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OO SPECIAL FEATURE  
Road to WrestleMania XXI: A Compulsive
Fan's Guide to the Granddaddy of 'em All 
Eighth Edition / March 2005 / Part Four of Four

Compiled by Rick Scaia 
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Comprehensive Team Coverage Preview of WMXXI

This is it... the night we've been waiting for since last year. And no, I'm not talking about the Yankees and Red Sox kicking off baseball season on Sunday night. The foul and disgusting things I want to do to the Red Sox can't take place until October. So yeah, it's nice to have baseball back, but Sunday night is all about one thing.

WrestleMania 21.
 

Shoddy build-up? Check. Only eight announced matches? Check. Only four of those being really promising? Check.

But most importantly: Blind Optimism and Markish Naiveté of my Youth? Check and mate.

You'd think I'd be upset. But screw that... I've spent three months being

upset with WWE's creative efforts heading into the biggest show of the year. I don't take back a single one of my criticisms: I think they're all valid, and that if WWE had done things my way, we'd all have had a LOT more fun since the New Year.

But I'm not gonna let a bunch of over-paid, under-perceptive hacks with less interest in making Monday and Thursday's stories entertaining than *I* have get me down. Not at this time of the year. I've waited too long, I've endured way too many shows climaxing with Randy Orton posing in the douchebaggy way that only he can while "Theme From Dumb Guy" blares out of my TV screen... I'm *not* gonna let them rob me of my enthusiasm over WrestleMania.

With less than 2 days until the show, I've got myself feeling kinda fired up. Now to see if I can try to make some of that rub off on you...

I've got a little help from my friends, and we're 12 strong today as the staff of Online Onslaught dot com share their thoughts on who'll win, who'll lose, and what'll work and what won't at WrestleMania 21. Here's the full report... 

RAW Presents....
TRIPLE H vs. BATISTA

For the World Heavyweight Title

It's the Match That Was Never Meant To Be.... and yet, here it is, the stand-out headliner on the biggest show of the year.

As recently as November, WWE intended to forge ahead with Randy Orton as RAW's #1 Babyface Contender to Triple H's World Title, and Batista was to remain Trips' loyal footsoldier. But then an interesting thing happened: while WWE was attempting to tell the story of Orton vs. HHH, the little aside interactions between HHH and Batista began to overshadow the main tale. Annoyed and underwhelmed by Orton, fans took a shine to Batista, who frequently found himself in sympathetic spots as HHH's "Dumb Muscle" who was doing more to eliminate Orton than his boss was.

But "Dumb Muscle" was the wrong job description for Batista, and the fans could tell. Batista, in fact, seemed to be ultra-cognizant of everything going on around him, and willing to play along with Evolution schemes for reasons entirely his own. Perhaps he just realized that now was not the time to make an enemy out of Triple H; perhaps he was just trying to stay loyal as long as possible to the men who helped advance his career... but week in and week out, Batista would endure Triple H's command as best he could, and continued to see his stock soar as a result.

Because the little aside skits, meant as little more than window dressing and storyline dead-ends by a creative team focused on Randy Orton, had the effect of revealing Batista's personality... he wasn't the generic shouting roid-head that he'd been pigeon-holed as when he was last on the Evolution Depth Chart for promo time. Instead, he seemed every bit HHH's Cerebral Equal: sometimes talking HHH down from a particularly dumb plot, sometimes just having to roll his eyes in subdued disbelief when forced to listen to some of HHH's self-aggrandizing fluffery. In fact, it was Batista's calm, cool, collectedness that defined his break-out phase: I still remember last fall when it seemed like on a weekly basis, I was having to write in the RAW Recap that Batista had just reacted to something EXACTLY how I'd have reacted in his situation. On one memorable show, he even busted out 2 patented Rickisms when he told HHH: (1) "C'mon, I got feelings, too, I just don't feel the need to express them like a monkey hopped up on crystal meth" and (2) "Hey, Hunter: why don't you quit telling me about it and go out there and SHOW me?"...

It was the first character I remember in pro wrestling who seemed to be a rational man in an irrational business: almost like the Anti-Stone-Cold. Instead of acting out the crazy FANTASIES that some of us might have regarding dickhead bosses, Batista was showing us the simple REALITY of how all us sane, normal, competent people deal with jerks who have somehow advanced past us. You don't do it with Stunners and middle fingers; you do it by rolling your eyes behind their backs, by showing the bare minimum amount of deference and respect so as not to get reprimanded, by periodically offering your own thoughts and advice to the buffoon ahead of you so that the entire operation doesn't come crumbling down before you can take over, and by making sure to pick the right time to make your stab at a take-over. It was really quite a refreshing change of pace.

And of course, after about 4 months of teetering on the brink of mutiny, Batista's Right Time and Right Place presented themselves at the Royal Rumble. By virtue of mowing through the Rumble match and last eliminating John Cena in a finish that didn't go down quite as expected (short on time, Vince McMahon had to hit the ring -- injuring himself in the process -- to accelerate the restart to the match after a "tie" finish)... but nobody's supposed to remember the HOW, they are only supposed to remember that Batista won, earning his shot at the title of his choice.
 
And just like that, the mechanism was created for Batista to take his shot at HHH, and without having to do anything overly dramatic or crazy: all he'd have to do would be take his Rumble-earned title shot at HHH's World Title. Of course, in wrestling, nothing's ever that easy... and for 3 weeks, Batista was taunted by SD! stars convinced that if he were to jump and challenge for SD!'s WWE Title, he'd be exposed as a minor league wrestler.
 
All of a sudden: might Batista consider jumping brands? Outwardly, HHH waffled on the issue, seemingly weighing the pros and cons with Batista as honestly as he could. On one hand, sure: Batista could stay on RAW, and the All Evolution WM Main Event would be something special... but on the other: Batista could go to SD! and dominate, and then Evolution would control BOTH brands' titles. 

But HHH's outward actions masked his true intentions: he didn't want Batista staying on RAW, and he didn't want to face Batista. He had manipulated the video footage to make it seem like Batista was being taunted by SD! stars, and as the icing on the cake, HHH managed to orchestrate an apparent limo-attack by JBL on Batista. Surely all of this would motivate Batista to jump to SD! to take out his frustrations?
 
Nope, because our favorite Logical Monster saw through the ruse. Or: I prefer to tell myself he saw through the ruse, and had it all figured out, in keeping with his pre-February character. On TV, Batista actually was little more than a filthy little eavesdropper, who overheard Triple H's silly and contrived "James Bond Villain-Style" revelation of his entire master plan. Ugh, that one still hurts. But not five minutes after the Bond Reveal and Batista's snooping around outside doors he has no business snooping around, Batista revealed that he knew HHH was behind the 3 weeks of trickery, and announced his intentions to stay on RAW to fight HHH for the World Title.

To punctuate his desire: when HHH tried to attack him for his impudence, Batista powerbombed him through a table. In that one moment, over a month ago, it seemed like WWE's Next Big Thing was born. Fans had warmed to him because of his six months of understated skits with HHH, and positively exploded any time he kicked some ass in the ring... it seemed like all you'd have to do is let Batista tell his story, keep letting his rational wisdom shine through, and then at WM21, have HHH fall prey to a BatistaBomb.

But even though that equation sounds really simple, almost TOO simple, WWE found a way to do even less. For five weeks, the entirety of the HHH/Batista dynamic has been Triple H telling his side of the story ("I made Batista, Batista is a disrespectful punk who's nothing without me, and at WM21 the Master will put the Student in his place"; except then you have to imagine him turning that into 15 minutes of rambling on every Monday for a month straight), and Batista remaining almost completely mute (getting to speak only long enough to call Bischoff a "Used Car Salesman" or a "Gimp" and to tell us that he thinks HHH is an "Asshole"), with neither of them looking even remotely vulnerable in any way (HHH has decimated Hurricane, Rosey, and Chris Benoit; Batista has dominated Ric Flair, Snitsky, and Kane; at no time did WWE do ANY compelling storytelling with those matches, and neither guy developed any "chinks in the armor" or anything else that we could actually care about; just boring-ass one-sided wins for guys who we already BELIEVE are main eventers), all culminating in the predictable and anticlimactic pull-apart brawl on the final RAW before WM21.

Needless to say, "predictable" and "anticlimactic" made it quite the fitting end to the Batista/HHH build-up: it blended in seamlessly with the rest of the story. But OO has been haven to enough insightful analysis about how Batista needed to speak more, HHH speak less, and the "Pick Your Poison" gimmick would have been a great chance for both guys to LOSE matches and look vulnerable (and therefore, seem more interesting)... no need to repeat.

But here we are, anyway: with WWE doing less than the minimum to tell this story, they are simply VERY lucky that Batista's appeal is so powerful. Fans have been asking for his face turn since October, they finally got it a month ago, and now, he's still fresh enough that WWE can't do anything to dilute the simple, grassroots popularity that Batista has. There may have been a billion ways to tell this story better, to take fans from WANTING to see Batista beat HHH to NEEDING to see Batista beat HHH, but this will suffice. For now. But still, on an 8-match card where only half of the matches are really interesting, this is the straggler on the list of Four Reasons to Care About WM21... and it didn't have to be.

Although Batista has been a part of a goodly number of entertaining main event matches over the last year, most of them have been tag team contests (where he excels at playing the Power Man of a team) or multi-way matches (like January's Elimination Chamber). In the straight-up one-on-one setting, Batista is still an unproven commodity. His best singles match came against Chris Benoit almost exactly 3 months ago, a 10 minute display that mixed grappling with brawling and power. So we know he can do it: but can he do it for 20 minutes against Triple H? I'm gonna guess so... and as a bonus, Ric Flair will be at ringside to run interference, and there will be the chance to do at least as much drama as athleticism here. As long as the Ultimate Warrior has two WM matches on his resume that are memorably good, I've gotta believe in my heart of hearts that Dave Batista can top that.

Will it be the best match on the show? Almost certainly not. But it could be a good one; and better yet, it COULD be the best "moment" on the show when Batista takes the World Title away from Triple H.
  

The OOutlOOk
Batista wins: 10 votes --|-- Triple H wins: 2 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Never have I been so underwhelmed by the buildup for a Wrestlemania main event. Oh, don't get me wrong: the several months leading up to Batista's face turn were outstanding. I love the way his character was handled, and he played it perfectly (or, since I'm pretty sure the Backstage Batista that we see on screen is pretty much what we'd get in real life, he had the good sense to just be himself.) But good lord, they've screwed everything up in the past month. When Batista won the Rumble, I couldn't wait to see him beat Trips at Mania. WWE has now succeeded in making me less excited about the match.

The past month has been about one man: Triple H. And that was a dumb move on WWE's part, because the person the fans want to know about is Batista. It's his story, but it's been completely hijacked by the Cerebral Assassin (whether that's Triple H's doing or the writers, I have no idea.) Ever since that outstanding Batista Bomb through the table, what have we heard from him regarding his title match? "Thank you for everything you've done for me, Trips and Ric. I'm going to take your title. You are an asshole." Whoopty-shit. Those three sentences should be a synopsis of everything Batista has been saying for the past month, but no: those three sentences are exactly what he's said about the matter, in their entirety. Oy.

And not only that, but I'm starting to get worried about the outcome of this match, when it initially was the only "gimme" on the card. Batista should win, but he's been booked so incredibly strong and without comeuppance recently that I'm starting to doubt things a bit. He's been given crappy opponents, nothing important to say, and no weaknesses: that's not good booking, people. I'm worried. I'm flashing back to when Booker T just had to win against Triple H a few years ago, but didn't. I also can't imagine WWE continuing this Goldberg-style push if they want Batista to succeed; we've seen it before and it will get old very quickly. I'll say it again: I'm worried.

The match quality also depends entirely on how hard Triple H wants to work, because Batista isn't yet at the point where he can carry a long match. Batista will definitely bust his ass, and I've heard he's been working very hard on the cardio side of things, so I'm guessing this will be in the 15-18 minute range. It will be a huge test for Batista: if the match bombs, then I couldn't see him being allowed to hold the title for any great length of time. If it goes well? BATISTAMANIA, baby! Despite all my reservations, I'm going with the big man here, just because he's that damn cool. But mark my words: if Triple H does for some reason win, then I won't be surprised. Pissed off, yes. But not surprised.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Batista d. Triple H.
I agree with The Rick and others that after a fresh and exciting initial build-up, the writers really dropped the ball here. Not that this will be a bad match at all, and not that the build-up hasn't held my interest. It's just that things could have been a lot better going into the final month. But what's done is done.

I expect Triple H to work his ass off here to make Batista look good, all wisecracks about his backstage power aside. That's the way you make new stars, and even the always-jaded "Cerebral Assassin" recognizes that this time around (otherwise, he'd still be pencilled in against Orton). Batista has the potential to be the next Goldberg, and from where I sit, that's not a bad thing.

Will "The Game" get back his title at some point down the road? Well, duh. But for now, the belt goes to Camp Batista, the only decision that could really send the fans home happy. I'm as sure of this outcome as I was two WrestleMania's ago when I forecast that Booker T would go over Trips, and last year's Mania when I said Shawn Michaels would be the one to pin HHH. I could have also sworn that The Rock would win the fatal four-way main event at WrestleMania 2000, so you can see I have a FANTASTIC track record where it concerns Triple H.

Alfonso Castillo Says... Triple H d. Batista.
There may be the one pick I'm least comfortable with, especially considering the likelihood that this match will go on last at the show. I can think of only one other time where a heel retained his title in the final match at WrestleMania. Not so coincidentally, that was Triple H also. I think one month ago, I would have easily chosen Batista as the winner - and he very well may be - but with Batista having cooled off considerably since officially turning, I think Triple H will leap at the opportunity to declare that the timing just isn't right for Batista to be given the ball. And the truth is, I don't disagree. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if this match
actually doesn't go on last, not only because of the prospect of a heel victory, but because the match probably won't be all that great. I expect a brawl with a lot of gimmicks and distractions to cover up some of Batista's shortcomings in the ring, and ending with Triple H some how eeking out the win.
The Cubs Fan Says... Batista d. Triple H.
I'm telling you nothing new if I point out the build up here has been boring and as unoriginal as possible. Maybe it was just a case of raised expectations and this is really all they're capable for a feud like this - the early stuff relied on being short and to the point, which isn't style they're going to ever be using to build their number 1 match. (Maybe that's the problem.)

All the press work the WWE has done leading up to WM has focused on Batista and Cena as being the future torchbearers for this company. For Batista to achieve that role, he must beat Triple H here. It's not even completely about the title (although that's a huge part of it) - this is
really his first major feud; he's fought Jericho and Orton over extended period of times, but they were really about him being a member of Evolution serving a a proxy for Triple H, and not about himself. Most of the Batista highlights are part of this feud with Triple H; he doesn't have much to fall back on if he blows it here.

All the lame stuff - skits with Eric and whatever else - gets free passes because people think Batista's cool and he'll beat Triple H. Both those things take shots if he doesn't pull of the win. For the sake of the writers, he's gotta win.
Matt Hocking Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Sometimes, you can count on Triple H to do the right thing no matter what.  This is one of those times.  Not only because Dave has suprpassed the WWE's hopes and dreams for what he draw from the crowd, but because, along with
Orton, I think Triple H feels obligated to job to this guy at least once.  Plus, Dave's not getting any younger.  They've got to strike while the iron is hot with this guy, because he maybe has five good years in him if they're lucky.  I think his scamper to the top has been very well handled, all things considered, and that the crowd believes in Davea as "the guy" right now on RAW, and more importantly perhaps, the only guy who can convincingly throw Hunter around like a ragdoll.

I think Dave will run roughshod over Hunter, and every trick in Hunter's bag o' heels won't b e able to stop him.  I bet during the match we see at least one broken sledehammer and one thumbs down with an OSPREY BOMB TO FLAIR~! 
The match itself will be predictibly brawltastic, I should think, with fast paced attacks from Batista settled by more methodical Triple H segments. There's just no concievable way Hunter loses here, in my estimation, as Dave has SO much momentum and Hunter has exhausted himself World Title Feuds for the moment.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Batista d. Triple H.
It's funny, back in Dec. I was begging for them to do Batista vs. HHH.  I even professed that I would stop watching wrestling altogether if Orton got the main event spot.  So now I've got my wish and yet I still feel unsatisfied.  This build to this feud has been nothing short of a missed opportunity.  Why couldn't we get Batista's side of the story?  Why couldn't they portray Ric more as a tweener in this feud?  Why couldn't HHH simply keep quiet?  Things were going real well up until the official split, but since then blah.  The end result will be that even if Batista wins, it won't be the big celebratory moment that it could have been.  I really don't know who's the blame, but I certainly hope that the post-Mania plans work out better than the pre-Mania build was.  I'm still going with Batista to win because it's the right thing to do.  However, with this shoddy storytelling I'm now worried that Batista's momentum has slowed and his title run won't be a success.  Then again, maybe that's Triple H's plan after all.  He really is the Cerebral Assassin!
Jeb Lund Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Part of Triple H’s naturally vexing personality is that he manufactures and re-manufactures himself every week in the ring. “The Game” brand and the “That Damn Good” brand and the “Cerebral Assassin” brand get a new polish every damned week. It’s like an ad campaign that won’t go away and won’t change. For five years.

Somewhere in the background of that, Batista grew in verbal ability and on us, from a personality standpoint. There really wasn’t any Batista campaign. Right there, he’s an attractive alternative. Because Batista being pushed and being champ means an absence of catchphrases and SELL SELL SELL!!! (Pun intended, sadly. I get the feeling that Batista’s not going to lose too easily if he becomes champ.) On this alone, I think Batista can carry a title reign for at least four months. It’ll take months one and two for people to get over the high of not seeing Triple H with the belt. Months two and three will see boredom or stagnation set in (especially if Batista isn’t too swell carrying matches). And months three and four will start to see idle speculation about whether someone else should hold the belt. By the time anyone gets too ‘umpty about it, the belt ought to go to someone else. My recommendation? Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. No, wait. He’s my pick for the next Pope.

Like I say above, I think Batista should and will win. I don’t expect this match to be any too special (save for the “Triple H losing” factor; it’s always nice to watch him seethe with bottomless fury at a loss, principally because I don’t think it’s a work). In fact, I bet they pull out the tried-and-true “all PPV main-event matches have the potential to become no-DQ/hardcore rules matches midway through the match” stipulation, to mask the fact that Dave doesn’t have a whole lot in his wheelhouse. Hell, neither does Triple H. The only nagging voices that argue against Dave say two things:

  1. WWE’s sort of dropped the ball with him in this last month. They have him making cheap jokes like the Rock, which would only be good if he were the Rock. But the thing with Dave is that less really is more. All those months when he was rising in our esteem featured Dave saying quick little sentences or nothing at all – all of which was sold by his expressions, his eyes, his intonation. Batista is like the anti-matter of Bullshit. Given that so many wrestling conventions are, logically speaking, bullshit, his character has tons to work with. But lately he’s been giving bullshit recitations of The Triple H Story (totally out of character) or sucking up to Triple H’s “teaching,” which makes him look weak. I could see WWE reasoning that they need another month to put the spin back on the Batista crusade.
  2. 2. As Booker T knows all too well, Triple H really feels that two world title changes on one show dillutes their impact. (Courtesy: Meltzer, by way of Shapiro. And a hearty salute to Shapiro.)

All the same, screw it. I’ll go with Dave. Please, Lord, no more Triple H.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Batista d. Triple H.
I'd like to make a quick observation here. SMRT people like us expect and demand top quality from the top wrestling organization in the business. But the business is, for all intents and purposes, a monopoly. And we're a niche market. So we just have to pick and choose our spots and hit the FFWD button while all the humanoids enjoy their mindless fluff. Economics is destiny. There is a counter-argument for quality, that a rising tide lifts all boats. Maybe a little competition down the road will get the tide turning.

Having said that, I'm grateful that the wrestler at the top of the food chain takes his craft seriously. Triple H has become a top-quality heel in the last couple of years. Being in a position of power, I imagine he has a lot of control over his own character. He could have pulled the "cool heel"
act, but instead, he's "shown ass" like a good heel should. That, plus the rise of Batista's popularity, will have fans going ape-feces for the sit-out power bomb and the three count, just like they did one year ago for the Crippler Crossface and the tap-out.
PyroFalkon Says...  Triple H d. Batista.
As far as I’m concerned, Wrestlemania 21 is a three-match card. This is one of the matches, of course; definitely not for the workrate. And sure, maybe the WWE crapped on its own momentum with Batista’s success. But you know what? I’m the casual fan around here; I don’t give a shit. I’m a total Batista mark now and will probably pay the most attention to this match.

I know all signs seem to point to the WWE giving us we want. They did, after all, give us the babyface turn of Bats no matter how much they tried to screw it up. It was, in Rick’s words, a great moment.

But, I think it’s a little too soon to blow the wad on getting him the belt. Remember, he’s never even faced Trips before for it (if memory serves, which it probably doesn’t). Besides, Trips lost last year here at the big stage, and it just seems like he would want to win this one. Of course, if he doesn’t, it could spawn a big storyline about how Trips just can’t perform at the Super-Bowl-of-Wrestling… but the WWE isn’t that clever, is it?

Point is, Trips wins, but Batista isn’t going to lose any face from it. He’s got so much fan support that he will be still the #1 face on RAW at least a little while longer. I think the title is Batista’s future, just not yet. Maybe the next PPV? 

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Last night I spoke with my friend Snake from Dayton.  Not only did he agree that Batista is a mortal lock to win the World Title, but he also convinced me that I should root for Louisville to defeat Illinois this weekend!  There’s not much I can say about the storyline that wouldn’t be rehashing things that Rick has said many times, so I won’t. 
Big Danny T Says... Batista vs. Triple H.
I say this because this will be the "send them home happy" match. HHH needs some time away from the title for a while, and Dave isn't getting any younger. WWE needs to strike THIS iron while it's hot, not Cena.
Rick Scaia Says... Batista d. Triple H.
It must happen. I'd be willing to posit a way to have HHH walk out with the gold if they'd done a better job with the build-up... but at this point, they need to give us the Happy Ending, and they need to give it to us NOW. Triple H's windbaggery has become damned near unbearable, and I have to believe that the only reason he's gotten to tell and retell and retell his same 5 minutes worth of story for 15 minutes every week is because he knows it's the last time he'll get to tell this particular story.

Batista, on the other hand, has said and done so little since breaking off from Evolution that anything less than a title win actually WILL start eroding his fan base, I think. He not only needs to win the belt in his first try, he needs to follow that up with the kind of mic work I talked about in the preview section above. He needs to become a fully formed character, and everything he needs to do that is dedicated to tape: RAW from October to January is a road map to what makes Batista likeable.

I'm looking for this to be the most densely "over-booked" (in a good way) match on the card. Flair's gonna be there, I'm sure a sledge will get involved, one or more refs will be bumped... it'll be a crazy and exciting scene to mask the fact that Batista's not exactly Ricky Steamboat. And in the end, he'll overcome all the odds, he'll dispatch Flair, he'll give the Thumbs Down, and when he hits the BatistaBomb, Triple H will stay down for three. 

 

RAW Presents....
CHRIS BENOIT vs. EDGE vs. CHRIS JERICHO vs. KANE vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. CHRISTIAN
Six-Man "Money in the Bank" #1 Contenders Ladder Match

The story here: there's really isn't one.

The other story here: it doesn't fricking matter.

Nowhere is WWE's "WrestleMania Reset" more obvious than here, where a few long-standing plans were scrapped (involving Kane/Lita/Matt Hardy, and also reportedly involving WWE's plot to do a Benoit/Jericho vs. Hassan/Daivari match at WM), and in its place is just a dumping ground for guys WAY too good to be wasting away on the biggest wrestling night of the year.

So that's how it came to be that Chris Jericho decided, about 4 weeks ago, that he wanted to make an impact at WM21 and obliquely mentioned an idea he had for Six Men and a Ladder. A week later, Eric Bischoff codified that notion when he announced a "Money in the Bank" Six-Man Ladder Match. The "bankable" prize that'll hang above the ring? Not cash, but a guaranteed shot at the World Heavyweight Title at the winner's choice of time over the next year (up to and including WM22).
 
Hmmm... and so all of a sudden, a match that emitted a mild stench on the grounds that it had just been freshly plucked from SOMEbody's derriere suddenly had a reason to exist. It's still just tossing six guys into a match, but at least now, the six have something to fight over! Which means *we* have something to think about.

Who's the hungriest of the six for a title shot? Edge's character certainly seems predicated on getting "screwed" out of the World Title, but Chris Benoit's Instant Legitimacy cannot be denied as he's simply one of WWE's most BELIEVABLE wrestlers. Kane's actually held the big gold (albeit only briefly), and Jericho was the man who unified the World and WWE Titles for a (sadly, forgettable and badly bungled) stretch of time. Shelton's got the IC Title and is probably eyeballing bigger and better things. And Christian? Well, hell, let's tell it like it is: he's an entertaining sumbitch, but he's probably the one guy who we'll never see headline a PPV. At least: not till one of us internet jackoffs takes over The Book.

Regardless of who wins, when does he request his title shot? Immediately, on the next night's RAW when HHH or Batista might be hurt and vulnerable? [Or: even MORE immediately, in an impromptu match at WM21? OMG~! I've moistened my own man-panties with images of Chris Benoit making Batista tap out on Sunday night~!] At the next RAW PPV, once everybody's healthy and rested? Maybe not till summer, after the HHH/Batista rematches have played out? Or could somebody REALLY have the self-control to wait till WM22 (and if he does, why would he do that? and what would that mean to the 2006 Rumble winner?)? Lots of interesting possibilities for a match that is supposedly devoid of story...

Since announcing the six men, RAW has seen just about every imaginable combination of the six battling. Chris Benoit has been a sometimes partner with Jericho, but has also split two RAW matches against him... Benoit has also beaten Benjamin in a non-title match... Jericho and Edge have fought, Shelton and Edge have fought, Kane and Christian have fought, Benoit and Edge had a thing dating back to last year... and of course, they've paired up and had all manner of tag matches among them, too. I think that pretty much everybody can somehow claim to have beaten everybody else in one form or another. Except for Kane (who I don't think has lost to any of these five), and Christian (who I don't think has won against any of these five)...

This all led up to a six-man tag match on Monday night in which Jericho/Benoit/Shelton beat Edge/Christian/The Lovely Miss Tomko. Tomko took the fall for his team, and is a non-participant in Sunday's ladder match; look for him to be an "X Factor" early, but then look for him to be ejected well before End Game (a la Diesel at WM10). Following the match, Kane ran in to join the fun, and pretty much decimated everyone. The only guy he didn't beat the crap out of was Chris Benoit, who had done a satisfactory job of beating the crap out of himself, when he busted himself open following a headbutt on Tomko and was too busy getting medical attention to eat a chokeslam from Kane.

What can we look for on Sunday? Probably not a match quite in the same vein as past WM Ladder/TLC matches involving six men. The current "WWE Style" (and the absence of nutty mo-fo Jeff Hardy) means that 20 foot dives might be out... but there's still plenty of room for high-risk, hard-hitting action the likes of which we don't get to see on Monday nights. E&C obviously have lots of experience with the ladders, and it wouldn't shock me to see them, as the two heels in the match, teaming up quite a bit. Somebody's GOT to take a con-chair-to, don't you think? Benoit and Jericho also have plenty of ladder match experience, and are also sometimes-partners (in fact, they were partners in the amazing TLC3 match that aired on SD! in May 2002 during the kick-ass wrestling renaissance that unfortunately led directly to both HHH and Benoit injuries)... Kane has never been in a match of this type, but his size and power almost make him into another "prop" to be used, and his deceptive speed and agility mean that just might keep up with the other guys, too. And Shelton? What can I say: the guy is effortlessly hitting the "Spot of the Night" week in and week out on RAW, and if he can do the same here, even if he doesn't win the match, he may open some eyes... and he still comes out as the IC Champ, no matter what.

The last two times six men and a ladder have joined forces at WM, it's been a show-stealing affair... there's no reason to think that we won't be treated to a reprise of that on Sunday. Definitely the #1 item on my list of Four Reasons To Care About WM21...
  

The OOutlOOk
Edge wins: 5 votes --|-- Chris Benoit wins: 4 votes
Chris Jericho wins: 3 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Chris Benoit wins.
This one is almost impossible to call, because so many factors go into it. If the title shot is going to be cashed in right away, then a heel needs to win to go on and be fed to Batista. If the winner decides to sit on that title shot for a while, then I don't know who the hell will win. And will that title shot be built up well for a PPV, or will someone be smart and wait until the champion has taken a horrendous beating after a 20-minute match, and then demand a title shot right then and there? There are a million options here.

The best way to start is to look at the people who won't win: Kane and Christian. Edge has been demoted recently, so it seems unlikely that he'll walk away with it. Shelton already has a belt, and not enough of a character to get a World Title shot in the next few months. That leaves my favorites, Jericho and Benoit. Sweet.

Say the plan is for the title shot to be used right away. In that case, Benoit wins. He can either turn heel, or go tweener against Batista before returning to his current character. I'm a fan of the latter, if only because RAW really needs some top babyfaces who aren't named Batista. Other than those two, all you have is Chris Jericho.

On the other hand, say the winner wants to sit on the title shot for a while. If that's the case, Jericho is your victor. He's a crafty bastard, and I can see him pulling out the "Ask for a Title Shot When the Champ is Lying in a Pool of His Own Blood in the Ring" card I mentioned earlier. That would make for an incredible storyline, too. I can just see him cutting a promo against Batista (or Triple H, because he'll inevitably get the belt back), saying, "You'd better watch your back, because I could spring this on you at ANY TIME." He could keep bringing it up, the announcers would, the champ would -- it could hang over every single show like a dark cloud, instantly creating tension. Even better, he could wait until the next year at Wrestlemania, with the champ knowing that the deadline had arrived, and there was another challenger waiting in the wings the moment his match was over. How awesome would that be?

Or, he could just as easily (and far more simply) make a great challenger for the belt come Summerslam. Predicting this match means I know what WWE is thinking, and I rarely do, so I'm probably just talking out of my ass in all of this. But who cares? This match should be incredible, and it's been several years since a ladder gimmick has been busted out at Mania, so it feels fresh. This should contend for Match of the Night. I'll go with Benoit winning because he's sure to get another good match out of Batista, and I'm pretty sure that WWE has been short-sighted in their booking.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Edge wins.
WWE needs a new heel foil at or near the top of the card now that Batista's a face and Orton is probably on his way to SmackDown. Threats of punishment for the Lita thing aside, Edge is the safest bet to fill that role.

I really dig what they've done with the Edge character the last few months. They have an angry, paranoid Canadian who thinks the world is out to get him, and they didn't even have to re-sign Bret Hart (ba-dum-bum! Thank you, thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your server.). Jokes aside, there is a scary amount of potential with this guy, and I certainly didn't feel that way even a year ago about my former Humber College alumnae (yes, the rumors are true that we were there at the same time, but no, I didn't give the kid his start in this business.)

Plus the stipulation plays perfectly into his paranoid little hands. Imagine Bischoff pressuring him to use the title shot immediately (say, at Backlash) and Edge digs his heels in and says no, he's waiting under WM22. I mean, they don't actually pursue that match in the end, but perhaps he puts his title shot on the line at SummerSlam... and loses! Can you imagine how much the guy would start bitching THEN? Thus, I think this match is perfectly suited to Edge's strengths.

Bonus prediction: Edge (and perhaps Tomko) screw over Christian en route to a victory, turning Captain Charisma face.

Alfonso Castillo Says... Chris Jericho wins.
This definitely has show-stealer potential, but it also has the potential to deteriorate into a mindless spotfest. With six men in the match, it's going to be a real challenge to develop any kind of story or psychology, and could very well just become a stringed-together collection of "Holy Shit!" spots,
which can be entertaining, but will keep this match from becoming a classic. Still, with ring generals like Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho in the ring, as well as the ultra-talented Shelton Benjamin, I'm going to give the participants the benefit of the doubt that they will pull off something special here. Being that it was Jericho's idea, and he's been featured most prominently in the hype, I'm going to pick him to win it, and get a title feud with Triple H later in the year.
The Cubs Fan Says... Chris Jericho wins.
There's no symbol of the WWE's current lack of full planning than the ten second hype graphic for this match. Kane, Jericho, Edge and Shelton - four core guys - somehow were not brought out to the video shoot for WM, and so they have to grab some random RAW footage to fit in. That
Christian has a WM video, and Edge - a guy who would've seem more likely to be in the WM world title match than Batista last summer - does not is the sort of thing which keeps me up at night.

I think this one's gotten just one really good week of build (last week's RAW) where the match and the stip hasn't seemed like a contrived way to get all of these guys on the card because their writers were horribly negligent the last few months. Even then, a post match attack still doesn't make Kane fit into this match.

I believe everyone in this match, barring catastrophic injury, everyone in this match will get a shot at a World Championship in the next WM year. The only thing that's a draw, reward wise, is the timing aspect for it. However, since they don't seem a set plan for the title challenge, I don't buy that part either.

It's probably unfair to use such an old example, but Test's Immunity is an easy comparison. They did stuff with it for about a month, then never mentioned it again because they ran out of plans for the gimmick. If they don't have an idea for something - and this is here because they don't have an idea for any of this - then it probably won't turn out
interesting. I expect the method of acquiring the title shot to be a moot point by the time the match takes place, and not something ultimately meaningful.

All things equal, I would pick Edge here. He's positioned so he could logically be an opponent to anyone who's a contender in the next year, and there's the built in angle of any PPV title challenge being his first, despite being with the company for so long. In the light of the Lita/Matt stuff, I can't see them rewarding him in that way, even though
I figure they must have some reward planned for agreeing to do a match he'd so loudly declared he'd never do again.

As a stab in the dark, I'm taking Chris Jericho. It was his choice of match, even if he seemed to forget.
Matt Hocking Says... Edge wins.
Until last week, I was just going to wing it and pick a guy at random.  All make compelling cases for why he should win.  Kane is a monter, and it's about time for his annual run at the title, but in a ladder match format, he's best served in the BUbba Dudley role as a big fun prop for the other
guys to do spots off of. Christian is a guy who probably could stand to win a match of this calibur, but I think the WWE is most comfortable with him in the spot he is right now. Words, I realize, many people don't want to hear,
but Tian's not ready to headline a Pay Per View. Jericho and Benoit already have huge wins like this and don't need them were the WWE to say, "We're pushing these guys now," fans would say, "Ok" and that'd be the end of it.  Shelton is far too early in his career.  What sealed it for me was Edge's
promo on RAW.  He was right, he was "hungrier" and this win WOULD mean more to him than anybody else.  The only thing holding that idea back is the Lita/Hardy fiasco, but you know what? I don't think the WWE will let it stand in the way of pushing Edge.

The match itself I think will be spottacular, as expected, with Edge sneaking in a victory over one of the faces.  That sets up an Edge match for Backlash, and then an Edge run at the title come Summerslam, when the WWE needs a strong, fresh new feud.  Everybody else can pretty much go back to what they were doing, or not doing, no harm, no foul.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Edge wins.
This should be a lot of fun and a potential show stealer.  However, as much as I am looking forward to this match, this is clearly the most difficult to pick a winner for.  Edge seems likely, but are they really going to reward someone who has so much backstage heat right now?  Kane seems likely, but when does the guy who stands tall on the TV show before the PPV ever win said PPV match?  Benoit seems likely, but aside from last year's WM when does he ever win the big one?  Benjamin seems likely, but why give him the title shot when he should be focusing on defending the title he already has.  Christian seems likely, but would he really fit in a feud with Batista or HHH?  Jericho seems likely, wait a minute, who am I kidding, Jericho doesn't seem likely.  I've gone with Edge just because of his character and storyline and they'll need some other heel besides HHH eventually challenging Batista.  Look for plenty of big bumps and at least 3 crimson masks.
Jeb Lund Says... Christ Benoit wins.
Chris Benoit Grabs the Magical Clown Figurine Hanging from the Enchanted Ceiling Floss to Beat out Kane, Edge, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho and Christian in the Six-Way "Money in the Bank" #1 Contender's Ladder Match

The backstory for this match is truly complex. WWE didn’t know what to do with a lot of its talent, so they had Jericho make up some match that would involve a lot of people. Also, this fuses all the mid-card and the majority of the technical talent in one place, blessedly keeping them away from the main event or any story that provides more than one of them with a main-event future! I had to reason this one out via a process of elimination. Okay, here goes:

1.    I’m taking Christian out of contention because I think you can’t just hotshot him to the main event. He could use a run with the Intercontinental Title to wash off the stench of “tag wrestler” or “Tomko watcher,” and set him up for some main event shots next year.

2.    I don’t think Kane can win either. For one thing, it’s a little too obvious. He’s the big monster in this match. In a real-life sense, we’d expect the big bruiser to kick ass and win. From a storyline sense, it makes someone look better to kick Kane’s ass a bit. So let someone have a good showing against the big man. Plus, hell, he can always go down the Snitsky route for another (how long has it been?), uh, decade. Finally, Kane’s an impulsive guy. He’d want his title shot immediately. And I can’t see WWE running a Kane v. Batista main event of limited SMASH WRESTLERS! Then again, they did Kane v. Undertaker roughly 63 times, so what the fuck do I know?

3.    Benjamin. It’s too soon for Benjamin. I just feel this. He could be doing more with the belt he has and making more of an impact in storylines with it than with some nebulous title shot in the future. Plus – and this is the real kicker for me – I think he could make much more hay out of taunting Triple H. “Hey, Hunter! I have a belt. Remember when you had one?” He could play on the fact that he’s beaten Triple H a few times, and they could have a few isolated matches. Of course, this would run the risk of burying Triple H, if he lost more than once. That’s why I think he should lose to Shelton only 17 times.

4.    Jericho. Look, I know this sounds irrational, but I learned long ago that Jericho never wins anything anymore. Betting on him is a sure way to lose money. If you need to lose money for tax purposes, back the Jericho horse with every wager you make. Also militating against a pro-Jericho bet was that promo he cut. It seemed half-hearted, like he knew that even the best damn promo about desiring the World Title wouldn’t mean squat. Finally – and I hate to use WWE “think” here – that Shining Wizard finisher of his just seems so “cruiserweight.” I don’t know if that should mean anything.

5.    I don’t like Edge. There I said it. On a more valid note, I just don’t see the appeal or the probability of an Edge shot at the belt. He can huff and puff and blow all subtlety down with his teeth-baring snarling promos, but I just don’t feel the slightest bit intimidated by Edge. He just doesn’t seem “main event.” And dammit if I can’t think of a way around that or a way to have him really do something with a win in this match.

Okay, so Benoit should win. Why? Because it’s the most plausible to me, from a technical/history standpoint, and because it opens up the most options. I’m also drinking The Rick’s Kool-Aid. Benoit’s been a convincing World Champ, so there’s no shame in these men losing to him. A win here could open up a Benoit heel turn, making him into a ruthless machine-like character. And after the requisite rematch victory over Triple H, Batista could really use a feud with someone like Benoit. In fact, they could do three months of on-again off-again feuding, leading to Benoit finally beating Batista.

That’s where things can get good. Benoit is a champ who can really ably straddle the main-event and the technical-midcard worlds. Consider: he defeats main-event wrestlers not through power, but by outlasting and outfoxing them technically. Against midcard wrestlers, he can “foolishly” try to use power to win a match, but also get plausibly outfoxed by others. I think Benoit can look strong against Triple H one week, but look like he could lose at any second to Jericho, Christian, Edge or Benjamin the next week. The great thing about Benoit is that he can meet lots of different wrestlers on their terms, and he can lose or win based on whether he meets those terms.

Now, naturally, all of this might be humbug. I’m relying on the conceit that Benoit wins this match and immediately begins agitating for a title match. If you stop to think about it, Christian, Jericho, Kane, Edge or Benjamin winning makes perfect sense if you wait a while. Wait nine months before calling in the title shot, and in that time, God knows how well those wrestlers might have increased their profile. God knows who would be the reigning champion! If Christian wins this match, he could call in his title shot 12 months from now against a Champion Chris Jericho, and you’d have a decent story right there. Christian could crow about having beaten Jericho at WrestleMania XX. So, yeah, all sorts of things could happen. (And Lord knows how wonderfully creative it would be to delay, delay, delay the title shot until the surrounding wrestling landscape changes!) But I just don’t think it’ll happen.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Chris Benoit wins.
I like the idea of Chris Benoit taking on Batista in the near future. I wouldn't necessarily have him turn heel right away, though. I think the fans might be more than willing to cheer both these guys on as they beat the holy tar out of one another. Of course, the matches themselves will be higher
quality than most of Batista's recent opponents. But giving Batista a chance to work, say, 100 TV and house matches with one of the best ever? That should pay tremendous dividends.

The ladder match itself? I trust these guys to put on a hell of a show.
PyroFalkon Says...  Edge wins.
This will also obviously be a match I’ll be paying attention to, too. Possibly my match of the night too. It’s going to be glorious, and I’m going to do most of my eating when I watch it. Normally I use my computer or play a PlayStation 2 game while I watch wrestling. This one and the main event? I’ll be all about the WWE.

I agree with Rick that the WWE misstepped in handling all the stories this year, but in the case of this match, I think their effort was enough. We’ve got some great mini-feuds relating to this match, and baring an appearance from Snitsky to fuck things up, this will be grand.

Edge has been doing so well in the WWE in general since his return from injury that I think this will be his chance. Not only that, I have a few reasons to back this up…

First: I really doubt a face will win this. The winner should be a heel, because it sets up a great dick move for when the challenge happens. If a face wins this match, in theory, it would be too out of character for him to use the challenge if the champion is at a disadvantage from being hurt or tired or whatever. Maybe that’s old-school thinking, but if the WWE is determined to keep up this Turn Back the Clock Campaign, you never know.

Second: Even if assuming a face will get it, I rule out Shelton Benjamin immediately because I don’t think he’s ready for a World Title shot. Not that he can’t handle it, but there are too many others ahead of him at the moment. I rule out Kane as well, because with his moral victory on RAW this last week, it just seems he won’t win the match this Sunday.

Third: Christian, like Shelton, won’t win. Again, I just don’t believe he is World Title material in the WWE’s eyes. He’d probably do very well in the main event spotlight, but I think he’s unfortunately hit the glass ceiling in terms of his place on the card. An upper-midcarder he will always be. I am, however, more than prepared to eat crow on it.

Fourth: That leaves Jericho and Benoit as the remaining two losers for the match. And we all know that the WWE seems to keep them both just slightly out of the main event anymore. Unless this leads to a heel turn by either (which, although Rick advocates, I really don’t want to see either guy turn), I don’t see the advantage of giving either this match.

I mean, I guess I’m basically saying that I expect a new challenger for the belt. Jericho and Benoit have done their time (Benoit more recently of course), and it’s time to see someone else come up. I think Edge should get the win here so we can see how he performs for the belt, even if he never wins it.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Edge wins.
I’ve got a one-in-six chance of getting this one right.  One by one, here are my reasons for not picking the other guys…Kane is already in the top-tier, and can get a World Title match without having to win this match.  The same criteria hold true for Benoit, he doesn’t need to win this match in order to challenge for the big belt.  The match was presented to the public by Jericho, so he’s out.  That leaves Benjamin and Christian, and I foresee the two of them coming out of this match feuding for the IC Title.  So that leaves Edge…the man that is continually getting screwed-over, never truly getting his due.  So, he wins this match, and then challenges Batista at the next ppv, where Edge gets his ass handed to him.  Of the six men in this match, I think it just makes the most sense for Edge to be a future expendable opponent that helps get Batista’s title reign gain legitimacy.
Big Danny T Says... Chris Jericho wins.
You have to go back 4 years to get Chris Jericho's most recent Wrestlemania win. Chris has put forth some great effort, and deserves this.
Rick Scaia Says... Chris Benoit wins.
In assembling the trOOps, I told them that this time, I don't care about beating WL in the PPV picks: I care about a compelling preview document that does a better job hyping WM than WWE has done itself. To me, that means making my picks based on what we *know* to be the right reasons, and not so much based on what I think WWE might actually do.

Obviously, if the last 3 months of my well-sanded vagina aren't testament enough to how divergent those two things are, I can't explain the phenomenon any more clearly at this point. Not without writing a book.

So let me just say that Chris Benoit needs to win this match. Assuming that Batista will be the World Champ, we need to pick our winner here based on that. You might think "it's gotta be a heel," but that pretty much leaves you with Edge (since Christian won't be main eventing any PPVs)... and it's my belief that Edge's character needs to have stuff to bitch about: he's a victim, he's always getting screwed... there's too much potential there to go handing him a one-shot title match, when you can build it up into a full-blown feud where the title shot is harder for him to come by, since the world's out to get him. And plus: Edge with a title shot? Can't cut kick-ass promos like the one he did on Monday. Nobody wants Happy Fun Placated Edge (though in "WWE Think" I'm sure he's a heavy favorite).

Of the four other guys? Jericho's humor and flash make him likeable in any situation (even when he's a heel, aren't all the cool kids cheering for him, anyway?), and he's still only about a year removed from his face turn; no need for him to do anything to risk his babyface status. Shelton's just flat-out likeable: all that high-flying offense and 50 mega-watt smile makes him a hard sell at this point to change gears to face Batista. And Kane? He's even NEWER to the babyface picture than Jericho, and frankly, if what we saw out of Kane/Batista a few weeks ago is any indication, I'd *not* be lining up to buy a PPV headlined by them.

But Benoit... Benoit's the perfect fit here: he lacks the humor or charm of a Jericho and could work a match against Batista in his normal style, and it wouldn't require a heel turn, but he WOULD be a heel on that night. I'm not explaining this well, but you should know what I mean: Benoit's made to be a tweener, just because his intensity never wavers, and he wrestles about the same whether he's getting cheered or booed. It's a unique trait... and that makes Benoit a compelling choice for Batista's first post-HHH opponent, too: because the story could start with Benoit as a tweener and build up to either a full-on heel turn, or to Benoit returning to babyface status. A lot of room for maneuvering. The icing on the cake is that Batista's best singles match ever came against Benoit, and *that* is what the Big Man is gonna need come this summer.

I think it's GOTTA be Benoit, if WWE wants to do right by Batista.  Bonus prediction: it SHOULD come down to Benoit/Jericho in the end. Because (a) it was Jericho's idea for the match, and (b) if you want to keep Benoit sliding towards tweenerdom, there's NO better way than to have him semi-feud with Jericho until the summer and it's time to make a withdrawal from the bank. I'd even be fine with doing the full-on Benoit heel turn at Mania if it came at Jericho's expense, but I do kind think slow-burning that is the better play...

Oh, and the match? Will rule. 

 

RAW Presents....
TRISH STRATUS vs. CHRISTY HEMME
For the Women's Championship

OK, let's be honest: this is another Match That Was Never Meant To Be. But then Lita went and got hurt, so you can forget about that WM21 Trish vs. Lita Cage Match that was on the books. And before that, WWE had fired 3 of its handful of ring capable women. And since then, WWE's shown little to no faith in Molly Holly or Victoria (and zero interest on taking the microphone away from Ivory and using her in the ring, instead of as the walking billboard for decaf).

But dammit, Trish is just too damned good to leave of WM for a second year in a row, so what do we do? Apparently, we rush a Diva Search Winner into a storyline where she's clearly in over her head, and try to present it like she's Trish's equal after a grand total of 1 month of training with Lita. Huh.

Here's the gist:

1) Trish Stratus injures Lita and regains her title.
2) Trish, thanks to WWE's personnel decisions, quickly runs through all available contenders
3) Christy "Spaz" Hemme gets a deal to pose for Playboy
4) WWE makes a bigger-than-necessary deal out of Spaz's ability to pose topless while wearing too much make-up and costume jewelry
5) Trish gets annoyed at divas like Spaz and Boobsie McSuperBowl getting all her TV time, and so she kind of slaps them around a bit, knowing they can't fight back
6) Spaz fights back, and continues to get a lot of TV time to talk about her Playboy
7) Trish has no problem attacking Spaz and defacing her (and her Playboy) with her lovely penmenship
8) Spaz asks for a match against Trish
9) Trish thinks this is cute, and accepts, glad to take the easy WM21 payday for beating the crap out of a Useless Diva
10) Spaz reveals she's got a Secret Trainer: Lita
11) Spaz pins Molly Holly in a tag match, despite only convincingly performing a total of one (1) offensive move
12) Spaz beats Trish in an arm-wrestling contest, proving absolutely nothing

And somehow, out of this, we're supposed to buy Spaz as a believable contender to (these are FACTS talking, not my own personal fondness for Trish) the greatest female performer in WWF/E history? As has been outlined here at OO, the storytelling here was all ass-backwards, as Spaz should have been cast as a plucky underdog, in over her head... that way, no matter WHAT happens at Mania, fans will be pleasantly surprised. Instead, we've now seen the level of her in-ring acumen, and know not to expect a whole lot there, so if Trish wins, it's expected, but if Spaz wins, it's just really, really unconvincing.

All due respect to Christy, who may someday develop into a complete performer: but at this point, the success or failure of Sunday's match will rest more in the involvement of Lita and the crafting of a solid intra-match storyline/psychology to mask the shortcomings in terms of crisp ringwork. There just hasn't been enough time for her to do anything but get very good at a very few things, and we can only hope that those things are strung together in a compelling manner at WM.

In a lot of ways, I suspect Trish vs. Lita will be more of a story than Trish vs. Spaz... if done well, that could still make for a very amusing Sports Entertainment Segment. 
  

The OOutlOOk
Trish wins: 7 votes --|-- Spaz wins: 5 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
Just like the World Title match, WWE had no idea how to handle this one. I'm definitely in the "This Match Could Surprise You" camp (if Stephanie and an untrained Trish could have a great match, why not an awesome Trish and a willing-to-work-hard Christy?), but this has been badly bungled. Everyone should have figured this match for a foregone conclusion, only to have Christy surprise everybody with a few well-executed (read: practiced non-stop for the last month) moves, and sell her ass off. She wouldn't even have to win, just give everybody something to think about. The match would instantly be more memorable just for the element of surprise, with everyone realizing that Christy might have some vague notion of what she was doing in there, and fighting to the death in the ring.

Instead, she's already pinned Molly. Arrrrgggggg. And you know what? I actually kind of like Christy. She's obviously enthusiastic and enjoying herself out there, she has the look, she's green but comfortable on the mic, and she's in shape: seriously, if she trains her ass off, she could be the next Trish. Until then, we have to hope that she and Trish are rehearsed enough to pull this one off. There's no middle ground here; it'll either be a pleasant surprise or a total trainwreck. While I could see WWE letting Spaz get the win, there's one very good reason (besides the obvious) for her to lose, and she's sitting at ringside. The real money is in Trish v. Lita, so they'll probably let Trish keep the belt and then square off with Lita at Summerslam in some kind of gimmick match -- gimmicks that the guys use, not Bra and Panties or Paddle on a Pole. There's a remote possibility that Lita could turn on Spaz, but I doubt that'll happen. Lita is the only over female face who can kinda wrestle, and it would be stupid to turn her heel at this point.

Trish, your heroine and mine, will win. But not after fighting harder to do so than any of us would have suspected.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
I'm not going to get into the whole idea of "this match wouldn't have happened had WWE just held on to Gail Kim, Jazz, Alundra Blayze, Rockin' Robin, etc.". I'm sure my colleagues will do an excellent job of pointing that fact out. And besides, you just KNEW that they'd have to uphold the WrestleMania tradition of highlighting recently-profiled Playboy models in some sort of match; it was either this or Hemme vs Dawn Marie in a strip-off, and we wouldn't... uh... wouldn't....um...uhhhh...

Where was I? Oh yeah, the match. How about this: Trish wins and proves once again why she's one the company's most valuable characters, male or female. That enough of an analysis for you? And now back to my fantasy strip-off......ahhh, yeah, there it is...

Alfonso Castillo Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
Ah, the piss break match. A necessity in four-hour pay per views. This one will be nothing special, and likely last just as long as the aforementioned piss will. Trish will try to make Hemme's awful offense look good, but she'll get the clean victory at the end and retain her title. Lita won't be much of a factor. Keeping with tradition, the ladies will probably be used as padding between two big matches late in the show.
The Cubs Fan Says... Christy Hemme d. Trish Stratus.
I wish there was absolutely any hint the most obvious outcome wouldn't happen in this match. It's gotta happen, as much from the laziness of booking as the organizational belief in the merits Diva Search concept and trying to force it into becoming one.

I've been trying to convince myself into believing they might give Christy the win by DQ, so she could celebrate and yet not end with the belt, to be trounced in the rematch. They've never actually protected the Woman's Championship like that, so I can't believe they'd start doing it with things they do care about - their relationship with Playboy and the Diva Search - both affected by the outcome.

The upside is Trish is going to get yet another title reign before the weather heats up; it's a long way to go to get to Moolah, but she's making some fine progress.
Matt Hocking Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
I know what Playboy said, and I know what the vibe is on TV.  Christy is plucky, too plucky to lose, and with Lita on her side, she's got the outside advantage as well.  In some other years, you might have guessed she was the heel.  However, Christy has been just TOO predictably plucky to make me think that she's got a good chance of winning the title.  It has nothing to do with Christy winning so much as Christy losing would give her something to build on, making a win at Backlash or Bad Blood mean quite a bit more down the road.  Then, the mentor can turn on the student and there you have your women's program for next fall.

I think Trish is a wily enough foe and Christy is a convincing enough naive psuedo-wrestler, that they will be able to convince the audience that Trish beat Christy because she was the more experienced, more able wrestler, without harming future matches between the two, and I think the WWE realizes this and is willing to play it slow with Christy's push come Wrestlemania.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
I originally wrote Christ to win, but I just couldn't bring myself to stick with it.  Even if it seems more likely that she'll win, I just want to, deep down in my heart, believe that they will be smart enough not to put the title on her.  Certainly they have to see that they are in a no-win situation with putting the title on her.  I mean, it won't bolster the women's division.  It won't sell anymore copies of Playboy.  It won't get her anymore over.  So why do it?  While I don't have faith in them "doing the right thing" I do have faith that Trish will be able to carry her to a somewhat decent match.  As Rick mentioned a few weeks ago, they should be able to use the same tricks that make McMahon matches look good.  What would be cool is if Lita turned on Christy realizing that Lita wants the title for herself, but if that happened that would completely ruin the tiny remnants of the Women's division that remains.
Jeb Lund Says... Christy Hemme d. Trish Stratus.
Thinking about this hurts. The whole match hurts. If Trish wins, it’s probably still going to be a crappy match. But somehow I think all manner of extra-curricular preposterousness gives the belt to Christy Hemme. Writing this paragraph hurt me.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Christy Hemme d. Trish Stratus.
I'm going to assume Playboy gave us the spoiler with their "Champion Diva" banner. As opposed to referring to Hemme being the winner of the Diva Search contest.

Give the unwashed masses what they want. But if Hemme can't present herself as a reasonable facsimile of a wrestler the way Sable did, the belt will return before long to its default position, which is around Trish's waist.
PyroFalkon Says...  Christy Hemme d. Trish Stratus.
Okay, first of all? This is a mistake. I mean, I like Christy (her Playboy pictorial excluded; call my gay if you want, it just wasn’t that cool). Of the ten Diva Morons, at least she technically won. She’s got the attitude, and she really seems to be making an honest-to-God effort to get some semblance of a moveset together in time for Sunday.

That said? The match is a mistake, the whole Diva Search was a mistake, and this outcome will be a mistake.

But it’s going to happen, and you know why? Last year, they shoved Maven nonsensically into Survivor Series. It led to his heel turn and a push in the right direction, I admit, but it also seemed like they did it to legitimize Tough Enough, especially since TE4 was going on.

So now I think the WWE feels it needs to legitimize the Diva Search. Obviously fans have turned on the whole thing, and we all agree that the Diva Search and ten people who have nothing but boobs going for them do not equal one Gail Kim. I think the WWE thinks it needs to prove that it did the right thing with the Diva Search, so they’ll give Spaz the win here.

Now, I’m more convinced that she’ll lose by DQ or something. That way, Spaz has some moral bragging rights, but doesn’t have the belt. In the unfortunate event they actually give her the belt (which equally wouldn’t surprise me), then with any luck, Trish or Molly or Victoria will take it back the next night on RAW. But for Wrestlemania, I call Spaz. Trish is nice enough that she wouldn’t bitch about jobbing.

Lita will obviously be a factor, but I don’t think she’ll be as much of one as we think she’ll be… or as much as WWE wants us to think she’ll be. That said, anything she does kills a little time and can pad the match to hide Spaz’s faults, which is all right by me. Wrestlemania is one of those rare events where a gimmick-but-entertaining match like this one can really be something special and accepted. Much live Maven’s match with Shelton Benjamin a few PPVs ago (was it New Year’s Revolution?), I think this will be entertaining enough to justify a two- or one-star match quality.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Christy Hemme d. Trish Stratus.
Trust me folks, I want Trish to win this match.  All of Trish’s performances that I’ve seen leading up to this match have been top-drawer.  But I’m basing this pick on what I think WWE would do, and nine times out of ten what I want to happen is the polar opposite of what the WWE will do!
Big Danny T Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
*sigh* I'll vote Trish, because surely the WWE wouldn't be so retarded as to put the belt on the spaz, right? Right?
Rick Scaia Says... Trish Stratus d. Christy Hemme.
You tell the story a little different in the last month, and I'd be more than happy to entertain scenarios in which Spaz wins. But the way this has played out? Nope. Spaz must lose... she got her "rub" in the build-up, and now, this match can ONLY exist to make sure that we're reminded how awesome Trish is.

And also to remind us that Lita looms on the horizon this summer. Sorry Spaz: this just isn't your time. It just hasn't looked like Spaz's ringwork has been commensurate with this spot on card, and while I grant that the girl's got some spunk, and even I can't help but dig her when she sashays her pretty self to the ring to "Walk Idiot Walk" by the Hives, I just can't shake that notion that just because a girl is out-going and talks a lot means that she should. Because if you can't remember who ran for President of the United States five months ago, then maybe you oughta shut your yapper and open a newspaper. But I digress... Spaz is not being quizzed on current events on Sunday, she's not being asked to hold up half of a stimulating conversations... she's being asked to approximate a wrestling match.

And I remain hopeful that she'll do it. If you give me Fit Finaly's job as Head Diva Wrangler a month ago, I pretty much make it my mission to teach Christy how to sell her shapely rump off, and make every person in the audience feel sorry for her as she is woman-handled by the greatest women's champ ever. Spaz doesn't have to have any offense outside of a few big spots... she just has to have a compelling DEFENSE. And then make sure she's got the timing down to be in the right places at the right times as they interject Lita into the match. It's a pretty simple formula for masking weaknesses and highlighting positives to create a Sports Entertainment Segment.

One concern: I know I'm not the only one who digs Trish despite her ostensible role as a heel. The mirror image of that is some lingering disaffection among fans for Lita for her role in the Matt Hardy/Edge thing; which could be accompanied by backlash against Christy for getting a title shot without being a trained wrestler. Neither of those last two things are HUGE elements, but they exist. And when combined with a latent respect for Trish, it's the type of deal that could just ping-pong back and forth and become amplified to the point that fans have fun by acting contrary, not unlike Hogan/Rock a few years ago. Keep an eye on it...

And in any case: Trish wins. The *only* way Spaz could conceivably win the belt is if she's only written in as a short-term champ. And at this point, I really just don't see the value in letting Spaz have a cheap title reign (which would also have the effect of making Molly and Victoria look weak, since they are the ones who'd have to job to her to make it seem convincing) just so Trish can kick the shit out of her in a month. The right play is Trish retaining and sending the message to Lita that "Hey, nice try, but I'm REALLY fucking good, you whore." And then the eventual Trish/Lita blow-off will have all the more heat on it if there has been no interruption to Trish's reign.  

 

RAW and SmackDown! Present...
SHAWN MICHAELS vs. KURT ANGLE

In A Very Special Grudge Match

There aren't very many "dream matches" out there that fans haven't seen yet... with only one real national wrestling company, the wrestlers we care about all work under the same roof, and have for nigh on four years now. Surely anybody who's anybody would have managed to cross paths by this point, right?

But that's exactly what Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle have managed to NOT do. Until Sunday.

Michaels' temporary retirement didn't come to an end until the establishment of the Brand Split Era... and then, in the period of time when the walls between brands were at their most porous, Michaels was only a rare, special attraction wrestler. No crazy brand jumping for him: all he cared about in 2002 was Triple H. Kurt Angle has battled through injuries of his own in that timeframe, limited his likelihood of getting involved in any cross-brand shenanigans from his spot on the SD! roster.

So two of the greatest all-around performers in the history of the business simply have never had the chance to hook it up. In fact, until this year's Royal Rumble, I don't believe they'd ever even been in the same ring together.

But once they got into the same ring, it didn't take long before they gravitated towards each other: Michaels actually eliminated Angle from the 2005 Rumble. And Angle was not pleased: he returned to the ring and contributed (illegally) to Michaels elimination from the Rumble, and then proceeded to beat and bloody Michaels outside the ring. That altercation festered for several weeks, until Michaels (while ostensibly giving a pep talk to Randy Orton) talked himself into the need to get his hands on Angle at WM21. In a dubious launch to the feud, Michaels sort of half-assedly asked GM Teddy Long to deliver his challenge to Angle. Thrilling, I know, but at least it got a LITTLE better...

After initially not reacting to Michaels' "message," Angle appeared on RAW and accepted, and then proceeded to carry the entire feud on his back with a series of excellent promos and some fun little stunt casting. Angle revealed that his hatred of Michaels runs a lot deeper than their Rumble tussle: he's hated Michaels since 1996 when Angle was a Gold Medal Winner at the Atlanta Olympics, and Michaels was the WWF Champion and was stealing all his press. Now that Angle's gone pro, he thought he'd erase that spectre by outshining Michaels accomplishments, but people still call Michaels the greatest of all times. Angle thinks HE is the greatest in-ring performer in pro wrestling history, and accepted Michaels' challenge to prove it.
 
And then, for shits and giggles, he carted out a ladder, Marty Jannetty, and Sensational Sherri for amusing skits (and against Marty: one VERY entertaining match) on SD!, in which he tried to duplicate all of Shawn's 20 year career in just 4 weeks. Mission not QUITE accomplished on that front: but it was still damned good fun.

Michaels hasn't really added a whole lot to the feud, skating by on the notion that he's the "Show Stopper" who puts on his best performances at WrestleMania ("Mr. WrestleMania," by the way, is my pick for the Toothless Aggression Memorial Catchphrase That We'll All Just Pretend Never Happened Award for 2005)... he's certainly got reasons to be pissed at Angle, but it seems so far that Michaels is MORE concerned with just going out and having a hell of a match at WM21. Which kinda hurts the storytelling/intensity side of things... but which I ultimately have no problems with.

These guys are two of my favorite wrestlers in the game today, and the chance to see them lock up makes this my #2 item on the list of Four Reasons to Care About WM21... is either guy genuinely in his prime? Nah, but both guys are also just so good at what they do that Shawn Michaels at three-quarter-speed and Kurt Angle with a neck that's nowhere near 100% are still gonna hit the ring and outshine just about everybody else on the line-up. Adding to the drama: whatever happens, it's unlikely that we'll see this match again... at least: not for another year.  So you gotta savor it while you can.
  

The OOutlOOk
Kurt Angle wins: 8 votes --|-- HBK wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
This match? I dunno. I have absolutely no idea who will win this one. Angle is younger (in the WWE sense), but his future in this business is in doubt. Michaels has a habit of winning matches that he really shouldn't (see Wrestlemania XIX against Jericho.) Neither guy needs to put the other over. I also am not sure that this match will be quite as good as everything thinks it will be, given Kurt's current condition. A few years ago, maybe, but right now it's a little iffy.

Then again, Kurt constantly surprises me with just how much better he is than the rest of the wrestling world, even when he's only at 60%. For him, performing is more important than his health, so he'll definitely go all out here. And Michaels will make him look like a million bucks -- not that Kurt needs the help. This will be very good, but I'm not positive yet that it will be the easy Match of the Night. I'm still definitely looking forward to it, and I still have no idea who will win. But since I've chosen Taker to defeat Orton, RAW needs a victory in the inter-brand matches. Michaels wins.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
I'm kind of torn on this one. The problem is, neither guy really needs this win. By all accounts, both are going to remain big parts of their respective brands going forward and I don't think a loss here would change that.

I really enjoy these slow-burn stories as a throwback to the days of old, and when you think about it, the seeds were first-planted when Edge made a throwaway comment to Angle back at Survivor Series. I have no doubt that these two will put on a fantastic match for the ages (even though I DO think Angle's not as incredible as he once was). The only thing in doubt for me is the finish.

I'll go with the babyface default here. But at the same time, i wouldn't be shocked if things went the other way.

Alfonso Castillo Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
Fans are saying that anything short of a match of the year candidate will be considered a let down, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. The reality is Kurt Angle has not been himself for well over a year now, and has vast limitations. Still, I fully expect him to give it his all, and try to craft a match with HBK that hides his weaknesses. Perhaps more than any other match on the card, this one promises to deliver that WrestleMania feel - 30 minutes of oohs and aahs by the crowd, innovative spots, high drama, and plenty of nearfalls. I'll pick Angle to win it out-of-nowhere, and clean.
The Cubs Fan Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
This match, something involving guys who aren't even on the same show, has been the best built one on the card. When the best build feud is based on lots of violence and not much back and forth talking, maybe it's sign the other ones need to cut back on that aspect - or the writers are just bad, I dunno.

I keep going back and forth on the result here. It's probably just as meaningless as the Money In The Bank match (either Shawn wins now, or Shawn wins later - this is the way of the Shawn), so I'm stuck in the Think Two Steps ahead camp.

With two face champions, both new, there needs to be strong heels to face them. I think it's going to be tough to get people to root against HBK by now; it's at the Flair point where if they'll even boo them, they'll only do it because they know it's what they're supposed to be doing. That doesn't make for a great heel. Kurt Angle has the
pre-existing rivalry with Cena, and has the ability to make Batista look really good. His services are going to be in stronger need post WM, and they might as well keep him strong going in.
Matt Hocking Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
It’s not that I think there is a future in this program, so the heel has to go over (there is a future in it, but not for a little while anyway), but more that I think Kurt Angle deserves the win for the moment.  If you think about it, Kurt has poured his heart and soul into making this a memorable angle, while Shawn has been slumming it with Muhammed Hassan.  There’s a story there I think.  I think Shawn Michaels is going to pay for underestimating Kurt Angle.  And that’s a point I think could be made quickly and efficiently by either the announcers or a pre-match interview, so that those slow on the uptake take let it soak in.

He didn’t flinch when Marty and Sherri were attacked, or when Angle called him out.  The only time Shawn has ever gotten into Angle’s face about anything is after Angle got physical with Shawn himself.  So the psychological wargames didn’t work, but Shawn has been wrong to ignore how
great a wrestler Kurt is in his own right.  I see Shawn being a bit too cocky for his own good, and getting schooled by Angle early on.  Shawn comes fighting back into the match, but some timely interference by a certain buddy, partner Marty Jannetty ices Angle’s cake and he gets the tap out
victory.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
At the end of the year when it comes time for OO's awards, I will certainly be awarding Kurt in some fashion for the work he has done for this feud.  This "I'll do everything you've accomplished in 4 weeks" angle has just been pure gold.  Well, except for this past week's which was rather lazy.  In fact I would have loved if they had the balls to have Kurt come out this past week and claim that he couldn't wrestle Shawn because he was injured and had "lost his smile".  Then Kurt would stop and say it's not true because he is a real man and real men never back away from fights.  However, despite that missed opportunity, I am really pumped for this feud thanks to our Olympic Hero.  The only unfortunate thing is that because the build has been rather one sided, I don't see the end result being anything but Shawn winning.  It's not that I mind Shawn going over, it's just that when you've got someone who does such a good job building a feud, you'd like to see him get rewarded somehow.  I see this match starting off slow but gaining speed quickly and really ending strong.  Hopefully, this won't be Kurt's last match, but if it is I know he'll go out with a bang.
Jeb Lund Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
This match should be a treat either way. So I have to say that excessive typing about it is probably silly and a waste of time. You’re going to have a good time; I’ll have a good time. Why worry? Also, really, any pick anyone makes is going to be laughably arbitrary. I can’t think of a really great reason for or against either candidate. I can argue either way and feel comfortable that it’s a good choice.

So I’m going to take Angle for very minor and maybe silly reasons. One, it may be his last big match. He hasn’t said anything, but the poor man is hurting. For someone who’s done so much in the company in such a brief span of time, it would be a fitting tribute for him to beat The Showstopper on his way out. Yeah, I know you’re supposed to go out “on your back,” but let’s make an exception for an Olympian with a broken friggin’ neck. Two, Shawn “Mr. WrestleMania” Michaels is pretty famous for losing at WrestleMania. No reason to break tradition. Three, RAW is so stocked with stars and potential stars that Smackdown could use the mild morale victory. It hurts the SD brand to see their biggest star lose to someone who’s often not even in the mix on RAW. Four, Michaels losing spikes high on the Jericho Embarrassment Scale. Remember, even when it made most sense for Michaels to put over Jericho at a WrestleMania, he didn’t. And Michaels has stated his goal to put over new stars. What better kick to the balls than Michaels rolling over for Angle, who doesn’t need it? Yes, I’m a bitter, awful little man.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
It feels a bit odd to predict Angle winning here. But I suspect, with the signing of Marty Jannety and Angle insisting he isn't ready to hang up the boots yet, that something is up. I think a clean Michaels loss will prompt his character to do a little "soul searching," which is where Jannety will come in.

As a fan, I'm concerned that Angle is physically deteriorating. As a wrestler, I can understand if he wants to keep going. I think the rest he's gotten over the past several months will allow him to hold up his end of the bargain against Michaels.
PyroFalkon Says...  Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
With Kurt doing his thing on SmackDown!, Shawn Michaels is in a position where this is a must-win match. Sorta like how JBL was in a must-win situation with the Big Show cage match in the last SD PPV.

So, what better time for a swerve? We didn’t see Jannetty this last RAW, but we know he’s got a contract. Let’s say he costs Shawn the match against Kurt. That sets up a great storyline between Shawn and Marty on RAW, and I suppose they know each other well enough that they’d be great working against each other. Just spitballin’, is all.

Either way, this is the third match I’ll be really watching. But after what Kurt Angle said on Byte This! a few weeks ago, I also don’t expect this one to be some sort of miracle on canvas. No matter who wins it, their feud isn’t going to magically disappear. I think their next match or their third match together will be something to put on a DVD for years of enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is going to blow. Barring an in-match injury (or maybe despite an in-match injury), I think this is going to be a damn good match. If Kurt’s neck is truly 100% healed and Shawn’s legs are 100% fresh, we should see some three-and-a-half-star action from bell to bell.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
This one is very much a toss-up in my opinion.  I’m basing this pick on the fact that Angle is one of my favorites, and nothing more.
Big Danny T Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Going with HBK. No better reason than because his win will piss Kurt off all the more.
Rick Scaia Says... Kurt Angle d. Shawn Michaels.
This is the only match on the card that I honestly cannot decide on.

Since neither man is likely to be on the same brand as his opponent in the near future, it's not like you can pick this match based on how the feud needs to progress. When you try to look to backstage indications for help, you get seriously mixed signals over whether Kurt Angle is hurting badly and contemplating retirement or if he really is (as he's recently started saying in interview) healthier than he's been in 2 years. It's frustrating for a guy looking for a foothold...

So what I'm gonna do is hedge. Putting on my "WWE Hat," I think that Shawn Michaels probably will win, just because his reputation has been built up so much that I feel WWE wants to really make a go of the "Mr. WrestleMania" tag (no matter how dumb I think it sounds). Also, Angle's been the "star" of the feud so far, so it just feels like everything's been put in place for Michaels to come out on top and get the last word. Also: I see no chance for Orton to beat Taker, so Michaels beating Angle would be the way for RAW to "even the score" in the crossbrand matches. Which I frankly couldn't give a shit about, but I'm sure the dumbasses in creative think that's an important aspect.

But in keeping with my "pick Smart, DON'T pick WWE Style" instructions, I'm going with Kurt. Because if Kurt is healthy, if Kurt is gonna be active, even if just through the summer, then he needs this win LOTS more than Michaels. Assuming a Cena title win (if not at WM, then soon after), a strong non-JBL heel will be required to follow-up... the heel could be Angle. Or if Orton gets traded over to SD!, Angle could be easily switched into a babyface, an "Olympic Legend" for Orton to feud with. Whereas Michaels over on RAW? Seems destined to spend the near-term doing tag stuff either with or against Marty Jannetty... beating Kurt Angle is NOT necessary for him to do that convincingly. 

Angle SHOULD win, and so thus, I pick him. But Michaels probably WILL, just because me and WWE just don't see eye to eye on much. I'll forgive them in this case, cuz of any match on the card, this is the one where the outcome means the least and I'm just cheering for 30 minutes of awesomeness. This is the one match on the card that I want NO gimmickry, no over-booking, no Sports Entertainment Segment. Just two guys and a wrestling ring. Gimme that, and I don't care about much else.

 

RAW and SmackDown! Present...
UNDERTAKER vs. RANDY ORTON
In A Very Special "Legend vs. Legend Killer" Match

Would you get annoyed with me if I AGAIN busted out the "Match That Wasn't Supposed to Happen" thing? You would? OK... but my point remains valid.

Finally arriving at the realization (nearly 8 months after certain Insightful, Clever, and Charming Webmasters started PREEMPTIVELY bitching about the problem) that Randy Orton just doesn't have the chops to be a top babyface, WWE yanked him from his slot in the WM21 main event against HHH and decided to go with Plan B(atista). But where did that leave Orton?

Well, it left him to limp through an alternate conclusion to his feud against HHH: one that left him a loser and which, for a few weeks, had him playing the role he was born to play... the Lucky Concussed Idiot. But once his head cleared, Orton started wandering aimlessly, talking to anybody who'd listen, seeking out advice on what to do at this, the most important time of the wrestling year.

If only Young Randall could read at a third-grade level, he'd have known MONTHS ago that he was scheduled to face the Undertaker at WM21, thanks to "SmackDown! Magazine." But we all know that Randy don't go in much for the book learnin'... so instead, Randy took his inspiration from a few pep talks, and decided he'd make an impact at WM21 by calling out the Undertaker, and ending Taker's 12-0 undefeated WM streak. That, Randy figured, would put him back on the map.

With less than a month to build-up the feud on TV, WWE carted out Jake Roberts to give Randall the Anti-Pep-Talk, telling him that he's in over his head if he goes against Taker. Randy said his challenge remained, and RKO'ed Jake for daring to cut a better promo than him, despite the fact that Jake was likely drunk off his ass when he did it. Although the winds had been blowing that way for quite a while (almost since his initial face turn), that pretty much sealed the deal: Orton was once again a heel, as he should be.

Later that week, Taker accepted Orton's challenge, and at the official contract signing, they against tried to accelerate the hostilities by having Orton bitchslap Taker: but he did it in such limp-wristed fashion it was really more of a funny moment than a dramatic one, and it rendered Taker's pyrotechnic-assisted response rather silly.

Continuing on his mission to find SOME way to get people to care about the match, Orton decided to RKO his girlfriend Stacy Keibler for some reason that is STILL not entirely clear. Possibly because Stacy dared to doubt him. Possibly because he wanted to intimidate the Undertaker by beating up a girl. Possibly to show that Orton's a damned fool who equates beating up a waify girl with facing a 300-lbs. legend. We're not sure, but pick whichever of those will add most to your enjoyment of this tale!

Finally, just last night, WWE hit a high note in this story: Randy's dad, Bob Orton, appeared and pleaded with Undertaker to take it easy on Randy. He said that they can have a wrestling match, and it'll be great, and may the best man win, but Please, Don't Hurt My Son. Because Randy's a good kid, and all his bravado, it's actually a Sign of Respect: because Randy wouldn't have called Taker out at all if Randy didn't think Taker was the biggest dog in the yard. Wow, that Cowboy Bob: in one promo, he presents more compelling and cogent logic than his son has in 3 years of mic work! Wanna stick around and do ALL Randy's talking for him, Old Man?

Bob even got down on his knees to BEG Taker to stay professional at WM, and just as Taker was starting to consider it.... RKO OUT OF NOWHERE! Randall had snuck up from behind and hit Taker with his signature move. Randy and his proud papa left the ring (with Bob helpfully making everybody's favorite kind of gestures -- the Broad kind -- to let the crowd know that 1, 2, and 3 seconds had elapsed and Taker still hadn't moved, proving that he CAN be beaten), confident that they'd finally sent a message to Taker that could be taken seriously. Nice bit: at least now I think we can axe the idea that Randy would predictably RKO his dad at the Hall of Fame, and maybe expect Cowboy Bob to be at ringside (hey, how's the arm?) to help add a touch of drama to Sunday's match... funny, I'd have kept Stacy with Randy (the heat, it'd be amazing everytime they made out!) and RKO'd dad, instead, but this'll work well enough for Mania.

Scouting report says Orton's at less than 100% with a shoulder injury, but everybody expects him to bring it as best he can, and then address the injury after Mania. At best, I see them sticking to basic brawling and topping out at about the same place that Taker did during 2003 matches against John Cena, since Orton seems to be pretty much the equal of 2003 Cena (which was Cena's pre-obnoxious-affectations peak)... at worst, I see Orton's best involving his standard chinlocks and other snooze-inducing offense. Taker may be undefeated at WM, but the sad fact is that his track record for having GOOD matches is not so hot: I'm curious to see what he manages to get out of Young Randall.
  

The OOutlOOk
Undertaker wins: 10 votes --|-- Orton wins: 2 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
It isn't just my dislike of Orton and my love for Taker that's making me pick the match this way. I know there's good arguments on both sides of the "End the Streak/Keep it Intact" debate, but I'm one of those who thinks that Taker should remain undefeated at Mania. My take on this match? Randy loses, and then goes nuts and RKOs his father later on when they bring out the Hall of Famers. Then he moves to Smackdown! and goes on to defeat Taker at Summerslam.

Yeah, that's kind of a half-assed explanation on my part, but the buildup for this has been half-assed as well. I think that this match will surprise some people with how good it will be. I think that Taker is far better in the ring than most people give him credit for, and he's one of only two people who have gotten a great PPV match out of John Cena. And quite frankly, Orton is much better in the ring than Cena. So I think I'll enjoy this one, so long as the Deadman comes out on top. Besides, isn't it about time that Taker's crazy Deadman Plancha makes its yearly appearance? 

Canadian Bulldog Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
"HEY! Nothing you can SAY... will make me WANT to care about this MATCH..." (a variation on an OO chatroom joke, for the uninitiated).

This is another match that could have been hyped quite nicely... had only the company travelled back in time and abandoned project ORTON! ORTON! BAH GAWD, ORTON!!! last summer. I'll say this until I'm blue in the face: Randy Orton should have remained a heel and never won the World Title. Or at least HHH should have been the face in that situation.

So now they're licking their wounds are reheeling Young Randall. That's fine, and I truly think he'll be better off as the Legend Killer. But throwing him into an obscure match against Undertaker this early into the process just doesn't make sense. The only way for Orton to look particularly good is by ending Undertaker's streak, which is wrong on so many levels.

There are only a few people in wrestling history that I think would be worthy of a gift like that, Batista being the leading candidate right now, or perhaps Brock Lesnar had he not abandoned the company last year. Or even mayyyybe Orton had the match taken place NEXT YEAR. Therefore, I would be surprised and extremely disappointed if they ended Undertaker's streak for this putz, who is not over enough yet to justify such a golden opportunity.

Bonus prediction: Both Bob Orton and Stacy Keibler make appearances, and it wouldn't shock me to see them both working for Randy by the end of the night.

Alfonso Castillo Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
This is one of the more intriguing matches on the show, in part because the stakes are so truly high. Does young Randy Orton, pegged to be one of the flagbearers for the company over the next several years, finally become the one to end one of WWE's most cherished legacies - Taker's 'Mania winning streak? Or does WWE risk setting Orton back significantly by doing a clean job to an aging Undertaker on the biggest stage of them all? I'm picking the ladder, although I doubt the consequences will be so severe. Despite all the hype about "losing your soul," many a wrestler has bounced back from a loss to 'Taker at Mania, most notably Triple H. Orton will get the Tombstone, get beat, take a few months off to nurse his shoulder injury, then return nonethe worse for wear, and with his soul largely in tact.
The Cubs Fan Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton
I kinda hoped the heel turn would at least provide direction for Orton, but it feels like we're still blindly grasping for ideas. The way this feud took a 90 degree turn from Orton asking Billy Graham for advice and RKOing Eric to being freaked out by the Undertaker and relying on cheapshots from his dad has been kind of stunning.

I'm not sure there was ever a time Orton was getting a win here; at most, it was going to be a "good loss", battling Undertaker hard and coming up short. With his lack of growth (if anything, he's fallen back) in the last six months, is it really worth giving that much?

When Cena and Undertaker had their great match on SmackDown last June, the WWE was gearing up around Cena as a new big star. They're not looking at Orton like a future big star anymore; his omission when they mention the future anchors of the company speaks volumes. This isn't going to be Shelton/Maven from NYR, but I wouldn't be surprised for it
to be close to Undertaker/A-Train. Who'd thunk you could compare those two.

Undertaker looms as a potential challenger for which ever champion ends up on the same side as him. Even if Orton hadn't blown it, he'd be kept strong.
Matt Hocking Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
Again, coming into the match last week, I was about 50/50 on this one.  Orton would get a huge boost to his heel persona as being “The Guy” who finally knocked off Undertaker.  It fits his asshole heel persona so well, that the WWE could easily say “To Hell with Perfect Records” and let Randy steal a win.  They could even let him drop hints about it being a good night for winning streaks ending, if Hassan jobs out earlier in the night.

However, I’ve rapidly come to the exact opposite conclusion.  The story of the match is similar to the one I outlined for Angle/Michaels.  Randy just doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.  He thinks he can bluff and bluster and RKO women, and Taker will cave-in to the almighty power that is Orton because of it, ignoring the signs that Taker isn’t buying any of it, a point which Kane alluded to on Monday.  Randy comes in all vim and vigor, and Taker pounds his face in straight to the Injured Reserve, including at
least one “Hulk Up Moment” where Randy freaks out because Taker can’t be hurt and one zombie sit up following an RKO and Orton posing for a bit too long.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
Despite some's complaint that Taker doesn't job enough, I love the Wrestlemania streak.  In fact, I really don't want to see it ever end.  And I sure as hell don't want it to end at the hands of Randy Orton.  But knowing the way WWE loves to go against my wishes, I still have worries that that is exactly what they will do.  I do a small glimmer of hope.  This news about Orton needing surgery after Mania makes me believe that Taker will win.  Whoever finally knocks off Taker at WM is going to need to ride that momentum.  But if Orton is gone for at least a month after this match, all of that momentum will have disappeared by the time he finally returns.  I don't see why they would waste that opportunity.  Let's face it, Taker is still going to be around for another yet, there's no reason why his streak should end unless it would be his last.  If it were up to me, I would have Cowboy Bob come out and accidentally hit Randy with his cast, ala WM 1 to help Taker score the win.  Then when Randy returns from surgery, he RKOs dear ol' dad and picks up on his Legend Killing spree.
Jeb Lund Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton
Other people will explain this rationally, and those who are familiar with my columns will understand my rational and irrational motives for making this prediction. I see no reason in trifling with anyone’s patience by explaining further. May the dead man throw the petulant young man into a ditch and bury him.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Randy Orton d. Undertaker.
In the sports gambling world, they warn against fading an undefeated streak. That's sports; this is sports entertainment. Orton should get the duke here, but only by nefarious means. Then he can pack his bags for Smackdown!, where perhaps a new locker room and a decent heel run will do him some good. Undie can avenge his loss down the road. That's when his character is the most compelling, when he's seeking revenge.
PyroFalkon Says...  Randy Orton d. Undertaker.
I just have this funny feeling I’ll whiff this one. That said, something in my gut tells me that Orton will win so 1) they can sell that dumbass T-shirt he flashed on RAW to capitalize what few fans remain from his being a face, and 2) this could set up a nice little storyline for him going SmackDown! in the lottery draft. I don’t have a lot of faith though, because the last time I chose Orton to go over (actually giving me a reason to cheer for him), he lost. Jerk.

Maybe it’s not for my fellow OOers, but this one is a toss-up for me.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
Taker doesn’t lose at Wrestlemania…someone should have told Orton that.  I’m thinking along the lines of Orton going to Smackdown after WM, and then beat Taker at a later ppv, hopefully in a Hell in the Cell match. 
Big Danny T Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
13-0! Sorry, bonehead, no legend killing for you this year. Maybe next time.
Rick Scaia Says... Undertaker d. Randy Orton.
Taker wins. Because there's absolutely no reason for him not to.

There's a school of thought out there that "Taker's streak has no value unless somebody ends it." Which is stupid, and is the kind of thing that internet jackoffs come up with because they don't like Taker. Taker's streak has value if he retires undefeated at WM because that outcome, year in and year out MAKES HIS FANS HAPPY and GIVES THEM COMFORT. I view it as the counter point to the "Curse of the Bambino." I remain steadfast that the Curse had value, and would have continued to have value for decades and centuries to come if it hadn't been broken: but now that it has been, the Red Sox are just a bunch of dudes with the second-highest payroll in baseball who predictably won a World Series by out-spending 28 out of 29 other teams. There are some streaks that are best left unbroken. Because they are more IDENTITIES than streaks. Until there's a REALLY compelling reason why, Taker's needs to be kept intact... breaking it "just because it's time" would be the dumbest thing in the world. Because at that point, Taker goes from have a romantic Undefeated Aura about him to a guy who just lobbies to win at WM 12 out of every 13 years (usually against subpar opponents) because he's got the political clout to do so.

Picking the right time and the right opponent and the right story is vital to when Taker's streak ends. This year, Randy Orton, and a feud plucked out of thin air less than a month before the PPV are NOT what the doctor ordered.

Plus: Orton needs a little time off after Mania, so there's no point giving him the win over Taker and then disappearing. I also believe that characters are more interesting when they are flawed, so Orton as a "Legend Killer" who can't get the job done is more compelling than a Legend Killer who believes in Destiny handing him everything on a silver platter... he'll have to STRUGGLE to get his vengeance on Taker (which is something that becomes more intriguing if you consider the possibility of Orton ending up on SD! after the Brand Lottery).

Taker wins, and I don't think there's any question about it. Or at least: there shouldn't be. 

 

SmackDown! Presents....
JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD vs. JOHN CENA
For the WWE Title

And finally! Here's a match that WWE pretty much had its heart set on all along. After getting Cena back from his movie-making, the goal has been to prep him for a shot at JBL's WWE Title. And that's just what they did.

Cena was already the US Champ when he was the runner-up in the Royal Rumble. From that position, Cena actually made an appearance 2 months ago, interrupting a JBL Victory Celebration to introduce himself to the title picture. Although JBL still had a lot on his plate with Big Show, the message was sent: Cena wants in.

When SD! GM Teddy Long started pondering his WM21 options, he decided to include Cena in an 8-man tourney to determine a #1 Contender. The winner of the tourney would be guaranteed a WM21 WWE Title Match, either one-on-one, or in a three-way if Batista opted to jump from RAW. Of course, Batista opted not, and that meant that when Cena beat Kurt Angle in the finals of the tourney, he'd gotten himself a one-on-one match against JBL (who had escaped a cage match against Big Show with his title intact).

Since that match was locked in, they've pretty much skated by on trying to make JBL out to be the rich, cocky asshole, and Cena to be the regular guy who doesn't respect money. In actuality, there's been some problems on this front, as Cena has frequently struck me as a petulant brat, while JBL's restraint makes him almost sympathetic.

Out of the gates, JBL helped his Secretary of Defense, Orlando Jordan, beat Cena for the US Title. Cena, because his role is being written by monkeys with a random dialogue generator, was not upset by this and made zero effort to regain his precious blinged-out eyesore of a belt. Instead, Cena spent the next month getting the better of JBL in the most obnoxious of ways: threatening him with a steel chair when there's a "no touching" rule in place thanks to Teddy Long, knifing his limos tires, spraypainting stuff on his limo and on JBL himself, and so forth...

But then, last night, the last word went to JBL. In a skit with Teddy Long, JBL once again issued one of his "guarantees" that he'd retain his title at WM21... and then, to close the show, JBL interrupted a Cena match to have Cena arrested for the previous week's vandalism. Umm, I'm not OO's resident expert on criminal justice, but I *do* think there were probably some jurisdictional issues there, no? In any case, while Cena was handcuffed, he lunged at JBL, and JBL took that as instigation, so he kicked Cena in the balls, claiming "self-defense." Possible plot point: did Cena break the "no touching" rule by lunging at JBL? As the show closed out, JBL taunted the cuffed and writhing Cena, scoring his first real "win" since the inception of their feud.

Although this is SD!'s "main event," I fully expect this to be buried somewhere on the mid-card. Two of RAWs matches will go over better than this one, Angle/Michaels CERTAINLY will (and would be my choice of the semi-main event, actually), Orton/Taker might too. So this one's like fourth or fifth on the depth chart, think. Which might serve it well, in a backhanded way: JBL's problems have mostly stemmed from flamboyantly average main event title defenses... he just doesn't have the tools to go 25 minutes and make them 25 GOOD minutes against anybody but the perfect competition. So far, only Angle and Eddie have proven they can provide the caliber of competition. I'm not convinced that John Cena -- whose ringwork seems to have, thanks to his reliance on gimmickry since turning face, regressed from where he was in the summer of 2003 -- is the guy to dance a main event style dance with JBL. But let these two brawl for 15 minutes on the mid-card? Methinks they can pull that off. It's all gonna be up to how stubborn WWE is in terms of lay-out and time-management of the show: if they're willing to let this belt be decided in a mid-card match so as to give more time and more spotlight to other contests, the results will probably be quite good.
  

The OOutlOOk
JBL wins: 6 votes --|-- Cena wins: 6 votes

Erin Anderson Says... JBL d. John Cena.
If you'd asked me a year ago about this, I'd have had two reactions: 1) "What the fuck is Bradshaw doing main-eventing this show?", and 2) "Cena. Duh." But things have changed since then, dramatically. Cena has become a pandering shell of his former self, and JBL has become the best heel in the company. Sure, his ringwork isn't great, but it's improved a lot and he's proven that he can go for 30 minutes in a PPV setting.

JBL got in the last word before the PPV, so wrestling logic dictates that Cena wins here. I'm not so sure. Maybe a DQ win, but I don't think so. Smackdown! has a brand-specific PPV to worry about next month, and I think that the best way to headline it would be for Cena to get screwed on Sunday, and then take the belt the next month. Backlash desperately needs a selling point, and that would be a good one. The match should be decent, if not spectacular, with TONS of crowd heat. And hell, Hogan and the Rock have shown us before that the crowd reaction can completely make a match.

Canadian Bulldog Says... John Cena d. JBL.
I may be treading in dangerous waters here, predicting two faces both winning the world titles, but why not? I mean, last year they ended the show with two face champions (granted, Eddie Guerrero had already won his belt beforehand), and this is the perfect opportunity to get Cena over.

On the other hand, would it surprise anyone if JBL kept the title a little bit longer? Like it or not, the guy has proven he can hang with some of the bigger stars, and there's no denying his charisma. To think, a year ago he was buried in a four corners tag team match! They could sell one of those shitty SD-only pay-per-views almost solely on the strength of a Cena-JBL rematch, depending on how the first bout goes and how the rematch is promoted. So business-wise, it may be wiser for JBL to pull out another win.

But enough flip-flopping. A Cena win would pop the L.A. crowd and if they placed this about half-way through the card (like last year's Mania), it might give the show enough momentum to carry it through to the main event. Plus it helps with the obligatory story re-set that usually takes place post-Mania. So my vote is for the so-called Doctor of Thuganomics. Unless you think I should say JBL.....?

Alfonso Castillo Says... John Cena d. JBL.
Strangely enough, this is the match I'm looking forward to the most. The anticipation speaks to the effectiveness of giving JBL such a lengthy title reign. Fans are foaming at the mouth at the prospect of finally seeing JBL get his one-uppance, especially at the hands of Cena. Sticking to the whole Hollywood theme, WWE has done a pitch-perfect job of casting here: JBL as the unbeatable villain, rich and ruthless, who by hook or crook,  has defeated all comers. And Cena as his polar-opposite, an every man, who came from the streets and knows what it's like to be a fan in the stands. Despite both their limitations, I expect Cena and JBL to put on a good showing. The final visual at the show will be Cena emotionally celebrating in the stands
with his Chain Gang, the new WWE Champion.
The Cubs Fan Says... JBL d. John Cena.
I wish the timing on this had been different. If they had done the same things they're doing here around the Rumble as they're doing now, the outcome wouldn't feel as inevitable, and bits repeated on both shows (don't be the first one to touch the other) wouldn't feel like repeats. Cena and Batista getting their big moments at the same time diminishes
each other, and Cena's surely not more over now than he was a couple months ago.

It's kind of a cheat, it'd be kind of a ripoff, and it's kind of a lark to go out on a limb and be a little different, but I'm going to pick JBL winning here for big moment reasoning. Cena won't suffer the same blow Batista would by not winning here - his support is more about his character and less about the man who finally beat the champion than Batista - and I can't get out of my mind the original plan here, where
Rock might pick up a title reign in the middle, but Cena would end up winning the belt on SmackDown!

It'd inject a least one week's worth of life into a show desperately seeking some, and maybe it'll give JBL some lasting credibility on the way out.
Matt Hocking Says... JBL d. John Cena.
I’m making this choice through gritted teeth.  In part because I’ve learned to never, EVER under any circumstances pick against JBL on Pay Per View, and
in part because I think the crowd, however much the IWC is blind to it, desperately wants John Cena to be champion.  But the WWE can get away with a little bit more here, because Batista is winning his match, so the crowd will be happy as they get to the exits.  This would give Cena and the WWE a huge chance to ramp all the way up to Judgement Day, where Cena going over would be just as big a deal, and it’d help the buyrate of a smaller PPV.  In
fact, I’m in favor of the WWE just coming out and basically saying “JBL is going to lose at Judgement Day,” because people will put up the cash to see that right now.

The match will be predictable enough, I think, with Cena and JBL going back and forth back and forth brawling until the end.  I suspect some kind of run-in (Maybe from the newly healthy Carlito who would have a chance to mess with longtime rival Cena and boss Teddy Long all in one fell swoop.  I don’t know that I’d have CCC join the Cabinet though, just make his presence felt.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... John Cena d. JBL.
It pains me to write this.  It really does.  But since I went against the norm with the Trish match, I couldn't do it twice and risk ruining my score.  Let the record show that I will be rooting for JBL to win.  In fact, after he made his guarantee (oops, there goes that word again) again on Smackdown, I have a small piece of hope that he will actually survive with the title.  But realistically, I know that WWE believes he is the future and want to milk it for all it's worth.  It's just too bad that he doesn't deserve to be the guy to finally defeat JBL.  He also deserve to run with the strap yet.  In fact, I think he was more deserving of winning the title back at Backlash '03 than he does now.  JBL's loss was supposed to be this grand moment ala Warrior defeating Honky, but I know that myself and a large group of fans will be rather underwhelmed by that move.  I think it's funny and perhaps telling the the match JBL finally loses is a straight up wrestling match.  He can survive gimmick matches and four-way matches, but when it's one-on-one he can't overcome the odds.  I'm sure the Cabinet will try its best to interfere, but Super Cena will probably be able to fend them off with ease.  If there's any justice in the world, they'll put this in the middle of the show since other matches will be better and/or have a higher profile.
Jeb Lund Says... John Cena d. JBL.
Look, I’m going to level with you. The Rick sent us all an email asking us to write really long and thoughtful bits about each match, covering our appreciation of the backgrounds of the matches, the performers in them, and our hopes for the matches themselves, as well as the future extending from them. But I can’t disguise the fact that I’m really unexcited about this WrestleMania. I’m trying to care about these matches, but I’m really not too interested in most. So I’m not going to waste your time.

I think Cena’s not the person to become champion, but WWE seems pretty positive about him. (He’s winning all the dark matches, while losing most contests on TV. That’s usually a sign.) I think he’s going to win, but I don’t think he has the moves or the mic chops to deserve it. I think his promo work for this last month has been pretty thin and nothing that would compel me to want to see him become the champ. Rick is going to say all of this better than I (because he cares more), so I’ll leave you to his good offices. Cena should lose, but he probably won’t.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... John Cena d. JBL.
A fellow wrestler told me he highly doubts both titles will change hands (he thinks HHH will retain). I disagree. Unlike The Rick, I believe the title belt is the reason the show exists in the first place. It's Good vs. Evil, for the title. And in the end (which WM is supposed to be), Good wins.

JBL has been a fantastic heel. He's shown more ass than Paris Hilton. The humanoids are begging Cena to beat him, even more so than Batista. If it weren't for the brand split, I think us SMRT people would have appreciated this more as an I-C feud, with JBL generating tons of "Honky" heat. As in Honky Tonk Man, that is.
PyroFalkon Says...  John Cena d. JBL.
It’s time. JBL’s had a great, long run. And I don’t care what anyone says, I still like Cena… I mean, maybe the fact that I haven’t actually listened to his raps in months. Or maybe it’s because my girlfriend is attached to Cena like some teenage girls are attached to Randy Orton, and she’s dragging me down with her. Blech.

Anyway, I see Cena winning the belt, and then going on to be more pushed. Which may be a mistake, but this is a good face/heel way of ending the two main events of the night.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... JBL d. John Cena.
I’ve only seen Smackdown once or twice in the last couple of months, so I’m not in the best position to pick this match.  But I have to say that JBL has intrigued me in a very Flair kind of way.  I’m picking him to win because it will provide WWE with the opportunity to prolong the feud, and then let Cena win the belt at Summerslam. 
Big Danny T Says... JBL d. John Cena.
Please, please, PLEASE! Vince, if you do anything else at Wrestlemania this year, even if you book all my answers opposite just to spite me, PLEASE do not put the belt on that immature Fart-joker!
Rick Scaia Says... JBL d. John Cena.
Christ... can I specifically pick a "Dusty Finish," but one that might not be revealed until Thursday? No... OK,then... I just outright say JBL wins. But what I REALLY want to pick is just: "JBL will still be the WWE Champion come Thursday, I just don't know how." A DQ or Count-out seems WAY to cheap given the stage, so what I'm kind of envisioning is that Cena wins the match on Sunday, but then on Thursday, JBL has footage of Cena lunging at him from SD!, and in accordance with Teddy Long's "no touching" rule, that would have meant Cena shouldn't have had a title match at all. And the title would have to revert back to JBL...

Too convoluted? Well, I'm only thinking along those lines because I have less than zero desire to see Cena win the title on Sunday. I want WWE to try again, and to do a better job with Cena... because if he gets screwed over by JBL, then and ONLY then will all his juvenile vandalism and outrage seem semi-justifiable. If JBL can keep Cena from winning the title on Sunday, he'll FINALLY be a bad enough bad guy that Cena can act like a douche, and it might seem OK. Cuz right now, JBL's practically the nice guy of the two.

So again: for Cena's own good, hold off on him winning the title till they can get it right. Better to give him the win as the climax to a story folks will remember than give him the title in a match that doesn't even rate in the top half of the WM card. 

Since picking the Dusty Finish isn't really fair, then I guess what I'll say is that JBL's cabinet will make an appearance and create enough chaos to let JBL get the cheap pinfall. Simple, easy, and Cena can keep on chasing and win the title in a month or two if that's what WWE wants... you can tell the story better, you can give them a Gimmick Match to work with (which will make it more likely that they could go for 25 minutes and deliver entertainment), and you can showcase Cena's win in the MAIN EVENT of a show, rather than on the midcard, behind 3 or 4 bigger matches. Just too many reasons to NOT do it now. It don't feel right to me. I know it's coming and I know I'll probably not like it unless WWE makes some tweaks to Cena, but that doesn't change the fact that it's right for CENA HIMSELF to hold off on this for a better time. 

 

SmackDown! Presents....
BIG SHOW vs. AKEBONO
In A Very Special "Sumo Style" Match

I know this is an attempt to recreate the Andre/Studd vibe from WM1... but the reason THAT one worked is because Andre and Big John Studd had a long-standing issue that included one of them being the clear-cut heel (with a kick-ass manager) and almost a year's worth of hostility (including at least one illicitly-performed hair cut).

What we've got here, 20 years later? No sizzle, no story, no nothing other than the vague notion that seeing two men this big tugging at each others' sumo thongs might not be the best time to order your pizzas on Sunday night.

The story, as it exists: WWE goes to Japan. Akebono sits ringside. Big Show calls Akebono into the ring to "size him up," and ultimately gives Akebono respect. Nothing happens for a month. Funaki shows up in Big Show's locker room, telling him that Akebono has challenged him for WM21 in a Sumo Match. Big Show accepts. Big Show tips over a jeep to prove he strong he is. Akebono finally shows up on WWE TV last night, and proves two things: (1) that he outweighs Show by 10 pounds, and (2) that he's a crappy wrestler in the "WWE style."

If you care about the visual of Show being outweighed for the first time in his career, this one's for you. Otherwise, the "Sumo Rules" seem poised to make this a rather short and unsatisfying affair. Because of Akebono's legendary status in the sumo world, it's highly unlikely he agreed to this match to lose it in an arranged match; more likely that we'll get something like WM2's Boxing Match: just enough pointless posturing to make it seem like there was a match, and then a face-saving finish for both guys. Until I heard the rules would be straight-sumo rules, I thought it'd be a modified version of that where the winner would have to toss his opponent out over the top rope, and figured that an easy "out" would be to have the ropes snap (a la Yokozuna at SummerSlam 1990-something)... I guess that won't be happening, though.

It's odd that on a show with just 8 scheduled matches, one of them is almost certain to last no longer than 3 minutes. The pre-match rituals and staredown will probably be longer and more memorable...
  

The OOutlOOk
Akebono wins: 9 votes --|-- Big Show wins: 2 votes
Goofy Finish/DRAW: 1 vote

Erin Anderson Says... Akebono d Big Show.
Let me get this straight: this match is on the card, but nothing for either tag belts or the cruiserweight champion? That's fucked up. Is this going to be in a ring? If it's over-the-top-rope rules, then Akebono wins because Big Show is the only one of the two who knows how to safely fall over the top rope. Is this completely outside the ring? I don't know; I rarely see Smackdown! anymore. On one hand, there's absolutely no reason to bring in a non-wrestler for a one-shot deal to defeat a babyface. On the other, Big Show has no business beating a sumo champion in a sumo match.

Good God, this is fucking stupid. I actually like Big Show, so that means he will lose. Yeah, real scientific.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Big Show d. Akebono.
Whatever. I tried to think about the logistics of the match for a while, then I had to lie down because my head hurt.

If they're trying to push Show as a world-beating monster, then great. Honestly, I'm all for it. But I've heard Akebono doesn't "do" jobs to those phony American wrestling types. But if he's not going to be around beyond Mania, why protect him? Perhaps the lure of a big payoff and more North American publicity then he's every had before convinced Akebono to lay down (or do whatever it is he does to lose the match) for Show.

In closing, who the hell cares? WWE obviously didn't put a lot of work into this match, so why should I?

Alfonso Castillo Says... Goofy Finish/DRAW.
This is going to stink. I expect politics will prevent a decisive finish, and instead will get some goofy spot to drive home how big both guys are, ie: the ring caving in or something along those lines. This one will be mercifully short.
The Cubs Fan Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
Call me crazy, but I think Big Show pushing a jeep over has the worst "expense/PPV buys gained" ratio since M.I. Smooth and Kanyon were playing with limos. (Just don't call me crazy for remembering M.I. Smooth.)

Long ago, on a RAW on a network far away (but getting closer), I believe they had a sumo match involving Yokozuna and maybe a Natural Diaster? And they just took down the ropes and the first guy to push the other guy out of the ring got the win? And it was no DQ, so lots of people got
involved? I may be remembering this wrong.

Like Christy's win will be less a booking decision and more a
promotional opportunity, Akebono's victory here isn't as much about building him up for another challenger as building a market up for more opportunities. When you're planning a quarter of your business to be reliant on foreign markets, you've got to book to keep them coming out. Big Show gets to be the sacrificial lamb, which is good, because I'm sure he likes lamb. (Please don't explain to him the difference.)

Really, this is all NJPW - and all Japanese pro-wrestling's - fault. If only, say, Yuji Nagata had not lost embarrassingly bad in his big shoot fight, maybe we have an interesting match here. The failure of Japan to turn it's wrestlers into huge stars costs the WWE here; if NJPW has stuck with Tenzan and he'd gotten over huge, we'd get a fun match
against Benoit or Jericho or something. Instead, we're stuck with a ex-sumo guy with a nearly perfect (read: big numbers in the L column) as being the token Japan guy to glorify. I suspect this won't be the last time they'll be eager to kiss up to other markets, despite completely disinterest from the core one.

Or maybe I'm just making up things? Nah.
Matt Hocking Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
Man, I don’t know.  It’s not like the WWE is going anywhere with Akebono, and Show just tipped over a jeep a few weeks ago, so that’s gotta count for something, right?  I don’t think Akebono has a whole lot to lose on this one, as he can easily tell the Japanese media that the match was worked, and
that he was doing Show a favor by putting him over, but not to worry, because otherwise he would have cleaned the floor with him.

Then again, the WWE going the other way isn’t bad either?  Show loses nothing by jobbing out to a Master at his own sport.  Nobody would blame Coach if he lost to Jordan in a game of Horse after all, and that way Akebono protects his “legitimate sports heat.”  I think Akebono makes show
look as good as possible for a few minutes, and then in an “epic struggle” tosses the big man out.  Big Show looks impressive for hanging with Akebono, but in the end, lost a close match.  No harm, no foul.  Plus it gives Luther
Reigns something to bitch about next week, if the WWE would like to run a program of that sort in the future.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
This is the only match that I really don't have too much to say.  This is on the card for its visual and even that isn't all that appealing to me.  You are a fool if you think Big Show is winning this match.  Akebono has too much of a reputation to uphold for him to lose to someone with no sumo experience.  Hopefully they keep this short and somehow find a way for this to be entertaining.  Looks like Big Show's streak of WM futility continues here.
Jeb Lund Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
At this point, Jeb gave up on offering his predictions, and inserted a chat transcript between him and OO Forums Regular Cory Harris. You can read that Bonus Material HERE.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
This will be an interesting palate-cleanser. If memory serves me right, Earthquake and Yokozuna did this in the ring with the ropes taken down. If it were up to me, I'd do something different. I'd carve out a sumo circle somewhere else on the floor, like where they used to have the gravy-bowl bra-and-panties matches. Spend a little money and do it up right, with that thatched roof or whatever it is overhead, and the banners of the former yokozunas, and the throwing of the salt and the awarding of the envelope. The whole enchilada. Because I figure this event is happening almost solely for the benefit of the Japanese audience.

Will a wrestling angle emerge from the result? Maybe something teasing a rematch of some form down the line, held in Japan. Methinks WWE is looking Eastward for more money, as they should. Which means they'll have competition, which means better quality, at least for the shows held there. Fingers crossed.
PyroFalkon Says...  Big Show d. Akebono.
This pick is purely a balance pick… So far I have too many heels winning, so this evens it out. Sorry it’s not more scientific than that, but there it is. Because to be honest, I couldn’t care less about this match.
Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
I haven’t seen any of the build-up for this match, save for Show tipping the Jeep over last week.  I just don’t see the value of bringing Akebono in to lose an exhibition match.  What I’d like to see is for Akebono to win the match, and then because of the great respect the two men develop for one another, they form a tag team.  I don’t think that Akebono will be joining the locker room full-time, but this way WWE can at least get two or three ppv’s for their investment. 
Big Danny T Says... Akebono d. Big Show. 
Rick Scaia Says... Akebono d. Big Show.
Like I said above: Akebono's legendary status in the sumo world pretty much precludes him taking a deal to lose a fixed match. That's just not gonna happen. It'd be like the Ghost of Babe Ruth coming back to let *me* strike him out in Game 7 of the World Series...  Akebono's legend is such that there's no payday big enough for him to agree to throw a match.

Which can only lead me to believe that Show has agreed to do the job, or that they somehow came up with a face-saving finish that would protect both me. And since I fucking hate draws to "protect" celebrities, I say Show just buckles down and loses his sixth straight WM match in a row. Taker's streak, it's not.

The only alternative is to do a major stunt like breaking the ring, and calling it a draw that way (which might be neat), but there's other matches that have to go on, and I don't want no stinking 30 minute break while they fix the ring because Show can't job to a Sumo Grand Champion in a fricking SUMO MATCH. Show could, perhaps, chokeslam Akebono after losing to "get his heat back." I think US fans would see that as a babyface move, while it'd make Show a GIANT heel in Japan, where a possible Akebono/Show pro-style match could be a huge money maker for WWE. 

 

SmackDown! Presents...
EDDIE GUERRERO vs. REY MYSTERIO
In A Very Special Mutual Respect Match of Extreme Workrate

Here's one that may or may not have been planned all along, but it's certainly a match that -- like Batista/HHH -- has had enough subtle hints dropped over the past several months that now that they've run with the match, there's a lot of backstory.

Eddie and Rey are the current tag team champions, though they've come to this spot in a rather convoluted fashion: last fall, Eddie was teaming up full-time with Booker T, while Rey was teaming with Rob Van Dam, and both teams were in the WWE Tag Title hunt. At times, the four would team up and help each other out against the two evil teams of Kenzo Suzuki/Rene Dupree and the Basham Brothers, but they'd also periodically find themselves at odds. In those situations, it was always Rey who got the better of Eddie in the tag setting.
 
This led to some frustration on Eddie's part, and he asked for and got a singles match against Rey... and he came up short again in January. But before tempers could flare, an opportunity presented itself: a chance for Eddie and Rey to team up to take on the Basham Brothers for the tag titles. Rey was flying solo since RVD was out with a serious knee injury, and Booker had recently taken some time off from tag teaming to pursue JBL's WWE Title, so the two decided to let bygones be bygones, and quickly wrested the tag belts away from the Bashams.

Although there had been VERY subtle tension between the two -- usually when Rey scores a pinfall for the team, and Eddie seems miffed at his thunder being stolen -- the two were just so good together that it didn't seem to matter. Until Eddie's nephew Chavo started getting into Eddie's head... claiming that Eddie had lost his edge and was embarrassing the Guerrero family by employing a "if you can't beat him, join him" philosophy with Rey, Chavo got Eddie in a mood to misread all of Rey's actions. What had been understated tension before became more overt.

And just last night, Rey accidentally cost Eddie a one-on-one match against one Basham... and Eddie "retaliated" by "accidentally" costing Rey a match against the other (after also having manipulated Rey into asking for the match in the first place). Although Eddie and Rey shared a post-match hug, the look on Eddie's face said "I ain't sorry I did that, and what I do on Sunday, I'm not gonna be sorry about, either."

From a story perspective, this was another late-bloomer on a show full of stories that could have used an extra month or three of development time... but the concept of the reigning tag champs facing each other at Mania? That's cool. Throw in the fact that we don't know for sure if they'll contest this match as friends or if Eddie has it in him to go heel (and the fact that we don't know if he'd STAY heel after the match, or if the mere act of beating Rey would cleanse his soul and make him pleasant again), and we got a good 'un. 

And of course: it's freaking REY and EDDIE! That's just flat out gonna kick ass if they get the time and the go ahead from LAX's air traffic controller to go all out...  it might not be the spotfest their Halloween Havoc match from whatever year that was; but me thinks the action will be CLOSE to that level, and the story and heat will MORE than make-up for the difference. Six or seven years ago, nobody really cared until AFTER they started nearly killing themselves. Now, we're vested in the storyline from the get-go. Could be awesome; my #3 on the list of Four Reasons To Care About WM21.
  

The OOutlOOk
Eddie wins: 9 votes --|-- Rey wins: 3 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
Ahh. This is more like it. Two awesome wrestlers facing each other in the spirit of competition! Of course there are a few wrenches thrown in, from what I've gathered by reading a few Smackdown! recaps. Chavo's been shoving his nose into things, and there's an underlying tension between Rey and Eddie, so their motives might not be entirely pure.

This could go either way, but I say that Eddie gets the win because of Chavo interfering. Rey holds a few one-on-one victories over Eddie, so it's about time Latino Heat took one. One of these guys needs to snap and turn heel, at least. And Rey Mysterio can't be a heel, because his moveset dictates that he can't be. In TNA, it might be different because of the X Division -- Rey wouldn't be quite as special there amongst A.J. Style, Elix Skipper and the like. But in a WWE context, his style is so eye-popping and crowd-pleasing that it would be impossible. So I say Eddie is the one to turn, even though there is a very slight possibility that Chavo will side with Rey, just to shock the crowd a little bit.

Do I really need to tell you that this match will be incredible? I'm damn near salivating, thinking back to Halloween Havoc '97. Give these two 20 minutes and let 'em go. Hell yeah.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Rey Mysterio d. Eddie Guerrero.
I'm predicating this on the idea that Chavo Guerrero helps Rey turn in an OMG SHOCKING SWERVE~! along the lines of last year's Christian/Jericho/Trish saga, or for slightly older fans, Tatanka/Luger/DiBiase. How sad is it that virtually NOTHING in wrestling is unpredictable anymore?

I suppose they could have Eddie be the one to turn, and that's not necessarily a bad thing (think of a heel Eddie vs face Cena feud down the road). But I have to think this is probably Rey's one chance to be pushed big as a non-cruiserweight guy, and from what I've read recently, that's the direction they're going in. Plus, Eddie had his big win last year; Rey has been screwed two Manias in a row now.

The burning question: Which superhero costume does Rey Rey use this year? My money's on Spiderman.

Alfonso Castillo Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
I don't doubt that both participants are serious about wanting to steal the show, but they will have to face an obstacle in the fan's perception of this match as a throwaway contest between two mid-carders on the inferior brand. What's more, I'd be surprised to see this match given the time it would require to develop into something special. I'm going to guess it goes on first, and as such will have the fans' attention, but won't go longer than 9 minutes. Guerrero wins it sneakily, foreshadowing a full-fledged heel turn.
The Cubs Fan Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
Nothing happens has to here, which is my profound frustration with this card. Either the outcome doesn't really matter and so anything is a possibly but none is particularlly satisfying, or one side really must win, so the outcome is really never in doubt. There's no match where you're hoping against hope someone might breakthru to a new level, a new
status. I have no doubt these two will put on a match which will showcase them as two of the best in the world, but even that we already know.

I'm picking Eddie, just because I have a longer memory than those writing and remember Rey won not only the last one on TV, but the last hugely meaningful one. They missed an oppurtinty - to bring back lasped WCW fans, to point people towards 24/7 - to connect this match with the historic Halloween Havoc match between the two. It's an easy enough bit - they had a really awesome match, we think they're awesomer now, can they beat it, and can Eddie win this time? Don't know why the booted it.
Matt Hocking Says... Rey Mysterio d. Eddie Guerrero.
This is a face/face match with plenty of heel undertones.  Eddie is ostensibly supposed to be working heel, because his advice is coming from the mouth of heel nephew, Chavo.  However, Rey’s shown that he doesn’t mind mixing it up with a little heel flair either.  Neither guy minds taking a loss, and neither guy would be extremely hurt by losing to the other, so it’s kind of a guess and hope you come out with the right heel turn.

Frankly, I think Chavo’s been truthful this entire time, and that Rey has been plotting against Eddie, despite their tag title status.  Until recently, Rey’s been playing a little TOO nicely with Eddie, and to me, that indicates that there’s something more to what’s being shown.  Eddie and Rey
start with a nice friendly matchup, but Rey flips the heel switch first and starts trying to cheat to steal the victory.  Eddie turns it around, but it’s too little too late, as Eddie loses.  Chavo’s healthy enough to appear backstage, I think, so let him rub Eddie’s face in it.  Chavo/Rey v. Eddie/Complimentary Partner is a pretty good feud for the longterm after Chavo heals up.  Especially if the fourth man is Paul London.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
This will likely be your opener and I don't have a problem with that.  These two could tear down the house like Bret and Owen did back at WM X.  I'm a little disappointed that it took them so long to actually make this match.  They knew they were going to have this match a while ago, yet they spent so much time not doing anything with them.  Then finally it took Chavo to get invovled before we got anything remotely close to a build to this feud.  Even though most people can't remember when Eddie and Rey had those matches a few months ago where Rey kept winning, I think you have to go by that to determine who wins here.  With Rey getting the upper hand all of those times, Eddie must win here.  I don't think you do the heel turn yet.  Since they are still tag champs, you need to have them remain together still for a while.  However, the heel turn should come at some point.  Perhaps when they bolster the tag division.  Then again, that could be a while, maybe sooner than that.
Jeb Lund Says... Rey Mysterio d. Eddie Guerrero.
At this point, Jeb gave up on offering his predictions, and inserted a chat transcript between him and OO Forums Regular Cory Harris. You can read that Bonus Material HERE.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
I think Chavo will show up and give his Uncle Eddie the assist here. My senses suggest the reason for having Chavo drop the CW belt was to get Los Guerreros back together. And, how convenient, here's a chance for them to feud against a reformed Mysterio/RVD tandem. Brilliant!

At least, this is what I'm hoping for. I believe in tag team wrestling. And after The Rockers made everyone go nutbar, I'd like to think the WWE is starting to believe, too.
PyroFalkon Says...  Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
I don’t know… this is another toss up to me. If they want to turn Eddie, though, this would be a good time to do it. Maybe revive the whole “lie, cheat, steal” thing?
Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
I absolutely love it when a tag-team championship team fights…for me, it is one of the great things about being a wrasslin’ fan.  With both guys going into the match as faces, I expect Eddie to turn the crowd against him.  Of course, in order to do so, he is going to have to do something more than just lie, cheat and steal the victory! 
Big Danny T Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
I'm pretty sure the general sentiment on this is "Who cares!?" but since I have to pick, I pick Eddie. He's due for a win against Rey, and I think he'll get it by, of course, cheating.
Rick Scaia Says... Eddie Guerrero d. Rey Mysterio.
This has gotta be Eddie's night. He's dropped either 3 or 4 matches to Rey in the last several months to set this up, and my feel is that if Rey were to win, Eddie's personality would be such that it'd HAVE to send him into a full-blown heel turn. Which I'm not sure is so good an idea.

But if Eddie wins, he and Rey can co-exist, which is not only good for the SD! tag picture, but it's also just the best use of Eddie, who fans just seem to REFUSE let turn heel.

Here's my guess: Eddie will win, but it will be with an assist from Chavo. And UNWELCOME assist from Chavo. Eddie will get the win, but he'll be unsure if he earned it, which will leave the door open for future Eddie/Rey matches... and obviously, if Chavo can dig up a partner, SD! could sure use a heel tag team that isn't the Bashams.  And hey, if you DO want to turn Eddie, who's to say he's not LYING about not approving of Chavo's CHEATING? If we want this to be the start of something cool, the best and most varied set of options seem to involved Eddie winning, and with an assist from Chavo... from there, let the chips fall where they may!

 

EXTRAS/CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Because We've Got Four Hours to Fill on Sunday

Eight announced matches is only part of the story on Sunday... with four hours to fill, there's gonna be tons of extras, too.

An Announced Extra is Piper's Pit with Steve Austin. Those two with live mics is gonna be good for about 15 minutes of quality television, I think.

Unannounced-but-expected extras will almost certainly include at least 1 or 2 new matches to bolster a show that has only 8 (and of those, the sumo and women's matches seem destined to be very brief)... also, the entire Hall of Fame Class of 2005 will be in attendance, and they'll be carted out to kill some time... it's also all-but-official that Motorhead will be performing live at the show.

And then there's a whole class of unannounced AND unexpected things that could happen. Which is the beauty of WrestleMania! Here are some thoughts from the trOOps as to what THEY think might happen outside of the 8 announced matches...
  

The OOutlOOk

Erin Anderson Says... Beer: the cause of and solution to all of life's problems.
A four-hour show with only eight matches? Seems a little light to me, but six of them can go for more than 20 minutes. Factor in promos, Piper's Pit, the Hall of Fame, backstage skits, and ring entrances, though... it should fill the card pretty nicely. Muhammad Hassan has to show up at some point, and I think it will be during Piper's Pit. A lot of people are suggesting that he challenge Hogan to a match, but if Randy Orton attacks his father, that might be a little bit too much of a schmozz for the HoF segment if Hassan interrupts as well. So look for Hassan to get his ass kicked by both Austin and Piper. Austin will also get the biggest pop of the night, followed by Hogan.

We need at least one heel turn, and I think it will come from Eddie Guerrero. I'm not ruling out Benoit or Jericho, though, even though I think it would be stupid to turn either of them at this point. Look for Eddie to completely destroy Mysterio after their match. Akebono v. Big Show will suck donkey balls, and Taker/Orton will be way better than anyone thinks. And I'm running out of gas here.

The only other thing I really have to say about this show is that WWE hasn't done its job in preparing for it very well. Last year at this time, I couldn't WAIT for Wrestlemania. This year, I'm just happy to get a four-hour break from writing papers and preparing for final exams. I'd actually forgotten about the show until I realized last night that I had to get some PPV picks ready. Sad, huh? Hopefully this Sunday I'll be feeling that buzz of anticipation again. If not, beer will suffice. Enjoy the show!

Canadian Bulldog Says... How Much Time Could Hulk Hogan Kill? Let us consult Stephen Hawking... these numbers are too large! 
I'm probably in the minority of people who thinks the Piper-Austin thing will be a show highlight. Both guys are honestly among favorites of all time (the top five, for you Bulldog fanatics playing along at home, probably goes something like 1) Foley 2) Austin 3) Hogan 4) Piper 5) Benoit), and so long as they're just TALKING, they'll do fine. Will Mohammed Hassan probably come out to spoil the fun? Probably, and there's nothing wrong with that (so long as McMahon can make sure Piper and Austin are relatively PC in their commentary). No matter how drunk Austin is and how insane Piper is, this should be a tremendous segment.

Hogan has to be there is some capacity, but how? I can't imagine just a brief wave and hello when they cart out the other old-timers, that's not the way The Hulkster operates. Maybe an inspirational backstage speech to Batista? The rumored confrontation with Hassan (provided he isn't already slated for Piper's Pit)? Or a backstage confrontation with Flair? All I know is that we should remember that old math problem you learned in school: If a pay-per-view runs four hours, and there are only 8 matches scheduled, how much air time can Hulk Hogan eat up?

Finally, the opening segment. With all these Hollywood spoofs, you have to know that they're saving the best one for last. Might I humbly suggest a version of the one I created in a February edition of Inside The Ropes?

The Bossfather

Vince: We've known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help. I can't remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my company kicked your company's ass in the ratings, and then we bankrupted you. But let's be frank here: you never wanted my friendship.

Bischoff: Don Vincent, I don't want to get into trouble…

Vince: I understand. You found paradise here in WWE, making a good living as general manager. My people protected you backstage when Flair and pretty much everyone else wanted to kill you. And you didn't need a friend of me. But now you come to me and you say, Don Vincent, give me justice. But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me the Greatest Promoter That Ever Lived. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me for a favor.

Bischoff: I ask you for justice. How much shall I pay you?

Vince: Bischoffsera, what have I ever done to you to make you treat me so disrespectfully? Besides my company kicking your company's ass in the ratings, and then bankrupting you.

Bischoff: Be my friend -- Greatest Promoter That Ever Lived.

Shane: Father, he is making you an offer you can't refuse.

Vince: Yes I can. You're… FIRRRRREDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!

If anything REMOTELY like that happens, WWE be forewarned: I WANT ROYALTIES!!! 

Alfonso Castillo Says... Final Order?
Piper will claim that he was a badass, before being a badass was cool. Austin will respond with a Stunner and do the whole beer thing. Hassan will come out to gripe some more about not being booked. He'll be interrupted by the sound of "Real American" blaring to a huge pop. Hogan will get in his
face, get ambushed by the Hassan and Daivari, then Hulk up, yadda yadda. 

This one's a long shot, but I'd love to see Randy Orton give his ol' man the RKO some time during the show, again delivering a message to 'Taker that he's capable of anything. 

Paul London will win the cruiserweight title on Heat. They'll be plenty of vignettes in the back featuring many of the
superstars that didn’t make it onto the show: Booker, Heidenreich, Snitsky, and, again keeping with tradition, the Hurricane. 

Match order will be: Guerrero-Rey, Akebono-Show, 6-Man Ladder Match, Undertaker vs. Orton, Batista vs. Triple H, Piper’s Pit, Angle vs. Michaels, Women's Match, Cena vs. JBL.

The Cubs Fan Says... London Calling?
Outside of Hogan and Piper saying ludicrous things, I don't believe they'll be much to come out of the Hall of Fame. If the idea is to make it a serious Hall of Fame of Wrestling, it's disrespectful to tarnish it with angles. Anything they want to do that night, they'll have plenty of time to do on an eight man card.

Even though I'm sure it'll happen, I think it's awful lame to do a Hogan/Hassan match with build or announcement. I'm not in to Hogan, but I know others are, so why not take advantage of it by promoting it? At the same time, not doing any interaction with Hassan and Iron Sheik would be the biggest missed chance in the history of WM.

I expect Bob Orton will get some payback from Undertaker in his match. Undertaker's really starting to make his way thru wrestling families - he's taken care of the McMahons and the Flairs already, and he's had his share with Rock's family. It's dangerous to be a second generation superstar around that man.

I'm not expecting much from Piper's Pit and Steve Austin. I figure a Stunner, but it's just as likely to be people barging in right at the height of their disagreements as to Piper. This seems to be an easy launching pad to give Austin something to do if he's sticking around for a while, but I can't see anyone getting the better of him.

At least in front of the cameras: no Rock, no Foley, no Bret, no real out of left field surprises in showing up. I'm sure we will get to see Vince, but without seeing any sign of his current health.

London's my blind guess pick in the possibly existent battle royal - it really doesn't matter, so I'm just grabbing someone they seem awful high on at the moment, and he is on a battle royal winning streak (of one). Although London not being in the battle royale to do yet another match
against Akio would be cool with me too.
Matt Hocking Says... The Granddaddy of All Syllogisms!
I don’t know what more I can tell you, folks.  Wrestlemania is Wrestlemania.  It just is.  There’s nothing quite like it, and even the years when the storytelling and the matches suck, the show still has an aura that draws you in, and the guys usually leave it all out in the ring no matter what level
of talent they have.  At first glance, the card might seem a bit lackluster, but there’s something here for everybody, and if you can’t find something, anything, on the card to get yourself up, then I’m not even going to try to convince you otherwise.  It’s just not worth it.  For me, or for you. 
Though you’ll be missing out on one hell of a show.

I don’t really think this is a year where there will be more than one or two “Big Suprises.” as I think that for the first time in a long time, the WWE knows pretty much what it’s going to do for the rest of the summer, anyway, and Mania is a good way to set all that stuff up.  I mean, just looking down the card, there’s a ton of ways that every match, (except Akebono/Show) could be easily and successfully turned into an even longer lasting issue, and still have that satisfying “Mania feel,” especially if they opt to go with a draft lottery again, and mix up some of the sides a little bit.

Ultimately, if you’re a wrestling fan, which you are if you’re reading this, then you’re gonna see this show eventually.  Be it now or Tuesday or on DVD, so I don’t have to sell anything to you, which makes my job a lot easier. My suggestion is, curl up in your favorite chair or at your favorite bar, grab a can or a bottle or a pitcher of your favorite beverage, and watch Hulk Hogan stroll the aisle, and Batista clothesline the shit out of Triple H, and Eddie and Rey fly around the ring, and Jericho, Christian, Benoit, Edge, Shelton and Kane play on ladders, and remind yourself what it’s like to be a fan again.

Extras Extras!

-  Brooke Hogan will attempt to sing “America the Beautiful” when she will be interrupted by Muhammed Hassan and Khosrow Daivari.  Hassan and Daivari will rail against her for being the offspring of someone who represents what they’re in the WWE to fight, and signing a song about something she knows nothing about.  Dear old dad will make the save.  Boot.  Leg Drop.  Posing with the daughter.  Boom.  Mania moment.
-  Roddy Piper will rant and rave during his Piper’s Pit segment about how Austin should give up the business and keep himself out since it’s obviously caused him so many problems.  Austin will say, “What?”  Piper will eventually freak out, but Austin will be finally be driven nuts and nail Piper with the Stunner and get some beers for his efforts.
-  Nobody will get a bigger pop out of the “Hall of Fame” waving than Hulk Hogan.  I don’t think there will be any story there.  They’ll do it before Piper’s Pit so that Roddy can be at 100%.  Stalone will be in attendance, and wave to Hogan.  Nothing will happen with Orton and his father or
anything, though, I don’t think.  Other than maybe another segment where Bob tries to prep Randy for the match.
-  On Heat, we’ll probably get a Cruiser match with Kidman/London, maybe? And possibly a tag title match with La Resistance/Regal and Tajiri.  That way the titles are at least “on the show,” and both RAW and Smackdown get a
chance to do a couple minutes of match to showoff their brand.
-  Regal and Tajiri will be involved in some sort of zany angle backstage with Christy and Lita, probably involving the Playboy.  Everyone will laugh. Poor Tajiri and Regal.
-  There’s that Austin Movie Trailer to look forward to.
-  I wouldn’t put it past the WWE to pony up some cash for Rock to make a token appearance.  I don’t think it will happen necessarily, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t put it past them.
-  Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff will argue once again about who’s main event is a bigger deal.  Bischoff will smarm that long tried to court Batista, while Long will note that at least he’s been moderately successful in controlling his superstars.
-Carlito will do some stupid odd job, like Bathroom Attendant for Big Show and Akebono, and complain about it, foreshadowing his run-in at the end of Smackdown Main.
-Batista/HHH will obviously go on last.

Enjoy the show!
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Just When Adam Thinks He Knows the Answers, Hot Rod Changes the Question.
I guess I should talk about Piper's Pit here, but really I have no clue as to what will happen there.  I am looking forward to it as it involves two of my favorites, but really it's anybody's guess as to what they will do.  The only thing that I can think of is that as they are talking, Hassan and Davari show up to ruin the party.  From there you could either do a Hassan/Davari vs. Austin/Piper mini-match or you could have Hogan come out and battle Hassan from there. 
 
Speaking of the Hall of Famers, I see them doing something similar to what they did with them last year.  Have Mean Gene or someone come out and introduce each of them to the crowd.  It'll be a nice moment but there won't be anything too interesting that happens in that segment.
 
Given that they will be in Hollywood, I'm really surrpised that they don't have any celebrities involved with the show.  That was such a huge staple of the show every year that I figured someone would get involved.  I would imagine they'll get a celebrity to sing the National Anthem, but beyond that the rest of the celebrities we'll see will simply be sitting in attendance.  
Jeb Lund Says... A Bunch of Stuff of Varying Plausibility.
At this point, Jeb gave up on offering his predictions, and inserted a chat transcript between him and OO Forums Regular Cory Harris. You can read that Bonus Material HERE.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Fishbone? FISHBONE?!?
Hulk Hogan b. Muhammad Hussan

Once more unto the breach. It may not be the last we see of Hogan as a television personality, but it's the last best chance to give him the send-off he deserves as a professional wrestler. All hail the Legdrop O' Doom!

Brooke Hogan sings "America the Beautiful"

I'm still steamed that Fishbone never wound up singing the anthem like they were supposed to.

Piper's Pit

This is going to be a doozy. I think Piper and Austin will have a bit of an antagonistic discourse, which will lead to Vince McMahon coming out and dressing down both of them for their various faults. Which will lead to Piper and Austin both kicking Vince's ass. Oh hell yeah.

Final thoughts

They may have stolen Starrcade's motto, but this is the Granddaddy of Them All. The Showcase of the Immortals. Everyone from the laziest SOB to the OMG Workrate Tilde Bang King will bust his/her hump for our entertainment. It
doesn't guarantee a great show (see WM9), but I think there's enough talent and intrigue to make us all happy at the end of the night. I predict a Thumbs Up.
PyroFalkon Says...  Gail Kim: Good. Snitsky and Heidenreich's Love Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken: Bad.
Between the HOF stuff and the show itself, I’m going to have fun this weekend. Subway, Pizza Hut, and way too much caffeine will make for a good, late night. Hopefully I can convince some friends to come over too so I can continue to pretend I’m not a total loser.

Here’s a list of things I want to see during the show, in no particular order.

1. The return of Gail Kim. Because the WWE needs her. And so do I.

…Okay, I’ll try to make them realistic from here out. Shut up.

2. Witty banter between the two GMs. Sure, they’ll have at least one angle together, but I want it to be SPECIAL~! and MEMORABLE~! And stuff.

3. Some wrestler, preferably one of the wrestling females, bitch-slap / attack / assault / insult / all of the above at least one of the worthless divas. Victoria hasn’t been up to anything lately; what say she bust out the Widow’s Peak on Mic Stand?

4. Shots of how Batista prepares for his match. Sure, they’ll have some of that anyway. But considering we always see Trips nearly bursting a blood vessel in his head when he psyches up, we should get a shot of Batista Being Normal to help remind us why we wanted him face in the first place.

5. At least one ECW-caliber “Holy Shit!” moment from the ladder match. Ladder matches are becoming stagnant, but with the special stips and Wrestlemania backdrop, it may be enough to let one or all the guys do something wicked-crazy-painful.

6. A Tajiri/William skit that doesn’t involve crotches or kicks. My hope is that Eugene busts out an appearance for no reason, even if he can’t wrestle. He was in the first Wrestlemania skit, after all; he deserves to be there. Plus, it’s been long enough that fans will temporarily forget he was shoved down our throats months ago.

7. An appearance by Rock. I don’t care in what capacity. He’s still my third-favorite wrestler ever, even if he doesn’t appear but once every eight months.

8. A match from Muhammad Hassan. I don’t care if he’s a heel, I really like the guy. And that music kicks ass. If his opponent is indeed Hogan, so much the better, who is my second-favorite wrestler of all time.

Now, here’s stuff I hope I don’t see…

1. Heidenreich and Snitsky romantically talking about poetry, babies, or reach-arounds. They, along with Marc Loyd, Josh Mathews, and Steve Romero, should just all just get a room together in Hawaii and stay the hell off this PPV.

2. Tazz pulling a Michael Cole and not having a personality. Tazz has become my favorite commentator (even above JR, who I’ve always really liked), and I don’t want to see him become dormant for Wrestlemania.

3. Injuries. Not that I ever want to see it, but I especially don’t want to see any in Wrestlemania. With a few exceptions, most of these matches should at least be pretty good, and I don’t want to see anything get hamstrung by someone pulling a Lita.

4. Matches not being at least pretty good. With the players involved, they have no excuses for any match (again, with a few exceptions) being crappy. In almost every match, they have at least one guy who can make the weaker one look good. For the six-man ladder match and the Angle/HBK match, everyone rocks and should be able to do some magic. There is no reason they should crap out and give us some Monday- or Thursday-caliber match.

Whether any of those will come true or not, I’m going to have a blast this weekend. I need one.

Scotty Szanto-Nicodemus Says... Hassan will lose to a bald man..
Hassan v. ?: I prepared an outline for this column Wednesday night, and then completed it Friday morning.  Originally I had Hogan picked to win this match, but after seeing the headlines at OO Friday morning, I’m left wondering if the match will happen at all.  I guess since they have Stone Cold there, he can take Hogan’s place and most fans wouldn’t know the difference.  In fact, I think that a large percentage of WWE’s fanbase would like it more if Stone Cold were the one to hand Hassan his first loss, compared to Hogan. 
Big Danny T Says... I've Said Enough Already..
Rick Scaia Says... Here's two more excellent free ideas that will go unused by WWE!
Man alive... I'm not sure what to expect with Piper's Pit. It seems like a segment custom made for Austin and Piper to rip on Vince McMahon, but with Vince still needing a cane/crutches to get around comfortably, I just can't see it turning into a deal where Vince comes out and gets any kind of comeuppance (much less dishes any out). But somebody's gonna have to crash the Pit...

So here's what I'm saying: Hassan and Daivari interrupt Austin and Piper (this way, Austin can "What?" Daivari, as per my wishes of last Monday!)... and after a bit of banter, Hassan can demand a match against anybody in the back. At this point, brother, the Hulkster hits the scene, accepts the challenge, and we get our first Bonus Match: Hassan vs. Hogan. You could even keep Austin and Piper at ringside, possibly to offset Daivari and HIS Special Guest, the Iron Sheik... and if you do, something *I* think would be fun would be to have Piper PRETEND to be on Hogan's side, then turn on him partway through the match, and then have Austin attack Piper and then to have Hogan beat Hassan, and close the segment with Hogan and Austin giving each other the Glare of Mutual Respect, a la Hogan and Rock. Perhaps Hogan even has a beer or two, after the staredown? I dunno... but it'd be a nice moment for those two to do a little posedown for the fans, and it could also be a moment that would set the stage for the Hogan/Austin match that Vince supposedly has a hard-on for.

Also: folks're saying that there's gonna be a 30-man Battle Royale added to the show, with 15 members of the Heat and Velocity rosters getting together for the first time ever in the same ring! HA~! I jest... although it will mostly be b- and c-level talents from each of RAW and SD!, so I might not be too far off. Unless WWE has some surprise returns planned out or something, I'd view this as likely a snoozer, and more than likely a deal that'll come down to Snitksy vs. Heidenreich, or something similarly crappy. I'd honestly rather just tank the battle royale concept entirely, and do a REAL MATCH between guys who'll deliver the goods. How about that Cruiserweight Title?

I look for GMs Bischoff and Long to continue their streak of entertaining interaction... I think they need to set the stage for the Draft Lottery, so some skits hinting towards that would be a good idea.

WWE has a dozen or so Useless Divas, and we won't end the night without seeing them. The question is how? I don't think there's the time or any good reason to put them in an official match or in-ring segment... but something simple like the SD! Useless Divas getting catty with the RAW Useless Divas at catering, leading to a food fight in which white tops shall be rendered partially see-through and babes will be suggestively slathered in viscous substances. Michelle McCool should "win" the fight, and then Molly Holly should show up, decry the wanton display of boobery, and kick Michelle's ass. McCool can then be lotteried over to RAW, where she could make herself useful. If only WWE thought it possible to have more than 2 women at a time involved in storylines.

And lastly: Yankees 7, Red Sox 0. Just because.

  
And there you have it. As detailed a look at WM21 as you'll find anywhere. I daresay that if we didn't think of it, it's not worth thinking about!

So on Sunday night, sit back, relax, enjoy whatever beverage it is that slakes your thirst, and enjoy the hell out of the twenty-first edition of WrestleMania! I know I will!

And then, sadly, because duty calls, I'll drag myself in front of the computer at some point WAY too soon after the show to file the WM21 PPV Recap. Not even time for a post-coital smoke, you bastards: I'll get the recap posted sometime in the midnight hour. See you then.
 

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