The Road To WrestleMania…28

Ken Napzok

The Road to WrestleMania… 28

Urban Wrestling Legend has it that Vince McMahon and his Creative Team (or as we now call them: Future Dave Lagana Podcast Guests) start planning for next year’s WrestleMania the day after the current year’s event . So, if that’s true, then The Next One is already dead center on the radar screens of all of the WWE top brass and the Road to WrestleMania 28 has already begun.

Who will be the top dog, the main event draw,  or the new show stopper? Will there be room at the top for a new face or will Cena be standing with his arm raised in Miami? And you better start thinking of who will face the Undertaker now. (No, really, this time it IS going to be Wade Barrett… no… Kevin Nash… no… Triple H, part II…  Hulk Hogan. Yep, it’s Hulk Hogan, let’s start that rumor right now.)

From here the picture is not clear, but more so because there seems to be some different directions and paths to take. In past years, the top talent was pretty much secure and you could make a pretty solid guess as to who would be headlining next year’s event. When WrestleMania 26 ended (I’m so glad someone woke me up when it did.) we all knew some changes were bound to happen. Shawn Michaels rode off into the sunset and all that “youth movement” talk seemed real. One year ago WrestleMania 27 did not seem clear either. Did you really think The Miz would not only be in the main event storyline, but not seem out of place in it?

As it stands now WrestleMania 28 would appear to have some intriguing options as some of the newer stars will be one more year into their establishment, one year deeper into their development.  Names like The Miz, Ziggler, Morrison, Del Rio, Barrett, and, uh, Michael Cole should only grow and get better. The questions marks that may follow their association with main event spots and titles now, could very well be erased come April 1st, 2012.

Yet before we get to WrestleMania XXVIII, there are some big questions and storylines to start following before WrestleMania XXVII. Unknown quantities that could very well change the landscape over the course of the year.

Five stories to watch on the Road to WrestleMania 28…

            The Miz

Last year he and The Big Show opened the show with a successful three-minute squash defense of the Unified Tag Team Titles over Morrison and R-Truth.  This year, he is sharing the spotlight at the top. Two things can happen: (Well, according to my limited brain) 1.) Cena wins and ends the show holding the WWE championship high above his head while 12 year-olds everywhere scream with delight.  or 2.) The miracle of miracles has happened and Vince has The Rock locked up for an actual match and The Miz retains his title after Cena loses due some Rock-fueled shenanigans, setting up Cena-Rock at the next pay-per-view. (Yeah, even in that dream scenario I can’t believe The Rock would stick around to Summer Slam.)

This poses two very different questions. If he loses what happens to The Miz? Can he maintain this main event heat and continue to develop into a top heel that the fans still want in the main event scene or will he fade into the background like Sheamus or Swagger did after their championship reigns? Good bet he continues on quite well. His reign can already be considered more of a success than the Sheamus/ Swagger runs and depending on the showing he puts in at ‘Mania, The Miz should be able to recover from a title loss.

Now, if he wins or still walks away with the title, and quite frankly there is a good chance he will, how far will he go? Do you stretch his reign out until Summer Slam? Survivor Series? Royal Rumble? Probably a stretch what with the myriad contenders lying in wait, but there is great value in a having a heel champion holding onto his title match after match until the fans just can’t take it any more. Del Rio could have a similar reign should he win, but if the The Miz leaves Atlanta with the belt then the WWE is putting a lot of faith in one man. How The Miz carries that burden could very well define the company’s next year.

Sin Cara

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t pay one second of attention to the news that WWE had signed Mexican sensation Mistico. It was an interesting side note, but, come on, they’ve been signing new talent to development deals for so long, many alleged to be future stars, that it just runs off my dirtsheet like water off King Kong Bundy’s back. Then it came out that he was going to straight to the big leagues. Then the press for the signing reached an international fever pitch. Then the name change to Sin Cara. (A cool name meaning faceless or without face). Then the promos! The move set! The Rey Mysterio retirement rumors! Suddenly you can’t ignore the presence of this new player on the scene. How will he fit into the mix? How soon will he be going for the Intercontinental title? And what could a Sin Cara/ Rey Mysterio WrestleMania 28 match do for WWE’s buyrates?

Sin Cara will have to answer that… through a translator, of course.

            Awesome Kong

            Oh, that’s right, you forgot about Kong, didn’t ya? Signed well before the Royal Rumble, the Awesome/ Amazing one has been sitting on the sidelines waiting her turn. You have to think that since they are taking their time to get one of the more anticipated talent debuts right, Creative has cooked up something grand and that it is going to be worth the wait. Her arrival could very well change the landscape of the WWE women’s division. (Could you imagine some skinny, lil’ fitness model still learning what a dropkick is wanting to get into the ring with Kong?) You have to envision Beth Phoenix and Natalya tightening up their bootstraps now, getting ready for some real matches. This is going to be great.

            Or do we have the second coming of the Bertha Faye disaster on our hands?  

            The last charge of the modern legends.

            If we thought the veterans were leaving the ship last year, then what about this year? Edge, Mysterio, ‘Taker, Triple H, Jericho… even Kane… all seem to be winding down their careers. Sure we can hope Jericho will return from his dance party for another run. We can hope those Edge and Mysterio retirement rumors are just that. We can hope The Undertaker can still walk after this next match. But all the hope in the world can’t change the fact that IT will come. It being the last charge of the modern legends. New stars are going to have to be anointed sooner than later. All we can really hope for is that it if this is to be their end, it will be a magnificent end worthy of the history books.

Triple H: Chairman of the Board.

            Like George Steinbrenner before him, Vince McMahon is probably going to be running the show until it is pried out of his cold, dead hands. But, that doesn’t mean the future has not already been planned. With Shane O’ Mac taking his money, money, money elsewhere the ball seems to have been placed squarely in the lap of Daddy’s lil’ girl Stephanie and the smartest climber of the corporate ladder ever; Triple H. (I’m not doubting their love at all. Relax. Just saying… good move, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Freakin’ good move.) With Triple H said to be still moving into his nice, new corner office in the Titan Towers and booking many flights down to the Florida Championship Wrestling arena, the finger prints of The Game should start appearing on the merchandise real soon.

            This is perhaps the biggest story to follow in the coming year. How will his influence, experience, knowledge, and love of Jim Ross play out? We’ve seen former superstars “running” the show at other times and various levels, but this is The company and it is called World Wrestling Entertainment. Can Triple H go corporate? How does he handle the pressure of leading out in front, not from the inside of Kliqs? How will his views on grooming talent, telling stories, even just cutting promos affect what we see on our television screens?

            This year will probably be too soon to tell as Vince is still fully entrenched in the number one seat, but the influence is certainly going to get the chance to grow and grow. Remember, Steinbrenner softened in his final decade plus of leadership and the Yankees, the WWE of baseball, only grew to mightier proportions after King George started to actually listen to those in his inner circle. Triple H may have more to say about the Road to WrestleMania 28 than any one else.

            Of course, first he has to get by the Undertaker at this year’s show in a match that was, you have to believe, planned a lot sooner than you want to think.


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