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Written By: Mark Armstrong
With the biggest WWE show of the year less than 48 hours away, and the card set, I will provide my predictions for WrestleMania 31, in the order that I expect the matches to take place.
1. Tag Team Title Match
For the second year running, the Tag Team Title scrap is a four-way on the pre-show. The Usos have had the most success as a team, but winning the titles again with no obvious new opponents seems a bit pointless. Los Matadores hadn’t been on TV for months until a few weeks ago, and based on crowd reactions, The New Day are becoming the tag team division’s answer to John Cena in terms of provoking the undesired response, so I don’t see either of these teams winning. Which means a probable successful title defence for Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, which I would have endorsed had the other three teams had more momentum anyway.
Prediction: Cesaro and Tyson Kidd
2. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
That this is now on the pre-show has raised eyebrows, but that’s a debate for another time. Ryback, Kane and Big Show are the three who have most talked about winning this one, but none seem like obvious favourites … which makes me think someone else will win it. My prediction is a returning Sheamus to triumph, but not before more miscommunication between Kane and Show leading to their eliminations, and Damien Mizdow finally turning on The Miz and eliminating him to a huge reaction, with Miz later costing Damien the bout to set up their feud (Stardust could also run in and cause Goldust to lose to reignite their rivalry). I see it coming down to Sheamus and Ryback, and for Sheamus to win.
1. Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
This should be a great start to WM, with an abundance of talent and no doubt a plethora of stunts. The quality doesn’t require any debating; the result is a different matter. I do not see Bad News Barrett retaining the crown, which means a new titleholder. I doubt that R-Truth, Luke Harper or Stardust will win. Dolph Ziggler is a strong contender but, as he has held the title multiple times, a victory here won’t boost him that much. Which leaves Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan. Ambrose would benefit the most from a victory, especially since he hasn’t won on PPV since the demise of The Shield, but the title’s prestige would be elevated more if Bryan won, and it would partly satisfy those who wanted to see him in the main event, which is why I predict he will win.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan
2. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Given time, this should be another strong match. This has been anticipated for months, with The Viper aiming for revenge on “The Future” – but I expect Rollins to win here for three reasons. Firstly, he has looked weak since Orton returned at Fast Lane, and a defeat here would harm his standing as the next major star. Secondly, if Orton wins, the feud ends; there’s mileage in the rivalry, but it can only continue if Orton doesn’t exact full retribution here. Thirdly, it would elevate Rollins for the day when he cashes in Money In The Bank, possibly later on in this show. I predict Rollins winning with help from The Authority, and afterwards Orton destroys J&J Security, but not Rollins who gets away unharmed … just in case he is required again later.
Prediction: Seth Rollins
3. Divas Tag Team Match
Before the Andre bout was moved to the Kick-Off show, I had the Divas tag down to be the cool-down match before the Sting clash; with this change, I now think it goes on third. Tension between Paige and AJ Lee has been teased, while the Bella Twins have maintained a united front. I think the most likely outcome is a Bellas victory with Nikki Bella (the Divas Champ) pinning AJ (wife to the now-hated-within-WWE CM Punk), but if WWE is smart and books Charlotte to debut by rescuing Paige and AJ from a post-match Bellas beatdown, it would make the match more meaningful and set up an intriguing post-Mania feud.
Prediction: The Bella Twins
4. John Cena vs. Rusev
The United States Title match is a foregone conclusion. The feud has been expected since before Rusev debuted; the obvious outcome is that Cena, as the pro-America hero will vanquish Rusev, the evil anti-American menace and giving him his first official defeat, and bringing the U.S. Title back to America at the same time.
Or so you would think.
I think WWE may be planning a swerve here because, whilst Rusev did beat Cena by stoppage at Fast Lane, isn’t it too obvious that Cena will achieve redemption here? Granted, this would be normal procedure for Cena, but it isn’t 2007 any more when he would truly conquer his foes. It’s 2015 and not only is Cena not in the WrestleMania main event for the second year in a row, but we were told (a little harshly) on more than one occasion that Cena is not a young man anymore. After the shock that was Brock Lesnar ending The Streak at WrestleMania XXX, is it possible that in this match WWE will deliver another shock result: Rusev beating John Cena by submission?
Rusev has been built up over the last year for a reason: to be a monster. Having yet to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and having teased a confrontation with Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble, it would be daft for WWE to sacrifice a year of building the man up as an unstoppable force only to beat him on the final step before the main event.
Of course, Cena winning is the most likely outcome and has a number of possibilities. But Rusev being victorious is smarter, more shocking and if he can extract a submission win over the man with the mantra “Never Give Up”, it would be a WM moment for the ages, and set Rusev up as an unbeaten contender to the top crown. Cena could even face Rusev once more at Extreme Rules and win the U.S. Title there in a Flag match, thus keeping Rusev’s official undefeated record alive. So, whilst Cena winning is obvious, I am daring to go against the grain and suggesting that this year’s big Mania shock is Rusev getting a career-making submission win over Cena. Okay, so this probably won’t happen, but after the end of The Streak last year, you just never know …
5. The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
Which brings us to the man who went 21-1 at WM last year, The Undertaker. After that match, I thought for sure he was finished, or at least he would only return to try and beat the conquerer Brock Lesnar. So, ever since it was rumoured at the beginning of 2015, I couldn’t understand why he would fight Bray Wyatt. Taker is not in the best of shapes, by all accounts, and it would be damaging to see him struggle through a pointless Mania match. Even if he is ready to go, from a storyline point of view, has Wyatt really done enough to provoke the return of the Phenom? I see this as more of a chance for Wyatt to face a legend than a dream match between two dark characters.
Since it was officially announced, I accepted the match was happening and am at least intrigued that Undertaker will reappear this Sunday. The potential quality of the match is questionable given the uncertainty on Taker’s condition, but as the Andre match being moved to the Kick-Off was done to provide more time for other important bouts, I can’t see this one being a short match, so one has to assume that Taker will at least be capable of wrestling a long, grueling match. Whether it measures up to his previous Mania classics is debatable, but hopefully it will be a chance for the Dead Man to show that he still has something to offer after the disappointment of his showdown with Brock at Mania 30.
Then there’s the result. Personally, I think that Taker has to win. His legacy took a huge hit by losing last year, at a time when fans weren’t ready for The STreak to end; if he loses again here, it will be a slap in the face to the man behind the greatest character in WWE history. I do not see this being his last match, so if he is to wrestle at least one more time, I believe that he simply must win here. Some say that Wyatt should win because Taker only wrestles once a year and because he would suffer if he lost, but let’s face it: Wyatt will do just fine even if he does lose, unless he is crushed beyond belief. Wyatt winning against the part-time legend would work on almost every other icon, but not The Undertaker. Taker is someone whose mystique relies on his apparent invincibility, an aura weakened by the events of WM 30. No doubt, it would make Wyatt’s career if he does win, but if so, why didn’t WWE keep Taker unbeaten at Mania and then have him fall here to truly make Bray’s career? And, besides, how realistic would it be for Undertaker to win 21 WrestleMania matches in a row and then lose two consecutive WM bouts having once been unbeaten on the grand stage since 1991? That’s why Undertaker has to win for me. If he loses, it won’t be as much of a shock, but I firmly believe that fans would be a lot more disappointed this year than they were in 2014.
Prediction: The Undertaker
At this point, I see the Hall Of Fame inductees taking their bow before what is, to me, the most anticipated match on the card.
6. Sting vs. Triple H
Finally, Sting wrestles in a WWE ring! At WrestleMania! Against a true legend in Triple H! Never mind the long wait for his arrival or their ages or their part-time status; all eyes will be glued on these two when the bell rings. This match is the draw for me to see WrestleMania 31 (okay, I’d be watching anyway, but this is the one most likely to produce a WrestleMania moment).
I think it will be a good match, although a last-minute announcement for it to be No Holds Barred would have given the performers more scope and allowed them to whip the crowd into more of a frenzy. Since we have waited literally decades for Sting to wrestle in WWE, I am 100% of the mindset that he wins. A loss for the Stinger would be ridiculous. How he wins is another matter.
He could win cleanly and nobody would complain. But as HHH is the head of the Authority, chances are that the Vigilante will have to fight off interference en route to victory. And that might be a good thing, because it could help to set up a future WM match: either Sting is being beaten down and is rescued by The Rock, who could cost Triple H the win to set up their teased Mania match for 2016, or The Undertaker could help Sting win, and the two legends discuss the matter the following night on Raw where the challenge for their rumoured dream match at WM 32 is made and accepted. Still, even if this remains one-on-one, I think this will live up to the hype, and I see no result other than a Sting victory.
7. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
And so we come to the main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Lesnar was a Champ on his way out the door; Reigns was a contender who the fans weren’t appreciating. Well, Reigns is still likely to be booed in Levi’s Stadium, but Lesnar has now confirmed that he is staying with WWE, so the result of this match is much more unpredictable. I had originally planned to write a potentially great storyline for this match that could have happened, with Lesnar in the CM Punk circa MITB 2011 role, but with Brock now guaranteed to stay, that would be pointless.
Not many people have commented lately on how good this match could be, and I think Lesnar and Reigns could surprise people. I see this being a very competitive, all-action big-man match which, if it incorporates big spots like a running spear off and through an announcer’s table, could actually be a pretty enjoyable main event for WM 31. If it does, most will credit Brock, but hopefully Roman will step up and deliver a performance to show that he certainly does deserve to be in this spot.
But who wins? Before Tuesday’s announcement by Brock on ESPN, most believed that Roman would win, or at least that Lesnar wouldn’t leave Mania without the title. Since the news that Lesnar is staying, though, more people are of the mindset that Brock will win. I am genuinely unsure who will triumph, which is a good thing. However, I have decided that my prediction is for Brock Lesnar to defeat Roman Reigns, after a hard-fought battle.
But wait! I see a major post-match development. Afterwards, I see Lesnar turning babyface by shaking Reigns’ hand, and Paul Heyman apparently turning babyface by also endorsing Reigns. Then, Seth Rollins’ music hits and he comes out with his Money In The Bank briefcase. He steps on the apron, Lesnar and Heyman looking concerned, Reigns still standing in the ring. Then, out of nowhere, Dean Ambrose appears in the ring, having lost the Ladder match and complained afterwards about his defeat and losing his chance to create a WrestleMania moment. Lesnar and Heyman realise what is happening, and are very upset … until Heyman flashes an evil smile. Brock looks worried. Heyman points at the Champ and shouts “Go!” and Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose jump Lesnar at Heyman’s request. The three triple-powerbomb the Champ, and Rollins gives the referee his briefcase to cash in immediately on Lesnar. The bell rings, and Rollins pins Lesnar … but he kicks out! Rollins stands back and Curb Stomps Brock for the win, but he STILL kicks out! Rollins is furious and as he distracts the ref, from ringside Reigns gives Brock a Superman Punch. Rollins then hits one more Curb Stomp and pins Lesnar to win the WWE Title. The reunited Shield then celebrate with their new manager Paul Heyman, who explains that Reigns becoming Champ was Plan A; Rollins cashing in was … Plan B.
Such a development would create a true Mania moment and satisfy anyone disappointed with the structure of the main event. It also turns Reigns and Ambrose heel, reunites The Shield, and turns Lesnar into a major babyface whose defeat he could not have helped. And with Heyman now backing the reformed Shield (who we later learn are linked with The Authority), it creates an exciting storyline with tons of possibilities going into the spring and summer months, culminating with a babyface Lesnar regaining his title later in the year.
Or Reigns could just beat Lesnar at Mania, get booed out of the building, and thwart Rollins’ cash-in on Raw the next night. Meh, my version is better, and whilst the Shield reunion may be a development too far, I do see Lesnar winning, and I do see Rollins leaving Mania as Champ.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar (Seth Rollins leaves WM as WWE Champ)
Overall, then, despite the disappointment at the line-up and the less-than-stellar build-up, it is still shaping up to be an exciting night and a memorable card. From the Ladder match to Undertaker’s return to Sting’s in-ring WWE debut, there is something for everyone. I think the success of the show relies on how well the main event is received, and my suggesiton above creates a scenario that would achieve a positive reaction from fans, even if it ends with four villains standing tall. Those are my predictions; we’ll see if they play out but, even if they don’t, WrestleMania 31 is still likely to be a memorable night in WWE history.
What are your predictions? Leave your comments below!