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

WWE Money in the Bank Analysis and Predictions

This year’s WWE Money in the Bank pay-per-view card looks to be potentially very exiting.  On the heels of the “New Era” NXT call ups following WrestleMania 32, the MITB card is indicative of all the creative improvements the WWE has shown these past few months.  It will feature matches between young and veteran talent, and will showcase the resurgent tag team division.

I had the opportunity to attend the last PPV, WWE Extreme Rules, in person in Newark, NJ in May.  It was good to get my finger on the pulse of what the live crowd is thinking these days.  One thing for sure is that Roman Reigns, and anything that has to do with Roman Reigns, is roundly despised by the crowd.  Reigns’ cousins, The Usos, who have enjoyed a babyface run for the entirety of their WWE careers were loudly booed by the crowd when they entered the ring.  Reigns, of course, continues to flounder as WWE Champion and the Jersey crowd made sure to disrespect him at every chance.  Even when he hit a move that made him look like he knew what he was doing, the crowd serenated him with a “You still can’t wrestle” chant.  When Seth Rollins made his triumphant return to the WWE following Reigns’ match, the crowd gave its loudest cheer of the night as Rollins planted Reigns with The Pedigree.  On the way out of the building, I spoke with several fans who were genuinely upset that AJ Styles failed to win the match and capture the belt.

While Reigns continues to bungle his opportunity to be a babyface champion, the rest of the talents around him are carrying pay-per-view cards and I have high hopes that MITB will be among the best we see in 2016.  I’ll break down the matches and explain why.

Apollo Crews vs. Sheamus

Apollo Crews is one of the latest NXT call ups and was packaged in a classic whitemeat-babyface gimmick with the billing that he is a five-tool superstar.  I don’t know exactly what the five-tools are (I’m guessing strength, size, speed, charisma, and verbal skills?) but he is reminiscent of a young Tito Santana or Ricky Steamboat.  I don’t know if this type of gimmick still has legs in today’s WWE, but so far the crowd has seemed receptive to him and he has a good opportunity to showcase his skills against the veteran Sheamus.

I like the somewhat realistic angle that sparked the rivalry between the two, as the veteran Sheamus appears to be threatened by the influx of new talent on the roster and wants to protect his spot.  This is a real-life concern among WWE veterans as older talents are constantly cycled through in favor of new ones.  In this case, I would assume that a dependable performer like Sheamus is safe for a while, but it makes for an entertaining storyline.

Hard to say exactly what to expect out of this match as it is the first time that Crews will get a chance to work a one-on-one match on a PPV.  With any luck, his style will complement that of the brawling style of Sheamus and this will be an entertaining match.

Prediction: Winner, Sheamus

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

This running feud between Ziggler and Baron is a good example of WWE creative sometimes missing the mark.  Baron Corbin had all the momentum in the world, when he was the surprise victor in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32.  He was immediately put into a feuding program with Dolph Ziggler and that was things started to go off the rails.  Ziggler’s career, having plateaued years ago, is pretty much only good as a jobber these days, and his duty should be to put other talents over.  Over the course of their program, both Ziggler and Corbin have traded victories which I think is a mistake.  If the WWE wants to build up Corbin as a legitimate heel, the best thing for him to do is regularly crush Ziggler, thus setting him up for programs with members of the upper card.  This so-called “50/50” booking isn’t helping either guy look good.

With any luck things turn around for Corbin this weekend, he emerges victorious over the hapless Ziggler, and regains some of his lost momentum in his pursuit of relevancy.

Prediction: Winner, Baron Corbin

Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Natalya and Becky Lynch

My buddy took a picture of me sleeping during the women’s match at WWE Extreme Rules and posted it on Facebook.  I wasn’t embarrassed at all, in fact, I would have been more embarrassed had he posted a picture of me actually paying attention to a WWE women’s match.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Rusev (c) (with Lana) vs. Titus O’Neil in a singles match for the WWE United States Championship

Rusev has been on a roller coaster ride during his WWE run, having been at the top as a monster heel in a major program with John Cena, and at the very bottom in a love-square storyline between himself, Lana, Dolph Ziggler, and the career-killing Summer Rae.  Luckily, someone in WWE creative realized what they had done to a talent that they had worked so hard to create, and reunited Rusev with Lana and gave him back his monster-heel-from-a-foreign-country gimmick.  He even re-captured his US Championship at WWE Extreme Rules.  With any luck, he can shake the fan’s memories of the horrid angle with Summer Rae, and charge back towards the top of the card as a heat-seeking bad guy.

Titus O’Neil is back on WWE TV after a bizarre suspension following an incident between himself and Vince McMahon shortly after Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech in Seattle, Washington.  He had enjoyed some marginal success on WWE TV prior to his suspension, but really wasn’t ever given enough TV time to connect with the fans and let us know who he really is.

This should be a physical match between these two big men.  I would expect Titus to really go the extra mile now that he has a rare title shot in a singles match on a pay-per-view. Rusev always delivers in his matches, and I would expect him to be on the attack against O’Neil.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE United States Champion, Rusev

The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (c) (with Xavier Woods) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) in a Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

As I eluded to earlier, the WWE has made a significant investment in its tag team division of late.  The WWE is at its best when it has a strong and diverse tag-team division as it gives performers a lot more options to express themselves creatively, both in the ring and when cutting promos.

The four teams featured in this match are all riding hot streaks, and should be able to tell a compelling story.  The New Day have been the top faction in the WWE since re-capturing the Tag Team Championships at Summer Slam in 2015.  Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have been well received by the fans since they came over from NJPW just over a month ago.  The Vaudvellians have somewhat of an odd gimmick, but they managed to get over as heels and will certainly generate a lot of heel heat during this match.  Big Cass and Enzo Amore have shown a great deal of potential both as individuals and as a team.  They have a great look and both have great mic skills.

Fatal 4-Way matches always have the potential to be awkward as there are a lot of spots to manage with eight competitors in a match.  I predict that this match will be well-paced and will give each team a chance to showcase their talents and get over with the fans.

Prediction: Winners and still WWE Tag Team Champions, The New Day

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

For fans of wrestling circuits outside of the WWE, this match is a long time in the making.  Both men, in their late 30’s have been regarded as the best in their respective companies for years but have never faced each other in a WWE ring.  It’s almost surprising that this match wasn’t saved for a bigger event such as SummerSlam but it should be one of the best matches on the card at MITB.

AJ Styles stumbled a bit out of the gate in WWE.  He was received well by the fans, and then proceeded to job to an over-the-hill Chris Jericho, and then lose twice to Roman Reigns.  Fortunately, a well-executed heel turn a few weeks ago, along with his new program with John Cena, should really help him turn things around.

John Cena is always dependable in big spots.  He works well with new talents on the WWE roster, whether they are NXT rookies or newcomer veterans such as AJ Styles.  His matches deliver excitement more often than not, and he will surely be motivated to look strong in this match, having missed an extended period of time with a shoulder injury.

This match should be very entertaining and should feature a lot of drama and some high spots.  If anything, AJ Styles really needs a clean victory here if he is ever to be taken seriously as someone who can win in WWE.  Cena has a history of laying down when the time is right to get another talent over, I would expect tonight to be no different.

Prediction: Winner, AJ Styles

Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Money in the Bank ladder match for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match contract

This is one of the most anticipated matches of the year on the WWE schedule.  Not only is a MITB match good for some thrills, but it sets up a storyline that can persist for the better part of a year, as the winner can attempt to steal the WWE Championship at any time.  Of course, the greatest cash-in of all time saw Seth Rollins steal the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 31 in 2015.  It’s hard to say what will come of this year’s MITB match winner, but the possibilities are endless for each of the competitors.

  • Chris Jericho is the least likely to win. He has delivered a number of dud matches since his latest full-time return to WWE.  Chances of him ever recapturing the WWE title are pretty much zero and he should consider hanging up his boots sometime soon.
  • Cesaro is a persistent fan favorite, especially since his return following a shoulder injury. Still, he isn’t championship material, and the WWE would really have to make some changes to his character and persona to ever get him into the position to be the face of the company.
  • Sami Zayn has built up a bit of a cult following since his return from injury (there sure were a lot of guys on the injured list lately), and his feud with Kevin Owens has been a lot of fun to watch. Still, it’s unlikely that Zayn is going to get a WWE title shot anytime soon, it is just too early in his WWE career for that kind of push.
  • Dean Ambrose is one of the WWE’s top earners and is very popular with the fans. If there is a dark horse in this match, it is Dean Ambrose.  He is the kind of guy who the WWE could make into at least a transitional champion for a short while.  An Ambrose win could also potentially set up a three-way feud between himself and the other former members of the Shield, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.
  • Alberto Del Rio is a former WWE Champion himself and the WWE is always very high on his potential, especially due to his marketability with the WWE’s Hispanic audience. He has been a bit aimless these past few months, a MITB contract would make him interesting to watch again.
  • Kevin Owens, in my opinion, is the favorite to win this match. He is a genuine heel and an offensive innovator.  He has built up a great deal of name recognition, and a lot of critical acclaim for his in-ring workrate and ability to cut top promos.  He would carry the WWE Championship very well if he were to win MITB.

Although those are my views as to who the favorites and the underdogs should be, it wouldn’t surprise me if any one of them won the match and were to run with the opportunity to hold the MITB contract.

Prediction: Winner, Kevin Owens

Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins in a Singles match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

I’m getting tired of blogging about how bad Roman Reigns is, so I’m not going to repeat myself this time.  Just look back to the beginning of my WWE blog if you want to know more.  There are enough other guys on the roster who can take his spot and run with the WWE Championship, it is time to put this nonsense to an end and give the belt back to someone else.

Seth Rollins, who got the call up to the WWE roster at the same time as Reigns, is immeasurably more talented than the current champion.  In 2015, he was in the midst of one of the best years we’ve seen from a WWE superstar in quite some time when he was felled with a badly broken knee in November.  He missed an extended period of time and should pick up right where he left off, as the top heel in the company.  He never lost the championship, and should be primed to go in his first match back.

Seth Rollins will have to carry the inferior Roman Reigns if this match is going to be interesting at all, but if the result is what the WWE fans want to see, it could be remembered as one of the best main events for quite some time.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins