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Monday, February 27, 2012

Road to WWE WrestleMania has a lot of construction barrels

At this time in 2011, WWE was calling in returning veterans to make up for a lack of star power for WrestleMania XXVII. The Rock was the host, Steve Austin was a guest referee and Triple H and Trish Stratus entered the ring after hiatuses.

They were added because WWE had a group of wrestlers with some experience in main-event matches, but not enough to headline the biggest pay-per-view show of the year: Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and John Morrison.

A look at the build-up to WrestleMania XXVIII on April 1 shows that the development of those up-and-comers since last year has been more like a yo-yo than a shooting star.

Here's how the card for this year’s show is shaping up with five weeks to go:

The Rock vs. John Cena

Triple H vs. Undertaker

WWE title: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho

World title: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Sheamus

The top two matches feature two once-a-year wrestlers (Triple H and the Undertaker), an actor who hasn't participated in a WrestleMania match since 2004 (The Rock) and the No. 1 draw in the company who is supposed to be a baby face but was receiving chants of "WE ALL HATE YOU!" on "Monday Night Raw" two weeks ago (Cena).

Besides CM Punk, who quickly ascended to the top of the card during the summer, the advancement of the others on the verge of main-event status hasn't happened. Del Rio has been off camera, Morrison isn't with the company anymore and Swagger is rarely heard from. Ziggler appears poised to join Cena, Punk and Randy Orton in the headliners group, but for whatever reason, it hasn't happened yet.

Sheamus is in a title match against Bryan. But winning the Royal Rumble doesn't have the same cache as it used to. When Rumble winners announce they're going to the main event at WrestleMania, it used to mean the last match of the show. Now it means a shot at the secondary world title in the fourth match from the top.

In the other title match, Jericho won a battle royal on Monday to earn No. 1 contender status against Punk. It's the first thing of note Jericho has done since returning in early January. He cut a couple promos in which he didn't talk, and he almost won the Royal Rumble. But Jericho's latest WWE stint has been lackluster.

Triple-Undertaker is thankfully a Hell in the Cell match. Not only is this a rematch, but it seems as if the Undertaker has had the same match four years in a row now, including facing Shawn Michaels in 2009 and 2010. This year's HITC stipulation will add some variety.

WWE has a little more than a month to sell us on the show. It can start with having the Rock appear in person on a company TV show and getting Cena away from that awful storyline involving Kane and Eve. Freshening up the cast of characters on the rest of the card wouldn't hurt, either.

- Howard Primer


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