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McGuire’s Mondays: Five big WrestleMania week talking points

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)

To quote … I don’t know … everyone: It’s WrestleMania week.

And when I initially sat down to write this, I thought it might be fun to examine the five most anticipated matches from the upcoming weekend. Considering how the wrestling world converges upon wherever WrestleMania is each year, we all know by now that WWE isn’t going to be the only company providing us fans with all the pro wrestling entertainment we need. But then, naturally, I ran into an issue. That issue?

There’s too much damn stuff happening.

Or in other words, it’s impossible to narrow it down to only five matches. So then I thought about the WrestleMania matches themselves and briefly thought I’d take the strictly Mania route. But I soon realized reducing things to only five matches might not be the best option, either, considering how we’ll be working with two nights of cards and there’s going to be so much to talk about that has little to do with what actually happens in the ring.

So, ultimately, I landed on this: How about we look at five of the most interesting topics surrounding WrestleMania as we begin our trek toward the most important night(s) of the year in wrestling? Next week, after the dust has settled and the cards have been dealt, perhaps we’ll take a look at how it all panned out. For now, though, as we sit a mere five days away from the festivities, here’s a look at the things I’ll be thinking about most as Saturday and Sunday begin to unfold.

1. What’s up with the women? God bless WWE for seemingly doing the best it could to make sure the women on the roster will be properly showcased, but it can’t just be me who thinks every single female program needs some heating up in order to feel like we’re on The Biggest Stage Of Them All. Just look at the two biggest women’s matches of the event, Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair vs. Asuka. Not only is the former a year too late, but it also features a challenger who feels like she’s more tied up in another program with her Papi and/or faction, the Judgment Day. The latter, meanwhile, was thrown together on the whim of a returning Asuka, who initially felt repackaged, fresh and interesting, but now just feels like … Asuka with a haircut?

That’s to say nothing of any woman involved – I’m a fan of them all and especially a big believer in any incarnation of Asuka. But WWE’s women’s division finds itself in a weird place these days. It’s mostly healthy, with pretty much all the women available, and yet, nothing is clicking. At some point, the world turned on Ronda Rousey, Rhea became perhaps the women’s division’s biggest current star – but that wasn’t thanks to a program with another women’s star – and Bayley and Becky are locked in a never-ending feud with each other.

Speaking of Bayley and Becky, I’m all for bringing back women’s legends to perform on a stage like this – especially considering how when Trish Stratus and Lita were at the top of their game, women simply weren’t used in prominent spots and if they can get their shine now, I say go get it – but at the same time, their program doesn’t have the feel of a program that’s designed to put any one of the current stars over. It feels like more of a nostalgia game than it is a booking decision to ultimately make someone a bigger star after it all ends.

That said, here’s hoping all the women on the cards have great nights. Both title matches have the potential to be great-to-really-great, and maybe the lack of expectation will breed pleasant surprises. Either way, here’s hoping someone can catch fire once we reset and the March to WrestleMania 40 begins come next Monday.

2. Rhodes to the top. It’s been a year since Cody Rhodes returned to WWE at this point and from the second his music hit at last year’s ‘Mania, we all seemed to be in agreement that he would be the one, a year from then, who would take down Roman Reigns. Now, here we are a year later and none of those thought processes have changed. Giving things an added amount of weight were two things: One, Cody’s injury that kept him out of action for the majority of the past year, and two, the rise of Sami Zayn within the fabric of the insatiable Bloodline story.

If we’re working under the assumption that Cody comes out of WrestleMania as the champion (and, obviously, we are), then my most prominent thought continues to be this: What happens next? So much anticipation has been built toward this moment on various levels to various degrees. Roman Reigns has had an absolutely historic title reign and from early on in it, we’ve all wondered who he’d eventually pass the torch to because whoever that person would be, would be put in one hell of a position. Can Cody keep that flame from that torch hot, should he win? Does WWE keep their main titles unified?

On top of that, Cody is going to be given the chance, for the first time in his life, to be The Guy. Yeah, he’s held titles before and sure, despite not being allowed to compete for AEW’s main prize, he brought a level of star cache to the screen whenever he was on it, but Cody hasn’t ever been thrusted into the John Cena/Roman Reigns (before he turned heel) position, where he’s out there as the face of the company, being the biggest babyface in the world, doing the most publicized babyface things. Can Cody pull that role off? My money says he can, but you never really know until you’re in that spot.

Assuming Cody is in that spot, come next Monday, I think the fun begins. WWE crowds have historically been petulant about whomever the company puts in that top good-guy spot, and we saw how Cody reacted when AEW crowds decided to be petulant toward him as his run in that company came to an end. At this point, it’s easy to underestimate how much we’ll miss Roman, his star power, his story and his presence after he doesn’t have those belts anymore. Can Cody keep things level, or will he just be the latest in a line of WWE superstars who become subject to backlash merely for the sake of backlash?

3. Sami Zayn-ia. Speaking of Roman Reigns, I continue to be in awe of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. This isn’t because Zayn, especially, has had a meteoric rise over the last six or so months, but rather, I think it’s easy to forget about how many miles those two have walked up and down the wrestling road over all these years. It’s become a relationship unlike any other in modern day wrestling. They’ve feuded and they’ve been best buds virtually everywhere they’ve gone. All the way from the independent circuit to being in the conversation regarding main eventing a night of WrestleMania … that’s something.

I say this only because, much like Roman Reigns, I think WWE has spoiled fans over the last several months and it’s happened in such a slick manner that we aren’t really taking time to appreciate it. Zayn and Owens have earned the credibility they’ve earned because of their longevity – not only as singular performers, but also as an entity that provides some of the best frenemy storytelling pro wrestling has seen over the course of at least the last decade. Do I think this time around ultimately ends up like it always does, with Owens turning on his bud? Of course. Do I think it happens anytime soon? Of course not.

On the other side, the Usos have had one hell of a run as tag champs over the last billion days. It brings to mind how this year’s Mania may serve as one of the most drastic turning points in recent Manias, if only because we’re expecting to see the fall of the Bloodline and therefore, the top of the WWE card is going to be reshuffled for the first time in a very long time. We’ve grown accustomed to the Usos and Roman Reigns being at the top of the bill – and miraculously, nobody’s really complained all that much about it, either. What happens if those parties don’t have gold around their waist? Much like Cody, can Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens run with their presumed upcoming opportunities? Or does WWE pull the trigger on a split between the two sooner than it feels like they should? Resetting can be invigorating. It can also be exposing. Which will emerge this time next week?

4. Family feud. Building a program between a son and a father isn’t always a slam dunk. It takes time before people universally invest in it and, even more importantly, both guys have to figure out a way to get over with the crowd. Rey Mysterio Jr. is a living legend – so much so that he’s about to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his unparalleled work over the last few decades. His son, though? Dominik has been a wild card in my eyes.

I say that because he came in looking younger than he actually is with a body that wasn’t necessarily chiseled in the way we are accustomed to seeing WWE folk be chiseled. Plus, remember: Rey wasn’t even in WWE for a little bit not all that long ago. When he returned, it felt like the “come back for one more short run and we’ll give you your flowers” tour that some legends get from time to time. Well, that didn’t work because Mysterio decided to stick around for a lot longer than whatever a “short run” is and he subsequently brought his family into the equation, too.

Dominik barely touched a needle, let alone moved one, when he first arrived, but kudos to him and whoever decided to throw him a spot in the Judgement Day and then give him this ridiculous prison story that had every right to die on the table and instead turned into pure gold. It’s made the match with his dad at Mania one that I’m looking forward to more than a lot of the others. Can Dom work? Who knows. Does he have the innovation his dad brought to American pro wrestling? Who cares. Will their match end up in the same conversations that have already anointed Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay as the match of 2023? Why should it even matter at this point.

This story has been playing out for such a long time and it’s grown into being one of the most fun things on WWE TV. I don’t know what happens when Rey decides to hang it up. I also don’t know how Dominik can stay afloat for an elongated period of time with a character that’s more funny than it is honest. But those are things to ponder for another day. For now, let’s just enjoy a legend living out a dream, working with his kid at a WrestleMania.

5. Going, going, back, back to Cali, Cali. Rumors are swirling, of course. Despite us being conditioned to expect returns and headlines at the Raw After WrestleMania (insert trademark symbol here), it appears the World Wide Internet is abuzz that names like Big E and Randy Orton, among some others, may (or may not) show up in Los Angeles Saturday or Sunday night. Me?

I don’t really care. It sounds odd, but the builds to the matches at this year’s WrestleMania are fine enough for me. I don’t really know that the shows need some splashy return and/or surprise to ensure that they go down as a ‘Mania for the ages. I’m more concerned with getting someone like LA Knight on the card or maybe even receiving some clarity on what the hell is happening with Bray Wyatt. The roster is doing fine right now (thank you very much) and the stories carry enough weight by themselves. I don’t necessarily need to see Randy Orton slither his way to the ring for the sake of Randy Orton slithering his way to the ring.

If they happen, fine. If they don’t, it’s just as well. Either way, it’s WrestleMania week, friends. And that’s reason enough to celebrate as the true wrestling fans we all are. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl, minus a halftime show and plus a 5,000-foot ramp. If we can’t get up for this, what are we even doing? We aren’t allowing ourselves to enjoy these moments – that’s what we’re doing. And that’s not fun for anyone.

So buckle in, fire up the Peacock and let’s see how this plays out. After all this time and all these stories, not even WWE can mess this year’s ‘Mania up … right?

Um … right?


Readers Comments (1)

  1. Bianca is a fine athlete, but I have always found her persona to be heelish, and they’ve done nothing in her time as champion to develop any sort of character.

    Asuka looks great, but they never defined why she changed. Pretaped promos with voice overs or subtitles are not rocket science, yet would make a world of difference.

    Rhea is great, but the build to the Flair rematch has been ice cold. Rhea will be cheered and Flair booed, which works for a redemption story… except they’re both heels.

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