Much has been made about the possibility of WWE following the Rock-Cena blueprint and establishing the WrestleMania XXIX main event up to a year in advance — you know, sometime between now and the end of Monday’s Raw. With Twitter being what it is, plus the excitement of former WWE stars arriving in Miami to be a part of WrestleMania weekend, there’s rampant speculation about which stars could be named within the next three days to headline the most risky WrestleMania in recent memory.
One popular option is a CM Punk-Steve Austin showdown, which could follow essentially the same blueprint as Rock-Cena, in terms of one half the match being a regularly active superstar and one a retired legend who would only make scattered appearances throughout the year with little actual wrestling.
Another possibility is Cena-Undertaker, something that would only make sense if Undertaker extends his streak Sunday. However, this is a lot less similar to Rock-Cena than it might appear on the surface. Rock has been on WWE TV far more than Undertaker this year — and actually wrestled a pay-per-view match. I’m not sure I object to Undertaker only showing up once a year to fight at WrestleMania, though it would be harder to suspend disbelief about the sanctity of his streak with each passing year. As much as I love the guy, I’m hoping for a win Sunday to run the record to 20-0, a retirement ceremony and a Hall of Fame induction in 2013.
Yet another option is doing something with a returning megastar, with the hot name du jour being Brock Lesnar. (Yes, Batista is confirmed to be in Miami. But why should we think that’s for anything other than to hang with Ric Flair during his second Hall of Fame induction? Also, if you think Batista is anywhere near the star Brock Lesnar is — think big picture here — then take off your Titan Tower blinders.)
If Lesnar comes back, it would seemingly be to rejoin the active roster, which makes setting a match a year in advance much more complicated — unless of course Brock takes over the Cena role in the Cena-Rock feud. I’m pretty sure Brock vs. Rock at MetLife Stadium is exactly the kind of showdown Vince McMahon could use to print money.
Failing that, what’s to stop Lesnar from pulling a Jericho — coming back at the turn of the year to get involved with the Rumble and the Road to WrestleMania? Jericho, with no clear end date on his current run (unlike Rock, whom we know will be back to Hollywood by mid-April, and we’re OK with that) is free to perform at the top of his game as he pleases. Of course, he’s earned that right far more than Lesnar, from a WWE standpoint. And Lesnar has the kind of transcendent star power befitting a year-long build.
What if, as Geno Mrosko speculated on Cageside Seats, WWE writers are able to put together a card with Rock, Austin, Lesnar, Cena and Punk, not to mention working in Triple H, Undertaker and perhaps Shawn Michaels? Doesn’t leave a lot of room for Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and the like, although there will be World and WWE title matches on the WrestleMania card regardless of legend involvement.
While some have said they prefer the main event to be reserved for two guys who deliver in the ring every week, it’s starting to feel like WrestleMania is simply moving in a different direction. Frankly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.
WrestleMania XXVII is more or less utterly forgettable. As much as I love The Miz, his main event title match with Cena seems barely worth of a SummerSlam, let alone WrestleMania. It’s the kind of match you expect to see at Backlash or Vengeance. It’s not Miz’s fault (and the fact he pinned Cena at Mania will serve his career well, from a storytelling standpoint, for the foreseeable future). Even those who said CM Punk was rushed back this summer can’t say they’d prefer Punk-Cena this Sunday when we’re on the brink at the alternative.
Simply put, WrestleMania needs to stand apart from the rest of the WWE calendar. While a lot of that is structure — giant stadium, a four-hour show, Axxess and the Hall of Fame ceremony — we need only to look one year in the past to see what happens when a show is layered with decent matches with passable talent yet devoid of anything other than one seemingly epic encounter. The stage is so much grander than every other WWE event of the year, it simply cries out for star power.
While WrestleMania events in the past have been fairly derided for relying too heavily on celebrity, the good news is with Rock-Cena that WWE has stumbled upon (or carefully devised) a new plan: the celebrity main eventer who is actually a wrestler. Rock is the prototype. Lesnar, with all his mixed-martial arts success, is a workable facsimile. There may not be another clear-cut option as of yet, but if the WWE can find a hook for WrestleMania XXIX a year out, it can somewhat rely on WrestleMania XXX being a must-see event based largely on nostalgia.
Projecting as far out as WrestleMania XXXI in 2015, who’s to say what stars might be possible headliners. That’s far enough in the future that John Cena could have been gone long enough to “come back” for a main event showdown with some current talent who has made the A list by then.
Regardless of the major players, count me firmly in favor of having WrestleMania be the one show each year where a major match is established far in advance. Such a convention will continue to set the event apart and give the active roster all that much more reason to fight like hell for a place on the show. I want guys like Bryan, Ziggler, Miz and so on to make “the leap” as much as anyone. But they have a long, long way to go to be transcendent stars on the order of Austin, Rock, Lesnar, et al. But rather than complain about legends taking the spotlight, we should be happy those legends are willing to come back around and put on another show — hoping that some of their time back in the fold is spent showing the stars of tomorrow the path to glory.