Oh man have I been disappointed in how this tournament has played out thus far. When there was that 3-4 day gap between the announcement that Seth Rollins would have to vacate the title and Monday Night RAW where they unveiled the bracket for this tournament I had so many ideas and hopes for how they would crown a new champion. It seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start leading into the Royal Rumble and endless possibilities on how they could get to a new champion. But then the WWE unveiled the bracket for the 16-man tournament and everything since then has seem so….uninspired to me.
I know WWE knows how to run a multi-million dollar company and television programs better than I do, and maybe I was expecting too much, but I really thought this process to crown a new champ would be more exciting. And maybe all of this so far is just leading to an end-game that will make sense and tie everything together. It just seems like a missed opportunity to me.
I always like to think of professional wrestling as fantasy sports. Not “my fantasy football team is 8-2 this year and I’m going to the playoffs” type of fantasy sports but a product that is grounded in sports with the predetermined elements of surprise and fun that you don’t get in other professional sports. In professional wrestling you get the larger than life characters, the exciting endings and storylines, the soap-opera type drama, and even an element where you have to suspend belief and reality for a little bit. It’s just fun. It brings you back to a time when you were a kid. I thought this tournament would have a little bit more of that “fantasy” element to it.
But the tournament has been pretty paint by numbers so far. Which really isn’t a terrible thing either I guess. If you can look past the lack of surprises and originality in it so far, the tournament itself has been pretty solid. The four matches quarterfinal matches on Monday night were all really good and without actually fact-checking this I think every match in the tournament so far has ended clean with no real interference or shenanigans. The tournament has had a real sense of legitimacy where, if that continues tonight, whoever comes out on top will come out of it really looking like they’ve earned the championship. And that does hold some real value, especially considering this will probably be someone’s first championship reign (assuming its not Del Rio). I guess I was just looking for something else. I was looking for some spice or some excitement. I was looking for some good old fashion professional wrestling.
Little surprised this made the main card. I think I would have even been surprised it this made the pre-show. This feels like a perfect spot to throw both these guys in the traditional Survivor Series match. They can continue their feud without actually having to get to their 1-on-1 matchup yet. And you could play off of Dolph’s big Survivor Series win from last year.
But it is on the card so we gotta pick it. I feel like I get Dolph Ziggler matches wrong every PPV, win or lose. But I’m going Lose tonight for Ziggles. Breeze is just coming up from NXT and needs to build some credibility on the main roster. And with Summer Rae along at ringside I think that’s a built in way for Prince Pretty to steal a win here. I think the Selfie Stick makes an appearance here allowing Breeze to come out victorious here and setting up the rematch at TLC next month.
Winner: Tyler Breeze
Charlotte vs. Paige
Shots fired on Monday night!!! Go ahead and call me Jim Ross but business just picked up in this feud. I was caught off guard when these two closed the show Monday night with a contract signing and I don’t know if it was “great” but I am definitely more invested in this match now than I was six days ago, so mission accomplished I guess. And you have to think with these two that the match will deliver as well. Give me Charlotte for the win here and let me make this my Lock of the Night. I can’t see a scenario where Paige gets to insult Flair’s dead brother and then walk out with her championship as well. Maybe Charlotte snaps in the match and gets DQ’ed to extend this to TLC next month, and in that case I’m in trouble, but other than that I think this is an easy pick. Keep building up Charlotte and keep keeping her away from Sasha Banks until WrestleMania season rolls around. That’s the money match. Everything up until that point should just be building towards that moment. Which means Charlotte needs to pick up some big wins. She should get one here.
Still no members for this matchup announced yet? Kinda makes it hard for me to make a prediction here WWE. I’m going to do it anyways. Normally I’d just say give me the good guys in a match like this where I don’t know who’s in it but I’m assuming this match is set up to feature The New Day, so that’s who I’ll go with. Their lack on inclusion in the WWE Title Tournament still baffles me, unless they end up playing a role in the crowning a new champ in the finals. If that’s not the case, I’ll assume its just because they didn’t want those three all taking a loss because they want to keep their strong appearance. And if that’s the case, a traditional Survivor Series win is custom-suited for them to win. Give me The New Day here.
Winners: Team New Day (Kofi and Big E survive)
Remember when I said I’d be shocked if Paige was able to walk out of Survivor Series less than a week after insulting Charlotte’s dead brother? I think I would have been more shocked if The Undertaker lost after having an entire week and entire PPV dedicated to him. BUT……
Someone threw this out there and I bit on it. This is where Kane turns on The Undertaker isn’t it?
It all fits:
*If The Undertaker is going to be around semi-consistently until WrestleMania he’ll need something to do. And who doesn’t still want to see one last Kane-Undertaker feud?
*Can the Wyatts really afford another loss?
*Doesn’t it seem weird that The Undertaker and Kane were both carried off by the Wyatts but nothing ever came of that? I mean, they just carried them off and then let them go? That’s it? Can’t be….there’s still gotta be some type of payoff there.
So I don’t know if that means Kane is now in the Wyatts or just on his own, but let’s go with that. It can serve as the bridge from now until The Undertaker’s Royal Rumble to WrestleMania stretch. A quick, final feud with Kane. And then maybe Bray Wyatt for good after that. And then his WrestleMania match.
Winner: Byatt Wyatt and Braun Stromann
I talked about the tournament so far a lot up top, probably too much, so let’s just get to the matches.
Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio
Give me Roman on the left side of the bracket. He was the #1 Contender before the tournament started and only makes sense for him to get to the finals. Del Rio already has a title of his own too, so this one seems easy to me.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose
On the other side of the bracket I think it’s much closer. A Reigns/Ambrose finals is probably the more exciting of the possible Reigns finals and that’s the way I was leaning when the brackets were first announced. But I just keep talking myself into Owens getting to the finals and I’m really trying to talk myself into him winning it all.
WWE is always hesitant to go with face-face matchups, especially in a main event, which is what Reigns/Ambrose would be. Owens is a HECK of a heel and would be a great foil for Roman Reigns in the finals. I really hope it isn’t, but if WWE’s goal of this whole tournament was to tell the story of “Romans Reigns overcoming all and winning the tournament”, isn’t defeating Owens in the final instead of his best friend a more family friendly ending? Or, the more John Cena-y ending at least?
And isn’t a Shield reunion or matchup one of the few BIG matches WWE still has in its bank? I know they kinda debuted that moment on RAW a month or so ago but that’s still a huge moment. Do you blow that on an unannounced, un-promoted match here? Even if it is just Reigns and Ambrose without Seth Rollins in the picture, I don’t think you play that card here. Save it, build it up, and roll that out at a WrestleMania or SummerSlam.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
Full disclosure here: I am historically terrible in March Madness tournament pools. I had one good run in 2007 where I placed 5th overall in the Iowa State University intramural bracket with over 1000 entrants and won a t-shirt, but other than that I’ve taken many a beatings. But here is my theory on picking matchups in later rounds of a tournament: It’s not about who you think would win that matchup in the later round, its about who also is more likely to GET TO that matchup as well. You can’t win it, if you’re not still in it.
And I think that’s where I’m going to lean here as well. I really want to talk myself into Owens being the dark horse and winning this thing. I just think this tournament has been way too predictable and Reigns ending up as the champion at the end of it isn’t going to change that. And it would be a great way to build up Owens. I mean, he’s already the Intercontinental Champion and he beat John Cena in his first match in WWE. So the WWE is behind him, why not jump all the way in with him? Isn’t that the point of a tournament like this? It could work.
BUT….. Reigns is going to be in the finals. That’s a lock. There is a legitimate chance that Owens is not. It’s actually more likely than not that Ambrose is the one in the finals here instead of Owens. I’d put Ambrose as a -140 favorite in that semi-finals matchup. So its hard for me to pick the guy in the finals that may not even be in the finals. Reigns is going to be there, unless an act of God takes place in that Del Rio matchup. So even though my heart wants to go with Owens, and even if the little kid in me that is still hoping for a glimpse of “fantasy” in this tournament wants to go with Owens, the terrible bracket picker in me says I have to go with Reigns.
Winner: Roman Reigns
7 – Charlotte
6 –Roman Reigns in Semi-Finals
5 – Tyler Breeze
4 – The New Day Survivor Series Team
3 – Bray Wyatt and Braun Stromann
2 – Roman Reigns in the Finals
1 – Kevin Owens in the Semi-Finals