Men (and women) in Tights: A Rundown of WrestleMania 28

BY MATTHEW VINSKO, contributor & BRETT MURDOCK, writer

Although it remains a sort of cultural taboo, no one can deny the buildup to WrestleMania.

And while it’s not on par with the Super Bowl or any other championship game (or series), WrestleMania one-ups its opponents with sheer star powers. For example, people may not know what the Royal Rumble is, but they’ve definitely heard names like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

It’s only fitting then that The Rock is making his in-ring return to pro-wrestling this Sunday, April 1st for WrestleMania 28, emanating from Miami, Florida. The event is being dubbed as the biggest and best wrestling pay-per-view in history, so read on for a list of WrestleMania 28 predictions from Matthew Vinsko and Brett Murdock, two (sort of ashamed) wrestling fans:

Maria Menounos and Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres

WWE Diva Kelly Kelly. Photo by: Krystal / Flickr

• Matt: Now I’m not saying this Divas match is going to open the show, but I figure we should get rid of it early in our predictions. Maria Menounos, host of TV’s Extra, is stepping in the ring for her first real match while teaming up with former Divas Champ, Kelly Kelly. Beth Phoenix has been on a roll lately, and Eve Torres’ recent heel (bad guy) turn makes this match more compelling than it should be, but considering Snooki competed, and won, at last year’s event, it’s hard to imagine the WWE bringing in a celebrity only to have them lose. Phoenix and Torres deserve better than this, but I doubt they’ll get it on “The Grandest Stage of them All.” Expect retribution come Monday Night Raw after a humiliating loss to a Diva with two first names and a current Dancing with the Stars competitor.

Winner: Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounous

• Brett: It’s unfortunate that the WWE is resorting to having the host of Extra step into the squared-circle, especially when it is going to overshadow the Divas champ in Phoenix. This is a fairly easy match to predict because at WrestleMania, celebrities will ALWAYS go over — just look at Snooki‘s appearance at last year‘s event. This will not be a technically-savvy match as those days are long gone with the current Divas division being more about looks and glamour than actual grappling. This match should occur in the middle of the event, so it is an opportunity to relieve your systems more than anything else. My hope is here is that after the match, Kharma — the new dominating force in the Divas division — comes out and destroys them all.

Winner: Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos

Randy Orton vs. Kane

WWE Superstar Randy Orton. Photo by: Marc Benton / Flickr

• Matt: Now this match shouldn’t be as bad as the build-up (or lack thereof) suggests. My colleague will tell you that this match was thrown on the card in a last ditch effort to put two of the WWE’s biggest stars on the WrestleMania card, but I feel it has more going for it than it should. Prior to Kane’s return, one of the last moments wrestling fans remember of the “Big, Red Machine” was a nice guy shaking hands with the likes of the very same Randy Orton. Now the WWE messed this up big time, all things considered, seeing as they only built this feud over the course of the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to work with. That being said, I feel like Kane needs a win here to solidify himself as the monster he wishes to be, but considering Orton is one of the company’s biggest stars, it’s hard to see him putting over Kane, even if it’d help this feud long term.

Winner: Randy Orton

• Brett: This match is on the card for one reason only: to make sure that Orton, one of the company’s top stars, is participating. He hasn’t been in the main event picture for a while now as those opportunities have been given elsewhere, and we’ll get to that later. Because of having no high-profile storyline, the creative team has resorted to sticking him in a feud with the Big Red Monster, who made his return last December in compelling fashion, bringing back his old attire complete with his original mask that made long-time fans mark out more than ever. Concerning the match itself, it should be better than most expect despite its small build-up and hype, but that should provide some mystery to how it will play out. However, it appears that Kane is not his normal self and is only doing this match for the paycheck and that Orton will not job to Kane on the biggest stage of them all.

Winner: Randy Orton, by way of a “surprise” RKO

Team Teddy (Santino Marella, Zack Ryder, the Great Khali, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, and Booker T) vs. Team Johnny (Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, The Miz, David Otunga, and Mark Henry) in a “Winner gets full creative control of RAW and SmackDown” Match

WWE Superstar Booker T. Photo by: Mike Kalasnik / Flickr

• Matt: Now this is the first match on the card I’m legitimately excited about. Tag team matches are always fun, especially when you get 12 of the most popular (or despised) men in one ring. Now I love Teddy Long and his affinity for tag team matches, but looking at his team makes me wonder what in the world the man was thinking. Granted, I liked Johnny’s team a lot more before Christian was removed from the match due to injury, but it’s still hard to see a team led by Santino Marella and featuring The Great Khali succeeding in any way, shape, or form. Plus, I’ve always been a fan of WWE when their General Managers were bad guys. Combine that with the sheer force of four former World Champions, and it’s hard to see Johnny Ace going anywhere.

Winner: Team Johnny

• Brett: This storyline has actually been more entertaining to watch and analyze than some of the others. In a feud that started at the last pay-per-view, it has had six weeks to build and each general manager (Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis) has had ample time to assemble their teams and take shots at each other. When looking at Team Teddy, one sees an assembling of mid-carders who probably wouldn’t stand a chance against Team Johnny. Team Johnny has the clear advantage in terms of skill, bruising-capability and badassery. Booker T being added to Team Teddy gives it more legitimacy but wrestling always works better when the authority figure is a heel (villain) and that should be looked at very heavily by the bookers, who need to make the right decision.

Winner: Team Johnny

Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show for the Intercontinental Title

WWE Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes. Photo by: Anton Jackson / Flickr

• Matt: In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania, the Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes has been mocking Big Show and his lack of success at WrestleMania, and rightfully so. The guy has lost to Akebono, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and even John Cena before he was a big star. But give credit where it’s due: Big Show is one of the best big-man performers in WWE history, and a genuinely good guy. The only title he hasn’t held is the Intercontinental Title, and although Cody Rhodes is the younger star destined for greatness, the big man deserves another championship reign of any kind. Plus, Big Show winning catapults Cody Rhodes to main event status, which is where he’s been in recent memory anyway. Drop the title to Big Show, make it legitimate again, and move on to bigger (no pun intended) things.

Winner: Big Show

• Brett: One of my favorite rising stars, Rhodes, is putting his belt on the line that he has worked so hard to bring respectability back to. Big Show hasn’t exactly been in the best position lately in terms of title chances, but the WWE is always known for throwing swerves. In the past few weeks, Rhodes has been taunting The World’s Largest Athlete by showing clips of his past WrestleMania failures, such as losing in a sumo match at WrestleMania 21, being taken out by boxer Floyd Mayweather at WM 24 and embarrassing himself at a WWE-themed restaurant during WM 18. I like Rhodes, and want to see him pushed to main-event status, and losing the belt would give him that opportunity, but as he is one of my guys to watch going forward, I think he brings further humiliation to Big Show.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship

WWE Heavyweight Title challenger Sheamus. Photo by: The One / Flickr

• Matt: Despite starting with a poor reception, Daniel Bryan has turned himself into one of the company’s top bad guys. His post-match celebrations are now seen as legendary moments, and having a girlfriend ready to get her hands dirty reminds me of Edge and Lita in their primes circa 2006. Though Sheamus has been pushed to the top since his Royal Rumble victory back in January, it’s hard to see Bryan’s reign come to an end. The guy is just too good, and a WrestleMania victory will help cement his legacy as a legitimate World Champion. Expect a Bryan win through dubious means, especially now that it seems AJ is squarely on the side of her vegan following this past Monday Night Raw.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

• Brett: YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! That is the signature slogan of the current Smackdown champion Daniel Bryan, who has turned himself from a crowd favorite to a weasel-esque heel in the past months perfectly. He won the belt at the TLC PPV in December by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on the aforementioned Big Show. Since then, he has won every title defense with tactics that could be described as weak, chicken-**** and deplorable. On the other hand, his opponent Sheamus has been a wrecking ball lately, winning the Royal Rumble to be given this chance (which could have been reserved for Orton — see, told you we’d get there). Bryan’s title reign has been less-deserved than some other roster members (cough CHRISTIAN cough) and Vince McMahon has an inkling for bigger guys like Sheamus to be champs.

Winner: Sheamus

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the WWE Championship

WWE world champion CM Punk. Photo by: Krystal / Flickr

• Matt: Since Chris Jericho’s return in January, he has been saying the end of the world is inevitable, and that he would be bringing it on by being WWE Champion. Since that time, this has what’s happened: Jericho trolled fans for nearly a month; Jericho lost the Royal Rumble in a rather dramatic fashion to Sheamus; Jericho was knocked out, but never eliminated, from the Elimination Chamber. Sounds like progress to me. That being said, this could easily be the match of the night based on the two grapplers participating and the heated feud that has been built the past few weeks. Though I would normally expect CM Punk to win a match of this magnitude, Jericho needs a win to cement anything he has been saying lately. Plus, the guy was the best in the world while CM Punk was still in the indies; I’m sure the savvy veteran will have a trick or two up his sleeve come WrestleMania Sunday.

Winner: Chris Jericho

• Brett: And now at last we come to what could easily be the best match of the evening. Two of the best, pure wrestlers in the company will meet head-to-head in a duel that should epitomize what WrestleMania is all about. Both Punk and Jericho are excellent workers and have been at each other’s throats in recent weeks seeking to gain an upper-hand psychologically heading into their confrontation. Their feud is based on who really is the “Best in the World”, a phrase Punk has used to describe himself since his meteoric rise to the top that started last summer and a gimmick that Jericho claims was his before his departure in 2010. Since Jericho’s awesome return back in January, he has been foreshadowing the end of the world in terms of taking back the company’s top prize and shattering the world we currently live in with Punk as the champ. While he hasn’t had that signature moment since his comeback, it has to happen sometime and what better way to show he’s the best in the world than coming out on top at ‘Mania.

Winner: Chris Jericho.

The Undertaker vs. Triple H in a Hell in a Cell Match w/ Shawn Michaels as Special Referee

WWE superstar Triple H. Photo by: Krystal / Flickr

• Matt: This match has been dubbed as an “End of an Era” match, and with good reason. Triple H is slowly transforming from beloved wrestler into backstage bureaucrat, while Undertaker is nearing his 50th birthday, a fact made relevant by his lack of body strength following last year’s WrestleMania match with “The Game.” The wild card here is “Mr. WrestleMania” himself, Shawn Michaels. Will HBK screw the Undertaker after his loss at WrestleMania two years ago, or will “The Showstopper” call it right down the middle? Add in a hell in a cell, and there’s a good chance this match will be organized chaos (you know, since wrestling is fake). It’s hard to see The Undertaker overcoming such odds, but if anyone needs to be picked for a victory come WrestleMania season, it has to be “The Dead Man.” Expect some dramatic moments and near pin falls galore, but at the end of the day, Undertaker will be 20-0 at WrestleMania.

Winner: The Undertaker

• Brett: My favorite superstar of all time is in this match…and he’s the ref. But that’s a different story. Concerning the two legends, HHH and ‘Taker, they met at last year’s ‘Mania in a No Holds Barred match with HHH seeking to end Undertaker’s WrestleMania “Streak”, which now sits at 19-0 after he defeated HHH last year, despite being dominated physically and needing to be carted out after the match. Adding Michaels to the match creates a wrinkle, as he also battled The Deadman at WrestleMania 25 and 26 seeking to end the streak, both of them classic matches but also matches that further immortalized ‘Taker’s WM record. Michaels and HHH are good friends in real life and on-screen but Taker has used that to his advantage in recent weeks to create a rift between the two. Undertaker is nearing the end of his career and the fact that losing to HHH will mean nothing going forward in terms of the future of the company, its hard to not see The Deadman walking out with a win after surviving the perilous Hell in a Cell structure.

Winner: The Undertaker

John Cena vs. The Rock

WWE superstar John Cena. Photo by: Marc Benton

Matt: Finally … this match is happening after nearly a year of hype. When I saw the Raw after last year’s WrestleMania, I had no idea how these two men would be able to keep a year long feud relevant. At first, it started well enough; Cena would call out The Rock, and The Rock would never respond due to his commitments in Hollywood. After a while, I had my doubts, but boy, was I wrong. Two of the best talkers in the business have been tearing into each other, and recently, their feud has become more intense since The Rock’s return last month. It’s easy to tell the two don’t really like each other, which has created quite the interesting dynamic. Miami will be torn between the two fan favorites, but the only thing that matters is whose hand is held high once the bell rings. The Rock has been out of action for nearly a decade, whereas Cena has been holding his own since his opponent’s departure, having won multiple World Championships during that tenure. It’s hard to pick one way or another, and whenever that’s the case, it’s usually fair game to go with the home team. In this case, it’s The Rock. “The Great One” is fresh and has something to prove. The Rock wants to go down as one of the greatest superstars in WWE history, and with that kind of motivation, it’s hard to see anyone stopping “The Brahma Bull,” especially a less-than-impressive John Cena. With the building as electric as it is sure to be, I can definitely smell what The Rock is cooking come WrestleMania.

Winner: The Rock

• Brett: After more than a year of build-up, hype and promotion, the main event of the evening will finally arrive. Two generational icons will meet in the ring in a clash of the titans. Cena and Rock each represent two very different time periods in WWE history, with Cena representing the “PG era” and Rock representing the “Attitude Era”. This match has been brewing ever since last year’s WrestleMania, when Rock took out Cena with his signature Rock Bottom finisher, preventing Cena from reclaiming the gold and igniting a feud for the ages. Cena’s gimmick has been one that has irritated long-time fans for years now, including myself, because of the WWE shoving him down our throats for the sake of making money. When The Rock returned in 2011, Cena was the first guy he went after even though he was supposed to remain “neutral” as the host of WM 27. The two finally agreed to settle their differences with a match at WM 28 in Rock’s hometown of Miami. Now, even though I am not a fan of Cena’s shtick, I have every reason to believe that he will come out on top when the final bell rings. I can also see The Rock having his hand raised at the end of the night for another multitude of reasons. Being in Rock’s hometown and most likely having the full support of the crowd, it would appear that the WWE would want to send the fans home happy. However, this is also a perfect opportunity to have Cena go over one of the company’s best cross-over stars and maybe even have a character change to go along with the victory, one that will hopefully equate to a more violent and brash John Cena, circa 2003-2006 when his character was great.

Winner: John Cena (word life, motherf***ers)

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