Happy WrestleMania Sunday, everybody. In order to keep holy the sabbath that is WrestleMania Sunday, we must first celebrate Friday night’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony and last night’s NXT Takeover Orlando. These two events have become almost as important as WrestleMania itself, and are just as much a part of the full weekend experience as the actual Showcase of the Immortals. While they are separate events entirely, both can give us clues on what may come to pass at WrestleMania.
In one of the better classes in recent memory, the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2017 included a returning Olympic hero in Kurt Angle, a long overdue legend in Rick Rude, and a saint among Superstars in Diamond Dallas Page. It was great to see Angle back under the WWE banner, although his speech was maybe a bit safe and somewhat pandering. He came out and played the hits, chugging milk and wearing a tiny cowboy hat. But it’s well within his right to err on the side of caution considering his laundry list of complications with the company. Regardless, he will likely be involved on TV in some capacity, but less likely as an active roster member. Triple H apparently told Angle that he would have to pass a physical after the Hall of Fame before they even consider putting him back in the ring. Considering his waning neck issues and the degree to which WWE’s medical staff is as strict as ever, this is a long shot.
So while Angle could be involved in a WrestleMania match tonight, we probably won’t see any kind of impromptu matchup. There is a possibility that someone who was inducted on Friday night will be active at WrestleMania. Smackdown’s Women’s Championship is up for grabs and leaves some opportunity for surprise entrants. Alexa Bliss will defend her title against “all available female Superstars,” which is vague enough to be open to a few women. Newly crowned Hall of Famer, Beth Phoenix, could make an appearance. She has a history of being a surprise entrant in these types of matches, having been only the second woman to enter the Royal Rumble.
Another woman, who is due for a callup to the main roster, is Asuke. Although she is the current NXT Women’s Champion and retained at last night’s NXT Takeover, she is still “available” and will be at the event. Usually, dropping the title is a good indicator of getting called up, but perhaps this is just some much needed misdirection. She could debut at Mania and drop the belt shortly after on a regular episode of NXT. While this would leave the NXT women’s division fairly empty, it’s Asuka’s time. And thinking of all of the other legends who will be on hand at WrestleMania, it’s fun to speculate who might be “available” in Orlando.
For me, maybe the most enticing speculation is the long awaited arrival of Shinsuke Nakamura. After losing to Bobby Roode for the second time last night, it’s clear that the King of Strong Style will make his debut on the main roster. The only question is, how soon? At most, he might make an appearance at WrestleMania, even if it’s merely sitting in the audience. But I think it’s more likely that he’ll debut on the Raw following WrestleMania, an event that’s become a spectacle in itself. The Raw after Mania might be the best part of WrestleMania weekend, with wrestling geeks from around the world packed in an arena. What better time to unleash Nakamura on the Universe.
This Raw will need some moments, and while the idea of Kurt Angle as the new Raw GM have been floating around, we saw another former Raw GM at the Hall of Fame. Eric Bischoff inducted DDP, and his smarmy charisma was on point. The wunderkind of the Monday Night War is a possible new GM, and as unpopular as he was, he was a fantastic heel character.
This is also the first time that Smackdown LIVE will immediately follow that Raw. So WrestleMania weekend could be extended yet another day. This would require some more surprises for Smackdown. And the timing of an old friend being cleared to wrestle is curious. Yes, the Gold Standard, and amateur wrestling ally to Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin, has been cleared to compete according to his twitter this past week. As a big fan of Benjamin, I hope he debuts on Tuesday after being teased for so long. He was slated to make his comeback over the summer before an unfortunate injury. Hopefully, now the former Intercontinental Champ can give Dean Ambrose a run for his money.
And finally, Finn Balor. Even though Balor has been cleared to compete, he hasn’t made an appearance on television. After having a six-man tag match at a house show, there was no further information on his status. This also leaves some ambiguity to the return of the Demon King. This could be another Raw After Mania moment, unless they have plans for him tonight. Wherever they plug in Finn, it’s sure to receive an enormous pop. So let’s sit back and enjoy the climax of WrestleMania weekend. Anything can happen in the WWE, and that’s never more evident than on this Glorious day.