The biggest and most important World Wrestling Entertainment event of the year is finally here: WrestleMania 33. The event takes place this Sunday, April 2 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
It’s the second time WWE has held a WrestleMania in the building where the Citrus Bowl is held every year. You may recall that when they held WrestleMania 24 there in 2008, it was the night where Shawn Michaels retired Ric Flair from WWE competition and The Undertaker beat Edge to win the World Heavyweight Title.
This year’s event doesn’t have a lineup that suggests we may get a classic WrestleMania match, but we could be surprised. There is a lot of star power on the card. Two of the three biggest matches (Goldberg vs. Lesnar and Undertaker vs. Reigns) feature men in their 50s (Goldberg and Undertaker) who may not have any more matches left in them. Two other big matches feature part-timers in their late 40s, Shane McMahon and Triple H, which makes you wonder what kind of message WWE is sending.
What’s disappointing to me is that young stars who should be in featured matches on the show, like Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn, are relegated to the battle royal on the Kickoff Show. Samoa Joe isn’t even advertised for a match, while Finn Balor was cleared for action earlier in the month and won’t have a role unless it’s a surprise. There isn’t even a Smackdown Tag Title match, even though The Usos and American Alpha had one of the best TV matches of the year a few weeks back with the titles on the line. What a shame.
It’s also disappointing that there’s only one women’s match on the main 10-match card. WWE talks about their “women’s revolution” all the time, yet here we are at the biggest show of the year and they bumped the Smackdown women’s match to the Kickoff Show. There is a mixed tag on the main card at least. The point is, you can’t talk about giving the women more time when you do the same thing every year with only one women’s match on WrestleMania’s main show.
Is WrestleMania about building the future of the company or can they not let go of the past? It’s a little bit of both. Sure, there’s a role for the part-timers because it may draw interest for the casual fans, but it’s tough for the full-time wrestlers to get a “WrestleMania moment” when they are not given a chance to do more at the most important show of the year.
You can watch WrestleMania 33 this Sunday on WWE Network this at 7 p.m. ET with an expected run time of four and a half hours. There’s a two-hour Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET as well. It’s asking a lot to expect people to watch over six hours of content, but at least WWE Network is only $9.99 in the US or free if you manage to sign up with a new account.
In addition to the matches, the New Day will serve as hosts of the show with some wacky comedy skits. Also, singer Tinashe will sing America the Beautiful and Pitbull, Flo Rida and friends will perform. I think it’s likely that The Rock will be there while Steve Austin is also possible and perhaps Hulk Hogan will make his WWE return.
For this preview, I’ll feature the bigger matches first and work my way down through the 13-match card.
Universal Championship: Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman)
I expect this match to go on last even though WWE likes to tell us the Royal Rumble winner (Randy Orton) gets to main event the show. In their eyes, there are three main events on the card, but this is the most important of all.
The story here is that Goldberg and Lesnar were going to have the one match at Survivor Series. However, prior to that show, WWE came to a deal with Goldberg to keep him around for WrestleMania. That changed the finish of Survivor Series as Goldberg beat Lesnar in 86 seconds. At the Royal Rumble, Goldberg eliminated Lesnar easily. Then at Fastlane earlier this month, Goldberg beat Kevin Owens for the Universal Title in 22 seconds.
Lesnar hasn’t won a televised match since beating Randy Orton at SummerSlam last August, yet here he is ready to leave WrestleMania with Raw’s most important title. With all due respect to WWE, they could have booked “The Beast” a lot better than they have.
Goldberg, who is 50 years old, did a poor job of selling the match when he was on the Edge & Christian podcast talking about how miserable he has felt while training for the match. He’s miserable because of the physical toll it has taken on him just to get ready for it. He noted that his family is happy and he’s happy backstage, but it’s been tough on him.
The television build has seen Lesnar drop Goldberg with a F5 on the night after Goldberg won the Universal Title. Goldberg got some payback this week on Raw with a Spear. Other than that, there’s not much to the story except for Paul Heyman ranting about how Lesnar is going to take down Goldberg.
The most important question is how long will the match go? I get the sense they’ve done all the brief stuff to build up to something more here. They might tease another 90-second finish, but I think Lesnar will take control and it will go closer to 10 minutes. I don’t expect a classic match by any means. However, the crowd should be hot. Each man will hit their big moves. I think it will take three F5s from Lesnar to finally put Goldberg away after 10 minutes of action.
Lesnar is the obvious choice since he has another year left on his WWE deal, while Goldberg is likely done after this match. Frankly, I won’t miss Goldberg when he’s gone, but I’m glad he got to perform in front of his family like he wanted. That’s pretty cool.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar wins the Universal Championship
WWE Championship: Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
There’s a six-month storyline heading into this match, which is great. That’s how it should be for WrestleMania. When they wrestled in the fall, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Heading into WrestleMania, it’s a much bigger match since Orton worked with Wyatt for months, turned on him (even though he’s the face in the storyline) and now they are going to be in the same ring together for the first time since late last year. I like that they’ve been kept apart physically because it will feel fresh when they have this match.
This match could be very good because I expect them to get 15-20 minutes. I feel like this is the start of a series of matches between them. Wyatt won the title in early February and this is his first PPV title defense, so taking the title off him would be a bad move. He’s the younger wrestler with a very bright future. The better story is having Orton chase him for the next few months.
I think it’s possible Wyatt will get some help to retain the title. A returning Erick Rowan (cleared from injury) or perhaps Luke Harper re-joining Wyatt could be a factor. This past week on Smackdown, Harper was reluctant to finish off Wyatt when he had a chance, so that could have been a tease. They could even debut a woman as “Sister Abigail.” Bray said she died, but we all know heels lie. Wyatt keeping his title makes the most sense to me.
Prediction: Bray Wyatt gets some help to retain the WWE Championship
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
I think this is the most interesting match on the show in terms of what WWE might do from a booking standpoint. I wrote a column about it a few weeks ago looking at four different scenarios that might happen. It generated a lot of interesting feedback, so thanks for that. The one I liked best was Reigns winning the match and attacking Undertaker leading to heel Reigns. Do I really think WWE is going that way for it? Not really.
This may be The Undertaker’s last match. He’s 52 years old, he’s not moving well due to a hip injury and if he’s going to go out, WrestleMania is the place to do it. With that said, I don’t expect WWE to tell us it’s his last match. He is not the type of character that attracts a lot of fanfare or will want to promote this show as his last match.
Reigns should win the match because he’s 20 years younger, he’s the future of the company (despite what his haters think) and it’s not like The Undertaker’s undefeated streak is a thing anymore. If Undertaker wins, I’d be very surprised because in pro wrestling, we know that the old guys put over the young guys. That’s just how the business works.
Reigns will be booed by the majority of the crowd for the entire match. I don’t expect that heel turn, though. He sells more merchandise than any full-timer in the company (John Cena is a part-timer), so turning him heel would cost him and the company money. I think the heel turn would be great for Reigns from a character and creative standpoint, though. Since Finn Balor and Seth Rollins are healthy, Raw has enough good guys. Making Reigns a bad guy would work very well while generating a lot of interest to see what he might do next.
My more specific prediction is that Reigns wins, helps Undertaker up, Undertaker raises his hand and Reigns leaves out of respect so that Undertaker can soak up the cheers for what could be the last match of The Undertaker. I doubt they go 20 minutes due to injury concerns with Undertaker. If it’s a 12-15 minute match, that should be good enough.
Prediction: Roman Reigns wins
Non-Sanctioned Match: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
A “non-sanctioned match” means that there are no rules. It’s basically a No Holds Barred match with a different title. That means they’re going to brawl around the ring, use a bunch of weapons and maybe try some big moves. Rollins may be limited a bit due to his right knee injury, but I think he’ll be able to get through it fine or they never would have cleared him to return to action.
I expect interference from Samoa Joe, since he’s a “Triple H guy” who injured Rollins two months ago. It’s likely that Rollins feuds with Joe after WrestleMania as well. They might bring Finn Balor here as a guy to help Rollins since he’s a good guy, even though it was Rollins who injured Balor. I just think they need somebody to do the save. Sami Zayn could work too since he’s had issues with Joe.
Rollins should get the win. He’s the full-timer and Triple H is the part-timer who is there to put over the younger guys. If Hunter wins, then it’s because they plan to do the match again at some other PPV. I think Rollins needs to win here as the face fighting through injury because it could lead to him becoming a bigger star.
Prediction: Seth Rollins wins his first singles match at WrestleMania
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
The feud has been built up over the last month. Styles is mad that he wasn’t a part of a bigger match at WrestleMania, so he attacked Shane and sent him headfirst through a car window. Shane responded by hitting an elbow drop off the top rope through the announce table at ringside. A lot of these matches have been built up in similar ways.
WWE has opted to go with a regular match here instead of something with a stipulation that could have allowed them to brawl around the ring and set up key high spots by Shane. They can probably do something like that if they have a ref bump in the match. People are joking that Shane may jump off a rollercoaster that is part of the WrestleMania set. I’m sure he’ll try to jump off something because even in his late 40s, he’s just as crazy as he used to be!
Styles should win since he’s the full-time wrestler while Shane is the Commissioner of Smackdown Live. When Shane was a part of the Smackdown team at Survivor Series last November, he did a pretty good job. That was a tag, though. There’s more of a spotlight in a singles match. Plus, Styles is the best in-ring performer in WWE. It won’t be easy for Shane. I think it’s going to be a very good match, though. It may even be the best match because I think Styles has a chip on his shoulder and will perform at a very high level like usual.
Prediction: AJ Styles wins his first WrestleMania match
United States Championship: Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
This is my favorite match in terms of the build (from best friends to enemies), the freshness of the matchup, and the two guys involved are among my favorites in WWE. Jericho hasn’t defended the US Title a lot since he won it from Roman Reigns. It could be argued that they don’t even need a title because this is a grudge match. If this was 15 years ago, I could predict both guys getting busted open and having a bloodbath-type match because that’s what the storyline calls for. These days, we don’t get like matches like that anymore. It should still be good and I expect them to get 15-20 minutes as well.
I think a title change is coming. Jericho’s expected to take time off from WWE in May to tour with his band Fozzy. That means Owens winning here, doing a rematch at Payback at the end of April and Owens winning again makes the most sense for this story. This could be the match of the night, so drink it in… man. Sorry Jericho, I had to do it.
Prediction: Kevin Owens wins the United States Championship
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
The build for this match has been awesome over the last month on Smackdown. It started with some issues between the four of them in different matches and then they went off with intense promos. Miz and Maryse took personal shots at John and Nikki, so John and Nikki fired back. Both couples delivered some great lines on the Talking Smack show. Over the last two weeks, Miz and Maryse did some hilarious “Total Bellas” parody segments that destroyed John and Nikki. Then this past week on Smackdown, Cena delivered one of his greatest promos ever as he verbally eviscerated Miz and Maryse to the point that they didn’t say a word in reply.
What I love about Smackdown Live is that their feuds feel a lot more personal than what we get on Raw. They feel like a shoot, which means they feel real. This feud is the best example of that.
I think John and Nikki are going to win with Nikki getting the pin on Maryse. Cena’s expected to take time off after WrestleMania to film some movies, but I still think they are going to win. After the match, I think Cena will propose marriage to Nikki and it will garner WWE the kind of mainstream press they are looking for with WrestleMania. Oh yeah, she’ll say yes too.
Prediction: John Cena & Nikki Bella win and get engaged after it’s over
Raw Women’s Championship Fatal Four-Way Elimination: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax
I like that they made this an elimination match. It means they should get more time (around 15 minutes) and the result will put over the winner more because she will have survived against three other women. In a one-fall match, it can be fluky. In an elimination match, the winner looks like they earned it.
Since WWE loves booking title changes for this division, it’s tough to predict who will win. I think the story that makes the most sense is having Bayley retain the gold. If they book it in a way where Charlotte is eliminated first, it would be a major shock. Have Jax eliminate Banks in dominant finish while poor Bayley is left alone. That’s where I would have Bayley find a way to beat Jax since Bayley lost clean to Jax twice in the last month.
The biggest booking mistake WWE has made so far this year was having Bayley win the Women’s Title from Charlotte on a random Raw in February. Bayley’s first title win should have been at WrestleMania. Poor job by WWE in not building up an easy WrestleMania moment. I think it’s important to legitimize Bayley as the Raw Women’s Champion, so hopefully she retains.
Prediction: Bayley retains her title
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin
They have built up this story for a few months with Corbin as the heel with the cheap attacks and Ambrose as the face that keeps wanting to fight.
Ambrose is younger than Corbin in terms of age by a year, but in terms of WWE tenure, fans see Ambrose as the more experienced. That means that Ambrose is in the spot as the more experienced guy that is there to put over the rising star Corbin, who could be a WWE Champion later this year. Corbin should walk away with the coveted title.
Prediction: Baron Corbin wins the Intercontinental Title
Raw Tag Team Championships (Ladder Match): Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
The match was built up for a few weeks, but the Ladder Match stipulation was thrown together last week after Gallows & Anderson attacked Cesaro & Sheamus with ladders. I assume that was done so late in the build because WWE realized they wanted a Ladder Match on the show within the last week. Nice long-term planning, huh?
If Enzo & Cass don’t win the titles, I’ll be very surprised. It’s the only match on the show where a babyface wrestler (two in this case) can win their title for the first time ever and do it at a WrestleMania. That’s what they should have done with Bayley. It sucks for Gallows & Anderson because they haven’t held the gold for that long. I just think Enzo & Cass winning the titles as popular team is the way to go. It should be a good match, but nothing out of the ordinary. The ending should be a cool moment, though.
Prediction: Enzo & Cass win the Raw Tag Team Titles
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi
This is likely going to stay as a “Six Pack Challenge” because that’s what they said on Smackdown this past week, but it could change. Who really knows? With veterans like James, Natalya and Lynch in there, they should be able to carry the match and make it entertaining for the 10 minutes they are given.
Naomi’s return at Smackdown (she was out for a few weeks with a knee injury) drew a big reaction from the crowd. She was the champion who had to forfeit the title and it was won back by Bliss. I think Naomi should win the title in her hometown of Orlando because they can use this as an opportunity to build her into a bigger star.
Prediction: Naomi wins the Smackdown Women’s Title
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries
If you think Neville looks mad in that image above, he is probably even more mad that this match got bumped to the Kickoff Show. Both guys are incredible well-rounded performers. The only thing holding them back is their height. Aries is the better of the two, but Neville is right there and has been so impressive as CW champion. It’s a shame because if they were given a fair shot and as much time as the others, then they would have had the best match on the show. They still might get time on the Kickoff Show, but it won’t feel as important.
I think Neville is the long-term champion of the division. He should find a way to retain. I don’t think it will be a clean finish, which can lead to some rematches down the road.
Prediction: Neville finds a way to retain his title
Andre The Giant Battle Royal
I’m not a big fan of battle royals. If you’ve watched them before, then you know what’s going to happen. In this match, it will be about Braun Strowman and Big Show tossing the smaller guys out of the ring so they can have their big man moment together. Sami Zayn should make it near the end as well. I think Strowman and Zayn will be the final two guys with Strowman getting the win. If they don’t put Strowman over, I’d be very surprised.
It would be nice if the winner got a shot at a title. A trophy is nice, but it’s not like fans care about it. Give the winner more of a prize and this match may become more interesting.
Prediction: Braun Strowman wins
It’s going to be a long night, my friends. Pace yourselves if you’re eating, drinking and planning bathroom breaks (hey, Pitbull). A 13-match show with a run time of six hours is pretty ridiculous, not to mention all the shenanigans that should happen with New Day as the hosts. I’m cautiously optimistic about things just because WrestleMania is a big thing and I expect WWE to make it feel special. However, the card could be a lot better if certain people were in key matches while others could have been left off the show. That’s 2017, though. It’s great at times and head-scratching bad as well.
You can watch WrestleMania 33 this Sunday on WWE Network this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET with an expected run time of four and a half hours. There’s a two hour Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET as well. I’ll be back on Monday with a review.