Your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE WrestleMania 33

In this day and age you can’t just “predict” a PPV anymore, you have 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.

Consider this your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE WRESTLEMANIA ROLLER COASTER INTO THE SUN!

Last time on SO OF COURSE, WWE Smackdown continued its great forward momentum heading into the big show, as it hosted the Elimination Chamber event. The show crowned a new WWE Champion, Bray Wyatt, and gave us the obvious direction for the WWE Title Picture: Wyatt vs Orton. I wouldn’t have thought I’d care about that match, but Smackdown has done a great job keeping it interesting and making it work.

Also last time on SO OF COURSE, WWE Nitro continued to limp along en route to its big event with a series of storylines that are either dead in the water or have so much the opposite of forward momentum they are going backwards in time. Only one feud has any real sizzle to it, and that’s the Jericho vs Owens feud that a couple months ago might have been a great world title match, but instead Goldberg won the title at FastLane and now he’s main-eventing WrestleMania after putting in approximately three minutes of ring work since his “big return” in November.

WrestleMania season is usually when WWE tries…really tries to put on great TV, with compelling storylines and clear goals for writer and wrestler alike. And if you’re a fan of WWE Smackdown man are you having the time of your life. That show made The Miz vs John Cena one of the most anticipated matches on the card.

Speaking of, there are—as of right now—a whopping thirteen matches booked on this card. That’s WrestleMania V levels of stuffing. Just a few years ago, WrestleMania 30 featured eight matches, one of which was on the preshow. There’s a lot to break down so let’s try to keep this as concise and snarky as possible. After all, this is a Raw-Smackdown joint-venture, so only half of the show is going to be be pleasantly surprising and fun. The other half will be aimless and frustrating and very WCW-feeling.

So let’s break down the big event and discuss all the ways Vince can disappoint!

PRESHOW BRUHAHA

THE TRADITIONAL “THIS PRESHOW MATCH LOOKS GREAT, I HOPE IT GETS A LOT OF TIME” SEVEN MINUTE MATCH OF FRUSTRATION

What is it?

Neville is defending his title against Austin Aries. It’s a cruiserweight championship match at WrestleMania for the first time since Chavo Guerrero defeated (among others) Ultimo Dragon in a title match at WrestleMania 20. No really, that really happened. Cruiserweights have been competing on Raw for a few months now and mostly it’s just big people wrestling with tiny people bodies. It’s basically a bathroom break but WWE doesn’t seem to have wised up to that yet, which is why they stuck this on the preshow and not in the regular potty break spot in the early fourth hour.

Why is it happening?

Because Neville and Austin Aries is a dream match, but since this is WWE and not literally any other wrestling promotion on planet earth (present or past or future) it is stuck on the pre-show, where half the audience will be in the parking lot getting their bags searched, and the other half will be in the lobby buying an overpriced, poor imitation of a Philly Cheesesteak.

What should be the finish?

Both of these guys are natural heels, but Neville is officially playing the role. As cool as it would be for Aries to get a feather in his cap and walk out of Mania with a championship (any championship), this just isn’t the right situation. Neville is still too important as the centerpiece of the division and Aries is just a better bad guy than a hero to root for. Neville needs to win a hard fought contest, cleanly, and then move on to a true babyface to feud with and maybe pass the title to this Spring. All kidding aside, this is the preshow. This is the two-hour pre-show. There’s more than enough time to let these guys just go to town for 15-20 minutes. We don’t need to see the Undertaker vs Roman Reigns video package three times in the first two hours, when we’re certainly going to see it again just before the match itself.

SO OF COURSE…

THE FOURTH ANNUAL ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL CREATIVE HAS NOTHING FOR YOU BATTLE ROYAL WITH CHEESE

What is it?

A bunch of jobbers, losers, vets with no purpose and guys like Sami Zayn who Should Be So Much More but who Creative Has Nothing For all get together and throw down until only one is left standing. Battle Royals are great, whether they mean something or not. It’s classic, old-school pro wrestling and almost always offers one moment or two that’s worth the ten minutes you commit to it.

Why is it happening?

The winner gets a trophy that is guaranteed to be destroyed during his first feud after winning. The first winner was Cesaro, who lifted Big Show up like he was a sack of potatoes and tossed him effortless over the top rope and into the stands. He then launched into the air, flew around the building, and consumed the terrible WWE writers with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his anus. Big Show won the next year. Baron Corbin won last year.

What should be the finish?

Sami Zayn should win and join Smackdown, becoming the next top guy on the blue brand after Vince forces AJ Styles to move to Nitro and job to Roman for three months. He also should eliminate Braun Strowman, who is the closest thing he’s had to a feud not revolving around Kevin Owens or Stephanie McMahon. Close the book on that and get out of Dodge.

SO OF COURSE…

MAINSHOW EXTRAVAGANZA HOSTED BY THE NEW DAY
PART ONE: THE UNDER CARD!

KEVIN OWENS vs CHRIS JERICHO

What is it?

The only really well-built feud on the Red show. Naturally it will curtain jerk. Jericho puts his US title on the line against Kevin Owens, his former “best friend.”

Why is it happening?

Because Bill Goldberg said yes.

Jericho won the US title a while back, but how many of you even remember who he beat or what the circumstances were? Meanwhile Kevin Owens was finally starting to find his groove as the Universal Champion. After months being treated like a joke and a weak defender, he started racking up wins and looking impressive, which is usually the kiss of death. It was. He lost to Goldberg after he turned on Jericho, which they tried to play off as “his ego getting the best of him” but really it was just a stupid bit of planning. He attacked Jericho, went on to face Goldberg alone, Jericho returned to distract him, 1-2-3, new (old and sweaty and arguably unable to work more than 2 minutes at a time) champion. So now, after weeks of great promos by both men, Jericho and Owens are going at it for the lesser title.

What should be the finish?

Jericho is leaving to tour. Owens is staying. Owens is the newer talent who was recently booked like a turd. Obviously Owens needs the win. Jericho bounced back from a loss to Fandango. He can eat a clean and decisive loss to Owens and then disappear for a while before returning and (hopefully) continue this great second third fourth fifth act he’s having with his career. So again, just to be clear: This is the only Raw match that has been booked with any sense of competency. Just give it a clean Owens win and let him move on to something new on Raw. That’s all we need.

SO OF COURSE…

DEAN AMBROSE vs BARON CORBIN

What is it?

An honest-to-goodness one-on-one Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania. It’s the first time we’ve had one since Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show back at WrestleMania 28. Dean Ambrose is the champion and his opponent is Baron Corbin. Ambrose has done a good job staying hot after leaving the WWE title picture late last year. He’s in his second reign with the IC title and has kept the belt relevant on SmackDown. Baron Corbin came to the show after being called up to the main roster after WrestleMania last year. Many thought he was not ready and his first few months seemed to confirm that. Turns out the problem was the creative black hole that was Raw; on SmackDown he’s blossomed into a hated (in a good way) midcard heel with an upside, just like he was in NXT.

Why is it happening?

Because Ambrose is probably the number two babyface on SmackDown and needs to be spotlighted. Also the SmackDown roster is so tiny, they basically have to have the blue show’s midcard title featured on the main card (especially since the Tag Champs are in the battle royal).

What should be the finish?

Either one would be good. Corbin has a solid future and Ambrose wouldn’t lose credibility dropping the belt. On the other hand, if Wyatt keeps the WWE Title he’ll need babyface challengers and Ambrose and he have…history.  So maybe they keep Ambrose strong until the early summer (after Wyatt vs Orton has run its course), when he moves back into the main event? Honestly either outcome is fine and so long as they don’t do something stupid like a DQ/non-finish, I’ll be happy. Commit to an ending and go from there.

SO OF COURSE…

GALLOWS & ANDERSON vs ENZO & CASS vs CESARO & SHEAMUS

What is it?

A ladder match featuring six people who have no business being in a ladder match. Three of the six men are giants and/or heavyweights, and one of the other three is Enzo Amore, who is a glorified manager anyway. Please don’t let Enzo do something idiotic and get his crazy self killed. Also there’s Cesaro who will probably do something completely bonkers and injure his shoulder in the process.

Why is it happening?

Because Raw’s midcard is so lifeless, aimless, directionless and pointless that we’ve reached the stage where we just have wild and random gimmick matches just to try and electro-shock the thing back to life.

What should be the finish?

Anything so long as no one breaks anything. Also anything so long as Cesaro and Sheamus stop being a team immediately after the match. Get those two away from each other and put Cesaro on SmackDown. Other than that, there’s no reason to care. WWE hasn’t given us one. Maybe Enzo and Cass get their first big win here? Their heat has tapered off quite a bit on the main roster, but it’s hard to stay hot when you’re given so little to work with every week. It feels like this will be their moment, in a misguided attempt to manufacture their popularity back to what it once was.

SO OF COURSE…

ALEXA BLISS vs THE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S ROSTER

What is it?

Alexa Bliss is the classic “heel transitional champ” that is so good at her job she’s keeping the belt longer than anyone would have guessed. She’s Superstar Billy Graham, only much prettier. Actually she did lose the belt back in February but quickly regained it when Naomi came down with a sudden injury. So Bliss is back on top and she has basically the whole women’s division gunning for her. The match is officially a six-pack challenge featuring Natalya, Mickie James, Carmella, Becky Lynch and the now-returned Naomi.

Why is it happening?

Let’s just be thankful it is happening. Smackdown’s womens division is lightyears ahead of its Monday night counterpart, both in terms of ring work, storylines and overall audience interest. It’ll probably get stuck on the pre-show but at least it’s happening (unlike anything with the Tag division).

What should be the finish?

Everyone in the match can easily have a storyline coming out of the show as champion: Alexa can continue heeling it up until she gets her proper one-on-one rematch with Naomi (that one writes itself). Natalya can get the classic “legend gets one final run before retiring” story. Mickie James can get the “returning vet gets a title run to validate her return” story. Carmella has James Ellsworth and, amazingly, there’s still material to mine there. Becky Lynch is the John Cena of the division so her winning is always understood. And Naomi can get the title back in her hometown and get a nice little WrestleMania moment. Anything could happen and it would be great.

SO OF COURSE…

BAYLEY vs SASHA BANKS vs CHARLOTTE vs NIA JAX

What is it?

It’s last year’s women’s match, with Nia Jax instead of Becky Lynch and Raw’s version of Bayley thrown in for good measure. Oh and it’s an elimination match, because we need gimmicks on top of gimmicks!

Consequently, what is it?

A terrible disappointment.

Cliffs notes on what it is?

Raw.

Why is it happening?

I don’t know but I’m sure Stephanie will find some way to make it all about her. Bayley is the champ, having won the title in the most un-Bayley way imaginable. I’m not even going to write about how Raw’s characters are wheel-spinning two-dimensional caricatures that can’t create empathy or anger or any emotion whatsoever. But that’s basically what’s wrong with Bayley as Women’s Champ. Meanwhile there’s Sasha Banks and Charlotte who are locked in an ever spinning, never flushing cycle of fighting that seems like it will continue until one of them finally leaves for greener bluer pastures. Nia Jax is there either to go out like Big Show at WrestleMania 2000 or win the whole thing, it’s hard to say which.

What should be the finish?

Stephanie should stop the match half-way through it, begin a promo that makes it all about her and then have The Galactic Federation from Rick and Morty suddenly appear, kidnap her and lock her away in that giant prison cell that Rick has been held at for the past year and COME ON HARMON WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG WITH SEASON THREE ALREADY!

Sorry. What should happen? Bayley wins. Order of elimination: Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Nia Jax. Bayley vs Nia next month..

SO OF COURSE…

 

TIME FOR THE POINTLESS “LOOK AT US BEING RELEVANT” CONCERT THAT TAKES UP WAY TOO MUCH TIME BUT ITS OKAY BECAUSE THE MAIN EVENT IS ONLY GOING TO GO FIVE LITERAL MINUTES ANYWAY

Pitbull, Flo Rida and someone named Lunchmoney Lewis will be performing.

Never forget that Bo Dallas outclassed Flo Rida in a rap-off.

Also, just because, never forget that Kurt Angle totally outclassed John Cena in a rap-off. Oh it’s true.

PART TWO: THE UPPER CARD

AJ STYLES vs SHANE McMAHON

What is it?

A match between one of the top wrestlers in the world, coming off an incredible first year in WWE, where he won the top championship and beat John Cena cleanly…and Shane McMahon.

Why is it happening?

I don’t know. But it’s on Smackdown so it’s been an oddly compelling story and I’m excited to see what AJ can do with it, just as I was when HBK wrestled Vince McMahon back in 2006. The only difference is, back then, HBK vs Eddie Guerrero was supposed to be the big Mania match, but Eddie passed and Vince found a worthy replacement in himself. It doesn’t make sense when you think about it, but that’s true of most all of Vince’s decisions. Here, there is a host of talent available for AJ Styles to take on. Finn Balor is just hanging out backstage. Samoa Joe is too. That’s two talents that are (A) on the roster, (2) healthy, and (D) world class competitors. But nah, let’s let Shane McMahon and his sissy punches look threatening to AJ Styles.

What should be the finish?

AJ Styles should do to him what Kurt Angle did to him in the King of the Ring 2000 match everyone has been comparing this to.

SO OF COURSE…

THE UNDERTAKER vs ROMAN REIGNS

What is it?

Undertaker’s retirement match.

Why is it happening?

Because retiring Undertaker three years after the streak ended, by feeding him to perpetually-disliked Roman Reigns is such a Vince McMahon thing to do.

What should be the finish?

Undertaker should beat John Cena after an epic heavyweight fight. The two should shake hands. Cena should exit. Taker should look around at the adoring crowd, raise his hands, kill the lights and disappear, never to be seen again (until his Hall of Fame induction).

But nooooooooo.

SO OF COURSE…

JOHN CENA & NIKKI BELLA vs THE MIZ & MARYSE

What is it?

Improbably, the match of the night. John Cena and the Miz are having their second WrestleMania match, this time a tag affair with their respective significant others along for the ride. Their main-event match at WrestleMania 27 was easily one of the worst main-events in the shows history. And yet, thanks to the magic of “Vince not caring much about what happens on SmackDown” their second go-round is easily the hottest feud on the card. The best part about it has been the fact that it hasn’t revolved around them wrestling each other week after week. That’s what Raw calls a feud: giving away the match for a month straight and then expecting people to pay to see it a fifth time. On Smackdown the feud has been built the old school way: Promos, interviews, vignettes and backstage segments. The two of them have gotten physical a time or two but when they actually step into the ring, it will feel like the climax of a slowly built blood rivalry. Cena has been great, Maryse has been hilarious, Miz has been Hall of Fame, and Nikki is hanging in there. Well done by all players. I can’t wait for this.

Why is it happening?

So John Cena can make a WrestleMania moment when he proposes to Nikki Bella.

What should be the finish?

Miz and Maryse should win! Cena’s going to get his big moment and in ten years no one is going to remember the actual match. The only thing that will be replayed over and over will be Cena proposing to Nikki. In that case, give the heels something. Randy Savage proposed to Elizabeth at WrestleMania VII. Everyone remembers that moment. No one cares that Savage lost the retirement match five minutes before. Let Miz get a well-deserved victory after months of putting in incredible work.

SO OF COURSE…

TRIPLE H vs SETH ROLLINS

What is it?

A match that should be much hotter than it is. Seth Rollins finally gets his hands on Triple H after the ruthless boss…uh…gave up on him after he injured himself? The match is happening after Rollins’ repeatedly demanded it, even going so far as to interrupt an NXT show to call out Triple H. I dunno, there’s just not a lot to sink your teeth into. It’s like they want to do a take on the Daniel Bryan vs Triple H feud from a few years ago (boss vs disrespected underling), with a dash of HBK vs Triple H at SummerSlam 2002 (babyface is not at 100% and has to make the match “unsanctioned” just to get it approved). There’s a lot that works on paper that doesn’t work on screen simply because it’s all been laid out on the three hour slog known as Raw.

Why is it happening?

Well I mean Triple H isn’t going to have a big, flashy introduction for nothing. And this match has kind of been written in the stars for a year now. I suppose next year we’ll get Triple H vs Balor, and the year after that Triple H vs Nakamura. Triple H will just keep getting a big Mania match with great former-indie darlings until he’s Vince’s age. They’re not going to waste him on a match with Shane McMahon or something.

What should be the finish?

The winner will win after a pedigree. Honestly, as much it seems like a foregone conclusion that Rollins wins, a part of me thinks Triple H will get the “W” here. Not because “he’s Triple H” (his Mania record is not great, actually) but more because it feels like there’s more to the story to come. Maybe they will do a rematch or two over the Spring and let Rollins “win the feud.” On the the other hand, they could just pull the plug on it here, give Rollins the win and transition him to a feud with Samoa Joe. Either way, the match will almost certainly be better than the feud building up to it. Rollins, I suspect, is 100% and Triple H has been doing great work for the past three years (not counting last year’s Mania match, which was simply way too long).

SO OF COURSE…

BRAY WYATT vs RANDY ORTON

What is it?

A compelling WrestleMania WWE Title match featuring Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt.

Additionally, What is it?

A miracle by the SmackDown writers.

Why is it happening?

Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble in January. Bray Wyatt won the WWE Title in February. But March was filled with all kinds of twists and turns in the story. What easily could have been bland and out of gas weeks ago has remained surprisingly engrossing all the way to the end. The Orton/Wyatt storyline has never been one the fans have been crazy about, but the SmackDown writers have added enough wrinkles to keep us hooked. Orton giving away his title shot became the springboard for other feuds (namely Shane vs AJ), and then Luke Harper got in the mix and has continued to orbit the story ever since. He’s certainly to have some part to play in the match, if not the finish. Orton setting fire to the Wyatt compound was an interesting twist too, as was Bray Wyatt coughing up ashes on the go-home show. All in all this feud should not work. Orton has never been a bundle of charisma and Wyatt spent most of the last year being terribly misused. When this feud started back in September it felt like it was just an excuse to give both men something to do. Now, over six months later, it’s the WWE Title match at WrestleMania…and I buy it. Good work writers.

What should be the finish?

Wyatt should retain. If this was going on last you’d almost have to have the babyface challenger go over, but nothing will supplant Brock vs Bill so WWE is safe to let the heel walk away with the title here, especially since Wyatt’s only been champ for a month. As mentioned, Harper needs to factor in, and maybe we’ll see a one-off appearance by an actual, flesh-and-blood Sister Abigail that puts the champ over the top. This feud can go another couple months.

SO OF COURSE…

BILL GOLDBERG vs BROCK LESNAR

What is it?

A feud designed to sell a video game. Goldberg returned to WWE after years swearing he’d never go back but also after years clarifying his swear that “they’d never pay me enough.” Turns out they will, Bill. Turns out they will. He faced Brock Lesnar back in November, the guy who broke Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, defeated John Cena in the most lopsided WWE title match ever, and crushed Randy Orton’s skull so hard into his brain he became a Wyatt for three months. The man hunts wildebeest with his bare hands. He’s a certifiable monster…and Goldberg beat him in a buck-twenty-five. Then they had a quasi-rematch during the Royal Rumble, where Goldberg did it again; he pantsed Lesnar like he was La Parka.  So the storyline is Goldberg has Lesnar’s number. Lesnar insists that he got caught with a lucky shot at Survivor Series, and that his embarrassment at the Rumble was due to his own arrogance getting the better of him. He (that is to say, Paul Heyman) vows that he’ll be ready to put Goldberg away at WrestleMania (though a win would only make him 1-3 in the series, but whatever). Goldberg mostly stands around with his shirt off, sweating and talking about how he’s only doing this for his kids.

His three kids: “Five,” “Million” and “Dollars.”

Why is it happening?

Because “marketing.”

What will happen?

What should happen?

Posturing and ballyhoo for four minutes and forty-five seconds. Then suddenly, Goldberg runs toward Brock for a spear and Brock just casually steps to the left, like Bugs Bunny. Goldberg runs into the ring post, gets completely gassed because the man is legitimately half a century old and turns around right into an F5. 1-2-3 that’s all she wrote. Lesnar holds the title until SummerSlam, when he loses it to Finn Balor (who never lost the title and is ready to reclaim it).

SO OF COURSE…

Overall prediction for WrestleMania?

Two years ago the build to WrestleMania Play Button was trash, but the actual show was a blast. Last year the build to WrestleMania Bull Horns was fine but the actual show was atrocious. This year the build to WrestleMania Roller Coaster into the Sun has been split between two very different shows: Raw has been abysmal and SmackDown’s been great. Who knows: Raw’s matches may end up being a lot of fun, with smart booking and good finishes. Smackdown’s matches may end up being poorly-thought-out messes with terrible finishes that everyone hates.

Why not try your luck at TWO’s new WWE Prediction League game – there is a £20 prize up for grabs for WrestleMania predictions.

Oh well. There’s always NXT (and SmackDown!).

Here’s to Sunday!

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