Stephanie McMahon opened the show this week and, man, was she totally not needed in any capacity at all; Steph trolled the audience by teasing that she was going to be in the WrestleMania Women’s Championship match but, thankfully, that was just a poorly conceived “joke”. She did, however, announce that all the belts will be on the line in the match and that it’ll be winner takes all so…title unification confirmed, I guess? Poor Asuka.
This led immediately into…Paul Heyman talking smack about Seth Rollins while Brock Lesnar hopped about like a chicken. Rollins interrupted to call Lesnar out on his bullshit and managed to survive a German Suplex, hit a low blow, and leave Brock lying with the Stomp. That’s quite a bit better than that weird little tug-of-war Lesnar had with Roman Reigns a few years ago, at least.
Tamina, Nia Jax, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay all teamed up to take on the reformed team of Beth Phoenix and Natalya and Sasha Banks and Bayley in just the sort of clusterfuck booking you get when you build up towards a four-team championship match. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was the right call but, ideally, Sasha and Bayley would be defending against a Raw team, a SmackDown! Live team, and an NXT team given that the Women’s Tag Team Championships are supposed to be defend across all brands. Anyway, Tamina and Nia left Peyton and Billie in the lurch a bit once things swung in the way of the babyfaces and Beth hit the Glam Slam to get the win.
More talking next as Batista made a return to the ring to host a video package all about his issues with Triple H. What a constructive way to use Batista…Apollo Crews and Jinder Mahal went at it next as the rest of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal competitors surrounded the ring (I guess these two are just that important in that match?) spoilers: Apollo won in next to no time at all and then came out standing tall when a brawl kicked off. Honestly, at this point, if Apollo won the battle royal he’d probably be on television even less, if you can imagine that.
The Revival were finally back in action, once again taking on Aleister Black and Ricochet; apparently, these two have been teaming in the Dusty Rhodes Classic, which I didn’t realise and may explain why they were randomly thrown together as a tag team on the main roster so I guess that makes it a little better. Anyway, things were pretty evenly matched in the early going, with each wrestler getting a chance in the ring to work some offense, before Scott Dawson managed to take control and keep things grounded with Aleister. Ricochet’s hot tag flurry got cut off with a Gory Bomb; he managed to survive, wipe out the champions with a sick dive over the ropes, but got caught by Dawson and couldn’t beat the ten count. The NXT guys took the champions out after the match but it doesn’t look like they’ll be settling their issues at WrestleMania right now as there’s no Tag Team Championship matches booked for the men…
Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey were forced to work as a team against the Riott Squad, which went about as well as you might expect; the Riott Squad were a mere afterthought in this match, tossed around and treated as a complete joke while the big stars argued and stole all the spotlight. Ronda ended the match by making Liv Morgan tap out and then she brawled with Charlotte and Becky; it got so bad that all three were “arrested” and taken away because why have one Stone Cold Steve Austin when you can have three!?
Fuck me! Heavy Machinery were in action this week! They took on, and made pretty short work of, former Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable. I’d kike that to be it for these two, please; Gable really needs to get started on a singles run towards a mid-card belt and Roode….he needs something. Afterwards, to emphasise that he’s probably going to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal,. Braun Strowman chucked a few jobbers over the top rope; so we’ve regressed way back to Braun fighting nameless jobbers, have we? Dude should be fighting Drew McIntyre for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania for fuck’s sake!
Afterwards, it was announced that Finn Balor takes his issues with Bobby Lashley so seriously that we’re finally getting the return of the Demon King at WrestleMania, basically guaranteeing that Finn will regain the championship (can you imagine what people would say if Lashley was the first person (as far as I know…) to pin Demon Finn?….shit, they’re going to do that, aren’t that!)
Earlier in the night, Kurt Angle came out to…talk…next and say an official goodbye to Raw. Obviously, Baron Corbin interrupted and tensions started to flare. Rey Mysterio showed up to challenge Corbin and we ended up with this match as our main event; so, I guess Rey is another exception to the brand spit rule? Honestly, it needs to keep going and limp along to either Night of Champions or Survivor Series then we can unify all the belts and end the damn thing and just rotate the roster around between each show because, at this point, it’s a dead concept and the WWE botched this new split since day one, if you ask me. Rey used his speed, as you might expect, but Corbin was able to take control after attacking his mask; they took things to the outside a few times and Rey seemed to hurt his ankle, though Corbin didn’t exactly try to capitalise on that. Back in the ring, Rey crashed and burned on the Frog Splash and fell to the Deep Six; not a great look for Rey as he’s challenging for the United States Championship at WrestleMania, was there not a Raw face we could have thrown up against Corbin here? Even Crews again, maybe?
AJ Styles and Randy Orton made a mess of The Kevin Owens Show this week; they went the easy route and had Orton diss the indies, which is pretty moronic considering how much indie talent the WWE buys up these days, and have AJ criticise Orton’s moveset and sell-out attitude. Things got so tense so fast that it led to a brawl and an awesome moment when AJ springboarded right into an RKO, meaning AJ should, technically, learn from that and have a counter ready at WrestleMania but considering he never learned to put on a cup I doubt that’ll be the case.
Similar to the women on Raw this week, the Usos teamed up with Aleister Black and Ricochet to take on the Bar, Rusev, and Shinsuke Nakamura; you’d think that, if the men’s Tag Team Championships aren’t going to be contested at WrestleMania, we could at least have had a couple of epic championship matches on the go-home show but, no. anyway, Jey Uso ended up being isolated and worked over; after he made the hot tag to Jimmy Uso, things descended into anarchy and a finisher-fest. Amidst the chaos, the Usos hit Rusev with a Duple Superkick for the win.
The Miz cut a promo where he vowed to prove his worth at WrestleMania, so Shane McMahon booked him to face all of SAnitY; I like the idea of SAnitY being Shane’s flunkies but I feel like the Club might have been a better fit as SAnitY don’t seem like the type to take orders. But, hey, at least they’re on television! When Miz seemed to be getting the upper hand, Shane made it a falls count anywhere match and put pictures of him attacking Mr. Miz up on the TitanTron. Miz brawled with SAnitY into the crowd and Miz managed to put Alexander Wolfe through a table; he then crushed Eric Young with a big production box and pinned him to win. I think the WWE’s writing staff must have mixed up Braun Strowman’s booking with Miz’s; two weeks in a row he has been this unstoppable force wading through heels and goons and, as a result, he’s now made a complete joke of what could have been a dominating three-man stable. I guess that it really is time to write SAnitY off.
A massive clusterfuck of an intergender tag team match happened next! The Hardy Boyz, R-Truth, Heavy Machinery, Asuka, Nikki Cross (I guess she’s a face now…?), Naomi, and Carmella teamed up against the Bar (they were on TV!!!), Andrade, Mandy Rose, EC3 (he was on TV!!! AND IN A MATCH!!!), Sonya Deville, Shelton Benjamin, Zelina Vega, and Lana because….WrestleMania battle royals, baby! A bunch of people tagged in, a load of moves were hit, there was a break dance, and then it all fell to shit as they just brawled while the bell rang and rang and rang…
Samoa Joe went up against Mustafa Ali; Ali threw everything he had at Joe but this was, thankfully, academic from the start as Ali crashed and burned on the 054 Splash and got choked out with the Coquina Clutch. I’m honestly surprised that the WWE didn’t just randomly have Ali beat Joe, win the title, and alter the WrestleMania United States Championship match right at the last minute.
The main event this week was one of the WWE’s patented contract signings as Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan took one last chance to voice their opinions ahead of WrestleMania; sadly, for me, this ended up with the one-on-one match being officially sanctioned, meaning that Kevin Owens and Ali will have to settle for that stupid battle royal.
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal: Asuka vs Carmella vs Naomi vs Lana vs Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville vs Nikki Cross vs Dana Brooke vs Ruby Riott vs Liv Morgan vs Sarah Logan vs Mickie James vs Zelina Vega vs Others
It is literally a crime that Asuka has been relegated to this match and I am absolutely astounded by it. There were so many other options: they could have naturally booked Charlotte/Asuka II, maybe had Asuka get pissed at Ronda stealing all the spotlight and insert herself into the WrestleMania main event, build up a fresh challenger on SmackDown! Live, hell throw together a fatal-four-way or something, bring in Nikki Cross…anything but, no, here we are. Oh, and speaking of, I’m going with Nikki Cross but, honestly, who the hell cares who wins this match?
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Braun Strowman vs Colin Jost vs Michael Che vs Andrade vs Apollo Crews vs Titus O’Neil vs Tyler Breeze vs Jinder Mahal vs No Way Jose vs Bobby Roode vs Chad Gable vs Kalisto vs Gran Metalik vs Lince Dorado vs Bo Dallas vs Curtis Axel vs Heath Slater vs Rhyno vs Viktor vs Konnor vs Ali vs Shelton Benjamin vs Luke Gallows vs Karl Anderson vs Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy vs Otis vs Tucker vs EC3 vs Others
These fucking battle royals, man! They are just an excuse for the WWE to be lazy going into WrestleMania; they screwed up the concept of this match from day one as there’s nothing to be gained from winning. The winner should become the number one contender or something but, instead, they maybe get a trophy and usually just get shipwrecked for the better part of a year. The smart money here is on Braun Strowman, as he’s been the focal point of the match, but I am so pissed off that he hasn’t got anything better to do at WrestleMania. The WWE should have added Drew McIntyre to the Universal Championship match at Crown Jewel, had him win the belt, and hold it in place of Roman Reigns and built towards Braun unsurping him here but, no, gotta panic and throw the belt onto fucking Brock Lesnar again!
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Buddy Murphy (c) vs Tony Nese
Surely a match that will be relegated to the kick-off show, this seems like as good a time as ever to shake things up and put the belt on Tony Nese. I don’t really care, though…
WWE United States Championship Match: Samoa Joe (c) vs Rey Mysterio
This will be lucky to get off the kick-off show as well but the hype for this match isn’t really there for me; it doesn’t help that Rey has been feuding with Andrade up to this point and seems to have awkwardly transitioned towards challenging Joe out of nowhere and losing to Baron Corbin certainly didn’t help. If you ask me, we should have just gotten Andrade, Rey, Joe, and R-Truth all in this match again for another fatal-four-way, maybe even make it a ladder match to spice things up and edge the match on to the main card. I guess Rey Mysterio is going to win, because we can’t push Joe too far or he might actually be a threat!
AJ Styles vs Randy Orton
Honestly, this feels like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with AJ on SmackDown! Live now; he’s seemingly done it all and faced everyone and a move to Raw seems imminent and necessary to give him some fresh matches. I find Orton to be bland and predictable between the ropes but he usually puts some effort in at WrestleMania; he’s getting a much fairer shake of the stick than Strowman, that’s for sure, and as long as he’s not fighting for any belts I’m happy but this has to go to AJ Styles.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: The Boss ‘n Hug Connection © vs Nia Jax and Tamina vs Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs The IIconics
See, I get the idea of doing a multi-team championship match; WrestleMania XX had two of them and, while they were a bit of a clusterfuck, at least it got tag teams on the main card and fighting for the belts and made the belts look like they were worth fighting for. This year, this is the only tag team championship match, which is quite sad. Again, I would have liked to see an NXT team take Phoenix/Natalya’s place but I don’t see Sasha Banks and Bayley losing the belts on the grandest stage of them all.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: The Miz vs Shane McMahon
Ah, yes, the match that never should have been. Again, Shane should have helped Miz win at Crown Jewel and turned heel then; as Miz’s heel manager, Shane could have helped him dethrone AJ Styles and Miz would spent the rest of the year ducking Daniel Bryan to build towards this match. That way, Miz would get a proper championship run and become SmackDown! Live’s top heel and Bryan could have a big WrestleMania moment; he could turn heel on the following SmackDown! Live easily enough (“I won because of me!”, that sort of thing) but, instead, we get Shane Mc-fuckin’-Mahon in another singles match at WrestleMania and we get babyface Miz, which is still really awkward. Anyway, the Miz has got to win this and put an end to all this shit…unless his Dad turns on him…oh God, I said that out loud!
Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre
Well, this is a bit better than the original rumours that Reigns was going to face Baron Corbin but, again, I’m not happy about this; McIntyre should either be losing the Universal Championship to Strowman (throw in Reigns and Rollins for a four-way if you need to) or in a fatal-four-way (ladder match, maybe?) for the Intercontinental Championship where he would win that belt. Instead, while I have no doubt this will be a kick-ass match, he’s going to get run over by Roman Reigns. Hopefully, he can bounce back and move on to better things, especially if Rollins defeats Lesnar.
Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin
This is Angle’s last-ever match in the WWE, apparently; he’s done all he can do and he’s going to do the honours for Corbin on the way out, I’m sure. I get it; I’d have liked to see Cena/Angle or Undertaker/Angle or McIntyre/Angle but think about what this could mean for Corbin if he wins; he will be universally hated, which is the whole ideas. He just needs to learn from it, hone his craft, and hopefully he can take advantage of this opportunity. Yeah, I’m saying Baron Corbin will win but I think John Cena might save Angle from a post-match assault, maybe.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Bobby Lashley (c) vs The Demon King Finn Balor
Kinda spoils the surprise of Finn being the Demon King when they announce it beforehand but I get why they’d do that; also, if eel this match will go on after Angle’s likely-very-emotional retirement match and therefore get next to now crowd reaction except for the entrance and, hopefully, victory of Finn Balor. Again, though, I don’t understand the booking logic behind this; surely it’s a bigger WrestleMania moment if Balor wins the belt for the first time here rather than win it, lose it, and then just win it back? Also, again, a fatal-four-way between champion Balor, Lashley, McIntyre, and Dean Ambrose (possible a ladder match) would have been way more exciting, give those guys something to do, and allow McIntyre to start a strong heel run with the mid-card belt. But whatever.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Kofi Kingston
This match would then follow to get the crowd back on side just in time for Triple H’s wankfest against Batista. This, again, is an oddity for me; it seemed the build was going to be for Miz/Bryan, as I detailed earlier, but the WWE have lightning in a bottle with Kofi Kingston so they’re smart to put him in this match but….where’s Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali? They’ve just vanished off the face of the Earth, it seems. I would have swerved the audience again by adding Kofi to a fatal-four-way that Bryan then wins by pinning someone else. Then you can build towards Kofi/Bryan, one-on-one, at Extreme Rules or whatever event is next and have Kofi win there in an excellent match. The only part of that I see remaining is Daniel Bryan retaining; I just don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on Kofi here, if ever, especially considering if Rollins beats Lesnar.
No Holds Barred Match: Batista vs Triple H
Triple H’s in-ring career is on the line here, which has really messed up my thoughts for this match; this will definitely go on before the main event and after the WWE Championship match because of Triple H’s ego and it’s that same ego that I question whether he’ll lose here. Logically, Triple H should win; Batista has done terrible things (well…he did one terrible thing and then shouted a lot but, apparently, that’s enough to make this a blood feud…) and should pay for his actions. Also, like, what if we suddenly get a spate of injuries, walk-outs, or wellness violations again and we need to throw the top belt onto an instantly legitimate heel? Triple H fills that role perfectly and it’s potentially likely, given how cursed the Universal Championship is. Plus plus, I don’t see Triple H giving up the opportunity to have twenty-to-twenty-five minute slugfests at WrestleMania just yet so I’m gonna go with Triple H, possibly after some interference by Ric Flair.
WWE Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Seth Rollins
And we’re right back to the same old, tried-and-tested formula of Beast vs. Beast Slayer. This has been the lamest, most pathetic, and unnecessary championship run of Lesnar’s career; Strowman and McIntyre were right there to take on the belt after Reigns’ illness but the WWE panicked and their weakest has cost them a chance to push hot, young up-and-comers. With Rollins, they have a chance to set things right; if he wins and stays healthy, we may finally get new challengers for the belt like we were promised with Reigns’ victory. But then, last year, Reigns was definitely going to win and they swerved it at the last minute, waited three months to finally have him dethrone Lesnar, and then it turned out that was a waste of time as Reigns got ill. I’m still backing Seth Rollins, though; he should win, defend against Drew McIntyre for a bit, and the set up a friendly rivalry with Reigns for the belt that builds in tension towards SummerSlam, where Reigns can win the title and become either a full heel or an awesome tweener.
Raw and SmackDownI Live Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match: Ronda Rousey (c) vs Charlotte Flair (c) vs Becky Lynch
I mean, you can’t tell me that this, this!, was the grand plan for WrestleMania all along? Obviously the WWE wanted Charlotte/Rousey but Becky’s big reactions knocked them for a loop but not enough to go all-in with her here, similar to Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX. Again, poor Asuka; you’re telling em she couldn’t have just been worked into this match, or lost her belt to Charlotte in an entirely different feud to set-up a unification match later down the line? The WWE has really rushed into things with this match over the last few weeks and, now, predicting it is a little tricky; originally, I was certain it would be Becky as, apparently, Ronda is done after WrestleMania but they could easily throw both belts on her, or their golden girl Charlotte, on a whim. I’m going to stick to my guns and go with Becky Lynch, though, who will hopefully do the right thing and give Asuka first dibs on a title shot afterwards.