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Wrestlemania XXX: The Preview

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(Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/ Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/ Getty Images)

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It’s almost time for the WWE’s biggest event of the year – its “Super Bowl” if you will – Wrestlemania XXX. Taking place inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the granddaddy of them all will feature its superstars of the past, present and future LIVE on Pay-Per-View and for the first time ever, the WWE Network.

The road to Wrestlemania has been a long one, with quite a few detours, but with the event set for Sunday April 6th, there promises to be a lot of fireworks – and I’m not just talking about the pyro.

The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. Los Matadores (Diego & Fernando) vs. The Real Americans (Jack Swagger & Cesaro) vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel in a Fatal Four Way match for the WWE Tag Team Championships

In Wrestlemanias past, the tag team match is usually just thrown together with whatever teams happen to be around, but this year there’s actually been some build up to this encounter. The Real Americans, Jack Swagger & Cesaro, and Ryback & Curtis Axel were awarded their shot because they had assisted the Director of Operations, Kane, in dispatching The Shield during a #1 Contender’s match a few weeks back. Los Matadores earned their chance with a series of wins, including one over fellow contenders Rybaxel. This match will be taking place during the two hour pre-show and unfortunately not on the main card, but I doubt that will keep most fans from seeing it. It will definitely be the first real test of the WWE Network’s servers. I anticipate The Usos, Jimmy & Jey, to retain the belts after hitting some of their trademark offense. This is their first reign after beating transitional champions, The New Age Outlaws, and by successfully defending their belts it will raise the brothers’ profile. Personally, I’d love to see The Real Americans walk away as champs, but I doubt they’ll want to rain on the crowd’s parade too early.

The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose) vs. Kane & The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Road Dogg)

The Shield have been on a roll since debuting back in 2012, having been mostly unstoppable in their quest to bring “Justice,” to the WWE. After showing some internal tension leading up to the Royal Rumble and through Elimination Chamber, they all seem to be back on the same page. Especially ever since they defied Kane and by extension, The Authority, and became heroes in the fans’ eyes. The New Age Outlaws, Billy Gun and Road Dogg, have been on a nostalgia trip since they returned to the WWE and have shown that they still have a fair amount left in the tank. I imagine this match will be a big showcase for The Shield and Roman Reigns in particular as they seem to be grooming him to be the stable’s break out star. That’s not to say Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins aren’t incredible talents, they are, Roman just has that classic “WWE” look and currently gets the biggest reaction from the fans. Kane and the Outlaws are still capable of having good matches, despite their limited schedule, but you’d be crazy to think they’re going over The Shield at this point.

The Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational

This match was set up by Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero and will feature most, if not all, of WWE’s female grapplers. Current champion AJ Lee has had an impressive 300 day plus title reign, the early part of which, contained some of the best feuding the Women’s Title has ever seen. It all fell by the wayside when E! started airing its reality show, Total Divas, and the drama has been between the women who star on the show, versus those that don’t. I think Total Divas, is good for the WWE as it exposes their brand to audiences outside their own shows, despite it being almost as scripted as what the WWE puts inside the squared circle. AJ Lee has been the most vocal on-screen critic of the show, feeling it takes away from her historic reign and draws attention away from the woman who should be the face of the Divas division. Rumors persist that her recent lack of TV time is because of her alleged relationship with the recently departed CM Punk. It does say a lot about the WWE’s booking that instead of having a feud, they’re literally putting all of their women in one match. As a result, it’s a big opportunity for a newcomer like Emma, but also I had actually forgotten Rosa Mendes was still on the roster. The action will be frenetic and I imagine Tamina (AJ’s bodyguard of late) will turn on AJ Lee, which means we’ll be looking at a new Divas Champion by the end. I’m not sure who exactly will walk out champion, but I would bet the farm that it’s one of the cast members of  Total Divas, most likely one of The Bella Twins or Natalya.

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

This match was the storyline brain child of Wrestlemania XXX host Hulk Hogan, as a tribute to his Wrestlemania III opponent, the 8th Wonder of the World, Andre the Giant. It will feature 30 Superstars, basically most of the roster that didn’t already have a match at Wrestlemania. When it was initially announced, I didn’t much care for the idea since the Royal Rumble had just happened in January and also featured 30 superstars. The Battle Royale is a nice way for the WWE to give a Wrestlemania bonus to the talent that busts their humps 52 weeks a year, just to see movie stars get in the main event at the WWE’s biggest show. In recent weeks they’ve done a good job establishing the trophy as a legitimate prize and have showcased such mid to upper card talent as Sheamus, Big Show, Christian, The Intercontinental Champion Big E, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz in interviews and brawls hyping the match. My gripe is that Big E should be defending his Intercontinental title on this card, but considering Dean Ambrose hasn’t defended his US Championship in months, it’s not all that surprising. I would like to see Dolph Ziggler win the match, he’s pretty great on the mic, but even better in the ring, but has been floundering for a long time and it would certainly give his career a shot in the arm. Maybe even have him eliminate his former heavy, Big E and set up a nice feud over the IC strap, post-mania. If you’re taking prop bets, go ahead and put cash on the trophy being broken over the winner’s back.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman

Every year someone attempts to disrupt the longest running streak in the business today, The Undertaker’s 21 wins at Wrestlemania. This year it’s The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, the former WWE and UFC Champion who has accomplished pretty much everything else in his career and seeks yet another jewel for his crown. Interestingly enough the two have wrestled in the past when Brock was an up and comer in the WWE and even had an exchange outside the ring after Lesnar’s loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. None of that is acknowledged on WWE TV though, and the storyline is Lesnar was denied a WWE Title match at ‘Mania, but was given a chance to hand pick his opponent at the show of shows. Brock and his advocate Paul Heyman, were set to decline the offer, right until The Undertaker made a surprise appearance. They signed the match contract and The Undertaker punctuated the event by stabbing Lesnar with the pen and then chokeslamming him through the table. This one will most likely be a mix between a brawl and an MMA match as Undertaker is a big fan of the sport and Lesnar is a former MMA champion. I expect we’ll see some of Taker’s classic moves and interference from Paul Heyman as well. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s changed to a no-DQ match at the last second either. Undertaker is getting up there in years, but can still pull off a great performance once a year. Lesnar is as impressive a physical specimen as there is and when given the right opponent, he can have a very compelling match. While “The Streak” may not have the same stakes as previous encounters with Shawn Michaels, it’s almost worth watching just for Undertaker’s ring entrance. Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever see Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania. The streak will most certainly be extended to 22-0 and Lesnar, despite the loss, won’t lose any credibility.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt with The Wyatt Family

I haven’t enjoyed a wrestler in the last decade as much as I’ve enjoyed watching Bray Wyatt and his flock since their debut last summer. His character is the right mix of threatening and creepy and his promos have been must see TV every Monday night. He’s a subversive, swamp dwelling preacher and has even cribbed lines from the mind-bending HBO series True Detective, to sell his persona as the “Eater of Worlds.” He’s been given the right amount of build up too, having had impressive feuds with Daniel Bryan and The Shield. His equally impressive followers, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have helped him mow down everyone that’s stood in his way. At Wrestlemania, he faces his biggest challenge to date, the WWE’s poster boy, John Cena. The leader of the Cenation gets a mixed reaction from the fan base, but has been on the top of the WWE mountain for most of his decade plus career. In recent weeks John has said this match with Bray is about his “legacy,” while that’s somewhat dubious (his legacy is quite established) he knows he can’t afford to come up short at the biggest event of the year. Despite fans’ protest Cena is actually a very good worker, and with a unique talent like Bray Wyatt, this one has the possibility to steal the show. I think a lot of fans are worried that the WWE won’t let Cena lose at Wrestlemania, but I’d point to the 27th and 28th iterations where Cena lost to The Miz and The Rock respectively. Much like Lesnar, Cena is almost bullet proof and a loss won’t hurt him all that much, but it will do wonders for Wyatt’s career. Follow the Buzzards…

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H – For a spot in the WWE Title Triple Threat Match

Ever since Summerslam Triple H has abused his authority as the COO to keep Daniel Bryan from becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, at title which Bryan held for all of five minutes before Randy Orton defeated him after a vicious pedigree from Triple H during his celebration. Triple H’s reasoning was that Randy Orton has the right look to be the “Face of the WWE,” and Daniel Bryan lacks the stature and proper grooming to represent the company, calling him a “B+ player.” The fans wholeheartedly disagree, you can hardly hear anything else outside of the crowd chanting, “YES,” the second the first chords of “Flight of the Valkyries” comes over the PA. Now known as the “Yes Movement,” it reflects years of internet griping that Triple H holds talent back and is now “burying” Daniel Bryan the same way he has buried others. A few weeks back Daniel Bryan even had an “Occupy RAW,” moment when he had dozens of fans in the ring holding the show hostage until he got a match with the King of Kings at Wrestlemania. Triple H begrudgingly granted his request and was even goaded into adding the stipulation that, should Daniel Bryan win, he would be entered into the Main Event and wrestle for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Many have argued, and I can’t say I disagree, that the lackluster support for the original match of Randy Orton vs. Batista necessitated adding Daniel to the mix, but at least they’ve provided some storyline reasoning behind it. Triple H, in typical heel fashion, even changed the stipulation so that should he beat Bryan, he will be the one competing in the triple threat match for the title. The WWE are masters of manipulation, taking the fans’ frustration and turning it to their advantage for a compelling storyline featuring their hero, finally getting a shot at the big time. Part of me wishes for Triple H to win and then go on to win the WWE Title, just because the fans would go crazy and he would enter the realm of Lex Luthor super-villainy, but I think this is when Daniel Bryan and the fans will be rewarded for their dedication.

Batista vs. Randy Orton vs. ??? – Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

In full disclosure, I’m actually a big fan of the former members of Evolution, and was excited for them to have a one on one match. Sure Orton can work some stale matches and Batista gets blown up from time to time, but they’ve both proven to be quality workers in the past. I think the WWE erred in thinking that bringing Batista back would bring the same level of excitement that seeing Brock Lesnar and The Rock return, because he doesn’t have nearly that level of cross-over fame. Batista, his real name Dave Bautista, has spent the last few years trying to make it in Hollywood and is on the verge of hitting the big time with a featured role in Marvel’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Unlike The Rock’s recent returns, it hasn’t felt like a glorified marketing promotion either as Batista’s been working Smackdown and live events in addition to Monday Night Raw. Randy Orton has long been seen as a guy who has it all but never really pushed himself, but ever since becoming a bad guy once more and re-aligning with Triple H as the “face of the WWE,” he’s gotten back to his roots and become “The Viper,” once again. He also beat John Cena to unify the two major titles back in December and has held them ever since. On TV and backstage, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon reacted to the fans’ frustration with Batista winning the Royal Rumble, by turning it into a triple threat match and as a way of furthering their storyline with Daniel Bryan. They’ve done a good job have having Batista turn from the “returning hero,” to a guy who is now attempting to win the championship in spite of the fans. Triple H has also made it clear that he’s frustrated with both Orton and Batista’s inability to squash Daniel Bryan, not to mention his vocal fans, and therefore feels he has to do it himself. I don’t think there’s really any doubt Daniel Bryan will be the third entrant in this contest. Having beaten Triple H, he will then topple the guys deemed, “Best for Business,” shattering the glass ceiling and preconceived notions of what a WWE Champion should be. The visual of the entire Superdome chanting “YES YES YES,” as the confetti falls is one that will be in montages for years to come. Daniel Bryan deserves to be champion and what better place for him to reach his ultimate goal then at the granddaddy of them all?

- Beau Le Blanc, CBS Local

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