Looking Ahead at the Road to WrestleMania
By Jimmy Dylan
Hello fans! For those that know me, welcome back to Bell To Bell! For those that don’t, I am a pro wrestling referee currently working on the Northeast United States independent scene in addition to being a contributing writer/columnist for a family of news and discussion sites based mainly in the Philadelphia area. I will offer coverage of mainstream and independent events, as well as various opinion pieces on hot topics or other fun ideas roaming through my head (i.e. “Fantasy Warfare”). Finally, should I be fortunate enough, I plan to deliver compelling interviews with personalities from all over the world of professional wrestling: past, present, and future. Stay tuned………..
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I wanted to bring Bell To Bell back with a bang and thought, what better way than to break down and analyze the first week on the Road to WrestleMania and speculate as we move forward. Everyone knows this is the biggest and hottest season of the year for WWE…or at least it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t matter what kind of fan you are. Longtime…rabid…casual…on again/off again….or maybe not a fan at all. Chances are your eyes will fall on WWE in some capacity during WrestleMania season…especially with outside celebrity involvement that tends to draw in “non-fans”. In this column I will break down what I believe to be some of the key points coming out of Royal Rumble week with opinions on my outlook on the Road to WrestleMania as we prepare for tonight’s Raw Live from Atlanta.
I think the Royal Rumble pay-per-view delivered in the sense that it provided a nice enough kickoff to the all-important Road to WrestleMania…..a pathway to the “Granddaddy of ’em All”! Was it perfect? C’mon now, we’re talking about pro wrestling here. Will anyone ever view an entire production as being “perfect”? I wouldn’t bet my house on it. Everyone has an opinion on how things go down and this year will be no different. Speculation of what will actually happen has always been one of the most entertaining aspects of being a fan IMO.
When it comes down to the main events at the Royal Rumble, the only one I saw as being predictable was the Last Man Standing Match for the World Championship. With knowledge of how high Vince McMahon is on Alberto Del Rio and the opportunity to cash in on his current rise to super-stardom, ADR was pretty much a shoe-in to retain, and that’s exactly what we saw. The other two had pretty big payoffs, and at the same time, seemed to all but lock up one side of the WrestleMania main event. Cena winning the 30-man Rumble and Rock dethroning CM Punk pointed to Rock/Cena II at #WM29…then everything changed at Raw Roulette.
News sites and dirtsheets buzzed throughout the night after the Rumble and all day leading into the following night’s Raw from Vegas. Rumors were swirling more than ever about early WrestleMania plans and possibilities. One interesting story revolved around The Rock’s next opponent, and ultimately who would challenge for the WWE Championship at ‘Mania. It seemed obvious with the Elimination Chamber right around the corner, but WWE threw a curve ball by breaking away from recent tradition for this year’s event. The reason allegedly being WWE wanting to protect The Rock from injury heading into the “Showcase of the Immortals” on April 7. So Rock will forgo the Chamber and honor CM Punk’s mandatory rematch instead. I for one, wanted to see The Rock in the Chamber, but fully understand WWE’s ruling. In effect, the decision created potential for a great new opportunity. CM Punk’s knee injury in December allowed for a brand new type of TLC Match to take place at the pay-per-view and history was made. Something similar can happen again if one of the mid-card titles are defended inside Satan’s Structure for the first time ever, or if The Shield is placed in some kind of 6-Man Tornado Tag against 3 of their enemies. The idea and opportunity is there. Now we wait to see what develops.
Two other hot topics were the returns of Chris Jericho and Goldust in the Royal Rumble match. I was extremely pleased with both of these surprises. I have always been a big fan of Jericho’s work and love when he’s around. Following the strong and cryptic “itBegins” roller coaster that lasted six weeks, I felt as though last year’s run had way more steam and could have played out better on TV. Mainly with a championship run, but the work Y2J put in was still great nonetheless. He created a new type of villain and further etched his name in history in the process. Not to mention “Lite-Brite” jackets! Now he’s back with an opportunity to settle the score with Dolph Ziggler and continue to elevate the ‘Show-Off’s” game. Hopefully he’ll see some gold this time around. In the same respect, fans of the Goldust Nation equally enjoyed his return. It also came out of the clear blue, and at a critical time in the Rumble match where everyone “got it”. Fans that follow @DUSTIN_RHODES1 know of his never-ending campaign to get WWE to sign a Goldust vs. Cody match (preferably at WrestleMania). So hearing “Shattered Dreams” hit the speakers when Cody Rhodes was in the ring sent an instant jolt throughout the WWE Universe, and they didn’t have to wait long as Goldust took it right to his brother. I have supported this angle because it possesses a great deal of potential to blur the lines of reality…which is one of the things that wrestling is all about. I will be writing an exclusive column on this subject very soon breaking down how I see a long-term program between these two playing out. The idea is gold, and the post-Rumble response has been tremendous. The fans have spoken. Now it’s on the brass at Titan Towers to answer the call and make it happen at WrestleMania 29.
I noticed a lot of people thumbing their noses at all of the rematches that seem to be coming our way. Besides Y2J/Ziggler and the possibility of Rock/Cena, the war between Triple H and Brock Lesnar was reignited last Monday when the “Beast” returned to save Paul Heyman from being fired. Of course we know the real reason behind the angle and I wish Vince a speedy recovery following his real life hip surgery, but let’s keep this in perspective. Lesnar’s action obviously calls for an immediate response from the “powers that be”, and that power is obviously HHH. I can’t speak for everyone, but I always look for WWE to come with some of their most unexpected programming during this cycle of the year, and like to keep my mind open to any and all possibilities. Again, that’s the fun in it. As unlikely as it is, a part of me wants to see Shane McMahon return first and attempt to do something about the F-5 on the boss. Its been Shane’s deal several times before, and no one would ever see that coming. I say this because we are still over two months away from WM29 and that’s a lot of ground to cover in storytelling. How much material is going to be generated week in and week out to effectively advance this saga with 60+ days left and counting? Brock’s light travel schedule has to be considered. I thought of Shane because it’s the time of year when surprise returns are common, and we know about his love for MMA. He’s taken on some of wrestling’s greatest athletes and shined in all of them. I believe he could do the same with Brock, and would actually like to see them work something leading into Elimination Chamber, and then have HHH come on strong for the big rematch. Didn’t HHH retire after SummerSlam? However, looking at it realistically, I guess we can look forward to HHH riding Brock and Heyman…trying to make life miserable for them over the next few weeks until things pick up after the Chamber ppv. No matter what happens, I think HHH/Brock needs to happen like Y2J/Ziggler is important. Both feuds can be finalized. Rock/Cena on the other hand…was supposed to be “Once in a Lifetime”.
On the SmackDown side of things, WWE has again stepped away from recent protocol and switched things up a bit. Instead of a World Championship match, the SmackDown Elimination Chamber will determine Alberto Del Rio’s #1 contender at WrestleMania. The Top 6 are on a mission to impress GM Booker T and Teddy Long for a spot in the Chamber, and it looks like we may already know who they will be. I like the concept. It’s been done before, but not in a while, and offers sort of a fresh feel in the chase for a spot on the biggest show of the year. The arrival of Bo Dallas may be overdue, but it’s still right on time if you ask me. He and Wade Barrett have a chance to ignite the mid card on Friday nights. The subtle story being told between Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara continued to be told last week, and a win over #TeamHellNo on SmackDown by all rights should result in a tag team title opportunity for the masked duo. Either of two outcomes of a title match could further the possibility of a Mysterio/Cara 1-on-1 clash at ‘Mania, which is reportedly the brainchild of Vince McMahon in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most masks worn in one place at one time. If Mysterio & Cara can beat the champs again and win the titles, they can then have a run to set up the eventual split when they lose the titles. Or they could just lose the proposed title match with Kane & D-Bry and split right there or soon after out of frustration over not winning the belts. Obviously, Sin Cara would be viewed as the villain and the feud…should both Superstars be able to remain healthy…could be one of the best we’ve seen in years.
Tonight’s Raw looks to be loaded from a storyline point of view. How will Mr. McMahon respond to Brock’s attack? Is Paul Heyman on borrowed time and will CM Punk remained alligned with him? What will The Shield do next? Who is next in Brock Lesnar’s sights? Those are the main headlines coming out of WWE today and they all could lead to very compelling stories tonight. I’d like to see if Heyman will bring all of his charges together and form a new faction. Stories that cross the line of professionalism and become “personal” have often made for great angles, and with so much time left, I’m intrigued to see how deep it gets between Brock, Heyman, and the McMahon family. Some involvement by Stephanie McMahon could definitely serve well. What will Y2J have in store? How about the WWE Champion? Reports are out that The Rock isn’t advertised for tonight’s Raw, but can that be? In only his second week as Champion? We’ll have to tune in to see like everyone else I guess. Thanks for reading folks! See ya next time!!!!
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