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Friday, March 27, 2015

WWE WrestleMania 31 Predictions!

Has it really been a full year since WrestleMania XXX?  Last year’s event was one of my favorite WrestleMania shows ever, thanks mostly to the incredible Daniel Bryan story that played out over two matches on the card.  This year we are in for some really exciting match-ups, including the WWE in-ring debut of Sting!  Can this year possibly live up to the amazing show last spring?  Hit the jump to see my predictions and be sure to follow me on Twitter as I live-tweet the show!

WWE Tag Team Championship
Two years in a row with a four-way tag team match?  That, to me, shows that the tag team division needs to be fixed.  There are some awesome teams on the roster, but there is a major lack of actual storylines for the teams.  With one of the Usos injured and both Los Matadores and New Day getting flat crowd reactions, I suspect we’ll see Cesaro and Tyson Kidd pick up the win here.  That is fine with me as I am a huge fan of the duo and their great in-ring chemistry.  My only hope in this match is that New Day will finally connect with the crowd.  I’d really like to see them feud with the champs long term, but it would require the crowd to stop being indifferent to Kofi, Big E, and Xavier.  I think that a hot WrestleMania crowd could save the New Day—if not, I think we’ll see creative pull the plug on the trio.  

With so many wrestlers in this match and nothing tangible at stake (as opposed to a title shot), it’s hard to pick the winner here.  This match could instantly elevate whoever wins, so I’d be fine with any younger talent that needs the rub picking up the win.  There are three storylines going in this match—the tensions between Big Show and Kane, Curtis Axel’s Axelmania, and the brewing feud between Miz and his personal assistant Damian Mizdow.  I don’t see Big Show or Kane winning the match, though I’m sure their budding rivalry will factor heavily into the final eliminations, especially after the two of them teamed up to bury a number of wrestlers at Royal Rumble.  Curtis Axel is finally getting something cool to do, but he has been portrayed too much as a joke to win this match.  Personally, I hope that the Miz/Mizdow situation being such a prominent storyline heading into this match will lead to the two of them being the final wrestlers in this match, with Mizdow picking up the big win.  This will jumpstart their feud to finally start in earnest and will give the hardworking and well-respected Mizdow his first Wrestlemania moment.  Plus the crowd really needs their big moment, especially after Wrestlemania XXX being so much about servicing the fans.  Since the crowd will be split on the main event, having an underdog fan-favorite win this match will go a long way to making the crowd happy.  On an unrelated note, I just saw that NXT will have a tournament WrestleMania weekend to determine an entrant in this match—how cool is that?  While that person (Adrian Neville, Finn Balor, Tyler Breeze, or Hideo Itami—my pick is Neville) won’t have much of a chance to win the match, I cannot wait to see who gets called up and how long they will stay on the main roster after ‘Mania.
Prediction: MIZDOW

Intercontinental Championship
Ladder Match
This has been a really bizarre, but highly entertaining storyline—perhaps the best Intercontinental Championship storyline in the last several years.  By having each involved superstar steal the title from one another, every man in this match has had a chance to shine over the last few weeks.  My only complaint is that the champion, Bad News Barrett, has lost so many matches over the course of this story.  But beyond that, it has made Luke Harper and R-Truth, both talented and underutilized wrestlers, relevant again while giving the ever amazing Ziggler, Bryan, and Ambrose a place to showcase their work on the “biggest stage of them all.”  I would rather have seen Stardust continue his bafflingly abandoned feud with Goldust, but he should provide some awesome spots in this match.  All seven men in this match are insane workers and will pull out all of the stops in the match.  I fully expect that this will be the Match of the Night and a strong candidate for Match of the Year.  The winner?  Honestly, the audience.  The person walking away with the title?  Shit, this is hard to pick.  They all deserve it.  Seriously, I am so incredibly excited for this match.
Prediction: DANIEL BRYAN

While I’m fairly certain that the Intercontinental Championship match will stela the show, this match will come a close second.  The seeds of this feud were planted in late summer and I feel that they’ve paid off nicely, as the story carried on through Survivor Series, with Orton’s departure, and finally the great “swerve” with his return just a few weeks ago.  Orton was getting stale in 2014, but now is more exciting than ever and Seth Rollins has been the MVP of the entire company for the last six months.  With all that buildup and two characters that are red hot, this match is going to be fantastic.  I look for this match to be brutal and fast paced, with Rollins hitting some huge high spots and Orton showing his trademark unconscionable violent streak.  There will be a lot of great back-and-forth between the two, with Orton picking up the win to keep the crowd happy and for the attention to be taken off of Rollins.  By the end of this match, Orton will look like a top tier contender once again, Rollins will cement himself in WWE’s upper echelon,  but more importantly, Rollins will look broken and completely incapable of returning…for now. (more on that later)
Prediction: RANDY ORTON

Once again, I am very frustrated with the state of women’s wrestling in the WWE main roster.  While this match does feature the two best talents on the main roster, AJ and Paige, it also contains the Divas champion, Nikki Bella, who won’t be defending her title at the biggest event of the year.  While I’m sure that these four women will make the best of the time that they are given (especially since Divas matches have been given more time over the last few weeks), this match completely discredits the Divas Championship.  Over the last few weeks, this feud has been given a lot of time on both Raw and Smackdown, including strong backstage segments and a few impressive matches (especially the Nikki/Paige title match on this week’s Raw).  The crowd is starting to come around, but I’d much rather that the piss-poor commenting team gave the matches more respect (or any of the matches respect).  So, things are getting better, but there is still no reason that this isn’t a fatal four-way match for the Divas Championship (especially when the critically acclaimed Women’s Championship matches are given main event status in NXT).  This should be a good match, with the Bellas finally coming into their own and their opponents are already awesome.  I’ll pick the Bella Twins on this due to miscommunication between Paige and AJ.  After all, you have to hype Total Divas (blech).

United States Championship
Every time that I go about writing this, I end up ranting about my strong dislike for John Cena, especially his misogynistic rhetoric towards Lana in his feud against Rusev.  Since you all read that last month in my pre-Fastlane thoughts, I’ll refrain from rehashing that.  Instead, I’ll say that I hope that this match is a turning point for Rusev, not because he loses (which I still think Cena is the WRONG person to beat him as he doesn’t need the rub), but because every feud he has engaged in has been about USA vs Russia.  I know that is a big part of his character, but after a year of non-stop patriotic feuds, it’s starting to make Rusev seem stale.  He is still exciting to watch, he is getting better on the mic, and Lana is totally awesome—I just want a match that isn’t because he offended someone for not liking America.  I’m ready for someone to want to face Rusev because he is unbeaten and because he is a tough badass, not because of some force fed patriotic sentiment, which really comes across as disengenous if the whole of your character is not that of a super patriot.  It worked for Swagger, but it doesn’t work for Cena (or Sheamus or Xavier Woods or Big E).  Much like last month, if Rusev loses, it doesn’t do him or Cena any good, so I’m picking the Bulgarian Brute to CRUUUUUSH once again.
Prediction: RUSEV

Considering the fact that we have not once seen the Undertaker since this “feud” began, the buildup to this match has been absolutely fantastic.  That proves just how incredible Bray Wyatt truly is on the mic.  Wyatt’s promos have been top-notch and the flashier moments have been highly entertaining.  We haven’t needed to see the Undertaker to want to see how this plays out, which is great.  That will make his actual return on Sunday so incredibly huge.  The crowd is going to go insane.  The only downside to this is that I think that Undertaker losing could crush the crowd in the wrong way.  Wyatt needs the win, especially after his push was derailed by losing last year at WrestleMania against John Cena.  That being said, my biggest worry for this match is the Undertaker’s in-ring ability.  Last year’s match was a letdown because the Dead Man was injured early on.  Wyatt takes care of his opponents better than Lesnar does, but I’m really afraid that past injuries and ring rust could lead to Undertaker’s performance to be subpar, which will take all of the wind out of this match’s sails.  Let’s just all cross our fingers that Undertaker will be in true form and that we’ll see a physical match that finally elevates Wyatt to the position that he deserves.
Prediction: BRAY WYATT

I’m cautiously optimistic about how this match will go. Triple H hasn’t wrestled since last summer and I haven’t actually seen Sting in the ring since his WCW days.  That’s not to say that they can’t have a great match, it’s just that there is an unknown variable for me hanging heavily over this match (much the same as Undertaker’s ring-readiness).  That being said, the build-up for this match has been fun despite the lack of clear motivation behind Sting’s attacks on Triple H.    While this match is certainly “ten years too late,” both wrestlers were master storytellers in their prime and if they can tap into that, this could be a really exciting match-up.  This match won’t be the fastest-paced or the hardest-hitting fight on the card, but it could be a entertaining in an “old-school” way that we haven’t seen in WWE for the last few years.  A hot crowd could eat that up, but if the crowd runs cold, I don’t see them getting behind the type of match that we’ll see between the Game and the Icon.  The only thing I can say for certain is that Sting will win here—there is absolutely no reason to bring him in just to lose his first (and possibly only) WWE match.
Prediction: STING

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Before I get into this match, can I just point out how awesome Paul Heyman is? I know that we all know he is great, but his promos in the last few weeks have been next-level awesome.  While I liked the “limited engagement” champion in theory, the only reason why it has worked is Heyman’s awesomeness.  I was 100% behind Reigns winning this match since FastLane, but now that Lesnar has signed a multi-year contract with WWE, I’m not as confident in my prediction.  After all of the build-up, it would seem that Reigns simply cannot lose here without being derailed.  If he doesn’t win here, it will be pretty hard to take him seriously as a main event player.  That being said, if Lesnar isn’t leaving after WrestleMania as we once assumed, I have trouble seeing him drop the belt on Sunday.  I’m going to tentatively stick to my guns here, only because I think it makes the most sense for Reigns to beat Lesnar in an absolutely brutal and violent match that takes everything out of both men—then Rollins can cash in on Reigns to win the title.  Lesnar doesn’t need to win to be taken seriously—he just has to kick a ton of ass in the match.  If Reigns wins, he is elevated big time as would Rollins when cashing in, who is already the main focus of Monday Night Raw almost every week.  The only other option that I see in this match is the crowd forcing a “double-turn,” with Brock Lesnar turning face and Roman Reigns turning heel—it’s something that the crowd has leaned towards over the last few weeks.  If that happens, I think we’ll see Reigns lose and Lesnar  as a special interest crowd favorite possibly feuding with Seth Rollins.  This is the less likely option, however.  I’m going to bank on Reigns winning, but with full knowledge that we could see a big swerve here.
Prediction: ROMAN REIGNS

Bonus Prediction!

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Money in the Bank Cash-In
By the end of the main event, Rollins should be the last thing on the mind of the crowd.  Reigns will win a hard-fought battle against the monster Lesnar and, in the crowd’s mind, Rollins will still be battered and destroyed from his match against Orton.  So, when Rollins’s music hits to interrupt Reigns’s celebration, the crowd will be shocked and will come completely unglued.  I think we’ll see a longer match than most Money in the Bank cash-ins, with the exhausted Reigns coming very close to beating Mr. Money in the Bank, only for Rollins to pull off a shocking win to close out the event.  No one has cashed in the Money in the Bank at WrestleMania, but after a year of huge buildup for Seth Rollins, now is the time and he is the perfect guy to make that jump.
Prediction: SETH ROLLINS

What are your thoughts?  Share them here or tweet them to me at @RyanSchrodt!

Extra Bonus – My take on the WWE Hall of Fame!

Macho Man Randy Savage
There is no man more deserving of the Hall of Fame than the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and I’m glad that the WWE and the Poffo family were finally able to put all issues aside so that he can be inducted this year.  Macho Man is easily in my Top 3 favorite wrestlers of all time, so this is a huge induction for me.  Much like last year’s Ultimate Warrior induction, there is a chance that this could get awkward because of the political issues behind it, but hopefully that won’t happen and we can all celebrate the legacy of the Macho Man.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
I can’t think of any man less deserving of the Hall of Fame than Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he has had almost no involvement with the WWE aside from two tiny guest appearances.  While Arnold is awesome, it is a huge stretch to induct him.  While I know that the Celebrity Wing gets them a lot of mainstream attention, I don’t feel that a celebrity needs to be inducted every single year.  I’d much rather see it happen once every few years so that only deserving celebrities like previous inductees Mr. T, Pete Rose, and Bob Euchre are inducted.
I wholeheartedly agree with Rikishi being inducted into the Hall of Fame, though I’m sad that his long history with the WWE has not been highlighted in the hype for his induction.  Rikishi started his WWE career in 1992 as a member of the Headshrinkers and went through a few other personalities before joining Too Cool in the late 1990s for his most successful gimmick.  That being said, I’m excited to see him inducted, especially with his sons (the Usos) inducting him.  
The Bushwhackers
My issue with the Bushwhackers being inducted is very similar to my problem with Rikishi—their history is being ignored.  As the Sheepherders, Luke and Butch were ultraviolent badasses before becoming a joke tag team in the WWE.  With their history, they are deserving but just focusing on their WWE history, not so much.  And they certainly don’t deserve to be inducted before Demolition!
Alundra Blaze
Oddly enough, they aren’t ignoring Alundra Blaze’s history outside the WWE as part of her induction as her actions after leaving WWE for WCW are just as impactful on the history of American professional wrestling as her actual performances here.  She was an amazing performer that ushered in the modern era of women’s professional wrestling and she dumped the then-WWF women’s title in a trash can on Monday Nitro—one of the biggest and boldest moments in the Monday Night Wars.
Conner the Crusher
The inaugural Warrior Award winner Conner the Crusher is one of the most powerful stories in WWE’s history.  From the video packages, you can see how much Conner meant to the WWE and so I’m very happy that his family is going to be given this moment.  
Larry Zybyszko
As a member of the WWWF, the AWA, and the NWA, Zybyszko was one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the industry before becoming one of the highlights of WCW programming in the 1990s.  Zybyszko was awesome in the ring, awesome on the mic, and has a well-known passion for the industry that makes him incredibly deserving of the honor.
Tatsumi Fujinami
This one is for the wrestling purists.  I’ve only seen a handful of his matches, but he was a great worker that has a huge pedigree of titles, including holding both the IWGP and NWA titles as the same time after defeating Ric Flair.  Fujinami was an innovator in the ring and is highly deserving of the honor, though the majority of the crowd won’t be familiar with his work.
Kevin Nash
While this year’s class is a little too large in my opinion, with the biggest name in this year’s induction class having passed away (Macho Man), the ceremony needed a big star to close out the show.  There are few better names to fill that role than one of the most popular wrestlers of the modern era, Big Daddy Cool Kevin Nash.  I met Nash a few years ago at a comic book convention and he was super cool, making a joke about my short stature when I went for a “two sweet” with him.  Nash’s charisma and sense of humor should lighten the mood after a few heavy inductions this year and so I’m excited to see Big Sexy close out the show.

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