Once more, Wrestlemania is upon us! The showcase of the immortals! The granddaddy of them all! The super bowl of wrestling! And it looks kind of, well, ok. The truth is, due to the overwhelming number of high-profile injuries and, in some cases, absolute tone-deafness of the writing staff, Wrestlemania 2016 doesn’t really look to carry on the tradition of the last few ‘Manias. Let’s be real, Wrestlemania XXX, while not sporting some of the best 5-star matches in company history, had enough great moments to make ‘Mania feel amazing again. Last year’s ‘Mania, in my opinion, was one of the greatest ever with every match firing on all cylinders and closing with the biggest MITB cash-in of all time. Unfortunately, this year’s ‘Mania doesn’t seem to have the same level of quality going in. Not that there aren’t still some diamonds in the rough, but I don’t get that “big match feel” from everything on the card (unlike a certain other show broadcasting on the WWE Network this weekend).
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Stardust vs. Sin Cara vs. Zack Ryder
I’m going to start by saying that this was a big-time missed opportunity. Owens vs. Zayn at Wrestlemania for the IC strap could have been an absolute bonkers match, comparable to Hart vs. Bulldog at Summerslam or the venerated and oft-cited legendary Savage/Steamboat match from Wrestlemania 3. The pieces were all in place: Zayn was sidelined by Owens, who effectively stole Zayn’s entire 2015. Zayn is motivated to get the title to 1) prove that he belongs in the big-league and 2) take something from Owen’s that would even the score. Zayn’s return at Rumble made it abundantly clear that the fans wanted these two one-on-one at the big one. Unfortunately, their encounter will be watered down by five lower-midcarders. Not to disrespect the performers here (hey, Zack Ryder at Wrestlemania is awesome), but this really should have been for the U.S. belt with Kalisto and Ryback. Same match, different strap is all I’m saying. But, be it was it may, the smart move here is for Owens to retain in order to go into a one-on-one feud with Zayn. The people want it, and it makes the most sense.
What I think will happen: Owens’ will pull out a big win and retain the IC belt in order to start a one-on-one feud with Sami Zayn.
What I hope happens: Honestly, I would love to see what would happen if Zack Ryder took the belt home. It certainly would be a curveball that could lead to some interesting T.V.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
We’ve seen this match a couple of times throughout the last few months, but with Jericho in full heel mode and both performers operating at maximum capacity, this one could very well steal the show. I’m inclined to think that Jericho will put AJ over, which is the easy assumption to make, but a little part of me thinks that an AJ loss could lead to the Bullet Club being brought in. Just a random thought, I suppose.
What I think will happen: AJ Styles will get a big win at his first Wrestlemania.
What I hope happens: Just more of everything these two have been doing. It’s been pretty great.
5-on-5 Divas Match: Brie Bella, Alicia Fox, Paige, Natalya and Eva Marie vs. Lana, Emma, Naomi, Tamina, and Summer Rae
Well, at least there’s two divas matches on the card now, right? Eva Marie is a weird fit for team-babyface, but I think everyone and their mother can see a big heel turn coming. I’ll give Eva credit, she’s really come into her own down at NXT, but she is far and away a heel character. Let’s be real, this is really about giving Brie one more ‘Mania match and trying to get Lana over as an in-ring performer. Having nine other performers on hand to protect her is a smart move, but I can’t help but feel that this doesn’t really fit with the ‘Mania vibe. This, to me, seems more like B-PPV booking. But hey, you never know.
What I think will happen: A heel-turn from Eva Marie will lead to a team-Lana victory.
What I hope happens: Talented performers like Naomi, Emma, Paige and Natalya won’t be overlooked in favor of the Barbie-doll wrestlers.
U.S. Championship Match: Kalisto vs. Ryback
I say again: why wasn’t this the ladder match? Kalisto got big-time over mostly because of his big ladder spot from TLC, so why not give him the opportunity to showcase, match, or even improve on that big spot? Instead, we get a fairly standard “David v. Goliath” showdown, with Ryback’s promos mostly clinging onto the idea that “I’m big, you’re small, and therefore I’m better than you.” I get it, it’s easy booking, but it’s been done to death and I’m just not buying Ryback as this big-time force. With guys like Kane, Big Show, Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman on the roster, he’s not even close to being the biggest guy around.
What I think will happen: Kalisto will retain his U.S. belt in order to manufacture a feel-good moment.
What I hope happens: WWE creative either figures out a way to make Ryback interesting, or shoot him down the card to where he belongs.
Divas Championship Match: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
The term “Divas Revolution” was thrown around a lot in 2015, however the product hardly improved over the course of the year. That being said, I believe that this match will finally mark the moment that the division changed for the better. Here we have three of the best female performers in the company going one-on-one-one-one-with Ric Flair to determine who will be the best going into the new WWE season. All three are pretty well deserving: Charlotte has really come into her own as a heel (although I personally would like to have seen her move on from having Ric at her side by now), Becky is the best babyface this side of Bayley, and what else can be said about Sasha Banks? Either performer would make for a great champion going forward, but to me it’s a toss-up between Sasha and Becky. Sasha has spent 2015 putting women’s wrestling on the map, so look for this match to follow suit.
What I think will happen: Becky Lynch will get her due and leave Wrestlemania as the Divas Champion.
What I hope happens: Sasha Banks will steal the belt and put on a clinic as Divas Champion.
Tag-Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The League of Nations
I would be shocked if The New Day lost at Wrestlemania. They are incredibly over and, oftentimes, the best part of WWE programming, mostly because they are so smarmy about being champs. Take that away, and the whole dynamic changes. That’s not to say that New Day can’t ever lose the straps, but The League just aren’t the right guys to make it happen.
What I think will happen: The New Day will retain at Wrestlemania.
What I hope happens: The tag-team division is given some serious consideration going into the 2016 season. It’s kind of a wasteland right now.
Street Fight: Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
For me, this is the top three of the “Main Event” matches. Dean Ambrose is just crazy enough to let Brock Lesnar do anything to him in the spirit of putting on a great show. This one is actually pretty tough to call: Having Dean go over would likely result in the biggest pop of the night, whereas having Brock go over would cement him as the most dangerous man on the roster. So, instead, look for some kind of run-in to upset the scales (likely the criminally non-booked Wyatt Family). But, just for the sake of a Wrestlemania moment, I’m picking Dean Ambrose to win.
What I think will happen: Dean Ambrose will overcome the odds and defeat The Beast at Wrestlemania.
What I hope happens; We don’t have another screwy finish like with Lesnar and Taker at Summerslam.
Hell in a Cell: Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker
This one sort of came out of left field, didn’t it? Despite the best efforts of the player involved here, I find it very hard to understand the reasoning behind this booking. Why would Taker do Vince’s bidding so readily? Even if he loses and gets fired, can’t Shane just rehire him because he’d run the company as a result? The booking just screams of desperation to me. Furthermore, while Taker is undoubtedly a legendary performer and Shane is a maniac, I wonder if they are in the kind of shape they need to be in to pull off a big-time match on the big-stage. I suppose we’ll find out, but there’s no denying that this is a weird one. Also, who is the heel in this scenario? Who are we supposed to cheer for/boo against? I’m sure the match sounded great on paper, but in practice it is a little hard to get behind.
What I think will happen: Taker will sacrifice himself to save WWE from Vince McMahon, effectively losing for the greater good.
What I hope happens: Shane doesn’t beat the Undertaker clean at Wrestlemania. Whether he’s undefeated or not, you can’t just beat Taker at ‘Mania, especially if you’re a 40+ year old rich kid who hasn’t wrestled in almost a decade.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
There’ s apparently a great deal of contention in the writer’s room over whether or not this one should close out the show, and to be honest if it ends the way everyone is predicting it probably shouldn’t. This will mark two years in a row that Reigns risks getting booed out of the main event, and this time we don’t have Seth Rollins to save the day with a cash-in. At this point, the only way to save this match is to accept the Reigns-hate and finally, mercifully, turn him heel. Creative needs to accept that Reigns isn’t the new Rock or Cena, he’s the new Triple H. He should be rubbing the fact that he has the belt in the crowd’s face, not begging people to cheer for him. That makes for a compelling character.
What I think will happen: Deep in my gut, I still think that Roman Reigns will walk out WWE Champion, crowd reaction be damned.
What I hope happens: Creative rolls with this reaction and goes with the heel-turn.