Your “SO OF COURSE” Preview of WRESTLEMANIA (playbutton)

A wise wrestling analyst once quipped

Wrestling fans don’t like to be surprised. They like to predict…and be right in their predictions.

How true!

We know the stories told on WWE programming are never-ending. Not only that but there are occasionally big moments that serve as pivotal points the way TV shows have season-finales. Big angles are wrapped up and the players then move on to new feuds. Sometimes, instead of a wrap up, the story HEATS up and the characters move to a new level of antagonism in their feud.

If you watch enough wrestling it becomes easy to see the patterns start to emerge. Like how the guy who gets the upper hand on the go-home show typically (though not always, because “surprise”) loses on the PPV. Or how the good guy typically triumphs at WrestleMania.

Fans can look at a PPV card and come up with a pretty good idea of where things are headed. By that I mean, fans who have been watching for a long time can imagine logical and reasonable match finishes and storyline trajectories, based on a little something called “common sense.” We know we’re not going to guess right every time, but that’s not the point. The fun is in looking at how the feud has progressed and trying to figure out how it will end.

But in this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have to to account for the capricious whims of WWE’s septuagenarian, sleep-deprived egomaniac owner. You can’t just “preview” a PPV…you have to Preview how things should go, in a reasonable and sane world and then add “so of course…” and explain what Vince McMahon will probably do instead.

So consider this your “so of course” predictions for WrestleMania 31 (>).

THE PRESHOW ANDRE THE GIANT THIRTY(?) MAN OVER THE TOP MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL BROTHER JACK DUDE WITH CHEESE

Last year’s Battle Royal was the surprise of the night. Then-rising superstar Cesaro captured the trophy after picking the Big Show up and carrying him over the top rope for the winning elimination. Remember how angry everyone was at seeing Big Show and Kane just knock out and flop the rising superstars of tomorrow over the top rope at the Royal Rumble? This was the opposite of that.

This year’s edition ought to have higher expectations because of the surprising quality of last year’s match. But the late-spring de-push of Cesaro killed whatever goodwill fans might have had about the would-be star-making match. A few storylines are playing out in this event. Miz and Mizdow have their thing going. Curtis Axel is on a battle royal winning streak after totally not losing the Royal Rumble. Other guys like Ryback have vowed to win the match and reboot their stalled careers. Reasonably, one should expect one of those guys to get the win, especially one of Miz, Mizdow or Axel. Those are the guys the show has asked fans to invest in when the match happens.

So of course…

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TYSON KIDD & CESARO vs THE USOS vs LOS MATADORS vs NEW DAY IN A PRESHOW MATCH FOR THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP

Kidd and Cesaro are doing too much good work in and out of the ring to be stuck in the preshow, but we gotta make room for whatever D-list musician they paid too much money to perform. As for their competitors: The Usos are what they are: Generic babyface tag team. They’re really not bad, but they spent most of their run at the top of the tag division with no one to feud with. The Matadors are fine enough luchadors but the real attraction there is the little person who accompanies them. New Day has been dead since they debuted, despite having one of the flashiest performers on the roster, a promising mid-carder and a mouthpiece who has good skills with a mic. Blame their failure on poor creative.

As for the match itself, there is no reason for anyone but the champs to win this. The Usos are half-injured, the Matadors are there to take the pin and while New Day “aint getting any deader,” they’re not getting any life any time soon either. A logical prediction would be for Cesaro and Kidd to win, continue winning for several months before splitting–either amicably or via the predictable breakup-feud–allowing Cesaro to finally ascend to the upper-echelon of the roster, the way Team Hell No launched Daniel Bryan to the main-event of SummerSlam 2013. That makes the most sense, logically.

So of course…

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OPENING PYRO AND BALLYHOO

You know what would be a good way for the show to start? With a respectable musician singing the National Anthem. Sure, there’s a lot of international fans out there (hi to everyone in the UK!), but when WWE went to Canada, they sang O Canada. Singing the National Anthem used to be a WrestleMania tradition. But then again so did numbering the darn things.

Logically, fans should expect someone like Lillian Garcia to open the show with America the Beautiful or something similar, then have a little video to hype the night’s festivities, before an explosion of pyrotechnics kick start the event. That would be a reasonable expectation.

So of course…

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RUSEV vs JOHN CENA FOR THE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP

Hey remember last year when John Cena was coming off a SummerSlam main event where he put over Daniel Bryan clean as a whistle, and then later got involved in a WrestleMania XXX feud with Bray Wyatt that had everyone super excited? Remember that? Remember how the weeks leading up to the show had Bray looking really strong, with Cena getting hogtied and forced to wear the sheep mask, and how everyone was so excited that Cena was moving out of a main-event or title feud for the first time since LITERALLY WrestleMania 20. Then Cena and Wyatt had a great heavyweight fight with cool moments from the entrance all the way up until the final few seconds of the match.

Then what happened?

Probably what’s going to happen Sunday. Rusev has looked every bit Cena’s equal and in some ways his superior, as Cena was forced to use underhanded tactics just to get a rematch to for the fight he lost at Fast Lane. Everything looks good heading into Mania, and if their February match is any predictor the match on the big dance looks to impress. Reasonably you would think that Rusev would get the win that he needs on the biggest stage of them all, then move on to potentially a main-event feud with presumed new champion Roman Reigns. That would be a reasonable prediction.

So of course…

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RANDY ORTON vs SETH ROLLINS

Once upon a time (like last fall or so), this looked like THE surefire hot feud going into WrestleMania. It has cooled considerably. Randy Orton returned from a Seth-imposed injury leave last month at Fast Lane. He got the unquestioned pop of the night. His name was chanted to start the next night’s show and then things took a nosedive. After an underwhelming few weeks of back-and-forthing, this feud has a tenth of the heat behind it than it looked to have when the whole thing started.

Reasonably, you would think that Orton (a ten-year veteran to the main-event scene) and Rollins (one of the finest workers on the roster) would be able to make 70,000 fans in attendance forget the weakness of the build. A great match can wash the pain of the past away and make the fans hungry for more. A bad match will only put a spotlight on how pitiful the past month’s road to WrestleMania has been. But no one in their right mind should expect a bad match. A reasonable expectation should be a 15-minute barn-burner that electrifies the crowd.

So of course…

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LADDER MATCH FOR THE “VACANT” INTER-CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Ideally you would never have had Dolph Ziggler lose the IC title to Luke Harper a few months ago in the first place. Dolph was doing great work slowly bringing the title back to relevance. A few more months of that, and then a Daniel Bryan match, one-on-one would have been incredible. Instead, the title has been passed around like a bong in RVD’s basement. You can’t change the past, though, so what do we have at WrestleMania? We have three credible potential winners (Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose), three semi-credible potential winners (Barrett, Harper, StarDust) and one guy who is there for comic relief (Truth). Since ladder matches can’t be one-on-one anymore unless they take place in December, they had to throw a bunch of bodies in there to justify the match.

Much like the Battle Royal, this match features a few separate feuds and a few leftover feuds all in one package. You have the Ambrose vs Barrett feud that started this whole fiasco. There’s the Bryan vs Ziggler feud that started on Twitter after Bryan lost his Mania main event spot. There’s Harper floating around because he was a recent champion. StarDust is there because his feud with Goldust was nixed (so why isn’t Goldust in the match too? Good question, I answer myself.) R-Truth is there as the glue holding it all together, as he was the loon who started the trend of kidnapping the title in the first place. Other than that, he’s the weakest guy coming into the match, having spent most of his time as a guest on commentary while the other guys fought each other.

Logically, it would make sense for either Bryan, Ambrose or Ziggler to win it, as they have the credibility to elevate the belt and can feud with one or both of the other two guys from now until SummerSlam. That would be a reasonable expectation.

So of course…

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STING vs TRIPLE H

The combined age of both men is older than dirt. These guys are so old they remember when the rainbow was black-and-white. Despite that, Triple H is in the midst of a career renaissance, at least in terms of ring work. His match with Daniel Bryan was the best “wrestled” contest of the night, and his trio of matches with the Shield continued his hot streak. He looks leaner and faster and despite his age is moving like his old pre-quad injury self. To his credit, Sting looks to be in the best shape his been in since the dying days of WCW. There should be no reason for him to huff and puff in a t-shirt through the match.

Having said that, last year Triple H got to work with Daniel Bryan, who wrestles at speeds Sting never achieved even in his surfer days. This match will be a little slower, a little more tempered in its pacing, so going 20-25 minutes would probably kill the crowd. Reasonably, you would think this match goes a nice 18 minutes, and works at a good pace before either guy starts to drag.

So of course…

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No Vince, we’re talking about this match, not your imaginary feud with Ted Turner. It’s not 2001 anymore. Sting and Triple H are having a match in 2015. Sting even said making the feud about WCW was ridicul….

forget it.

AJ & PAIGE vs NIKKI & BRIE BELLA

Monday night, Nikki and Paige had a 12 minute match that should have, other than the finish, been featured at WrestleMania. Instead the Showcase of the Immortals will feature the two best women’s sports entertainers on the main roster respectively tagging with Brie Bella (light-years behind her sister) and AJ (who is either battling ring rust since returning from hiatus, or she’s suffering from a severe case of the I-don’t-want-to-be-here’s. Either way it’s a match that is going to be a step down from what a one-on-one bout would be.

Still, this is the “Give Divas a Chance” era, and with only 8 matches on the main card, one would think that the four ladies would get a chance to shine. The WrestleMania crowd is full of the most die hard of fans, and they are all excited to see Paige make her Mania debut. The chemistry with Paige will make for an interesting dynamic in the match, and who knows maybe the over confidence of the Bellas will finally be their undoing. It’s a shame the title isn’t on the line, but reasonably you would think the Diva would get ten minutes to go all out, ending with a memorable finish that sets things up for Raw the next night.

So of course…

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UNDERTAKER vs BRAY WYATT

Hey remember last year when Bray Wyatt went over Daniel Bryan clean as a whistle at the Royal Rumble in order to keep him strong for big showdown with John Cena? Remember that? Remember when Bray Wyatt looked like the perfect guy to pick up the Undertaker’s soon-to-be retired mantle as the WWE’s big supernatural phenom?

Then what happened?

Everyone seems to think the finish of this match is obvious. Undertaker lost for the first time last year, and very well may be hanging it up for good at WrestleMania 32 next year in Dallas. For either of those reasons you would think that Taker would win his penultimate match, right? But what good does that do the next generation? Assuming Undertaker and Sting lock up at WrestleMania next year, this might be the Dead Man’s last opportunity to put over a WWE superstar on his way to retirement. Brock Lesnar is an anomaly with his limited schedule, and by-nature, lack of commitment to WWE. Bray Wyatt can still be the next great Undertaker-like character. He just needs that big signature win to propel him to that stature. It’s reasonable to think that he gets it at WrestleMania against the legendary Phenom.

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BROCK LESNAR vs ROMAN REIGNS FOR THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Moments after Brock Lesnar announced he was re-signing with WWE, dozens of former wrestlers and writers began tweeting how “the main event of WrestleMania suddenly got interesting. You can take that simply to mean “Now there’s a chance the heel Lesnar might go over, since there was no way he was winning on his way out the door” or you read into that as though they were saying “oh good now Lesnar can go over, because Reigns winning would probably be a disaster.”

Whatever the meaning behind the various reactions, it is true that the main event is now more interesting. Obviously the likely finish is still Reigns triumphing against all his doubters and haters, and Seth Rollins is still a wild card, but the option of Heyman turning on Lesnar is there, which would set in motion Lesnar’s next run as a babyface. Of course there is also the ultimate headfake: Lesnar could win, clean, and continue on as a champion, taking on Seth Rollins 1-on-1, Daniel Bryan, and eventually The Rock at WrestleMania 32. Lesnar re-signing opens up so many more potentially great and compelling storylines for WWE, any of which would be preferable to the vast majority of fans over “lolRomanwins.” You’ve got to think common sense will win out. It’s not just the reasonable assumption, it’s the logical one…it’s the sane one.

So of course…

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Oh well, there’s always NXT.

Here’s to Sunday.

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  • Matthew Martin

    Lots of typos and things here, guys. Sorry. I submitted this on the flight from Dallas to San Francisco. I didn’t have time to give it an extra look.

    Cena vs Rusev should have a Vince caption that just reads “lol ‘merica wins”

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