One week away from WrestleMania and our dance card is nearly fleshed out. In what looks like it could turn out to be the longest WrestleMania in history, or at least the one with the most matchups, we sure are in for the ultimate thrill ride (Goodness, what a terrible tag line). But there were some twists and turns on this road to WrestleMania that some of us didn’t see coming. Some possible opportunities missed. And a few matchups that seem hastily thrown together just so they could showcase some of the best talent on the roster.
Some of these matches had been built up for the better part of a year and were anticipated, such as: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Triple H vs. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, and Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton. Hopefully, the two Women’s Championship bouts won’t be as chaotic as they seem. A Women’s Fatal 4-way and some kind of gauntlet match? Way to reward the women for the best match of WrestleMania 32, WWE!
Other matchups, however, left fans scratching their heads. Months before WrestleMania, the WWE Universe anxiously awaitedthe return of The Undertaker. Considering he was drafted to Smackdown, many thought that we would see A.J. Styles vs. Undertaker, which would have been a dream match about a decade in the making. But the Deadman, with brand and border being of little consequence, jumps to the Raw roster to seek his next victim.
Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
It was teased that Undertaker would possibly face Braun Strowman, which would be a nice climax to the push that the black sheep of the Wyatt family had received. But then out comes Roman Reigns; and while I’m not a Roman hater, it’s definitely an unpopular decision considering his current career trajectory… in heel/face limbo, as it were. WWE clearly understands that Roman isn’t getting over, mainly due to his weak promo skills, but yet they insist on making him talk. Pitting him against Undertaker seems like it would require a full on heel turn, but he’s doubling down on the likeable anti-hero schtick. At some point they have to realize that Roman doesn’t have the chops to be the cool heel in order to transition into a top face, the likes of Steve Austin or his cousin, The Rock. Unfortunately, mic work isn’t genetic.
Otherwise, I would say that Roman’s in-ring work is undeniable. Love him or hate him, he can perform at the highest level and tell a story in the squared circle. Equipped with Undertaker’s ring general acumen, the match itself should be stellar. It would also seem that Roman’s feud with Braun has been put on the backburner, unless the big man gets involved. As of right now, Strowman is not on the card, but he’s a favorite to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which is really the least they can do for him at this point to protect his character.
Another mystery is why Finn Balor, cleared to wrestle as seen on a recent WWE Live event, wasn’t given a spot on The Showcase of the Immortals. But don’t count out the possibility of him making an appearance or even getting involved in either Undertaker/Reigns or Triple H/Rollins, as they have a bit of history to fall back on. Don’t forget, it was Seth Rollins under the tutelage of The Authority who put Finn out of commission.
A.J. Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Another strange matchup is Styles vs. Shane. While the leadup to this feud made sense (a classic case of getting screwed over by the man), it seems like a waste of The Phenomenal One to be in the ring with someone who’s not a great worker. For me, it’s a change in tune from last year, when I was defending Shane vs. Undertaker. But Undertaker has been there before. Styles has had only one bout at WrestleMania (a loss to Jericho last year), and hasn’t had the opportunity to have the legendary match we all know he can have there. He’s had a five star match at every other event, after all.
But this match will resemble more of an audition for Styles. Shane McMahon will do some crazy high spot stunt, as expected. And it will be spectacular as always. But A.J. will be able to use Shane as a vintage stuffed wrestling buddy, delivering every phenomenal maneuver in is his repertoire and cementing his worth as a performer. Since this is the biggest mainstream event of the year, maybe we can see this as a chance for those unfamiliar with Styles to get acquainted with his showmanship. It will be a great match, mostly because Styles seems incapable of having a bad one.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
And maybe the most surprising booking at WrestleMania is that of John Cena. Coming off of hosting SNL and a year where he has become a household name (rare in this age of wrestling), he is relegated to a mixed tag team match alongside his girlfriend, Nikki Bella, against The Miz and Maryse. On paper, this looks bad. Hell, this barely looked good enough to be on the pre-show. I’m no Cena mark by any means, but he is still the face of the company, whether you like it or not. So it was surprising to see him in this match…that is, until The Miz decided to become one of the greatest heels of all-time this past year.
Somehow, seemingly out of nowhere, or maybe out of pent up frustration for the past decade, The Miz has channeled the likes of Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, and CM Punk -becoming a raw, unadulterated, brutally honest persona which has even the most jaded smart mark wondering how legitimate of a gripe the Miz has against Cena. His verbal jabs hit hard and there seems to be a lot of truth behind them. The former Real World star stopped being polite and started getting real. With some new vignettes mocking Cena and Nikki’s reality show relationship, Miz and Maryse have taken their characters to a whole other level. I think it’s fair to say that this is the most well-promoted mixed tag match in WWE history (which isn’t really saying much, but you get the idea).
These three matches, which looked like poison to the WrestleMania card, are actually shaping up to be something to look forward to. While I still have mixed feelings about this lineup, it will certainly be an improvement on last year. But it’s going to be a long day, so stay hydrated and pace yourself.