Top-Down Smackdown: WrestleMania Predictions
What else could this column be about this week? We’re days away from the biggest show of the year, one that this year has been uniquely positioned as a loss-leader to help sell people the WWE Network, and has simultaneously been horrendously botched in terms of storyline build-up (the fact that at least THREE*, and arguably more, of the headlining talents are only very occasionally seen in action in the ring hasn’t helped). It’s possible more matches could be added on tonight’s show, and if that happens I’ll add to this column.
In the meantime, let’s look at who I think will win, and who should.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H
Will win: Daniel Bryan
Should win: Daniel Bryan
This is the safest bet on the entire card, since the whole point of adding this match was to get somebody the fans actually have a strong opinion about into a main event with two other guys who bore them. Hunter, despite having an inconsistent persona and a terrible finishing move, is able to rise to the occasion for big matches, and this should be a good one to watch, even with its inevitable outcome.
Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. (Winner of Bryan/Triple H match)
Should win: Daniel Bryan
Will win: I’m going to call it for Batista
Traditionally, yes (yes! yes!) WrestleMania delivers the happy ending for the hero. But Daniel Bryan is not Hulk Hogan, and he wasn’t even included in original plans for this match. I also think there is still a financial and name-recognition upside to WWE in being able to say that Guardians of the Galaxy co-stars the WWE world champion. It is, in other words, “Best for Business,” and I think you’ll see Triple H embrace Big Dave by the end.
Bryan’s storyline, meanwhile, is that he has finally gotten his one big shot. The storyline gains dramatic tension if he is cheated of it at the last minute; I foresee this going all the way to Summerslam, perhaps with Bryan getting temporarily sidetracked into a feud with Randy Orton, or a longer feud with Triple H, or even a tag team feud with Orton and Bryan paired together against Hunter and Batista. Meanwhile, WWE can maybe have a Batista/Lesnar title match at the next PPV, and Bryan will finally take the gold in August at the same show where he was screwed out of it the last time.
Call it a hunch, but I don’t see him being the champ next week.
Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Should win: Undertaker
Will win: Undertaker
I am a big fan of Brock Lesnar, but there is nothing to be gained by him going over in this match. Zip.
The only reason that makes sense for breaking the Undertaker’s undefeated streak is to give credibility to a new rising star…or to do a random swerve for no reason. Lesnar doesn’t need it, and as an extremely part-time wrestler, wouldn’t do much with it anyhow. Lesnar is already the best heel in the company right now, because he’s a legitimately great in-ring talent, a genuinely intimidating monster, yet hated by the fans for not seeming to have enough respect for the business. Too bad he only wrestles three times a year.
On the other hand, that gives him plenty of time to work out the match with ‘Taker, who apparently choreographs his annual match like Randy Savage used to. Savage matches ruled, and this one should too, with Taker finally facing a guy who can equal and counter all his MMA-style moves.
I will cheer for Brock, but he will not win.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Should win: Bray Wyatt
Will win: John Cena
Part of the reason “smart” fans hate Cena so much has nothing to do with him personally, or even his limited move-set. It’s the way he’s booked. Rarely does he let it look like a villain has gotten under his skin, and seldom do any of his feuds get to play out as a long game – he just destroys the bad guy the first time they meet, and again in a couple of subsequent rematches, and whoever the foe is goes sliding back down to midcard level.
Cena has seemed confused about what he’s supposed to be putting across in his feud with Bray Wyatt. Initially, it was just outrage that Wyatt was in his business. Then, it was that anyone who wanted to be in the title picture had to come through him. After that, it was the fact that Wyatt scares Cena. It would take an actor more dimensional than the star of 12 Rounds to pull of the constant changes in direction he’s been getting.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Cena is not yet in the phase of his career where heels can survive his version of the Hulk-up. In fact, I’ll wager Hulk Hogan himself will make the save from a 3-on-1 beatdown at the end, giving us one more classic style “Hulk up” moment. Though lord knows if his knees can hold up enough to allow a legdrop or big boot.
Wyatt will lose, and his push will disappear. He won’t be back until he can evolve the gimmick a little bit…or the Duck Dynasty guys agree to do an angle with him.
The Shield vs. Kane and the New Age Outlaws
Should win: The Shield
Will win: Kane and the New Age Outlaws
This match, on paper, is too obvious a mismatch. The hottest, most powerful team/clique in the company versus two past-their-prime veterans and a workhorse who generally loses the big matches? Yeah, you think you can see the outcome there a mile away. Which is why it will have a swerve.
Two things here: as one of the few impressively believable bad guys who actually still gets booed, Kane needs to remain a threat. Also, I can see Dean Ambrose picking this as his moment to jump ship – give the guy a suit and some hairspray and I think he’ll make a great corporate weasel.
On the other hand, I don’t put it past WWE to go the obvious route. They’ve teased a Shield breakup so long that many fans don’t want it any more. But if it were me booking this, Rollins and Reigns would get screwed over, Kane would emerge stronger, and Ambrose would become the nasty sellout he’s just itching to be.
The Vickie Guerrero Invitational Clusterfuck (not literally, alas)
Will and should win: AJ Lee
Why? Because the only Divas angle worth anything right now is AJ versus Tamina, and that needs to be a one-on-one match for the title to be worth a damn. AJ will retain.
The Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Should win: The Miz
Will win: whomever they want to start feuding with the Miz
The Miz has had the only worthwhile storyline leading into this, so he will be involved in the finish, but I don’t think they’ll let him win it. It’ll more likely be Big Show, Sheamus, or one of the mystery men not yet revealed (Rusev, perhaps).
The Usos vs. RybAxel vs. Los Matadores vs. The Real Americans
Should win: The Real Americans
Will win: The Usos
This match has been bumped to the preshow, which means don’t expect any major storyline changes from it. Which is too bad – the Real Americans are finally gaining a following, and they could really run with a good push, not to mention a slight gimmick change that ditches the dog-whistle racism of manager Zeb Colter.
Assuming Scott Hall is sober enough to do it, I’d expect some kind of skit involving Razor Ramon, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, the Great Khali, and maybe some other hall of famers, though probably not the Ultimate Warrior (who would likely demand extra money to perform in full gimmick). I’d love it if Carlos Colon ripped the masks off Los Matadores and told them they’re disgracing the family legacy, but that’s a real longshot.
Discuss tonight’s Raw below – and let’s see how your predictions compare with mine next week.
*based on actual wrestling matches, Bray Wyatt and Batista almost qualify as part-time.