Wrestlemania weekend is my Christmas. I try to be grown up and contained, but I pretty much end up giddy and sleep deprived. Usually, one of the days is spent watching ROH’s ‘same state as Mania’ show but this year, I changed tact. I watched Takeover. Now obviously I’ll end up seeing Supercard of Honor, but I felt that NXT was going to be a more important show.
I should probably clarify that. I’m a fan of ROH and very rarely unimpressed by their big offerings. But I expected this to be the last night in NXT for several individuals. So much so, that I didn’t get tickets for the NXT shows coming over to the UK in May, as I expected them to be called up soon. (Had they been in my hometown I’d have bought them, and will inevitably try to get some anyway. My will is weak.)
I expected this to be Shinsuke Nakamura’s last match in NXT. A strong yet ultimately unsuccessful challenge that frees him up to land on the main roster directly after Wrestlemania. I expected Asuka to finally drop the title and make a similar impact upon the main roster. Maybe calling up these similar phenom’s at the same time would be a bit much, but it’s fair to say they have outgrown NXT. Which is pretty much the point of NXT.
And then the tag title feud. Authors of Pain continue to get better every time I see them but they are nowhere near the level of The Revival or DIY. One, or hopefully both, of those teams should be getting called up. Both would add a lot to either brands tag division and considering Smackdown doesn’t have a tag title match on the Mania card, the directed attention these two teams would bring would be very welcome. This is why I expected AoP to retain.
I also wanted Tye Dillinger to be done with Sanity. I can’t be the only person who would love to see him called up? Where, how and when are questions I’m not entirely sure of, and accept it’s a lot of bias towards one of my favourites. But how could you deny that Orlando the night after Mania rocking the ‘Ten’ chant would be a beautiful thing? They’ll probably do it anyway to be fair.
So yes, I watched Takeover because I expected it to be a lot of my favourite’s last night on the brand. I also thought it would be a decent enough show to justify watching live. Maybe not as stacked as previous Takeovers but, much like ROH’s PPV’s, they’re very rarely anything other than entertaining. And my desire to see my fave’s called up may have impeded my actual judgement, but fair to say, I enjoyed the show. So onto thoughts from the show, before getting into Wrestlemania predictions.
- I love the start with Triple H. His genuine pride over NXT is always a highlight. Here’s hoping they don’t play it up when he’s in full villain mode at Wrestlemania.
- Nigel McGuiness adds a lot to the commentary table. He also exposes how little Percy Watson offers.
- No way for Jose? Not too disappointed if I’m honest. He’s fine, but doesn’t fit in with the anti-Sanity group as an equal.
- Sanity’s entrance always has a bit of presence to it.
- Chanting ‘Ten’ is infectious. Ohno was a welcome surprise. As was untucking the jersey.
- Everyone did a nice job in the match. Ohno’s handspring to punch was a great spot. Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross have a date with a street fight in their future.
- I’m glad we didn’t get too much of Dillinger and Young. When Young loses a feud, it will knock Sanity off balance and I quite like them and want to see them go further in NXT. The status quo was retained here without anyone losing anything.
- Edge is finally starting to show signs of ageing. This makes me unashamedly happy.
- Aleister Black’s entrance was cool, but I’m waiting to see how it translates to Full Sail TV tapings. I’ve also grown a fondness for Almas’ music.
- I wasn’t that impressed by Black’s debut. I’m not buying the air of mystery either, although I accept it’s early days. I’m glad it was a competitive match but I finished watching more impressed by Cien, who has improved a lot in the last six months.
- Ohno vs. Black in a strikers battle?
- The announcer had to correct himself and add tag team into his champion’s announcement.
- The new tag titles looked great, and having Regal there to unwrap them was a nice touch that added a little validity to the new straps. Every effort to make them important is effort well spent.
- The triple threat elimination match was fantastic. I was hoping it would be a farewell for two of the teams, and they certainly went out there to make that impression. Both teams did their utmost to paint AoP as unstoppable monsters.
- The table power bomb, the double submission, the mix and match of tag finishers, their working together with zero trust; there was just a lot to like in this match. A healthy reminder in what is traditionally a weekend with at least one spot fest match on EVERY card, narrative combined with athleticism is an art, and entertaining AF.
- The only downside to this match was the fans chanting bullshit. Not necessary. The wrestlers deserved better, even if it was aimed elsewhere. Thankfully it didn’t last too long.
- I don’t see what Paul Ellering brings to AoP, other than make them look so green they need to be reined in. He is the worst part of an act that grows on me day by day.
- The new women’s title was not as cool as the tag titles. It looked similar to the X-division big red X belt. Except classier. Nice touch though.
- Asuka’s entrance has every bit the feel of a champion. Exudes confidence and purpose. And I want a mask for my wall.
- This was the best effort I’ve seen from Ember Moon, and Asuka shoving the ref to prevent the Eclipse was a brilliant way to sell the move’s rep.
- I was hoping Asuka would lose the title here, and go up onto one of the main rosters, but a year long reign is not exactly a consolation prize. I think Ember has the best shot of taking the title from Asuka, but either way, I’m looking forward to a rematch.
- Glad the match didn’t end with a tapout, easier to get to a rematch that way. Wouldn’t have been impossible, but it gives Ember more credibility, as she can blame the nefarious ref push.
- Bring on Drew McIntyre. Let us forget the 3-man band nonsense and focus on the major leaps as a performer Galloway has made. This could be great.
- I love the main event entrances that seem to occur on Takeovers. Nakamura’s entrance at Raw or Smackdown would blow the roof off of any building.
- Two pianos is gluttonous, and a little glorious.
- The new title has the same issue as the women’s. Still, it added to the match.
Bobby Roode is a perfect main eventer…..for TNA. Which is sad. I’m aware he’s good, and his character is very entertaining. But, if the tag match was a great story, then the comparison I can make is that Roode is a very good story teller, but he only has one story to tell. He’s the drunk guy at the end of the bar, telling every newcomer within earshot the same story. And you’re working behind the bar. It was entertaining the first time, but now it’s just white noise. The worst part is, he doesn’t elevate his opponent. He drags his opponent down to his level. This match was good, but very similar to their first meeting. Shinsuke has been involved in many better.
- Suppose the bonus is that Nakamura can now be sent to the main roster, with no business left in NXT. I live in hope.
- Overall, considering there were 5 matches on the show, this was a pretty good show. A great tag title match, a fun opening brawl, an underwhelming debut, an intriguing women’s match and a solid if unspectacular main event. The hours flew by.
And now, for wrestling Christmas; Wrestlemania. I’ve always thought that Wrestlemania should be the culmination of the years’ work. Everything should lead up to the final act. But with enough questions to get to the sequel. We don’t’ have a lot of that. Although who knows how the show shakes out? It may not be a years’ worth of build but the two title matches have months behind them. Triple H and Seth Rollins have had years’ worth of wait, if not build. Hit and miss across the board? Most likely. Fun? Yes…I’m counting on it. Oh, and before the predictions, the stage looks amazing! If that elevated ramp works as well as it looks like, I’d vote to make it a mainstay of Wrestlemania.
2017 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Kickoff match)
There are thirty competitors in the 4th edition of the ‘Dre. Despite that, the field feels slightly thin. I can’t see far past a last three of Sami Zayn, Big Show and Braun Strowman. With maybe Mojo Rawley as 4th, simply because he’s discussed it so often. With the Big Show having already won, I’m ruling him out. It’d be nice for Sami Zayn to win, just to complicate his standing with Stephanie moving forward. Smart money says Braun. I want a Zayn win.
Sami Zayn to give the feel good win to start.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville vs. Austin Aries (Kickoff match)
I’m more annoyed that this is not being presented as the dream match it could be, rather than it featuring on the kickoff. I prefer to think it just gives them more time, if not attention. Neville has been on a brilliant run since returning to action. He has lacked a 5 star opponent. Enter Austin Aries, who is every bit on that level. This should be the marquee match in the revitalised division and most likely will be great. But I’m hoping it’s not the last effort. I’m torn on who I want to win. But I think it makes sense to keep the title on Neville for the time being, winning by having one of his subjects interfere, to help Aries get his rematch and inevitable win. The title was passed around, Neville is the 4th champ and we’re not even on a year just yet. Stability folks, we need stability.
Neville to retain, through King of the Cruiserweight shenanigans.
Smackdown Women’s Championship match
John Laurinaitis works in mysterious ways. People Power had the match moved onto the main card. (I’m not genuinely giving credit to Johnny.) But it was really nice that voices were heard. Now it’s down to the match itself, which seems to be the result of wanting every woman on the roster on the show, rather than a story that had ran all year, and very similar to how the inaugural match for the championship went down. But I’m still looking forward to it. And I’m glad it was moved to the main show.
Naomi to reclaim the title she didn’t lose, in her hometown.
Raw Tag Team Champions Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus (Triple Threat Ladder match)
This could have been a straight up brawl with two tag teams that never really got unleashed, but with the addition of Enzo and Cass, this ladder match could be fun. I expect Enzo and Big Cass to cap off their main roster debut year with a win. The ladder match would be the best way for them to win, giving the other two teams the argument that they couldn’t beat them in a straight up match. Protect the other teams, crown the new kings. Seems like a win – win (-win).
Enzo Amore & Big Cass to win the titles in a rough ladder match.
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin
I am so happy to see the Intercontinental title in a one on one match on the Mania card. It feels like it’s been forever. I really want to see Ambrose win the match, and have Corbin take the title at a later date in a fight. But WWE obviously see a lot in Corbin. Last year he won the Dre on his debut. A second big Mania win is not unfathomable. He is coming along nicely and would be ideal as a heel IC champ. But I’m hoping, not just yet. But I think I’ll pick Corbin. I can’t help thinking it’s just aligned for him. Although how ridiculous was it that they were not on the final episode of Smackdown before Mania?
Baron Corbin to win the IC strap.
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Cena and Nikki to win. Cena to propose. It has to be, doesn’t it?
John Cena and Nikki Bella to win and become betrothed.
United States Champion Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
I expect Jericho to win the match, but not the war. I’m really looking forward to this match. It has the best build up out of all the matches, with the breakup of the best friends being devastating, and I know it’s not just me that felt that way. Jericho and Owens are also two high calibre performers so given adequate time, this could be a classic.
Jericho to retain his title.
Raw Women’s Champion Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
This could have been so much better leading up to it but let’s not dwell on what could have been. This is my dark horse for match of the night. And possibly a double turn, or a shift at least. I think the other three will team against Nia Jax to get her out of the match. Then I think Sasha will be unveiled as the true villain she excels at being and cost Bayley the championship, and win it herself, with Charlotte still being all about the title, but no longer an arsehole about it, gradually moving to face over months. Sasha wins, Charlotte not so evil, Bayley devastated, Nia angry.
Sasha Banks to win the Raw Women’s Championship.
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
Anyone else expecting a ‘If Shane wins, we riot’ sign? There is absolutely no justification for a Shane McMahon win. The last article I put up was basically all about how Super Shane ruins my sleep it makes me that frustrated. Rather than repeat, I’ll summarise. If the Commish can beat the best in the world, it ruins the idea of the most competitive roster available. In short, NO GOOD can come from a Shane win. It has to be Phenomenal. Speaking of which, how you feeling, AJ? Wanna show the world you’re the best; let’s see what you can do with Shane McMahon when he can’t jump off of large structures.
AJ Styles to win.
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
Same thing with the Shane sign, expect a lot more of them, and an actual riot. Yes, I expect Roman Reigns to win. I love the idea of Taker putting the young upstart in his place but I think this will be one too many for the legendary Deadman. One day, WWE will go back to the Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar match that was so entertaining before Rollins cashed in. (I know it was still good, but I mean just a straight up singles match.) Nothing quite prepares for that like a win over Undertaker. Undertaker needs an operation, that he is putting off till retirement. This could be his last effort. I always think that though. But in this instance, it would help sell Reigns as the man who ended the Undertaker’s career, and assumed control of his yard. I don’t think this will be the match of the night, but it should be very good. Actually, if they both bring their A-game, it could be match of the night. Reigns doesn’t disappoint in PPV matches and Taker has too much pride to be carried so it should be one hell of a match. Going on last? Here’s hoping.
Roman Reigns to win.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Non sanctioned match)
To me, non-sanctioned means no referee. The match that always sticks in my mind is Ken Shamrock vs Steve Blackman. They fought in a car park? It had a very Rocky 5 feel to it. Make of that what you will. This should be much better. Do you think there was ever a conversation on the road between Roman and Seth when they were tag champs about facing Triple H and Undertaker at Wrestlemania? Long journey. But this match should be a throw down brawl, but I’m excited to see what happens. And to see if Samoa Joe plays a hand in it.
Triple H to win.
Universal Champion Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
I wasn’t excited for this match at all….at Wrestlemania 20. I’m expecting even less out of it this time. Which can only be a good thing. It’s either not gonna disappoint, because the bar is so low, or it will rise above its frighteningly low expectations. I don’t particularly want either as a long term top champion but I imagine Brock has to be winning the title here. He’s shown far too much weakness to not be taking the belt on the big show.
Brock Lesnar to win.
WWE Champion Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
I’d love Bray to retain the title here but I’m terrified they’re about to move it to Randy Orton, for reasons that are beyond me. Randy Orton is the main roster version of Bobby Roode, and I just can’t take another monotone, one pace match title reign from the Viper. Smackdown has been a solid show for a while now. It deserves better. I can’t bring myself to say Orton, despite feeling it. I want Bray to continue, or get past this Orton nonsense and truly start.
Bray Wyatt to successfully defend, the party to begin.
So there you have it. My predictions. I’ll be watching in a bar with a few friends, and people that I don’t know who will probably be awesome, based on nothing other than their excellent taste in Sunday night recreation. But whatever you do, don’t play a drinking game with ‘every time someone says Ultimate Thrill ride’ being a shot. It will be too expensive even before you add in the cost of a new liver. Know that your ciggie breaks are the hall of fame ceremony, the likely Pitbull performance, and the long ass Triple H and/or Undertaker entrance. And drink responsibly. Seriously, you’ll thank me in the morning. You’ve already forgotten it, haven’t you? Sod it, enjoy, it’s Wrestlemania time.
I’m off to watch Supercard of Honor. Any other suggestions from this weekend, or the desire to argue, agree, condemn or converse, feel free to comment below or at [email protected] or @HeneghanCiaran.