Editorial Columns

Looking At The Road To WrestleMania 27

James Klonowski looks back at the road to WrestleMania 27.

The road to WrestleMania is often regarded as the most exciting three month period in the WWE season.

It’s where all the big returns, dream matches, and thrilling storylines take place. Basically, the only three months of the year the writers actually do what they’re paid to do. 

I’m going to analyse every road to WrestleMania from the last decade. We began last week with WrestleMania 26, if you haven’t already read it, do yourself a favour and do so. So, let’s get right to it and move on with WrestleMania 27. Yes, the one where The Miz inexplicably headlined the biggest show of the year.

The Showcase of the Immortals also saw The Rock return to WWE for the first time in 7 years to guest host the event. While Undertaker and Triple H tore the house down in a brutal No Holds Barred encounter. Elsewhere on the card, Cody Rhodes showed glimpses of his potential with a star-making performance opposite Rey Mysterio. Edge wrestled what we all believed to be his final battle inside the squared circle, and two commentators got almost 15 minutes. 

2011 began with Edge heading in as World Heavyweight Champion after winning a chaotic TLC bout at the December PPV. He looked in incredible shape, and his barnstormer of a contest opposite Dolph Ziggler at the Royal Rumble just further cemented the notion that The Rated R Superstar was better than ever. His successful title retention inside the Elimination Chamber a month later was again the show-stealer. Edge looked on top of the world. Sadly, things changed very quickly…

Edge’s dance partner for WrestleMania was decided in the biggest Royal Rumble Match in history (at the time) with 40 superstars vying for the top prize of headlining the biggest show of the year… to curtain jerking as the eventual winner would do. Alberto Del Rio had only debuted in WWE a few months prior, but his swagger, cockiness and in-ring ability made him a favourite with the office. He was a modern-day JBL, if that’s what fans were screaming out for, I don’t know. Del Rio had a rocket strapped to his back as he won the Rumble bout before challenging Edge.

The angle got a little muddied with the inclusion of Edge’s real-life best friend Christian, whom he was to reform E&C with that summer had tragedy not struck. The other guy thrown in the mix was Brodus Clay. Yes, the dancing dinosaur guy. He was Del Rio’s bodyguard at the time, but still lousy. Adding more players to the game simply diluted Del Rio as a threat, and made him come across as a joke who Edge didn’t fear. Bad storytelling. It didn’t help matters that it opened WrestleMania either.

The true main event of the show without a doubt was Undertaker putting his fabled streak on the line against Triple H. The Game made no secret of the fact either with a scathing promo, ridiculing the entire roster and claiming the only challenge either legend had left was each other. Way to instil confidence in the future of the business, Hunter. Although he was right.

However, the match was actually a backup plan to WWE’s original idea which would’ve seen Triple H take on Sheamus in a rematch from the previous year and put over The Celtic Warrior, and Undertaker battle Sting in the ultimate dream match. When Sting pulled out of negotiations, WWE switched plans and had their two biggest active icons clash instead. As for Sheamus, he was dismantled in a throwaway segment on Raw by a returning King of Kings. All that good work at WrestleMania 26 was squashed with that.

The first face to face confrontation between Undertaker and Triple H took place in February when both made their monumental returns in successive order for one of the greatest moments in Raw history. Without a word spoken, the bout was set. Truly mesmerizing to watch two pros at the top of their game. The promos that followed were also great and fans were chomping at the bit to see them go at it. It really should’ve headlined WrestleMania, but alas that honour went to The Miz.

I’ll get to The Miz shortly, but before that let’s speak about who really should’ve been in his spot because he was the best heel in the business at the time. That man is, of course, CM Punk. He had changed up his character completely to become a main event player, leading the new Nexus as the top heel faction on the Raw brand. He was one of the favourites to win the Royal Rumble bout, but WWE had other ideas and instead pivoted him away from a WrestleMania showdown with John Cena to face Randy Orton. 

The story arc did make sense as Orton had cost Punk the World Championship back in 2008, so Punk returned the favour at the 2011 Rumble event. Orton didn’t see it as an eye for an eye and came looking for revenge, wiping out every member of Nexus until Punk was all alone. Punk did get the upper hand over Orton inside the Elimination Chamber by eliminating him, but that just spelt impending doom for the Straight Edge Superstar come-WrestleMania. 

Okay, enough dragging it out. Let’s talk about The Miz being chosen to headline WrestleMania as WWE Champion. Just what just hell was WWE thinking?! He’s a decent worker now, but in 2011 he was the drizzling you know what. WWE had high hopes for him because he was a media darling. Yep, that’s all it used to take to convince Vince McMahon you were a star. 

The Miz was an obnoxious heel which he played well, but not as well as CM Punk, who openly talked about his disgust at not being the main event. That was his spot. Miz won the WWE Championship in November 2010 by cashing in his Money In The Bank contract on Randy Orton. He kept it against Orton at the Rumble with help from Punk before putting on an actual decent affair with the ageing Jerry Lawler at the Elimination Chamber PPV. 

Things were looking great for The Miz until The Rock returned to announce he would be hosting WrestleMania. He wasted no time trading barbs with John Cena, who had won the Elimination Chamber match to set up a bout with Miz. This interaction meant the WWE Championship and its champion was a side note. Cena and Rock were the real story. In fact, it was heavily rumoured that Vince McMahon was toying with the idea of pulling The Miz from the main event and replacing him with The Rock. At least that would’ve been a deserving main event. Cooler heads prevailed, and Miz got to headline WrestleMania in what many consider to be the worst main event in the show’s history. It takes some doing to beat some of Hulk Hogan’s stinkers. 

Elsewhere on the card, Michael Cole was playing an OTT heel announcer in preparation to face fellow commentator Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania. Such good s**t. To his credit, Cole was very good in the role. But he had no business being inside the ring, much less at WrestleMania. Lawler deserved his WrestleMania match as he had amazingly never had one which is incredible when you consider his 40-plus year career of accolades. 

WWE tried everything to get fans invested in this one from Cole costing Lawler the WWE Championship, to mocking Jerry’s mother who had just passed away. And it worked. Fans were actually looking forward to seeing it especially when they found Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the special guest referee. This only meant one thing, right? That Michael Cole would get the biggest ass whopping of a lifetime. Think again….

Cody Rhodes was in his Dashing phase around this time because WWE didn’t have anything else for him. The poor guy did get lumbered with a lot of ridiculous gimmicks. It got worse for Cody when a botched 619 by Rey Mysterio resulted in a broken face. Rhodes returned with a face mask, horrified by what Rey had done to him which was the basis for their WrestleMania showdown. Not the strongest of stories, but at least they weren’t fighting over shampoo.

WrestleMania 27 also saw the in-ring return of Trish Stratus who teamed with “celebrity” Snooki and John Morrison to battle Dolph Ziggler and Laycool. I don’t even remember the build to this one, so it must’ve been really good… but it was great to see Trish back anyway.

So, let’s get to the event itself. It obviously opened with a lengthy promo from The Rock which went almost 30 minutes, but he had the crowd in the palm of his hands throughout. He was electrifying as usual. He didn’t really say too much, but his moment was coming into the main event. Throughout the night, he had backstage interactions with an array of talent but the one that stands out the most is his confrontation with long time rival Stone Cold Steve Austin. One more match? Time shall tell.

Next up, Edge put his World Heavyweight Championship on the line against Alberto Del Rio, with Christian and Brodus Clay in their respective guy’s corner. The match was decent enough, with Edge surprisingly coming out on top before adding insult to injury by trashing Alberto’s prized car. Edge would announce his retirement 8 days later due to a severe neck injury. Many thought his career was over, but he stunned the world by returning in the 2020 Royal Rumble Match looking better than ever. He is set to face Randy Orton in a grudge match at WrestleMania. 

Cody Rhodes and Rey Mysterio put on a very good bout that many seemed a mini-classic. It wasn’t that good, but it definitely showed WWE dropped the ball with Cody. I don’t think he is a main event player, but he certainly deserved more in WWE. Mysterio did everything in his power here to get Rhodes to that next level. Few better than Rey at doing just that.

In a blink and you’ll miss it 8 man tag, Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston, and Santino Marella annihilated The Corre. Poor Wade Barrett never truly recovered from this. Hey, at least he had a WrestleMania moment.

Randy Orton and CM Punk wrestled the best wrestling match on the card. Both looked like they had a point to prove to management shafting them to the middle of the card as opposed to the main event where they believed they belonged. On this performance, it was hard to argue. Orton won with a picture-perfect RKO, but I’d have had Punk go over here. He needed the win more.

If Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler had been a five-minute sprint, it would’ve been fun. However, they went 15 minutes and sucked the life out of the crowd. Even Steve Austin looked bored. Eventually, the end came with Lawler tapping out Cole but the decision was reversed by the anonymous Raw GM (Hornswoggle, apparently). Austin responded in kind with a Stunner party. Shame this feud run another three months. Not sure what Vince McMahon was thinking.

The best match of the night, and one of WrestleMania’s all-time classics, was next with Triple H looking to end The Undertaker’s streak. He came mighty close to doing so too. They brutalised one another with steel chairs, tables, and an insurmountable number of finishing moves. They destroyed one another.

The closest I came to believing the streak was over when Triple H delivered a Tombstone Piledriver to The Deadman, uttering “Its Over!” Mid move. Undertaker kicked out in what was a spine-tingling moment. Triple H went for his trusted Sledgehammer to finish the job but got caught in Hells Gate. The Game tapped. The Streak was intact, but Undertaker had to be stretchered out. The story was not over. These two warriors would do battle again next year. Only thing I’d have changed is the tap out. I’d have had Triple H pass out instead, but otherwise, this was perfect.

The cooldown match saw Trish Stratus, Snooki and John Morrison come out victorious over Dolph Ziggler and Laycool. It was a dire affair, but again, great to see Trish back in the ring doing her thing.

The time had come for the main event between John Cena and The Miz for the WWE Championship. It was absolutely awful. Genuinely terrible. The finish saw both men get counted out following a spot where they fell over the barricade. This resulted in a legitimate concussion for The Miz. As fans started piling out of the stadium, The Rock made his entrance to restart the bout before immediately planting Cena with a Rock Bottom to gift Miz the win. Rock then flattened The Miz to close out WrestleMania. It was fun, but not the ideal way to end a WrestleMania main event with an angle for next year’s event.

Overall, WrestleMania 27 failed to deliver on a number of great opportunities. They failed Alberto Del Rio, failed CM Punk and they failed Jerry Lawler. They even failed the WWE Championship. It could have been so different. The only WrestleMania worthy Match all night was Undertaker vs. Triple H. The Game was right after all – the rest of the locker room did suck.

Come back next week where I will be looking back at the road to WrestleMania 28 which saw Undertaker and Triple H end an era inside Hell In A Cell, a Once in a Lifetime encounter between The Rock and John Cena, and Chris Jericho challenging CM Punk for the WWE Championship.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @JK_CFC3Thanks for reading!

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