It’s here again: the biggest wrestling weekend of the year! And despite the fact the Louisiana Athletic Commission won’t let anyone outside of WWE and ROH do more than a headlock, there’s a palpable excitement in the air. While NXT TakeOver: New Orleans should be a highlight, and ROH’s Supercard of Honor is one of several indie shows making waves this weekend, there’s nothing quite like WrestleMania. This year’s card looks stacked, with 14 announced matches, six hours of TV time (including the pre-show), two battle royals, eight maids-a-milking and a performance by Kid Rock that we’re all probably going to use the bathroom during. Though there are a few middling encounters on the docket, this year’s card has a lot to be excited about. Whether you’re into rehashing one of the best matches in Japanese history, bringing in the most celebrated female in combat sports to beat up a 40-year old executive with three kids, or trying to convince fans that Andre the Giant Memorial trophy will do anything for one’s career — there’s something for you on the card! We’ve asked some of AiPT! Wrestling‘s staff how they think the Show of Shows will play out, and here’s what they said:
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
The next stop on the women’s evolution is…a jobber battle royal! Now they truly are on the same level as the men. Following a controversy around the original name of this match that saw the Fabulous Moolah stricken from record, a lot of talented ladies who unfortunately didn’t quite fit into the main card will still get their moment under the bright lights, vying for a trophy that weirdly looks like a uterus.
Patrick: The main story here is obviously Sasha vs. Bayley, but rarely does the main story actually play into the outcome of a WrestleMania battle royal (see: Miz and Mizdow). I’ll go out on a limb and say Ruby Riott: she’s got a unique look, is comfortable on the mic and in the ring and should be a mainstay for years to come, barring some kind of Paige-like tragedy.
Winner: Ruby Riott
Jason: I’m inclined to agree with Pat about stories not actually playing into the result of these things (See Braun and Big Show last year), so it’s probably going to be someone who could use a rub even if they have nothing planned for them. Though I’m tempted to pick someone from NXT to grab the Obstetrician Trophy, I’m going to go with Becky Lynch. She hasn’t been doing anything of note lately, doesn’t have a rival to create a memorable elimination and is still super popular despite her booking. Hopefully this does something for her career, though given how the Andre has turned out since it’s been introduced…
Winner: Becky Lynch
Brian: Let’s avoid the gender jokes in this one. Despite WWE taking a step or three backwards in gender equality by doing their largest show ever (for what I’m guessing is their largest, oil-based payday ever) in Saudi Arabia and the women not being allowed to perform, the Women’s Battle Royal is another step towards at least equal time being given two gimmick matches involving women. I’m assuming a decent number of NXT women will be involved with fewer Legends getting a payday than at the Rumble. If anyone at this point flat-out deserves to win this, it’s Becky Lynch. She’s been the forgotten Horsewoman with all the Sasha/Bayley mishagas and Charlotte facing Asuka, not to mention the swerve loss at Money in the Bank. Let’s give the Lass Kicker a W!
Winner: Becky Lynch
Nathaniel: Becky Lynch is the obvious pick; it’s the inaugural Mania Women’s Battle Royal, and will probably open the main show and would be a happy way to kick off the festivities. Plus, they always make sure Lynch looks good on big shows. So…
Winner: Mandy Rose
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal has catapulted the careers of men such as Mojo Rawley and Baron Cor…yeah, it hasn’t actually panned out all that well. It has given fans a few memorable moments, such as Cesaro body slamming Big Show over the top rope in the inaugural edition, and Rob Gronkowski scaring off a security guard, but unfortunately, it hasn’t quite been the launching pad it was originally envisioned as. Maybe this year will turn that around.
Patrick: I mean, does it matter? Like, at all? Mojo Rawley and Baron Corbin have won the battle royal in the past and look where it got them: another battle royal. I’ll go with Dolph Ziggler, just so he has SOME kind of accolade to brag about as his character arc limps along.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Jason: I would have thought to give this to an up-and-comer the company wants to push, but given the treatment of last winners, I think they just want to pick a surprise winner that people sort of like but haven’t committed to. While smart money is on a returning star like Samoa Joe or Dean Ambrose (who is probably still injured, but return rumors are out there), I’m going to go out on a limb and give this to Elias. Let the Drifter do something cool before he gets beat up by The Rock later in the show.
Brian: If past is prologue, this match just doesn’t matter. Stop posing with the damned trophy. I think this will be another mid-card victory for another wrestler who just won’t ever get to the top. Despite my hopes and dreams that somehow Killian Dain shows up and wins it by a back hair, I think I’ll go with…a returning Samoa Joe, but only because I’m positive they don’t know what else to do with him.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Nathaniel: Usually, the best part about the geek battle royal is seeing someone and thinking, “didn’t they fire him years ago?” This year, the fun will be debating who had the greatest fall from one Mania to the next. My vote is for King Kong Bundy, but he will have serious competition.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali (Cruiserweight Championship)
205 Live has seen its fair share of shakeups in the past several months. Both its champion and number one contender were released by the company following some truly nasty allegations, and Drake Maverick, formerly known as Rockstar Spud, has taken over as General Manager. Behind the scenes, Drake’s hiring coincides with Triple H reportedly taking over the show, resulting in a much more action-oriented hour of television. For the purple brand, WrestleMania is the culmination of a weeks-long tournament to determine the first Cruiserweight Champion of this new era.
Patrick: I honestly haven’t been keeping up with 205 Live — I know, I know, it’s a lot better now that Papa Haitch has supposedly taken the reins, but between Raw, SmackDown and NXT, and pretty frequent pay-per-views, 6 to 9 hours of WWE per week is plenty. That said, Cedric has been a standout ever since the Cruiserweight Classic, and I would love for him to get his WrestleMania Moment™. He’s my pick.
Winner: Cedric Alexander
Jason: I know it seems like Cedric is a shoo-in here, but let’s be real. Ali has the better character going into this matchup, and plays the underdog babyface better than Ced. I like Ced and think he deserves some time with the purple belt, but I honestly think Ali has had the more consistently great matches in the tourney (though Ced/Strong was pretty amazing). I’d be cool with either guy leaving with the strap, but if I had to pick (and I do) I’d go with Mustafa Ali.
Winner: Mustafa Ali
Brian: Man, 205 Live has been LIT during this tournament. Bringing in hard hitters like Buddy Murphy and Roderick Strong, not to mention ridiculous high-flyers like Mark Andrews, this has been a good showcase for a different style of wrestling. Mustafa Ali has really, really stood out as a go-to babyface that the crowd really loves just on his natural charisma and boyish charm. Cedric Alexander, however, was the golden boy of the Cruiserweight Classic, being hired on not only his talent, but also his connection to the crowd. While Ali will be champ soon, Cedric deserves this win.
Winner: Cedric Alexander
Nathaniel: I know it’s cliche but this match is about more than the title. Since WWE has never been big on spotlighting cruiserweights, fans have not had a chance to see great cruiser action since the heyday of WCW. They can’t fix everything in one night, but a strong Mania match following a great tournament would help a lot.
Winner: Mustafa Ali
The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman & TBD (Raw Tag Team Championships)
Cesaro and Sheamus have gone through all the competition Raw has to offer — except, of course, the Monster Among Men. Braun Strowman has been running roughshod on the flagship show for months, and somehow didn’t even have a match on the Grandest Stage of Them All. So he took it upon himself to remedy that, by winning a tag team battle royal by himself. General Manager Kurt Angle has required him to find a tag team partner, but no matter who it is, The Bar is in trouble.
Patrick: I had mixed feelings about Braun winning the battle royal to make it here all by himself, but I think if you’re gonna do that, just go all the way with it and have him win the titles by himself too. Him having to choose a partner does add a layer of intrigue to the show, though. There are a number of names being thrown out, from Neville to James Ellsworth to Hulk Hogan, but I think the safe choice would be Elias. No matter who his partner is, though, I think Braun picks this one up.
Winner: Braun Strowman and Elias
Jason: WWE has lightning in a bottle with the a-Braun-imable Strowman, so it’s an easy call to give him the belt(s). Sure, the Bar are being advertised as Raw Tag champions at the forthcoming “Greatest Royal Rumble” but those cards are subject to change. Nah, Braun and co are taking it. As for who the partner will be? Well, there happens to be a wrestler that has history with Braun, isn’t doing anything of note at the moment, and also boasts a catchphrase that centers around his hands. So yeah, give Braun and James Ellsworth the belts so that there’s someone to take the pin whenever it comes time for Braun to move back to the main event.
Winner: Braun Strowman and James Ellsworth
Brian: My 8 year-old was so excited to go to Raw on Monday April 2nd. Not, as I imagined, to see his hero John Cena, but to see (imagine a very skinny 8 year-old kid throwing his hands up in the air and growling this) BRAUN! That’s money. This dude is something we haven’t seen in at least a generation. Since he’s been hosed out of every Universal Championship match in favor of getting Lesnar to meet Reigns at Mania, he’s owed a title. Add in his interactions – and future episode of Ride Along – with Alexa Bliss, and this guy’s going to go far. Put the straps on him. Just him. I want him to grab someone out of the crowd and make him stand in the corner, never tag in, and just go on wearing both belts himself, picking new partners each week.
Winner: BRAUUUUUN and WHO CARES?!!
Nathaniel: This can go wrong in so many ways. Braun is the most popular guy on the roster not named Daniel Bryan and should be booked like a star. Yes, the character has a low ceiling and chances are he will be a comedy act within the next year anyway, but why rush it? Braun should be in the Universal Title picture and anything else is beneath him. Best case scenario is Samoa Joe makes his return and they form an unstoppable tag team that will elevate whoever beats them for the belts. Braun’s booking is repetitive but they haven’t messed it up yet.
Winners: Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
While The Usos and the New Day have been putting on clinic after clinic on SmackDown Live, the Bludgeon Brothers have been lurking in the periphery, waiting for their moment to strike. That moment came at Fastlane, when Harper and Rowan administered savage beatdowns to both teams, temporarily putting Xavier Woods and Jey Uso on the shelf. They now have a shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Championships to fully assert their dominance over the division.
Patrick: The Usos and the New Day have been putting in work to make sure the SmackDown Live tag division is the place to be, and it’s been paying off, as they put on some of the best matches of the year in 2017. Unfortunately, I have a feeling their reward for all that hard work will be some styrofoam hammers to the face. Bludgeon Brothers for the win.
Winner: Bludgeon Brothers
Jason: I’m really happy that the Usos and New Day get a chance to take their feud to WrestleMania, and good for the Bludgies for getting on the card without getting shunted into the geek battle royal. I know these teams are going to put on a hell of a show; I just wish I hadn’t seen two thirds of it a half dozen times over the past year. Still, good for everyone involved. Calling it for the New Day, though, because merch sales.
Winner: The New Day
Brian: Usos vs New Day at Mania? YES! No matter what, it will be great. The problem, of course, is that we’ve seen this match and almost every iteration of it. Enter the Bludgeon Brothers. I like Harper a lot and Rowan is fine. He’s a functional body with size and good speed. Fine. The gimmick is whatever, but they’re a good team and have been since the early days of the Wyatt Family. We should get some really inventive spots along with some real bruising from the powerhouses. If we want to send the crowd home happy and give ya boys a nice gift after their hosting of Mania last year, they get the win here to feud with the Brothers while the other brothers get traded to Raw for a fresh start.
Winners: The…New Day!
Nathaniel: The more I see New Day vs. Usos, the less I want to see it. The matches were great, but at this point they are just muddying the waters. It took forever, but it always seemed like there were big plans for the 2Bs.
Winners: Bludgeon Brothers
Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev (United States Championship)
The only match to come about as a result of the ill-fated SmackDown Top 10 List, Randy Orton will defend his newly-won United States Championship against former champion Bobby Roode, as well as Jinder Mahal and, as of last Tuesday, Rusev. Rusev got himself added to the match after scoring the pin on the Viper in a tag team match, making the triple threat into a fatal four way. Unfortunately for the other three competitors, this year’s WrestleMania happens to fall on Rusev Day.
Patrick: Normally I’d say Rusev doesn’t have a chance, since he was just thrown into the match last minute and wasn’t in the plans at all previously, but…how much does the United States Championship matter, really? Rusev is easily the hottest of these four guys right now, so it makes all the sense in the world to put it on him. However, I have a sneaking suspicion the Modern Day Maharaja will eke out a victory here. His gimmick is tailor made for the US Title.
Winner: Jinder Mahal
Jason: Remember a month or so ago when Shane McMahon said that all the Rusev Day chants had been “duly noted?” Well now’s the time to cash in on that promise. There is exactly one guy in this match worth rooting for, and he’s neither a former world champion, someone relying on his theme song to remain over, or a veiny combination of both. Give the damn belt to the most organically popular performer on your B-show, WWE. For Christ’s sake, this year’s WrestleMania even manages to fall on Rusev Day!
Brian: I literally cared nothing for this match until last week. Randy Orton? Meh. He’s always been pretty meh for me. Jinder Mahal? God help us, that guy is just garbage. He is literally taking up a spot. Bobby Roode? He’s shown us that having a cool theme song doesn’t make you a good babyface. His smile bugs the crap out of me and I miss the old rich heel Bobby Roode. Adding in Rusev makes this match worth the effort and gets an organically over wrestler into a spot he’s earned. Only downside? Aiden English. Ugh.
Loser: All of us that have to listen to English
Nathaniel: A useless title they have no plans of making important in a match with the boring guy who’s only a song, the job guy from 3MB, the guy who is too lazy to be the greatest ever, and the dude who once came out at WrestleMania on a freaking tank. Since there are no plans for the title, just go with the guy who sells the most merch.
The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor (Intercontinental Championship)
The Miz is mere weeks away from having the longest combined days as Intercontinental Champion in WWE history, a well deserved accolade. Standing in his way, however, are a former WWE Champion and a former Universal Champion in the form of Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. Miz has derided both as indie stars, calling them by their former names and mocking Balor’s obsession with Kliq-isms. Will the Miztourage, which appears healthier than ever, play a factor in keeping the title around the waist of the Awesome One?
Patrick: This is one of the few matchups on this card where I have no idea what will happen. I love all three of these guys, and would be perfectly happy with any winning the Intercontinental Championship. The Miz has worked hard to make this title matter, and he’s been pulling it off. It would be nice to see Seth Rollins complete the Grand Slam, though, so I’ll go with him.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Jason: Much like the SmackDown tag outing, this is a match where I like everyone involved, and it makes it hard to pick a winner because there are reasons for all three to pull it out in the end. Miz has been amazing, but may need to take some time away from the WWE since his daughter was JUST born. Finn has been treading water since he came back from injury and really needs a big win to anchor his appeal to, and Seth feels too big for the belt unless the whole point is to name ANOTHER Grand Slam champ. I guess I’ll go with who I actually want to win even if it doesn’t really make sense for him to do it. Make Mine Balor!
Winner: Finn Balor
Brian: I’m glad that Balor and Rollins aren’t stuck in the Battle Royal. Two former Universal champions who are at the top of their game deserve a spot on the card. Balor Club vs Miztourage has been fun and adding Rollins into the mix with a bit of The Architect, a bit of the Kingslayer has been good. I think Balor falls short here, giving him reason to either continue with Balor Club or go full on demon for the next match. Rollins has the best upside, but in the age of reclaiming records, Miz needs to get his “Longest reigning Intercontinental Champ” title. Miz retains until the next PPV where the Demon and his painted up Good Brothers help him take the IC title.
Winner: The Miz
Nathaniel: Rollins is a great fit for the IC Title and would be a throwback to when it was the “workers’ belt”. He will probably be in the Universal Title hunt though, so that leaves Miz and Balor. Miz is borderline awful in the ring and is vastly overrated, but the guy is funny and can enunciate well. Balor is a great worker but he just comes off as such a geek. Tough call.
Winner: Prince Ne..Dev…Finn Balor
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax (Raw Women’s Championship)
Alexa Bliss has gone to great lengths in the past to make sure Nia Jax is on her side, but that plan all came undone a few weeks ago when Alexa was caught on camera confessing to Mickie James that she’s simply using her and doesn’t actually value her friendship. Following this shocking revelation, as well as some shots at Nia’s weight and looks, the Irresistible Force looks to exact revenge by taking the only thing Alexa Bliss does actually care about: the Raw Women’s Championship.
Patrick: Nia’s face turn has actually been decent, though rushed. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for Alexa to not get her comeuppance here, especially considering the vast size and strength differences between the two. It’s actually kind of remarkable Nia hasn’t been a champion yet — I reckon that will be remedied at Mania.
Winner: Nia Jax
Jason: I know it’s wrestling, but I have a hard time suspending disbelief enough to believe that Bliss could actually (physically) hurt Nia. It’s an odd look to have your babyface outmatch the heal in almost every respect, but I still think it’s Nia’s time. She’s been putting in good work, and if WWE doesn’t want to continue being perceived as s----y to women, maybe putting the plus-sized model over the evil pixie who has been fat-shaming her and calling her dumb is a good call.
Winner: Nia Jax
Brian: I’m a bit iffy on this storyline right now. It all should work, with Alexa the mean girl picking on the bigger Nia. Nia’s rampages aren’t quite what we’ve come to expect from backstage destruction (thanks to BRAUN), so they don’t set her apart yet. Hopefully this match is an opportunity to demonstrate that she’s a real powerhouse who can bring it. If Alexa can hold up her side of the match we’ll have a good one. I’m not sure this is over by a long shot, though.
Winner: Alexa Bliss by nefarious means
Nathaniel: There is always one match at Mania when the result makes you scratch your head. Booking 101 says that Nia should win in dominant fashion and make Alexa pay for all the things she said. It’s a positive story and the heel gets what she deserves. Kinda like the build for WrestleMania XIX when heel HHH went racist on Booker T leading to Booker winni…Oh.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
A dream match in every sense of the word. Asuka is undefeated in well over two years of WWE competition, including becoming the first-ever winner of the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble match. Though Asuka had her choice of champion and could have taken the, let’s be honest, easier option in Alexa Bliss, Asuka wants to prove she is the best women’s wrestler in the world by defeating the genetically superior Charlotte Flair at the Showcase of the Immortals.
Patrick: On a night of dream matches, this is absolutely the best match the WWE women’s division could possibly put together. Both Asuka and Charlotte are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition on either brand, and this should be the best women’s match we’ve seen in a long, long time. Given a proper build this match could have honestly main evented, but alas, the build pretty lackluster. Asuka’s entire WWE career has been building to this moment, and it’d be a shame if they had her come all this way just to lose on the grandest stage. Asuka wins with an Asuka Lock after a clinic.
Jason: This is probably my second most anticipated match because these two will most definitely have their worker boots on. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do together and I’m sure it’ll be great given the caliber of the performers, but the outcome was never in question. Asuka is taking this one.
Brian: Give them 25 minutes or more. Let Asuka and Charlotte take their time and show the world what two of the best can do on the largest stage possible. Let them dare anyone to follow them. I want to walk out of Mania this year arguing about which was a better match: Charlotte/Asuka or Styles/Nakamura. That’s the level of excellence I expect from this match and neither woman will let us down. After breaking the Figure Eight for the first time, Asuka gets Charlotte to pass out in the Asuka Lock, assuring her win streak stays intact, but giving Charlotte an out…for now.
Nathaniel: Barring some random NXT house show tag match, I believe this is the first time the two have ever faced each other. When Asuka won the Rumble, her victory here seemed like a foregone conclusion. Since then, there have been odd booking decisions that led to Asuka getting lukewarm reactions at the end of her Raw run. Plus, WWE has always been high on Charlotte. Her beating Asuka wouldn’t be as shocking as some people think. This will be a great drama filled match.
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
For weeks, John Cena has been concerned that he has “no clear path” to WrestleMania. I guess being the breadwinner for the company for over a decade and burgeoning movie star isn’t enough to lock in a spot on the card. After losing the six pack challenge at Fastlane in a last-ditch effort to win the WWE Championship to secure a match on the Grandest Stage of Them All, Cena has resorted to trying to goad the Undertaker out of retirement. Bold strategy, Cotton.
Patrick: This has got to be one of the more bizarre buildups to an Undertaker match ever, and the guy used to build coffins for a living. Cena has literally resorted to shouting “do something” for the past couple of weeks, which doesn’t exactly make for riveting television. I wish this match wasn’t happening at all, as I think the last Undertaker match I felt was in any way good was against CM Punk at WrestleMania 29, but it’s happening. Since the Streak is super-duper dead now that the Big Dog put the Deadman out to pasture in his newly acquired yard last year, this is just another match. I’d say it’d be weird for Taker to lose his final match, but who the hell knows if this is actually going to be his final match? And old school rules dictate you go out on your back, so I’ll place my bets on Undertaker doing the honors to try and give that young up-and-comer John Cena the rub.
Winner: John Cena
Jason: I don’t mean to sound cruel, but this is my bathroom match of the evening. I don’t know that Cena will be able to elevate the aging Taker to a worthwhile match, and really, I feel like Taker’s involvement at all sort of tarnishes his legacy. His match with Roman was bad but his apparent retirement at the end of last year’s Mania was a great moment. Having him come back to count the lights for Cena just feels wrong, and I’m sure that’s what is going to happen here. Mean Mark is the personification of old school, and you always go out putting someone over…but why you would do that with Cena instead of an up-and-comer who could actually benefit from the rub, I don’t know.
Winner: Big Match John
Nathaniel: Remember the “Streak” and how awesome it was? Apparently, WWE doesn’t. This was a dream match a decade ago and judging by crowd reactions, it still is. The match will have incredible heat up until the epic stare down before dying a death. It will take lots of smoke and mirrors to make this watchable, but the WWE will get moments they can replay for decades. As for the match, Taker wins and retires for another year.
Brian: I’m just…eh on this. Sure, it’s a “dream match” in the sense that it hasn’t happened at Mania and 10 years ago, this would have torn the place down. It will be a great nostalgia piece, but after last year’s disaster of a match, what expectations do we have? And who benefits from this match even happening? After “The Streak” being such a big deal and then squandered, I think Cena does the job here to send Taker out on on Last Ride.
Winner: Biker Taker
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
The greatest comeback story in modern history came to fruition last month, when it was announced that Daniel Bryan has finally been cleared to once again compete in a WWE ring. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, ever the chips on their shoulders, had no problem spoiling the celebration when Bryan revealed he felt he had no choice but to fire the two as a result of their heinous assault on SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon. Still, Daniel Bryan is a generous man, and truly believes SmackDown to be the land of opportunity. So he’s bringing the two back for one more match. If Owens and Zayn win, they are reinstated — but Bryan is intent on once again turning the show into YEStleMania.
Patrick: YES! YES! YES! Sorry, I’m still just so happy D-Bry is back. It’s frankly amazing that Shane McMahon is still pencilled in for this match if the whole diverticulitis thing wasn’t a work, but really, anyone could be in his place. This match is all about Daniel Bryan. I’m hoping Shane starts the match and gets beaten down for almost 10 minutes, building maximum pressure for the hot tag to Bryan. When he finally gets that tag, the Superdome will absolutely erupt, and Daniel Bryan gets another all-time feel good moment to add to his already stellar resume. Someone’s tapping to the Yes Lock — with another Superstar Shakeup on the horizon, it’s easy enough to get Owens and Zayn’s jobs back.
Winner: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon
Jason: It’s surreal to think Daniel Bryan is actually wrestling again. It’s been too long. While I’m really happy for him and excited to see him step back in the ring, I think the albatross of this story – and his choice in tag partner – has sunk my enthusiasm for this a bit. I will be cheering my heart out for Bryan, but I think the storyline context (Sami and KO’s jobs being on the line) suggests that the Quebecers are going to steal a victory in this one. Once this is out of the way, however, let’s let Bryan get back into it with a real match!
Winner: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Brian: Who cares, D-Bry is back baby!!! This is going to be the loudest pop of the night. Bryan returns to the very building where he won two matches against some of the biggest stars of the previous generation and won the unified WWE title. A tag match is a great way to ease him in and Sami/Kevin will take care of him. After D-Bry turns on Shane O’Mac, letting Sami/Kevin win their jobs back and putting the boss’s son into the YES! Lock, he’ll move on to challenging the winner of Styles/Nakamura because he told me to fight for my dreams!
Winners: Kami with an assist from EVIL D-Bry
Nathaniel: A part of me wishes that Bryan would return to the indies but now we get possible matches against AJ, Nakamura, Zayn, and Owens. I’m cool with that. Turning Bryan is an interesting idea but I think they keep him face. Bryan will look awesome and Shane will fall from something high and get pinned.
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H
It’s been rumored and speculated on for years, but it’s finally happening: Ronda Rousey is about to have a pro wrestling match in a WWE ring. And the stakes couldn’t be higher, as she teams with fellow Olympic medalist and current Raw General Manager Kurt Angle to take on the Authority themselves, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Angle expressed his thoughts on why WWE really brought Rousey into the fold, setting off a series of events that escalated until this match was made official.
Patrick: I know I’m in the minority on this, but I’ve really enjoyed the buildup to this match. Yes, Ronda is shaky on the mic, but she is a draw. The crowd has been surprisingly receptive to her in an era of smart fans who detest part-timers and “outsiders,” and as the requisite WrestleMania “mainstream crossover” match, we could do a lot worse than this. No way that this ends in any way besides Ronda just about tearing Stephanie’s arm out of her socket.
Winner: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Jason: It’s kind of neat to see the women getting billed above the men on this mixed-gender match. I know this isn’t a true mixed-tag, but I still expect Ronda to judo flip the Game once or twice too. Like Pat, I think there’s no way this ends without Ronda exacting shoulder-tearing revenge on McMahon, I just wonder how she’ll look out there. From her gear to her in-ring performance – Rousey’s a very unproven commodity in everything but shoot fighting, and I only hope that she can take to professional wrestling better than CM Punk took to MMA.
Winner: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Brian: We all know that Rousey is the real deal. She’s a legit fighter and martial artist and truly LOVES professional wrestling. She’s everything that a superstar should be at this point. She’s been training with Kurt Angle in the most up-to-date wrestling training facility in the world. I’m not a huge fan of smiley Ronda, but damn does she get tough quick. Kurt and Angle will have an okay back and forth (not Papa Haitch’s fault) and then Ronda will try and murder Steph. Trips will stop her, naturally, and then Ronda will attempt to murder him. I can’t imagine Ronda losing this match. I also can’t imagine Kurt pinning Triple H, so Ronda with the submission victory.
Winner: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Nathaniel: This is a tough call. Steph and Trips aren’t known for putting opponents over but this is Rousey’s debut. Let’s use the process of elimination: Rousey isn’t getting pinned or submitting her in pro debut and neither is Steph since this is just the start of Steph’s Austin-McMahon. That leaves Angle and Trips and HHH always talks about doing what’s “best for business.” (On a side note, is Angle still the Raw GM and if so, why hasn’t he been fired?)
Winner: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship)
It’s a night of dream matchups, as a contest we never thought we’d see is taking place: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. These two have tons of history dating back to their times in NJPW, but they’ve never battled on a stage quite like this. Nakamura won the men’s Royal Rumble match, and there was never any doubt in his mind which champion he wanted to take on. Can the Phenomenal One put a stop to his plans?
Patrick: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Did we die and go to smark heaven? These two battled over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in NJPW before both making their way to WWE. This is a dream match in every sense of the word, and should be a reminder of why we love wrestling. AJ is a top tier superstar on SmackDown, and has been for some time now. I think it’s time to pass the torch to Nakamura and finally get him on that same level that he so rightfully deserves. Nakamura takes it in an instant classic.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Jason: AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are going to Main Event* WrestleMania for the WWE title. What a day to be alive. This is the match that made me start watching NJPW so many years ago, and here it is in the WWE. The smart call for a number of reasons here is Shinsuke Nakamura. The dude is crazy over, a fun performer, someone who would kill it on talk shows and brings an international appeal that even the Phenomenal One, just doesn’t quite match. Plus AJ is working with an injury and could use some time to rest. Letting him go on break after putting on a show stealer on the grandest stage of them all sounds like a workable plan to me.
*’Main Event’ could mean opening match of the night.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Brian: About 20 minutes into this match we’re going to get a “This is wrestling” chant as if the smarky, international Mania audience thinks that Vince doesn’t know that. This match is the peak of WrestleMania for most serious wrestling fans. There is so much anticipation, I’m worried that they won’t be able to live up to the hype. It’s clear that Nakamura needs a boost in confidence and in the energy he seems to put on in the ring. Against an opponent like AJ Styles, he should have no trouble kicking into the higher gear. Since this is definitely NOT going on last, I think they can pull of a great sub-main event and, hopefully, it will be up there with Savage-Steamboat. While I worry about his promo ability in English (and hanging onto a crowd that will become increasingly hostile about the accent and delivery) I think that this match ends with a Kinshasa and the 1-2-3.
Nathaniel: When these two met in 2016 at Wrestle Kingdom, AJ had an injured back that made people wonder just how good of a match they would have. They simply wrestled one of the best matches of the year. Now they are meeting at Mania in a match that both are probably considering the biggest match of their careers. We already know what they can do given time; the question is will they get it? Whether it lives up to its lofty expectations or not, this will probably be the match of the night.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship)
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. A match three years in the making. Reigns has made the build to this match interesting, harping on the fact that Brock Lesnar is, well, almost never actually present, and even going so far to call him “Vince’s boy.” The Beast, however, cares about nothing besides dominating and making money, and he plans to do both of those as he defends the Universal Championship at WrestleMania.
Patrick: Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and the Big Dog getting his WrestleMania moment. This is the main event Vince has had his eye on since WrestleMania 31, when it was (rightfully) derailed in favor of a Seth Rollins cash-in. The build to this match has actually been a pleasant surprise, and much more dynamic and interesting than the first time around back in 2015. But it’s all just a formality: Roman Reigns will be crowned the Universal Champion in the main event of WrestleMania, and you’re gonna like it, dammit!
Winner: Roman Reigns
Jason: Recently unearthed stone tablets dating back to the 13th century have predicted a number of things. They’ve predicted the rise of a demagogue leader in the West, foretold the age of enlightenment brought on by the internet, and said that the Large Dog would slay the beast for the fate of the universe. We’ve known Roman was going to win this thing for years at this point, the better question is what are they going to do with him afterward? Having a more present champion will be nice, and Roman is far more willing to do the job than Brock ever was, but I don’t see the Big Dog being a transitional champion which means the next few feuds he has (Joe, and whoever else they deem a top level heel between now and SummerSlam) will see him go over – at least until a certain monster among men is done playing around with the tag belts and ready to add a gaudy bedazzled fruit by the foot around his waist.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Brian: What are we going to to once Roman actually wins the title at Wrestlemania? At WrestleMania Play Button, Seth Rollins committed the Heist of the Century and stole the WWE Title from both Brock and Roman. Last year, the Yard Master vanquished the 134 year-old Methuselah that is The Undertaker in a match that – at best – was mediocre and not up to either man’s standards (see my predictions for the potential Cena/Undertaker match for more). This year, the Large Canine, the Leader of the Roman Empire, Joe Anoa’i himself, Roman Reigns gets Brock Lesnar one-on-one at Mania. In the same building that will have housed 6+ hours of wrestling prior to this match including Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring, Nakamura/Styles, Asuka/Charlotte, and the debut of Ronda Rousey, Roman Reigns is going to do his damndest to get over once and for all. They’ve tried to make Brock the villain here, but Roman isn’t the best hero to foil him. They tried having The Rock endorse him. They tried having Cena endorse him. He has beaten everyone (sometimes multiple high-talent guys at once) except BRAUN and Brock. He’ll win, sure, but in the end, he’s still going to be the champ that adult men want to boo. I absolutely would use this moment to have Roman destroy Lesnar and then pound him into the ground like Lesnar did to Orton and Cena. Just beat him within an inch of his life and when the officials come out to stop the violence, destroy them too. Go all out and finally turn that corner that Cena never did. In two years he’ll be ready to be the biggest face the industry’s seen since the Attitude Era. But please, please don’t let this be just a de facto coronation.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Nathaniel: Credit to WWE for trying, but they just can’t get the fans to boo Brock for this match. It was a dumb idea to begin with (“Let’s screw the fans on advertised appearances!”). You can try to inject intrigue into this match but it doesn’t matter. Sure, it would be kinda cool if Heyman left Brock and joined new heel Roman Reigns, but that’s not happening. It’s just better to accept facts. Roman has shown he can have good to great matches and a motivated Brock is fun to watch. Unfortunately, everyone knows how this match is ending and the best the WWE can hope for is a dead crowd.
Winner: Roman Reigns