Road To Orlando – 7 Days Out!

So, with the biggest sports entertainment event of the calender year only seven short nights away, the talk is abuzz in the internet wrestling community about how this years event is not going to live up to expectations and is filled with predictable outcomes. I feel it’s only fair to state the obvious and most cliché line you’ll hear in this aspect of entertainment; ‘Anything can happen’. With that said, here is a brief run down of the card up to now along with my personal predictions and why not only wrestling fans, but the general populous can be excited for what promises to be a very memorable Wrestlemania.

With the majority of WWE’s advertising being done via Social Media now, this review could very well be out of date by the time we hit the internet, matches like Triple H vs. Seth Rollins and a Smackdown Tag Team Title match at this stage are still yet to be confirmed officially at this stage, so if we can be forgiven for time delays, let us proceed.

The New Day Hosts Wrestlemania

2 years can be a very short time in the world of wrestling. Not only has the trio of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E gone from a pre-show act being told they suck by the entire WWE Universe, to the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time (483 Days), they’ve been given the task to keep the crowd entertained during the lull of a 5 hour show. These 3 guys have been hit and miss for the last few months with their segments after dropping the tag titles in December to The Good Brothers (more on them later). But, with recent personal events involving Woods, these segments could either be funny with their jokes, or funny with the crowd reactions to Woods’ now infamous sex tape leak. Either way, these will be memorable moments for the New Day, Because!…

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

The 4th instalment of what we should just consider is the 2nd Royal Rumble of the year is a nice way for some of the lower to midcard superstars to get their Wrestlemania payday, with usually 20-25 superstars starting in the ring with the odd surprise performer either making their main roster debut from NXT or a surprise return by an injured talent, this years match promises to take it up a notch with it’s heavily filled roster of Raw and Smackdown Live wrestlers. Last years winner Baron Corbin has had a steady push up the card and faces Dean Ambrose later in the show, this is a perfect platform to begin a superstars push up the card into bigger programs or commemorate a legend of the business (A la Big Show in 2015). I think this would be the best time to bring up an NXT veteran like Hideo Itami or Tye Dillinger to have an impressive showing but to ultimately fall to who I believe will win the match, the monster that is Braun Strowman.

Raw Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match:
The Club (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

Raw’s tag team championship picture has seen better days but with a ring full of capable talent and 4 stars making their Wrestlemania debut’s (Enzo, Cass, Anderson & Gallows), the stakes are high for what can promise to be a hard hitting contest. The tag titles have switched hands twice in as many months after a long reign with the hosts of Wrestlemania (New Day) so don’t be surprised with another title change coming on Sunday with the favourites being Enzo & Cass to capture their first tag titles as a team. Having never held the NXT titles before coming to the main roster, this could be the culmination of the last 3 years of this team working together. Also, the fan reception to Enzo’s now popular introduction of the team being bellowed by a planned 80,000 crowd in Orlando will make for a memorable sound bite. Expect for the eventual split of Sheamus & Cesaro to come in this match when one of them takes the fall, leading to a summer feud between The Club and your new Raw Tag Team Champions.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship:
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries

Another pair of debut’s for the 205 Live’s cream of the crop. Neville’s reign as champion began at the Royal Rumble after besting Rich Swann for the purple brands top prize and continued past Fast Lane against the UK’s own ‘Gentleman’ Jack Gallagher. Now facing a 15 year veteran in the form of Austin Aries who will be looking to take the division by storm in the same way he revitalised a struggling TNA product in 2014. This will be short and sweet and to help stop the regular title changes I can envision the champ Neville retaining here but continuing this feud with Aries until the ascendancy of the divisions next top baby face and Cruiserweight Classic standout Akira Tozawa. This could be the match that keeps the 205 Live brand going for the next year after disappointing viewership figures on the WWE Network.

Smackdown Women’s Championship Open Challenge
(All available women eligible to enter)
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Mickie James

The stripping of the title from Naomi several weeks ago hints she may be medically cleared to compete in this match to regain her championship in her home town of Orlando, Florida. Bliss’s two runs with the Smackdown Women’s Title have been enjoyable but considering she is only capable of good matches with one of the ladies in this match (Lynch), don’t be surprised if she has her title taken by the end of the night to rework her style. An easy enough way for all the women of the blue brand to get their Wrestlemania pay days, my prediction would be the return of probably the most hated women in wrestling to take the belt on the grandest stage of them all, Eva Marie. Having been suspended for 30 days back in August following a wellness violation, this would be the ultimate way to continue her gimmick of getting out of matches before they begin and anger the fans even more, a sly way of the backstage higher ups getting their way over the WWE Universe.

Intercontinental Championship:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin

This rivalry has become very personal, very quickly. After initially costing Ambrose his chance to reclaim the WWE Title at Elimination Chamber, Baron Corbin has set his sights on the Lunatic Fringe’s Intercontinental Championship, meaning these two (as JR would say) are in for a real slobber knocker. The championship has been a mere accessory or consolation prize for Ambrose after his feud late last year with AJ Styles, meaning it’s prestige is lost on the former shield member. The title should be used to elevate new stars before an eventual main event push, and with Corbin set to be the next big heel figure on the blue brand, his eventual rise to the top of the card should begin with his second Wrestlemania victory following on from his shock win last year in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Expect the Lone Wolf to walk away with the title to complete an excellent rookie year on the main roster, and look forward to a summer of impressive matches from the former NFL Line Backer.

John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

This match has been heavily speculated to be Nikki’s final match for WWE before retirement due to continuing neck and spinal injuries. Pitting two of the WWE’s real life power couples one on one will make for an entertaining match up consisting of a lot of duelling moves and special spots to be used for the follow up season of Total Bella’s. The Miz and Maryse have been the best heel act in WWE for the last 12 months, beginning the night after Wrestlemania 32 with Miz’s Intercontinental title win over Zack Ryder. Now a full year later, we get to witness the return of the former Divas Champion Maryse to in ring competition. To add to the feel good moment of Wrestlemania, expect Team Cena to take the victory to say farewell to the pair until John returns later in the year following his movie commitments after Mania.

United States Championship:
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens

This feud has been building for nearly 9-months now, with it beginning as the two best friends from Canada conquering Monday Night Raw in the face of multiple challengers such as Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and others. The mic work and emotional investment in this feud takes it to a whole other level of entertainment, with many fans falling into tears with Owen’s betrayal at the ‘Festival of Friendship’ back in early February. The subsequent loss of Owen’s Universal Championship in 22 seconds to Goldberg has now set up the final showdown of these two ring generals. With Jericho taking time off in soon to continue his work with his band Fozzy, expect KO to take the title at Wrestlemania and putting to bed this excellent piece of story telling with a match that will hopefully steal the show.

Raw Women’s Championship Fatal Four-Way:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax

Well, it’s not the four-way we were hoping for but it’s definitely one that will raise many a people’s eyebrow (pun intended). The hot potato game that the Raw creative team has been playing since the brand split may well come to an end when Bayley defends her newly won championship in a fatal four-way against the 3 top women’s wrestlers on the Monday night flagship show. Whilst 2016 broke barriers in respect of women main eventing pay-per views and live specials, this year we have yet to see the same enthusiasm in 2017. Charlotte and Sasha Banks have put on clinic’s in the last 12 months and this type of match may well serve as the best way to showcase the brute strength and power we saw from Nia Jax down in NXT. A successful defense seems to be the best way to go for the time being until we get Asuka up to the main roster later during the summer.

Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles

The Commissioner of Smackdown Live will take on The Phenomenal One at Wrestlemania in what promises to be one of the most spot-filled matches on the card. The creative team have yet to announce it but a No-DQ stipulation will definitely be needed for this match to cover for the lack of in ring skills of McMahon. No slouch in the ring however, Shane is capable of creating memorable moments with his opponents and AJ Styles will look to bring the very best out of the son of the chairman in this match. With AJ being kayfabe fired two weeks ago, it makes sense for him to pick up the win in this match and head to Raw as soon as possible after Wrestlemania, potentially as part of the annual WWE Draft later in the spring. Look for this to be the Dark Horse match on the card.

WWE Championship:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton

Another long term feud will come to ahead Sunday when ‘The Eater of Worlds’ Bray Wyatt defends his WWE Championship against ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton. Orton won his shot at Wrestlemania last eliminating Roman Reigns in this years ‘Royal Rumble’ match (and thank god he did). Orton has been involved with Wyatt since ‘No Mercy’ back in October, and after having been beaten and victimised by The Wyatt Family, joined their ranks in early November. As a unit, they were the soul survivors for Team Smackdown at ‘Survivor Series’ and even won the Smackdown Tag Team Championships at ‘TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs’ in December. Following the departure of Luke Harper from the group, Orton promised not to challenge Bray for the championship. After a short while, Orton then turned his back on Wyatt, revealing the plan was always an inside job, eventually burning down the Wyatt compound with the remains of Wyatt’s precious ‘Sister Abigail’ being turned to ash in the process. Wyatt is now out for vengeance in this match against his former confidant and will look to get his first Wrestlemania win in the process. I personally believe Orton will lose to Wyatt and set up a return match at the first Pay-Per View following Mania.

WWE Universal Championship:
Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman

13 years ago, these men had one of the worst Wrestlemania matches of all time, with Goldberg picking up the win on a departing Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XX. That would have been the end, but then when Goldberg was announced as the flag bearer for the most recent incarnation of the WWE 2K franchise, wheels began to turn for an eventual comeback for the 50-year old for WCW Champion. Brock Lesnar has suffered since the return of Goldberg; a 01:26 loss at ‘Survivor Series’ and an even quicker elimination at ‘Royal Rumble’ has enraged The Beast Incarnate to a point where even the advocate for Lesnar (Paul Heyman) has not been able to come up with a reason his Beast has been defeated. The challenge was made by Lesnar for one last showdown with the WCW veteran and with Goldberg winning the Universal Championship from Kevin Owens at ‘Fast Lane’, the stage is now set. Goldberg has made a habit of having short matches in this run with the WWE but this match will test the abilities of both stars as the Semi-Main Event. My belief is Goldberg will fall at the hands of the conqueror and the series will end at 2-1 in Goldberg’s favour.

The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns

They say that every dog has it’s day, and many believe when man’s best friend is on it’s final legs, they should go the way of ‘Old Yeller’. One of these people is Roman Reigns, believing the WWE to be his yard now, he will look to be the second blemish on The Undertaker’s impressive 23-1 record at Wrestlemania. After crossing paths in the Royal Rumble Match, Reigns eliminated Undertaker in quick fashion and beginning the course of events leading up to this match. Whilst Taker has been slowing down his WWE career since 2010, Sunday may well be the last ride for the ‘Undead Outlaw’. Reigns’ impassioned promo’s talking about retiring ‘The Dead Man’ have been a massive talking point for the show and as of this writing, have propelled it to the main event of the night. Could we actually see the final match of one of the greatest performers in professional wrestling? In my opinion, no.

Taker has already given the streak to Brock Lesnar, but the person that will benefit most in long term booking theories will be ‘The Big Dog’ Roman Reigns. Having not been accepted by the fans as the new flag bearer for WWE’s new era (much as the way John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan were), Roman’s disconnect from the audience has made large parts of the crowd boo his efforts, even in amazing matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens. With nobody ever booing ‘The Phenom’ either, this could be catastrophic if the WWE don’t do the logical thing and turn Reigns heel and have him beat The Undertaker clean in the middle of the ring at Wrestlemania. From this happening, they are breathing new life into his character, embracing the hate he already receives by the fans and establishing the companies new top bad guy.

What do you guys think then? Are you excited for the show? Who do you think will be coming out of Wrestlemania with new championships? How pissed will you be if Reigns wins?

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Words by Mason Sargeant