Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Taker or Lesner? Bryan or Hunter? Wyatt or Cena? Yes, it’s once again Wrestlemania weekend, and like last year I reached out to several folks in the comic community to get their take on the WWE’s signature event. Our panel shared their thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams for tomorrow’s big card, which for the first time will be available via the WWE Network. So let’s just cross our fingers that we get to see the entire card.
Let’s meet our panel:
James Hornsby is the cartoonist behind Botched Spot, the webcomic that satirizes pro-wrestling culture, be it televised products, dirt sheets or fandom. He also makes “Over Like Olav,” a comic that focuses on his own characters, Olav and Rad Bad DeBone, as they make their way through the wrestling world. Check out his work at www.jameshornsby.com or www.botchedspot.com, follow him on Twitter @BotchedSpot, and see him on Facebook at facebook.com/botchedspot.
Vito Delsante is a comic book writer based out of NYC, where he’s currently hard at work on producing the Kickstarter-funded Stray, as well as World War Mob. You can follow him on Twitter and listen to him talk about pro wrestling every week on PoP!-Cast Wrestling (PCW) on the Panels on Pages Network.
Pat Loika dabbles in writing and drawing his own comics, but is mostly known for his podcast, Loikamania. You can follow him on twitter as @patloika where he does nothing but take pictures and share his love of comics and pop culture. You can learn more about him in this Buzz Feed profile.
Albert Ching is senior editor at Comic Book Resources, doing various behind-the-scenes and in-front-of-the-scenes work on the site.
Chad Nevett used to write about comics a lot, but doesn’t as much anymore. He’s the editor of SHOT IN THE FACE: A SAVAGE JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF TRANSMETROPOLITAN for Sequart and is currently working on THE INFINITY EFFECT, a book about Jim Starlin’s cosmic comics, also for Sequart. He still writes occasionally for Comics Should be Good and you can follow him on Twitter at @cnevett.
Box Brown is the creator of First Second’s upcoming release, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, which is due out on May. He’s also the publisher of Retrofit Comics, who are at the big MoCCA show this weekend if you happen to be in New York City.
Chris Arrant is a writer of and about comics. Author of the recently published Modern Masters: Cliff Chiang, he also reports on comics for Newsarama.com and ComicBookResources.com’s ROBOT 6, and has written in the past for Marvel, AdHouseBooks, Publishers Weekly, TOKYOPOP and others. As a comics writer, Arrant has written for the anthologies 24Seven Vol. 2, Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo and Negative Burn, as well as writing the well-received Female Force: Princess Diana one-shot and the self-published Four Stories anthology.
Aubrey Sitterson is a comics writer and wrestling aesthete. Currently, he’s the host of The World’s Smartest Rasslin Talk Show, STRAIGHT SHOOT, available on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher, and is super stoked about the release of his first graphic novel, Worth, on April 2. He’s also edited some comics you might have heard of, like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Kick-Ass, Ghost Rider and The Irredeemable Ant-Man. For rasslin talk, comics yammering, metal chitchat and cat pics, follow him on Twitter at @aubreysitterson.
Stephen Gerding is a senior editor for Comic Book Resources, where he does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff to keep the news flowing to you every day.
Let’s start with some general thoughts from a couple of folks …
Vito Delsante: I’ve said it for a couple of months now (and if you don’t believe me, you aren’t a listener of PCW are you?). Due to the fact that the WWE Network only costs $9.99/month, as opposed to $60 bucks for the one event, there is no obligation on their part to put on a “Showcase of the Immortals.” I know they think they are, but in reality, they can look at this as a blowoff because, in their defense…it’s only $10. One can hear Vince saying, “What did you expect for ten dollars?!” And to a degree, they’re right. You can’t expect much for the price. I get more going to Ring of Honor shows, and I’m paying $80 to sit in the front row. What they’re selling is an experience. It’s truly the Super Bowl Sunday for the wrestling community. By being the cheapest show in town (on your mobile device or gaming system, I mean), they are making the point that it’s quantity over quality. I don’t really…look, I watch Legends of Wrestling and now, NXT, thanks to the Network, so I’m not exactly complaining. But when your biggest selling point is getting every PPV for a fifth of the cost, if you phone it in, it doesn’t matter because you’re still going to watch. The Network is the coolest thing in the world, believe me, but it’s made suckers out of a lot of us.
Pat Loika: The build-up to WrestleMania this year has been kinda strange due to all the backstage drama and the discontent of a lot of wrestling fans towards the product. CM Punk’s departure may have inadvertently saved this show from becoming somewhat of a disaster.
Usos vs. Real Americans vs. Ryback/Curtis Axel vs. Los Matadores
Aubrey Sitterson: How crazy (and crazy-awesome) is it that WWE has a legit tag team division now? I’m delighted to see the Usos at the top of the heap, as I’ve thought they’ve deserved it for some time now, but am a little disappointed that they’re having to defend it in one of these 4-team matches. Whether it’s a “one man from each team in the ring” thing or a “tag in dudes from opposing teams” deal, the psychology of these matches always breaks down for me. I’d like to see the Usos hang onto the titles so that when they do lose them, it’s in a more legit match – preferably a knockdown-dragout classic against the Real Americans.
That said: El Torito.
Chris Arrant: I love tag team wrestling – I went to see WCW Battlebowl live to prove it – but in recent Wrestlemanias I’ve been non-plussed by what they’ve offered. I’m not excited about this match in itself, but am for the it hopefully being a stepping stone to establish the Usos more. That, and forward the simmering breakup of the Real Americans.
I think WWE has something in the Usos, but they still need development; in a conversation with a friend I compared them to the Hardy Boyz around 1999 – after they dropped Michael Hayes as a manager, before their brief heel turn with Gangrel, and before everything clicked in 2000 against Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz. The tag team division doesn’t have a lot of heels for them to play against on a high level, and they also are having to deal with being considered the second on the face side to the Rhodes Brothers. But the Usos have the moves, and show glimmers of the personalities, to break through perhaps; they need seasoning, ideal opponents, and maybe – just maybe – a manager/valet of some kind to make it all work. Seasoning comes with time, Ideal opponents could be in NXT now (the Ascension?) or perhaps even in WWE (Harper & Rowan?) to give them room to be the babyfaces in peril and give them the base to do more high-flying moves.
As an aside; when was the last time the tag titles had an actual storyline and? Arguably, you could say 13 years ago in Wrestlemania X-Seven. That’s not to say there’s not been bright spots in the tag team division however, as in the past 18 months there’ve been several periods of greatness during Team Hell No, The Shield and The Rhodes Bros. run, but since WM X7 it’s been intermittent and really outside WM season.
It’s also interesting to note that although this is Los Matadores first time at Wrestlemania in that gimmick, they’ve wrestled as the Colons multiple times at WM for the title – winning and unifying the Raw & Smackdown tag title belts five years ago even at WM XXV.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: The Usos
WHO I WANT TO WIN: The Usos
Pat Loika: I assume that The Usos will take it home, with this being their first PPV title defense. I also think that the Real Americans will break up here, leading to Cesaro’s push.
Carla Hoffman: It’s between the Usos and the Real Americans… and the Usos need it more. Sure, they’re champs but they’re still missing something that could connect the crowd to them and I think a ‘Wrestlemania moment’ could do the trick. The Real Americans are doing fine and can provide some awesome spots, Rybaxel is… kind of floundering to be honest and Los Matadores are there because the Rhodes Brothers didn’t get a parking pass close enough to the area, I don’t know. But yeah, it’s a great match to open up the show, Usos are high energy and both Cesaro and the underrated Jack Swagger are on fire these days ( a metaphor I don’t use lightly). This is gonna be a good match to start the show.
Vito Delsante: This could be the sleeper hit of the night. I don’t think the Real Americans can win this because it seems to me that Cesaro is being groomed for something bigger. This match could serve to move in that direction. It won’t be RybAxel because, I don’t care how many times you do it, WWE, you can’t make me care about a hastily thrown together tag team. So that leaves the Usos and Los Matatores. This being the “Reality Era,” I think you have to pick the Usos to retain.
James Hornsby: Hm… who do I want to win this match? The Shield? The Rhodes Brothers? If only they were in it… The tag division has been a whirlwind the past few months in terms of who the WWE is pushing, but at least there ARE tag teams. As in pairs of guys with matching outfits. Since it’s been a long time (if ever) since Los Matadores, Rybaxel, and (to a lesser degree) The Real Americans have been made to look credible, I’m picking the Usos to win.
Albert Ching: Jimmy Uso is basically the Fonzie of “Total Divas.” Usos retain. (Bummer that Cesaro is on the pre-show, right? At least he’ll probably get to swing Torito.)
Chad Nevett: The Rhodes Brothers who? After their late summer/fall in 2013, it’s hard to believe that the Rhodes Bros. aren’t in this match. I’m not usually a fan of fourway tag matches that aren’t elimination-style, because, unlike fourway singles matches where all four men are in the action at the same time, tag matches have only two men in the ring — meaning, if it’s one fall to a finish, two teams are flat-out unable to win at any given time. Given that the Usos just won the belts, I don’t see any upside in them losing here, especially with only one team that seems credible enough to win right now (the Real Americans). And the Real Americans keep flirting with breaking up as Cesaro moves onto a singles push and Jack Swagger remains in the midcard. This could be a fun pre-show match, but it’s one that I don’t have much investment in.
Winners and STILL WWE Tag Team Champions: THE USOS
Stephen Gerding: Man, what a mess of a match to put on the biggest card of the year – and I say that as a guy who actually enjoys all the teams involved. Los Matadores over the Rhodes? PREPOSTEROUS! Anyhow, let’s say the Usos go over, the Real Americans split up after some in-ring miscommunications and Ryback spends the entire match tweeting from the King’s iPad.
Box Brown: I think the USOs will probably walk away with this. I am very very much hoping though that the Real Americans break up so Cesaro can be a top babyface where he belongs.
JK Parkin: I like the Usos, and I’m glad to finally see them with the titles around their waists. That being said, I’m going way out on a limb and picking a couple of wild cards for this one … Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. It’s odd that they aren’t in a match somewhere on the card — unless they’re two of the as-yet-unannounced competitors in the big battle royal — so having them take out Los Matadoras back stage and steal their spot seems like the crazy Wyatt Family thing to do.
Pat Loika: The Shield wins this, because it makes sense. Though I’ll be honest, I was hoping that they’d face better, younger opponents who can match them. Kane and the Outlaws should prove to be entertaining against them at least.
Box Brown: Not sure. I have a feeling Kane and NAO will walk away with this one, hopefully leading to a break-up of the Shield.
Stephen Gerding: My heart want the Shield to go over here as they make their way to a year-long run as the WWE’s premiere face team, but my gut is telling me that even if they do win — which I fear they will not — they’ll wind up shattered as Reigns launches his solo career.
James Hornsby: While there are several different matches I would rather have seen The Shield in (A Triple Threat or vs. the Wyatts), I’m still expecting this match to be entertaining. Although I was okay with the idea of the Shield breaking up a month ago, I’m glad that we’re finally getting a chance to see them as faces if only so I don’t wonder “what if?” for the rest of my life. While I don’t hate the New Age Outlaws’ resurgence as much as some people, it would be a crime if they won. I pick the Shield to win!
Vito Delsante: I really want to care about this match and I think the WWE knows this (because, I think many people share the same sentiment). There’s no doubt that they have to break up the Shield and they have to do it now before they become a joke. I look for Ambrose to turn on Rollins and Reigns, and for him to join the Minis–uh, Corp–I mean, Authority. Meaning Kane and the Outlaws pull out the W.
Chad Nevett: Of all the possibilities for the Shield at WrestleMania, this is what gets booked… It’s not bad per se, it’s just a watered down version of the match they had at ‘Mania last year where they faced Sheamus, Randy Orton, and the Big Show. Here, they face Kane and the over-the-hill New Age Outlaws and there’s absolutely no doubt on who should (and will) win this match. I guess the interest/tension comes in how it comes about. Will it simply be a Romain Reigns showcase match? Will it return to teasing the Shield breakup that is coming? Will it have the breakup itself? That’s about all that’s interesting about this match heading into Sunday and the build has reflected this. It’s the future of the company versus its no longer vital past. The Shield get to go 2-0 at ‘Mania.
Winners: THE SHIELD
Carla Hoffman: Can I say we all win? The Shield could come out there with a folding chair and take turns reading the phone book and I would be on the edge of my seat. They have been turning out brilliant match after brilliant match since 2012 (seems like they’ve been around longer, right?) and trios matches are where they really show off. From Rollins’s wild flips and break-neck speed, Ambrose’s presence and ‘Lou Spazz Press’ style of street fighting, to Reign’s… do I even have to say anything? I could go on for pages about the Samoan Prince, but my husband is reading.
Kane’s new Angry Office Manager look is really doing it for me in terms of intimidation and highlighting his slower monster style. Even the Old Age Outlaws are doing better than I give them credit for on being the traditional type of sneaky heel you can really get behind hating. I’m calling Shield triumphant, but that just might be the mark in me talking.
Aubrey Sitterson: A lot of people I talk rasslin with are kind of butthurt about this match, and I’m not exactly clear on the logic. I think for some of them, it’s that they’d rather see the long-teased Shield break-up, but I’m still really enjoying them as a team, and honestly, the singles picture is so crowded right now, I don’t see where they’d all go aside from feuds with Kofi or Miz or something. Which, I dunno, but no thanks. Other folks seem pissed that they’re facing veteran hands like Kane and the NAO, but I’m fine with it because with their association with the Authority, they’re a team that can get actual heat with a smark-heavy WrestleMania crowd, not to mention have an incredible match. I’d like to see the Shield lose due to their own in-fighting, furthering that ongoing story.
Albert Ching: The Shield win — and hopefully continue their run as awesome babyfaces for at least a few more months.
Chris Arrant: I’m still getting used to the quick transition from cool heels to celebrating, slap hands with the fans babyfaces they’ve become, but the Shield seem to be a lock to go over on this bought. This seems like a hastily put together match however, as I think the NAO could have gotten in closer with the Authority and Kane weeks ago and put on the suits. My expectations for the match are positive – you have a mixture of fresh-faced enthusiasm, energy and tenacity against four guys who have a combined 75 years in the business. I hope they’ll delay the on-again off-again split of the Shield past this match, and instead focus on the high spots of the Triple Powerbomb on Kane, the NAO as cowardly heels, and the workrate of Rollins.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: The Shield
WHO I WANT TO WIN: The Shield
JK Parkin: I think the big question here isn’t who should win or who will win, but why the Shield haven’t landed a guest-starring role on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”? Is it because Reigns uses the “superman” punch? That’s an easy fix; in the words of my friend Arune, the Coulson Punch is money on the table, while the powerbomb could be renamed “Welcome to Level 7.”
AJ vs. The Bella Twins vs. Natalya vs. Alicia Fox vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Cameron vs. Eva Marie vs. Emma vs. Summer Rae vs. Aksana vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Tamina
Vito Delsante: The announcement of this match made me so angry. This should be a showcase of the two best female wrestlers in the world. Instead, it’s the “get them all on the show.” On one hand, I suppose this does the job since Total Divas isn’t going to be aired on Sunday (probably a repeat), but on the other…I really hate that AJ Lee (and really, the entire Divas locker room) doesn’t get the spotlight that the guys are getting. Look, you can’t have Eva Marie vs Alicia Fox as your showcase women’s wrestling match; I get it. But AJ is a phenomenal wrestler. The Bellas get better every week. Layla is in the twilight of her WWE career. Either of these 4, in a one on one match for the title (AJ vs whoever) is a good enough match for me. What we got, instead, is a one off (because there won’t be a Vickie invitational next year…this is going away after Sunday) that makes the title, and the wrestlers involved, irrelevant. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Pirate Funkadactyl wins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if AJ retains because, again, this match is a blowoff.
Chris Arrant: Since the golden age of women’s wrestling ended with Trish’s retirement, the women’s matches at Wrestlemania have plummeted into cattle calls for every woman wrestler in the back to come forward. Some years it might have been justifiable in going for quantity over quality, but in 2014 WWE has the seeds for a potentially great showcase of women’s wrestling. But that’s another conversation.
I think Nikki Bella will win to further the Total Divas story and to reward her for her increased work ethic, and I don’t think that’s ill-placed but perhaps ill-timed. If AJ were to drop the title, I’d like to see it on a more one-on-one type match.
And waiting in the wings, in my mind at least, is NXT diva Paige – who would be an excellent choice to debut against Nikki Bella as a champion, but odd if coming in against an AJ title run. And unfortunately, WWE doesn’t have a spot for more than one women’s feud at a time.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Nikki Bella
WHO I WANT TO WIN: AJ
Albert Ching: Rosa Mendes is on the Wrestlemania card, and [insert name here] is not. AJ has an impressive run as Divas champ, but it just may be time for a Total Diva to win the gold (in a match where AJ has lots of outs). Let’s go with Funkadactyl Naomi, who was being built up in a big way before her eye injury.
Chad Nevett: Is it really an “invitational” if every Diva on the roster is invited? More of a child’s birthday party, don’t you think? That it’s a single fall match means that this has clusterfuck written all over it. Sometimes, complete chaos helps Divas matches. Your attention is drawn in every direction, so there’s little chance to focus on any of the shoddy spots. There seem to be conflicting rumours for this one: on the one hand, there’s Brie Bella walking out as champ to pair with her fiance Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to help fuel the Total Divas story build to their wedding; on the other, there’s AJ retaining, because it’s a chance for a heel to win on a show that’s almost guaranteed to be overwhelmingly full of babyface winners. Neither option really excites me, but that’s because there’s no indication that any specific Diva winning will mean anything. So, I’ll go with the cross-media rumour…
Winner and NEW Divas Champion: BRIE BELLA
Pat Loika: Still rooting for AJ Lee, but I’m guessing one of the Bellas will take it.
Stephen Gerding: I want so much to care about this, so let’s call up Paige from NXT as a surprise entrant, have her and AJ as the Last Divas Standing and set up a real wrestling feud in the Diva division between the two of them. Oh, and leave the belt on AJ while we’re at it.
Box Brown: Bree Bella? God could the WWE Divas division be more of an afterthought?
James Hornsby: I’m going to make a bold statement here and say that I don’t hate the divas in the Diva’s Division. In fact I like most of them, mostly thanks to Total Divas and not because of the five minutes of time they get on Raw and Smackdown. I don’t know, they’re just all so petty and gossipy and I love it. That being said, I’d be okay with most any of these women winning the title, especially considering it might actually shake up this division that’s been on autopilot for a while now. I officially think AJ will win because it doesn’t seem like any other Diva is being consistently pushed as a threat, but it won’t surprise me if she loses either.
Carla Hoffman: All that high energy and we’re going to this? Ugh. No offense to the Divas who really have worked hard to pick the Division up from the Limbo it’s been floating in but … this is going to be a lull in action. Hopefully we’ll get a few high spots, probably a big double cross from Tamina and … I don’t see AJ walking out with the belt. She’s held it long enough and the media focus is pretty solidly on the Total Diva girls, so probably Naomi. She’s solid and they wanted to move in that direction before she got that new sparkly eyepatch. They might flip expectations and keep it on AJ to balance out the heel/face win/loss ratio but I would not be surprised if the big pink belt was featured on Total Divas season 3.
Aubrey Sitterson: The most shocking thing about this match is that Rosa Mendes and Layla still work at the company. AJ is talented, but I’m 100% worn out on her crazy chick gimmick, as well as her and Tamina’s HBK/Diesel thing. Not sure how much of it is their fault, or just that they don’t have any good opposition, but either way, it’s doing nothing for me. The only competitor I actually see being a valid replacement as champion, however, is Natalya, which would actually make a lot of sense given her role on Total Divas. Whatever happens, I’m hoping that Emma gets some good offense in, though I don’t think she’s ready for the belt.
JK Parkin: I guess the stories going into this are a) AJ Lee could finally get what she has coming to her after all her “real talk” to the Total Divas cast and b) Tamina, the bodyguard she treats badly, has the chance to turn on her at the worst possible moment. Maybe it’s too obvious, but I’d like to see AJ’s Virgil make the turn and pin AJ for the title.
(You can find the participants here)
Box Brown: My official prediction here is Rusev from NXT. He’s not an official participant yet, but I think it would be a good way to bring him in and put him over. I think if they do this match correctly it could start off a bunch of new feuds/storylines.
Chris Arrant: The Island of Misfit Toys. Don’t have a storyline or match? We’ve got room for you here. Barring any surprise entrants of note, I think Big E is the odds on favorite here due to him holding the Intercontinental Title and being given wins over most all of the competitors in this match on an individual basis in the past 45 days or so.
But who I’d really like to see win here is Dolph Ziggler. Nothing against Big E, but Ziggler seems have all the tools except support from the back to be a player in the upper card of WWE, especially after part-timers like Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Kane, and the New Age Outlaws go on holiday after Wrestlemania. Having him winning, especially in a final showdown at the end versus another lost soul in the WWE midcard could be something worth carrying on.
And lastly, I can’t go without listing some surprise entrants I’d like to see. CM Punk notwithstanding, I’d love to see appearances from someone like Chris Hero or Christopher Daniels to instantly make a name for themselves in the company. Will it happen? No.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Big E
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Dolph Ziggler
Pat Loika: While not all the participants have been announced, I can’t help but think that Aleksander Rusev will win this. He’s a new guy that they want to push, after all, and what better way to make an impression than on WrestleMania?
Chad Nevett: I rather like this. I’m not sure I’d want to see it become a recurring thing given its proximity to the Royal Rumble, but as a one-off match at WrestleMania XXX, it’s a good idea. Lots of talent involved and there seems to be two ways to go: put someone new over and use a win here to push them, or just let the Big Show win. Either option would make me happy. The Big Show has always lived in Andre’s shadow despite doing everything he can to be his own man. But, Andre set the standard for giants in this business, so there’s not much the Big Show could ever do to totally escape comparisons to him. Winning here would be that final bit of “Big Show is the successor to Andre’s legacy” that they always seem to be trying to find. At the same time, it’s a good place to give a younger talent a good showing and a springboard into a decent push. The bragging rights here aren’t too impressive, but it could do the job. Hopefully, it’s just a fun match with a few oddball appearances and, hey, maybe we’ll get a special bonus “Kofi Kingston avoids elimination” spot for 2014!
Winner: THE BIG SHOW
Aubrey Sitterson: The last time WWE had a Battle Royal (Royal Rumble), they took the opportunity to introduce Alexander Rusev, so I’d be surprised if they brought up another NXT guy in a similar fashion. I’d like to think that whoever wins will get a nice push coming out of the event, so I’m trying to base my predictions on that. It’s tough though, because the participants are, for the most part, guys like 3MB who, let’s be honest, aren’t getting a real push, or guys like Sheamus, who don’t really need the Battle Royal win to justify a push. So, uhhhh, I dunno…Santino? Yeah, Santino. Let’s go with that.
Carla Hoffman: Good gravy. Between this and the Divas Invitational, it just seems we’re at the “and the rest!” part of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. The winner here should be obvious: the only actual Giant they have whose limbs aren’t action figure stiff. Considering all of the horrible humiliation they’ve put Big Show through last year, just let the man go home with the big trophy. Otherwise, expect big moments from NXT guys Big E and Alexander Russev! NXT! NXT!
Albert Ching: This is basically the throwaway “get everyone on the card!” match they’ve done many times before, except with some actual stars and a build-up, which is neat. The field for the ARMBaR (André Roussimoff Memorial Battle Royal) is pretty wide open, but I don’t see it doing much for the announced participants — so I’m picking one of the three (?) surprise entrants, let’s say, NXT superstar and Bulgarian Brute Alexander Rusev, since it seems conspicuous that they would keep building him up on the Road to Wrestlemania. Внимание! (Though the late addition of Brad Maddox to the match clearly changes everything.)
Stephen Gerding: Man, I dunno. RVD.
James Hornsby: It’s hard to pick a winner of this match because it’s hard to tell what the winner will get out of it. I mean, obviously I know about the large shiny paperweight, but with no real story going into it (other than Hogan having been great friends with Andre), I’m not sure what the winner will be able to brag about. The Royal Rumble winner gets a title shot at ‘Mania. The King of the Ring winner at least gets a crown and scepter. But is the winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy really going to be talking about this match for years to come? I’m guessing Sheamus will win in an attempt to build him for the coming year.
Vito Delsante: This match, in terms of importance, is just above the Divas Invitational, to me. It’s a means to an end. Let’s get JTG on the show (insert irrelevant wrestler who is relegated to Main Event and Saturday Morning Slam here). As of right now, there are still 3 slots open, and I can see the WWE trying to leave that mystery until Sunday, but the problem with that is the reveal. This isn’t the Rumble, where you wait 30 seconds and a new entrant comes down to a big pop and theme music. This is a time waster because everyone will get their own intro and by the time #30 comes down, you would have had enough time for a match. Poor, poor, poor booking. Anyway, I see this going one of two ways. One, a big deal was made about Titus O’Neal getting a singles push. It’s believable to see him win this. But my money (and my pick) is on Big Show. I mean, he made such a big deal about being compared to Andre, and he really doesn’t have much else going for him on TV right now, so let the lunkhead get his reward, and then let’s start shifting him out of the ring and into a commentary role. And no, no CM Punk surprise appearance.
JK Parkin: I’m kind of excited for this, actually, although I bet for time reasons it ends up being quick and unsatisfying. Still, with no Money in the Bank or Table, Ladders and Chairs free-for-all, this could fit the bill for pure Wrestlemania chaos. I’m pulling for the Big Show, because it seems wrong for him not to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get ousted by Alexander Rusev, thus starting a feud. Right now it looks like three spots are left open, so I’m guessing Rusev and a couple other NXT guys will get a Wrestlemania moment … but wouldn’t it be cool if AJ Styles or Sting or Chris Jericho made a surprise appearance? Hey, I can hope …
Stephen Gerding: Could we be so lucky to see the Wyatt Family’s reign of terror continue unabated post-WM? Cena seems genuinely dedicated to putting over younger talent, so let’s call this a win for big-bearded, Hawaiian shirt-wearing cult leaders everywhere.
Albert Ching: John Cena may eke out a win here, but if so suffers a hellacious 3-on-1 beatdown immediately afterwards. Or Bray wins. Either win, the feud continues for a while longer.
Carla Hoffman: John Cena. I’m not sure what kind of theatrical finish Bray and the boys could do to Cena at a Wrestlemania that would be better than the hanging-from-the-ropes Lamb Mask spot they did a few shows ago, but that’s the only way I see them getting the win. If there was a point to Cena losing, if he was going to spend the next year traveling through the swamps to learn the mystical secret of the Wyatt Family to pull a ‘Twice in a Lifetime’ again… yeah. Mind you, just because i don’t see it doesn’t mean there isn’t a larger story line at work, but so far this match is for the kids. Let Cena hi five Scooby Doo after beating up the scary bad guys and sell some merch.
Chad Nevett: This is genuinely difficult to predict. The smart thing would be for Bray Wyatt to go over and cement himself in the upper levels of the WWE by defeating John Cena at WrestleMania (though, that isn’t always the case; see “Miz, The” for further details). But, it’s John Cena… it never seems smart to bet against Cena. The build to this has been pretty good and picked up over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t totally bought Cena saying he’s afraid of Wyatt, because why would Cena be afraid of anyone after the sort of career he’s had? He’s beaten everyone and never given up… But, downplaying that to focus more on the mental games and trying to outwit one another has been pretty good. The match also has a lot of potential to be one of the better ones of the night. After the Wyatts ran over the Shield to get here, I think the WWE isn’t stupid enough to stop their momentum now.
Winner: BRAY WYATT
Aubrey Sitterson: All I know for sure about this match is that it’s going to be the absolute balls. My biggest hope going into it is that they keep the interference to a minimum, as I think the constant run-in and shmozz finishes have been something holding Bray Wyatt back from stepping into the upper echelon of WWE talent. A full, well-worked match with Cena at Mania with a clean finish – no matter what it is – will do wonders for Bray. As much as I dig IRS the Younger, I’m kind of hoping Cena wins here, just because I think Bray will get so much even out of a well-wrestled loss, that I don’t think you really NEED Cena to lose, and without interference from Harper & Rowan, I find it not-so-believable that Wyatt could pull out a victory.
Box Brown: Bray Wyatt wins and then does some more effed up shit to Cena.
Pat Loika: This one is interesting, as both guys can be really good depending on who their opponent is. That said, I’m hoping Bray Wyatt wins it. The WWE needs a BIG monster heel, and Wyatt would fill that role perfectly. Remaining undefeated at these big PPV shows helps that. I can also see this ending with a DQ or a no-contest if we’re to factor in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
Chris Arrant: Woah woah woah; calm down, IWCers. I’m all for Bray Wyatt coming out smelling like roses here – but I think doing it with a loss and a post-match beatdown of John Cena — At Wrestlemania, nonetheless – could really give Wyatt a Wrestlemania moment bigger than any pinfall win over John Cena could. Cena wins the match, Wyatt wins the night. Leading into a summer program culminating at Summerslam.
However, what I think will happen is the inevitable DQ interference from the Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to give Cena the win, then they do a beatdown, then SuperCena comes up and claims victory.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: John Cena (by DQ)
WHO I WANT TO WIN: John Cena, clean
James Hornsby: I’ll give it to WWE. They’ve made a great effort to make Wyatt look like a credible threat to John Cena. To his legacy! But I still think Cena will win. This is the first Wrestlemania in YEARS where he hasn’t been in the main event/fighting for the title, so I don’t think he’ll be losing to a guy who hasn’t even been around for a full year. And I really don’t have a problem with that outcome either, mostly because if Wyatt wins he’ll have beaten the two most over faces in the company and won’t have anywhere else to go. I do worry about the quality of this match though, considering that Cena’s usually only as good as his opponent (his Punk matches vs. his Rock matches, for example) and Wyatt’s only really good match to date was against Daniel Bryan at the Rumble.
Vito Delsante: When this was announced, I could see Cena jobbing and putting Wyatt over, and thus making a new star for the WWE’s future. But other than how Cena has been booked these last few weeks, something very subtle has been brought up for the past few weeks. I think it was Paul Heyman that said it first…that Cena doesn’t have consecutive victories at ‘Mania. When Heyman said it, it was kind of a matter of fact. “Here’s something even you smarks didn’t realize.” But it’s been brought up a few more times since and that makes me think that this year, Cena will win his second Wrestlemania match in a row. I think Wyatt is still going to look strong in this match, but Cena is Cena. Credit due to him, though, for the work he’s done the past few months.
JK Parkin: I have a hard time believing that Cena’s going to walk into a “mugging” here; I’m betting he spends some pre-match, backstage time taking out Erick and Luke, thus making this a one-on-one confrontation. And I’m guessing he’ll walk out the victor.
James Hornsby: It’s a given that Undertaker will win at Wrestlemania. I think the biggest advantage to keeping him around is making sure that everyone has at least one match correct on their Wrestlemania predictions. Based on ‘Taker’s track record the past few years in terms of quality, I know that this match will be a great one, although Brock’s at his best when he’s unrelentlessly aggressive, which I’m not sure he’ll be able to do quite as well against the Undertaker.
Stephen Gerding: The Streak lives on – Taker takes it, and Brock disappears for another few months until Heyman calls him back in for another bout of revenge.
Pat Loika: There’s no doubt to the outcome of this one. I just hope they can trick us into thinking it’s not the case. The Undertaker’s streak survives.
Box Brown: Undertaker. I am so not excited for this it’s almost a popcorn match.
Vito Delsante: C’mon. I’ve learned my lesson. He’s not dropping his streak for Captain Thickneck. Taker goes 22-0.
Albert Ching: Undertaker, of course — but given the seeming reluctance in allowing him to get physical in the build-up (other than one recent F5), the real question is can his streak of having the best match on Wrestlemania continue.
Aubrey Sitterson: This is a weird match. On paper, it sounds like kind of the dopest thing ever – something people have been clamoring for constantly over the past decade. But between there not being much real interaction between the two since Taker stabbed Brock with a pen, and the build for the match resting entirely on Heyman’s shoulders, it’s kind of tough to get excited about it. I think it will be an awesome match no matter what though, and maybe the lowered expectations and build will work in its favor. I think it’s more likely that Undertaker explodes into dust than loses this match.
Carla Hoffman: I live with a dedicated Undertaker mark, so do know that my opinion is a little swayed on this one. Also, do remember that I hate Brock Lesnar and most everything he stands for: he’s a big guy who didn’t want to work, quit the WWE for a football career he didn’t have handed to him, was little more than average in the UFC and decided to come home to wrestling, a job where he could make just as much with as little exertion as possible. So do I think this is the man they want to break Undertaker’s streak? Not on his (un)life.
While The Streak has gotten to mythic like proportions and a possibly undeserved fashion, I think that the Undertaker has a say in who he lies down for. And unless Brock Lesnar and he go motorcycle riding on the weekends and are best buddies off screen, there’s just no way Brock’s taking the Streak. He can lose gracefully here, head back to his home for three months and we’ll see him at Summerslam.
Chad Nevett: Six months ago, this match didn’t seem like such a bad idea, but, as it’s actually come to fruition, it’s left me more and more cold with each passing week. The Streak will not end and Lesnar doesn’t seem like the right sort of opponent to make the Undertaker look better than he is at this point in his career. I hope I’m wrong about that and am looking to be pleasantly surprised. It’s not helped that, over the past half a decade, every build to an Undertaker match at WrestleMania has been fantastic. Full of emotion and drama and the sense that the stakes are as high as they can go. That’s not the case this year, because this match doesn’t have a reason to happen beyond the WWE wanting to book it. It wasn’t helped by them booking Lesnar as wanting the title heading into the Royal Rumble only for him to abandon that quest because… uh… because! And why does the Undertaker want to face Lesnar? Also because! But, the upside is that my expectations are low here, so there’s a decent chance that I’ll walk away happy with the resulting match.
Winner: THE UNDERTAKER
JK Parkin: Never, ever bet against the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. I mean, come on …
Chris Arrant: First, let me say my piece about The Streak: If Undertaker going to lose, it should have been to either Randy Orton (hindsight would disagree, but at the time maybe) or Edge (at the time Edge had never lost a match at WM – he had one them all, and was medically taken out of one, which as a heel, is an arguable point). At 21-0, no one should defeat the streak and ‘Taker should retire in the next year or two with a year-long feud ala Cena/Rock.
As for this match itself, I hold Undertaker and Lesnar’s first feud in 2001 in high regard. Brock was just coming of age as a professional wrestler, and Undertaker was segueing into his MMA style which bolstered his career longterm. Their second feud in 2003 wasn’t as forceful for me, but the two have some unique chemistry. Brock also tends to enjoy wrestling larger athletes, and despite Undertaker’s age I think they could do some amazing spots delving into gimmickry and pseudo-MMA sequences. I compare this to the near forgotten Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit match on Raw where Austin surprised fans by whipping out some chain wrestling over his modern brawling style he’d done for the past few years. Undertaker obviously can’t keep at Lesnar’s pace for any extended amount of time, but they can surprise people and give some amazing near-falls.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Undertaker
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Undertaker
Carla Hoffman: Now we’re in for it. This is going to be an ugly fight, old school style. There won’t be any blading, but there might be some blood on the mats by the time we’re through. Triple H has a history of dramatic matches and brutal fights, not to mention he hit a super sweet spot of raw evil in his promos these last few weeks. This is a return to the Mr. MacMahon days, where you just want to see the boss get torn to shreds and let the scrappy underdog take it all. Daniel Bryan is a miracle to the WWE in terms of performance, energy, charisma and talent that I think this match is going to go the distance and be the ‘real’ main event.
Pat Loika: Not gonna lie, I think this match will steal the show. Triple H is always great at Wrestlemania, and up against Daniel Bryan? It’s almost a foregone conclusion. Triple H will probably beat the living crap out of Bryan, until Bryan surprises him with the running knee. This will then take Bryan to the next match…
Aubrey Sitterson: After months of nonstop “OMG, WWE HATES THE FANS STOP BURYING BRYAN,” thankfully, folks are coming around to the fact that in a storyline about a guy being held down by his bosses…you’re SUPPOSED to think that the guy is being held down by his bosses. I think the build to this has been absolutely brilliant, and that a lot of what people are criticizing WWE for is just old-fashioned booking knowhow, though I know some people will disagree with me on that. Fact is, Bryan’s match against Triple H is a BIGGER match than the World Title Match, no matter where it appears on the card, and it’s clear that WWE loves the guy as much as we all do. I, like most people, want to see Bryan beat his boss, then go on to win the titles, but even if Triple H beats him, I think I’d be OK with it, as long as there are some mitigating factors, like run-ins, the return of questionable referee Scott Armstrong, etc.
James Hornsby: This match is my pick for match of the night. I know it’s too early to say that, but I have a feeling that these two are going to put on a classic wrestling match that will be talked about for a long time. While I would’ve been okay with this match by itself with no stipulation, the addition of the winner being added to the main event makes it that much more impactful. I’m predicting Bryan to win, of course. Triple H has been playing up the heel angle way too much to have an all heel triple threat main event.
Chris Arrant: To borrow a phrase, I think here they’ll do what’s “best for business” in a straight-forward way to build up hope for Bryan in the latter match. 10-15 minutes tops, with it conceivably going even shorter in a surprise fashion if Triple H is up for it. I expect massive tantrums by Hunter afterwards, but if done right this could benefit him as a character and WWE as a company in setting up a post-WM program continuing Bryan vs. the company.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Daniel Bryan
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Daniel Bryan
Albert Ching: Daniel Bryan wins, natch — then immediately suffers a vicious, perhaps sledgehammer-aided, beating at the hands of Triple H to both ensure the crowd saves their Yes! chants for the big moment, and to add suspense to the main event.
Chad Nevett: Here we get into the difference between what I want to happen and what I think will happen. What I want to happen is for Triple H to win. While the last six months or so of booking have made almost everyone love Daniel Bryan more, it’s made me grow weary of him and kind of dread any time he’s going to be on screen. Add that I’m a big Triple H fan and you’ve got me being one of about seven people who’s secretly hoping that Trips not only defeats Bryan, but takes his former Evolution proteges to school and walks out of WrestleMania XXX as champion. That won’t happen. Nor should it happen. Daniel Bryan’s story needs him to beat Triple H here. It doesn’t make sense any other way and the WWE seems to know this as they’ve upped the heel element of Triple H’s character over the past month. Before, he seemed like a guy who just had a different vision of things. Now, he’s back to being the giant asshole that is the Game. The guy who doesn’t need to handcuff a guy to deliver a beating, but will, because it’s easier… and more evil. Triple H has worked hard to make a crowd that already hated him hate him even more — and, in the process, made them love Daniel Bryan more. Bryan losing here kills the show. Plus, he’s the face… and the faces (almost) always wins at ‘Mania. This match has the potential to be the best match of the night. It’s got the best story, the best build, and the most emotional involvement. It’s also got the best combination of talent. I’m looking forward to it quite a bit despite knowing that I’ll be disappointed in my heart of hearts as the King of Kings loses.
Winner: DANIEL BRYAN
Stephen Gerding: D-Bry gets the win, unless he falls victim to the Authority’s chicanery. In which case, I think we get a deus ex McMahon-ina with Vince, Linda or maybe even Shane stepping out from the back to right a heinous wrong.
Vito Delsante: Bryan. I’m not going to go too far into it, since the title match is where the real prediction is, but I think DBry wins, but at a cost. 3H “hurts” him really bad, making it look as though Bryan won’t make it to the main event.
Box Brown: Daniel Bryan wins. I’d love to see HHH really beat him up bloody and bad. I hope he has to go to the hospital between matches and then…
JK Parkin: I think it’s a given that Bryan will win, given the build-up here, but that doesn’t change the fact that this should be an incredible match. No doubt we’ll get some shenanigans, though.
Box Brown: Daniel Bryan steals an ambulance from the hospital and drives it BACK to Mania in order to compete in the main event, stitches, hurt shoulder and all. He beats the two other chumps in the match THEN HHH tries to screw him again to which D. Bry replies by giving HHH a pedigree!!!
Stephen Gerding: Got to give this one to Daniel Bryan as well! If ever there’s a time to make the WWE Universe happy, it’s WrestleMania. Of course, if there’s ever sure way to orchestrate a WM moment for the ages, there may be no better way than to let cameras pan back and forth across the crowd for a few minutes after a Bryan loss.
Albert Ching: Daniel Bryan is a man of absolute destiny, and positive mainstream press. He finally gets the big win he was robbed of back at Summerslam (and multiple times since then) for one of the most legit heartwarming Wrestlemania moments in years.
Chad Nevett: Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan: Daniel Bryan is beating Triple H no question. That’s a little disappointing, for reasons I’ve said already. It’s also disappointing, because the promise of a giant Evolution match for the world title is a good angle. Hell, when it was just Orton/Batista, the potential was there. Those two never really had a big feud after the breakup of Evolution and there’s a lot of ground to mine there. The WWE didn’t really seem interested in leaning in that direction despite the best Orton feud being the weird mentor/protege/father/son feud he had with Triple H that was entirely based on their past in Evolution. A pseudo brother vs. brother angle for Orton/Batista with Triple H as the father watching on the sidelines had a lot of potential. But, no one seemed happy with Batista’s return, so it probably wouldn’t have worked. Now that’s been switched to the triple threat, the WWE has embraced the lack of a face in the Orton/Batista feud and provided an opening for the big WrestleMania “fan favourite face wins the title to end the show” moment as Daniel Bryan defeats Triple H and, then, wins the WWE World Heavyweight Title against both Orton and Batista. It’s very predictable, but that’s what everyone wants. It’s the only way to go. And that’s okay.
Winner and NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion: DANIEL BRYAN
Vito Delsante: And since Bryan doesn’t make the match (as seen in my prediction for the HHH match), 3H takes his place. Here’s where it can get interesting and I have a few theories. Theory 1: Bryan comes down, bandaged up, obviously injured and becomes the biggest underdog to win the title since Krispen Wah. Theory 2: Bryan never comes out, Batista wins. DBry comes out on Monday night, wins the title on Raw. Theory 3: HHH wins, Bryan never comes out…same scenario as Theory 2. Theory 4: Same as Theory 1, but because Bryan was never “medically cleared,” he gets stripped of the title and we have a tournament. Theory 1 is the most likely winner, but I can see 2 and 3 happening as well. I’m going to pick a winner and say Batista because the payoff is clearly coming on Monday.
Aubrey Sitterson: I know I’m going to lose internet smark fan cred for saying this, but I’d be just as happy with an Evolution triple threat as I would Daniel Bryan being in this match. Hell, in the right circumstances, I’d even be OK with Batista taking the title, as he’s reverted back into an absolutely amazing heel, and honestly, it would make sense with his Guardians of the Galaxy promotional blitz fast approaching. Bryan’s got a long career ahead of him – as much as we want his glorious neverending title reign to begin NOW, fact is, it doesn’t really need to, and he’s approximately 1000% more over now than he was at SummerSlam. I’m also a little embarrassed to admit how excited I would be about Triple H taking the title, the company and the boss’ daughter in full on barbarian King of Kings style. The only outcome that would really bum me out is if Orton retained…so maybe that’d be a smart move to get the dude some actual heat?
Pat Loika: Bryan and Orton have put together some great matches over the last year, so those two should do well. Batista, though, is a mystery. He was never the best in-ring performer, but he hasn’t really won anyone over since returning.
JK Parkin: The addition of Bryan made this one go from “Ho-hum” to “All right all right all right.” I have a hard time believing that Bryan won’t walk out of Wrestlemania the champion, given the storyline they’ve built (inadvertently or not) since he won the title at SummerSlam. I’m sure we’ll get a “Yes! Movement” moment at some point, too.
Chris Arrant: On most occasions WWE has wanted to send people home happy at the end of Wrestlemania; the most notable exception is the Austin heel turn at Wrestlemania X-7. There seems to be much more mileage out of Bryan as the underdog champion against the system than in continuing Orton’s reign or giving it to Batista. The X-Factor in this two-fold; one is WWE sticking to their guns in terms of the storyline, and two is Daniel Bryan’s stamina. He’s done multiple matches in one night, both in WWE and in his independent career.
What I’m looking forward in this is some inventive maneuvering by Bryan and perhaps some throwback Attitude Era finisher trade-offs, perhaps even “some color” in this. Nothing high on the Muta Scale I hope.
WHO I THINK WILL WIN: Daniel Bryan
WHO I WANT TO WIN: Daniel Bryan
James Hornsby: As much as we like to give all of the hijacking fans crap for hijacking shows, thank God they did, because I’m pretty sure that’s all that saved us from Orton vs. Batista in the main event. If it wasn’t for paying fans booing the crap out of Batista at the Rumble, we would be in for much darker times. Just as I am sure that Bryan will be entered into this match as the third man, I’m also sure that Triple H will be interfering all over the place, and it may even lead to Orton winning. I’m going to play it safe though and predict the outcome that I want to see: Bryan winning the title cleanly and definitively. The only other possible outcome I’d like to see is CM Punk returning to cost Bryan the match by aligning with the Authority, but I know that’s just wishful thinking!
Carla Hoffman: Just take a moment to think how just a couple months ago the championships match at Wrestlemania was going to be a snore-fest between Orton and ‘Boo-tista.’ I mean, look where we are now! There’s so much at stake here, from Orton’s right to rule as the Face of the Company, Batista’s relevance as a wrestler when the rest of the WWE Universe have no interest in him, Triple H’s control over the company and how wrestling is run despite detractors. Of course, Daniel Bryan’s story has been going on since season one of NXT: whether or not he can cut it at a job that says he’s not what they want. It’s amazing how much story and stakes they have placed in this one match that I totally believed was going to blow chunks after the Royal Rumble. I am impressed.
But they simply can’t drag this out any further: Daniel Bryan MUST win. He has to defeat every demon who’s told him he’s not good enough or doesn’t have the look or isn’t an A+ player and stand over their bodies triumphant. Make no mistake, Bryan will win the main event at Wrestlemania… but will he take home A belt rather than BOTH belts? Will they fob one off on Batista somehow so the divide between champions of the talk show circuit and champion of WWE programming still works? Will Batista get a belt (let’s say the World Heavyweight, since Bryan’s already carried that one and the WWE Championship would be more symbolic) and Bryan getting a belt lead to an epic clash at oh, say, Summerslam around the time Guardians of the Galaxy is due to hit theaters?
I hope so.