With the final week of WWE TV on the road to Wrestlemania in the books, it’s time to run down the card for what appears to be another boffo outing for the showcase of the immortals, Wrestlemania 31 LIVE on the WWE Network this Sunday, March 29th.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match – Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs. Los Matadores vs. The Usos vs. The New Day
While relegated to the Kick-Off show before the actual event, this is still a great opportunity for the resurgent tag team division to put on a show for the thousands in attendance and millions at home. The tag champions, Kidd and Cesaro, have looked dominant since becoming the champs back at WWE Fastlane in February. They have an old school mentality about them and work really well as a tandem despite only becoming a team in January. The Usos who have been the primary stars of tag team division since picking up the titles just prior to last year’s Wrestlemania, and with Star/Goldust and the Miz/Mizdow teams broken up they’re the most deserving tag team in this match as they have been a team since “Day 1.” The New Day has been on the scene for awhile with veterans like former champions Big E and Kofi Kingston and relative newcomer Xavier Woods rounding the trio, but they’ve failed to really connect with the audience. Many fans were hoping for a reboot of the late ’90s “Nation of Domination” stable, but this clapping and “fun loving” trio has been anything but confrontational or controversial. Los Matadores seemed to just want to remind everyone that they existed and are a tag team, hence their involvement. The Matadores have a silly gimmick, but with the success of the similarly masked “Lucha Dragons” in NXT, one would think they could get over without having to rely soley on the antics of their mascot, El Torito. The kickoff show will be a good spot light for Kidd and Cesaro to retain the tag titles, with possible interference from Natalya (are we finally going to see her as a full heel?) and probably at least one comedy spot featuring El Torito hitting someone in the crotch.
Winner: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro… FACT.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
This is arguably the feud with the longest storyline as it stretches all the way back to last year when Seth Rollins joined The Authority and won the Money in the Bank briefcase, because it was at that point that Rollins started calling himself the future of the WWE and took the role of “Face of The Authority” away from Randy Orton. Orton who was expertly groomed into a modern superstar by Triple H has an even bigger bone to pick since Seth put him on the shelf with a vicious curbstomp on the steel steps back in November. The couple weeks where Randy was pretending to have re-joined The Authority were kind of silly but lead to some great schtick between Rollins and his bodyguards J&J Security and Orton’s vicious attitude era-style assault on Rollins, replete with Seth sobbing “We’re family” and Orton throwing middle fingers. I think this match will surprise people Randy Orton can really turn it on when the bright lights are shining and Rollins is firmly established as the WWE’s next big thing and has had some amazing matches in the months since splitting from The Shield. Not to mention Rollins has the added benefit of potentially cashing-in his Money in the Bank briefcase later on in the evening. I would not be surprised if the rest of The Authority made their presence felt during the match, but hopefully not in a way that affects the outcome of the match. Personally, I’d have J&J ringside until their interference gets them ejected, leaving Rollins scared and alone. That said, I think Rollins needs to win, not that Randy is on the downside of his career and probably has many productive years left, but winning a solo match on the WWE’s biggest stage will be a huge feather in Seth Rollins’ cap.
Winner: Seth Rollins
The 2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale
The second annual, “Let’s give some of the boys a Wrestlemania bonus check” match, is somewhat lacking in star power but should be a great exhibition for a couple simmering storylines and guys that they don’t have room for on the rest of the show. The currently announced list of competitors is as follows, 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 and Viktor. Some of the swirling storylines at work here are Cutis Axel and his #Axelmania movement in which he claims he was never technically eliminated from the Royal Rumble and should be fighting for the Championship. It’s been one of the best bets of Raw each week, even though it seemingly ended with him getting tossed out of the ring by Snoop Dogg. Another feud that’s been slowly building steam for months (which shows a remarkable amount of patience from WWE Creative) is the relationship between The Miz and his stunt double turned personal assistant Damien Mizdow. Damien’s an incredible talent both in the ring and on the mic and The Miz for all his faults, is exceptionally great at being hateable. Every fan knows these two are headed for disaster and it’s just a matter of time until they explode and we’re all on the edge of our seats waiting for it to happen. I’m predicting that this is when we finally see Mizdow(Sandow) completely turn on The Miz. Hopefully, if provided the necessary TV time after ‘Mania, these two could easily get two or three PPV matches out of their feud. Finally, there’s been the war of tweets between Adam Rose and Zack Ryder with Ryder promising to eliminate the exotic express. I commend both Rose and Ryder for trying to get themselves over and trying to make this battle royale about more than a trophy, but doubt there’s much interest in prolonging that conflict. Speaking of the trophy, I hope this match continues for years as they had Cesaro’s name engraved on it as the first winner and hope that trend continues.
Winner: Curtis Axel, would be icing on the #Axelmania cake. 2nd Choice: Damien Mizdow, he deserves it.
WWE United States Title Match – Rusev vs. John Cena
Is John Cena’s time over? While that’s a stupid question, it’s what Rusev’s been saying since before their encounter at Fastlane. Rusev has been essentially undefeated since his debut last year and has mowed through a bevy of mid-level talents before finally coming face to face with the leader of the Cenation. The US Title, means a lot to Cena; it was his first championship he ever won, his best of 5 series with Booker T established him as a main event player and it was his first “Spinner” title. So for Cena to see a man like Rusev, who actively disparages the United States at every turn, be its champion makes him sick. The WWE’s poster boy failed to fell Rusev at last month’s event, but only after he passed out in Rusev’s signature hold and he was able to bully his way into a rematch by making Rusev pass out. I’m going to skip over all the hand-wringing over Cena using similar tactics to Seth Rollins’ threatening of Edge, in order to get Lana to agree to the re-match. Which, by the way, was declared unofficial since Rusev himself didn’t agree to it, but then he ended up agreeing to it anyways. Wait, what? Seems like it would’ve been better business to just have Rusev angrily dismiss Lana and refuse to back out of the match for fear of looking like a coward, instead of bringing out a Yakov Smirnoff wannabe “lawyer,” but I digress. I’m hoping that the WWE learned their lesson from last year’s match between Cena and Bray Wyatt and let Rusev go over Cena. Cena’s above the US Title and a loss to Rusev won’t do anything to his character or career. We all know Cena’s unstoppable, we all know he never gives up, we all know he’s the biggest good guy in the company, losing to Rusev won’t change any of that. Also, Lana’s been missed, please, please, please let her re-join Rusev on the grandest stage of them all.
The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
I mean, if you don’t want to see Bray Wyatt fight the legendary Undertaker after watching that promo, I don’t know what to tell you. Like many others I was shocked that the Undertaker lost his heralded undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 30 and even more shocked to see Bray Wyatt call him out in time for Wrestlemania 31. This feud along with Reigns/Lesnar and Sting/HHH has not been executed through matches and physical confrontations on episodes of television but done all with words. For weeks we had Bray Wyatt making vague(in as far as not saying “The Undertaker”) statements about resurrection and becoming the new face of fear. As much as we’ve been in the “Reality Era” of wrestling there’s something about The Undertaker that has let him stand apart. While all the other wizards, time travelers, voodoo priests, aliens and mythical creatures have come and gone from the squared circle, The Undertaker has remained. Who else but The Undertaker (ok, Kane) can toss lightning, and fireballs and still be taken seriously? Bray Wyatt, that’s who. So, this Sunday Bray has vowed to become the new face of fear, to take The Undertaker’s place among the gods. The WWE needs a new phenom, and there are a lot of similarities already, the dark forboding entrance, the lights coming on once ‘Taker removes his hat or Bray blows out his lantern and not to mention all the talk of devils, demons, angels and the underworld. No one’s saying Bray will replace The Undertaker or even have the same impact on the business, but the WWE needs someone to pick up that mantle and Wyatt is a perfect fit. It remains to be seen what shape ‘Taker is in, but from recent photo leaks we at least know he’s working out (and making poor wardrobe choices) and hopefully will put on the type of performance we’ve come to expect from the Deadman. Also, I’m looking forward to the entrances as much as (if not more) than the match itself. I think Bray will come out looking strong, not sure if that necessarily means a win, but I’d like to see it happen. Maybe a TKO victory after The Undertaker can no longer continue?
Winner: Bray Wyatt, the NEW Face of Fear
WWE Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth
This match is the one on the card I’m looking forward to the most. Outside of R-Truth (no offense), all of them are some of my favorite talents currently with the company and I can’t wait for them to steal the show. A lot fans griped over the silliness of the storyline with all of the various superstars literally stealing the title belt from Wade Barrett, but it was refreshing to see this many wrestlers interested in the championship. It’s what everyone has been moaning about for years, “make the IC title matter,” now it matters to seven superstars. Ladder matches are always crowd pleasers and I can’t imagine this bout will be any different, especially considering the level of talent. I’m somewhat dubious of putting recently injured wrestlers like Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan in such a dangerous match, but I know that none of the competitors will be holding back. I also struggle with where to place this match on the card, seems like it would make for a great opener, but I pity whatever match has to follow it. With so many multi-man ladder matches since Money in the Bank is now its own event, it’s becoming harder and harder for these guys to innovate, but with maniacs like Dean Ambrose in the mix you know we’re going to see something special. Not to mention it’s awesome to see Main Event guys like Bryan and Cena both competing for secondary titles on one card, at Wrestlemania of all places. So, I hope this is a sign that these secondary titles are going to be more of a focus going forward, otherwise it was all for naught. I highly suggest you make sure your drink is refilled and your bladder is empty for this one, because you’re not going to want a miss a second of it.
Winner: Daniel Bryan, who I hope goes on to feud with Dolph Ziggler over the Championship for a at least 2-3 months.
AJ Lee & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
These four are the best the current Divas division currently has to offer. Sure, the Bellas might not be as technically proficient as other women on the roster, but they’re clearly the two biggest stars and have been for the better part of a year. This match has the added intrigue of the Bellas’ “Total Divas” cliffhanger finale where they were unsure about re-signing with the company. Throw in AJ Lee who’s marriage with CM Punk seems to put her on the back burner every other month and you’re not sure who will be left standing when the dust settles on this one. I’m over the whole “frenemies” angle between AJ and Paige, but it does make sense that they would be the less cohesive of the two units. For the #GiveDivasAChance crowd I hope this match gets 10-15 minutes, but we should consider any Wrestlemania Divas match that’s not a Battle Royale or involve celebrity participants, a win.
Winner: The Bella Twins #BrieMode
Sting vs. Triple H
At long last the man called Sting, the icon, the vigilante, the one legendary wrestler who had never set foot inside of a WWE ring will get the opportunity to do it on the grandest stage against the WWE COO, Triple H. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the King of Kings, the cerebral assassin, the game, the man who has run and run roughshod all over the WWE for nearly 20 years has vowed to put an end to this last vestige of WCW. Ah, a throwback to the Monday Night Wars between the then WWF and WCW, a time when Surge was plentiful and 1-800-Collect was a service people used. Apparently there is still some lingering animosity, at least that’s what Triple H, Sting and the WWE would like you to believe. WWE bought WCW back in 2001 for a pittance because Vince refused to pay out the guaranteed money contracts of WCW’s biggest stars like Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sting, so when the big “Invasion” angle played out on WWE TV representing WCW was left to second tier guys like Booker T, Kanyon, and even they had to recruit ECW and WWF superstars to their cause. Oh what might have been had they been able to do an invasion with the stars that truly made WCW. That was then and this is now, though, and while WWE is pretending the years Sting spent in TNA didn’t exist, it’s cool to see him finally in the WWE. This feud has also been completely a war of words (minus a couple Scorpion Death Drops and Stinger Splashes) ever since Sting cost Team Authority the match at Survivor Series. Triple H’s claim that he helped beat WCW into submission is suspect because I would think Stone Cold, The Rock, DX as a whole and WCW itself are the true killers of Turner’s operation, but I can’t deny him the impact he’s had on the WWE as he’s become more and more powerful behind the curtain. For Sting, it’ll be nice to see him finally put that last notch on the belt of his career. Here’s a man who’s done it all, held major championships and been a marquee star for decades finally getting the biggest show in wrestling. I’m cautiously optimistic that this won’t be the very last we see of Sting in the squared circle, but if it is, so be it. The things I’m looking forward to the most in this match are Triple H’s entrance which is always a grandiose display of hubris and that moment when they both reach for their respective signature weapons the black louisville slugger and sledgehammer.
Winner: Future WWE Hall of Famer Sting
WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
“No! No! No!” Is what most of the fanbase was saying the second Roman Reigns won the 2015 Royal Rumble. They wanted their underdog hero, Daniel Bryan to climb back to the top of the mountain, but the WWE had other plans which were, “Make Roman a Star.” Rewind to the 2014 Royal Rumble and fans would’ve fallen all over themselves to cheer for Roman but since he’s no longer in The Shield and now a Superman Punch delivering babyface, it’s suddenly a big disappointment to see him in the main event of Wrestlemania. The WWE was even nice enough to have Reigns further solidify his hold on the Main Event spot by beating Daniel Bryan in a rather impressive match at WWE Fastlane. Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar was there at the end of the road, waiting to conquer as only he can. Sure, Lesnar versus Bryan would’ve been the ultimate underdog title match, but now that we know Lesnar’s re-signed with the WWE there are tons of possible contenders for him to face going forward. That is, if he can beat the Samoan powerhouse, Roman Regins, who’s been not only standing up for himself in this feud, but his family and their legacy in the business. Paul Heyman has been carrying the load for this feud as Lesnar’s mouthpiece and since Lesnar isn’t a full time competitor, someone had to advocate for him on WWE TV. Wrestlemania’s main event could be 40 minutes of Paul Heyman talking and it could be considered one of the best main events of all time, so despite the two only coming into physical contact recently this one looks to be a powder keg. Now, my sincerest hope for this match is that the WWE will have had Daniel Bryan win the IC title already, so the fans still upset about him not being in the main event will be quiet about it for the two wrestlers who actually are. Lesnar is a stellar wrestler and has looked beyond dominant since taking the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from John Cena last year, so I’m hoping that this match will be story of two men pulling out all the stops with the other refusing to quit. Paul Heyman at ringside will be the X-factor as usual with his emotions outside the ring telling almost as much of the story as the two inside of it. If you had asked me on Monday I would’ve definitely told you that Roman was walking out on top, but now that we know Lesnar’s going to be around, I think Roman will indeed look strong, it’ll just be on the losing side of the equation.
Winner: The Reigning, Defending, Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar