The road to Wrestlemania has begun. The most exciting time to be a fan of the WWE is finally underway. This is the time when wrestlers become superstars and superstars become legends. The best storylines, the most hype, the best matches, the most excitement… so why doesn’t it feel that way? Why does it feel like this particular road to Wrestlemania is littered with potholes and speed bumps?
The Royal Rumble is a key in the road to Wrestlemania. It is the first spark that begins burning down the fuse to an explosive, exciting and WWE Universe altering experience on the grandest stage of them all. This year, however, the Royal Rumble was more, or less, a Royal Fumble. It was a sub-par pay-per-view with a few highlights, but overall nothing worth writing home about. The entire show didn’t seem to kick into any sort of higher gear until the last few moments of the Rumble match itself when Jericho went head to head with Sheamus.
The opening match for the World Heavyweight Title was nine minutes of little activity. Understandably, Mark Henry was injured and incapable of doing much. Big Show isn’t known for his ability to create movement. Daniel Bryan is a spectacular athlete and fantastic wrestler being thrown into a match with two people who are not, on most days, capable of performing the same style that is conducive to an excellent performance with Bryan.
The next match was an eight Diva tag match which was treated with the same respect, dignity and appreciation by WWE management as a dead raccoon in the middle of the road. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to comprehend the logic (or lack thereof) which goes into the planning of this division. If any planning goes in at all, that is. It seems more likely that Vince McMahon throws darts at a copy of WWE magazine and whatever divas he hits get to wrestle in a five minute match. Unless, of course, we’re talking television in which they get half of that time.
Cena and Kane have an interesting storyline going, but no one believes this is going anywhere other than giving Cena a top tier storyline while they wait for the Rock to be around more often. I love Kane, I always have, but I could care less about this right now. I’d rather see Kane working with someone who has a capacity for selling and a capability to make what is happening seem important. Between Cena’s lack of selling and his half-hearted, half-comedy, all-bullshit faces that he makes, I can hardly keep my eyes focused on the screen. How am I supposed to take this guy seriously when it appears quite obvious he is phoning it in and doesn’t take himself seriously?
Oh, and I’m supposed to care that he’s facing the Rock at Wrestlemania? I care, in the sense that I want to see the Rock again. I’d be just as hyped if the Rock was coming back to wrestle Zack Ryder. The only thing about Cena that keeps me interested in this match is hoping to see the Rock beat the ever-loving hell out of him. Please, please, Dwayne, throw a few potatoes.
Brodus Clay went up against Drew McIntyre. Wow. Enough said.
Finally, we got to see CM Punk defending the WWE Title against Dolph Ziggler with Johnny Ace as a special outsider referee. What a cluster this match was. First of all, I think Punk is an amazing talent and Ziggler is really on the rise. That being said, this match was incredibly below the standard that should, and is, expected of two athletes of this caliber. It is hard to tell if this match was a victim of Punk and Ziggler or of the horrendous angle which was involved with it. Following this match, Ziggler hasn’t continued getting his push so it raises a few eyebrows. Out of a possible five star rating, I gave this match a solid 2.5 Not good enough, and it really should be much better.
Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the Royal Rumble match itself. Royal may be an overstatement. This was more of a mid-card, nostalgia Rumble from numbers 1-20. It was filler, it was half-assed and it was reminiscent of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first Rumble victory in 97 when half of the entrants were borrowed talent from Mexico. This speaks volumes, not only about WWE’s lack of roster depth, but of their failure to build new stars. What the hell is happening here? No wonder they went down from 40 to 30. They couldn’t find enough worthwhile names to fill the roster.
Everyone and their mother believed Chris Jericho was winning the Rumble. Aside from his statement on Raw when he said that, at the Rumble, “The world as you know it is coming to an end.” They seem to have forgotten that when they gave Sheamus the nod. Rumor has it that the outcome was changed shortly before the PPV which, if true, is eerily similar to previous short term decisions made by McMahon and his team based less upon what is best for the company and more upon swerving the so-called “smart marks” and “internet fans.” Seriously?
I like Sheamus, but they really left Jericho dangling out there. He had to come out on Raw the next night and basically explain what his comments had meant. The angle between he and Punk could certainly be a hot one, and I am hoping it is, but right now my confidence in WWE’s ability to build is severely shaken. I have confidence in Punk and Jericho, I have little confidence in the creative team behind them.
So the Royal Rumble has passed, but we’re coming out of the gate with more of a limp than a quick stride on this road to Wrestlemania. There is still time to correct it, there is still time to build this into something remarkable. Don’t ever count them out when you’re approaching Wrestlemania, but right now, I want to see a lot less hype and a lot more substance before I’m willing to commit to believing in this being the biggest Wrestlemania ever.