle of the one-named wonders. I've heard rumours of Umaga going over to SD (which would be good, SD is bereft of heels right now - so is Raw but I see a couple folks over there turning in the near-future), so look for an unclean win here, whoever gets it, so that this feud can continue and end up being over the #1 contendership for the Undertaker's shiny new SD title. Since it's not going to end the feud or be clean anyway, let's give the win to 'Tista.

24-man Battle Royal - Winner faces ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero

Kane wins the Battle Royal. AND beats Chavo. The Brothers of Destruction (Kane/Undertaker) fight Chavo/Edge at Backlash. Edge is relegated to midcard - or maybe goes back to Raw to feud with Triple H in what I think is actually a fresh new feud we haven't seen before - while Taker moves on to focus on 'Maga and perhaps Big Show on SD. Huh ... starting to think the upcoming Draft Lottery (a chance to switch wrestlers from brand to brand - stupid since their pretty porous anyway - did you know Big Show and Ric Flair are technically Smackdown wrestlers? Yeah, I didn't remember that either) might be more interesting - or at least have more impact on the future direction of WWE - than 'Mania. Not good ... sigh.

Belfast Brawl: JBL vs. Finlay

The opening match, unless they choose to open with the ECW title defense or MITB in order to give the start of the show some added 'oomph' - which yes they usually do, but with every match being SO big, I can't see them wanting to give any of the bigger showcases away. If JBL hadn't been so nasty to Hornswoggle, I'd say the little leprechaun would come out and turn on his 'Daddy'; since he has, though, I expect Horny's return to the ring to help Finlay. Look, perhaps, for Vince McMahon to assert himself here, as he seems to have taken himself out of this storyline since the first week it started. Finlay wins, unless they want this feud to continue.

Bunnymania Lumberjill Tag Match: Playboy Bunnies Ashley and Maria vs. Beth Phoenix and Melina

Who cares? The only thing that will be even mildly entertaining about this match is that Snoop Dogg (the ring announcer or ref or something - the "MC") is going to knock out the always-funny Santino Marella. While the heel girls can wrestle alright, now that Candice Michelle has been injured (again!) and replaced by Ashley, neither of the faces really can. No excuse for this match being in the place of a Beth Phoenix-Mickey James women's title match (another joke belt); or at LEAST giving Maria the world title shot. It's frickin' Mania, guys! The one thing that might salvage this match is if Mickey (assuming she's one of the Lumberjills) goes heel. She's a deliciously naughty heel and that could create some good entertainment in weeks ahead. Otherwise, this is called bathroom break. Especially if you're not a big fan of "Snoopy the Dog".

So that's the card. And I see it a lot like I saw WM 22 a couple years ago: a lot of potential for suckitude, but also some potential. It's all in how it's played; where matches land on the card, and how they are booked. This is a chance for WWE to take a potential shit pile and make it great. It CAN be great. Will the straw be turned into gold? Or merde? It's a question that it will cost you $50 to find out the answer, but we'll all have to tune in tomorrow night to find out. See you at the matches!


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