After a strong final week of hype, especially here in the NY Metro area, WrestleMania 29 is set to take the stage Sunday night at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. With three huge matches anchoring the card, and some intriguing mid-card bouts, expectations are high for the event.
Here's my preview and predictions for the big show:
Main Event: WWE Champion The Rock vs. John Cena
Many WWE fans were disappointed when this repeat of last year's main event was booked. And while a case certainly could have been made for using The Rock's star power to give some rub to a different WWE Superstar, such as CM Punk, at this year's show, it's tough to argue against going with the rematch of the biggest money bout in WWE history, especially when its contestants remain the two biggest names in the business (sorry, Punk fans).
The buildup for this match has been solid, but unspectacular. With no heel in this match, and with WWE deciding to have The Rock and Cena build each other up, rather than tear each other down as they did last year, we've been left with a lot of talk, and some of it not that good.
The storyline about Cena seeking redemption after making a stupid mistake at last year's match is intriguing and having the WWE title on the line raises the stakes higher than last year.
I trust that, in its biggest match of the year, WWE will deliver the logical, if predictable outcome, and have Cena defeat The Rock, tying the score at 1-1 and necessitating a rubber match, which might take place as early as Extreme Rules later this month.
And, no, John Cena's not turning heel here, although the MetLife Stadium fan will sure treat him like one.
The Undertaker vs. CM Punk
It's this simple. "The Streak" isn't going to end. Not tonight. Not ever.
Anybody who thinks otherwise just doesn't understand the business of WWE. The Undertaker's winning streak is a big selling point for WrestleMania each year, and once it's gone, there’s no getting it back. Beyond that, there's just no good reason to do it.
One of the great wrestling myths is that a wrestler would be “made” by ending The Streak. This isn't 1972. Modern fans wouldn't be impressed that Punk, or anyone else, was able to beat The Undertaker. They'd just resent WWE for ending the streak, and resent whatever wrestler was chosen to do it.
To that end, I imagine no wrestler actually wants to beat The Undertaker. They understand that the money isn't in ending The Streak. It's in being part of it -- being listed among the greats who came close, but ultimately failed.
And even if you believe that some wrestler will one day beat The Undertaker, clearly this isn't the year to do it. The Undertaker has to avenge his longtime manager and father figure, the late Paul Bearer. That's just basic storytelling.
Vince McMahon is not about to lose one of his most valuable WrestleMania marketing tools to the hands of Punk, a notorious malcontent who nearly left the company the last time his contract was up.
As for the match itself, I think it has the potential to be the best of the night, and even a match of the year candidate. After four years of epic matches against Triple-H and Shawn Michaels, WWE was wise to go with Punk in this spot. He arguably has the best chance of anybody in the company to get a great match out of an aging and ailing Undertaker.
I'm disappointed with the build to this match. Forgetting about whether it was insensitive or not, exploiting Bearer's death to hype this match was lazy and obvious, and robbed us of what could have been an otherwise compelling storyline.
Triple-H vs. Brock Lesnar
More than any other big match on the card, this one can really go either way. On one hand, everything has been building toward Triple-H finally getting revenge on Lesnar, who broke his arm twice, broke his best friend’s arm, hospitalized his father-in-law and disrespected his wife.
On the other hand, it’s hard to fathom WWE dealing Brock Lesnar, whose appeal is as an unstoppable monster, a second loss in just his third match since returning to the WWE. And so, I’m going to predict that Lesnar gets the win here.
Triple-H is the king of getting himself over under the guise of getting others over, and so I expect that, even in defeat, the spotlight will shine brightly on him as the true star of this match. Triple-H has been transitioning into his new life as a WWE executive for some time now, so this appears to be the ideal opportunity to give him a proper send off in the ring.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
I’ve gone back and forth on this one. For the moment, I’m going to pick Alberto Del Rio to pick up the win in what likely will be a solid, if unspectacular, match.
I expect this feud will continue, but they can easily put the heat back on Swagger and build to a stipulation rematch at Extreme Rules, where it’s possible that Swagger would win the belt.
It’s also a good possibility that Del Rio wins, is beaten down after the match by Swagger and Zeb Colter, and then Dolph Ziggler cashes in his Money in the Bank title shot and wins the championship.
The Shield vs. Randy Orton, The Big Show and Sheamus
This match has the potential to be a lot of fun, and is a good showcase of all the wrestlers involved. This is hardly going out on a limb, but I’m going to predict that Randy Orton turns on his partners to cost them the match. It could be that he joins The Shield, or maybe he just goes back to portraying the sociopath character that always fit him best.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
Count me among the fans who are getting a big kick out of Fan.dan.go. I don’t remember the former Johnny Curtis being an especially skilled wrestler, but Jericho sure is, so this match should be entirely watchable. WWE may have high hopes for Fandango, but I don’t see him scoring such a big victory in his first time out. Jericho wins.
WWE Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan & Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston
If given some time, this match could feature some of the better wrestling of the night, especially between Ziggler and Bryan. I’m going to pick Ziggler and Langston to win the titles. I could envision a scenario where Ziggler comes out of WrestleMania with both the tag team championship and World championship—marking the true beginning of a top tier push.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry
This match will likely be kept mercifully short, and feature amazing feats of strength by both men. In the end Ryback will win it. Ryback should figure into WWE’s main event plans in the coming months, especially with the company likely to lose part-timers The Rock, Lesnar, Triple-H, Jericho and The Undertaker.
Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins
Team Brodus wins a short match used for padding in between some of the night’s bigger bouts. The post-match dance routine will likely take longer than the match itself.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
The Miz beats Barrett in a forgettable match to get the night started with a feel good moment.
Enjoy the show.