Just the word gets me a little excited.
As we head into what promises to be an excellent WrestleMania, this blogger can’t help and look back on what has been a terrific year for wrestling. While (admittedly) cynical, it’s about time I tipped my hat to what the WWE Superstars and the members of the writer’s room have been able to achieve this year…at least since the brand split took place.
However, it is WrestleMania season. Is it possible that this new, positive outlook on the state of the WWE is for nothing? Lest we forget that last year, ‘Mania was headlined by a 46 year old Royal Rumble winner and the most hated babyface in the history of the WWE. This year, the only difference between the headlining bouts is that the average age of this year’s (potential) main event is actually 6.5 years older. Hooray?
I may be a cynic, but you can’t say it’s my fault.
I digress, however; this year’s Show of Show’s is shaping up to be one of the best wrestled and best built cards in years. The brand split has revitalized and built so many of the participants on this year’s card, especially on the Smackdown Live brand; wrestlers like Baron Corbin, Alexa Bliss, and Bray Wyatt have finally found their legs and become top stars in their own rights. On the RAW brand, Braun Strowman has become one of the top stars of Monday night’s, Kevin Owens has regained his killer instinct, and Seth Rollins has finally become the top babyface that the brand has been clamouring for since we decided to collectively dump on the Roman Reigns ExperimentTM
WrestleMania marks the first pay-per-view since Fastlane took place three weeks ago. While I won’t bore you with full details, I’m proud to admit that I went 5-3 in my full predictions, marking my second straight PPV with a winning record. Look at me now, Dad! If you’re interested, check out my full Fastlane predictions here. #MakeReignsLookStrong
Just tell me he doesn’t have a punchable face
Now, let’s get to the meat of this thing.
A huge thirteen matches make up this year’s Mania, including the long-awaited Triple H/ Seth Rollins bout. It also marks the WrestleMania debuts for such names as Bayley, the Club, and the first Chinese WWE performer, Tian Bing. While the latter name is only debuting in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, it marks a huge moment for Asian wrestling fans.
A final point; while I may be cynical, I couldn’t be more excited for this year’s event. It’s like Christmas – just because you didn’t get anywhere close to what you wanted last year, doesn’t mean something great won’t be under the tree this year.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Pre-Show)
Confirmed Participants – Big Show, Braun Strowman, Sami Zayn, American Alpha, Goldust, R-Truth, Curtis Axel, Dolph Ziggler, The Usos, The Shining Stars, Bo Dallas, Jinder Mahal, Rhyno, Heath Slater, Apollo Crews, Mojo Rawley, Curt Hawkins, Tyler Breeze, Fandango, Mark Henry, Tian Bing
There’s not a lot to say about this match; while a huge fan of any battle royal, roughly 90% of this match is going to be for filler. Firstly, it’s disappointing to see the Big Show included in this match; you have to feel for the guy after building to a match with Shaquille O’Neal, the two sides could not come to monetary terms and Shaq Daddy backed out.
(A personal, unrelated note; for all that Shaq has done, the guy’s a Mariah Carey level diva. Get over yourself and wrestle another giant dude for my entertainment, dammit!)
Looking at it, there are roughly two individuals that your loyal blogger can find that makes sense to win this match; Sami Zayn, and Braun Strowman. While Zayn could use a major win, I can’t see the WWE giving Braun two losses in a row, even during a pre-show battle royal.
Although I would in no way be upset if Tyler Breeze was to win.
Prediction: Braun Strowman
Someone found Braun Strowman on Tinder. It wasn’t me, but I almost wish it was.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match – Neville © vs. Austin Aries (Pre-Show)
It feels so, so good to have you back, Austin.
I’ve always been a personal fan of Austin Aries. Brought to my attention by my brother, I’ve just always loved the guy’s ability in the ring and on the mic. His “Greatest Man that Ever Lived” gimmick has to be one of my all-time favourites, and he’s easily got my favourite submission move at the moment, the Last Chancery. While I still personally feel that Aries should turn heel sooner rather than later (strictly due to the fact he plays a heel sooooo well,) I’m thrilled that the WWE brain trust was good enough to give us this match before he did so.
I’ve also sung my praises about Neville, so I won’t bore you again here. However, he’s easily been on the best run of his WWE career, and has always been one of the more athletic guys on the entire roster. It’s been great to see him get what he deserves and carrying a championship in the WWE.
I can’t say I’m happy to see this match relegated to the pre-show; I personally feel that given the ability of the two guys in the ring, this could be a contender for the Spencer Love Seal of Quality. It also could be a much-needed boost to the Cruiserweight division as a whole to be on the main card of Mania. However, I’ll count my blessings, and resort myself to having to watch wresting earlier in the day than usual. Oh, the tragedy!
Personally, I’d love to see this feud continue – and the only way to do so is to keep the strap on Neville.
Prediction: Neville retains the Cruiserweight Championship.
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Confirmed Participants – Alexa Bliss ©, Naomi, Carmella, Natalya, Becky Lynch, Mickie James
Alright, let’s clear this up; this won’t be the full card of women wrestling this match. With Daniel Bryan’s confusing “every woman available” stipulation, this seems like a prime opportunity for a surprise return by a former women’s wrestler. However, I can’t see it affecting the outcome of this match.
To me, there’s not much to say about this match; while I’ll always feel that Alexa Bliss should be holding the title forever (honestly, has there been a better women’s character on Smackdown this year?), it is the Show of Shows, and I can’t see Vince McMahon passing up the opportunity to give Naomi her title back in a hometown victory.
Prediction: Naomi wins the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
RAW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match – The Club © vs. Enzo and Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus.
This could be interesting.
Firstly, and I will make this clear; since the end of the New Day’s reign as Raw Tag Team Champions, this whole division has been horrendous. The Club, while your current champions, have still been booked horribly, even losing handicap matches to the 2017 Royal Rumble Runner-Up as recently as last month. Cesaro and Sheamus’ gimmick of feuding partners has gotten old, and frankly as entertaining as Enzo has been, he’s also in danger of quickly jumping the shark into annoying territory.
However, on that note, this should be a fine match. Both the Club and Shesaro are fine workers, and can more than hold up the match quality despite the still relative greenness of Enzo and Cass.
Similarly to the Smackdown Women’s Championship Match, it’s basically a license to sell money when you give the hometown team the win, and with Enzo and Cass being from Orlando, I don’t see any result other than a big win on the grandest stage of them all for the Realest Guys in the Room.
However, things could get interesting after the match, if one is to believe the rumour mill…one might even say that it could result in the DELETION of the entire tag team division?
You might say that
Prediciton: Enzo and Cass become the new Raw Tag Team Champions
Intercontinental Championship Match – Dean Ambrose © vs Baron Corbin
For those of you who have seen Lassie, you know exactly how it ends. Sometimes, it’s just best to put some thing’s down.
That’s exactly how I currently feel about Dean Ambrose.
I feel you, Dean. I think your matches are painful, too.
The Lunatic Fringe may have named himself after a phenomenal song by Mr. Tom Cochrane, but he certainly hasn’t done anything of note since around this time last year, when he took my vote for the Worst WrestleMania Match of the Year for his fiasco against Brock Lesnar. (I don’t include the main event of WrestleMania 32, because honestly, let’s all just not include it anywhere, ever again.)
Since then, we’ve been fed a steady diet of disappointment; it’s almost as though Dean Ambrose has become much like a family dinner at the Olive Garden. Yeah, there’s a market for it, but the only way I’m getting through it is by drinking.
On that note – while Baron Corbin still is relatively green in the ring, he’s quickly becoming one of the top heels on either brand. His callous attitude firmly makes up for his lack of in-ring experience. Much like Alexa Bliss, he’s a good enough worker, and a great character, and that’s enough for me!
That, and the End of Days may truly be the most devastating finisher in the WWE. (Come at me, marks!)
All in all, I think it’s a perfect time to crown a new champion – Baron Corbin could use a WrestleMania moment, and I don’t see Dean being too hurt by the loss. Maybe, just maybe, it could be the start of a long-overdue heel turn.
Prediction: Baron Corbin becomes the new IC Champion.
RAW Women’s Championship Match – Bayley © vs Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Flair vs Nia Jax
This should be fun!
Now, I can’t say I’m happy with how the Raw women’s division has been booked lately. Charlotte being booked to lose her PPV streak was a flat out dumb decision, and the way Bayley’s character has been handled on the main roster has me bamboozled, to say the least.
But these are three of the four horsewomen we’re talking about. Don’t forget, it wasn’t all that long ago that Sasha Banks and Charlotte were tearing down the house on a night-to-night basis on Raw, and in this writer’s opinion, Bayley is the most talented female wrestler in the WWE at the moment. (Okay, Asuka, prove me wrong and come to the main roster. I dare you.)
Oh, and then there’s Nia Jax, who does some things, I suppose?
Either way, expect a finely wrestled match between the women; regardless of the way the build has gone, three of these women are supremely talented athletes, and one of them is really big.
Prediction: Bayley retains the RAW Women’s Championship
United States Championship Match – Chris Jericho © vs Kevin Owens
Jericho is taking time off after ‘Maina. Drink him in while you can, maaaaaan.
Let’s get to the good stuff.
It’s been one of the best-built feuds in a long, long time. Since KO’s decision to “have Jericho’s back” against Enzo and Cass prior to last year’s SummerSlam, these two have made it a privilege to watch and have firmly reinforced my love of the business. The storytelling throughout this feud has been incredible, and topped off with KO’s betrayal at the Festival of Friendship, the two Canadians have given us a contender for the feud of the year.
As great as Kevin Owens has been, the real MVP of this has been Y2J. It’s been said before about the man, but his sheer knowledge of the industry and his ability to shift his character with the current landscape is remarkable. I’d be remiss in saying this year, Jericho has become a contender for the G.O.A.T as far as I’m concerned, right up there with the Stone Cold’s and the Undertaker’s of the industry. (More on ‘Taker later.)
In addition to the fine character work, this should be a barn burner of a match. Despite nearing 47 years of age, Jericho remains one of the top workers in the company; praise that Owens is well deserving of in his own right. He’s truly become a marvel to watch in the ring; truly, I don’t think I’ve watched a bad Kevin Owens match.
Truly, there’s no bad result to this match. I can always watch Jericho win; however, given his announcement of tour dates with his band Fozzy set to commence after Mania, I can only see one result.
Prediction: Kevin Owens wins the United States Championship.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs The MIz and Maryse
I don’t know how to make a fire emoji on this newfangled internet, but let me say this – if you haven’t watched the build to this match, you’re missing out. Both The Miz and Cena have been absolutely on fire on the mic, with each absolutely putting each other down to the point that I’M offended by what they’re saying.
That’s how you know good wrestling.
Truly, the build for this has been incredible; when I first found out that THIS would be the match, I can’t begin to tell you how upset I was. However, I can admit when I was wrong; when The Miz and Maryse can pull off skits like “Total Bella’s Bulls**t” on a week to week basis, and include John Cena reverting back to his best “Doctor of Thuganomics” insults, it’s been killer.
As far as the women go, I’m slightly hesitant. Nikki Bella can go in the ring; don’t say she can’t, smarks. She’ll never be Asuka, but she’ll also never be Kelly Kelly, and that’s a glorious thing.
And frankly, that spear she throws is WICKED.
However, it’s been nearly five years since Maryse has touched a WWE ring, and she hasn’t had any chance to wear off the ring rust. The hope here for me is that Cena/Miz carry this match; both are great workers, and are very capable of delivering a solid match.
Plus, with rumours abound that Cena will propose to Nikki after the match, I just may shed a tear.
Prediction: Cena and Nikki
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
These are the sorts of matches that make you realize that Vince McMahon likes money more than he likes wrestling fans.
There’s two schools of thought on this match; firstly, and the wrong one I might add, is that placing Styles in a match against the bosses son gives him a high-profile spot on the card. Its built to draw in the casual fan; the best wrestler in the WWE versus someone that even someone who only tuned in long ago would recognize. It’s an understandable position.
But frankly, I’m insulted.
Yes, AJ is the best wrestler in the world. Yes, Shane is going to do something that will make us question both his sanity and his will to live.
But the best wrestler in the world should be facing another WRESTLER. Not an 47 year old father of three.
Will we be entertained? Sure. Will we be happy? Meh.
Oh, and if Styles loses, we riot.
Prediction: AJ Styles defeats McMahon
Triple HHH vs Seth Rollins – Unsanctioned Match
I’ve had to wait two years for this match, and it’s finally happening.
Since the day Seth Rollins took a chair to his Shield mates, it’s been a matter of time since the Architect and the Game faced off. While originally scheduled for WrestleMania 32 last year, Rollins injury forced a change of plans and a delay to this program.
I couldn’t be more excited.
This is a very, very different vibe than the main event of Mania last year. This year, there’s no telegraphed Royal Rumble victory for Trips. There’s not a steady stream of boos directed at the babyface in the program. What we have here is a good, old fashioned, blood feud.
Say what you will about it’s timing, but the Seth Rollins babyface turn has done a lot for me. Rather than make the focus of the program HHH’s betrayal during a Universal Title match the night after SummerSlam, it’s become about the Redemption of Seth Rollins. Everyone loves a good underdog story, right?
(Well, except for last year’s main event. That was a terrible story all around.)
Now, Haitch is a smart man. He’s all about doing what’s best for business, so I leave it to you, dear reader; does a 46 year old man at the end of his in-ring career pick up the big win, or does a 30 year old athlete, potentially one of the best in the WWE, deserve it?
I know my pick.
Prediction: Seth Rollins defeats the Man with Three H’s.
WWE Championship Match – Bray Wyatt © vs Randy Orton
I know I’m repeating myself, but what a well-built feud.
Look, I understand some of you may have hit your mileage on this thing. Supernatural wrestling storylines aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea; but for a kid who grew up on Kane and The Undertaker, it’s right up my alley. Again, I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to make your assessment on the build to the feud, but it’s no secret that both of these men can go in the ring.
I’ll start with Randy Orton. I’ve never once found him interesting. He seems like the sort of guy with about the sense of humour of a wet bagel. That being said, he’s well versed in his ring psychology, and has genuinely been a great talent for the WWE since the day they signed him. I have to say, his joining, dismantling and subsequent departure from the Wyatt Family has been the most invested I’ve been in Mr. Orton since his Legend Killer days.
He straight up burned down Bray Wyatt’s house, and still somehow gets a title shot
However, I’m an unabashed Bray Wyatt mark. Easily one of the best characters on the roster, Wyatt is a cut above most of the rest as far as his mic and in-ring skills. While no one will ever reach his heights, I’ve always viewed Wyatt as a redneck Undertaker, without the benefits of even marginally good booking in his early career.
It’s a tough decision for me; my heart is telling me to go Wyatt all the way. He could use a big win on the grandest stage of them all, and it truly could be a career-defining win over a legend such as someone like Orton.
However – I have a sneaking suspicion that backstage politics are at work for this match. After the beating that Brock Lesnar gave to Randy Orton at SummerSlam this year, it seems more and more likely that Orton only accepted that level of punishment for some sort of reward…perhaps a Royal Rumble victory and a championship at WrestleMania?
This is the one I’m most concerned about, but I’m going with the heart.
Prediction: Bray Wyatt retains the WWE Championship.
The Undertaker vs The Royal Rumble Runner Up
You knew it, I knew it, the whole world knew it. This was going to happen.
The Undertaker is perhaps the most revered figure in wrestling history, and there’s not a hint of hyperbole to that sentence. Revered as one of the greats of the industry, The Deadman is the pinnacle of what a professional wrestler hopes to be.
Since his debut at Survivor Series in 1990, ‘Taker has remained one of the most dominant forces in the WWE. Having been with the company for over 25 years at this point, he’s a demonstration in loyalty and passion for what he does.
Even today, at 52 years old, a victory over the Undertaker remains a giant feat. Reverberations of his loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 are still being felt throughout the industry today; by this bloggers count, the Deadman hasn’t lost to anyone other than Brock since 2010, when he lost to Kane at the Bragging Right’s PPV.
To this day, The Undertaker essentially represents the Final Boss of WWE – beat him, and you’ve reached the pinnacle. Again, and I can not stress this enough; The Undertaker is the most dominant force of nature the WWE has ever seen.
Oh, wait, he’s facing Roman Reigns.
Don’t you just want to punch him in the face?
Prediction: Roman Reigns defeats the Undertaker for his second WrestleMania loss.
Universal Championship Match – Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar
Well. Here we are.
If you were to tell me a year ago that this would be the headlining match of WrestleMania, I would have punched you out of rage and subsequently cancelled my subscription to the WWE Network. If you were to tell me that a 50 year old man and a 40 year old man were fighting, I would have thought it more likely that it was two drunk uncles at a family barbeque, not at the biggest wrestling show of the year.
However, I digress.
I attended Survivor Series this year when Goldberg shocked the wrestling world by defeating Lesnar in 86 seconds. Truthfully, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. But there’s a huge difference to me between a shocking end to a match, and putting your top prize in the company on a part timer, who will be fighting another part-timer at the biggest show of the year.
Oh well. I guess that’s why I don’t own the company.
Either way, this match will happen, and I highly doubt it will be any sort of masterclass of wrestling. I can’t see Goldberg winning – his contract is up after this match, and there’s no way the WWE will have someone leaving retain a championship.
Looks like we’re well on our way to the Lesnar/Reigns match we’ve all been looking for!
Prediction: Brock Lesnar becomes the Universal Champion.
Keep your shoulders off the mat!