CASE OF THE WEEK: The Suddenly Excellent Bryan vs Authority Feud
For the past couple of months, the Road to WrestleMania has been a bumpy ride, with WWE giving Batista the Royal Rumble win instead of the obvious choice of Daniel Bryan, then plowing ahead with Batista vs Randy Orton as the main event despite ridiculous amounts of backlash from fans, all the while rumored cards churned out pointless matches such as Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus that made babies cry and many smarks complain online. And above it all, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon; The Authority, were playing pseudo-heels that no-one could stand up to and presented themselves as more important than the actual roster of wrestlers, despite having no interesting story or character to create compelling TV. We all know the story by now. It was a mess, and it looked as though 'Mania XXX (Not that kind of XXX) would be an awful Evolution reunion/circle-jerk where Orton and Batista would compete to grovel at HHH's feet more than the other.
But then, as the dirt-sheets always tell us, 'plans changed', CM Punk left to talk about the dead, and WWE removed their head from their derriere to give us a really intriguing main storyline which has made WrestleMania legitimately very exciting. And how did they do it? By pushing a beloved underdog babyface and a hated arrogant heel as arch-rivals, and giving them a match with high stakes. You know, something that's never, ever been done before.
|Triple H and Batista are actually interesting now they're proper bad guys|
The past two weeks have seen The Authority put on some brilliant heel work that is building nicely to the showdown at WrestleMania between Triple H and Bryan. Triple H and Stephanie finally showed vulnerability and negative character traits during 'Occupy RAW', as both went completely berserk when they couldn't get their own way. They showed genuine character again this week when they dissented slightly over how to deal with Bryan, before showing that they are 'proper' bad guys by using force to beat down Bryan after they failed to outwit him. This kind of character building and willingness to show vulnerability from The Authority is something that never happened during their Autumn rivalry with Bryan, where they were continuously shown to be infallible and in control, even when Bryan beat Orton, and that was why that story failed. But they have righted the wrongs of 2013 in the run-up to WrestleMania, and if Bryan can conquer Triple H and his Evolution buddies on The Grandest Stage, this will be remembered as a superbly executed storyline with an amazing ending. I can't wait.
|Not long to go now.|
NJPW Corner - New Japan Cup
It's not all about WWE in the world of pro wrestling, even if it is Mania season. Last Saturday New Japan Pro Wrestling began it's annual New Japan Cup tournament (think King of the Ring), and this weekend will finish it with the Quarter Finals on Saturday and the Final 4 on Sunday. Winner gets a title shot at Invasion Attack in April, against either the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada or the IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi. NJPW is presenting both titles with equal importance now, so the winner really could pick either.
|Give me a hell YeaOh!|
|It's gonna be Carnage.|
The match-ups for the Quarter Finals are:
Bad Luck Fale vs Tetsuya Naito
Katsuyori Shibata vs Shelton X Benjamin
Hirooki Goto vs Minoru Suzuki
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Prince Devitt
Nakamura vs Devitt is definitely the must-watch match there. Both guys are at the top of their game right now in terms of in-ring presence and confidence, and I do expect some epic moments between them. If you've never seen NJPW before, I'd wager this match may just convert you to it.
As for my predictions for the tournament, I'll go for Naito vs Shibata and Goto vs Nakamura, with Shibata beating Goto in the final to face Okada at Invasion Attack. I got 7 out of 8 match-ups correct in Round 1, but I won't promise the same success this time around.
What do you think of this week in pro wrestling? Are you excited for WrestleMania and are The Authority finally interesting to you? And will you be watching the New Japan Cup this weekend?