Posts tagged Kurt Angle
Re-booking TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2018

Normally I wouldn’t do this for a B-show PPV in the middle of December, but the direction that things have been going in for the last couple of months has been pretty poor. In that case, I might as well have some fun with it. Here’s what this Sunday’s TLC PPV would look like if The Barber’s Chair booked it.

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

Source: WWE Network

Source: WWE Network

Assuming this match will still take place, the stipulation is as follows: If Strowman wins, he will receive a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship next month at the Royal Rumble, and Baron Corbin will be stripped of his GM-elect role. If Corbin wins, he will become Raw GM permanently.

What Should Happen: The Baron Corbin authority angle was fun to me in the beginning, even with Kurt Angle being placed on “vacation”. But it’s run its course (as with all authority angles), and this is where it ends. Braun Strowman wins.

What Will Likely Happen: Braun Strowman returns, makes quick work of GM-elect Baron Corbin, and a new GM will be announced on Monday. Hopefully we get a Brock Lesnar appearance as well.

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Dean Ambrose hasn’t competed on TV since the emotional night when he turned on his Shield brothers and attacked Seth Rollins two months ago. The heat has kind of cooled off on Ambrose since then, but it’s still fresh enough to pick it back up again.

What Should Happen: If the TLC match from this past Monday is indicative of anything, Seth Rollins should lose here due to one final power play from Baron Corbin. It wouldn’t make sense to have Rollins win two ladder matches in six days, but then again what has made sense on this show since October?

What Will Likely Happen: Seth Rollins may likely be considered the unanimous MVP over the course of 2018, and he doesn’t necessarily need the Intercontinental belt at this point. It would be wise to let Dean Ambrose go over in this one as Rollins (hopefully) transitions into Universal title contention over the next few months.

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship

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Environmentalist Daniel Bryan aka The NEW Daniel Bryan might be the favorite WWE version of the former American Dragon. He also helps solidify my theory that tree-hugging vegans aren’t as nice of people that they think.

Bryan’s heel turn has done wonders to rejuvenate his career, and his WWE title run has been fun sp far. AJ Styles has consistently been one of the best workers in the company, and I can’t really name a bad match that he’s put on since debuting in the Federation three years ago. We all know what these two can bring, and I’d love to see them top the match they had on Smackdown a few weeks ago.

What Should Happen: For someone who was as beloved as Daniel Bryan was for the last five years, if you’re going to make him a villain, you have to go all out with it. To keep AJ Styles strong, have him win by DQ as Daniel Bryan goes crazy with a brutal attack as he further cements himself as the top dog on Tuesday nights.

What Will Likely Happen: I don’t know what’s in store for Daniel Bryan as we merge onto the Road to WrestleMania, but he’ll be WWE Champion for the good portion of that ride.

Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

After legitimately breaking Becky Lynch’s face and taking her out of Survivor Series, WWE’s used the incident to propel Nia Jax towards another battle with Ronda Rousey six months later. This is one of three matches I don’t really care about, but it will have some long term ramifications to it.

What Should Happen: Make no secret that I am Ronda Rousey’s #1 hater, but the honeymoon phase with her has long passed, and I can see myself eventually having some competition if Ronda isn’t booked as someone we should care about. Jax has been positioned similarly to how she was in NXT, albeit this time she’s been given more mic time, which is another factor to me not giving a shit about what goes on in this feud. Six months after their initial battle, Rousey now has a little more experience and should be able to command the battle better this go around. She needs to look good in victory.

What Will Likely Happen: I can honestly see them formulating the matchup the same exact way that it was done at Money in the Bank, this time with Rousey actually getting a chance to close it out. Either way, she’ll be walking into 2019 still the Raw Women’s Champion.

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair - Triple Threat TLC Match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

This absolutely NEEDS to main event the show on Sunday night. (The Man) Becky Lynch has been incredible since winning the belt at Hell In A Cell, and her 2019 is already shaping up to be a great one if they book her the right way. Unfortunately, I see her dropping her title this weekend in one of two ways...

What Should Happen: Asuka started off the year strong by winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, but a loss to Charlotte at WrestleMania has derailed any momentum she had until just recently. Winning her first main roster championship would help her close out the year strong at a point when it seemed her WWE career was dead in the water.

As for Becky Lynch, this would give her the opportunity to jump ship to Monday nights, as we know that she has some business there waiting for her in the form of Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey. Perhaps a Royal Rumble win is in line?

What Will Likely Happen: Charlotte wins yet again *insert eye roll emoji*. Asuka has still yet to beat Charlotte one-on-one, and it’s likely that a Charlotte victory can build to a rematch in New Jersey this spring.

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor

This stat may be shocking if you haven’t paid attention, but Finn Bálor is undefeated in PPV singles matches since debuting on the main roster (6-0). Hopefully they play up this fact, as it’s something simple that can help the fans invest into this match even more.

What Should Happen: Can we get a Demon King appearance on this PPV? Drew Mac can surely afford a loss to THAT incarnation of Finn Balor.

What Will Likely Happen: WWE seems to have Bálor be the reliable stepping stone for others at this point in his career (not that that’s a bad thing), and I don’t expect anything different this go around as the Scottish Psychopath continues to run roughshod over the Raw roster. Drew McIntyre has asserted himself as a force on the red brand since his return in April, and now seems primed to reach the heights expected of him in 2009. A win here keeps him strong going into the Royal Rumble, as he can position himself as the favorite to win the annual classic.

The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bar for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

I just want to get one thing off of my chest before proceeding with this match preview: Why the FUCK is this not a TLC match or at least a ladder match?

With that being said, This is a sleeper for match of the night. We already know what The Usos and New Day can bring to the table, and The Bar has slowly crept up to legendary tag team status (I recently realized that they’re in their FIFTH title reign in only two years). Should be a great match that will possibly open the show.

What Should Happen: There hasn’t been a whole lot of heat with this feud, but it isn’t necessary when you have three great teams like this. The Bar have been on a good run here, but I can see WWE wanting The New Day to set a record of title reigns (plus I’m bias), and a win here would bring them that much closer.

What Will Likely Happen: Since The Bar stood tall on the go home show this past week, that usually spells doom come the PPV. The Smackdown Tag Team belts have been playing hot potato a bit this year, so it would be smart to stick with a team and build them into the new year.

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Guitar Ladder Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Before the main event of every PPV, there’s a moment where I go “Weren’t so and so supposed to wrestle?”, only to find out that match already happened on the pre-show. This is that match and I’ll probably never watch it.

What Should Happen: Bobby Lashley has been EXTREMELY lackluster since coming back to WWE. And while the partnership with Lio Rush had some potential early on, it’s very meh at this point. Have Rush pull a James Ellsworth and help win the match for Lashley, but have him receive his comeuppance post-match.

What Will Likely Happen: A likely pre-show main event, Elias wins to hype the crowd up for the main course.

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Aside from their boss having an R. Kelly fetish all of a sudden, the 205 Live guys have been getting a lot of shine the past couple months. This past Tuesday, Mustafa Ali had a fantastic match with the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, and while typically being relegated to the pre-show in the past, the Cruiserweight title has been defended on the main show in two of the last three Network exclusive events. Hopefully that trend continues this Sunday night, and I expect Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander to shut the place down.

What Should Happen: Continuing on with my “Let all the black wrestlers win tonight” narrative, I’m going to choose Cedric Alexander for no other reason.

What Will Likely Happen: It’s awfully soon for Buddy Murphy to drop the title, and I see him continuing his run of dominance over the Cruiserweight division. Time for some new blood to step up and present a new challenge.

Natalya vs. Ruby Riott - Tables Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

I don’t typically like when real life deaths are included in a storyline, but I can understand why it’s done, especially when all those involved agree with it. However, I really don’t care about this feud and can’t wait for it to end this weekend.

What Should Happen: I don’t believe crowds are invested enough in these two women enough to have Ruby Riott win. Riott has antagonized Natalya over Jim Neidhart’s death this entire feud, so there’s really only one way to end this and that’s with the Hart family name standing tall.

What Will Likely Happen: Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon aren’t doing anything noteworthy this evening. Let them help Natalya even the odds

Fabulous Truth (R-Truth and Carmella) vs. Mahalicia (Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox) - Mixed Match Challenge Finals

R-Truth and Carmella’s chemistry has been a factor in building momentum for their run through the tournament. And while Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox have slowly but surely gotten on the same page, there are some kinks that still need to be worked out if they want to close strong. It was harder to get invested in this season of the Mixed Match Challenge as injuries and kayfabe write-offs didn’t help at all. At the end of it all, the two healthiest teams from each brand persevered, and now have a shot at coveted #30 position in their respective Royal Rumble matches.

What Should Happen: I always look forward to a surprise #30 entrant each year, but Dolph Ziggler’s overall performance this past year made it a little lackluster. So I guess I can lower my expectations for 2019 since I know neither of the two on the men’s side have a chance of winning. Although, there’s a bit more credibility with Jinder Mahal being a former world champion which you can go off of, rather than R-Truth who has been an amazing comedic act for years.

What Will Happen: We get a Royal Dance Break at #30 as Fabulous Truth comes out of this one victorious. Should be a no-brainer, but I can’t wait to see if Truth tries to enter the Women’s Royal Rumble.

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Sidenote: I was in the 8th grade when these two first feuded on Smackdown in 2005-06. Glad to see they can both haven’t lost a step since.

Rey Mysterio has only been back in WWE for about two months, but it’s like he never left. The chemistry that he and Orton have when working together is amazing, and they won’t disappoint on Sunday.

What Should Happen: Randy Orton has been on a tear since his heel turn at Extreme Rules, and it wouldn’t make much sense to have that randomly stop here. The Viper’s run of dominance should continue on.

What Will Likely Happen: It’s a toss up as to who WILL win this match, as they can go either way with it. However, Rey Mysterio will always be in a great position to recover after a loss (see Jeff Hardy at Hell In A Cell) to where it wouldn’t be an issue.

Ruthless Aggression EP 28 - It was you, Hunter

Rob Pierce and Chris review RAW 480 and Smackdown! 155, highlighted by Triple H looking for the culprit who beat up Shawn Michaels last week, and Brock Lesnar defending his #1 contenders match for Summerslam against Hollywood Hulk Hogan! Plus Ronda Rousey shines in her Monday Night RAW debut, Lincoln Ricketts joins Pierce to preview the final three nights of the G1 Climax, and we preview what we have in store for Summerslam week! (note: it has nothing to do with Summerslam).

Follow Rob: @RobertONeill31
Follow Chris: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Linc: @MaAdLyNx

Ruthless Aggression EP 25 - Hogan Still Sucks
Ruthless Aggression EP 24 - Still standing

This week the crew reviews RAW 475 & Smackdown 150, featuring the Ladder Match between Jeff Hardy & The Undertaker for the WWE Undisputed Championship, Brock Lesnar v. Ric Flair, & Hulk Hogan winning the tag titles with Edge! Plus our thoughts on ROH: Best in the World, the controversy between Kenny Omega & his CEO show, PCO calling out The Undertaker, the Bayley-Sasha saga and more!

This Week in WWE: Bayley says Sasha ain't shit, Tell Hell No reunites
Raw.png

Robert O’Neill: Welp. It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another exciting edition of Monday Night Raw!

Chris Novak: Last week’s show was quite good, so let’s see if they can make it two in a row. Optimism levels are… in the middle, somewhere. The show kicked off with them briefly touching on Vader’s passing.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle is in the ring to lead off the show, along with Baron Corbin’s goofy looking ass, as a graphic announces a Dolph Ziggler/Seth Rollins Intercontinental Title match for later.

Chris Novak: I don’t know about you. But, I am enjoying this Constable Corbin deal. Thought it was funny that he demanded he be introduced as such.

Robert O’Neill: It’s fine! But he’s goofy looking.

Chris Novak: We start going on about contract disputes and Brock Lesnar, but Roman Reigns is here to interrupt things. The announce team went on about how he said Brock, the Universal Champ, isn’t “interested” in facing Reigns or the prospect of facing Reigns again. He tells Kurt he just wants to hear the explanation face-to-face.

Robert O’Neill: And now Bob Lashley is here. Yay. Anyways, there’s no longer gonna be a multi-man match at Extreme Rules because “plans changed” so both Bob and Roman want the title shot given to them OR they want to fight for it! Before that gets resolved, The Revival come out (TOP GUYS WATCH) and want a rematch against Bob and Roman from last week.

Well, holy crap. The Revival won. There was miscommunication between Lashley and Roman and that’s really the main point of this story/match but it’s still pretty neat to see them pick up a victory.

Chris Novak: This was some good stuff and some good layout to this match. Nicely done. Revival pick up a big win, Bob Lashley gets protected and Reigns loses nothing from eating that rollup (with a hook of the pants).

Robert O’Neill: And now we have The Deleter of Worlds heading to the ring as Matt Hardy will take on Curtis Axel.

Chris Novak: Hey, cool. Rey Mysterio is the pre-order bonus for 2K this year. That was a neat commercial.

Robert O’Neill: Really excited for WWE 2K this year. Anyways! Hardy vs. Axel was short, and Axel picked up a win which was a little surprising to me.

Chris Novak: It was very abrupt. After that… the AUTHORS OF PAIN finally showed up. Their Visa issues must’ve finally cleared up. They had an interaction backstage with Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil, who said they ought to respect the backstage crew (they tossed someone into a wall). I can get behind this as a secondary feud, if you ask me. Now, anyways, they highlight the Bayley and Sasha feud and we learn that, again, they’ll be teaming up, with Ember Moon against The Riott Squad. I don’t know why we have to keep doing this kind of match, but the ends justify the means I guess. Oh, before I forget. CAPTAIN ALICIA FOX IS BACK!

AOP then squashed some jobbers. They beat them down, and then Titus and Apollo made the save.

Robert O’Neill: They still probably need a manager, but it’s fine for now!

Chris Novak: Corbin asks Angle if he enjoys putting combustible elements together for tag matches. What happens next? Well, Finn came in and the two exchanged some barbs. Then, Braun came in and said he wanted to team with… Kevin Owens… to face… Finn and Constable Corbin. It’s a tag team, strange bedfellows kind of night tonight.

Here comes Alexa and Mickie. Lex cuts a promo, running down both Nia AND Ronda. She actually got some pretty legitimate heat from the San Diego crowd here, which is a difference from what we’re used to. Here comes Natalya, who touts her friendship with Ronda before informing Bliss that they’re facing off. BUT… Nattie isn’t coming alone!

Robert O’Neill: I would like to give San Diego credit for actually booing Alexa, which is what you’re supposed to do with heels. It’s a shame that Natalya and Nia came out and ruined everything, but that’s just what they do.

Chris Novak: TO BE ENTIRELY FAIR… Nia’s hometown is San Diego.

Robert O’Neill: Natalya won because Nia tripped Alexa. Cool face move. Real nice.

Chris Novak: Match was fine. Ambivalent on the result, but champs always take losses so it’s nothing that’s unprecedented. Whatever.

Robert O’Neill: Riott Squad are getting into hijinks backstage, so it’s time for their match against Bayley/Sasha/Ember Moon.

Chris Novak: Strong start to this match. Really impressed with Liv in the early moments with Ember.

Robert O’Neill: That entire match was very solid. It ended with a roll-up which normally people would complain about in a women’s match, BUT…

Chris Novak: THINGS TURNED UP RIGHT AWAY!! Bayley jumped in the right and absolutely SNAPPED on Sasha Banks. Lit her up with furious punches. Sasha barely got any offense in. This was a full-throttled beatdown, MONTHS if not YEARS in the making. Bayley made it a point, after she’d sent Sasha into the steel steps more than once, to bring up everything she’s done to her the past two years, including last week. And also dropped a, “YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME, SASHA?” Popped SO hard for this. ALL of it. The crowd ate EVERYTHING up too. This was TREMENDOUS!

Robert O’Neill: No Way Jose was out for a match with Mojo Rawley, but Mojo spent his time bashing a guy dressed like a cheeseburger on the conga line instead. It was more entertaining than it sounds.

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

Robert O’Neill: Meanwhile backstage, Kurt Angle is none too pleased with Bayley and tells her she’ll be attending therapy next week!

Chris Novak: Lord knows what Kurt thought he was getting himself into here. As good as Paige is at this GM thing is just as bad as Kurt is.

Robert O’Neill: Time for another tag match. We have Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin and Finn Balor! Can these teams get along and co-exist? Probably not. No, no, it’s not looking like they can. Well, Owens and Strowman can! Owens even did the thing Braun does where he runs into someone at full speed with his shoulder. But Corbin and Balor can’t get along and brawl up the ramp to get counted out for the finish.

Chris Novak: This was perfectly fine and ended just about as you’d expect it to. I can get behind the Owens-Strowman stuff, especially when Strowman TIPPED OWENS’ CAR OVER IN THE PARKING LOT. Braun’s hijinx always manage to sell pretty well.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! As we have Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins getting… a really long time for their match. Say what you want about Ziggler’s character (which is bad), but I’m pretty excited to see him and Rollins have a 40 minute match right here.

Chris Novak: This was a legit great main event. It ended with a DQ finish, and a 2-on-1 brawl led to Roman making the save for his former Shield brethren. I have no idea what this means in the grand scheme of things as it pertains to Roman, since he’s obviously tied up with Lashley. But, we’ll see I guess.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: When we look back on this Raw, it’ll be remembered as the one where Bayley and Sasha finally blew up, for that alone I think it deserves a high grade. Looking past that, some of the tag matches were weird and felt like Teddy Long era Smackdown, but they were all well worked and the main event was fun. It loses points for the Alexa/Natalya result and that’s about it. B+

Chris Novak: B+ show for me, too. The tags were a different way of doing things but I’m fine with it, honestly. Changes things up and doesn’t completely give matches away. As you said Rob, the Bayley/Sasha stuff really puts this over the top for me. Huge fan of it all, and hopefully next week doesn’t completely ruin everything.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: On to SmackDown Live. We’re kicking the show off in style with… The Miz!

Robert O’Neill: And he’s joined here on Miz TV by the Bludgeon Brothers, who helped him defeat Daniel Bryan last week in the gauntlet match.

Chris Novak: Miz is seeking answers as to why they attacked Bryan last week. As expected… they’re pretty mum about it.

Robert O’Neill: Miz is also being his general dickish self when talking to them which seems like a bit of a mistake! But before the Bludgeon Brothers can do anything, Daniel Bryan makes his way out. Anyways! We’re getting Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper tonight which is cool and good.

Chris Novak: Anything involving either of those two is considered good. So, with them together, that works for me, as well.

Robert O’Neill: And now we’re leading off the action with a Rusev/Xavier Woods match which is also perfectly fine with me! It took WWE a long time to realize that Xavier Woods should be in more singles matches, but I’m thrilled that they finally did.

Chris Novak: Rusev won what was a really fun opener here. He then cut a promo on the WWE Champion, AJ Styles, whom he’ll be facing next month at Extreme Rules. He says he’s going to take the title, and will be a great Rusev Day. Hey, that’s all hard to argue. 

Robert O’Neill: Since Shinsuke Nakamura got bit by a police dog at a live event on Monday, he’s not facing Jeff Hardy tonight. So there’s an open challenge for the United States Championship. I wonder who will answer it. HOLY CRAP IT’S ERIC YOUNG!

I like this a lot. It’s a fresh matchup for Hardy, PLUS, it’s with someone he has familiarity with.

Chris Novak: So this turned out to be a match that, as expected, ended with chaos. SaniTY and The Usos all converged to attack each other. Ultimately, this led to a six-man tag team match being made.

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, I’m here for a Hardy/Usos vs. SaniTY feud. Cause this match was a ton of fun, and I think it would do wonders for SaniTY to work with three established guys like that. We move on to Becky Lynch vs. Sonya Deville, which should be a lot of fun as well.

Chris Novak: Becky wins (again!). Removing MITB and WrestleMania from the equation, Becky has won 7 of her last 9 TV matches and her last four on SmackDown Live. She’s gaining a ton of momentum, so I can’t wait to see how they squander it. Too much? Too excessive?

Robert O’Neill: Becky’s problem remains that she’s stuck in Charlotte’s vortex. And I don’t know how she can get out.

Chris Novak: WELL, Rob. Charlotte’s out. Soooooooo… maybe she can now!

Robert O’Neill: Oh hey, it’s Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega! They’re warning the rest of the roster, again. Sure would be nice to see him in an actual match at some point.

Chris Novak: It would, but I’m not mad about it. At least I shouldn’t be. It’s not like he’s completely been forgotten about. Something had to have happened to Sin Cara for them not to be continuing that feud. So, I’m just gonna be realistic and wait on it.

Robert O’Neill: MY GOD. JAMES ELLSWORTH IS FACING ASUKA NEXT WEEK.

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

Robert O’Neill: We’ve reached the main event! Daniel Bryan is facing Harper, in what should be one of the best matches in recent memory.

After a really fun match, Bryan gets the win via DQ and the numbers game catches up to him after the match but MY GOD, KANE IS BACK! THAT’S KANE!

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown was pretty good considering they didn’t have Shinsuke Nakamura and had to make a last minute switch to the US TItle match. Aside from that, it’s still refreshing to have Daniel Bryan back and seeing him in these fresh matchups, despite what Wrestling Twitter will tell you about how he’s being used. I’m also glad they finally realized they can use New Day members in singles matches. B+

Chris Novak: Once again, I’ll agree, Rob. B+ show here. Lot of fun stuff and Team Hell No reuniting was a legit fun moment for all involved. Popped me more than I thought it would, and popped the crowd more than I thought it would. Going forward, this should be intriguing to watch. SDLive continues to hit the right notes.

Brock retains, the Deadman returns, & Rousey delivers in an epic Wrestlemania

Robert O’Neill: WELP. It’s 4 PM. That means it’s time for Wrestlemania 34!

Chris Novak: [Extremely Scott Hanson voice] Seven hours of sports entertainment starts… RIGHT NOW!

Robert O’Neill: John Cena is in the crowd, because he’s attending Wrestlemania as a fan. I love it.

Chris Novak: Okay! So. The Andre started things off here. And Matt Hardy won thanks to Bray Wyatt. Looks like they’re going to go with these two as a pairing, which is fine with me. Either it means that Bray will be with BOTH Matt and Jeff Hardy. OR it means that Jeff is gonna get a singles run. EITHER WAY, this works well for me. Bray needs a refresh, and working as a babyface may very well help his cause out.

Robert O’Neill: Happy for the Laughing Man!

Chris Novak: Oh, cool. Here come the cruiserweights. They get to work in front of a damn-near full crowd, because they did the smart thing and let the crowd in super early. This is fantastic, to be honest. Ali looks like Sub-Zero, which is a heck of a look. Cedric gets the dub! I thought Mustafa was gonna win, but Ceddy is far from undeserving. Crazy to think what’s happened in the last two years for him ever since that match against Ibushi at the CWC. Good for him.

Robert O’Neill: Awesome stuff. If you don’t watch 205 Live, do you.

Chris Novak: WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal Time!

Robert O’Neill: Well, that was fun. I have various nitpitcks about it, but all in all it was a cool way to get everyone involved. The Bayley/Sasha stuff continued and Naomi had a surprise victory, which was cool.

Chris Novak: Made… not a lot

Robert O’Neill: BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWWNNNNNNNN. IC TITLE TIME. Here we go.

Chris Novak: Seth is a freaking White Walker. All hail.

Robert O’Neill: Why would Miz send the Miztourage to the back in a triple threat match? It’s a No-DQ match! Don’t be noble, be smart!

Chris Novak: Dad Miz is gonna do it all by himself. Okay, Finn, your entrance was awesome. Super-duper awesome.

Robert O’Neill: Really cool and important stuff by Balor. I like it. This match has also been predictably awesome so far. I don’t think any other match could have better opened the show. Rollins won after a pretty insane stretch with callbacks to a lot of other moves they’ve done in the past few weeks, and all three Shield members are grand slam champions now, so that’s neat.

Chris Novak: That was a fantastic opener. I’ll have to hum over the others, but that’s easily a Top 10 opener of all time at Mania.

Robert O’Neill: Time for ASUKA and Charlotte!

Chris Novak: Charlotte comes out on a throne to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (her father’s theme!) and then her music plays. That entrance was so damn good. Here comes Asuka, who has 3D graphics in her entrance! They’ve got the presentation down pat so far.

Robert O’Neill: Every entrance has kicked ass so far tonight. Charlotte and Asuka are going pretty nuts. I liked Asuka countering the moonsault into a triangle choke and Charlotte doing a SPANISH FLY. Holy crap, Asuka tapped out. I’m stunned.

Chris Novak: That one will be controversial… An unbelievably good match, though. The streak’s payoff would’ve been hairy either way. They broke it the best way they could’ve here.

Robert O’Neill: A ref came down and said something to John Cena, and Cena went in a dead ass sprint to the back.

Chris Novak: I guess ‘Taker is coming!

Robert O’Neill: Jinder won the fatal four-way to become the US Champion. That was out of nowhere. Quick match. It is what it is.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: Alright, that’s the biggest dud so far on the card. Expectedly so. Don’t get not putting Rusev over. Anyways, Steph/HHH vs. Ronda/Angle is next.

Robert O’Neill: Triple H and Stephanie had a cool entrance. Angle’s entrance was Angle’s entrance, and Ronda looked like she was gonna kick someone’s ass.

Chris Novak: Holy shit, that pop when Ronda came into the match! What a professional wrestling match!! That was everything that pro wrestling should aspire to be. Ronda looked AWESOME in this match. The spot with her punching Triple H repeatedly was great. And then the armbar on him too! Eventually, Steph and HHH go for double Pedigrees, but Kurt sends HHH flying, and Ronda puts her in the armbar! She tapped! WHAT. A. MATCH.

Hahahaahahaha and now we get New Day-Usos-Bludgeon Brothers. What a hoot this show is.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I can’t believe how good that Ronda match was. That was Wrestlemania in a nutshell right there. It was a spectacle and it damn well delivered. I’m interested in seeing where Ronda goes from here.

Can we talk about the New Day’s entrance?

Chris Novak: Died laughing watching the little people in pancake suits. Okay, so… that match was abbreviated. The right call was made to have The Bludgeon Brothers win, though.

Robert O’Neill: Absolutely. Really don’t gain anything from having the New Day and Usos feud again, no matter how good it was.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: And… here comes The Undertaker… NOPE THAT’S ELIAS

Robert O’Neill: I WANT TO WALK WITH ELIAS

Chris Novak: Oh… welp. Uh… here comes that man.

Robert O’Neill: The pop when the gong hit is why Undertaker still comes back. Also holy shit this is happening.

Robert O’Neill: They did exactly what they needed to do. John Cena talked shit all month and Mean Mark showed up with receipts.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: Oh man. That Bryan entrance was special. Oh and here comes Owens and Zayn from behind! That was some fun. And surprisingly, a Bryan win! Thought that Shane would cost him the match. But! They didn’t overthink it, I guess. Alright, we’re doing Nia-Alexa next.

Robert O’Neill: Bryan got the victory but that match didn’t seem as good as it could have been. It’s not his fault though. The moments made were amazing.

Chris Novak: Hopefully this ends well...

Robert O’Neill: I liked Nia/Alexa. People complained about it but it was fine. Nia won and Alexa took a bunch of crazy bumps.

Chris Novak: Okay, sure. I guess that worked in the end. Intrigued to see Nia’s title reign from here on out. Think she can very easily be built up into a babyface monster.

WWE

WWE

ANYWAYS NOW IT’S TIME FOR NAKAMURA-STYLES!

Robert O’Neill: THEY HAVE A FULL BAND FOR HIM!

Chris Novak: Awesome entrance, with Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper performing “The Rising Sun.” Let’s sit back and watch this.

Robert O’Neill: That was fine. It was never going to live up to the expectation people had. I liked AJ winning with one Styles Clash, because he rarely does it, so it SHOULD be important and lethal. AND SHINSUKE TURNED HEEL AFTER THE MATCH

Chris Novak: THAT… that was surprising. Apparently heel Nakamura is superior. So, this should be fun to watch going forward! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The Bar’s entrance is tremendous.

Robert O’Neill: So Braun Strowman teamed with… a child! And won the tag titles. All hail Nicholas!

Robert O’Neill: Well, here we go. Roman vs. Brock.

Chris Novak: Yeesh...

Robert O’Neill: Boy, oh boy. I have some thoughts on that main event. First of all, the crowd with their stupid ass chants got incredibly annoying in a hurry. Like, get over yourselves. Lesnar winning was a genuine shock and taking six F5’s to do it makes Reigns look strong. But you know what else makes him look strong? Winning. And capping off the story you started three years ago instead of chickening out. Is Lesnar not going to UFC now? I guess we’ll see.

Chris Novak: Got a lot of thoughts to air out here. I don’t know if all of them are safe to right now. I’ll let this simmer, and come back to it later.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: All month long it seemed like this would be an all-time great Wrestlemania. Was it? I mean, it depends on your definition. It wasn’t in the top 3, but I think you can make an argument for it being in the top 5, despite a couple bumps in the road. The first two hours were excellent, and Ronda Rousey had the match of the night despite everyone saying she wasn’t gonna be good at this. The two title matches were confusing, but I’m very excited for Styles vs. heel Nakamura. I have no clue what happens with Lesnar and Reigns now, but I’m glad that some new mid-card feuds were ignited as well. Overall, I think I would give Wrestlemania 34 a solid B.

Chris Novak: It’s a Top 10 WrestleMania for me, although the last hour really aided it in not being a Top 5 WrestleMania for me. Everything else pretty much knocked it out of the park, with only *some* questionable decisions along the way. B+ show for me.

Wrestlemania Predictions

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Andre documentary being promoted, I’m surprised that this one is on the pre-show this year. While there haven’t been many competitors announced so far, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the most likely of the announced participants to win would be Dolph Ziggler. It’s a safe pick, and he isn’t doing much else (the story of the last three years of his career).

Prediction: Dolph Ziggler

Robert: These things are always super hard to predict. Maybe Bray Wyatt comes back as… not Bray Wyatt and wins it? Maybe Dolph Ziggler wins, squanders the opportunity, and complains about it for the millionth time? Maybe Big Show wins again? I truly don’t have a read on this. I guess I’ll take Bray.

Prediction: Bray Wyatt

Chris: Honestly, like always, I have no idea where this is going to go. It’s the match with the least amount of build so far, and I guess that makes sense, in a way. It would be cool if Mark Henry showed up and won it. But, I doubt it. Now that I know he’s in the match, I predict Elias will win, and then give the performance of a lifetime later on in the show.

Prediction: Elias

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Sasha Banks vs. Bayley feud coming to a head, I can see a situation where they both brawl to the back, effectively eliminating each other. Initially I was going to say that Ruby Riott would walk away the victor here. However, I think we get a main roster debut of Ember Moon, who should be dropping the NXT Women’s title about 24 hours earlier.

Prediction: Ember Moon

I’m almost more excited for this than the women’s Royal Rumble, if only because it probably won’t be littered with legends. It’ll be a lot of NXT and WWE women, as it should be. I think Bayley and Sasha Banks will prevent each other from winning, and it’ll be someone from Smackdown as a result. Becky Lynch? Sure! Let’s go with Becky Lynch.

Prediction: Becky Lynch

Chris: FKA the Moolah Battle Royal, but Moolah is trash. So, they changed the name. The only substantial hype this match has going into it revolves around Bayley and Sasha Banks. Which might tell you that they probably SHOULDN’T be in the match, and instead have a standalone match on their own. Oh well, I guess. Those two are the only ones who I could see winning this whole thing. If they want to tell this story the right way, then Bayley has to win it to drive Sasha over the edge.

Prediction: Bayley

WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament final: Mustafa Ali vs. Cedric Alexander

T.C.: Cedric Alexander has been getting a push towards the Cruiserweight title since about December, but several issues out of his control have prevented him from climbing that mountain top. I predict that he’ll finally have his moment, a WrestleMania one, this Sunday.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander

Robert: Do you watch 205 Live? No? Why? You need to. It’s incredible and these two are two of the best. This match should really get the crowd going, and I hope they don’t give it the first slot when people are still getting in the building and getting situated. Give it the middle or last preshow slot and let ‘em rip for 15 minutes.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

Chris: If you haven’t watched any of 205 Live in the post-Enzo Amore era, do yourself a favor and do that. It’s absolutely sensational, and they’re putting on a stellar in-ring product on a weekly basis. Mustafa and Ceddy are two CWC originals, and they definitely deserve the spotlight they’ll be given. Part of me has wondered what’s taken so long with Cedric, but I think he’ll have to wait a little longer. Mustafa Ali is my pick to win the CW Title.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

WWE Universal Championship - Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

T.C.: I honestly believe the whole “Brock Lesnar is returning to UFC” thing is a red herring, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d like for them to go the route of having Brock win here, as it would add some unpredictability. But we all know that Roman will come out victorious here. Hopefully, we can get Heyman teaming up with Reigns at the end, which could freshen up his character going into his title reign.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Robert: If you have a problem with Reigns or this feud’s build, I don’t think we’ll agree on much. I’ve loved it. And I’m going to love Reigns winning and the title being back in the fold on a weekly basis.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Chris: Roman Reigns wins here to get the Universal Title, thus ending this three-year feud and sending Brock back to UFC in a few months. Easy call.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE Championship - AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C.: This one has match of the night written all over it, and they should be able to deliver a clinic in about 12-15 minutes. Nakamura is the favorite here, and he should be getting the W when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Robert: It’s still wild that this is happening at Wrestlemania, isn’t it? Styles and Nakamura have been all over the world and now they’re finally meeting on the big stage. I think Styles has been a great champion, but it’s Shinsuke’s time.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Chris: As good as both these guys are, I hope that everyone’s heightened expectations of this match doesn’t hurt them if they “fall short.” That being said, they will probably put on an A-grade match. Nakamura gets his crowning moment, and wins the WWE Championship.

Prediction: Nakamura

Intercontinental Championship - The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor

T.C.: Rumors have been going around over the last week regarding Samoa Joe getting added to this match, making it a Fatal Four Way. For sake of this post, I’ll act like that won’t happen. Instead, I have Finn Bálor pulling away with the Intercontinental championship in his first reign.

Prediction: Finn Balor

Robert: This is a sneaky contender for match of the night, if only because how well these three work together. Pick any two and we’ve seen at least one great match, so there’s no reason that shouldn’t carry over into a triple threat. I think Miz needs to retain and become the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, because he’s made that belt mean more than anyone in decades.

Prediction: The Miz

Chris: I’m lowkey telling you what my match order prediction is here as well, so pay attention here if you must. Miz, Rollins and Balor have all stepped their games up in the past couple months. Rollins in particular has looked awesome, and Finn has, too. We know how good Miz is by now, so that’s no surprise. I suspect these three will help put on a damn good opener to start us off. I don’t think there’s gonna be a title change, though. By hook or crook, Miz will retain his IC Title.

Prediction: The Miz

United States Championship - Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev

T.C.: The logical thing to do here would be to place the United States championship on the most popular guy in the match. I’ve been watching the product since 1998, and full time since 2002...so I’m used to the WWE not going the logical route. Look for Randy Orton to win and retain his title.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Robert: It’s pretty wild that Wrestlemania falls on Rusev Day, huh? Anyways, adding Rusev to this match really saved it for me. Orton and Mahal don’t do anything for me, especially after watching it all last summer. Roode is fine, but his slow style makes him hard to watch. With all that said, with how much crowd support Rusev has, they HAVE to give him the title.

Prediction: Rusev

Chris: This match looked like a bit of a dud. Then Rusev showed up! I’ll keep this short and sweet here: Rusev is the guy to win this match. You don’t put him in it if you don’t give him the title. At this point, it’s a must.

Prediction: Rusev

Raw Women's Championship - Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax

T.C.: I don’t expect this one to be long at all. I could see a scenario where Nia Jax blacking out on Bliss, getting hit with a disqualification by the referee. Moments later, Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella takes advantage and cashes in on the unconscious champion and goes home with the Raw Women’s title.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss by DQ, Carmella cashes in MITB

Robert: As someone who has been with Alexa since day one, I’ve enjoyed her title run(s) far more than most people. WWE is getting to the point, though, where they need to do something with Nia instead of having her lose to everyone. There’s always one head-scratching decision per Wrestlemania though, and I’ll use mine right here.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss

Chris: Gonna keep this short and sweet, too. Nia Jax HAS TO WIN. She has to win and must win in a squash-type deal. If they have this match be lengthy, it will be a disservice to both of these ladies and the program. I know people want long women’s matches, but Nia-Alexa is not the type of feud to do that. And it’s not the kind of match, either. If Alexa somehow retains, it would be a monumentally poor decision. That’s no knock on her. Just the story that they’re telling here. Although she could definitely use time away from the belt, in my opinion.

Prediction: Nia Jax

Smackdown Women's Championship - Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka

T.C.: This one is sure to give Styles vs. Nakamura a run for their money, as both women definitely know how to put on a show. It would be foolish for the winner of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble to lose her title match at WrestleMania. With that being said, look for Asuka’s streak to make it out of New Orleans alive and well.

Prediction: Asuka

Robert: This is probably the most realistic shot we’ve seen where Asuka could lose her streak. I don’t think she will, but Charlotte at Wrestlemania would certainly be a good time and place to drop it. However, I think Asuka prevails.

Prediction: Asuka

Chris: Yep… I think this is the penultimate match on this Mania card. It’s been a while since Charlotte has had the spotlight on her, considering her run on SDL has made her lose all her luster. I think that changes come Sunday in NOLA. Her and Asuka put on a fantastic match, but it will be Asuka who wins the SDL Women’s Championship.

Prediction: Asuka

Raw Tag Team Championships - The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD

T.C.: I don’t care what other fans have said about this feud, I’m enjoying it, and I’m enjoying seeing Braun Strowman add more range to his character. You can risk placing the tag titles on Braun temporarily, and then vacating the titles the next night on Raw. Pull the trigger, WWE.

Prediction: Braun wins by himself

Chris: So, first prediction: Samoa Joe is Braun’s partner. Second prediction, Strowman and Joe win the Tag Team Titles.

Smackdown Tag Team Championships - The Usos (c) vs. New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers

T.C.: The biggest story in this one even before Fastlane, was how the Usos have never competed at a WrestleMania. It’s time for them to get their moment, and I see one of the twins getting the pinfall over a member of the New Day. This way, you keep the Bludgeon Brothers safe, and they have the case for another title shot going into Backlash.

Prediction: The Usos

Robert: Can’t wait for this one. The build has been awesome and we already know what the New Day/Usos feud was capable of. I think it’s time to get some fresh blood in though and give the titles to the Bludgeon Brothers.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Chris: Finally, at long last, The Usos are on the main card. This should be an outstanding showcase, and a deserved one for the SDLive tag division. I can’t decide if they’re going to throw The Usos a bone or crown new champs. But then again, what’s the point of hyping up Harper and Rowan all these months then? Bludgeon Brothers, for the win, and our second title change of the night.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

WWE

WWE

T.C.: There is no way Stephanie McMahon isn’t tapping out to Ronda Rousey at the end of this match. Would also be kind of neat to get Shayna Baszler and Sonya Deville in to celebrate with Ronda after the match.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Robert: They’re not going to have their biggest female attraction of all time lose her first match.

Prediction: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey

Chris: This is an easy one. I don’t think this will last very long at all. Angle and HHH duke it out for the most part, HHH eats some offense from Ronda, and Ronda rips Stephanie’s arm off to give her and Angle the win.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

WWE

WWE

T.C.: If Owens and Zayn lose here, they won’t be reinstated back to the WWE roster. As of now, there’s no room for them over on Raw, and I’m honestly tired of them playing Frogger between rosters. Look for them to come away with not only their jobs, but their first WrestleMania wins.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

Robert: This is going to be special, obviously. Daniel Bryan returns to the ring in the same place as he had his biggest career win. The goodwill probably won’t last long, though, as I expect Owens and Zayn to win via some sort of shenanigans from Shane McMahon. I don’t trust him.

Prediction: Owens and Zayn

Chris: Daniel Bryan makes his in-ring return, and what a moment that will be. In the same building where he won the WWE Title four years ago, no less. Bryan and Shane’s tenuous relationship has me thinking that shenanigans are going to happen here. So, I think Owens and Zayn get their jobs back after Shane turns on Bryan and costs them the match.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. The Undertaker

WWE

WWE

Robert: Assuming this happens, it’s probably going to be pretty dumb. Once you get past the spectacle of two of the WWE’s best of all time fighting on a huge stage, it kinda becomes a dud. Maybe it’s because Undertaker is about five years removed from his last good match or because Cena’s been annoying during this whole build, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. I guess I’ll pick Cena to win? I don’t know. Neither party gains anything with a win or loses anything with a loss.

Prediction: John Cena

Raw, Smackdown put forth strong go-home efforts before Wrestlemania

Robert O’Neill: Wrestlemania go-home Raw! Villanova vs. Michigan! It’s a loaded television night!

Chris Novak: “Ronda Rowdy.” Oh, Kurt.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle’s constant battle with the English language aside, that was a hell of a way to open the show. The build to Angle/Ronda vs. Trips and Steph has been virtually perfect. I can’t wait for it.

Chris Novak: The segment was what it was, but I do agree with you. They’ve done a solid job here of building this up, I will say. Steph throwing Ronda through the table was a nice touch and a nice batch of revenge after Ronda sent HHH through the table at Elimination Chamber.

Robert O’Neill: Bayley vs. Sonya Deville was a pretty good match. Sonya continues to improve. After the match, Sasha saved Bayley from a beatdown and Bayley wasn’t appreciative in the least. Could it be that Bayley is the bad friend and not Sasha?

Chris Novak: Well, no. Sasha wanted Bayley to raise her hand, which is the pettiest thing.

Chris Novak: Okay, that was an AMAZING MATCH between Seth and Finn. The go-home show for Mania just produced a 4.5-star match, and I’d be tempted to even go a tick higher. Just absurdity. Seth is so good again, and Finn is still a very good in-ring worker. Loved ALL the callbacks they had in that match, too. Goddamn. That has me hyped.

Robert O’Neill: Seth and Finn should fight forever. Good lord what a match.

Chris Novak: They’ve put on nothing but good matches since they started feuding. I’ll say that much.

Chris Novak: I’m not certain what the point of this Cena stuff is right now. I guess they’re just gonna have Undertaker show up impromptu on Sunday? Weird build to this whole thing. Having Taker not show up the WHOLE way towards Mania is a misstep, in my opinion. But hey, we’ll see what happens Sunday, I suppose.

Robert O’Neill: I find myself having mixed feelings. On one hand, yeah, it’s kinda dumb to have no build (look at Undertaker/Bray Wyatt). On the other hand, these are two of WWE’s biggest stars of all time. How much build do you really need? Would it have been that much better if Undertaker came out and cut weird cryptic promos on Raw the past few weeks? It’s 2018. You know what you’re getting from him

Robert O’Neill: Goldust and Matt Hardy first wrestled each other in WWF in 1999. It’s 2018 and they had a match on Raw. I love stuff like that. .

Chris Novak: Okay, Braun and “BRAINS” Strowman was an incredible bit. I still have no idea who Braun’s tag team partner is going to be on Sunday. But this was hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: Braun’s comedy stuff has been amazing this year. From the MMC to working with Elias to this. He’s great.

Chris Novak: Haven’t been much of a fan of this whole Alexa-Nia feud. But they both seem like they’re cool with it in interviews? Whatever. Nia needs to win on Sunday in emphatic fashion for this to work. If they try to drag this out with a long match, it’s a mistake. If they have Alexa go over, it’s an even worse mistake. I’m not wholly optimistic, either.

Robert O’Neill: I’ve been team Alexa since day one, so I’m biased here, but having her retain the title probably isn’t smart.

Robert O’Neill: Rhyno is built like a refrigerator with legs.

Chris Novak: He really, truly is. I for one cannot wait for Elias’ performance on Sunday. I’m wondering who’s going to make a cameo. Jeff Jarrett? The Rock? Both? Either way, even without a match, Elias has something that you feel like you can’t miss and that you feel like is must-see TV. They’ve done a great job with him and building him up to be an attraction. It’s great stuff.

Robert O’Neill: The final segment between Roman and Brock was kind of tame but given how they’ve built up to it, I really can’t nitpick it too much. It’s a match I’m incredibly excited for, and I think it’ll be even better than the first time they met.

Chris Novak: Y’know, you say it’s tame. But I enjoyed it a lot. They played off the locker room stuff they alluded to earlier on in the feud. I don’t know if it was great to have Brock get the last laugh (again) but they did its job and there’s legitimate heat on Brock. It’ll be 50/50 in New Orleans, like you’d expect. But they won the crowd over with this feud. Point blank, period.

Quick Results
Bayley def. Sonya Deville
Seth Rollins def. Finn Balor
Matt Hardy def. Goldust
Elias def. Heath Slater
Asuka & Dana Brooke def. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Welp. The Road to Wrestlemania has concluded, and frankly I think both shows did a great job taking that final step this week. Everything got lined up nicely for Sunday night, and I think every match on the card has a certain level of intrigue and importance. As far as this show specifically, Rollins/Balor could very well be the TV match of the year so far (depending what you think about Rollins’ marathon gauntlet match performance) and I always appreciate seeing Goldust in action. The Cena stuff could have been better, but it is what it is. I think bookending the show with Ronda/Kurt/Steph/Triple H and then Roman/Brock shows the level of importance of those two matches. B+

Chris Novak: A B+ for me too. The Seth-Finn match was exceptional, and everything else hit all the right notes. I think they took time to take in every possible situation going into Mania, and gave it all the appropriate time. It’s certainly one of the better go-home shows in recent memory, which 1) Says a lot about recent memory and 2) Shows that they have the depth of talent to pull such a feat off. Good going.

Robert O’Neill: Away we go! Final show before Wrestlemania, and Daniel Bryan is here to open the fun.

Chris Novak: Makes a bunch’a sense to open with this. Bridgestone Arena looks sold out and they’re going bananas.

Robert O’Neill: Bryan and Shane being friends makes me most uneasy.

Chris Novak: Yuck… it’s Charlotte-Nattie again.

Robert O’Neill; Well, they pretty much did the same thing as last week with Charlotte and Natalya, complete with a tease from Carmella. It was a bad match because Natalya is awful, but the Charlotte/Asuka stuff afterwards was solid.

Chris Novak: Hey, Happy Rusev Day, Rob.

Robert O’Neill: Can we talk about Aiden English rapping?

Chris Novak: We should. He had bars. Rusev getting the win here has me intrigued. They don’t USUALLY do that if the guy is going to win at Mania but… they have to belt him right? Oh, there’s Orton with an RKO outta nowhere again. Once again, they have to belt Rusev right? Right???

Robert O’Neill: Yes. WWE has done dumb stuff in the past, but if they don’t let Rusev win on Sunday they may lose the crowd *very* early in the night.

Chris Novak: Not gonna lie, pretty fun 8-man tag featuring the Andre Battle Royal guys. Solid stuff all around here. Corbin getting the win was a nice touch, I suppose. They’re doing the best they can with the Andre buildup, and to their credit, a lot of guys are getting work from it.

Robert O’Neill: Primo was in this match! That was wild. The Andre will be fine I guess. It is what it is. Back in the day they had a 30-man battle royal before Mania started and it was a dark match. Thanks to the Network, they don’t have dark matches anymore.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Steen and Sa- El Generico are in the arena! They weren’t invited to this show!

Chris Novak: Nice touch to have them show up before Mania. Sami cut a promo like an effective heel. Who would’ve thought THAT would happen? They’ve done a good job in the last 2-3 weeks in building up this feud after it dragged on and on.

Robert O’Neill:My biggest post-Wrestlemania wish is that they continue to use Benjamin and Gable correctly like they did the past few weeks. They can be in higher card Smackdown matches to get guys over. They’re very good in the ring. Styles and Nakamura are going to blow the roof off the Superdome and I’m here for it.

Chris Novak: Hell of a main event, hell of a way to send us off. They built up Nak-Styles entirely through mannerisms, and it worked well. I, for one, can’t wait for this match on Sunday.

Quick Results
Charlotte Flair def. Natalya
Rusev def. Jinder Mahal
Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley & Primo def. Tye Dillinger, Zack Ryder & Breezango
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura def. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: In my opinion, Smackdown had less work to do than Raw. I mean, Nak/AJ, New Day/Usos, and Charlotte/Asuka practically build themselves. Not to mention the fact that Smackdown’s build benefits from having Daniel Bryan’s first match in three years. As a result, this show focused on building the “lesser” stuff like the US Title fatal four-way (RUSEV DAY), and the Andre Battle Royal. It was successful. B+

Chris Novak: It’s a B+ for me, as well. Like Rob said, a lot less work to do. But they still succeeded in it. I think more Tag Team Title stuff would’ve been helpful, but they already did enough in the past few weeks to get me excited and amped up for that. WWE’s hitting all the right notes right now. Hopefully that leads to an awesome show on Sunday.

Re-booking the Wrestlemania card

WrestleMania is the WWE’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. What is seen as the technical “season finale” of the WWE, the spectacle has been known to reel back in the most casual of fans, who sometimes only truly bother with the product that one Sunday night every spring.

Let’s be honest here... the WWE could do so much better with booking their product. Things that SHOULD happen logically rarely ever do, and we end up with something completely different. Here, I’ll take a look at how WWE should book the upcoming WrestleMania show in contrast to what will most likely happen.

Due to a limited amount of announced participants in the two battle royals, I won’t be covering them in this piece.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship

With any avenue of entertainment such as movies and television, it’s unlikely that every viewer will be on the same page as far as a storyline goes. The art of professional wrestling is no different in this sense, as evident of fans’ disdain for the push that “The Big Dog” Roman Reigns has received the last four years. Ever since The Shield’s initial breakup in 2014, Reigns has practically been in the main event scene of Monday Night Raw, In a rematch from WrestleMania 31 that was thwarted when Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, Reigns looks to get back to the top of the mountain and win his first ever Universal Championship.

What Should Happen: The build for this match has been decent, but does anyone really care about the match. In a perfect world, to add a bit of surprise factor it would be in the WWE’s best interest to let Lesnar go over in this match. The next night on Raw, Reigns could challenge Lesnar to one last match, to prove that he can beat The Beast. If Brock was willing, you can have him drop the title a week later in what would be Lesnar’s first match on Raw since 2002.

What Will Likely Happen: Since winning the Universal Championship at last year’s WrestleMania event, Brock Lesnar has defended the championship an outstanding four times, including a pinfall victory over the challenger at last year’s Summerslam event in a Fatal 4 Way. At this point, the writing was pretty much on the wall with a Reigns vs. Lesnar rematch at the big event. It is expected that Reigns will finally defeat Lesnar, and Lesnar will take some time off presumably to train for a return to UFC.

AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship

I think we all expected this one to happen once Nakamura was called up from NXT last year. The right call was made to have Nakamura win the 2018 Royal Rumble, and to keep the strap on AJ Styles leading up to the big event. While I think the internet’s criticism of Nak’s in-ring skill has been unfair, this should be match of the night in what will be the first battle between this two in a WWE ring.

What Should Happen: Although I wouldn’t be mad with whoever wins, it only makes sense to have the Royal Rumble winner go over at WrestleMania. With a Smackdown Live event coming up in Japan this summer, this makes the outcome even more likely, as they’ll want to market Nakamura returning to his home country with the WWE Championship.

What Will Likely Happen: Not only does this have match of the night written all over it, it is also a definite match of the year candidate. I fully expect WWE to go the route of Nakamura overcoming Styles in a bout that I’m hoping gets at least 20 minutes. However, I can also see them holding off on giving him the championship until it gets a big closer to that big show in Japan.

The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor for the Intercontinental Championship

WWE

WWE

It’s no secret how big of a Miz stan that I am, and I fully believe he has potential to be a top 3 heel all-time in the business once it’s all said and done. He has been at odds with authority figures from both Raw and Smackdown Live since 2016, and that did not change after Kurt Angle placed him in a Triple Threat match for his championship at the Showcase of the Immortals.

What Should Happen: For the last few weeks, The Miz has been hyping up how he’ll hold the record for most combined days as Intercontinental Champion. And the higher ups honestly should allow him to reach that milestone during this current reign. If he loses at WrestleMania he’ll fall about 20 or so days short of that, so give him a few more weeks to hold that belt, and he can drop it to one of his two challengers in a rematch at Backlash.

What Will Likely Happen: If anyone remembers correctly, Finn Bálor still hasn’t received his rematch after he had to vacate the Universal Championship 24 hours after winning it at Summerslam 2016. A reign with the Intercontinental Championship would be a great way to jumpstart that push again, as Finn hasn’t seemed to have much direction as a character since returning from injury last spring.

Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev for the United States Championship

At Fastlane, Randy Orton was finally crowned a Grand Slam champion after winning his first United States championship over Bobby Roode. Jinder Mahal was involved in this feud leading up to that match, and in turn was added to the rematch at WrestleMania.

What Should Happen: Prior to this match being made a Fatal 4-Way, I’m sure there wasn’t a soul out there who really cared about this this match. Now with the addition of Rusev, it’s time to take advantage of the hottest gimmick in the company. Better late than never, I guess.

What Will Likely Happen: Orton winning the United States title at Fastlane definitely seemed like it was meant for him to drop it quickly. On the 3/26 episode of Smackdown Live, seeds were planted for a Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal feud going forward, and it should be for the title over the next couple of months. This would allow Randy Orton and Bobby Roode to also continue their program separately.

Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship

I’ve been looking forward to this showdown ever since Bliss formed a “friendship” with Nia Jax last year. Kudos to the Raw creative team for giving this feud a slow burn, which climaxed in early March when Alexa Bliss was .

What Should Happen: It’s about time for Alexa Bliss to drop the title, and Nia Jax is the perfect one to reign over the women’s division on Raw for the time being. However, her doing so as a babyface doesn’t make much sense. Seems we’re at a crossroads here as SOMEONE has to walk out of the Superdome with the belt. If I were WWE I’d have Bliss cheat to win against Nia Jax, which sends Jax into a raging post-match attack on the champion. Cue the Women’s Money in the Bank owner Carmella, who runs down to successfully cash in her briefcase (it’s imperative that the first women’s briefcase holder to win their first cash-in), and make the switch over to Monday Night Raw.

What Will Likely Happen: Even if Carmella doesn’t get involved, I still can’t see Alexa Bliss walking out of WrestleMania with the championship. The whole Mickie James and Alexa Bliss friendship just seems too random for there to not be something up Mickie James’ sleeve. And it’s possible that Mickie will turn on Alexa, costing her the championship.

Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

WWE

WWE

After making history and winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match, Asuka challenged Charlotte Flair for her championship at the Fastlane event in February. Another possible match of the night candidate, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these two will have the best women’s match in WWE history at WrestleMania 34.

What Should Happen: Stop me if you haven’t heard this before, but Asuka hasn’t been defeated since arriving in WWE. And if they’re smart, they’ll keep it that way until at least later this summer. Especially with that Tokyo show coming up that I mentioned earlier.

What Will Likely Happen: Just how you can’t have the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank winner lose her cash-in match, the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble winner can NOT lose her championship match. I’m expecting Asuka to still go over, but Charlotte ending the streak at WrestleMania wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship

New Day and The Usos engaged in one of the most exciting feuds in 2017, and I was thoroughly interested in seeing it start back up again (this time with the mutual respect angle) until the Bludgeon Brothers were implemented. Honestly, Harper and Rowan haven’t really mattered to audiences since the end of their run with Bray Wyatt, but they fit well into this feud at the moment.

What Should Happen: For the last several weeks, the story here has been how Jimmy and Jey Uso have never competed on the main WrestleMania card, which would mean that they’ve never had the chance to experience a WrestleMania moment since debuting in 2010. Not one competitor on the card this year deserves the honor more than these two, especially with how they’ve reinvented themselves the last couple of years. Time to let them have it here, they can drop the belts at a later date.

What Will Likely Happen: Every once in a while, WWE will slap the titles on a team that garners minimal reaction from audiences (hello Cade and Murdoch, Deuce and Domino, Primo & Epico). Surprisingly, Harper and Rowan have not held tag team gold on the main roster level. Also, they’ve been made to look like unstoppable forces since being repackaged, and there’s no need to kill that momentum at this time.

The Bar vs. Braun Strowman and TBD for the Raw Tag Team Championships

On the March 12 episode of Raw, Braun Strowman interjected himself into a #1 contenders tag team battle royal to determine who would face The Bar at WrestleMania. The story throughout the last 3 weeks has been about Braun finding a partner...who will that be?

What Should Happen: Daniel Bryan aside, Braun Strowman is by far the most over superstar on the roster, so naturally fans feel that he deserves better than this. But to be honest, it’s been a fun program so far. Logic hasn’t always been present when it comes to professional wrestling, so why start here? By letting Braun go over by himself, he can then be given an ultimatum by Kurt Angle to either find a partner by the next evening or risk being stripped of the championships.

What Will Likely Happen: Some rumored partners for Braun Strowman over the last few weeks have been Big Cass and Samoa Joe. However, if Braun is forced to decide on a partner prior to the start of the match, Elias is the only one who makes sense. Either way, Braun Strowman will be walking out of New Orleans with his first championship.

Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali for the Cruiserweight Championship

The Cruiserweight Championship has been vacant ever since former champion Enzo Amore was fired back in January. Shortly afterwards, a tournament was announced for the vacant championship that will end on the Grandest Stage of Them All. I honestly was expecting Drew Gulak to defeat Mustafa Ali in their match, as Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak already had the seeds planted during the whole “Zo Train” angle. However, it’s understandable that the company would want to distance themselves from that whole debacle.

What Should Happen: I expect this one to be on the kickoff show, but hopefully these two competitors get more than enough time to show off their stuff. I was expecting Alexander to defeat Enzo Amore back at the Royal Rumble, but unfortunately he didn’t get his opportunity then. He should get it at WrestleMania.

What Will Likely Happen: I don’t see Mustafa Ali defeating Cedric Alexander in the finals, as Alexander’s push has been in motion since December. It’ll be smart to stay the course and allow that push to pay off.

Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H

WWE

WWE

Dissension between Kurt Angle and The Authority has been brewing ever since Angle was brought back as Raw general manager after WrestleMania 33, which had seemed to hit its peak when Triple H asserted himself into the 5-on-5 at Survivor Series, turning on Angle in the process. Insert Ronda Rousey - who had her own not so friendly encounter with The Authority at WrestleMania 31 - and you have an obvious showdown.

What Should Happen: With what is being touted as the biggest free agent signing in WWE history (and it’s hard to argue with that), the only logical thing to do is have the team of Rousey and Angle go over here. This is Kurt Angle’s first match at WrestleMania since he originally left in 2006, as well as Rousey’s first match ever. The sight of both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon tapping out simultaneously would be a joy to see, but realistically we’ll have to settle with Stephanie doing the honors.

What Will Likely Happen: There is literally no way that they’ll go any other route here with this match. If so, I’ll go on Instagram Live and eat one of my socks.

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

Salute to long-term booking with this one. This one has been in the making ever since Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were drafted to Smackdown after WrestleMania 33. Over the past few months, the inclusion of Daniel Bryan has been ambiguous, as he’d not been officially cleared to compete yet (although I believe they’ve known for a while, but kept it under wraps until recently). Now with Bryan back in the fold, we can finally get the payoff necessary, and one we’ve always dreamed of.

What Should Happen: While it would be a shocker to have Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens take the L here, I’d love the see the possibilities with these two trying to regain their jobs on Smackdown (as well as Raw), to no avail. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon haven’t been on the best of terms recently, and a feud between the two could be in the works. Would love to see how Owens and Zayn get involved with that down the line.

What Will Likely Happen: With the stipulation of Owens and Zayn being rehired if they win, you’d have to end this one with Shane McMahon eating the pinfall and the unruly duo getting their jobs back. Going forward, there’s still so much to touch base on as far as the rocky relationship between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon goes, and the two being on the losing end at WrestleMania is a good start.

Undertaker vs. John Cena

WWE

WWE

As of now, the match hasn’t been announced yet. The build has been VERY subpar, but for a match between two icons that hasn’t happened one on one in 12 years, you can rely on that more than anything. Will Undertaker be the Phenom or return as the American Bad Ass?

What Should Happen: Although John Cena has been on the losing end a LOT since returning from hiatus on Christmas, he can afford another one here, and it gives him a natural story for his next feud following WrestleMania. This SHOULD be the last match Undertaker has in his career, and what better way to ride off into the sunset with a victory....which brings me to my next point.

What Will Likely Happen: For one of the most old-school minded competitors on the roster, I can see Undertaker willing to do the honors here as it’s his last match. Undertaker’s record at WrestleMania doesn’t mean that much anymore after the streak, so it wouldn’t hurt at all, and it will still give John Cena a good rub going into his next program.

Excitement levels for Wrestlemania matches

It’s Wrestlemania Week, and things are shaping up. In terms of match quality, this maybe the strongest card to date. While there might be some matches that are placed on the card for its storyline, each match brings something different to the plate. Let’s see how each match sizes up and which match can bring us the most excitement at Wrestlemania 34.

WWE

WWE

Universal Championship -- Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Roman is the most polarizing figure on the WWE roster and while he gets his boos, his work level is amazing and he has given us great matches in 2017. His first match with Brock was a good bout no matter the negative reaction he was receiving. This match may be short but Roman & Brock can give us a great hard-hitting affair.

Excitement level: 4

WWE Championship -- AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

It’s AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, even without a proper build, this is one of the most anticipated matches in the WWE Universe. Let’s get to it.

Excitement level: 5

WWE

WWE

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H

This match is a reminder to the WrestleMania 31 incident between Rousey and The Rock along with McMahon and Triple H but with Angle in The Rock's place. Angle fits as he has had problems with Triple H since Survivor Series. The big factor is Rousey as this is her first in-ring wrestling match.

Excitement level: 3

SmackDown Women's Championship -- Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka

Streak vs. Title, this is something that we have been waiting for since Asuka’s main roster debut. This can eclipse Wrestlemania 32’s triple threat match as the best women’s match in Wrestlemania history.

Excitement level: 5

Raw Women's Championship -- Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax

Look, I’m not going to lie, I wanted Sasha & Bayley to be in this spot because of their history, feud and in ring wrestling ability. Bliss/Jax’s feud is built upon weight shaming and it looks one-sided. Hopefully this match goes quickly and Jax wins the belt.

Excitement level: 2

Intercontinental Championship -- The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

The Triple Threat between these men last year was a preview on how great this match can be. Seth & Finn’s technical prowess w/ the character work of The Miz will give us a great match on a stacked card.

Excitement level: 4

United States Championship -- Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal

A match that should be on the kickoff show, I really hope its on the pre-show. This feud started because of a countdown list and it has gone nowhere since. Randy is the clear star of this match because of his name but this isn’t a match everyone will be running to especially on this card. I almost gave this a 1 but with the inclusion of Rusev, it jumped up a notch.

Excitement level: 2

Raw Tag Team Championship -- The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman & TBD

The Braun Strowman angle is pretty interesting even though he buried the tag team division. The mystery partner element is also a nice twist because we all want to know who can compliment Braun against the Bar(PLEASE LET IT BE NEVILLE, then I will upgrade this to a 4).

Excitement level: 3

Cruiserweight Championship-- Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

If the WWE wants us to take the cruiserweight division seriously, they need a spot on the main show. Cedric Alexander has been the most consistent worker for 205 Live and Mustafa Ali has been the heart of 205 Live especially with his recent performance in the Cruiserweight Tournament. This match can be the fire the division needs for WWE’s audience.

Excitement level: 4

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

The only wrestlers announced for the match are Matt Hardy, The Revival, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin and Tye Dillinger. I’m sure it will be exciting but there is no real payoff for this match.

Excitement level: 2.5

WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal

Superstars from Raw, Smackdown and NXT will compete in the event. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Natalya & the Riott Squad have entered so far and it’s the first one ever. Sasha & Bayley’s feud is the major component in this match and we know what they can do in the ring.

Excitement level: 3.5

WWE

WWE

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

Thank God for Cena’s promos the last few weeks, the build of this match before his promos was dreadful because we did not want to see John against an seemingly retired man in the ring. Will the undertaker come out in his original undertaker outfit or will he ride down in his American Bad Ass gimmick?

Excitement level: 4

WWE

WWE

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

With Owens and Zayn now "fired" from SmackDown after beating up McMahon -- and then Bryan two weeks ago, this sets up a perfect tag team match between both sides. The return of Daniel Bryan alone equals a 5 for excitement.

Excitement level: 5

SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

The Usos vs. The New Day can have a high profile match at Wrestlemania and we wouldn’t complain. The addition of the Bludgeon Brothers spices things up, bringing a monstrous factor to the match that we haven’t seen in a tag team match in quite some time.

Excitement level: 4

My Favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania XIX
WWE

WWE

If you’re posed with answering the question, “What is the greatest WrestleMania of all time?” chances are you have an instant reflex. The choice that many people pick is WrestleMania X-Seven. For good reason, too. X-Seven was the culmination of the greatest boom period that the wrestling business ever saw. While watching the event, whether it was live or even now, you get the sense that you are legitimately watching the end of an era. It was a special night in Houston, to say the very least.

WrestleMania X-8 had the unenviable task of following up this incredible show. Apart from one match (Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock) the consensus thought is that it was a whiff. The same, however, cannot be said about the one that followed X-8.

In my opinion, WrestleMania XIX is every bit as good as WrestleMania X-Seven. I can take a step further and say that it’s a better show from top-to-bottom, too (with one very large exception, of course).

The show starts off with the WrestleMania debut of Rey Mysterio. Mysterio, a staple of the Cruiserweight division in WCW and the previously ECW, too, made his first arrival in WWE in the summer of 2002. He quickly ascended up the ranks and proved why he was so regarded as one of the best high-flyers in the game. He faced Matt Hardy, the Cruiserweight Champion (you read that right, if you’re unfamiliar) in a pretty scintillating opener. Hardy won dirty, and while they could’ve given Mysterio his due here to start the show, he would eventually go on to win the Cruiserweight Championship in Anaheim later that year from Hardy to culminate this feud.

Next was a match that, well… okay, this was probably the worst Undertaker match in a few years. He faced The Big Show and A-Train in a handicap match, partly because they’d taken out his partner, Nathan Jones. Yes, you may remember Nathan Jones, “The Colossus of Boggo Road,” who was too green to be in this match that they had him taken out. To be fair to him though, they booked this well, had him show up and land a few kicks in before Taker hit A-Train with a Tombstone.

Third up was a Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match. Trish Stratus became the Women’s Champion after defeating Jazz and Victoria, the reigning champion going into the event. For the time they were given (7:17) the three women made the best of it. Trish got her WrestleMania moment (A YEAR AFTER SHE SHOULD HAVE IN TORONTO) and would set the tone for the remainder of the year (Writer’s Note: You should check out the No DQ Match that Trish had with Victoria back at Survivor Series. This whole feud was actually pretty good for this era).

After setting the world on fire in the fall of 2002, the SmackDown! Tag Team Division got the spotlight on the main card. Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) faced Los Guerreros and the ragtag team of Chris Benoit and Rhyno. Benoit and Rhyno came together shortly after Edge suffered a debilitating neck injury the month before, and quickly were able to make an impact. It would, however, be the new kids on the block who got the victory, as Benjamin and Haas walked in and walked out as WWE Tag Team Champions.

WWE

WWE

Things really kicked up a notch next. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho fought in one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time. It was arguably the match of the night on this evening in Seattle, Washington. A year after being on the losing side of the Undisputed Championship Match, and a year after being a complete afterthought in his feud with Triple H, Jericho brought his A+ game and delivered in the biggest spot yet in his career. Michaels won via a rollup, and Jericho delivered a kick below the belt to leave Michaels laying. It’s classic Y2J and classic HBK. This is one of my favorite Mania matches ever, and part of what spurred this event to be an all-timer.

Now… the next match was tough to swallow. Triple H and Booker T fought over the World Heavyweight Championship. Going into the night, Hunter berated Booker, telling him that “People like him don’t get to be World Champion.” There’s a lot of code and racial undertones here, and it makes the decision to have Hunter go over Booker even worse. Even WORSE was the fact that it took one Pedigree to do it, AND the fact that it took Triple H nearly 20 seconds to finally get a pin on Booker. And there wasn’t even any other near fall. It’s the worst part of this match and the worst booking decision in WrestleMania history. Luckily, the rest of this show helps ascend it up high.

WWE

WWE

Mr. McMahon and Hulk Hogan fought in a Street Fight that was “20 Years in the Making” next. This was a beautiful disaster, and booked exactly how it should go. You got blood, you got weapons, and you even got “ROWDY” RODDY FREAKIN’ PIPER showing up for the first time in a WWE ring in nearly TEN years! Hogan got the better of Vince in a very memorable Street Fight that got this event’s momentum back.

Then came Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock for the third time in Mania history. The match’s video package is extremely memorable, spliced with the theme song for Mania -- Crack Addict by Limp Bizkit -- and the story was simple. Rock had felt he’d done it all… except beat Stone Cold at WrestleMania. And so, in his third try, after three Rock Bottoms, Rock got the three count on his contemporary and biggest rival to leave XIX as a winner. This would prove to be Stone Cold’s final match of his career, and he went out as best he could.

WWE

WWE

The finale of this event pit two of the best to ever do it against each other. Brock Lesnar, the 2003 Royal Rumble winner, capped off an incredible first year in WWE against another man known for his impeccable rookie year: Kurt Angle. The reigning WWE Champion squared off with “The Next Big Thing” in a match that had two of the best amateur wrestlers the company had against one another. The match is a thrilling watch, even now. Lesnar’s failed Shooting Star Press is one of the more unfortunate moments in WrestleMania history that luckily didn’t turn into a total disaster for him. He was still able to finish the match, and it took three F5’s to finally put Kurt down for the count.

WrestleMania XIX is in a 1a/1b situation with X-Seven for me. These are the two greatest Manias ever in my book. The card has a big blemish on it from Booker/HHH, but the rest of it more than makes up for it. Austin-Rock III and HBK-Y2J are two all-time great matches, and Lesnar-Angle is a great main event that crowns what is, at worst, the second-best rookie year in the company’s history. WrestleMania XIX is, without a doubt, my favorite WrestleMania ever.

My Favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania XX
WWE

WWE

To me the best Wrestlemania I've ever seen and was mostheavily invested in was 31, but my favorite Wrestlemania is XX. Wrestlemania XX is where it all began again; returning to Madison Square Garden and creating major excitement within the city of New York. It was the first PPV that I saved my allowance from my parents to help order. It featured my favorite stars such as John Cena, Eddie Guerrero & Chris Benoit. I was more of a fan of Smackdown than Raw, mainly because I didn’t have cable in my room so I watched Smackdown on UPN 9 (NYC). So as I was heavily invested in the Smackdown angles, I kept in touch with RAW from time to time. Once the card started, I didn’t leave my spot watching every match like it was the best thing ever.

WWE

WWE

Leading up to the event, WM storylines were flourishing. Benoit won the Royal Rumble that year and decided to switch to RAW to wrestle for the World Heavyweight Championship, entering the feud between Triple H & Shawn Michaels to make it a Triple Threat match for the title. John Cena was feuding with the U.S. Champion Big Show to capture his first title on WWE. Eddie Guerrero won the WWE championship from Brock Lesnar (With help from Goldberg). Angle challenged Guerrero, complaining that Eddie was a black spot in the WWE for holding that championship. Kane seemingly killed Undertaker’s “American Bad Ass” gimmick at the 2003 Survivor Series, but the Deadman sent an eerie challenge for a match at Wrestlemania. Let’s not forget the matchup between Goldberg & Brock Lesnar (We’ll get to that shortly). Even the Rock n Sock Connection vs. Evolution was a fun match because of the rivalry between Mick Foley & Randy Orton

An underrated factor about this card was that the right person won each match. Christian and Chris Jericho battled each other with Trish Stratus watching ringside. As a teenager, I was so shocked that Trish betrayed Jericho and helped Christian win. Evolution snuck a win from the Rock n Sock Connection.

WWE

WWE

My favorite match of the night at the time was John Cena vs. Big Show. I was such a huge fan of Cena and his gimmick at the time. I even downloaded his theme song and listened to it on the way school every morning. I always marveled at the fact that he could lift Big Show for the F-U, and once he pinned Show in the middle of the ring, I was the happiest person in the world.

Stone Cold Steve Austin refereed one of the most hated matches of Wrestlemania, Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar. At the time I did not know the circumstances between both wrestlers as they were leaving the company. I was wondering why the crowd was booing two of the most memorable wrestlers of that era. I didn’t care as I popped when Austin performed the Stone Cold Stunner on both wrestlers.

WWE

WWE

This Wrestlemania will always be remembered for its main event; the triple threat between Chris Benoit, Triple H & Shawn Michaels for the World Title. Once Benoit made Triple H tap in the middle of the ring, the world rejoiced. I remember watching and thinking that it was so cool to have Eddie Guerrero AND Chris Benoit as champions in the WWE. Just as I thought that, Eddie came down to the ring and hugged Chris as confetti streams down and I almost had a tear in my eye.

This was so cool to see; my favorite wrestlers won the strap in my city. I ran to school the next day talking about how Cena won the U.S. title and how Eddie & Chris was the champions of the WWE. I love Wrestlemania SZN!

My favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania X-Seven
WWE

WWE

As Wrestlemania 34 draws near, a lot of people have been talking about how good the card looks, top to bottom. It’s hard to argue. From Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut, to Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles, to Charlotte and Asuka, this card has something for everyone. All 12-14 matches should be very good and entertaining and tell a great story.

Personally, the build-up has reminded me a lot of what is widely regarded as one of the best Wrestlemania's of all time, and my personal favorite: Wrestlemania X-Seven.

Wrestlemania X-Seven was a huge deal for several reasons. First, it was technically the first Wrestlemania ever in which WWF didn’t have a rival promotion to worry about, as WCW had shut down just a few weeks earlier. It also marked the first Wrestlemania in Texas, and the first Wrestlemania to take place in a football stadium since Wrestlemania VIII was in Indianapolis’ Hoosier Dome nine years earlier. So, right off the bat, X-Seven had a huge feel to it.

Did it deliver? Yeah. It did. People still talk about to this day. While I could go in-depth with every match on the card (because they’re all awesome), I’m gonna just focus on my three favorites.

Kurt Angle d. Chris Benoit

A rivalry that would stretch from Wrestlemania 2000 to Benoit’s eventual Royal Rumble win and transfer to Raw, Angle and Benoit had no shortage of classic matches in that four year stretch. This one stands out as one of the three or four best.

There wasn’t really much of a story behind this match (or their feud in general) except for they were the two best submission artists in the WWF and constantly wanted to make each other tap out. Coming off years of overbooked NWO angles and Attitude Era shenanigans, it was nice to get a match where two guys try to make each other tap for 15 minutes. It was also incredibly smart booking, as Angle tapped while the ref was knocked out and eventually made Benoit tap while the ref was looking. It made it so they could continue the feud. Benoit would get hurt shortly later, but they would pick it right back up when he returned in 2002.

TLC II: Edge and Christian d. Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz

It’s 2018 and TLC matches are pretty much not a special thing anymore, due to the advances in concussion research and the toning down of WWE in general. Plus, they have a pay-per-view dedicated to the match every year.

Back in 2001 though, this was still incredibly fresh and new. And while these were the only good tag teams in the company at the moment, they sure knew how to put on a show.

This TLC match has no shortage of memorable moments. From Edge spearing Jeff Hardy out of mid-air, to the super tall ladder, to everyone going through at least one table, it’s pretty amazing that all six of these guys still had careers after this match and are still in relatively good shape today.

Stone Cold d. The Rock

Look, the ending was really really stupid and unnecessary and one of the dumbest things WWF/E have ever done. I’ll be the first to agree. But damn, this match is one of Austin’s three best of all time.

I think it’s right up there with his match against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. It checked every single box for me. Obviously, Austin had to main event the first Wrestlemania to ever be held in Texas, and the crowd loved him. Austin using the Million Dollar Dream was an amazing callback. Rock hitting a Stunner and Austin hitting a Rock Bottom was awesome.

It would have been a perfect ending to a great night if only he hadn’t sided with Vince McMahon. But, the match itself is still absolutely excellent.


Does Wrestlemania X-Seven still hold up today? Yes. Absolutely. The impact was felt throughout much of the 2000s, as it made Angle and Benoit into stars, was the start of a change from the Attitude Era to the Ruthless Aggression Era (which technically started here despite not getting named as such until 2002), and gave us another classic in the Austin/Rock rivalry. I didn’t even get into things like Undertaker vs. Triple H, or one of the most entertaining hardcore title matches in WWF history between Big Show/Kane/Raven. Simply put, this show is just as entertaining today as it was 17 years ago, and I hope Wrestlemania 34 holds up just as well.

Royal Rumble non-Rumble countdown

WrestleMania is the preeminent event for WWE, but the Royal Rumble isn’t too far off. The event is perhaps even more fun for the casual fan because of the possible surprise appearances from the past, and the overall chaos of the Royal Rumble Match.

But even though the Royal Rumble Match takes precedence, that doesn’t mean everything else is chopped liver. The undercard has had its moments in the sun too. In fact, there’ve been times where individual matches have stolen the show. So while your focus might be on who’s going to WrestleMania, there have been plenty of great matches throughout the years that have gotten us through the night, too.

And so, here is a countdown of the best non-Royal Rumble matches in history to take place at the annual event. All matches were viewed by yours truly, and weighed through my own mind. No, I’m not #DaMeltz/#BIGDAVE, so there won’t be any SIX STARS/SEVEN STARS given out here. This is just the way that I see it and how I was captivated by the psychology, storytelling, and overall entertainment of the match.

Before we get to the Top 10 though, here are a few Honorable Mentions:

The Rock vs. Mankind | I Quit Match, 1999 | Rating: ***¾

This couldn’t quite crack the Top 10, but the sheer brutality of it is just so stomach-churning. It’s a hard watch, knowing the state of things now with what we know about head trauma, and what we probably know about Mick Foley’s condition. Still, this is a match, for the right and wrong reasons, that was too memorable to be left off the HM’s.

Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan | 2014 | Rating: ***¾

Ah… the 2014 Rumble. Aka, perhaps, the most bungled Rumble ever (until 2015). At least we had this match between Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan, who of course would go on to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania anyway. It was a very solid opener with a hot crowd that was defiantly behind Bryan. I will say, it loses its luster a little on the second watch. That’s why it find itself here.

Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty | Intercontinental Championship, 1993 | Rating: ***¾

HBK and Marty Jannetty had two memorable Intercontinental Championship matches. One took place on Monday Night RAW, and the other went down at the 1993 Rumble. This one was built around Sensational Sherri, who made her return after being off TV for quite some time. There were questions as to whose side she was on, and in this match, it appeared she was on the side of Jannetty. However, her misstep in striking Marty with her heel allowed for HBK to hit him with Sweet Chin Music and retain his IC Title. Fun match with some good storytelling.

The Rockers vs. The Orient Express | 1991 | Rating: ****

The best tag team match in Royal Rumble history took place all the way back in 1991. The Rockers faced off with The Orient Express in Miami, and the two teams put on an absolute clinic to start the night. 27 years later, this match still holds up EXCELLENTLY. There’s drama, great tag spots, and a very fun finish too.

Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens | Universal Championship, 2017 | Rating: ****¼

Last year’s Universal Championship match just misses the cut for the Top 10. But don’t thumb your nose at that. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens’ collision is certainly one of the best World Title matches to ever take place at a Royal Rumble. Reigns and Owens had a physical encounter that’s best remembered for Braun Strowman’s run-in, which ultimately led to KO retaining the title. And also ultimately led to the great Braun-Roman feud. Oh, and Jericho was in a shark cage above the ring. That was a thing.
 

And now… The Top 10 non-Royal Rumble Matches in history.
 

10. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens | Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match, 2016 | Rating: ****¼

The 2016 Royal Rumble is remembered for many things. AJ Styles made his VERY FIRST appearance in WWE. Becky Lynch and Charlotte had a pretty stirring Divas Championship match. But the best match of the night was the one that went on first.

Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens fought over the Intercontinental Championship in a rather incredible Last Man Standing Match. There are several violent spots in the match-up, many of which involving chairs. Ambrose late in the match nearly won the match after an elbow drop through the table, but it wasn’t enough at the time. Owens thought he sealed it up late with a Sidewinder Suplex through the table, but Dean the madman got up from that, too. The match came to a bitter conclusion after Owens was pushed into a stacked set of tables on the outside, finishing off one brutal encounter.

9. Diesel vs. Bret Hart | WWF Championship, 1995 | Rating: ****¼

The 1995 Rumble is notable for two reasons. Shawn Michaels went coast to coast, and Diesel and Bret Hart had an amazing WWF Title Match.

What sets this match apart is the psychology in it. The Hitman did everything in his power to try and cut Big Daddy Cool and his legs down. And by that, I mean EVERYTHING. Attacks on the leg and knee. Knee drops. Slamming them against the ringpost. Using the Figure Four on the ringpost. There’s even a spot where Hitman RIPS OFF HIS WRIST TAPE, TIES IT AROUND DIESEL’S ANKLES, and goes back in the ring to attack him while he’s trapped around the ringpost.

Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart make cameos in a match that didn’t have a finish, but it left an impact. That’s for sure.

8. Chris Jericho vs. The Rock | WWF Undisputed Championship, 2002 | Rating: ****½

Chris Jericho’s run as Undisputed Champion is something he’ll never let you forget. It unfortunately lasted only 3 months, but Jericho worked with the big names and had stirring performances.

Especially so against The Great One at the 2002 Rumble. Y2J’s heel work shined from the get go, as he stole Rocky’s taunt, putting his hand out in front of his face. The Brahma Bull gave it his best shot, but thanks to the handiwork of Lance Storm and Christian, Jericho was able to get out of Atlanta as Undisputed Champion.

7. CM Punk vs. The Rock | WWE Championship, 2013 | Rating: ****½

Sometimes, a match can be great, and also be aided by its atmosphere. CM Punk vs. The Rock in 2013 is one of those cases. Punk, who walked in as Champion, while carrying a streak of 434 days with the championship, squared off with The People’s Champion in a high-stakes encounter. The “big fight” feel that the crowd in Phoenix gave off in this match was absolutely electric.

It helped that Punk and Rock were both at a very high caliber in this matchup. Punk especially, as the man was on a run for the ages at the time. 434 came to an end after The People’s Elbow, and we know the rest from there. The electricity around this match helped it shine, though.

6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho | Ladder Match, 2001 | Rating: ****¾

Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit had their fair share of classics. One that will never be forgotten occurred at the 2001 Rumble in New Orleans. The two fought over the Intercontinental Championship in an absolutely ridiculous Ladder Match.

The thing that I REALLY love about this match? They had a match INSIDE a Ladder Match. A lot of times, you see the match built around the chase for the title. These two didn’t do that though. They fought and kicked and scrapped. They used the ladder as a weapon. Jericho used the ladder to apply the Walls of Jericho on Benoit in a memorable spot. This is one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship Matches in general, and surely the best ever in Royal Rumble history.

5. AJ Styles vs. John Cena | WWE Championship, 2017 | Rating: ****¾

AJ Styles and John Cena had one hell of a rivalry in 2016. Cena and Styles had a classic the first time they faced each other at Money in the Bank. Then, they had another at SummerSlam. Five months later at the Royal Rumble, they would fight again. But this time, with a lot more on the line.

Styles’ WWE Championship was up for grabs, and Cena’s shot at the elusive 16th Championship reign. And man, did they ever deliver. In what was one of 2017’s Matches of the Year, the two icons did what they did best in San Antonio. Cena ended the match emphatically with an AA-rollthrough-AA combo to win the title for the 16th time.

4. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins | WWE Championship Triple Threat Match, 2015 | Rating: ****¾

The 2015 Rumble was… okay, anyways, Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins stole the damn show in Philadelphia on this night.

This match wasn’t your typical WWE triple threat match. It was chaotic. It was hectic. It was like watching wildfire in wrestling form. EVERYONE found a way to make an impact. Seth Rollins got his breakthrough opportunity here, and boy, oh boy, did he make the most of it. Rollins’ Phoenix Splash is one of the more memorable spots of this matchup. He wouldn’t win the title that night, as Brock would retain, but he would get the last laugh a few months later...

3. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit | WWE Championship, 2003 | Rating: *****

SmackDown’s epic run in 2002 was largely aided by the SmackDown Six, and Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were at the forefront. The Rabid Wolverine had spent much of his time in the WWF as a heel, besides for a run in 2001 against… you guessed it: Kurt Angle, but the tide was turning in his favor late in 2002. He would earn the right to be #1 contender going into the 2003 Rumble, and on that night in Boston, he faced off against his rival.

What would happen next was one of the greatest WWE Title Matches EVER. Point blank period. Not just the Rumble. EVER. Angle and Benoit put on a wrestling clinic for nearly 20 minutes, with the story focusing in on Benoit’s quest to become WWE Champion for the first time ever. Angle would retain the championship that night, but the booking in this match was Hall of Fame-grade. This is the best pure wrestling match in the history of the Royal Rumble. And it likely won’t EVER be topped. 

2. John Cena vs. Umaga | WWE Championship Last Man Standing, 2007 | Rating: *****

The 2007 Royal Rumble in San Antonio is one of the best Rumbles ever. Largely because of the main event, but also because of the Last Man Standing Match that happened that night. John Cena and Umaga had what is regarded as the greatest LMS Match in history that night, and any run through the match can show you why.

#SuperCena booking be damned here, because The Samoan Bulldozer was hardly hurt at all. This is one of the last REALLY brutal matches in WWE before the turn to PG in 2008, so there’s blood and violence galore. Plenty of usages of the steel steps were used, and Cena won the match after passing ‘Mags out with the unlatched ring ropes.

1. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack | WWF Championship Street Fight, 2000 | Rating: *****

The greatest non-Royal Rumble Match ever took place on January 23, 2000. Sure enough, it happened in the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, at the start of what was the World Wrestling Federation’s greatest year ever.

Cactus Jack and Triple H, no stranger to each other, fought over the World Wrestling Federation Title in a Street Fight. Jack’s dream of becoming WWF Champion, spliced in with his love for violence, makes the story in the match so easily captivating. Barbed wire, tables, thumbtacks and chairs all make cameos in this memorable encounter. Hunter’s Pedigree onto the thumbtacks is how this one ends, and it ended in such brilliant fashion. Both men looked like absolute warriors, with Foley still gaining plenty of sympathy from the crowd in the process of the loss.

It will always be remembered as one of the greatest championship matches in the company’s history. It’s also remembered as the greatest non-Royal Rumble Match in history.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)