WrestleMania 32 Postscript

I’ve always felt that a hallmark of a great story is suspense and unpredictability.  WrestleMania 32 is in the books and gave us a long and entertaining evening last night.  The matches were mostly good and there were several fun segments throughout the show that made it look and feel like a special event.  Unfortunately, it completely lacked in the suspense and unpredictability category as we got a final result that the WWE fans have seen coming for the past two years.  Roman Reigns defeated Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  The guy we didn’t want to see win it all just did and now we are stuck with him.

Overall, I’d give the show an above average rating of 3 stars on a 1 to 5 scale.  It was an unexpectedly long 7 hours total (the pre-show began at 5 PM EST, WrestleMania itself ran from 7 to almost 12 PM EST) so there was a lot to take in.  It is a tall order to ask every single minute of a show that long to be breathtaking, but there were enough cool moments to give you your $9.99 WWE Network subscription fee’s worth.

One highlight of the show for me was when Lita pronounced the Diva’s title dead in favor of the WWE Women’s Championship.  The women’s wrestling and promos are still going to be awful, but the annoying term “Diva” has been stricken from the WWE lexicon for good.

There were a lot of ups and downs for the various performers on the show and there are clearly some winners and losers coming out of WrestleMania 32.

Winners

  • The League of Nations: The international foursome was floundering on the show after each had shown promise as individual competitors in the past. This was a big win for them and hopefully it propels them forward.
  • Zach Ryder: The veteran had never competed in a match of this magnitude in his WWE career. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the match, having been inserted at the last minute due to an injury to Neville.  His win of the Intercontinental Championship was, by far, the biggest moment of the guy’s career, if not his life.  Let’s see if he is a one-and-done champion or hangs on to the belt for a while.
  • Baron Corbin: The NXT star wasn’t even advertised for WrestleMania and he still won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Hopefully for him, the trophy actually gets someone over this year.
  • Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Cactus Jack: Yes, they looked old and were a shadow of their former selves, but it was still a trip down memory lane to see the three of them appear in a WWE ring at WrestleMania and entertain an excited crowd.
  • Shaquille O’Neal: The big man of NBA fame lived every single wrestling fan’s dream when he entered a match at WrestleMania. He even towered over The Big Show!
  • John Cena: Hard to say exactly what kind of shape he is in, but he did make it back into the ring for a few bumps and a WrestleMania moment, even if it’s not a high-profile match like we are used to seeing from him.

Losers

  • Triple H: This was probably the last we’ve seen of him ever wearing a WWE Championship belt.
  • AJ Styles: I knew nothing about the guy prior to two months ago when he entered the Royal Rumble. He was well received by the fans, skipped NXT altogether, and got a singles match in his first WrestleMania.  Forgetting the fact that he lost his WrestleMania match, more importantly he hasn’t done anything to live up to the “Phenomenal” moniker.
  • The Wyatt Family: Unless the WWE does something with them soon (and I mean soon), like giving them a championship or a high-profile win, I give up. All they do is talk nonsense and do jobs and it’s getting old and boring.  There is wasted potential across the board with all of these guys and their unique gimmick.
  • Ryback: The Big Guy was relegated to a singles match in front of a nearly-empty AT&T Stadium on the pre-show which he lost. Too bad, he has shown more potential as of late.
  • The WWE Fans: No, Vince McMahon does not care what we think. Roman Reigns is going to be our babyface champion whether we like it or not!

Things start over again tonight on Raw.  Not sure what to expect but hopefully the injury bug gets swatted and a few of our favorites return to the ring soon.  Maybe we get some meaningful NXT call ups to the main roster.  And maybe, just maybe, Reigns does a heel turn or drops the title quickly!

WrestleMania 32 Analysis and Predictions (part 1 of 3)

Where have you gone, John Cena?  What’s become of you Daniel Bryan?  Does anybody know what actually happened to Randy Orton?  What about the “Next Best Thing”, Seth Rollins?  What fate befell Cesaro, Luke Harper, and Neville?

WrestleMania week is here and we are about to watch a show without the majority of the top and mid-level stars that we have come to love and hate over the past few years.  The WWE roster is riddled with injuries from top to bottom headed into WrestleMania and many performers who would have likely been featured in top matches are not going to be on the card.  And that is not counting C. M. Punk who abruptly quit two years ago and who fans still chant for to this day.

Still, the roster is loaded with talent, and WrestleMania always features a high-profile match or two with part-time talents that are a throwback to a previous era so there is potential that we could be treated to a very entertaining show.  Unfortunately, there is the specter of the main event hanging over our heads.  A match which will feature a legendary icon of professional wrestling versus an opponent who is not worthy of being the top star in the company.  For a second year in a row, the WWE fans are furious that Roman Reigns was given the top babyface spot in the main event of a WrestleMania, and we are cringing at the thought that he could finally begin his long-term championship run that most of us have feared for the last two years.

While this situation has persisted for quite some time, the flames of our ire were fanned in the lead-in to WrestleMania pay-per-views and Raw episodes.  First, at the Royal Rumble, the fans were exuberant when Reigns was eliminated from the rumble match, thus stripping him of his title.  Triple H was serenated with cheers when he won the title himself.  This, despite the fact, that Triple H was booked as the heel and Reigns booked as the babyface.

Any good feelings that were present at the end of the Royal Rumble were quickly squashed as Reigns was announced to be in a triple-threat match at FastLane against Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose for the #1 contender spot for the championship at WrestleMania.  Suddenly, the whole main storyline for WrestleMania 32 became very predictable: Reigns would win the match at FastLane and go on to defeat Triple H for the title at ‘Mania.

Sure enough, the first part of that dire prediction came true when Reigns did indeed win his match at FastLane and will headline WrestleMania for the second year in a row.  It is likely only a matter of time before the other shoe drops and he walks off with the title on Sunday.

WrestleMania is known as the most unique show of the year on the WWE schedule.  It looks different and feels different than every other pay-per-view.  As such, there is more to look forward to than just one main event match, typically there are several main event matches that fill out the card.  There is potential for this show to be remembered for more than just a disappointing end to the main event.

From the outset, it doesn’t look like this WrestleMania is going to become an instant top-to-bottom classic like WrestleMania X-7.  There aren’t too matches that are candidates for consideration as an all-time-great such as Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25, or Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WrestleMania III.  But hey, my WWE Network subscription is already paid for and I have a room full of people coming over to watch the show.  I’ll keep an open mind and hope for the best.

We have a card loaded with the best (and healthy) talents on the roster today, and a Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and the returning Shane McMahon so there are pieces in place that could steal the show and give us something to look forward to. We also know that The Rock will be on the show and there are rumors that Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin will be there as well.

This is the first of my three-part series featuring my expert analysis and predictions for WrestleMania 32.  Last year, my overall pick record wasn’t stellar, but I nailed the prediction that Triple H was going to beat Sting and I’m pretty proud of that.  Thank you for reading so far, and let’s see how I do this year.  Part 1 is going to feature the pre-show matches.

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

A straight-forward tag team match is a safe way to get things started at WrestleMania.  While a lot of matches on a ‘Mania card tend to be over-booked or over-crowded, this matchup will showcase two pure tag teams in a grudge match without any stipulations or championships on the line.

The Dudley Boyz returned to the WWE in August of 2015 after a lengthy hiatus of roughly a decade and were immediately put in the tag team championship picture.  They were welcomed back as heroes by the fans and resumed their gimmick of a team that puts their opponents through tables.  Most of us who remember them from their heyday in the Attitude Era recall they did their best work as heels who became one of the most decorated tag teams of all time.

At first, it appeared that they were going to be back for a nostalgia run and ride a wave of good feelings towards them.  Finally, in Feburary of 2016, the Dudley Boyz did what they did best and turned heel when they attacked The Usos after a match on Raw.  For the first time since their return, the Dudley Boyz started to act like their old selves.

The Usos had an up-and-down 2015 as Jey Uso suffered a serious shoulder injury and missed six months, thus derailing their momentum.  The Usos returned in a lower spot on the card upon their return as their status as the #1 tag-team in the WWE was eclipsed by The New Day.

The lead-in to this match has somewhat been lost in the shuffle this WrestleMania season. We were given enough to see that there is bad blood between these two teams and it is clear who the good guys are and the bad guys are.

Stylistically, this match should look familiar to long-time WWE fans as The Usos have lifted most of the offensive move set from The Hardy Boyz, a long-time rival of the Dudleys.  The high-flying and risk-taking style of the Hardys formed an odd complement to the bruising and brawling style of The Dudleys in their many encounters.

I would expect this match to feature a lot of high-risk high spots off the top rope from The Usos, and at least one combatant in this match getting put through a table.  It probably won’t be given too much time to play out, so expect this to be fast-paced and quickly resolved.

Prediction: Winners, The Dudley Boyz

André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

For the third time, WrestleMania will feature a 20-man-over-the-top Battle Royal to determine the winner of the André the Giant Memorial Trophy.  This match hasn’t been too kind to its participants in its first two iterations.

Cesaro won the first one at WrestleMania XXX with a memorable spot by lifting The Big Show and tossing him out of the ring.  Following his victory, he immediately turned heel and failed to get over with the fans, even with Paul Heyman as his advocate.  He lost all momentum from his victory, didn’t really do anything noteworthy over the following year and a half, and then broke his shoulder and is currently out of action.

Last year, the Battle Royal match was bumped down to the pre-show.  The Big Show won the match, this time getting the upper hand from Cesaro and finally eliminating the crowd-favored Damien Mizdow.  He posed with the trophy for the next few weeks on TV and then went back to flip-flopping between babyface and heel, and jobbing most of the time.  Once again, the André trophy failed to give any lift to its winner.

This year, it looks like the WWE has completely given up on trying to make this a meaningful match.  The participants announced for the match look like they are only there as a consolation prize to get them on a WrestleMania card for just being on the roster.  Other than a few sentimental favorites such as The Big Show, Kane, Goldust, and Mark Henry, there is barely anybody left to root for in this match.  With such bums as Konnor, Viktor, Darren Young, Fandango, and The Social Outcasts in the match, it’s hard to pick a clear-cut winner as practically nobody in this match appears to be going anywhere with his career at this point.

I have a theory that we are going to get swerved.  The Wyatt Family has been mysteriously written off of TV lately.  Usually when that happens, they make a surprise return at an unexpected moment to cause some sort of havoc.  I think that one or more of them is going to enter the match and end up the surprise victor.

Prediction: Winner, Braun Strowman

The Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox and Eva Marie) vs. B.A.D. & Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Emma and Summer Rae) in a 10-Diva tag team match

Just thinking about this match makes my stomach hurt.  This has the potential to be the worst WrestleMania match since Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole at WrestleMania XXVII.  On a scale from one to five stars, I’m going to go ahead and give it a zero right now.

Prediction: This match is going to suck so much that I can’t even think of a word to describe it.

Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback in a Singles match for the WWE United States Championship

This is one of the more unusual pairings on the card and has a potential to be a surprise hit match.  Both participants are performing at a very high level in their own respect and will compete in a standard match with a title on the line.

Kalisto was a bit of a face in the crowd on the WWE roster for most of 2015.  He was one half of the token Luchador style tag-team in the WWE, The Lucha Dragons along with Sin Cara.  Despite not having much of a chance to display any kind of personality traits from behind a mask, he managed to distinguish himself at WWE TLC in December by performing his Salida Del Sol (a form of a standing sitout shiranui DDT) from the top of a ladder and through another.  He was awarded with a Slammy, and went on to a feud with Alberto Del Rio, emerging with the United States Championship.

Ryback was on another aimless run, a one-dimensional babyface hero with a repetitive catch phrase and a hulking physique.  It seemed like the crowd was tired of him until he masterfully executed a heel turn following WWE FastLane and shifted his gimmick to more of a monster heel.  This turned the crowd sufficiently against him and he instantly began to draw heat on himself.

What we are left with is a perfect contrast in style, size, and attitude between the two combatants in this match.  I would expect Ryback to display several feats of strength by tossing the smaller Kalisto around the ring like he is a paperweight.  Of course, Kalisto is going to stick with his bread and butter by executing several fast-paced high spots, showcasing his speed and agility.  If given enough time, this match could tell an interesting and entertaining story.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE United States Champion, Ryback

Later this week, part 2 will feature all of the mid-card matches.

WWE Night of Champions Analysis and Predictions

Coming off of an exciting SummerSlam weekend in August that saw the WWE sell out the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn three nights in a row, the WWE found a way to grind things to a screeching halt with the events that transpired following the big event.  In somewhat of an unfortunate turn of events, they brought back several relics from the past that are way past their prime, they bombarded us with the dreadful “Diva’s Revolution”, and they derailed a promising young talent’s progress by putting him in an emasculating love triangle.

Even with all of this nonsense, there is some potential for at least half of the card to be decent at this Sunday’s Night of Champions, which will be anchored by the top heel in the company, WWE Champion Seth Rollins.  Let’s take a look at what to expect:

Neville and The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto and Sin Cara) vs. The Cosmic Wasteland (The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) and Stardust)

The first match advertised on the card isn’t all that interesting.  There hasn’t been much of a build up for this six-man feud.  The natural tag teams in this contest don’t have much momentum right now.  The Ascension is one of the rare few NXT call-ups of late that failed to catch on.  The Lucha Dragons are a one-dimensional act that have virtually no personality.  The Neville and Stardust feud could be interesting, but they keep getting paired with other talents so their animosity towards each other gets lost in the shuffle.

I don’t expect this match to impress from either an emotional or stylistic standpoint.  We may see a few high spots from the Neville lead high flyers, but those tend to get boring after you’ve seen them enough times.

Prediction: Winners, The Cosmic Wasteland

Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and TBA vs. The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Braun Strowman)

A second six-man tag team match pits the old Shield against the newly re-formed Wyatt family. You get the impression that the WWE feels like they split these two factions up too quickly and never capitalized on what could have been a money-making extended feud during their original run so they are trying to re-capture that lightning in a bottle by staging this match.

The Wyatt Family now features a new member, NXT rookie Braun Strowman.  Strowman has the look and attitude of a potentially successful character player in the WWE.  Early impressions are that he is being packaged in a gimmick that works well naturally for him, that of an evil and brutal big man that can’t be pushed around by the babyfaces.  I’ve been critical of Bray Wyatt getting stale of late, but at least a new member gives the Wyatt Family something different to work with.

The same can’t be said for Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Ambrose continues to show promise after having worked several main-event programs last year.  Unfortunately, he is once again tasked with carrying the underperforming Roman Reigns in a match.  If you don’t believe my repeated criticisms of Roman Reigns, take a listen to a recent Stone Cold Steve Austin Podcast at around the 1:25 mark.  In the midst of reviewing SummerSlam, Austin ripped Roman’s performance to shreds in extreme detail.  As only an insider of Austin’s stature can, he pointed out every single hole in Reign’s game and listed everything that he should be doing better.  From the way he smiles too much, to his inability to work a credible offense set, to his inability to sell, and to his inability to buy time in his matches, Austin made a great case for why Reigns needs to go back to school and learn how to wrestle.

There are a lot of theories on line on who the unannounced third member of The Shield’s team will be.  Could be a returning regular like Kane or Randy Orton, could be an NXT rookie making his surprise in-ring debut.  Hopefully, whomever it is will be ready to make up for Reign’s lack of ability and has some chemistry with the Wyatt Family.

It feels like it is a safe bet that The Wyatt Family goes over this time.  They will likely want to showcase the new big man in Braun Stroman and get him over as a crusher that can’t be stopped. Whomever is the TBA will likely not be involved in the finish.

Prediction: Winners, The Wyatt Family

Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte in a singles match for the WWE Divas Championship; If Bella gets counted out or disqualified, she will lose the title.

You got all that?  Eh, don’t bother.  I’ll skip straight to the prediction, not even the daughter of one of the all-time-greats can save this train wreck of a match.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

I am outright bewildered when I watch what the WWE has done to Rusev.  After building him up for almost an entire year as a superior athlete that hates America and destroys anybody in his path, they have systematically reduced him to a henpecked wuss in a matter of months.

When Lana was Rusev’s spokesperson, her speeches gave Rusev depth that he wouldn’t have had on his own.  She told his story and made the crowd hate him. Her presence only empowered Rusev and made him seem stronger and dominant.

His pairing with Summer Rae has rapidly destroyed the illusion that he is a force to be reckoned with.  Not only do the two have no chemistry with each other, but she has done nothing but make him seem like a oppressed loser who doesn’t even realize that he is being dragged down by their relationship.  Who would take him seriously these days as someone who is a legitimate threat to his opponents?

Dolph Ziggler peaked as a professional years ago.  He doesn’t have the skill set to work as a babyface but he has been stuck in that role for quite some time.  He moves from feud to feud with little stability or direction.  His pairing with Lana doesn’t do much to enhance his character as the two also have no chemistry with each other.

At the heart of the animosity between Ziggler and Rusev is the rivalry between Summer Rae and Lana.  This rivalry has given us some of the worst TV the WWE has produced in years.  I’m not saying I’m happy that Lana was recently injured, but if I had to watch one more barefoot catfight between her and Summer Rae, I was going to kick a hole in my television.  The dopey jealousy angle between the women and the men and the cringe-worthy locker room scene with Summer Rae and Ziggler are just an outright insult to the fans intelligence.  All I can hope for is that this match ends this debacle and they all move along in separate directions when this is all over.

The match itself could be OK if Rusev and Ziggler were left alone to work with one another.  Ziggler has a tendency to over-sell, but Rusev is already a ring general that can work with anybody.  Sadly, there is no doubt that the women will play some sort of role in this match and it is not going to be for the better.

Prediction: Winner, Rusev

The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz in a Tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

The New Day were unable to get over as a babyface faction so they turned heel.  They are so good as heels that the crowd now cheers them!  It goes to show that in today’s wrestling product, kayfabe is dead and the fans will decide who the good and bad guys are and can no longer be dictated to.  It also goes to show that the three members of this faction, Kingston, Woods, and Big E are all better off as a team than as solo competitors.  None of them were ever as interesting as individuals as they are now as a team.  I also love how they use the Freebird Rule to randomly choose two members each night to defend the titles.  It keeps the fans guessing and gives us unexpected moments whenever they compete.

It speaks volumes for the state of the tag team division that the WWE had to resurrect the careers of The Dudley Boyz and put them into the tile mix against The New Day for lack of a better opponent.  The Dudleys were given a hero’s reception by the crowd, but many people seem to have forgotten that the Dudleyz were most effective as heels during The Attitude Era, cheating and terrorizing their opponents by putting them through tables.

For personal reasons, it is difficult for me to me to be happy to see the Dudley Boyz again and it has all to do with an in-person encounter with one of them.  I’ve had opportunities to meet three professional wrestlers in my lifetime:

  1. I was childhood friends with Crowbar and we remain in touch to this day. I went to watch him wrestle at Iron Mike Sharpe’s school while he was still in training.  He was, and is to this day, the best kind of guy there is, he’d give you the shirt off his back.
  2. I met The Undertaker during Fan Axess the week before WrestleMania XXIX here in New Jersey. I paid for the VIP experience to meet Ric Flair, but unfortunately, his son died a few days before the event and he was replaced by The Undertaker.  My disappointment in not getting to meet flair was tempered by getting a chance to meet one of my other all-time favorites.  While our encounter was brief, I still thought it was cool to meet the man and he was very polite and friendly.  I asked him about his motorcycle and we spent about 45 seconds talking about riding while he posed for a picture with me.  It was a cool experience.

    WWE Fan Axess Undertaker Meet and Greet

    I took this picture while on line to meet The Undertaker at WWE Fan Axxess prior to WrestleMania XXIX

  3. A friend of mine and I spotted Bubba Ray Dudley at Bar Anticipation in New Jersey in the summer of 2011. My buddy suggested we go say hi and I agreed and we approached him.  The guy couldn’t have been a bigger jerk, waiving us off as if we didn’t exist.

I’m a big boy and it really didn’t matter too much to me that Bubba Ray told us to get lost at a bar.  Call me petty and immature if you will, but a jerk is a jerk and there is no way I’m rooting for The Dudleyz against one of my favorite current teams on the roster.

This match could be entertaining to watch especially if The New Day finds a creative way to use their numbers advantage to cheat.  No matter what happens or who wins, expect someone to go through a table.

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

Ryback (c) vs. Kevin Owens in a Singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Kevin Owens has shown flashes of greatness in his short time on the WWE main roster.  He made a splash with huge victory over John Cena in his first match, and although he went on to lose his next two to Cena, he made an indelible mark on the fan base as a rookie to watch.  I particularly enjoy his promos, he can convey many characteristics at the same time, mainly cowardice, false bravado, and most importantly, disrespect.  The way he needles his foes automatically makes you want to sympathize with them.  He has all the makings of one of the biggest wrestling heels we’ve ever seen. That along with his innovative in-ring style gives him unlimited potential in the WWE if he continues to improve.

Ryback works his role as a mid-carder admirably, finally earning his first singles WWE title when he became the IC Champ earlier this year when Daniel Bryan had to vacate the championship.  He works a kid-friendly superhero gimmick with a few over-used catch phrases.  At the very least, his matches tend to always feature a feat of strength that is fun to watch.

This match should have some dramatic false-finishes, and I’d expect both men to take a serious beating throughout its duration.  I’d give a slight edge to Owens as this could be a good time to continue his push by giving him a championship he can brag about and taunt his opponents with.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Intercontinental Champion, Kevin Owens

Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena in a Singles match for the WWE United States Championship

You’d be hard pressed to find a guy who has had a better year than Seth Rollins in quite some time.  He stole the WWE Championship in the main event at WrestleMania, a match he wasn’t even booked in.  He spent the following months as the top heel in the company, all along barely hanging on to his championship, like any good wrestling bad guy should.  He capped off a solid summer by defeating John Cena to win The United States Championship at SummerSlam and now is a dual-title holder.  Go ahead, name someone who had a better year in recent memory than that!

John Cena is continuing on in his role as the mid-carder who helps younger talents look good.  He hardly ever works main events anymore, but his persona is consistent to the point of constant frustration by the fans.  He never gets the credit he deserves for being a solid in-ring worker that can put on an entertaining match with anybody.

This match should go on early in the card, most likely first.  It will set up the main event that also features Rollins defending his WWE Championship.  I would expect that he will take a beating so as to give him a perceived disadvantage when he faces Sting in the last match of the night.  Cena and Rollins have already put on some entertaining matches against each other this year and they won’t disappoint when they meet again on Sunday.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE United States Champion, Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting in a Singles Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

In his second match of the night, Seth Rollins is going to be tasked with carrying the decrepit and haggard Sting.  For the second time this year, the WCW retread has been given featured booking on a pay-per-view.  Following his loss to Triple H at WrestleMania 31, Sting somehow managed to get himself into title contention with an 0-1 record.  Granted, win and loss records don’t mean much in professional wrestling, but it is a stretch to think that he’s actually earned this title shot.

I still don’t get why people are fascinated with Sting as a special attraction.  He wasn’t very good when he was young in the NWA, AWA, and WCW.  The only difference between then and now is that he’s a heck of a lot older and hasn’t worked regularly in years.  His match against Triple H at WrestleMania really only worked because of the outside interference by a slew of WWE Hall of Famers distracted us from what was going on inside the ring. Don’t expect much more out of him this time around.

I’m hoping for Rollins’ sake this match ends up halfway decent.  It is likely that there will be some sort of interference from someone on the outside on Rollins behalf, continuing along his path as a cheating heel who pulls out all the stops to win his matches.  There was a tease that Sheamus is going to cash in his Money-In-The-Bank championship shot but I don’t think that is in the cards this time around.  It feels like it makes the most sense for Rollins to continue his championship run and for Sheamus to continue to bide his time to wait for the most opportune time to cash in and win the championship.

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

There could be some surprises built into this show, especially if Kane or Randy Orton somehow get involved.  It will also be fun to watch how Rollins performs in two big matches on the same card and the measures he will resort to in order to try to retain both titles.

WWE SummerSlam Analysis and Predictions

The WWE will descend on Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center this weekend for the second biggest pay-per-view event of the year, SummerSlam.  This event was originally announced to take place in the Izod Center here in New Jersey, which was unfortunately shuttered shortly thereafter.  The move to the Barclays Center has been fortuitous for the WWE as ticket prices in the aftermarket have gone through the roof.  It was not as fortunate for me as I was unable to get tickets in the primary market (thanks for nothing, Ticketmaster) and I’ve decided against paying upwards of $500 to go see it live.  Call me cheap, but at that price I’m quite content to sit on my couch and watch it on the WWE Network which I already paid my monthly $9.99 fee for in August.

As SummerSlam returns to the New York area for the first time following a six year run in Los Angeles, the WWE is riding a hot summer.  Network subscriptions and quarterly earnings are up, and the stock price has risen as a result.  Looking to make a splash, the WWE has taken the unusual step of making SummerSlam a four hour event, a lengthy duration typically reserved only for WrestleMania.  Not only are they trying to sell this as a stand-alone even to drive network subscriptions, but they are also setting us up for WrestleMania 32 in April, an event that can potentially shatter live attendance records if it is marketed properly.

The card is loaded from top to bottom with veteran and young talent in nine matches, and is also peppered with celebrity involvement.  There are a few potential Match of the Year candidates, and two main-events which will probably have fans buzzing for weeks after the show is over.  Interestingly enough, there are three singles matches with no stipulations or titles on the line, they are simply old-school grudge matches.  There is so much publicity headed into the show that it actually going to be covered on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Sunday. Let’s take a look at what to expect.

Jon Stewart

The former host of The Daily Show was recently announced as the celebrity host of the show, his biggest public appearance since stepping aside from his own show.  Stewart is a huge wrestling fan and worked a faux-feud with Seth Rollins on the Daily Show earlier this year.  He followed that up with a live appearance at WWE Raw in Newark in March in which he hosted a humorous segment with Rollins and J&J Security that culminated with Stewart delivering a swift kick to Rollins’ family jewels.

While Jon Stewart was known for his polarizing political views as host of The Daily Show, he is also a talented entertainer, and has already proved that he can fit in nicely with the WWE talents in a live setting.  It is tough to say exactly how he is going to be used, but I’d expect it to be funny to watch no matter what happens.  If I had to guess, he’ll have some sort of interaction with Seth Rollins, likely agitating the heel champion.

Dolph Ziggler (with Lana) vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae)

Rusev enjoyed a spectacular run during his rookie year making his debut shortly after WrestleMania XXX in 2014 with his valet Lana.  After a few modifications to his character, including dropping his first name and re-branding his character as a Russian, he caught a hot streak that carried him all the way to WrestleMania 31 as an undefeated heel.  Lana was the perfect pairing for Rusev, often riling up the crowd with her faux-Russian accent, playing off of very real anti-Russian sentiment that was popular at the time due to the situation in The Ukraine.  Rusev was the classic foreign wrestling heel, and the pair could captivate an entire arena.

Unfortunately, Rusev has lost a great deal of momentum this year.  A high-profile victory over John Cena at FastLane in February was followed by three straight losses to Cena starting at WrestleMania 31.  He was legitimately injured in a match and missed some time with a broken ankle.  He was once again re-branded as a Bulgarian, his actual native country.  He split up with Lana.  But worst of all, he was paired with the odd-looking and talentless Summer Rae as his new valet.

Summer Rae is among the worst of the Divas currently on the WWE roster, and the bar was already set pretty low to begin with.  She couldn’t get Fandango over during her program with him, and nobody really missed her when she disappeared from TV.  Whereas Lana empowered Rusev with her promos by making him appear to be strong and ruthless, Summer Rae only emasculates Rusev and makes him appear to be weak and dependent on her.  She’s done nothing to advance his character and only continues to sabotage his career development.

Dolph Ziggler is back from filming another straight-to-DVD movie from WWE Films, having been written off of TV for a month following a faux-injury at the hands of Rusev.  Ziggler is at his peak as a wrestler, having never broken through to consistent main-event level programs.  He is an unnatural and awkward babyface and would be much better off if he returns to being a heel.  His pairing with Lana is uninteresting doesn’t really do either much good.

In summary, three of the four talents in this match are being misused, and the fourth, Summer Rae, really needs a pink slip.  Despite all of that, both Rusev and Ziggler are talented performers and both have the ability to carry an exciting match.  If the valets stay in the background, you can expect this to be an entertaining contest.  If the cameras focus on the Summer Rae/Lana feud, this could turn into a stinker.

Prediction: Winner, Rusev

The Prime Time Players (c) vs. Los Matadores vs. the Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day in a Fatal Four Way match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

Not much to say about this match, it is yet another indication that the tag team division is languishing.  It feels like every single major pay-per-view has a multi-team tag match for the championship for lack of a better idea for the tag team talent on the roster.

Los Matadores have failed to get over at all on their own, the only thing going for them is they bring a midget to the ring costumed as a bull that kids seem to like.  The Lucha Dragons are never going to get a push, they are only on the roster to appeal to the Lucha Libre fans in the international audience.  The champions, The Prime Time Players, have simply been re-packaged as the same failed team they started off as several years ago.  It feels like they were given the championship simply because Titus O’Neil is highly regarded within the company because of his commendable community outreach work.

The crown jewel of this match is the Freebird-like three-man-tandem of The New Day.  What was originally supposed to be an uplifting babyface gimmick for the trio backfired and turned into a terrific heel gimmick.  They have the crowd right where they want them, even leading them in a chant that they know is going to be turned against them, getting themselves mercilessly booed every time they walk down the aisle.  I am also a huge mark for the “Freebird Rule” that allows two random members of the faction to compete as a tag team on any given night.  It is just so ridiculous that something like that could be a rule even in the fantasy world of the WWE, and that is what makes it so entertaining.

The Prime Time Players have churned out a few entertaining vignettes these past few months, but they really don’t have much else going for them.  The New Day was just finding their way as champions when they dropped the titles, it’s time for a second championship run for the trio.

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

Ryback (c) vs. Big Show vs. The Miz in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

It has been a tough year for Intercontinental champions in the WWE.  Daniel Bryan won it at WrestleMania and immediately suffered a potential career-ending concussion before he could defend the title on a pay-per-view.  Ryback won the title and was felled by a staph infection.  Fortunately for him, he recovered in time to return to the roster without being stripped of the title.

This match was supposed to have happened already but was postponed due to Ryback’s injury.  The feud is stale at this point and this is going to be a “what you see is what you get” type of match.  The Miz has been stuck in neutral in years and spends as much time filming movies as he does working in the WWE.  The Big Show has flip-flopped sides so many times, the fans can barely remember if he is a babyface or heel week over week.  Ryback has the most upside out of the three of them right now, but even he is running the risk of overusing his “feed me more” tagline. I don’t expect this match to be remembered as a classic.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Intercontinental Champion, Ryback

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

The animosity between these two was contrived only a few weeks ago, I think this match will be pleasantly surprising and should be entertaining from an aesthetic standpoint.  Both Randy Orton and Sheamus are known commodities and can work any type of match with anybody.  Sheamus has been criticized by some for not using much traditional heel psychology during his matches.  However, his new look and attitude, along with his in-ring talents are enough to cover him and get him over as a top heel that the company so desperately needs right now.  Randy Orton’s vicious and deceptively quick style should complement Sheamus’ penchant for brawling, and you can expect them to beat the hell out of each other one way or another.

The Money in the Bank contract that Sheamus carries around is going to be a permanent wild card until he finally cashes it in.  Is he going to win and cash it in at SummerSlam?  Is he going to lose and cash it in at SummerSlam?  Is he going to do a run-in during the title match, attempt to cash it in, and get thwarted by John Cena?  Who knows?  It certainly carries enough intrigue to get me to stay tuned.

Prediction: Winner, Sheamus

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

Cesaro can’t seem to get anything going.  He won the initial Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30 and that was quickly forgotten.  He was paired with Paul Heyman, and they never really had much chemistry and the pairing was quietly dropped.  He was criticized for not getting over by Vince McMahon himself in a non-kayfabe interview on the Steve Austin Podcast on the WWE Network.  He was paired with Tyson Kidd in a tag team that the fans wanted to embrace, but unfortunately Kidd suffered what is likely a career ending neck injury at the hands of a careless Samoa Joe.  So, it’s back to the drawing board again for Cesaro.  This time around the fans are trying their own grass-roots effort to get him over by printing out “Cesaro Section” signs and handing them out to each other at live events. Even still, he stumbles through his promos and can’t seem to get through a match without blowing at least one spot.

Kevin Owens burst on to the scene with a surprise victory over John Cena at The Elimination Chamber earlier this year and immediately captivated the fan base that was hungry for new talent.  Of course, the WWE wasn’t going to let that victory stand for long and Owens lost his next two matches to Cena.  But the quality of his matches were unexpectedly good, and the rookie has the look of a can’t-miss prospect, reminiscent of a young Kurt Angle when he made his pro debut.

This match should be interesting, if only for the fact that both men are carrying themselves as someone with something to prove.  Expect to see a showcase of innovative offensive moves from the imaginative Kevin Owens, and let’s hope that Cesaro can keep pace.

Prediction: Winner, Kevin Owens

Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett

Every so often, the WWE brings in an outside celebrity to generate interest from fans from the outside.  In the past we’ve been treated to sightings like Liberace, Billy Martin, Cindy Lauper, Muhammed Ali, and Mr. T. at WrestleMania I, Ozzy Osbourne at WrestleMania II, Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI, and of course, Mike Tyson at WrestleMania XIV.  Maybe something is lost on me, but I somehow doubt that Stephen Amell is going to be regarded in the same light as the examples I just sited.  Perhaps I’m living under a rock because I have no idea who the guy is or why they brought him in.  I could google it but I care so little that I’m not going to waste my time.

I see what the WWE is doing here but this match just isn’t for me.  They want Neville to come off as a comic book hero for children, and Stardust to face off against him as a comic book villain.  Fair enough, but throwing in an actor and King Barrett, who changes direction almost monthly, is going to take away from what could have been a decent match.  They are going to have to cover for Stephen Amell’s lack of experience.  I can’t see how this is going to help Neville or Stardust much in the long run, and Barrett is basically a lost cause at this point.

I’ll keep an open mind, but I wouldn’t promise anybody that this is a must-see match headed into it.  I’m willing to bet that most WWE fans would probably laugh if Amell were legitimately injured in this match.

Prediction: Winners, Stardust and King Barrett

Team Bella vs. Team B.A.D. vs PCB in a Three-Team Elimination Match

So, the WWE decided to make a splash in the Diva’s division by bringing up a bunch of rookies from NXT, in the hopes that it would captivate the audience in a way not seen since the Wyatt Family and The Shield factions were brought up to the main roster.  Predictably, this angle has fallen flat and their segments and matches couldn’t be more agonizing to watch.  I fast-forward through all of them and it still feels like torture when they are on my screen.  I read somewhere that the fans at Raw were chanting for Brock Lesnar during one of their matches this past Monday so I’m probably not alone.

Out of respect for Ric Flair, I’m not going to throw his daughter, Charlotte under the bus.  As far as I’m concerned, the rest of them are talentless and I’d much prefer to not have them as part of the show.

Prediction: This match is going to suck.

Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper vs. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose

A bit of a throwback here to the short-lived feud between The Wyatt Family and The Shield headed into WrestleMania XXX.  This time, of course, Seth Rollins is working a main event program as champion and Eric Rowan is out with a shoulder injury so we are down to four of the original six members of these two factions.

Dean Ambrose is still coming into his own and has already shown that he can work main event-level matches, having essentially filled in for Roman Reigns in 2014 while he was on the shelf with an injury.  Reigns continues to be limited both by his lack of compelling mike skills, and his unoriginal and repetitive move set in the ring.  The fans will never allow him to reach the top of the WWE unless he undergoes a significant improvement or radical change to his persona.

It was a mistake to break up The Wyatt Family without a workable plan for Luke Harper and Eric Rowan.  Both weren’t really given a chance to show their personalities and drew very little attention from the fans as singles competitors.  At least as members of the Wyatt Family, they seemingly had direction together.

I’m about ready to be done with Bray Wyatt.  I really wanted to like him at first, if for no other reason than he was unique and mysterious.  His character seemingly had depth and layers of intrigue beneath the surface. He was tormented, evil, intellectual, and psychotic and could cut promos that nobody else on the roster could.

The problem I know have is that there is never any payoff to the mystery behind the man.  He talks and talks and talks and just goes from one inexplicable feud to another.  We don’t even know why he does what he does, he just picks on the next guy time and time again.  The whole thing is getting tired, he’s coming across as a guy whose mouth writes checks his ass can’t cash.  Even worse, he has yet to win a championship and he is a glaring 0 and 2 at WrestleMania.  He really can’t point to anything in the way of in-ring accomplishments to give him some validity as a competitor.  I still want to like the guy but something has to change in order for me to really get behind him.

This should be an entertaining match.  The three out of the four wrestlers in this match that aren’t Reigns should more than make up for his shortcomings.  Ambrose and Wyatt can both be counted on to do something unorthodox and outside the box in their matches against each other and have demonstrated chemistry in the past when facing off against each other.  This match could also have the possibility of something unexpected, like a heel turn or a surprise run-in that shakes up the finish.

Prediction: Winners, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

John Cena (US c) vs. Seth Rollins (World c) in a singles match with both the United States Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line

It is always cool to watch a champion vs. champion match, they are few and far between.  I remember my first one as a kid, Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI.  The hype lasted for months and we couldn’t wait to watch the match.  The crowd was seemingly split between the WWF champion, Hogan, and the on-the-rise IC Champ, The Ultimate Warrior.  Neither man was remembered for their in-ring ability but that match is considered by many critics to be one of the best that either man had in their distinguished careers.

This match has nowhere near the mass appeal as Hogan/Warrior, but there are certain parallels to consider.  In many ways, John Cena is the modern-day Hulk Hogan, the fighting babyface champion who is a hero to kids.  Rollins, similarly to Warrior, is the up-and-comer.  He already has a WWE Championship victory at WrestleMania, but he is relatively new to the main roster as compared to Cena.  He still has a lot of upside potential that has yet to be taped into.

Cena has taken a step back as a main-eventer these past year since his defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar at the last SummerSlam.  He has worked some high-profile programs with younger stars, notably Rusev and Kevin Owens, helping both of them get over with the fans.  Ironically, his first WWE Championship title shot since January, this match isn’t even the main event of the evening.

Rollins is running well as the heel champion.  I repeat the same thing in every blog post and I’ll say it again: he plays the role of the wrestling heel as it is written out in the textbook. He cheats to win, he whines and complains, and rather than pander to the crowd, he regularly insults the fans.  I’ve always felt that the WWE is at its best when the champion is a heel, and Rollins continues to prove that sentiment.

These two should work well together.  The triple-threat match they had at The Royal Rumble for the championship along with Brock Lesnar was the stand out match of the evening.  I’d expect the two of them to put on a good show without Lesnar as they are two of the best in-ring storytellers the WWE has on the roster right now.

I don’t see Cena winning this match.  He is currently one championship run of tying Ric Flair’s record of 16 championships, and I feel like they would save the moment he ties Flair for something of a larger magnitude, perhaps at WrestleMania, or at least at a pay-per-view where his match is the main event.  I also feel like there are legs to Rollins’ current championship run and he could possibly be set up for a title defense at WrestleMania 32.

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

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker

April 6, 2014 is a day that will forever live in infamy for an entire generation of WWE fans.  The legendary undefeated WrestleMania streak, colloquially known as “The Streak”, was halted at 21 wins at the hands of Brock Lesnar.  A hush fell over the entire crowd of 75,167 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans after the referee counted to three.  Nobody could believe what they saw, and they didn’t know what to say or do.  It was the end of a storyline that lasted over 20 years, the type of which we will never see again.

Following the match, The Undertaker walked up the ramp and out of the stadium, not to be seen again on television or at a live event until WrestleMania 31 a year later.  In the meantime, Brock Lesnar used the victory to propel his status as The Beast and The Conqueror into the stratosphere as he embarked on a dominant run the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the early Hulk Hogan days.  He utterly destroyed John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam and carried the title to the main event at WrestleMania 31.

In the ensuing months following the end of The Streak, it always struck me as odd that there was no word from The Undertaker.  While it made sense in retrospect for The Streak to end in order to give the rub to Lesnar, The Deadman’s silence was deafening.  Was he just going to let the ending of his streak at the hands of Brock Lesnar go?  Where did he go after WrestleMania XXX and why did he never seek retribution from Lesnar?

We didn’t see The Undertaker at all until he walked down the aisle at WrestleMania 31 for his match with Bray Wyatt.  Although it was good to see that he was still in good shape and still had most of his hair, there were still questions that lingered after his victory about The Streak.  But once again, he walked up the aisle at WrestleMania without saying a word.

Everything changed at Battleground in July.  Brock Lesnar had Seth Rollins pinned and was poised to regain the championship he lost from Rollins at WrestleMania 31 only to have the lights go out in the arena as the referee was just about to count to three.  The eerie gong of the Undertaker sounded, the lights came back on, and there he was, in an angry stare-down with the man who ended The Streak.  The crowd was buzzing with anticipation, and interestingly enough, ‘taker initiated the physical encounter with a swift kick to Lesnar’s groin, a move typically reserved for heels.  He proceeded to beat Lesnar up and walk out of the arena, setting up what is now called “The most anticipated rematch of all time, a match too big for WrestleMania.”

The next night on Raw, we finally heard from The Undertaker and his reasoning for making a return was curious in that he claimed he was upset that Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar kept rubbing it in that Lesnar had ended The Streak.  Again, it seemed as though ‘taker was taking a heel-ish turn as that is the type of a promo that only a cowardly and insecure bad guy would cut.  Later in the evening, we were treated to an epic pull-apart brawl between The Undertaker and Lesnar that had a very realistic look and feel to it.

Finally, in the go-home Raw before SummerSlam this week, Brock Lesnar came out to a hero’s welcome in his home state of Minnesota.  With Paul Heyman singing his praises as the hometown hero, The Undertaker once again appeared out of the darkness, and once again went for the low-blow.  Just prior to the lights going out, Paul Heyman made a point of addressing the fact that The Undertaker delivered a low-blow to Lesnar at Battleground.  The crowd booed in disapproval, and suddenly it seemed that The Undertaker was meant to be booked as a heel along in this feud.

I would not have suspected that The Undertaker would seek vengeance for The Streak as a heel, he had worked as a babyface for many years, and returning legends typically are always cheered.  Not to mention, the fans loved the streak and hated to see it go, it seemed like they would want him to get revenge.

I like this twist as it was unexpected.  Both men have reversed roles since WrestleMania XXX, now Lesnar is the beloved babyface and The Undertaker is the vengeful villain.  He’s show that he will resort to any type of tactic to get his revenge, even if the fans disapprove.

This match should be nothing short of epic.  It won’t be remembered as a technical masterpiece, but it will be a wildly entertaining between two brutal ring generals who know how to tell a story with their actions.  I am just as caught up in the anticipation for this match as the WWE wants me to be and I can’t wait to watch it.  There could be all kinds of swerves and this may put an end to their feud, or it could be another chapter in a long-running conflict between these two legends.

Prediction: Winner, The Undertaker

Are you still reading this?  Ten matches is a lot for one pay-per-view.  It is top-heavy with two main events, but I really think that most of the matches should be highly entertaining. What are your thoughts?

WWE Money in the Bank Analysis and Predictions

With the new WWE Network content delivery model, pay-per-view events are fast and furious.  Just two weeks removed from the Elimination Chamber special, the WWE is bringing us Money in the Bank, one of the most important events of the year.  The winner of the MITB Contract holds the right to cash in a WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match at any time.  As we saw this year at WrestleMania, a properly timed cash-in of the contract can be a career defining moment.  Not only that, but the contract can give us months and months of suspense leading up to its eventual use.

Aside from the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, the rest of the card should provide some pretty interesting traditional matchups, and an emotional Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  Let’s take a look at the card.

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

The importance of Kevin Owen’s WWE debut match at Elimination Chamber against John Cena should not be understated.  I’m not the type of encyclopedic wrestling fan that can name places and dates of matches at will, but I really did struggle to think of a debut match that was a bigger upset than Owens win over John Cena in his first match.  Two that came to mind are Tazz’s victorious WWE debut against Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble in 2000, and The Giant defeating Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc in 1995.  Neither one of these really can compare, given that Kurt Angle at the time was nowhere near the superstar that Cena is today. The Giant only won his match over Hogan by a disqualification.

Kevin Owens came to Raw, cut a set of disrespectful heel promos against John Cena, and then beat him cleanly in a highly competitive match.  Cena carried himself well, but there are not enough good things to say about how Kevin Owens handled himself in that match.  Every spot was executed to perfection and the match told an exciting and suspenseful story.  Finally, after the match was won, Owens grabbed the microphone and gave us one more disrespectful promo directed at the defeated John Cena as he walked out of the arena.

The ball is in Kevin Owens’ court now.  It’s hard to think of a more impactful WWE debut victory and only time will tell if he can carry this momentum and become a star.  He seems to have all the necessary tools and the right attitude, it is my expert opinion that someday he is going to be remembered as someone special.

On the other side of the ring, John Cena is still playing his part well.  It appears, at least for now, that he is not going to wrestle at the top of the card any time soon, but he still has credibility as an elder statesmen and the United States Champion and is always a force to be reckoned with.  John Cena doesn’t change much, and despite what most fans seem to think these days, what he does best still works for him.

It would be a huge mistake to give Cena a win and kill off Owens’ momentum after only two weeks.  I expect Owens to go over once again, and this time maybe cheat a little to win.

Prediction: Winner, Kevin Owens

Ryback (c) vs. The Big Show for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

In today’s WWE, most premier matches are a series of coordinated stunts.  Long gone are the days of 30 minute technical contests, and instead we get high spots predicated on match stipulations, such as guys falling off of ladders and through tables.  Even with this being the norm these days, there is still no substitute for two freakishly huge guys beat the hell out of each other, and that is exactly what we are going to get in this match.

Ryback is just two weeks into his first run as a singles champion in the WWE.  It took him several years of fighting through injuries and a few bad gimmicks to get to this point.  He was determined to play the “hero to the children” role and seems to have gotten to where he wanted to be.  His “feed me more” chant is over across the whole spectrum of the audience.  I expect his title run to endure for at least a few months to allow him to settle in as champion.

The Big Show is a made-man in the WWE.  He can fill a variety of roles and is often plugged into angles up and down the card, flip-flopping between babyface and heel roles.  Usually, he ends up on the losing end of things, with the notable exception of his win of The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania in April.  Inexplicably, he is no longer a member of The Authority and has returned after a brief hiatus to do the first job for the newly crowned IC champ.

At the very least, we can expect this to be a physical matchup with both competitors to display several feats of strength.  Don’t look for too many drop kicks or senton bombs from these two!

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Intercontinental Champion, Ryback

Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige in a Singles Match for the WWE Divas Championship

I think this is like the 8th pay-per-view in a row these two have wrestled.  I can’t remember because I never watch any of the Divas matches.  Can’t they find two other awful wrestlers to fill this spot just to change things up?

Prediction: Don’t waste your time on this match, flip the channels for the three minutes they are going to give them to wrestle.

The New Day (c) vs. The Prime Time Players in a Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship

The “Modern Day Freebird” gimmick has really reversed the fortunes of The New Day.  They went from one of the worst babyface stables we’ve seen in years and into formidable champions in a big hurry.  They complement each other well in the ring and the one man advantage they have as a three-man tandem always gives them an entertaining unfair edge against their opponents.  Kofi Kingston, in particular, has never looked better throughout his previously underwhelming WWE career.  It’s always amazing what a well-timed heel turn can do in the WWE.

The Prime Time Players are in their second go-around as a team.  Neither Titus O’Neil nor Darren Young have really gained a foothold as either singles competitors or as a team.  This team is symptomatic of the weak state of the WWE Tag Team Division.  They aren’t very interesting and really don’t stand much of a chance of winning this match.  With any luck, they manage to make The New Day look good.

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

Neville vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Kane vs. Roman Reigns in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match contract

The namesake match of the evening stands a chance to either be memorable for quite some time, or a chance to be bowling-shoe ugly.  We get inundated with ladder matches these days, they are typically featured at TLC, WrestleMania, Extreme Rules, and Money in the Bank.  There are only so many ways to fall off of a ladder or use it as a weapon and it feels like we’ve seen it all.  It’s going to be a challenge for these guys to find a way to make this match interesting.

Either way, a new MITB contract winner will be crowned and will have the potential to become champion sometime within the next year.  This could be a career-defining moment for one of these competitors and the winner can expect a big push up until he cashes in the contract.  Here is a rundown of the competitors:

Neville: “The New Sensation” Neville is off to a decent start since his call-up to the main roster in April.  It’s a little early in his run to make a determination of how well he is going to do in the WWE.  Thus far, he’s been a one-trick-pony with his high-flying moves and not much else.  This is a good opportunity for him to make an impact, but he doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning.

Dolph Ziggler: Permanently mired in the mid-card, Dolph Ziggler will continue to be a supporting cast member unless something drastically changes.  His feud with Rusev was stalled due to Rusev’s recent legitimate ankle injury, so he was put in the MITB match instead.  He will gain attention now that Lana is by his side, but that is never the type of attention that a superstar really should want.  If you are overshadowed by your valet, it exposes a lack of charisma, and that is never good.  I expect him to take some nasty bumps in this match but he isn’t a contender to actually win the contract.

Randy Orton: The Rattlesnake is currently in a supporting role in his on-and-off program with Seth Rollins. He continues to do the right things to make Rollins look like the top villain in the company. He is a threat to win any match he is in and is one of the favorites headed into this match as both a former MITB winner and former WWE Champion.

Kofi Kingston: As I stated earlier, Kofi has underwhelmed throughout his WWE run but has never looked better since The New Day turned heel.  His annoying attitude is the perfect complement for his in-ring style.  Instead of trying to wow the crowd with his agility, he now can focus on looking like a jerk while he wrestles and he does that well.  I love the fact that The New Day alluded to using The Freebird Rule on the MITB contract if Kofi wins it.  It’s doubtful that Kofi is going to win this match, but it would be hilarious if all three of them acted as though they hold the contract.

Sheamus: So far, so good since his return.  The company was severely lacking in heels on the roster headed into WrestleMania (they really only had Rusev and Rollins as top heels at the time), but with his new look and his nasty demeanor, he adds character depth to the WWE.  As always, he can be counted on to rely on a brutal in-ring style to make it look like he is delivering all of his opponents a severe beating.  I’m giving him about a 20% chance of winning this match.

Kane: The most versatile character over the past generation continues to deliver solid performances in his multi-faceted Corporate Kane character.  He is the foundation of the entire Authority stable, yet we never know where his tormented character is going to head next. Is he finally going to snap and turn on Seth Rollins, or is he going to remain loyal to Triple H and do what is best for business?  His antagonistic angle with Seth Rollins has been a slow-burn feud that has yet to pay off.  Wouldn’t it be great if he wins the contract while still in his role as Seth Rollins’ enforcer?

Roman Reigns: Reigns is back to being on the fans good side now that the perception that he is being shoved down our throats has passed.  People are comfortable with where he is on the card right now and he looks like someone that the WWE is still trying to build.  Unfortunately, he still lacks in many areas of his game, including in-ring psychology and his microphone skills.  Every match and every promo are exactly the same, and none of them impress.  I feel like it would serve him well to send him back to NXT for a few years to work some of his shortcomings out.  I doubt that is going to happen and he is still going to have to learn on the job in front of us all.  He is one of the favorites headed into this match.

Prediction: Winner and new Money in the Bank Contract holder, Kane

Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose in a Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Here we go again, another ladder match.  I love these two competitors but could do without this stipulation.  There already is a ladder match on this card and it seems like Dean Ambrose has been in a hundred ladder matches these past eight months.  Sure, it is fun to watch him fall off the ladder over and over again, but I would have liked a different stipulation for this match, maybe a cage match or an Iron Man match would have been better.  Still, expect these two to deliver a solid match that could and should steal the show.

This match goes to show how well The Shield got over with the fans and how well the former members have done since the split last year.  Dean Ambrose seemingly lost a little momentum during WrestleMania season, having filled in for an injured Roman Reigns in a main event program prior to The Royal Rumble.  But he is back on top as a main-eventer now, and he really earned this spot.  The crowd is very much on his side as they tend to be with the anti-hero babyface characters.  How often do you see the good guy steal a championship belt and be favored by the crowd as he keeps doing?

Seth Rollins is the man at the top right now.  His performance at WWE Extreme Rules was a clinic in how a heel champion should work a match.  He pulled the most cowardly move possible by putting the referee in harm’s way so he could get himself disqualified and retain the championship.  Not only did that make him look like a bigger jerk than he already was, but it was the perfect setup for their upcoming match this Sunday.

There are a lot of ways this match can go.  These two have an emotionally charged basis for their animosity towards each other that began the day The Shield broke up.  It is good that this feud was kept warm this entire time and I have a feeling that not only is this match going to be fun to watch, but it’s not the last we are going to see of these two together.  I expect Rollins to pull this one out by cheating to win yet again.

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

This pay-per-view, particularly the main events, will be a direct lead in to Brock Lesnar’s return to the WWE in the coming weeks and should begin to set the stage for Summer Slam in August in Brooklyn.  This should be a very entertaining couple of weeks of WWE television ahead of us.