WWE WrestleMania 34 Analysis and Predictions

 

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It’s the best time of year to be a WWE fan!  No weekend out of the year is better than WrestleMania weekend!  WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans will have a stacked card from start to almost the finish!  Roman Reigns is set to ruin a fourth straight WrestleMania main event, but even the lack of suspense surrounding the outcome of his match won’t dampen my enthusiasm for the card.

In fact, there is enough mystery baked into this card to keep us guessing for most of the night.  In addition to there not being too many obvious winners on the card, there are a lot of questions that we don’t have answers for right now:

  • What is this “performance” that Elias has promised us going to entail?
  • What’s up with John Cena calling out The Undertaker to no avail? Is Cena really not going to have a match?  Would they have an unadvertised Cena/Undertaker match on the card?  Is something else going to happen?
  • Who is Braun Strowman’s TBD tag team partner? Or is he not going to have one and use some sort of reverse Feebird Rule to win the tag title himself?
  • Is this Brock Lesnar’s last match before returning to the UFC?
  • What happened to Bray Wyatt in the Lake of Reincarnation at the Hardy Estate two weeks ago? Is he going to make a surprise return with a new persona?
  • Is there going to be a heel turn we don’t see coming?
  • Is a WWE alumnus going to make his return? Will an NXT call up have an impact on the card?  Will someone from NJPW crash the show?

The WWE is at its best when it can actually keep storylines secret and you don’t have any idea what is going to happen.  It makes the show all the more enjoyable to sit back and watch.  I expect that this could be one of the best WrestleMania’s we’ve seen in the past 10 years, and we could be treated to at least one or more top-10-all-time best WrestleMania matches.

On to my expert predictions.

AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a Singles match for the WWE Championship

It’s hard to believe how far Shinsuke Nakamura has come in just one year on the Smackdown roster.  He showed up on the Smackdown following WrestleMania 33 with a violinist playing in his bizarre entrance.  He called himself the “King of Strong Style” and got the crowd to sing along with his entrance music in the following weeks.  He started to stand in the middle of the ring, do a squat, and scream “Come on!” at his opponents and the crowd ate it up.  Lastly, he came up with the catch phrase “Knee to Face” and that seemed to put him over the top.  I can’t figure out where the substance to any of this is, but the fans seem to really like it.

AJ Styles, conversely, is one of the top performers in the company right now, both on the microphone and in the ring.  His in-ring work is unparalleled on the WWE main roster right now and that has earned him the fans respect.  He reminds many of a master wrestling technician who can also sell and tell a story, like a young Shawn Michaels.  Even in his early 40’s, he’s the subject of anybody’s dream match right now.

The build for this match has been lackluster.  Anytime you have a big babyface vs. babyface match, the angle is a bit of a creative trap. They have to protect both guys image, and nobody can generate any real heat.  They have to pretend like there is a mutual respect for each other, and that is a very uninteresting way to promote a match.  Either way, when they get to the ring they should deliver.

There’s a lot on the line in this match.  Styles gets his first opportunity to defend a championship at WrestleMania and Nakamura has never wrestled a bigger match in his life.  His Tokyo Dome experience from NJPW is the little league compared to having to perform on the Grandest Stage of Them All.  Both of these men, at this stage in their careers will want to make a statement in this match.  It has the potential to be the match of the night, and perhaps a top-10 greatest WrestleMania match of all time.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Champion, AJ Styles

The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

The Miz has come a long way since his WrestleMania XXVIII main event against John Cena in which he successfully defended the World Championship.  In many ways, he’s a better wrestler now, and his reign as Intercontinental champion has been more impressive than his World Championship.  He is the best heel in the business and is considered by many to the WWE MVP.

Seth Rollins has lost a great deal of momentum since he lost the WWE Championship following an in-ring injury.  He was the feel-good story coming out of WrestleMania 31, when he stole the championship from Brock Lesnar in the main event with a surprise cash-in of his Money In The Bank contract.  Since the injury which cost him a spot at WrestleMania 32, he hasn’t had too many noteworthy moments.  He flip-flopped back and forth as a heel, he re-united The Shield, but that angle fizzled due to illness and injuries to the other two.  He had a slow-burn angle with Jason Jordan which came to a quick end when Jordan himself was injured.  Rollins needs his luck to turn around, and a big match at WrestleMania 34 would certainly do that.

Finn Bálor is a one-trick-pony.  He has a slick entrance with audience participation.  Other than that, he’s a scrawny little twerp who wears tights with a leather jacket.  He should be in the 205 division, wrestling guys his own size.  He doesn’t look right wrestling guys who outweigh him by 75 pounds.  He has zero personality to make up for his lack of size.  I don’t expect him do much of anything interesting in this match.

I’d prefer to see this as a two-man match, but this is better than the typical 5-man ladder match they usually put on for the IC title at WrestleMania, so I’ll take it.  Triple-threat matches are all about timing the big spots between the three competitors and are stylistically very difficult to pull off.  The Miz and Rollins are going to have to be at their best to pull this off and carry Bálor.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Intercontinental Champion, The Miz

Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev in a Fatal Four-Way Match for the WWE United States Championship

Not to be outdone by the triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship, the United States Championship will be decided in a fatal four-way match.  A match like this will be either memorable for years because it was so good, or bowling shoe-ugly. Everybody will try to get a signature move in at some point in order to stand out.

Randy Orton continues to plod through the later stages of his career.  His championship win at WrestleMania was noteworthy because the crowd of over 70,000 was mostly silent throughout the match.  He’s going to need something better out of this year’s WrestleMania match.

Bobby Roode is the least interesting competitor in this match.  Over-produced entrance, an underwhelming personality, and way past his prime.  Nothing to see here.

Rusev snuck into this match because he suddenly has a popular catch phrase: “Rusev Day”!  It’s kind of weird but it works for him and should last for a little while longer.  I thought he was better as a monster heel, but I guess he’s selling more merchandise this way so good for him.

Jinder Mahal is the biggest home-grown star we’ve seen in years in WWE.  He’s had an amazing rebound from being fired from the WWE to his return and eventual ascension to WWE Champion.   He’s got a great look and played the part of the cliched ethnic heel to the best of his abilities.  If anybody deserves a WrestleMania moment and a win in this match, it’s Mahal.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE United States Champion, Jinder Mahal

Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax in a singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

If you’ve ever followed this blog, you know what I’m about to say.

Prediction: This match will suck

The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso) (c) vs. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) in a Triple threat tag team match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship

Big build up all around for this match.  The Usos finally get a match on the main WrestleMania card for the first time in their careers.  They’ve put in the time and they did a good job re-inventing themselves after their bland Hardy Boyz-ripoff gimmick they started off with.  This is a big opportunity for them.

The New Day is as stale as can be, and this team is dying to be broken up.  Big E will go straight to the top, Xavier Woods will go straight to the middle, and Kofi Kingston will go back to being a jobber.  They’ve had a fantastic run, but it is high time for a swerve and a heel turn for one of them, bringing this faction to an end.

The Bludgeon Brothers are hot right now.  Harper and Rowan (having just lost their first names!) are the two most underrated big men on the roster right now.  These guys have all the tools to be the best in this game.  Their outfits are a little over the top, but everything else about this team screams heel champions.  Their build to this spot was masterful, having them lay waste to a host of jobbers and making them look unstoppable.  Watch this space, these guys are going to be big.

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions, The Bludgeon Brothers

Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD in a tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

How great is this?  The best tag team on Raw takes on the hottest talent on Raw, with a bone-fide mystery partner by his side!  This is WWE at it’s best, creating a ridiculous situation that we’re dying to see.  Could you imagine paying to see the Yankees play a home game against a mystery opponent?  Wouldn’t ever happen!  But in professional wrestling, this is creative gold!

People have argued that this isn’t the best spot for Braun Strowman and that he deserves to be in the main event.  I’m a huge fan of his, but I think this is a great spot for him.  Roman Reigns is the “chosen one” and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Strowman is still going to get his push, and he’s going to take the ball and run with it.  He does monster heel, he does comedy, he performs ridiculous feats of strength.  What’s not to love about the guy?  Just because he’s not in the main event, doesn’t mean he can’t be awesome.

Who is his partner?  I’ve read all kinds of speculation that it could be a returning hero, an NXT call up, or someone else already on the roster.  What’s the point in trying to figure it out now?  Just sit back and let the show come to you!

Cesaro and Sheamus always deliver.  They are going to nail their parts in this match and you can count on that.  When they lose the title, it will be fun to watch them chase it back down.

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, Braun Stroman and TBD

Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka Singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

Out of respect for Ric Flair, I won’t disrespect his daughter.  But this match is as good as it gets for women’s wrestling because the bar is set so low.  Asuka is average at best and her gimmick is annoying.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion, Charlotte Flair

Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in a mixed tag team match

Kurt Angle made a hero’s return to the WWE last year at the WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony, and then re-joined the regular show as Raw General Manager.  Rumor had it there would be a big build to a WrestleMania 34 match for the Olympic gold medalist.  Instead, he got saddled with this abortion of a match.

Ronda Rousey left the UFC as a loser and a shell of her former badass self.  In the time between her UFC days and her WWE days, she did nothing to repair her reputation.  Thus far, she has completely bombed on the WWE stage.  Her promos are embarrassingly awkward.  As one of my readers pointed out to me “she had the personality of a wet blanket in UFC” and apparently, her ability to memorize and read lines the WWE creative team feeds her is zero.  Who even knows if she can wrestle?  Probably not very well.

I can’t feel too sorry for Triple H, he’s had some very good WrestleMania matches in his career.  But Kurt Angle deserved better than this.  I don’t think either one of them can save this mess.

Prediction: Winners, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a tag team match and if Owens and Zayn win, they will be rehired to SmackDown

Daniel Bryan’s surprise return to Smackdown changed the current landscape in the WWE in a way nobody saw coming.  He was close to the Shane McMahon rivalry with the Owens/Zayn duo for months, and he is perfectly positioned to return in this match.

Kevin Owens is the top heel on SmackDown, and the story arc of his simmering feud with Shane McMahon has taken on many Shakspearian twists since it began in 2017.  It’s now involved Sami Zayn, included the both of them sending McMahon to the hospital, and then getting themselves fired by Daniel Bryan before beating him up on the night he announced his return to active competition.  This was top heel work and WWE creative at its best.

This could be the most entertaining match of the night.  It has three of the best workers in the WWE right now, along with Sami Zayn who will play his supporting role as well.  It has “win” written all over it for Zayn and Owens, and it will be fun watching the aftermath on Smackdown when it’s all over.

Prediction: Winners, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Roman Reigns in a singles match for the WWE Universal Championship

A fourth straight WrestleMania event is about to be ruined by Roman Reigns.  It’s a good thing this card is so stacked because the show will end with a thud with this match.  We’ve known for a year that Reigns is going go win the match.  The “like me because I’m a full-timer and Brock is a part-timer” angle is boring and has not helped Reigns improve one bit.  He still sucks on the mike and his in-ring psychology is poor.  No matter how many WrestleMania main events he gets, he never improves.

Brock Lesnar is about to walk out on the WWE.  His act has gotten tired and it will be good for the WWE to move on from him at the top. He had a great run since his return as a part-time special attraction, and something needs to be said about how less exposure can actually help a superstar in the WWE.  But it is time to go.

This match is going to fail to entertain.  The crowd will be tired, Lesnar will have his eye on the exit, and Reigns will continue to stink.  Try to stay awake if you can.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns

Fantasy Booking WrestleMania 32

No doubt that The WWE is looking to make a splash when WrestleMania 32 is held in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas on April 6, 2016.  Not that they ever put anything less than their best effort in for other WrestleManias, but this one could potentially be historic if they manage to sell enough tickets.  AT&T Stadium has a capacity of 105,000 for football if you include standing room.  The WWE has a chance to break the attendance record that was set at WrestleMania III in 1987 of 93,173 fans.  WrestleMania III was headlined by a main event matchup between Hulk Hogan and the so-called “undefeated” Andre the Giant.  It remains to be seen what the special attraction, or attractions, will be for WM 32, but the WWE is certainly already planning something special.

I was at dinner with some friends Pilsener Haus & Biergarten in Hoboken recently and my friend Ned went through a list of matches he’d like to see at WM 32.  It got me thinking about what I would do if I were given the book and told to book the event myself. Since I like to fancy myself as the hottest up-and-coming WWE blogger on the Internet, let’s see what I can come up with.

Main Event: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Brock Lesnar

As an avid listener of Steve Austin’s bi-weekly podcast, I’ve come to learn a lot about Steven Austin and his career.  Two topics come up often on his show.  One is that he didn’t want to have to retire early but was forced to do so due to a neck injury and he spent three years following his retirement in a funk while trying to find his way without a wrestling career.  Second is that he really does not want to come back for another match, citing difficulties in training, among other reasons.

Most of this was known before the WWE announced that WrestleMania 32 was set to take place in his home state of Texas.  Somehow you have to think that negotiations had already started to bring him back for the show around the time it was announced.  Rumors that this match is going to happen were certainly stoked last month during the Stone Cold Podcast on The WWE Network last week.  At the end of his interview with Paul Heyman, Austin suddenly broke into a kayfabe  promo target at Brock Lesnar, proclaiming that if he were to come back for one more match, he would deliver a beating to Lesnar.

This could have simply been done to generate interest in Austin’s next podcast, it could have been a joke, and it could have been many things.  But old-school Austin fans are now champing at the bit in anticipation that this will lead to a comeback by the Texas Rattlesnake for one more match at WrestleMania 32.  An Austin vs. Lesnar matchup could very well be the WrestleMania III-esque type of main event the WWE needs to break the attendance record.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns

The Shield was one of the hottest factions the WWE had seen in years when its members were called up to the main roster prior to WrestleMania XXIX. The combination of Reigns’ look, Ambrose’s personality, and Rollins’ in-ring ability were the perfect set of complementary traits that set them apart from the rest. Originally brought up as heels, the crowd eventually got behind them and they were the most popular babyface team headed into WrestleMania XXX. They were riding a high in the following months in a feud with Evolution, only to abruptly break up when Rollins turned on his team mates to join The Authority.

The split was shocking for several reasons, the biggest of which was that the group was routinely a main attraction on Raw and on pay per view events. It was unclear at the time what direction each would head and which members, if any, would lose momentum and be left behind. It has been just over a year since the breakup, and other than when Reigns lost some time to injury, the three have all emerged as major main-event level talents on their own. Ambrose has main-evened several pay-per-views, Reigns was the controversial winner of The Royal Rumble and competed in the WrestleMania 31 main event, and Seth Rollins is the reigning WWE champion.

The former-Shield member rivalry is still burning pretty hot. Rollins is often the antagonist for both Reigns and Ambrose and the crowd is still fully vested in the animosity that began when Rollins turned on the other two. At Payback in May we saw the three, along with Randy Orton, compete in a Fatal-Four-Way match. The crowd popped for a spot when the former Shield members performed their trademark triple-powerbomb on Randy Orton.

The ultimate payoff for this group would be a championship match with just the three of them at WrestleMania. Rollins would be the heel, Reigns the babyface, and Ambrose would be somewhere in the middle.  It would truly be a contest with no obvious winner headed into the match. The buildup would be intense and emotional. The match itself has the potential to be remembered as an all-time classic. Out of all the matches I’d like to see, this would be the one I’d hope the WWE actually puts on in Dallas.

Triple H vs. The Rock

The verbal confrontation between these two Attitude-Era icons at WrestleMania 31 was likely more than a one-time encounter. The two semi-retired legends have wrestled countless times in the past, but never at a WrestleMania.

Triple-H is a constant mainstay on WWE television as the villainous COO of the WWE. The Rock is a worldwide sensation in the entertainment realm as one of the biggest box office attractions in movies today. A match between the two would generate interest from long time fans and fans of The Rock’s movies alike. This one seems like a no-brainier to me.

Ronda Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon

One of the most popular female athletes in the world today gave WWE fans a surprise appearance in a WWE ring at WrestleMania 31 alongside The Rock during his confrontation with The Authority. It was highly unusual to see an active UFC competitor in a WWE ring, but the drawing power of someone like Rousey was certainly enough for the WWE to make an exception. The confrontation ended with Rousey physically removing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon from the ring and has left the fans wanting more from her.

A lot of things would have to happen for Rousey to compete at WrestleMania 32, not the least of which would be for her to get clearance from UFC, and for her to train to compete in a worked match. But there is no doubt that if these hurdles were cleared, it would attract fans from both WWE and UFC to Dallas to watch this match.

This wouldn’t be a straight up wrestling match, given Rousey’s dominance in the UFC, it’s not realistic to think that Stephanie would be able to beat her one-on-one. This would be more of a special attraction match similar to Mayweather vs. The Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV where there would be some sort of mitigating factor that would tilt the odds in McMahon’s favor headed into the match.

Most importantly, this match would fill up the Diva’s slot on the card so we wouldn’t be made to suffer another low-quality and uninteresting match involving the likes of Paige or The Bella Twins.

Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton

Kevin Owens is off to a hot start on the WWE main roster.  His first two matches against WWE United States Champion John Cena are already considered among critics as potential Match of the Year candidates. His innovative offensive style, combined with his natural arrogance and disrespectful attitude have built him into one of the top heels in the company. His rookie run is reminiscent of Kurt Angle’s WWE debut in the late 1990’s, and that is about the highest compliment a young talent can be paid.

Randy Orton is a made man in the WWE. He looks good no matter if he wins or loses. He can always be counted on to get an angle over with fans. His size and deceptively quick style make him one of the most talented wrestlers on the roster. He is going to be prominently featured on the WM card in one way or another.

I think this pairing makes sense for a lot of reasons. Similar to his current beef with John Cena, Owens can also disrespect the veteran Orton. The promos between the two headed into the show would generate a lot of interest in their match. Stylistically, we could expect a fast paced, seesaw battle between the two. This undercard match would be the perfect complement for the main event matches.

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

Not much is known about The Deadman these days. He only works one match per year at WrestleMania and makes very few, if any, public appearances. Not much is known about his health or how much longer he is willing and able to compete on the WWE stage.  The rumor mill continues to circulate that his in-ring career may not have much longer. That being said, he looked good in his match against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 31 and gave no actual indication that he’s anywhere near done. If WrestleMania 32 is indeed his last ride, there would be no better place to have it than in his home state of Texas. Either way, an Undertaker match is always a must-see at WrestleMania.

The pairing against John Cena is something I’ve wanted to see for years but it has never worked out. Now that Cena has become a main-event-level talent on the mid-card and no longer in the title picture, this is a good place for him to land on the card. Long gone is the legendary undefeated streak of The Undertaker in WrestleMania competition, but a match against John Cena would have no obvious winner and would carry a lot of weight on the card as a legend vs. legend contest that we may never see again.

The Rest of the Card

There are a lot of other talents on the roster that could certainly deserve a chance to compete on The Grandest Stage of Them All. It remains unclear if Daniel Bryan will be healthy enough to participate in WM 32, but certainly we should count on something memorable from the likes of Bray Wyatt, The Big Show, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Neville, Luke Harper, Rusev, Mark Henry, Ryback, or several other main-roster talents on the card. The pay-per-view schedule between now and then will undoubtedly set the stage for what is to come for WrestleMania 32.

What are your thoughts? Do you like my match list or would you re-write it in a different way?