Wrestlemania 31 Preview and Predictions
You can measure how far we've come technologically as a species since 1985 in a number of ways.
You can look at medical advancements and our ability to treat certain diseases or heal certain injuries. You can look at transportation, and how much easier it is to get from one place to another quickly and efficiently. You can look at communication and how technology allows us to convey messages electronically in seconds while actually seeing the recipient on a TV screen!
Hell, we don't even need to wait for nudity to arrive in the mail anymore! (Is Playboy still a thing?) The interwebs serves it up to us within seconds! WHAT A WORLD!
However, I'm an old soul, and for me, the advancements of 30 years can be summed up in one nuance...the way in which we consume Wrestlemania.
Thirty years ago, as seniors in high school, me and six buddies bought tickets for $25 apiece (in 2015 currency, roughly a left nut) to a movie theater in Torrington, Connecticut (which is somewhere in between East Bumblefuck and Nowhere, USA) to watch Hulk Hogan body slam Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III live on closed circuit television.
Sunday, I will watch Wrestlemania 31 on a flat-screen television in my home, in high definition on the WWE's own network streaming via the aforementioned interwebs. In fact, I can watch ANY of the Wrestlemanias ever for the low, low price of...(wait for it)...
NINE NINETY NINE!!!!
The McMahon family are throwing the 31st edition of their "showcase of the immortals" this Sunday, live from Levi's Stadium in the Bay Area. Let's give a preview and some predictions.
(SIDEBAR: One other advancement in the last 30 years? You can actually wager on WWE, via Bovada,lv. Yes, WWE is scripted, so you're essentially wagering on a) spoilers leaking out, as you can see from the heavy, heavy favorites, and b) the whims of WWE's creative team, who may or may not decide to change the outcome of matches to swerve the internet wrestling community. I'll include the odds below.)
Kickoff Pre-show: Fatal 4 Way for the WWE Tag Team Titles The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. (c) Cesaro and Tyson Kidd ODDS: Kidd/Cesaro -200, Usos +400, New Day +500, Matadores +700 One area where we've gone woefully backwards as a society in the last thirty years is our treatment of the importance of tag team wrestling. Hell, back in the 80's and 90's, the tag team titles would have a spot on the card that bumped up against the main event at times, most famously at Wrestlemania IX, when Money Inc. defended against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake (NOT his real name, by the way). Now, it's a match that gets thrown out there as the warm up act and includes a bunch of guys who are trapped in twin brother gimmicks or in "WWE push" purgatory. There's no reason for Kidd and Cesaro to lose the straps here, so I don't think they will.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal ODDS: Mizdow +125, Sheamus +250, Ryback +600 are top three This is the annual match where the McMahon family graciously allows like 80 percent of the roster to get onto the card so they can get a Wrestlemania paycheck (a paycheck that is probably woefully diminished since most of the free world is paying $9.99 for this pay per view on the network rather than the list price of like $75). The most compelling storyline involving any of the participants is the bubbling hatred between The Miz and his "understudy/stunt double" Damien Mizdow. I smell a trophy getting broken, possibly over someone's head. It seems to happen this way in with these battle royals...
"GHETTO BLASTER!!!" (Oh by the way, we are rolling with Mizdow here.)
AJ Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins ODDS: Lee/Paige -300, Bellas +200 I hate to keep harping on 30 years ago, but one MAJOR area of advancement, and it may be the area in which we've made up the most ground -- women's wrestling! back in the 80's this match would've been the Fabulous Moolah and three other hags in grandma bathing suits. Now we get a smoking hot set of twins, a spunky little brunette fireplug, and a pasty Goth chick, for those of you who are into pasty Goth chicks. Also, and this is huge... NO GRANDMA BATHING SUITS! We get to see stomach on all of them. And more importantly, we WANT to see stomach on all of them! My pick here is "who cares, A.J. is wrestling!" (But if I have to pick, I'll go A.J. and Paige.)
Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Title Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Bad News Barrett (c) ODDS: Bryan -150 is the heavy favorite Because of the ladder as an apparatus and the involvement of "smart mark crowd favorite" Daniel Bryan, who just a year ago was celebrating as the new champion of the world in New Orleans, this match has a great chance to steal the show. I'd count on some crazy shit from Ziggler and Ambrose, and Bryan coming away with the title and a very clear outlook as to whom his issues will be with over the next month or two, based on how this match goes down.
WWE United States Title Match John Cena vs. Rusev (c) ODDS: Cena -450, Rusev +275 Credit to Rusev for being a cut above the standard "foreigner who comes over and stirs up all sorts of patriotic loin tingling". Credit to Lana for serving up whatever loin tingling it is she's been dishing out, patriotic or otherwise. Credit to John Cena, who appears to be settling into a nice upper mid card attraction which will help build depth on the WWE roster going forward. Just all sorts of credit being dished out. Cena wins here and then gets to act like we all give a shit about the U.S. title on Monday Night RAW the following evening.
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton ODDS: Rollins -150, Orton +110 Kudos to Randy Orton, as this is the longest I've given a shit about him after a comeback-from-a-long-hiatus in his career. I guess the fifteenth time is a charm! I will admit that Seth Rollins is growing on me as a chickenshit heel. I'm more intrigued by the possibility of Rollins cashing in on his Money In The Bank briefcase after the main event, although Lesnar's contract extension probably puts that off the radar for now. I'll take Rollins' continued ascension toward main event status and a win over Orton.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker ODDS: Undertaker -400, Wyatt +300 When I heard that Undertaker was coming back to wrestle Bray Wyatt, all I could think of was this picture that showed up on the internet a while back...
Undertaker, say it isn't so! The picture of the "old man" was taken a month ago in an airport. Crazy! pic.twitter.com/vQ94b0QLDA
— Chad ELCID Cidlevicz (@Chadlevicz) December 19, 2014
This is a match that's been built up entirely on Wyatt's ranting like a maniac in promos and a bunch of thunder and lightning special effects. I'll be honest, with the Undertaker's streak now history, I have no idea who to take in this one, so I'll take the +300 value with Wyatt and bank on Taker being in "star making" mode.
Sting vs. Triple H ODDS: Sting -700, Triple H +400 This match is being billed as the "face of WCW" versus the "face of WWE." I'm most excited to see what kind of zoo animals and medieval armor Triple H incorporates into his ring entrance this year. I'm least excited to see what Sting looks like without his shirt on. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that. Also, Sting wins here, although any outcome that sticks him back in the rafters for six months as an homage to the NWO angle is cool with me.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (c) ODDS: Reigns -120, Lesnar -120 Say what you will about wagering on scripted events, but this is the main event of the biggest scripted event of the year, and the wagering community has no idea who is going to win. Prior to Lesnar's announcement on ESPN that he would be returning to WWE after Mania, the odds were -170 on Reigns winning, however the immediate assumption was that Lesnar's return would make his win at Mania a lock. In fact, all it's done is made this match even more of a coin flipper in the eyes of many. I just don't think that Reigns is ready for life on the champion-level stage, at least not without somebody doing his talking for him. So that's what we are betting on here...Lesnar going over on Reigns and essentially stifling Reigns' push before it really gets going, OR Reigns and Lesnar both somehow keeping their momentum and possibly getting a rematch out of this whole thing down the road. Nervously, I'll take the Hayman double cross on Lesnar (which would have to have some element of jealousy toward Lesnar, or perhaps Heyman unhappy with Lesnar's new contract in some way), and the Reign of Reigns beginning Monday night.