One match has been rumored since around January was Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley for the WWE championship. The main difference with the expected match is that Lashley was going to be champion going into the match this way McIntyre can get his title win in front of an audience which is something that was impossible for him last year due to the pandemic. I mentioned that McIntyre should come up short in this match, because it would give him the opportunity to be on the chase for a time instead of just being the champion. Lashley has also earned a chance to be WWE Champion for longer then a cup of coffee.
Last week on Raw, The Hurt Business split up with Lashley beating down his former stablemates which is extremely perplexing in my opinion. Unless they have a bigger picture plan for Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander then why bother splitting up a successful stable just before Wrestlemania. Benjamin hasn't done much since he stopped teaming with Chad Gable and Cedric has really struggled to find a spot for himself since he moved up from 205 Live. The Hurt Business had given every member a purpose and a reason to mean something, but WWE jumped before the fans turned. Cedric and Benjamin could remain a tag team if they did get removed from the group. Also WWE could've moved a different direction by having The Hurt Business win the match and really stack the odds against Drew at Wrestlemania. Clearly though WWE still doesn't see the point of having a long term plan in place for talent like they should and I will always put over how important having a long term plan is in wrestling.
A big question mark for Wrestlemania is will we see the Andre The Giant Battle Royal return this year after taking a hiatus from the match last year due to the pandemic. I doubt that the match will return this year which means the company will likely need another way to bring a variety of talent onto the Wrestlemania card. I think a lumberjack match would be the best cover for the company to get a variety of talent on the show without having to deal with the battle royal backlash during a pandemic. I would give Mustafa Ali and T-Bar the lumberjack match, because they spend how long building the arrival of Retribution to let the group go down with a whimper. A lumberjack match would be a great way to give both guys an opportunity to really showcase something for the group that was never given a chance to succeed. Again instead of predicting Wrestlemania this year I will be putting together my own two day Wrestlemania event and giving an explanation to why the match belongs on the card.
If Braun wins he will get a WWE Title Shot:
Braun Strowman vs Shane McMahon
WWE Championship Match:
(c) Bobby Lashley w/ MVP vs Drew McIntyre
T-Bar vs Mustafa Ali
A lost art of wrestling is the wrestler that fills the role of the Tag Team specialist aka the wrestler who clicks better as the member of a team as oppose to a singles star. Back in the day names like Ricky Morton, Stevie Ray, Robert Gibson, Road Warriors, and others would be considered the tag team specialists. In WWE though it is almost a negative thing to be looked at as a tag team specialist, because Vince doesn't care for or value the tag team division and hasn't for almost two decades. Names like Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, The Uso's, Kofi Kingston are the more modern names I would consider tag team specialists. Recently, one half of the Forgotten Sons Steve Cutler was surprisingly released by WWE leaving his partner Wesley Blake alone.
Flash back to last year Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler were put in the doghouse when Jaxson Ryker made unsavory comments on social media and was suspended. Near the end of last year and into this year Blake and Cutler were paired with Baron Corbin for a short time feuding with the Mysterio's. Before he was called to the main roster with Steve Cutler he had teamed with Murphy as one of the top tag teams in the early days of the black and gold brand. Either way though he has been able to form to successful tag teams, but never really given the chance to be the best. Murphy and Wesley were a success, but got broken up before they could keep going and click as a tag team like Gargano & Ciampa or The Revival.
Now though with both Blake and Murphy on Smackdown they could try and test the interest in seeing the former team getting back together. At this point moving Murphy away from the Mysterio's wouldn't be the worst idea and keeping him away from Rollins would allow him to do something totally different. Also I think that Blake is talented enough that if they paired him with someone else it could work if they are given the opportunity, and I would give Riddick Moss that spot. Riddick much like Blake he was never given the opportunity to really get his feet under him before the rug was pulled out from under him.
Riddick spent 40+ days as 24/7 champion and seemed like he was getting comfortable on the main roster before they would take the title off him to give it back to R-Truth. Moss never had the chance to really succeed as it seems like they just wanted a break from the same champion for a little and weren't really interested in giving him a real shot to succeed and be a fresh star. Even though Riddick is currently on Raw and Blake is on Smackdown, but I don't think anyone would notice if they switched brands. Blake is the modern tag team specialist and could be given that gimmick if they really wanted to invest in someone new.
Wrestlemania is coming up around the corner and the company seems to be playing up the importance of going to Wrestlemania, but that doesn't mean the build to the event is going well for every match. Shane McMahon vs Braun Strowman has been built up horribly as it is focused on Shane calling Braun stupid. Seriously! Instead of focusing on the idea that Braun was passed over for the Elimination Chamber and screwed out of a title opportunity for no good reason other than technically being Universal Champion and not a former WWE Champion.
In my opinion, that is a better reason for a rivalry to come together between Braun & Shane then just because Shane McMahon is calling him stupid. On Raw this week, he goes over Braun poor academic history again seriously! Shane has been included in a number of hit or miss stories in his career especially since his return, but this one does WWE really struggle this much to come up with something decent for Braun Strowman. Does WWE really doubt the ability of a McMahon to get someone to hate him and feel sympathy for his opponent this much that they have to result to grade school name calling. Really? This rivalry is a waste of television time and Braun Strowman could be doing so much better, but I don't think that WWE believes that as much as I do.
Last time I checked the old McMahon that couldn't speak isn't in the company anymore so I'm not sure why they aren't allowing Shane use his ability to get proper heat. Shane has always had the ability to make people hate him and actually was a top heel on Smackdown a few years ago based on his ability to annoy the audience. His feud with Kevin Owens might've gotten old near the end, but it was one of the main reasons Kevin became a fixture of Smackdown. In my opinion, a short feud with Strowman could've helped him like Shane helped Owens find stable ground on the roster.
This rivalry isn't bad it is the concept that Shane is calling Braun names instead of well something less grade school. For example, showing how important an opportunity at the WWE Championship is it would make a lot of sense if Braun was angry about being passed over for a title shot for no reason, but WWE only looks at titles as props instead of something that is suppose to mean something. Instead of predicting Wrestlemania this year I will piece together my two day card for the event giving explanations for every match on the card with the stipulation that I believe the match should have.
Wrestlemania Night One:
If Braun wins he will get a WWE Championship shot
Shane McMahon vs Braun Strowman
The tension came from nowhere and the shocking turn that came on Vengeance Day when Adam Cole attacked his former friend Kyle O' Reilly and Finn Balor. The level of intensity rose from week to week Cole has shown two different personalities, but now it seems like Cole has found a new side of his personality. Kyle has been given the chance to really develop his character which is something that he really hasn't had the chance to do since the group debuted in NXT four years ago. It is unclear at this point how the other members of Undisputed Era will fit into the conflict, but it seems like Roddy will be letting his former friends settle their beef alone.
Cole kick started everything when he jumped Kyle and hit him with a brain buster on the steps which forced Kyle to be stretchered out of the arena. This beatdown lead to intensity jumping forward and getting to the point where Adam Cole arrived at a training gym that Kyle was at leading to a public fight that was broken up by onlookers and police officers were brought to the site to settle the issues. This lead William Regal to figure a way to shed any responsibility for NXT which has brought the unsanctioned gimmick match type to the forefront and it is normally unspoken ground for WWE.
Ciampa vs Gargano was the feud of the year in 2018 and one of the most intense rivalries we've seen in WWE for an extremely long time. Now Cole and O' Reilly are the focus of what will be an intense never ending rivalry between former friends who were like brothers. The main difference between this feud and Gargano vs Ciampa is that Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish can be dropped in the feud in the near future to add a new layer to the rivalry. In my opinion, this feud could continue for a year or two and based on how Ciampa vs Gargano ended they will want to end this on clear terms as opposed to forcing a proper finish to what could go down as the most heated rivalry in NXT history. Check out how NXT ended this week if you don't believe that this could be a very special rivalry.
At this point, Aleister Black has been absent from WWE programming since he was drafted to Smackdown last October. As of this writing it seems like Black has been healing up from injuries he had sustained and just getting 100%, but there is no indication of when the former NXT Champion will return. Right now with WWE on the "Road to Wrestlemania" it's clear that Black will not reappear until after the show of shows, but when after Mania. Countless times I have questioned WWE on their lack on long term planning and direction this is one of those times. Black showed in NXT he can be a draw if given the opportunity to take the lead, but he was never given the "ball" on the main roster.
I know some might think that just because he was a draw on the lesser stage doesn't mean he can be a draw on the big stage. Well to that I say he never showed he couldn't draw it's that he was never given a rivalry with someone to really get people excited like he was given a number of times in NXT. Part of me wanted to write this and either come up with a long overarching story for Black like I did with Andrade or just say WWE should let him go, but there is another way to fix things.
Send the former NXT World Champion back home to NXT just as an experiment to get him hot again and let fans see him at his best again, because that wont happen on the main roster. Also sending him to NXT would allow him to feud with Finn Balor, Karrion Kross, Adam Cole, Dexter Lumis, and other stars that weren't on the roster when he was down there the first time around. Look at how much going to NXT has helped right Finn Balor now Finn is one of the hottest stars in the company. I know that sending another main roster star to NXT would take a spot from someone already down there, but they seem to be really well versed at cycling talent around to not overuse certain stars on weekly television. Black going down to NXT is the best decision for everyone especially if you have him earn his spot back on the roster since new stars have appeared since he was last on the black and gold brand.
Last year due to the ongoing pandemic we were unable to celebrate the past like we do every year as WWE had to cancel the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Fear not though as the company announced recently that the Class of 2020 will join the Class of 2021 as both will join the Hall of Fame together this year. At this point it seem like they will pre-tape the event which might benefit them in the long run as it is more important for fans to be at Wrestlemania rather then both the Hall of Fame and Wrestlemania.
So far this year we have Molly Holly and Eric Bischoff joining the WWE Hall of Fame. I was surprised by Molly Holly as much like during her career she was an underrated induction. Molly was someone who carried the division and was one of the only serious competitors in a time when the women's division wasn't really taken seriously. Bischoff was more unexpected, because of how often he's appeared for AEW and just the question of how well his relationship was with WWE. There is no doubt that Eric Bischoff belongs in the Hall of Fame and a lot of people were alarmed by him not going in with the New World Order, but now we know why he didn't join them. Bischoff belongs in the Hall of Fame based on his own achievements and not just the achievement of the New World Order.
Speaking on the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 there is one name that sticks out and it's the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. Finally Davey will be able to join the hallowed halls of the WWE Hall of Fame as he is one of those names that has deserved an induction for many years, but it just never came. Alongside Davey Boy, the class will include the New World Order, Batista, JBL, Jushin "Thunder" Liger, and The Bella Twins. It will be awesome to give these legends the opportunity to shine in the spotlight one more time again the night before Wrestlemania on April 6 on Peacock.
Apparently, Andrade requested his release from WWE which came from nowhere. Even though at this point, it seemed more likely that requesting a release was his only option after disappearing from television back in October. I know that I recently put together a series with Andrade and how I'd bring him back to television and pull him up the card. Unfortunately, I'm not apart of the booking team in WWE otherwise the situation would be very different. Prior to his stay in NXT, Andrade aka La Sombra was a top star in CMLL and actually had a part in the development of Los Ingobernables.
In the last year, Andrade is the second longest reigning WWE United States Champion with a 150 day reign as champion ending in May 2020 on an episode of Raw. It is unquestionable that Andrade could've been a top heel or baby face on the roster and could've helped the roster if given the opportunity. Once he won the NXT World Title and was given the ball he didn't disappointed and stepped up to help carry the brand for a time before he was promoted.
Andrade's request for a release was denied for obvious reasons mainly I would guess due to his relationship with Charlotte. This is not to say that Andrade doesn't have value on his own or that he wouldn't be able to become a star as it's the complete opposite. If Andrade walked away from WWE and moved onto AEW, Impact, ROH or even went back home to CMLL then he would be able to make a immediate impact in the new stomping ground. However, Charlotte is engaged to Andrade and even though his job should be safe and a return should be in the cards following Wrestlemania. Think about this if he has been gone since October with no plans in the cards for him to reappear why would things suddenly change other then him being here to keep Charlotte happy. Andrade has put in the work and earned his spot, but for whatever reason he's not been welcomed back to television and there is no indication when or if he will return.
In recent months we have seen the much deserved ascension of Kyle O' Riley who tore down the house with World Champion Finn Balor. At NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day we saw Pete Dunne step up against Finn Balor, but the leader of black and gold held onto the gold. Following the match and a save from Undisputed Era after Pete's stablemates ran in to attack Finn we saw a shock moment nobody expected when Adam Cole hit two superkicks heard round the world. After sending the heels away Cole would turn toward World Champion Balor and hit the first superkick then toward an angry Kyle and hit a second superkick on his longtime friend.
Since their debut in 2017 when they jumped Drew McIntyre and made an immediate impact in NXT it was clear they would be superstars. The trio would add Roderick Strong to the faction at NXT Takeover: New Orleans after Roddy turned on his partner Pete Dunne (ironic). Adam would become the longest reigning World Champion on the brand, Kyle and Bobby would maintain their position as the top team on the brand. Roddy would hold the back half with the North American title and fill in for Bobby Fish every now and again teaming with Kyle. The Undisputed Era had been the top heels in NXT until last year when Pat Mcafee made his debut on the brand setting up a rivalry with Adam Cole and a turn to the good side for the first time.
However, it was short lived as we move back to modern time when Adam jumped Kyle again the following week on NXT and ended up getting Kyle stretchered off after a brain buster on the ring steps. The intensity of this feud will not go away anytime soon and there will no doubt be a point when sides are chosen between the other members including Roddy and Bobby Fish it is clear they both will likely pick Kyle's side unless they want to keep sides equal for some time. Roddy could also remain as peacekeeper to try and keep his friends together until the time comes where it's clear he can't do it anymore. Think about this last year we saw the end of Johnny Gargano vs Tomasso Ciampa and now a year later we have a new blood feud to sink our teeth into as intense feuds are always a strong suit for NXT.
Picking up where we left off Andrade starts Raw the following week making it clear that the masked man last week was wearing an La Sombra mask from his personal collection, but it wasn't me last week. Styles and Keith Lee appear interrupting Andrade. Styles doesn't care about excuses and Lee wants to help Andrade knock off some ring rust. Phillips asks question to his partners in the booth if Garza likely fits into this situation at all. Garza is approached by Adam Pearce questioning him about last week and Garza makes clear he doesn't know what Adam is talking about. It is announced that Miz TV which will feature Andrade who can clear up any misconceptions and speak of his layoff after the attack from The Fiend last year.
Triple Threat match is announced with Andrade vs AJ Styles vs Keith Lee winner fights Angel Garza at Fast Lane. Angel continues to win on Raw defeating Kalisto, Drew Gulak, Bo Dallas and other wrestlers that don't have much going on. Andrade gets the win finally getting his opportunity to get some revenge on his former partner. With the match official Miz has something else to ask Andrade on Miz TV what it means to finally get his hands on Garza. Andrade takes the one piece that built Angel's confidence and tears it away saying it was The Fiend that took out Andrade and not Angel Garza. An angry Garza appears keeping his distance, he says I had the option to help and I chose to let you suffer so you might not want to admit it, but we all know the truth I am the reason you were taken out cause I could've stopped him.
In the end, Andrade calls Angel a coward that if he wanted Andrade out of the way why didn't he do it instead of letting The Fiend as he said he did. Garza angry again will not allow Andrade to get under his skin and will wait for Fast Lane. At Fast Lane the match starts with Angel keeping his distance, and visibly getting frustrated with every counter Andrade puts out. Finally Garza walks out of the match getting counted out very early in the match without much solved. Styles calls out Garza for not fighting to which Garza claims that Styles is only running his mouth cause Omos is beside him. The temperature is rising between Styles & Garza, but not boiling just yet. Styles and Garza shift there bickering to a common enemy when Andrade appears calling Styles delusional and again Garza a coward. Andrade & Humberto Carrillo vs Styles & Garza announced as the headline of Raw with Styles & Garza winning Garza getting a tainted win on Andrade. Styles and Garza end Raw celebrating clearly sweeping the cracks away for now but they are showing more now then they were before.
Garza interrupts matchmaker Adam Pearce who is speaking about Wrestlemania and needing to make this year special with matches that grab the fans attention. Garza wants to be in the title picture now that he has a victory over Andrade. Pearce tells Garza he will think about it much to Garza's disappointment, but a six man tag is announced Garza, Benjamin and Alexander vs Riddle, and New Day. The good guys get the win and the following week Garza has another sit down interview and this time walks out of the interview when Tom mentions the way he defeated Andrade claiming it wasn't exactly a win without question marks. Andrade is against a local star on this night and the masked man from a few weeks ago reappears to jump Andrade and attempts to drop him with the hammerlock DDT but a returning R-Truth makes the save. In a scuffle with Truth it's reveled that the masked man is Angel Garza dressed as La Sombra.
The following week Garza meets Truth in a rematch with Garza paying more attention to Andrade on commentary then Truth which results in a distracted Garza barely being able to defeat Truth. Garza goes from cloud nine to disappointed when Pearce appears to announce his decision that Garza will fight Andrade at Wrestlemania in a lumberjack match where the lumberjacks have straps. A confrontation ends the segment with the WWE title taking the lead on this night. Andrade talks about missing the time on the road and allowing his time away to change his opinion of the fans and his perspective on being in the WWE. Garza's side is "The night that you were taken out Andrade the spotlight shifted from you to me and with the light on bright I succeed which is more then you can say. You had your chance to become a star and you blew it Andrade, Wrestlemania will be my chance to prove your a thing of the past."
Angel makes it clear on social media he is above competing in such a barbaric match like the strap match, because he doesn't trust his fellow wrestlers. Adam Pearce responds to him with a demand that if Garza ducks Andrade at Mania he will not have another to have his moment at Wrestlemania. The last seven months of build have been building to here and now Garza is face to face with Andrade and names like Tucker, R-Truth, Riddick Moss, Bo Dallas, Drew Gulak, Keith Lee and others are among the lumberjacks. Andrade wins finally getting his vengeance on his former partner who took credit for taking him out.
In the end Andrade gets a big victory at Wrestlemania against someone who took credit for getting him off television for months. Andrade has unfinished business with AJ Styles, Keith Lee, and can now move forward. As for Garza he has unfinished business with AJ Styles which has been slowly building for the last few months and Garza has unfinished business with Drew McIntyre. Garza will claim that McIntyre got him out in the chamber through a fluke and never would've had a chance. Andrade will find his way to title picture near the end of the year with Randy Orton helping bring Andrade forward like Styles did earlier in the year. The veterans should not job to the new generation, but should help bring the fresh faces up the card to help them get attention and fans interested.
As Royal Rumble approaches and we see the vignette again of the tropical island. The following week the vignette airs again but the feed cuts to show and old mask. On this week Garza sits down with Tom Phillips as a way to try and get him more comfortable with speaking. Garza seems a little uncomfortable with promos so the only way to get him more comfortable we sit him down to explore his past to dig deeper in his character. Garza enters the Rumble officially teams with Tucker against Keith Lee and Riddle. Garza walks out of the match leaving a confused Tucker to take the fall and Keith angry about losing out on getting his hands on Garza again.
Tucker calls out Angel Garza as a coward and challenges him to a match on Raw. Garza easily sends Tucker away and attempts to hammerlock DDT Tucker but the vignette airs distracting him. After the vignette airs Keith Lee makes the save finally getting his hands on Garza after weeks of missing him. Keith Lee hits a spirit bomb on Garza in the ring finally having something bad happen to him. At the Rumble Garza spent most of the match at ringside until Keith Lee enters who stalks Garza into the ring. Garza slimes his way over to Lee who is dumped to the floor with the help of Carlito who had just entered the ring.
Lee is clearly angry but is pulled away from the ring, later in the match the buzzer hits and nobody comes out at first then the vignette airs and the camera feed is cut to the night The Fiend attacked Andrade and Zelina. Finally, Andrade's theme song appears and he has returned much to the disappointment of Angel who tries to hide in the see of humanity in the ring accidently getting himself eliminated in the process by Edge. Andrade doesn't take his eyes off him before getting in the ring as Angel leaves through the crowd. The following night both Keith Lee and Andrade want a piece of Angel Garza, but instead get the returning Carlito who says he's sees a lot of himself in Garza and respect him being smart wanting for the right chance.
Carlito and Keith Lee meet in the ring with Keith getting the victory as Andrade is on commentary and this leads them to question if Garza didn't show up due to Andrade's presence at ringside. Following week Elimination Chamber qualifiers begin with Keith Lee vs Angel Garza and AJ Styles vs Andrade as two of the qualifying matches. Styles wins his match via DQ after Garza runs in and attacks Styles from out of nowhere but it seems like it was all apart of a plan. Later in the night Garza wins against Keith Lee thanks to Omos getting involved in the match. The following week it becomes clear that Styles & Garza made a deal with each other that Garza wanted help, but would only get it if he helped Styles. Six man tag match announced Carlito, Styles, and Garza vs Keith Lee, Andrade, and Jeff Hardy with the good guys getting the win after the heels couldn't co exist with each other and Styles leaving the team this time.
Styles would be confronted by an angry Garza the following week before Elimination Chamber and Styles made it clear his eyes are the wrong prize and should be focused on Drew McIntyre. At the Chamber Garza puts in a good effort, but is eliminated not before screwing AJ Styles though lasting longer in the math after turning on Styles further planting seeds. Bragging about getting Styles out is what makes Garza eat a claymore kick for elimination. Keith Lee wants a rematch against Garza, but has a face off with Omos with AJ wanting a revenge and Andrade making himself known as well but let's Lee and Styles talk. Setting up a rematch between Lee and Styles winner gets a match against Garza. A masked man appears during the match causing a no contest he was wearing a mask like Andrade use to wear at one point.
I know that this story seems a bit more drawn out but I'm using Styles to help bring everyone up and planting seeds everywhere so we have various options to hit down the road. Plus Styles isn't occupied at this moment and can remain a heel while helping establish Keith, Andrade and Garza as more reliable faces on programming. At this point we just have to hit Fast Lane and then Wrestlemania is the next step on this never ending road. Which we will be finally reaching the next time around!
Sharing my thoughts, opinion, and historical facts on everything WWE both past and present