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 1 featuring, mainly, the SmackDown Live portion of WrestleMania is below. Part 2 featuring, mainly, the Raw 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.
WWE Champion “The New” Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Another reason I’m not sold on Becky Lynch winning in the main event (read all about that here) is this match. Does WWE want to do the same ending to the same story twice? For everything Kofi has been through, and because the WWE Universe has essentially rejected “New” Daniel Bryan the way I wanted them to hate the original, I think Kingston is getting his moment here. It won’t be a long title run, but it will be a wonderful night for Kingston, who has done whatever he’s been asked and stolen many shows for years. I don’t think both Kingston and Lynch win, however, so watch this one closely. The stories are too similar, so if you’re rooting for Lynch, root for Bryan. Of course, that’s assuming WWE’s level of interest in continuity makes it a whole night.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I guess we can’t complain too much about Vince McMahon not listening to the fans. This match is the perfect example of him actually listening and changing plans on the fly when he really didn’t even have to. The plan was supposed to be Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens in this spot, but then Kofi Kingston went to another level and, more importantly, the fans followed him. That crowd support, and it’s big right now, grew so much in such a short period of time that Vince changed his mind and Kofi was given this ultimate spot. It’s almost unimaginable that Kofi has been in the WWE for 11 years and has never had a world title match. You would think by random booking he would have gotten an opportunity on an episode of Raw or SmackDown, but the fact it never happened plays perfectly into this narrative and opportunity. I don’t believe, however, that the Kofi and Becky stories are connected. Becky winning would surprise no one, while everyone still will be surprised when and if Kofi beats Daniel Bryan for the title. Oh, it’s more than possible, but it will still be a shocker if it actually happens. It won’t shock anyone if Becky wins. So, rest easy Becky and Kofi fans, you can have your cake and eat it too. Matt hates Daniel Bryan, always has, but I don’t think there’s any question this new character of his is working on all levels. In fact, it has saved his career, as I and everyone else was over his good-guy act after his return from injury. The character is real good and it’s going to make it even better when Kofi beats him for the title Sunday night. Now, Bryan will likely get the title back at the next pay-per-view, but we’ll worry about that later. Kofi is getting his WrestleMania moment and everyone is going to enjoy it.
Shane McMahon vs. The Miz (Falls Count Anywhere Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I can’t believe WWE messed up the easiest storyline of the whole card. Shane McMahon works as a plucky underdog who overcomes the odds by flying off of things onto stunned opponents. He doesn’t work at all as the heel. He’s not a full-time wrestler, so you have to suspend disbelief in order to root for him to win. If you don’t want to root for him and you’re unable to suspend disbelief, then he’s an old man with limited credentials who should have no shot against a great athlete like the Miz, who wrestles every night. The Miz is going to get his revenge, but won’t look great beating Shane. Miz should have been the one to turn, only to have Shane shock him Sunday.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I don’t think Matt remembers the Attitude Era, where Shane was a great heel. It’s really what he’s best at. It was still surprising when Shane turned on The Miz, as we all thought it would be the opposite, but I’m completely OK with it. That beatdown Shane delivered was everything it had to be and more. He was convincing and gave this meaningless match some much-needed heat. It also gives the Miz a minor push as a face, even if that still doesn’t feel right. The Miz is getting some star treatment off it as well, as he beat Sanity in a three-on-one handicap match on Tuesday, as unbelievable as that is. This match is going to be fun, Shane is going to do something incredible, and The Miz is going to end up with the victory in the end. It won’t be a masterpiece, but will be a highlight match to remember on a night with potential for tons of them.
AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: If you’re going to have a short build for a feud, it better be good. This one has been. I always enjoy “worked-shoot” promos, especially when there’s no other reason for the match to happen. It builds hate quickly, and this match needed it. The plan here was to give a couple of good, reliable hands something to do on the show, but the interviews recently have actually made it a somewhat interesting match. It might be a good opener as a match between two names people will know and be into, but without blowing off a bigger match too early. Give me Styles with the win because I don’t know what they’d do with Orton after he won.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The build for this match has been tremendous and the work done by both AJ Styles and Randy Orton has been on point. Both could be in a much better spot, and both could throw in the proverbial towel for not being in a bigger match, but each is bringing their best to this feud. It helps that it’s a legendary match between two all-time greats, a match they both likely wanted and asked for. Styles is always great, and if Orton is invested, as he appears to be here, he can be great as well. And with no real expectations, this could be a masterpiece. Let these two do whatever they want and it’ll be another match that makes you go ‘wow.’ Picking a winner, though, is harder than you think, as Orton represents WWE, while Styles represents every other wrestling promotion in this match. It’s the type of match Vince likes to get involved in and make WWE the ultimate victor no matter what. If that’s the case, Orton will win. If not, well, I’m still not sure. I’ll go with Styles.
United States Champion Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: OK, we needed one we can get through quickly, just like fans at a live show need a boring match to come down after one good one and before the next. Here’s a perfect opportunity, as this match might not even happen considering Mysterio’s injury. If it does, Joe is going to win easily. If not, the last-minute SmackDown tag match is there to fill the void, because God forbid we have fewer than 15 matches on this card.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’m surprised Matt is so down on this match considering Samoa Joe is one of his favorites. But on a stacked card, he’s right, this is the type of match that could kill the crowd’s momentum. Luckily, it should be real short. Samoa Joe wins.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. Ricochet & Aleister Black vs. The Bar vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev (Fatal 4-Way Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Let’s list some things wrong with this match like Enzo and Cass used to do. First, the Usos didn’t get any public punishment for what happened in Detroit. Second, why are we still burying the NXT guys? Unless you think they win this, which would be a nice way to start promoting them. I just can’t see it. The Bar stole their catchphrase from a car commercial, and WWE stole the momentum of two guys the fans would love to get behind or hate in Nakamura and Rusev. Also, why is this on the WrestleMania card again? If I had a dime for every time I cared about this match, I’d have zero dimes. The Usos win while we all stretch our legs.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: It’s still weird that Ricochet and Aleister Black are being used continuously as a tag team when they both have star singles wrestlers written all over them, with Black especially having that “it” factor. But they are on the WrestleMania card and will do some amazing things, so I’m not going to be too critical of putting them together here. I don’t think they win the titles, as they can’t really be in this pairing for long, can they? They might win the NXT tag team titles on Friday, which would be interesting bringing those belts into WrestleMania. But either way I still see the Usos coming out with the win. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev are together for some odd reason as well, and The Bar don’t look like they have a run with the SDLive titles in them for the foreseeable future. And by the way, why are the Revival and the Raw tag team titles not on the show? (Wait, what? WWE must have read this because The Revival now do have a title match defense at WrestleMania. You're welcome, WWE.)
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This is allegedly on the kickoff show, but WWE hasn’t put that on its official preview as I write this. I wish they would take the time to build the entrants list publicly and make us care about it at all. The cast of Saturday Night Live doesn’t make me excited for this. Braun Strowman, who was actually funny with Alexa Bliss last week, is going to win and beat up the guys from Weekend Update. Speaking of Bliss, I love that she’s the host. She’ll do great, and WWE continues to give her things to do. I hope all her recent interviews are not an indication she’s done wrestling, but if so she could be great at things like this.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The SNL connection to WrestleMania is beyond stupid and also highlights just how far Braun Strowman has fallen. From expected universal champion to comedy act in a battle royal is about as big a drop as a talent could have and really makes you wonder what backstage story is behind it. Strowman, though, is the easy pick to win this, and there’s no reason to go against it because it would be just a random guess otherwise. The only other possible winner I could see is EC3, but that’s just because he’s been totally forgotten since getting the call up to the main roster and could use this more than anyone. But it’s either going to be Strowman or one of the SNL guys, and let’s just pray it isn’t one of the SNL guys.
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: We only know half the field for this, which is more than we know about the men’s battle royal, but not a lot. Despite being unable to know everyone involved, I can already predict there’s only two ways this can go. The first would be a newcomer like Nikki Cross winning. The other is giving Asuka the win and getting her back on track. I think it has to be Asuka, who then feuds with whoever finishes second, probably someone who was recently in NXT.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’ll cut right to the chase, Asuka should win this because WWE has really done her wrong in so many ways since she lost to Charlotte at last year’s WrestleMania. I get why WWE had her drop the belt to Charlotte on a random episode of SmackDown a couple weeks ago, but it just plays into the downfall of Asuka, through no fault of her own. So, she deserves some kind of WrestleMania moment, and momentum-builder, even if it really means nothing. For a surprise pick, I’d go with Lacey Evans, who hopefully joins a match one of these days. It’s either her or Asuka, but I’m sticking with the woman who deserves better.
Read Part 2 of our WrestleMania preview by clicking here