Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Every sports fan knows the feeling. The big game is coming and there's undeniable excitement in the year. March Madness means college basketball fans are ready to watch their favorite teams square off to find out who is best, the Fall Classic means baseball fans get to see two of the very best battle it out in the World Series (unless they're Brewers or Pirates fans), and right now, football fans from all over the world are preparing to see whether the Cinderella Cardinals or the Steelers will be the dominant team in this year's Superbowl.

For WWE fans, this is unquestionably the best time to be a wrestling fan. As good ol' J.R. would say, "Business is about to pick up". The three months leading up to Wrestlemania have traditionally been the most exciting in sports entertainment. As soon as the Royal Rumble nears, fans know that big things are going to happen. Ever since the WWE (wisely) decided to bestow the winner of the Rumble with a Wrestlemania main event slot, the build-up to the WWE's #1 show of the year has grown by leaps and bounds.

With the time between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania often being close to two months, the WWE has the advantage and disadvantage of a long time to build a show. Although it might seem like two months of buildup is a no-lose situation, that's not always the case. Back in September of 1987, Ronnie Garvin (who just appeared on Club WWI) won the NWA World Championship from "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. For an inexplicable reason, promoter Jim Crockett ruled that Garvin would not defend the belt until Starcade in November (not only did Garvin not defend the belt against Flair but he didn't defend the belt at all!). The two month buildup proved to be disastrous with the fans turning on babyface Garvin and rooting for Flair. There was little buildup for the rematch and by the time Starcade rolled around, the fans just wanted to see Garvin disappear.

That hasn't been the case for WWE fans. The time between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania has taken on a significance of its own. The Road to Wrestlemania traditionally features many twists and turns, usually for the winner of the Royal Rumble. Whether it's Randy Orton goading Rey Mysterio into putting his Wrestlemania main event on the line, fans wondering how the WWE would handle Bret Hart and Lex Luger winning the Rumble in a tie, or John Cena cashing in his main event match early, fans have hung on the edge of their seats as soon as the Rumble faded to black.

For some fans, the WWE's No Way Out PPV has seemed like a lame duck show. Traditionally airing in February, No Way Out's claim to fame has simply been that it's the final PPV before Wrestlemania. While the WWE has sometimes tried to spice things up by having the winner of the Rumble defending his main event slot, there's only so many times you can do that before it becomes as redundant as Sting winning the TNA Championship every year at Bound for Glory.

Last year however, the WWE came up with the terrific idea of featuring not one but two Elimination Chamber Matches. Each match featured six competitors from RAW and SmackDown! respectively competing for their brand's Wrestlemania Main Event slot. To some, the idea of two Elimination Chamber Matches on one show seemed like overkill but the WWE delivered two great matches. Rumor has it that this year's No Way Out show will feature two Elimination Chamber Matches with SmackDown! and RAW Superstars competing for their brand's world championship. If the matches deliver like last year, you can bet that the WWE will have a new tradition for the show between the Rumble and Wrestlemania.

While every Wrestlemania has not been a grand slam, most fans seem to agree that there's something special about the show. The WWE could put Charlie Fuqnuts against Johnny Comelately on the main event and people would probably tune in just because the marquee reads Wrestlemania. Fortunately, the WWE puts considerable more planning into the show so nearly every Wrestlemania has had something special about it. Whether it's a stellar main event or a show-stealing undercard match, it's hard to think of a Wrestlemania without a Wrestlemania Moment.

By the time you read this, the Royal Rumble will have come and gone but for me, the show is still hours away and the winner unknown. Regardless of who wins, this is an excellent time to be a WWE fans. The JBL/HBK storyline is running on all gears, the Randy Orton attack on Vince McMahon is getting fans talking, and more surprises are undoubtedly in store for fans over the next two months. If this year is like previous years, the Road to Wrestlemania This truly is the most wonderful time of the year for wrestling fans. should be a ride that's enjoyable both in the trip and at the destination.

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