I’ve been going on about it for a few weeks, and Wrestlemania is upon us! I am a few days away from not getting to talk as much about wrestling as I’d like, thereby making Andy much happier. But, spoiler alert, I’m still going to. Maybe monthly instead of weekly, though…
Anyway, on this, the Wrestlemaniest of weekends, what is there left to say?
Predictions is left to say!
We’ll start NOT with Wrestlemania, though, but with the Saturday BEFORE Wrestlemania with NXT Takeover New Orleans!
NXT North American Title Ladder Match: EC3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dane vs. Ricochet
I am a fan of everyone in this match except Lars Sullivan. Not sure why, but I just don’t feel him yet. He’s too generic for me at this point, but I haven’t seen tons of him. NXT’s roster is absolutely at the point where a secondary title is appreciated, but I’m not sure it’s the best idea. Past NXT Takeovers have done such a brilliant job building a card on two-to-three title matches plus two-to-three storyline-driven angles. I worry that having another strap is going to create more “they’re fighting just because one of them wants the other’s title” matches like main roster live specials are so overburdened with. I have always been a fan of the way NXT builds tension and rivalries without belts needing to be in play. That said, there’s little chance this match isn’t damn good; just look at those names. I’m excited for the prospect of Ricohet barreling through Killian Dane from great heights or Velveteen Dream trying to steal the spotlight or Adam Cole doing everything in his power to win smart and avoid taking big shots. I’m amped for this!
WINNER: My heart says Killian Dane, but… it won’t happen. EC3 seems too obvious. I think Dream or Ricochet takes it and EC3 guns for him in the aftermath. If pressed… I think Dream wins.
NXT Women’s Title Match: Champion Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler
Their last Takeover match was a lot better than I expected it to be, even with a meandering start. The story of that match was terrific, and it was exactly how you should book Baszler to be a hated but borderline-unstoppable heel. With all my heart, I bit on the ending and thought Baszler had it in the bag before Moon fluked it out; the last few minutes were the pinnacle of drama. I expect this encounter will be more 50/50, with Moon being a bit more prepared for Baszler’s tenacious attack. I actually think Moon might be on the offensive most of the match, both out of veteran cunning and pure desperation. That said, the story will be that Baszler has learned from their last contest, too, and she’ll get the better of the champion this time.
WINNER: Shayna Baszler
Dusty Tag Classic Final For NXT Tag Team Titles: The Undisputed Era’s Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly vs. The Authors of Pain vs. Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong
I don’t know why, but this is the match I’m the least geared up for, and when I look at the men involved, there’s virtually no reason for that. I just think the prospect of Cole pulling double duty is dubious, especially when one of those contests is a ladder match for a title. It makes me think something is going to happen here; some kind of swerve. I actually anticipate this match being one that wows me while it’s going on… I just can’t find the energy for it. Then again, look at the rest of this card. Can you blame me? Having a hard time choosing winners here, too. The Authors of Pain aren’t going to take it because they’ve worn this crown before. Strong and Dunne could use the build, but they just feel so hodge-podge. Cole and O’Reilly aren’t really a team; they’re just a fill-in due to injury. Where’s my three-sided coin?
WINNER: Probably Cole and O’Reilly.
Unsanctioned Match: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
How long has this match been in the making? Almost two years at this point? The Cruiserweight Classic was July 2016, and that was where the very first seed was planted that would eventually blossom into this match. There’s been an immense level of anticipation, the two men have built up a terrific animosity, and Gargano is coming off of the last Takeover where he put on a Match of the Year candidate… is there a chance this contest falls short of the hype? Is it possible that there is just too much pressure for these men to put on the bout we are all expecting? Boy, I guess there’s ALWAYS a chance, but I hate to even consider the thought. The build to this has been powerful, and both guys are loaded up with intensity. Obviously the talent level is there in spades for both, and their NXT resumes speak for themselves. I’d say there is a substantially better chance we are talking about this as a Match of the Year than as a “What could have been…” flop. Ciampa has to take the W here. Gargano is on his way to greener (or at least bigger) pastures, and Ciampa needs the forward momentum in NXT much more.
WINNER: Tommaso Ciampa
NXT Title Match: Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black
It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t really love either of these guys. They were both NXT talents I found serviceable, but underwhelming. My, how a few great angles and matches can change things. Now, on a show loaded with shining stars, these two are rightly fighting for the top prize. I keep wanting to point to one of them–either of them–and say “This one in particular…”, but they both are bonkers great. I can’t imagine undercutting either one. Damn, look at this card! This is such a great show. I won’t get to watch Takeover live because I will be out Saturday night, but you can bet I’ll watch it before I go to bed when I get in. As for this match, boy… it’s a hard call. I think Almas might take it after a healthy dose of shenanigans and heel desperation, but I don’t think it is the last time we will see these two on a Takeover going for this strap…
WINNER: Andrade “Cien” Almas
All right. GOD DAMN, that show is going to be fantastic. I’m amped! Let’s move on to…. WRESTLEMANIA
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
I can’t believe they still do this every year, but at least it’s a decent paycheck for everyone for making it to ‘Mania, and it gives an NXT call-up or two a chance to pop the crowd. I’ve heard the rumors that THIS TIME this will matter because of the Andre The Giant biopic that is coming out. I disbelieve those rumors. It’ll happen and be quickly forgotten like the rest. I mean, hell… it’s still just on the pre-show. How much can they care?
WINNER: Matt Hardy, because I want to see the trophy become a fixture on the Hardy Compound.
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
I’m more excited for this battle royal than the men’s one because, whereas almost the entirety of the prominent male roster is in use elsewhere, there are still a lot of upper echelon women being put in here. Sasha, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Carmella and her briefcase. It’s just a field with more overall forward mobility than the men’s match. The bookie betting favorite here is… Carmella? Can that be right? Man, Vegas usually knows this stuff, but I don’t buy it. What’s the cause to have her win?
WINNER: Ember Moon
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Finals: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
I know this will probably prove an unpopular thing to say, but I’m happy this is on the pre-show. IDEALLY, it should make Wrestlemania Proper, but there’s not a bout on the main card that I’d bump for this (unless we count, like, Cena/Undertaker which may or may not even be a thing). Besides, this is perfect for amping up the crowd right before the main show starts (assuming this goes last on the pre-show, that is). Let Cedric and Mustafa go out there, put on a great show, and send Cedric home from Wrestlemania with a title. Then the crowd is warmed up for more action.
WINNER: Cedric Alexander
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: Champions The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers
On a card with a lot of stellar matches and huge upside… this match has massive potential. We all know what Usos/New Day is capable of, and we’ve seen of late how fun Harper and Rowan can be now that they are allowed to be a destructive force. If there is any amount of time given to this, we could have the show stealer right here. Props, of course, for The Usos who have truly come into their own and rightfully deserve to be make the main card of Wrestlemania for the first time ever (and for The New Day for continuing to tune and adjust their gimmick so that they stay fresh and popular all these years later, though they have never won at ‘Mania, if I recall right). Even with that respect pointed out, Harper and Rowan just feel “due” here. They’ve never had their run with the belts, and while I suppose they COULD win them later, why not go whole hog with them and let them win at the biggest event on the calendar?
WINNER: The Bludgeon Bros.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Champions The Bar vs. Braun Strowman & A Partner TBD
I don’t know how I feel about Braun being required to have a partner here. I absolutely hated the idea of Braun winning the tag titles by himself, but I liked the idea of it being a match on this card. I thought he could run wild on The Bar before eventually The Bar cheats to retain (or even just goes at him with chairs to take the disqualification loss), and Braun could come back at a subsequent show with a partner to watch his back. That said, the build to this has been fun, especially with Brains Strowman on the go-home Raw. It’s truly a crime Braun didn’t get inserted into the Universal Title match so that whole affair could have had some drama surrounding the finish, but this is a fun use of his time if WWE was so dead-set against the idea. Cesaro and Sheamus have really helped return the luster of these belts, and seeing legit main event star Braun covet them only adds to that. Am I spending a LOT of time avoiding speculating on who Braun’s partner will be? Yep! Because I have no idea. I truly hope it isn’t Bray, though. What a waste that would be. I think it will just be a returning legend for a pop. Like DDP or something, I don’t know. Sting. Someone like that. Either way… a partner could be Braun’s Achilles Heel.
WINNER: The Bar
Raw Women’s Championship Match: Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax
I’m glad Bliss made it all the way to ‘Mania with her belt in tow, because she has really been a shining star of a strong Raw’s Women’s division. Her post-Elimination Chamber promo win was beautiful, and everything she’s touched… *remembers the Bayley “This Is Your Life” stuff*… ALMOST everything she’s touched has gone gold. Internet booking has this as a squash for Nia to complete the bully comeuppance story they are telling, but that would be such a shame and would squander the development Bliss has made as a cunning, never-say-die champ who always has the right tools in place to keep her strap. I’d like to see her find some way–any way–to sneak out of Wrestlemania still the women’s champ of Raw. Nia has been fine and has shown growth and improvement, but her time could come further down the line. Bliss the perfomer deserves this spotlight W (even if Bliss the character does not).
WINNER: Alexa Bliss
Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens (If Owens & Zayn win, they’re back on Smackdown)
Hard, hard match to call, and I’ll tell you why: when Daniel Bryan fired Sami and Kevin, he specifically said “This isn’t forever, but it is for now”. The most sensible conclusion SEEMS to be that Kevin and Sami win to get their jobs back and further the storyline they have with Bryan and Shane, but it’s possible they lose and just return in a month or so. And yes, I suppose there is the idea that Shane could turn on Daniel, let Sami and Kevin beat the American Dragon, and then McMahon joyfully rehires them, but boy… what a shit ending that would be. Bryan loses his return match (at Wrestlemania!), Shane makes a turn to side with two guys he has DESPISED for months, and Kevin and Sami look like suckers for needing a hand-out. Nobody comes out of that turn looking any better. So while it may be where WWE goes, I am a bigger supporter of the notion that Bryan gets his big stage return win, Sami and Kevin come back with a vengeance in a month, and Shane and Bryan build to a more sensible turn angle.
WINNER: Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
I’ve been lobbying since the women’s Royal Rumble match was first announced publicly for Charlotte/Asuka to main event WrestleMania this year. It’s clearly not going to happen or they would have made that public for the huge spotlight it would garner, but I think it really deserves to. They haven’t built up much of a story between them, but when you have the cornerstone of the women’s division against the undefeated dynamo star that Asuka has been… it should sell itself. I’m expecting a hard-hitting, no-nonsense encounter that should be a spectacle to behold. Charlotte’s size and power and championship pedigree versus Asuka’s tenacity and sheer inability to lose. This is going to be good. Will there be a Carmella sighting? She did just recently break the record for longest time spent with the briefcase; I’d love to see her cash in after a hard-fought title match only for Asuka to one-kick her. Who knows?
WINNER: Asuka (and then Asuka again, against Carmella)
WWE United States Championship Match: Champion Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev
I’m not near my calendar, but I am pretty sure this show is taking place on Rusev Day! Look, Rusev Day jokes are still great, and I am not tired of them yet. How has WWE not let Bobby Roode go heel yet? Being a babyface is KILLING him on the main roster. He’s just another body in this persona and is well on his way to burning out all of his good will. They are going to let a star go completely to waste if they don’t right that ship. Orton is walking in as the champ… I could legitimately see any of these guys leaving as the champ… maybe least of all Roode because the belt seems the least purposeful on him. I’m hoping against hope that the reason Rusev is here is to win because management knows the pop for his winning a title at Wrestlemania at this stage in his career would be deafening. Go with that feeling, WWE. Ride that.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Champion The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor
If Seth is still looked at as the immediate post-Mania challenger to Roman’s Universal Title, he seems the odd man out here, but still… these plans change with the breeze, and he could conceivably do a lot of good with the IC belt. Hell, Balor would be a good challenger right out of the gate for Roman, too (like Rollins, he has beaten Roman clean before and would have the credibility to be plugged in against Reigns), so that would open the door back up for Seth here. The Miz has been a godsend to the Intercontinental Title the last several years, but he’s got to lose it at some point, right? That’s the point of being a great, obnoxious champion heel. Honestly, these three are all in my top five main roster favorites from the last few years, so I’ll be glad to see any of them come out on top; I just want a terrific contest and continued relevance for the Intercontinental Championship.
WINNER: The Miz. It just feels like when it seems he should lose, he always wins
WWE Championship Match: Champion AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
It still feels weird that this is a high-profile, world title match at WrestleMania, right? I guess that’s the good side to Roman/Brock being the Universal Title Match… it serves as enough of a security blanket that it lets Vince toy with putting AJ STYLES and SHINSUKE NAKAMURA in the other title bout. Main roster Shinsuke has felt… uninspired for a lot of his run (but he’s had PPV matches against brooms like Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal, so… wouldn’t you be?), but he’s GOT to be able to get up for THIS, right? This is the match the whole world wants to see; it’s the match that everyone knows hs epic potential either because they’ve seen it for themselves or they’ve heard of their past encounters. Either superstar could win here and feel “right”. And either could defend the title down the line against Daniel Bryan (eventually)! I think WWE is more firmly behind AJ than they are Nakamura at present, so…
WINNER: AJ Styles
John Cena vs. Undertaker
I didn’t want Undertaker to keep wrestling after Lesnar ended the streak. I CERTAINLY don’t want Undertaker to keep wrestling now that he has two Wrestlemania blemishes. At this point there’s no mystique–there’s just a very old man with a long history who hasn’t put on a particularly good match in five or six years. I feel like this is a no-win situation for Cena; as great as he is, there’s just not enough left to ‘Taker to drag to anything really worth watching, and win or lose, there’s no rub in sight for either man. The aura of “OMG, CENA VS UNDERTAKER” will wear off after a few minutes, and then we’ll just be left with whatever they put together. I guess this match isn’t set in stone; they’ve put off confirming it, so hey… maybe it WON’T happen. But if it does… god, can THIS be his last match already?
WINNER: The Undertaker
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
What on Earth happened to Kurt Angle? He was one of the best talkers in the biz for most of his career, but now it’s like his lips can’t get out of his tongue’s way. Is he just incapable of doing scripted promos? That could be it, I guess. He sounds like a confused child most of the time. I know this match is going to get far more time than I’d like it to. I just hope it’s kept under 15 minutes, but there’s a part of me that worries that Triple-H has dreams of a 30 minute marathon here. I’m not inherently anti-Rousey, but I’d rather they built her in the actual women’s division for a match there. This just seems like WWE thinks they are going to be forgiven for 6 years of Steph neutering everyone on the roster by having her take a few bumps. Meh.
WINNER: Ronda and Kurt
WWE Universal Championship Match: Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
What is there to talk about here? The match will be good. It will be brutal and violent and the ring will shake with the hatred both men seem to have for the other. And then Roman is 100% going to win. On a show with so many “I could see this going a few different ways” contests, there is only one ending here. No drama. But the match will be fun, sure. Wrestlemania 31 was fun. This will be fun. There’s no way Brock wins. You can do a match with a predetermined outcome and still have it be great if the fans are invested in the win. Nobody will be here. On no planet does this deserve to be the main event.
WINNER: Roman Reigns