The biggest event on the pro wrestling calendar is upon us.
It’s WrestleMania week, and Friday night will kick off a jam-packed weekend for not only World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship event but for the rest of the pro wrestling world. Anyone who’s anyone when it comes to the squared circle will be in the Dallas area this weekend.
Once again, however, the WWE enters ‘Mania with fans’ expectations tempered. It’s been a rough year for WWE with injuries depleting the roster. In fact, every wrestler who won a title at last year’s event — John Cena, Seth Rollins, Tyson Kidd/Cesaro and Daniel Bryan — is hurt and will miss WrestleMania 32. That’s absurd.
The injuries, paired with questionable booking decisions and the need to fill hours and hours of TV every week, has some wondering whether this card will deliver. Of course, those same concerns were voiced last year, and WrestleMania 31 was one of the best shows in recent years.
So what can we expect from this year’s show? NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle made their picks for each match on this year’s card, which you can read below.
When: Sunday, April 3
Where: AT&T Stadium
How to watch: WWE Network, pay-per-view
United States title match
Kalisto (champion) vs. Ryback
Mike: What a difference a year makes. At WrestleMania 31, John Cena won the U.S. title over Rusev and built a nice run with the belt. Putting the title on a guy like Cena restored the championship and gave it a little boost. Now, Cena’s on the shelf and this match isn’t even on the pre-show. It’s on the pre-pre-show. Kalisto wins and retains.
Ricky: Kalisto is fun to watch on “RAW” as a low-card pick-me-up. His energy and high-flying tactics also make him very easy to root for, especially when he’s presented as a physically overmatched underdog, which he’ll be against The Big Guy. That said, I have zero interest in this match, which is a shame when you consider there’s gold on the line. I’ll take Ryback in yet another attempt to slap lipstick on a pig and give him a push.
10-person Divas tag match
Total Divas vs. B.A.D. and Blonde
Mike: This is going to be the best “Total Divas” commercial yet. I’m not sure what the point of this match is other than to promote the TV show and get everyone a match. That being said, I’ll take the babyface team.
Ricky: I don’t even know the 10 Divas involved. Give me whichever team Lana is on.
Andre the Giant 20-man battle royal
Mike: There are probably two or three guys who actually have a chance to win this match. If someone other than Big Show, Kane or Bray Wyatt wins, I’d be surprised. If Wyatt’s in the match, he’s my pick because he doesn’t have anything else going on and he’s supposed to be a top guy. Right?
Ricky: The whole concept of this match is great. It’s the easiest way to begin building a new star. Unfortunately, WWE (unsurprisingly) has completely fumbled the snap, first failing to ride the Cesaro hype train and then inexplicably tabbing Big Show as last year’s winner. This year, I’ll go with Braun Strowman, even though the guy does nothing for me.
New Day vs. League of Nations
Mike: Some folks on the wrestling Internet believe this could be where The Rock makes an appearance. That would make sense. The New Day technically is outnumbered, and maybe Rock comes in and makes the save and puts over the New Day in their new babyface role. Or maybe New Day just goes over by itself. Either way, they’re my pick.
Ricky: As Mike suggested, this is a perfect spot for a surprise return/debut to even the numbers. I’d be somewhat surprised if that doesn’t happen, though I’m not sure it’ll be The Rock interfering, seeing as how he took down New Day on “RAW” roughly two months ago. Maybe this is where Cesaro (a popular babyface) returns, generates a big pop, puts over New Day and starts a feud with League of Nations. The whole “Swiss Superman” shtick lines up with everything quite nicely.
Divas title match
Charlotte (champion) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
Mike: When we look back on this match in five or six years, we’ll likely see it as a monumental moment for women’s wrestling. Too bad it hasn’t been billed that way, as there’s not much momentum entering this bout. Still, I can’t wait to see these ladies try and steal the show as they’ve already done before on NXT. My pick is Sasha.
Ricky: It wouldn’t surprise me if this ends up being one of the night’s better matches, which says a lot about the Divas division. Unfortunately, WWE can’t get out of its own way when it comes to building a story. I really thought they had a chance to use Becky Lynch as a Daniel Bryan-esque underdog, but that momentum stalled. Either way, this is where Sasha Banks begins her reign at the top.
A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Mike: When Jericho turned on Styles, it was well executed, and the visual of Jericho stuffing a shirt down Styles’ throat was great, as was Jericho burning a shirt in the middle of the ring. But since then, this feud has centered around chants and distraction finishes. Meh. As for this match, Styles one million percent is going to win.
Ricky: Haven’t we seen this match 6,000 times already? A.J. Styles has gotten over big time with the WWE Universe since debuting at the Royal Rumble. There’s no way WWE can be dumb enough to kill his momentum by having him lose his first ever WrestleMania match, right?
Intercontinental title ladder match
Kevin Owens (champion) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust
Mike: In a perfect world, I would have love to seen a Owens-Zayn match for the title here. WWE, however, is far from a perfect world, especially when it comes to building WrestleMania, where the company seems hell-bent on putting everyone into the card. I hope Owens wins and it somehow sets up a longer program with Zayn, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Zayn wins and Owens becomes the chasing heel.
Ricky: This match makes no sense. It’s obviously centered around Owens and Zayn, so why bother with the spare parts? My guess is Owens retains after Zayn comes close to grabbing the belt and the two continue their rivalry after WrestleMania.
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
Mike: This will be tough to watch in the very best way. Ambrose and Lesnar will beat the living hell out of each other, and it’s going to be awesome. A street fight obviously makes sense, as it’s the only true way to make us believe Ambrose has a chance of winning. And you know what? I believe he does. Lesnar still can look strong in the loss, and putting Ambrose over puts the rocket on him and launches him toward the main event scene.
Ricky: I love Ambrose. He’s an awesome fight-to-the-death babyface who keeps coming oh-so-close, only to then see his dreams shattered. There’s definitely going to be some sort of outside interference in this match. Conventional wisdom says Bray Wyatt gets involved, though my heart longs for Seth Rollins’ return.
Hell in Cell match
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker
Mike: I honestly have no idea how this ending will go. Really, I’m not sure how this entire match will play out. You’ve got 46-year-old McMahon, who hasn’t wrestled in years, going up against 51-year-old Undertaker, who has so many miles on his body at this point. Can they deliver a good match? It might not be technically sound, but if it’s a spot fest with all the bells and whistles, at least it will be entertaining. I’d be shocked if there’s not some sort of lasting image from this match — likely Shane-O-Mac flying off something — when it’s all said and done. As for the pick? It’s a tough one, but I’m going with McMahon, although I’m not confident.
Ricky: This is another match where it’s easy to envision some sort of outside interference. Maybe it’ll be The Rock exacting revenge in his previous feud with Stephanie McMahon/The Authority. Maybe it’ll be the debut of The Balor Club. Who knows? Either way, my guess is Undertaker will pull out the victory so as to keep a “1” in his WrestleMania loss column.
WWE title match
Triple H (champion) vs. Roman Reigns
Mike: This could get ugly, especially in front of a smart ‘Mania crowd. The WWE is going on two years of shoving Reigns down the throats of its fans, and save for a couple of instances, that’s been met with hostile resistance. As recently as Monday’s go-home show, Reigns has been mercilessly booed. I don’t expect that to change Sunday. He’s going to get booed … and he’s going to win the title. That much is a given. How that’s done and what happens after, though, is the real interesting thing. Hopefully, this is where we finally get the Reigns heel turn.
Ricky: There’s just no way Reigns can win the belt clean and walk out of WrestleMania as a babyface with his head held high. Fans just won’t buy into that, even if WWE longs for Reigns to be the face of the company. Reigns will win the title and leave as champ. It’ll just come with some funny business during or after the match. My guess is a heel turn is involved, with Reigns turning on either Ambrose or The Rock — whoever shows up to even the numbers against The Authority.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@WrestleMania
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