From the Podium
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It's that time of year, when the biggest show on earth comes a callin. The Super Bowl is an American tradition and a celebration of sport, but Wrestlemania is like Shakespeare; it's the promotion & the production, the princely & the paranormal, the pagentry & the pandemonium, the paradise & the paradox. As has been said by many, it is the grandest stage of them all, the showcase of the immortals. Some may beg to differ, but in my opinion this year's symphony looks to be a masterpiece.


I will preview all 10 scheduled matches, and at a certain point draw a spoiler line for big matches of which I already know the outcome. Read past that line at your own risk!!!

RAW/SMACKDOWN/ECW 24 MAN BATTLE ROYALE
This is an outstanding undercard match. I hope it is aired on the PPV broadcast and not just as a dark match strictly for DVD. There are so many levels now at Wrestlemania, stepping stones if you will, but a company-wide undercard match for a brand world title if the winner takes the gold later that night is a huge platform. This could be an annual event if done correctly. I have no idea who the 24 entrantswill be, who will win it, and whether or not that person will win the ECW championship. However, of all the superstars at that level, the person I think would make the best ECW champion would beyond a shadow of a doubt be Kane.

ECW CHAMPIONSHIP
© CHAVO GUERRERO v. ?
It all depends on the classification of superstar that wins the battle royale. If it's some nobody who doesn't have the talent of a Chavo Guerrero, then Viva La Raza for the win. If it's a dominant force, then new ECW champion for sure.

BELFAST BRAWL
JBL v. FINALY
I'm not so much interested in the outcome of this match. If there are streetfight rules I want to see some crazy weapons and blading if this match is to earn its keep. But what Mr. McMahon does when he inevitably interjects himself into this match is what will truly keep my attention.

BUNNYMANIA
The WWE women's champion and a girl who can do the splits very well will take on current and former Playboy covergirls. There will be a consortium of divas surrounding the ring acting as lumberjills. And Snoop Diggity Dizzog will be the master of ceremonies. This match will deliver the faces and bodies it advertises, but on a night where there will be a lot of celebrities at the PPV, I really hope Snoop gets a live mic. 

RAW v. SMACKDOWN
BATISTA v. UMAGA
The 2nd tier title matches at Wrestlemania have been replaced with the interbrand match. The type of competitors in that match vary from year to year, but as far as I'm concerned this is just a recycled version of last year's battle of the billionaires' match without the stakes. These are 2 superstars that are over and will continue to be just as or more over in the coming year that didn't have a feud going into 'Mania. Again, I don't want to see them take it easy on each other on PPV. I want to see a hard hitting, big move filled match; not another half-speed, I don't care, Lesnar-Goldberg affair. In terms of a pick I like the face.

MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH
KENNEDY v BENJAMON v Y2J v CARLITO v MVP v PUNK v MORRISON v ?
It seems that this match has now been overshadowed by real life events. Jeff Hardy had been on a recent push with main event bookings, but was forced to drop the Intercontinental Title and his spot in this match after being suspended for 60 days for his 2nd violation of the WWE wellness policy. These suspensions are allegedly not for steroids, but for drug and alcohol abuse. Latest reports indicate that Hardy has entered rehab and I personally think he should thank his lucky stars that he wasn't fired, and I hope he gets himself together and gets clean before addiction kills him. If he is in too much denial to get help, I think Dr. Drew Pinsky should seek him out and give him a wake up call before he ends up in the obituaries. Anyway, enough commentary on that. This should be a magnificent match, with any one of the participants being a valid contender to break the glass ceiling and be a main event player. I'm rooting for Jericho so he'll have months & months & months to run his mouth with the IC title AND the money in the bank briefcase!

FLOYD "MONEY" MAYWEATHER v. THE BIG SHOW
This is Shane McMahon's science experiment. I don't think it's drawing the mainstream media attention of the Trump-McMahon showdown last year, but it's interesting. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that in a real fight the Big Show would just wring Mayweather's neck. But what began as an attempt to have a boxer be cheered in WWE backfired into a chorus of boos that currently surpasses that of Cena, Orton or any WWE superstar. Mayweather's entourage and a pack of WWE superstars even got into a real life pushing and shoving match on the air that ended with Shane being legitimately knocked over. God only knows what the match will be like and who will win in the context of kayfabe, but it's getting scandalous, which is probably exactly what Shane was hoping for. My vote on this match is that especially with entourages, this match might just be too violent for a normal referee to oversee; might be a bit too brutal for a normal referee to oversee; might contain a bit too much calamity for a normal referee to oversee. So I say to Vince McMahon, if you can hear me, that you appoint Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee!

 

 

 *SPOILER LINE*

__________________________________________________________________________

*SPOILER LINE*

 

 

 

 

 

OK, if you're still here you want the dirt, the backstage truth on how the show is going to turn out. You're ready for that 4th wall to disappear. You want it. If you're nothing but a naïve optimist or eternal pessimist, you'll be surprised to know that things aren't going to go as you expect them to. Let me explain...

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
© EDGE v. THE UNDERTAKER
Gong! Gong! Gong! The Undertaker's character is immortal. He can't be killed, even when buried alive, and he is invincible at Wrestlemania. Just ask Kane twice; ask then WWF champion Psycho Sid; ask every single member of Evolution. He's unbeatable. Nobody anywhere has anything on the Undertaker. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, Boxing, Golf, Tennis, Racing, this kind of streak is unparalleled. The streak is big money at every Wrestlemania, and it would be stupidity to destroy it, unless possibly in the case that there would be no more encores. I don't think the Undertaker will EVER lose at Wrestlemania, but he's not retiring yet and is due a significant title reign on Smackdown after getting injured shortly after Wrestlemania last year. Edge, you're a fantastic character, but God help you getting on RAW as a heel after Wrestlemania. You're just next in line.

CAREER THREATENING MATCH
RIC FLAIR v. SHAWN MICHAELS
This is the can't miss attraction for real wrestling fans. This is beyond any doubt the biggest 1-on-1 match on the card. This is the last match of, Wooooooooooooooooo, the greatest wrestler of all time! Flair is the real standard by which excellence is measured in sports entertainment. Not you Hulk Hogan; you're just a premadonna and a dirty paycheck shark. Flair is the true Babe Ruth of sports entertainment. He's the kind of guy who will go out like Bret Favre, too old to be that good but still throwin down with the best of ‘em. And Flair is going to go out in what could potentially be the best match of his career, at almost 60 years old, at Wrestlemania. That's all thanks to his opponent, the showstopper! JR said it best: nobody has ever, EVER, outperformed Shawn Michaels in a big match situation. He took wrestling to a new level: "Nature Boy...Heartbreak Kid, zooooom!" The crowd is going to be hanging on their every move, and Flair will give Shawn the fight of his life. But in the end Flair, HBK will stop YOUR show. And when it happens the crowd isn't going to like it.

"We're not controversial? I put Bret Hart in the sharpshooter! And you, you married...what's her name?!"

WWE CHAMPIONSHIP TRIPLE THREAT MATCH
© RANDY ORTON v. JOHN CENA v. HHH

I guess it had to come to this; the 3 of them, every man for himself. Orton was handed the WWE championship and has persevered for months. Given roster losses since the fall, he's held the ship together pretty well. But he should be satisfied with the run he had as champion, with his relatively weak character, and being in the main event at Wrestlemania. His contingent of fans cheer for him because of their spite for the other 2 participants in this match, but they need to face the reality of a new creative direction.

Cena is the biggest draw in WWE history for women and children, and to his credit he rehabbed his injury in ½ the time. He deserves to be in this match and is necessary for this match to succeed. Some fans think he should never lose a match ever, and others wish he would just go away. They're both half right. He's an enormous draw and should not job lightly at this point, but he's not Hulk Hogan. I actually believe he has the company's best interest at heart and is focusing on his own career rather than obsessing about winning every match. He won the Royal Rumble so that he would still have the superman aura going into Wrestlemania where someone else could finally take it away from him.

So that only leaves one. If Ric Flair is the Babe Ruth of the WWE, this guy is the Michael Jordan. He is the best in this business. He is The Game; he is the Cerebral Assassin; he is the King of Kings; he is Stephanie's husband and Vince McMahon's son-in-law. He is HHH. You can love him or you can hate him, but my money is on a vast majority of fans hating him before the night is over. In an homage to 2001 where Mr. McMahon shook hands with Stone Cold Steve Austin, there will be a new WWE champion at Wrestlemania, a McMahon endorsed, super heel champion. The 4th wall is going to come crumbling down. HHH is even speaking at McMahon's Hollywood walk of fame ceremony tomorrow. So many fans hate him for what they believe to be "backstage politics" or "burying talent" because he is simply better and smarter than most wrestlers. Now that hate is going to cross over into kayfabe. Vince, Shane, HHH, HBK; that's the new dynasty on RAW. They will be unstoppable for quite some time, and all hated so much that anyone booked against them will get huge reactions, with the hope that somebody will eventually get an Austin-level response and beat HHH for the WWE championship, and then of course possibly lose it right back and so it goes. The Game is back in the main event at Wrestlemania, where he belongs, and where he has not won in 5 years. Get ready for a new RAW, where every day is HHH day!

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