The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
WWE rolls into New Orleans for the second time in four years with their biggest show of the year, WrestleMania 34. By WWE standards, WrestleMania 34 has had a very effective build, even if certain elements of it have come off awkward. There are at least five big time matches that could easily headline any other show on the wrestling calendar, and there is a little something for everyone. If you want to see the big stars, there is a battle of icons between The Undertaker and John Cena; if you want to see a great babyface, check out Daniel Bryan's return; for a great wrestling bout watch the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura; or if you want to watch two big guys hitting each other with stuff, watch Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.
This year's mammoth card features 14 matches; a dizzying number. The biggest enemy to WWE's success on Sunday might just be fatigue; it takes a really special show to entertain an audience for seven hours. With a show that long; it is hard to really have a blow-away, best show of the year, event. There will be high points, low points, but hopefully at the end fans will feel satisfied from the biggest show of the year. Let's take a look at all the matches for this Sunday.
Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
The match that has been built for over a year finally takes place at WrestleMania. This feels like a foregone conclusion where WWE will finally put Reigns over Lesnar and make him the WWE Universal Champion. WWE has protected Lesnar over the last year, with the goal of presenting him as the ultimate challenge for Reigns. Lesnar beat Samoa Joe after one F5 at Great Balls of Fire; he beat Braun Strowman at No Mercy after one F5; and he beat AJ Styles at Survivor Series after one F5. All of those guys were sacrificed so that at WrestleMania, Lesnar can hit Reigns with the F5 and Reigns can kick out; and then win the match.
The match will probably be decent; but I don't expect a lot of storytelling. Like most big WWE matches; expect a lot of the same moves (german suplexes, superman punches, chair shots) and guys kicking out of finishers. There is the fan theory of having Heyman turn on Brock and go with Reigns, turning Roman heel. While that is a much more exciting idea, WWE has sacrificed a lot to make Roman the top guy, and turning him heel would be a sign that all of that has failed and WWE does not like to admit failure.
The oddest thing about the hype surrounding this match is that I have heard or read numerous people; smart professionals who follow the industry closely, continuously repeating that this is the final, glorious moment where WWE crowns Reigns as the face of the company. Do people forget WrestleMania 32; when Reigns beat Triple H for the world title and that was supposed to be his crowning achievement? That was the culmination of an atrociously long build to Reigns being "the guy" and yet, WWE took the title off of him two months later and gave it to Seth Rollins. Everyone keeps referring to this Sunday as the big moment where the torch is handed to Reigns, when that moment already happened; except it was so unremarkable nobody seems to remember it. It makes me think at WrestleMania 36 we are going to have this exact same scenario, where WWE is still trying to get Reigns to be the face of the company and will have him beat Cena so he can be crowned the new face of the company for the third time.
John Cena vs The Undertaker
Okay, well this match hasn't been formally announced so we don't know if it will actually happen; it could be a segment that leads to a match (gulp) next year. The build of this bout makes pretty much no sense. The storyline is that Cena has called out The Undertaker a bunch of times and The Undertaker hasn't appeared or said anything, so Cena will head to WrestleMania with no match. However, the reality is that WWE is banking on fans knowing that the storyline is just lipstick and that the match (or a confrontation) will really take place, and that nobody should take the storyline at face value. At some point, you have to think that it would be less taxing just to not do a storyline at all instead of doing a storyline with the idea being all the fans know the storyline is a non-factor.
Anyway after his disastrous main event last year I moved firmly into the camp that The Undertaker should never wrestle again. He is too old and too banged up to put on a presentable match, and WWE clinging to his corpse to prop up WrestleMania because they lack new stars is one of the most frustrating things about being a WWE fan. Even though his match last year totally sucked; fans still clamor to see The Undertaker though. As much as I personally don't want to see 'Taker lace them up again, I can't deny that a majority of fans seem to approve of his return.
I think the appropriate thing to do here is to not have a match at all; or if they must have one, have it be very short. I'd like to Cena come out and call out The Undertaker, and finally have 'Taker arrive, kick the snot out of Cena for a few minutes and leave. Then we never see Undertaker wrestle again. If we are really setting up a match for NEXT WrestleMania, well that just exabarates the issue, because WWE will be spending a year building WrestleMania around two guys who will be a combined 94 years old at WrestleMania 35.
As expected, WWE has carefully mapped out this feud and clearly put more thought into the build than any other match at WrestleMania. The results so far have been promising, Rousey is over as a babyface and Triple H and Stephanie have done well in their roles as heels. The goal should be to protect Rousey and promote her as one of the biggest stars of the company, and so far WWE has excelled so far at doing that.
The match won't be much; a lot of stalling with the men doing most of the work, eventually building towards the big confrontation between Stephanie and Rousey. It is reasonable to expect Rousey to quickly destroy Stephanie and have her submit, since Rousey should be presented as a special, terminator of women in WWE. However, another idea could be to build up to a spot where Rousey has Stephanie in a submission hold and Angle has Triple H in the ankle lock; and Triple H taps out so Stephanie doesn't have to. That way they can build towards a singles match between Stephanie and Rousey, which we don't really need to see but that seems like the direction WWE wants to head in.
AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Not only did these two have a legendary match at WrestleKingdom a couple of years ago, the build to the match has been similar to a NJPW title bout. Both wrestlers respect each other; but there are little insults and mind games being played along the way. The marketing of the match is that this will be the best match at WrestleMania; especially out of the top-billed matches. Reigns vs Lensar will just be Reigns hitting 40,000 Superman Punches on Lesnar, and the Rousey match and Cena/Undertaker match are really just about star power. Styles vs Nakamura is going to be the WRESTLING match; so if you want to watch two guys who really care about the art of pro wrestling; this is the match for you. Since Styles has the leg injury and Nakamura should be pushed as a top guy; it makes all the sense in the world for him to go over Sunday.
This match and storyline got a thousand times more interesting when Bryan was cleared to wrestle, and his return to the ring might be the highlight of the entire weekend. It's possible that they pull out all the stops with Bryan's return and Shane's affinity for risk-taking, although his recent medical scare might damper that a bit. Since Owens and Zayn get back on SmackDown if they win; I think they should pin Shane which will set up singles matches against Bryan that long-time ROH fans can salivate over.
Charlotte vs Asuka
The biggest women's match on the card is the mixed-tag; but if you are a real fan of the women's division chances are this interests you more. Asuka has been dominate for years in WWE; yet she has been kept away from the top female wrestler in the company. Charlotte vs Asuka really is a match that has been years in the making, and thankfully due to WWE's efforts to increase the exposure of females in their company, they should be given a good amount of time to have a good match. WWE has been hinting that whoever wins this match will immediately lose the title to Carmella when she cashes in her Money in the Bank contract. To me; I think Asuka (or Charlotte) is way more important to the division than Carmella, so if she cashes in Asuka should just kick her in the head and pin her.
Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax
The other women's titles match is very different from the SmackDown title match. Bliss vs Jax has been teased for a while, but this time last year nobody was excited thinking about their potential matchup. WWE has done a good job in the build trying to portray Jax as the face in this feud, a tall task considering the size disparity. The match itself is going to be tough; it is hard for a undersized heel to get heat while working with a giant babyface; and Bliss and Jax are not particularly known for their outstanding ring work. Honestly a quick squash match with Jax going over might be the best way to go.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs The Usos vs The New Day
Now we start to get into MidCard Mania; where WWE just spits out mid-card matches with as many people in them as possible to try and get everyone on the card. This match at least makes sense since The New Day and The Usos is the longest ongoing feud in the company and The Bludgeon Brothers are the new team trying to take them both out. This should be the traditional crazy match where guys take crazy bumps and go through tables and everything like that; typically they have a ladder match like that but that match is on the NXT show instead.
A strangle anglamation of talent all vying for the United States Championship. Mahal received an enormous push last year despite never being over; Rusev received almost no push despite being very over. Orton and Roode are veterans that could headline any PPV WWE chooses but like a lot of guys, are stuck working the midcard at WrestleMania. I'd have Rusev win the title; he's the most over guy in the match and the fans will love him as US champ.
The Miz vs Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor
Like Orton and Roode, Rollins and Balor could main event most shows for WWE; and they will likely headline some PPV later this year. The two had a great match on RAW Monday, although throwing The Miz into the match for Sunday might put a damper on things. The Miz is actually only 25 days away from becoming the longest cumulative reigning Intercontinental Champion in history, so they might as well put him over here so he can have that record.
Braun Strowman and TBA vs The Bar
Strowman's mystery partner could be a bunch of different people and is the main sense of intrigue in this match; particularly since Strowman has had no problem so far beating The Bar by himself. If I'm WWE, I'd bring back Goldberg and have Strowman and him destroy The Bar. That would be over great with the crowd and make Strowman look like a star. Remember; even though WWE pushed Strowman hard in 2017, his role at WrestleMania 33 was to undramatically get eliminated from the battle royal on the pre-show. If they are going to heavily rely on him again, he should have a marquee moment at WrestleMania.
Cedric Alexander vs Mustafa Ali
In true 205 Live fashion, this match will open the pre-show for WrestleMania. On paper these guys are fantastic and could have a great match, but the first pre-show match is really hard. Fans are still filing into the arena and it is hard to get a small crowd in a massive stadium to provide the atmosphere necessary to have a great match.
Assorted Battle Royals
Rounding out the pre-show; the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal may have several returning stars, including Big Cass and Samoa Joe. WWE has been reported to be planning a feud between Joe and Reigns for after WrestleMania; so Joe winning the battle royal his first night back from injury would be the best way to re-establish himself. Literally anyone who enters could win the women's battle royal; I'll nominate Becky Lynch since she is a good worker and doesn't get much of a push on SmackDown.
Must Watch Matches
Cody and Adam Page vs The Golden Lovers: **** - NJPW Sakura Genesis
Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll: ****3/4 - NJPW Sakura Genesis
Kazuchika Okada vs Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/2 - NJPW Sakura Genesis