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Written By: Mark Armstrong
It’s the biggest day of the year in the wrestling calendar. The day that fans look forward to the most, and the day that the wrestlers themselves strive towards through years of hard work and perseverance. For some, the goal is to triumph in one of the main event matches and create a timeless moment; for others, just getting there and appearing on the show in any spot is a major achievement in its own right. It’s WrestleMania, and WM 33 looks set to be one of the most memorable in a long time with many matches that are either culminating long storylines and feuds, have the potential to create jaw-dropping moments or are simply contenders to steal the show from an in-ring standpoint.
As is tradition, I have listed my match predictions for each bout below, whilst providing some context as to why the matches are happening and why certain results seem more obvious than others. I’ve also added in some thoughts as to what may be the standout moment of the night, and what (if any) surprises we may get in the process.
1. Neville vs. Austin Aries (Cruiserweight Championship)
Although this is now on the Kick-Off Show, fans are expecting this to be a potential show-stealer, and for good reason, as everyone knows that both men can deliver a pretty thrilling encounter. Pitted against one another, and as the first representation of cruiserweight action in WWE at WrestleMania since WM XX, both will be desperate to shine. This has been set up pretty well, with Aries – previously on NXT, but a well-travelled and well-respected competitor in ROH and TNA before then – morphing from the cruiserweight division’s colour commentator to rival and contender for Neville, the self-proclaimed King Of The Cruiserweights, who has shone since turning heel at Roadblock and capturing the purple title at Royal Rumble.
Neville winning wouldn’t be a major surprise at all, but I am expecting an Aries win and therefore a title change, so that the night’s festivities kick off (sorry for the pun) with a bang. I just hope that the stadium is fairly full when WWE sends these two out to the ring to avoid the almost-empty venue feel to Kalisto vs. Ryback from last year.
Prediction: Austin Aries
2. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
This simply has to be a victory for Braun Strowman. Big Show doesn’t need the win again, despite the disappointment of his match with Shaq not happening. Sami Zayn would be a good choice as a runner-up, teasing that he could pull off a massive upset by eliminating familiar foe Braun. But nothing should stop Strowman here, who has surpassed expectations in his monster heel run on Raw.
The alternative is that a surprise entrant wins this one, just like Baron Corbin did when he unexpectedly appeared on behalf of NXT and claimed the win last year. With this being on the Kick-Off Show, however, any surprises would likely be minimal, so I’m going for the safe bet by picking BRRRAAAUUUNNNNNN!
Prediction: Braun Strowman
1. The Club vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass (Raw Tag Team Championship Ladder Match)
This match will probably open the main card, since Enzo & Cass excel in the role of getting an already-hot crowd fired up by being the first wrestlers out of the curtain. There hasn’t really been a story to this one, except for the obvious: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have the titles, and Sheamus & Cesaro and Enzo & Cass want them.
This is now a Ladder match, which raises the possibility of a certain ladder-obsessed tag team making a grand return to WWE. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will happen because, let’s face it, this three-team rivalry very suddenly added ladders to the fray on Raw last Monday, for no real reason. With The New Day as hosts, it’s possible that they will use their “power” (of positivity?) to add Matt and Jeff Hardy to this match, leading to a huge Mania moment and a Hardyz reunion. Some may be desperate to see “Broken” Matt, legal issues notwithstanding, but whichever version (no pun intended) that we get, I’m expecting the Hardyz to deliver a standout WrestleMania moment of the night, should they make a return that fans are absolutely desperate to see.
Prediction: The Hardyz
2. SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
The story hasn’t been very in-depth for this bout, either, since the goal seems to be solely for the females involved to have their Mania moment, which is understandable. Having been announced for the main card, and then moved to the Kick-Off Show, this is now back on the PPV due to fan pressure, which has to be considered a good thing.
I still don’t expect it to be given much time, nor much in the way of storyline advancement, although the return of several females to WWE has been hinted at fairly strongly. Nevertheless, I still think that Alexa Bliss will win, and defend her title against former ally Mickie James (or the returning-from-injury Naomi) in the weeks to come.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss
3. Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin (Intercontinental Championship)
Set up by various Corbin attacks on Ambrose dating back to Elimination Chamber, including the Lone Wolf basically dropping a forklift pallet across Dean’s chest and throat, this should be a decent if uneventful mid-card clash for the Intercontinental crown.
I see no reason for Dean to win this; although Baron hasn’t yet reached his full potential, Corbin would benefit most from winning this match, without question. I could see Ambrose winning and Corbin capturing the IC gold at a later date, but all things considered, this has to be Baron’s night to shine, and giving him a second major WrestleMania victory at that.
Prediction: Baron Corbin
4. John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Despite some great promos to set this one up, the match still seems like a waste of Cena, who still has plenty to offer WWE. The match itself will be okay, but it’s bizarre that a Cena match at WrestleMania should feel like filler, as this one does. The other problem is that, although Cena has delivered some fantastic promos to set this up, he and Nikki remain unlikeable as a couple, meaning that fans can’t root for them as much as WWE would like. Let’s face it, there is definitely an element of truth to the insinuation that the Bellas’ careers were advanced due to their relationships with Cena and Daniel Bryan; hell, Brie and Nikki had actually left WWE to little attention in 2012, before Total Divas featuring said relationships made them big stars from 2013 onwards.
There have been whispers about Cena proposing to Nikki, for real, after the match (which I assume the babyfaces will win). It’d make for a memorable Mania moment if this happened, even if their relationship is more of an annoyance (at least when it comes to Nikki) than heartwarming entertainment.
Prediction: John Cena & Nikki Bella
5. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
A match which was universally hated when first announced, supposedly in the storyline for Styles to get on the WM card (would he have been left off it?), AJ vs. Shane has since raised excitement levels due to the fact that, in all likelihood, we’re going to be treated to some sort of insane stunt by Shane O Mac, given that we’ve already seen the announcer’s-table-elbow to Styles on SmackDown. Given the presence of a mock rollercoaster for the aisleway, there is real intrigue (and concern, to be fair) as to what Shane will almost certainly leap off. It may not be as good – actually, it wouldn’t have been as good – as an AJ vs. Shawn Michaels bout which HBK says he was offered and declined, but it’ll still be plenty of fun.
An AJ victory seems certain, although WWE may swerve the audience and deliver a Shane win. However, there’s no justification for this, especially if McMahon does deliver an unforgettable stunt, and the fans are desperate for AJ to turn babyface, anyway. Look for Shane to win here, and AJ to go face at SmackDown two nights later.
Prediction: AJ Styles
6. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Nia Jax (Raw Women’s Championship Elimination Match)
This match will now be contested under elimination rules, which throws an element of doubt over the result since it will be harder for WWE to protect, say, Nia Jax if three of the ladies have to lose in some form. In the case of Jax, I don’t think it is her time to become champion, yet, and we’ve seen Charlotte holding the title enough over the last 18 months, even though she is arguably the best all-round female talent in WWE.
That leaves Bayley and Sasha, who could deliver a superb final section of the match. Given that a Sasha heel turn is almost a certainty, I am expecting one of two things: Sasha will either turn heel on Bayley en route to winning the title, or Banks will go rogue on Bayley the next night on Raw in response to a Bayley win here. I’m picking the latter, and Bayley will have her WrestleMania moment whilst building a feud with the heel-turning Sasha.
7. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship)
The best friends turned bitter rivals are set to pay off a really good storyline, which began way back in the summer, as Jeri-KO formed shortly before SummerSlam, and really blossomed once Owens captured the Universal Championship. Given the talent that the two men possess, this has the potential to be one of the card’s stronger encounters. I actually don’t see this being a five-star epic unless they’re given a good 25-30 minutes, which is unlikely, but I do believe that fans will be well into this one and that the performances will match the atmosphere.
I’m expecting a Jericho win here. A victory for KO may seem smarter in the long run, but WWE likes to deliver at least one surprise outcome, and this match is most likely to receive that treatment. It also allows the feud to continue for another month, when Owens will win and probably sideline Jericho to end his latest WWE tenure.
Prediction: Chris Jericho
8. Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Unsanctioned Match)
This match was in jeopardy due to another injury for Rollins, which must have concerned WWE (and obviously the two participants) since the seeds were sown back in August for a match that has been years in the making. Fortunately, Seth recovered just in time for Mania, having missed the show last year, although it was only truly confirmed this past week on Raw. I’m expecting this to be a really exciting brawl, with plenty of weapons-based spots, and almost certainly a Pedigree through an announcer’s table for one of the combatants. I expect a returning Finn Balor to combat Samoa Joe at ringside, allowing Rollins to not be deterred by beating HHH. He may break out the old Curb Stomp as a way to consign his use of the Pedigree to history, though it seems unlikely at present.
It’s worth wondering if this will be HHH’s final match. Although he can still go in the ring, he’ll be 48 this year, he has no other obvious opponents to face in the future and, having gone part-time in 2011, he’s even admitted that he’d like to retire. This might be the way for The Game to officially be declared over.
Prediction: Seth Rollins
9. The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
This clash, which will decide “who runs the yard”, will either mark a truly major moment in history, or it will breed massive outrage. If the scuttlebutt is to be believed, Reigns will almost certainly be winning this match, which would not only reduce the impact of Brock Lesnar ending The Streak at WM XXX, but for highly unpopular babyface Reigns to hand Taker his second Mania defeat, even at this point, would be a disaster. Even if the match is a classic (and I think it will be good, but not that good), no fan will truly accept that scenario should WWE deliver it.
Only a Roman heel turn (which has been teased) could make this acceptable, but if rumours of this being Taker’s last match are true, would he really want to go out on a screwjob-style finish? It’s a dumpster fire scenario, which is why I think Taker should win. On paper, Reigns should be victorious, but unless he goes heel in the process, I can’t imagine how WWE can successfully present this outcome. I am going to predict a Roman win, but unless he goes heel, I’d sooner see Taker come out on top. If nothing else, all eyes will be on this match.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
10. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship)
The storyline for this match, initially just another feud, has been brilliant. Orton unexpectedly joined The Wyatt Family and took his time to earn Bray’s full trust so that he could completely destroy it from within, which includes torching the Wyatt compound in spectacular fashion. All of which sets the table nicely for this WWE Championship match.
I believe Wyatt will win this match, with help from a reunited Family. Putting the title on Orton would achieve nothing at this point, and a controversial finish allows for a rematch in the future. Wyatt needs the win and he should get it, albeit with assistance. The bout should be a good one, although I can’t envision it being the match of the night.
Prediction: Bray Wyatt
11. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (Universal Championship)
Unlike some people, I’ve loved the set-up for this: Lesnar, the dominant beast, runs into another dominant beast in Goldberg, leading to his destruction and Goldberg being the one foe who can stop Brock. Goldberg couldn’t have been booked better during this unexpected comeback run, in stark contrast to his initial WWE tenue. That being said, Lesnar has to win this one, having been portrayed as second-best to Goldberg after being the unstoppable Beast Incarnate for so long. Besides, this match marks the end of Goldberg’s current WWE run, so Brock is a dead cert to become WWE Universal Champion.
As for the match itself, I’m expecting it to live up to expectations and to be a 10-15 minute smash-mouth brawl. Far from another 90-second scrap (although I think they will tease as such with a close false finish at the very beginning), I think this will pleasantly surprise people and may be unexpectedly violent and bloody. Indeed, their big-name stardom won’t be the only reason why this match will likely go on last.
As stated, although I can understand fan resentment surrounding the match and its high stakes, I’ve actually really enjoyed this feud because it has been unpredictable, exciting, fresh and believable, and it has played to the strengths of the two characters, whilst making Lesnar vulnerable yet still intimidating. If the fans in Orlando give it a chance, I’m confident that it will succeed.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar
The other things to ponder about the show are the possible surprises. It’s all been quiet regarding The Rock, but he has made unannounced appearances at Mania before. I am expecting him to appear in some form, even if it’s via a pre-taped video. Kurt Angle will definitely appear alongside his fellow Hall Of Fame inductees, though I don’t see his participation at Mania extending beyond this (I do see him re-entering the storylines proper on Raw, perhaps by becoming the new Raw GM). Any NXT call-ups will likely be on Raw and SmackDown, having become a trend of sorts over the last few years. Finally, I am going out on a limb and predicting a surprise return for Hulk Hogan, possibly in a backstage cameo and nothing more; I feel that fans are ready for Hulk to return, and with Hogan living in Florida (and having conveniently opened a shop in Orlando this week), the timing couldn’t be better for Hulkamania to resurface.
As for what the moment of the night will be? I’m predicting that it comes from Reigns vs. Undertaker, whether that be due to a Roman heel turn, Undertaker officially retiring or simply the result. The probably explosive nature of Goldberg vs. Lesnar, the possible Cena proposal for Nikki and the potential comeback for the Hardyz in the Ladder match would be the other stand-out moments. Add to that the other possible returns, the Kurt Angle appearance and, of course, the matches which have the potential to be very good or better, as well as the probable red-hot crowd in Orlando and the stunning Citrus Bowl setting, complete with the theme park-esque stage, and you have the makings of one hell of a show.
Though some will disagree, I’ve really enjoyed the build-up to this year’s WrestleMania. Easily beating the hype for WM 32, a show which admittedly struggled in part due to injuries, the Road To WM 33 has included several long-running and well-booked stories, a few surprises (especially on the SmackDown side), comebacks, injuries, title changes, swerves, turns and more. The card is as strong as one could realistically expect, even if you could mix and match a couple of names to deliver a truly mouth-watering line-up.
It’s a demonstration of the power of WrestleMania that almost every U.S. and U.K. promotion of note has held shows in and around Orlando this week, solely to capitalise on the buzz of WM. And I’m confident that WrestleMania 33 will be one of the better Manias, if not a top-five WM show. There are so many questions that will be answered, there’s the potential for some truly big surprise returns, and we’re certain to witness some career-defining results and moments amongst a plethora of great performances by a roster containing many names which will either be making their Mania debuts, making their WWE returns or possibly making their career farewells.
It’s the biggest night of the year, and the one prediction I am making is that WrestleMania 33 will live up to the major hype, and possibly even surpass it.