Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
A few years back, to celebrate the WWE’s annual Wrestlemania event, I reached out to several comic folks who I knew were wrestling fans to get their predictions on how the matches would go. It was a lot of fun; so much fun that apparently I let three years go by before doing it again (in my defense, I had a baby somewhere in those three years, so … yeah).
In any event, this year I got my act together enough to reach out to some of my Robot 6 colleagues, as well as several members of the comics community, to once against ask: Rock or Cena? Brock or Triple H? Undertaker or Punk? Scholars or Funk? Our panel shared their thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams for tomorrow’s big pay-per-view event.
First off, let me introduce our participants …
James Hornsby is the cartoonist behind Botched Spot, the webcomic that satirizes pro-wrestling culture, be it televised products, dirt sheets or fandom. He also makes “Over Like Olav,” a comic that focuses on his own characters, Olav and Rad Bad DeBone, as they make their way through the wrestling world. Check out his work at www.botchedspot.com, follow him on Twitter @BotchedSpot, and see him on Facebook at facebook.com/botchedspot. Also gotta give him props for letting me use some of his strips in this post.
Ben Morse is the editor of Marvel.com, a co-host of This Week in Marvel, a producer of Marvel Super-Heroes: What The–?! and a contributor to the Cool Kids Table blog. He is also an avid wrestling fan and eternally hopeful teen idol. You can follow him on Twitter @BenJMorse.
Vito Delsante is a comic book writer based out of NYC. He and his wife have just welcomed a new Batgirl into the world (Sadie). You can follow him on Twitter, read his new webcomic, Prisoner of None (with artist, David Bednarski) at incogvito.com, and listen to him talk about pro wrestling every week on PoP!-Cast Wrestling (PCW) on the Panels on Pages Network.
Pat Loika dabbles in writing and drawing his own comics, but is mostly known for his podcast, Loikamania. You can follow him on twitter as @patloika where he does nothing but take pictures and share his love of comics and pop-culture.
Chris Arrant writes about comics, cartoons and pop culture for CBR, Publisher’s Weekly, Newsarama and iFanboy. His first book, Modern Masters: Cliff Chiang, will be in stores this summer, and he is also writing an upcoming issue of Image’s Youngblood with Rob Liefeld. Follow him on Twitter.
Ryan Penagos is the executive editorial director of the Marvel Digital Media Group. You might know him as Marvel’s Agent M on Twitter, where he talks about all things Marvel, wrestling and tacos. He also let me use some of his photos from the Wrestlemania press conference in New York earlier in the week, so thanks for that, Ryan.
You probably remember Chad Nevett from Comics Should Be Good, GraphiContent, 411mania or CBR’s review team. He’s stopped posting through any of these venues as he takes a break from online writing, but I’m happy he came out of semi-retirement to contribute.
James Viscardi is Marvel’s sales and communications coordinator; you’ve probably seen him at cons or as the host of various Marvel press conference calls.
Joe Keatinge used to work for Image Comics and has written comics like Glory, Hell Yeah!, Morbius: The Living Vampire and DC Comics Presents.
Stephen Gerding is the senior editor right here at Comic Book Resources, where he does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff to keep the news flowing to you every day.
And now, onto … Wrestlemania!
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
James Hornsby: Since this match isn’t even on the official Wrestlemania card, I don’t think there’s a good chance that a title will change hands. I actually feel kind of sorry for both of these guys considering how they’re so young and they’ve both main evented before. And I thought being in a 12-man tag-team match last year was a step down for the Miz. Yikes.
Ben Morse: It’s a shame that with as great a job as they’ve done restoring prestige to the primary titles and even the Tag Team championship, WWE seems to just stick their Intercontinental and U.S. champions out there as fodder in non-title matches. Wade Barrett is treading water, which is a shame, while I’m still not buying into babyface Miz, as he’s just such a good heel. I think Miz wins here to tantalize anybody who hasn’t ordered by the pre-show with the promise of title changes and good guy victories.
Vito Delsante: The greatest crime the WWE has perpetrated is the devaluing of any belt that isn’t the WWE belt. That includes the tag titles, US title, IC title and even the World Title. The brands need to separate for it to matter. This match is so unbelievably unnecessary. And the Miz will win it. I just hope he doesn’t go on WWE Active and dedicate his win to Ric Flair (because you know it will happen).
Chad Nevett: Banished to the pre-show! Oh how the Miz has fallen… I guess it wouldn’t be WrestleMania without a title match getting shunted to the pre-show as the Miz knows all too well (I’m still pissed that the Miz and Morrison/Colons Tag Team Title unification match got bumped from WrestleMania XXV). I don’t have a horse in this race, but I’d like to see Barrett hold onto the title and, maybe, actually do something with it? Winner: Wade Barrett
Pat Loika: This really shouldn’t be in the pre-show. Remember when the Intercontinental title meant something? It’s sad to see it relegated to the pre-show. That said, I’m pulling for Wade Barrett to retain.
Chris Arrant: From winning the main event at Wrestlemania two years ago to being shunted into the pre-show this week, the Miz is on a tough roll. But in my estimation, he should have a lot to be thankful for. I hope this match is short so Antonio Cesaro can get some play somewhere. My pick? Wade Barrett.
James Viscardi: What happened to Miz as a face? Is it bad booking? It was a lot of fun at first, but he needs someone better to go up against. Maybe a belt will help. Maybe not.
Stephen Gerding: As much as I genuinely like Barrett, he’s been criminally misused lately, and as much as Miz has been kind of tired and limping along (outside of the all-too-brief feud with Cesaro), I think it’s clear he’s getting the belt. During the YouTube pre-show. After headlining Mania just two years ago.
JK Parkin: I think I’ll go with Wade Barrett here, but yeah, I feel bad for both guys getting shunted to the pre-show. I don’t think I’ve ever even watched one of the YouTube pre-show things.
Ryan Penagos: This is certainly a match that’s happening. Where’s Antonio Cesaro? Kofi? Where’s the big, honkin’ ladder match of craziness? Bah!
Tons of Funk and the Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhode Scholars and the Bellas
James Viscardi: DID YOU SEE THAT DIVAS MATCH ON RAW? I’m also really excited for this match because I’m a huge fan of the Rhodes Scholars and a Brodus mark.
We all win with this match.
Ben Morse: Did anybody else notice that the Funkadactyls and Bella Twins had a helluva match on Raw this past week? Seriously, Naomi in particular can go! This is the type of fun match you need on a card this long to break things up between multiple main events, so I wager it goes on fairly late–maybe right before Rock-Cena–and the good guys win.
Ryan Penagos: I’ll tell ya, I love me some Tensai teaming with Brodus Clay. I like the goofiness of it all. I feel like Brodus is gonna turn on Tensai any day now, but who knows. That said, Team Rhodes Scholars is the best and I want them to win every match.
James Hornsby: I see Team Rhode Scholars picking up the win here and “Tons of Funk” having a long career of jobbing ahead of them. While this feud is very thrown together, I imagine the match will be a fun quick way to get the crowd excited early on, or bring them back to life, depending on where it is on the card. I’m honestly most interested in seeing what spots Naomi pulls off when she gets in the ring.
Vito Delsante: As anyone who listens to PCW will tell you, I fast forward any match that has one of three things: Brodus Clay, Tensai/Albert, and the Drunkadactyl. That said, Rhodes Scholars are television gold. I can take or leave the Bellas, but even without them, I think Cody and Sandow take this one.
Stephen Gerding: Blech. Team Rhodes Scholars *should* win (See the video below for just just one reason why they rule. So. Hard. Look to Cody’s mustache for a second.), but it’s WrestleMania, and Vince loves his feel good bits. Frankly, I’d be happy to see Brodus and Albert feud or ride off into the sunset, but the WWE needs its funny dancing gimmick, and two big guys doing the cabbage patch are obviously funnier than one.
Chad Nevett: This should be entertaining in that dumb way that reminds you that, yes, Wrestlemania can have matches that remind you of Raw like every other PPV. Winners: Tons of Funk & the Funkadactyls
Joe Keatinge: I always root for Brodus Clay because dude’s super into comics. Same with The Miz!
Chris Arrant: I have nothing here. I just hope Damien Sandow wins and does the cartwheel in the ring. My pick? Team Rhodes Scholars & the Bella Twins.
JK Parkin: Yeah, I don’t know what the WWE is doing with Team Rhodes Scholars. They get together, they are awesome; they never capture the gold, then they break up the bromance. Then Cody Rhodes grows a mustache and they get back together. They tease something between Kaitlyn and Rhodes, which I kind of thought was the second beginning of the end for the team, as Rhodes and his mustache turned face for the girl. And now, here we are at Wrestlemania, and they’re in the match that probably deserved to be in the pre-show more than the one that is. Either Team Funk will win so they can dance with people in the crowd, or Team BellaScholars will win in some shady way and Team Funk will still dance. But either way, someone’s gonna dance at Wrestlemania.
Pat Loika: This can be a really fun match, but I’m really pulling for the Rhodes Scholars and the Bellas to win. You’re welcome.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
Ryan Penagos: Ben Morse and I were at the Wrestlemania press conference at Radio City this week. Fandango came out and did his dancing thing. I looked at Ben and said, “I REALLY hope this guy can wrestle.” I know he’s been around for a bit, but I’ve never seen him work. I know Jericho will put on a helluva show, but one man can only do so much. Jericho for the win.
Stephen Gerding: Logic dictates that Fan-DANG-go wins his big debut match, but he’s been positively owning Jericho over the past few weeks, so my money’s on Lionheart for the win.
Chris Arrant: The original plan for Y2J come Wrestlemania was to face off against Ryback, but they shifted him around a bit and gave him the unenviable task of making a fresh face a star on the biggest stage of them all. It’s a huge task, but something Jericho excels at – remember, Jericho was John Cena’s first feud in WWE and put him over huge. And while I’m not saying Fandango is the second coming of John Cena, he has considerable more skills – and experience – than Cena did at that time. He’s no rookie – he’s a 14 year veteran of the industry, who trained under Killer Kowalski – the same trainer as Triple H and Damien Sandow. Something tells me Jericho ’s going to borrow a line from the Undertaker, and make Fandango famous.
Ben Morse: People seem upset that this is on the card, and while I get the frustration that guys like Antonio Cesaro got left off, I also think this is going to steal the show. Chris Jericho doesn’t have bad matches, and he’s said on more than one occasion he primarily comes back to make young guys look good. Fandango is a fantastic character who is getting over as a heel; remember that when Dolph Ziggler debuted, his whole deal was just shaking people’s hands and saying his name, but he evolved from there. From what little I’ve seen of him as Johnny Curtis, Fandango can also get it done in the ring, and with Jericho across from him, I’m expecting magic. Also, once again, you get an undercard hook as Fandango finally debuts proper. I imagine Fandango goes over here, possibly with shenanigans, as Jericho isn’t back for any other reason than to help create stars.
Joe Keatinge: Fandango needs this. Jericho doesn’t. So, I go with Fandango.
Pat Loika: Fandango wins. The company is focusing on building new stars, and he’s coming into this match with some massive heat. Jericho is coming in with the intent of putting on an awesome match. I think this will surprise a lot of people, so my pick will be FAAAAHN…DAAAAANG….GHHOOOO.
James Hornsby: Jericho has said numerous times that he feels like he’s at a point in his career where he could lose a hundred matches and still be a main eventer. While I disagree with him about that, I think it shows that he has no problem losing to Fandango in his debut match at Wrestlemania. I still can’t believe this match is happening. Jericho in a singles match with a guy who’s been in NXT purgatory for the last few years? Very strange.
Vito Delsante: Another one I’m looking forward to. Oddly enough, I don’t recall them bringing up Jericho on Dancing With the Stars, but I might have missed that. And good thing too…they could have easily made this a dance off. Johnny Curtis is tremendously talented and Jericho “still has it” (never lost it, baby!), so this is going to be the equivalent of the Money in the Bank matches at ‘Mania: the showstopper. I give it to Jericho, but I really think Fan…Dahn…Goooooo is about to blow up.
Chad Nevett: What bugs me is that a feud between Jericho and Antonio Cesaro would be so easy. Jericho has never been US Champion, Jericho is technically American, Jericho is loud and cocky, Antonio Cesaro promises to prove his dominance at Wrestlemania… *sigh* Instead, we get what could be a decent match that has had a lackluster build that hasn’t really amounted to much more than “You’re booked at Wrestlemania, so pretend you hate each other all of a sudden!” If it were any other PPV, I wouldn’t mind it as much, but Wrestlemania? Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll say Fandango’s name wrong, he’ll refuse to wrestle and Cesaro will take his place! Winner: Fandango
James Viscardi: I’m not on the Fandango fan train. I don’t get it. I’m watching this match for Jericho. I hope I’m surprised.
JK Parkin: I think Jericho will lose after a run-in from Cheryl Burke.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston
Ryan Penagos: I’m actually totally excited for this match. I’ve been watching Big E on NXT for a while and it’ll be good to see him on the big stage. Dolph and Daniel Bryan are two of my favorite workers and I think the Team Hell No angle has done wonders for Kane. Hell yeah, this one should be rad. I think Team Hell No will keep the belts and Dolph will cash in MITB.
Chris Arrant: This match seems to be the most under-promoted out of all the matches on the card this Sunday, and given the performers involved I feel this could be the sleeper of the PPV. Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are the workhorses of this, and having this take place at WM makes it even more prudent for them to excel (especially given Bryan ’s 17 second loss last year). Big E’s a big man wrestler but with a lot of extras people don’t know about unless you watched his run on NXT. He’s got crazily good promo skills, and can actually work a good match. Kane and Bryan are one to give it to him, and AJ – as the second coming of Lita – could be an ideal fifth wheel to take this match in some unexpected directions. My pick? Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston.
Chad Nevett: I, wrongly, assumed that we’d be getting Kane vs. Daniel Bryan here. Instead, Big E. Langston gets to make his big leagues in-ring debut at WrestleMania. I can definitely see Team Hell No getting the win (with Ziggler eating the pin) to both keep the belts on the more interesting team and further lay seeds for Ziggler to steal the show (and world title) later in the night. Winners: Team Hell No
Ben Morse: This could be the sleeper match of the night, with two of the best in Daniel Bryan and Ziggler, plus a Kane who’s become more motivated since becoming part of Team Hell No than he has in years, and then the debut of Big E who by all reports is excellent as well. Like with Ryback/Henry, I like that this is another undercard match with a definite hook, that being seeing Big E in the ring for the first time. I assume Hell No will bring Kaitlyn out with them to counteract AJ in front of her hometown crowd (I’m curious to see how warm the reaction is for WWE’s only New Jersey native, regardless of how many people in attendance are actually there from New York). Very hard to pick a winner here, as I could see Hell No holding on and then dropping the belts to the Shield sooner rather than later, but I also think they want to build the Ziggler/Big E/AJ unit up. In a coin flip, I’ll say Dolph and Big E.
Vito Delsante: First off, the fact that these two tag teams are made up of two “tag teams” (meaning two singles wrestlers on a team, not a true tag team) gives me the douche chills. It would be a swerve of epic proportions to have Ziggler win here and then cash in the briefcase for a win. That would make the entire show worth watching…even if the show was nothing but Alicia Fox vs Aksana in a 7 Levels of Hell event. But, I don’t think you can have that much awesome on one show. So, Hellboy and Goatface retain, with Ziggler going home World Champ later in the night.
Stephen Gerding: I wish I cared more about this match. I love watching Ziggler and Bryan go at it, anytime, anywhere, and I’m mildly intrigued by the thought of Big E and Kane locking up, but this is such a thrown-together at the last minute deal, it leaves me kind of uninterested. The sole saving grace for the logic behind the match is AJ’s involvement – both in the quickie feud and with three of the four principles in the ring. I’m calling a Ziggler/Big E win, leading to the break-up of Team Hell No and (hopefully) the start of a new win streak for Ziggler as he ramps up to cashing in his Money in the Bank – possibly later in the show against the winner of the Del Rio/Swagger bout.
Joe Keatinge: Ziggler and Langston all the way.
Pat Loika: I’d be happy with whoever wins. I like both teams, and I feel like there’s good reason for each side to win. That said, I can’t pick. I’ll just enjoy the match.
James Hornsby: If there’s no diva match, I hope we see both Kaitlyn and AJ here. I definitely think that Team Hell No will retain their titles in this one. Dolph and Big E. seem more like a placeholder tag team because they needed something for Ziggler to do. I’m looking forward to it though, possibly more than any other match on the card, because Bryan and Ziggler are so talented, Kane is a great big man, and Big E … well, he’s entertaining on Twitter, and that counts for something.
James Viscardi: YES! YES! YES!
There is so much to love about this match. Two of the best workers in the business in Dolph and Daniel. A veteran in Kane and an impressive unknown in Big E.
If given enough time, this could be match of the night.
With the idea of Dolph cashing in, I’m going with Hell No.
JK Parkin: This should be a fun one. I’m going with Team Hell No for the win, just because I don’t see the logic of making Ziggler a tag champ when he’s got a World title run coming up in the very near future.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry
Ben Morse: A great old school feud between two monsters and it feels special because of the “can Ryback lift Mark Henry?” hook. I’m a big Mark Henry fan and would love to see him win here, but it’s hard not to feel like they’re going for the WrestleMania moment I just described, plus Ryback has a bigger future ahead of him. Match won’t be pretty, but could have a very memorable spot or two.
James Hornsby: I’m looking forward to this match like I look forward to a Jason Statham movie. I’m not expecting to be impressed or see anything really memorable, but I know it’ll be fun to turn my inner smark off and see two dudes just punchin’ each other. Ryback is the up and comer and needs the win more, so I pick him to win.
Ryan Penagos: My wife really doesn’t like Ryback. Like, REALLY doesn’t like Ryback. And I quite like Mark Henry. He’s a big ol’ nerd who lives in Harlem and is super duper nice. Somebody gonna get their ass kicked…and it better be Ryback.
Chad Nevett: I’m wary about how good this will be since the only times Ryback has looked good in the ring has been when he’s taken on CM Punk, the Shield, and Antonio Cesaro… and Mark Henry does not have any of their abilities to carry a match. Hopefully, they’ll keep this simple with some big power moves and Ryback hitting Shell Shocked on Henry as Michael Cole loses his mind on commentary. Winner: Ryback
James Viscardi: If the ring doesn’t break for this match, I’ll be really sad.
Henry has been on a roll, and Ryback hasn’t. So in the clash of the worlds strongest titans, I have a feeling Ryback is taking it.
Joe Keatinge: I think it has to be Mark Henry. Ryback is too infallible as a competitor.
Vito Delsante: It goes to Ryback, but this is one of the matches I was surprised to see that I’m looking forward to. It’s a great set up, on paper, and they can really push this one to another level if Henry wins. Ryback hasn’t truly feuded with anyone except for Punk and the Shield, but that didn’t really pay off. This could have a great payoff if they give it to Henry and extend it a bit.
Pat Loika: I’m actually looking forward to this. Ryback needs the win more than Henry does, since he hasn’t won a major PPV match since September. I wouldn’t mind that at all, but they MUST trample on the NYC sets they built, Godzilla style!
Chris Arrant: Monster versus monster sounds great on paper, but when neither of them are known much for being able to lead in the ring we might be seeing a lot of smoke and mirrors – and tables and chairs – to make this match live up to its expectations. Ryback’s destiny as a main eventer means he needs to win this, but Henry’s recent return makes me think he needs a big win to re-establish himself. Those two colliding motivations makes my pick hard; very hard. My pick? Double DQ with a brawl to the back, leading to a stipulation-filled rematch at the next PPV.
Stephen Gerding: As much as I want to see somebody get they ass kicked, I fear Ryback’s appetite might be enough to polish Mark Henry off. Which is a shame, because Henry’s revitalized career the past year and a half or so has been one of the most consistently entertaining aspects of the WWE, period.
JK Parkin: I bet they have something insane planned to happen between these two, like Mark Henry throwing a car at Ryback, and Ryback catching it in his mouth and eating it. Well, maybe not quite that insane, but something akin to the ring breaking in half. I’m picking Ryback solely because he’s the only thing on wrestling that catches my son’s attention; he likes a good “feed me more” chant at dinnertime.
Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show vs. The Shield
James Hornsby: The build for this match has been more about how well Sheamus, Orton, and Show can get along than it has been about The Shield, so I expect that element to play heavily into the actual match as well. I think The Shield will win at the expense of the other three guys fighting each other. I think that the real story coming out of this will be an unexpected heel turn… While I’m not too interested in this match, The Shield’s few matches so far have been really good so I’m giving this the benefit of the doubt that it’ll be a decent addition to Wrestlemania.
Stephen Gerding: I so, so, so want the Shield to maintain their winning ways, and I think it would b a massive mistake for them to lose for the first time at their debut appearance on the grandest stage of all. That said, I’m not sure if Vince and Co. are ready for them to totally own Orton, Sheamus and Show in such a major way.
Pat Loika: This one should be fun. It’s one of the better built matches of this card, and from the looks of things, we’re in for an Orton turn, causing his team to lose and The Shield to win in their first ‘mania match.
Ryan Penagos: My question is who’s going to turn on who in this match? They’re easing Big Show back into the babyface role, but that could be a swerve. Sheamus is just too good as a good guy…but that could be a swerve. And Orton’s due for a run as a nasty heel…but that could be a swerve. Whatever. The Shield will win. Also, it’s difficult for me not to type S.H.I.E.L.D.
Vito Delsante: Smart money says the faces (is Big Show a face by default?), but I’m praying for the Shield. You kind of HAVE to give it to the Shield, if only because losing here effectively ends the gimmick, leads to a dissolution…and I don’t want to see that. The Shield hasn’t been used right yet, and if you have Cena winning the title, this could be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for. My heart says Shield, but my gut says Orton/Sheamus/Show…which would be a huge mistake.
James Viscardi: *snore*
Ben Morse: The Shield is so money and have benefited from some of the best booking and protection WWE has provided new guys in ages. They can back it up in the ring and on the mic too. I feel like the hints that Randy Orton might go rogue here haven’t exactly been subtle with him being the out of character voice of reason for his team, but my hope is that he costs his partners the match or goes nuts after without being in cahoots with the Shield, as I think he’d hurt them more than help at this point and would be better on his own playing a wildcard as well. I don’t think the Shield’s momentum ends here, and with solid workers across the board this should be another fun six man outing to continue that streak on pay-per-view.
Chad Nevett: The Shield’s heat has died down considerably, if only because their attacks are so similar every time. However, their matches have been very good. The emphasis on how well the three work as a team has been fantastic and I can’t see stopping that yet. It’s more likely that, somehow, the three main eventers will turn on one another and the Shield will continue to go undefeated. Maybe Randy Orton will get that heel turn he’s been wanting… Winners: The Shield
Chris Arrant: I think the members of the Shield are going to be WWE’s top guys in five years, the same way the Radicals were for WWE (not counting Saturn and Malenko). So with this being their Wrestlemania debut, I imagine they’re here to prove something – and luckily they have some under-rated but great performers to do it against. As for the finish, I have the sneaking suspicion that Shield will get the win from a surprising heel turn by Randy Orton against his teammates. With WWE so actively pushing dissension in the ranks with Big Show, I feel Randy Orton turning would be a left-field thing that will get them the most mileage. My pick? The Shield.
JK Parkin: Smart money here is on the Shield, a gimmick that has been handled rather well so far, all things considered.
Joe Keatinge: The Shield. They rule.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
Chris Arrant: I may be one of the only smarks online who’s actually getting behind Del Rio as a babyface; maybe it helps that I’m a big Ricardo Rodriguez fan, but regardless I’m very interested in this match. Jack Swagger’s still coming into his new role as the Tea Party’s representative in the WWE, but I’m unsure if WWE are that gung-ho about him (and his recent arrest) to give him the belt. Maybe because it’s their 2nd tier belt they might do it for the shock and short-term gain of it all, because there’s also the potential for Rio to win people over more as the face in pursuit rather than the face in ownership of the title here. My pick? Jack Swagger.
Joe Keatinge: Del Rio, then Ziggler cashes in MITB.
James Hornsby: This is kind of a toss up for me, but ultimately I think Swagger will win. He’s been pushed so hard as a heel lately that I think he’ll be in the main event scene for a while after Wrestlemania. Also I think WWE wants to keep making Del Rio into as big of a babyface as possible, and that would be easier to do with him chasing the title. As much as I would like to see Dolph cash in his Money in the Bank contract, I don’t think this is the place since he can’t really fit into the whole “anti-immigration” storyline. I still don’t buy Del Rio as a face (or as an entertaining wrestler, for that matter) but the character of Zeb Colter has kept this feud interesting for me.
Ryan Penagos: I much prefer ADR as a babyface these last few months. My gut says he’ll keep the belt. Swagger just doesn’t do anything for me, not even thinking about the gimmick. Either way, I sure hope Dolph cashes in and takes the title.
Ben Morse: This feud started hot and lost steam once they couldn’t get Glenn Beck and shot that weird out-of-character video with Swagger and Zeb Colter. They peaked it early with some pretty heavy subject matter, then there was that great edition of the Highlight Reel where Del Rio and Colter both cut amazing promos, but now it feels like Swagger has been attacking Ricardo Rodriguez every week for months and it’s become more of a traditional feud. I don’t think WWE trusts Swagger to be World champion, so Del Rio retains, but what everybody will most likely be waiting for is whether or not Dolph Ziggler finally steps up to cash in his Money in the Bank contract.
James Viscardi: This is a very interesting feud in that its touching on a very real issue in the country. I think the biggest surprise is that Jack Swagger is in a title match AT WRESTLEMANIA. If it wasn’t for Zeb, id have no interest in his character. Although I am liking this happier Alberto – im starting to think he’s better as a heel.
And if we’re being totally honest, we’re just all expecting Ziggler to cash in at the end of this match. Right?
Chad Nevett: Last time we did this, I correctly predicted Jack Swagger winning Money in the Bank. A lot has changed since then, hasn’t it? I was glad to see Swagger return after his hiatus to a big push, but this feud hasn’t lit the world on fire. Del Rio as a face is a bit bland and Swagger’s “We the people” gimmick doesn’t do much for me. It’s a bit tame to get me involved as they try to step around the idea of Swagger as a full blown racist. The real intrigue in this match is if it will be followed by a second World Heavyweight Championship match as Dolph Ziggler cashes in his Money in the Bank contract. It would be fitting for Swagger to, once again, get a brief, uneventful World title run… Winner: Jack Swagger… then Dolph Ziggler
Pat Loika: This ends with Dolph Ziggler cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase after Alberto beats Swagger.
Vito Delsante: Del Rio. Swagger got busted for pot and has to serve his suspension. Can’t do that as champion. BUT, I think we’ll finally see Ziggler cash in his MITB briefcase. Finally.
Stephen Gerding: Pretty sure Swagger’s gonna walk away with the title after the bell rings, but the match should be fun. Del Rio, God bless him, has been doing his best to be Eddie 2.0, but it’s just not working. Swagger’s been holding up his side of things nicely enough (with the gable help of Zeb Coulter), but when you start getting USA chants in support of the racist heel beating on the face, you have a problem with the angle at a basic level. (Of course, the fact that you can buy a Swagger shirt that has a blatantly xenophobic graphic plastered across the front of it only exasperates the underlying issues the angle has developed.)
Either way, I see this entire program on its way out the door as of Sunday, with Swagger taking the title. If Rey’s anywhere near ready to come back, I can see him stepping up to become the new nemesis to the All-American American as Del Rio slips back into the more comfortable heel persona. If not, I’m thinking Ziggler cashes in MitB for the belt, either as soon as the match is over, or within the next month.
JK Parkin: I’m not a big fan of Alberto Del Rio, face or heel, so I’m hoping for a Jack Swagger win.
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
Chris Arrant: Why is it that the words ‘dream match’ and Triple H never seem to mesh well? Triple H’s last bout against Brock at Summerslam 2012 wasn’t much to write about, and I don’t have high hopes for this bout. What I’m most interested in, however, is the finish. You’d think they wouldn’t let Triple H lose and retire, but given his place in the company and wrestling’s penchant for going back on retirement clauses I think the money here is in Brock going over and seeing the consequences of it all. Post-match, there’s more story potential in a forcibly retired Triple H and Brock Lesnar on a rampage looking for his next victim than the King of Kings winning. My pick? Brock Lesnar.
James Hornsby: I really could go either way on this match. I know it makes the most sense for Triple H to retire at this point in his career, but I just can’t imagine him wanting his last in-ring moment to be losing to Brock Lesnar. My official prediction for purposes of this article is that Triple H will win, but will be too injured to continue on as a wrestler, and will retire from in ring competition after the match (maybe on Raw). I found their Summerslam match to be pretty slow and boring, so I’m hoping the “No Holds Barred” stipulation allows for it to be as brutal as Brock’s match with John Cena at last year’s Extreme Rules. I really just want to see Brock lick someone else’s blood off of his gloves once again.
Vito Delsante: I wish I cared about this match. The truth of the matter is I can’t. You had me up until you put HHH’s career on the line…the career that he hung up a few months ago. After facing Lesnar. It makes no sense. Since the stakes mean nothing, the match means less. That said, it’s hard to call how it will go. On one hand, HHH ends his career at ‘Mania to Lesnar. On the other hand, HHH needs to beat Bork at some point. I give this one to Hunter, but I’m sure I wouldn’t care if Brock won.
James Viscardi: My name is Jim Viscardi, and I’m a huge HHH fan. Here’s my main concern with this match, it’s going to be stiff. Both men can put on phenomenal matches, but usually with someone who moves a bit faster and can help carry it through.
I’m looking forward to the outcome, because “career on the line” matches are like “deaths” in comics. This one is up in the air and I hope HHH takes it.
Stephen Gerding: While I’m fairly convinced that HHH does want to go back into retirement (more or less), I’m not sold on Lesnar adding another notch to his “beat Hunter into submission” belt. However, I could easily see HHH somehow being victorious, with the incredible Brock still being the last man standing, looming over Mr. Stephanie McMahon’s bloodied and beaten body. He does have to play into the real main event, after all…
Pat Loika: Brock has to win it. They want to build him as this monster, this force of nature that can’t be stopped. Triple H doesn’t need a win, and hasn’t really been competing over the last couple years. I pick Brock.
Chad Nevett: I really liked their SummerSlam match. Enough to overlook the inane fact that Triple H basically ‘retired’ after that match and has returned to put his career on the line. The last two big “career on the line” matches at WrestleMania have resulted in retirement and I think this one will break that pattern. Triple H isn’t ready to step away and it’s always a little foolish to bet against him when it’s a match at WrestleMania (excluding matches with the Undertaker). Besides, I doubt they’ll have Lesnar go over him again. It wouldn’t be a big, emotional WrestleMania moment loss. It would just be a monster killing a has-been after the way the last year’s gone down between the two. Not much of an upside there, eh? Winner: Triple H
Ryan Penagos: I was at SummerSlam for this match last year. I can see Triple H getting his revenge win at the biggest show of the year, but I want Brock to just destroy Triple H. And I don’t even know why.
Joe Keatinge: I keep changing my mind on this one. I’m just gonna go with … HHH.
Ben Morse: I’ve enjoyed the confrontations between these two and getting to see Brock Lesnar perform is a rare treat. I didn’t see their SummerSlam match, but Triple H is such a pro I think any issues they may have had there will be ironed out here. The last minute wrinkle of Shawn Michaels being in HHH’s corner adds a lot, as HBK elevated last year’s Hell in a Cell as referee and can contribute greatly just with his storytelling skills; he and Heyman should have some fun interactions. Again, wrestling logic dictates that HHH gets his win back here and also that the retirement stipulation was tacked on too late in the game to be paid off…but I feel like they want to pull off some surprises, and Triple H ending his career would certainly be one. I’m very tentatively picking Brock to win this one.
(By the way, in an alternate world, Punk kept his WWE title to pay off the intersecting feuds involving him, Rock and Cena in a triple threat main event while Triple H appealed to Undertaker, the guy who beat him at WrestleMania, to do what he couldn’t and stop Lesnar…oh well)
The Undertaker vs. CM Punk
James Hornsby: There’s no way that I could bet against ‘Taker at Wrestlemania. The Streak’s come too far for him to lose now. What also makes me think he’ll win is that Punk has gone so far in being the biggest heel possible for this match that it’s not even about the streak anymore. It’s about The Undertaker making Punk pay for being so disrespectful. With his schedule, ‘Taker can’t really do that anywhere other than Wrestlemania, so I expect this to be the end to their brief, yet intense, feud. I’ve enjoyed the ride though. Punk is one of the most entertaining wrestlers in WWE right now, and while he may offend some people, personally I can’t wait to see what he’ll do or say next.
Ryan Penagos: Every time I think that there’s no way they’ll break the Streak, I go back to, “but what the hell does this do for Punk?” Punk could win and solidify his place in the company even further and it really would be a good torch passer. Taker’s probably got another match after this one, so he could go out with a win on his final match and it’ll be all good.
Ben Morse: This will be a good match for what has been a weak feud. You have to feel really for both guys, as Undertaker was basically coming off a four-part saga spanning a quartet of WrestleManias with Shawn Michaels and Triple H with each match feeding into the next and having a motivation beyond just “I want to end the streak.” That aside, I think Punk flying off the rails after losing the WWE title and becoming obsessed with ending the streak as his only path to redemption and respect could have been something, but the way he just won the opportunity to face Undertaker in a four-way cheapened the whole thing from the start, making it just another match. That said, Punk is the most talented all-around performer in WWE and Undertaker is the biggest big game player of them all, so the match, like I said, should be great. No reason for Punk to win here, and a loss will probably send him on a needed vacation to rehab nagging injuries.
Vito Delsante: Match of the Night with the worst lead up. That’s actually not fair to say, but I hate the way this story has played out. What if Paul Bearer/William Moody didn’t die? What kind of promos would we have from these two? My point is that they don’t need the gimmick; seeing Punk, “the Best in the World,” take on the Streak is enough of a gimmick (and yes, I know that the Undertaker is a gimmick, but in this case, the Streak is the bigger gimmick). This match doesn’t need frills or accoutrements to make it worth watching. It’s got the two locker room leaders, past and present, going head to head. IF ‘Taker were going to lose, this would be the match to go out on. This would be the one to hand the torch over with. But it’s not going to happen. ‘Taker wins.
Chad Nevett: Given his work in 2012, CM Punk deserved to be in the true main event of ‘Mania this year. Instead, he’s in one of the secondary ‘main’ events and it’s one that I waver over. A big part of me agreed with Punk when he said that the Undertaker should have walked away after last year’s match with Triple H — just gone out on that “End of an Era” high note and left the Streak at 20-0. I worry that ‘Taker will fall into the bad habit wrestlers have of staying too long and undermining the good work (and good will) they built up. The Undertaker, especially, has had a very strong half a decade. But, if anyone can get a great match out of him, it’s CM Punk. The emotion of the last four Undertaker WrestleMania matches isn’t there, but the skill sure is. The death of Paul Bearer has provided fodder for emotion, but it’s seemed a bit silly to me. A bit too laboured, especially given the way Kane was shunted off to the side. They’re working with what’s available and it hasn’t quite clicked yet. Given Punk’s rumored break post-‘Mania and the fact that the Streak seems like it will never end, the winner isn’t too hard to see coming. Winner: The Undertaker.
Joe Keatinge: CM Punk all the way. My friend Kyle seems to be the only other person on Earth who is 100% convinced this is going to happen. Undertaker took a full year to recover from the last match. Punk needs something to follow up his 400+ day run as WWE Champ. You always go out on your back. If Punk wins, he’s Cena-level. No one can ever take this away from him.
Pat Loika: While it would be fun to think about the ramifications of a CM Punk win, I doubt that he’ll be the guy to end the streak this year. So, this goes to the Undertaker.
James Viscardi: Who are we kidding here. CM Punk isn’t the one breaking the streak. What will be interesting though, is to see if the Undertaker is in any shape to go up against CM Punks style or will Punk need to slow it down.
Chris Arrant: The streak is one of the most prestigious titles in wrestling – even more so than the title belts, it seems. And while I think CM Punk is at the top of his game, I don’t think he’ll win this one (he should have done it in their first feud, but that’s another story). Despite Undertaker’s rising age, last year’s match with Triple H was shockingly great and I think CM Punk is an adversary than can get something of that caliber out of Taker again, despite the Dead Man’s recent hip surgery. I think CM Punk will go through some crazy bumps to make this work, but it should be great. My pick? The Undertaker.
Stephen Gerding: Conventional wisdom says Taker wins and retires with a perfect 21-0 record, a theory borne out by the fact that Punk has consistently gotten the better of the Dead Man for the past few weeks. Conventional wisdom tends not to apply to CM Punk matches, however – or his career as a whole for the past two years, for that matter — so I’m thinking he may actually go over here and actually become the one in 20 and 1.
JK Parkin: I bet against the Undertaker the last time we did one of these and learned my lesson. Undertaker for the win.
The Rock vs. John Cena
Chad Nevett: Last year, I was surprisingly depressed when the Rock/Cena match ended. It killed my mood for the night and soured me for a day or so on WrestleMania XXVIII as a whole. Not that I’m the world’s biggest Cena fan or anything, it just struck me as sad to see the guy who’s been carrying the company since WrestleMania 21 lose in a match to the guy from the previous era. It was like if Rock/Hogan from WrestleMania X8 ended with Hogan winning. Seeing Cena sit on the ramp just bummed me right out. So, here we are again, for another “once in a lifetime” match and, this time, the Rock is the WWE Champion and Cena looks like a lock to get his ‘redemption.’ When Cena’s been on during this feud, he’s been quite good on the mic. His “you didn’t beat me, I beat me” promo was excellent and there are rumors of a heel turn. I don’t see that coming, mostly because I can’t think of a credible way to do it given Cena’s character. Instead, he’ll get his win, get the belt back, and get booed out of the building as if he were a heel. Winner: John Cena
Joe Keatinge: Cena’s going to win. This is just going to happen. I’m told/understand conflicting things about how the Money In The Bank Contracts work and if they can be changed to the different belts, but if they’re versatile, I hope Cena wins and then Ziggler cashes in, but if Ziggler’s is only good for the World Heavyweight… well, see the Del Rio match.
Stephen Gerding: The Rock has to lose, but did you see the reaction Cena got Monday night? That was no split reaction from the crowd: that was some full-on, near X-Pac-style hatred DC was sending Cena’s way. That said, I’m pretty convinced that Cena will go over – I can’t see the WWE running another 5-6 months with the belt on a part-time wrestler, even if it is the Rock. What I’m not convoked of is a clean win. I’m not seeing Cena turn heel, but I can totally see him winning a tainted title match since it’s not going to hurt his credibility in the eyes of the fans who already love him, and a clean win won’t do anything to convince those who hate him of his legitimacy. So, I’m calling for Lesnar to get involved, somehow, some way, setting up both a Cena/Lesnar title match in a month or two, plus a Lesnar/Rock match at SummerSlam.
Pat Loika: It almost seems like Cena HAS to win this, but a win will really anger the NY/NJ crowd. I think the Rock will take it, though. He’s scheduled to appear in the next pay-per-view show, and it only makes sense for business to blow it off next time. So, I pick the Rock.
James Hornsby: This has got to be one of the easiest picks of the night for me given how much Rocky’s talked in interviews (not on the Tonight Show, mind you- can’t bring up WWE there) about how he’s going to give back to the industry. John Cena will beat the Rock for the title. Cena can become the WWE’s hero once again, and Rock can safely return to Hollywood feeling like he truly gave back to the industry. I realize that we’ll be seeing plenty more of the Once in a Lifetime match after Wrestlemania, but as long as we get a champ who actually, y’know, SHOWS UP on Raw, I’ll be happy. Well, I won’t be as mad.
James Viscardi: TWICE IN A LIFETIME. Okay, if anything, this feud brought us an all new WWE Title. Look both of these guys are at the top of their games, and FINALLY we get a heel Cena that the IWC has been dying for.
This match will be entertaining, no doubt – and with that, I’m pulling for Cena.
Ryan Penagos: I’m a Cena mark. Deal with it. He’s goofy and silly and not a technical wizard, but he’s fun to watch and he gets it. And while I like the Rock a bunch, I was hoping this would have been Rock/Cena/Punk. And I lay my disappointment on the Rock for that one. Cena needs the win and it makes the most sense, story-wise, for whatever they do coming out of Mania.
Ben Morse: Say what you will about this match (“They already wrestled last year!” “Rock can’t go long anymore!” “Cena can’t wrestle!”), but it certainly feels like an big time WrestleMania main event like the halcyon days of Hogan-Andre of the MegaPowers exploding, even for the second straight year. Rock’s in-ring endurance hasn’t been awe-inspiring since he came back, but he’s still an entertainer without par. I don’t care what anybody says, John Cena CAN wrestle, he’s actually quite good at it. It won’t be the best match ever, but it will be a big, epic, entertaining clash between two larger-than-life figures. Conventional wisdom says Cena gets his win back and Rock passes the torch officially, but there are a few factors working against that. One is that Rock is booked for Extreme Rules, so they may want to keep him as champ at least another month (although they could also just promote the Rock-Cena rubber match). Another is that I firmly believe that while WWE will end WrestleManias with heels winning, they don’t want to end it with the final scene being two huge babyfaces getting booed, and I think if Cena goes over and Rock raises his hand, the NY/NJ crowd will turn against both of them. My gut says this may well be the moment they pull the trigger on the Cena heel turn, but I think that every year. Regardless if it’s Cena going heel or somebody else screwing Rock, I do think SOMETHING will happen here, and the end result will most likely be John Cena as WWE Champion.
Vito Delsante: I don’t want to see this match. Not because I saw it already, but that is a big factor. Mostly because I can’t see how this will lead to anything worth watching post-Mania. The smart money is on Cena, but I’m not so sure. The Rock is being advertised for Extreme Rules, so I can easily see him retaining. But leading up to this point, the WWE has made two things abundantly clear: 1) The Rock has gotten the better of Cena at every turn and 2) Cena needs to win. I go with the smart money and say Cena.
Chris Arrant: What happens when a “Once in a lifetime” match gets a rematch? We saw it once when Rock went against Hulk Hogan a second time and found diminishing returns, and I’d wager that’ll be the case here – but with the blockbuster money WWE got out of the first bout, even something a step down from that is great money. As for the match itself, I see the storyline here being John Cena trying to man up and overcome the one obstacle he’s never able to beat in the form of the Rock. In the previous two Rock vs. Hogan encounters we saw Rock win on both counts, but I see it very important that Cena get the upper hand in WM 29. Heel turn? I don’t think so, but I think there will be some chicanery somehow to make this match talked about. My pick? John Cena.
JK Parkin: I’m not only expecting Cena to win, I want him to win. I don’t have anything against The Rock for leaving wrestling to pursue a movie career, but his return has been treated like the second coming even though he’s, well, pretty much done what James calls out in this comic strip….
And finally, some general thoughts about the card itself …
Pat Loika: A really big card compared to the last couple of years, but I’m really soured by the fact that guys like Antonio Cesaro and Kofi Kingston aren’t in a match of some kind. Still, there’s always a chance that they’ll slip another match in there. I am really impressed by the number of newer talent on the card. It’s encouraging to see the WWE investing in their future, and that maybe they’ll do more of that next year (with Cesaro as world champ)!
Vito Delsante: I’ll say that this card is as uneven as I’ve seen. Mostly because the buildups have been somewhat anti-climactic. Not to mention how price prohibitive the show is ($70 for HD? I might have to tap out on this one).
JK Parkin: There seem to be a lot more matches this year than years past, but no big Battle Royal/Money in the Bank style match to give more guys a chance to appear at Wrestlemania. That’s too bad, because a lot of guys who are fun to watch — Antonio Cesaro, Prime Time Players — end up having to sit this one out. Looking at the card, I’m kind of surprised at how some of these matches shook out. A month or so ago I thought we’d have seen a Sheamus/Wade Barrett match after their little mini-feud over Wade’s movie career, while The Miz vs. Cesaro seemed more natural and better built than a Miz/Barrett match.
But in any event, it’s Wrestlemania, where anything can happen, so mostly I’m just hoping for some fun surprises and great matches. Thanks to everyone who contributed to our round-up … we’ll see how we did on Sunday!