WWE Championship match: The Rock vs. John Cena
After a year of hype, The People’s Champ rock bottomed The Leader Of The Cenation to win the main event of WrestleMania 28. This coming a year after he screwed the former 10-time WWE Champion out of winning back his title at WrestleMania 27 when Cena’s match with The Miz was restarted after originally ending on a double-countout.
Now comes what will likely be the big blow-off match between them at WrestleMania 29. At the Royal Rumble, The Rock defeated CM Punk for the WWE title while Cena won the 30-man Royal Rumble match guaranteeing him a shot at that very belt. After beating Punk in a sensational 30-minute match on Raw back in February, Cena retained his number one contender spot.
For some critics, this has been a disappointing longterm angle. (Too much silliness and not enough straightforward emphasis on these WrestleMania encounters.) For me, the year-long set-up was much more satisfying than their actual WM28 match which couldn’t have possibly lived up to all those high expectations anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed watching Rock vs. Cena I three times now but it was hardly worthy of a pay-per-view main event. (The Chris Jericho/Punk WWE title match before it should’ve been saved for the end. Their bout was superior. In fact, it was the best match of the night.)
After a year long build for WrestleMania 28, the hype for this rematch has been much more compressed and, it has to be said, very inconsistent. Last week’s concluding Raw segment with Rock & Cena taking questions from selected WWE Hall of Famers and an earlier verbal confrontation between the two babyfaces on Old School Raw were the only ones generating any kind of real heat. The rest of the time this hasn’t felt like a very important match. (The same highlight package summarizing their feud was shown two weeks in a row to cover for an absent Rock’s Hollywood commitments.)
Part of the problem is that dumb “Once In A Lifetime” tag for their WM28 bout which, of course, has turned out to be a big, fat lie. (Dwayne Johnson has recently said that this was always supposed to be a three-year program.) It’s clearly hurting the angle now which feels far less unique because of this return engagement. And even though the WWE title is on the line this time around, like The Miz two years ago it’s being overshadowed by Rock and Cena themselves who were considerably more intense with each other last year.
But in the end, this all might end up benefiting the match in the long run. Now that the two superstars are more intimately familiar with each other’s styles they can actually exceed much lower expectations this year and improve upon their good but not great work from 2012. Maybe for round two we won’t get a recycled finish from King Of The Ring 2000 and maybe we’ll see some exciting risks being taken in terms of in-ring storytelling as well as far fewer rest periods.
Nevertheless, does anybody really believe The Rock will keep his belt beyond Sunday? After another long battle, “underdog” Cena will get his redemption and become an 11-time WWE Champion.
Prediction: John Cena wins the WWE Championship by pinfall.
World Heavyweight Championship match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
From the beginning, this has been a one-sided program. After a brief absence, The All-American American returned earlier this year with a new manager, an outspoken xenophobe named Zeb Colter, and a new character. Now being pushed as a “Real American” (and no, not the Hulk Hogan kind), Swagger and Colter have been blaming the sad state of America on those pesky illegal immigrants (AKA the Mexicans) taking advantage of America’s spoils. They’ve been ranting and raving about them in a series of YouTube videos and TV promos.
It’s too bad the WWE has such a restrictive PG-rating now because these two could really go to town with this, pushing so many more buttons than they already have. That aside, this might be the first time that I’ve ever been invested in any shape or form in Swagger who ultimately struck me as better in the ring than on the mic. He’s greatly improved on the latter since he returned, thankfully. Colter rarely steps wrong himself.
After winning the Elimination Chamber number one contender’s match in February, Swagger set his sights on the World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. Formerly a stuck-up Mexican Aristocrat, now he’s a humble man of the people, a weird change of heart I’m not really buying even though I’m a fan of his in-ring work. Also not helping are his limp retorts to Swagger and Colter. While the villains are making compelling arguments for their thinly veiled racism, the best the champion can do is call Swagger “a jackass” and Colter “Jumanji guy” because of his attire. For all of his in-ring excellence, Del Rio really sucks as a talker. He could really get the audience behind him if he just lost the insults and made more persuasive counterarguments like a real babyface would in his situation. Honestly, where’s the passion here?
That being said, this feud has really heated up in the last few weeks mainly because of Swagger’s frequent attacks on Del Rio’s personal ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez. Having already broken his ankle with the Patriot Lock, he nevertheless continues to assault him any chance he gets. To be fair, while in the middle of a non-title match on Raw with U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro, Del Rio got a little revenge when he went to town on an interfering Swagger which caused him to get counted out. On the most recent Raw, however, Del Rio took quite the brutal beating from the heels when they took Rodriguez’ crutches and just pelted him with them over and over and over again. Great moment.
Despite Del Rio’s weaknesses on the microphone, this has the potential to be a very good title match on Sunday. Jim Ross is fond of saying that Swagger doesn’t know how strong he really is. Not only can he brawl as stiff as they come he can also thrive on the mat, as well, thanks to his collegiate background. Therefore, it would seem really counterproductive if, after all this effort to tweak his character and build him back up again, he doesn’t get his first World title push in three years.
Since Dolph Ziggler hasn’t yet cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase, there’s always a possibility his involvement could easily throw a wrench into this program. But I think his own push is still yet to come. Unless they do some kind of screw-job ending, which is always possible, we’re looking at a new World Heavyweight Champion.
Prediction: Jack Swagger wins the WHC by submission.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, April 3, 2013