With the rambling road to Wrestlemania almost at its climax, and after my colleagues have written some top class articles featuring in depth previews of the Wrestlemania main events, I am today tasked with discussing the Wrestlemania undercard. Apart from my use of the word “climax”, I feel this is a relatively underwhelming opening to one of my articles. Sitting here musing on why this may be and I keep coming to the same conclusion – The Wrestlemania undercard in itself is very underwhelming. So aside from the “big four” what do we have in store?
Randy Orton vs Kane
Cody Rhodes vs The Big Show
A cigarette/Coffee break
Team Jonny vs Team Teddy
(David Otunga, Mark Henry, Drew McIntyre, The Miz, Jack Swagger, and Dolph Ziggler vs Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, The Great Khali, Zack Ryder, and Booker T)
So, where do we start? First of all let me state that in my opinion Wrestlemania will be an enjoyable show, albeit one that is heavily relying in four marquee matches. Because of this I feel that the pay per view will sell based on these matches alone. That’s not to say that the undercard is horrible, yet I can’t seem to shake the feeling that some of the matches have been thrown together, in the process wasting some of the genuine talent that WWE has at their disposal. For varying reasons, the people I feel most sorry for are Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder.
Cody Rhodes – Cody really seemed to raise his game at last year’s Wrestlemania, defeating Rey Mysterio in a show stealing contest. Since then he has put himself over as a formidable upper-mid-card heel with his un-dashing/disfigured gimmick and more recently as a cocky heel. Rhodes has found himself some success on Smackdown in high profile feuds such as the one with Booker-T for the intercontinental championship. However with WWE putting such emphasis on the old guard and the current main event talent, it seems there is little room for Cody to break through the glass ceiling this year, instead being thrown into a match with the perennial underachiever Big Show. The basis for this match is that Cody is ‘laughing’ at Show’s (ironically enough) short comings at Wrestlemania. My problem with this (as with most Big Show angles) is that I have been given no reason to ‘like’ Big Show. Other than smiling and waving during his entrance, what makes him a baby face? That aside, Big Show tends to work better matches with smaller opponents but I can’t shake the feeling that the match is a waste of Cody’s talent.
In a similar boat, the boat of wasted talent, is Dolph Ziggler. For the second year running Dolph finds himself lost in the shuffle of a multi-person tag match instead of a showcase match that would enable him to steal the show. I contrast to Rhodes however, Ziggler has had a stellar 12 months, peaking at this year’s Royal Rumble when he took on CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Having fans compare Dolph to a young Shawn Michaels or Curt Henning is testament to the hard work Ziggler has put in over the past few years and it is a shame this hasn’t been rewarded more.
Mark Henry achieved more in 2011 than he did in the previous 16 years of his WWE career thanks to a lengthy run on Smackdown as the world heavyweight champion. Henry really proved any doubters wrong, presenting himself as an unstoppable monster heel deserving of the gold. Injury struck however, cutting Henry’s title reign short, something he has never really recovered from. To a lesser degree, this puts him in the same boat as Dolph in that he has “earned” a marquee match but has been thrown into a match with the focus on two non-wrestlers.
Finally, and to some extent to a less degree than his peers, is Zack Ryder. Zack spent 2011 elevation himself from about to get cut from the roster to finally winning the United States champion in what was an emotional moment. His run was cut short however and has since been ’injured’ and chasing Eve. For this reason I don’t feel that Ryder’s position on the card is as frustration as the other 3, however it would have been nice to see him as team captain perhaps, or the US champion going into the event.
Out of the 4 undercard matches, arguably the most anticipated is the Jonny and Teddy affair. The two general managers have been going back and forth for weeks in a battle for supremacy. The build for the match has been solid, with members of the respective teams going at each other in one on one contests on both Raw and Smackdown. The fight itself is to determine who will be the sole general manager of both shows, which begs the question “why do we need just one GM?” Teddy has been an integral part of Smackdown for years now and Jonny Ace has really taken to the on screen character he has been given. Personally I don’t feel we need a change but I think the match will be interesting nonetheless.
Randy Orton and Kane on the other hand, not so much. In a match that would be better suited to a Monday night, I am struggling to buy into what they are selling me. After being soundly defeated by John Cena at the Elimination Chamber PPV, Kane has now turned his attention to Orton but in all honesty the build up has been devoid of any real reason for the fans to care. The likelihood is that because both men needed to be on the card, they have been paired up due to creative having nothing for them. It is a bizarre dynamic, given than Orton is the face of Smackdown yet he is nowhere near any of the four big matches. On one hand I am pleased to see Orton out of the title picture, creating an opportunity for both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan to shine, however with this being Orton’s second year in a row out of the main event scene, you have to wonder if this downward trend will continue.
The diva’s have a match. I think there is some celebrity involved.
In summary we have a headscratchingly (that is a word) bizarre mix on the undercard of the biggest show of the wrestling calendar, and one that I feel could go either way. I firmly believe that between Rock/Cena, Taker/Hunter and the two title matches, the PPV has a strong enough line up to draw over a million buys. It’s just a shame that the same time and effort put into planning the main events was not replicated for the undercard. Had some planning been done 6 months ago, the likes of Cody and Dolph could have had meaningful programmes building up that could have culminated in some intriguing matches in Miami. With that said though, I have heard strong rumours that certain unfortunate injuries forced original plans to be changed. The most noteworthy of these being Wade Barrett to come out victorious in a money in the bank match, presumably featuring many of the talent now in the Teddy vs Jonny match. When you think of the timing of Wade’s injury this seems to coincide with the start of this angle. Another rumoured plan was to see Rey Mysterio take on Sin Cara in a match that Vince McMahon hoped would get in the Guinness book of records. Apparently WWE wanted to set the record for most people wearing a mask in one building at one time. I’m sure the profits rolling in from the merchandise stands would have been a nice bonus too.
It’s Wrestlemania. With the lights shining bright (thanks JBL) you tend to find that everyone on the card strives to find that little bit of magic. Hopefully that will be the case for the undercard of Wrestlemania 28 this Sunday in Miami.
Ok that’s it from @CallingSpots on the #RRTWM. Make sure to join me on twitter Friday for the DragonGate:USA iPPV which is available for just $2 on WWNLive.com, Saturday I will be revisiting Wrestlemania 18 to see The Rock and Hulk Hogan 10 years on and of course on Sunday when I think WWE have a show or something.
Cheers – Rich x