Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships
Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
The build to this match didn’t need to be nearly as convoluted as it turned out to be. The story seemed simple enough: Have Charlotte win the Smackdown Championship at TLC, then have Becky win the Royal Rumble and have her say she wants to challenge both champions in a winner take all match. Ronda, who still had unfinished business with Charlotte stemming from a post-match beat down at Survivor Series, would have gladly accepted, as would Charlotte, who would have been motivated to show that she’s the true gold standard of the women’s division.
Instead, it was a story plagued by too much McMahon family involvement and petty social media banter. A great match can overcome and forgive a messy story, though. The final product is what matters; not the assembly process.
Announcing that this match will end the show weeks in advance was a wise move from a marketing standpoint. With such a prestigious spot comes a great responsibility to deliver. Luckily, all three of these performers appear well equipped to handle such a pressure-packed position.
With the No-DQ stipulation that comes along with triple-threat rules, it will be interesting to see just how violent this match gets. Ronda is likely to get some kendo stick-aided revenge on Charlotte, while Charlotte is likely going to spear either one or maybe both women through the barricade at some point. A Charlotte moonsault to the outside also seems like almost a given.
All three participants should be motivated to show a wider mainstream audience just how intense and exciting women’s wrestling can be, which is why this match has the makings to be even better than the Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks triple-threat match at Wrestlemania 32.
There are cases to be made for why either Rousey or Charlotte should win. All along, though, this has felt like this is the culmination point of Becky Lynch’s story with the other two simply along for the journey.
In any sport, you want to give the ball to the player with the hottest hand. Since Summerslam, no one in the WWE has been hotter than Lynch.
There are many scenarios for how this match could end, but there’s only one way it should end: Becky tapping out Ronda with the Disarm-Her to become the new Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins
The build for this match has suffered from basically the exact opposite problem as the Women’s Championship match. That was a case of too much, while this was a case of just not enough.
Seth Rollins being slowed by a back injury following the Royal Rumble coupled with the fact that Brock Lesnar hasn’t seemed interested or invested in promoting this fight has led to a somewhat lackluster lead up to what should feel like a bigger showcase match.
Rollins has spent the last few months trying to recover from a disastrous feud with former SHIELD partner Dean Ambrose. Judging from the pops he’s received on Raw appearances lately, though, it seems as if he’s got the full support from a fan base that admittedly would like to see just about any one take the title off of Lesnar at this point.
AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor all laid out the blue print for what type of matches smaller more agile wrestlers should have with The Beast: Take some punishment early, let Brock get cocky/bored/a little winded and then find a weakness and exploit it.
It’s up to Rollins to take that game plan and put his own special spin on it.
There are some interesting potential spots and sequences we could see. A call back to the curb stomp-F5 reversal from Wrestlemania 31 certainly seems within the realm of possibilities. Even better than that would be a re-creation of that incredible elbow drop table spot from the 2015 Royal Rumble.
A 28-year-old Rollins didn’t seem fully ready for the responsibilities of being a WWE champion and a true centerpiece of the show and storytelling. An older, matured, post-knee surgery Seth has a better chance of flourishing in the role.
With Lesnar likely to leave for the UFC to face Daniel Cormier some time within the near future, it makes sense to have Rollins win the title here. From a future booking standpoint, it allows for Rollins to stay on Raw as champion and it would free up Roman Reigns to go over to Smackdown and carry that brand.
Long is the list of great potential championship feuds Rollins could have with the likes of Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and maybe even eventually Roman Reigns.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston
“Patience is a conquering virtue” – Geoffrey Chaucer
Five years ago, Daniel Bryan walked into the Superdome with an electricity surrounding him the likes of which hadn’t been seen since ’97 era Austin.
Even though he’s one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, Bryan somehow managed to ease into an underdog role and garner a cult-like following based on perceived slights about his size and appearance and the WWE’s view of him as a “B+ player.”
At Wrestlemania 30, Bryan walked out victorious as WWE champion surrounded by resounding cheers and a storm of New Orleans themed confetti.
Five years later, it’s now Bryan walking into Wrestlemania 35 with the same belt he won that night against Kofi Kingston, someone who Vince McMahon has called a B+ player, just as he used to refer to Bryan.
Kingston’s performance in both a Smackdown gauntlet match and the subsequent Elimination Chamber final showdown with Bryan have vaulted him near the top of the list of most over superstars in the WWE right now.
Like Becky, Kofi having an easy-to-chant name has helped his cause. “Kofi!” has been one of the loudest chants on Smackdown during the home stretch to Mania, second only to Lynch’s reactions.
A spot that was likely reserved for either
Mustafa Ali, a once hotshot upstart turned post-injury afterthought, or a returning Kevin Owens has now been filled by Kingston, an 11-year veteran who has never held a world title.
A long title reign may not be in the plans, but after over a decade of dedication to the company, this seems like the perfect time for Kofi’s Wrestlemania moment.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
HHH vs. Batista
From a match quality standpoint, the last few big HHH outings against big name foes such as The Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Sting have all been disappointments. Add into that the fact that HHH was unable to train and prepare properly for this match against Batista due to a torn pectoral muscle, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that this one has the makings of a truly plodding affair.
The no holds barred rules and the potential HHH retirement stipulation do add some intriguing facets to what would otherwise be a battle of two old legends well past their respective primes.
Batista, or Dave as HHH likes to call him, has gone on to make a name for himself outside of the WWE as a Hollywood success story, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he can still go in the ring. Hopefully, we see a different level of performer this time around instead of the easily winded Batista we saw at the beginning of his return run in 2015.
This one doesn’t have to be as long or as complicated as it probably will end up being. Brawl a little outside the ring, tease a sledgehammer spot at some point and end this with HHH finally getting his win over The Animal. A post-match respect handshake is an option, especially if it’s truly Batista’s last match ever.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
If I was booking this, I’d have Drew squash Roman in about six minutes and establish himself as the new top heel on Raw. It’d allow Roman to show some even more vulnerability and it’d give fans even more of a reason to invest in his comeback campaign.
I don’t see that happening, though, especially since Drew has consistently gotten the better of Reigns in the physical confrontations they’ve had on Raw.
A 10-15 minute match that allows Drew to get the upper hand early and give Roman the chance to make a comeback with his usual Drive By-Superman Punch-Spear big move sequence would be fine.
It’s one of the more interesting matches from a “where are they going to put this on the card” standpoint. I’d stick it somewhere in the second hour to try to give it some proper space from the three big title matches.
Winner: Roman Reigns
AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
Randy Orton was seemingly born to play the role of the aging WWE machine created star who makes fun of independent wrestlers for actually hustling and grinding and trying to make something of themselves. Orton has been served opportunity after opportunity regardless of conduct and past failures. He’s never had his foot fully pressed on the pedal, but never has it been as much at ease as it is now.
Since losing the WWE title to Jinder Mahal in May of 2017, the 39-year-old veteran has proceeded to tread water ever since. His US championship match at Wrestlemania 34 against Mahal, Rusev and Bobby Roode was one of the most forgettable mid-card title matches in Wrestlemania history.
To say that Orton needed someone like AJ Styles to have a series of back-and-forths with and relight a fire under him would be an understatement.
Luckily, Styles and The Viper have proven they have good chemistry as far as in-ring promos go. The question is: Will that chemistry translate to a good match?
That depends on mainly two factors: the motivation both men have to steal the show and the time they’re allowed to do it in. On a show as jam-packed as this, unfortunately these two won’t receive the amount of time to work that they would at a lesser pay-per-view.
Some great tension and intensity has been created with the long-tenured WWE veteran vs. the former indie star storyline. However, at this point in each of their careers, a win or a loss in this type of match isn’t going to make or break either guy.
Vince McMahon’s favoritism of his WWE created crew over the indie transplants could play the decisive role in who walks away the victor in this one. But more than likely, McMahon would side with the man he wants to see become an animal.
Winner: AJ Styles
United States Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio
The lack of an Andrade inclusion hurts this match somewhat, and there’s legitimate concern Mysterio might be hobbled by an ankle injury suffered on Raw.
It does have a special feel in the sense that it’s Samoa Joe’s first ever Wrestlemania match, and Rey’s first Wrestlemania match in five years.
Along with Andrade and R-Truth, these two were apart of two fantastic four-way matches for the US title at Fastlane and on the Smackdown preceding it.
Since returning to the WWE back in November, the 44-year-old Mysterio has eased any concerns that he may have lost a step.
Expect this to be a Joe-dominated affair early followed by Mysterio getting some good comeback fire before eventually being caught in the Coquina Clutch.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Bobby Lashley vs. Finn Balor
As far as total times go, it’ll be interesting to see which goes longer: Finn Balor’s Demon entrance or the actual match itself.
The match these two had at Elimination Chamber was nothing to write home about. Hopefully, they can recreate the five decent minutes from that meeting and turn this into a quick Finn Balor victory, likely aided by a Lio Rush screw up.
Winner: Finn Balor
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin
Speaking of matches that don’t need to go more than five minutes, Kurt Angle’s farewell tour on Raw and Smackdown has left most fans feeling more concerned than excited for his final match at Wrestlemania. Angle has looked his tread so to speak and he’s not someone who needs to take big bumps at this point in his life.
It would seem then that Baron Corbin would be the perfect candidate for Angle’s last match. Corbin is a younger, bigger heel who can carry the majority of what should already be a rather short match.
Many would likely love to see Angle squash Corbin and walk off into the sunset but the mantra “you go out on your back” is perfect for this particular story.
Corbin retiring Angle would give him the necessary heat to emerge as a top heel.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Shane McMahon vs. The Miz
This falls count anywhere stipulation might be enough to save this one from being a basic bathroom break match.
Somebody’s jumping off something in this one.
I’d end it with a brawl out into the crowd and Miz’s father punches out Shane somewhere in the floor seat section to help his son get the win.
Winner: The Miz
Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. The Bar vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev
It can be debated whether or not a “dream match” of The Usos vs. The Hardy Boyz would have been the better option for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match. Even if was, this one is a nice consolation price.
It includes a proper Mania main card title defense for The Usos and the Wrestlemania debuts of Ricochet and Aleister Black.
The Bar also get the chance to redeem themselves after last Wrestlemania’s Braun Strowman and Nicholas debacle.
It also gives Rusev and Shinsue Nakamura the chance to avoid being forgotten about Battle Royal participants.
A surprise upset by the debuting team of Black and Ricochet is a possibility. But ultimately, the big match experience of the Usos should prove to be the difference.
Winner: The Usos
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. The IIconics
Besides a cool-looking Beth Phoenix barricade spot, the four vs. four tag-team match involving all four of these teams from the Raw go home show did not include a lot of memorable moments. In fact, the match was mostly a mess.
Since that lackluster showing came on the heels of a rather off-kilter Banks and Bayley vs. The IIconics match on Smackdown, this four-way match is shaping up to be one of the lower quality bouts on the card.
None of the opposing teams are near the level of Sasha Banks and Bayley, who look poised to use a win at Wrestlemania as a springboard for their campaign to establish the new women’s tag titles as a relevant part of the WWE landscape.
Winners: Sasha Banks and Bayley
Raw Tag Team Championship
The Revival vs. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins
Those thinking that The Revival would reestablish the relevancy of the Raw tag titles have had their hopes dashed. In recent weeks, the duo have been beaten by two teams of NXT call ups: Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa, and Ricochet and Aleister Black.
The last nail in the The Revival’s coffin could be a title loss to the team of perennial jobbers Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins.
A Ryder and Hawkins title win is worth a cheap pop from a smarky Mania crowd, but it would certainly do no favors to saving the credibility of the Raw tag belts.
Winners: Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
This contest could be used as a vehicle to establish a running storyline that sees Braun Strowman hunting for Colin Jost in a series of backstage vignettes throughout the show. Jost has played the role of smug outsider well so far and Michael Che’s been fine in his role as failing peacekeeper.
Hopefully the shenanigans can conclude earlier in the match with Jost surprisingly eliminating Strowman or just doing a dash to the backstage with Braun giving chase.
Though there’s a definite leftovers feel concerning the list of participants, there are some involved who have the potential to benefit from the quick spotlight shine winning this match provides.
Andrade is the clear star of this group. The fact that he’s in a match of this caliber instead of a prominent singles spot goes to show that he could definitely use the little push of momentum. It’d also give Zelina Vega a nice big trophy to brag about.
Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese
There were probably better options for Buddy Murphy’s Wrestlemania opponent than Tony Nese. Rey Mysterio, Xavier Woods,
Mustafa Ali and Lio Rush are all more well known to WWE’s non-205 Live watching audience.
Nese is a fine enough competitor, but given the run that Murphy’s been on since winning the title in his native Australia, there’s no reason he should lose here.
Winner: Buddy Murphy
Women’s Battle Royal
There are enough new faces in this one to make this match feel a bit different than the Evolution Battle Royal. The clear standout and sentimental favorite is Asuka.
Having her win this match to help soften the blow of a recent title loss to Charlotte would make sense.
It could also make sense for someone to start a feud with Asuka by eliminating her last. Lacey Evans is the type of candidate they could be looking for such a role.
There are other storylines worth fleshing out among the other participants as well, especially the drama dynamic between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville.
Winner: Lacey Evans
Who Will Interrupt the Elias Performance
My top contenders would be Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose and Lars Sullivan.
Hopefully, it’s not Hulk Hogan.