Heading into Wrestlemania I predicted that we would see John Cena and The Undertaker get taken out by the debuting Lars Sullivan. Though we didn't see that happen we would instead see The Undertaker make his return the night after Wrestlemania interrupting Elias. Speaking of the night after Wrestlemania the emotional farewell of Kurt Angle it was interrupted by the debuting Lars Sullivan who beat down the legend. Now most of us know what has kept Lars on the shelf and speaking as someone who has had similar issues I am very happy to see he got help and is back on track.
At this point 100% I am glad that the company has still decided to give ball with such an impact-full debut. Lars showed a lot of potential while he was in NXT and even though he never won any gold in development he was still one of the more accomplished recent graduates of the territory cause he didn't need a title to get over. With his debut in mind it is clear that the company is going to attach a rocket to him and see what happens. I for one am excited to see where his push goes, because in my book Lars has earned his opportunity to be given a chance to reach the top of the mountain.
Women's Battle Royal: winner Ruby Riot
After basically being booked to be cannon fodder for those in the Main Event tonight giving the leader of the Riot Squad a win tonight would at least give her something back for doing so many jobs.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship:
(c) Buddy Murphy vs Tony Nese
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal: won by Braun Strowman
Any doubt on this one?
Raw Tag Team Championship:
(c) The Revival vs Hawkins & Ryder
I know this one hasn't been announced for the pre-show, but I'd be shocked if it wasn't on the pre-show and was actually on the main card tonight. The only reason being that it was only announced a few days ago.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship:
(c) The Uso's vs The Bar vs Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Aleister Black & Ricochet
Much like the other tag team match on the card very little build has gone into this match and therefore I'm not sure if they will give this match as much time as they should. Considering eight people are in this match it should be given enough time to make it not seem rushed or like they just gave them a match for the sake of it. Even though The Uso's are good champions it would be nice to see a new team like Rusev & Nakamura or Black & Ricochet get the win. If I had to pick one I'd go with Black & Ricochet, because it seems to me someone really likes them as a tag team.
Falls Count Anywhere:
Shane McMahon vs The Miz
This feud has been one of the more interesting parts of Smackdown Live in recent months and one of the better parts of the show. One of the reasons this feud has been so interesting is because it feels like they have finally been able to get Miz over as a baby face which was something that never seemed possible. If you look back in time at Miz's last run as a good guy it was clear he was a lot more comfortable as a bad guy then a good guy. Though I am not surprise to see Shane having a Mania match I would be surprised to see Miz come up short.
Women's Tag Team Championship Match:
(c) Sasha Banks & Bayley vs The IIconics vs Nia Jax & Tamina vs Beth Pheonix & Natalya
Unlike their male counterparts this match has really gotten around a two months of build up and I am happy it has, because the titles are only two months old. I am going to keep this short and say that I really don't think that Bayley & Banks will drop the titles and therefore they will get he win.
Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre
Even though we are talking about WWE I still want to believe that this match could either way and putting Roman's past aside as the company should I think that this match should be a building block for the rest of the year. As I believe the winner of this match will be challenging the Universal Champion at Summerslam. I want to go with Drew, but Roman will get his feel good win tonight.
Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin
I was one of many people that were shocked and almost dumbfounded that they chose Corbin to fight Angle in his last match, and I am not going to lie part of me was happy. However, I am going right along with everyone in saying that I'd rather it have been John Cena against Angle tonight instead of Corbin and even though that is still possible they should've announced it from the start. Cena's first match on the main roster was with Angle and it would've been a nice end for Angle fighting Cena one last time. With that being said I don't think either of them win as I do believe Cena takes Corbin's spot and will defeat Kurt in his final match.
WWE United States Championship Match:
(c) Samoa Joe vs Rey Mysterio
One of the more random matches on the show, but still exciting at the same time due to the amount of talent and skill both men have. It is hard to believe how different Rey looks now as opposed to how he looked at the end of his first run with the company a few years ago it seems like he found another gear. I also love the fact that the company has finally entrusted Joe with a championship belt after butchering his feud with Styles last year. In my opinion, Joe should continue maintaining a strangle hold over the US Title for the foreseeable future.
No Holds Barred: Triple H's career on the line
Triple H vs Batista
On paper some fans might look at this match as WWE being WWE and just depending on the veterans again instead of giving the spotlight to the younger talent. However, saying that would be doing a disservice to how well this feud was built up in the last couple of months. The company may have missed the boat on the build for a lot of these matches but this one isn't one of them and I am pleasantly surprised by how well they have put together this feud. This has been some of Dave's best work in many many years and if he was like the last time he was here people would've actually missed him when he left. Either way though I don't think anyone expects Dave to win tonight and that means Triple H gets a Wrestlemania win for the first time in many years.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
(c) Bobby Lashley w/ Lio Rush vs Finn Balor
interestingly enough this will be Lashley first Wrestlemania since he returned to the company last year and who would've thought he'd be champion. The one thing that puzzles me about this match is that these two have been feuding since around January yet this match doesn't have any added stipulations to make the biggest match of their feud seem different or more important than any of the others. I think the company might be leaning too much on the "Demon's" involvement and should've given this match a gimmick of some kind. But knowing the "Demon" will be appearing tonight makes it extremely unlikely that Finn will lose tonight which means we will have a new IC Champion.
Randy Orton vs AJ Styles
One way I have grown accustomed to describing this match is that it is the dream match you didn't realize you wanted to see until it was actually announced. Since his arrival three years ago the company has struggled to book AJ outside of the title picture, but with this feud it seems like they finally found a way to do that. Orton on the other side has been doing some his best work in years partially because the company let him return being a heel or at least a tweener instead of the cookie cutter guy he was before. Either way though this match will shape the rest of the year for the blue brand much like Reigns & McIntyre will on Raw. Thinking about it I could see Miz joining into the feud as a way to keep AJ out of the World title picture a bit longer. I think that Randy winning is needed as a way to keep the feud going and also keep Styles away from the WWE Championship for few more months.
WWE Universal Championship Match:
(c) Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins
I chose to talk about this one first because I thought it'd be easier to pick a winner then the WWE Championship. Fact is at this point Brock is running out of opponents and either needs to take an extended leave of absence to allow the company to build him some new challengers or this will be the end of his run with the company and he will go back to UFC. Either way though I do think that company can let Brock leave Jersey with the title without have a ton of backlash from it. Even though they might do it as way to keep fans attention away from Corbin defeating Angle, but they shouldn't use the world title as prop to distract the fans. I am going with what I have been saying since January and that is Seth Rollins will finally become Universal Champion and be the one that ends Brock's reign of terror as champion.
WWE Championship Match:
(c) Daniel Bryan w/ Rowan vs Kofi Kingston w/ New Day
If you would've told me a year ago that Kofi Kingston would be challenging for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania against Daniel Bryan I would've called you insane. There was a time when nobody thought Daniel would've been in the ring again let alone become WWE Champion again, but he did it. Nobody thought that Kofi would have received anything close to the push he has received in the last few months and weather or not this all happened because Mustafa Ali got hurt is beside the point, because Kofi is white hot at this point and time. In my opinion, Kofi, Rollins, and Becky have all had similar paths to the title and letting them all win would be overkill. That is one of the reasons why I just don't think that Kofi will get the win tonight and the other is they don't want to take the belt off Daniel just yet. Do I think Kofi deserves the win? Absolutely, but I also think Daniel should keep the gold and so I will go with Daniel getting the win tonight.
Winner Take All: Raw Women's Championship Match:
(c) Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch
Honestly this is going be a sight I never thought I'd see, because I was many people that never thought the Women would main event a PPV let alone a Wrestlemania. I mentioned this in my video with Sam that I have high hopes for this match, because they've had this type of opportunity. There is no doubt that the company has invested a deserving amount of time energy and patience in booking this match to be one of the most anticipated in recent memory. However, the only way the booking of Asuka and introduction of the Smackdown Women's title makes sense is if they introduce one title after the match it should be unification match. This is one criticism I have of this match other than that it has been amazingly built up. I don't think anyone else should win this match other than Becky because it the moment that everyone wants to see.
Right now I know that most fans would look to the final build to the WWE Championship match between Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan. However, I will go on record saying that I just don't think there is as much to this match as some might think there is for one reason or another. Honestly I believe that there is no doubt that Kofi will come up short on Sunday against Bryan just based around the company not really wanting to take the title off Daniel at this time partially due to Becky & Seth likely winning their matches, and the other around Bryan still being the hottest heel in the company.
Going back a few weeks this is the reason that I believe that they shouldn't have put off announcing the match for too long as I'd be surprised to see Bryan lose. I would be happy to be wrong, but I just think seeing so many comparable baby faces win it could takeaway from the other "feel good" moments. This is the reason that I want to focus on the segment between AJ Styles and Randy Orton on the Kevin Owens Show. In my opinion, this has been an underrated build to what is one of those matches that nobody really knew they wanted until it was announced. Hearing AJ being so blunt in mentioning Randy's past was something that really amp up the tension and really added something to this feud which is the point of such lines. Overall I think Smackdown Live's final episode was 100x's better then Raw this week, but that just might be that Raw's bar has been super low in recent and Smackdown's just keeps going up.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the ending of the brand split especially with the impending move of Smackdown to Fox. However, even with the Women's Title seemingly becoming one after Wrestlemania I don't think this points us in that direction. In my opinion, the company hasn't done well with two Women's titles and should've only had one title from the start as it would've made the title seem more special. Also having one Women's title would give more meaning to the Tag Team titles now being active in the Women's division as well.
Even though I did bash the company for choosing to take the title off Asuka last Tuesday and give it to Charlotte and I stand by that it is clearer now that maybe they did that to unify the titles. Now if the winner of the match turns out to not only hold both titles, but have to defend them on separate brands. At this point the "Winner Take All" match the company should then redo the title and make one title for the Women that goes between both brands.
I do know that it would be different, because the company has two different titles for the men. If you think about it though at this point the tag team champions can go between brands. Though some believe that the match may only end up being for the Raw Women's Championship instead of both, but having both titles on the line would allow us to make a bit more sense of the booking of Asuka. Either way though at this point we have to wait and see what happens in less than a week at Wrestlemania.
Normally this would be tough to pick and even though I could be positive and focus on Kofi finally officially being declared the #1 contender against Daniel Bryan. We shift focus to Charlotte & Asuka's match from this week's episode of Smackdown as it was a title match. Even though I can understand the logic of not wanting to spend more time to build another title match with such a short time between now and the big event. However, I do think there was a better way to go about it then having Charlotte get the title back especially considering the fact that she will be in the main event for the Raw Women's title.
In my opinion, if they didn't want to have to build a match for Asuka then they could've easily kept the title on her and had her compete in the Women's battle royal. The best part of her being in the battle royal would be that it could be used to create her first post Wrestlemania feud with someone eliminating her from the match. This does however prove that not only is the company struggling booking certain talents, but also the fact that it seems like they didn't have a long term plan going into this years event.
Though at this point it seems like the company will have a plan set in place for next years Mania following this years event which is something that should happen every year. Fact is long term booking does work and it helps make certain feud seem more organic or like they are meant to be happening and not forced. Looking at this years card it is clear that some of these matches seem like they are to thrown together which prevents fans in my opinion from getting excited about every match on the show. This doesn't always happen at Wrestlemania which is an issue, because most of the card is suppose to be worth watching and not something you feel like you can see on any of the normal programming. Either way though we are almost there and let's see what happens in the next couple of weeks.
Recently the booking of the Intercontinental title has done a lot better, but they have been struggling the last few months keeping things interesting and different. It seems like the company can't make up there minds with who should be champion similar to how they booked the United States title last year at this time. It is puzzling to me why they aren't allowing for a longer title reign then the continuous hot shotting of the title they have done.
It leads to start and stop pushes much like we have seen in the tag team division, but with extremely talented singles competitors. Finn, Lashley, and Lio Rush are extremely underrated members of the roster & deserve a bit more consistency in their booking. Lashley has not had any consistency since his return to the company even though his heel turn was a needed change other than bringing Lio Rush to Raw it hasn't done anything positive. Balor's booking is just as frustrating and even though it is seemingly likely that he could walk away with the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania that doesn't change the fact that this could've been better planned out then it has been. It is clear that the company has had issues with booking certain talent, but need to get a clearer picture due to the sudden formation of All Elite Wrestling. Though Balor likely wont leave anytime soon it would be very nice to see both Finn & Lashley receive a strong push following Wrestlemania.
Though this might surprise some fans because of how low he is on the list, but at number six I think it's a fair place for the "Phenomenal One." It is hard to believe that at this point AJ Styles has been a member of WWE for the last three years and nobody could've expected him to have the career he has had. At this point Styles is a two time WWE Champion and two time United States Champion; also Styles is one of only a handful of talent that has held the WWE, IWGP, TNA and NWA World Championships.
Since his arrival Styles has torn down the house with Chris Jericho, John Cena, Samoa Joe, Brock Lesnar, and various others. It is amazing to me that AJ as he has gotten older he hasn't lost a step and really in my opinion has only gotten better with age. For the last few months all we really have heard about AJ was a question if he will resign with the WWE. Now in most cases people would love to see AJ walk away from the company and head to All Elite, but clearly I think it is more likely that Styles will stay put and resign with the company.
With the sudden arrival of a heel Daniel Bryan we have seen AJ slide down from the main event and for the first time in a very long time Styles is out of the title picture. It has seemingly been difficult for the company to not book him in the title picture or book him well enough outside the picture. The real test now will come after his Wrestlemania feud with Randy Orton comes to a close where do they go next. In my opinion they need to find a way to keep him out of the WWE title picture for a little longer and maybe a move to Raw wouldn't be a bad idea. Comparing him to some of his co-workers and his former co-workers it isn't that AJ is bad it's just that a lot of other people have gotten better than him.
After another incredible performance by Kofi he got so close, but coming up short in the end. For a puzzling reason they chose to send Daniel Bryan out to fight his possible challenger. I mean I sort of understand giving away the match, because it's almost like Daniel's the if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. It does make sense in that case, but the only question in my opinion now is that considering we are 16 days away from Wrestlemania and Kofi isn't fighting Daniel then who is fighting him.
This is one of my problems with Wrestlemania this year as it feels like there is no sense of urgency to build the card. Now I know it's possible Kofi does fight Daniel, but I feel like at this point they would've been better off just booking the match at this point, because Kofi has the emotional support already and they could just strike while the iron is still hot.
The main problem I feel like is that the way the company booking the build up for the match is they might be painting themselves into a corner. I feel like if they let Kofi get the solid win and then ended this week's Smackdown with a face-off between Daniel, Kofi and Vince instead of the way they did then I think it would avoid the backlash of why book Kofi this way if he doesn't win. The one issue with the organic explosion of popularity for Kofi is that they have no time to really stretch out the build for the match. Let's just wait and see where things go from here.
Though there might be a simple replacement in the future but the build up to the announcement was torn down right after the revel. Now I don't have a lot of issues with Baron Corbin based on how incredibly hated he is at the moment, but I still don't understand the choice. If Angle and Corbin had been feuding heading into the event it would've made more sense, because it would have been looked at as the blow-off of their feud but to my knowledge Angle had been feuding with Drew McIntyre prior to Roman's return. This brings up the question as to why the company chose to make the announcement now with such little time to build a proper match or interest for the match at the event it is quite puzzling.
If it was me and I knew in advance that Angle was going to be ending his career at the "Showcase of Immortals" I would have had him make the announcement the night after Royal Rumble and then make the announcement for the match at either Elimination Chamber or Fast Lane instead of the way they did it. In my opinion the build for the match seems either like a last minute decision or just like something they weren't sure about, but then decided to pull the trigger.
I know that someone out there probably thinking that the only likely explanation is that they will replace Corbin with someone else this way they won't have to build up the match and that is possible. My only issue that is why bother doing that and not go the route of just letting the announcement pop the ratings and get fans excited for the one last meet up between two legends. I of course am talking about the John Cena choice for him to face Angle at the big event on April 7 as that is one of the few names I think would be a good choice as you would have no need to build the match as it would hype itself.
Overall I think this is one of the issues with this years Wrestlemania as the company is relying on a lot of unproven commodities to try and sell the show and not spending enough time building. I do believe that things will change following the show when those who have joined the creative team recently get the chance to build a new arch, but this was bad time for that to happen. In simple terms I am saying that my interest in the big event is at a low not because of the length, but due to the fact that it just doesn't seem the like company is giving the effort they normally do at this time to keep your interest.
This week's episode of Raw was a solid show I will admit and there were a few highlights or points that we can discuss. However, there is one moment from the show that absolutely fits this article series perfectly. Even though early on I thought that Ronda's promo was what I would be writing about due to my issues with her character change and constant acknowledgment of the entertainment aspects of wrestling. Either way though there is no doubt that Kurt Angle was and will always be the measuring stick for amateur wrestlers making the transition to wrestling.
As Angle mentioned during the promo it was 23 years ago that he won a gold medal with a broken freakin neck. Following his Olympic win in 1996 he would soon make the move to pro-wrestling signing with the WWE and the rest is history. Angle spent time in both the old Trax warehouse where the company use to train talent, time in Memphis and was actually trained by Dory Funk Jr. Angle is the only pro-wrestler ever to hold the WWE Championship, WWE's World Heavyweight Championship, TNA World Heavyweight Championship, WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. During his career the Hall of Famer has won the King of the Ring and King of the Mountain as well as earning the Triple Crown in both WWE and TNA.
Overall there is no doubt that Kurt Angle has had an incredible career within the 24 x 24 squared circle and deserves to go out the biggest stage the company has to offer. The only question there is now is who will be the final man to meet the "Olympic Gold Meadlist" in a WWE ring. Well we will find that out soon enough either way though thank you for everything Kurt, you deserve this one last ride.
Sharing my thoughts, opinion, and historical facts on everything WWE both past and present