‘The Ultimate Thrill Ride’, ‘The Show of Shows’, ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment’, ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’, ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’, Wrestlemania. The ‘Road to Wrestlemania’ is almost over as the destination of destiny is this Sunday, April 2nd. That’s right you mainstream casuals it’s the time of year when it’s acceptable for you to watch wrestling and not be publicly shunned like the rest of us. This year’s card may have some questionable choices but overall should prove to be a decent show with some certain moments of greatness and more than a few “BAH GAWD” worthy spots. And who’s hosting all of this? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who? None other than The New Day BAY BEE! Let’s break down the night match by match and see what we’re in for.
Cruiser-weight Championship — Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries:
Expect this to low-key be one of the best matches of the night. Neville’s heel run has been superb, his best work since NXT if not better. He’s showcased himself as an absolute beast lately and is possibly one of the best wrestlers on the planet. Meanwhile, Austin Aries is beyond talented. He’s been a champion in every promotion he’s entered and rightfully so. Back in NXT he had the potential to be the top heel but got called up to help guide the lost cruiser-weight division to greatness. And he’s doing a bang-up job on 205 Live so far. Neville’s high flying and pure strength vs. Aries technical game and tearing the opponent down bit by bit will be a very interesting mix of styles to see clash.
These are two of the best working competitors the world has to offer, there’s no reason to believe this won’t be a blast. If you’d told me last year that Neville would defend the Cruiser-weight championship against Austin Aries at Wrestlemania I’d have probably slapped you for getting my hopes up to an unrealistic degree; then cried when I discovered it was true. Neville’s title run has been great and long may the King reign but if Austin Aries were to dethrone him I can’t say I’d be frustrated. If a tad upset that Neville’s monster champion run didn’t last for a good while longer. Let’s just hope it’s placement in the pre-show won’t hinder it’s potential.
Intercontinental Championship — Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin:
Poor Dean Ambrose, he’s so great but flounders between being one of the hottest acts in the company to just another guy seemingly every other week or so. Sadly, this reign as the Intercontinental Champion hasn’t done much for him. He’s defended the belt once and has still been floating around the world title picture, even being in the elimination chamber last month. Ambrose’s title feels more like an accessory right now and continuing to hold it isn’t doing anything for him or the prestige of the championship.
Baron Corbin on the other hand may not be the most solid act in terms of variance and quality but the man’s improving. His promos still need work, often feeling like he’s reading his lines from a sign off camera, but his in ring work has noticeably improved over time and he deserves some recognition for it. The Lone Wolf was given a stop and start push by winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal last year but didn’t take off much afterwards, though he has still felt like a somewhat major player on the roster. Announcers have built him up as a future champion and he’s been a force to be reckoned with among his opponents. He’s gone to lengths of attempted murder to best Ambrose by trying to crush him with a forklift while Ambrose has…cost him a match or two?
Corbin needs this win more than Ambrose. Ambrose is always going to be a major player in the company, win or lose he’ll still be a main event guy but Corbin will be stuck lower down the card for the foreseeable future with a loss and that’s not how to build a man you’re grooming as future world champion. While Corbin being Intercontinental Champion sounds weird and I can’t exactly picture it over a less prestigious title like the United States Championship, but with the situation we’re in, it only makes sense. For two of WWE’s top current hardcore guys it seems strange to not give the match a stipulation like ‘Falls Count Anywhere’ or ‘Extreme Rules’ maybe in favour of having more traditional one on ones on the card. Don’t expect a classic but it should prove to be a decent early night match up.
Raw Tag Team Championship Ladder Match — Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus:
Here’s our ladder match, and while it certainly won’t be any TLC 2 from Wrestlemania X-Seven it’s a ladder match and I’m a sucker for some shoots and ladders in wrestling. High spots and some great replays are guaranteed, but really just have Cesaro repeat his ladder leap into a springboard uppercut from Money in the Bank again and it’s all good. The Raw tag titles haven’t been doing the best lately. Gallows and Anderson haven’t gained back the necessary steam from their lacking treatment last year and still don’t come across as the series machine gunning badasses they were in Japan, and the tag titles haven’t helped with that.
Cesaro and Sheamus have been surprisingly great as a tag team and a consistently entertaining act. They lost their championships too soon in many fans eyes and while we’re all still waiting on Cesaro to grab the brass ring, he’s moving at glacier speed but this is a nice spot for him now. Perhaps the next draft will see him move up on Smackdown.
Lastly are Enzo and Colin ‘Big Cass’ Cassidy themselves and this right here is there time. One of the hottest main roster tag teams, the certified Gs have always been fingertips away from championship gold but on the grandest stage of them all they should at long last hoist those red leather silver dimes tall. The duo are exactly what WWE love, an energetic merchandise machine with more catchphrases than The Simpsons and a really big man who’s tall and large and very gosh-darn big. The two have charisma for days and it only makes sense for them to walk away with the win.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
The fourth annual edition of the legendary Giant’s over the top rope challenge should be a fine fun enough match. Sadly, winning the match isn’t as big a push for the victor as you’d think. Inaugural winner Cesaro never gained significant momentum from it; next was Big Show who didn’t benefit either; and last year saw Baron Corbin win, get a main roster call up and is still regularly announced as the winner of last year’s match. Corbin’s reliance on that victory hasn’t been the best for him but it at least shows that WWE are thinking in longer terms with the victor. While not every entrant has been announced, likely winners are Braun Strowman to gain momentum back from his Fastlane loss to Roman Reigns, Big Show as a compensation from Shaq pulling out of their match (thankfully so, as Big Show vs random celebrity doesn’t have a good track record), an NXT call-up or Samoa Joe should he enter and keep his dominant monster run going.
Raw Women’s Championship – Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax:
The Raw women’s championship has been very up and down the past few months. Jumping between Sasha and Charlotte like a grasshopper with spring shoes it eventually fell into Bayley’s hands. Albeit too early as Bayley’s coronation was the perfect Wrestlemania moment, not only ending Charlotte’s undefeated PPV title match streak (which she did at Fastlane due to an interference by Sasha FOR SOME REASON THAT RUINED ALL OF THE STREAKS BUILD UP FOR GOD’S SAKE) the plucky underdog girl who a few months ago was almost as over with the fans as Daniel Bryan, and that is saying something, achieving her dream in the same vein as Shawn Michaels did at Wrestlemania 11 against Bret Hart. But no, she’s the champion going in and that leaves us with a fatal-4-way which has only two satisfying outcomes:
One, Bayley retains, fans adore this woman and her winning is never a sour note, it could help capture the feeling of a Wrestlemania moment, if less than what could’ve been, but a great showing and a strong win will still work.
Second, Sasha Banks winning following a heel turn on Bayley. As a face, Sasha is dull, has no character (we get it you like Eddie Guerrero, what else defines you?) and is wasted potential story-wise. But, as a heel, she’s fecking brilliant. Her NXT work shows that in bucket loads. Have her go nuts on Bayley and beat her senseless with a chair to get the win. It’ll set up a feud between the two which will be fantastic, they fought twice before for the NXT women’s title in two of the best matches of 2015, one of which actually won match of the year and rightfully so. A third round of that would do nicely.
For Nia and Charlotte, Nia just isn’t good enough yet to hold a title, it’s baffling that she’s even in the match, while Charlotte could use a break from the title scene, some worthwhile blood feuds and bitter storylines could do wonders for her character and help elevate those she faces because if anyone’s going to make you better in the ring, it’s Charlotte Flair.
Last year’s women’s triple threat was arguably the match of the night, hopefully this one also delivers but to the same degree is unlikely partially due to Nia’s involvement being the least gifted of the competitors who could drag the performance down.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon:
First we need to put aside the fact that AJ Styles, one of the current greats in wrestling, is facing a part-time attraction like Shane McMahon and that he deserves a better opponent, because frankly he does. While there are next to no other logical choices and since The Undertaker has just forgotten that he’s on Smackdown, Shane is ultimately not a very bad choice. Shane is a spot machine and that’s what this match probably will divulge into, a post-free. AJ will get his moves in, Shane will catch him off guard and get his moves in, jump off of a really big thing and either hit it winning the match, or more likely miss and lose the match. Expectations don’t raise this to be a classic but it should provide some great instant replays.
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Entire SmackDown Women’s roster:
This is a weird one as we don’t know the exact nature or specifics of this match. Is it a battle royal? A free-for-all? How many people are in the match exactly? This would be a great time to bring back the championship scramble match from 2008. Where basically the competitors play a game of hot potato with the title and whoever has it when time runs out is the champion. It’s a very fun and frantic stipulation that came and went in one night at Unforgiven 2008 with three title matches being held.
I’d have Alexa Bliss retain the title here because simply put she’s really good in the ring and one of the most naturally charismatic heels in the company. While her being champion stemmed from Naomi’s injury, her staying champion would be great for her going forward. Mickie James is already an established name and Becky Lynch is so beloved she can recover from nearly any loss (just don’t have her be the one to take the pin) so the argument can be made that they don’t need it as much. Natalya is…ugh, she’s fine in the ring but really, who cares about Natalya? Carmella isn’t at championship level quite yet. Naomi’s return this past week on Smackdown Live most likely indicates original plans to have her walk out champion with a big hometown pop are back on, but personally I see Alexa Bliss as having more champion potential. Naomi will be champion again sooner rather than later, though hopefully a bit further down the line as a story of her returning to reclaim the title she never lost could work well.
It should be a decent match overall, the SmackDown women’s division are a very talented bunch and given the quality and entertainment value of the six person inaugural women’s title match at Backlash there’s reason to believe that this match will hold up rather well.
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns:
There are only two possible satisfying endings to this match. Option one, Undertaker wins and it’s fine with fans breathing a sigh of relief and leaning back in their seats knowing that Roman Reigns didn’t become the second name to beat Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Or option two, Roman wins and is skinned alive by the bitter, hate-filled-booing people of Orlando. BUT Roman’s victory will be acceptable if he turns heel to achieve it. Roman has been struggling to no end as a babyface and is booed by crowds worldwide.
The sad part is Roman, as a wrestler and a worker, is far better than he’s given credit for, dare I say he’s edging on great. The problem is he’s being shoved down our throats as the next John Cena, his promos are lacking at best and cringey, by the numbers vanilla selects of suffering succotash son at their worst, his character is bland and he’s nigh on unbeatable at times being able to withstand an onslaught that could kill a regular man yet still bounce back with a single spear/superman punch and win. As a heel though, Roman could revel in the negative fan reception and become a huge silent powerhouse with the motto of ‘arrive, wreck house, leave’.
Roman is going to be the heel of the match anyway, you’re not going to get a crowd to boo The Damn Deadman AT WRESTLEMANIA. Fans could unite for a heel Roman which is better than the 70/30 (at best) split we have now and The Undertaker is the perfect man to do the turn on. If you cheat to beat Undertaker, you’re in trouble, do it at Wrestlemania and you’re the most hated man in the industry. Besides, the failing face being saved by a heel turn then becoming a rousing successful face worked for The Rock.
But if Undertaker wins that’s cool, I like Undertaker, it’d be fine…but FINALLY seeing that heel turn would be great. You missed your chance to do it with John Cena, don’t miss it again.
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse:
This match is for Total Divas. Surely the reality show‘s latest season will revolve around this and it probably won’t be very good. The forecast shows a dire storm of AA’s and dominant offence heading straight for The Miz while Maryse’s ring rust will probably show. Cena and Nikki have their hands raised, Cena probably proposes, they live happily ever after, the end. Or alternatively it’s a more even match and doesn’t make Miz’s in-ring work look weak compared to the might of Mr. WWE. Miz needs the win far more than Cena, he’s coming off the best year of his ten year career and has been floundering since 2017 started. He has the potential to be the top mid carder again but Cena crushing him could bury him forever. Nikki and Maryse most likely won’t play a large role in the match and neither will be terribly effected by either result. The only positive outcome for this match is to have Miz victorious. Cena doesn’t need it, Nikki doesn’t need it, The Miz could die without it.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H:
A match that we knew was coming from the day Seth Rollins betrayed The S.H.I.E.L.D but has struggled past a few hurdles. This match was scheduled for Wrestlemania last year but due to Rollins injury had to be postponed. It looked like the same would happen here with Rollins being injured again by Samoa Joe on Raw. Luckily, Rollins will make it to Wrestlemania to face his former mentor Triple H, but in an unsanctioned match. Meaning it’ll get vicious and weapon heavy, most likely to allow Rollins to work at his own pace past his injury which supposedly isn’t still 100%. Think the classic Triple H vs Shawn Michaels from SummerSlam 2002, though probably not as bloody or violent.
Rollins being out of action for the past several weeks has surprisingly worked wonders for this feud. The continued real life questioning as to whether Rollins would be ready on time kept interest and focus high. Plus, this will be the first time in a while that the WWE Universe sees Rollins wrestle for that extra layer of appeal. Rollins slaying the king of kings is a given, it makes absolutely no sense from any angle for Triple H to win, yet both men should provide an excellent match nonetheless.
Triple H may not be a regular competitor anymore but he can still go quite well and Rollins is one of the best wrestlers alive. It’ll be a massive triumph in his career to topple his master and afterwards it’s looking to be all up from here for The King Slayer.
United States Championship — Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens:
For fans, this is the main event. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho have been stealing every Raw since SummerSlam and have been the most entertaining aspect of the WWE bar none. Jericho’s heel run featuring The List and Gift of Jericho’ in possibly the best run of his 20+ year career and the best friends forever gimmicks have been consistently great to excellent week in week out. The Festival of Friendship in particular being one of the best segments ever produced by WWE and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
While Owens’ Universal championship reign was lacklustre due to being overshadowed by Jericho it could’ve, and should’ve, all been fixed had he defended it here in a title vs title match. But instead Goldberg crushed him in roughly 20 seconds, and my dreams along with him. Expect ferocity, pure unadulterated hate, no mercy and endurance all stemming from one of the greatest break-ups in television history. For its storyline, build-up, sure to be excellent spots with even better character moments and the fact that Kevin Owens is one the best newer stars in WWE today while Jericho is one of the greatest of all time, this will surely be a classic. It has to be. Don’t mess this up WWE, it’d be unforgivable and you know what happens when you mess up Wrestlemania main events? WWE, YOU’LL MAKE THE LIST!
WWE Championship – Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton:
It’s strange to think that Bray Wyatt, a man who last year was going nowhere, seemed like wasted potential and didn’t even have a match at Wrestlemania, is now the defending World Heavyweight champion in the main event against a WWE golden boy like Randy Orton. A story running from the early days of the brand split, Randy and Bray have teased full matches and big pay-offs but here’s where we’re finally get it.
Orton’s run from facing Bray, to joining him to tearing his family apart and then betraying him by burning down his family compound and torching the remains of Sister Abigale has been well booked, even if Orton’s meant to be the baby face goodie (SOMEHOW). And the post rumble antics to help set up AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon made this seem like a mess, it’s still a super promising match-up. Expect Bray’s presence and mind games to be a big factor for him while Orton should be giving one of his more physical performances.
Bray’s one for bringing his dark side to centre stage but Orton’s no stranger to that either. On ring psychology alone it has a truck load of potential and both men clearly have the skills to make it worthy of the main event. It’s a match that’s been teased for half a year nearly and it’s fittingly culminating at the grandest stage of them all….and hopefully will end cleanly…with Bray Wyatt still champion…please? You’ll have to try to mess this one up WWE, so don’t.
Universal Championship – Goldberg (c) vs Brock Lesnar:
1 minute and 26 seconds. That’s how long it took Goldberg to defeat Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in one of the most jaw-dropping moment in recent wrestling history. It was simply astonishing to see The Beast conquered so easily, he didn’t even get in a single offensive move. Goldberg then went on to eliminate Lesnar from the Royal Rumble with ease and after signing the dotted line to face him for a final time at Wrestlemania, Goldberg beat Kevin Owens in roughly 20 seconds to become Universal champion.
In terms of storyline and kayfabe (the portrayal of wrestling and its storylines as real) Goldberg is the most powerful and unstoppable force in the history of wrestling. Even take out this run and look at him 12 years ago; an unmatched undefeated streak and having never lost a match cleanly, he is the immovable object. Which is why getting hyped for this match is so difficult. Goldberg has made a fool of Lesnar at every turn in record time. How can I get excited for a match that’ll either be a minute or two long at most or stretched past its welcome? You can see Goldberg getting tired quickly and he’s never been one for consistent quality through endurance. The squash nature of their Survivor Series match can’t be repeated without feeling stale and lame, and we know from their previous Wrestlemania match that there’s a massive chance this could be a complete waste of time. Why take one of the most critically panned matches in the show’s history and do it again? But for a title this time?
I like Goldberg, I really do and Lesnar was fantastic before he had every part of mind erased apart from eat, sleep, suplex, repeat. There’s a slim chance it could be something decent but don’t hold your breath.