By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
The road to WrestleMania has been long and winding. Since it’s in New Jersey, it’s also been full of traffic and accidents. This year, not counting the inevitable, unadvertised matchups which will pop up featuring anyone from the Undertaker to John Cena to Rob Gronkowski, there are 15 matches to delve into for our preview of WrestleMania 35, taking place at Metlife Stadium, home of your New York Jets.
I’ll warn you now, this is long (although, we will break it into two parts). We, however, think it’s good and worth your time. You’ll get all the info you need, some entertaining fighting before the entertainment fights begin, and all the predictions you need to make your friendly wagers. (Please don’t gamble on professional wrestling.)
It’s the biggest show of the year and you’re reading this because you’re a wrestling fan, so we won’t bother to set the stage for the night, other than to give you another warning. This show might actually hit seven hours if you count the preshow. So ring the bell, it’s WrestleMania preview time and we’re going to make like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and start fighting immediately.
Part 2 featuring, mainly, the Raw portion of WrestleMania is below. Part 1 featuring, mainly, the SmackDown Live portion of Mania can be read by clicking here. Let us know in the comments section your predictions for the show, and make sure to follow along Sunday on our Twitter account @gamedayishere for instant analysis and more.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch (Winner Take All Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: OK, before Brad gets to twist things on me, let’s get something straight. Becky Lynch is awesome. The only time I rooted against her was at the Royal Rumble, because I thought the way they got her the win there was dumb, and you could see it happening. I wanted her to get a better path into WrestleMania. She deserves all the credit in the world for getting over. She took the opportunity she was given to be in a big feud and turned it into gold, making herself a star in the process. I wouldn’t mind at all if she wins Sunday night. The only point I’ve been making is that people who think it’s a foregone conclusion are crazy. It’s very possible the last scene of WrestleMania is Lynch holding the belt above her head. It all depends, however, on who wins the backstage battle, and I don’t mean the exceptional brawl the trio had backstage this week. This battle will be between the writers who want to play the storyline to its obvious conclusion, which is Lynch overcoming incredible odds again to win, and the old guard who wants a bigger name to win at Mania. Lynch is the hardcore fans’ pick, and deservedly so. The issue is this match is happening at the most mainstream show of the year. The one the guy who used to watch all the time but doesn’t anymore drops in on. The show people in the media who want to act like they’re cool this week talk about, even though they’ve watched five minutes of wrestling in the last year. Those people, who make up a much bigger percentage of the audience for WrestleMania than most realize, will read the bill for this card as follows: “Ronda Rousey, Ric Flair’s kid, and the other girl.” This is why I believe Vince McMahon in particular is going to need to be talked into pulling the trigger on a Lynch win. If Vince wants this to be a wrestling show, Lynch wins. If he wants this to be a media vehicle, she might not. The other thing to consider is Rousey’s status. Remember all the times we were absolutely certain Brock Lesnar was leaving? How has that worked out for any of us who want to see the title defended on Raw? What if Rousey isn’t leaving as soon as we think? If so, Vince’s dream scenario is Rousey winning at WrestleMania, then appearing on every television show imaginable for two weeks after. Finally, keep in mind that the reason Charlotte is in this match is because Vince wanted Charlotte vs. Rousey for the better part of a year. Even if Rousey is leaving, Charlotte as the heel getting chased by Lynch and her now livid fanbase might be a better draw than Lynch as the champion with no more obstacles to overcome. It’s why Stone Cold was always better when Vince was holding him down than he was as the top guy. I’ve come around to the idea that Lynch may actually win, but everyone else had better come to grips with the fact that she might not. I also find it interesting Rousey’s deal expires April 10, which is the Wednesday after Mania. She could end up on Raw and/or SmackDown. The whole thing is too messy. The pick is Charlotte Sunday with Lynch taking over by May. I’m either going to be a genius or a fool.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Genius or fool? Why does Matt simply serve these things up on a silver platter for me. We all know the answer to that one, and that’s an easy explanation as to why Straub will be wrong about the main event come late Sunday night. First, though, I’ll admit Straub does make some solid points, like it would be better if Becky Lynch continues to be the chaser instead of the champion. Overcoming the odds, and the McMahons, is what made Steve Austin so great and could do the same for Becky Lynch. So, Straub is more than right in that way of thinking. The only problem is WWE isn’t letting Becky go full Stone Cold, which I’ve brought up here a few times before, and the times where the McMahons try and harken back to the height of the evil McMahons, when against Austin, has bombed worse than any Ronda Rousey promo you can bring up. Becky might be able to pull off the Stone Cold character reimagined, but I don’t think Vince can do the same as in his heyday. Maybe I’m wrong, which would be great for everyone if I am. So, yeah, Becky as the chaser is great, unless she’s simply chasing the champion Charlotte or Rousey, and that’s it. Then, the chasing is just prolonged, and the fans stop caring. Second, the pandering to the casual fans and the media is understandable, but WWE should take the opposite approach of what Matt is talking about above. You want to grab new viewers after Mania, develop and ride a new star to that goal. That’s Becky Lynch. That’s Kofi Kingston a tad bit as well. If Rousey wins, none of those casual viewers will tune in on Monday. Same if Charlotte wins. But if Becky wins, and the match and finish is as epic as it can be, there is way more of a chance those viewers stick with the product. And that’s the goal. The media? Besides getting on a TV show or on a mainstream website, the media does nothing for wrestling, so there’s no use in chasing it. So all those backstage points lead me to the match, which I do think will steal the show and give everyone a lasting impression of WrestleMania that will stick with them for a while. That doesn’t have to mean Becky winning, for the record, as it could work if Rousey or Charlotte win as well. In fact, Straub makes it sound above that everyone believes Becky is going to win, but I believe it’s the complete opposite. If I was putting odds on the match, I’d put Becky in the second or third spot. Rousey would be the betting line favorite. And I don’t believe for a second hardcore wrestling fans believe Becky will win, as the other two winning for all the reasons Matt mentions above. But we all know if you want epic on the epic stage, Becky Lynch needs to win. And if Becky overcomes Rousey, Charlotte and maybe a McMahon or two, wouldn’t that be as epic as it gets? Yes, yes it would. And that would be the perfect way for WrestleMania to go off the air. Monday Night Raw will be epic as well. SDLive? I don’t know, there are still tickets available which probably tells you all you need to know about the fan appeal of that show. There’s only one choice to win this match and it’s Becky Lynch. But I won’t be surprised in the least if Rousey is the one with all the belts at the end of the night.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Remember what we were saying earlier about hoping Lesnar loses, only to be disappointed? I think the bad feelings end tonight. There’s too much build here and too much for Rollins to do with the belt. I think WWE has just been waiting for the right moment to take the belt off Lesnar, and there’s no bigger night than Sunday. If he doesn’t lose Sunday, he could be the champion come Tampa next year, and I don’t think Brad or I could survive that.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Of all the Brock Lesnar matches in the recent past, this is the one that so many wanted, and yet it’s going absolutely nowhere. The build-up has been flat-out boring, and I don’t think I’m the only one who isn’t looking forward to this match in the least. Lesnar doesn’t care about Rollins, and Rollins doesn’t seem to match up at all with Lesnar. That’s a bad combination. This wasn’t the case when Lesnar was going against AJ Styles or Finn Balor or Samoa Joe or Roman Reigns or even Braun Strowman. Lesnar cared about those matches. There is no juice at all to this match, and it’s for the freaking universal championship. For once, the WWE championship match has completely overshadowed it. The women’s title match has obviously overshadowed it. Honestly, the Triple H-Batista match has had a better build and I'm more looking forward to Finn Balor's Demon entrance than this matchup. It all makes me come to one conclusion: Brock Lesnar is winning again. Even though the fans will hate it, nobody should be surprised. It will probably set up Roman Reigns to regain the championship by beating Lesnar sooner rather than later. But for WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar wins once again.
Triple H vs. Batista (No Holds Barred Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I know I’m the crazy guy who tries to use logic and history during wrestling discussions, but am I the only one who remembers Batista getting “what he wants” 15 years ago? If you’re a younger fan or just have better things to do than memorize wrestling shows, let me remind you: The match Batista has “always wanted” was the main event of WrestleMania 21. Batista won. He beat Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania in Los Angeles. So what is he all worked up over? Speaking of him being worked up, is there anything more uncomfortable to watch in wrestling than Batista drooling all over microphones? I can’t wait until he’s gone again, which he will be soon. Triple H isn’t ending his career with a loss two hours before the main event to a part-timer. He and Undertaker are going to main event WrestleMania 54, then both retire.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I honestly missed Batista’s entire run in WWE, as I was out of the wrestling scene for that period, so I really have no idea how good he was or how over he was or any of that. I only knew of Batista during his return to the Royal Rumble a few years ago, which he won and the fans crapped over, and remembering that it all made sense to me. But this Batista, the one we’re getting now, seems to be a completely different guy from the guy a few years ago. So, maybe Batista was the man back then. But I’m shocked Matt isn’t a fan, as Batista has everything he seemingly loves about a pro wrestler. Mainly that he’s a giant, in the vein as John Cena and Ryback. I’ve enjoyed the build for this match, and Monday’s one line promo by Batista was perfect, so I’m interested to see how this all plays out. Now, this would typically mean a victory by the returning superstar, but with the caveat that Triple H’s career is on the line it swings the prediction in the other direction. Triple H is going to win because I don’t think he’s anywhere near done completely in the ring. Sure, he’s as close to done as it gets, but there’s likely a few more out there, possibly with Saudi money earmarked for it. So, Triple H wins in what hopefully will be a fun match.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: All you can ask for in a wrestling match is an unpredictable outcome and solid work. We won’t get a great match here in terms of quality, but at least these two big guys can go a little. The match itself is a toss-up. I think Roman wins because people are still cheering him after his return from illness, but McIntyre is the future and could do well with a push here. Roman wins, and Seth gives him a shot at the title he didn’t lose. You know, the shot Finn Balor waited what felt like years for? Not that I’m still bitter or anything. I’m going to go with Roman, just because I bet Brad’s face just stopped being purple after the main event debate.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: This match could very well be the main event of WrestleMania next year, with either as the champion, but settles for afterthought treatment here with such a stacked card around it and the directionless nature of both characters. The match and feud makes sense to have, but at the same time, both could use victories to begin what should be two pushes for the main title coming out of Mania. Of course, only one will get the rub. This could go either way, and how often can you really say that? Reigns needs a win because it would be the triumphant return everyone will want. McIntyre needs a win because he’s destined to be universal champion, and has been built up as such in recent weeks. If you want a feel-good Mania moment, then Reigns wins, and that’s the way I’ll go. And as I wrote earlier, Reigns is going to be universal champion soon, so he really can’t afford to lose on this stage. McIntyre can get his heat back either right after the match or the next night on Raw.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs. The IIconics vs. Nia Jax & Tamina (Fatal 4-Way Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Another fun fact about WrestleMania 21 is it only had nine matches, and one of them was Akebono over Big Show in a sumo match which lasted one minute. I don’t know when exactly WWE decided everyone needed to be on the Mania card, but they sure are trying. This match might be fun for a while, as four teams being involved will lead to chaos, and it will also allow the booking to hide Beth Phoenix. Can anyone tell me who thought the fans were clamoring for Batista and Beth to be at WrestleMania? Certainly not me. Hopefully this is crazy but short. I’m going to go on a limb and predict the IIconics get the win. For all the crushes Brad likes to call me out on, my actual one is Peyton Royce, so we’ll pick her team to win.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Charlotte. Peyton Royce. This is a new Straub. Anyway, the women’s tag team titles has been a big flop, as besides Bayley and Sasha Banks, who genuinely appear to love being champions, nobody seems to care about them. Just look at what’s happened since they won. There has been no feuds, no real title defenses, and just a whole lot of nothing. WWE tells you how much they don't care by putting together a four-way match for the titles with little rhyme or reason. Nia Jax and Tamina already had their title match and lost, so why are they here? Beth Phoenix and Natalya are here because, well, I have no idea why they are here. The IIconics make a lot of sense to be champions, but they aren’t anywhere near good enough in the ring to even pull off a believable tag team match against Bayley and Sasha, so in that vein, they don’t belong either. Plus, Bayley and Sasha could and should be in the singles title picture over on SmackDown, considering the Raw side is pretty full right now. The tag titles were a good idea, but an idea that has gone nowhere. It’s either going to be the IIconics or Sasha and Bayley retaining, and if the Boss N Hug Connection doesn’t have the belts, they got nothing. So, the champs retain.
Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley vs. “The Demon” Finn Bálor
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’m going to let Brad steal the show here and talk about the Demon, so let me say one quick thing. The two biggest questions I have in wrestling are these: If Finn always wins as the Demon, why doesn’t he always become the Demon? Maybe he would have won the title shot he waited a year for. And, of course, why don’t numbers 1 and 2 form an alliance and cruise to the end of the Royal Rumble? These are the things that keep me up at night, besides the Becky Lynch fans throwing things at my window.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I think Straub only says I’m going to steal the show here because he already knows since his Becky fans throwing things at his window line above could be the top line out of all 10 billion words this WrestleMania double preview entails. Maybe I’m hyping it up too much, but I actually laughed at that line. Congrats, Straubby. So, I can’t steal the show, but I will say thank God the Demon will make an appearance. The entrance alone, on the WrestleMania stage, should be epic, and it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most. And, as Straub writes, Finn Balor never loses as the Demon, and since he’s the Demon here, you know what it means. Balor wins and gets back the intercontinental championship.
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin (Kurt Angle’s Farewell Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Corbin is actually a perfect opponent for Angle’s last match. He has an amazing ability to stay relevant after losses, and he’s a big enough name for Angle to say he beat someone in his last match. I can’t believe Cena isn’t in this spot, and I suppose it could still happen. I’m not as big on Angle as others, but he deserves to go out on top here, and will. I just wish it wasn’t as old, slow Kurt Angle. He’s kind of the opposite of the Demon now. He should surprise everyone and come out as young, athletic Kurt Angle.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Talk about anticlimactic. Baron Corbin being in this spot is rightfully being crushed by fans, because it doesn’t live up to the moment, despite what Straub mentions. Yes, it makes sense, considering the stupid GM roles the two played, and the fact Corbin can absorb a loss without losing any of his heat. But on the grand stage, imagine if the Undertaker’s music hit as the opponent. Or John Cena. Or, I don’t know, pretty much anyone except Baron Corbin. Now, Corbin was real good in the main event at Fastlane, and I actually tweeted that he was the star of the match, but Corbin brings zero juice to this match. He may deserve a WrestleMania match, but not this one. Anyway, Kurt Angle wins and rides off into the sunset knowing he was one of the greatest wrestlers of the past 30 years.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder
Matt's Breakdown and Prediction: WWE cares so much about this they didn't even bother to announce it on television. Unlike WWE, we won't ignore it. On paper, this seems easy. The Revival is awesome, while its opponents' storyline is how much they lose. In reality, it's a little harder to predict this match than that, since The Revival is often rumored to want out of WWE, and what better way to have their reputation ruined before they head elsewhere than to have them job to jobbers? Give me the losers in an upset in a match which should be on before the kickoff show even airs.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: I'll have to edit the SmackDown Live portion of our WrestleMania preview and predictions column, as I wondered there why The Revival weren't on the show when seemingly every one else and their father (Mr. Miz) is. But a late addition has amended that omission, and while The Revival will be happy to be part of WrestleMania, they won't be happy with the result. Curt Hawkins, who has lost a billion matches in a row, will finally get his moment, which means a victory for him and Zack Ryder. It won't be pretty and it won't really matter, but it's the only time to finally end Hawkins' losing streak. On a side note, what has happened to the tag division?
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Because this is WrestleMania, and because there’s almost 20 matches to get through, we haven’t done too much comedy in this preview. We’ve mainly focused on wrestling, but I think for this match it’s OK to focus more on me reading this originally and thinking Tony Nese was an NBA official. WWE has this listed as a pre-show match, which means between this and the battle royals, the pre-show could be almost three hours long. You can see the Giants play in MetLife Stadium in the amount of time WWE is going to use before the main card even starts. At least someone people cheer for will win in MetLife Stadium, unlike the Giants. And with that, let me end my half of this with a sincere thank you to everyone who has been along for the ride with us all year, and who read all 206 pages of this preview, which is going to be longer than a Rousey promo. I hope it makes more sense, however.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: It’s kind of funny we close the book on another WWE preview and predictions column with what is likely going to be the opening match of a seemingly never-ending show. But it always me to piggyback off what Straub wrote and say thank you for making it this far and consistently reading the ramblings of a couple of mad men who still love wrestling at their ever-advancing ages. It’s going to be a long journey, but WrestleMania will live up to expectations, as long as everyone can stay awake long enough for the main event. And considering it’s Becky Lynch involved, I don’t think that will be a problem. Buddy Murphy gets the win to continue his reign as champion of a show I don’t think anyone watches, I mean, they actually have an NBA ref fighting for their title and nobody knows. (Nice, Straub). Now, enjoy WrestleMania on Sunday, enjoy NXT Takeover on Friday, and enjoy Raw and SDLive next week and follow all of it along with us on Twitter @gamedayishere.