KENTUCKY FRIED RASSLIN'
By Scott Bowden
RassleMania Pick-Off: Scott Bowden returns for a steel-cage grudge match with Scott Tipton
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk: WWE wisely canceled the hair vs. mask stipulation as this show is loaded, so the emphasis and effectiveness of the stip would be lost. Besides, unlike TNA, which gives you the blowoff to a feud at the beginning of a program, WWE has a better grasp of storytelling. These two are early in their feud, so best to build the animosity over the next few months, perhaps culminating with the stip at SummerSlam. I think Punk needs to win here, perhaps with the storyline that Rey was consumed with vengeance for his familia, and in his rage, he placed that objective ahead of gaining a pinfall. Wouldn't it be cool if the talented young actress playing Rey's daughter turned heel? Too bad Paul Heyman isn't booking. Punk steals one, but takes a beating early in the bout. Winner: Punk
Tipton: I think this will be a show with a surprising number of heel wins, so they'll want to have a few feel-good moments, and I think Rey winning here will be one of them. Punk has been inspired in his new gimmick, and he can easily get his heat back on the next night's television and keep this feud going a while longer. Winner: Mysterio
Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes: WWE TV has been clicking lately; for the most part, the buildup for WrestleMania is the best I've seen in years and the best overall lineup since the Attitude era...with the exception of this match. Inexplicably, Creative switched gears on DiBiase's planned babyface turn and instead made Orton the reluctant babyface in this feud. For more than a year, fans have been dying to cheer Orton, but the execution of the split with his protégés has been so lackluster that the response has been lukewarm. In my opinion, Orton is such a wonderfully slimy heel that the issue has got be stronger than this for fans to rally around him. I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, this is a swerve, where Rhodes at some point will side with Orton, who ravages the young DiBiase, which brings his legendary father to ringside...for a punt to the head. Though with Trips supposedly going heel soon, it would make sense to keep these two on opposite sides of the fence. Orton wins here either way. Winner: Orton
Tipton: I still don't understand the appeal of a handicap match like this at the biggest show of the year, and although Orton isn't a favorite performer of mine, he's been involved in some great matches in recent years and probably deserved a better spot on the card than this. The only way this makes sense is if there's some sort of swerve involved, so my money's on an Orton win. Winner: Orton
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Drew McIntyre's entry into the fray has been promoted more so than the others, but I can’t see them putting him in the money spot as the winner just yet...at least not until the guy develops a personality. Christian looks to be getting a little airtime on RAW, despite the fact that McMahon has never seen him as a main eventer. Christian winning could open a much-needed heel turn in the months ahead, perhaps ambushing his friend Edge for the World title. Personally, I would love to see Shelton Benjamin catch a break; seems like the guy shines annually in this match but never wins. Dirk Ziggler is another darkhorse after the company scaled back his push months ago. MVP was pretty hot a couple of years ago as U.S. champ, when I picked him to win...but Matt Hardy screwed him out of the briefcase near the end. MVP is another guy who could use the rub right now as Mr. Money in the Bank, a moniker that would fit MVP nicely in his cocky athlete persona. Swagger's got loads of potential but desperately needs an old-school manager to serve as his mouthpiece. Meanwhile, Hardy has most likely has talked his way out of a push anytime soon. Kingston is another whose push was over before it again, so this would give him a boost. Evan Bourne has been DOA, despite his amazing athleticism...he's more likely to steal the match than snag the briefcase. Swagger fits the mold as the young cocky star on the rise, much like Kennedy and Edge in years past. I think they go with Swagger. Winner: Jack Swagger
Tipton: First off, just for the record, there's way too many guys in this match.
I say it'll be MVP. As much as I'd love for it to be Christian, the office never seems to be willing to give him any kind of a sustained good-faith push, and I don't see it happening here, either. MVP has been stalled out a little in terms of any sort of push, but he always seems to be getting mainstream media appearances, so maybe it's time to really get behind him again. Winner: MVP
Triple H vs. Sheamus: The only way this match will be memorable is if Triple H puts over his handpicked superstar, elevating him to the next level. For all his critics, Triple H is smart and calculated; he's willing to command the spotlight all year long while "doing the right thing for business" by putting someone else over at WrestleMania. With talk of him going heel (and perhaps screwing HBK in the main event), I say he loses here and snaps, reverting back to the evil Triple H we love (well, like maybe) to hate. Winner: Sheamus.
Tipton: After the lackluster response to Sheamus's brief title run this year, I don't know if the office is really going to think he’s ready for a Mania win over Hunter. He doesn't lose often at Mania, and especially in a non-title match with nothing on the line and no obvious place for Sheamus to go next? No way. I just hope Hunter isn't wearing that goofy Conan costume again. Winner: Triple H
Show Miz vs. Morrison, Truth: Like Jericho, Miz is ideal for the tag-champ spot, as he can appear on both RAW and SMACKDOWN, and he's really hitting his stride as top-notch personality. (The comedy dynamic between Show and Miz works for me as well.) I can't say the same for Morrison and Truth. (I’d rather endure a root canal -- by Dr. Issac Yankem no less -- than have to endure Truth's live entrance song more than once a week.) Winners: Show Miz
Tipton: Miz is surprisingly over these days, and anyone who's read these Wrestlemania picks over the years knows that I never bet against the Big Show. Besides, Morrison and R-Truth are going nowhere fast. Winners: ShowMiz
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon: I was surprised that McMahon didn't do more to get his heat back on Monday after Hart clocked him at the contract signing. He simply promised "a surprise." Hmmm...if this were TNA, I'd swear an Earl Hebner appearance was in the works. Clearly, they're teasing McMahon finding a way to screw Hart once again, but I ain't buying it. For Bret's sake, I so want this to be good. Winner: Bret Hart
Tipton: It's gotta be Hart here; that's the whole point of the storyline. Hart isn't one of those "go-out-on-your-back" guys like Terry Funk or Mick Foley. He came back for one more moment of glory in front of the fans, and who's to say he doesn't deserve it; I'm just hoping Vince does the right thing, sells like crazy and puts him over strong. Winner: Hart
Batista vs. John Cena: I'll know if I'm wrong here if this bout goes on last. Batista is getting over huge as a heel personality, so I'm hoping WWE resists the desire to have another Cena title win close the show (which we’ve seen way too many times) and books the champion to retain. Cena is much better chasing the belt, and a loss would continue the storyline of his inability to beat the Animal. If they handle it correctly, Cena would benefit more by losing, building up a "final" PPV rematch between the two. Winner: Batista
Tipton: I don't think they can resist having Cena win at WrestleMania, especially if the other plan is to end on a down note with Michaels losing to be retired by the Undertaker. Cena sells a whole lot of merch, so it’s probably hard to resist putting that belt on him every year. Winner: Cena
Edge vs. Chris Jericho: One major title has to change hands, and Edge winning the title would cap the story of his comeback perfectly. Imagine the huge pop ("SPEAR!") when Jericho is speared for the three count. Winner: Edge
Tipton: This Edge/Jericho angle has been the high point of both shows lately, and my guess is they'll want to extend it until SummerSlam. No point in Edge getting the belt too soon. Since he's no longer an ECW Champ, perhaps we see a sneak attack at some point by Christian here against his former partner, giving Jericho the assist for the win? Winner: Jericho
Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels: A brilliant job by everyone involved in the pre-match buildup. This has that classic WrestleMania main event feel from my teenage years. I think this has to go last, given how exhausted the crowd was after their last meeting; nothing could have followed it that night...especially the lackluster Trips vs. Orton match. I think Taker will lose on the grand stage before he heads back to Death Valley for the final time, but wisdom would dictate that a younger star on his way up would get the nod. With both men taking time off after the show, there's been speculation of an hour-long Broadway, with both men pushed to the brink and mentally and physically exhausted to explain their absence. That would be among the worst cop-out finishes in history. Taker snatches victory from the jaws of hell once more, perhaps thanks to a Triple H sledgehammer, setting up a heel HHH vs. returning HBK at SummerSlam and the Game vs. the Deadman at next year's Mania. Winner: Undertaker
Tipton: I don't think Undertaker should be giving up that streak as long as he's still planning on being active in the company (and maybe not even then). Since no one ever believes in wrestling retirements (See: Foley, Mick and Flair, Ric), there’s no harm in HBK losing here again after another 5-star match; and I do like the notion of some interference from HHH to make Michaels' loss sting a little less. Winner: Undertaker