WWE Wrestlemania 33 Preview
by Scrooge McSuck
We're only days away from the "Ultimate Thrill Ride", the 33rd annual WrestleMania where the number was traded in for a local image. With WrestleMania emanating from Orlando, FL, the logo incorporated the blazing sun, giving us such creative names as Mania Sunshine or Mania Sunburst. I could count on one hand the amount of times the number "33" and "WrestleMania" were strung together over the last 6 weeks, and I've religiously watched both Raw and Smackdown Live for the first time in months.
When the expected lineup for WrestleMania was published in the various online Newsletters, I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Most of the matches presented on paper either made zero sense, or held very little interest for a hardcore fan like myself. Even though WrestleMania weekend attracts probably the most hardcore audience, combined with almost a week long list of festivities such as the Axxess meet and greets, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and the annual NXT Takeover Special, WrestleMania continues to be booked for more casual fans, with emphasis on part-timers the lapsed fans might remember and be drawn in out of curiosity to see how well father time has treated them.
With last year's WrestleMania, including the Kick-Off Show, running almost seven hours (yes, SEVEN HOURS), it's expected that this year will follow the same, with a loaded lineup, featuring 13 matches, as well as live musical performances, the traditional "trot out the Hall of Famers" segment, a possible surprise appearance from the Rock, and the countless video packages where the WWE pats themselves on the back for all their work with various foundations such as Make-a-Wish and the Special Olympics, among others. Starting from the bottom let's check out the lineup and see if there's potential for a great WrestleMania...
1. The 4th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Starting with the definition of a filler match on any WrestleMania, let alone a modern day one, the Battle Royal that gets all the undercard geeks a WrestleMania Payday ™. Among the names of potential winners: Braun Strowman, 2015 Winner and Estranged Son of Andre, the Big Show, Sami Zayn, and Mojo Rawley. NXT rookie Tian Bing was added for the sole reason that Mania will be available as an iPPV in China for the 1st time in history. The rest of the field? It doesn't matter. If you don't see them in a match listed beyond this, and they're not injured, they're in it, including the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Battle Royals are what they are, but it could be entertaining with decent booking. I expect a finale between Strauman and Zayn, since the only good finish WWE can book for these matches is David vs. Goliath. (Pick: Braun Strowman)
2. Neville vs. Austin Aries for the Cruiserweight Title
I'm not going to lie, I really don't care for this on paper, and having it on the Kickoff Show is another example of how much the Cruiserweight Division means to the big picture. Combine that with the fact that approximately 18 other Superstars won't see a Mania payday (unless they make this a Lumberjack Match for no reason) because they're stuck in a dead division. TJ Perkins? Rich Swann? THE Brian Kendrick? No Mania for you guys, sorry. This has potential to be a great match, but will be stuck in a timeslot where half the crowd is still arriving (remember, in 2016, half the crowd couldn't get to their seats for about 2-hours!), and will likely suffer from a lack of crowd enthusiasm. The result can go either way, but Neville shouldn't lose the title on a Kickoff Show. (Pick: Neville)
3. Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Carmella in a Six-Pack Challenge for the Smackdown Women's Title
The rumors up until recently had this pegged for the Kickoff Show, too, but that changed and now it's being promoted for the PPV portion of the show. Up until the latest episode of Smackdown Live, they didn't even have a stipulation announced, other than Alexa would defend against all available women on the Smackdown roster. Rumors are circulating that former stars might make an appearance, and that Summer Rae (who was drafted to Raw but has missed action for almost 9 months with injuries) and Tamina (who has worked SD Live Events for several months) might make their SD Live Debut in the match. This could range from really good (see Backlash) or cluster-pluck (Carmella and Alexa Bliss still have timing issues, and Naomi is always going to be Naomi). It wouldn't make much sense to have Bliss job the title in such an unfair scenario, but I wouldn't put it by them to put the belt back on Naomi since it will be her hometown WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT™. (Pick: Naomi)
4. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Enzo & Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus in a Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles
What, you didn't know this was going to be a Ladder Match? Well, a throwaway backstage segment that lasted all of 30-seconds was enough to shoe-horn the ladder into a WrestleMania Match for what feels like the 10th year in a row. As much as people can rightfully claim the SD Tag Team Division is too weak, check out the Raw Division since the New Day dropped the belts and decided to just hang around goofing on people. Gallows and Anderson won the titles at the Royal Rumble (Kickoff Show) and have been fighting both challenging teams for weeks in lackluster matches. Ladder matches are always a pick ‘em situation, especially last year when ZACK RYDER won the Intercontinental Title when he wasn't even part of the original plans for the match! If you're going to give Enzo and Cass their one big win, this is that moment, because no one will buy Enzo ever beating anyone in a real match, and you can always put the titles back on Gallows and Anderson immediately. (Pick: Enzo and Cass)
5. Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental Title
This feud began at the Elimination Chamber, when Ambrose eliminated Baron Corbin with a surprise roll up in the match that the PPV borrowed it's name from. In the weeks that followed, Corbin made it his mission to destroy Ambrose, although he never really got the point across he wanted his Championship until only about a couple of weeks ago, after he injured Ambrose by attempting to crush him with a conveniently located fork-lift. I don't expect much quality out of this one, but Corbin has shown signs of improvement, and if they book this as a fight rather than trying to be just another wrestling match, it could be entertaining. With the WWE machine behind making Corbin a top guy by the end of 2017, you figure he's going to win this Championship sooner than later, so why not do it here? (Pick: Baron Corbin)
6. John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
This... this match. THIS is the match that on paper two months ago was laughed out of the room as not only a completely waste of John Cena, but ruined any chance of a dream match for Cena against a name like Samoa Joe. The saving grace? Some of the best promo work done throughout the company in recent months, especially by the Miz, who's taken his ability to troll people and kick it up a notch, tormenting Cena and Nikki with segments of parody among the usual laundry list of "you need to give up your spot" promos. The only downside to the entire feud has been Nikki Bella, who still can't cut a convincing promo, but the work from Cena and Miz (mostly the Miz, who has become an MVP to the SD brand) has made this a must-see match, even if the quality won't top average, and we'll more than likely get our "Total Bellas" moment where Cena proposes to Nikki after the match. (Pick: John Cena & Nikki Bella)
7. Seth Rollins vs. Triple in an Unsanctioned Match
Poor Seth Rollins, almost missed a second straight WrestleMania due to a freak incident where his knee twisted while being taken down by Samoa Joe during the latter's Raw debut the night after the Royal Rumble. The seeds were planted for this big encounter when Triple H emerged from hiatus to gift Kevin Owens the vacated Universal Championship in the weeks following SummerSlam. Months went by without so much as an explanation, and then Triple H, or I guess I should say his music, cost Seth a shot at competing in the Royal Rumble Match. With Rollins untimely injury (as compared to a timely injury, I guess), the match was in doubt, but his diagnosis pinpointed a return to action just in time for Mania, so even with all the teases on TV, the rule is that if they mention a match won't happen when a guy might be too injured, you know they'll follow through with it. Unsanctioned probably means "No Holds Barred/No DQ", so this could be a great trainwreck or a 30-minute snoozer that Triple H insists on delivering. With Samoa Joe not in a match, I expect him to be involved in the match, as well as a possible appearance from recently-fired General Manager, Mick Foley. (Pick: Seth Freakin' Rollins)
8. Shane McMahon vs. A.J. Styles
Match #2 in the "what are they thinking" part of the original lineup. A.J. Styles, who has put on great match after great match and produced 4-months of quality television as the (SD) World Champion, you'd think he'd had a more important match with a full-time or even part-time wrestler, instead of the 47-year old Commissioner best known for jumping off things to make WrestleMania Moments™. The storyline behind it isn't the worst. Styles lost the title, lost rematches that he wasn't involved in the actual decision, and after earning a spot, lost the WrestleMania Main Event to Randy Orton, who was awarded his forfeited title opportunity instead of arrested for arson. Since the match isn't go be No DQ or Falls Count Anywhere, Styles is challenged even more to get a traditional wrestling match out of McMahon. I wanted to type "Young", but then I remembered Shane is approaching the age of Vince when he was working with Main Events with Steve Austin during the height of the Attitude Era. Any result other than "Styles kills Shane" makes no sense. (Pick: A.J. Styles)
9. The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
The Roman Reigns Experiment continues with a thrown together feud with the Undertaker in yet another desperate attempt at cementing Roman as the next top guy in the company. I don't hate Reigns, I swear. He's a good worker who keeps up with the great ones and has good-great matches almost every time he's in the ring, but he's not working in the spot. It didn't work with Lex Luger, it didn't work with Kevin Nash/Diesel. Some guys just don't connect with the audience, and Roman is unfortunately one of those guys. Undertaker is 52-years old and deteriorating physically. He needs hip replacement surgery and is in noticeable pain every time he does any physical act required of a professional wrestler. This won't be good, and it won't make fans happy to be there. Roman going over Undertaker is the right thing to do, but it'll be met with backlash, and it won't lead to a Roman heel turn, it'll just be "he's a polarizing figure, the fans paid for their ticket so they can boo and cheer who they want" excuse. (Pick: Roman Reigns)
10. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax in an Elimination Match for the Raw Women's Title
Another confusing mess to get down the Road to WrestleMania. Not only did they give away Bayley's first Championship on a random episode of Monday Night Raw, but they also killed Charlotte's "undefeated" PPV streak in Championship Matches on Fastlane! Nia Jax, who is clearly not ready for a spotlight like this, was shoe-horned (yes, again with that description) into the match because EVERYONE GETS A PAY DAY! The slow-burn Sasha turns on Bayley angle has been simmering, and heightened with Charlotte throwing out accusations that Sasha is waiting for the perfect moment to stab her in the back. Much like the SD Women's Match, with so many pieces to the puzzle, this has potential to be a great match, depending on how they utilize the weak links and if they don't start botching spots left and right (See: Sasha ever and Bayley at Fastlane). Taking the title off Bayley only makes sense if Sasha wins it by pinning her in the final fall. (Pick: Sasha Banks)
11. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Title
Former best friends do battle in an angle that began way back in September. Jericho's role in KO's record setting reign as Universal Champion also led to its demise, accepting a challenge from Goldberg on Owens' behalf. Jericho then threw an unconventional Festival of Friendship, only to be left a broken mess once Kevin Owens deemed that he was no longer of any value to him. Jericho's revenge came a few weeks later when he distracted Owens at the start of his match with Goldberg, leading to him losing the Championship in only 20-seconds. Jericho's age is against him, but this can be a show-stealer, if the stars align properly and Jericho can turn back the clock a bit to recapture his glory days as an in-ring performer. With Jericho taking time off (time off that was due following SummerSlam, but he hung around for this program), the title has to come off him soon, but I don't see it happening at WrestleMania, and for the second KO-Mania in a row, Kevin Owens will not leave with a Championship belt. (Pick: Chris Jericho)
12. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship
It seemed like this time last year, there was no chance "Bray Wyatt" and "WWE Champion" would be a phrase spoken or written, other than through fantasy booking and/or delusional fans, but with the brand split, that opened up new opportunities to under-utilized talent, and at Elimination Chamber, Wyatt became another in the short list of 3rd Generation Superstars becoming the World Champion (joining a group that includes The Rock and... Randy Orton). Orton joined the Wyatt Family shortly before Survivor Series, and even lead to the fallout between Wyatt and Luke Harper. Orton even won the Royal Rumble and abdicated his prize, until he was given the "keys to the kingdom" and used this opportunity to show his true intentions and burned down the Wyatt compound and desecrated the burial site of Sister Abigail. Yes, another slow-burn angle that has developed for about 6-months. I don't see this being a show stealer, but I expect a better than usual performance that has become expected from the two. I honestly have no clue who to go with, so I'll flip a coin. (Pick: Bray Wyatt)
13. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship
Three simple words: I. Don't. Care. I never liked Goldberg. I never liked him in WCW. I REALLY didn't like him in 2003, and now he's the Universal Champion as a 50-year old who has worked literally 5-minutes in the ring in the last decade-plus. Goldberg squashed Brock in 86 seconds at the Survivor Series, then easily disposed of him in the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match. Goldberg's deal runs out at WrestleMania, but there's talks of him sticking around for future dates if they come to terms on money, I guess. Brock is in the last year of his deal and signed up for more dates (mostly TV), so... yes, Brock Lesnar as the king of Monday Night Raw. Hopefully he won't disappear for months at a time, and will defend the belt at every PPV. In a perfect world, a full-time worker would carry the brand, but Brock is a "star" so that's all that matters. (Pick: Brock Lesnar)
Final Thoughts: This doesn't look like an all-time great show, but there's a lot of potential. Executing for the maximum potential is the key, though, and we've seen decent lineups completely wasted with questionable booking and rushed matches for the sake of celebrity involvement and bending over backwards for guys like the Rock to come out and pretend it's 1998 all over again. I'll do my best to have fun watching WrestleMania 33, and I hope for all wrestling fans that they try and do the same, as well.
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