By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper
- T.S. Elliot
And just like that, it’s WrestleMania weekend. This has been my favorite weekend since, oh, 2001. That was the first year my best friend Eric and I ordered a WrestleMania on pay-per-view. It was WrestleMania 17 and it is one of my most cherished childhood memories. Since that fateful night when Steve Austin broke our hearts and taught us, once and for all, not to trust anybody, I’ve looked forward to WrestleMania more than any other sporting even throughout the year. Granted, I super don’t give a shit about any other sporting event throughout the year, but still. The sentiment remains.
I watched Hulk Hogan battle The Rock, while simultaneously transporting the collective audience back to the ‘80s, the glory days of Hulkamania. My mom watched that match with me, which was the only time we did that together. She thought The Rock was cute and was surprised that Hogan was still wrestling, let alone holding the Toronto crowd in the palm of his hand.
I watched Shawn Michaels return from the depths of despair and addiction, to battle Chris Jericho and remind the world that he was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Mr. WrestleMania.
Eric and I were in Atlanta for WrestleMania 27… We drank wine with Kevin Nash, Road Dogg borrowed Eric’s lighter to light a smoke, and I took a picture with the former Natural Born Thriller, Mike Sanders, because nobody else was and I felt bad for him. We also witnessed Shawn Michaels’ Hall of Fame speech, what we came to find out was Edge’s last match (or so we thought), and we watched Triple H and The Undertaker steal the show.
WrestleMania has produced a lot of incredible memories for me over the years, which is why it is with a heavy heart that I say this:
WrestleMania absolutely should not be F-ing happening this year.
If there was ever a time for Vince McMahon to finally give his wrestlers an off-season, this should be it. He’s already losing a ton of money; why not allow his people to stay at home with their people, until the nation gets this COVID-19 thing under control (hint: it’s gonna be a while before that happens. Our president is too busy telling everyone that he’s No. 1 on Facebook, whatever TF that means). While I understand, if not completely agree with, the need for independent wrestling promotions doing anything they can to stay afloat, there’s no reason why WWE (and, to be fair, AEW), take a few weeks off and still pay their workers until this pandemic is under control. It would be the decent and humane thing to do.
But, this is wrestling and Vince McMahon doing the decent, humane thing is less common than Donald Trump showing genuine human empathy (actually, it’s not- but it’s close). With all due respect to P.T. Barnum (himself, no saint), the show doesn’t always have to go on. But, go on it will as WWE presents WrestleMania 36: In Your House. This is going to be the strangest wrestling show of all time (and I’ve seen complete baseball games played inside of a ring), but the least we can do is provide you, dear reader, with some semblance of normalcy in this absolutely abnormal time. So, buckle up, buds. Here are the predictions for WrestleMania 36: I Am Legend.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Otis.
Nobody F-ing Cares.
Bobby Lashley vs. Aleistar Black.
Nobody F-ing Cares, Part Two: Electric Boogaloo
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza and Austin Theory for the Raw Tag Titles.
Nobody F-ing Cares, Part Three: The Revenge of Nobody F-ing Cares
Elias vs. King Corbin.
Nobody F-ing Cares: The Final Chapter
The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles.
Nobody F-ing Cares: Requiem
When half of your WrestleMania card reads like the most boring episode of Raw of all-time, you’re in trouble. Luckily, the rest of the card should make up for it. Hopefully.
Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi vs. Tamina in a Fatal Five-Way elimination match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Now, at least we’re trying to be interesting. This will obviously come down to Bayley, Banks and Tamina. Probably roots will be sewn for a Bayley/Banks feud down the line. There’s no reason to take the championship off of Bayley, because the money program is her vs Banks, possibly at SummerSlam. If there is one.
Bayley retains the Smackdown Women’s Title.
The Miz and John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston in a ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Miz is reportedly out of this match, so I’m not exactly sure what it actually looks like. Does Morrison get a new partner? What’s Joey Mercury doing? Both Kofi and Big E have been showing more of an edge lately, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they bent whatever rules may exist in this match to get the win. It’s a far cry from last year’s Mania for Kingston, but we’re all living in a weird, parallel universe right now anyway so it doesn’t actually matter.
The New Day win the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens Ya know, this story has been pretty good. Seth Rollins is back to being the (purposefully) annoying heel and Kevin Owens is showing great fire as the everyman babyface. He’s no “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (and I’m super glad he has seemingly stopped trying to be), but he has sold me on this new character and I’m excited to see where it takes him. Rollins has played his part marvelously too, and I think he’s about as close to a lead villain as Raw is going to get for a while. Because of this, I fully expect him to win this match and then feud with whomever wins the WWE Championship later on (or the next day, IDK. They never tell me anything).
Seth Rollins wins.
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair for the NXT Women’s Championship In another universe, where matches would receive a normal build, this match could be the sleeper pick of the night. Ripley is extremely talented and Charlotte literally has nothing left to prove. With a big crowd, this would have been a good match. Without the crowd, however, it’s just hard to get excited about it. The two will put on a good match, I’m sure, but this is definitely going to be a case of a match needing an audience in order to be really special. Perhaps Charlotte dethrones Ripley to set up a rematch at whenever the next Takeover takes place.
Charlotte Flair wins.
Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the Raw Women’s Championship. Now this is a match that has had a great build, with or without an audience. It helps that Shayna is more of a silent killer and when Lynch can deliver a straightforward promo, without all of the pomp and circumstance that ‘The Man’ personae sometimes called for, she can sell me on just about anything. Lynch has had a good year as champion, but not a great one. Fans like her best when she’s the underdog, which is why I see Shayna getting the win and sending Becky on a quest to redeem herself. And then, once she finally does get her win back from Baszler, that’s when Ronda Rousey makes her long-awaited return, possibly just in time for WrestleMania 37.
Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match. I have no idea what this match is going to look like. But, these days, The Undertaker is best when he gets to be less of a wrestler, more of a character. This match will showcase the character, which can only be a good thing. Taker mentioned an ‘unholy Trinity.’ This could have been a throwaway line, or it could have foreshadowed something kind of cool- like, perhaps a mystical resurgence of The Deadman, The American Badass, and Mean Mark Callous. Or something. Regardless, this won’t be a well-wrestled match, but it should make for a fun story. As a side note: who would have thought that Shane McMahon would have a better match with both The Undertaker and AJ Styles than those two would have with each other? What a time to be alive.
The Undertaker wins.
John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Funhouse match. Much like the match above, I expect this to be less of a wrestling match, more of a movie. And that’s okay. Just like The Undertaker, Bray Wyatt does better when he has the benefit of cinema. Cena is a bonafide movie star now and, when they want to, WWE can produce pieces of art on par with anything that comes out of Hollywood. Cena and Wyatt have the opportunity to tell a unique, entertaining story. It won’t be a good match but, hopefully, it will tell a good story. I fully plan on ingesting an illicit substance beforehand. Unfortunately, it’ll be more THC, less mushrooms. That would make for an entertaining match. Alas, I am handcuffed to my country’s laws and am kind of terrified of hard drugs. Still, I’m sure we’ll all feel a little high after watching this match. And if Wyatt doesn’t win, we can finally just admit that Vince McMahon doesn’t have a clue how to book him and we can start counting down the days til he joins his friend, Brodie Lee, in AEW.
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt wins.
Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan for the Intercontinental Title. This is, surprisingly, one of the matches I’m most looking forward to seeing. Granted, I would have preferred these two independent standouts to be able to face each other in front of a crowd, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on the quality of this match. Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn is a dream match, and no amount of bad booking, past failures, or lack of audience can change that fact. I fully expect these two to steal the show.
Or, all of the other guys get involved and it turns into a four-minute free for all. Knowing WWE, this is highly probable. But I can hope. And my hope leads me to believe that these two will tear the proverbial house down. Bryan gets the win and, in a perfect world, defends against Zayn, then Cesaro, then Shinsuke Nakamura. A guy can dream.
Daniel Bryan wins the Intercontinental Championship.
Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship. I’m going to put as much thought into this prediction as WWE did in announcing Strowman as Roman Reigns’ replacement. Which is to say, zero thought. Goldberg wins. Nobody F-ing Cares: The Remake.
Goldberg retains the WWE Universal Championship.
Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match This is going to be the best match of the night. Of this, I have no doubt. Edge and Randy Orton are complete pros and they can tell a hell of a story whether there’s a crowd or not. They have the whole Performance Center at their disposal, and I can see them utilizing every nook and cranny. Again, in a perfect world, Edge’s return match would have happened in front of 80,000 people. But that’s not the situation we find ourselves in and, if Edge isn’t crying about it, then neither will I. Edge and Randy Orton are going to deliver a classic bout and it will serve to remind us just how good Rated RKO really is.
Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship. This is the match that deserves to be in front of a crowd the most. Drew McIntyre finally getting the opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship is such a powerful story. But you wouldn’t know that from watching WWE television recently. I understand that circumstances have dictated certain changes in the format of Raw. But how have we not gotten a promo from McIntyre reliving his days as ‘The Chosen One,’ his release, his redemption and what challenging for the title actually means for him. This could have been an in-ring promo or a well-produced video segment. It had the potential to be the story heading into Mania, whether a crowd was present or not. But we haven’t heard anything from McIntyre and, really, the only thing we know about him is that he likes to count to three and knows how to kick people in the head.
Maybe they saved his story for WrestleMania itself. Maybe there will be a video that was produced highlighting all of the best parts of Drew McIntyre’s story. I hope so, because he deserves that.
All of that notwithstanding, I do think this will be a good match. More and more stories are coming out that paint Brock Lesnar is a pretty decent guy, actually. And when he cares about a story, when he cares about his opponent, he can make them look like a million bucks. I believe Lesnar will do that on this night, and I believe McIntyre will finally fulfill his destiny as The Chosen One, winning the WWE Championship in the process.
Drew McIntyre wins the WWE Championship.
This is going to be a fascinating show. Much of it is filler, but the main matches have the potential to be really, really good. In a perfect world, Vince McMahon would have just completely shut down operations and postponed WrestleMania. But that’s not the world we live in, so the best we can do is try to enjoy this show without expectations. Maybe this show will completely suck. But maybe, just maybe, WWE will surprise us and deliver a show we’ll remember for years to come. I’m hoping that once the show actually begins, I can forget about everything else going on in the “real world,” and just enjoy my favorite thing for a few hours. It will be more difficult to that this year than in previous years, but I do believe WWE can deliver something special. Even if the buildup has been less of a bang and more of a whimper, I still have faith that WrestleMania will remind us that the world is not actually ending and that we will get through this stuff together.