For wrestlers and wrestling fans around the globe, tonight is the biggest night in the business. Whether you love or hate Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment company, the success and exposure of their annual event WrestleMania. This is the event that made Hulk Hogan the megastar that he is today. This is the event that cemented Stone Cold Steve Austin when he refused to tap out to Bret Hart. This is the event where John Cena defeated John Bradshaw Layfield for his first WWE Championship and begun his road to the dominant figure that he is. Known as the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania has lived up to that name for years.
Recently, WrestleMania has not been up to scratch. For the previous two years the headline match has been The Rock vs. John Cena. This is not criticising that match or those performers. The Rock put a lot of effort to get back into ring shape and his matches with Cena were great for the most part. On the other hand, he had no business being anywhere near the WWE Championship and Cena had no need to win another Royal Rumble. The WWE creative team used the title to contrive another match between The Rock and Cena. An event that had once been about the uplifting and grounding of new and promising talent had become nostalgia and glorifying the past.
Until about a month ago, WrestleMania XXX looked set to repeat those same mistakes. Dave Bautista, better known by his ring name, Batista, returned to the WWE, fresh off his role as Drax the Destroyer in the upcoming Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy. In any other circumstance, Batista’s return would be welcome but he came back and immediately won the Royal Rumble, guaranteeing himself a title shot against Randy Orton. A nice little hark back to the days of Evolution but this was supposed to be Daniel Bryan’s year. Supposedly, his return also caused CM Punk to walk out of the company for this very reason: WrestleMania wasn’t being used to promote fresh, new talent.
Rumour was that Punk was set to face Triple H, which is considered a pretty big deal within the WWE, and Trips took it personally when Punk walked out instead. Where Daniel Bryan would have ended up on the card at that point is unknown. His place now is certain though and this is what makes this WrestleMania more exciting than those in recent memory. WWE has the opportunity to cement Daniel Bryan as a star and a major player in the company if he goes over Triple H and wins the triple threat match. The WWE have the chance to raise up a new star much like the WrestleManias of old did and I sincerely hope they don’t screw it up.
Daniel Bryan’s rise has been compared to that of Stone Cold’s, who has been confirmed to be present at this year’s WrestleMania. Hopefully he doesn’t actually get involved, though an unclean win over Triple H would give the Bryan vs. The Authority storyline some momentum going forward post-WrestleMania. It would just tarnish the resolution of Bryan finally winning the WWE Championship after a year of trials and tribulations and constantly being screwed out of opportunity after opportunity. Think of this as the season finale. This season’s story arc has to be resolved so that the show can move on. If the climax is half assed the next season will suffer for it.
And let’s get one thing straight; Daniel Bryan has to win the WWE Championship. Even if Batista wins by pinning Orton and Bryan instead beats Batista at the next pay-per view, Extreme Rules, it will have stunted Bryan’s ascension into the top level of wrestling stardom. Bryan needs to win here. There is only so long that you can bait fans and pull away at the last second. If the WWE pull away here or in some way swerve and deny Daniel Bryan the WWE Championship, then the fans may get tired of waiting for something that, in their eyes, might never happen.
Other matches than the main event also seem to be promoting younger talent. The pre-show fatal four way tag match has The Usos defending the Tag Team titles against Los Matadores, The Real Americans and Ryback and Curtis Axel. These are all fairly young men who could have big careers ahead of them if they could find the right foot hold and get the crowd behind them. The most promising so far would seem to be Cesaro and for that reason I see him splitting from partner Jack Swagger as a result of this match, whilst the Usos retain the titles.
An another tag match, The Shield take on Kane and The New Age Outlaws in a very real new guard vs. the old guard. Kane and the outlaws have been around for so long and have had their own storied careers that losing to The Shield here really does them no harm. For the Shield to lose here on the other hand, would make them look weak, even after a year of near total dominance. They need to pick up the win here. Likewise, Bray Wyatt needs to pick up the win in his match with John Cena. WWE will be reluctant to have Cena lose at WrestleMania but at this formative portion of his career, Wyatt needs to come off strong. Give Cena the win at Extreme Rules if you must but Wyatt should win at WrestleMania.
The Andre the Giant memorial battle royale also has the potential for creating or cementing some new stars. While it would be nice for The Big Show to win it seeing as the two men share a growth disorder, I would much rather see someone like Titus O’Neil, or Big E or Damien Sandow or Cody Rhodes pick up the win here to give them some new win underneath their wings. There are also three spots left open. Some cameo appearances by couple old legends are likely but this could also be a great opportunity to debut some talent from NXT.
Other matches include Brock Lesnar Vs. The Undertaker and the Diva Championship Invitational. Paul Heyman’s mic work in the Lesnar/Taker feud has been excellent but this is WrestleMania so we all know that the Undertaker is leaving with another notch on his streak. AJ Lee deserves to retain the title since no one else in that ring can touch her in terms of the character work that she has shown over the past year but don’t be surprised if any one of the Total Diva’s cast leaves with the belt.
So that is how WrestleMania is looking at the moment. Lots of potential to cement some new talent and continue the rise of a few others. Maybe CM Punk will return as well but don’t hold your breath. Find out the results for yourself by watching tonight at 7pm Eastern or 4am Pacific via the WWE Network or local Satellite and Cable providers.