By Darren Gutteridge
Welcome, everyone, to the most underwhelming event of the year – WrestleMania! I’m usually one to get a little bit irked about the use of hyperbole when it comes to the promotion of wrestling, but any attempt to call this anything but the weakest WrestleMania in my time being a wrestling fan will make me quite vicious.
That said, last year’s WrestleMania was similarly shaky, and we all know how that turned out. Can on-the-night effort make up for such a terribly built card? I’m sincerely hoping so. But without any further ado, let’s see where I think we’ll stand come the fireworks on Sunday night.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Of all the negative outcomes from the injury crisis, this match may be the worst one, even more so than the co-main event. One year removed from the toxicity of Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, we once again find WWE stubbornly sticking to their plan to build their Roman Empire on pillars of salt and sand. Only this time the bad blood between the hardcore fans and Reigns is worse, the build has been sub-par, and optimism of another 11 hour save non-existent.
I’ll be honest, I have no desire to see this match. Even the clutching-at-straws scenarios of a double turn do nothing for me, because the thought of a product built around Reigns is inherently flawed to me. But with how stubborn WWE has been over the past 12 months, that is what I foresee happening, without a turn in sight. Triple H will be determined to not let another WM 25 scenario go down, where his main event with Orton ended the whole night on a whimper, so perhaps we’ll see an OK match. But a match, or swerve, good enough to calm the tides of war? I wouldn’t count on it.
Prediction: Roman Reigns beats Triple H to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (and stays babyface)
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon: I went on record a few weeks ago on the Dot Net Weekly audio show stating my dislike of this match on paper. And while nothing so far in the build has persuaded me this is anything but a bad, desperate idea, I have to throw my hands up and admit it is working as a marketing vehicle for WM 32. No one is talking about Triple H vs. Reigns outside of the wrestling sphere. No – it’s all eyes on the Deadman vs. Shane o’Mac.
Does that absolve it of its sin of being more flawed than Scott Steiner math? I’m inclined to say yes. Even I’m guilty of being morbidly curious of what this match will turn out like. In kayfabe, Taker should steamroll Shane like he wasn’t even there. But we’re clearly in bizzaro world, so it is entirely possible that this will be a riot of a match. Everything rides on a Taker loss, but I don’t have enough faith in WWE to go with the big shock. Nor am I keen to see Taker lose.
I will say one thing though – it’s surely going to be better than that other lop sided match in Batman v Superman this month! Even if this is more like Superman vs Robin. And not even Dick Grayson Robin. I’m talking Jason Todd. Look it up.
Prediction: The Undertaker defeats Shane McMahon
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar: Now you’re talking. Of the big three matches this year, this one is leaps and bounds ahead of the other two for me. Mania has a long, (in)glorious history of serving up epic hardcore wars, and I suspect this one will soon join that illustrious club.
Ambrose has started to grate on me a little bit in standard matches. They all feel the same, and his compatibility with other guys ranges from excellent to disastrous, with little in between. But throw him into a situation that is more about storytelling than moves, and he excels. Though I’m picking Brock to win, Ambrose will come out of this looking great, with a new battle scar and another healthy injection of fan appreciation. He is a babyface being built on his back, not on his feet like his bro Roman. You don’t need me to tell you which method is working better.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar defeats Dean Ambrose
Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: I agree with all of the critics saying the U.S. and Intercontinental Title matches should have been flipped. I’m also bothered by the fact that Zack Ryder, who may have appeared on something like five episodes of Raw all year, has found his way into this match instead of wrestler X, Y or Z (Tyler Breeze jumps to the front of my mind). And ultimately, it is sad to think of the talent being wasted in a crash and burn match rather than something with substance.
But if we come to accept that this match is happening whether we think it’s a good idea or not, there is a lot of potential for excitement and spectacle. We’ve seen in ROH what Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn can do in ladder matches after all! I think Owens will find a way to win, leaving us open to continue his feud with Zayn into Extreme Rules and beyond.
Prediction: Kevin Owens retains his Intercontinental Title
The New Day vs. The League of Nations for the WWE Tag Team Titles: Never before in the history of WrestleMania have I been more excited for an entrance than a match. Anything short of New Day coming out on a giant unicorn, or three slightly smaller unicorns, will be nothing short of a travesty. The booking of Kofi going over Del Rio on the go-home edition of Raw would seemingly point to the League taking home the win, but if WWE wants to try to fight any negative heat their main events will generate, they better be putting New Day over.
Prediction: The New Day defeat The League of Nations
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the Divas Title: I’m happy we’re getting this match on the main card, and not shuffled away on the pre-show. The Divas Revolution was as empty as promised, but thankfully WWE managed to get to the right end result all the same – three new competitors in a legitimate match for the title. Lord knows we’ve had enough pillow fights and “every Diva ever” matches on Mania cards this last decade (we don’t even escape that latter match this year).
Though I have heel Kevin Owens down to win his match, and pseudo-heel Lesnar down to win his, I think both will be received favorably by the Mania crowd. I think this match however will be one of only a select few matches where the definitive heel goes over. Charlotte is the lesser of the three, but with Bayley seemingly arriving soon, I’d rather she come in up against a strong heel champ than a new title holder in either Lynch or Banks.
Prediction: Charlotte retains her Divas Title
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: This match, despite being never before seen only two months ago, feels played out already. I admire the way they’ve tried to build this as a “who is the better man” feud, but it already feels like the answer has already been given – it’s AJ Styles. How I would have felt had both men never locked up prior to this match I don’t know, but I do feel I’d be more excited. Jericho has underwhelmed for a long time, but fingers crossed the combined chemistry of this being one of Jericho’s last Mania appearances (I presume) and Styles’ first gives this match a boost come show time.
Prediction: AJ Styles defeats Chris Jericho
Kalisto vs. Ryback for the United States Title: It’s rapid fire time! This has been a very easy feud to overlook, and Kalisto really should have been the guy in the ladder match, but they do have the good old fashioned “Big vs. Small” dynamic to work with. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised by this match.
Prediction: Kalisto defeats Ryback to retain the United States Title
The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz: I’m still waiting for this elaborate mistake to end. They clearly took the third match from a house show tour and accidentally pasted it onto the WrestleMania card, right?
Prediction: The Dudleys defeat The Usos
The Andre the Giant Battle Royal: Any word on if Cesaro is healthy? I’d be all for him returning here and becoming the first ever two time winner (not that win one was all that long ago or did anything for him). If not, this would be a cool spot for Tyler Breeze to pick up a semi-meaningful win. In fact, that is what I’m going for. The thought of Breeze trying to pose next to Andre’s less than stunning features makes me giggle. OR HE COULD GIVE DRE A MAKE OVER. Sold!
Prediction: Tyler Breeze wins
The Total Divas vs. B.A.D. and Blonde: “The Divas Revolution – we treat them with respect!”. #6monthslater. “You want a Mania match? Then you better work on your ability to conform to stereotypes, or you’ll just be walking out the Hall of Fame entrants!”.
Prediction: The Total Branding defeats B.A.D. and Blonde
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Jim Ross on his role in AEW, Tony Khan as a leader, whether Ross knew Shawn Spears was going to hit Cody with a chair shot to the head, working with Excalibur and Alex Marvez, his new book and speaking engagement deal, and much more... Search "Pro Wrestling Boom" in Apple Podcasts or any podcast app to subscribe.