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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
TEAM COVERAGE:
WWE WrestleMania 22 PPV Preview
March 31, 2006

Compiled by Rick Scaia
Featuring All Your Favorite OnlineOnslaught.com Semi-Stars

 

A day late with this? You bet. My excuse? I could probably blame the trOOps (I'll spare Erin Anderson the public teasing for once since she seems so damned sincere when telling me about how her schedule is a living hell lately, and blame this one on PyroFalkon, who was a whole day late with his picks; yeah; Bulldog's right about that jerk; PPV picks on a Saturday afternoon? that's borderline criminal negligence!).

But the truth is, I am a victim of my own Sense of Responsibility. 
 

Silly me decided, yesterday afternoon/evening, to not finish this preview until after I got to see the final SmackDown! before the PPV. Wanted to make sure I had All The Facts.

Cut to about 8:30pm, and unbeknownst to me, apparently Dayton was under all manner of Storm and Tornado Warnings. Ones that turned out

to possess a certain level of accuracy, if the power outage at my house is to be believed.

Anyway, with no electricity, I tried to keep myself occupied. I even went down to the basement, lit a candle, and reflected on trying to come up with a last-second Kick-Ass April Fool Gag for OO. I blanked. So I can't even offer you that hilarious olive branch.

What I can offer you is a Humble Webmaster who wound up only getting about 50-55 minutes of SmackDown! recorded before things went tits up and spoiled my intended plans last night. Oh, and who -- no matter what has happened these past two years in the wrestling world -- still fundamentally WANTS to be a fan when this time of year comes around.

I figure one of those two things should count for something, no?

So, getting back to our regularly scheduled preview... look: yes, it's true that WrestleMania is historically something very special. The show where we get matches so big, they can only happen one time per year. The show where feuds simmering for ages finally get sweet, sweet closure. The show where we get unexpected appearances and special guests. The show where the two brands can cross over and go to war, creating never-before-seen dream matches.

And yes, it's true that WrestleMania, this year, is coming up a bit short. We're stocked with matches so special, that most of them would be over-achieving if they got the 10pm mid-show slot on a typical episode of SmackDown.... there are NO long-standing feuds being blown off this year; all storylines are less than 2 months old (save for the one featuring the girls, and nobody cares about GIRLS because they all have cooties which renders them incapable of having meaningful storylines).... there are no announced special guests (well, not counting lame musical guests), and the guys who might cause us to wet ourselves if they appeared are falling all over each other to make sure we know they're hopping flights out of Chicago on Sunday morning... and for the first time since the Brand Split, there is absolutely ZERO cross-brand storytelling (yes, Money in the Bank is a co-branded match, but the six men have had no drama-building interaction leading into the match).

But hey, it's still WrestleMania, and I've got a new slant for you: no matter how this show feels to US, the fans, I promise you there's a roster full of dudes who still feel like this is the Biggest Deal Of The Year. And for deficiencies in storytelling -- some perhaps excusable due to mitigating circumstances, but most of it the result of nothing more tragic than complacency and stubbornness at WWE's highest levels -- not one man or woman is looking to go on TV this Sunday and do anything less than set a New Career Best.

That's even the storyline in one of the matches: Mick Foley, veteran of many Manias, is unsatisfied with his own legacy and wants to create one indelible WrestleMania Moment. And while Mick has, for storyline purposes, stated that goal, chances are good that 90% of the performers on the show honestly, deep down, want to do the same.

And *that* is part of the WrestleMania Mystique, too. One part that, gods willing, will *not* be lacking on Sunday.

So my analogy is this:

Institutionally, WWE failed to set the table for WrestleMania 22. The hostess was rude. The drinks were watered down. And the wait staff was inattentive. It might have spoiled your mood and your appetite a bit, but hey, you're here and you're not going anywhere... and when the food arrives, it'll have been prepared by the same mostly-talented kitchen staff that has been serving up tasty Mania Meals for years. Perhaps the end result won't disappoint that badly?

That's what I got, folks: WrestleMania 22 is the Greasy Spoon of wrestling pay-per-views. It looks sketchy, and a sensible person wouldn't even set foot in the place, and if you did, you'd be instantly underwhelmed by the ambiance and service. But you gotta eat, right? And if you're a wrestling fan -- no matter how disillusioned or how lapsed -- you gotta see WrestleMania... so you give it a try. 

And you know what? Whether it's from the bowels of a loud, messy kitchen or from the bowels of a wrestling organization that seems to be rotting from the top down, you just might get a tasty treat served up by an old hand or two who still knows what he's doing.

Anticipation level? Almost zero. Expectations? Limited. But you know the effort and expertise is there to make the end result more than palatable.

If and when WrestleMania 22 succeeds, it won't be a victory for those charged with creating the sizzle. It'll be vindication to those who serve up the steak. I certainly hope they are up to the challenge ahead of them in 2 days time.

And I *know* the staff of OO is up to the challenge of examining this PPV card from every imaginable angle to deliver to you the Only WrestleMania 22 Preview You Need To Read. Join us, won't you, as we take a look at Sunday's full, as-announced, 11-match pay-per-view line-up?
 

JOHN CENA vs. TRIPLE H
WWE Title Match

Being charitable: you *might* say that the foundations for this match were laid right before the Royal Rumble, when Triple H (after a six month vacation and then a lengthy feud with Ric Flair) declared his intentions of winning back his title. Even though it's not "his" title, it's the WWE Title that came over from SD! while he was away.

But why pick nits? Point is, Trips thought he was the "King of Kings" and wanted to re-ascend his throne, and he figured winning the Rumble was the way to accomplish this most easily. 

He failed to accomplish this.

So, when Rey Mysterio won the Rumble, and when (for reasons that can only be attributable to the uncreative, small-minded Writer Monkeys once again same up awfully short in the storytelling department) there was not even one second of uncertainty or teasing as to which brand's title Rey would fight for (as there has been in past years), RAW immediately instituted a tournament to determine its own WrestleMania #1 Contender.
 
*This* time, Triple H came out on top, and got his title shot. Which is why, if we cease being charitable and start being pragmatic, it's more accurate to say that the foundations for this match were laid all of 5 weeks or so ago, on the first night that HHH and Cena had a meaningful interaction.

In that time, this truly epic and titanic feud has seen some twists and turns. Well, mostly: HHH and Cena were forced into being tag partners, and HHH abandoned Cena (who still won the match against three other men), which was naughty. And then, also: Cena earned the ire of Vince McMahon, and the Cena/HHH feud became tangentially tied to the Vince/Michaels feud as a result. And in two weeks of shenanigans, Vince and Triple H have turned out to make quite the team.

So the subtext here is: Cena's not just fighting HHH, he might also be fighting the boss.

It's not a lot, but it's probably the best you can do in five weeks. HHH is all about the heelish bluster (which he's good at), and Cena's trying to recreate the mutinous employee vibe that served him so well against Eric Bischoff. Yes, please not the ample sarcasm on that latter point.

One positive aspect of the involvement of Vince McMahon in this feud is that it has neutralized many of the boos that Cena gets. A growing majority of wrestling fans (read: not casual teenage fan girls) dislike Cena and enjoy voicing that opinion... but with Vince involved, what are they supposed to do? Cheer Vince? Not likely.

It will be very interesting to see if they continue to use this tactic on Sunday, or if they just send Cena out there with Triple H and let the chips fall where they may. 

An observation, if I may, however: I strongly suspect that Cena's gonna be in HUGE trouble on Sunday. WrestleMania sold out in 2 minutes, and the people who went to that effort to buy tix are WRESTLING FANS. They are not packs of simple-minded teenage girls who thought it might be fun to go see their TV boyfriend in person, or who got dragged along to a show by their real boyfriend. Teenage girls might like John Cena, but they don't like him enough to camp out for tickets for days. Those tickets were gotten by wrestling fans. Ones who have been here all along, ones who loyally (or naively) continue to stick with WWE, and ones who haven't exactly cottoned to WWE's attempt to push a petulant wigger as the company's top babyface.

This is a crowd that is primed to turn on Cena early and often. Hell, it's already started: at a WM Hype Event earlier this week, Cena was booed by a majority of fans in attendance. Whether WWE has a plan for dealing with this or not (many think that a heel turn is coming, but I'm just not so sure WWE sees things our way, yet), just the spectacle (and the FUN) of watching folks take up sides in this match against Cena should add a bit of sizzle of the festivities. I know it added a lot (no matter how unintentionally) to many of Cena's matches in November, December, and January. Things could get even messier at WM22.

Possibilities for extracurriculars aside -- be they the involvement of Vince McMahon or the possibility of a Cena heel turn, or possibly even both of those tied together -- the one thing you can bank on is that HHH and Cena will stick faithfully to the "WWE Main Event Style." They'll have a brawl that'll be rather basic in execution, but they'll more than make up for that with the psychology and storytelling. The personalities will drive this match, and will be the things that add the intensity and drama to what -- at heart -- will probably be relatively simplistic in-ring action. And maybe a table-assisted highspot or two.

Points for build-up and storytelling: zero. Points for anticipating a really good ***** Meltzer-pleaser: meh, maybe 2 or 3. Points for being damned anxious to be a part of The Night The Fans Turned On John Cena For Good: several million. For me, that really kind is what's gonna make or break this match.
  

The OOutlOOk
Triple H wins: 6 votes   --|--  John Cena wins: 3 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Cena d. HHH.
I’m writing this from my hotel room, blocks away from the Allstate Arena, where I’ll be catching the big show live Sunday. Before you all start chanting “mark!” in your heads, I’d like to emphasize that I planned making the trip from NY well before the card was announced. I’d be lying if I said,
now, that this card was worth the trip. But working in WWE’s favor is the fact that expectations could not be any lower, so it won’t take much to exceed them. What’s more - all things considered, WWE should be somewhat commended for putting together a decent card after being dealt a lot of bad
brakes in recent months with the injuries, departures and even  deaths of top stars. More importantly, I’ve got to convince myself this trip wasn’t a total waste.

Anyway, I’m a little torn about this one, as I’m sure most people look at Triple H as the favorite. But if the last few months have proved anything, it’s that the McMahons are not quite ready to give up on the Cena project. And for
good reasons. Despite the overwhelming boos from male fans, who make up the majority of WWE’s fan base, Cena is as over as anyone since the Rock among women and children. And he’s selling a ton of merchandise. What’s more,
Triple H has a kid on the way, and may not be up for the schedule and demands that come with winning the title. My guess is that the plan is for Cena to take the next major step in becoming a top star by getting a victory over WWE’s top heel on the biggest show of the year.
Canadian Bulldog Says... HHH d. Cena.
I realize there are a lot of HHHaters out there that think Triple H is ruining the company, and another title reign is the last thing WWE needs right now. I beg to differ. Allow me to spread my propaganda for a minute here:

The company needs a strong heel champion to rebuild the field of faces out there (INCLUDING John Cena, if that's their current plan) and make them marketable again. Project Batista would have never happened if it hadn't been for Triple H making him seem like a legitimate threat. Will The Game likely be elevating tons of other guys? Get real, I'm spreading propaganda, but I'm not an idiot. I think he will give "the rub" to the odd competitor, no more, no less. Yet it needs to be done.

If Cena retains? Hell, I just don't see where they go from here. Turning him heel has some tremendous possibilities (I'm still in the camp saying they need to do this ASAP), but realistically, he can do that even after losing the belt. I also don't think a loss to the game will hurt his career any. Did it destroy Cena when he lost the Spinning World Title (all rights reserved) to Edge in January? Not at all.

And not that this really counts in the wacky world of our internal predictiOOns, but I do offer the following caveats: If there's a double-turn in the match, or if it goes on last, Cena probably wins. Though I think the chances of HHH retaining are much simpler to carry out.

The Cubs Fan Says... John Cena d. HHH.
The one thing RAW, and recent TV in general, has accomplished is doing the reverse psychology thing on the main event. Cena has been buried to an unbelievable degree. Triple H says John Cena is way below him, and Cena doesn't really argue his case. Triple H says John Cena is a terrible wrestler, and John Cena even agrees. Triple H leaves Cena
laying on most every encouter. Would they truly trash someone they've got so much invested in for no good reason?

Well, yes, of course they would; will they do it this time? The one thing we know is Triple H is getting this belt, but it doesn't have to be right now. There's no next program lined up for either guy, so they're probably going to be facing each other the next one or two PPVs. How's that feud work if Triple H claims Cena sucks and then Cena loses? Cena's got to win, if only to hold onto the belt for one more show.

Matt Hocking Says... Cena d. HHH.
The build to this match has been really weird, weird in a way that doesn't make any sense to me as a predictor. By all accounts, this match should belong to Triple H. He hasn't been hanging around the main event, Cena's face run has peaked and is rolling towards a valley, and Hunter has a legacy to try to maintain heading into Mania. Yet, I just can't shake this nagging feeling in the back of my head that something just isn't sitting right here.

Triple H has been booked to look *too* invincible before, and come out smelling like roses (see: Booker T), but never against a guy WWE had invested so much in as Cena (well, except for The Rock, but even then Rocky was playing second fiddle to the McMahon-Helmsley Era). It's the most logical, and perhaps even the most appropriate thing to do to put the title on Hunter right now, and let him run through some face challengers over the summer, but after this week's RAW, that niggling feeling that Cena would win returned. Cena did his "OMG Look how hard I'm training in this dusty little gym!" vignette, followed by Hunter's "I pay this guy to work out for me" vignette, and immediately it dawned on me that WWE is trying to do Rocky IV. And Cena is going to have to win, for scrappy little guys who don't have much skill but have plenty of heart everywhere. Crap.

I don't even know how the match goes down, so don't even ask. I imagine Hunter will beat him down, but Cena will keep firing back. Finally, Triple H pulls out the almighty sledge to do some damage, but can't get the three, and a bloody Cena finally hits the FU for the win. On the bright side, in Chicago, it might be the first time a face World Champion has ever been booed for a title win since Hogan.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... HHH d. Cena.
I'm really not sure who's going to win this one, and I guess that's a good thing. But I don't want to make it sound like I'm complimenting the WWE, because I'm not. The confusion over who to pick here comes from trying to decide on how they'll "send the fans home happy". It just seems that there isn't a strong finish that will do that given these two and the way the feud has been established. If it's a straight up Cena win, I think the Chicago fans will shit all over it. The double-turn could provide a somewhat happy ending, but I'm not sure they'll do that because of HHH's reluctance to be a face. Plus, there's the pesky McMahon factor. McMahon's association with HHH the last few weeks cannot be mere coincidence. And if he's a factor in the finish, it diminishes any chances of the fans being happy with Triple H winning. I'm going with Triple H here, if for no other reason than the feud can easily be extended with Triple H winning. Cena can demand a rematch and get it at Backlash. If Cena wins, it limits the plausible ways for a rematch to happen. I really hope that the Chicago fans provide another double-turn, if for no other reason than to have the WWE finally eat crow and realize they've mishandled Cena.
Jeff J. Snider Says... HHH d. Cena.
In our little fantasy world on Thursday, I came close to choosing Triple H vs. Edge in this match, and I still believe that there would probably be more excitement for that match than for this one. After all, when Edge won the title, everyone assumed it would be for a week or so, and by the time Edge had held it for a few weeks, WWE had us believing that he really might hold on to it. Imagine how much greater that anticipation would be now, after a couple months -- we would go into the Edge vs. HHH match really believing that Edge could win.

As it is, I have a hard time believing that Cena is going to pull this one off. All signs point to Cena dropping the title, and that's probably the best move at this point. If WWE is intent on Cena being a babyface, maybe chasing the title for a few months will build some sympathy. Or maybe, after dropping the title (or possibly in the process of dropping the title this Sunday), Cena has a heel turn. It wouldn't take much for the crowd to cheer Triple H, and while he has always been a better heel than face, he definitely has it in him to carry on the face side of a title feud all summer. Either way, I think the right play (and the one WWE will do) is for HHH to win his title back.
PyroFalkon Says...  HHH d. Cena.
This is Wrestlemania. As such, no half-assing from me this time around. My goal is to get at least three or four paragraphs per match, no matter how retarded the match or my opinions are. Plus, to paraphrase what Rick said in the Wrestlemania Rewrite on Thursday, maybe this will be a little peak into my wrestling fan's soul, huh?

All right, first, John Cena. You've read my stuff for the last 18 months. You know I think John Cena is extremely talented. You know that while I recognize his faults (or rather, his character's faults), I tried to cheer him on, hoping that he or the creative team would do the right thing and fix his image and persona to return him to being a true, non-pandering face. Yet, I never thought he was too bad to be "saved" in his rapper form.

And now, it's Wrestlemania 22. Like I've done the past few pay-per-views, I predict he will drop the belt. Not just because I think he should; I've already been clear on that (more in a second). But, WWE needs to create a "moment" in the main event. Short of doing something completely insane and activating the Money in the Bank stip, the only thing I can think of is to have Triple H go over here.

Surely WWE can't be deaf. Surely they wouldn't continue punch us fans in the face every time we watch. Surely they must know that Cena needs a rewrite. Surely, Cena will drop the belt to Triple H, who even I admit now has a bigger, stronger following, at least temporarily. Cena must lose, and must lose by pin or submission. I don't care if it's cleanly or by interference with a New Evolution or something. Triple H must win.

Cena gains nothing if he wins; Trips gains nothing if he loses. The story either dies or continues along its same path, basically resetting the last month. This must not stand; surely the densest person in WWE's backstage knows this... right?

Cena must lose the belt. That way, he can get off TV. He must go through a character rewrite. Triple H must take the title and feud with someone else. The champion represents the entire company, and right now, the company is represented by someone whose character has zero remaining credibility and usefulness.

Triple H has all that, but he hasn't touched the belt in quite awhile. For that matter, no heel has touched the belt for awhile. He must win here, so fans can remember they're supposed to hate him and his success. 
Big Danny T Says... HHH d. Cena.
There comes a time where even the most steadfast proponent of a crappy idea has to finally realize that it's time to do something about said crappy idea. John Cena, while not being a crappy idea in his gimmick so much as its execution, reached that point at New Years Revolution. When your crowd rebels and gives 80% boo's to your (ostensible) #1 babyface, you have to stand up and notice. Unfortunately, its looking like it took WWE 3 months too long to finally stand up and take notice. Does the extreme likelihood of HHH winning his 11th title fill me with the warm fuzzies? Not really, but at least with HHH, you've got someone that the fans can buy into with their gimmick.
Rick Scaia Says... Triple H d. John Cena.
If I were more convinced that WWE would consider a heel turn for Cena (or even starting/testing a heel turn at WM), I might consider an alternate outcome. But as is, WWE's insistence on keeping Cena a babyface means that HHH becomes a hands-down favorite.

Cena as a babyface champ after WM has VERY limited options for challengers. Rematches work better when a face is chasing a heel, which would make HHH coming after Cena a bit sketchy (remember how rocky the first rematch against Batista was for HHH last year?)... and after HHH, what other heels are there for Cena to deal with at the main event level? Edge? Might work, but we've been there and done that. Vince? No thank you.

Meantime, heel HHH as champ has all the options in the world... rematches with Cena. Strong challenges from Big Show or Kane. Rob Van Dam. And depending on how Money in the Bank goes, Ric Flair.

In essence, I'd be bored to tears by the RAW Title Scene if babyface Cena wins. I can envision a solid six months of watchable TV if heel HHH wins. Since I'm not sold on the fantasy booking scenarios where Cena turns heel, I have no choice but to put my Prognosticatory Weight behind The Game.

 

KURT ANGLE vs. REY MYSTERIO vs. RANDY ORTON
World Title Match

Life handed SmackDown! a bushel full of lemons starting back last November, no doubt about it. This main event title match represents their best attempt at fashioning some lemonade out of them. It's kind of that thin, sugar-watery, Drink-Aid brand version of lemonade, but hey, if you're thirsty, it'll get the job done.

There was a time when SmackDown! seemed poised to have the hotter of the two main events by WM22, when Eddie Guerrero was in the midst of a slow, diabolical heel turn and you just KNEW Batista wasn't gonna put up with that happy crappy. But then Eddie passed away, and Batista got hurt (not once, but twice; leaving him out of commission through WM). That left WWE without their first three options for a SD! main event (Batista/Eddie, Batista/Rey, or Batista/Orton).

With Batista's injury just prior to the Royal Rumble, in January, SD! General Manager Teddy Long vacated the World Title, and held a Battle Royale to fill the championship. He managed to sign Kurt Angle away from RAW to help bolster the line-up in the Battle Royale, and in one fell swoop, Kurt showed up on SD!, was welcomed as a babyface, and won the World Title.

For a while, it appeared as though the creative team just handed Angle the bookings originally designed for Batista, which made for some sloppy storytelling. Angle was saddled with Mark Henry, for instance, as his first PPV challenger, and turned out what is widely considered to be one of the world title matches in recent memory.

While Angle was trying to find his own groove, Randy Orton was floating around randomly, usually losing matches. In storylines, the attempt was eventually made to present this as a post-Undertaker-feud funk. In reality, the writers lost track of Orton after his dad was sent home and were struggling to find his new niche.

Only Rey seemed to be going strong this period, looking sharp as he boldly declared that he was dedicating his Royal Rumble performance to his late friend, Eddie.

And what do you know? Rey won the Rumble, and looked poised to follow through on his dream and his homage to Eddie by going to WM22 to win the Title.

But instead of taking the time to tell the story of Rey's thought process, and build up some kind of tension as to which Title he would fight for and why, WWE promptly decided to not to ANYthing with regards to setting the stage for WM, and shunted Angle into a PPV feud against the Undertaker, while Rey went straight into a feud with Randy Orton.

At stake in the Orton feud? Rey's WM Title Shot, which made little to no sense, since there was no logical reason for Rey to put something like that on the line. WWE's attempt to create a reason involved sending Orton out to openly mock the memory of Eddie Guerrero. This, to hear Orton tell it in "shoot" promos, caused Rey to lose his cool and agree to the terms of the match. And if Orton thinks that makes a lick of sense, he's just as dumb as we all already knew he was.

But sensible or not, it "worked" and Rey put the title shot on the line in a match where Orton put absolutely nothing on the line. So lame. In the build-up, Orton's mockery of Eddie continued, and the "Ghost of Eddie Guerrero" was continually presented as a real force behind Rey's in-ring success. Again: not WWE's greatest moment.

With all that going on, the only logical outcome would have been to pay-off the mini-feud by having the Dimwitted Douchebag be smited for pushing such cheap-heat buttons, thus vindicating not just Rey and his Quest for WM, but also honoring the memory of Eddie. Logic? In WWE? Not a chance. Orton won the match against Rey, relatively cleanly. And suddenly, the answer to a question nobody asked, Randy Orton was a player in the WM22 main event picture out of left field.

In in out-of-left-field development, GM Teddy Long basically decided that Rey had been coerced into putting his WM title shot on the line, and that doesn't un-do the fact that he won the Royal Rumble. So just like that, he re-inserted Rey into the WM22 title match, making it a three-way match. Funny that Teddy wouldn't mention this BEFORE Orton spent a month cutting tasteless promos to set up the match for the WM Title Shot to begin with.... Ugh. Again, with the logic holes you can drive Mack Trucks through...

By this point, Angle had concluded his feud with the Undertaker (winning the WWE's Match of the Year To Date at No Way Out), and jumped back into the picture here. And like the RAW main event picture, when you only start bothering to tell your main event story about 5 weeks before the event, you don't really have enough time to do a whole lot.

To a large extent, the trio have been trying to get by on their personalities. Angle's the bad-ass wrestling machine who cannot be unseated. Rey's the plucky underdog who is doing this for his dead friend. And Orton's the tool who's lone case for being World Champ is that he has Destiny -- not talent, not ability, not desire -- on his side.

Also, like the guys in the RAW main event, these three were thrown together as unwilling partners a few weeks ago, with predictably poor results. Orton made himself scarce in the team's two matches, letting Rey and Angle do all the work. In one match, he only stepped in at the last second to steal the glory. In another, he contributed almost nothing until causing his team's loss.

In more recent weeks, WWE has used Orton's status as the lone heel to have him spite both Rey and Angle in their matches. Whether you look at that as Orton being the Straw That Stirs the Drink, or as Orton being the unnecessary vestigial tail of this feud, the result has been Orton getting the best results of the three by doing the least amount of work. 

You know me: I tend towards Randy Orton, the Coccyx, in my thinking. Partly because, in the match itself, it's an antiquated 1980s notion that you NEED to have a heel in there to make fans care (especially in a match that'll have emotional, Eddie-laden underpinnings). But mostly because his logic-free involvement in the match came out of a continuity nightmare of a month back in February, and served mostly to annoy me. That was a time when S! should have been aggressively building towards a compelling main event, and instead, they were all over the place: Angle was working exclusively with Taker and Orton was being randomly thrown into the #1 Contender mix by one of the laziest plot contrivances ever. I wish it hadn't been like this.

But it is. And the match will still be roughly the same as it would have been without Orton. Maybe a little more story-centric than action-centric -- look for Orton to try to orchestrate Angle/Rey problems and then capitalize, all while doing as little as possible on his own (hey, anything to keep him from feeling the need to slap on a 10 minute chinlock!) -- but still fundamentally built around Rey being a massive underdog.

It's a foolproof story to tell. Fans'll bite on it. And Rey being Rey, he'll bring the fast-paced action to make sure the in-ring work is commensurate with that psychology (hell, a few weeks ago, Rey's physical creativity even fooled a few readers into sending me e-mails about how bad-ass Randy Orton is; remember that RKO off the ropes? well, when Orton couldn't have done that against anybody else OTHER than Rey, it's hard to give him the credit for it looking sweet, isn't it, now?). Regardless of the story leading into it, I'm still figuring this'll end up being 20 minutes of lemonade that goes down plenty smooth.
  

The OOutlOOk
Rey wins: 4 votes   --|--  Orton wins: 4 vote
Waffling wins: 1 vote
(Kurt Angle Received No Winning Votes)

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Rey wins.
Despite the lack of hype this “co-main event” has gotten relative to the WWE Title match, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this match go on last, because it would be impossible for WWE to top the feel good WrestleMania moment of the undersized Mysterio winning the Heavyweight title, and, I imagine, celebrating in the ring with the friends and family of Eddie Guerrero. I’d expect this match to be the best of the night, as all the workers - and Angle in particular - can usually be counted on to deliver in the clutch. The one weak link in the match may be Orton, who has lost a lot of his
luster over the last two years, but I’d expect he’ll be on his game. I’d pick Mysterio to pin Angle for the title.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Rey wins.
Again, I'm banking on this being the final match of evening. If not; well, that changes things a bit. But it SHOULD be the final match.

And thus the WrestleMania moment: Rey Mysterio wins the championship and points up to Eddie in the heavens above. McMahon loves this kind of thing. He'd replay in video packages FOREVER. That's why I think they can't pass it up. That's not to say Orton doesn't get the title eventually, because he could certainly pull that off right now; but at WrestleMania, it's Rey's time to shine.

The Cubs Fan Says... Orton wins.
None of the choices here seem to playing into a long term direction. They're not really going anyplace, and I'm not so enamored where they're at now. Orton seems to be the safe, boring pick (which is why the WWE likes him!) so why not. If it's Rey, it's cool, but I don't think they'll do anything with them.
Matt Hocking Says... Orton wins.
Listen, I'd love to believe that Rey will win as much as anybody, in fact I think he's got about a jillion times better chance of winning than Angle, but again, I can't escape the feeling that this one is inevitable. There is a really great story to be told with Rey winning the title (unfortunately it probably involves the Ghost of Eddie Guerrero), but the better story (the actual WRESTLING story, with no dead people) involves Randy Orton taking on Batista heading towards Summerslam.

And, with a real shortage of credible heel challengers outside Orton for those slow mid-month PPVs, Smackdown pretty much *needs* a heel champion heading into the rest of the year, and Orton is your man. Rey is just there to appease people who fired back over the way his feud with Orton was handled at No Way Out, and Angle is just along for the ride, I'm afraid.

The match itself should be a good one. Angle's got the wrestling chops, of course, and Rey will fly around and bump for him, and whether you like to admit it or not, Orton can hold his own in this type of match. Don't be shocked if Booker T is the deciding factor in Randy's win, after Orton cashes in the favor Booker owes him from a few months back.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Orton wins.
I'm going with the WWE think on this one, because God knows I would never endorse Orton winning a world title on my own free will. The WWE has flip-flopped so many times on showing confidence that Rey can be a main eventer that I just don't see them giving him the win. As for Angle, he wasn't originally supposed to be in this match, and given that WWE has horrible adaptability skills, they probably want to get back to their original lame plan as soon as possible. Finally, given that there are so many faces on Smackdown right now, it seems that it would be necessary to have a heel champ. Plus, they just seem so dead-set on having that Batista-Orton feud that they think will be so money, that they'll put the strap on Orton to make it a reality. The best way I think that this turd can be polished is if Orton pins Mysterio to win the title. What they can do at that point is having Angle turn on Rey in the weeks after, claiming Rey cost him the title. Then you can have Taker get another requisite title shot against Orton for defeating Mark Henry. Once Batista comes back you can have him demolish Orton to win back the title. It's not ideal, but I think it could be workable. 
Jeff J. Snider Says... Orton wins.
Does WWE go with what is apparently their plan and put the title back on Orton, to set up a feud with Batista when he returns? Or do they do the easy thing and keep the title on Angle? Or do they do the very risky thing and put the title on the lone remaining member of the Junior Division? Anyone who knows me knows that Rey is my heart's choice, but sadly, I don't think that is the plan. I think putting the title on Rey would set up some pretty sweet possibilities when Batista comes back, as I wrote on Thursday. But with Rey out of the picture, we have Angle or Orton, and let's be honest, if the goal is to get Batista right back into the title hunt when he returns, there are more possibilities with Orton than with Angle. So it appears that WWE has booked this match in such a way that the outcome they want is *technically* the best possibility. Of course, that technicality is predicated on some poor decisions they have made in the past couple months, as well as on the assumption that Orton can carry his end of a title feud. Will heel Randy be any better in the top spot than face Randy was? I have a feeling we're going to find out soon...
PyroFalkon Says...  Orton OR Rey wins, depending upon a contingency that I will hold myself to.
I hate this match. I hate the idea of the match. I hate the storyline of the match. I hate that Rey and Angle, the wrestlers, will give their entire efforts to making the fans happy for a story that should have never seen the light of day. I hate that Randy Orton is still in the main event. I do NOT hate Orton himself, although his character could use a trip through a wood chipper.

Randy Orton has been given the ball once, and he dropped it. Miserably. Why the E thinks he's ready to take it up again is beyond me. I suppose there are too many faces at the top over on SmackDown!, but they should just transfer someone from RAW if it comes to that. Orton still doesn't annoy me, he still doesn't sadden me: the fact is, he does nothing for me at ALL. I don't care; I simply do not care about him.

Kurt Angle is not my favorite. To this day, I don't know why I particularly don't like him. But I respect his ability and his commitment to WWE and wrestling. I'd like to see him walk out as the champion. But, I just can't see WWE making a decision that appeals to us that much.

And Rey... well, can I say? Vince and Johnny Ace love steroid-addicted unintelligible nimrods, so ain't no way little Rey is getting the top WWE prize. Or second-top, whatever... point is, he ain't Eddie, and even if Eddie's ghost really is watching over Rey, Rey will lose.

Well, maybe not. There's only one problem that I see with this, however, hence the double answer. I know that I'm pretty much fucking the rules for our contest here, but let me explain. Right now, I see one of two possible "moments" happening, and remember that WWE wants to give us a moment. I think, if the Cena/HHH match is the last one, then Trips will win to give us a good image of him standing over Cena's body. Well, I think Trips will win either way, as I mentioned.

However, this match is a little more ambiguous, and my guess revolves purely around its position on the card. Here's the deal, in black and white, and I'll hold myself to this when I do the scores on Monday...

If this match takes place second-to-last, Randy Orton wins. If this match takes place LAST, Rey Mysterio will win. This way, if Rey is in the final main event and wins, he gets to celebrate and eat up the confetti. If this match is second-to last, the crowd may get burned out from a Rey win and be a little flat during the real main event, so they wouldn't risk it, and they'd piss off the crowd by giving it to Randy to properly juice them for the main event.
Big Danny T Says... Rey wins..
Who do I want to win? Rey. Who would I have no problems with winning? Angle. Who is the person that SHOULDN'T win but the WWE feels like ramming down our throats? You guessed it. But seeing as this is the main event (what with Rey being the Rumble Winner) and the only time that heels walk out of WM with a top strap is when they have three "H's" in their name (Austin doesn't count because he was a babyface going in) and the need for a BIG feel good moment this year, I pick Rey to beat the odds and walk away with the belt.
Rick Scaia Says... Rey Mysterio wins.
A Classic Case of "Rick Think" vs. "WWE Think". And this time, I'm gonna pick with "Rick Think."

The finish of last night's SD! reads like it was a total beatdown for Angle; that, and a few other tangential elements (both in terms of subtle on-screen stuff and on-going concerns about Angle's health), lead me to believe that Angle's being set up to lose the title, but in a way where he retains his main event credibility. A final beatdown where he had both Rey and Orton tapping last night? A three-way match where Angle can lose the title without being pinned? It seems to be inevitable that Angle will walk out of Mania empty-handed.

So: Orton or Rey? I say Rey. WWE proved -- last month at No Way Out -- that even with all common sense pointing a different direction, they are capable of saying "Orton."

My thinking for picking Rey is two-fold. One is simply that Orton still hasn't convinced me he can carry a brand. Not even a second-rate one like SD! is today. Putting the title on him would just be WWE putting another of its own feet in a grave. Well, not literally: but it sure wouldn't help them trying to get SD! back to performing respectably.

And two is a case of me looking forward and realizing that Batista is due back within a month or so, and will instantly be back in the World Title picture. And kids: "Evolution" or no, I have about a billion ideas for ways Batista/Rey could get very interesting, and almost no ideas for ways that would get me excited to see Batista and Randy Orton put together in main events. Batista/Orton would be a "feud" where I'd basically be bored to tears and under-entertained until we eventually got to the part where Batista squashed Orton and took his title back so he could move onto something entertaining. Batista/Rey has things you could do that would actually make the week-to-week drama very engrossing, and which in turn would allow you to do different outcomes over a series of matches, each one of which would be satisfying in its own right.

A tertiary consideration: as part of the WM build-up, we already did the Rey vs. Orton feud as a side-bar. After WM, while Rey is met by the returning Batista, Angle vs. Orton as a side-bar would be a nice little counter-balance, so everybody still has something to do. And it doesn't work that way if Rey doesn't have the title.

Or better yet, after seeing Orton's new t-shirt, he can figure out some way to feud with himself so he doesn't drag anyone else down with him. Wolfpac Randall vs. Randall Hollywood: it's the only way, people! The cheap knock-off t-shirts cannot be lying to us!

And finally, I'm not saying that Rey makes for a credible long term champion. But in memory of Eddie, you can give him the belt and let him run with it for a bit... and when you take it off him -- sooner rather than later -- you want a good, convincing storyline behind it. I'm really attached to the idea of a slow-burn Batista heel turn (Batista does to Rey what Eddie was fixing to do to Batista last fall), and when the time comes, and all the teasing and swerving is over, the final moment of Heel Turn is ultra-violent, and instantly creates such a level of sympathy that Rey is actually RE-MADE as a contender, since his "lack of credibility" is now masked by fans' desire to see him get his revenge on Batista. Or, if necessary and the rumors are true: you can even use Batista's outburst this summer as the excuse to give Rey a month or two for vacation to tend to a gimpy knee. 

Everything really fits together best if you put the title on Rey. It creates a happy and satisfying ending at Mania itself, but it's also the only outcome that can help fortify SD!'s prospects over the summer. 

 

MICK FOLEY vs. EDGE
Hardcore Rules Match

It's hard to say when the idea for this one was locked in, but I first caught a whiff of it when Edge was briefly the WWE Champ and kept ranting about not being a "transitional champion." Like Mick Foley.

Edge wound up being wrong, though, as his title reign clocked in at about 3 weeks long. And when Edge exercised his rematch clause, and a special ref was needed to maintain order, who should show up? Mick Foley, who probably remembered being listed as a lowly Transitional Champion about a month prior.

But if Mick was upset about it, he didn't let it affect his judgment. Edge lost the rematch against John Cena, fair and square. Edge didn't see it that way, however. He decided to make Foley his scapegoat. Hey, pick on the old, broken down Teddy Bear.... what's he gonna do about it.

Well, what happened was that Foley finally confronted Edge about the issue. And Edge was so confident that he issued a challenge to Foley. "Let's wrestle at WM22," he suggested. But Foley turned down the challenge. Edge seemed to expect that. What he didn't expect was that Foley had a counter-proposal. "Let's FIGHT at WM22." Edge is younger, faster, and stronger, and Foley wants nothing to do with a wrestling match.... but let's make it Hardcore Rules and you're on, Edge.

Edge accepts.

And from there, what had felt like a by-the-numbers Special Attraction Feud got kicked up a few notches. There were violent confrontations. Usually won by Edge. Including a one-man con-chair-to and a faceful of thumbtacks, both with Foley as the victim.

But more important were the verbal confrontations, in which Edge broached some very real, shoot-style issues about Foley's legacy and his current standing. Foley's never had that one breakthrough WrestleMania Moment... Foley's so broken down and harmless that it won't mean anything special to Edge to beat him at WM, it'll just be another notch on his belt.

So Foley'd respond in kind: he promised to create his one indelible WM moment on Sunday, and he made contact with his Inner Cactus Jack. Gone is the harmless Teddy Bear Foley. In his place is a barbed-wire baseball bat wielding madman. Methinks Edge is wishing he hadn't cast on Mick's credibility as an opponent.

This will be a wild brawl. There will be blood. There will be foreign objects. And it'll all be tied together with Foley and Edge's ability to tell a story and keep a crowd into the match. Lita's presence at ringside should help out with that (at least in the early stages, though it wouldn't surprise me to see her ejected later on, a la Diesel at WM10).

And thanks to the unexpected "save" in terms of the storytelling and angles/promos leading into the match, I think this is the one match on the WM22 card that combines prospects for a good-or-better match with a very-well-done storyline coming in. And it's when those two elements converge that you can actually get something special. Because when those two elements converge is when fans are anxiously WANTING to see a match, instead of just being willing to endure it. That's a huge boost to the atmosphere of any match.

I think Foley and Edge are gonna have that bonus working for them on Sunday. I think they will make very good use of it.
  

The OOutlOOk
Edge wins: 7 votes   --|--  Foley wins: 2 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Edge d. Foley.
Despite the relatively strong hype put into this match in the last several weeks, I don’t expect to see anything we haven’t seen several times before in Foley’s “special attraction” matches: A table spot, a barbwire bat, some thumbtacks, a crazy bump by the entry stage, yadda yadda - all ending with Foley putting over the hot new heel. It’s not to say this won’t be good, just not terribly original.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Edge d. Foley.
This one is a no-brainer. Mick Foley is probably my favorite wrestler of all-time, partly because of his excellent grasp of doing what's right for business. Jeb Tennyson Lund wrote about this a few months back, and while it's definitely true, each time Foley gives out more of himself, his legend deteriorates just a little bit.

But in the big picture, this is Edge's time to shine. Like him or hate him (I hear he steals other people's catchphrases), The Rated R Superstar has had one hell of a year and is ready to become a permanent main-eventer. As Mick Foley has done countless times, he'll help Edge get there (I'm sure it doesn't hurt that they're real life friends as well).

I'm sure it will be a fantastic match, meticulously planned out to showcase both Edge and Foley's strengths. I just wish Foley was getting the "big time" WrestleMania moment he legitimately deserves.

The Cubs Fan Says... Edge d. Foley.
We're not to the level post-Rock/Mankind @ Royal Rumble level of fear (though a few more episodes of flaming table could've done it), but I'm apprehensive about this match. One of the talking points is Mick never having a stellar WM match, so that' what they're going for here and everything's going to be on the table to make it happen. Really great
stuff is possible, really dangerous stuff to get a reaction seems also possible. Since Edge is around next month and Mick is not, you've got to go that way (though Mick breaking Edge's win streak wouldn't be too shocking; a great match matters a lot more than the decision.)
Matt Hocking Says... Foley d. Edge.
Man alive I'm going to get skewered on my picks this year. Trust me, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up getting 0 right again this month. But again, this is what my head is telling me. The story the WWE has tried to tell over the past few months is this: Mick Foley is a washed up old man who cannot rest until he actually puts in a decent performance at Wrestlemania, Edge is a dick who is rubbing it in his face that Foley can't do it. Unlike Foley's erstwhile feud with Randy Orton however, I think Foley has a chance in this one. Here's why:

I understand that Mick is not a full time performer. Our own Jeb Lund did a masterful job of constructing a column on exactly why Foley will not win this match. But the thing that is bothering me about that is that WWE has made that very thing the focal point for this angle. Meanwhile, Edge is mind bogglingly being shafted further and further down the card, after a good run with the title. Here's my guess: Foley finally gets his big Mania moment (a win over the heretofore undefeated Edge), Foley is also contractually obligated to appear on a few more wrestling shows this year. Edge gets his win and his "heat back" at Backlash, while WWE finally takes a little of the tarnish off the ol' Foley legacy.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Edge d. Foley.
This is the match that I'm probably looking forward to the most, yet I never really wanted it to happen. As I alluded to in my fantasy booking match, I still believe that Edge should be champ and fighting in the main event. I also think Foley would be better served fighting someone who needs a rub or a legend. I truly think though that both of these guys are wanting to make the most out of what they have been given here. Knowing that. the door is wide open for them to do some really crazy shit. Hopefully, the WWE will be smart and take a hands-off approach to their match. Too often lately, we've been promised "hardcore" and got "hardcore-light". I want these guys to be safe, but I also want to see something that is brutal and out-of-the ordinary. If they get inventing and really "hardcore" then I think Mick can still win by losing. Under no circumstances though should Mick actually win. They need to keep Edge strong and also have him stay undefeated at WM, as that could become an interesting storyline down the road.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Edge d. Foley.
This match will be fun, I reckon. (Reminds me of a joke my lame-joke-telling dad told me this week: Why are Texans always fixin' to do things? Because they're always reckon things.) Anyway, I wish I thought WWE had a big swerve in mind for this match, with Foley winning and extending this feud for another month or so before losing to Edge. I don't think that is out of the realm of possibility, but I also don't think it is likely.
PyroFalkon Says...  Edge d. Foley.
I talked to my singular wrestling fan friend this week. He is convinced that WWE will pull a swerve, and after all of Mick's losses the past few Wrestlemanias, E will give Mick the win. I got hopeful... Mick promised that he'd win on Monday, and he's been on top of Edge every step of the way. And that passionate promo he cut two weeks ago? An early "Promo/Angle of the Year" candidate. Mick looks poised to kick some ass, take some names, and walk out with his arm up in victory.

But then, Jeb's column comes back to my mind, and frankly, it just makes too much sense.

Mick will lose. Edge has nothing to gain losing, and Mick has nothing to gain winning. My friend is convinced that Mick will win here, but when Edge inevitably asks and gets a rematch, he'll lose. The hole with that is, why the hell would Mick grant Edge one? Why would Mick push his body further for a pointless throwaway match? And why should we be selfish enough to ask for it even if that's what WWE is thinking?

Mick loses, not because our hearts say so, but because our minds do. Sorry Mick... I'm sure you'll put on a hell of a show for us, but you really need to just settle back and stay retired.
Big Danny T Says... Foley d. Edge.
Ok; this is the match I'm looking forward to the most. As much as I shouldn't, I love seeing Mick in crazy whackjob mode (To warm up, me and my friends are going to watch the "King of the Deathmatch" DVD) and it's been in this mode that he has provided his most memorable brawls. I pick Mick over Edge because he really could use the win so that he has his moment, and if the brawl is intense as I'm expecting it to be, Edge will lose ZERO heat if he comes out of this one looking at the lights.
Rick Scaia Says... Edge d. Foley.
By acknowledging some of the "real world" issues that us fans have been talking about for months, you almost begin to wonder if Edge/Foley/WWE aren't aware of the issue that we all "know" that Edge has to win, because he's the full time wrestler and Mick is just the special attraction. And then wonder if they wouldn't try to swerve us.

Which is maybe what they want us to think. So I'm not gonna get my frontal lobe twisted: I'm just gonna go with my initial guess, which is that Edge has gotta win. But that Mick will make good on his promise of delivering a WM Memory, so he'll feel good about things, too.

The only way you can go with an Edge loss is if Mick actually intends to stick around past Mania for a rematch (a la the way they did the Orton feud 2 years ago)... but with Mick putting all his eggs in the "WrestleMania Memory" Basket, I figure it's one kick-ass effort on Sunday. And then I, and everybody else (Mick himself included), will probably feel best if Foley isn't being asked to top himself 6 weeks later in a rematch.

Still: no matter how much I'm still convinced this match's outcome is a given, credit to both men for making it the match on the show I'm easily most excited to see.

Bonus prediction: was Foley desensitizing us to his inexplicable moist-ness last week on RAW? If he shows up damp again on Sunday, I'm guessing something's getting set on fire. Just please: make it a barbed-wire bat and not Mick.

 

SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. RIC FLAIR vs. ROB VAN DAM vs. MATT HARDY vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. FIT FINLAY
"Money in the Bank 2": Ladder Match for a Guaranteed World/WWE Title Shot

Carlito was beaten in the RAW #1 Contender Tourney, and decided he wanted to invent another way for him to weasel his way into the title picture. So, taking a note from the dearly departed Chris Jericho, he went on his talk show, and declared that he had an idea: a Money in the Bank Ladder Match for a guaranteed title shot.

MitB2? Given that it stole the show at Mania last year, I can't see anybody being against that idea. So the match was rubber stamped, and we went about determining the six participant.

The first week on RAW, three men qualified: Shelton, Flair, and Van Dam. The next week, it was unexpectedly announced that the other three participants would come from SmackDown!, creating WM22's only cross-brand match. And in the mess: Carlito got shut out of the match that he, himself, suggested.

The guys on the RAW side had plenty tying them together for the final couple of weeks before Mania. Shelton had, afterall, taken Flair's IC Title. And then RVD started *his* assault on the IC Title. And then RVD and Flair had a few miscommunication issues that allowed Shelton to defeat them. Pretty basic stuff, but the dynamic among the RAW Three is well-established.

It was a bit sloppier on SD!, where they started filling slots 2 weeks later than RAW, and kinda had to scramble. Matt Hardy qualified first. And then, as part of their on-going feud, Fit Finlay stole a win over Lashley to get a spot of his own. Pause for a week, and then in a Battle Royale, Lashley outlasted the entire roster of Velocity to earn the "Last Chance" spot in MitB2.

Storywise, Matt's basically only in this match because, well, he's Matt Hardy. And you need a Hardy when you have ladder matches at WM. And then Finlay and Lashley have an unresolved feud going back about a month. But none of the three are even remotely plausible #1 Contenders, which sort of kills the sizzle factor of the match when you halve your Possible Winners before the contest even starts.

Still, this oughta be a more-than-entertaining spotfest. Obviously with Shelton, RVD, and Hardy, you have three talented and nimble high-flyers who'll get to shine in this environment. Two months ago, Flair showed he could keep up in a ladder match setting, holding up his end of a match against Edge. Since his comeback, Finlay's become a very entertaining part of SD! because of his insanely unique offense (which should serve him well in any match where props are legal). And Lashley? Well, he's the "prop" in this match: a power guy who won't necessarily take the wild bumps or anything, but who can muscle bodies or ladders around when needed.

Everybody fits into a spot, and though you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody nearly as fired up for this match as they were for the star-studded original last year, if everybody does their jobs, the result should be relatively satsifying.
  

The OOutlOOk
RVD wins: 6 votes   --|--  Ric Flair wins: 2 votes
Shelton Benjamin wins: 1 vote
(No Other Superstars Received Winning Votes)

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... RVD wins.
No other match speaks to the total lack of parity between the two WWE brand. RAW’s competitors are all bonafide stars, while Smackdown!’s representatives consist of a glorified jobber (albeit a talented one) in Matt Hardy, an over
the hill scrapper who worked as an agent until a few months ago, and an ultra green rookie. With the WWE in need of top new stars, and RVD seeming the most primed for that role, I’d expect him to come out on top, and eventually wrest the title away from Triple H later this year. With RVD, Benjamin, Hardy and Flair all highly capable of working a stunt match, I’d expect some entertaining fare here, and maybe the second best match of the night.
Canadian Bulldog Says... RVD wins.
I read a theory some time ago (believe it was in the OO Forums) that RVD would win this and use his shot at ECW One Night Stand against, presumably, Triple H. What can I say? That makes a lot of sense to me. It helps build up the ECW show while also continuing the tradition of making "Money In The Bank" a big deal.

I've been curious to see how they'd use Van Dam upon his return and so far, they've kind of under-delivered. But at least the effort is there this time; I don't see them casting him as a lower mid-carder anymore. So perhaps they use WrestleMania to go all the way with The Whole Dam Show. At least, as far as he's ever going to get in a WWE ring.

The Cubs Fan Says... RVD wins.
Given that it's RVD or Flair here - no one else seems likely - it's a matter of who they have more faith in. I like the "RVD wins it and uses it on the ECW PPV" concept better. This way, Flair also gets to keep the "one last title match/win" concept going for a while longer.
Matt Hocking Says... RVD wins.
Let's get this out of the way: There are exactly two people who can win this match. Those two people are Ric Flair and Rob Van Dam. Ric Flair does not need to win this match, Rob Van Dam does. This will be the first, and possibly last, time I will run contrary to where the story is leading me heading into the PPV. Because the story of this match (completely ignoring the Smackdown side, and with good reason, because none of them are headed for a main event spot anytime this year), is that Ric Flair needs this win to get another World Title shot. Except that he doesn't. If Hunter wins the WWE Title, Flair winning would be a cute side story, and almost worth it because of how much bigger the stakes would be over their feud last year, with both men vying for all kinds of crazy title victory numbers and whatnot.

But here's the thing, deep down, somebody in the Titan Towers loves RVD. When he's healthy, he's a solid draw, he sells plenty of merch, and Vince McMahon even let him schedule the ECW PPV (which he subsequently missed). HHH may not like him, hell, Vince might not even like him, but somebody does, and RVD will have mainevented one PPV or another before this year is out. The only problem is that he (like Edge) has a stigma nobody else in this match has, which is that he has consistently failed to reach and hold a main event spot (going back to his 2 year run as ECW's secondary champion), and fans probably won't readily buy him as a main event contender now without some kind of excuse. That excuse? A guaranteed title shot, probably to be used at Two Night Stand, and probably to lead to RVD's first and only World Title victory.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... RVD wins.
As Rick has pointed out, it's brutally obvious that it will be a RAW guy that wins this. No offense to the SD guys, who I all like, but none of them seem ready for this kind of rub. So looking at the three RAW guys, it ends up being between two of them. Shelton has the IC title and should be focusing on that, so we can eliminate him from the picture. That leaves it between RVD and Flair. Rick has made some good points as to Flair being the likely choice. One thing that really stands out is why you would put Flair into a match like this unless you were going to give him a win. Plus, if HHH wins the title, you then have a nice story with both of them competing over most title reigns. Despite the strong argument, I'm going with RVD instead. I am still going to go along with the rumors of him winning so he can challenge the champ at the ECW PPV. That also seems like it would be a decent story to work with. Frankly, I think this is RVD's to win. The promotion behind his return and his comments about being taken seriously led me to believe they want to give him a shot at being a main eventer. If he doesn't win this match, it will be because WWE has lost faith in him after seeing his less than stellar ringwork since his return.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Flair wins.
I see this as a two-horse race: Ric Flair and Bobby Lashley. Lashley is not title ready right now, but he could be within a year. Flair is as ready as he's gonna get, but he could be dead within a year. I see this match as setting up an IC title feud between Shelton and RVD, and I imagine there will be a lot of hard feelings left over between Lashley and Finlay. I don't see a purpose for Hardy being in the match, so he will probably get taken out by a bitter Animal. I guess I am going with Flair, but mark my words, PyroFalkon the Tally-Totaler: if this match ends with Flair and Lashley both grabbing the briefcase and therefore each earning a shot at his respective title, I get half-credit.
PyroFalkon Says...  Shelton wins.
Even without Mama, SB has stolen show after show. He should have deserved a title shot back when he beat Triple H and lit the crowd on fire. He didn't, he was relegated to Heat; now it's time for him to step up and give it a shot. He's earned it, the fans love him: let's see him crowned.

Ric Flair is there, and he's always a threat to win a match, but I don't think he will. This is a ladder match, where the winner always does some insane move to hurt everybody else. Flair would not risk his body doing some of the crazy shit the others will do. I'm not saying he won't have his offense, but he won't be as flashy, and therefore he won't win.

Rob Van Dam seems like he may have a shot, but really... I just don't see it. He's not in top form, fans haven't exactly fully supported him (perhaps everyone sees his minor ring rust?), and I just don't buy him as WWE's top champion, or even the possibility of such happening.

Matt Hardy gets a top title shot? HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! No.

The other two SmackDown! guys, I haven't seen yet. It will be a treat for me to see what all the hype is about.
Big Danny T Says... RVD wins.
Out of all these competitors, RVD is the only one that really makes sense to win this. Shelton has the IC title, and is just now coming into his own as a good heel IC champ. Ric doesn't need money in the Bank. He'll get his 17th title run regardless, all he has to do is start shit with HHH later this spring and he'll have it by Summerslam. Finlay, Lashley, and Hardy, while they will all be good window dressing and should be able to pull off some neat spots, none of them are going home with the magic briefcase. Out of all 6 of these guys, RVD is the man to go to for MITB.
Rick Scaia Says... Ric Flair wins.
Let's just eliminate the SD! Three. Lashley'd be a "maybe" if I had a better feel for WWE's plans for him (working with Angle, either as an opponent, or as a member of a new Team Angle, would make Lashley a possible title contender within the year), but Finlay and Hardy? BWHAAAAHAHAHA!

Shelton or RVD? I'd really LOVE IT if I could believe WWE had the institutional confidence in either of them to give them the Briefcase. But WWE's ability to bury Shelton on Heat until he brought in his "Mama" says all you need to know about his situation...

And the one thing I keep hearing about RVD is that he's going to win and use his title shot on the ECW One Night Stand PPV. Which sounds more like Idiot Fantasy Booking than like something that'd really happen. Then again, if HHH wants to up his Title Total, what better way to do it than by losing that title in a no-rules ECW Match that he can bitch about, and then win it back 2 weeks later back in the cozy confines of a WWE ring. Effectively squashing RVD back to the midcard, but hey, who the hell cares about that, right? We proved we believe him him by letting him hold a title for 2 weeks!

So I figure it's Flair. HHH -- accusations of "holding people down" aside -- does tend to prefer working with certain people, and one of them is Flair. Flair's started openly talking about making it 17 Title Reigns, and HHH has not uncoincidentally started making mention of his copious number of reigns as he begins an unofficial "chase" of Flair.

I just figure those two fit together best for a future program, and since I'm picking Trips to win the title, I might as well stay consistent and pick Flair here.

 

SHAWN MICHAELS vs. VINCE McMAHON
No Disqualification Match

Plan A: Shawn Michaels vs. The Rock. The Rock wanted none of it.

Plan B: Vince McMahon vs. Bret Hart. Bret Hart wanted none of it.

Plan C: Shawn Michaels vs. Shane McMahon. Shane may or may not be at WM22 due to paternal obligations.

So when all was said and done, this is what we get. It meets Shawn's requirement of giving him a fresh/new challenge on the biggest stage of all. And apparently it meets Vince's requirement of giving him an excuse to take off his shirt on TV.

Back in January-ish, Shawn and Vince had a seemingly random, throwaway conversation backstage. Shawn off-hand remarked that Vince needed to "get over" the Montreal Screwjob and quit living in the past.

Somehow, out of that, came this entire feud. Not a whole lot of it made a whole lot of sense. Unless you accept that a Fascinating Character Trait of Vince's is that he behaves in a senseless way, that is. I don't quite roll like that, though, and if my Fictional Characters can't behave compellingly, I tend to just zone out. And there's little realistic, sensible, or compelling about the way this has played out.

Just as a for instance, in the course of about three weeks, Vince went from wanting to fire Michaels, to trying to stack the deck against him so he'd quit, to threatening Michaels with legal action if he left and didnt keep taking his medicine, to going back to wanting to stack the deck against Michaels.... if there's any internal logic to Vince's character, it's so subtle that even I don't get it.

Anyway, about 6 weeks ago, we did settle on the "make Shawn's life a living hell" vibe. Vince started making use of the Spirit Squad, his son Shane, and in the last two weeks, Triple H. All in the name of softening Shawn up before Vince himself intends to take him down.

It's worked pretty well. Since settling in on this route, Shawn has suffered losses to the Spirit Squad, Shane McMahon (twice, including yet another Homage to Montreal), and Vince McMahon. And he went to a no-contest against HHH and was the co-victim (with Cena) of a post-match plot by HHH and Vince.

Expecting a stellar wrestling match here would be foolish. But expecting a busy, hyper-booked Sports Entertainment Segment might be fair. I believe this was made No Disqualification, which would mean things are wide open here for run-ins and crazy drama.

If Shane's available, he'd be a good guy to bet on. The Spirit Squad WILL be available. And what of Vince's new alliance with HHH? And how about Pregnant Stephanie, who showed up on TV a few weeks ago to join in the McMahon family plot against HBK? There are obviously more than a few ways you could tie a few of these elements together. And since there have been so many soul-crushingly pointless homages to the Montreal Screwjob, there are more than a few people who see Bret Hart on tap for the Hall of Fame who think he'll show up here to render those homages LESS pointless.

However stupidly we may have gotten here, those sure are a lot of open ended issues that should -- if you just shut off your brain -- provide for a lot of drama. We'll see....
  

The OOutlOOk
Michaels wins: 7 votes   --|--  Vince wins: 2 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Michaels d. McMahon.
It’s a shame WWE wasted its best worker in a rather meaningless stunt match. What will this match be? See Vince-Shane at WM17, Vince-Hogan at WM19 and, well, Vince-Just About Anybody. Lots of shortcuts, blood, and stunt bumps en route to the inspirational baby face defeating the evil boss. The upside is that Shawn Michaels is several notches better than just about anybody Vince has ever worked with, and even carried a broken-down, 53-year-old Hogan to a 4-star match. Expect HBK to make this much better than it has any right to be.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Michaels d. McMahon.
Simply because, I couldn't see HOW they could justify HBK going through months of humiliation without paying it off in the end. Why would Michaels agree to that? Unlike the storyline, he really COULD walk away right now if he wanted to. He's done it all, and presumably doesn't need the grind of the wrestling business anymore.

I'm assuming both he and Vince are doing this to build the legend of Shawn Michaels. It will be a good brawl, a good fight, with at least a memorable spot or two. But even as egomaniacal as he purportedly is, I can't see McMahon sacrificng his prize star simply for his own benefit.

Well, again, that is.

At least not this time.

Oh, on the Bret Hart issue: I don't "expect" him to be there necessarily, but I wouldn't be shocked either. The Hitman will have a tough decision to make once Vince puts on his salesman's suit, presumably following the high Bret has at the Hall of Fame ceremony.

The Cubs Fan Says... Shawn d. Vince.
This isn't within 500 miles of Austin vs McMahon, which is sorta sad for everyone involved. They ought not to keep this till too late, because I think the crowd may go into business for themselves. I don't expect them to be left out there all alone for too long; Shane will show, and they'll have someone else play the part of Bret.
Matt Hocking Says... Shawn d. Vince.
One thing I've come to learn about Vince McMahon is that, as deep as his egoism goes, there's nothing he loves more than humiliating and running down his favorite workers, only to give them the win in the big blow off match. He did it with Austin, he did it with Triple H, Hogan, Rock, Shane, you name the workers Vince has feuded with, and all of them have some kind of PPV comeuppance over him after a protracted feud with the boss.

While it is true that Shawn Michaels is easing himself off the WWE schedule, I don't think it will take much McMahon convincing to keep Shawn sticking around for a few more months to let the fallout of this feud dissipate, and while neither guy particularly needs to win this, like I said, Vince always seems to let the worker win the one that really counts, so I can't really think of a reason to pick against Shawn here.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Michaels d. Vince.
This should be a no-brainer. Michaels has barely had a "win" in this feud since it began last year. For all the torture that Vince has put him through, Shawn deserves to get the win to end this. However, things get cloudy if you want to factor Bret Hart into this picture. It doesn't seem likely that if he were to get involved that Shawn would win. More than likely, this thing would end in a no contest. I have decided to convince myself that Bret will not be involved, thus I'm giving Shawn the straight-up win. Let me just add, that this match makes me really nervous. Does no one remember that Vince tore BOTH of his quads just a year ago. If this match comes off looking decent with no injuries, I will be convinced that Vince is superhuman. I know Shawn can work miracles (see Hogan @ Summerslam) but given the no holds barred nature of this match, it's going to be dangerous. If Bret gets involved, this will be something to remember. If he doesn't, this will more than likely be a forgettable glorified squash match.
Jeff J. Snider Says... McMahon d. Michaels.
This one is tough, because even more than most matches, this is left up the whim of Vince McMahon -- and anyone who tries to make a living predicting Vince's whims is fighting a losing battle. Rumor has it that Shawn is taking a lighter workload after Wrestlemania, which might indicate some sort of beatdown this weekend, and the No Holds Barred stipulation lends itself to such. Of course, that beatdown could occur as part of the match, or it could come after Shawn defeats Vince. I wonder if the timing of WWE re-signing so many big oafs (Test, Palumbo, O'Haire) might be tied into this match somehow. The only real people Vince could use right now to beat down on Michaels are Shane and HHH, and both of them are otherwise engaged this weekend. It might make sense for Vince to have a band of thugs to do his bidding by destroying Michaels. So yeah, I expect Shawn to get beat up pretty bad, and I guess I will go ahead and predict that it will happen as part of the match.
PyroFalkon Says...  Shawn d. Vince.
I actually have very little to say about this one. Shawn is all right, I still like him... I like Vince too, usually, and this is not one of those times. This will be an extremely retarded match, although Vince is sure to take one fairly sick bump. But even is Shane interferes, Shawn will have the last laugh.

The only way this will be redeemable in my eyes is if Bret Hart somehow gets involved. I know the chances, I know there's "no way" he will, I know he can't medically do anything rough... but this is Wrestle-freakin'-mania, and I have to hold some sliver of hope that my all-time favorite wrestler will make one final appearance. My wrestling fandom will have come full circle, and it will honestly make my night despite how the other matches go.
Big Danny T Says... Shawn d. Vince.
As fantastic as Vince’s ego is, I'm pretty sure he realizes at least one thing: the appeal of Boss vs. worker is that the Worker gets the duke in the end. So yeah, I expect for this to be a rather fun brawl with tons of interference from the Spirit Squad, Shane, and maybe another interloper (See my extras), Vince will taste defeat via a well-placed sweet chin music.
Rick Scaia Says... Vince McMahon d. Shawn Michaels.
I honestly have no idea. Until recently, I had no idea what sense this storyline was making, but at least now, it seems to be "making Michaels' life a living hell," with few of the brain-bending other little issues. Simple enough.

And I'd say that might put things in Shawn's favor, since he's lost a ton of matches heading into the PPV, and sweet, sweet revenge would seem to be the logical next step.

But then I remember that Michaels is asking for (and receiving) a reduced schedule after WM, so it's not like you have to "protect" him like you would a guy who's going to be a full-time roster member.

And everything starts to cancel itself out, and I'm left not really knowing where things are headed.

So I'll take a stab with my guess that one of WM's surprising, over-riding stories will be Vince and Triple H's victories, and the possible revelation of some kind of master plan between them. And again, if you want a good time to spring the surprise that HHH is the father of Steph's baby, here's your chance, as it would make for a mighty heel faction.

And if Michaels "needs his heat back" after losing so many in a row to the McMahons? Getting his big win once they've unified into a whole big faction would make it all worthwhile. Moreso than just squashing a solitary 60-year-old man, anyway. Right?

Just a guess...

 

CHRIS BENOIT vs. JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD
United States Title Match

Chris Benoit first won the US Title last summer, and everybody expected he'd be "rehabilitating" the title after it languished around the waist of Orlando Jordan. Nine months later, and a combination of circumstances has conspired against Benoit (questionable booking moves and injuries to Booker T slowing down the pace of their feud being chief among them).

Things don't exactly get any better for Benoit, here. In theory, Benoit vs. JBL could have the feel of two main eventers "slumming it" for a secondary title, thus elevating the secondary title.

In reality, the lack of backstory here leaves this match with just about as much panache as a mid-show, off-week SD! match. 

While Benoit was contesting the US Title with Booker (and his sometimes-surrogate, Randy Orton), JBL was losing feuds to the Boogeyman, and then finding himself put into a feud against Bobby Lashley (a decision made by his Image Consultant, Jillian Hall). JBL ended up making use of Fit Finlay's interference to hand Lashley a loss on PPV last month.

A week later, somebody decided to make a Benoit/Lashely vs. Finlay/JBL tag match on SD!. In that match, Benoit and JBL crossed paths for the first time, and JBL actually broke his hand as a result. So let's call that the basis for a WrestleMania Match?
 
Guess so. JBL spent the last month doing his standard ranting and raving about the inevitability of his victory due to his status as a minor deity. Benoit spent the last month not saying a whole lot about JBL and wrestling a series of pointless matches of varying quality (good against William Regal; bad against Road Warrior Animal).

There's just not a whole lot here, and I think it'll show come Sunday. JBL isn't the kind of opponent with whom Benoit can have his best kind of match, and there is no drama or backstory or anything here to cover for the fact that Benoit will have to throttle down into brawling mode and essentially have what'll look and feel like a watered-down version of what HHH and Cena will serve up. Just without fans jumping around and cheering and booing the wrong guys.
  

The OOutlOOk
Benoit wins: 7 votes   --|--  JBL wins: 2 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Benoit d. JBL.
It’s too bad two of WWE’s best performers are being booked in a relatively pointless undercard match, which has a good chance of going on first in the show. On their own, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two put on the sleeper match of the show, but I’m sure the mandate will be otherwise: Don’t steal the spotlight from the top matches. This will probably be a fine match - in the 2 ˝ star range - but far too short, and lacking any real backstory, to be memorable.
Canadian Bulldog Says... JBL d. Benoit.
I love both of these guys and, if it were up to me, I'd give it to Benoit. He just looks a lot stronger with a belt around his waist. And yet, using "WWE Think" instead of "Rick Think" (er, I mean.... "Bulldog Think"), JBL as champion = funny. It doesn't matter that Benoit can tear the house with virtually anyone on the Raw or SmackDown rosters, what matters is whether the Hollywood Writer Monkeys (damn, there I go again!) can write up "hilarious" sketches of JBL saluting the American flag.

Like I said, I don't dislike JBL -- not in the least -- but I can't help but thinking keeping the belt around Benoit's waist may be in the company's best interests.

The Cubs Fan Says... Benoit d. JBL.
Crushing JBL's dreams, this will not be the main event. This is probably the dark horse great match on the show, though can any match besurprisingly good with Chris Benoit in it? I think this one gets stretched out for rematches too (I'd like to see what Benoit could do in a strap match, just to see if there's anything left in them), but Benoit holds on to the title and maybe Jillian gets blamed? Sounds fine.
Matt Hocking Says... Benoit d. JBL.
Honestly, I kind of wish this feud had had a few more weeks to cook. JBL is excellent in this role of mid-card antagonist, and Benoit is perfect in the role of "guy in the feud who doesn't have to talk much." Really, building off the broken hand bit and whatnot, they had the makings of a really, really solid mid-card Mania match. Unfortunately, JBL's injury actually meant that instead of being on the fast track for Mania, it kind of got side tracked, and then completely off track with JBL's immensely entertaining sidebar feud with Steve Austin, before coming back slow rolling towards the PPV.

There's no real reason for JBL not to win here, he's found his nice, and there's no shortage of small time guys he can defend the US title against, but then again there's really no reason for Benoit not to win here, and I'd rather save the title change for someplace that it won't get lost in the shuffle under other, more interesting things. On a smaller Smackdown PPV, it could be a much bigger deal, and I don't think anybody would think twice about it if Benoit won here. So I think he will.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... JBL d. Benoit.
This one is tough as you could probably make a valid case for either man. Given that there has not really been a good story to go along with the feud doesn't help matters either. I went with JBL, however, for a couple of reasons. One, JBL has been doing the j.o.b. to a lot of guys lately like Rey and ugh the Boogeyman, and I think he deserves to be brought back up a bit. Plus, I think as U.S. champ, he could do lot of funny things on the mic. I would like to see how far he would abuse his power, naively believing he has the right to control the United States by being its champ. In an ideal world, a Benoit loss could mean that he could move on to feuding in the main event, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that one. I think there are a lot of intriguing matchups for JBL has champ. If Kennedy comes back as a face, those two could have a great battle of words. And Lashley, once he gets done with Finlay, needs to avenge his loss against JBL as well.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Benoit d. JBL.
How do you predict the winner of a pointless match? I don't know. I can't even think of enough backstory to come up with any plausible scenarios. I'll just say Benoit wins, possibly with an assist from Austin.
PyroFalkon Says...  Benoit d. JBL.
I really have no idea what's going on here, so this one is a shot in the dark. It's hard to take JBL seriously anymore, so I don't see him winning. Then again, I've already picked too many faces, so who knows.
Big Danny T Says... JBL d. Benoit.
Now, I know what you're saying, "Danny, How can you pick J"B"L over Benoit?" Simple: my gut thinks that this is what WWE will do. J"B"L has always been entertaining when he's been able to hold something over someone, and Benoit could use his loss of the US title to move back up to the World title picture. Yeah, it's kind of clogged with babyfaces right now, but Benoit could easily turn heel with just a couple of promos and beatdowns on Rey.
Rick Scaia Says... Benoit d. JBL.
It's another pick 'em, really. Or at least, it was until last night on SD!, when JBL randomly brought up the subject of Eddie Guerrero for the purpose of mocking Benoit. "I beat Eddie for one title, and Sunday I'm gonna beat his best friend for another." Instant "Eddie, Eddie" chants.

And kids, here's my little rule for Sunday: after everything that WWE's put The Ghost of Eddie Guerrero through the last 2 months, every single guy with a strong tie to Eddie should win on Sunday. JBL's line was actually pretty on-topic and not as eyeball-roll-inducing as Orton's shtick, but he's made his bed. He's made this about Eddie.

And now, he must lose. It's only fair. 

 

KANE/BIG SHOW vs. CARLITO COOL/CHRIS F. MASTERS
World Tag Team Title Match

Huh. Not only would this match have made a lot more sense -- story-wise -- about 3 months ago when Carlito and Masters first started toying with being a team... but it sure seemed to me that Carlito took it awfully well when he got locked out of Money in the Bank and shunted back into a tag match.

So yeah: that's my way of saying they sort of yanked this one out of their ass about 3 weeks ago, and have been desperately trying to add some story to it since. This was, in fact, a blatant case of WWE making the match for Mania first, and trying to add the story second.

That effort has included a series of singles matches between the members of the teams (all won by the faces), an aborted Shitty Full Nelson Challenge, and the over-riding vibe that the heels are clueless putzes who don't stand a chance against two giants. The culmination of all this was last week when Carlito and Masters tried to lock Kane in a backstage office, only to forget that there was another door down the hall.  D'oh.

Nothing fancy, and too little/too late, but at least it's something. Even without the putzification of Carlito/CFM, Kane and Show are incredibly dominant (to the point of being Division Killers; though the stagnant RAW tag ranks are far from THEIR fault)... this last touch of character development amplifies the dominance of the champs and the dubious prospects of the young bucks. That is helpful, as it COULD make for an entertaining, throw-away fluff match where Kane/Show squash the heels in crowd-pleasing fashion.... but it could also set the stage for an amazing upset that would have all the more crowd heat on it (for having dragged Carlito/CFM down to rock bottom before launching them to an unexpected/"undeserved" title win).

If things are clicking, this is a match that could easily slide into its slot and keep the WM Momentum rolling with the fans. But if WM gets off track and/or this match is presented in the middle of a cold streak, it will not have the power to turn the tide. We'll have to see how it all comes together....
  

The OOutlOOk
Carlito/Masters win: 7 votes
Big Show/Kane win: 2 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
This will probably be the match thrown in as padding between a couple of top matches late in the show. You know, popcorn and concession stand time. With the heel team clicking pretty well as of late, and Show & Kane valuable as singles stars, I’d expect a title change, leading to a feud between Show and Kane.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
You know, sometimes I think WWE is deliberately trying to display a bad tag team division. Look at the facts: Kane and Show are definitely respectable tag team champions; Carlito and Masters also work well together. There hasn't been a tremendous build-up for this feud, but there could have been, given that they were clearly headed in this direction in January. But here's the kicker: one, if not both of these teams, will have disbanded by May. Watch for it. And who will be ready to take their place? NO ONE!

It makes sense to give both Carlito and Masters a belt at this point. Like him or not, Masters has at least become a familiar face in the mid-card, and Carlito is really starting to hit his stride, work-rate wise. They have good chemistry together, and if nothing else, the Wacky Mismatched Tag Team Partners who hate each other is always a crowd pleaser.

The Cubs Fan Says... Show/Kane d. Carlito/Masters.
They've been teasing Masters and Carlito breaking up, so I think it's time to happen. I fear the matches, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I have no idea where the tag team titles are going, but Cade and Murdoch winning them would be quite the great moment in the history of the reset
button.
Matt Hocking Says... Show/Kane d. Carlito/Masters.
This is nothing really more than a cute diversion meant to distract you from the fact that all these guys otherwise wouldn't have had a match. Honestly, these are two of my favorite WWE tag teams right now (along with MNM) and while that should speak volumes about the state of the division, that's not how I mean it at all. Carlito and Masters have a TON of value as an Odd Couple, bickering tag team, that equal parts cannot stand to be with each other, but also cannot escape the inevitability of their pairing. It's a fantastic formula that hasn't really been played to death on the tag team circuit lately. Kane and Show, meanwhile are fun because they seem to be having fun, and because their offensive move sets mesh so well.

It won't be a squash, but it will seem effortless and breezy, I'd venture to guess that it will be Master's best match to date. The heels will cheat and try to pick up a cheap win, but Kane and Show will outmuscle them at every turn in essentially what I guess to be a continuation of how the rest of their feud has plaid out to this point. Bonus points if Carlito and Master's plans involve Pete Rose, and DOUBLE bonus points if Lawler makes a steroids in baseball crack.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
Let me ask something...does either team WANT to win this match. I mean a win here is like a death sentence. Without a viable tag division, the champs are stuck with gold ball and chain. All four guys need to be pursuing singles careers. Well not Masters, but that's a whole other story. Since somebody HAS to win, I'll say it's Carlito and Masters given the story that has been told. Supposedly these guys aren't smart enough or strong enough to defeat the champs (which, in the case of Masters, is true). Given the scripted certainty that Show and Kane will win, it means they won't. Even though I'd rather they didn't do this, I'm sure the heels winning the straps can then lead to their eventual break-up. I'd just rather they lose and break-up right after Mania, but once again, I sadly don't have enough faith in the WWE for them to do the right thing.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
The big fellas have definitely been getting the upper hand lately, which often means they will lose on PPV. And honestly, Kane and Big Show are kind of world beaters, so it might be time to get the titles on someone else. Are Masters and Carlito the right someone else? I don't know. But whether it's right or wrong, I expect that they will be the anointed someone else this weekend.
PyroFalkon Says...  Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
I've posited that CFM is the personification of everything wrong with WWE today and WWE of the 80s. I've also posited that CFM needs to either go down to OVW at worst or be released at best so he can start working on having a, you know, personality.

The thing is, I have also posited that if CFM must exist, he is best suited to be a lower-caliber star. No way in hell will I take him seriously in an Elimination Chamber. But as tag champion in an otherwise vacant and pathetic tag division? Yeah, I buy that. Not happily, but I buy it.

Big Show and Kane are on a roll, which is cool enough, but they're TOO good. They need to drop the belts, because they are bigger (pun unintended) than the belts. Although they're raising the tag titles' image, there is a certain peak of credibility they can hold. Naturally, the belts will drop credibility when CFM and Carlito take them, but at least they'll be off of wrestlers who really deserve much better.

Besides, a loss doesn't mean that Show and Kane have to stop teaming together. Plus, it doesn't have to mean this story will end. With the tension between Carlito and CFM, even if Carlito is carrying the whole thing, at least there's SOME use CFM is currently doing.
Big Danny T Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
Now, I hate saying it as much as you hate reading, but I am predicting that Carlito and Mr. Flexy Pecs will walk out of Wrestlemania with tag team gold. It's either this or Big Show and Kane continue being division killers. At least with Carlito/Masters, the tag division should become viably fun to watch again.
Rick Scaia Says... Carlito/Masters d. Show/Kane.
SOMEthing needs to happen with the tag titles. Show and Kane are division killers, Show and Kane can also find singles stuff to do, and Carlito/Masters are JUST BELIEVABLE enough (the first such team to come down the pike in a long time) to cheap their way to a win.

So let's have them do it.

Plus, WWE made Carlito and CFM look SO putz-ish on Monday, that I really do get the vibe that they'll be back on track with the titles on Sunday. 

Poor Big Show. He's the anti-Undertaker. He's already 0-5 at WM, and I'm picking him to go 0-6? And Kane's record is far from stellar; a loss on Sunday will make him 2-6.

 

TRISH STRATUS vs. MICKIE JAMES
Women's Title Match

Mickie James debuted back in October, and since then, all signs have SEEMED to point to a final, cataclysmic showdown with Trish Stratus at WrestleMania. I actually got excited about the prospects of a women's title match that would hold its own among the top handful of men's matches on the WM card.

And then the Writer Monkeys got their hands on it, and turned this into a feud that'll leave the women back in the prelim match ghetto at Mania.

The basic story: Mickie showed up and declared herself to be Trish's #1 Fan, and kept hanging around Trish under the impression that they were friends. Trish, kinder and more concerned about others' feelings, endured this for a while, no matter how annoying Mickie was.

Things started to get a little rocky -- and the cracks in Mickie's sanity -- began showing up when Mickie became convinced that she was single-handedly helping Trish win matches, and that Trish wasn't being grateful enough back. At this delicate juncture, Trish again tried to protect Mickie's feelings.

Mickie's response: Hot Lesbian Overtones! Just in time for Mickie to earn a title shot against Trish, the storyline took a turn for the worse... Mickie's inherent creepiness and brink-of-a-breakdown-ness was replaced with all of the scariness of college coeds being convinced that making out for "Girls Gone Wild" will result in them getting the attention that daddy never gave them.

Instead of jump-starting into PsychoDrive in January, Mickie's feelings for Trish were of the more affectionate variety. So when Trish beat Mickie in their first match, it was no big deal, and Mickie took it in stride and still wanted to be friends.

Not so keen on this idea was Trish's friend, Diva Search Ashley, who finally said what we were all thinking: that Mickie's psycho and just needs to go away. And STILL for several weeks, Mickie tried to remain Trish's friend despite savaging Ashley for her outburst.

Not until just two weeks ago did Mickie actually turn heel in a real sense (again by attacking Ashley, but this time luring Trish into the brawl). Mickie's stance is that she would have given her life for Trish, but Trish didn't appreciate that, and now Mickie has to move on: instead of fantasizing about Trish, she will fantasize about destroying Trish.

It's the first glimpse we've seen of a compellingly psycho, capable-of-violence Mickie James in nearly three months... we've mostly been treated to the faux lesbian since then. But it's also another case where it feel like too little, too late. WM is a time for matches that feel like the Big Finish to feuds. With Mickie only finding her Inner Psycho 2 weeks ago, and only starting to threaten a compelling level of violence against Trish 1 week ago, this feels more like the START of something. It feels like where we should have been back in January.
 
Trish and Mickie oughta have a solid match. But so much will -- not unlike the RAW Tag Title Match -- depend on placement on the card and timing and stuff like that. There have been a few issues with the shoddy storytelling undermining the desired fan reactions (no matter how annoying Mickie has been, she's been an annoying LESBIAN, which is still apparently quite HAWT~! to some losers), and if not slid into the proper slot on the WM card, this might not have enough oomph to get over. Here's hoping the women don't just get sent out there to die on the table in a throwaway slot...
  

The OOutlOOk
Mickie wins: 7 votes   --|--  Trish wins: 2 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Mickie d. Trish.
If given enough time to develop, this match could be one of the surprises of the night. Trish has actually had a very strong record of delivering good women’s matches at WrestleMania. Here, she has a talented opponent, and more
importantly, a solid storyline - built longer than any other on the card. I’d expect a nice showing out of these two, and a title change to keep the feud interesting for a few more months.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Mickie d. Trish.
Are they REALLY going to switch all of the championships at Mania? I can't recall if its ever been done before, but more than likely, I'm going to be wrong on one of these. Don't worry; I'm used to it. This one is the match I'm having the hardest time picking. Which is odd, because when this feud started six months or so ago, I would've picked Mickie in a heartbeat.

I can't imagine this match will be a one-off, meaning that the Trish-Mickie feud will probably continue throughout the spring. So perhaps Mickie wins on a countout or something lame here. Or maybe Trish wins? Who knows? I'm sure everyone else is going to say the exact same thing, but I'm kind of bummed that a feud with such potential has kind of turned into an afterthought.

The Cubs Fan Says... Mickie d. Trish.
It kinda has to go Mickie's way, or we're denied a point. I guess Mickie does something psycho to win, but I'm more hoping this is actually a good match.
Matt Hocking Says... Trish d. Mickie.
Were this any other PPV, I'd venture to guess that Mickie wins to push Trish into overdrive gearing up for...well...Wrestlemania. But, you see, this *is* Wrestlemania, and I'd have to guess that the plucky Trish Stratus will get the pin here after fending off crazy Mickie's flurry of love.

The story is one that will probably be picked up later on down the road, with Mickie using this match as a catalyst to drive her even more batty, and eventually take Trish's title. But for now, for this PPV, I think the likelyhood is very good that Trish is able to, just barely, get past Mickie.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Mickie d. Trish.
It's getting depressing as I keep going down this list of matches and keep repeating my frustration over how decent feuds have been handled so poorly. I feel like a broken record. This match is no exception. While Rick is absolutely right in saying that lesbian-elements should never have been included in the build to this feud, I'm not sure if I agree with him about this being the blowoff to this feud. Given the lack of depth in the women's division, they need to drag feuds out as long as they can. Plus, for this feud to have meant anything, I think Mickie needs to take the title off of Trish first. That's why I've given the win to Mickie here. I'd have Trish soundly in control of this match until something happens for Mickie to just snap. At that point, she obliterates Trish to take the title. This can lead to a good rematch where Trish has to realize that she needs to fight crazy with crazy. 
Jeff J. Snider Says... Mickie d. Trish.
It's pretty impressive that WWE could take perhaps their two most talented female wrestlers and put them in a match that even fans of female wrestling aren't really looking forward to. I myself and not one of those fans of female wrestling, so the poorly executed storyline is just another reason for me to not care about this one. I guess Mickie will probably win, and maybe with Trish chasing the title, they might get back to something resembling a good storyline.
PyroFalkon Says...  Trish d. Mickie.
Of all the matches on the card, this is the hardest one for me to pick. (Aside: Have you noticed that in our contests, we usually have several matches where at least one writer says "This is a foregone conclusion," followed by a writer who says, "This could absolutely go either way"? This is the way we are.)

I normally go with the heel in these situations, where it seems that a heel win will continue the story best. Usually I'm wrong, but that is not my number one factor here leading to my decision. (Actually, considering my record, this probably means I'll still be wrong and Mickie will win, but I digress.) I'm looking more at storyline potential.

If Mickie wins, then Trish can "chase" (because we all know that Victoria, Lita, and the whores are not deemed champion-worthy). The thing is... what excuse does Trish have? Why would she want a rematch? She wants to be rid of Mickie, and forcing the issue to be in yet another match with her wouldn't make a lick of sense.

So instead, I see Trish winning here, leading Mickie to go even more postal and continue to undermine Trish while simultaneously lezzing out to her. I, like my fellow OO writers, hate that spin on the story; but, if we must have it, we may as well go full-bore with it and have her continue the insanity through the next couple months.

I just pray this doesn't last until and through SummerSlam.
Big Danny T Says... Mickie d. Trish.
With the exception of a brief scare when we thought that Candice would be the women’s champ, most of us have been waiting for Mickie to take the title off Trish since New Years Revolution. Expect this one to be pretty brutal for a women’s match as Mickie won't be having the whole, "Let's be friends" thing holding her back like at NYR.
Rick Scaia Says... Mickie James d. Trish Stratus.
Bottom line: to get the kind of Big Finish I want to see out of this feud, Mickie has to win. It kind of sucks that WWE mis-timed things so that it'll be SummerSlam before Trish gets her final justice, but that beats the hell out of not getting anything out of this storyline.

Mickie finally unleashes her ultra-violent Inner Annie Wilkes on her one-time hero on Sunday. She takes the title. My Trish Sympathy Gene goes into hyperdrive. And after a long hard struggle, Trish gets back and eventually wins her title back in the titanic showdown that we SHOULD be getting on Sunday.

Or, with my luck, WWE thinks they've done a good job telling this story, and Trish wins on Sunday because the Writer Monkeys can't wait to get Mickie back to being a fake lesbian, and jumpstarting the Trish/Lita feud, or bringing Melina over from SD! in the Draft Lottery, or who knows what... not that I don't still want to see that big money pay-off of Trish/Lita or anything, but when you got one potentially kick-ass thing brewing, you don't tank it to go chase another one. There's time to do everything, here, dammit.

 

UNDERTAKER vs. MARK HENRY
Special Foregone Conclusion Casket Match

Ugh.

Undertaker returned at the Royal Rumble and gestured (Broadly) to indicate he wanted the World Title from Kurt Angle. Then he magically shot cartoon lightning bolts from his hands, which must be contractually binding via the bylaws of the Gay Spooky Convention of 1989.

Probably was that Taker returned to issue his cartoon-generated challenge after Angle had beaten Mark Henry in the worst PPV main event in recent memory. And somehow, that shitty outing had left Henry convinced that he still had future title shots coming, and didn't want to be passed over by Taker.

So some stuff happens -- including Taker and Angle having the WWE Match of the Year To Date -- but Mark Henry keeps poking his nose into their business. In fact, in Taker's deserved rematch against Angle, Henry just ran in and attacked him to cause a DQ. And there's your WM match.

I repeat: Ugh.

In the ensuing weeks, we've gotten such thrilling developments as (1) Mark Henry yammering on, apparently convinced he might actually win, while I hit the FF button.... (2) Mark Henry yammering on, since apparently somebody decided to free Daivari from being a part of Henry's decisive demise at Mania, leaving Henry to do his own talking.... and (3) Taker showing up periodically to spook Henry with light shows or double-wide caskets.

But let's not kid ourselves: this story has sucked. The match will likely suck worse. And it's all just a flimsy excuse so that Taker can squash his way to another WrestleMania win. And a flimsy excuse to try to wring some last shreds of usefulness out of Mark Henry before that unfathomable 10-year contract of his expires this summer.

Hey, Mark Henry: at least take solace in the fact that you are not and cannot possibly be any worse than Giant Gonzalez. So the next time somebody decides to cut a promo naming every one of Taker's WM Victims, you won't be the one that makes everybody laugh the hardest.
  

The OOutlOOk
Taker wins: 9 votes   --|--  Mark Henry wins: 0 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Taker d. Henry.
Undoubtedly, the most entertaining part of this match will be Taker’s entrance. I’d expect this to be mercifully short, and loaded with as many gimmick spots as possible to disguise Henry’s total lack of ability. Taker choke slams Henry into the box to keep the streak alive.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Taker d. Henry.
Why am I even bothering taking up valuable page room with my analysis for this one? Wouldn't you rather be reading about how, say, Matt Hocking thinks this is a great direction for the company to be headed in? Go on, then, leave me be.
The Cubs Fan Says... Taker d. Henry.
Undertaker wins, blah blah blah. Did they kill off Daivari? Would anyone notice if they did.
Matt Hocking Says... Taker d. Henry.
Undertaker does not lose at Wrestlemania. And he will never lose at Wrestlemania unless he takes on somebody so overwhelmingly awesome that a win over Undertaker at Mania would push him completely over the top. And even then, I wouldn't bet against the Dead Man. Seriously, the only reason I'm still typing is because this is Wrestlemania, so I feel the need to pump up my word count a little bit.

It'll be slow and it will be dull, and Mizzark will probably splash Taker through one of the caskets, and Daivari might get carried out by army men that definitely aren't Muslims (I bet it's actually the Spirit Squad in disguise!), and past that, I'm just rambling on about things you already know if you've ever seen or heard anything about Undertaker. Tombstone, Yokozuna Casket, Done.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Taker d. Henry.
Here's the only match that you'll likely find a unanimous decision on. I'm not quite sure what can be said here. Taker stays undefeated. Last year, when he fought Orton, you at least had some doubt since Orton was a rising star. But Henry is a fat piece of crap that is lucky to still be around thanks to his ridiculous 10-year contract (Thanks goodness that thing runs out in a few months). I'm sure Davairi will try to get involved, unsuccessfully, and he'll get stuffed into the casket as well. I think the only thing in doubt here will be figuring out what will take longer: the match or Undertaker's entrance.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Taker d. Henry.
There is only one acceptable ending here: Taker wins. Of all the people Taker has faced at Wrestlemania, Mark Henry is not going to be the one to win. He will get put in a casket, and we will never see him again. If I keep saying it over and over again, maybe I can will it to happen.
PyroFalkon Says...  Taker d. Henry.
When or if the Undertaker gets his undefeated Wrestlemania streak snapped, it will need to be significant, which means it sure as shit won't be against Mark Fucking Henry.
Big Danny T Says... Taker d. Henry.
This one's a no brainer. I mean, yeah, Undertakers Wrestlemania streak has to end at some point, I doubt that it's going to end at the hands of someone that most likely won't be employed with the company when Wrestlemania graces our PPV screens again.
Rick Scaia Says... Undertaker d. Mark Henry.
Duh.

The drama here is how long the match will last. And maybe how bad it will suck. Not who will win.

 

BOOGEYMAN vs. BOOKER T/SHARMELL
Handicap Match

Booker and Sharmell had, over the course of December and January, really established themselves as some of SD!'s most entertaining (in a love-to-hate kind of way) heels. Which means that once they were done doing important things, like feuding over the US Title, they tried to "get their heat back" by just rambling on about how great Booker is, despite losing the US Title.

And it seems that Random Heel Rambling Trying To Get Heat Back is like fucking catnip to the Boogeyman, causing him to be drawn to Booker and Sharmell and unwilling to leave them alone. He did it to JBL for no readily apparently reason a while back. And a month or so back, he shifted his focus to Booker.

If you ask me, there's not been one single confrontation between the two that leads me to believe this match belongs on the WrestleMania stage. Or that the Boogeyman belongs in a WM match, while MNM sit on the sidelines. But whatever: the past few weeks, Sharmell has been an exceptionally good sport and played with worms while acting appropriately grossed out. 

When her man showed no interest in actually wrestling against a freak like Boogeyman, GM Teddy Long forced his hand, and Booker had to accept a handicap match. And Teddy forced his hand further by making Booker's partner Sharmell. Looks like more worms, honey. I'm so sorry to both of you, Booker and Sharmell....
  

The OOutlOOk
Booker/Sharmell win: 6 votes
Boogeyman wins: 3 votes

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Booker/Sharmell win.
This probably will be a spectacle more than an actual match, seeing as how the Boogeyman can’t actually wrestle or anything. Hilarity ensues, Booker and the Mrs. Somehow cheat their way to a victory, and then get wormed in
the end.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Boogeyman wins.
Why do I have memories of Doink and Dink vs. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon here?

Ugh, it's honestly hard for me to analyze this one. In the grand scheme of things, this match is meaningless. Booker T, is goes without saying, deserves better than this. But he's used to being pushed out of the way in favor of other wrestlers. This one should be no different.

The Cubs Fan Says... Boogeyman wins.
Who had the line "submit to fear"? Can that actually happen? We're about to find out! This is fine as a take your breath skit in between actual matches, but I'd hope they wouldn't actually give it much time.
Matt Hocking Says... Booker/Sharmell win.
Honestly, I'm not sure how to take this one. In WWE Logic Land, is it ok to give a loss to Boogey? I mean, I know he's undefeated, but is that just a streak of convenience, or is somebody actually actively plotting that out and would become offended at the very thought of Boogeyman losing a match? I'm guessing that it's just a matter of convenience that Boogey hasn't lost, and that it's not going to be irreparably damaging for him to take a loss (hahahahaha).

My guess? Lots and lots of stalling, then some worms all over Sharmell. More stalling, more worms. And, if my prediction about the main event is right? And RKO to Boogeyman and the pin and win for Booker T. Then Boogeyman moves on to stalking Paul London or something. Still a more believable character than Abyss.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Booker/Sharmell win.
For them to use the Boogeyman with any success, convention says they need to keep him from losing for as long as they can, so as not to expose him. However, given that this became a handicap match last week, I changed my mind on who should win. I think what this sets up is for at some point Boogey to start stalking Sharmell, which will allow Booker to come from behind, roll him up and hold onto the ropes to win. Boogeyman can still pop right back up afterwards and freak them out some more, but at least Booker doesn't have to job this way. I think it's safe to say, however, that this one won't be lasting very long.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Booker/Sharmell win.
Tazz and Cole will continue to sell Boogey as if eating worms was something to fear. Sharmell will scream and annoy me. Booker will win the match. Boogey will go away. The last two are more wishes than predictions, but I stand by them.
PyroFalkon Says...  Boogeyman wins.
I don't know... I hate copping out for a Wrestlemania prediction, but look, the only thing I know about this storyline is what I saw on Saturday Night Main Event. The thing is, I've got too many faces winning already, so I hereby pick a heel. Watch me Not Care about this one when it comes on... can we say "piss break"?
Big Danny T Says... Booker/Sharmell win.
Oh god, why? I didn't even put any thought into my pick, and neither should you.
Rick Scaia Says... Boogeyman wins.
Boogeyman is undefeated. This is because Boogeyman sucks, and not even WWE will allow him to have a match that lasts more than 2 minutes. Since Boogeyman is not having "wrestling matches," what makes you think the wrestler will win, here?

I repeat: I feel so sorry for Booker and Sharmell. They shoulda had a spot in Money in the Bank. Instead: this.

 

TORRIE WILSON vs. CANDICE MICHELLE
"Playboy" Pillow Fight

Torrie Wilson was in Playboy twice a few years ago. Candice Michelle is in Playboy now.

And because all women -- at least the ones that can be envisioned by WWE's writers -- are shallow bitches who have nothing better to do than spend lifetimes accruing fake boobs and nosejobs and ridiculous hair and make-up combinations so that they can fulfill every girl's fantasy of taking her clothes off so that teenagers can pleasure themselves with ease and then arguing with other shallow bitches about which one of them did the better job and was responsible for the greater amount of man-sauce spillage.

Thrilling, eh? But it's also essentially all the work WWE put into the storytelling here. Torrie is sort of the babyface despite still carrying that damned yap dog. Titties McSuperbowl is sort of the heel despite being more-recently-nekkid and periodically kissing Victoria.

My guess: I'm the only one paying attention to these issues, cuz everybody else is too busy just cheering for an exposed nipple. Right? Oh, to be young and easily entertained again....
  

The OOutlOOk
Candice wins: 5 votes   --|--  Torrie wins: 3 votes
NO CONTEST: 1 vote

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Torrie d. Candice.
Like the tag title match, this will be used as a buffer late in the card, and will end with both women half naked, I’m sure.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Candice d. Torrie.
Yeah, I'm not getting into this one.
The Cubs Fan Says... Candice d. Torrie.
Who CARES. This match is selling 0 PPVs total, and that's a conservative estimate. It's far more intersting to realize there was a spot for Stacy to be involved and she's wasn't and hasn't been mentioned in weeks. Have a nice life!
Matt Hocking Says... Candice d. Torrie.
Hahahahahahahahahaha...Oh, you're serious. You want me to...uh...predict this...match. Yeah. Ok...Uh...So, Candice is on the cover of Playboy this month right? Except that even WWE doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic about that, given that they didn't even bother to turn her face for this feud (not that that would have worked or anything, but at least they usually tried the other times).

Here's my guess. This quickly degrades into hair pulling and somewhere in Paul Heyman's mother's basement Joey Styles cries, because if he would have been there, he could have screamed "Catfiiiiiiiiiiiight" and everybody would have loved it. Instead, Lawler screams "Puppies!" and Victoria comes out and squashes Torrie for the easy...win? By Candice.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Candice d. Torrie.
The only reason I give Candace the win is because she's on the cover of Playboy now and Torrie is "yesterday's news". I don't even think the fans will be the winners in this one, sadly. This is a complete waste of Wrestlemania time. If the match takes longer than it does to read this prediction, then the WWE seriously needs to reevaluate their priorities.
Jeff J. Snider Says... No Contest.
Oh, yeah, I didn't care about the match between the chicks who can actually wrestle, but I care about this? Give me a break. How do you even win a pillowfight, anyway? Will one of them have to pin the other, thereby forcing us to pretend to believe that someone was sufficiently injured by a pillow to render her unable to kick out? I am going to go with a No Contest on this one, partly because I don't know how anyone would win, and partly as a bit of civil disobedience to avoid actually making a prediction in this stupid, stupid "match."
PyroFalkon Says...  Torrie d. Candice.
Speaking of piss breaks, we have a match between two women who have no business in a wrestling ring for matches, let alone a Wrestlemania match. Wake me once it's over.

Look, we've already covered why this is a stupid match, why the diva search is stupid, and why a piece of my soul dies every time I hear the words "Go" or "Daddy." I love tits because I'm a straight male, and yet the only pairs in WWE I don't mind ogling belong to Lillian Garcia and Victoria. Candice does nothing for me, which is huge considering I'm a sucker for brunettes. And Torrie... well, I've gone on long enough about this.

The point is... I think Boobies is following in Spaz's footsteps. Boobies will lose, and she'll probably disappear not much longer after that. I hope WWE doesn't try to fire off a wardrobe malfunction; I already hate the hysterectomy of the women's division anyway, and a little nudity for cheap pops is no anodyne. My respect for the division can't get much lower than it is, but it will drop a few points of WWE goes that route.

Don't get me wrong, again: I love the boobs. (You really don't want to know what I've done with the Gail Kim pictures that were posted in the OO forums.) But during wrestling shows? Fuck it... I'm totally in agreement with Rick and the others. Fuck cheap pops, fuck the non-talent of these vapid women. And fuck WWE for trying to shove this down all our uncaring throats.
Big Danny T Says... Torrie d. Candice.
The WWE probably has visions of frat boys and high schoolers all across the nation seeing this match come on and giving high fives all around for the imminent titty bouncing. And the sad part is, they are probably right. There probably is an infinitesimal percentage of guys out there that are picking this PPV up because there's the outside possibility that one or both of these girls might accidentally rip each others top off. But despite the hundreds of dollars they might make off the pants moisteners, it still doesn't change the fact that this match doesn't belong anywhere near this show. Torrie to win because I like her smile better (the one on her face, you pervs!)
Rick Scaia Says... Candice Michelle d. Torrie Wilson.
I realize that I'm supposed to cheerfully and blithely say something like "and the fans are the real winners." But how many TV-PG T&A displays do you need from WWE before that joke line rings hollow to you? It's not even like I consider myself jaded and that I'll be craving nothing less than full frontal nudity while the rest of the pubescents would be satisfied with 8 nano-seconds of nipple. "Sexy" doesn't even have anything to do with "Exposed Skin"; it's a lot more complicated than that, unless you're still 15 and responding at a purely biological level.

And I'm sad to report that WWE, Torrie, and Titties McSuperbowl have done nothing to add anything to the equation here that's more complicated or appealing than the possibility that the bOObies of two blank canvases of prettiness who are more props than performers given what they bring to the product might pop out.

So in the absence of me giving a shit, my prediction heuristic is this: Candice is friends with Victoria. And it'd be nice if Victoria got a WM paycheck, so maybe she'll show up and do something kick-ass. And since I still remember the Awesome Victoria and she's still got some goodwill built-up with me, Victoria in a thong might actually strike me as something sorta sexy and ogle-worthy in a way that's a bit less clinical than the way I'll be making mental notes on Candice and Torrie's outfits.

Victoria wins.... errrr, well, Victoria's choice of bimbo wins. Yeah.

Unless it ends with a three-way lesbian girlpile. Which, come to think of it *would* be right up WWE's alley. Oy. 

 

EXTRAS/CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Eleven matches sounds like a lot. And it is. But WM22 is also a big-ass four-hour show, so we need a lot to fill it up. Maybe not more matches, but you know how the Fed rolls: always wanting to do SOMEthing to surprise and please us.

And looking at the announced card, that means adding something extra. ZING~! So here are some of our ideas....
  

The OOutlOOk

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... The Hulkster is Swerving You!
Don’t hold your breath for much in the way of surprises. I’d say Bret has almost no chance of turning up. Despite what he’s said in interviews, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see the Hulkster make an appearance, maybe cleaning house on the Spirit Squad. Batista will probably show his face somewhere. With several talented wrestlers not on the show, I’d expect
another pre-PPV battle royal like they did last year, featuring MNM prominently, and with Chavo Guerrero the likely winner.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Bulldog's On a Jet Plane.
I'll level with you guys. As I type this, I'm about two hours away from hopping on an airplane, so I don't have much time to expand on what else could happen. I think Stone Cold will show up, and Hogan might as well (though I'm more skeptical of a Hulkster appearance). The Spirit Squad, Eugene, Boogeyman, Mean Gene, all of them will likely have some backstage fun awaiting them.

Lastly, I'd just like to say that even though the build-up hasn't been as impressive as in recent years, this is not a BAD show. I'm looking forward to the two main events, and I think there are probably about four other matches that have the potential to over-deliver on expectations. Is this the best Mania ever (EVER!!!)? No, but it should at least be an enjoyable show.

The Cubs Fan Says... A Cavalcade of Cameos.
All the writers' favorite characters will get cameos: the Pirate, the Spirit Squad, Ken Kennedy, Melina (is she still suing anyone?), whoever else I'm neglecting. Batista probably will show up on camera before the SD! title match to tease his comeback. Someone will make a Cubs joke.
Everyone will be annoyed the White Sox opener will get a ton of press instead of them on WrestleMania Sunday.

At the Hall of Fame, Eddie's speeches will be heartfelt and stay away or stay on the part line regarding how Eddie was used after his death. Gene's speech will be one of the more gracious ones, and most of the rest will be unremarkable. Bret will make his speech, will cry, and will make some veiled anti-WWE comments but it'll be without a negative
incident (at least on the day of the show.) He'll stay true to his word and be far out of town by the opening bell on Sunday, and there'll certainly be unhappy references to it during the PPV.

I've never been in the habit of buying WrestleMania because it's WrestleMania, so I'm not miffed it's a disappointing WrestleMania. It's just another mediocre PPV that I'm wouldn't bother to get on my own.
Matt Hocking Says... Most Extras Ever. EVER~!
Well, here it is. Wrestlemania. I know I'm not supposed to be excited but I am. Please forgive me. I fully understand and respect that people haven't exactly been thrilled with a lot of the build up to the show, and most of me can't blame you. But you know what? I don't really care. It's Wrestlemania, after all, and Lord knows that if I haven't missed one since I started watching wrestling 20 years ago, I'm sure as hell not going to miss this one just because I don't like how they booked every match on the card. That's just the kind of mark I am, I guess. Book four hours of Steve Austin sitting in a chair peeling potatoes, call it "Wrestlemania 24" and charge $50 for it, and I'm probably there. I'm a sucker for the name.

Honestly, I don't think, other than Taker/Henry and probably Booker/Boogey that there's a "bad" match on the card, especially since you know that everybody is going to at least try to bring their "A-Game" on the biggest show of the year. I'm very interested especially to see how Triple H handles a potentially volatile situation with Cena, especially when you know full well that Hunter will not stand for having a bad Wrestlemania match. Also, you know full well that Angle and Flair are absolutely batshit insane, and that that will most likely lead to some very interesting moments in their respective matches. Hell, I'm half expecting McMahon to shoot himself out of a cannon because he likes to make sure that there's at least one big spot in all of his PPV matches (though the McMahon spot that will forever live on in my memory is the look he gave Hogan a few years ago over the apron that was just awesomely evil).

The rest of it, the undercard and whatever, is what it is. There's lots of fun to be had there if you don't hang yourself up on your own preconceptions about the "sport" of professional wrestling. Part of it is realizing that, especially at a show like this, you're on a particularly big boat, and damned if some people don't like Boogeyman or comedy matches involving Kane or girls hitting each other with pillows. Chances are there's something booked for your particular fetish too, so just shut up and watch with the rest of us for once, would you?

EXTRA EXTRA (now with bonus extras!):

1. Internet Heat will feature MNM defeating Paul London and Spanky in a Tag Team Title Match.

2. Batista will appear in some fashion to foreshadow his summer feuds.

3. I'm going to backtrack on my main event picks and say that if Cena/Hunter is the last match on the show, Cena and Orton will win. If Misterio/Orton/Angle is the last match on the show, Misterio and Triple H will win.

4. I wouldn't be shocked if WWE got Peter Gabriel to come in and play "Big Time" live.

5. True to his word, Bret Hart will not appear, but Vince will convince Hogan to stay in Chicago to film some kind of angle with Austin.

6. As I alluded to in my Fantasy Booking Crap section, I wouldn't be surprised if Charlie Haas appeared to try (and fail) to help Shelton Benjamin win the Money in the Bank.

7. Your backstage interviewers for the event will be Joey Styles (RAW) and Ken Kennedy (Smackdown).

8. The Spirit Squad will earn a Wrestlemania paycheck with a failed run-in on Shawn Michaels.

9. IF McMahon does win, however, I don't think it would be out of place to suggest that Test is the interference that does Michaels in.

10. It will take exactly two (2) Superman comebacks by Cena before the boos really fly.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... It's no longer a surprise if you predict it to happen.
For a show like WM, I really hate speculating on the extra stuff. Sure I could conjure up ideas of how Bret Hart will leave Shawn and Vince laid out during their match, or how Austin and Hogan will come out and have an impromptu fight, but on a show where you know stuff will happen, I think it's better to wait and see what unfolds. You take the surprise and fun out of it by doing too much speculation. This is the one time of the year where you just need to put down your smart hat and put on your mark hat. At my age, I shouldn't be giddy over something like this, yet I can help but feel like it's Christmas day whenever it's time for Wrestlemania. No matter how great a card is, there is something about this show that always produces an air of excitement. I look forward to sitting down with my buddies and watching the show this Sunday in anticipation for, hopefully, a number of fun surprises and exciting twists that will take us into the new wrestling year. 
Jeff J. Snider Says... Set the Terror Alert to Orange, Muhammad Hassan is in Town!
Hogan and Hart both say they won't even be in town by the time the show starts Sunday night, so that might rule them out as potential surprises. Of course, in the world of professional, nothing is for sure until you are looking at it in hindsight. Bret Hart is obviously the number one choice of fans to get involved somehow, and the Vince/Shawn match would be the perfect spot. Will it happen? Well, I think the smart money is still on no, and as always, it is probably better to keep hopes low and let them surprise you if they want to. So I am not counting on Hart, and I don't see anywhere where a Hogan appearance really fits in, unless it is tied somehow to Stone Cold.

Speaking of Stone Cold, I think it's probably a safe bet that he will make an appearance. Will he be continuing hostilities with JBL? Will he be calling out Hogan for some reason? Will he get involved in the Michaels/McMahon match? I think it is pretty clear that SOMEONE is going to get involved in that match, but because no one is a LOGICAL choice, the options are wide open with any number of illogical choices. Like I said in my preview for that match, I wouldn't be surprised to see Palumbo, Test, and some other goons show up to help Vince.

I think there has to be some place for Chavo on the show, even if he is just standing in for Eddie in the Hall of Fame lineup. (Speaking of the Hall of Fame lineup, if they ARE going to do a Bret Hart run-in, it should come after that lineup, so they will have already made it clear to us that Bret is not in the building.)

My final random prediction is that Muhammed Hassan makes an appearance.
PyroFalkon Says...  You Can't Ruin WrestleMania For Me.
Objectively: I'm not excited about this card, and I think it as a whole disappoints on the "wrestling" part of "sports entertainment." Subjectively: this is Wrestle-fucking-Mania, and it's not about the card. This is one of my five yearly Unlimited Eating Days, where I don't give a shit how many pounds I end up gaining and how many years I removed from my life during the day. (For the curious, the other five are the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday). I'm gathering my closest friends and even my mom for a combination Wrestlemania and apartment-warming party. This will be a big deal to me: it is every year.

No matter how bad the show is, I will like it. Wrestlemania (and Wrestlemania only) is bigger than the business itself. Wrestlemania is more than the show, more than the card, more than performers... hell, it's more than the company at this point. And to the "smarks" out there who wish to crap on it and say "It would just be another wrestling PPV without the hype and history," well, fuck you. The Super Bowl would be just another championship game without the pageantry. Chicken-and-egg perhaps, but the original success makes the hype, and the hype makes subsequent shows.

I will party, I will enjoy myself, I will have fun and be social. I won't drink (gotta work that night), but I'll be pumping more caffeine and saturated fat in my system than what's entirely healthy. And by god, I won't let the retardedness that is Mark F. Henry, Chris F. Masters, Boobies F. McTitsalot, or Boogey F. Man to ruin it. If it's the worst Wrestlemania ever, it will still be a better night than 99% of my year.

Even on the worst years, WWE manages to pull off one stunt every year during Wrestlemania that makes you orgasm. Whether it's a match victory, an in-match moment, or just a single image (Rock and Hogan holding up each other's arms after their match is still burned into my head), there will be something that will make me smile and make me remember why the hell I became a fan in the first place.

Sunday will absolutely rock. I'm finishing up my school assignments and everything else today (Saturday) so I don't have to do a damn thing that could be construed as "work" on Sunday.

Well, wait, perhaps there is one exception. WWE likes to show those video packages before damn near every match. I think I'll use those moments to write up who scored what in our PPV game. With luck and speed, I'll be able to get my stat report to Rick simultaneously with his Wrestlemania recap. Short of that, ain't nothing distracting me from my satellite feed.

Plus, one of my friends who will be here will more than likely write up a special column for this week. It will be Wrestlemania from the eyes of a mark (used loosely), a casual fan who hasn't seen wrestling since it was relevant to pop culture. For those who remember Erin's masterful column where she discussed wrestling with her at-the-time non-smark brother, you'll know what you'll be in for.

All right, I'm done talking, but I'm commencing the giddiness. Come on, WWE. Remind me why I'm a wrestling fan.
Big Danny T Says... We've got Sherri, Yes we do, We go Sherri, How about you?
I expect Spirit Squad to be a source of comic relief through the whole show, or at least until the Vince/HBK match.

Comedy gold could be found in Carlito and Masters running into Sensational Sherri backstage, propositioning her, and then she verbally dresses them down.

As a last minute addition: maybe 5 minutes with the cruiserweights? How about the Smackdown tag belts?

And because I like to dream: I really hope that Bret Hart will show up near the end of Vince/HBK. Bret stands off against HBK, and then drops Vince, giving HBK his opening to put the coup de grace on the match.

Rick Scaia Says... The only surprise? NO SURPRISES~!
With 11 matches -- many of them projected to go 20-plus minutes -- this actually is a pretty packed card, 4 hours or no.

I don't see any room for additional matches, but if I did, I will say this: it is CRIMINAL that MNM isn't on the show. The last 4 months, you watch SmackDown! (well, *I* watch SD!... well, I record it and watch it with a heavy-FF-finger), and more often than not, MNM are a part of the best thing that happens all night. Now granted, on SD! these days, the "best thing" is still usually a pretty-forgettable **1/2 match that you're not gonna be raving about to friends the next night. But they are still single-handedly carrying SD!, if you ask me. Not just as the tag champs, but more importantly as go-to guys who get called in as props for 6- or 8-man matches when WWE needs guys to fill out the heel side of a main event match. They should have been rewarded with a matchon this card.

And if there's no more matches, that means it's non-match surprises/extras we should look for. Thing is, WWE's kinda announced most of those already, making it less fun to try to predict a known-surprise.

We know the musical guests. We're supposed to believe that neither Hulk Hogan nor Bret Hart want to be on the show. We know that Jim Ross is replacing Joey Styles on commentary. There's not a whole lot else to work with.

I'll say this: Steve Austin oughta be in the house. The only question becomes how you use him. If it's true that Vince is coaxing Hogan back for RAW the next night, Austin calling out Hogan might work. Showing up to decimate the Spirit Squad as the Spirit Squad gives Vince a pre-match cheer would be even better.

If Joey's getting demoted, I hope they make an effort to still include him. I think, for a co-brand show, having a single guy, high above the arena in a Sky Box, acting as kind of a host, would work well. Joey would handle introductory and segue way duties for video packages and backstage bits and stuff.... the announce teams? Would only handle the actually announcing from ring-entrance to final bell.

And finally: I'm serious about the Eddie Heuristic that I mentioned in the Benoit/JBL prediction. Given what WWE's done the last few months and how you could make the case that WM22 is, in a few spots, "The Mania that Eddie Built," it just becomes NECESSARY to pay off on that. Eddie's allies should win their matches, and they should get a moment together to celebrate, a la Eddie and Benoit at WM20. That was actually the envisioned finish to my OO Fantasy Universe WM22, and because of how WWE has handled things, I think they "owe" the Ghost of Eddie Guerrero that one last fitting farewell.

Not only is it appropriate, but in some ways, it could be made into a bit of "closure" on the issue of Eddie. And though none of us will ever forget Eddie, this is something that WWE and all its wrestlers need to give us.

 

Remember two things: Mania starts at 7pm (eastern), and also that Saturday night is that stupid "Spring Forward"/Daylight Savings night, so you need to not just note the start time but also make sure you've adjusted your clocks to get it right on Sunday night.

And you can trust me: I might hate losing the hour of sleep, but I'll expertly manage the temporal trickiness to be right there in front of the TV when WM22 kicks off.

Which means that at some point around midnight on Sunday night, you can check back to OO for my full immediate post-show recap and analysis. And then further thoughts and fall-out on Monday. 

Enjoy WrestleMania, and I'll see you all then!


  
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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

 

 

 


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