|One of my favorite overlooked classics|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Chicago-made @dskalba kicks off this week's mailbag by asking what some of the best overlooked matches are in WrestleMania history to get people pumped up for the show Sunday.
Ooh, a list question to start! I will give you three.
1. Undertaker vs. Triple H, WrestleMania X-7: WWE would love for you to think the only two times they wrestled with The Streak on the line was at XXVII and XXVIII, but their bout at the greatest WrestleMania ever is hands down the best of the series. They took the formula that made the Attitude Era unique and actually fleshed out an honest-to-God match.
2. Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy, WrestleMania 2: Being the best match on a stinky card isn't exactly an honor, but Hogan/Bundy in the BLUE BARS was legitimately a good contest. Hogan almost wrestled like he had a human quality to him instead of exaggerating everything like a Marvel hero.
3. John Cena vs. Batista, WrestleMania XXVI: This match is still my favorite on the card, even over Taker/Michaels II. Batista was at his absolute peak in the ring, which is a shame because he would leave soon after.
Royal Rumble statistician and Irresistible vs. Immovable co-conspirator Scott T. Holland asks if I see any NXT wrestlers called up after Mania.
Well, I'm working under the assumption that Alexander Rusev makes his debut on Sunday in the Andre Battle Royale. Even so, he's already gotten vignettes and stage presentations out the ass, and he's even gotten a soft debut at the Rumble. He doesn't count. However, as for real debuts, I see a few wrestlers who could conceivably make the jump. Tyler Breeze and The Ascension are two acts that I would peg for callup after Mania. The former has a money gimmick, and outside of winning the title, which feels superfluous for him at this point, he's got nothing left to do down there. The Ascension would be best-debuted if Undertaker turned heel in preparation for a showdown with John Cena next year and they became his minions. Absent that high fantasy though, the Usos are out of challengers, and the Ascension could chew up some card time with them.
@Michael_T1919 wants me to look into the future and predict the card for WrestleMania XXXV.
I won't predict an undercard, because that would provide too much aimless projection. However, I will give you the top four matches...
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Sami Zayn - Ambrose, after beating John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, has seen his stranglehold on the title loosen and loosen to the point where he needed shenanigans from his minions The Underground, Hernando Velez (Eddie Kingston) and Jack Swagger, to retain at Elimination Chamber, staving off Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. Zayn, after winning his first Royal Rumble match, is looking to get his hands on his first Championship of any kind in WWE despite wrestling in high profile feuds with wrestlers such as Randy Orton, Antonio Cesaro, Bryan, and Cena. This match is hotly anticipated.
THE BEST VS. THE BEST: Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk - Punk made his long awaited return to WWE the night after the Royal Rumble, after leaving in 2014, assaulting Bryan for taking his spot five years prior. Even though he became a cult celebrity, starring on a Netflix sitcom, becoming a regular on Talking Dead, and even training for a MMA fight for Bellator (which got Punk all over TNA television without having to appear for them... hey, remember TNA?), he still claimed he was the best in the world, despite the fact that Bryan, whose run of top matches at Mania began at XXX, had become the undisputed face of the company.
John Cena vs. Solomon Crowe - In only two years on the main roster, Crowe already garnered a yearlong reign with the Unified Intercontinental Championship and engaged in a clash of lifestyles, his technologically-inclined hacker life against Bray Wyatt's Luddite swamp hillbilly persona. However, like Wyatt did five years prior, Ambrose three years, and Enzo Amore the year before, Crowe made it his rite of passage to call Cena's thunder down from the mountain for the ultimate proving ground.
CAREER THREATENING MATCH: Sheamus vs. Triple H - Triple H's dalliance at WrestleMania XXX gave him a taste for in ring action. For the last five years, he became more and more active, shirking his duties as COO and getting more and more into the fray. However, anarchy in the front office became the norm, as order on RAW became a distant memory. When Crowe took over the arena in an attempt to kidnap and torture Cena right after the Rumble, wife Stephanie McMahon and father-in-law Vince laid down the ultimatum, quit wrestling or be written out of the will. Trips maneuvered, however, to put his in-ring career on the line against a wrestler of the McMahons' choosing... the Celtic Warrior and seven-time former Champion Sheamus.
I found leaving out guys like Wyatt, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Reigns, Orton, Damien Sandow, Big E Langston, Drake Younger, Aiden English, Adrian Neville, and the like extremely hard, but the problem with forecasting is that luck oftentimes is the deciding factor, rather than skill or potential.
@OkoriWadsworth asks what city I would like to see host WrestleMania that hasn't before.
Portland. WrestleMania is an awful cultural fit for the Rose City, but that juxtaposition is why I want Mania to be there so badly. I would love to see WWE's interpretation on what they think is "hipster" culture.
Rich Thomas, co-host of the International Object podcast, asks which wrestlers on the card this year I think whose best WrestleMania moments are both ahead of them and behind them.
Obviously, Triple H, Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Big Show, Kane, Rey Mysterio, Batista, the Outlaws, Christian, and Goldust's moments are behind them. For The Miz, I can't see anything topping his Mania headline run, especially given his place in the company right now. I doubt Zack Ryder's going to get any higher than helping Edge during his match against Taker. Alberto del Rio might not get too much higher than he is now either, to be honest.
Bryan, Wyatt, Cesaro, all three members of The Shield, Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes, and the Usos all have their big moments ahead of some, like Bryan, who might get theirs on Sunday. Of all the older, more established guys, I still think Randy Orton can have a bigger Mania moment than what he's had. Sheamus may not get bigger than 18 seconds victory, but I doubt it. Everyone I haven't made may not get a Mania moment of note. Again, projecting things like this is hard business.
Legendary returned Twitter user @brianbrown25 asks what the best commentated WrestleMania has been.
WrestleManias VII and VIII were the only ones commentated by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. I give VII the nod if only because they were on point with the Randy Savage/Ultimate Warrior match. Every other Mania had upsides and downsides. In fact, the first WrestleMania was well-commentated as well. But I'm a sucker for a Monsoon/Heenan booth.
Scott's partner in crime, Dave Kincannon, asks whom I think will fill the final three spots in the Battle Royale.
Brad Maddox took my wild card spot, or did he? What if Antonio Cesaro doesn't get to do double duty, or what if Rob van Dam's comeback is a smokescreen? Still, I stick by my picks. Cesaro, RVD, and Alexander Rusev, if I'm being realistic of course.
@mikechauvet asks what the odds are that The Network streams Mania cleanly on Sunday.
Well, I took the extra precaution of getting a brand new router for the event just in case it's all on my end. But I'm going to give the event 10-1 odds of no hiccups. Hopefully WWE and MLB.tv will get some more servers to handle the load. Otherwise, it's going to be a huge black eye for them.
Of course, I will stick with the Network as long as it exists and as long as I live, but I'm a junkie.
@JordiScrubbings asks if it's "mac 'n cheese" or "cheese 'n mac."
Were you raised in a barn? Mac 'n cheese. C'mon now.
Strong Island's own @mikepankowski asks if I could put one wrestler NOT in the Hall of Fame in the Andre Battle Royale which one would it be.
If the rider is that guy can't be in the Hall, then the easiest answer is Vader. I would love seeing the Mastodon chugging down to the ring, throwing those ham hocks at the vanilla midgets, slappin' blubber with Mark Henry, going toe to toe with Big E Langston. Oh man, my HOSS SENSE is tingling just thinking about it. GIVE ME VADER. IT'S TIME. IT'S TIME. IT'S VADER. TIME.
@Doc_Ruiz2012 asks if his nemesis Xavier Woods will win the Andre Battle Royale because everyone would have forgotten he was in there.
No, because I'm pretty sure Alexander Rusev is going to eat him for energy like a video game.
Resident Austin Golden Domer @NDEddieMac asks if these Bray Wyatt/John Cena "Legacy" video packages are the best WWE's done since The Miz's "Hate Me Now" ones before his Mania main event.
For all the things WWE does intermittently or plain wrong, the company gets its video production right on a regular basis, right? These "Legacy" spots have been tight, but the packages for the Rhodes Boys during the fall were pretty good too. The production package I'll remember most, however, is the videos for WrestleMania XXVI, Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker, set to "Running up That Hill" by Placebo. The company sure knows how to get the fans hype.
Seattle superdude @Moose_Bigelow asks what the best gimmick ever is.
Imagine an insect, only he's also black magic warlock. Okay, then imagine him as the ringleader for an army of ghouls that include two pumpkin-heads, a skeletal tattoo-artist, and whatever the fuck a Blind Rage is. Then imagine him being a vocal, militant Vegan who is huge into punk rock ethos. Then imagine him being the most popular wrestler in the most important independent wrestling company in America right now. You don't need to imagine, friend, because he exists. UltraMantis Black is the best gimmick ever.
Handsome-voiced gentleman Bill DiFilippo of Onward State asks to rank the voices on the recent Mania preview podcast we all did from "best" to "Dan (Vecellio)."
1. Me as Dusty Rhodes
3. Me as Hulk Hogan
5. Me as myself
6. Me as Antonio Cesaro
Newspaper bro @czach1r asks if a minor title division having a bunch of title switches would be great for the competition level or bad for the constant losses.
Both have ups and downs, but I don't think playing "hot potato" with the title necessarily devalues it. If the title switches come in good matches between hot and over wrestlers, then the title is enhanced because of demand. Obviously, just passing the belt like a blunt between a bunch of wrestlers who have nothing going for them sucks, but good booking principles apply to every situation.
@TheUltimateMatt asks what off-the-wall thing WWE could do on RAW following Mania.
WWE could replay Sami Zayn's arc with Antonio Cesaro in NXT with someone on the main roster, maybe Randy Orton, maybe Alberto del Rio, maybe Cesaro himself and see if lightning can get caught in another bottle. The start of said run would be jarring at any other show, but at Dork WrestleMania (my name for the RAW the night after), it would fit right in.
@ThisPhillyFan wants to know if Cesaro's singles push will finally get started after Mania.
The rumors seem to indicate such, but the "rumors" tend to forestall a lot of crazy shit. I think any time any news source reports on future plans from their sources, they're just throwing shit to the wall to see what sticks. That all being said, I think he'll get a chance to shine. The crowds love him, he has an over finisher, and he wrestles great matches. If that formula works for a guy who looks like Daniel Bryan, what about someone with the look of Cesaro?
Benevolent robotic fan algorithm @robot_hammer asks if the Divas are a low priority because fans don't care, or do the fans not care because it's such a low priority.
I think the latter is the case. If the company presents something as important, and the people doing the thing are competent or better, then fans will get into it. Fans don't pop for Emma as Santino Marella's girlfriend, but they totally popped for the Emma Lock. That example might not be enough evidence for me, but it's the start of a thread.
Philadelphia-to-Pitt U bro @HummerX asks how crazy it is that Bryan f'n Danielson will more than likely be main eventing WrestleMania in 36 hours.
Finally, Phillies Nation writer and Monster Factory booster Ian Riccaboni asks who the biggest WWE wrestler in the last 30 years is who hasn't appeared at WrestleMania.
Jeez, I honestly can't answer this question, because every wrestler I can think of from the last 30 years who was worth a damn has appeared at Mania. I can only answer on a technicality and say that since WWE owns the WCW library that Sting is probably the answer. Other than that... I am stumped.