With 33 days to go until Wrestlemania XXX descends on New Orleans, WWE is revving up the engine in hopes that it will be the most-watched pay-per-view event of all time. That is the goal every year for Vince McMahon and those in charge in Stamford, Connecticut. But there is one huge difference this year: the WWE is cutting it very close in regards to building up their card.
"But there's over a month until the event," you're saying to yourself.
That would be fine if this were a lesser event, but this is Wrestlemania. The Super Bowl of wrestling. The pay-per-view that ties together storylines, blows off feuds and creates new ones. The rare occasion where the mainstream media will pick up on it, all the while the hype machine is at full force. It's not just a one day thing, either. It's a week long extravaganza aided by WWE Axxess and a flurry of activity for fans and stars alike. It creates jobs and boost the local economy, sometimes as much as 100 million dollars. No wonder cities bid on it similarly to the Olympics.
That is why Wrestlemania is integral and pivotal to WWE's big picture. If it flops, it's a strong indication of the current product being churned out. Which makes the current rumored card to be all the more precarious.
The build should realistically begin at the Royal Rumble, so feuds can develop and fans can begin to become invested in their respective side. The skeleton plans of the card can be traced back as far as the previous fall typically. The term "card subject to change" is prevalent, no matter how much a match is wanted or demanded. Injuries and other circumstances can happen, so nothing really begins to take shape until January's Rumble.
This year's show was less than impressive, which might be understatement of the year. Batista stormed back on January 20th, and with less than a week under his belt after a near-five year hiatus, he won the Rumble amidst a sea of boos. A ploy such as his return can be used to throw fans off the scent that possibly Daniel Bryan would compete and win the thirty-man spectacle, but Bryan was never in it at all. Dating back to last Summer, fans have hopped on his bandwagon in droves (myself included). His passion for the business, quirky charisma and natural wrestling ability are what makes him so easy to root for. Amongst a land of giants, Bryan is realistic. He's one of us, in a way. Well- with a way hotter girlfriend than any of us could ever imagine having.
The next night after, Bryan brought up the elephant in the room right away to open RAW. HHH came out to give him the "you sit at the kids table at Thanksgiving" talk, politely shoeing the bearded one away. The problem between the Rumble and 'Mania is just that. There's something between them- Elimination Chamber. WWE bookers have to find a way to keep people busy, and instead of developing feuds recently, they use EC as a placeholder of sorts. It's not meant to be memorable, just profitable. And while making a profit is always a top priority, having a pay-per-view without any real meaning hurts the product as a whole. Outside of quite possibly the best six-man tag team match of all time (the Shield versus the Wyatts), the event was largely a write-off. Bryan was shunted into the main-event, which no one expected him to win. Credit to WWE for making us believe he had even a 1% chance of walking away champion, though.
The last few weeks since Chamber have fans still wondering what the card will look like. The only two matches announced so far are Batista versus Orton and Lesnar versus Undertaker. While the names are big, the stakes aren't. Fans have soured on both Batista and Orton, to the point where I can see that potential match getting a worse reaction than Goldberg/Lesnar from 2004. A by-the-motions heel Batista is something no one wants.Batista was so bad as a newly-returned face that the WWE had no choice but to turn him and somehow hope making Orton a face is the cure-all. Orton as a face goes just as well as a whore in church.
The other main event has a lot of history and star power: Lesnar versus Undertaker. While the two have had great battles in the past and even ran into each other during Lesnar's UFC run, this match-up seems out of left field. It had been discussed, yes- but bear with me. Undertaker returns last week after a year-long absence and without being provoked, attacks Lesnar. We all know the streak is the streak. But why would he come out to shut-up Lesnar? What does Undertaker gain? At this stage in his career, many are wondering if Taker can handle the physical style of Brock's. Could this be his final go? No one knows just yet. While I'd still pay to see it, this match will be carried largely by name-power.
Unannounced but highly speculated matches include a Shield triple-threat, the Usos versus the New Age Outlaws for the tag-team titles, Daniel Bryan versus HHH, and John Cena versus Bray Wyatt. One would also have to think AJ and Big E would defend their titles as well. Even if these matches were official, there are still plenty of questions. Can the Usos finally win the titles? Will the Shield break-up after a year and a half run? Does WWE have the balls to have Bray Wyatt beat John Cena clean at the show of shows? What about the rest of the Wyatt Clan? Is Daniel Bryan really going to be shunned out of the title scene for the sake of HHH's ego?
But the final question is most pertinent, especially tonight as RAW comes from Chicago, Illinois.
What about CM Punk?
This may be unfair, because just because it is Chi-town does not guarantee his appearance. But the speculation seems fair after he left the company less than an hour before a RAW, and as he is a certified main-event star in the company (or was). If he does come back tonight, where does he figure in to the WMXXX equation? Do they simply insert him into the title scene in the hopes he stays happy and remains with them after his contract is up later this year? Or does WWE pair him with HHH as first thought back in January?
The Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) hopes for the latter, as that would free up Daniel Bryan for possibly bigger and better things. If tonight is any indication, fans of "the flying goat" may be in luck. Bryan is scheduled to face the heelish Batista in Chicago tonight, a city known for being smart wrestling fans and in the loop. The reaction should be night and day for each performer, and the fans will let Vince and company know who he should give the ball to.
More scenarios are left to be pondered. What about Cesaro? Ziggler? Miz? Christian? Sheamus? There is plenty of talent to go around, but the problem is they have no direction. WWE doesn't have much time to waste heading into 'Mania, their first on the brand-new WWE Network. The only thing we know for certain is if they are going to begin to formulate a card for their biggest show of the year, they better start tonight.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.