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Friday, March 21, 2014

The Road to Wrestlemania 30

Wrestlemania 30 is in a few short weeks and I want to do a top-to-bottom overview of everything that’s going on in WWE heading into the biggest event in company history. Decades of history have led to this event and the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania and its shaping up to be one of the most memorable events in years.

The first big Wrestlemania 30 announcement is that Hulk Hogan has returned to the WWE to host the show. Since I heard this announcement, I’ve been hoping the Hulkster stays in this capacity as a host/personality and doesn’t get involved in any feuds or matches and so far, that seems to be happening. Hulk’s only shown up on a few episodes of Raw so far and pretty much has only done two things – shill the WWE Network and announce the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
In an effort to try and get every talent on the roster onto Wrestlemania 30 (which will be 4 HOURS LONG), the WWE decided to create the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. So far, several midcard wrestlers have been added to the match – guys like Ryback, Ziggler, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston and Damien Sandow. It isn’t much but at least it will let guys with little to no direction have a spot on the biggest show of the year.

WWE has been doing a pretty good job promoting it too, as several Superstars have made it known that they want to win the Memorial Battle Royal and take home the trophy. WWE has mentioned that whoever wins will carry the trophy around all year (ala Owen Hart and his Slammys or the Young Lion’s Cup in Chikara) though I honestly don’t see the trophy surviving very long after the match ends (ala Kyle O’Reilly’s 2013 Battle of Los Angeles trophy). It’s hard to pick the winner of this match, since it could be either used as filler for WM or used to launch a midcarder into the next level. I’m looking for someone like Cesaro or Dolph Ziggler to win the Memorial Battle Royal and get on the main event scene.

And for anyone wondering, the difference between the Royal Rumble and a Battle Royal is pretty simple. In the Royal Rumble, two wrestlers start the match in the ring, with new competitors joining the fray every few minutes. In a battle royal, all the competitors start in the ring, rather than joining as the match continues. The last man in the ring in either contest is the winner.

WWE World Heavyweight championship
Randy Orton (c) vs Batista vs winner of Daniel Bryan/Triple H
Batista’s return to the WWE can’t be going as smoothly as he expected. When The Rock showed up last year, won the title and took it to Wrestlemania, people seemed mostly OK with the angle. This year, people just do not seem to be buying Batista’s Rumble win and what seems like a push toward winning the title at Wrestlemania. Because of this, Batista has been acting more and more heelish in recent weeks, calling out the fans and getting into the faces of Randy Orton and Triple H alike.

Two weeks ago on Raw, Daniel Bryan’s “Occupy Raw” movement held the show hostage until Triple granted Bryan a match at Wrestlemania. But not just a match – Bryan wanted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match if he could defeat the COO. Eventually, Trips relented, much to the dismay of his wife, Stephanie McMahon, and granted Bryan his demands. But this past week, Triple H and the Authority got a measure of revenge on Bryan for his Occupy Raw stunt. Not only did the COO give Daniel Bryan a hellacious beatdown on Raw, he also added a stipulation to their ‘Mania match – if Triple H beats Bryan, he gets a spot in the title match. Which, come on, I’m pretty sure we all saw coming.

Obviously I want D-Bry to win but that looks like a long-shot right now. And even though Orton is the champ, he’s pretty much taken a backseat to this whole Bootista/Triple H/Daniel Bryan debacle. Which is too bad because the more heelish Orton became, the better he’s been but it just seems his role is to merely carry the belts until Triple H or Batista win at Wrestlemania 30. Hey, I don’t like that prospect any more than you do – but Trips or Dave winning the belt is almost an inevitability.

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
The Beast vs The Streak
“The Phenom” is nearing the end of his career but still has enough left in the tank to defend his streak of Wrestlemania victories at WM 30. The Undertaker will need every bit of the power that’s propelled him to a 21-0 record at WWE’s biggest annual show when he takes on “The Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30.

Brock Lesnar has been destroying every opponent that’s stepped up to him during his current WWE run. He’s dominated Superstars and viciously beat down the Big Show at the Royal Rumble before turning his sights on Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak. Former Paul Heyman guy CM Punk tried to beat the streak last year and got close but could not overcome the power of The Dead Man.

This is going to be an interesting match. Brock and ‘Taker have faced off before, during Lesnar’s initial run in the WWE, but several years have passed since the two met inside the squared circle. The years have worn down the Undertaker while Brock has overcome incredible odds to continue competing at the level of a UFC athlete and WWE wrestler – will Undertaker have enough left to beat Brock? To even survive “The Beast?” It’s going to be a brutal contest no doubt, but I don’t see Undertaker’s streak of Wrestlemania victories ever being broken – and this year will be no different.

Bray Wyatt vs John Cena 
Cena’s legacy on the line
As soon as Bray Wyatt and his Family – Luke Harper and Erik Rowan – arrived on the scene in WWE, they have been decimating the roster of Superstars like few before them. Bray himself speaks in riddles and it’s often difficult to discern exactly what he means but his work in the ring leaves little uncertainties – he’s calculating and brutal with little remorse for his foes.

Since their appearance on the main roster, Bray and company has been telling the WWE Universe that they would destroy their heroes, that they are all false and so far, he has been doing a surprisingly effective job at dominating every obstacle in his path.

His opponent at Wrestlemania 30 isn’t just any Superstar though – John Cena is THE guy in WWE today. And as much as some on the internet groan at this fact, Cena is our modern-day Hulk Hogan and routinely rises above and conquers any challenge in front of him. But he’s never faced anyone quite like Bray Wyatt before, someone who is determined, someone who fights for a cause larger than himself and someone who can back up his words with action.

I’m not entirely sure how Cena’s “legacy” is going to be on the line in this match, considering a legacy is really just an abstract collection of accomplishments and feats, if Cena loses to Bray it’s not like it takes away his multiple World title runs or that people will stop buying Cena merch. Though Cena will battle valiantly at Wrestlemania 30, I don’t see him being able to overcome the Family, as Harper and Rowan will almost certainly be a factor in the showdown.

Besides Triple H vs Daniel Bryan, which I touched on earlier, these are the only announced matches for Wrestlemania 30 so far, but there are plenty of other storylines set up right now that I think WWE will want to expound on at the event.

Tag team titles
Now that the Usos are tag team champions, the tag division seems to be opening up a little bit. The Rhodes Brothers are still in contention, especially after defeating the Real Americans, who themselves defeated the Usos. A triple threat tag team title match between the Usos, Rhodes Brothers and Real Americans would be incredibly exciting. I don’t see the Usos dropping the tag belts any time soon, though, as I think they’ll be holding onto them until the Wyatt Family sets their sights on the gold.

Real American tension
However, tensions have been rising between Cesaro and Jack Swagger of the Real Americans in recent weeks. The two have been butting heads, disrespecting each other and getting the other disqualified (notably in matches against Intercontinental champion Big E) and it seems like the tag team is coming apart at the seams. It looks like Zeb is holding the team together for now but I wouldn’t be surprised if the bad blood between Cesaro and Swagger boils over before Wrestlemania 30. And if not before WM, I definitely see these two at odds in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Diva’s title
Though there hasn’t been any real build up toward a Diva’s championship match at Wrestlemania (is there ever, really?), I would be really surprised if AJ didn’t defend her title at Wrestlemania 30. Nikki Bella has been picking up victories lately and Natalya is always a contender for the title, but with a rift forming between AJ and Tamina, AJ’s enforcer could easily find herself in the title hunt.

But this is all irrelevant, because AJ is never losing the Divas Championship. Never.

The Shield breaking is up/turning/stronger than ever
Seriously, what is going on with The Shield? They’re still incredibly popular and Dean Ambrose is still the United States champion but they are kinda directionless right now. They’ve been clashing with Kane lately but not much has come of it. There was a strange moment on Raw when Kane told the Shield to attack Jerry Lawler, claiming he was responsible for allowing the Yes Movement to “Occupy Raw” but the Shield attacked Kane instead.

I can’t believe that Kane will just let their insubordination go unpunished. If The Authority had other lackeys besides Kane, I could see them doing Kane with partners vs the Shield at Wrestlemania 30 – but the Shield were the Authority’s enforcers. Without them, who does Kane have to call on for back up? There’s no Bossman or Ken Shamrock for Kane to throw at the Shield, which is why I think this angle will take a different direction.

Rather than Kane face any of the Shield at Wrestlemania, I think that Kane will force Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose into a United States title match. Right now, the trio is trying to get back on the same page and what better way to drive a wedge between them than to have them feud over the US title? Plus, having Rollins and Reigns challenge for the belt also means we’ll finally see a clean(ish) finish to a US title match, seeing as how they would usually get involved during Ambrose’s defenses.

There are other angles going into Wrestlemania 30 but we’ll have to see if anything actually comes from them. Here are the stories I can see being resolved/continued at WM30.

-Xavier Woods and Alexander Rusev have something of a feud going in NXT that I could see being brought to the main roster at or by WM. Woods’ feud with Brodus Clay fizzled big time and putting Woods against another monster heel would be a great way to make him a sympathetic face.

-Christian and Sheamus have been feuding lately and now Titus O’Neil seems to be involved as well. Christian is currently heeling it up but hasn’t been on the winning end of too many of their encounters. I could see WWE replacing Christian with Titus in a feud with Sheamus too but it’s hard to say just what, if anything, will come of their beefs.

-For a few weeks, the Miz would come out during a match, get on commentary briefly and belittle the match taking place, essentially saying that, “They put this on the show but not The Miz?!” It actually seemed like it might be the start of something, but Miz has been absent from WWE TV for a while now. The Miz actually has the second longest Wrestlemania victory streak behind Undertaker (4-0), even though WWE didn’t acknowledge this fact during Heyman’s video package about other Wrestlemania streaks. Considering he hasn’t been on TV in weeks, it’s hard to say if anything will come of this.

-Recent NXT call-up Emma has teamed up with Santino Marella to form a hilariously awkward partnership and it seemed that they might be starting a feud with Fandango and Summer Rae. Now, unfortunately, that all seems to have been dropped since Summer joined the cast of Total Divas. A Santino/Emma vs Fandango/Summer feud would be great to get both Emma and Summer Rae off the ground in WWE, but now they both seem to be in the background again.

-But thankfully, mercifully, The Great Khali is nowhere to be seen.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Best of the Tubes – Chuck Taylor Edition

Chuck Taylor, or Sexy Chuckie T as he’s known to smarks, is my favorite wrestler on the indys right now. Not “one of,” not “might very well be” – no, he’s easily my favorite. His ability to blend comedy into his work is rivaled only by Colt Cabana he’s easily one of the best talkers in the business and isn’t afraid to tell the crowd exactly how to cheer for him:

But being hilarious on the mic isn’t where his talents end. Chuckie T is also very adept at making kids cry.

Chuck Taylor almost always plays the part of the heel and he does it so well because he’s a pretty intelligent guy – well-spoken in interviews about the industry and even has a college degree, which isn’t something a lot of indy wrestlers can boast.  I found this short interview with Chuck Taylor, which I’m posting below, and it’s great because you get to listen to a guy who clearly has a huge love for the business. He talks about everything he’s sacrificed for wrestling and about what makes professional wrestling as interesting and fun as it is.

But what would a “Best of the Tubes” be without some in-ring action? I say “in-ring action” instead of wrestling because the following videos are mainly comedic with just a hint of wrestling thrown in there. But these vids show just how well Taylor can blend humor into his wrestling to really draw the crowd into his matches and create a unique experience that not many other wrestlers can deliver.

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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