We are at the point on the road to WrestleMania where our card is starting to take shape. It took some time to see some definite matchups, but from what it looks like, we may have a somewhat disappointing Mania on our hands once again. Of course, you can never judge a book by its cover. What may look weak on paper could always turn around in the ring. However, this year’s matchup seem sloppily pieced together from what remnants of a roster they have after some critical injuries.
A major catalyst for the current state of WrestleMania was the absence of Finn Balor. Since he hadn’t returned from injury as of last week, the Raw side of the Showcase of the Immortals seems to have been thrown a bit out of whack. Rumor has it that the original plan was for Finn to return and face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, but his late recover left that slot to be filled by Roman Reigns, an unpopular choice to say the least. While Reigns and Undertaker are sure to put on a great match, we might need to finally see Roman turn full heel in coming weeks. It’s a shame, really. Roman was so likeable until they forced him to speak. Just another example of being pushed too hard, too soon. In the ring, he’s a very skilled worker and puts on some great matches. But on the mic, he just sounds like he wants to check your ID at the door.
But then, out of nowhere, WWE releases a video of Finn Balor returning to the ring at a house show of all places. The main event at a RAW live event in Buffalo was the six-man tag match of Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and Chris Jericho vs. Triple H, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Owens. Very curious as to why WWE would squander the biggest return of the year at a house show, but it’s good to see Balor back in the ring, seemingly preparing for WrestleMania. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Demon on Raw tonight, and potentially booking a match for the grandest stage of them all.
Since Jericho has Owens, and Seth (presumably) has Triple H, we can hazard a guess that Finn Balor may face Samoa Joe, which leaves little time for them to muster up any kind of rivalry. It’s safe to assume that the choice to unveil a healthy Balor at a house show was simply so he could shake off some ring rust before Mania. And he must have been cleared to wrestle only very recently in order for them to have scrapped any previous plans
The match of the night may end up being Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the US Championship. There’s nothing better than a couple of skilled Canadians with a great story to back it up. So rarely do we see a WrestleMania match that has been in the works for the better part of a year. It just doesn’t happen anymore. But this year, they seemed to have taken some cues from the past and really developed some of these climactic WrestleMania feuds. Along with Jericho/Owens, the Orton/Wyatt feud has been one of the most well thought out stories in recent memory. Considering the Murphy’s Law factors that continuously tend to befall WWE superstars, it’s a miracle that this story arc went off without a hitch. Bray didn’t get injured. Orton didn’t get suspended for the 30th time. All went according to plan.
I’ll even give partial credit where it’s due and say that the Seth Rollins/Triple H feud was a long time in the making. Rollins had called his shot earlier in the year, wanting to challenge Hunter at WrestleMania, and the inclusion of Samoa Joe was a nice touch. It’s more of a rekindling of a feud due to Rollins’ injury, but it should still be a solid contribution.
One of the oddest decisions of this WrestleMania buildup was to put the strap on Goldberg. The value of Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar was already going to draw and didn’t require the added championship. It’s also fairly controversial among fans. Two guys who are VERY much part time competing for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Not to mention, Goldberg can’t work a full match, or at least he hasn’t shown that he has the ability at any point in his career. Considering it’s a rematch of one of the worst matches in Wrestlemania history, they’re going to need to deliver. Goldberg can’t squash Brock this time and retain the title unless you want to hear a stadium full of boos. It was cool the first time. It was even fine the second time against Owens. But this is WrestleMania, and this is the biggest match on the card for the Universal title. Although I expect the match to be brief, I expect more than a few minutes. Considering Goldberg’s in-ring ability makes Hulk Hogan look like Eddie Guerrero, it’s going to be a match to remember for better or for worse.