WrestleMania 37 Postscript

What was up with Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania?

The WWE delivered in a big way over the two-night showing of WrestleMania 37. It was dealt a tough hand with a storm in Tampa which forced a 40-minute rain delay at the beginning of Saturday’s show. Once the rains subsided enough for the show to start, the first live crowd the WWE has hosted in over a year was clearly excited for action.

Most critics tended to agree that both shows were exciting from start to finish and exceeded expectations. What makes that interesting is that this was more of a transitional WrestleMania than it may have appeared to be. Consider that this was the first time since WrestleMania XVI in 2000 that there was no involvement from The Undertaker or John Cena. Also consider that the WWE did not reach into the past to bring back a relic like Goldberg or a part-timer like Brock Lesnar to generate interest in the show. It mainly ran with the regular talent roster and one big outside celebrity. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there.

I have been a constant critic of both Roman Reigns and the WWE Women’s division. Roman Reigns returned after an absence in 2020 to reinvent his character and put on a masterful performance in the main event of night two. Aside from the Women’s tag team matches that laid an egg both nights, even I must admit that Sacha Banks and Bianca Belair put on the match of their lives and that certainly bolstered the division.

There were some great moments along the way, along with some inconsistencies and some odd creative decisions. Out of it all emerged a clear list of winners and losers, with the winners far out numbering the losers.

Losers:

The Fiend: Here’s Bray Wyatt’s career arc: Gets built up, fans buy in, loses in a peculiar fashion, reinvents himself, repeat. That loss to Randy Orton did not help either competitor, the finish with Alexa Bliss made no sense at all.

Big E: Lost the Intercontinental Championship in his home city.

Mandy Rose: Through no fault of her own, she slipped on the wet ramp during her ring entrance. This will haunt her on the Internet for the rest of her life.

Bayley: Her championship run in 2020 was not enough to earn her an actual match at WrestleMania 37. Instead, she was stuck with a comedy bit that did not work and got tossed aside by the Bella Twins. The crowd had the wrong reaction to the episode anyway!

Hulk Hogan: Worked babyface, got booed. His magical aura is clearly a thing of the past.

Winners:

Bobby Lashley: Opened the show with a surprise win over Drew McIntyre. This was his biggest WrestleMania moment since “The Battle of The Billionaires”.

Cesaro: In his first ever singles match at WrestleMania, he picked up a signature win over Seth Rollins.

Omos: Looked like a killer in his debut. Hopefully he is always booked that way.

Shane McMahon: Even though it is entirely predictable that he is going to take an insane bump, he still makes it entertaining. His in-ring career is one car crash after the next.

Braun Strowman: Looked great in his match. He is a physical specimen that can cut a skilled promo and tell a story in the ring.

Bad Bunny: Far exceeded any expectations with his in-ring ability. Granted, the other guys helped make him look good, but he still carried himself like a pro.

Bianca Belair: Put on probably the best women’s match the WWE has ever seen in her WrestleMania debut. Hopefully, the rest of the division follows her lead and steps up their game.

Sheamus: Hit some great moves in his win over Riddle and walked out with a singles title.

Apollo Crews: It was a very round-about way to become a singles champion, but if becoming an ethnic heel is what it took, good for him.

Daniel Bryan and Edge: Both were forced to retire due to injury but ended up in the main event of WrestleMania anyway. The losses did not hurt them at all, they looked good in defeat.

Roman Reigns: Against all odds, turned his career around and is now the clear face of the WWE. Unlike in the past where he ruined every WrestleMania main event he was in, he turned in a commanding performance this time.

The WWE added WrestleMania branding to the Backlash pay per view for the first time ever. With any luck, they can continue some of the momentum they now have from a strong WrestleMania weekend into that show.

WrestleMania 37 Night 2 Analysis and Predictions

Two nights of WrestleMania? Best weekend ever? Or too much wrestling?

After watching last night’s card, I believe the WWE has fixed the “overcrowding” situation it used to have when WrestleMania was one night. There was only one over-booked match that was in place to get people on the card. Most of the matches were plain singles or tag team matches that were not rushed. While there were not too many surprises in the outcomes, most of them were very entertaining from start to finish.

Saturday’s show will be a tough act for Sunday’s show to follow. I think I would have been happy if last night was the entire WrestleMania card, but I am happy to watch again tonight. Here are my match predictions.

Riddle (c) vs. Sheamus in a Singles match for the WWE United States Championship

I have always been the kind of wrestling fan that found most of the babyfaces to be annoying. Riddle is my worst nightmare. I do not know what they are thinking with this guy. All I can hope for is that Sheamus shoves Riddle’s scooter down his own throat, and then kicks Riddle’s head into the 19th row.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE United States Champion, Sheamus

Asuka (c) vs. Rhea Ripley in a Singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

Rhea Ripley’s gimmick seems to be to show up from NXT just before WrestleMania and get herself a major brand title shot. Not sure why this keeps happening to her, she does not bring much to the table.  Asuka certainly does not bring anything to the table either. 

Prediction: This match is going to suck

The Fiend (with Alexa Bliss) vs. Randy Orton

Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews Nigerian Drum Fight for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

This is a head-scratching development. These guys were perfectly capable of carrying a babyface/heel feud centered over the Intercontinental Championship as they were. For some reason, Apollo Crews decided he was going to turn into an ethnic heel and develop a fake accent just a few weeks ago. There is nothing stranger than when a WWE Superstar gains or loses an accent, just ask Kofi Kingston.

Whatever a Nigerian Drum Match is supposed to be does not sound like it is WrestleMania-worthy. But these terrible creative decisions can not take away from the fact that these are two of the best wrestlers on the roster today. Hopefully, they can make chicken salad out of chicken scratch and turn in a memorable match.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Intercontinental Champion, Apollo Crews

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (with Logan Paul)

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are trying to challenge Randy Orton and John Cena for the longest feud ever. These guys know each other well and are both performing at a high level right now. They are going to have to get Logan Paul involved in the match somehow, hopefully in a way that does not interfere with the story the two professionals are trying to tell.

Prediction: Winner, Sami Zayn

Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler (c) (with Reginald) vs. Tag Team Turmoil winners in a Tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

The makeshift team of Natalya and Tamina was the puzzling choice to win Saturday night’s race-to-the-bottom turmoil match to earn a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Championship on Sunday. With any luck the title match is better, but I would not count on it.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

The Fiend (with Alexa Bliss) vs. Randy Orton

Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt are at it again at WrestleMania and hopefully this time their match is better than the aborted mess that was their WrestleMania 33 match. The 2017 version of Bray Wyatt was floundering, and the special effects used in the match were anything other than scary. Now that Bray Wyatt is working as his “Fiend” alter-ego and his television exposure has been kept to a minimum, his work is stronger than ever. Given the involvement from Alexa Bliss and some creative camera work and special effects in the fan-less WWE Thunderdome, the build for this match has been one of the only standout storylines on WWE television right now.

Randy Orton is a versatile performer and seems to be in his element dealing with the supernatural aspect of Wyatt’s character. These guys are going to want to erase the memory of their first WrestleMania match and deliver a match to remember this time around.

Prediction: Winner, Randy Orton

Roman Reigns (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Universal Championship

For years I complained that Roman Reigns was a talentless disaster that ruined every single WrestleMania main event he was in. He was miscast as a babyface, his promos and catchphrases were cringe-worthy, and his in-ring psychology defied logic. Then he disappeared the week before WrestleMania 36, forfeiting his spot in a championship match with Goldberg and stayed off WWE television for months.

Then something strange happened. Reigns pivoted into a heel and finally became a talent worth taking an interest in. His brooding mannerisms are much more suited towards being the arrogant “Head of the Table” than whatever the “Big Dog” was supposed to be.

While it is a feel-good story that Edge was able to return to the ring after being forced into retirement due to a neck injury, his reemergence has been a complete debacle. His WrestleMania 36 match with Randy Orton was among the worst on the card, a thirty-minute exercise in how many times they could hit each other over the head with a heavy object. Not much longer after that, Edge was lost to injury in a development that surprised nobody. While he was able to win the Royal Rumble and secure a title match at WrestleMania, it seemed like the match was lacking something big.

Cue everyone’s favorite underdog, Daniel Bryan. Bryan was the main event winner that WWE management did not even want on the card at WrestleMania XXX. After being forced into early retirement himself and making a miracle comeback, Bryan is now being asked to spring into action to spice up the action for the main event of WrestleMania 37. There has not been a career arc like this in WWE history!

For the first time in his career, Roman Reigns will be in a WrestleMania main event worth watching. Bryan knows his days are numbered and will look to make this a match to remember. This not only has match of the night potential, but it could also go down as a WrestleMania classic.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Universal Champion, Daniel Bryan

WrestleMania 37 Night 1 Analysis and Predictions

After a year of not having fans in attendance, the WWE is “back in business” with a live crowd at WrestleMania 37 in Tampa. The WWE product has been downright bizarre to watch without real fans in attendance this past year and having a crowd for the performers to work off will be a welcome change.

Splitting WrestleMania into two nights leaves a lot less clutter on the WrestleMania card than in a normal year where they over-book many matches to get as many people on the card as possible. There are lot more singles matches than we would have seen in years past.

The WWE has also seemingly admitted that the “Women’s Revolution” in the WWE has been an abject failure. Just two years ago, the WrestleMania event was a triple-threat between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey. This year, none of the three are even on the card. Something is clearly wrong with the creative process that has left most of the women in the WWE out of a prominent spot at WrestleMania.

There have been some creative missteps on the men’s side of things as well. The bizarre saga of Bobby Lashey as champion (more on that in a bit) has been a head-scratcher. For the life of me, I can not understand the appeal of Riddle. And the sudden emergence of Apollo Crews’ fake Nigerian accent almost makes me embarrassed for him.

But this is WrestleMania, and the card is stacked with talent who will have ample time to tell good stories. Without the involvement of John Cena or The Undertaker, the members of the current roster will look to cement their own WrestleMania legacies. Even if the lead-in to WrestleMania was weak, this two-night event could be professional wrestling at its best! On to the match predictions.

Bad Bunny and Damian Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison

WrestleMania history is rife with celebrity guest appearances, many of whom actively participated in matches.  Mr. T. started the tradition when he teamed with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 1.  This year, Bad Bunny gets the nod as the token WrestleMania celebrity used to bring in viewers that are not part of the current fan base. 

The appeal of Bad Bunny is lost on me, I guess I am not in his target demographic. However, there are reports that his WWE merchandise is a huge seller right now, so this appears to be a good business decision for the WWE. He is not a trained wrestler so The Miz and Morrison are going to have to carry him in the match. The rookie Damian Priest will not be much help in covering Bunny’s weaknesses. I would not expect this match to be remembered as a WrestleMania classic.

Prediction: Winner, The Miz and Morrison

The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c) vs. AJ Styles and Omos in a Tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

This is an interesting spot for AJ Styles, having been assigned the task of getting NXT call-up Omos over as a main-roster competitor. I am not sure I like the creative direction this angle has taken, Omos seems to be lacking on the microphone, and attempts at the two of them being comedic have fallen flat. His appearance and skill set seem better suited to “monster heel” than comedic sidekick, but this is what we get so we will see how he does. For Omos, this is a great spot in which to make his debut in a championship match at WrestleMania.

The New Day continue to flounder as a duo, having lost their most charismatic member, Big E to a singles push. It is time for this team to break up, no better time or way to accomplish that than a WrestleMania swerve and a heel turn for one of them!

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, AJ Styles and Omos

Lana and Naomi vs. Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose vs. The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott) vs. Natalya and Tamina in a Tag Team Turmoil match, winners receive a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match on Night 2

This is a late addition to the card to placate those who were upset there was not enough involvement from the Women’s division. There is not a single wrestler in this match who is worth watching.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon in a Steel Cage match

It is WrestleMania! Time for Shane McMahon to jump off something high and attempt to mount credible offense against someone he has no business being in the ring with! Stop me if you have heard this one before.

Prediction: Winner, Braun Strowman

Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair in a singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

The only bright side about this match is that it is the only women’s singles match on the card.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Cesaro Vs. Seth Rollins

I have always felt that WrestleMania needs more matches like these on the card. No-gimmick singles matches that are based on a grudge and nothing else. It gives the competitors a chance to tell a unique story and showcase their skills.

Both superstars in this match are at an interesting crossroads in their individual careers. Cesaro has been a constant under-achiever as a singles competitor, and this is his first singles WrestleMania match. Seth Rollins was on a roll with his “Monday Night Messiah” gimmick, but that appears to have been taken away from him. He kept the look but not the personality which makes no sense at all. Even still, Rollins is one of the best in-ring competitors the WWE has on the roster today and he should be able to carry Cesaro in this match.

Prediction: Winner, Seth Rollins

Bobby Lashley (c) (with MVP) vs. Drew McIntyre in a singles match for the WWE Championship

This is an intriguing matchup of two superstars who took long and difficult trajectories to a championship match at WrestleMania.

Drew McIntyre had poor timing for his first WrestleMania moment as it took place in a taped match at the WWE Performance Center with no fans in attendance. He likely would have gotten a huge pop from a live crowd if there were fans in attendance. He spent most of the following calendar year as champion without performing in front of a live crowd. This match finally gives him a chance to reconnect with a live audience since his ascension to the top.

Bobby Lashley was the other feel-good story during the pandemic, having won his first ever major WWE championship at age 44 in March. The WWE is doing everything it can to muddy his creative waters since then. At the time of his win, he was presented as a vicious mauler who had to chase down a cowardly Miz and ragdoll him to win the championship. He was surrounded by a stable that supported his aura and was on top of the wrestling world.

In the ensuing weeks, he flipped to being a cowardly heel by putting out a “bounty” on Drew McIntyre, then his stable inexplicably broke up. I do not know how this helps build a WrestleMania match, but I believe that these two veterans will still step it up when the bell rings and bring the house down.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Champion, Bobby Lashley

The Worst Bank In The World Just Got Worse

Throughout my tenure at Deutsche Bank, our internal PR machine would always tell us that the bank had learned its lesson after each and every self-inflicted scandal. We were told not to worry about LIBOR rigging, our involvement in the 1MDB heist, or the Tim Wiswell Russian mirror-trade affair because there were controls in place that would prevent such occurrences from happening in the future.

Today the bank was fined for onboarding Jeffery Epstein as a client in 2013. While Epstein was being vetted, a junior associate alerted senior management that Epstein served jail time for soliciting a minor and had paid young women for massages in his Florida home. The relationship manager in charge of vetting the account noted how lucrative the relationship could be and the deal with Epstein went through.

Before today Deutsche Bank was well known to be morally bankrupt, but these findings are sickening even by its incredibly low standards.  Deutsche Bank willfully profited from a convicted pedophile.

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing appeared on CNBC today to promise that an occurrence like this will never happen again.  As a Deutsche Bank lifer who has spent his entire career climbing the ranks at a greed-driven cesspool, Sewing lacks credibility when he wants you to believe that somehow Deutsche Bank has finally learned its lesson.  Every CEO for the past two decades has made a similar apology for past transgressions. Yet here we are today, watching Deutsche Bank explain away why it shouldn’t have entered into a business agreement with a known pedophile.

I spent more than thirteen years at Deutsche Bank and I should have left sooner.  I knew the bank was problematic, yet I stayed on.  I believed in my team, I liked my job, and I was proud of the work I was doing.  I only left because I was sold off to BNP Paribas as part of the Equities exit.  This was a mistake; I should have ended my association with a bank with a culture that was questionable at best.  Today that culture was confirmed to be pure evil, and my resume will forever be stained by my association with Deutsche Bank.

I encourage all my former colleagues who read this to be better than me and please try to hasten your exit.  If you are part of the EMDEN project, please raise your hand and ask to be transferred to BNPP immediately.  If you don’t have that option, contact a recruiter, get busy on LinkedIn, and do whatever you have to do to get out.  If I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

Sports Law: Number of Rings Do Not Matter, The Parades You Were At Do

by Ned Moraghan, special to The North Jersey Nonconformist

Prior to the quarantine, I was watching a Devils game at a sports bar. A Rangers fan made a snide comment on how I could watch a last place team. As someone who rarely backs down from a challenge, I responded with “3 Cups in my lifetime”. His response: “We have 4”. I go, “Wow, you look really good for someone in their eighties. How was the parade in 1940?” I pretty much won the argument right there. I could have gone on further since I was at all three championship parades as well as the banner raisings. The point still exists: How much credit does a fan get for championships they don’t remember or weren’t around for?

Devils fans have a very underrated history especially when you compare them to their rivals. Yes, the Devils have 3 vs the Rangers and Islanders 4 each. However, you must be close to fifty to remember the Islander run. The Rangers fan only remembers 1994. I have 1995, 2000, and 2003. All more recent than all of those titles. It’s even better with the Flyers. Three Cups to two plus I have no memory of the Flyers winning either of theirs.

Being from New Jersey and being a Mets fan is definitely being a second-class sports citizen when it comes to baseball. I was around for the 1986 Mets World Series win. The Mets did own New York then. Sometime in the 1990’s that changed. The Yankees became a mini dynasty. That is why the 2000 World Series really stings. Had the Mets won, I could argue that is doesn’t matter how many World Series the Yankees won, they couldn’t beat the Mets. Of the 27 championships the Yankees have won, only five are really of the recent variety. Just by picking the Yankees doesn’t automatically give you credit for all those championships in the 1920’s-1950’s. In my opinion, a ten-year-old kid who hasn’t seen the Yankees win one title doesn’t get to boast about 27. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle are all time greats, but only someone in their late sixties could have seen Mantle play.

It is in the NFL where most fans already don’t count the titles that happened before the Super Bowl. I have personally used this fact up until recently to torture Eagles fans. Whether it was Lincoln Field was defective since it didn’t have a trophy room or the occasional ‘1960’ chant at Giants-Eagles games, I lost some good material when the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl. Fortunately for me, I’ve seen the Giants win four of their own. I also more than hold my own with the annoying Cowboy fans when I point out I was around for four Giants Super Bowl wins but only three for Dallas.

If you did not witness the Championship in person, do you get credit for it? Did you have the joy of viewing the Championship Parade in person? Did you spend a small fortune on championship pennants/hats/shirts/videos? Were you able to attend the following year’s banner raising? If the answer is no to all these questions you don’t get to brag about those titles. If you do not believe me ask a Maple Leaf fan. They are the second most successful team in the NHL with 13 Stanley Cups but none since 1967. Leaf fans consider themselves cursed not great. They don’t count the 13 they weren’t around for so you really shouldn’t either.

WrestleMania 36 Postscript

Undertaker Boneyard Match

The most unusual WrestleMania ever featured an unforgettable Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles

Vince McMahon and the WWE managed to defy the odds and stage WrestleMania 36, despite overwhelming regulatory pressure across America to avoid unnecessary work and remain socially distant.  The die-hard fan in me says that WrestleMania is necessary and must go on at all costs.  But I’ll leave it up to my readers to decide if it was a wise decision to go ahead with it, given the potential risks to the performers, production staff, anybody they came in contact with, and society as a whole.

The WWE did the best they could under the circumstances, but it is nearly impossible to put on a credible professional wrestling show without a live audience in the stands to react to what they are seeing and hearing in the ring.  Two nights of fan-less WrestleMania started to fall a little flat by Sunday.

It was the most obvious during the final match of Sunday night between Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntire.  This was a championship match in a WrestleMania main event that was made up of almost all finishing moves and not much else.  Under normal circumstances, the fans would have popped for the finishers and each subsequent false finish, finally exploding when the emerging hero Drew McIntire finally got the pin and took home the gold.  But with silence in the building, the match came across as underwhelming and lacked excitement.  That exact same match in front of 80,000 fans would have appeared to be much different.

It wasn’t all a wash, there were some fun moments, and some interesting spots that wouldn’t have happened in front of a live crowd.  You could hear what the wrestlers and their entourage members were saying, like when Paul Heyman said to Lesnar: “He’s good, you have to hit him again!”  And the wrestlers were able to make creative use of the props in the WWE performance center.

If I had to grade the show overall, I’d give it a “B”, but I’d give Saturday night an “A” and Sunday night a “C”.  Saturday night was a bit more compact, and it featured a very good match between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins.  And of course, the main event Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles stole the show and will go down as one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time.

Sunday was a big more lackluster overall, not just because of the lackluster main event.  It also featured another cinematic match between Bray Wyatt and John Cena which didn’t work as well as the Boneyard Match on Saturday.  In their Firefly Funhouse Match, there wasn’t much of a match at all, but a satirical and bizarre career retrospective of both individuals that ended without much wrestling or fighting at all.  I see what the WWE was trying to do there, but it just didn’t work all that well.

Sunday also featured the Last Man Standing match between Randy Orton and Edge.  The match went way too long, and in fact clocked in at the second longest WrestleMania match ever behind only the sixty-minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Brett “The Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania XII.  As Causal Geekery points out, Last Man Standing matches are a creative trap to being with, they are an exercise in very long false finishes which try your patience.  Which is more exciting, a kick out at two and 7/8ths, or someone who barely gets to his feet after an excessively long 9 count and then falls back down again?  These two should have had an emotional and exciting match, instead all they did was hit each other over the head repeatedly and found ways to get up until Edge brained Orton with a Con-Chair-To to put the match out of its misery.

Per the norm, WrestleMania had its share of winners and losers.  Some came out looking very good, others not so much.

Losers

  • Seth Rollins: Seth came into WrestleMania with an impressive 6-1 record, having recorded at least one victory in every WrestleMania he had competed in. Those aren’t exactly Undertaker-like stats, but they were nothing to sneeze at and something he could have used to build interest in future WrestleMania matches.  That angle is now dead.
  • Charlotte Flair: Now that she’s the NXT champion, does that mean she’s demoted from the main brands?  This never made any sense.
  • Brock Lesnar: He sure loses a lot of WrestleMania matches, doesn’t he? At what point does he lose his mystique as The Conqueror?
  • Goldberg: Why was he brought back again?
  • Bobby Lashley: Jobbing to Aelister Black has no upside.
  • Daniel Bryan: Lost a championship match in two straight WrestleMania’s. He needs to regain some momentum if he wants to finish his career out on top.
  • Dolph Ziggler: They finally put him on a WrestleMania card in a singles match, and he loses to Otis? And Otis gets the girl in the end?  Oh man, just put Ziggler out of his misery already!
  • Randy Orton and Edge: Had a chance to put on a much better match than they did. Nobody told these veterans that “less is more”?

Winners

  • Kevin Owens: Seth Rollins’ loss is KO’s gain. He finally had his WrestleMania moment and can build off this.
  • Becky Lynch: Her match sucked, but she has her own Mack Truck!
  • Drew McIntyre: His WrestleMania moment lost a little something with no fans to enjoy it, but he still closed out WrestleMania with a championship win over Brock Lesnar, his journey to the top of the WWE is finally complete.
  • Braun Strowman: Let’s hear it for the guy who couldn’t ever seem to get to the top!  After all these years in WWE, he won his first singles title in 2020, only to lose the Intercontinental Title very quickly.  He had to replace Roman Reigns in a championship match against Goldberg with no buildup, and just like that he had his WrestleMania moment and walked out with the WWE Universal Championship!
  • Sami Zayn: His middling career finally includes a singles championship match victory.
  • Otis: This is the unlikeliest WrestleMania booking of them all. For a guy who is a rookie and a tag team specialist to get a singles win at WrestleMania is nearly unheard of.  And he got the girl in the end, I guess I must admit that the guy has game!
  • AJ Styles and The Undertaker: All I can say about their match is “wow!”  It was a masterpiece of the rarely utilized “Cinematic Wrestling” artform.  The Undertaker has been justifiably criticized for hanging on for too long and putting on sub-par matches.  But the creative editing in this non-traditional match made him look like a million bucks.  AJ Styles was the perfect foil for this match.  The guy knows how to be a heel, he cheats, he talks smack, and he begs for forgiveness right before he gets pummeled by the babyface.  It was a movie and a wrestling clinic all in one, and it will be included in the list of greatest WrestleMania matches of all time.  And it began and ended with “Now That We’re Dead” by the greatest band in the world, Metallica!

Moving forward, it is very hard to say what will happen next.  Not because of the natural unpredictability of WWE storylines, but because the world is still in the throws of the COVID-19 crisis, and that directly impacts how and if the WWE can still generate content.  Now that WrestleMania is over, safety is paramount, and we can only hope that the world returns to normal sometime soon and we can get back to enjoying Raw and Smackdown and WWE pay-per-views in front of packed arenas again.  That would make the world seem normal again!

WrestleMania 36 Analysis and Predictions

WrestleMania splash

I hope you weren’t counting on Roman Regins to appear at this pandemic-influenced WrestleMania!

Amid a global pandemic that has shaken our reality to the core, WrestleMania weekend is here.  By all accounts, the entire show was recorded on several closed sets well in advance of the weekend.

Professional wrestling is impossible to be “socially distanced”.  Even a die-hard fan must wonder if the decision to go ahead with WrestleMania was a wise one, even with all the limitations that were placed on the event. Vince McMahon has a pretty shady past to begin with.  In 1983, he helped Jimmy Snuka beat criminal charges for the murder of Nancy Argentino. He proceeded to do business with Saudi Arabia in the face of overwhelming evidence that their royal family had a man tortured and killed.  You can almost hear him in a boardroom at WWE headquarters in Connecticut telling what’s left of his management team: “Dammit, I’m not going to let this coronavirus get in the way of what’s best for business, dammit!”  Whatever you think of Vince or decision, we now have two nights of WrestleMania to watch, and there isn’t much else to do!  Might as well tune in and try to enjoy it.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, WrestleMania 36 had to be adapted radically, and it is going to look much different than what we are used to.  First off, as I mentioned, it had to be stretched into two nights to cover for the loss of the traditional surrounding events such at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and NXT Takeover.  Second, number of competitors in matches has been limited, likely due to social distancing measures.  Gone are the Battle Royals.  Third, there will be no special guest appearances by non-WWE talent like we’ve seen in the past.  No Joan Jett, Flo Rida, or Living Color to play superstar entrance themes.

But the most obvious difference of them all is that there won’t be any fans in attendance.  It is hard to imagine professional wrestling taking place in front of an empty arena.  It is a performance art that completely depends on fan reactions, and it feels empty and meaningless without a live audience to react what is said and done in the ring.  This is going to put extra pressure on the performers themselves to figure out how to entertain a television audience that they can’t see or hear.

The one interesting thread outside of the announced matches is the inclusion of Rob Gronkowski as WrestleMania host.  Gronkowski recently flamed out of the NFL because he was no longer able to perform at an elite level. The WWE saw something in him and signed him to a contract.  I’d presume the original intent of his WrestleMania involvement was to have him get involved in a match leading to his first feud in WWE as a wrestler.  Now he’s on double duty so we’ll see where it leads.

At the time of this writing, there are sixteen (!) matches planned across two nights.  Of course, this means that there are too many active competitors on the WWE main rosters, and there is no way to hold an audience captive for long enough to watch all of them.  I suggest using the women’s matches to get up and stretch.  You won’t miss much, and it will help you concentrate on the better matches.

On to the predictions!

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins in a singles match

Who is better on WWE programming right now than Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins?  These guys could be in a professional wrestling textbook chapter about how to get a classic good guy versus bad guy feud over with the fans.

The “Monday Night Messiah” cuts one of the best promos in WWE right now.  And he sports an impressive WrestleMania record of 6-1.  His only loss occurred at WrestleMania 31, but he went on to score a win later that same night anyway.  Kevin Owens missed WrestleMania last year due to injury and does not have a signature WrestleMania moment in his career.  He’s going to look to change that this weekend against Rollins.  This match could steal the show, which ever night it’s on.

Prediction: Winner, Seth Rollins

The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) (c) vs. Austin Theory and Angel Garza (with Zelina Vega) in a tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

This should be a decent filler match.  The Street Profits are hot right now, and Austin Theory, who was called up from NXT to replace the unavailable Andrade, are all motivated to put on a good WrestleMania match.

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, Austin Theory and Angel Garza

Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair in a singles match for the NXT Women’s Championship

After headlining WrestleMania 35 last year, Charlotte Flair finds herself in one of the biggest WrestleMania main event demotions since what happened to King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania III.  She’s competing for the minor league title against a fledgling competitor that isn’t ready for the Raw or Smackdown stage, let alone WrestleMania.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler in a singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

See the notes about the Charlotte Flair match above, Becky is in the same boat.  It’s hard to understand why this happened to the women’s division year over year, but it probably has something to do with the fact that it is highly overrated and was not ready to headline WrestleMania 35 to begin with.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre in a singles match for the WWE Championship

Drew McIntyre is the feel-good story headed into WrestleMania.  His tale of being fired, re-dedicating himself, and making his way to the top of the WWE card has been told ad nauseum in the run up to this main event.  This may seem like an organic storyline, the underdog that the crowd supported because they recognized his talent and effort, who was rewarded by the WWE with a WrestleMania main event appearance.  But it really isn’t.

Brock Lesnar is the face of the WWE.  He is the special attraction that sells tickets and draws ratings when he appears sparingly on WWE events.  Drew McIntyre is nowhere near Lesnar’s league, and Lesnar is going to make very short work of him on his way to a big WrestleMania win.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar

Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman in a singles match for the WWE Universal Championship

Talk about COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the WrestleMania card.  First off, the WWE makes the ridiculous decision to have Goldberg come out of nowhere to squash The Fiend Bray Wyatt to set up a WrestleMania match between Goldberg and Roman Reigns.  Never mind that the WWE spent a year building up Wyatt to be an unstoppable force, only to completely undo the whole thing by having him completely job to Goldberg at a match in Saudi Arabia.  I guess they didn’t believe in Wyatt’s ability to sell tickets to WrestleMania, so they had to fall back to an ancient relic with better name recognition to fill that spot.

That match was designed to make Goldberg look strong headed into his WrestleMania main event against Reigns.  There was a brief in-person faceoff between Goldberg and Reigns to set up the feud.  But due to circumstances believed to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reigns backed out of WrestleMania very late in the production cycle.  Therefore, the WWE was forced to substitute Braun Strowman in Reigns’ place with no time to build up any storyline whatsoever.  A situation like this is unprecedented in the WrestleMania era, no main event has ever been changed during WrestleMania weekend.

This is a bit of a curveball which makes the outcome of the match difficult to predict.  It’s hard to believe that the WWE would elevate Strowman to champion out of nowhere.  It’s also hard to believe that Goldberg is going to stick around for long as the champion when it appears that his job was simply to headline WrestleMania, hand the title to Reigns, and then fade away. It’s anyone’s guess, but I’ll make one anyway.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Universal Champion, Goldberg

John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Fun House match

Bray Wyatt was a lost cause in the WWE, having not lived up to his full potential.  The WWE pulled him off television, repackaged him as The Fiend, and a star was born.  He became WWE champion and appeared to be on his way to a WrestleMania main event when he was inexplicably destroyed by Goldberg and lost the strap.

Even more inexplicable than that, the next night instead of challenging Goldberg to a rematch, he challenged John Cena to a WrestleMania match.  This is a rematch of their WrestleMania XXX match that Cena won.  It was a creative misstep to have Cena beat Wyatt at that time, and that sent Wyatt into his spiral of almost always losing big matches.

With the character of The Fiend all but ruined after his loss to Goldberg, it’s hard to care very much about him.  But he is going to continue to be a full timer in the WWE while Cena will likely leave after WrestleMania to return to his acting career.  Logic seems to dictate that Wyatt will take this victory under those circumstances.

Nobody knows exactly what a Firefly Fun House match is, or how someone wins it.  To watch how that unfolds should be an interesting development.

Prediction: Winner, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks vs. Tamina in a Fatal 5-Way Elimination match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

This match should be outlawed.  Not because it violates social distancing standards, but because it looks terrible on paper, and will probably be even worse in practice.

Prediction: This match is going to suck.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley (with Lana) in a singles match

I have no idea where this match came from or why I should care.  Bobby Lashley was doing some cool things in his “love triangle” program between himself, Lana, and Rusev.  That program went away, Rusev is gone, and he’s now in a match that with the underwhelming Aleister Black, a guy with a cool entrance and not much else.

Prediction: Winner, Bobby Lashley

The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match

After inexplicably being left off last year’s WrestleMania card, the greatest WrestleMania performer of all time is set to compete against veteran AJ Styles.  The Undertaker made a surprise appearance at WWE Super Showdown in February to win the prestigious Tuwaiq Mountain Trophy, and to set up the feud with Styles for WrestleMania.

The Undertaker dropped his “deadman” gimmick for this feud as Styles called him out by his real name and referenced his wife Michelle McCool.  Paradoxically, this is going to be a Boneyard Match, so you’d have to assume that The Undertaker is going to approach the situation with a hybrid “deadman” and “American Badass” persona.  This should be one of the best matches on the card.

Prediction: Winner, The Undertaker

The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross in a tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

Four of the worst performers on the main roster.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

The Miz and John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) vs. The Usos in a Triple Threat Ladder match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship

It’s not WrestleMania without a ladder match, right?  These are two of the best tag teams in the game today, along with the Miz and Morrison.  It’s hard to understand why, when the talent roster is so stacked that the WWE brought back the highly overrated Morrison, but there are enough solid competitors in this match to carry him and make it entertaining.  Hard to imagine a ladder match without crowd reactions, though.

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Smackdown Champions, The Usos

Elias vs. King Corbin in a singles match

Corbin is coming off one of the best programs of his career with his long-running feud with Roman Reigns.  He’s among the best heels in the company right now and will be a formidable opponent for Elias.  Both guys always carry themselves as if they have something to prove, so expect them to go the extra mile to put on a great match.

Prediction: Winner, King Corbin

Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match

After a nine-year absence from the WWE due to what was thought to be a career ending neck injury, Edge shocked the Houston crowd at the Royal Rumble with his surprise entry into the match.  At the time it was hard to imagine a better feel-good moment.  Well, the even better feel-good moment happened the very next night when Randy Orton attacked his former friend in the ring and attempted to re-break Edge’s neck!  And the best feel-good moment of them all was when Orton explained that he attacked Edge because he loved him and was for his own good!

As far as wrestling storylines go, it doesn’t get any better than this.  Randy Orton is cutting the best promos of his life right now and this is guaranteed to be an emotional, knock-down, drag-out brawl.  This match could stand as one of the main events, it has that kind of potential.

Prediction: Winner, Randy Orton

Sami Zayn (c) (with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) vs. Daniel Bryan (with Drew Gulak) in a singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

There is a lot happening in this match.  It is a bit overbooked with all the extra faction members that are involved.  Zayn and Bryan are more than capable of carrying this match on their own.  I don’t get where Drew Gulak even came from or who he is.  It is an odd pairing that does nothing for Bryan.  Nakamura and Cesaro are well past their WWE peaks and are running out the clock on their contracts at this point without much to offer anymore.  I’m hoping the focus is just on Zayn and Bryan and they put on an entertaining match.  Bryan always saves his best for WrestleMania and I expect this year to be no different.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Intercontinental Champion, Daniel Bryan

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler (with Mandy Rose) in a Singles match

Otis being booked in a singles match at WrestleMania is as unlikely as it gets.  He is a tag team specialist and doesn’t have any memorable singles matches in the WWE at all.  But the WWE saw something in him when it created the soap opera-like angle with his ill-fated romance with Mandy Rose.  On the go-home Smackdown, a shadowy hacker revealed that Otis’ attempt at a date with Mandy Rose was sabotaged by a conspiracy between Sonya Deville and Dolph Ziggler.

This story is still being told, and its outcome is probably more interesting than the outcome of the match itself.  The real prize isn’t winning the match, it’s Mandy Rose herself.  One must hope that the outcome is for Dolph Ziggler to get her in the end, proving once and for all that nice guys finish last and chicks dig bad guys! Ziggler is a perennial under-achiever, this is a good opportunity for him to shine.

Prediction: Winner, Dolph Ziggler

That’s a lot of wrestling for two nights!  Even a pre-produced and crowd-less WrestleMania is still going to be the best of the WWE.  Enjoy the show and let me know what you think!

Royal Rumble Analysis and Predictions

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The best time of the year to be a professional wrestling fan is WrestleMania season.  The Road to WrestleMania 36 begins this weekend with the Royal Rumble, so it’s time to get excited.

Fans of WWE are outright inundated with content these days between Raw, Smackdown, NXT, monthly pay-per-views, and other WWE Network original programming.  There’s barely time to keep up with it all.  Given there is that much airtime to fill, there was a lot of mediocre storylines and matches on WWE TV in the second half of 2019.  But coming into the Royal Rumble, a lot of wrestlers and their story arcs are heating up at the right time, and this has a chance to be a memorable pay-per-view.  Let’s get right to the predictions:

Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin in a Falls Count Anywhere match

King Corbin is among the best heels on the WWE roster today.  WWE fans boo him at every turn, and that has made him the perfect mark to keep them from booing Roman Reigns.  Their feud has been long running, but it has remained interesting because of the continued layering of the story with antagonists Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler joining the fray, along with protagonists The Usos.  Both competitors in this match will also compete in the Royal Rumble, so expect the aftermath of this bout to carry on for the rest of the night.  The falls count anywhere stipulation should lend it self to some interesting spots in the cavernous Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Prediction: Winner, King Corbin

Shorty G vs. Sheamus

This is a filler match on the card, but it gives both men who didn’t have a chance to win the rumble itself to put on a showcase.  Sheamus is back after a long layoff, and Shorty G is still trying to distinguish himself from the plethora of mid-card talent on the roster.  If G plays his cards right, he can be the next Daniel Bryan underdog-type runaway hit.

Prediction: Winner, Sheamus

Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carrillo in a singles match for the WWE United States Championship

This is a hot-shot angle match based on this week’s encounter between Andrade and Humberto Carillo on Raw.  Carillo is as cold as ice right now, and this is a directionless feud between the two.  Andrade has showed some promise as a mid-level heel as of late, so he’ll need the win here to continue his momentum.

Prediction: Winner and still United States Champion, Andrade

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka in a singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

The WWE women’s Division was hot enough early in 2019 to carry it to main event status at WrestleMania.  In hindsight, it was the special attraction of Ronda Rousey that made the all the difference.  Since her abrupt departure after WrestleMania 35, the women’s division is boring and drab.  This match won’t have much consequence in the grand scheme of things.

Prediction: This match will suck

Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans in a singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

My comments about the Becky Lynch match go double for this one.  At least Bayley turned heel and changed up her look, man was she annoying as a babyface.

Prediction: This match will suck

“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan in a Strap Match for the WWE Universal Championship

Two of the very best in the business today go head-to-head in a strap match.  This should be a clinic in storytelling in wrestling.  “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt is amid a career renaissance since his re-packaging as a multi-personality villain with both his twisted children’s host and horror movie-inspired fiend characters.  He’s finally operating at a level commiserate with his talents and carries the WWE Universal Championship as his reward.

Daniel Bryan regrettably turned babyface in order to feud with Wyatt.  He has done all of his best work in WWE as a maniacal heel and helped carry the match of the year in 2019 against Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania 35 in that capacity.  Even still, he’s one of the best wrestlers on the WWE roster right now and expect him to shine in this match.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Universal Champion, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Women’s Royal Rumble Match for a world championship match at WrestleMania 36

At the time of this writing, 24 hours before the Rumble starts, there are only nine women announced for this thirty-woman contest.  That should tell you how many women on the roster right now are even relevant.

Prediction: Extended bathroom and beer break for the live audience in Houston

Men’s Royal Rumble Match for a world championship match at WrestleMania 36

There is a lot to unpack in this match given the complex storylines headed into the rumble match, along with the countless possibilities for how it can go down. This match isn’t just about who wins, it’s going to also set in motion a bunch of angles that will lead to WrestleMania 36.

The winner gets a shot at the title of his choosing at WrestleMania 36, but the wrinkle to that story is that Brock Lesnar volunteered to join the match as the #1 entrant, and he is already carrying a WWE championship. It is unknown what impact that would have on WrestleMania if he were to win.

For the first time in many years, there are a host of hot babyfaces on the show right now that have transitioned from being heels but maintained their edge.  Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe fit that description.  A lot of competitors in the picture have interesting storylines on Raw and Smackdown as of late, especially Erick Rowan, Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler, Rusev, Bobby Lashley, Aleister Black, Buddy Murphy, Seth Rollins, and The Miz.

Twenty seven of the thirty competitors have been announced so far for the match, none of them from NXT.  This leaves room for an “alumni” or an NXT up-and-comer such as Keith Lee to make a surprise appearance.

Given all that, I’ll split it into three categories of potential winners and losers.

No Chance in Hell:

  • Rey Mysterio
  • Ricochet
  • Elias
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Otis
  • Tucker
  • Rusev
  • Bobby Lashley
  • Aleister Black
  • Buddy Murphy
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Kofi Kingston
  • Big E
  • R-Truth
  • John Morrison
  • The Miz

Don’t Count ‘em Out:

  • AJ Styles
  • Randy Orton
  • Drew McIntyre
  • King Corbin
  • Kevin Owens
  • Samoa Joe

Odds-on Favorites:

  • Roman Reigns
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Braun Strowman
  • Seth Rollins

I’ll go ahead and pick one, based on my theory that the disruption it would cause if he were to win would cause a ratings spike on the next Monday Night Raw.

Prediction: Winner, Brock Lesnar

WrestleMania 35 Postscript

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The view from my seats at MetLife Stadium for WrestleMania 35

I was fortunate to be able to attend WrestleMania 35 in person last night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  It certainly was the most unique spectacle I’ve seen at MetLife Stadium, and the excitement in the crowd was high.  Even though the overwhelming consensus among my viewing group was that the show was just too damn long, we all had a great time.  The show exceeded my expectations and I am sad that it is over.

Aside from notable one-off performances by returning veterans no longer on a full-time schedule such as Triple H, Batista, and Beth Phoenix, the content of the show focused on showcasing the vast number of talented performers the WWE has on the active roster.  This WrestleMania did not rely very heavily on featuring aging stars of the past.

Of course, the focus was on the women’s division, which historically participated in the WrestleMania main event for the first time ever.  The crowd was as hot as it could be for that match, considering most of us were in our seats for almost seven hours by the time the bell rang!

Professional wrestling is a story that never ends.  But WrestleMania is both a time of closure of careers and storylines, as well as a launching pad for new ones.  Based on the outcome of yesterday’s results, there is going to be a big shuffle at the top of the card in both the men’s and women’s divisions, centered around who now holds, and who will chase the top championships on both Raw and Smackdown.

Both Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey are looking at long hiatuses, with Lesnar possibly making another UFC run, and Rousey having suffered a broken hand during last night’s main event.  The new title holders, Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch should get some clarity relatively soon with who they will be facing in their first title defenses.  The Universal Title picture is wide open right now, any number of Raw superstars are primed to step up and face Rollins for his newly won strap.

The situation with Lynch could simply reduce her feud from a three-way to two-way with just Charlotte Flair.  This would depend on if the Raw and Smackdown titles are united into one, or if she is forced to defend both.  The women’s roster isn’t as deep at the top as the men’s roster is, so the number of compelling competitors for Lynch isn’t nearly as deep as those that Rollins could face.

Kofi Kingston had the best night of his career.  He went from B+ player to A player at WrestleMania when he captured his first WWE Heavyweight Championship after 11 years of toiling in the mid-card.  What remains to be seen now is if WWE believes he can be a long-term “face of the company” or if he is a transitional campion who will drop the belt in short order at an upcoming pay per view.

There is a lot more to dissect from a show that contained sixteen matches.  There were a lot of winners and losers, and not just because of who won or lost their match last night.  A look at some of the losers and winners:

Losers

  • Ronda Rousey: Was on a tear in her first full year in WWE but suffered a badly broken hand during her match last night. She was rumored to be taking a hiatus sometime soon anyway, but this was a tough way to go out.
  • The Cruiserweight Division: If the best this division could do was a short match at the beginning of the pre-show, it is time to decide if the division is needed at all.
  • The Miz: The Miz is out of place as a babyface. Let’s hope that last night’s loss sends him back down the right path.
  • Kevin Owens: They couldn’t find anything for KO on this card? Why did they bring him back from injury before WrestleMania if they weren’t going to use him?  This is very peculiar, and I can only hope that they use this to get some heel heat on him in the immediate timeframe.
  • All participants in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: This match never helped anybody, and it never will. It was a consolation prize for most of the competitors who wouldn’t have been on the show otherwise.  Braun Strowman yet again didn’t get a very good spot at WrestleMania, let’s hope this trend isn’t permanent.
  • Rey Mysterio: Looked like a Barry Horowitz-type jobber on his way to getting squashed. Time to call it a career.
  • Drew McIntyre: Couldn’t pull out the victory in this match, the WWE needs to decide if it wants to get behind him or not.
  • Roman Reigns: Well, he won in life because he beat cancer and that’s what’s important. But he sucks just as bad as ever in the ring, delivering yet another snooze-fest of a WrestleMania match.  At least he didn’t ruin another main event.
  • The Undertaker: What has become of The Deadman? WrestleMania was his show for over two decades.  His WrestleMania win streak ended five years ago, and he appeared to retire two years ago when he lost to Roman Reigns and left his ring gear in the ring to end the night.  Well, he didn’t retire because last year he returned to WrestleMania to plant John Cena.  Then what?  No mention of him at all this year?  Don’t we deserve a little something better than a start-and-stop sendoff if his WrestleMania career is over?  And if it’s not over, why wasn’t he there last night?

Winners

  • Seth Rollins: Four years after he defeated Brock Lesnar for the title at WrestleMania 31, he managed to do it again last night. Look for a lengthy title run from this workhorse.
  • Brock Lesnar: Just because he lost the match doesn’t mean he wasn’t a winner. Another big payday for Brock, and when he wants another check, he’ll come right back to the WWE.  See you in Saudi Arabia, big guy.
  • Becky Lynch: Anytime you get your hand raised in the last match of the night at WrestleMania, you achieve professional wrestling immortality.
  • Elias: He can’t seem to ever get a match at a big show, but his routine of starting a song and being interrupted hasn’t gotten old yet. They will probably keep this up for some time to come.
  • John Cena: He didn’t have a WrestleMania match for the first time since he made his debut at WrestleMania XX, but he stole the show anyway in a surprise appearance in the Elias segment. He should return to his roots as a freestyle rapper more often.
  • Triple H: Returning from injury for the first time since October, The Cerebral Assassin delivered a punishing performance against his long-time friend Batista.
  • Batista: Congratulations to Batista on a great career as he announced his retirement on Twitter after the match. What a way to go out.  See you at a Hall of Fame ceremony very soon!
  • Ric Flair: This cat has nine lives! It was great to see him make a brief but effective run-in during the Batista vs. Triple H match.
  • Kurt Angle: Asking the crowd to serenade you with a “you suck” chant as you walk out of the stadium for the final time as an active performer is a form of retirement celebration that you would only see in the WWE!
  • Baron Corbin: He taunted the crowd that wanted John Cena in this match instead of him and went on to win. This is going to really help his development as a heel and help to move him forward.
  • Shane McMahon: The Best in the World showed yet again why he is WrestleMania’s best stuntman.
  • Samoa Joe: A quick and brutal victory, that was exactly the kind of WrestleMania performance Joe needed. He can build on this.
  • The Usos: Finally, finally, finally, they had a real WrestleMania moment. Any four-way tag team match has the potential for ugliness, but the Usos came through and looked impressive in their victory.
  • Daniel Bryan: This loss was really one of the biggest wins of his career. A year after his improbable return to professional wrestling following a brain injury, he participated in the best match of the night.  In any other year, this could have been the WrestleMania main event.
  • Kofi Kingston: As I said earlier, this was the best night of his career. The WWE handed him the football and he ran it in for a touchdown.IMG_3222

That is a wrap on WrestleMania 35 season, and I already can’t wait for WrestleMania 36 season next year.  In the meantime, there are a lot of potential happenings to come starting tonight.  I’d expect some NXT callups, as well as a “superstar shakeup” between Raw and Smackdown over the next few months.  And maybe The Undertaker comes back for another Saudi Arabia show!

WrestleMania 35 Analysis and Predictions

Me and Daniel Bryan

Myself with WWE Champion, The New Daniel Bryan and WrestleMania Axxess

East Rutherford, New Jersey will be the most important place in the world on Sunday!  WrestleMania week is here!  The excitement is in the air in my home state of New Jersey where WrestleMania 35 will be held at MetLife Stadium.  There is no better tailgating scene in the NFL than at Giants and Jets games, and my crew and I are going to extend our parking lot grilling skills to WrestleMania.

There has almost never been a more peculiar time to be a WWE fan.  Ratings for Raw have been at historic lows, despite the glut in talent from the NXT feeder system.  There has never been a deeper WWE roster, but creatively, the WWE can’t seem to get out of its own way.  In recognition of the low ratings and viewer apathy, Vince McMahon returned to WWE television and promised to shake things up.  The shakeup included firing both general managers of Raw and Smackdown just to insert the McMahon family back as authority figures (because we’ve never seen that movie before), and promising a bunch of NXT call ups that either didn’t show up (what’s with that Lars Sullivan guy?) or completely failed to get over (EC3, I had such high hopes for you!).

But hey, WrestleMania 35 is here and there are at least 15 matches crammed into what will be a six-plus hour show.  Time to get excited!  We have title matches, battle royals, grudge matches, farewell matches, you name it!  The possibilities are endless!  We have no idea if The Undertaker, John Cena, or most oddly Kevin Owens are even going to be on the show.  But if they do or they don’t, this card has all the makings of what can become a top-five-best WrestleMania of all time.

Since there are so many matches, unlike the WWE, I’m going to practice a little brevity with my blog and not take your entire day with it.  But, if you are betting the matches offshore, you’ll want to take my predictions to the bank!

Special Attractions

Alexa Bliss is going to be the WrestleMania host.  The way they’ve been playing things out on TV, she’s been more of a heel commissioner type by creating matches for superstars, rather than being a host.  Either way, this is going to play out somehow, and will likely dictate the direction and finish of at least one match on the card.

Elias is going to put on a special musical performance.  I expect him to insult the crowd and get interrupted, which perhaps will turn things into a spontaneous match.

Triple H. vs. Batista in a No Holds Barred match with Triple H’s career on the line

After having completely botching Batista’s last return to the WWE ahead of WrestleMania XXX, the WWE got this one exactly right.  He’s back on a hot, reality-based, and emotional angle against his former mentor, Triple H.  Of course, Triple H is the perfect foil for this type of angle, always able to get any kind of storyline over.

For the second straight WrestleMania at MetLife Stadium, Triple H’s career is on the line in a match.  Unlike WrestleMania XXIX where he survived to see another day by defeating Brock Lesnar, don’t expect HHH to duplicate that feat.  He has looked older and slower in recent years during his one-off matches, and he suffered a major injury when he last competed at WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia last year.  Time for the Cerebral Assassin, The King of Kings, The Game, whatever you wanna call him, to finally hang up his boots.

Prediction: Winner, Batista

Shane McMahon vs. The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match

Grudge matches don’t get much better than this.  The rivalry between these two was built in a slow-burn angle that started with The Miz begging Shane to be his tag team partner so The Miz could make his dad proud of him.  So, when the team failed, it set the stage for a masterfully executed heel turn by Shane when he attacked The Miz from behind in front of The Miz’s father.

The falls count anywhere stipulation was added to this match to accent McMahon’s talents as a stuntman.  There will certainly be some big spot that includes him taking a death-defying leap and exploding through a large object at the bottom of his fall.

Prediction: Winner, Shane McMahon

Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese in a singles match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship

This match is a complete waste of time and shouldn’t be on the card.  I wouldn’t know either guy if he bit me on the ass, and I’m betting you wouldn’t, either.  Not gonna bother making a prediction for this match other than I’ll probably ride it out on the nacho stand line in MetLife Stadium.

Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin in Kurt Angle’s farewell match

Kurt Angle finished his career out well after his return to the WWE at WrestleMania 33.  He’s a Hall of Famer and was featured in a high-profile WrestleMania match at WM 34.  He’s going out on a high note with a feature farewell match at WrestleMania 35 against Baron Corbin.

This is a great spot for Baron Corbin, to be featured in Kurt Angle’s last match.  He’s a great heel judging by the fan backlash against him being in this match.  He knows he’s annoying and that people hate him, and he doesn’t care.

Wrestling tradition dictates that when someone leaves town, he puts the new guy over.  It never fails.

Prediction: Winner, Baron Corbin

AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton

They’ve spent weeks on television trying to one-up the other on the microphone.  There’s no gimmick, no titles on the line in this match.  Just two of the best veteran professional wrestlers in the world in a heated grudge match.  It will be a treat to watch them trying to one-up the other in the WrestleMania ring.

Prediction: Winner, Randy Orton

André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Ah, the refuge of the damned.  The Sixth annual André The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, the match that exists to “get all the wrestlers on the card” and hasn’t really produced any memorable moments.  It hasn’t helped any careers either.

It is unfortunate that Braun Strowman is stuck in this match.  This guy never seems to have any luck when it comes to WrestleMania booking.  He’s got some silly feud going with two guys from Saturday Night Live that nobody has ever heard of.  And there are 27 other competitors in the match, none of whom are marquee names.  Boring.

Prediction: Winner, Braun Strowman

Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio in a singles match for the WWE United States Championship

After a long wait, Samoa Joe finally gets a one-on-one matchup at WrestleMania.  Joe is one the most dependable heels on the roster and he is good at getting any storyline over.  This is a great spot for him to be in, and he should really be able to carry the inferior and undersized Rey Mysterio to an exciting match.

Prediction: Winner and still champion, Samoa Joe

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

Roman Reigns isn’t going to be in a fifth straight WrestleMania main event and that is a good thing.  He wasn’t any good before he went away to get treated for Leukemia.  He didn’t improve during that time, but the human-interest story stemming from his cancer battle seems to have finally gotten him over with the fans.  That’s a long way to go to get over!

Drew McIntyre is believed to be a future WWE champion by many.  This is going to be the biggest match of his life, so expect him to deliver a brutal performance.

Prediction: Winner, Drew McIntyre

The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection (Bayley and Sasha Banks) (c) vs. The Divas of Doom (Beth Phoenix and Natalya) vs. The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) vs. Nia Jax and Tamina in a fatal four-way tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection is far and away the worst name for a tag team the WWE has ever come up with.  I can’t even think of something that compares.  Bayley has the poorest gimmick in the WWE.  Just no to this whole thing.

Prediction: The team with the dumbest name wins

Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Finn Bálor in a singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Finn Bálor is a scrawny little twerp who smiles too much.  His Demon King gimmick is lame and illogical.  I don’t get what the big deal with this guy is.  Bobby Lashley is the total package and has already participated in one of the highest profile WrestleMania matches of all time when he represented future WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump.  Bobby won his match, giving them the right to shave Vince McMahon’s head bald.  Expect another big performance out of Lashley this Sunday.

Prediction: Winner and still champion, Bobby Lashley

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

I love WrestleMania, but there are way too many matches on this card.  If this match wasn’t on the show, not a single person in the world would think any less of WrestleMania.

The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) (c) vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder in a tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

Hey, good for Hawkins and Ryder to be featured in a straight-up tag team match in a crowded card.  They haven’t done anything to distinguish themselves lately, but hey, here’s a chance!  Well, they’ll probably get smoked in a quick match, but you never know.

Prediction: Winners and still champions, The Revival

The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) (c) vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev in a fatal four-way tag team match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship

There’s a lot to unpack in this match.  To summarize the most important things you need to know about it:

  • The Usos: Veteran tag team that only made their first main-card WrestleMania appearance last year, only to get squashed and lose the titles. They want to put on a better show this year.
  • Ricochet and Aleister Black: Recent NXT callups that were randomly made into a tag team. They are hot right now and have a great deal of upside.
  • Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev: Why are these guys a team? In fact, why is Nakamura still in WWE and why is Rusev constantly cooling off every time he gets hot?
  • The Bar: After middling singles careers, these two have turned into one of the best tag teams we’ve ever seen.

Prediction: Winners and new champions, The Bar

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins Singles match for the WWE Universal Championship

Big Brock Lesnar continues to dominate the competition on Monday Night Raw.  That is, when he decides to show up!  Much to the chagrin of most fans, a part-timer is WWE Universal Champion.  Of course, none of them realize that there’s money in getting them to hate the guy, no matter what the reason.

As good as Seth Rollins is, expect Vince McMahon to continue to troll you all with a Lesnar win.  He can then go on to defend the title the next time the WWE heads to Saudi Arabia this year.

Prediction: Winner and still champion, Brock Lesnar

The New Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston in a singles match for the WWE Championship

After a three-year layoff due to a brain injury, Daniel Bryan has been firing on all cylinders since his return a year ago.  Questions about his working style or the WWE’s commitment were quickly squashed when he became a heel champion in 2018.  The WWE has never committed to him more than they have right now.  Daniel Bryan is at his best when he works heel and is a breath of fresh air to see him shun his “Yes Chant” and trust in his ability to make the crowd hate him.

Kofi Kingston is playing out a role reversal with Daniel Bryan from Bryan’s lead in to WrestleMania XXX. The fans wanted Bryan to get a title shot so WWE creative asserted the storyline of him being labeled a “B+ player” who was being oppressed by the McMahon Family and had to earn his shot to main event WrestleMania.

Kofi caught lightning in a bottle in a gauntlet match on Smackdown that he wasn’t even supposed to be in. Filling in for the injured Ali, he put in a nearly hour long effort until finally losing to AJ Styles. After 11 years of toiling in the mid-card, Kofi was embraced by the fans who demanded that he get a title shot at WrestleMania. Since WWE creative had some time to kill, and apparently, they were out of new ideas, they replayed the exact same “B+ player who is being screwed by the McMahon Family” angle on Kofi. Of course, Kofi persevered, and now here he is in the biggest match of his life.

This match most certainly should be the best match of the night.  These are two of the best workers on the roster, and for the first time in 11 years, Kofi will go from a B+ player to an A player.  He’s still going to lose, though.

Prediction: Winner and still champion, The New Daniel Bryan

Ronda Rousey (c; Raw) vs. Charlotte Flair (c; SmackDown) vs. Becky Lynch Winner takes all triple threat match for both the WWE Raw Women’s Championship and the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

They said it couldn’t be done, but for the firs time in WWE history, women will headline the show in the main event.  As my faithful readers now, I am no fan of what is formerly known as the “Diva’s Division”, having suffered years of sub-par bra-and-panties matches, and other waste of time segments of the like.

That was then and this is now, and the WWE has fully committed to making the Women’s Division equal to the Men’s Division.   Although I’m still not really a fan of most of the division, I have to say that two of the best they have are in this match, in Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair.

I was convinced Rousey was going to absolutely suck when she burst onto the scene last year and I was surprised at how well she took to the business.  Her promos are raw and personal, and she is a workhorse in the ring.  I was initially interested in Charlotte Flair because she is Ric Flair’s daughter.  But she went on to distinguish herself almost immediately and is an imposing figure in the ring.

I am not sold on Becky Lynch.  She seems to have gotten over in the same manner as Daniel Bryan five years ago, and Kofi Kingston this year.  Her performances aren’t the best, and she is going to be overshadowed by the other two superior performers in this match.

Even I must hand it to these three.  From a division that was lucky to have one match on the WrestleMania card just six years ago, to the division that is in the main event, they certainly earned this opportunity.  I’m not sure what to make of this match, and the crowd is going to be exhausted after sitting through fifteen matches prior to this one.  The are going to have to bring their best in order to win over this crowd.  Expect them to try something special that we won’t forget.

Prediction: Winner, and new double-champion, Charlotte Flair

That’s as brief as I could make it!  I will see you at the show!