Wrestlemania weekend is upon us!
The biggest event in the pro wrestling calendar is upon us and Wrestlemania weekend is as huge as it has ever been. Emanating from Orlando, Florida at the Camping World Stadium, the show itself is expected to draw over 60,000 fans. Not only that, there has been an explosion in the number of other wrestling promotions who have thrived in recent years that piggyback off the popularity of the Wrestlemania and have their own shows on the same weekend.
Just look at this absurdly stacked line up being run over the weekend by these various promotions:
The weekend’s matches includes a mix of popular independent wrestlers, international stars and industry veterans. Wrestlemania weekend has become a popular tourist attraction internationally and for wrestling fans wanting to indulge themselves in wrestling over and above what the WWE has on offer, there is a plethora of shows to choose from.
Of course the WWE themselves have greatly expanded the output of their product during Wrestlemania week. There’s the Hall of Fame ceremony, the Axxess fan event and NXT Takeover. The actual Wrestlemania event itself now is a mindboggling six hour spectacle when you include pre and post show content. And as has become tradition, the first episode of Raw after Wrestlemania has also become a major drawcard as it often represents a ‘resetting’ of storylines and the introduction of new talent.
So what about Wrestlemania 33? Is the show itself expected to be any good?
The short answer is a rather blunt ‘no’. I wrote in last year’s preview that Wrestlemania has had three years of badly handled storytelling and focused on wrestlers that the WWE fanbase has vocally rejected. This year’s card is probably the worst one in recent memory but fans have seemingly reached a point of numbness where they don’t care. The ratings for Monday Night RAW have been steadily declining for years and at this stage, I think all that remains are the rusted on diehard wrestling fans who will never stop watching. Of course they’re frustrated that their favourite wrestlers (Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose etc) aren’t featured in the marquee matches but I think they’ve given up on expecting any sort of meaningful change in the promotion until something significant happens from a creative direction (e.g. Vince McMahon retiring). I think there is a begrudging understanding that Wrestlemania is an event promoted at the casual viewer who doesn’t watch year round. The WWE’s creative mishandling of popular wrestlers doesn’t draw the angry response it once did. This is because the WWE weekly content has been consistently terrible for years now and its getting much easier for fans to find content that is geared towards match quality much more easily, either within the WWE ecosystem with NXT and 205 Live, or externally with New Japan Pro Wrestling and dozens of other promotions who have created their own digital streaming services.
In short, there’s been a mediocre lead up to Wrestlemania 33 with plenty of confusing decisions on how the matches have come together. But fans basically don’t seem to care anymore and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is. And on that note, here is my preview and predictions for Wrestlemania 33.
Goldberg (c) vs Brock Lesnar
WWE Universal Championship
The sort of thing that makes wrestling fans give up on the creative direction of the WWE is spending three years rebelling against Roman Reigns’ unwanted presence in the main event of Wrestlemania only for the company to instead give them a headline match between two part time wrestlers, one of whom is about two decades past his prime.
Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar first took place at Wrestlemania XX and the crowd booed the match relentlessly from start to finish because prior to the event news broke that both wrestlers were about to leave the promotion. Thirteen years later, both guys are back in the main event. They have met on two previous occasions in the lead up to Wrestlemania 33 – at Survivor Series and Royal Rumble – and worked for about 3-5 minutes each time. Goldberg in particular (aged 50), seems to be handled with extreme care due to his age and presumed inability to either bump or have the cardio to work any longer.
The odd thing is that the crowd seem much more receptive to this nostalgia act the second time around.
With Goldberg having soundly beaten Brock in their previous two interactions, the outcome of this match (and the medium term future of the title) seems pretty obvious. Brock Lesnar wins, goes on holiday until Summerslam in August, and then drops the title to Roman Reigns. What a depressing thought.
I think the most significant thing about this main event is that it shows the extent to which the WWE is willing to prioritise nostalgia acts over their full time roster when it comes to Wrestlemania. It bears repeating – their champion on the flagship show is fifty years old and doesn’t work for more than a couple of minutes. It seemingly opens the door to future Wrestlemania main events being headlined by the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Rock and The Undertaker.
Who Should Win: Brock Lesnar
Who Will Win: Brock Lesnar
Bray Wyatt (c) vs Randy Orton
Wrestlemania 33 is a much deserved championship match for Windham Lawrence Rotunda who originally debuted in the company as Husky Harris before successfully reinventing himself as Bray Wyatt.
Wyatt’s swamp preacher gimmick is one of the most interesting personas in the WWE. He has a distinctive moveset, an intriguing personality and a memorable ring entrance. All the ingredients to be a star in the company and make it in the world of professional wrestling.
This is a pretty classic set up with the babyface Randy Orton chasing the title held by the dastardly heel Bray Wyatt in the culmination of a months long feud.
Having said that, I think this match would have meant so much more if Bray Wyatt had actually been afforded a couple of big wins in the build up to this moment. He has had two previous high profile Wrestlemania matches against John Cena and The Undertaker and he lost both. If he had won either of those previous matches, I don’t think the outcome here would be nearly as certain.
Who Should Win: Randy Orton
Who Will Win: Randy Orton
Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles
Since his debut at Royal Rumble last year, AJ Styles has cemented himself as one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWE and has continuously put on some of the best matches in the company, month after month. So how was he rewarded for his efforts at the biggest show of the year? With a match against the bosses’ son, a semi-retired wrestler. In a creative decision, typical of the baffling and frustrating climate that is the current WWE, AJ Styles is facing Shane McMahon in a match that I don’t think anyone really cared to see.
As a sad indictment on how bad this card is, I still expect this to be one of the best matches of the night. Styles winning should be a formality but I don’t even know if that’s a certainty.
The expected trade-off for the loss in match quality is another crazy stunt dive from Shane McMahon. Preview pictures of the Wrestlemania set design include a full sized roller coaster (!) and a mock up wrestling ring framed about thirty feet above the actual ring. Surely they wouldn’t…
Who Should Win: AJ Styles
Who Will Win: AJ Styles
Roman Reigns vs Undertaker
Despite four years of vociferous booing from fans, seemingly nothing is stopping the WWE in their relentless push to make Roman Reigns the marquee talent of their promotion. Even a high profile failed drug test last year only derailed his momentum for a month before he resumed his winning ways.
At this point, most people seem to have reached a stage of morbid curiousity with Reigns. How far they can push this thing? They already blew Undertaker’s two decade long unbeaten streak on Brock Lesnar. Why not give Roman a win too, just for shits and giggles?
As for Taker, rumours have been swirling for years about a possible retirement. But if he can land a gig like Goldberg where he only has to wrestle for a couple of minutes on a light part time schedule, there could be years left in the tank for the wrestling phenom.
Who Should Win: Roman Reigns
Who Will Win: Roman Reigns
Seth Rollins vs Triple H
Non Sanctioned Match
Oddly enough, for a feud thats been in the works for something like eight or nine months, I still don’t really understand why these guys are feuding. They used to be buddies and then Triple H turned on Seth for reasons I don’t really follow.
Provided Seth’s health holds up (he’s rumoured to be battling pneumonia this weekend), this should be a fun brawl
Who Should Win: Seth Rollins
Who Will Win: Triple H
Dean Ambrose vs Baron Corbin
WWE Intercontinental Championship
This is another one of those matches where poor booking in the past hurts the prestige of this contest. Imagine last year, if at the height of his popularity, Dean Ambrose beat Triple H, Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns.
These two have had an intense build up to this match with Baron Corbin attacking Dean Ambrose with a forklift (!) on Smackdown. In that respect, it seems odd that the match doesn’t carry some sort of stipulation to reflect the severity of their feud.
Who Should Win: Dean Ambrose
Who Will Win: Baron Corbin
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs The Miz and Maryse
Apparently this match exists so that John Cena can propose to Nikki in the ring afterwards? That is some classic carnie wrestling antics right there. A modern day Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth!
Who Should Win: John Cena and Nikki Bella
Who Will Win: John Cena and Nikki Bella
Chris Jericho (c) vs Kevin Owens
WWE United States Championship
The two most charismatic and beloved performers on Raw do battle after the acrimonious end to their friendship. Both wrestlers have been in career best form in 2016 and this match should be an enthralling closing chapter to a highly entertaining storyline that has been the highlight of Monday Night Raw.
Who Should Win: Kevin Owens
Who Will Win: Kevin Owens
Bayley (c) vs Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
WWE Women’s Championship
One of the five million terrible booking decisions this company has made over the last twelve months is kicking off Bayley’s debut championship reign on a random show about a month before Wrestlemania instead of, y’know, at Wrestlemania. They literally had Charlotte build up one of the longest undefeated PPV winning streaks in modern history, only for her to drop the title in February. Why not wait until Wrestlemania? Who knows? The WWE is just weird like that.
This match seems perfectly set up for Sasha Banks to make a long awaited heel turn on Bayley and start a new reign as champ. So of course it won’t happen.
Who Should Win: Sasha Banks
Who Will Win: Bayley
Alexa Bliss vs The Entire Womens Division On Smackdown
WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
I hope they give this match the time it deserves. Alexa Bliss is a fantastic new talent and is a deserved champion heading into Wrestlemania. There are plenty of worthy contenders in this match. Naomi is returning from injury and could have a shot at winning the title in her home town. Becky Lynch has carried the division on her back for months and would be a fitting champion. And what a comeback story it would be if Mickie James were to win the title after a prolonged absence from the company.
Who Should Win: Naomi
Who Will Win: Alexa Bliss
The Club (c) vs Sheamus and Cesaro vs Enzo Amore and Big Cass
WWE Tag Team Championship
They should probably let Enzo and Big Cass have a run with the belts before fans get tired of their shtick. Then immediately drop the belts to Sheamus and Cesaro who are the most well rounded team in the division.
Who Should Win: Enzo and Big Cass
Who Will Win: Enzo and Big Cass
Andre the Giant Jobber Battle Royal
Sami Zayn if they want a feel good moment. Braun if they intend to make him a title challenger post-Mania. Mojo Rawley for the lolz.
Who Should Win: Sami Zayn
Who Will Win: Braun Strowman
Neville (c) vs Austin Aries
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
If they actually gave this match time, it’d probably be the match of the night. Even if they don’t give it time, it might still be the match of the night. On the pre-show. In front of a half empty stadium.
Who Should Win: Austin Aries
Who Will Win: Austin Aries