This week’s “Monday Night Raw” left many wrestling fans wondering – is this year’s “Wrestlemania” really going to be the biggest event of the year? Or will it be a middling event that makes fans long for years past?
“Wrestlemania 31” will air on the WWE Network (for $9.99, as many wrestling fans know) and on various pay-per-view stations (for much more than $9.99, as Triple H repeatedly points out in his promos) this Sunday, March 29, 2015.
This year, a two-hour kickoff show will begin at 5 p.m. before the official show begins at 7 p.m. In a desperate attempt to get people to sign up for the Network, the first hour of the kickoff show will be streaming for free on the WWE website.
So what do fans have to look forward to? Here’s a quick break-down of the matches we can expect to see – and why many of them are forced to overcome impossible writing odds to be memorable.
Fatal 4-Way for the Tag Team Championship: Kidd & Cesaro v Los Matadores v The New Day v the Usos
There’s already a problem here, and that’s the fact that a championship match has been relegated to the pre-show. (This, of course, might have been moved to the main roster now that the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale has also been relegated to the pre-show, but with the pre-show being two hours long, I somehow doubt it.)
Wrestlemania used to be when all the plots were set up for the next year, when all the plots of the past year were concluded; it’s wrestling’s season finale and season beginning all rolled into one. It’s supposed to be fun and fast-paced and intense, a great place for newbies to jump in and a place for devoted fans to have their hours (upon hours) of watching pay off.
But between this and the lack of a Diva’s title match, it seems that WWE doesn’t think that fans actually want to see championship matches at Wrestlemania. Why? Hell if I know.
But given that we’ve moved this to the pre-show, I have little faith in it. Don’t get me wrong – the wrestling will be great. Tyson Kidd and Antonio Cesaro are both talented wrestlers, even if Natalya is the best member of their team. Jimmy and Jay Uso are so much fun to watch in the ring even if, again, Naomi is the most interesting part and arguably the most athletic of their team. The New Day has some great athletic talent on their team – Kofi Kingston will never fail to entertain me – and their entrance will be worth watching just to see Big E do his best to dance.
And, uh, Los Matadores… exists. I guess.
In my dream world, Naomi and Natalya ditch their husbands, enter as a tag team, and run off with the championship belts. But since that’s not going to happen, I’m gonna stick with either Kidd & Cesaro retaining the titles or the Usos winning them back. Either way, the rivalry between them will continue somehow.
I don’t want to give Los Matadores a chance of winning, even if WWE has been pushing their rivalry with Kidd & Cesaro. They bore me as a gimmick and as a wrestling team. And New Day, for all that WWE is doing their best, certainly won’t win. While I love all three wrestlers in the New Day, WWE hasn’t bothered to give them a story. Shoving three happy black guys together and hoping that the WWE Universe will get behind them because they’re three happy black guys isn’t a good way to set up a team for success. They need motivation and a purpose, and until the WWE writing team gives them that, they certainly aren’t going to win the titles.
Sting v HHH (or, The Bat v The Sledgehammer)
Sting v HHH is an example of what would have been an amazing story if the WWE writers actually knew how to handle a story. Sting came to WWE, appearing on the show for the first time ever, when he saved Dolph Ziggler at the Royal Rumble in January. A smart writing team would have started splicing in promos there – not video packages, but moments where wrestlers were asking why Sting was back. What he was doing at WWE. When he would return to put the Authority in their place.
It could have been big and spiraling, built up to the point where Sting was a true hero and Triple H a true villain – but instead, the WWE writers went for the nostalgia route and built it up as WCW’s champion v WWE’s champion, when the story really called for something else. Anything else. Still, it’s gotten us some great facial expressions from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and it means I get to scream for the sledgehammer throughout the entire match.
What? It’s my favorite weapon.
If Sting is staying on for a longer plot, he’ll lose. If they’re using him to segue into a different plot, he’ll win. It’s all in the writing. Like every other match here, I don’t really care who wins. I just hope it’s a good match, and that evil Stephanie McMahon facial expressions make an appearance.
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Bad News Barret v Daniel Bryan v Dean Ambrose v Dolph Ziggler v Luke Harper v Stardust v R-Truth
One of the few matches I actually care about at Wrestlemania this year, the Intercontinental Championship match will be either painfully short or gloriously long and impressive. (And boy, am I hoping for the second.) Watching the back-and-forth between all the Superstars as they steal the championship has been a blissful interlude from the other repetitive promos, and I’m really hoping it pays off in this match.
Dean Ambrose and Bad News Barret started to have a legitimate rivalry before the stealing of the belt started, so I’m hoping that Dean will take the title – something that the fans will love, and that Dean undoubtedly deserves – before continuing that rivalry. The matches would be great, their characters play well off of each other, and it sets up for a lot of potentially hilarious promos.
I’m hoping this will also set up a Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler rivalry. They’ve been feuding a bit on Twitter – and a bit in the ring now, as well! – and it’s a rivalry that would be fun to watch in nearly every regard. Great promos, great matches, and a great use of my time. Ziggler would have to go heel, but I can live with that – and hey, his Twitter handle is @HEELZiggler.
I don’t care what happens to Luke Harper or R-Truth after this, but can we get back to Stardust’s rivalry with Goldust? That should have been a match at Wrestlemania all its own, with a great build-up and a great storytelling. And speaking of things that should have been a match at Wrestlemania…
2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale
Why on earth didn’t The Miz and Damien Mizdow get their own Wrestlemania match? Their storyline has been one of the few that actually deserved a Wrestlemania match. But I can see where the writers are going by putting them in the battle royale. Let Mizdow betray Miz on the grandest stage of them all, and it sets up for at least another month of this rivalry – more, if the writers handle it cleverly.
There are too many people in this match to name – including a certain Irish fighter whose return has been mentioned on Raw every week for the past month – but the winner is really up in the air. Nobody expected Antonio Cesaro to win last year, and maybe they’ll surprise us again.
United States Championship: Rusev v John Cena
Look at me, I’m John Cena! Don’t bully people, kids, unless they’re foreigners and you really want a title shot.
This is a match that they’ve been building up for months, and as I become increasingly disillusioned with John Cena’s character – though I have no problems with the man himself – I find myself rooting for Rusev. Not because I particularly like the Russian brute, but because his subplot with his manager Lana is one of the more interesting things that has happened on my screen lately.
I would like Rusev to win via a distraction from Lana, and have the indomitable Russians skip off to fight the next thick-headed American that comes their way. Cena’s career can sustain the championship loss – and hey, maybe we should give Jack Swagger another try to beat him. If anybody deserves the spot of defending America against the insulting outsiders, it’s the character the WWE has championed as the “real American,” eh?
(But seriously, bring back Lana! Lana! Lana! Lana!)
Tag Team Match: A.J. Lee & Paige v The Bella Twins
Don’t get me started on this matchup.
No, seriously, you don’t want to get me started.
Okay. You asked for it.
Given the #GiveDivasAChance campaign that is raging across the Internet, you think that WWE would, I don’t know, actually make a women’s title match at Wrestlemania. But since WWE has shown that it doesn’t give a damn about its Divas division as of late, why on earth would they have put a championship match at the biggest show of the year? It fits with their recent ignoring of the WWE Divas, who all deserve better.
So while I will watch this match and cheer for both teams – they’ll wrestle their asses off – I can’t help but be disappointed in WWE as a whole. It would have been easy and brilliant to make this a four-way match for the championship. It would have finished off the abruptly dropped Bella v Bella plot from a few months ago, let all four ladies show their in-ring ability, and actually challenged the Divas division to do something a little different.
Instead, we get something that – if we’re lucky – will last five minutes, and shows a blatant lack of disrespect to the Divas and their championship belt. Not cool, WWE. Not cool.
Bray Wyatt v Undertaker
I’m mildly excited for the Intercontinental Championship match, and infuriated with the condition of the Divas division, but this? This I’m excited for. This is the match we should have seen last year; this is the match that really should have ‘ended’ the Undertaker’s career. Bray Wyatt and Undertaker are cut from the same cloth, character-wise. They’re magical and dark and wonderful to watch.
How excited I am for this match – and for, hopefully, the passing of the torch it will entail – is even more impressive given that Undertaker has yet to make an appearance. Besides one voice-over (which sounded more like Kane than Undertaker) and some magical effects, he hasn’t done a thing. It’s been all Bray, all the time.
But Bray Wyatt promos are the glimpse of hope and poetry in the midst of the nonsensical writing of the WWE. They’re emotional, beautifully written, and they make you want to see the fight.
Wyatt will win, and it will start his undefeated Wrestlemania streak. If anybody deserves to start a new legacy in the vein of the Undertaker, it’s the Eater of Worlds.
Seth Rollins v Randy Orton
Ah, it’s the fight of the previously-favorite-child against the new-favorite-child. The rivalry between Randy Orton and Seth Rollins is a story we all know well, and it’s no surprise that it’s getting its own Wrestlemania match. As long as the rest of Rollins’ precious Authority doesn’t interfere – and I hope it doesn’t, because that would be one lame story – we’ll get a match with great wrestling on both sides.
As for the winner?
Look, I worship at the altar of Randy Orton’s abs. I have a soft spot for the Legend Killer – I love his character, for some unknown reason, and the fact that he has a face like a Greek god certainly doesn’t hurt any.
But in this match, I’m rooting for Seth Rollins. Not because I actually want Rollins to win – I thrive on crazy Orton, the one who nearly kills people at the advice of the voices in his head and then goes whistling off into the distance – but Seth Rollins is the only thing that can save us from what has become a jumbled main event. He’s got the Money in the Bank briefcase. He just needs to use it. And a win going into that cashed-in contract could only help him.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns
Ladies and Gentleman, this is the match that nobody wanted. Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble in January guaranteed Reigns was getting a push from the WWE that the audience didn’t want, and letting Lesnar hold the championship in his meaty grip meant that they were setting Reigns up to be WWE’s newest superhero.
And I might have been able to get behind this match, thanks to Paul Heyman. His promos have pumped Lesnar up, made Reigns feel like an actual possible opponent for Lesnar, and would have made the match interesting. But Monday Night Raw ended with Lesnar and Reigns fighting over the title like two kids fighting over a toy on the playground, and all interest in the match vanished from me.
WWE somehow managed to make Brock “I try to murder people when I’m in the ring” Lesnar look like a joke. And in doing that, they wiped away any credibility Reigns had as a real superstar.
So I don’t care about this match. I was certain Reigns would win, until Lesnar announced that he had re-signed with the WWE; now, the championship could go either way. No matter who wins, I pray that Seth Rollins’ will cash in his Money in the Bank contract for a guaranteed match and leave Wrestlemania with the title slung over his shoulder. It would be in the hands of a wrestler the audience likes to watch, who kills it on the mic, and who has considerable talent in the ring. A true triple-threat.
And then maybe he could finish his rivalry with Roman Reigns. Or Dean Ambrose. Or do something, anything, that’s more interesting than what the WWE writers are doing now.
Or, as one of my friends so aptly put it: Save us, Seth Rollins. You’re our only hope.
What do you want to see happen at Wrestlemania? Sound off in the comments below!