First I'd like to give an honorable mention to ROH, who have some pretty cool cards lined up for Friday and Saturday. It seems possible that their world title could change hands, which I'd certainly be in favor of. They have it set up in an interesting way- on Friday, there'll be a 3-way match for the title. On Saturday, each of the 3 competitors have a match lined up against 3 other guys. In other words, there are 6 guys who could wind up ROH champ this weekend. There are some cool storylines going on around the scenario, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it plays out. But moving on to Mania...
World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Sheamus
The build for this has been kind of different. A lot of time has been spent getting Bryan heat, and a lot of time has been spent establishing Sheamus as a powerful babyface, but very little time has been spent stirring up a feud between them, which is how it's usually done nowadays. I like that it's a little more oldschool like that, and I especially like that Daniel Bryan's been able to get as much screentime as he's gotten. On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to this match very much. I'm rooting heavily for Bryan, but am dreading what seems inevitable- that Sheamus will take the title. I like Sheamus, he's a good character and would make a decent champ, but Daniel Bryan's more fun, and is a way better wrestler. Also, it's interesting how AJ has been getting over as a babyface despite her relationship with Bryan, and I'm looking forward to seeing what role she'll end up playing at Mania.
Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Big Show
Cody Rhodes had a pretty cool match at last year's Mania with Rey Mysterio, but Mysterio and BS couldn't be any more dissimilar. For BS to make this match entertaining, he'll have to work harder than he has in years. Cody's got his work cut out for him. I do think it's interesting that the IC belt is on the line, though. It's hard to imagine BS with it, but it would definitely add prestige to the title whether or not Cody retains. Don't know who to pick to win for this one, but I'll be rooting for Cody Rhodes.
WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho
For the past several weeks, the build for this has not been fun. The idea that CM Punk could be depressed, incensed, or even fazed by schoolyard remarks like the ones Jericho's been using seems at odds with the coolness of his character. However, I am looking forward to this match more than any other non-Undertaker match on the card, since both guys are great wrestlers, and each have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. I wish that there was some kind of stipulation or something to give Jericho a seeming upper hand, making Punk need to overcome some kind of obstacle to retain his title. As things are, Jericho doesn't look very strong, but I don't think there's any way Jericho would take the belt after being gone from WWE again anyway. It will probably still be an awesome wrestling match. I'm rooting for CM Punk.
Control of TV: Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy
I like Teddy Long waaay more than John Laurinaitis, but I wouldn't want to see him run Raw any more than I'd want to see John L run Smackdown. I am still rooting for Team Teddy though, I do like that they're kind of that old "ragtag band of misfits" cliche. I was disappointed when the final members of the teams weren't ADR and Rey Mysterio, I had figured they were shoe-ins. This match will probably suck major ass, but the stipulation is pretty important, so it will force me to pay attention to it. My guess is that Team Teddy will get the win, getting a big happy noise from the crowd, and then John L will be on Raw the next night, making an appeal to the board for his position back. Or something like that. Or maybe Teddy will delegate a new GM for Raw. At any rate, I find it hard to believe that either guy would run both shows for any significant amount of time.
Battle For Who's the Most Angriest: Randy Orton vs. Kane
Today I found out that in the next "Marine" movie that WWE puts out, Randy Orton will be taking John Cena's place as the lead. That's pretty much what seemed to happen here- Orton replaced John Cena in his feud with Kane without much reasoning behind it except that he was just the next guy in line. I'll be rooting for Kane to win, I guess, if only to keep Randy's world title aspirations out of reach. Of course, there's no way that Kane won't get RKO'd at some point, but whether or not it's between the bells for the win remains to be seen.
Wake up Jerry, It's Your Favorite: Kelly Kelly and Extra Lady vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve
Wow, what a shitty deal. Beth Phoenix has been super-dominant for 6 months. Eve has a new character that's been well developed on TV, rare for a Diva. (In contrast, Natalya came out as a babyface on Superstars last week, no story, no nothin'.) They will probably lose to K2 and the lady from Extra, because celebrities always seem to go over at Mania. There's been about 5 minutes of build for this match on TV, and the first sentence about the match on WWE.com reads: "Despite suffering two broken ribs while rehearshing for ABC's Dancing With The Stars, Menounos suffered two broken ribs." I guess no one cares about this at all. Except Jerry Lawler. Out of protest, I will be rooting for the heels to utterly destroy.
End of an Era: Triple H vs. The Undertaker
Can't wait for this one. The build had nothing on what they did last year, but it doesn't really matter. They're going to try to steal the show, and they probably will. Taker all the way. I wonder if this will be his last match, as they seem to be hinting at by calling it the "End of an Era". I can't remember a wrestler of his stature who retired without a career stipulation match, but maybe it's more important to keep the streak unblemished. I'll be very interested to see if the issue comes up on Raw the next night.
Main Event: John Cena vs. The Rock
The build has been incredible. All the video packages and promo segments add up to two multifaceted portraits of the two men. Neither have been put above the other, so in the eyes of most fans, this one could go either way. I think that Rock's chance to win is slim, since he'll never be returning to wrestle year-round. However, if Cena is looking for some time off, a high profile loss would be a good opportunity for him to do that. The match itself should be incredible- they won't even have to do much to keep the audience rapt, but I'm sure they'll try to live up to the hype and put on a classic. If John Cena doesn't win I'll be as devastated as a little boy.
ADDENDUM (March 31st)
After some thought, I won't be too crushed if Cena loses. I might just be hedging my emotional bets, but it could actually be a good thing if Rock wins. If Cena wins, then what? Does he go after the title? Ride off into the sunset? If he beats Rock after this super-hyped build, where does he go? Where would his character fit in? It would SUCK if Cena loses to Rock on Sunday, but what about Monday and the year to come? A beaten Cena might round out his character, and make him a "cooler" guy to like and root for on TV. I'm still rooting hard for Cena, but I wanted to get that off my chest before Sunday, just in case things don't go my way.