Death, taxes and an annual Wrestlemania are the three constants of this universe and this year’s WWE spectacular is just around the corner. Coming from the Levi’s Stadium, the build up to this year’s show has been a little scrappy, with less of the epic feel that the 4 hour supershow normally commands. A part time champion is headlining against a relatively unproven newcomer, which might have taken away some of the must-see impact of the event. However, now that the WWE Network makes it easier than ever for fans to catch the show, plus the many hours of pre-match hype that is running all week, I don’t think there will be a decrease in the number of eyes that will be watching. In fact, despite the grumbling and mumbling of bloggers and podcasters alike, I think the actual matches themselves will be much stronger than the last few episodes Monday Night Raw would suggest.
For some reason, a four hour show isn’t quite long enough for all these great matches and unfortunately some of the WWE Superstars will have to contend with going on as part of the warm up act. This year the WWE Tag Team Titles will be defended by Tyson Kidd and Antonio Cesaro against The Uso Brothers, Los Matadores and A New Day. The WWE tag team scene is pretty stale at the moment, so it is hardly surprising that the title defence has been bumped off the man card. Squeezing so many teams into one match means that this is likely to be a spot-fest, with each team taking turns to showcase their moves then a hasty roll up to conclude the match. I expect the champions to retain, though there are rumours that the Uso Brothers may be subbed out due to injury. Unless a surprising new team is introduced, I can’t see this having an influence on the outcome though.
The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was introduced last year to fill the void left by the regular Money in the Bank Ladder Match, that has been given its own Pay Per View show now. The match itself was good fun last year, though after Antonio Cesaro won, very little was done to take advantage of the interest that it created in the Swiss Superstar. As such, his victory was soon forgotten. In case anyone thought that things would be different this year, the battle royal has now been dropped from the main show, which is a travesty. The remaining matches must be expected to run a little too long, which may be good news. If Sheamus is indeed returning in this match, then he must be a favourite to win, with Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow also contenders.
US Title Match – Rusev (c.) vs. John Cena
Pitting the All American good guy John Cena against the unfeeling Russian monster Rusev has more than a whiff of Rocky IV about it. After their last PPV encounter, Rusev left Cena lying face down on the mat, so it’s taken a few convoluted plot twists to create enough of a reason why Cena should still be in contention for the US Title. Nobody has been able to pin Rusev or make him tap out, so if Superman Cena can’t do it, nobody can, at least not on the current roster. It will be a close run thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Rusev walk out of Wrestlemania with his championship still around his waist.
Tag Match – AJ Lee/Paige vs. The Bella Twins
Having this match on the main card but the Battle Royal on the pre-show is a crime. I’m not expecting a technical masterclass, and since the WWE Diva’s Title isn’t being defended this Wrestlemania, the stakes for this are very low indeed. There are much better women wrestlers in their developmental league NXT if the WWE wanted to showcase them, but instead we have these four. The Bella Twins will probably win, but I’ll be off getting another round of snacks from the fridge so I won’t see it happen.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
Last year, the world of pro wrestling was left shocked at The Undertaker’s defeat by Brock Lesnar – bringing to an end his unbeaten streak of Wrestlemania matches. The build to his return has been unusual, in that The undertaker hasn’t made a single appearance on WWE television. He’s not been seen on screen for an entire year, so whilst he has certainly been training for this match, he is a year older and his war wounds have had another year to sink in. Luckily Bray Wyatt gives a better promo than he does an in-ring performance, so he’s been more than capable of throwing challenges out to the camera with nobody else to work against. The smart money says that The Undertaker is hanging on until next year’s Wrestlemania in his home state of Texas, but if a broken old man shuffles into the ring this weekend, there might not be an appetite to see him wrestle again.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Take two unlikable guys and make them fight – whoever gets beaten up most doesn’t matter, everyone will enjoy seeing it happen. Since Rollins is slightly more smug than Orton, there is probably a little bit more enjoyment to be had from seeing him getting taken down. Randy Orton may be portrayed as the fan favourite here, but he embodies his in-ring persona of ‘The Viper’ so well, it’s tricky to get behind him when you know it won’t be long before he’s kicking pensioners in the head again. Whether Rollins wins or loses, he still has an ‘anytime/anywhere’ Money in the Bank contract that he can cash in and get himself a WWE World Title match. Doing so tonight might complicate the main even picture, but what better time to go for gold than at Wrestlemania?
Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – Wade Barrett (c.) vs. Daniel Bryan,
Stardust, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper and R-Truth
The Intercontinental Title has been through some hard times, with transitional champions and poor billing on PPV cards. However, this might well be about to change. Historically the belt has normally been held by a technical wrestler, with a high work rate, whereas the World Title has been held by a bigger, brawling style wrestler with a larger than life persona. The seven competitors in this match all fall into the former category and so it is almost certain that the best in-ring action of the night will take place here. Although the build up to the match has been mostly comedic, the end result is going to be nothing of the sort. Since Daniel Bryan was taken out of the World Title race, I am confident that he’ll be taking the Intercontinental Title home with him and keeping hold of it or a long time to come.
Sting vs. Triple H
The novelty of seeing Sting on WWE TV will take a long time to wear off, but after decades in the business he really deserves a moment in the sun and a Wrestlemania payday. Whether it is too little, too late and the quality of the match will suffer is yet to be seen. Hopefully Sting has spent the last few months in the gym and he can finally wrestle without a T-shirt on again. Some might say that Sting should be the one facing The Undertaker, but I think Hunter will get a much better match out of Sting. Since Triple H plays the boss of the company, it makes it really easy for the fans to know who to get behind; the anti-authority figure Sting! Hopefully there won’t be too much outside interference, but Sting will get the win, with a Scorpion Deathlock in the centre of the ring, and they’ll bring the house down.
WWE World Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c.) vs. Roman Reigns
This feud for the WWE World Title has not ran smoothly. On paper, the young fresh faced star in the making Roman Reigns should have been embraced as a fan favourite, but he’s been getting booed by audiences. The brutal heel, Brock Lesnar should be reviled by crowds but he gets cheers. Part of the reason may be because Lesnar, the ex MMA champion, brings a sense of legitimacy to the role – fans really believe that he’s as tough as he says he is. Reigns has been pushed to the top quickly. Very quickly. Too quickly. That makes fans push back, they don’t like to be told who to cheer for, even if they are a blood relative of former World Champion, The Rock. Reigns has a small arsenal of moves in his repertoire and doesn’t have a proven track record of being able to carry long matches. Unless there are plans for outside interference to prolong the match, this won’t be a dragged out affair. Maybe Seth Rollins will cash in his Money in the Bank contract… maybe Lesnar’s manager Paul Heyman will switch allegiances… maybe The Undertaker will come for revenge are losing to Brock last Wrestlemania… However, despite all the arm chair bookers trying to second guess the result, the only way we’ll know for sure is by watching the match on Sunday night.