Wrestling fans are gearing up for sports entertainment’s greatest spectacle known as WrestleMania. It takes place this Sunday night, March 29 (Monday morning in the Philippines), at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, USA.
And what better way to get ready for this year’s star-studded pay-per-view than with the fans themselves!
Members of Facebook group Smark Gilas-Pilipinas sent in questions, taking Rappler’s resident wrestling writers to task. Now, we’re opening the WrestleMania 31 “mailbag.”
Bob Villanueva: Who will steal the show? And what could be the biggest surprise this year?
Joe “The gRappler” Marsalis: Heavy favorites to steal the show (that’s actually an oxymoron, when you think about it) are the Intercontinental Championship ladder match and Cena/Rusev. Look for Orton/Rollins and possibly Wyatt/Undertaker to work hard, but the hardest-working of all would have to be the main event (Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns for the WWE World Title). If the main event ever ends up being unsettlingly strong, nobody should be surprised.
Nissi Icasiano: The match that would definitely steal the show is the ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship, because of the top-caliber competitors involved. But I can sense that the spotlight would be focused on either Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose. The WrestleMania surprise might be Seth Rollins cashing in his briefcase.
Michael Bueza: The winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal would be a surprise in itself, because it could go to anybody, from Ryback to a returning Sheamus. (We shouldn’t discount Cesaro re-entering this year, too.) As for the show-stealer, I bet all my money on the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match.
Paolo Jose Cruz: To what extent does the set-up and booking of the US and Intercontinental title matches actually help boost the standing of these secondary belts?
Joe: It will depend on two things: the winner (obviously) and how well the match is worked. Give the matches enough time to develop the drama organically, and they’ll create enough momentum on which you could build (or rebuild, in this case) either title’s prestige. It’s actually all in the follow-through.
Nissi: I have this feeling that Brock would retain the belt. Since the World Title would continue to be seen sparingly on TV, the plan is to give some legitimacy to the midcard belts by putting them on major talents. To me, it doesn’t rely on who’s holding the belt. It all boils down on how it is booked. If you put these titles on established stars of the business, it loses its sense.
Michael: It’s good to see both titles defended at WrestleMania again, with interesting stories behind them no less. Challengers stealing the IC belt was fun to watch, while the US title bout serves as an opportunity either for Cena to shut Rusev up or for Rusev to stick it to Cena. I hope that the WWE sustains this momentum not only for future WrestleManias but for the careers of future World Champions.
Jan Lynch Imbat: With Daniel Bryan’s current and possible future booking in his involvement in the IC Title match, has the WWE found a way to sate the rabid Internet wrestling community (IWC) without “compromising” their plans for Reigns and the other cookie cutter stars on the roster?
Joe: Only way to find out is if he wins, if he goes on to have a long reign, and if he’s booked as a strong champion. There are too many pre-hatching chicken counting in this question.
Nissi: Even if Daniel Bryan wins the Intercontinental title, the WWE Universe will still rally for another “World Title” push. In addition, it’s possible that while holding the IC title, he can be in contention for a world championship.
Raf Camus: How bad is it that the Tag Titles are being defended on the pre-show, and the Divas Title isn’t even being defended? What does that say about the state of booking?
Joe: Why wouldn’t you put a half-assedly thrown-together Tag Team Championship match – regardless of how much talent each contending team brings to the match – in the pre-show? If they wanted people to take the division seriously, not only would they put it on the main show, but they would also write a more compelling narrative for it.
As for the Divas title, if you can tell a story that is good enough to transcend a championship, then you don’t have to put the championship on the line. I think all involved have barely managed to do a decent job in this story.
Nissi: It was a little bit off to see the Tag Titles on the pre-show because it ruins the plan of putting this division on a bigger stage again, while WWE can afford to have an eye-candy Divas match on the main card.
Michael:I agree with Joe. Remember WrestleMania XX, when it had two fatal four-way tag team title bouts? I bet you couldn’t recall from memory all 8 teams in both matches.
Anthony Cuello: Will Axelmania run wild at WrestleMania?
Joe: Yes… then someone is going to put him over the top rope.
Nissi: Definitely, he will have his WrestleMania moment.
Michael: I hope so. But if that fails, his “Royal Rumble counter” will continue to run wild.
Jan Lynch Imbat: Would the WWE rather have John Cena regress from the main event than turn heel?
Joe: It seems like it. People still win, so it’s not that bad an option. Cena still hasn’t changed from being secretly a douchebag, though.
Nissi: Regressing him from the main event is an alternative used by WWE to pacify half the load of Cena’s detractors. From a business standpoint, it will be a good platform to build more solid talent and bring them into another level. However, this is temporary. He will be back.
Michael: The WWE still can’t afford to turn Cena heel. Period.
Romeo Moran: Do you guys believe that Rusev and Lana is this generation’s Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth?
Joe: It certainly seems like it. I’m not sure if they intend to or not, but they’re booking them really well together. Tearing them apart permanently would be a stupid idea.
Nissi: Please! Don’t compare them to Macho and Elizabeth. But I agree with my buddy Joe that breaking their tandem would be a disaster.
Michael: To a degree, yes. They’re the only male wrestler-female manager that’s effective right now.
Chino Liao: If he loses to Cena, what’s next for Rusev? (I mean, besides tagging with Santino on Main Event.)
Joe: Managing a Blockblister.
Seriously though, I have a feeling he wins it back sooner or later.
Nissi: It’s a given that he will win it back, but I prefer him making a bold statement on a top talent like Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar. At least, losing to Cena may turn out to be a blessing.
Michael: Just like how Bray Wyatt shrugged off his loss against Cena last year and challenged The Undertaker this year, I think Rusev will persevere in the event of a loss. They can’t seriously mess up a monster heel character like Rusev.
Mark de Joya: Which match would you find about a gazillion times more intriguing if the face/heel roles were switched?
Joe: Honestly? It’s still the main event. I want to see how they would’ve booked it had they chose to do the most obvious thing in the world.
Nissi: I would love to see the current state of Seth Rollins as a face going up against a vicious Randy Orton, who loves to kick someone’s head.
Michael: Cena vs Rusev. Imagine the Bulgarian Brute trumpeting the might and power of the US, while Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect finally turns heel. #InMyDreams
Bob Villanueva: Does The Undertaker still have “it” or will things only prove to go south since losing to Brock last year?
Joe: I’m not sure what this question is really asking. Does he still have the magic? I’m sure he does, and I think we’ll get a much better match out of him and Wyatt than him and Lesnar, who was too dangerous for him that he couldn’t do the things he’s famous for. Does he have the physical capacity to “go” in the ring? If we’re to believe his training photos and videos, then it looks like he’s been working hard to bounce back from last year’s “eh” performance.
Nissi: If you will look at his training videos and photos, you can say that he is in shape unlike last year. But in terms of performance, it still hangs on the balance because sometimes what we see in training doesn’t translate into the actual performance.
Michael: He certainly still has “it”. Recent photos and videos show that he’s ready to go against the Eater of Worlds. Lesnar was just too much for Undertaker to take last year. That Beast Incarnate. Haha.
Jhace Jhace: Will Bray Wyatt cement his status as the new “Face of Fear”?
Joe: It would be silly not to, right?
Nissi: Common sense tells wrestling fans that The Undertaker shouldn’t lose two matches in a row, especially if a bout against Sting is looming. However, Wyatt stunning the WWE Universe would be an unforgettable moment that builds a star for the future.
Michael: I think he has established that already, ever since he did that scary “spider” pose. He’ll further solidify his claim for sure at WrestleMania against the Deadman himself.
Michael Bueza: I can’t help but ask. At this juncture, do you still think that Undertaker vs Sting should have been the one that’s on the card, and not Triple H vs Sting?
Joe: Honestly? No. While it’s slightly silly, I don’t see how they could’ve written a more compelling Sting/Undertaker story. Whatever thing that would make it gel and drive it forward wouldn’t compare to the strong simplicity of WWE vs. WCW (even if Sting has made it abundantly clear that this isn’t about WCW). Booking Sting vs. Undertaker just because the two like using dark videos and creepy sounds and look really scary isn’t a strong reason to book them.
Nissi: I’m looking at it from a business standpoint. To me, it’s alright because this year’s WrestleMania might be the commencement of what we could see for next year. I believe WWE will be using the same marketing strategy that they used with the first Rock-Cena encounter. It is possible that Sting might call out Taker during the event or Taker pops out of nowhere and gives everybody a staredown, which gives us a hint for next year’s WrestleMania.
John Rabelas: How do you think Brock’s recent contract extension will, if at all, affect the booking plans not just for WM31 but beyond?
Also, a related question from Stan Sy: How huge of a sh*tstorm will there be at Levi’s Stadium when Roman Reigns doesn’t turn heel and yet still wins the WWE World Championship with his “Five Moves of Doom”?
Joe: First question: I honestly don’t know, knowing what we already know now about Brock Lesnar’s contract status.
Second question: I expect a Royal Rumble-esque reaction.
Nissi: I believe WWE is prepared for Brock’s contract extension since the company’s offer is an offer that Brock couldn’t refuse according to him. So having Brock on board is part of Plan A.
To answer Stan’s question, that kind of incident could be avoided if Seth Rollins will cash in his briefcase and win the belt.
Michael: Brock choosing wrestling over MMA could only mean more compelling stories, more awesome Paul Heyman promos, and dream matches. We’re still waiting for Lesnar vs Daniel Bryan, WWE.
As for Roman Reigns, he better look strong and stay strong in his main event match to make the fans believe in him, whether he wins or loses.
Rafael Camus: Who’s going to show up/debut/steal the show on the RAW after WrestleMania?
Joe: My money’s on Adrian Neville. Never mind what they plan for him to be, but I have a good feeling he’s this year’s rookie.
Nissi: If Seth won’t cash in at WrestleMania, he will do it on RAW. But in terms of a surprise appearance, Finn Balor would do.
Michael: The WWE Universe will “take over” RAW once again. Haha. But in terms of talent, I think Hideo Itami (or any other NXT Superstar) will make his presence felt the Monday after WrestleMania, after joining the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
And of course, our picks to win at the Grandest Stage of ‘Em All.
Our predictions are in the following order: 1) Kickoff Show – WWE Tag Team Title Fatal Four-way Match, 2) Kickoff Show – Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 3) Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins, 4) US Title: Rusev vs John Cena, 5) AJ Lee and Paige vs The Bella Twins, 6) Intercontinental Title Ladder Match, 7) The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt, 8) Sting vs Triple H, and 9) WWE World Title: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns.
Joe: 1) Cesaro/Kidd, 2) Damien Mizdow, 3) Seth Rollins, 4) John Cena, 5) AJ/Paige, 6) Daniel Bryan, 7) Bray Wyatt, 8) Sting, 9) Brock Lesnar
Nissi: 1) Cesaro/Kidd, 2) Ryback, 3) Seth Rollins, 4) Rusev, 5) AJ/Paige, 6) Dolph Ziggler, 7) Undertaker, 8) Sting, 9) Brock Lesnar
Michael: 1) Cesaro/Kidd, 2) Sheamus, 3) Seth Rollins, 4) Rusev, 5) AJ/Paige, 6) Daniel Bryan, 7) Bray Wyatt, 8) Sting, 9) Brock Lesnar
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