The John Report: WWE WrestleMania 31 Preview
John: WrestleMania takes place this Sunday night in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California and there’s a lot of anticipation for what might happen. While the build to the show hasn’t been that great thanks to several weeks of subpar episodes of Raw, there are some intriguing matchups on the show.
WWE has moved two matches to the Kickoff Show, which is two hours long and begins at 5pmET. The four hour PPV broadcast starts at 7pmET with seven matches. Of course the whole thing is on WWE Network for most of us, so it probably doesn’t matter that much. The problem, for me, is asking people to sit through nine matches in five hours. That’s a little much. There will be musical performances during the show and elaborate ring entrances as well. Brace yourselves. It’s going to be a long night.
Joining me for the preview are Christian Michael, Heather Hickey and Matty J. Douglas. Our previous preview members aren’t writing much anymore, so they were replaced and we welcome Heather & Matty to the team. As always, the match order isn’t the order that we necessarily think will happen on the show. It’s just a format to use for this preview.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner is courtesy of our friend Steve Melo.)
Tag Team Titles: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores vs. The Usos – Kickoff Match
Christian: Here we are a year later and not much has changed. The Tag Team Titles are being defended on the pre-show in a Fatal 4Way Match. Five of the eight competitors are the same. The only differences are The New Day has replaced Rybaxel and Cesaro has found himself a new tag team partner. Apparently this is one fall to a finish whereas last year was an elimination match. They should change this one to an elimination match too. You’ve got a two hour pre-show to fill, why not let this one go 20-25 minutes? What’s the harm?
This match really should be The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro in a 20 minute classic but WWE felt the need to insult our intelligence and try and make The New Day and Los Matadores look like credible contenders in the last few weeks. We know they’re not. I understand trying to get as many people on the WrestleMania card as possible but that is what the Andre the Giant Battle Royal is for. I doubt anyone would shed a tear if Los Matadores and The New Day weren’t in this match.
There’s no reason to take the titles off Kidd and Cesaro, but I could see The Usos regaining them to get a babyface win to get the crowd hot from the start. It should be a fun match given enough time to develop.
Prediction- Tyson Kidd and Cesaro retain the WWE Tag Team Championship
Matt: Looking at this match makes me sad. Not because it won’t be good. It will probably be really good because everyone involved is a good worker, and the only ones who aren’t good, are great workers. This match makes me sad because it’s essentially the Stereotype Showcase.
You have the black evangelicals that clap and dance and sing, you have the Puerto Ricans dressed as Spanish Matadores complete with a Bull Mascot, and you have The Samoans who do tribal dances on their way to the ring (which is a really cool and fun part of the shtick, but stereotypical nonetheless). The only team that isn’t a stereotype in this match is the only team comprised of caucasian superstars. Not calling the WWE out and out racists, because that would be inflammatory. That said, this match isn’t the best case against that notion.
I don’t really care who wins this match, nor do I think the WWE is particularly invested in anybody involved or the outcome.
Winners: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (because who cares)
Heather: I hate when they relegate title matches to the Kickoff Show at WrestleMania. Cesaro was stuck in the same place last year, as Jack Swagger’s tag partner, but at least last year he re-appeared on the main card to win the Andre Trophy in grand style. It would be INSANE for Kidd and Cesaro to lose the titles on Sunday. CRAZY INSANE. I’m not even sure Los Matadores will get tagged in.
Winners: Cesaro and Kidd
John: This match is an example of WWE hurting themselves by their desire to want to get as many people on the card as possible. What this match should be is Kidd/Cesaro vs. The Usos in a 20 minute classic that is one of the best tag matches ever. Unfortunately, Jey has a shoulder injury and will be limited. Prior to his injury, WWE already decided to include the two other teams that rarely win matches, so it wouldn’t have mattered if Jey was healthier anyway.
It should be a win for Kidd & Cesaro. There’s no reason for them to lose. They’ve only been the champs for a few months and have a lot going for them. The other teams don’t. WWE will have to build up other teams that can look like credible contenders because right now there’s a lack of depth in the division. Look for the champs to retain in a match that gets anywhere from 10-15 minutes.
Winners: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
Andre the Giant Battle Royal (Participants: The Miz, Curtis Axel, Ryback, Fandango, Adam Rose, Zack Ryder, Jack Swagger, Titus O’Neil, Darren Young, Big Show, Kane, Erick Rowan, Damien Mizdow, Sin Cara, Goldust, Heath Slater, Mark Henry, Konnor, Viktor, Hideo Itami & More!) – Kickoff Match
Christian: Since this match is just filler on the PPV to get twenty guys on the card, I’ll discuss something rather interesting. Kyle Edwards pointed this on Twitter, at WrestleMania every match except on the card except one features an alumnus of NXT. I responded that the one match features Triple H, who is the mastermind of NXT. The point is, NXT is working and these men and women are already becoming not only the future, but the now of WWE.
The point of this is that an NXT Superstar should win this Battle Royal. Hideo Itami won the right to be in this match after winning a tournament at Axxess. I’d love to see him win because NXT has such an awesome year that they should stand out in some way at WrestleMania. It’s a way better option than having any of the myriad of jobbers and vagabonds in this match win. It’s not like the match holds any sort of prestige for the winner. I’m looking at you Cesaro.
Winner- Hideo Itami
Matt: This match has been moved to the pre-show. For the most part that doesn’t change anything (in fact it probably helps this match as well as every other match because they won’t need to rush) but it actually changes a lot for me.
I have an overactive imagination, and I’ve been envisioning this match opening the main show, with most of the guys in the ring. Miz/Mizdow get an entrance, then Ryback, then a returning Sheamus. When things look like they’ll be getting started, Finn Balor’s music will start and the stage will fill with smoke. Balor will debut in full body paint, with a phenomenal and theatric entrance. It would be such a great way to make a splash.
They can still do it I suppose, but for some reason, having it happen on the pre-show makes it less amazing. Oh this match will mostly be garbage by the way, so they might need Finn to liven up the proceedings.
Edit: Hideo Itami won the spot. He’s great but that removes the chances for a spectacle.
Winner: Ryback (because Finn’s not there)
Heather: I was happy to learn that Hideo Itami joined the list of contenders last night, after winning an NXT match for the opportunity to compete. He joins a fairly respectable cast of characters, and I’d be less sour on this being a pre-show match if it was the ONLY pre-show match. What a sin to have Miz and Mizdow dumped into this mix, when they could have had a proper match at Mania. That said, they’ve jammed the card with big entrances and musical performances, so maybe Miz and Mizdow are somewhat better served at Extreme Rules and beyond.
I’m hoping for an Axelmania spot of some sort: perhaps he gets waylaid on his way to the ring again, and can claim that his streak is still running. Otherwise, I don’t expect much, other than this outcome: Ryback is having an ironically great year after being thrown under the bus by CM Punk.
John: Too many limes! Too many limes! Ohhhhhh! Welcome back Sheamus. Yes, I know they don’t really say “too many limes” in his theme song, but it’s close enough to that. He’s my pick. WWE has been hyping up his return in a big way with video packages, so I think he’ll be booked strong as the winner in his return to action here.
What would be great is if Damien Sandow won because it would really help his career get a kickstart as a babyface. However, my feeling is that he’s going to limited to just eliminating The Miz at one point and that will be all the celebrating for him.
Another favorite is Ryback, but he seems like too obvious of a choice and he’s been booked too strong. WWE could turn Sheamus into an egotistical heel that ends up feuding with Ryback as a result of this match too.
I’m happy that Hideo Itami is in the match. I hope he gets a few exciting spots in the match and makes it near the end. I just don’t think he’s going to win. It’s going to be Sheamus.
AJ Lee & Paige vs. Nikki & Brie Bella
Christian: Despite the really good Paige vs. Nikki title match from RAW, I don’t see the Divas being given much of a chance in this one. I can also see how this somehow turns into a Lumberjill match to get the other Divas on the roster onto the show.
The finish of the match should lead into the next feud for Nikki’s title and that should be against her sister, Brie. That was such a big story for a few months and WWE just dropped it. Done right, twin vs. twins could be really good. Brie could cost Nikki the match here bringing back the old hurt feelings.
Prediction- AJ Lee and Paige
Matt: This should be a Fatal 4-Way. Brie should still have a bone to pick with her sister, and AJ and Paige definitely should still have scores to settle between them. Everybody in this match has a reason to hate everyone else, thus why it was a perfect set up for a 4-Way match.
My hope is that things break down, both teams end up imploding, and then Stephanie or somebody with booking power changes it to a Fatal 4-Way Title match. Let these lethal ladies kick tear one another apart for 10-15 minutes. Would be so much more interesting and fun than a tag team match with nothing at stake.
Winners: AJ Lee & Paige (because it makes the most sense given the circumstances)
Heather: The not-exactly-collaborative Paige and AJ will pull out a win, but there will be hints of conflict between them. After the win, one will turn on the other, prompting a feud that will culminate in a Loser Leaves Town match for AJ. She’s lost the playful gleam in her eyes. She may have dreamed of being a pro wrestler for most of her life, but the reality didn’t live up to the dream. I can totally see WWE letting her out of her contract if she asks, not wanting to indirectly line Phil Brooks’ pockets any more than necessary.
All that said, this match still has potential. As everyone says, give them time to wrestle and they will. I’m happy for Paige to experience her first WrestleMania moment, and I’m happy that this hasn’t devolved into an 8-person tag featuring Jon Stewart. Silver linings, people.
Winners: Paige and AJ
John: It would be a surprise if the Bellas won this match. They don’t need it since Nikki is the Divas Champion and just beat Paige in a good title match on Raw this past Monday. Usually when a champion is in a tag match they’re there to do the job in order to set up a future title match. Nikki doesn’t have to be the one that gets pinned, but it would be better if it was her.
In terms of match time, most divas matches on PPV get around 7 minutes. Since there’s only seven matches on the four hour show they should be able to get 12-15 minutes. Hopefully the crowd is receptive to it because if they are then the action will be pretty good.
The babyface divas will win with AJ Lee getting the pin to set up a title shot for her at Extreme Rules in Chicago, which is where she now lives. I can hear those “CM Punk” chants already.
Winner: AJ Lee & Paige
Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth vs. Stardust
Christian: Two words: Show Stealer. And if it’s not either show one else really stepped up or something went wrong here. Since I’m trying this “optimism” thing my fiancé keeps talking about let’s go with someone else on the show stepped up.
So, who’s going to win? It’s one of two men, Daniel Bryan or Dean Ambrose. None of the heels have a shot and that included the incumbent champion, Bad News Barrett. Despite being super entertaining in the lead up to this match, I don’t know why R-Truth is even in this match. He has Andre Battle Royal written all over him. As much as I love Dolph Ziggler, I don’t see WWE going back to him as the Intercontinental Champion.
That leaves Dean Ambrose, who if you asked me a month ago who the likely next Intercontinental Champion was going to be, I’d answer Ambrose and Daniel Bryan who went from owning WrestleMania XXX to well, not even factored into one of the main feuds. I think WWE is going to throw the fans a bone here and let Bryan walk out of WrestleMania as the Intercontinental Champion as if it is some sort of consolation prize for not being given a real chance to win back a title he never lost. I’m going to ignore the silliness of people stealing the belt leading up to WrestleMania because I have super high hopes for this match.
I just ask five things of this match:
1. Be amazing
2. Dolph Ziggler doesn’t kill himself trying to steal the show.
3. Daniel Bryan protects himself and that injured neck. WWE with Daniel Bryan even in a reduced role is better than no Daniel Bryan.
4. This match leads to Bryan feuding with Ziggler and/or Ambrose.
5. Be f’n amazing.
Prediction- Daniel Bryan wins the Intercontinental Championship
Matt: The safe bet in picking the winner of this match is definitely Daniel Bryan. If the plan is to elevate the Mid-Card titles, that is one way of doing so. I could definitely see Bryan winning the match and having a feud with Ziggler after, who has beaten him twice in the last week.
With that being said, I personally feel like Dean Ambrose should win this match. He needs the win more, considering he’s lost every big match he had since The Shield split. I still think you can elevate the Intercontinental Title with him. Have him win the strap and be the first Champion that seeks challengers, instead of waiting to be challenged. He’d use the belt as his excuse to start fights and test his mettle. Have the run be the exact opposite of his U.S. Title run, where he never defended the belt, and have him defend the Intercontinental Championship more than any champion ever has.
The match should be great, but they are definitely missing the HOLY S#!% elements that guys like Shelton Benjamin/Kofi Kingston provide in these matches. Who will be that guy here?
Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Dean Ambrose (because he needs it most)
Heather: I am really looking forward to this one. Even though I disliked the hot-potato title game, it was a pleasure to watch some of the matches that fell out of it. I was hoping for a Ziggler/Bryan feud for Mania, as was Ziggler, who wrote a heartfelt “open letter” challenge to Bryan on twitter before all this started. Seeing how the rest of the card (particularly the Kick-Off Show) has shaken out, I guess I should be happy that these two are in the ladder match. I’m going to make my prediction based on process of elimination.
Truth will have some comedy spots and Harper some painful-looking bumps, but I can’t see them figuring in the winner’s circle. Barrett’s been made to look like such a chump, a shame after he came back from injury so revitalized. There is no way he walks out with the title. Stardust’s chances will be spoiled by an interference from Goldust, but I hope to see some cool spots out of him first. Ambrose will look like a contender, but this is not his time. The company has turned him into a lame parody, and I hope he can recover his edge post-Mania. So we’re left with Ziggler and Bryan, who will give us some spectacular moments at the top of the ladder – ending with Ziggler taking a huge bump and Bryan leading the crowd in “Yes!” chants.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
John: WWE has been doing multi-man ladder matches with them chasing a singular prize for a decade now. That first Money in the Bank match was at WrestleMania 21 in 2005. That was arguably the best of them all, but this one might top it. Of course the difference is instead of the Money in the Bank briefcase they’re going for the Intercontinental Title, which actually feels prestigious again. The stealing of the title gimmick was silly for several weeks, but the last few weeks of TV were better.
I have a lot of faith in this match being great because there’s so much talent in the ring. Last year’s two MITB matches both were over 20 minutes and I think this one will be over 20 minutes long as well because there are only seven matches in four hours. This is probably going to be the match of the night too and a potential match of the year contender.
In terms of the winner, I think it’s going to be Bryan, Ziggler or Ambrose. WWE really wants to re-establish the IC Title as a credible title, so putting in on a really popular guy like any of them will help. Bryan’s won every WWE Title except that one. Ziggler’s held it many times before. Ambrose has expressed a desire for it, but has lost the momentum he had a month ago. As for the others, Barrett has a decent shot of retaining while Harper, Stardust and Truth are just there to fill out the match.
Hey Daniel Bryan, don’t do any crazy neck bumps please. I know wrestlers have that desire to steal the show, so they do crazy stuff especially in ladder matches. He doesn’t need to do it, though. Win the match and be smart about it.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Christian: There’s no doubt in my mind that if given 15-20 minutes this match will be great. My problem is how much I hated the build to it. Seth Rollins destroys Randy Orton back in November so naturally Orton is ready to rip his head off when he comes back at Fastlane but Seth gets away.
Instead of seeing Orton return the beating the next night on RAW, he lets The Authority “persuade” him back into joining their team. Orton eventually does turn on Rollins to set up this match. Orton tells us he went back to The Authority to infiltrate them this way when he finally did strike on Rollins it would mean more because he wouldn’t see it coming. So we had to deal with weeks of Orton setting up for the most obvious turn ever. If anyone thought Orton was going to stay in The Authority I have a set of magic beans to sell you.
For all of this to be believable we have to assume that Seth Rollins is the dumbest idiot ever. Has he not watched WWE in the last 10 years? You DO NOT trust Randy Orton. He’s The Viper for a reason, dummy. Did he really think Orton was going to let his face getting smashed in with a Curb Stomp go without getting his revenge?
Sorry, I just had to rant about that. As for this match, beating Randy Orton at WrestleMania would be a hallmark win for Rollins but he can just as easily lose too. WWE likes to have the Money in the Bank winners lose a lot just before cashing in and Seth hasn’t won a lot of big matches lately. It’s something to keep in the back of your mind. This is a real toss up for me as I can really see it going either way.
Prediction- Randy Orton
Matt: This will be a great match. Both guys are phenomenal workers, that rarely disappoint in the ring. Nevertheless, there’s really not much narratively to this match if you ask me. Orton already got his revenge on Seth Rollins and really neither needs to have this match. It just seems like something that is happening because they both need to be on the card.
The implications of the match are interesting, considering the many variables at play coming out of Wrestlemania 31. Should Randy beat Seth, but Seth go on to cash in his Money In The Bank and become WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Orton would have a significant claim to a title shot, considering he beat the now Champion on the biggest night on the Wrestling Calendar. Creating a crowded but legitimate pool of championship contenders coming out of Wrestlemania would go a long way in making the rest of the year exciting and unpredictable.
I doubt they proceed with that much forethought though. At least the match will showcase both of these top notch performers.
Winner: Seth Rollins (because this show should have plenty of babyface victories and they’ll want some bad guys to win)
Heather: The stutter-start on Orton’s return handicapped this feud a bit. Having Orton beat everyone up, then pretend to be their ally (and have them fall for it!) made everyone look a fool – in theory. Though the plot twist made no sense, the players handled it beautifully. Randy Orton is of most interest to me when he’s having fun, and I truly believe that he has found his niche in The Authority. Not as their golden boy, but as their jilted one. Rollins has come so far on the mic, and we know he can SHINE in big matches. Randy Orton has a habit of upping his game when he’s engaged with what he’s doing. I remember he really turned things on for the first time in a long time when he was feuding with Daniel Bryan. I have a good feeling that he will want to show everyone that he can hang with Seth Rollins.
Even though there’s almost no emotional investment in this match – despite them having plenty to work with – I am holding out hope that Rollins will set a tone that Orton will aim to match. And I won’t complain about some J&J shenanigans, which I think will backfire on Rollins and lead to his loss.
Winner: Randy Orton
John: It’s one of those matches where you want to see the younger guy (Rollins) go over, but for this story it makes more sense for Orton to win. Rollins injured him, put him on the shelf for four months and now Orton can finally get his revenge because Rollins can’t get away. If Rollins wins then Orton looks like a fool that failed to get revenge from his injury. Babyfaces are supposed to get revenge, so that’s what Orton will do.
Orton wining also works because if Rollins becomes the WWE Champion within the next few months then Orton can say he deserves a title shot because he beat Rollins at WrestleMania. That’s some easy wrestling booking.
This will probably be in the 15-20 minute range and should be very good. Rollins will probably try some move off the top, Orton will counter with a RKO and that will be it.
Winner: Randy Orton
United States Title: Rusev vs. John Cena
Christian: John Cena. DUH.
Ok, it’s WrestleMania, I’ll give you more.
While Cena is always going to be Cena, he’s shown a bit more vulnerability in the feud than I can remember in a long time. While I certainly appreciate him standing up for America this match should really be about his redemption. Maybe he isn’t the man he used to be. He couldn’t take the title away from Brock Lesnar so now he has something to prove and the best way to prove it is by winning a title. The same title that really jump started his career by beating a monster at WrestleMania. Here we are again 11 years later. It’s time to prove he can still do it.
As much as this win would mean to Rusev, Cena is winning. Duh.
Prediction- John Cena wins the United States Championship
Matt: The outcome of this match couldn’t be more obvious. They’ve told a good story, albeit one without many twists and turns, and this is the home stretch. John Cena on the grandest stage, shutting up Lana and Rusev once and for all and bring the United States Championship back to America. The whole feud has been building to the inevitable conclusion.
The match should be pretty damn good, and the moment will be a fun one for all the Cena/America fans out there. As a Canadian, this whole patriotism for countries that aren’t where I reside doesn’t do much for me, but I definitely get the sentiments. The only mysteries that are in play for this match are whether or not Hulk “The Real American” Hogan will make a cameo to help John Cena, and will John Cena bring back the blinded out, spinner United States Championship the next night on Raw? I’m kind of hoping he does.
Winner and New United States Champion: John Cena (because it’s the obvious bookend to this story)
Heather: I would be shocked if Rusev wins, but I sure wouldn’t mind. Even though WWE presumes that I will hate this Bulgarian, their character development completely backfired. John Cena has been particularly unlikeable this season, calling Stephanie a bitch and bullying Rusev into the match. If I had a young John Cena fan in my house, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with him as a role model. They’re sabotaging the “Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect” brand, the same way I think they’ve been chipping away at the WrestleMania brand this year. Has the WWE ego gotten so bloated that they presume we’ll love John Cena and watch WrestleMania no matter how they’re portrayed? I don’t care if John Cena acts like a heel, but they are heralding him as a saint. Meanwhile, Rusev and Lana have had a very good year. Shame it will come to a screeching halt on Sunday.
This shouldn’t be a very interesting match, so instead I’ll focus on John Cena’s ring entrance. He almost always has the most elaborate entrance, so let’s have fun imagining what he’ll do. Will an Air Force chopper lower him down to the ring? Will he surf in on a big wave that’s been engineered in a giant tank of water that rolls down to the ring?
Winner: John Cena
John: It’s the likely end of a story that featured two PPV matches. WWE kept these two apart for a very long time because they knew they’d have that match at Fastlane and then this second match at WrestleMania with Cena looking to get revenge after Rusev beat him a month ago. They have cranked up the pro-America storyline so that Cena can get cheered more for being the guy that beats Rusev. It’s classic good guy vs. bad guy booking.
This is the easiest prediction on the card. Cena wins. Their match at Fastlane was good in terms of the quality of the bout. They can build on that match and deliver something better here. It will probably be a very physical match that gets around 20 minutes or so with Cena getting the win for America because that’s the way Rocky Balboa beat the evil Russian in Rocky IV too.
Winner: John Cena
The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
Christian: I have absolutely no idea what to expect with this match. We have not seen The Undertaker since WrestleMania XXX when The Streak came to a shocking end. He hasn’t even appeared on RAW to build to this match. Bray Wyatt has essentially feuded with a ghost. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wyatt wrestled a cardboard cutout of The Undertaker.
No one really knows what to expect from The Deadman. He was severely injured in a very disappointing match with Brock Lesnar last year. Does he have anything left to give? As a fan, I hope so. I don’t want to remember The Undertaker as a shell of his former greatness.
This match came about because Wyatt wants to be the new face of fear. He wants people to fear him like they feared The Undertaker for nearly 25 years. It makes all the sense in the world for Wyatt to win since he is going to be a top heel in WWE for years to come. The Streak is there isn’t something WWE is protecting with The Undertaker. That said how can The Undertaker actually lose two years in a row at WrestleMania? It is almost hard to believe.
The selling point of this match for me is what is going to happen before the bell. The mystique and aura of The Undertaker and his grand entrance at WrestleMania and also Wyatt’s entrance which has a similar feel. That will be fun to watch. I just hope that once the bell rings there is something left in The Undertaker’s tank.
Prediction- The Undertaker
Matt: Bray Wyatt has really worked his ass of the last few months. He’s been building to this match for quite some time, and been doing it all by himself. The only person asked to do more for their program at Wrestlemania 31 is Paul Heyman.
Conventional wisdom would be to go with The Undertaker. He lost last year and needs to get back on the winning track. That being said, because he’s already lost, who are you really hurting if he loses again? Hear me out before you lose your minds. Have Bray win and assume the role of the new face of fear. The new gatekeeper of The Yard, as The Undertaker has been known to call the squared circle. Have Bray torment and run roughshod over the WWE for the year, re-assembling the Wyatt Family at some point, and using them as his horsemen of the apocalypse, tearing the WWE apart, brick by brick.
That is until Sting confronts Bray and his demented family, wanting to put an end to his nefarious regime. Sting would wage war on them alone until The Undertaker returns from the dead, much to the dismay of Bray, to fight alongside Sting. Wrestlemania 32 should feature Sting and The Undertaker teaming to vanquish The Wyatt Family! The real money in Sting and The Undertaker at this point in their careers is as partners for one night, not as opponents. Undertaker can go out with a win, ending his two year losing streak, that followed a 21-0 streak.
That scenario is unlikely, and even though it might hurt Bray to lose again at Wrestlemania, it won’t kill him. I see them playing it safe this year and giving the people what they want.
Winner: The Undertaker (because the initial backlash from a second straight Wrestlemania loss for Taker is too frightening)
Heather: Bray Wyatt is campaigning to be the New Face of Fear. While The Undertaker’s showing last year and his absence ever since indicates that the right thing to do is pass the torch to Bray, Bray has been the victim of consistently downtrodden booking. The Undertaker has already been beaten by the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. But for him to come back the next year and get beaten by someone who has never come out of a feud on top? What a depressing downgrade, and possible send-off. So does The Undertaker win, and go out strong? It won’t hurt Bray any. As a matter of fact, Taker can still make Bray a star without his shoulders ever touching the canvas. I imagine they’ll want to give him a proper send-off, tongue out, torches lit, “Thank You, Taker!” roaring through the stadium.
I just got a shiver.
This won’t be a mat classic, but my curiosity is piqued for the finish. Who do I go with… am I the only one finding this a tricky one?
Winner: The Undertaker
John: The build for this match could have been so much better if Undertaker appeared on television in the last month. WWE felt like they shouldn’t put him on to set up the intrigue of what he might look like on Sunday. Guess what? He’ll look like a 50 year old man that we’ve seen on TV for 25 years. They should have put him on Raw and had him scare the crap out of Wyatt as a way to set up this match. Instead, Wyatt was cutting promos week after week. They were great promos, but they could have meant a lot more with an Undertaker sighting.
My expectation is that they get around 15 minutes and that The Undertaker wins. I’d rather have Wyatt win, but it just seems unlikely to me. WWE’s logic is that Wyatt will benefit from just being in the ring with a wrestling legend like Undertaker, so he can afford to lose.
I still enjoy watching Undertaker. I have faith in him being in good shape and being ready. He’ll probably wrestle one more match next year because, as mentioned earlier, working a WM in front of 100,000 people is probably very appealing to a Texan like him.
If Wyatt wins that would be great for his career, but I think there’s a good story in Undertaker avenging last year’s defeat and that’s what WWE will go with.
Winner: The Undertaker
Sting vs. Triple H
Christian: I was never a “WCW guy” so I’m not going to claim to be some big fan of his but it’s still going to be damn cool to see Sting after all these years finally wrestle for WWE. Not to mention that his entrance should be pretty damn cool too.
This is another match where I don’t know what to expect because Sting showed signs of slowing down (he is in his mid 50s) during the end of his TNA run, so what can be expected of him? But, I think Sting might be energized finally working a WrestleMania match. Triple H showed last year he still has the skills to put on great matches so I think this one will be pretty good in terms of action in the ring.
I can’t see Sting losing what might be his only match in WWE. I also can’t see Triple H losing to the last holdout from WCW especially when Triple H had made this feud about WCW. Sting says he is here not for WCW but to take Triple H down a notch. Booking Sting over Triple H would seem like WCW is better than WWE and we know Vince McMahon didn’t think that way 14 years ago and that is why the whole Invasion Angle was dead on arrival. They didn’t want to put any WCW guys over WWE guys because they didn’t want anyone thinking WCW was better than WWE. Has the mentality changed? I hope so.
Matt: I feel like I should have a lot to say about this match, but the truth is I don’t. I sincerely don’t see this being a long term rivalry, nor do I see Sting being around on a regular basis after Wrestlemania. I could be wrong. In fact I’d love to be. I just don’t see it happening.
So because this match is pretty much its own self contained story, separate from the actions and consequences that effect week to week WWE programming, the only thing I can really say about this match is that I hope that it will be good. I hope Sting still has some gas in the tank, I hope he looks good and doesn’t wrestle in a t-shirt, and I hope they tell a compelling story in the ring. Otherwise, this match really bears no consequence on the WWE’s storytelling going forward.
Winner: Sting (because you’re not bringing him in to lose)
Heather: Will Triple H be able to prioritize match quality over screen time? Because the longer this match goes, the more we’ll get diminishing returns. I believe that Triple H’s performance at WM 30 has proven that he can wrestle a longer match, but HELLO, this match needs to somehow be brief. Sting may be fit for a 56-year old, but it ain’t all relative. Not only do I want to be spared a stinker of a match, but the young, adoring Sting fan in me doesn’t want to see a Stinger Sploosh.
Will they make it a No-DQ match at the last minute, and get their respective weapons involved? Will Stephanie interfere when Hunter is suffering in a vulnerable moment? I’d love something super crazy, like a cameo appearance by Shane, but I don’t think that will actually happen. There’s no way this ends in a clean pin or submission, but will it be the only match between these two? I think Sting has to win, but if so, what’s the fallout? Clearly, I have a lot of questions. Please, don’t make us wait too long to get the answers (because Sting needs to drink his Metamucil a good hour before bedtime).
Winner: Triple H by DQ, if it’s a traditional stip. If it’s No-DQ, Sting.
John: It will be awesome to see Sting make a WrestleMania entrance and compete in his first WrestleMania match. It would have been nice if it happened before he was 56 years old, but that’s not going to change now. The build to the match has been good. Sting is sick of seeing Hunter destroying lives and he’s there to stop him. Hunter claims Sting was scared of him all these years, so we’ll see if it’s true.
There’s no reason for Hunter to win and he knows that. Just like last year when he was there to put over Daniel Bryan and also put over The Shield in the months that followed. Hunter is basically the legendary loser at this point in his career.
Sting should be in good enough shape to be able to look pretty good in a 15 minute match. Hunter will be on offense for much of it, Sting will make the comeback and find a way to win. I doubt it’s his only WrestleMania match because next year’s WM with 100,000 fans is tempting, but it should still be a memorable debut for the WWE “rookie” Stinger.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Christian: Even before Brock Lesnar re-signed with WWE I didn’t think Roman Reigns was going to leave WrestleMania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I always thought and still do think that Seth Rollins is cashing in before the credits roll on WrestleMania. Since I’m supposed to preview Lesnar vs. Reigns I’ll table that discussion for the time being.
Roman Reigns is not the man to defeat Brock Lesnar. You have a once in a lifetime talent in Lesnar with the caveat that he has been running rampant through WWE after breaking The Streak and destroying John Cena in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match. The man that unseats Lesnar as the champion will get a rub that no one is likely to ever get again. That should go to a guy that not only the office is unanimously behind but one the fans are too. Obviously this is not the case with Reigns. If you think the fans resent him for being Cena 2.0 now wait to see how bad it gets when/if he becomes the champion by beating Brock Lesnar.
I would talk about the feud between these two guys but there isn’t one. Lesnar works when he wants so nothing was done to make us care one way or the other who wins. Paul Heyman has sold this match on his own. He’s cut some of the best promos ever and he had to. If it wasn’t for him this match would have less heat on it than a Zack Ryder vs. Heath Slater match taped for Superstars.
WWE is in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario here. If Reigns wins people will complain because they don’t like how he’s the next golden boy. If Lesnar wins people will complain about having a champion that wrestles 3-4 times a year. That’s why the answer is Seth Rollins.
Prediction- Brock Lesnar retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
This preview isn’t done just yet…
Because WrestleMania 31 is going to feature two WWE World Heavyweight Championship Matches. That’s right folks. After Reigns and Lesnar beat the snot out of each other, Seth Rollins is going to trade that gold briefcase in for a gold championship title.
I know WrestleMania ending with a heel celebrating isn’t the storybook moment that WWE likes to go for to end WrestleMania but Rollins is likely to be cheered by the “smart” WrestleMania crowd. He is the future of WWE more so than Reigns. That’s why he needs to get that distinction of being the man to take the title off the unstoppable Beast and be the only man to ever cash in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania. This is too good to pass up. So, WWE, DON’T!
Prediction- Seth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank to become the NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion
Matt: The Main Event is perplexing because it is simultaneously uninteresting and captivating. It may be the first oxymoronic match in the history of Wrestlemania. You see, the narrative of this match is nearly non-existent while the future implications of it’s outcome are undoubtedly the most important thing about Wrestlemania 31.
Roman’s ascent could have been almost mythical. Roman should have been their version of Hercules, a warrior with gifts that must face seven labours before he can ascend to godly status, the last of which would be slaying “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. Instead, Roman has barely encountered a roadblock in his rise over the last year. There seems to be very little true animosity between the two combatants in this match, and the only notable narrative element of this program is the outcome.
Which brings me to what needs to happen. For storytelling purposes going forward, Roman Reigns needs to win. He needs to slay The Beast and be crowned, only for his dream to turn into a nightmare when Seth Rollins preys on him at his most vulnerable to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. You see, THIS is just the beginning of Roman Reigns’ legend. He was the chosen one, who everything came to easily, until he was usurped and falls from grace. He had everything he wanted and lost in all in the blink of an eye, before he even truly had the chance to appreciate it. Thus begins his ascent, back to the top of the mountain, where he will encounter trials and temptation. His journey back to that moment will be arduous and character building, and will make him the star the WWE wants him to be.
Lesnar doesn’t need to be champion to have the matches we want to see him have with Orton, Bryan, The Rock, etc. In fact it’s better that he not be. This last year of him as champion was a fun novelty, but I honestly wasn’t super concerned that he might leave because at least the championship would return to the Narrative World that the WWE regularly exists in. He is a great limited edition attraction, don’t get me wrong, but the WWE World Championship shouldn’t be a once every few months attraction for much longer. It is a centrepiece of the WWE’s storytelling, and needs to feel more present in it. Brock Lesnar is icing on the cake, but the WWE needs to start focusing on the cake itself. That WWE World Championship being a regular part of the narrative on a week to week basis, is the best way to do that.
Winner: Roman Reigns (to signify the beginning of his journey to becoming the man the WWE wants him to be)
Heather: Well, didn’t this one get sent for a loop? With the news that Brock Lesnar has extended his WWE contract for a multi-year deal, a Roman Reigns win is now less of a sure thing. It goes to show that you can plan, plot, and pop a woody over your smoldering Samoan son, but when Brock Lesnar comes down that aisle, dollar signs glimmer in Vince McMahon’s eyes. He may suddenly see value in a Lesnar win, particularly if Lesnar has stated that he’d much rather keep the belt, thank you very much. I mean, HOW DOES ONE NEGOTIATE WITH BROCK LESNAR. That’s not even worthy of a question mark. He’d write down his demands using the bloody femur of a polar bear, and I’d sign off with the piss running down my leg.
I’m not sure that Lesnar (or Reigns) can somehow sway the crowd to cheer for Reigns, which I believe is the ultimate goal. Contract news aside, all signs point to Roman Reigns beating Brock Lesnar. It’s one reason why I thought J&J might inadvertently cause Rollins to lose, making Rollins look too weak to cash in later. I really, really want to see him cash in on someone. At WrestleMania, not on Raw the next night.
Winner: Roman Reigns
John: I was in the camp of “Reigns is going to win because Vince McMahon loves him” for several weeks, but that opinion changed in the last week. After writing about six possible scenarios that could lead to the finish of this match, I ended up going with Lesnar as my pick to retain the WWE Title.
Lesnar’s probably going to get cheered more than Reigns. While Reigns is the face and Lesnar is the heel, that’s not how it is with the WrestleMania crowd. Fans are going to love Brock for going on ESPN a few days ago to say he is staying in WWE. Reigns represents a boring guy to the “smart” crowd that goes to a WrestleMania, so Lesnar is the one that will be cheered more.
The quality of the match should be pretty good. Reigns had a great match with Daniel Bryan at Fastlane. People are going to credit Bryan for it more as they should, but Reigns more than held his own too. Lesnar’s performing at such a high level and doing all kinds of amazing things in his matches and I think Reigns will be ready for it. They’ve probably went over the big spots in the match dozens of times in the last two months. Having that long to prepare is a huge advantage.
This will probably be a 25-30 minute battle full of nearfalls, perhaps it will be changed to No DQ so that it can be a better match and ultimately Lesnar’s going to win after four F5’s finally keep Reigns down. The Reigns experiment isn’t over. It’s just paused for now. The champ retains.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
I don’t think Rollins will successfully cash in the Money in the Bank contract. What might happen is he might show up to try to cash in, but Lesnar will destroy him before he can officially do it. The show will end with Lesnar standing tall while the announcers wonder if anybody can stop this man. Maybe Rollins cashes in the next night on Raw. I’m not making it an official prediction, but I think that’s the best time to do it.
John: That was long! I think we covered it all in great detail. I’m looking forward to some aspects of the show and am optimistic about a lot of the matches, but I also feel like the card could have been better in some aspects. I also think four hours for seven matches means for a lot of matches over 20 minutes and some dead spots in the show too. On a final note, I know I picked a lot of babyface wins. It’s WrestleMania. Those things tend to happen.
I’ll have live coverage of WrestleMania at TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night so check it out live or after the show is over. It will be posted on other sites on Monday.
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