With a little over a week to go and 12 matches announced for “The Ultimate Thrill Ride”, it’s fair to say that the die-hard WWE fan base isn’t overly pleased with the card for WrestleMania 33.
With two World Title matches looking underwhelming on paper, a divisive Undertaker contest, several potential clusters seemingly designed to get as many people as possible on the card and at least two or three matches destined for pre-show anonymity, it’s a card that doesn’t inspire a ton of good will. That being said, there is still hope yet that WWE can deliver a surprisingly entertaining show on the biggest night of the year. It’s not going to be a night with a Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels wrestling classic or a Daniel Bryan emotional victory celebration but, with a little bit of planning and a perfect storm of chaos, WrestleMania might just be good yet – and here’s some suggestions as to how it can be done.
Aside from potentially adding Braun Strowman to the existing Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns match, the ship has now sailed on adjusting much of the card itself – it’s now down to the matches to deliver bell to bell. As noted above, the chance of a night of wrestling classics is slim to none. The simple way around this would be for the WWE creative team to use as much smoke and mirrors as they can to ensure that as much as possible still delivers. Undertaker vs. Reigns has already been looked at in an earlier column so the best place to start is the equally divisive AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon.
It’s a match that seems like a consolation prize for Styles after unquestionably the best debut year in terms of match quality in WWE history; however it still has a strong chance to work – if overbooked into madness. Whether the fans agree or not, WWE genuinely considers going up against a McMahon a great honour and major McMahon matches do tend to deliver, Shane’s in particular. This is a rivalry that got very personal very quickly and would benefit greatly from a stipulation. With AJ leaving Shane leaving covered in his own blood last week before Shane laid out AJ this week with a diving elbow drop through the announce table, this one has gimmick written all over it. There has never been a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania and this would be the perfect opportunity. It’s a fact that Shane McMahon matches need to be crazy to work and this would give the match the best opportunity. The best non-wrestler in WWE history would be working with the best wrestler in the world and the two could go all out to turn a match that few fans are looking forward to into an unforgettable affair.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse has been spectacularly built on the mic, promo segments and Talking Smack, but it doesn’t seem a WrestleMania-level match and certainly not one that will be an in-ring classic. With that in mind, it needs to feature over the top entrances, be fast-paced in between the ropes, feature Nikki clocking Miz with a forearm and be over before anyone grows tired of it. Post-match, a John Cena proposal also wouldn’t go amiss and, with Miz and Maryse’s “Total Bellas” segments on Smackdown Live this week hinting at it, could actually happen. Whilst being a largely self-congratulatory gesture from the obviously real-life couple, it would be an excellent sight if only for the thought of 70,000 people chanting “NO!” at the top of their lungs. It would probably be too much for Nikki to say no, low blow Cena and disappear off with Dolph Ziggler but hey, anything is possible.
Moving on to a match that hasn’t been announced yet but will surely be made official on Raw this coming Monday – Seth Rollins vs. Triple H in a Non-Sanctioned Match. As the title suggests, this one will already have a gimmick, but it’s what they do with it that will be important. Sure, both men can use the plunder like AJ and Shane but with this contest, multiple run-ins would help it to succeed.
With Samoa Joe currently unoccupied for Mania, interference from the recent NXT call up would be natural. With he and Triple H destroying Rollins, this would also prove to be the perfect chance to reintroduce Finn Balor. We know he’s fit after working multiple house shows and appearing at an NXT taping so, whilst a return on the post-Mania Raw would be great, it would be a sensational WrestleMania moment for the lights to go out and The Demon to rise. This match could quickly descend into ECW-like chaos before Rollins picked up a roll-up win, protecting all involved and setting the table for further feuds. WWE continually talks about how such moments are what makes WrestleMania and for that reason, Finn Balor must appear on April 2nd.
The match that could be the main event of the whole evening, the Universal Championship match pitting champion Goldberg against challenger Brock Lesnar, may need smoke and mirrors more than just about anything else on the card. It surely can’t be over as quickly as their Survivor Series or Royal Rumble encounters, but it also can’t go long without running the risk of another WrestleMania XX disaster. If it doesn’t headline the show then Lesnar returning Goldberg’s destruction in kind with a couple of F5s and a quick win could happen.
However, a 2-minute match simply cannot close a WrestleMania. With that in mind, there must be stalling to start, Heyman will have to work wonders and this one will need to go into signature and finishing moves early when the fists do start flying. While it may be too soon after Rollins’ WrestleMania 31 cash in, it’s a shame that there’s no Money in the Bank to be cashed in to really end this one on a shocker. That being said, post-match after a Lesnar win would also be a good place to bring back Balor if it wasn’t done earlier in the night. The man never truly lost the belt so The Demon interrupting a Lesnar victory celebration would be a brilliant sight. This outdoor Mania would certainly be in darkness by this point so, if he hasn’t returned to help out Seth Rollins, Finn Balor would be a welcome sight to close the show and set up his first feud back on Monday Night Raw.
Other matches on the card such as Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho and Neville vs. Austin Aries can provide a counterpoint to the above plunder, levelling the playing field and ensuring the entire show doesn’t descend into overkill. The Battle Royal could have some fun surprises, the Smackdown Women’s Championship match participants seem to have been left deliberately vague (perhaps to allow for an Asuka debut) and Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship has campy shenanigans written all over it. Pace all of this out with a couple of New Day segments, the Hall of Fame and perhaps another segment from The Rock or another surprise return and the chaos won’t all bleed together into one uninspiring mess.
Some WrestleMania shows are great because of excellent in-ring work, like Mania XIX. Some rely on gimmick matches to succeed, like Mania 22. The greatest of them all, WrestleMania X-Seven, was a perfect balance of the two. WrestleMania 33 probably won’t be as good as any of those shows, and in all honesty it still has the chance to disappoint completely, but with the right blend of chaos, crazy bumps, gimmick matches, a return or a debut or two, smoke and mirrors aplenty and a little bit of magic in the air, there might just be hope yet on Sunday April 2nd.