Welcome to the High Spot, Place to Be Nation’s weekly pro wrestling update. Steve Wille (@SteveWille34) will take you through the biggest story of the week in the world of wrestling, adding in a unique view to help put the story in perspective. Glenn Butler (@glenniebun) then takes a quick look at other important stories of the week. If you have any tips or story ideas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
PTB Nation co-founder and fellow fan of the 1986 New York Mets, Scott Criscuolo, was unable to do his monthly PPV preview, so your boys at the High Spot are on the job. Steve will be part of the crew live-blogging the show this Sunday. See if his eyes hold up watching a five-hour show on his iPhone!
WWE NETWORK PRE-SHOW
Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. The Real Americans vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel vs. Los Matadores
Glenn: It’s been great to see the Usos pushed to the tag titles in the last month. They’re always reliable for a good match, and can almost always get a crowd going. When I started watching wrestling again (I came back for the launch of the Network after an absence of about a year and a half) it was a little surprising to see that Primo & Epico had changed gimmicks entirely, adding the awesome El Torito, and that Ryback had gone all the way up the card only to come back all the way down. The only threat to the tag titles appears to be the “Real Americans” (in scarequotes because Zeb Colter’s made it clear they don’t fight for the rights of every man), but since they’ll probably be breaking up sooner than later, look for Antonio Cesaro to break out the big swing, the Usos to hit some high spots along with Los Matadores, and the champs to keep on keeping on. GLENN’S PICK: The Usos
Steve: Complaints abound regarding placing this match on the pre-show, but since many are watching on the Network, what difference does it make? I’m personally surprised that the Rhodes Brothers didn’t appear here, as they had such a hot end of 2013. The Usos have really developed into a solid tag team, and their main competition in this Fatal Four-Way is the Real Americans. On the go-home edition of Smackdown, there was more dissension between Zeb, Swagger, and Cesaro, who fans are almost begging to break off back to singles’ action. Rybaxel is an afterthought, and I believe the Usos will retain. The only question: will Cesaro use the Giant Swing on #midgetmantaur and break his previous record of 100 revolutions on Grizzly Redwood? Or will he lift El Torito up simultaneously with one of the Matadors? We all love feats of strength, and it’s not even Festivus. STEVE’S PICK: The Usos
André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Glenn: True to the tradition of André’s battle royal dominance, this match consists of a handful of heavyweight contenders, two or three superheavyweights, and a bunch of jobbers. In addition to showing off a nice trophy for Bret Hart to hopefully smash in a guest appearance, this match at least gets whole swaths of the roster a WrestleMania payday, also in the proud tradition of the biggest show of the year. Hopefully they have some neat spots along the way, but battle royals are hard to predict that way. It’ll be good to see the Funkasaurus, at least, as I missed his exit from television. As to who wins, by heart aches for a renewed Big Mark push, but my mind says…GLENN’S PICK: Big Show
Steve: Battle royals, truly a guilty pleasure, especially when there’s no clear winner. Logic dictates that the Son of André gets his seond “Wrestlemania Moment,” but a combination of his dominance last Monday (old-school booking rule #165) and his stagnancy makes me hesitant to pick him. There are three “mystery” entrants, and I’m guessing that one is Alexander Rusev, who would make a great victor. I can forsee him carrying around the swank trophy for months, a la Owen Hart. If the Real Americans lose, I also wonder if Cesaro and/or Swagger make a second appearance. If I were writing this, Dolph Ziggler, another guy fans have been clamoring for, would get the win. Can you tell I’m stalling to make a pick? STEVE’S PICK: Sheamus (unless Rusev enters) (or maybe Big Show) (Big John Studd?)
Fatal Fourteen-Way for the Divas Championship: AJ Lee (c) vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina Snuka
Glenn: The first decision to be made here is whether to call the match a Fatal Fourteen-Way or a Fourteen-Pack Challenge. I go for the former. One of the highlights of WWE shows week-in week-out is AJ’s acting, and it has been since her days with Daniel Bryan, standing by his side and reacting to his promos. When Vickie Guerrero announced this match on Raw, pitting AJ and Tamina against each other along with the rest of the Diva world, both women told the whole story with just their facial expressions. At the same time, AJ’s more than held up her end of the bargain as far as wrestling is concerned, so her long run as Divas Champion is more than earned. Much has been made of the doom about to befall AJ when every woman on the roster descends upon her, not to mention those foretelling a de-push used as an oblique way of needling CM Punk, but I don’t think any of that comes to pass quite yet. GLENN’S PICK: AJ Lee
Steve: And, Glenn, if this is some type of double-secret, wink-wink way of making punishing CM Punk through AJ, how would you like to work for WWE’s Human Resource Department. Although he wasn’t on the Main Event podcast this week, Ben Morse sent a telegram to Scott making sure that we state how this is the match of the evening. There’s four ways this story can go:
- Having 14 entrants backfires, AJ gets a sneaky victory
- Weak storytelling – one of the Bellas gets a win, as this is all just filming for Total Divas
- Tamina remains the last woman standing, gets the pinfall and starts a feud with AJ (or vice versa)
- Summer Rae drives to Natalya’s house, a camera just happens to be there, Natalya says that Summer Rae looks like a stripper, leading to the scripted slap heard around the world
STEVE’S PICK: AJ Lee
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Glenn: Put me down as, most likely, the only person on this website who was disappointed that John Cena & Hulk Hogan did a promo together and it didn’t end with “You’ve headlined WrestleMania after WrestleMania; how about headlining one more WrestleMania with John Cena?” So let’s say this feud was a bit of a hard sell for me. However, that was before Bray Wyatt incorporated Cena’s gimmick into the delightful nonsense that makes up his promos, Cena & Luke Harper had an excellent match, and Cena’s great fired up promo just this past week. All the ballyhoo about John Cena’s legacy comes off as a bit strange when he’s still young enough to keep wrestling for a long time to come (and when this match appears on a show that also includes Triple H and The Undertaker), but the man’s a fourteen-time champion, so fine. How good a match this will be ultimately depends on how well Cena’s and Wyatt’s styles mesh, which we still don’t know for sure. GLENN’S PICK: John Cena
Steve: Bray Wyatt is still unproven in singles’ match quality on the big stage, his match with Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble notwithstanding. This is a tremendous test, but he’s in the ring with Cena, who’s upped his game substantially over the past year. Glenn’s not the only one who questioned how the buildup to this feud would go, but the slow burn since January as been without much of Cena’s goofiness that can wear down even his most die-hard supporters above the age of 12. This is another match that could go either way, though I’m thinking that a DQ victory by Cena could lead into a great hardcore brawl at the next PPV (webcast? “big event?”). STEVE’S PICK: John Cena
The Shield vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws
Glenn: The Shield have been on an awesome streak lately, tearing the house down with the Wyatt Family on television following their pay-per-view match at the Elimination Chamber and continuing in the same vein with whoever they’re matched up with. Crowd reactions during this time have made them solid faces, and thankfully they’ve stuck together as a team long enough to appear here in one of a couple matches pitting favorites against The Authority. The main doubt in my mind about this match isn’t the Shield’s ability to deliver on the grand stage, but whether they can work their kind of fast-paced hard-hitting style with Attitude Era relics such as the Outlaws…and Kane, come to think of it, though his constant presence over more than sixteen years keeps him from coming off like a relic. Given all of the rumors about the Outlaws wanting to work this match before ending their current run and Kane looking to wind down his long and honored career, hopefully they’ll be giving this match their best. GLENN’S PICK: The Shield
Steve: This is the one match that I feel got most thrown together after CM Punk’s departure. After having such hot feuds in six-man wars over the past year-plus, this is a big step down in competition for the Shield. Remember, these are the guys who defeated Orton, Sheamus, and Show last year, and destroyed combinations of Cena, Bryan, Orton, and Sheamus throughout the year. Not going to lie, I’d rather see a combination of Rollins and Ambrose against Harper and Rowan here, and maybe a singles match between Reigns and Kane, but what can you do? Shield goes over easy here, and I hope the Outlaws can keep up. I’m not looking for any dissension between Shield partners here. STEVE’S PICK: The Shield
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Glenn: Have the Undertaker Streak builds been getting lazier in recent years, or does it just seem that way because Shawn Michaels isn’t involved in them any more? Maybe it just becomes more disjointed when both the Undertaker and his opponent are part-time players, with Paul Heyman the only component present every week. Paul Heyman has been doing his level best to build up both guys, and his best has been really, really good, especially on the night Raw was in Chicago and Heyman trolled the entire crowd by turning the ballad of CM Punk into his own motivation for going after Undertaker with a mightier champion this year. This is another instance where the quality of the match will depend greatly on Taker’s conditioning, the status of any long-term injuries, and whether he gets hurt during the match. The result, at least, has no cloud of doubt over it, no matter what Alex Riley tells us every day on WrestleMania Today. GLENN’S PICK: The Undertaker
Steve: During this week’s Main Event podcast, I spoke about how much I disliked the buildup to this match, outside of Undertaker stabbing Lesnar with a pen during the Raw broadcast in Green Bay, Wisconsin (I’m not sure what that says about me). There’s little question who will win the match, but I thought that the story would be whether Lesnar would end Taker’s career once and for all. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but, at this point, I wish Undertaker would retire. He has nothing left to prove and is only risking injury at this point in his career. I shuddered watching him take a clothesline from Lesnar, crumbling awkwardly to the mat. These two could put on a stiff, hard-fought match, and I hope both come out of it in one piece. Taker’s not fighting a “safe” guy like Punk or HBK here…STEVE’S PICK: The Undertaker
Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan
Glenn: We have at last arrived at this pass. The long journey of Daniel Bryan’s supposed de-push and the rescue operation launched by the fan collective has been and will be chronicled many times. A combination of the crowd’s wholesale rejection of a new Batista face push and their unrelenting demand for Daniel Bryan (and, no doubt, the departure of CM Punk) necessitated the changes that have brought us here. Given that this feud has generously incorporated semi-shoot comments by Triple H about how he’s going to bury Bryan, there will no doubt be plenty of near falls that will drive up fans’ blood pressure. But sometimes the obvious route is the best route, and sometimes the stars align and everyone involved in booking realizes that. Besides, if HHH wins we riot. GLENN’S PICK: Daniel Bryan
Steve: I haven’t been a big fan of HHH in the ring since before my hiatus from wrestling a few years ago. As I reflect back, the last HHH match I got excited for was the Triple Threat match with Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels at Backlash 2004. Until now. The unintentional two-year long story of the ascension of the Yes Movement (even longer if you prefer using Bryan’s initial firing as the starting point) comes to a head this Sunday. This match could, and should, be an epic encounter, similar to the bouts HHH and the aforementioned Shawn Michaels have had with the Undertaker the past four years. HHH will pull out all the stops, but Bryan has to win, perhaps followed by a HHH beatdown in disgust. Some have predicted HHH to get intentionally disqualified to play off his “cerebral assassin” gimmick, but why would he risk placing Bryan in the main event on purpose? STEVE’S PICK: My guy, D. Bryan
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. [WRESTLER TO BE NAMED LATER]
Glenn: Assuming that Daniel Bryan, and only Daniel Bryan, advances to this match, the structure is obvious: Orton and Batista can both play the role of the brutish bully, augmented slightly by Batista’s power and Orton’s guile. Last week in The High Spot we highlighted some confluences between the WrestleMania anniversary shows, and while it’s sad that they abandoned Madison Square Garden as the site of WrestleMania XXX, one tradition they should absolutely uphold here is the world-beating babyface holding the title high at the end of the evening. They could even have everyone who’s fallen under the boot-heel of The Authority storm out and hoist Bryan up like Bret Hart at the end of WrestleMania X. GLENN’S PICK: Daniel Bryan
Steve: If Bryan/HHH turns out to be the war we’re hoping for, then this will be the cherry on top. Glenn deftly spelled out my thought process above, although I can see the Authority getting involved often in the match. Hopefully, we will be spared any commentary by Stephanie McMahon (“Ouch. That’s gotta hurt!”). With all the positive press for Bryan, both in wrestling circles and in the mainstream media, there’s no way he loses, right? Right? I have to admit, though, there’s a sick part of me that wants to see the aftermath if, say, Batista wins this. The big question: will I cry like a middle school girl at a One Direction concert if Bryan wins? STEVE’S PICK: Daniel Bryan
And now for something completely different…
For the last eight weeks, mysterious forces have converged upon The Crescent City. Powerful forces have colluded to shape the future. A group of once-powerful men have watched helplessly as control has slipped through their fingers, usurped by an entity or entities known only as Them. Glenn Butler has done his best each week in The High Spot to chronicle these events, events that no mortal can truly comprehend, risking his own sanity in the process. Earlier today he burst into a conference, screaming “Rapture! Locusts! But I must continue!” before falling into a catatonic state; clutched in his hands was this final report.
?! ?! ?! ?!
And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
The time for speculation is nearly over. Dread will soon be replaced with a building panic. The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote. Let bygones be bygones, and fall where they may; this will be a dirty day. It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.
Look to the sky. Fire streaks the heavens. Battle has begun.
Silence is golden. Words are vibrations. Thoughts are magick. Alchemical tradition holds that the circle in the square, the square of the circle, is an esoteric symbol of the union of opposites: the road up and the road down; clarity in conspiracy; the spirit in the flesh. Our evolution is a process of order arising from chaos, a mystery, full of changes no one sees. Unforgiven, unforeseen.
Time is the fire in which we burn, and our time is running out. Even now, at the hour of scampering, can an offer be made? Perhaps we have a chance. Perhaps They are not infallible. Perhaps Their logic is uncertain where the Royal Rumble is concerned.
All the world’s a stage, and the players take their places upon’t.
At the Hampton Inn in Emporia, Virginia, Their agents on our plane share secret signs and messages. Their leader, Mr. Johnson, looks to an obelisk and performs ancient rites. Nearby, unwitting itinerants line up for their complimentary continental breakfast. At Mr. Johnson’s behest, the obelisk turns sideways and a portal opens between Emporia, Virginia and Parts Unknown, howling into the dawn for but an instant. Some of Them have been working in our corner of the multiverse for longer than we know, but now They have all arrived to witness Their plots within plots come to fruition. Mr. Johnson relays a signal: “‘What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward New Orleans to be born?’ Trending worldwide.”
The Prodigal Son-in-Law–Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King hereafter–sheds his suit. His collar has been cut. Once again he has been drawn into battle. “We go forward, we go back,” he intones. “On your knees, dog.”
The Hated Hero, freed from the necessity of defending golden honorifics, is now besieged by zealots and unable to take a role in cosmic events. Bravado serves him well, but still doubt occupies his mind. Long has he proclaimed others’ time to be up, but has his own time now passed? Can he no longer hold his place resolutely, a stone face against the sea? Is the end here? Can there be no more pretending?
The Deacon of the Deep meditates on his place in the universe. The would-be conquering hero finds himself reviled, inside a pit of danger, but one of the many victims of Their fickle allegiance. As he swallows down a thousand years of anger, he spins in existential crisis, asking himself: Who is he? What does he want? Why is he here? Where is he going? Whom does he serve, and whom does he trust? Certainly not Them.
The Paul Heyman Guy observes events from the sidelines, a self-imposed exile. He finds beauty, in the dark. There is nothing for him here: he is the one who was. His role in this story has ended for now, but always in motion is the future.
Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy also watches from afar. He has no role in these events, but your author always wanted to use the phrase “Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy.” Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy. Tamp ‘em up solid.
The Erstwhile Main-Eventer sits in his locker room, contemplating his destiny. He may not have won the Royal Rumble, but he has done what he always does: turn death into a fighting chance to live. He knows we have to create the future or else They will create it for us, and that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places, yet still he wavers. He asks The Immortal One what is right.
“You know something, brother, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. It’s come crashing down. It hurts, inside. You must take a stand; you mustn’t hide! They’ve hurt your friends, and They’ve hurt your pride. You’ve got to be a man. You can’t let it slide. You’ve got to ask yourself some questions, dude. How do you feel about right and wrong? Will you take trouble? For how long? You’ve got something deep inside of you. They say the truth will set you free, but that’s wrong. It’s courage. Courage is the thing that keeps us free. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!”
The Erstwhile Main-Eventer pauses to consider this advice. “I choose the danger,” he says, finally. “Hell of a time to ask.”
The Swaggering Man sits in his lair, reciting a dark incantation and assembling an evil concoction: hair of newt, eye of a frog, jean shorts of The Hated Hero, trenchcoat of The Undead Man, bandana of The Immortal One. “Ancient spirits of evil, transform this decayed form into WrestleMania Thirty!”
And this is WrestleMania. And this is WrestleMania.