Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
For the second fall in our best-of-three contest today, I reached out to several comics pros and bloggers to see what they thought about tomorrow’s big Wrestlemania card. Will the Deadman retire Mr. Wrestlemania? Will Jericho get speared? Will the Straight Edge Society get a new phone number in the 619 area code? And does anyone care about Sheamus? Our panel shared their thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams for tomorrow’s big pay-per-view event.
Our panelists include:
Steven Grant: Comics writer and wrestling fan Steven Grant’s resume includes the Punisher, Avengers, Whisper, American Flagg!, Badlands and numerous other comics titles since the 1980s. Back around the turn of the century, he wrote comics featuring wrestling legends The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin for Chaos! Comics, and he recently wrapped up his long-running Permanent Damage column on Comic Book Resources.
Vito Delsante: In addition to being manager of Jim Hanley’s Universe in New York, Vito Delsante has also written comics featuring Batman, Wolverine and Scooby Doo, as well as the webcomic FCHS and the upcoming Stray.
Chad Nevett: Chad Nevett regularly writes reviews for Comic Book Resources and talks about comics on Comics Should Be Good, and on his own blog, GraphiContent. He’s also writes about wrestling for 411mania.
Carla and Lance Hoffman: Carla Hoffman shares her joy and frustrations with Marvel every week right here on Robot 6 in her Fifth Color column. Meanwhile Lance, her husband, is biggest Undertaker fan I know.
And of course, myself. Read on to see what we think about tomorrow’s card …
Unified Tag Team Championship Match: ShoMiz vs. R-Truth and John Morrison
Steven Grant: Morrison’s currently my favorite wrestler and the only one I go out of my way to watch, so regardless of booking logic I have to pull for Morrison & K-Krush. Plus I suspect they’d be able to get the best matches from the best range of opponents. The story of the match will likely be their frustrated attempts to neutralize Big Show, but I don’t expect a long match.
Chad Nevett: As much as I was a little mystified when ShoMiz first won the Unifited Tag Team titles since CM Punk and Luke Gallows seemed a more logical choice, it’s worked out pretty well so far and I see now reason to change things up now. The Miz has quickly become the midcard go-to guy on Raw — and with good reason. John Morrison, on the other hand, has just stagnated after a summer that suggested he was on his way to the main event. For some reason, I see this match being about which of those two the WWE is higher on right now and I think that’s the Miz. The only way I see Morrison and Truth walking away champs is if Daniel Bryan interferes to further his feud with the Miz. Still, this should be a decent match, one that I’m looking forward to. Winners and STILL WWE Unifited Tag Team Champions: ShoMiz
Vito Delsante: One of three “who cares?” matches. This match would mean so much more to me if the Hart Dynasty was in it because the WWE is wasting their talent. I give it to ShoMiz because I think I’m sensing a Truth heel turn.
Carla Hoffman: On the other hand, this is the bathroom break match.
JK Parkin: I’m not sure when or even why, but the Miz has become one of my favorites to watch every week, whether he’s strutting round with his three belts on Raw or screwing over Daniel Bryan on NXT. So I’m actually looking forward to this one, esp. if he gets to do a promo beforehand. As for the winner, I’ll go with ShowMiz, not only because I like the team, but also because I like John Morrison as a solo wrestler. I’ll agree with Vito that this could plant the seeds for a good Morrison/Truth feud at some point — esp. after their endless lovefests each week on Smackdown — and I’ll add that my one disappointment with this match is that Morrison isn’t in the Money in the Bank ladder match and thus won’t end up with the briefcase.
The Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Steven Grant: Most likely “the Chosen One” Drew McIntyre, though, despite exactly the right introduction, Drew hasn’t set the world on fire. Possibly Christian. The player who could accomplish the most who needs the bump the most, though, is Jack Swagger. My money’s on McIntyre, my hopes are with Swagger.
Chad Nevett: With ten guys instead of the usual eight, this match could be a little too busy for its own good, but it’s also MitB, so its function is a chaotic spotfest. Also, the upcoming Money in the Bank PPV has people wondering if that may impact who wins this and how they cash in their shot, so that creates an interesting dynamic. Looking at the ten guys, there are some standouts that won’t win like Evan Bourne and Shelton Benjamin. I like both guys, but Bourne is at the bottom of the midcard on Raw, while Benjamin is the MitB MVP but not someone that’s going to get a title shot anytime soon. I’m not sure what to make of Kofi Kingston’s late inclusion. He seemed like he was moving up, but his push got stalled after his feud with Randy Orton and he was thrown in at the last minute. MVP and Matt Hardy are both similar, except they’ve both had three or four start-stop pushes and looks stuck in the midcard. Dolph Ziggler doesn’t seem to have that ‘It’ factor yet, but I think he has a shot. Kane winning would be kind of useless since he doesn’t need it and can be slotted into a main event feud at any time. Drew McIntyre is a favourite of many, but I don’t see him getting it yet. He’s been made to look weak lately and I think they’ll continue to push that story more with him not winning here and going on the warpath — maybe that’s how the MitB PPV is created, as an effort to give him another shot (a stretch, but who knows). That leaves Christian and Jack Swagger. Christian seems the obvious pick, but McMahon has never seen him as a main eventer and, almost like Kane, I don’t think he needs the briefcase, especially if he were moved to Smackdown where him challenging Edge or Chris Jericho wouldn’t seem out of place. So, yeah, I think it will be Jack Swagger. He’s delivered solid matches against John Cena and Triple H, has the right look, and could be big with the right push and I think this is it. Winner: Jack Swagger
Carla Hoffman: This will be the MVP fight of the night (and I’m not talking Montel Vontavious Porter) and probably set the stage for the rest of the show as it has in years past. Despite the headliners, I’m looking forward to this.
Vito Delsante: The second best match of the night, on paper. I’m pulling for Christian so we can see him and Edge square off.
JK Parkin: I love this match, because of the wild ride it will be tomorrow and for the chaos/fun it will bring to the WWE once we see who ends up with the briefcase. Since obviously I can’t choose Morrison, I’ll go with Christian for this one.
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
Vito Delsante: This could be the showstealer that ‘Taker/Michaels was last year. This feud has had just a little bit more time than Triple H/Sheamus, but the two guys in it are far far superior in selling a feud. This one doesn’t end Sunday, and I predict a CM Punk victory, and Rey “joins” the SES. For the record, I will be wearing my CM Punk t-shirt while my wife wears her Mysterio mask…this one is the house favorite!
Chad Nevett: Man, this feud has been great. CM Punk is, easily, the best heel in the company (in all of North American wrestling even) and the Straight Edge Society story has been great for him. The stipulation on this match, that if Mysterio loses, he joins the SES, makes me think that the WWE will have him win so as to not freak the kids out. But, Mysterio joining the SES is such a good idea and a great way to extend this feud that I have to pick Punk for the win. Beyond that, this should be a great match. Give these guys fifteen minutes and everyone will be happy. Winner: Your Straight Edge Saviour and mine… CM Punk
Steven Grant: The program that threatens to make the most money out of this is Mysterio as rebellious flunky of domineering “savior” Punk, leading to a freedom v. mask match, so I go with Punk to win.
Lance Hoffman: I don’t care. I don’t even actively dislike CM Punk, there’s just nothing.
JK Parkin: I’m just interested in seeing what superhero Rey comes out dressed as.
Triple Threat Match: Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes
Vito Delsante: Another “who cares?” match. If it was Teddy getting a face rub, this might have some impact, but it’s a Triple Threat match…with no stakes. Since the winner gets nothing, I can only guess that Randy wins.
Chad Nevett: Wow, has this match’s build has been bungled. Actually, the entire Legacy faction was such a failed experiment since none of the members are in better places than they were when the group was formed. Obviously, Orton being cheered as a face has thrown people for a loop a little and plans change, but this match needed another week or two to really make sense. Everyone saw the triple threat coming, but they delayed too long on making it happen. This is a match that I’m not looking forward to that much since I haven’t liked the in-ring work done by these three together recently on Raw. They can all deliver against other people, but they all wrestle in such a similar style that it grinds to a halt when they’re in the ring together. I think one of the Priceless guys need the win here, so I’m going with… Winner: Cody Rhodes
Steven Grant: Does anyone care? I predict Orton, reeling from a handicap match, pinning Rhodes after Ted Jr. turns on Cody.
Lance Hoffman: I know they’re going to give Rhodes and DiBiase their own independent push, but I really liked them as a group. Legacy ruled and I think all of them will be less for not having that.
JK Parkin: I say either Ted pins Cody or Cody pins Ted … then Orton moves on to something else so the two of them can feud.
Triple H vs. Sheamus
Chad Nevett: I’m still surprised that they didn’t decide to include the WWE Championship in this match. Triple H not being in the main event but still on the card seems a little surprising, but not since Sheamus is one of the guys he’s high on, so putting him over at ‘Mania makes sense. I think this will be a case of Sheamus looking good even in defeat as Trips dropping out of the main event AND taking a loss doesn’t seem possible let alone likely. The match itself should be decent. I hope this is finally that match where Sheamus delivers an in-ring performance that proves he deserved his push to the main event, because, so far, he hasn’t been impressive. I can see Triple H working hard to make sure he looks good… and then eats the pin. Winner: Triple H
JK Parkin: I agree with Chad about the belt on this one; it would have give it a bit more heat, something the Batista/Cena match already had. I’ll go with Sheamus in the match that I care the least about.
Carla Hoffman: Oh, I don’t want him to do it, but Triple H is going to let Sheamus have this one. Though he should take that ‘h’ out of his name for good measure.
Steven Grant: Can’t say I care one way or the other, but Sheamus needs to be kept stronger than HHH does if they want him to still work as a major heel. HHH hasn’t had a vacation in awhile either, so I’ll say Sheamus wins, or loses by DQ, though the latter would be stupid under the circumstances.
Vito Delsante: The last “who cares?” match. This was literally added on at the last minute with no build up, no heat. I’m predicting an upset, with Sheamus winning, and maybe they build to a big SummerSlam match with the two, but I’ll be sure to take my bathroom break during this one.
No Holds Barred Match: Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon
Chad Nevett: A match nearly 15 years in the making and the easiest to predict on the card. I’m a little worried about the quality, but the emotional payoff of Bret locking in the sharpshooter on Vince will carry this no doubt. Winner: Bret Hart
Steven Grant: This is the feelgood match of the show. Bret, by sharpshooter.
Carla Hoffman: Bret Hart wouldn’t have even agreed to this if he didn’t walk away the victor. Canada will put this on the front page of the Sports section.
Vito Delsante: C’mon…can this end in anything but Bret getting the win? If so, I riot.
JK Parkin: I have to agree with everyone else … Bret Hart for the win.
Lance Hoffman: Remember how I said I just didn’t care about CM Punk? That’s because all of my hate has been drawn into this match. Death by Marilyn Manson cutting down the lighting fixtures and killing them both.
World Heavyweight Championship: Edge vs. Chris Jericho
Chad Nevett: My advance pick for ‘Match of the Night.’ I’ve wanted to see these two feud ever since Jericho was drafted to Smackdown last year. His first night on the show, he delivered a promo about being the new face of Smackdown and Edge came out to confront him and, immediately, you could tell that these two would face off with Edge as a face, because people hate Jericho that much. The build hasn’t been as great as I’d want, but the SPEAR SPEAR SPEAR thing is working. As much as WrestleMania is where the faces win, I think Jericho will take this one after hitting the SPEAR! on Edge. It’s the logical endpoint of the match and can build the feud further. Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Chris Jericho
Vito Delsante: The two championship matches are going to be awesome, so I really don’t care which way they go, but for the sake of predictions, I give this one to Edge. Jericho is the best heel in the company right now, and he’ll remain in this title hunt.
Steven Grant: Will likely be the best match on the card. This could go either way. There’s something to be said for playing out the storyline, with Edge attempting to spear Jericho into submission to a series of near falls, and finally achieving it. Mostly likely Edge wins. If Edge wins, they should turn him heel ASAP, because he’s a great heel.
Carla Hoffman: I win this one. This is my match, and I’m going to watch it slowly.
Lance Hoffman: This is going to be the match of the night, and Jericho will be the only one to retain the championship this Wrestlemania.
JK Parkin: This is probably the hardest match to predict in terms of a winner, as I can see it going either way, but what isn’t hard to predict is how awesome it will be. They’ve done a great job of building this one up, despite Jericho’s short championship run, and I think that’s how this will end — with Edge taking the belt.
WWE Championship: Batista vs. John Cena
Steven Grant: Batista. Despite his shortcomings in the ring, which they’ve now mostly covered by making him a power marauder instead of a wrestler, Batista abruptly turned into an incredible interview, making him note perfect for a heel champ who can draw real money just because people want to see him get his. The more frustrated fans get watching wrestlers try to knock him off the thrown and fail, the more money WWE will make, so it’d be really stupid to waste that on an early Cena victory.
Vito Delsante: I really don’t mark out for either of these wrestlers. Never have, never will. That said, they really built this feud up well…to the point that I’m actually enjoying the effort these guys are putting forward. I’m predicting the predictable (Cena) but I’m pulling for a Batista upset. I’d love it if they really furthered the idea that Cena can’t beat him, but it’s Wrestlemania, where dreams come true and all that blah blah.
Chad Nevett: This looks like it could be good. It’s got that big WrestleMania feel to it. Two of the biggest stars of the last five years going head-to-head over the WWE Championship to prove who is truly the face of the company. Batista has done his best promo work ever and Cena has done his standard ‘I’m an underdog despite being more dominant than anyone in recent history’ schtick that works surprisingly well. While this doesn’t look like a four-star match, I think both men are capable of delivering a very good match nonetheless. This is more spectacle than skill, which is fine, because that’s part of what makes WrestleMania WrestleMania — plus, there are plenty of other matches for great in-ring work. They need a battle of two big stars and this is it. It’s also a match that Cena needs to win, because, well, Batista isn’t the face of the WWE. Winner and NEW WWE Champion: John Cena
Lance Hoffman: Cena, by virtue of the ability to string together a coherent sentence.
JK Parkin: Although I like the new money-loving Batista we saw the other night on Raw, I don’t see him keeping the belt tomorrow.
Streak vs Career: Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, Part II
Steven Grant: Either Undertaker or mutually assured destruction. I wouldn’t be surprised by the latter – and a draw finish during which neither contestant can continue – as a way for both Shawn and Undertaker to take much needed time off but prevent Shawn from needing to retire and allowing Undertaker to still never have lost at Wrestlemania. Plus they get the blowoff match next Wrestlemania.
Chad Nevett: Streak versus career… man, talk about a tough to call match. Last year’s match was an instant classic and while I’m doubtful about how great the in-ring action will be here given the Undertaker’s injury problems since last year, if there’s one day of the year that Shawn Michaels gives 110%, it’s WrestleMania. HBK always brings his absolute best to ‘Mania and his absolute best is enough to carry this match alone. Throw in the huge stipulation of the Undertaker’s undefeated streak going up against Michaels’s career and this is the biggest match on the card. Choosing the winner basically comes down to: is Michaels ready to retire? And I think he may be. And I think this is how he would want to go out. He retired Ric Flair two years ago at WrestleMania and I can definitely see him wanting to go out on a similar note. Plus, why kill the streak when you can still use it next year (and for however long the Undertaker continues to wrestle)? Winner: The Undertaker
Lance Hoffman: Deadman Winning.
Carla Hoffman: Gotta go with the Undertaker. I want my marriage to work!!!
JK Parkin: Shawn Michaels has “done it all” in the wrestling business, and I think it’s time to add one more notch to his belt — ending the Undertaker’s streak at Wrestlemania. After the epic battle they had last year and the shadow that’s been over his head since that loss, I think this is Mr. Wrestlemania’s time to shine, at least one more time. Plus I don’t see him retiring without at least one more feud with his buddy Triple H.
Vito Delsante: If these guys can catch lightning in a bottle a second year in a row, this will be the match of the year. I don’t know if anyone expected them to set the bar so high last year, but they did and this match can go south in a hurry. Add to the fact that neither is at the peak of their abilities anymore (either one of them could retire this year and I wouldn’t be surprised). Regardless, I have high hopes for this one. The prediction comes down to this: Will Vince let Shawn retire on top (and not do the “time honored tradition” of putting someone over on the way out)? There’s no championship involved here, and if there was, I’d say, “Not a chance.” But I think we’re about to see Shawn’s last match and as such, Shawn goes out with the “w” and ‘Taker “takes” one for the team.
All photos are from the WWE Supershow I attended in San Jose, Calif. last Monday