The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
This is a great pre-show match. You can’t just fill the 2-hour preshow with panel predictions and video packages so this should be a fun match to watch to prep yourself for WrestleMania. And if you don’t plan on watching the 2-hour preshow you really aren’t missing anything of real significance. And it’s a little bit of a throwback to the early WrestleManias where there just seemed to be random matches thrown on the card to fill the show.
I’d like to see the Dudleyz win here but I’ll pick the Usos. I really liked the Dudleyz role on Monday as HHH’s enforcers and think they could run with that in the future. Not even necessarily for HHH, especially if Shane is in charge come Monday, but for anyone in the WWE. I could see them as a 2016 version of the APA. Just some tough dudes taking care of other guys’ work for a fee. Think I’m reaching a little bit though. The Usos are the kid-friendly team and ultimately WrestleMania is a kid-friendly event. Give Usos the win, get the crowd going a little bit, get the kids into the event, and get going into WrestleMania.
Winner: The Usos
Team Total Divas vs. Team Bad and Blonde
The female version of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal pits the Total Divas team against every other diva on the roster that’s not in a match. And while I think having a basic 2-on-2 tag match would be a better match I think it is a good move by WWE to try and get as many of their performers on at WrestleMania. Reward the people that have worked so hard for you for an entire year and build morale. Everyone wants to say they worked a WrestleMania and this gives them an opportunity. Especially someone like Emma who was on the main roster only to go back down to NXT and really shine. She’s been a huge part of that women’s division the past half year and this seems like a great reward for that hard work.
As for the match itself, I’d like to see what the all time record of “Total Divas” teams is on RAW or PPVs. It’s gotta be really high, they never seem to lose. They seem like the easy pick here. Especially if the Brie Bella retirement rumors are true, this seems like a great place to let her pick up a pinfall and get a final moment before she joins her husband at home for awhile. So I’ll say Brie pins Summer Rae and the Total Divas win again.
Winner: Total Divas
United States Championship
Kalisto vs. Ryback
I might be crazy but I still think there is money in Ryback down the line. The ship may have sailed on it but I still think he could be a dominant beast in WWE if they really got behind him. But I don’t think this is the time that process starts. Especially if this ends up on the preshow, I think the underdog champion retains. I haven’t really bought into Kalisto yet but some have and this is a great stage to get more eyeballs on him. Maybe he can convert a WrestleMania win into a little more momentum and make more of a name for himself.
Man there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of options to win this thing. Here’s the announced participants as of this morning: Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Big Show, Kane, Tyler Breeze, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Fandango, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, Konnor, Viktor, Goldust, and R-Truth. That’s not exactly an intimidating field there Andre. Maybe the Wyatt Family gets in on this as well since they don’t have a spot on the card yet but I think they play a role later in the PPV. And they could probably do both but maybe they save them and don’t even put them in this battle royal. And I could see a returning superstar or an NXT superstar appearing in this match and winning but the RAW after WrestleMania is such a big deal anymore that if you’re going to return or debut someone I think that’s the better place for it than this battle royal. So I’m going to pick from the candidates announced and go with The Big Show. He won last year; give him the victory again this year to build a little bit of tradition. The best giant since Andre The Giant winning this battle royal two years in a row seems like the best payoff from the field of available wrestlers.
Winner: The Big Show
The New Day vs. The League of Nations
I think I’m more excited for The New Day’s entrance than I am for this match. Just feels like these guys are going to make the most of their WrestleMania opportunity and steal the spotlight in their entrance alone, whether its with props, or a song, or a promo, or whatever they think of. The New Day has been the best thing going in the WWE for 6-8 months now and I think they shine at WrestleMania. Especially with them being considered good guys now, it feels like they get the win here to please the crowd. And maybe, if the WWE decides to just give Roman Reigns the title but does it in the middle of the show instead of during the main event then The New Day follows that match just to get the crowd back into it and not booing for the remainder of the show.
The 4-on-3 aspect of the match does give The League of Nations the edge mathematically though. Could give them an upperhand and allow them to sneak out a win without The New Day looking too bad. I still think though, that a New Day win would be too much fun of a moment for the WWE to pass up at WrestleMania.
Winner: New Day
I’m just looking forward to a great match at WrestleMania here. Wrestling is always full of surprises but it’s hard to see Chris Jericho winning this match and its hard to see AJ Styles losing this match. So I’m just going into this match ready to enjoy two great wrestlers trying to shine on the greatest stage in their profession. Should be a lot of fun. Maybe something happens here that changes my expectations but I see Styles winning and officially ending the feud. Not sure where either guy goes after this but that’s what makes wrestling fun and the RAW after Mania exciting. I’d say AJ Styles goes after Kevin Owens and the IC title while Jericho moves on to Dolph Ziggler. But who knows. I just know I’m looking forward to this match.
Winner: AJ Styles
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Sami Zayn vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. Zack Ryder
Quick case for each guy possibly winning, in order from least likely to most likely in my opinion:
Sin Cara – Possibly set up a Champion vs. Champion match with tag partner Kalisto
Zack Ryder – Just for the surprise and feel good moment. Would be a definite “shocker” that the crowd would enjoy
Stardust – Reward the guy who has put so much into his gimmick and maybe see if it could go somewhere if he had a title. Then retire the gimmick when he loses the title and bring back Cody.
The Miz – Miz is always a guy hanging around the IC title scene ready to make a run. Never know for sure when he will get his chance again. Always a hateable bad guy champion.
Sami Zayn – Could possibly give him his Mania Moment and championship right out of the gate. And an easy Kevin Owens feud as he chases his title back.
Dolph Ziggler – If Owens and Zayn cost each other the title, he’s the most logical choice to take the ball and run with it.
Kevin Owens - This match seems like its Kevin Owens’ to win. The whole angle was set up to make it feel like “Kevin Owens vs. The World” and I think the payoff to that angle is to have Kevin Owens come out on top at the end. And I think it’s going to be really fun, WrestleMania ladder matches are always enjoyable. This is a group of guys that could mesh well together and will be looking for their Mania Moment. I think you have 7 guys here that are all looking to stand out and are all willing to make each other look good. My hope is an Owens win and he holds the title until SummerSlam and has a big feud with Sami Zayn that culminates there.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
I like the idea of going with a Triple Threat match here. It plays off the fact that these three all debuted together to start the “Divas Revolution” and now they are wrestling together less than a year later for the Championship at WrestleMania. And I think there is still a big time one-on-one feud with Sasha and Charlotte that could be saved for another time and place. Trying to fit that story in at this WrestleMania would have felt rushed. So putting these three together and letting them go seems like the right move to me.
I think Charlotte retains here. She’s done a hell of a job so far as champion and I think to stop that right now would be stopping the train a little too early. Just the fact that people are booing Ric Flair tells you how good of a job those two have done at committing to the heel role. I think Charlotte can continue to be champ and Sasha can continue to chase the title for awhile. I think Becky probably takes the pin here so neither Charlotte or Sasha has to take the loss. Becky can continue to be the plucky underdog that everybody loves with the loss. I think people love Becky, myself included, and will continue to support her journey to the title. I see Becky being the RAW roster version of Bayley in NXT. The underdog who continues to fight and claw her way to the championship but always comes up a little short. But then when she finally wins the title it will be a huge moment and the crowd will erupt, similar to the way they did for Bayley when she finally defeated Sasha for the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver Brooklyn. But I can’t see that happening yet on Sunday.
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
This might sound crazy but if this was for a championship, I think I’d take Dean Ambrose. But since it’s not, I’m going with Brock Lesnar. Ambrose is starting to really hit his stride and you could make a strong case that he is the most “over” singles competitor on the roster right now. And it feels like if he gets a break and finds an opportunity he could really break out and be a big deal. And if conquering Brock Lesnar for a championship was an option, I think would be that break or opportunity. Defeating Lesnar for the title would catapult Ambrose to the very top-level of the company and cement Dean’s place among the WWE’s elite. But without a title on the line, I don’t see him beating Brock Lesnar. I’m not sure that a win over Lesnar here at WrestleMania would do enough for Dean to warrant Brock taking a loss.
Imagine a scenario where Ambrose defeats Brock Lesnar on Sunday. Where does he go from there? It solidifies the WWE’s faith in him, but does it move him anywhere further up the card? The only place he could really go would be into the World Heavyweight title scene but I think that space will be filled in the next couple months with some combination of Reigns, Shane, HHH, and a bad guy for Roman to fight. So I’m not sure what Ambrose would do in the meantime. And honestly, Ambrose is already in that place between the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships where he could slide into the main event scene at any moment. He doesn’t need a victory over Brock to get there and a victory over Lesnar doesn’t push him that much further up the card anyways. So I think he throws everything he has as The Beast, I think he makes Lesnar look as vulnerable as he’s been in the recent past, but I think ultimately he comes up short.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
When “Here Comes The Money” hit on RAW a couple months ago and Shane returned it was the most excited I’ve been watching wrestling in years. Just for the initial shock value itself I probably hadn’t been as excited since the night Dolph ZIggler cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on the RAW after WrestleMania. And for an entire segment, I’d put its enjoyment level right up there with Ric Flair’s retirement celebration on RAW about a decade ago. I just loved it. And while I’ve been a little disappointed with the follow-through of the angle in the preceding weeks, I’m still beyond excited for this match.
For me, a wrestling match is at it’s best when there are legitimate stakes involved in the outcome and that outcome is in doubt. I really don’t think there is a clear favorite in this match. And Vegas doesn’t either, it’s basically a pick ‘em. On one hand, Shane just came back and they put out a long-term storyline for him if he wins (controlling Monday Night RAW). And it’s almost inconceivable to me that the WWE would pull the Shane card out of their hat just for a 2 month run. The prodigal son returning was one of the few true mega-moments the WWE had to use. To end it after 2 months, I just can’t see it. Even if it was used to sell a WrestleMania when they desperately needed star power. I just can’t see it. Then again, I can’t really see The Undertaker losing at a WrestleMania again unless it’s his finale. And this definitely doesn’t feel like The Undertaker’s last match. And then Vince added the stipulation on RAW that if The Undertaker does lose on Sunday, it would be his last WrestleMania. Now I know retirement angles in wrestling are never binding but that still feels like a big deal. Whether they follow through on it or not, it was still stated on live television and adds some stakes to the match.
So I already know I’m going to be biting on almost every near-fall these two have on Sunday. I’ll be out of my chair multiple times during this match from excitement. I can see this match ending either way. For a prediction though, I’m going to go with Shane-O-Mac. I think you can find a way around the retirement angle. Hell, The Authority being out of power lasted all of 3-4 months. You can find a way to get Undertaker back on TV and back at WrestleMania. But you can’t find a way to recreate the magic Shane brought with his return. If he loses, I don’t know where you go. Does he stay and fight for SmackDown and make that his brand, possibly building that back up again. Seems like a consolation prize. Shane’s gotta have a long run here and it’s gotta be on RAW. He wins and holds power over Vince, Steph, and HHH. He can appoint whoever he wants to as GM or authority figure. He wouldn’t even necessarily need to be around on RAW that much. Then make return cameos when need be or to build up big events. But to throw away the Shane McMahon return moment or to reduce it’s significance seems like a waste to me.
So how can Shane beat The Undertaker, at WrestleMania, in Hell in a Cell? Obviously if he’s going to do it, he isn’t going to do it alone. So he’s going to need help. A lot of theories and ideas online and on Twitter about how it happens but here’s the one I’ve bitten on and am going to run with. During his initial promo with Vince while they were agreeing to the match, Shane said something along the lines of “OK, it won’t be the first time I’ve made a deal with the devil. You’re on.”
So this theory was that he had already made a deal with Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt family. That they would help Shane in whatever way they needed to in order to help Shane get control from Vince. And then the Wyatt family would be in power and back to being a dominant faction. And that made sense to me. That then was why the Wyatts aren’t in their own feud right now and seemingly are doing nothing of note on Sunday. They are saving their moment to run-in during this match. But the more I try to picture it happening, the more I can’t align all the pieces. Are the Wyatts good-guys then? Or is Shane now a bad guy? I can’t really see either. So I started to dismiss that thought and theory until this hit me…..
What if The Devil is The Demon? What if Shane was referring to Finn Balor? Now all the pieces align. Finn can still be a good guy after that. Shane can still be a good guy and have control of RAW, and now has “his guy” as well. It catapults Finn and gives him a purpose on the main roster. Then Finn can bring in Anderson and Gallows, form the Balor Club, and run RAW with Shane. You also have the added element of Finn-HHH, as well as possibly setting up a Demon Balor vs. The Undertaker match down the line. And it’s a WrestleMania moment. I always think that’s something you want to look for or create at this event.
Winner: Shane McMahon
HHH vs. Roman Reigns
This has to end in some sort of Roman Reigns heel turn right? It’s almost unfathomable to me that the plan is to have a good guy Roman Reigns defeat Triple H in the main event to close the show. Whether that’s the right move or not, it would be met with at minimum 50% boos and I can’t see WWE closing the biggest show of the year like that.
So your options, at least in my mind, are to either have Shane/Undertaker main event the show, have HHH retain, or have Roman turn and win the belt. And all three of those things seem plausible to me, which has me looking forward to WrestleMania this year. If the plan is for Shane to win and take control of the company, that’s a huge deal and it would make sense for it to close the show. If the WWE plans on keeping Roman as their new “face of the company” and doesn’t want to turn him heel, then I could see Roman getting screwed and HHH leaving with the title. That saves the WWE from having to watch Roman get boo’ed in the biggest moment of his career at their largest show of the year and allows him to win the title at a different event if they see fit. And if Shane defeats The Undertaker he’s going to need help, which means Shane will have control over RAW and a top-level guy by his side. The money feud there then is Shane and his new guy against HHH and his World Heavyweight Championship. I see that as the least likely outcome of these but it is plausible.
Or, they pull the trigger on the Roman heel turn. It’s almost become inevitable that it has to come at some point in the future, so having that big moment at WrestleMania makes sense. I know it’s important to WWE to have a marketable good guy to carry the company and I think that WWE was hoping Reigns could fill that John Cena role in the future. But it just isn’t clicking. It’s time to reassess the situation and make the best hand with the cards you currently have. And right now the WWE has the cards to make Roman Reigns into a monster heel. Having a dominant, believable bad guy can be just as important to the company as the top babyface. Strong, dominant heels are really hard to come by. It looked like WWE was trying to go that way with Bray Wyatt but they didn’t fully commit to it, and he’s suffered ever since. Roman can be a dominant badass. That’s what he’s best at anyways. Give him the title and let him plow through a roster of good guys for a couple months. Have him hospitalize his best friend Dean Ambrose. Have him rebel against the crowd that’s boo’ed him for the better part of a year. It’s similar to what they’ve done with Brock Lesnar. Make him look like a monster and suddenly a victory against him is a monumental deal and a money feud.
My problem: How do you get to the Roman heel turn? He can’t join HHH or Mr. McMahon, this entire feud has been built around their hatred of each other. Maybe somehow you get Ambrose to come help him during the match only to have Roman get pissed and turn on him, saying Dean’s trying to steal his moment. But that seems like quite the stretch and a little contrived. I think the route you go is to use The Rock. He’s been announced for WrestleMania but WWE has been pretty reserved on saying what his role will be, which seems odd to me. I thought they’d continue to push the hell out of the fact that The Rock would be at ‘Mania. And maybe they have something else planned for The Rock and are trying to keep it under wraps. But maybe they are downplaying The Rock’s presence so its more of a moment when he comes to help Reigns in the main event. Either during the match or after the match like the Royal Rumble in 2015. The Rock comes down for either physical or moral support and Reigns snaps. He beats down Rocky, yells at the fans, the announcers play it up, and you have a new bad guy on your hands. Follow it up on RAW the next night and go from there. Go with heel Roman Reigns and see what you have. Because I just can’t see a good guy Roman Reigns closing the show this year.
Winner: Roman Reigns