Mar 31, 2017

WrestleMania 33 Notes & Predictions

WrestleMania 33 is just two days away and despite what you may think about the build, there is excitement in the air. Before we get to predictions, let's discuss the road that got us here.

I'd hate to be negative, but is it just me, or has this 'Mania build been less exciting than past years? The card itself seems to feature a lot of matches designed purely to get more people on the show. From the battle royal, to the two Women's Championship matches, some matches feel too cluttered. I'm going to point the finger at the brand split. Yes, the draft last July helped many mid-card wrestlers reach greater heights within the two smaller rosters. People like Kevin Owens, The Miz, and Bray Wyatt were able to break through the pack over the year. The negative to this brand split appears to be showing itself in this year's WrestleMania card. At this point in time, Sunday is set to feature 13 matches over the span of six hours. I love professional wrestling, but even I'm a bit worried about the length of this show. 13 matches means that some bouts will be very strapped for time, meaning some may end pretty quickly leaving many of us to wonder why they happened in the first place.

That being said, there are many matches that won't disappoint, so let's go over the card.

2017 Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Slated for the pre-show, the annual battle royal hasn't had as much fanfare as the original incarnation. This appears to be the match to get many wrestlers without storylines onto the 'Mania card. The winner of the battle royal could go to Braun Strowman, the most logical choice. WWE recently added Chinese wrestler, Tian Bing, to the match. This is an interesting decision if he's not positioned to win the match. The booking of Tian should at the very least feature him eliminating many participants if he's ultimately not going to win. In any case, I'm going with Strowman purely on the basis of logic.

Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries

Fans should be praying to the wrestling gods that these two guys get the time to have a great match on such a large stage. Aries is by far one of the best all-around performers in the company and Neville has single handedly saved the Cruiserweight division. Neville deserves a lot of credit for rising from obscurity to dawning an excellent heel character to lead the division. This match could go either way, but I'm going to pick Neville. Arguments could be made for both, though.

SmackDown Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge:
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi vs. Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella

The women of SmackDown have made great strides since the brand split. In saying that, this isn't the best spot to have at WrestleMania. Thrown together with a lackluster stipulation, this match may be the victim of time constraints. Being nearly impossible to predict, I'm going to go with Naomi coming off her unfortunate injury that forced her to vacate the title weeks ago.

RAW Tag-Team Championship Ladder Match:
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus

This is yet another example of an impulsive stipulation. Though the usual six to seven-man free-for-all ladder match seems like a better option, there should be some exciting spots in this one. Cesaro will surely wow the WrestleMania crowd with his athleticism. I'm praying that Enzo lives to see Monday. I'll predict Gallows and Anderson retain here.

Intercontinental Championship Match:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin

The build for this match started decently with the forklift ordeal, but really lost steam shortly after. Capped by a barely passable Talking Smack segment, Ambrose and Corbin really have their work cut out for them at WrestleMania. WWE has made it pretty clear that they have a vision for Corbin, so look for him to beat Ambrose on Sunday. Ambrose has really fallen off the map since his match with Triple H at the first Roadblock event and it seems this trend will continue.

John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

Again, the build to WrestleMania 33 wasn't very strong. Many of the matches seem to hold little importance. This match is an interesting case in that the build has been epic to say the least, yet the match itself may not be that interesting. I'm not sure how exciting the actual in-ring portion of this feud will be, but we can all agree that the road to get here was probably the best built program of WrestleMania. The Miz continues his hot streak of great promo segments and John Cena again has proven why he's still one of, if not, best promo guy in the business. With a rumored finish leading to a marriage proposal, it seems Cena and Bella will win the match. The build points to Miz and Maryse losing as well. 

United States Championship Match:
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens

Owens and Jericho have incredible chemistry, as illustrated by their run as a tandem. They have a great chance at really stealing the show at WrestleMania. I could go on and on about how great these two are, but it's completely obvious. Owens will surely go over, considering Jericho is set to leave WWE for his latest Fozzy tour. This should be a quality bout.

RAW Women's Championship Elimination Match:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Nia Jax

There are a million directions WWE could go with in this match. The fact that it's not a Bayley singles match is disappointing. WWE had a chance to build up a storyline in which Bayley chased after the title all the way to WrestleMania and could've had a huge moment when she won the title. They opted to kill Charlotte's pay per view win streak at Fastlane, which can be described as a head scratcher at best. In short, this should've been the big moment when Bayley finally defeater Charlotte and her win streak. But that's in the past and lost in the black hole of WWE's short term booking direction. Banks has been due to make a heel turn, so I'm predicting that will factor into the finish of this match. With that in mind, I'm going to pick Charlotte to come out on top. 

Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles

It's a sad state of affairs when a guy that's dominated the WWE landscape since his debut ends up in a strange situation at the biggest show of the year. AJ Style is unfortunately in that position. As of now, this match has no stipulations, which is mind blowing considering that McMahon's gimmick involves spots and situations that call for a no count out or no disqualification type of match. AJ Styles is probably the best wrestler on the planet, so if anyone can make this match work, it's him. Still though, on paper, a straight-up wrestling match with Shane McMahon seems daunting. Shane's bout with the Undertaker at WrestleMania 32 was all built around the cage fall and everything outside of that was mediocre. With all that being said, there is no other acceptable finish than AJ Styles beating Shane McMahon.

WWE Championship Match:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton

This feud has spanned months and has gotten a lot of time to develop on SmackDown. The storyline hasn't really been my cup of tea, but I can understand the intrigue other fans may have. I'm leaning towards an Orton title win, but that doesn't mean that Bray can't win this thing. This program will probably continue after WrestleMania, leaving the door open for Wyatt to retain. I'm going to stick with Orton until I'm proven wrong.

Universal Championship Match:
Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

The story of this match goes into a larger issue with WWE that I'm not going to get into. Did they need the title for this match? Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. If I thought I was going to see a 12+ minute slugfest I would be very excited. All signs point to Lesnar winning fairly quickly, though. I'm hoping for a physical bout that will keep me interested, but that probably won't happen. Lesnar goes over, unless something drastically changes with Goldberg's WWE status going forward.

Non-Sanctioned Match:
Triple H vs. Seth Rollins

The build to this match was enjoyable and had its highs and lows. Triple H excelled on the mic and Seth Rollins finally started to receive the babyface crowd reactions that WWE attempted to kill upon his return last year. The non-sanctioned aspect of this match should make it quite interesting, as it seems destined to be more of a brawl than anything else. Will Somoa Joe get involved? If so, is there a certain returning superstar that could possibly even the score?.....Rollins must win, but expect this one to be exciting and different than the rest of the WrestleMania card.

The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns

The only thing that could hold this match back is the condition of the Undertaker and his ability to work. So let's assume that he can do just enough to make this match exciting. As much as the Roman Reigns babyface push has been a three-year train wreck, this match will probably benefit from it. Reigns has been leaning towards some sort of heel turn, but that's a conversation that's been beaten to death. Reigns will be the most hated wrestler at WrestleMania and the dynamic of the crowd reactions between the two will be electric. It's said every year, but this could be the last we see of the Undertaker in the ring. I'm picking Reigns to win, but regardless, this match should at the very least, engage the entire audience to the highest degree. Let's all just hope that Taker has a little left in the tank to pull off one more WrestleMania classic.

There you have it, my thoughts and predictions for the biggest WWE show of 2017. Though the card seems very weak in certain spots, all can be made good if the matches with time are quality. It may not quite measure up to the standard set by New Japan Pro Wrestling's WrestleKingdom 11, but there should be moments that capture the same level of excitement. WrestleMania 33 has its work cut out, so here's to the hope that WWE will exceed many's expectations.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater