In the immortal words of my father, “Oh shit is it WrestleMania already?” Yes Dad, WrestleMania is in fact tonight. Every year wrestling fans, such as myself, migrate from across the country (and the world) to pay tribute to their spray tanned deities by watching them brutalize themselves with suplexes, chair shots, and a Flo Rida concert. It’s always the highlight of my April and I can’t wait. So pony up $9.99 for the WWE Network, call that one friend that will actually watch it with you, and prepare to be entertained, amazed, and kind of fatigued for all six hours of WRESTLEMANIA!!!!!!
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs. Goldberg (c)
The Mayor of Suplex City comes to Orlando to avenge his losses against Super-Dad in a match that every fan in 2003 could only dream about.
Brock Lesnar for the first time in his WWE career is feeling something he never thought he would: doubt. Goldberg was on the bench for over 12 years but it took him all of 96 seconds to completely annihilate, trounce, and dismiss Lesnar. Yes, you read that correctly. The former NCAA, Division 1 Wrestling Champion, UFC World Heavyweight Champion, and the man hailed by WWE to a superhuman primal force was simply thrown aside as if he was mere leaf in a hurricane. And then what happened? Goldberg did it again at the Royal Rumble by eliminating him from the match in record time. Now, this once unstoppable beast looks to reclaim his former glory by finally defeating the one man who showed the world that he was only human.
The onus for this match falls squarely on Lesnar. For someone who rarely wrestles, he’s incredible at telling a story with his raw athleticism and strength. Goldberg, however, isn’t. He’s infamous for having intentionally short matches to hide supposed deficits in his in-ring performance and his latest run doesn’t inspire any confidence. While he’s been very exciting to watch, he’s only delivered seven spears, two jackhammers, and a few punches in the whole time since he’s been back. And if we’re not counting the rumble, he’s had only one minute and forty-eight seconds of actual in-ring time since his return. We have no gauge on how well he can perform. Personally, I think that Lesnar will find a way to surprise the audience and will walk away with the WWE Universal Championship.
WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (c)
Psychopath-arsonist looks to make his victim even more miserable as Randy Orton challenges Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship.
Randy Orton joined the Wyatt Family in late October and, in a twist that no middle schooler could see coming, shattered them from within. And now, after winning the Royal Rumble, burning Bray Wyatt’s house down, and desecrating the grave of his most cherished love one, he’s finally coming to collect the WWE Championship. You’d think that Wyatt would call the police. After all, arson is looked down upon in our society. But no, Wyatt has only responded by spouting satanic gibberish at Orton, yelling “Brother liar, I have foreseen that you will come at me,” and then proceeding to cover himself in the ashes of his newly barbequed domicile. I’ll give credit to the WWE creative team for being so slow and methodical with planning this feud but I fear that this B-movie stuff shit the bed just as there were about to consummate the storyline.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt will have an excellent match but this feud feels unworthy of the WWE Championship. It could be because we’ve already seen this at No Mercy back in 2016 or it could be its inherent predictability but it lacks the gusto and intensity you’d hope from a world title match. The commentators have done all they can to sell the match but saying “wow, such Orton, so viper, much sneaky” but it just feels lacking.
Prediction: Randy Orton
Non-Sanctioned Match: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
Student and mentor clash as Seth “CrossFit Jesus” Rollins brings his crutches and knee-brace to take on Triple H in a non-sanctioned match.
Back in Late August, Triple H cost Rollins the WWE Universal Championship and everyone forgot about it till about December-ish. In the meantime, Rollins had a low-key, unexplained face turn, got buddy-buddy with Roman Reigns again, and then got legitimately injured by Samoa Joe right as the build to this match was starting in proper. Since then, WWE went with a will they-won’t they? angle questioning whether Rollins would be able to compete at the event to do the whole “struggling, underdog, hero” thing. The angle was complete with super-serious video packages, super-serious Triple H yelling something about a personal “duality of man” crisis he’s experiencing, and that super-serious moment where Rollins shouted, “Screw doctors and injuries, I’m gonna fight you!” The crowd and Michael Cole roared. Hence the “non-sanctioned match” gimmick which is just code for chairs and chicanery to help Rollins work around his injury.
This match will be excellent. Triple H is an under sung story teller in the ring and truly excels at being a living, breathing glass ceiling for a steadfast hero has to shatter and Rollins is just that hero. While Rollins most likely will be hampered by his injury, I am sure he is healthy enough to wrestle and has been most likely for the past few weeks or WWE would have never gone with the match. The whole angle was probably done in order to portray Rollins as a man willing to sacrifice life and a literal limb all in order to reap vengeance on his oppressor and I am very excited to see how this unfolds.
Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
Beloved hero of a generation challenges the bane of the internet wrestling community as The Undertaker rides into WrestleMania for, possibly, his final time.
The Undertaker, defying age and time, is back to cast his shadow over WrestleMania. For twenty-four WrestleMania’s, the phenom has delivered classic after classic after classic as his name has become synonymous with WrestleMania and the WWE in its grand abstraction. There is no other performer in professional wrestling that has captivated and enraptured the WWE audience for as long and as profoundly as Deadman. But for all of The Undertaker’s ferocity and might, there is no colder, crueler adversary than the specter of time and he has taken the guise of Roman Reigns. The Inhumans of the WWE, Reigns now stands before the Deadman threating to put him down once for all.
I can’t talk about this, it’s too painful. With rumors of The Undertaker’s health casting a dim prognosis on his WWE career and considering that Reigns is clearly the man destined to inherit the WWE throne, it makes the most sense for Reigns to usurp The Undertaker’s status as the “biggest dog in the yard.” And with a recent rumor indicating that WWE is considering making this encounter the final match of the night, it seems that The Undertaker may in fact be preparing to ride off into the night that spawned him.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Greatest wrestler in the world ends an incredible, marquee year by challenging a non-wrestler as AJ Styles battles Shane McMahon.
AJ Style has had the best first year in WWE since Brock Lesnar in 2002-2003. He debuted at the Royal Rumble in 2016 and almost immediately was embraced as a main event player, had instant classics with Roman Reigns, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose, and even won the WWE Championship. He’s arguably the most gifted athlete in wrestling today but, for some reason, he feels disrespected by the WWE and not being given the opportunities he’s owed. So what does he do? He throws Shane McMahon’s head throw a car door. So in lieu of assault charges, these two are having a match.
Many, including myself, were disappointed when they found out that Styles would be going against McMahon. These people would have preferred him in a more prominent role wrestling for the WWE Title or fighting The Undertaker, but in a show that is going to include Al Roker, Pit Bull, and Flo Rida, I’m going to consider this a victory. I’ve been watching Styles since the mid 2000s and he’s never been better. He can engage the crowd with his storytelling, dazzle them with his athleticism, and truly inspire them with his ferocity. There has been no one better than AJ Styles this past year. Shane McMahon, to his credit, has always surprised fans with his in-ring performance. With the right partner, he’s proven time and time again that he can provide legitimately entertaining matches that you’ll remember and Styles is just that partner. This will be a hard match to follow on Sunday.Continued below
Prediction: Styles wins in a show-stealing performance.
Total Divas Match: The Miz and Maryse vs. John Cena and Nikki Bella w/ Al Roker
Potential WrestleMania classic is wasted as The Miz and John Cena do battle with their girlfriends for the pride and affection of Al Roker.
The Miz has spent the last year making more gold than Midas as he completely revitalized and redefined his career. Whether it’s his scathing, can’t miss promos, his reenergized in-ring presence, or the way he can engage and enrage the crowd, The Miz turned himself from a “has been” to a “must see.” He’s in rare form as he looks to rekindle a long-time feud John Cena. Cena himself spent this past years slapping down doubters and cynics who balked that his time had passed by having several instant classics with AJ Styles and tying Ric Flair’s record for most world championships won. With renewed aggressions and malicious intent, these two rivals have vowed to wage war on each other at the “show of shows” by . . . bringing their girlfriends and Al Roker.
This baffling situation encapsulates my feelings going into WrestleMania this year. There are so many strong performers and possible match-ups this year but for some reason they pulled Al Roker out of thin air. Let’s break it down. Miz and Cena would be a money match-up. They’ve had many encounters before and even main-evented WrestleMania 27 so there is plenty of history to mine to add some sizzle but instead, they dilute it by bringing Maryse, Nikki, and Al Roker on-board.
My critique has nothing to do with Nikki or Maryse’s wrestling ability. That’s not what’s diluting the match. It’s the fact that Nikki’s whole character is supposed to be cruxed on being a strong, independent, “fearless” woman, yet she has chooses to define her character solely in relation to John Cena, her beef with Maryse started over spilled make-up, and the match is allegedly going to end with Cena proposing to Nikki after years of her character tying her very being to making sure that happens. Nikki’s character makes no sense and WWE is choosing to sacrifice a great match we could have had with Cena vs. Miz to get footage for Total Divas.
Prediction: Al Roker goes heel and attacks Cena while he’s proposing to Nikki Bella yelling “You’ll never be a host on the Today Show!!! NEVER!!!!”
WWE United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho (c)
Twelve year-olds are stunned that Kevin Owens would betray his friend again! Now Chris Jericho must make peace with his hurt feelings and fight his former best friend at the show of shows.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho were best friends and everyone loved it except me. I never thought they were that funny and it was just too obvious that things were going to go south. Like the whole Orton vs. Wyatt thing, we knew Owens was going to stab the back of Jericho, hurt the feelings of Jericho and, beat the shit out of Jericho. Will this match be good? Yes, because Jericho and Owens are both excellent storytellers. Do I care? Maybe?
Chris Jericho rarely wins the “blow-off” match and this would be a great way to cap off the great year Kevin Owens has had. After all, he was WWE Universal Champion several months which should indicate that WWE has a good amount of faith in his character. Plus, Jericho doesn’t need to win another match in his life to solidify his career so why wouldn’t they just capitalize on the momentum that Owens has?
Prediction: Kevin Owens
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose (c)
WWE’s resident edgelord challenges what’s left of Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship.
After Ambrose eliminated Corbin and his receding hairline from the Elimination Chamber in February, the “Lone Wolf” has targeted the “Lunatic Fringe’s” title in retaliation. It’s a simple but effective set-up that has been elevated by Corbin throwing Ambrose into production tables and trying to flatten him with a forklift. Couple this with Ambrose’s creativity in the ring and Corbin’s physicality and this match is a dark horse for Sunday.Continued below
That’s all great. What aren’t great are Baron Corbin and Dean Ambrose themselves. You see, Baron Corbin has formed a connection with WWE fans despite his stupid moniker. His raw athleticism and surprising agility have earned him that much but, dammit, doesn’t he remind you of that emo-kid in grade school? You know, that kid that was always marched angrily out of his mom’s minivan when she dropped him off, drew skulls on everything, and whose AIM screenname was “XXShadowStormXX?” I mean his name is literally “The Lone Wolf.” Tell me that doesn’t that scream botched Myspace page. Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose has resigned himself to becoming a nonchalant goofball. Far from the intense, unhinged competitor we saw challenge Brock Lesnar and win the WWE Championship this past year, Dean Ambrose, the character, just seems to not care. And if a man can brush off his rival after he got attacked with a fork lift, why should we care?
The smart money would be to bet on Corbin but I got a sneaking suspicion they’re going to play “keep-away” with him to allow his character to get even angrier. This whole feud is based upon Corbin’s anger and frustration at being pinned by Ambrose so how much angrier would he get if Ambrose were to beat him on an even bigger stage? And more importantly, how much bigger would the pay-off be for Corbin’s character down the line?
WWE Raw Women’s Championship – Fatal-4-Way Elimination Match: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax vs. Bayley (c)
Bayley defends her title and prove her mettle as champion in a surprisingly well-thought out and promising fatal-4-way match.
After bursting onto the scene this past fall, Bayley, NXT’s favorite “little wrestler that could,” grew up and is now holding the Women’s Championship*. Did you see that asterisks? Oh, it’s because Bayley’s reign has been muddled with controversy and interference on her behalf from her best friend, Sasha Banks, who’s slowly turning to the dark side. Throw in arguably the greatest Women’s wrestler the WWE has ever seen in Charlotte and the always impressive Nia Jax and you have all the ingredients for an incredible Women’s Championship match.
This match is all about Bayley and her quest to get rid of that asterisk. She’s the plucky, die-hard babyface that is probably being torn-up inside knowing that she never truly earned the title around her waist. WrestleMania is the stage to finally quell that awful feeling and prove to her peers that she is truly deserving of that title.
Smackdown Women’s Championship – 6 Pack Challenge: Carmella w/ James Ellsworth vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss (c)
“Oh shit we forgot about the other women!”
After a stellar 2016-2017 for the Smackdown Women’s division that featured the return of Mickie James and the coronation of a new star in Alexa Bliss, it’s a shame that more thought hasn’t gone into organizing a match to showcase the division at WrestleMania. Yes, it’s nice that the whole roster will be involved and it has been given appropriate build up on Smackdown but I just can’t shake the feeling that this match was booked because it was the easiest option. It still should be a very fun match. After all, you have two veterans who can call the shots in Natalya and James, the always exciting Lynch and Naomi, and the dastardly heels in Carmella and Bliss so it is a match I’m looking forward to. But the prestige and importance of the match suffers simply because the story behind it is “fuck it, let everyone fight.”
Naomi is the hometown hero and giving her the crown after returning early from an injury that forced her to vacate the title in the first place will surely excite the crowd for the main show. Plus, I’m sure Ellsworth will surely pop his head in to take everyone’s finisher so that will be fun to see.
Raw Tag Team Championship – Triple Threat Ladder Match: Enzo & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (c)
“At long last, we find out whether Sheamus or Cesaro can throw Enzo Amore farther.”
Former doctors and retirement specialist Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have finally became the Raw Tag Team champions. And while fans complain that they’ve lost momentum from their NJPW run, they’ve been perfectly serviceable in the ring. Yes, they need better dialogue than Gallows just calling people “NERDS” and laughing to himself like an idiot but, whatever. Meanwhile, Cesaro and Sheamus have surprisingly won the crowd with their “odd-couple” shtick and it’s a modern miracle that people haven’t gotten sick “S-A-W-F-T” week after goddamn week. And since WWE realized they forgot to book some sort of ladder match for the WrestleMania, we’re going to get this demolition derby that will likely open the main show.
Like I said, this will most likely be the opener on Sunday and what better way to set the tone for the evening’s festivities by getting over 70,000 people hyped to misspell the word “soft.” In all seriousness this should be a great match. Gallows and Anderson can wrestle both teams under the table, Sheamus and Cesaro are always fantastic, and I’m sure someone is going to throw Enzo like a javelin through a bunch of ladders. Again, Al Roker is on the card and this is better than Al Roker. I’m going to turn my brain off and enjoy this one!
Prediction: Enzo & Big Cass
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Austin Aries vs. Neville (c)
“Thank God it’s not Noam Dar vs. TJ Perkins.”
This is another match that was undeservedly bumped to the pre-show to make time for a Pitbull performance. Austin Aries’s time on commentary was well spent as it gave him the opportunity to establish his character without even stepping foot into the ring so when he finally did, the fans embraced him as a ready-made star. And as NXT, TNA, and ROH fans already know, Aries is no stranger to high-profile matches and will deliver come Sunday. Couple this with Neville’s recent career resurgence as the Cruiserweight division’s primary antagonist, and we have the division’s first truly exciting feud.
WWE seems invested in Aries when considering how much air-time they’ve given him and this is the perfect way to solidify his presence on the main roster. Furthermore, 205 Live is in desperate need of talent that can bridge the gap between the more casual Raw fans and those who actually tune into 205 Live and Aries can help build that bridge.
Prediction: Austin Aries
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
“Curt Hawkins and the Shining Stars are in the match but Samoa Joe isn’t.”
I’m going to give this match about as much as attention as WWE did this year and instead talk about Samoa Joe. This battle royal started out as an intriguing concept but it’s now become just an excuse to throw everyone on the card except Samoa Joe apparently. WWE has positioned him to be an unstoppable monster in recent weeks and it’s worked. He gets huge reactions from the crowd every time he so much as shows his face, has had wonderful matches with the likes of Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho, and even defeated Roman “make him look strong” Reigns in his first match on Raw. But, in a move that defies several tenets of basic common sense, Curt Hawkins is in this match and Joe isn’t.
Joe’s exclusion is not the only sin this match is committing. The match is a missed opportunity, wasted motion, and an afterthought. And with only a minimal amount of effort on WWE’s part, they could have made the match more than what it is. How much more hyped would we all have been if they advertised a lower card match that was already happening on Raw, Smackdown, or NXT as “qualifier matches” for the battle royale or just had Samoa Joe shout into a camera “I’m going to hurt everyone!” If WWE doesn’t care, why should I?
Prediction: Sami Zayn probably, whatever.[break]The past three WrestleMania’s have been solid and I don’t see any reason why this one wouldn’t follow suit. There are some changes that I would make to the card but the promise of Triple H vs. Rollins, AJ vs. Shane, and the possibility that this might be The Undertaker’s curtain call out weight all the negatives that I may see on the card. I am very excited to see how Sunday’s events unfold and will be back this Thursday to share my thoughts on the show and where the company will be headed in the next year!!