By Hal Estep
On Sunday, April 7th, WWE will be hosting its 35th annual Wrestlemania. For those unfamiliar with Wrestlemania, think of it as WWE’s Super Bowl where all of the top superstars face off in the cumulation of the last year’s storylines. This year’s Wrestlemania is especially historic because it is the first Wrestlemania to be main event by women. In total, there are 15 matches announced for the show, and there is a precedent for unannounced matches to be added during the show, so let’s get this preview rolling.
The Usos vs Aleister Black and Ricochet vs The Bar vs Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev
Let’s start off with the “fatal four” way tag-team match that was announced on the last Smackdown Live. The Usos were placed in this match as punishment for forfeiting their match on the previous week’s gauntlet match against The New Day. Jimmy and Jey will now have to defend their Smackdown Tag Team Championships against 3 hungry tag teams. The first of which are former tag team champions, The Bar, aka Sheamus and Cesaro. These two are 5 time tag team champions and are known mostly for their contrast of Sheamus’ brawling style and Cesaro’s more technical approach. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev have had widespread individual success but not as much as a tag team. Nakamura fought for the WWE Championship at last year’s Wrestlemania, and Rusev made his Wrestlemania debut 4 years ago on a tank. These two know how to make an entrance, but we’ll have to see if they can win the Smackdown tag team championships. The last team is a bit of a wild card. Ricochet and Aleister Black are rather new to the WWE’s main roster, and have made an impact against the established top tag teams on both brands. The pairing didn’t seem to make sense at first, but they’ve proven to be a very good team in their short time. They’re both incredibly talented, and look out for Ricochet’s incredible agility and athleticism. He’s fast and performs the most amazing high risk maneuvers I’ve ever seen.
Women’s Battle Royal
If you’ve ever watched a battle royal, you know there’s way too many names to go through, so I’m not about to try that. There are some heavy favorites in the battle royal though. Most notably Asuka, who lost her Smackdown Women’s Championship to Charlotte Flair two weeks ago in heartbreaking fashion. Last year’s winner, Naomi will also be participating in the battle royal. There will also be two factions to watch in the battle royal; The Riott Squad and the former Absolution members Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Having strength in numbers is usually an advantage in battle royals, and these two teams should be able to use that advantage. There is also the insane Nikki Cross who is completely unpredictable, and may jump over the top rope just because she’s off her rocker.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The WWE loves a good battle royal so they have two on the pre-show of Wrestlemania. This battle royal is interesting because Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost will be taking part. Che and Jost were challenged by the ‘Monster Among Men’ Braun Strowman to enter the battle royal, and it’s generally a good idea to do what the big man says. Strowman has a history of destruction in the WWE, as he has thrown a man through the side of a steel cage, flipped a limo because he was mad, flipped a regular car because it was his rival’s rental car, flipped an ambulance with Roman Reigns inside of it, and destroyed the ring with a superplex. Braun Strowman is not someone you want to be on the wrong side of. Other notable names in the battle royal are Jeff and Matt Hardy, Bobby Roode, Shelton Benjamin, EC3 and Otis Dozovic. I include Otis because you need to witness the absolute glory of Otis Dozovic. It’s a sight to behold.
Buddy Murphy (c) vs Tony Nese for the Cruiserweight Championship
The first singles match will be between two of the top wrestlers on 205 Live, Tony Nese and Buddy Murphy. Tony Nese won a tournament to earn the opportunity to face Buddy Murphy at Wrestlemania and this should be a show-stealing match. The cruiserweights usually face a pretty quiet crowd to begin with because the audience isn’t familiar with them, and by the end of the match, everyone is on their feet. Buddy Murphy might be one of the most talented wrestlers on the roster and has been on a streak of incredible performances. Don’t underestimate these guys.
Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder vs The Revival (c) for the Raw Tag Team Championships
WWE decided to add this one right before the event, which was not expected. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder were a tag team about a decade ago and had some mild success. Now, 11 years after their debuts, they are reunited after years of floundering as singles competitors. That may sound harsh, but Zack Ryder is rarely on Raw and Curt Hawkins hasn’t won a singles match in well over a year. But they’re back together and they will be facing the rough, no-nonsense tag team of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, The Revival. They won’t pull any of the flashy moves that other competitors usually do, Dash and Dawson prefer to just punch you in the mouth. It would be some kind of a miracle if Ryder and Hawkins were to win this match. But it’s Wrestlemania, anything is possible.
Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) vs The IIconics vs Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs Nia Jax and Tamina for the Women’s Tag Team Championship
There are two types of matches that Vince McMahon seems to love to make. Battle royals and Fatal-Four-Way tag team matches. At this time last year, Sasha Banks and Bayley were having troubles, but have worked them out since then to become a great tag team. Unfortunately, because of those issues last year, commentator Corey Graves will probably scream nonsensically about how Sasha Banks is a glory hound and Bayley should ditch her because he’s the only one who keeps track of things that happened last year. I’m just warning you because that is absolutely going to happen during this match. Sasha and Bayley will take on three other teams. The first of which is the IIconics, who may be the most annoying duo in the WWE. The Aussies may remind you of the preppy girls from high school that could not be separated at any point, and are essentially non-attached siamese twins. This friendship they have is definitely an advantage because they can trust each other more than Bayley and Sasha can trust each other. Nia Jax and Tamina are also competing in this match and they are easily the most powerful tandem. They will be difficult to topple. And the wild card of this group is Beth Phoenix and Natalya. Beth Phoenix is coming out of retirement for this match and in the short spurts we’ve seen her wrestle, it looks like she hasn’t missed a beat. They are also a pretty strong team, both as friends and physically. They could be the team to beat, or ring rust will rear its head and Beth won’t be in form.
Drew McIntyre vs Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns returned earlier this year after his bout with leukemia to thunderous applause and the support of all of the fans. It was a stark contrast from before he had to leave, where the crowd was split on how to feel about him. But going into Wrestlemania, the support for Roman is at its strongest and he’ll be taking on the man dubbed “The Scottish Psychopath”, Drew McIntyre. McIntyre has lived up to his name recently, destroying one of Roman’s best friends, Dean Ambrose. It will be interesting to see how this match plays out. A Roman Reigns win would be a great comeback story, but McIntyre will be looking to crush any hopes of a happy ending to the comeback.
Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin
I’m going to be blunt here. No one on planet earth wants Kurt Angle’s last match to be against Baron Corbin. This is the final match for the Olympic gold medalist, and it seems like it’s time for him to hang up his boots. Unfortunately, instead of John Cena or Samoa Joe or Daniel Bryan, it will be against Baron Corbin. Baron Corbin wrestles in dress clothes with a vest. This isn’t a hit piece on Baron Corbin but it doesn’t make sense. Ric Flair got Shawn Michaels in his last match. Shawn Michaels got the Undertaker. Kurt Angle is going to be retiring after a match with Baron Corbin. We’re all hoping for one last hurrah from Angle.
Samoa Joe (c) vs Rey Mysterio for the United States Championship
Samoa Joe is a pretty sick guy. He calls out his rival’s wife, his rival’s kids and tells them that their dad is going night night after choking him out. He has the guts to get in Brock Lesnar’s face and chastise him for not looking him in the eye. Joe likes to push his opponent’s buttons and it’s both intimidating and entertaining. He’ll be going up against the veteran luchador Rey Mysterio. Everybody loves Rey Mysterio. If you don’t, you also don’t have a heart and I suggest you begin loving Rey Mysterio. He’s flashy, quick, and really inspired a generation of cruiserweights. Samoa Joe would love to destroy someone like that. Mysterio has made a career of being the underdog and overcoming the odds, so it would not be wise to bet on either of these guys. Either one has a good chance of going home with the title.
Bobby Lashley (c) vs Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship
If you haven’t watched in a while, it may be jarring for you to see a man enter the ring covered in face paint dressed as a demon. Trust me, it’s fine, you’ll be fine. The demon in Finn Balor has awoken again, and he’s going to battle Bobby Lashley for the Intercontinental title. Lashley will have the benefit of having his hype man Lio Rush at ringside, and he will probably try to get involved at some point. But Balor has the benefit of literally being a demon at Wrestlemania and he has never lost as the Demon. Which begs the question, why doesn’t Finn just always be the Demon? He’d never lose. Anyways, Lashley is a pretty dominant wrestler. He has the explosiveness of a linebacker and has been a multi-time champion in WWE, but he is not a demon. In most situations, a demon beats a human. But, this is also Wrestlemania, so don’t be surprised if Lashley spears the Demon Balor into the 4th row and wins somehow.
AJ Styles vs Randy Orton
This match has the potential to steal the show. AJ Styles and Randy Orton are two of the greatest wrestlers of this era, and that isn’t hyperbole. Randy Orton has been a prominent face in the WWE since his first world title win in 2004. That’s 15 years at the forefront of the WWE. He’s taking on AJ Styles, who joined the company in 2016 but has become “The Face that Runs the Place” on Smackdown Live already. Before AJ Styles joined the WWE, he was making his name on the independent circuit, which Randy Orton considers the minor leagues. WWE is the big leagues to Orton and he has never had to wrestle in “bingo halls” and “high school gyms” like AJ Styles. Orton has basically doubted that AJ Styles is anywhere as good as he thinks he is because it took Styles 15 years to get to the WWE. This match is the definition of the indies vs the WWE establishment. The WWE has signed numerous workers who have made their name on the independent circuit in recent years, and less of their stars are homegrown like Randy Orton, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, etc. This could be the passing of a guard, as many thought CM Punk vs John Cena would be. This match may not live up to that hype, but it should be an outstanding match nonetheless.
Shane McMahon vs The Miz – Falls Count Anywhere
It’s Wrestlemania and Shane McMahon has a match. That means Shane McMahon is probably going to somehow find a way to defy conventional thinking and fall from 25 or more feet and somehow be relatively injury free. Shane McMahon was once the good McMahon of the family about a year ago. Everyone loved him, they cheered him unlike his father, sister or brother-in-law. But at Fast Lane, McMahon betrayed his tag team partner, The Miz, after losing to The Usos. He didn’t just attack The Miz, he did it in Miz’s hometown, and in front of The Miz’s father. He even put his hands on The Miz’s dad and shoved him back into his seat. It was a pretty heinous attack and a personal feud like that required a falls count anywhere match. For fans of watching Shane McMahon continuously tempt fate by doing death-defying maneuvers, this is perfect. It’ll be very hard for fans to get behind McMahon again though. He’s essentially become a bully. The Miz has historically been hard to support because he’s seemed disingenuous and cocky, but all he wanted out his partnership with McMahon was to become tag team champions, and most importantly, make his father proud. This match should be crazy, and there’s a chance that Shane McMahon does something crazy and almost dies.
Triple H vs Batista – No Holds Barred
I don’t need to explain who either of these guys are. If you have followed wrestling at any point in the last 25 years, you know exactly who Triple H is. And Batista may be better known for his role as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War. These two have both reached the top of the mountain in WWE before. There’s only one thing that Triple H hasn’t done, and that is beat Batista. Batista’s way of getting Triple H’s attention for this match was beating up a 70-year-old Ric Flair. Which is pretty messed up, but it was effective. The caveat for this match is that if Batista wins, Triple H must retire. Batista has already stated that this will be his last match. Presumably, he will return to the soul stone after this match. If you love a good brawl, this will definitely be for you.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar has been the Universal champion for what feels like the entire history of the belt. Lesnar has been champion for a combined 652 days from his two reigns, which spans 70% of the time that the Universal Championship has existed. It’s no surprise either, Lesnar is an absolute beast. He’s been on top everywhere he’s gone (if you ignore the NFL). He’s been a world champion multiple times in the WWE, a world champion in the UFC and even a world champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He has only ever lost a title match at Wrestlemania once. Who won that match? Well, it was his opponent Seth Rollins. Rollins cashed in his Money In the Bank contract at Wrestlemania 31 in the middle of the main event between Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Lesnar is an odd champion, in that he never shows up and honestly I’ve forgotten that the Universal championship exists many times because of that. Rollins wants to be the one who makes the championship feel like a world championship again. It’ll be a tough task, since Lesnar likes to suplex his opponents about a dozen times before finally putting them down for the 3 count with an F5. If there’s anyone who can take him down, it’s Seth Rollins. As stated previously, Rollins does have a win against Lesnar, although he did pin Reigns. But Rollins gained his nickname “The Kingslayer” when he defeated Triple H. He hopes to add “Beastslayer” to his list of nicknames after Sunday, but I wouldn’t count on it. But who knows, maybe Daniel Cormier will interfere and get his money fight against Lesnar in the UFC in August.
Daniel Bryan (c) vs Kofi Kingston for the WWE Championship
It has been a long journey for Kofi Kingston. He has been in the WWE for 11 years and he has never, ever gotten a singles world title opportunity. For 11 years, he’s remained a loyal soldier for the WWE, never complaining once. In the past few months, the fans have gotten behind Kingston and made it impossible for the WWE to ignore their support for him. Despite opposition and obstacles thrown at him by Vince McMahon, Kingston finally has that opportunity at Wrestlemania 35. 5 years ago, Daniel Bryan had an almost identical road to Wrestlemania. He was the underdog who kept being held down by management. He was the guy who the fans loved and adored, and they wanted to see him in the title match at Wrestlemania. He was called a B+ player by the McMahons, which meant he wasn’t good enough for the title. Here we are in 2019, and the tables have turned. Daniel Bryan is the one calling Kofi Kingston a B+ player. Bryan has gone from the lovable underdog living his dream to a condescending environmentalist standing in the way of Kofi’s dreams. This is the match that has the fans’ hearts in it. Kofi winning the title would be the ultimate feel-good moment after all of his years of hard work that until now, haven’t been rewarded. This is going to be an incredible match, with Kofi’s high flying flashy ability and Daniel Bryan’s world-class technical wrestling.
Ronda Rousey (c) vs Charlotte Flair (c) vs Becky Lynch for both Women’s Championships
There’s only one guarantee for this match. Someone is about to become the first ever double champ in the women’s division. This is the first time a women’s match will main event in Wrestlemania history, and all 3 of the women in the match are capable of living up to the spotlight of main eventing the grandest stage of them all. Anyone who even just watches Sportscenter highlights knows who Ronda Rousey is. The first dominant women’s UFC fighter, who ran through her competition with ease (well…until Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes showed up). She’s taken her talents to the WWE and holds the Raw Women’s Championship. Charlotte Flair is the Nature Boy Ric Flair’s daughter, and holds the Smackdown Women’s Championship after defeating Asuka 2 weeks ago on Smackdown Live. And Becky Lynch is the hottest star in the WWE not named Kofi Kingston. These three have been on a collision course since November and they will finally square off on Sunday. The last we’ve seen of these 3 together were on the last Monday Night Raw where all 3 were arrested. Seriously, watch it because it was the most entertaining 4 minutes of WWE programming in years. These 3 despise each other for multiple reasons. Rousey despises both Charlotte and Lynch because they attacked her in November on separate occasions. Charlotte loves the spotlight and has everything handed to her by management (she wasn’t originally announced for this match but was stuck into it by Vince McMahon just because he felt like it). And Becky Lynch believes she is the top women’s star by far, and the fans seem to agree. This is going to be a historic main event and this match needs to live up to the hype surrounding it. It’s one thing to have the first women’s main event of Wrestlemania, but if it’s tremendous, it could be the first of many. It’s standard for WWE to regress back to the mean after an event like this, but an incredible main event would make it hard for them to not have the women main event again.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org