Then, the day after the Royal Rumble, CM Punk walked out. It's still unknown whether he'll return or not.
Traditionally, the Elimination Chamber PPV that precedes WrestleMania is supposed to have an 'anything can happen' aura, being the final major stop before WWE reveal their hand for the 'Grand Daddy of 'Em All'. This Sunday's event certainly has that unpredictable air, but is it because anything can happen or is it because even WWE don't know what their Plan A is? The combination of Punk's walkout and the WWE Universe's unanimous farting at the prospect of Batista being in the WrestleMania main event seems to have left the company in a state of flux at their most pivotal of hours. The Network launches on Monday. As discussed in this very column last month, there is simply no room for getting it wrong. And yet that's exactly how it all appears to be going.
Can they stop the rot on a card featuring Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Ireland's own returning Sheamus, an on-fire Cesaro and an apparently still-on-the-roster Christian all challenging Randy Orton for the WWE World Title in the Chamber? With so many issues up in the air, we put out a call on the WWE Parties Ireland Facebook page for fans to have their say on all the latest goings on. Here are your Pre-Mania Pipe Bombs...
Someone needs to explain to the fans how they can download the WWE App!
- Jamie Flanagan
It would be great if (Vince McMahon) took over Newcastle: there could be a PPV in St James' Park, which would benefit us over here as it would be easier to get to and cost less to travel. And if a decision ever goes against Newcastle he could just send out Roman Reigns to spear the ref.
- Aaron Doyle
I don't buy the Vince/Newcastle rumours for a second. As accurately reported on Monday by Balls.ie's own Mark Farrelly, the source is dubious and these rumours have been flying around since 2011. He's got more than enough on his plate right now trying to re-revolutionise the entire industry with the WWE Network launch and negotiating the biggest TV rights deal in WWE history, without venturing back into sports where the spectre of the dreaded XFL still looms.
It's slightly plausible that, as speculated in the Wrestling Observer, Shane McMahon may be the interested party. In which case, Newcastle fans will either rejoice in a chorus of 'Here Comes The Money' or rue the day Shane O Mac put himself in attack (he'd track back though, to be fair, Shane is some man for going coast to coast...okay I'll stop now). But I wouldn't hold your breath on this story. It's probably a satirical pisstake that wasn't funny enough for everyone to realise was a joke. Or it's a damning indictment of how insane people think those currently running Newcastle are. Anything is believable once you've hired Joe Kinnear twice, I suppose.
Orton vs Batista could be good, providing they build a bit of a story to it. Other than that, WrestleMania will be a non-event I'd say. The fans won't get Punk vs Bryan for the title so they'll moan about that regardless. Punk will probably face HHH because he'll be back when he realises it's the biggest payday of the year. If Roman Reigns faces Taker all faith in WWE "creative" will be gone because that's just ri.dic.u.lous!!
- Raymond Tuite
Can it be good? Can it really? Or did you just wake up in a glass half full kinda mood when you wrote this? Look Raymond, I genuinely admire your optimism, and wish I shared it, but conventional wisdom points to a story based around a stable we kinda forgot existed until last year at SummerSlam, followed by a dull main event match featuring a lot of chinlocks (add five more for when Batista blows up and Randy has to improvise; Randy Orton + the need to improvise = ALWAYS a fucking chinlock), two near falls nobody buys after RKOs and a Batista Bomb as the entire crowd chants for Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, JBL and sings Fandango's theme for the entire duration.
And speaking of Roman Reigns...
I've seen there's been talks of Reigns and HHH for Mania. It isn't Reigns' time for that also how would they even go about that when there's already a story with Bryan and the Yes Movement?
I think a Shield triple-threat for the US title would be savage. Reigns to win, Rollins is grand with it and Ambrose just goes psycho! Something is clearly gonna happen to The Shield at Elimination Chamber so it would be perfect!
- Jade Swiss Roll Costello
Jade, it would make me so happy if you were christened with the middle name Swiss and took Roll as your confirmation name.
While it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, especially in the panic that ensued after CM Punk's departure, if the words Triple H vs Roman Reigns ended up on some official-ish WWE chalkboard as a potential WrestleMania plan, I share your doubts. Reigns is on course to pretty much fight everyone notable at some stage on current form - he's the kind of hot prospect blue chipper that makes all the old-timers want to come out of retirement to put over - but yeah, I don't see this happening at Mania.
I'm still a fan of the Roman Reigns vs Undertaker match that I predicted back in December (just ignore all of the predictions I got horribly wrong if you click that link, like thinking that CM Punk would have a match for one: I shoulda seen it coming when I couldn't even think of a bad match for him to wrestle in place of my dream scenario, really). WWE can play dumb on the whole Shield tension malarchy for a month and have them team up once more, with the returning Undertaker as a common enemy. The match itself would be incredibly fun, with the element of 'Will Taker go out putting a new star over?' looming over it, Ambrose and Rollins' constant interference leading to a buncha near falls, a referee yelling "GEEEEETTT OUUTTTAAA HEEERE!" in that fun way they never seem to do anymore (this was my absolute favourite bit to do when I used to referee by a mile), Taker winning and then The Shield turning on Reigns, ala the nWo and Hogan at WrestleMania 18. We can then look at the triple-threat option to give Extreme Rules a bit of spice.
If they absolutely must, that is. I still don't know why WWE can't just let stables be stables without having to split them up. Tag-teams are understandable, it's not human for one guy to put his career on hold so the other can succeed. There's a natural end point there. But why, in this case, wouldn't all three members stick together for the long haul and try succeed individually on three fronts? You could have occasional tension and fracas over time, but The Four Horsemen or DX never really needed a dramatic split. They'd do their own thing when it worked and get back together when people were hungry for it. WWE have struck gold with this trio and it feels like the entire deal is about to be imploded unnecessarily. Here's hoping that common sense may yet prevail, but I'm not optimistic...
My main issue with WWE at the moment is their fear to trust the newer guys to draw. It's similar to the way WCW ran business at the back end of the Monday Night Wars.
If you look back to King of the Ring 1996, that's when Stone Cold really picked up momentum with his famous "Austin 3:16" speech. 7 months later at Royal Rumble 1997, they gave him the win to propel him to super-stardom. As much as people loved Michaels, 'Taker and Hart, it was time to give them someone new to work with. And WWE let the fans decide that Austin was the one to put up there with them.
It could be argued that Bryan's "Yes" chant has been over far longer than Austin's 3:16 was when he was given the opportunity to main event Wrestlemania. But in the past few years, and this year is no exception, WWE has a tendency to bring in an influx of legends and part-timers to fill its Wrestlemania card. Stars like Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, The Rock and, most recently, Batista, arrive to fill slots that should be great opportunities to allow new talent to announce themselves to the world on "the grandest stage of them all".
WCW lost many great talents like Jericho, Guerrero and Mysterio (at the time, yes he was good) because they became frustrated that Hogan, Steiner, Nash et. al would never put them over...and in this current WWE climate, as we've already seen with CM Punk, some of our favourite stars could start to walk.
- Domhnall Marnell
That's a very interesting comparison, I hadn't thought about it that way. The problem is, though, where do guys walk to these days? If WWE today is like WCW in 2000 - too worried about popping a decent Monday rating to take a risk and give a new guy a shot - then their biggest competition in TNA is like WCW in 2001...on life support.
The double-edged sword of there being no legitimate competition is that there's no incentive for WWE to take a risk and have guys who catch fire immediately propelled to the main event. When Austin won the belt for the first time, who else did they have to put the company behind that was more established? Bret was gone, Shawn was retiring, Rock wasn't there yet, Triple H had his push sidelined, Undertaker has always been more of a special attraction than the guy.They were forced to take a risk and it paid off. Now they have the benefit (in their eyes at least) of having a wealth of more established draws to call upon without having to rely on a Daniel Bryan or CM Punk.
I remember, back in my days on the indie circuit, we had a seminar with Raven. In it, he had some sobering observations for young wrestlers, from a guy who'd been there and done that. He spoke of the crushing disappointment of reaching his dream job then things just not working out as he'd foreseen. It was powerful back then and is still something I can relate to quite strongly these days. He spoke of having to temper your expectations and just view it as a job, a means to an end, taking the occasional pleasure in getting the odd inspired programme, but otherwise just collecting cheques. And the reality is that, without any legitimate alternative, I feel most other talent will feel that way right now.
The wheel will keep on turning, even without major cogs like Punk. We'll adjust, as fans and consumers. If WrestleMania 30 serves us up Randy Orton vs Batista and Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus, we'll have a grumble but still watch and enjoy it for what it's worth. Because what else can we do with the next best thing being somehow even more infuriating? If we're still watching WWE after the age of 15, we're not stopping anytime soon. And if there's nowhere else to go for frustrated wrestlers and nothing else to watch for committed fans, there's no particular way of effecting change without feeding the machine by paying for a ticket and having your voice heard. And, even then, they've already got your money.
The more I think about Punk going home, the more I think he's wrong to do it in the run up to Mania. No one wrestler has a divine right to headline Mania in my opinion and if it was a choice between himself and Bryan for the spot, then I would pick Bryan based on his performances OVER THE LAST 12 MONTHS. Triple H is not a match for any wrestler to sniff at in my opinion and we never got a finish at Night of Champs '11 when they faced off, so this match made sense from that point of view. I think Punk will eventually come back but I do see his stock diminishing amongst some in the WWE because of his actions!
- Jason O'Connor
I'm still clinging onto the hope that the entire CM Punk scenario becomes a work when he listens to The Steve Austin Show and realises that breaching his contract cuts off all future royalty payments for his previous work.
That, to me, was the moment I went from thinking Punk was a principled man worthy of our undying respect, to being a bit of a moany idiot. I mean fake an injury FFS, pull a sickie, go off-script and cut another shoot promo on live TV, but for god's sake why do yourself out of money you've already worked for? So here's hoping that, in the next few weeks, Triple H takes a leaf out of Shawn Michaels' book and trolls the live audience with Punk's music on Raw, kick-starting would could yet still be a money WrestleMania match.
Dolph Ziggler is the most misused superstar in the WWE. He is nearly a jobber these days and may have had two World Title reigns, but one was only fifteen minutes long and the other was ruined by a concussion. He deserves another go at the main event, he is one of the best wrestlers on the roster and his push stopped because he voiced his opinion. More superstars should be like that. A superstar like him deserves more of a chance. Current main event stars should take a step back for these stars. If you look at the last PPV John Cena was part of and wasn't involved in a World Title match, it was Elimination Chamber LAST YEAR!!! That shows WWE doesn't care if people like Ziggler or Sandow or Cody Rhodes become World Champ.
- Aaron Doyle
Look, I don't disagree that it's massively frustrating to let Ziggler languish in the midcard, knowing he's capable of so much more. Having said that, though, maybe he's a victim of WWE's policy of getting guys young and training them up 'American Style' in the mould that they like their guys, with Sandow and Cody also following this line.
Bare with me for a second: my main issue with these guys is that they lack that 'bite' of, say, a Chris Jericho, who could do it in the ring and on the mic. Sandow has the mic skills, but I've yet to see him work a classic singles match. Ziggler bumps like a freak but comes off vanilla on the microphone. And this is the first time in his career I've come to see what others see in Cody, his teaming with Goldust bringing out the classic, sympathetic, 80's-style babyface in him.
This is all what a casual fan sees when they look at these guys: "Oh, so these are the new guys huh? Hey remember Big Bossman with the night stick or Gangrel coming out through the fire?" As much as you or I may recognise how hard these guys work, what can people immediately latch onto about them? At best, Cody had a moustache a while ago. And that's pretty lightweight. Eventually they have to take some kind of responsibility for this too, WWE are still the type of company who will let guys run with things that get them over. Look at how much chanting "YES!" did for Daniel Bryan or simply adding a giant swing to his repertoire has done for Cesaro.
What we're left with is a developmental system that takes raw talent off the indie scene early, instead of letting them find their skillset then merely honing it into a winning formula in the big leagues. And who are the few stars breaking through? The indie guys like Punk, Bryan, Ambrose and Cesaro. The likes of Sandow, Rhodes and Ziggler have never even been a big fish in a small pond. Perhaps that lack of a struggle (in comparison with their indie counterparts, that is, WWE developmental is by no means a cake walk) in their upbringing in pro-wrestling has led to them being happy to do what they're told and never really looking to stick their head above the sand.
Daniel Bryan is nothing but a stupid chant that is every bit annoying as "What?". Without it he would have probably been let go by now or be another Zack Ryder. People give Cena stick for the 5 moves of doom yet Bryan is basically Hogan Jnr with his stupid "Hulking Up" and pathetic submissions and knee. He's no good on the mic and he looks like Keanu Reeves' ugly loser cousin who lives in an alley.
There. Bet you don't go with that one.
- Gareth Soye
Hold your pitchforks, guys. Let's see if there's any substance to this...
"YES" is as annoying as "What?": comparing a guy you dislike to the most successful and popular WWE star of all-time (and a chant in his honour that endured for over a decade) is always a great way to prove your point...
Without the "YES" chants Daniel Bryan would have probably been another Zack Ryder: not completely untrue. But he did come up with the "YES" chant himself and made it work. So it's kinda like saying Shawn Michaels could have been just another Steve Blackman if not for all of that charisma and era-defining ability (not to mention one helluva theme song).
Bryan is basically Hogan Jr: comparing a guy you dislike to the biggest WWE draw of all-time is always a great way to prove your point...
He's no good on the mic: This is another reasonable point. I'm sure Bryan would agree with you himself that promos aren't a strongpoint. But he seems to be getting by for now. I mean, if you're getting crowd pops where you want pops, it's working right? I could do with less of him blowing his own trumpet, though. It's not likeable having him come out saying, "These people paid to see me in every main event!", even if it is true. But that's more down to WWE scriptwriting than anything else.
He looks like Keanu Reeves' ugly cousin: HEY! Now THIS is where I draw the line, my friend! What, in the HELL, did Walter Reeves (THE Georgia Gardener) ever do to deserve such blatant disrespect and, dare I say, slander! How very dare you sir!
The truth is that there is an element of bandwagoning to Daniel Bryan's popularity, though. If I was looking for a counter-counter-culture opinion to stir the pot against Bryan fans, that's the route I'd have gone with personally. He's become the poster boy for fans' discontent with the status quo, an interesting case study as WWE makes up its mind whether its traditional views of a main eventer are relevant or just the precise characteristics of a 21st century heel.
Had he not been beaten by Sheamus in 18 seconds, had he been treated favourably as a credible World Champion and allowed to wrestle constant, lengthy, upper-midcard matches on PPVs before the 'YES Movement' angle began, would there be this same clamour for his talents in each main event? I doubt it. His current status was beyond most smart fans' wildest dreams a few years ago.
Do we really want him as top guy, though? Would it work? Nobody mentions it, but 10 years ago when we got Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit as simultaneous champions, they kinda flopped. Eddie dropped the belt to a much-more successful champion in JBL a couple of months after WrestleMania, while Benoit ended up unable to shake Triple H in the main event after a brief feud with Kane proved a damp squib, before eventually losing to Randy Orton. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch. Sometimes fans just want to know they can make a difference, and will settle down having done so as normal service resumes.
I do think we need to find out what'd happen though. There are only so many times WWE can put this giant red button in front of our faces without making us want to push it, just to find out what it does. As unpopular as your opinion may be Gareth, the awkward truth is that you may yet be proven right. But we need to know for sure now. This thing is becoming too big to ignore.
And that's why I'm picking him to win the belt on Sunday. Orton/Batista seems too lightweight and predictable as a Mania main event. I can't for a second believe that WWE were completely oblivious as to what would happen once Bryan was snubbed from the Rumble, and even if they were they can't have ignored the reaction that ensued. Pitting Batista, as the man who waltzed back into the WrestleMania main event after four years away, against Bryan, the man who held the fort in his absence, feels right. Even better, make it a triple-threat including Randy Orton. But we need to live that moment of having Bryan vanquish all comers and getting his title celebrations with the fireworks and ticker tape to know, once and for all, if it's right or wrong.
WWE Elimination Chamber - Rick's Quick Picks
- Elimination Chamber: DANIEL BRYAN over WWE World Champion RANDY ORTON, JOHN CENA, SHEAMUS, CESARO & CHRISTIAN
- 6-Man Tag: THE WYATT FAMILY over THE SHIELD
- BATISTA over ALBERTO DEL RIO
- WWE Tag-Team Champions, NEW AGE OUTLAWS over THE USOS
- WWE Intercontinental Champion, BIG E LANGSTON over JACK SWAGGER
- TITUS O'NEIL over DARREN YOUNG
- Kickoff Show: RYBACK & CURTIS AXEL over CODY RHODES & GOLDUST
Stay tuned to the WWE Parties Ireland page for info of our WWE WrestleMania 30 Party in Woolshed Baa & Grill as it's announced shortly!