WrestleMania is just around the corner. Where legends are born and memories are made… unless we talk about last years, in which case I fell asleep halfway through the event. I wish that was a joke.
One thing that wrestling fans love to do, aside from criticise everything that is happening in the wrestling industry today, is to speculate what will be happening at WrestleMania. Who can blame them, this is essentially the season finale for WWE, the final entry of a film trilogy… and much like trilogies, they are often more disappointing towards the end, and fail to live up to the hype.
Nevertheless, the show of shows is almost upon us, so let’s discuss what has been confirmed, and what we can speculate will happen…
Randy Orton vs. WWE Champion
Randy Orton won this year’s Royal Rumble event, and despite being a villainous character, he won the match with 60,000 fans cheering for him. This is probably down to the fact that he last eliminated Roman Reigns from the bout, rather than because the fans actually wanted to see Orton win. We can’t say that it was surprising that Orton won though, as the cat had been let out of the bag a few days before the Royal Rumble event.
This made Orton and his championship match official for the event. In the past, when WWE had 2 World Championships, the winner had a shot at either belt, and was offered the chance to jump ship. But that doesn’t appear to be the case this year, as Orton has clearly chosen to go after the WWE Championship, with no mention of RAW trying to steal him away.
This leaves his opponent up in the air. Right now, as of this writing, that would technically be John Cena, as he holds the belt. However, rumours suggest that Cena won’t be going to Mania as the champion, instead dropping the strap to none other than Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton’s current tag team partner, at Elimination Chamber this Sunday.
Orton and Bray have a short, but notable, history. The two started out as enemies, before Orton turned heel, and became the latest member of the Wyatt Family. SmackDown Live has been doing a very slow build for this match, drip feeding the fans for months about the Family slowly crumbling, with Luke Harper having a babyface turn at the Royal Rumble, and leaving the family. It seems that they could go with the story that this was Orton’s intention all along; to slowly fracture the family, until it implodes.
… hey, it’s a far better story than when Bray “released” Harper and Erick Rowan, only for them to rejoin him just a few months later.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
The rematch that nobody thought they wanted to see… until Brock Lesnar got annihilated in under 2 minutes.
These two had their rivalry start all the way back at Survivor Series 2003, which then culminated at WrestleMania 20, in what was billed as a “dream match”. The issue was, both men were leaving WWE at the end of the night – Goldberg opted not to renew his contract, and became openly critical to how he was treated during his time there afterwards. Lesnar, on the other hand, became disinterested in pro-wrestling and it’s lifestyle, and wanted a change for his career. The two men didn’t really have the heart to put on a match that fans would remember positively, and it showed.
Fast forward 13 years later, and once again this match is dominating the WrestleMania hype, but now it’s because it’s been booked so much better, and with both men being in better positions within the company, they are doing it the way they feel makes the most sense.
Since Lesnar returned in 2012, he has only lost a small handful of matches, and we here at The Suplah dubbed Lesnar as “The Final Boss”, because of how he was seemingly “overpowered” compared to everyone else. Then Goldberg returned to promote a video game, set up a match at Survivor Series, and gave Brock an ass-whooping like we had never seen before. 2 months later, at the Royal Rumble, Goldberg was the one who eliminated Brock Lesnar from the match, not long after the former entered the contest. Goldberg is Lesnar’s kryptonite, and it’s refreshing to see.
Goldberg is booked to face Kevin Owens at Fastlane, with the WWE Universal title on the line. Rumours persist that Goldberg will be walking out as champion, which will turn the Lesnar-Goldberg match into a title bout, with Lesnar finally overcoming Goldberg, a man he’s never beaten, and walking out as the new Universal Champion.
Then what? Who knows, but Finn Bálor is scheduled to return around Mania, and it’s with certainty, he will want that championship back…
Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal
Technically, this should be the main event, as this match was “confirmed” around a year ago. The issue is, WWE hasn’t even mentioned that this match is happening, and the only way we’re aware that it’s even booked is thanks to Wikipedia, and the two athletes social media accounts… how did that happen?
Back in 2009, Shaq was a guest host for Monday Night RAW, and got into a confrontation with Big Show. After that, the feud would continue 7 years later, at WrestleMania 32, when Shaq was a guest entry to the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, that Big Show was also in. He eliminated Damien Sandow, and was eventually tossed out by most of the other competitors.
Right now, Big Show has taken a lot of time away from the ring to prepare for the match, and seems to have got himself into shape.
Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
A match no wrestling fan wants to see, WWE seems to want to set this up as their annual “passing of the torch” match. Whilst it’s totally understandable why WWE want to do this, as they still hope to make Roman their new golden boy, the issue many fans have is the fact that Undertaker clearly doesn’t have many matches left in him, as evidenced by his Rumble performance where, in all honesty, he did very little.
With that in mind, fans would rather see a dream match at this stage, instead of seeing another “passing of the torch”. There’s few people Taker could face as a WrestleMania dream opponent; the likes of Orton and Lesnar have had their turns, and few newer stars are quite to the level to garner a “dream match” hype, not to mention characters like Sting have retired, so there is no chance there. That really leaves only 1 man, and his name is John Cena.
Whether Reigns will win is still to be seen. However, if he does, I can’t imagine Orlando being a peaceful environment afterwards. Indeed WWE, you have the right to centre your product around any character you wish, but don’t be shocked if trash gets thrown into the ring if Roman has his hand raised… and that’s looking at the best possible scenario.
Seth Rollins/Samoa Joe vs. Triple H
This match was set up back in September of 2016, and it was clear that this was going to be one of the marquee matches for Mania. Triple H would face his former protegee, and put over Seth as the next “cerebral assassin”, this generation’s “big baddie”, when he eventually became a villain again. However, this past week-and-a-half has thrown everything into disarray.
Samoa Joe, one of the best wrestlers from NXT, was finally brought up to the main roster, at the request of Triple H, to destroy Seth Rollins… and destroy him he did. During their confrontation, Joe took Rollins down with a choke-hold, and it’s incredibly visible watching it back, that something goes wrong when the two hit the mat.
Seth blew out his knee, the same knee that put him on the sidelines for 9 months, back in 2015. With Mania literally weeks away, if Seth is cleared to compete, he would be cleared within days before the event is scheduled to take place. This means that the intended effect of having this as one of the main event matches loses that status, unless WWE take a new approach.
Rumours state that Joe could replace Seth, if the latter isn’t ready in time. How will this work in storyline? Who knows; it would have to be as hastily put together as Shane vs. Taker was last year. One could argue that Trips wouldn’t even need to wrestle this year, but apparently The Game is desperate to participate this year. Not only is Mania one of the few events he comes out of retirement for, but he always has the best entrance of the show. On top of that, it’s in Orlando, the home of his baby; NXT.
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
At one point, it was suggested that Shane may be facing Brock Lesnar at Mania. This was before Goldberg returned to the company, and they decided to pursue that storyline. This left Shane with no scheduled opponent. Instead, the creative team might turn to AJ Styles.
The two of them have been butting heads ever since AJ won the WWE Championship at Backlash, and like the Wyatt/Orton feud, the writers have taken their time to tell this story to the audience. AJ Styles feels “the man” has been holding him back, with his constant appearances on Talking Smack criticising McMahon and his management skills making this match almost a foregone conclusion.
However, I don’t think any of us expect this to be anything special. Whilst the two have a style that is fairly similar, the issue is Shane’s age. Whilst people didn’t expect much from him back at the King Of The Ring 2001, him and Angle knocked it out of the park… but that was 16 years ago. Aside from Shane’s insane dive from the Cell last year, there was little else to remember about the match. Here’s hoping that AJ can carry Shane, and make him look like a major star again.
Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
As mentioned before, Owens is facing Goldberg at Fastline, with the Universal title on the line. It’s been suggested since before the Rumble that both Owens and Styles wouldn’t be going into Mania as champions. This became true for AJ at the Royal Rumble event itself, as him and John Cena had another show-stealing match for the WWE title, but Owens retained against Roman Reigns earlier in the night. This outcome seems doubtful at Fastlane, though, as there’s a very high chance he’ll be dropping it to Goldberg.
Expect Jericho to get involved in that match, where he could cost Owens the belt. This would lead to Owens turning on Jericho, and making the latter a babyface in the process.
The two have teased tension between them before, back at Roadblock: End Of The Line, where Jericho and Owens fell out before the event went ahead. Jericho then came out and attacked Owens in the main event, which lead to a DQ win for Roman Reigns, but allowed Owens to retain the belt. At this point the two revealed this was Jericho’s plan all along, and that he didn’t fall out with Owens, their bond stronger than ever.
But, this is the WWE, and no friendship lasts forever because… booking, I guess. Chris Jericho is the current United States Champion, so the title being on the line during this match has been both confirmed and denied by various insiders. The two men have a great chemistry together on screen, and many fans expect this to be the show stealer.
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
From being rumoured to be Taker’s last ever opponent, to putting over his good friend Samoa Joe at the Granddaddy of Them All, many conflicting reports are circulating around what role the Face That Runs the Place will be taking at Mania. But, with the news breaking around Nikki Bella’s in-ring future potentially ending after the event, this seems like the best option for everybody.
Miz and Maryse have become one of the hottest acts in the company as of late, and whilst there is no confirmation that Miz is due to re-enter the main event picture on SmackDown, the fact that the couple are being paired with the biggest stars of their brands respective divisions, it seems like it’s a very good sign for the A-Listers. Hopefully this will be more fun than their WrestleMania 27 main event match.
The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Whilst it’s 100% certain that this will happen, as this has taken over the Money In The Bank as the annual match for WrestleMania, it’s nowhere near as exciting. Former winners, such as Cesaro, Big Show, and Baron Corbin, have failed to make any major statement since winning the trophy. This is just a match that will garner the rest of the WWE roster, and a select few NXT guys, a WrestleMania paycheck.
Neville vs. Austin Aries
The all new, all-better Neville has taken the Cruiserweight division into a place I never thought I could see: high flying babyfaces vs. high flying heels.
Neville won the Cruiserweight Championship at Royal Rumble from Rich Swan, and since then he has officially crowned himself as the King of the Cruiserweights (please don’t start actually calling him King Neville… his name is dorky enough as it is). The guy hasn’t been a typical heel champion, though, by cheating to win and turning down matches. The dude is, essentially, the cruiserweight version of a monster, and he’s being built for a fall. But who should take him down?
That should be Austin Aries. Whilst Aries hasn’t been called up to the main roster, he’s been out of action with an injury. Since then, instead of letting him watch the show from the sidelines, they’ve at least utilised him as a voice of the Cruiserweights, as he commentates both the RAW matches, and the whole of 205 Live. Due to this, Aries has been exposed to the major RAW audience, in a way few NXT stars have. Neville may be the King of the Cruiserweights, but Aries is the Voice of the Cruiserweights. All it takes is a voice loud enough to tear down a monarchy…