It’s that time of year again. As always, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox our television screens will be graced by the grand daddy of all wrestling shows. It’s WrestleMania! (Actually, the bit with the full moon and such is how we figure out what day Easter will be every year. Personally, I think that makes Easter sound a bit pagan, but I’m sure the Christians know what they’re doing. That said, WrestleMania is usually right around the same time and also on a Sunday, so I’m sure it’s connected.)
This year is actually looking like it’s going to be a pretty great show, in what has been already been an incredible year of great wrestling shows. New Japan has been killing it and Ring of Honor hasn’t slouched either. There’s also the All In show coming up which may end up being the biggest Indy wrestling show in North American history, with a potential crowd of ten thousand fans.
(All In will be in Chicago, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend as I am going to a wedding on the same day. My girlfriend’s cousin is the one getting married, and I actually forgot about it until I invited Amanda to go with me to Chicago and watch the show. She then reminded me that we were already scheduled to go to Chicago that weekend. Unfortunately, this will be the first time I’m meeting anyone in her family, so I really can’t skip it to go to a wrestling show, no matter how awesome it’s going to be. I have a super low bar to beat to come off better than her previous boyfriend, who I understand got black out drunk and picked a fight with the DJ at the last wedding. Skipping the wedding entirely for a wrestling show isn’t as bad per se, but…I’m not going to All In is the end of that story)
That all aside, I am going up to Boston on April 6-9 to hang out with one of my best friends, to attend PAX, and then watch WrestleMania 34.
And what shall I be watching exactly? What will be happening? Nobody knows precisely what Vince McMahon might do, but Vegas has some odds up, the card is mostly set, and I have plenty of opinions. Let’s jump in, shall we?
I have no idea which order the matches are going to be in, but I’ll make my best guesses1. Also, as you’re reading through, please note that WWE has like…a million different championship belts, so don’t feel bad if you get confused.
AJ Styles – Champion v. Shinsuke Nakamura.
Vegas has Nakamura going over here, and I tend to agree with their assessment. This is going to be a workrate2 heavy match between two fan favorites and should get the crowd all riled up. While the two fought previously in Japan, it’ll be the first time they’ve really had a battle this big in the U.S. Styles may have to take a little time off to heal and rest, as he’s been working a crazy schedule of late and has some sort of injury at the moment. It’s nothing that would prevent him from wrestling at Mania, but a month off would do him well. As such, Nak should win by default, and he deserves it anyway. Dude is awesome.
Nakamura by pinfall.
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon v. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn.
So…some things to note here. Daniel Bryan was one of the hottest acts in pro wrestling a few years ago. He was so hot in fact, that whenever he wasn’t on screen, the crowd would get into a frenzy. They’d chant his name and his catchphrase3 during segments when he wasn’t around, boo wrestlers who had the audacity to not be Daniel Bryan, and cause some general disruptions for any storylines which did not feature him4. Unfortunately, his style was very high impact and risky and he suffered a number of concussions which led to a seizure in the ring one night5. The WWE didn’t want the guy to die on live television6 and forced retirement on him. However, after two years of retirement, all of the doctors and specialists have cleared the guy to get back in the game. This presents an interesting problem for WWE. They’ve got their stories and matches all set up for Mania. But if Daniel Bryan is around, one has to wonder if the crowd is going to shit all over any match which doesn’t contain DBry. Since his retirement, he’s had an on air role where he plays the guy who plans the matches. In that role, he’s been feuding with two heel7 wrestlers named Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
In his current, non wrestling role, he also works with Shane McMahon who has also had his issues with Sami and Owens. So to settle these issues, they’re all going to fight. This does two things. 1. Bryan hasn’t fought in a while and might be a bit rusty, so a tag match would hide that a bit. 2. It makes narrative sense. Plus, as noted by pro wrestling writer and enthusiast Scott Keith, if they throw that match out early, the crowd can get the Bryan chants out of their system and hopefully won’t boo the hell out of the rest of the card. The Match hasn’t been announced yet, but it would be insane to not do it and Bryan should go over clean to win the match for his team.
Bryan by pinfall.
Alexa Bliss – Champion v. Nia Jax.
Vegas has Nia winning here, and I’m sort of fine with it. Frankly, neither of the women have a ton of heat, but I could see Nia going over here8 and being dominant for a month or so until the next PPV, whereby she will drop the belt to WWE’s new acquisition, Ronda Rousey. Expect this to be short and sweet.
Nia by Pinfall.
The Miz – Champion v. Finn Balor v. Seth Rollins.
The Miz is a solid heel. He’s never been the greatest in the ring, but he’s a journeyman worker and he can cut a promo well enough. He’s also had the belt for a while now and his wife just gave birth, so we’re due for a change and he’s due for paternity leave. Vegas odds have Balor going over here and I think it’s the smart choice. Expect a lot of outside interference here. Both Balor and Miz have cronies who do their bidding, but the Balor Club9 are better cronies than the Miz-tourage. Rollins has no cronies, so what’s even the point?
Balor by pinfall (With help from his pals.)
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v. HHH & Stephanie McMahon.
At every WrestleMania, WWE always have a segment where they announce and brag about the attendance of the show. This year will be no different. I’m guessing that Stephanie will have the honors. She will then announce her husband, HHH, who will have some sort of amazingly theatrical entrance. Ronda & Kurt will come out and talk trash. Kurt & HHH will have a fun little exhibition match for five minutes until a tag is made to Ronda, at which point, according to mixed tag team rules, Stephanie will have to tag in. Ronda will put her in an armbar, HHH will try to break it up but be thwarted by Kurt (Or possibly the Rock, or some silly thing. One match at Mania tends to be over booked, with like 20 run ins, and doing it here makes as much sense as anywhere). Shenanigans aside, Stephanie will tap out. Then Ronda will go in to a program with Nia (Or fight through some people to be the number 1 contender for the belt) ultimately beating Nia in a month or two. She’ll then hold on to the belt for a year, until next year’s Mania, where she will fight Asuka.
Ronda Rousey by submission.
Sheamus & Cesaro v. Braun Strowman & ?
Braun Strowman is kind of killing it lately. He’s not the most technical wrestler on the planet but the crowd loves the big, lumbering brute. His story at the moment is that he is challenging to be the tag team champions all by himself. However, Kurt Angle decreed that in order to compete, he needs a partner. My guess is that partner is going to be Elias. Elias is the WWE version of the Town Troubadour from Gilmore Girls and a solid enough wrestler in addition to that. Braun has been sort of feuding with him for a little while (See photo above) so there would be some narrative sense to teaming with the guy. Vegas doesn’t have odds for the match yet because the match hasn’t been set, but I’m guessing the big guy and Elias go over and then try to emulate the magic of when Bryan and Kane had the belts a few years ago10.
Braun & Elias by pinfall (with a bunch of interference, foreign objects, and someone getting hit over the head with a cello or put through a piano or something.)
Whatever the hell John Cena is doing. Maybe he’s fighting the Undertaker? WWE hasn’t quite figured it out yet. It seems like the Undertaker is the way to go, but who the hell knows. Depending on the stipulations of the match, I’m thinking Cena wins here, and then goes to Hollywood for the next six months and returns in time for the SummerSlam. The other option is that Cena is the mystery partner with Strowman, but still leaves for Hollywood and Strowman just beats on tag team guys for a while.11
Cena by whatever.
Charlotte Flair – Champion v. Asuka.
Asuka has had a long build leading to this match and Charlotte is a pretty great wrestler in her own right. I’m hoping for a nice long match, which shows off both of their abilities. If Charlotte can do a Flair Flop here I’d be ecstatic.12
Asuka by pinfall.
After the match, I suspect that Carmella will try to cash in her money in the bank case, but fail.
Asuka by pinfall encore!13
Asuka can then hold the belt for a year on SmackDown until next year’s Mania where she can take on Rousey.
Brock Lesnar – Champion v. Roman Reigns.
At this point WWE is going to be hoping for a few things.
- Daniel Bryan isn’t as popular as he was when he retired.
- The crowd is pleased about Daniel Bryan having won his match earlier in the night.
- The crowd is a bit tired by this point because they’ve just sat through about 6 hours of wrestling,
- Fan favorites have been winning up and down the card all night, so there’s really no reason to be upset about the fact that Daniel Bryan isn’t in this particular match, and
- Brock will be the defacto heel of the match and Roman will be the face, and the crowd will cheer or boo at the appropriate times.
Assuming all of that, then MAYBE…just maybe…the crowd won’t boo the hell out of both of them for the entire match and when Roman wins, they will cheer.
Which…I don’t think it’s gonna work. Mainly because the crowd never cheers for Roman. Since Brock is on the way out, the WWE should put Roman over, to try and give him his “WrestleMania moment”14 and cement him as the top star of the company. But they’ve been trying to make him the top star of the company for years at this point, and the crowd has never played along. So why WWE thinks they’re going to now is beyond me.
Now it’s possible that Bryan could come out towards the end of the match and screw over Lesnar. The crowd will still boo the hell out of Reigns, but they’ll be happy about Bryan being there. If that happens, the WWE can potentially turn Reigns heel and build a program around that story. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be cool if it happened. In any case, I’m guessing this match goes on last, Roman wins quickly, the crowd hates it, and the show closes with everyone booing and throwing drink cups into the ring. If Bryan screws over Lesnar, and then points at Roman and says “you’re next”, the entire crowd will scream “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to end the show. I don’t think Vince wants either of those options, but I’m pretty sure those are the only two available and we’ll see which way they go. That all aside,
Roman by pinfall.
So those are my predictions for, what on paper, would be a fantastic card. And for ten bucks you too could watch the show on WWE’s streaming service, available on Roku and Fire TV and such. Disagree with my predictions? Don’t be shy! Let me know!
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↵||I’m using the mix tape rules. Namely “You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch. But you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.”|
|2.||↵||I’ll try to do my best explaining things for people who don’t have the terminology. For our purposes here, know that at its core, pro wrestling is built on two pillars. Part of it is athleticism and the other part is showmanship. Matches are the same way. Hogan never did much in the ring, but he could work a crowd into a frenzy just by waggling his fingers. That’s the showmanship side. Workrate is the other side of it. I’m over simplifying here, but we’ll ease into more technical stuff later.|
|3.||↵||Yes! Yes! Yes!|
|4.||↵||It was like on the Simpsons, where whenever Poochie wasn’t around, everyone should say, “Where’s Poochie?”.|
|5.||↵||Which was downright scary to watch. Almost everything that happens on TV is a work (Or…a lie to fool the crowd, but this…)|
|6.||↵||Or at all really. They’re not monsters. But if a wrestler is going to die, live television is the worst place for it.|
|7.||↵||Simply, a heel is someone who’s actions are meant to get the crowd to boo. A “face” gets a crowd to cheer for them. Then for the most part, you have a face and a heel fight so that the crowd gets more invested in the match.|
|8.||↵||Some basic terminology. Heat references how hot the crowd gets, and going over means winning the match.|
|9.||↵||They’re called the Balor Club because they couldn’t get the rights to the name “Bullet Club” which was used by Balor and his mooks when they worked in Japan. The name is currently being employed by Cody Rhodes, who will be appearing at that wrestling show that I’m missing owing to the aforementioned wedding|
|10.||↵||In Kayfabe (which is wrestlespeak for in the storyline) both Kane and Bryan were ordered by WWE management to go to anger management therapy sessions. It was a silly story which shouldn’t have worked, but both guys got crazy popular because of it. They were then put in a tag team together where they dominated everyone, and entertained the crowds by being hilarious while administering those beatings. If they got into arguments they would “hug it out” as they had learned to do in therapy. And you never know. Lightning might strike twice with Strowman and Elias.|
|11.||↵||Or maybe he could team up with his real life brother in law, Daniel Bryan. Which would actually make a world of sense, but they’ve never really acknowledged that they’re brothers on TV…except for on the reality show Total Divas and Total Bellas, where it’s the central focus of the show, but doesn’t count because it’s not on Raw or Smackdown because wrestling.|
|12.||↵||A Flair Flop is a move made popular by her father, Ric Flair, whereby he’d get beaten up for a little while and still be standing but clearly dazed, and then when he tries to take a step does an exaggerated fall forward. I’ve never seen Charlotte do one, but why not steal the family move at WrestleMania?|
|13.||↵||The Money in the Bank case is the prize for winning a seven person ladder match earlier in the year, which allows you to have a title match whenever you want. Even if said champion has just had a match. In fact, that’s the best time to do so because the champion will no doubt be worn out by then, allowing you to win the match easily.|
|14.||↵||One of the hardest parts of wrestling for the WWE, or really anywhere is trying to convey to the crowd exactly WHY you’re fighting. You can fight for pride, you can fight because you hate your opponent, you can fight for honor, or money…whatever. I get those things. They make sense. WWE, however, loves to have people fight in order to have a “WrestleMania Moment” which doesn’t really make a lot of sense. I guess that counts as fame? Legacy? I have no idea, but expect to hear the phrase at least twenty times during the night.|