Friday, March 27, 2015

Your WrestleMania 31 Primer

 By Mike Abelson (@MikeAbelson4324)

When it comes to professional wrestling, no event is bigger than WrestleMania.

This year’s showcase, the 31st in WWE’s history, will play out in front of nearly 70,000 fans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. With four hours of wrestling scheduled for Sunday night, I could spend 5,000 words previewing it all, but instead, here are my must-see three.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Bad News Barrett (c) v Daniel Bryan v Stardust v Dolph Ziggler v Dean Ambrose v R-Truth v Luke Harper.

Call wrestling fake if you will, but jumping off a 20-foot high ladder is as real as it gets, and this match will have plenty of high-flying theatrics. Each of the seven men involved brings a different skill set to the table, and, with so many wrestlers in action at one time, everyone will get a chance to shine amidst the chaos.

Bryan and Ziggler bring high technical skill to the match. Barrett and Harper bring a bruising, brawling style that will only be aided by the weapons at play. Dean Ambrose, also known as the Lunatic Fringe, tends to jump from high places, and is a master at building a narrative in the ring. R-Truth and Stardust (Aka Cody Rhodes, the real-life son of Dusty Rhodes), have no real narrative reason to have a shot in the match, but they bring a comedic touch, and additional athleticism, to make a stacked match even more fun.

Assuming this match is allowed to go at least 15 minutes, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t, this could steal the show.


Sting v Triple H

While the first match on the list will be an athletic showcase, this one will be pure wrestling spectacle. I’m not sure what to expect physically from two men that, combined, are 100 years old, but both seem to be in top physical shape, which could add another layer to an intriguing match.

The match buildup has centered around Triple H putting down Sting, and by proxy WCW, once and for all. Sting, who arrived in November to spoil Triple H’s plans at Survivor Series, said he finally came to WWE to end Triple H’s reign of terror.

I am no fan of the build up to this match, because it’s rehashing something 14 years old, as well as revising the past. Triple H has said he singlehandedly brought down WCW. In reality, poor booking by WCW and the duo known as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock did far more damage than Triple H ever did.

When WWE ran the WCW/ECW “InVasion” angle back in 2002, Vince McMahon made sure that the WWE wrestlers got top billing and won the “war.”

This match will be one of wrestling’s all-time great spectacles. Rumors of a Terminator-inspired entrance for Triple H abound, and Sting’s first WrestleMania entrance is sure to be a memory unto itself. This will give Rock-Hogan from WrestleMania 18 a run for its money in the theatrics department.

I think Sting wins, but McMahon’s obsession with revising history when it comes to WCW might be enough to push Triple H over the top.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (c) v Roman Reigns

If I had written this column just two days ago, I would have railed about how WWE has sacrificed itself at the alter of fast-tracking Roman Reigns to the top of the card, at the expense of everyone around him, and alongside a fan backlash unseen in years.

Then a funny thing happen: Brock Lesnar announced that he would re-sign with the WWE instead of returning to mixed martial arts. That changed everything.

Rather than being a surefire coronation for Reigns, the WrestleMania main event now has an added level of intrigue.

Brock Lesnar has had, arguably, the biggest year any wrestler has ever had. He broke the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania last year, absolutely obliterated the company’s top star, John Cena, at SummerSlam to win the title, and won one of the greatest triple threat matches of all time in January against Cena and Seth Rollins.

Brock Lesnar, the character, is an unbeatable demigod the likes of which the wrestling world has never seen.

Reigns was part of the uber-successful Shield stable with Rollins and Ambrose, which broke up last June. After losing the entire autumn due to an incarcerated hernia, Reigns returned in December and was immediately shot to the top contender’s spot, despite the crowd being much more behind the likes of Bryan and Ziggler.

Thus a problem was created. WWE seemed to be adamant about making Reigns the next “guy,” but the crowd voiced its displeasure loudly, and often, from the moment Reigns won the Royal Rumble in January to guarantee his title shot at WrestleMania. Everything pointed towards a bland, easy-to-write narrative that ended with Reigns winning the title at WrestleMania.

Now, with Lesnar re-signing, everything has changed. Lesnar could retain the title. The men could flip character alignment, with Reigns turning into an evil heel and Lesnar becoming a beloved face. There are storyline options that could, in turn, open up dozens of more future feuds and matches for both men.

The buildup to this match has been marred by the crowds' sour reception of Reigns, but wrestling is at its best when it's seasoned with unpredictability, and Sunday's main event is dripping with it.


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