It is time again for the biggest night in pro wrestling and sports entertainment, as WrestleMania takes off later in the evening, and over the course of what will likely be a seven hour, the grounds that the WWE sit could be shaken up more than ever before. Counting the preshow, which has both the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, the Inaugural Women’s Battle Royal, and a scrap for the Cruiserweight Championship, there are 14 matches on the card, as WrestleMania makes its second appearance in the last five years at Superdome in New Orleans.
This night could see a major shakeup in power structure in the promotion, as every title is up for grabs, in addition several one-off showcase matches between battles for gold. Even Las Vegas has taken an interesting in the intrigue of the evening, as betting sites like 188Bet have prop betting lines that lean towards plenty of titles changing hands. Only Randy Orton is currently favored to retain his title, which would mean a WrestleMania record of seven title changes could occur.
However, unpredictability is the name of the game in the WWE. Will there be any out of nowhere returns, akin to The Hardys' appearance last year? Will John Cena successfully coax The Undertaker out of retirement? Could The Rock, Dean Ambrose, Rey Mysterio or even another Money In The Bank cash-in make an appearance? The sudden return of Daniel Bryan and debut of Ronda Rousey has set into motion the unpredictable nature of what’s to come.
Who knows where the WWE Universe will be in orbit by the end of the night, but one thing that is indisputable is that this could be one of the greatest WrestleManias ever. Here is how we see it playing out, with predictions in card order, to outcomes, to even a particularly ‘electrifying’ rendezvous.
Match #1: The Miz (Champion) vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship
A perfect kickoff for the Mania would be one of the best built triple threat matches in recent history, for the Intercontinental Championship. The Miz has done yeoman's work in restoring the profile around the title, and he's done a fantastic job in building buzz with both of his competitors. Building heat off his reputation as a solely WWE-produced competitor in an era where the lines have been blurred, Miz even went as far to call the two former independent and foreign stars ‘Tyler Black’ and ‘Prince Devitt’ to keep things going.
Prediction: Miz has done a great job of carrying the weight of being the top weekly title holder on Raw, but it is time for him to move on the bigger things. Meanwhile, despite Finn Balor being the original Universal title holder, he seems more destined to be at the IC level, a run that gets started tonight. Finn Balor wins the Intercontinental title by pinning Seth Rollins.
Match #2: The Usos (Champions) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers for Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The first Smackdown match of the night will pit The Usos up against their most constant adversaries for the last few months in The New Day (who should be represented by Kofi Kingston and Big E). However, the added presence of the Bludgeon Brothers, Luke Harper and Eric Rowan, provides an intriguing new twist, as they have been arguably the strongest tag team on either promotion since the Royal Rumble.
Prediction: It will be a quick, but exciting match with The Usos doing their usual high flying, impact move-set and Kofi Kingston providing for his usual big match 'OMG' moment as well. However, the Bludgeon Brothers will capitalize on a big spot gone wrong and capture their first Tag Team title win.
Match #3: Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Nia Jax for Raw Women’s Championship
One of the most personal angles of the night comes around the Raw Women’s Championship, where Alexa Bliss will defend her title against a fired-up Nia Jax. The powerhouse of the women’s division has her sights set and Bliss, after the champ was exposed for taking advantage of Jax and making fun of her weight and gullibility. It has furthered Bliss as the preeminent heel in the entire women’s division and made it easy to get behind Jax. While Nia could easily dismantle the diminutive Bliss, the presence of Mickie James in her corner and the chance that Nia could also get disqualified for simply dismantling Bliss makes it seem as if Bliss will somehow escape with the title still.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss wins by disqualification.
Match #4: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
The hardest match of the night to follow should be up next, as the return of Daniel Bryan to the ring added an unforeseen new spotlight match to the card. The beloved bearded one’s return to action should garner a huge reception that could rival anyone in WWE history. Outside of the excitement around his return, this could be one of the most intense matches of the night, as each competitor in the match has been building to a boiling point for months.
This match could breakdown in any number of ways, with a signature Shane moment pulling out all the stops to takeout Owens or Sami, and some high impact moments from three elite wrestlers in Owens, Zayn and Bryan. Even the members of each team could potentially turn on each other at any point, adding more ntrigue.
In the end, it is hard to imagine Owens and Zayn being outright fired from Smackdown, such is the stipulation of the match. However, crazier things have happened and with a superstar shakeup on the horizon, they could end up fired at the end of the night…only to make a switch over to Raw. However, more likely than not, Shane will get pinned to keep options alive on Smackdown, with Bryan putting up a performance for the ages.
Prediction: Owens and Zayn live to fight another day, but nobody cares because Shane and Bryan steal the show in defeat.
Match #5: Randy Orton (Champion) vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode for the United States Championship
This match is a classic example of working to get as many guys on the card as possible, around a title that can pretty much change hands without long-term ramifications. Randy Orton and Bobby Roode have gone back and forth over the last few months with U.S. strap, while Jinder Mahal has had separate beefs with both, battling Roode for the U.S. Championship, while facing off against Orton for the WWE Championship late in 2017. Meanwhile, the superstar takeoff of ‘Rusev Day’ has been one of the most unlikely, but undeniable events of the past year, thus forcing his way into a WrestleMania moment that this match is hospitable for.
However, Rusev’s late addition to the party could be a fruitful one, as he could align again with the U.S. Championship, which he's held twice before. Meanwhile, Orton and Roode can move on to stand-alone feuds, with Roode making a heel turn, and Jinder can continue to chase American boos by chasing Rusev.
Prediction: it’s Rusev Day at Mania, as he emerges with the United States Championship.
Match #6: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
The biggest attraction match of the night comes courtesy of the annual ‘Triple H showcase match’, as this year will feature HHH pitted against intriguing duo making both a debut and return. Kurt Angle will make his first in-ring WrestleMania appearance in 12 years, pairing off with the debuting Ronda Rousey to face The Authority. Rousey’s debut is highly anticipated, as she has yet to do any in-ring work aside from a few interviews since arriving at the Royal Rumble. With Rousey taking a full-time WWE schedule, to see how she is pitted against not only Stephanie, but also Triple H, will be interesting.
Hopefully, Angle puts on a better showing than he did in his previous matches at Survivor Series and at Tables, Ladders and Chairs, where he looked rusty and showed a signs of age. The outcome will almost certainly be Rousey and Angle emerging victorious, as building up Ronda is essential in taking the women’s division to a higher profile moving forward.
Prediction: After Triple H and Angle mix it up some, and Rousey steps in to take down HHH once herself, Rousey gets the win after (painfully) making Stephanie tap via arm bar.
Match #7: John Cena vs. The Undertaker
This seems as good a time as any to get to first dream match of the night, as we finally get answers from The Undertaker after weeks of being chastised and called out by John Cena. Cena has vowed to either push 'Taker out of retirement or watch WrestleMania ‘as a fan’, so it would not be surprising to see Cena sit in the stands for a few of the matches that precede this point on the card. After getting fed up of watching the action, Cena hops the gate, grabs the mic and makes one last call for The Dead Man to face him. Which at that point, he finally gets his wish.
Prediction: This will likely not be a classic showdown by any means by the standards of what these legends are capable of, but it will likely go down at a surprising pace that makes it live up to the billing of their reputations. But in the end, the Undertaker makes Cena remorseful for calling for his resurrection, and gets the win in the same town his streak died in.
Match #8: Charlotte Flair (Champion) vs. Asuka for Smackdown Women’s Championship
Maybe the most unpredictable and intriguing match will come when the Smackdown Women’s title is decided between the top women in the game, Charlotte and the undefeated, Royal Rumble-winning Asuka. More has been made of Asuka’s undefeated run than of Charlotte’s impressive stint since switching over to Smackdown, where she's held the title since November. This is a matchup between the two best women’s workers and are the equivalent of Styles vs. Nakamura on the men’s side. Charlotte always raises her game at the biggest moments, while Asuka has been the equivalent of a young Brock Lesnar or Goldberg since reaching NXT and Raw.
Prediction: Today is the day for the ‘Empress of Tomorrow’, as her unstoppable steak through the WWE gets her the Smackdown title, but opens up what could be the definitive rivalry for both Flair and Asuka.
Match #9: A.J. Styles (Champion) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for WWE Championship
For the big-picture wrestling fan, nothing matters more than the WWE Championship between Styles and Nakamura. This showdown has been eagerly anticipated since The King of Strong Style joined the roster, and goes all the way back to their New Japan Pro Wrestling match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, when Nakamura defeated Styles. This could be the Savage/Steamboat match of the night, and if it does, it'll be the match that everyone talks about for years afterwards.
Prediction: The scene headed into the match has been all about Nakamura warning Styles that a ‘knee to head’ via the Kinsasha. Meanwhile, Styles has remained resolute about being the best in the world at what he does. This should be a match that is full of fantastic chain wrestling exchanges, high impact spots in and outside of the ring and engaging near finishes. But in the end, A.J. Styles defends the WWE Championship in a classic performances that cements him as one of the best in-ring performers of all-time, while also starting up a long-term rivalry with Nakamura that could carry into the summer.
Special Event: Elias’ Big Concert
Elias has become one of the biggest stars in the WWE over the last six months, and the night will not go down without one of his signature concert moments. However, when he gets to the point of attempting to begin his performance, after of course ripping into and chastising the crowd, he will have his show interrupted by the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, as The Rock makes his latest triumphant return. After trading barbs with Elias on the mic for a moment, a fed up Elias goes to attack The Great One with his guitar, only to miss and fall into a Rock Bottom for the ages. The Rock goes over big and Elias continues to have some of the best segments in the game today.
Match #10 The Bar (Champions) vs. Brawn Strowman and mystery partner for Raw Tag Team Championship
Brawn Strowman has been a one-man wrecking crew for the past year, so much so that now he will be placed in a potential handicap match scenario against the Raw tag team champions, Cesaro and Sheamus. The obvious intrigue here is who will be Strowman’s tag team partner. While it will likely not be his ‘brother’ Brains, who made a brief ‘appearance’ on Monday Night, this opens the door for any number of nostalgia acts to show up.
Speculation has ranged from Rey Mysterio to the Big Show to Dean Ambrose to Big Cass, to even James Ellsworth. However, I get the suspicion it will be a Curt Hawkins/Heath Slater type that shows up and is decimated by Strowman himself, before he goes forward in taking down the Tag champions himself and beginning what could be an interesting run as a singular tag team champion.
Prediction: Strowman goes ultra-over again, wins the tag team titles himself and gets a strong reprimand and forced partnership via Kurt Angle’s mandate on Monday night.
Main Event: Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship
Everything has been building to a rematch between the WWE’s two baddest men for years. After their first main event showdown for the title at WrestleMania 31 was interrupted by Seth Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash in, this time there is nothing to come in-between the two as they settle their grudge once and for all.
Lesnar has been taking the fight to Reigns over the last few weeks, answering Reigns claims that Lesnar is the worst of what a part-time champion represents. 'Suplex City' was given birth in their last matchup and will no doubt play a role in this one as well. No matter if you like Reigns or not, there is no debating that he brings the fight to every main event. Likewise, Lesnar is the top main event attraction in the company, a role he continues to affirm in every appearance.
Prediction: It feels like coronation night for Reigns, as everything has built to him being 'the guy’ that knocks off The Guy. With an uncertain future for Lesnar with the WWE, it will be time to appreciate the uniqueness he represents. This should play out as one of the most classic, physical showdowns in WrestleMania history, with Reigns coming out on top in a passing of the torch moment reminiscent of Austin over HBK or Ultimate Warrior over Hulk Hogan.
Of course, we can all keep our fingers crossed for a Paul Heyman turn against Lesnar or some other hijinks, but one way or the other, it is hard to not imagine Lesnar’s shoulders finally hitting the mat after a year of holding the belt in a dominant fashion.
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