I’ve mentioned it before, but this is the one weekend a year that fans of World Wrestling Entertainment look forward to. The showcase of the immortals, the Granddaddy of them all, Wrestlemania Weekend.
In fact… this year’s Wrestlemania will be taking place this Sunday, live on the WWE network from the same arena as the last time I wrote a text review about Wrestlemania: The Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
However, the night before, Saturday April 7th, WWE’s developmental Territory, NXT will be hosting their OWN live special event on the WWE network: NXT Takeover: New Orleans.
Today, I’ll be giving my predictions for both shows, starting, of course, with Takeover.
NXT Takeover New Orleans will emanate from the smaller Smoothie King Center the night before Wrestlemania (tonight), and currently has 5 matches confirmed for the card, though more matches likely will not be added, as NXT is usually very good for not adding in any matches last minute… unlike the Main Roster, but I’ll get to that.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano – Unsanctioned Match
First up, we have an Unsanctioned match between former tag-team partners Johnny Gargano (Mr. Awesome on the Left) & Tommaso Ciampa (The rat-bastard on the right). This match is almost a year in the making, with the seeds being planted at NXT Takeover Chicago after that monster, Ciampa turned on his innocent partner Johnny for no reason…
Except that Johnny eliminated Ciampa in the first round of the Cruiserweight Classic…
Took Ciampa’s flat screen TV…
And joked about replacing him with another wrestler Oney Lorcan for their tag-title defense in Chicago, because Ciampa was hurt.
… Okay, those last two might have been a little dick-ish on Johnny’s part, but that’s beyond the point.
Ciampa would have to take time off due to a knee injury.
However, the situation has escalated in recent months after Ciampa would return, attacking Johnny from behind on two separate occasions. Both involving an NXT Championship match & the latter costing Johnny his career in NXT.
So after weeks of Johnny following Ciampa & trying to attack him at every opportunity, NXT General Manager William Regal announced that both men would face off at Takeover, with the added stipulation that, should Johnny emerge victorious, he would be Reinstated to NXT.
Now, logic would dictate that Johnny would get the win, earning his way back onto the NXT roster… however, there are rumors that he’s on his way up to the main roster (most likely the cruiserweight division, much to my annoyance, but the main roster, nonetheless)… so with a heavy heart:
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa
Ember Moon [C] vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship
This will be a rematch from their match at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, which had Moon (Left) barely eke out the win after managing to surprise the dominant Baszler (right) with a rollup for the 3 count.
Since her debut coming off of this summer’s Mae Young Classic, the self-proclaimed “Queen Of Spades” has been on dominant tear of NXT, taking out fellow MYC competitor Dakota Kai…
Tournament winner Kairi Sane…
And even bringing the War Goddess (Moon) to her limit in Philadelphia.
So given the former UFC Bantamweight’s run of dominance in the NXT women’s division, as well as my own personal belief that Ember is on her way up to the Main Roster, I can only see this match going one way.
Winner And New NXT Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler
Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) [C] vs. The Authors Of Pain (Akam & Rezar) vs WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong – Triple Threat Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships
This is the most recent match to be added to the card, as The Authors of Pain (far left) were originally supposed to take on Dunne & Strong (far right) in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, a tournament to determine who would face The Undisputed Era (Originally O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, who was replaced by Cole after suffering an injury at an NXT Live Event). Unfortunately, Cole & O’Reilly would have other ideas and would attack both teams during their match.
NXT General Manager William Regal would have none of this and would announce that their match at Takeover would now be a Triple Threat match.
Due to rumors of the Authors of Pain being on their way up to the Main Roster post Wrestlemania, I don’t see the former tag champs winning back the titles at Takeover, and while it would be cool to see Pete Dunne as a dual champion, part of me feels like The Undisputed Era will at least hold on to the tag titles (most likely via shenanigans) until NXT Takeover Chicago in June, possibly dropping them to the soon-to-debut War Machine.
Also, Adam Cole will troll someone… and it will be hilarious.
Winners (And Still NXT Tag Team Champions): Adam Cole (Bay Bay) and Kyle O’Reilly
EC3 (Far Left) vs Adam Cole (Bay Bay) vs Velveteen Dream (middle left) vs Lars Sullivan vs Killian Dain (Far Right) vs Ricochet (Middle Right)- 6-man Ladder Match to crown the first ever NXT North American Champion
Two weeks before Takeover, General Manager William Regal would announce the creation of a new Championship for NXT: The North American Championship.
Over the course of the night he would announce the 6 superstars who would be competing for this title in a Ladder match.
Based on process of elimination, I can say for sure that Dain, Sullivan & Cole will most likely NOT be winning the title, as Sullivan & Dain are both most likely on their way up to the main roster (Dain as a part of SAni†Y), while Cole is most likely there to take some ungodly bump that he’d only survive because I’m convinced he’s one of the Immortals from Highlander.
I also don’t think EC3 will win the title here. Call it a hunch.
So it comes down to Ricochet & Velveteen Dream.
As much as I’d like to see Ricochet flip his way to becoming the first North American Champion… I feel like one outcome would actually make for a better story. Especially given a past Twitter post by Dream basically denouncing all the “Indy Guys” taking away vital TV time from all of NXT’s “Home-Grown” Prospects.
Winner (And First Ever NXT North American Champion): Velveteen Dream
Andrade “Cien” Almas [C] vs Aleister Black – NXT Championship
Finally, we come to our main event.
One year from his debut at Takeover Orlando, Aleister Black will, once again, take on the former La Sombra, this time, with Almas’ NXT Championship on the line.
Black would challenge “El Idolo” for the title the week after Cien, with the help of that jerk Ciampa, would defeat Johnny in a Title vs Career match in Atlanta.
With Regal would confirm the match a week later, after The Dutch Destroyer overcame Killian Dain.
There’s not much else to say about this story, as it’s had a very simple build, leading to one simple outcome.
And seeing as Almas is ALSO rumored to be on the short-list for people on their way up to the main Roster…
Winner (And New NXT Champion): Aleister Black
From there, we move on to the WWE’s biggest show of the year. Emanating live from the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Sunday April 8th, 2018, it’s Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal Match (Wrestlemania Kickoff Match)
Alright, let’s address the elephants in the room:
Yes, this was originally named “The Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal”, but WWE changed the name after a, completely Justified, fan backlash led to Snickers threatening to pull their sponsorship (it’s a very long & very disturbing story, but for those of you are interested, here’s a reddit post that summarizes everything: https://www.reddit.com/r/SquaredCircle/comments/84b2fe/in_light_of_the_controversy_surrounding_the/).
Yes… the replacement trophy design looks rather… questionable.
(Imgur) Give it a minute…
Now, as for the winner, I feel like it can only come down to one of Two women, as they’re the only ones that have any semblance of a major storyline headed into this match: Bayley & Sasha Banks.
Winner: Sasha Banks
André The Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Wrestlemania Kickoff Match)
From the women’s “Let’s Get everyone else who isn’t on the card into this match so they can get a Mania Payday” match, let’s move on to the Men’s version.
The fifth annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Sure, past winners have included current Raw tag team champion Cesaro as well as former WWE United States Champion & Men’s Money In The Bank Briefcase holder Baron Corbin…
However, Mojo Rawley is also on that list of winners. His career seems to have actually STALLED since winning last years Battle Royal.
So, I’ll just pick the first name that comes to mind.
Winner: Killian Dain
Cedric Alexander (Left) vs Mustafa Ali (Right) – WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Finals (Wrestlemania Kickoff)
This is one of the matches I am most excited for, as I am a huge fan of both Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali.
Plus, I feel like 205 Live has really turned a corner in match quality since HHH took over on creative.
As for the background for this match, after previous Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore had been fired due to him not telling management he was under investigation for sexual assault, the title had been vacated. A week after the the title was vacated, new 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick (formerly known as Rockstar Spud) would debut, announcing a tournament to crown a new champion that would culminate at Wrestlemania.
Ali & Alexander would climb the ranks defeating the likes of NXT Call-ups Buddy Murphy & Roderick Strong, Jack Gallagher and former Cruiserweight Champion, and Cruiserweight Classic winner, TJ Perkins (or TJP, as he’s now known).
And through it all, I’ve had one man I’ve been rooting for to win it all.
Well… actually, 3, but Akira Tozawa and Hideo Itami were both eliminated in the first round.
That only leaves one person.
Winner (And New WWE Cruiserweight Champion): Mustafa Ali
(Though I’d be just as happy if Cedric Alexander won)
Alexa Bliss [C] vs Nia Jax – WWE Raw Women’s Championship
From a match I’m excited about to a match with a rather lackluster build.
Do you want to know what the build consisted of?
Alexa accidentally spilled on camera that she wasn’t actually friends with Nia Jax and then proceeded to fat shame her over the following weeks.
Yes, this was an attempt to garner Sympathy for Nia, and it’ll only make the obvious outcome that much more satisfying, but it still doesn’t change the fact that this feud is based on the laziest of premises:
“Mean Girls”-esque bullying.
Winner (And New Raw Women’s Champion): Nia Jax
The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) [C] vs Braun Strowman & ??? – WWE Raw Tag Team Championships
Oh look, another match that has a build that frustrates me.
Much like the story for the Raw Women’s Championship match, this feud started off on the wrong foot.
It started with Braun Strowman single-handedly winning a TAG-TEAM BATTLE ROYAL to earn an opportunity at the TAG-TEAM TITLES at Wrestlemania, basically destroying Raw’s, admittedly, Lackluster Tag Division on his own.
One week later, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle would announce that Strowman would be allowed to compete for the title, but he would have to find a partner.
Over the next few weeks, Strowman would go around teasing who his partner would be, even coming out on the Go-home show to claim his “Brother” BRAINS would be his partner, with this cheesiness being the result:
Needless to say, this feels like the most obvious outcome here… though, admittedly, the partner aspect is just a shot in the dark.
Winners (And New Raw Tag Team Champions): Braun Strowman & Mystery Partner, Lars Sullivan
(A team I shall now dub: Brains ‘n’ Braun… because that seems like the kind of dully obvious dad-joke name they’d go with)
Randy Orton [C] vs Bobby Roode (Far Left) vs Jinder Mahal vs Rusev (Far Right) – Fatal Four Way Match for the WWE United States Championship
Sure, people could argue the old adage of Winning on TV, but losing on PPV, but I have one simple reason for my pick.
Winner (And New United States Champion): Rusev
The Miz [C] vs Seth Rollins (Right) vs Finn Bálor (Middle) – Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Raw GM Kurt Angle announced this match the week after Raw’s Elimination Chamber PPV after the Intercontinental champion proceeded to mock the both of them during Miz TV (The Miz has his own Talk show segment on Raw, for the uninitiated)
The build for this match has consisted of Miz observing from the sidelines while Bálor & Rollins have traded wins on Raw.
Combine that with the fact that The Miz recently became a father, and will most likely be leaving for a brief Parental Leave after Wrestlemania, and it’s very likely that a new Intercontinental Champion will be crowned when it’s all said and done.
But which challenger will come out on top?
Honestly, I think this could go either way, and I’d be satisfied with either Bálor or Rollins walking away as Intercontinental Champion.
However, I can only pick one.
Winner (And New Intercontinental Champion): Finn Bálor
The Usos [C] vs The New Day (Right) vs The Bludgeon Brothers (Left) – Triple Threat Tag Team Match For The Smackdown Live Tag Team Championships
Okay… so BOTH Tag Title Matches are a given here.
Harper and Rowan have been wreaking havoc on Smackdown Live’s Tag division since their repackaging as The Bludgeon Brothers last fall.
Winners (And New Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions): The Bludgeon Brothers
Charlotte Flair [C] vs 2018 Women’s Royal Rumble Winner Asuka – Smackdown Live Women’s Championship
When Asuka won the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble in January there had been a question of which title she was going to challenge for (Completely ignoring the fact that I feel like her moment had been stolen by a last-minute surprise debut after the match).
That question had been answered at the Smackdown Live PPV Fastlane, where Asuka came out after Charlotte successfully defended her title against Ruby Riott, to make the challenge for Wrestlemania.
Now with all that out of the way, let me prepare to put my foot in my mouth, due to me, once again, going for the obvious pick.
Winner (And New Smackdown Live Women’s Champion): Asuka
(Also, Carmella will try to cash in her Women’s Money In The Bank Briefcase, and Asuka will kick her head off [not literally]).
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
When Daniel Bryan announced his retirement in early 2016, due to numerous concussions over the course of his career, the wrestling world had been shocked.
A little over two years later, we were all overjoyed, though some more hesitantly so, to learn that he had finally been cleared to return to the ring.
On the other end of the spectrum, Shane McMahon’s return to the ring, also in 2016, had been met with much fanfare, but, 2 years later, it feels like most of us are sick of Shane McMahon now… especially since his feud with Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens, where he was supposed to be the Good Guy, had him act like a jerk the entire time.
Back to this feud, the week before Bryan had been cleared, Shane would be brutally attacked by Sami & Kevin after announcing that he would be taking a leave of absence as Commissioner of Smackdown Live. One week later, Daniel Bryan would fire Sami & Kevin for their actions, leading to the pair to issue a beatdown on the recently cleared General Manager.
A week after that, Bryan would come out to announce that he was giving Sami & Kevin the opportunity to earn their jobs back, all they have to do is beat himself & Shane McMahon in a tag team match at WrestleMania.
Given the majority of this storyline has painted Shane in a negative light, with an abundance of teases that the Babyface (good guy) Daniel Bryan would possibly be turning heel (bad guy) on Shane, this can only lead to one outcome.
Winners (With the help of Daniel Bryan): Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H – Mixed Tag Team Match
No, you are not reading that wrong, Ronda Rousey will compete at Wrestlemania.
She made her debut at the end of the 2018 Royal Rumble PPV by awkwardly pointing at the WrestleMania sign, and would officially sign her WWE contract at Elimination Chamber one month later. Raw GM Kurt Angle would reveal that Stephanie McMahon & Triple H would try to use this contract to gain a measure of revenge for Wrestlemania 31 where they were both Humiliated by Rousey.
Ronda would the proceed to challenge Stephanie for Mania, with Angle making it a mixed Tag Team match due to his own issues with Triple H, stemming back to Survivor Series 2018.
Given WWE’s history with celebrity appearances at Wrestlemania, this can really only end one way
Winners: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
AJ Styles [C] vs 2018 Mens Royal Rumble Winner Shinsuke Nakamura – WWE Championship
This is one of the two matches I’m most excited about this Sunday.
Styles and Nakamura tore down the house at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 back in 2016.
The moment it was announced that those two were signing with WWE, this was the match that a lot of fans wanted to see.
A little over a year after debuting in NXT Nakamura would be called up to Smackdown Live, the brand AJ Styles helped build since the 2016 Brand Split.
AJ would then go on to defeat Jinder Mahal for the WWE championship shortly before Survivor Series 2018.
Then the 2018 Royal Rumble happened.
The moment Nakamura eliminated Roman Reigns, we knew it was an inevitability.
Nakamura would Challenge Styles almost immediately.
And here we are.
The only issue I have with this is that, it feels like Nakamura’s momentum has been hurt by some questionable booking on Smackdown live (mainly losing to Jinder on two straight PPV’s before he dropped the WWE title to Styles, though his lackluster feud with Dolph Ziggler after being called up didn’t help either).
I’m going to go with my gut here:
Winner (And New WWE Champion): Shinsuke Nakamura
And at long last, we come to the final announced match… which may not even be the main event.
Brock Lesnar [C] vs Roman Reigns – WWE Universal Championship
It’s been an inevitability since before Wrestlemania 31.
The second the rumors came out last year about WWE wanting Reigns to face Lesnar for the Universal Championship at mania, it was all but a certainty.
I’ve predicted every other title would change hands at Mania, so why not another one.
Winner (And New WWE Champion): Roman Reigns.
And that’s it for the announced matches.
But, before I wrap this up there is one more match that is almost certain to happen during the show, much to the annoyance of many fans, including myself. However, because it hasn’t been confirmed hy WWE, I am using a fan image from Cageside Seats.
John Cena vs The Undertaker.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a match people were clamoring for…
10 years ago.
Undertaker’s not as young as he used to be, and his last truly great Wrestlemania match was 5 years ago against CM Punk at Mania 29.
But I digress.
The story for this match begins the night after Fastlane 2018. John Cena had been trying for months to try and get a match for Wrestlemania, competing in the Elimination Chamber to try & earn a shot against Brock Lesnar, but being eliminated by Braun Strowman; Then taking part in a 6-way match (Also known as a “Six Pack Challenge”) for the WWE Championship but, once again coming up short.
The night after, Cena would step out on Raw &, claiming he was out of options, challenged The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
I guess he just forgot about the Battle Royal… but I digress.
My problem with this match is that The Undertaker should have stayed retired after last year’s Mania: the show that ended with the Deadman leaving his coat, hat and gloves in the ring as the show went off the air.
Now, of course, they could easily write their way around this by having The Undertaker appear as his “American Badass” persona, a rumor stoked by the fact that Kid Rock, the man who performed his original “American Badass” theme, is part of the Hall Of Fame class of 2018.
This feels like the hardest call to make because both Cena and Taker’s careers are winding down, either due to age or other commitments (What with Cena now transitioning into an acting career, and Taker having had hip surgery within the last year).
But, if I had to make a choice… should this match actually happen…
Winner: John Cena.
With my predictions now out of the way, what are your thoughts on this year’s Wrestlemania?
What match are you excited to see?
What do you think will be Match Of The Night?
Let me know in the comments below.
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