Wrestlemania 37: Predictions & Analysis

After what has managed to be both the shortest and longest year of all our lives, we’ve got ourselves another Wrestlemania to enjoy. The build this year has been a bit muted, in my opinion. There’s not that usual buzz that comes with Wrestlemania season. Is it because we had a Pay-Per-View less than a month ago? Who’s to say (it is).

Regardless, there is still plenty to be looking forward to on this show. All of the main event matches promise to be absolute barn-burners in their own way, and the undercard is full of matches with tonnes of potential. On top of that, we’re finally getting fans back in arenas! Whether or not you think it’s a good idea, the fact is, it’s going to do wonders for the atmosphere of this show. While Wrestlemania last year was still great, it felt like it had been taken down a peg by being stuffed into the Performance Centre. Not only did it make it look like an indie show, but it made it look & feel like every other show WWE had because they all had to be out of the PC. With the big stadium and all the fans, things are looking much better for the feel of this year’s show, and I’m looking forward to it.

Enough chatter, we’ve a lot of matches to pick.

Night 1

Lana & Naomi vs Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs The Riott Squad vs Natalya & Tamina vs Billie Kay & Carmella
(Winners get a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Championships on Night 2)
(Tag Team Turmoil)

The women’s tag team division has been in dire straight for a long time now. For the first few months of 2021, we’ve had champion & challenger combinations team up to face Nia & Shayna, and one of them even won the titles for a brief spell. WWE doesn’t care about their men’s tag divisions either, but at least they keep a couple of established teams lying around for situations like this. Here, we have one team with an established history but very little credibility and three teams that have basically just formed. Sure, they’ve been vaguely aligned with each other for a while, but they’re not over as tag teams.

I’m expecting this match to be given less time than it should, which does undermind the point I’m about to make a little bit. However, I’m hoping this match serves as a good show-case for the woefully underutilized & underpromoted women’s mid-card. WWE have such a strong & deep women’s division if only they’d try and use it properly. I’m praying that at least one wrestler comes out of this with people thinking, “wow, she’s really good, she deserves more”. The truth is, all of them deserve more, but WWE just isn’t willing to give it to them.

Due to so little build or attention being paid to these teams, it’s pretty up in the air who will win. The title match on night 2 won’t be heel vs heel so that rules out Natalya & Tamina right away. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose haven’t done anything of note since about this time last year, so I’m casting them aside too. This leaves us with the one established team, who has been doing ok recently, even if they are still under pushed; or the rag-tag team of Naomi, who has been underappreciated her whole career and Lana, who is still a crap wrestler, but at least has some story with Nia & Baszler.

I really don’t know between those last two, so I’m going to go with what I want and say The Riott Squad will get the win.

Cesaro vs Seth Rollins

A few months ago, we were all sure Cesaro was getting this big push, and he’d get to fight Reigns. That didn’t happen, but I’m still thrilled that he’s getting this opportunity.

I’ve been a bit critical of Rollins’ character, and I stand by what I said about his current direction feel stagnant. However, I’ve come to appreciate how well he’s been performing it in recent weeks. The segment on Smackdown last week where Graves oversaw a confrontation between them was excellent, and both men really fed off each other in a way that only wrestlers who know each other as well as these two do can. Cesaro has got to feel like a legitimate contender for the first time in forever. While I’m pessimistic that this will lead to anything significant for him, it gives me hope that he still has somewhat of a bright future ahead of him.

When it comes to in-ring action, you surely don’t need me to tell you how great this has the potential to be. Rollins is one of the best pure-wrestlers in WWE right now (and has been for a long time), and it should never be understated just how bloody brilliant Cesaro is when he’s let loose. I’m expecting a technical affair with plenty of fast, flying action and exciting counters. It feels like the perfect show opener, let two incredible wrestlers do whatever they want for 15 minutes to start things off with a bang.

I’m pretty torn on picking a winner too. Cesaro getting one over on Rollins seems like what would make the most sense to the story. On top of that, Cesaro is seeing a new rise and having him win his first-ever singles match at Wrestlemania would easily launch him forwards for whatever they want to do with him next. Unfortunately, I’m just not sure I have that kind of faith in WWE. They’ve almost pushed Cesaro so many times that I can’t bring myself to believe it’s going to happen. Rollins is the bigger star, and – with the exception of last year – he doesn’t tend to lose at Wrestlemania. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m picking Seth Rollins to get the win.

Braun Strowman vs Shane McMahon
(Steel Cage)

This is the one match across both nights that I don’t see any potential in at all. The story surrounding this match has been utter crap. I’ve complained about it already, but Strowman has been utterly destroyed over the past 12 months, and this is just putting the cherry on top of all the shit he’s been put through this year. We’ve got Shane, who I don’t to see wrestle, taking on an absolute monster of a man for reasons that are still unclear. That’s already bad, but when you throw on top the involvement of slime and report cards and all kinds of other stupid crap, I just don’t even slightly care about this match.

I’ve got no faith in the in-ring action either. I’m not a fan of Steel Cage matches at the best of times, which is far from the best of times. I’m expecting Shane to pull out all sorts of shenanigans and jump off of the cage at least twice. It’ll make for a nice still-shot, but that’s about it. Braun should absolutely wipe the floor with Shane, but he’s probably going to be made to look like an idiot like he has this whole feud.

This should be an easy pick, but I’m expecting the worse. Everything about wrestling logic says Braun should win, but Shane just wins matches when he has absolutely no right to. I can easily see WWE copying from a few years ago and having Strowman throw Shane from the top of the cage to the floor, meaning Shane wins on a technicality. I’m going to take the leap of faith, though and say WWE won’t fuck this up. A risky move, I know, but I’m picking Braun Strowman to win.

Bad Bunny & Damien Priest vs The Miz & John Morrison

Remember when The Miz was WWE Champion? That was a wild Monday.

I think the fact that I see more potential in this match than Strowman/Shane should say everything I need to on how much I’m not interested in that match. Looking at this one, it’s always hard to tell how good a celebrity match is going to be. Maybe they’ll be a Stephen Amell or Pet McAfee and do a really good job. Maybe they’ll be like pretty much every other celebrity that’s wrestled and be crap. At the very least, I definitely feel like Bad Bunny understands what he’s getting himself into, it’s clear he loves and respects pro-wrestling, and I can’t take that away from him.

The Miz as his choice of opponent isn’t very exciting, but it makes sense. From a character perspective, they’re pretty diametrically opposed, and from an in-ring perspective, there are few safer hands to guide Bad Bunny through the match. With Preist & Morrison able to get in the match, I’m expecting this to turn into a shenanigans-fest pretty quickly so Bad Bunny doesn’t have to do too much in the ring. As long as Bunny’s competent in the ring and there’s a couple of fun moments in there, I’ll be happy with this one.

Bad Bunny & Damien Priest is going to win for sure. The Miz has been booked like chump supreme for almost a year now, and there’s no way WWE will bring in a big celebrity like this and have them lose. On top of that, this is Priest’s first major PPV match, and he’s not going to lose. Giving him the celebrity rub like this hopefully means they’ve got big things in mind.

The New Day(c) vs AJ Styles & Omos
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Well, the tag titles may not be treated with that much respect these days, but at least the Raw ones made the show…

I’ve not been thrilled with the developments in the Raw tag division as of late. Styles & Omos teaming up is a good thing and puts some more star power into the division, but WWE just keeps breaking up great tag teams. I like the New Day, but I don’t care that they’re tag champions, they’ve been the titles ‘default’ setting for years now. They’ve only become 11-time tag champs because there’s no one else to hold the belts. The Hurt Business should’ve kept those titles, and it blows my mind that WWE decided breaking them up would be any kind of a good idea this soon.

Hopefully, this match will be good, it definitely has the potential to be. Kofi & Woods are as good as they always have been. While I’m tired of seeing them as champions, I’m not tired of watching them in the ring by a long stretch. Styles can still turn it on whenever he wants, so I’ve got absolutely no worries there. Omos is the only unknown factor here, but I’m going to choose to be optimistic. He’s been entertaining as Styles’ sidekick, with some surprisingly great comedic chops. He’s got a great look and carries himself like he knows how great he is, which I love. Will he be any good in the ring? Hard to say without seeing any of his work, but he’s going to be in there with a wrestler who should be able to bring the best out of him.

I’m going with AJ Styles & Omos to win because it’s by far the more interesting choice. This is Omos’ debut, and having him lose – even if it’s not his fault – wouldn’t be a good look. There’s the potential here to build a relationship similar to watch Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez currently have in NXT if they win the tag titles, and it’ll do wonders for Omos’ career.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Drew McIntyre
(WWE Championship)

Bobby Lashley turned into one of Raw’s best wrestlers, so gradually, I didn’t even notice until I became super hyped for his title win. He was thrown about for a couple years following his WWE return with nothing interesting – and also a cucking angle. Once he got together with MVP, the trajectory was only upwards. His run with the US title was really good, and The Hurt Business became far and away the best part of Raw week-on-week. Why WWE decided to break up the faction, I still don’t know, I think it was a terrible decision, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m in love with Lashley right now, and I’m very excited for this match.

Drew has had exactly the kind of year we hoped he’d have when he won the WWE title. He held it for almost the whole year and decisively beat everyone who was put in his path. This past year has solidified Drew as a top guy in WWE for the rest of his career, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the guy. His style should mesh perfectly with Lashley’s for a hoss fight to end all hoss fights. I’m expecting a lot of high-impact stuff, with a slower pace but meaningful action that draws you in right until the close.

I think the winner is a little up in the air too. Conventional wisdom says Drew is going to win back the title. It seems like WWE want Drew to get the moment he didn’t get last year, winning the WWE title in front of a stadium of cheering fans. I could see Lashley continuing his run, though, and I wouldn’t be against that. As I said, I’m enjoying his work like never before, and it would be a shame if he only got to have a short title run. I’ve got to go with what my heart wants, though, and my heart wants Drew McIntyre to get that title back and spend at least another few months continuing the fantastic run he’s been on for almost a year now.

Sasha Banks(c) vs Bianca Belair
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I really hope this is the main event of night 1 because these women deserve it.

Bianca Belair’s rise has been such a joy to watch. I don’t just mean from the Royal Rumble either, I mean from her time in NXT, where she was seen as someone who couldn’t hang in the world’s best women’s division. She’s one of those wrestler where I can so clearly see the monumental improvement she’s gone through in her career so far, to the point where she is absolutely worthy of being at the very top of the wrestling world. Her character as a heel was a joy to watch, but once she turned face, she somehow managed to get even better. Her cocky attitude switched to one of the most hard-working and genuine wrestlers on the face of the planet, and I’m so endeared to her. Her Royal Rumble victory has been the highlight of 2021 so far in WWE, and I’m extremely excited for this match.

Sasha, meanwhile, has spent the six months having the best title reign of her career. Similarly, a fantastic heel character gave way to a somehow even better face character, having a feud of the year with Bayley and defending her title against all comers in good-to-great matches. There are no doubts in my mind that this will be a great match, one worthy of a Wrestlemania main-event spot. Banks has been an incredible technical wrestler for years, and her in-ring storytelling ability is second to none. Belair, meanwhile, is exactly what she says she is, the EST of just about everything.

Bianca Belair has to win this, she just has to. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see Sasha retain since Belair is still a relatively fresh face, but this story would be so perfect if it ended with Belair on top. WWE has put such an emphasis on how hard she’s worked to get to where she is, and everyone is behind her on this one. I’m praying for the feel-good moment of the weekend when Belair holds that title aloft, crowned as the star she will always be from now on.

Night 2

Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn

When you’re looking at ol’ reliable matches in WWE, few are as evergreen as this one has been.

As Owens said on Twitter, these two have fought hundreds of times across their career, so for it to finally happen at Wrestlemania just feels right. They haven’t played up the history so much this time, but that’s mostly because they don’t really need to. Zayn’s conspiracy theory stuff has been a really strong story for a long time now, and when you’ve got something as strong as that at the core of your narrative, you don’t need to pull in the other elements. Owens is continuing his fantastic run as a face. I’ve gushed about him several times before already, but there’s something about the genuine way in which he cuts promos and interacts with Sami that makes him one of the best of this era.

This is going to be great in the ring, of course, it is. These two have chemistry like few others because they’ve been inexorably linked in their careers, like you wouldn’t believe. In terms of their WWE history, at least, this has a bit more of a fresh twist to it, as this is the first time the heel/face roles are this way around. I think it’ll be interesting to see how Owens makes himself look more like an underdog against a guy he’s been fairly dominant over in WWE up until this point. I’m sure they’ll nail it though, I have all the faith in the world.

As for a winner, Logan Paul being an outside factor (I’m not going into it) does throw a bit of uncertainty in there. Normally I’d say they wouldn’t have a celebrity align with the heel, but Logan Paul is pretty hated by the mainstream audience, so it wouldn’t be unjustified here. Ultimately, I think Kevin Owens has to come out the winner. While his work in his feud with Reigns was excellent, he did lose A LOT, and you can’t be keeping that up forever. Giving him a win over Zayn will give him a new launching point for whatever endeavours he pursues after Mania. It’ll be a shame to hand Zayn another loss, but his character is pretty resilient against losses right now. I know eventually Vince will lose interest in it, and that’ll be that, but let’s make the most of it while we have it.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs Night 1 Tag Team Turmoil Match Winners
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

I’ve already said everything I wanna say about the women’s tag division, so let’s just get down to business.

Will this be a good match? If it gets time, then hopefully yes, but much like with the night 1 match, I’m not confident it will. Each team will bring a different dynamic to the match, so things could be very different depending on who wins on night 1, but as I said, that won’t make much difference if they get less than 10 minutes.

I’m going with Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler to retain, whether it’s the Riott Squad or one of the other teams who challenges. Jax & Baszler are the only properly established team on the roster right now, and flipping the titles onto one of the other teams would only lead to the belts being treated even worse than they currently are. That’s not how it should be, and I wish I could be more optimistic in my hopes here, but WWE has given me absolutely no reason to believe they have any interest in properly investing in this division any time soon.

Riddle(c) vs Sheamus
(United States Championship)

I’m really not sure what to think of this one.

At the moment, I’m pretty firm in that I like both wrestlers. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs with Sheamus, but since his feud with Drew McIntyre, he’s been really entertaining both in and out of the ring. Riddle, meanwhile, he’s good in the ring, but outside of it? I’m just not liking any of it. WWE is forcing this outdated style of stoner comedy onto him that I just don’t find funny. Tom Riddle’s credit, he’s been performing it about as well as it can be performed, but they’ve lost the intense side to Riddle’s character that made me love him so much in NXT. That’s not saying he has to be all serious, of course, one of the best things about Riddle is that he can mesh the serious & the silly to great effect, that’s why his tag team with Pete Dunne got over. I just think that what they’re doing now is uncreative and unfunny.

I’m looking forward to this match from an in-ring perspective, though. Riddle’s style meshes technical manoeuvring with hard striking in a way that I find fascinating, and I’m hoping that’ll mesh really well with Sheamus’ brutish style. I think it’ll be really fun to watch if they can establish a firm balance between a technical and hard-hitting style that plays to both guys’ strengths.

My gut says  Riddle, so I’m going to go with it, but I’m not super sure about myself. Sheamus has been a feature player on Raw since the start of the year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a US title reign was the way WWE went to keep that going. The argument against that is that A) It’s very similar to what Lashley did with the title not very long ago, and B) Riddle is the younger star, and it’s his first Mania, so he should win. As I said, I’m going with my gut and picking the champion to retain, but this is one of the ones I’m most unsure of.

Big E(c) vs Apollo Crews
(Intercontinental Championship)
(Nigerian Drum Fight)

Weird name aside, I’m really looking forward to this one.

The match between these two at Fastlane showed us a little hint of what they can do, and I wrote in my review of that show that I wanted to see more, and I’m thrilled that more is what we’re getting. Big E has found such a wonderful balance between his eccentric and intense character modes since becoming Intercontinental Champion, and it’s just confirmed what I, and many others, have been saying for ages now, which is that Big E is a future top guy in WWE. Apollo Crews, meanwhile, has been doing the best work of his whole career. His new character direction has made me sit up and pay attention to what he has to say every week, which I couldn’t say at all this time last year.

As for what I want in the ring, I want the stuff we got a hint of at Fastlane but like…more. More intensity, more hard-hitting offence with a fast through-line of action to carry the thing. I’m not entirely ensure what a Nigerian Drum fight entails, but I think it’s fair to assume it’ll be some variation of a street fight. This will likely lead to a slower-paced match, but that could work well with the styles we have at play. As long as I feel the intensity is there and the action keeps me engaged, I’ll be happy with this one; and I think they’ll deliver.

I’m a lot less confident about this match than I was at Fastlane, that’s for sure. It’s a matter of whether I think WWE are ready to push Big E up the card any time soon. I could easily see him being in the Money in the Bank ladder match this year, but the mid-card champions are in those matches all the time, so whether or not he has the belt is largely irrelevant. Crews absolutely deserves another run with a mid-card title, and if you were going to do it, now would definitely be the time. I just think that belt is going to stick with Big E a little longer. He’s had a really good reign so far, and it would be ok if he lost it, I just want to keep this train rolling.

The Fiend vs Randy Orton

There’s no way this can be just a straight-up singles match, right? It just feels wrong. At the time of writing, no extra stipulation has been announced for the match, and it has me quite worried. This feud has involved burning people alive, a possessed Alexa Bliss and vomiting black goop at every available opportunity. If this were to just end with a plain old wrestling match, it’d be such an anticlimax. In an ideal world, we’d get another Firefly Funhouse match, but given that they’ve got a crowd this time, I doubt they’ll do a whole match on VT. It’s a crying shame because last year’s was one of the best things I’ve ever seen on a wrestling show, but it looks to be a one-off.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I don’t want this to be a straight-up wrestling match is because I don’t think it’ll be all that good if it is. Neither of these guys are bad wrestlers, but The Fiend wrestles a very specific style, and it’s one that I haven’t really got on board with when he’s just left to wrestle a regular match. It’s this weird balance that has to be struck because his character-work and overall creative output is utterly incredible, once in a generation kind of stuff, but his in-ring work feels a bit dull. That’s not a knock on Bray Wyatt’s ability, he’s had plenty of amazing matches, and I applaud him for committing to that style with the character, it just doesn’t grab me.

Picking a winner is a tough choice too. It was so long ago that it’s easy to forget, but Orton did win their last match. On top of that, it’s The Fiend, and he has just risen again after being burned alive. It’d be a bit crap to see him eat an RKO and take a pin after all was said and done. On the flip side, it is Randy Orton, and he doesn’t lose too often unless he’s going to be going away for a little while after Wrestlemania. It makes me wonder if there’s some creative way to get out of the situation where The Fiend wins the match, but Randy somehow frees himself from The Fiend and his world, thereby getting a symbolic victory and allowing him to move on. It’s a tough call, so I’m going to go with what I think should happen and book The Fiend to win.

Asuka(c) vs Rhea Ripley
(Raw Women’s Championship)

To think that a few months ago, the plan was Lacey Evans vs Charlotte Flair. That is a match I’d be significantly less excited for.

This is the nicest surprise of the card, as I did not expect to get this match in this form. It’s a genuine dream match for WWE’s current women’s division, and I’m thrilled that WWE is investing in Rhea Ripley again this year, much like they did last year. I’m glad it’s just a one-on-one too. That’s not to knock Charlotte, if the reports are true and she’s really just been left off of the Mania card because of a false positive on a pregnancy test, then that’s awful. However, given how badly WWE has treated Asuka since the end of summer last year, it feels pretty vindicating for her to get a major singles match at Wrestlemania.

I don’t know how these two will mesh in the ring, but I’m confident that I’m going to enjoy it. Both of them are among the best of their generation. Rhea isn’t very technical but has outstanding in-ring flair (pun sort of intended). Her match with Charlotte at Mania last year was the best pure-wrestling match of the entire weekend, and I’m hoping she can work her magic again with Asuka, this time in front of a crowd. Asuka is no stranger to working a hard-hitting style and is great at mixing in the mat-based grappling. On top of that, these are two women who played a huge role in defining their respective eras in NXT, so as far as hype goes, I’m about as high as you can get.

Once again, this is a match that I think could go either way. Rhea is obviously someone WWE want to go far, so putting the Raw Women’s Title on her right out of the gate would be a fantastic movie. On top of that, it lines her up perfectly for a rematch with Charlotte after Wrestlemania. Turning that around, though, it could be argued that it’s way too soon, and given that the original plan was for Charlotte to have the title coming out of Wrestlemania, maybe WWE will just want to put it right back on her? If that’s the case, then it’d be far less damaging for Asuka to lose the title to Charlotte than Rhea. Similarly, will Becky Lynch be coming back any time soon? We’ve not heard anything about it, so I’ve honestly got no idea. If Becky is coming back, though, surely it makes more sense for Asuka to have the title since Asuka never beat Becky to win the belt?

There are many different arguments to make on this one, and all of them make sense. This means that I’m going to do the only thing I can think of and predict the outcome I want to happen. That outcome is Rhea Ripley to be crowned champion.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Edge vs Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

Just look at that lineup. There are few matches more worthy of the Wrestlemania main-event spot than that.

Throughout February & March, I had so many complaints about how WWE was booking Daniel Bryan, and I was made to look like a complete fool when it turned out to be part of WWE’s plan all along. Since the triple threat plan became apparent, I’ve been totally behind this story, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The shades of grey they introduced in both Bryan & Edge has been excellent, as both men have excelled as heels & faces in their career. Meanwhile, Roman has continued to do the best work of his career as the Tribal Chief, sitting and overseeing everything.

I cannot wait to see this one get down to business in the ring. You’ve got Daniel Bryan, who is – in my humble opinion – the best in-ring wrestler of all time. You’ve got Edge, who is a fantastic wrestler, riding a great story and the comeback we never thought we’d see. Then finally, you’ve got Roman Reigns, who is arguably the best character in WWE right now who has also evolved into one of this generation’s best wrestlers. It’s a triple threat, so it means the pace is going to be fast and furious throughout, letting us switch between the different combinations of competitors in the ring and building that drama all the way to the second bell.

Who’s going to win, though? Beats the hell out of me. When it was just Roman vs Edge, I was 100% sure Roman was going to win; there wasn’t a single doubt in my mind. Now Bryan’s been thrown in the mix…I honestly think all three men have an equal chance. Bryan has said he’s considering retiring from in-ring competition in the next year, so this could be the last chance to give him another world title run. I don’t think it’d be a particularly long one, but I’d be overjoyed if we got to see it happen. If Edge were to win, it would be a culmination of his comeback story, and even if he is going to be on a part-time schedule, I don’t mind at all if we just get a few dream matches out of his title run before he drops it at Summerslam or something like that. Then you have Roman. As I’ve said, since his Summerslam return, he’s been a highlight of programming in just about everything he’s done. WWE has finally crafted a situation where Roman can be a world champion without everyone hating it. Do you really think they’re going to let that go so easily?

I’ve been turning this over for literally days now, and I’m still no more certain than I was. I want Daniel Bryan to win, I want Edge to win, and I think they both could. I just can’t pull myself away from Roman, though. Would WWE have their top heel retain in the main event of Wrestlemania? It wouldn’t be the first time, but it hasn’t happened in a long, long time. I don’t know. I just don’t know, and it’s tearing me up a little bit that I can’t make this decision.

Roman Reigns. There, I’ve typed it now, no deleting that. I have no confidence in that pick, but I’ve done it.

I’m just so excited to see this one.

NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver: Predictions & Analysis

Every time a Takeover comes around, it’s always a bit of shame that so many talented performers get left off of the card. Thankfully, NXT finally decided to copy Wrestlemania, and now we’re getting a two-night show! Five matches each night, and honestly, all ten of them look like absolute winners, and I am pumped to see how all of these wrestlers try to top each other. Let’s get predicting.

Night 1

Pete Dunne vs Kushida

Not a whole lot of story riding on this one, but it’s two guys that absolutely couldn’t be left off of the show.

Kushida’s experienced a bit of a fall since losing to Gargano. I was pretty confident he would win, and now I don’t really know what they’re planning on doing with him long-term. That said, this match is a great way to tide him over. Pete Dunne similarly is feeling a bit directionless right now. He lost to Balor, and now he’s just hanging around. It doesn’t help that Burch & Lorcan are out of action right now, too, so he can’t even do faction-based stuff. That said, this match is going to be fantastic. Pete Dunne has been one of my favourite wrestlers for a long time, and there’s no doubting Kushida’s ability in the ring. I’m looking forward to seeing these two styles collide. Kushida works quick and technical, which should play quite well against Dunne’s slow, mat-based style.

Picking a winner is significantly more difficult, though, because both of them need a win. Both are coming off significant losses and are looking to regain momentum. It’s more of a matter of who I think will be in a more prominent position in the immediate future. I’m going to go with Kushida. While I think Dunne is a top-level talent, Kushida feels like he’s more on the rise at the moment, and a win like this could push him into a credible main event spot. On top of that, I think night 1 will be pretty heavy on heel wins, so this should balance it out.

Leon Ruff vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs Bronson Reed vs Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis vs LA Knight
(Gauntlet Match)
(Winners gets a North American Championship Match on Night 2)

Let’s just go through the list.

Leon Ruff – Dude became a star out of nowhere earlier this year, winning the North American title in the kind of shock title change that NXT hasn’t ever done before. Since then, he’s faded quite significantly, but that brief story has given him a foot in the door that cannot be removed. I think he’ll get the Kofi spot in this match, lasting the longest. However, I don’t think he’s going to win. If I were to hazard a guess, I think he’ll probably last until Cameron Grimes, where the length of time he’s spent in the match will catch up to him.

Isaiah “Swerve” Scott – I really thought he’d be a bigger star by now. He’s still a somewhat prominent player on NXT, but I’ve been expecting him to break through for a while now. Aside from his Takeover match last year with Escobar, he’s not had any major singles feuds in NXT. Unfortunately, I don’t see him going anywhere here, as I think Ruff will put him away in quick order.

Bronson Reed – A great wrestler, quickly on the rise. Unfortunately, the title scenes are just a bit too crowded at the moment to deal with him. It’s part of the problem we’re seeing with NXT’s new system of not sending people up as often. It’s just getting a bit crowded around the top, and I don’t think Reed will get a proper look-in at either of the main singles titles until at least the end of the year.

Cameron Grimes – For a while, I just didn’t get Grimes. His character was quite weird and kind of vague, but he’s slowly brought me round over the past 6 months by being one of the funniest guys on the roster. The way he plays everything is just hilarious. His anger, his fear, his joy, all of it just brings a smile to my face. The rich stuff he’s been playing up recently is some of his best work yet, and while it does have a limited lifespan, I’m enjoying it while it’s happening. I would be thrilled if Grimes got shot towards the title now, but I don’t see it happening. Heel vs heel wouldn’t really work in this instance, so we’ll have to wait a while before Grimes reaches the moon.

Dexter Lumis – This guy has to be the favourite, right? They’ve literally been building it for months now. Lumis has been on a one-man crusade against The Way. His weird and creepy attitude seemed like it would make him more of a heel, but he’s been quite carefully booked and is now a sort of twisted anti-hero that you can’t help but cheer. The simple fact of the matter is that Gargano vs Lumis has been a match they’ve been building to for ages, and it would be so weird if they didn’t follow through now.

LA Knight – I didn’t know much about LA Knight before he joined NXT, but I’d definitely enjoyed what little I saw of his time as Eli Drake. He’s been brought in a bit differently to most other signings, and I honestly thought he wouldn’t even wrestle on this show just because of how he’s been booked. That said, I’m glad he has. Hopefully, he can put on a really good final section of this match against Lumis. Knight is the only other person I think has a chance of winning, just because it’s his Takeover debut.

I’ve got to go with Dexter Lumis to win, though. Knight is possible, but given the heel dynamics at play here and how much Lumis has been built towards Gargano, I just don’t see it happening.

MSK vs Grizzled Young Veterans vs Legado Del Fantasma
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s a damn shame Burch & Lorcan didn’t get to defend their titles at this show. They’ve been a team for ages and have had so many moments of brilliance. They finally got their go with the gold, and it was snatched away from them before they could make a proper run of it.

That said, with unfortunate circumstances come opportunity for others, and now the door is wide open to swoop in and have a great title run. I think these are the perfect three teams to select for this match. There’s a huge mix of styles & characters in here that is bound to make for something incredible. NXT doesn’t do these multi-team matches all that often, but all of the ones I can remember have been brilliant, so I’ve no doubt this will be the same.

I think the titles could go any of the three ways, but there’s definitely one that sticks out in my mind as the better option. MSK are fantastic, they’ve made a hell of a splash in their short time in NXT so far, and they’re absolutely the future of this division. That future isn’t quite yet, though. Similarly, Legado Del Fantasma has done great work, and given that Escobar might not have that Cruiserweight title for much longer, giving them the tag titles could be a good way to keep their momentum going. However, I’m picking Grizzled Young Veterans. They fill a similar heel role to Burch & Lorcan, but they are enough their own team that it won’t feel like a cheap imitation. Gibson with a microphone in his hand is sure-fire entertainment, and they’d be the perfect foils if you want MSK to chase the titles following this show.

WALTER vs Tommaso Ciampa
(NXT United Kingdom Championship)

Definitely the match I’m most excited for on night 1. This could be a brutal match.

My favourite match of 2019 was Pete Dunne vs WALTER from Takeover: New York, and one of the reasons I liked it so much was because of how it balanced the intricate, technical, mat-based style with high-impact spots that made even some of the more mundane stuff feel like a huge deal. Stylistically, I think Ciampa has a lot in common with Dunne, except he has a bit of extra flair about him, which means he can turn the pace up to something incredible when he wants to. I’m expecting this match to be a bit of a hybrid of all of WALTER’s best title defences so far. It’ll have some of the technical prowess of his match with Dunne, the emotion of his match with Tyler Bate and a lot of the brutality from his match with Ilya Dragunov.

The one downside this match has is that I think the result is pretty obvious. While I don’t think it’s impossible, I would be incredibly shocked if Ciampa won that UK title. It would undoubtedly do wonders for the show, but I don’t think he quite fits with what they’ve got going on down there right now. It’s the kind of thing that, if they did it, I’d love it, but I also don’t really want it to happen. WALTER retaining is the sensible pick here, and he gets to continue his mammoth run with the title. I know he couldn’t defend the belt for most of 2020, but I honestly think he’d still be holding it now regardless. I have no idea who will finally topple him, but it’s going to be a huge deal when someone does.

Io Shirai(c) vs Raquel Gonzalez
(NXT Women’s Championship)

I was somewhat critical of NXT in 2020. They were still putting on great shows, but it definitely felt a tier below what they’d been doing for the past few years. The one person I never had such criticisms of is Io Shirai, who has been the absolute top star of NXT in my mind for ages. She carried the brand on her back throughout 2020 and has had the opportunity to put on several brilliant matches as the women’s division continued to fill with incredible talents.

So now, we’re in a situation where the division’s biggest and most unstoppable star collides with the fastest rising star the division’s seen since Rhea Ripley. In fact, it is pretty much exactly like the Baszler/Ripley thing, only with the heel/face dynamic reversed. Gonzalez doesn’t wrestle a very flashy style, but she can still use it to put on fantastic matches. I think many were sceptical of her abilities at first, but her time tagging with Dakota Kai and her singles match with Rhea Ripley silenced those doubts in my mind. She & Kai won the women’s Dusty cup, which was a great moment and, although it was brief, got to be the first NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions.

So is she going to win the title? I really don’t know. I think it’s a given that she will win the title; I’m just not 100% sure it’s right now. While Shirai has been champion for almost a year and done wonders, it doesn’t quite feel like the end of her time yet. On top of that, Gonzalez has Kai in her corner, and the tension between them is bubbling just below the surface. I could absolutely see a situation where jealous Kai costs Gonzalez the title. However, I could also see them playing the long game on that front, having Gonzalez win the title until Kai eventually decided she wants it for herself. That said, this is NXT’s biggest show in quite a while, and I think giving us a big change of the guard would be the right impact to leave, so I’m going with Raquel Gonzalez to become champion.

Night 2

Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart vs The Way
(NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships)

NXT getting their own women’s tag titles is something that’s felt inevitable for a while. When the main belts were first introduced, they made a big deal out of how they were going to be defended on all three brands, and then it just never happened. I think maybe once someone had a match with The IIconics? I honestly don’t remember. Now, with NXT having a far deeper women’s roster than it did a few years ago, something was desperately needed for the mid-card scene of that division, so these titles should do wonders to that end.

Ember & Shotzi both seemed like they were ready to head up to the title scene, but they decided to give that spot to Gonzalez instead – a decision I agree with, all things considered – so letting these two run with the tag titles for the next while until the singles title is ready for them was definitely the way to go. The Way, meanwhile, has been excellent as of late. I had lost interest in Gargano as a heel before this faction came together, and I think they’re all much more entertaining together. Candice LaRae is another one who felt a bit directionless after losing to Io, and this seemed like the logical next move.

I have no doubt that these four women will put on a great match. I don’t think there’s any doubting the ability of any of them. I’m going with Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart to retain. Given that the first champs lost the title really quickly, I think doing another title change so soon would devalue these new belts, which is something they don’t need. I’d much rather Moon & Blackheart hold them until at least the summer to really show that NXT will be treating these belts with more respect than the main roster treats their women’s tag titles.

Adam Cole vs Kyle O’Reilly
(Unsanctioned)

This is the match I’m most looking forward to on night 2.

For the longest time, I was of the opinion that The Undisputed Era should never break up. I thought they should go to the main roster as a unit and stay that way until the time felt right. Then, when it became clear that they weren’t going to the main roster anytime soon, it became a bit muddier. THEN, Kyle O’Reilly had those pair of great title matches with Balor, and it became clear that he was ready to become an amazing singles star in NXT. This meant that, while it was still a sad occasion when Cole broke up the faction, it felt like the time was right.

Now we’ve got a match between two people who know each other in the ring like few else (they once had a singles match at Wrestle Kingdom, for God’s sake). They’ve by far got the hottest story going right now, and it’s going to be a barn burner. I’m expecting some real vicious action here, and I have faith in them to use the hardcore stipulation to its fullest potential.

As much as I’d like to pretend this one was up in the air, Kyle O’Reilly has got to come out the winner here. Unless they do a screwy finish (which is certainly possible), O’Reilly needs this win to establish himself as a main-stay in the main-event scene of NXT. I think he’s going to win the NXT title at some point in the next 12 months, and this needs to be the start of his rise. I love Adam Cole, but that dude can do whatever he wants in NXT for the rest of his time on the brand; he is fully established. O’Reilly still needs the firm footing of a vindicating victory here.

Johnny Gargano(c) vs The Winner of Night 1’s Gauntlet Match
(North American Championship)

So, it’s a bit harder to talk about this one when I don’t know who the challenger is going to be, but looking at Gargano’s run as champion, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for me. His matches have always been great, there’s no questioning that, but his character has gained me and lost me at certain points. It was an exciting fresh direction for his character when he first turned, but it quickly wore thin. I think he tried too hard to be more menacing and threatening, and it just didn’t suit him. Eventually, he shifted it into more of a ‘chicken-shit’ heel, which suits him so much better. His interaction with The Way every week always has this bumbling comedic edge that is very fun to watch.

As I said in my night 1 predictions, I think the challenger will be Dexter Lumis. He’s been Gargano’s primary focus for months now, and it would be weird if anyone else won. I don’t really know how these two will mesh in the ring because I’m still not entirely sure what Lumis’ style is. He seems very fluid and adaptable to who he’s in the ring with. This is most certainly a good thing, it just means I’m unsure of what kind of match we’re going to get when these two collide.

What I am sure of is that Dexter Lumis is coming away with that title. I would actually say Gargano is going to lose the title no matter who the challenger is. He’s been around the North American title scene for a long time now, and it just feels like his time is up. Lumis makes the most sense to win the title, but even if it’s someone like LA Knight or Cameron Grimes, I think switching the title is the right move. The North American title needs to be around the waist of someone on the rise now, rather than an already established star.

Jordan Devlin(c) vs Santos Escobar(c)
(Undisputed Cruiserweight Championship)
(Ladder)

A match that we’ve been waiting for forever, and it’s finally happening. I was really excited when Devlin won the Cruiserweight title, but he ended up not doing much with it. It wasn’t his fault, of course, or anyone’s for that matter. The pandemic did what it did, and he was one of the casualties. Escobar was the star that was able to rise in his place, and he definitely made the most of it. Abandoning his mask and former ring name to become a fresh character, the kind of which the Cruiserweight division hadn’t yet seen.

Putting these two together in the ring seems like a recipe for success. At first glance, they don’t seem like they’d mesh, but Escobar has shown how adaptable he can be with the variety of opponents he’s taken on during his title reign. Devlin’s style is less fluid but just as good, and I think as long as these two click in the ring (which I assume they will), we should be in for a treat.

Picking a winner is a bit difficult. Giving Devlin the win would allow him to have the Cruiserweight title reign that I wished he could’ve had when he initially won the title, but Escobar has proved to be a great asset to the division in Devlin’s absence. NXT’s never been one to shy away from an unexpected new star when they come along, but they also like to stick to their plans wherever possible. It’s a tough one because I could honestly see them going either way. My gut says Jordan Devlin, so that’s what I’m picking. This is the one I’m struggling the most with, though.

Finn Balor(c) vs Karrion Kross
(NXT Championship)

This is the match I’ve been waiting for.

I’ve seen people be very critical of Kross’ astronomic rise in NXT, and honestly, I don’t get it. I know his match with Keith Lee was a bit underwhelming, but he was injured for most of it, so I actually think it was bloody good for what it was. On top of that, his character has this indestructible aura around him that we haven’t seen in an NXT Champion since Aleister Black & Tommaso Ciampa were holding the belts. I think he’s got all the talent necessary. His look is incredible, his entrance is even better; how on Earth could this guy do anything else but immediately become the champion?

Kross’ injury was extremely unfortunate, but it gave way to Balor’s run as NXT Champion which has been fantastic and by far my favourite run of Balor’s career. He’s made new stars and put on fantastic matches left and right with a character that has the kind of edge I’d been wanting to see from him since the moment he first showed up in NXT in 2015. I’m excited to see how these two mesh in the ring. Kross’ hoss style is an interesting one, and I think Balor will be able to adapt to it well. Balor’s current character allows him to be a dominating badass and a plucky underdog depending on his opponent, and I think he’ll be able to use both sides to great effect in this match.

I’m pretty confident about picking the winner here, but not as much as I probably should be. I’m going with Karrion Kross because it just makes sense. They gave him a Lesnar-style push to the title when he first debuted, and even though the injury derailed him a bit, I don’t see why they’d abandon those plans now. Balor has been a fantastic champion, and part of me does think they might just want to keep going with him. There’s the seed of doubt in my mind, but I just can’t bring myself to pick Balor to retain; it’d be a dumb move. It’s Kross’ time; let’s hope it can go as planned this time.

WWE Fastlane 2021: Predictions & Analysis

Who’s ready for absolutely nothing of any note to happen?

Seriously though, what is the point in this PPV? It’s three weeks until Wrestlemania, this week’s Raw almost exclusively built to Mania instead of this show, and only one of these matches will hold anything of real consequence come the end of the night. As much as I say there shouldn’t be PPVs between Royal Rumble & Wrestlemania, I can at least see the point in having one, but two just kills the pace of all their storytelling and forces them to be pushed in two directions at once.

On the upside, there are a few matches I like the look of, but I’m not super confident that we’re going to get anything special here. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura

Well, this match is kind of pointless, but I’m still into it.

The stuff between Rollins & Cesaro has been…weird. On the surface, it seems like they’re lining up for a singles match at Mania, but knowing how WWE books these things, it wouldn’t surprise me if they force them into an ‘unlikely alliance’ tag team. I like Rollins’ messiah gimmick, but it feels directionless right now. He’s falling into that old Bray Wyatt territory of just saying the same thing week after week. What he says is good, it’s just always the same.

That said, though, this is Seth freaking Rollins vs Shinsuke god-damn Nakamura, so it’s not like it’s going to be bad. I’d imagine this one won’t get tonnes of time, but I’m sure they’ll make it work. I’m hoping we get some form of story progression from Cesaro, but I don’t suppose it has to be anything major.

Seth Rollins makes the most sense to win. This is his first PPV singles match since his return, and he’s the central point of this whole feud. Nakamura is great, but he’s only a part of this as a side character since he and Cesaro were aligned for so long. There’s a chance Cesaro somehow screws Seth out of the win, but I’m going with the straightforward answer on this one.

Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

We…we already did this, right? I’m not going crazy, we just had this exact match last month.

Apparently, the Smackdown writers couldn’t come up with more than a couple weeks of build for the Sasha/Bianca feud, so they just decided to continue this pointless tag team feud instead. I just don’t get the decision making here; who benefits? Baszler & Jax beat a team they’ve already beaten, meanwhile it’ll cause both Banks & Belair to go into one of the most anticipated matches of this year’s Wrestlemania on a huge loss. If Banks & Belair actually win the belts, that’s even worse because it needlessly complicates their feud.

If I hadn’t made it clear already, Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax will retain. I just pray to all that is sane that we spend the next few weeks actually building to the important match between Banks & Belair.

Randy Orton vs Alexa Bliss

I don’t really know what’s going on here. On Raw, they seemed to be very careful to never say it would be a match, just that Alexa was ‘challenging’ Randy. Yet WWE.com have it listed as a match on the show, so who knows?

Either way, I think the angle here is clear. This is where The Fiend finally returns, and we can sort out the Firefly Funhouse match for Wrestlemania (please?). I don’t really have much more to say about it. I doubt we’ll see much actually violence between Orton & Bliss. He might RKO & DDT her, but there’s no way we’ll get a full match.

Riddle(c) vs Mustafa Ali
(United States Championship)

Riddle’s just going up against all the factions, huh? First The Hurt Business, now Retribution.

So the Retribution thing has been going on for about 8 months now, but astoundingly, this is the FIRST TIME they’ve had a match on PPV and thus the first time I’ve had a chance to properly talk about it. Although, honestly, I think that fact alone tells you everything you need to know about how badly this had been screwed up. I’m glad Ali’s getting something now, but I think we all know this is just a feud to tide Riddle over for something at Wrestlemania.

In a bubble, I’d be really looking forward to this match. Both guys are incredibly talented wrestlers and are great at adapting their styles to their opponents. However, this is a seven-match show, and since the pandemic, WWE has cut shows shorter than usual, so I don’t think this will get much time. Based on how they’ve treated Retribution so far, I wouldn’t put it past them to bump this down to the pre-show.

I’m going with Riddle to retain here. He’s not been champ for very long, so it doesn’t make sense of him to drop the title now. I’d love to see it around Ali’s waist, but WWE has shown no desire to invest in him ever, let alone recently, so I’m just not going to get my hopes up anymore.

Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus
(No Holds Barred)

We did this, though, like two weeks ago on Raw, they wrestled for 25 minutes, and it was really good.

That aspect aside, I am looking forward to this match. As I said, their one of Raw was really good and seeing it again isn’t the worst thing ever. I was just hoping this would be something a little extra, at least put Drew’s title shot at Mania on the line. They just announced Drew vs Lashley for Mania on Raw this week, so he doesn’t have to fight for it at all. I mean, we all knew that’s where it was going anyway, but come on, WWE, suspend our disbelief at least a little bit.

Ultimately, I’m fairly disappointed in how this feud with Sheamus has played out. I was looking forward to seeing these two really go at each other, but Drew got caught up in all the other stuff happening in Raw’s main event, so it became a bit muddier. It’s far from the worst it could’ve gone through, we’ve at least got some good matches out of it. Drew McIntyre is going to win, he’s going into a Wrestlemania match for the WWE title, after all. I guess Lashley may cause him to lose, but I’m not predicting that because it’s crap.

Big E(c) vs Apollo Crews
(Intercontinental Championship)

Apollo Crews’ transformation as a character has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far. He’s the clearest example of how any wrestler on WWE’s roster can flourish if given the chance, no matter how long they’ve spent as a boring lower midcarder. The idea that he’s embracing his heritage and becoming his true self is a brilliant touch and all the explanation needed as to why he’s changed up his attitude. On top of that, it’s brought some good things out of Big E too. His feud with Zayn played well to his more comedic side, but this feud has shown he has some real intensity in there, too, which is just as good.

I’m looking forward to seeing this match. Crews put on a bunch of great matches in 2020, so I’ve no doubts about what he can do in the ring. Meanwhile, Big E is Big E, and he’s always been great. I’ll be interested to see what angle they take with it, whether it plays as more of a hossfest or they focus on the exceptional agility of both men. Either way, I think we’re in for a winner.

Speaking of winners, I’m going with Big E to retain. I would love to see Crews get a title run with character, but this is just Big E’s time. He’s on the rise, and he’s not had that long of a run with the title yet, so I think it’d be a bad idea for him to lose it now. I trust the team on Smackdown to keep Crews going strong despite losing the title, though, so I’m not too worried.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

I’m so annoyed that this is when WWE decided to do this feud. This is one of, if not the biggest match Smackdown has in its back pocket, and they just blew it on the world’s most meaningless PPV. I’m not saying it should’ve been the Wrestlemania match, Reigns vs Edge is definitely a bigger draw, but Reigns vs Bryan is absolutely a Mania-worthy match that they’ve now just pissed away on a show where there is absolutely no chance Reigns is dropping that title.

That aspect aside, this will be a brilliant match. If you need me to explain why Daniel Bryan is good, then you must be new here. Meanwhile, Reigns has been on the best run of his lifetime, and his in-ring work has absolutely lived up to it. Their styles will mesh so well, Bryan is – for my money – the best at wrestling guys bigger than him (see his 2018 match with Brock Lesnar for proof), and Reigns has this indomitable aura right now that Bryan will thrive on. It’s been a while since Bryan got to properly play the underdog, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one play out.

Roman Reigns is 100% winning, though, which is the only real shame. If they’d have waited and done this match later in the spring or in the summer, I would honestly believe Bryan could win, but not here. Reigns vs Edge is absolutely the match WWE want for Wrestlemania – and with good reason – but it means there isn’t a whelk’s chance in a supernova that Bryan wins.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday. Either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday for my review of the show!

AEW Revolution 2021: Predictions & Analysis

Despite the fact that there’s been a lot of wrestling over the past month, it feels like it’s been ages since the last AEW PPV. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s certainly better than the fatigue I get from WWE’s schedule some times, but there’s been a lot going on with their programming as of late, and it can be tough to keep track of it all sometimes with how spread out they are.

As for this card, it’s not looking like one of AEW’s best, but there’s still plenty I’m excited to see. Not to mention, it’s not like AEW have put on a crap PPV in their lifespan so far, so I don’t have really have much reason to worry.

Riho & Thunder Rosa vs Britt Baker & Reba
(Pre-Show)

I’ll talk a bit more about the current state of AEW’s women’s division a little later, but the short version is, it feels like it’s on the upswing.

There isn’t that much story going into this match, but that’s ok; it’s more about showcasing the talent they have on offer at the moment. I think all four of these women could be in title contention soon, so giving them the chance to do their thing on the PPV stage is a good decision, even if it is only on the pre-show. AEW has shown before that they’re willing to give pre-show matches a proper amount of time rather than artificially cutting them short, which will absolutely be to this match’s benefit.

The result could go either way, as both teams would benefit from having a credibility boost. Since it’s a pre-show match, I will go with the default and say the faces, Riho & Thunder Rosa will win.

Miro & Kip Sabian vs Best Friends

This feud has been a bit hit or miss week-to-week on Dynamite. The overall presentation and through lines have been good, it doesn’t feel like a waste of anyone’s time. However, some individual segments, like the wedding segment, were just a bit much and outstayed their welcome.

That said, the match should be great. We haven’t really got much of a chance to see what Miro can do with the chains off, and Kip Sabian is just begging to break through in a big way. On the other side, the Best Friends have already established themselves as wrestlers that can be relied upon for great matches. I don’t think this will be a particularly long match, but I’m expecting a bit of a frantic pace and a whole heap of melodrama.

Again, I think the result could go either way. Miro should really be getting some big wins, as he’s been AEW for a while now and hasn’t got any. On the other hand, it’s Orange Cassidy who is one of the most over stars at the moment; he’s beaten Chris Jericho in singles competition more than once, so should be really be losing here? There’s a lot of outside elements in play here, and since it’s a tag match, Cassidy doesn’t need to take the pin, so I’m going to go with Miro & Kip Sabian to find a way to sneak a win.

Casino Tag Team Royale
(Winner gets a match for the AEW World Tag Team Championships)

So a lot is going on here, and about a thousand different ways things could go.

First of all, this is a Tag Team Royal Rumble, so sign me the fuck up for that. I’m excited to see how the different dynamics play out here, the ring will get pretty crowded at some point, and that should lead to a lot of enjoyable chaos. On top of that, I think there are a lot of possibilities for the winners.

All three Dark Order teams are in with a shout. Their character shift since Brodie Lee’s tragic passing has been exactly what it needed to be; there was no way that faction would ever be booed following that event. They feel like they’ve come together in a beautiful way and their presence on-screen almost always brings a smile to my face. If I had to pick one of those teams to win, I’d go with Alex Reynolds & John Silver. Silver has absolutely been the group’s breakout star, and I’d love to see him get a shot at the titles.

Santana & Ortiz would be an interesting choice for the winners, too, as you could go different ways with it depending on who wins the tag title match. If the Bucks retain, it’s a good opportunity to continue The Inner Circle vs Young Bucks feud. Meanwhile, if Jericho & MJF win, then it will push the narrative of The Inner Circle slowly falling apart.

Outside of those teams, there are a bunch of other teams with an outside chance. PAC & Fenix, Butcher & Blade, SCU and Natural Nightmares are all in with a shout. Private Party has potential too, but given that they’re currently going after the Impact tag titles, I’d doubt they’ll win.

It’s a really tough choice picking a winner, as all of them would make for good stories. In the end, I’m going to go with my gut and say Alex Reynolds & John Silver, it just feels right, and it’d work regardless of who the champs are.

Cody Rhodes vs Scorpio Sky vs Penta El Zero Meido vs Lance Archer vs Max Caster vs ???
(Winner gets a match for the AEW TNT Championship)
(Ladder)

Once again, we’ve got ourselves a multi-man match where the winner is up in the air. Let’s run through the participants.

Max Caster – Caster feels like the kind of guy where, while I don’t have to say about him now, he could easily be a big deal a year from now. He’s got tons of potential and is a great upside as a wrestler; he’s just not quite at everyone else’s level in this match yet. Hopefully, this will be a great performance for him, and I’m glad AEW are giving guys like this opportunities, but he’s not winning.

Scorpio Sky – Sky is always in these ladder matches for title shots, and every time I say he’s got an outside chance and every time, he doesn’t even get close. Every couple of months, Sky has a fantastic match with one of the more prominent names and we all rave about how he’s a future star of the company, but then nothing ever comes of it. Hopefully, one day that’ll change, but I don’t think it’s happening on Sunday.

Penta El Zero Meido – Another wrestler who always feels like they’re in these ladder matches but never actually wins any. I don’t really know what to say, he may win, but I doubt it. The Lucha Bros feel like they’ve got a vague direction right now, but I’m hoping it’ll form into something more clear soon, but I doubt that direction will be the TNT title.

Lance Archer – If the champ was anyone other than Darby Allin, I’d probably be picking Lance. I didn’t expect Archer to work as a face so well, but damn, it’s so easy to cheer for this guy. He taps into that face-monster archetype really well, and AEW could have a fantastic champion on their hands in a year or so if they build this right. However, I don’t think he’s going to win. While I’m sure a match between Allin & Archer would be great, it doesn’t make sense for them to face each other right now.

As much as I don’t really care about size in wrestling, Archer should realistically destroy Allin in a match, and that’s just not going to happen. If Archer squashes Allin, then it throws all Allin’s build down the drain, and if Allin managed to beat him, it would be a huge blotch on Archer’s record. No-one would gain anything from it, so they shouldn’t do it.

Cody Rhodes – This just feels like the best pick. Given how their previous match ended, it’s felt likely that a rematch would be on the cards; it just so happened that both men go sidetracked by other ventures before it could happen. I wouldn’t call it a sure-fire thing though, Cody’s tied up with Shaq as well right now, so that could always rear its head here and mess with Cody’s plans. It just seems to me that, out of all the announced participants, Cody is the only one that makes sense.

??? – What about the unannounced participant, though? Well, I honestly have no idea. I’d say the money is on it being someone from Impact, but I really couldn’t say who.

Either way, I’m going to go with the safe bet and say Cody Rhodes will win the title shot.

Hangman Page vs Matt Hardy
(Winner gets the loser’s 2021 Q1 earnings)

This is a weirdly interesting story and one that I think only works because of Page’s current trajectory. The whole downward spiral he’s on is the kind of story that’s going to have an incredible payoff when Page eventually beats Omega for the world title, but in the meantime, you’ve got to find ways to keep it going.

This story has been a brilliant way to keep it going. The story of him getting involved with The Dark Order but refusing to officially join them was unique and endearing for the characters on all sides, and this story with Matt is the perfect highlight of Page’s current character flaws. To be clear, I mean the kind of flaws intended by the narrative, mainly Page’s drinking, as it’s what got him into this situation in the first place. The stipulation of the winner lifting the loser’s earnings is brilliant for this story, even if we do know it’s not real. There’s this real sense that if Page loses this, he might have nothing left to keep him going and bottom out, and that’s some proper narrative stakes.

As for match quality, I’m sure it’ll be great. Page is perhaps my favourite wrestler in AEW right now regarding his ability in the ring, and Matt Hardy has proved that he’s not slowing down any time soon. I’m expecting a little bit of shenanigans from Private Party and maybe The Dark Order, but I doubt it’ll have too much bearing on the match.

When you look at who should win, it really depends where you want Page’s narrative next. Do you want him to continue his downward spiral? Or do you want this to be the point where he starts to bring him back from the brink? Personally, I would continue the downward spiral and really push the character to rock bottom. However, I don’t think that’s what AEW is going to do. With the ranking system, I’d imagine that Page isn’t going to be losing many matches this year for his eventually world title match. So I’m going with Hangman Page to win this one.

Team Taz vs Darby Allin & Sting
(Street Fight)

This story’s been a bit of a wild ride, that’s for sure. Sting’s appearance in AEW was one of those things that was shocking but inevitable. I had my doubts as to whether he’d ever wrestle (and, to be honest, I still have my doubts about how much he can go), but AEW wasted no time getting him in the ring. Allin has been a big beneficiary of this feud, which is good because I doubt it will do Team Taz many favours. While Allin hasn’t been defending his title so much because of this feud, his association with Sting (and inevitable victory) will raise his stock like a strong title defence never could.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this match. The street fight stipulation was definitely a good choice. It’ll allow Allin to perform at his self-destructive peak, allow Team Taz to get really vicious in their attacks and will create a naturally slower pace, so Sting doesn’t look exposed. Not to disrespect Sting, of course, but it’s been over 6 years since he last wrestled, and during that last match, he quite literally almost died in the ring, so I think I can be forgiven for worrying over how well he’ll be able to wrestle in this match.

Darby Allin & Sting are winning this. This match is by far the one I’m most confident about, Allin is a new champion who needs some wins under his belt, and this is Sting’s first match in AEW and first match in 6 years; there’s no way that team is losing. It’s a bit of a shame for Team Taz, but they can bounce back from it if that’s what AEW want for them.

The Young Bucks(c) vs The Inner Circle
(AEW World Tag Team Championships)

The Inner Circle and their story has been fantastic ever since AEW began. After Jericho lost his title, it really felt like the group’s days were numbered, but they managed to turn it around and keep feeling fresh with their endeavours. Now we’re in 2021, and yet again, they’ve changed up their makeup, and we’re looking at yet another story in the group. MJF joining was perfect, and the writing surrounding this story has been incredibly compelling. The knock-on effect of MJF’s presence and Jericho’s unwillingness to bend for the good of the group has been slowly creeping in week by week, and the consequences are on the horizon.

In regards to what they’ve been doing with The Young Bucks, I’ve liked that too. It’s not been the most complex of stories thanks to what’s going on within The Inner Circle, but it’s had the impact it needed to. On top of that, the Bucks and the Inner Circle are so diametrically opposed characters right now that it just kinda works regardless. Plus, there’s the hype of the actual match. All four men are bloody brilliant wrestlers, and if the Buck’s previous tag title matches are anything to go by, there will be a properly engaging story told between the dynamics of each team.

I went back and forth on this one a few times, but now I’m writing it out, I actually feel fairly confident in picking The Young Bucks to retain. That idea of the Bucks being the most solid of teams while Jericho & MJF are two bastards that are just one bad day away from turning on each other will come in to play, and The Inner Circle just won’t be able to hang with the best. Not to mention, it finally gives Jericho a reason to doubt MJF, and the cracks in The Inner Circle can start to get bigger.

Hikaru Shida(c) vs Ryo Mizunami
(AEW Women’s World Championship)

Inarguably my biggest criticism of AEW over its small lifespan so far has been the abysmal treatment of the women’s division. This year, they’ve committed themselves to building the division up to the prominence it should have, and while there’s still a long way to go to get to where it should be, the trajectory is finally pointing upwards. This tournament has done a great job of highlighting just about every competitor who’s worth taking note of in AEW’s coming weeks and, now they’re going to have more open access to their Joshi stars again, we should start to see a much greater variety in terms of feuds and title contenders.

Regarding Ryo Mizunami, it took me a little while to come around to her, but with each match in this tournament, I’ve enjoyed her work more and more, and I’m really excited to see what she & Shida can do. Shida has always worked really well against larger competitors, and Mizunami is one of the best ‘big women’ I’ve seen in wrestling in a while.

I’m struggling to pick a winner, though. Logic says that Shida should retain. Ryo is still a new star to the AEW fanbase, and putting the title on her straight away might put people off. However, this women’s tournament has felt like a big restart of the whole division, and what better way to make that statement of starting fresh than giving us a brand new champion? It’s a tough call, especially because I’m a huge fan of Shida, but I’m going to take the risky option and predict Ryo Mizunami to take the title.

Kenny Omega(c) vs Jon Moxley
(AEW World Championship)
(Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch)

Kenny Omega’s run as AEW champion has been quite a wild ride so far. Kicking things off with the partnership between AEW & Impact was one hell of a bold move, but one that absolutely worked. It built the hype surrounding this new champion, and it made me care about Impact for the first time since The Final Deletion. Seeing Kenny as a heel feels out of place, which is weird considering that’s what he was for the majority of his time in New Japan, but I’m liking it. The dude’s clearly been given a lot of creative freedom with how he operates, and he’s producing a lot of entertaining TV because of it.

An Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch, though…I really don’t know how to feel. I’ve never really watched deathmatch wrestling, nor have I ever wanted to. I don’t consider myself to be all that squeamish, but some of the clips I’ve seen of deathmatch wrestling are just…a lot to look at. This isn’t going to be a watered-down version of it either, Moxley made his name in this style of wrestling, and Kenny is never one to be 1-uped, so you know he’s going to go all the way with it. That said, I did enjoy their unsanctioned match from 2019, which most people said was ‘too much’, so maybe I’ve got more of a stomach for it than I realised. As I said, I just don’t know whether or not I’m going to enjoy this, so I’m going to go in with an open mind and see how it hits me.

The one thing I am sure about, though, is that Kenny Omega is winning. Moxley was an amazing champion, and between AEW & NJPW, he’s one of the biggest stars in all of wrestling right now, but his time with that title is done. It’s time for us to see him do new and exciting things in AEW outside of the title. Similarly, Kenny’s reign is just beginning. It’s gone really well so far, and it has an extremely promising future, so he’s definitely holding onto it for a while.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think will happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure you come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be publishing my review of the show!

WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Predictions & Analysis

Well, that PPV cycle sure went quick. The Royal Rumble feels like it was just a week ago, and I could’ve sworn this PPV was scheduled for next weekend, but that shows what I know, I guess. The bright side is that this time of year always has me excited for wrestling shows, even if the TV isn’t the best.

This show is a bit of an interesting one because it’s pretty much entirely wheel spinning. Usually, Elimination Chamber will at least set the stage for a Wrestlemania match or two, but this one really has no bearing on the Mania card. I know both of the titles are up for grabs, but if you think either of them are going to change hands on Sunday, then you’re clearly new to wrestling. On top of that, no number 1 contenders are being decided; the only possibility is that Edge will come and confront the champion he wants to face at Wrestlemania, but even that already feels like a done deal.

That said, I really like the Elimination Chamber. It’s not WWE’s best gimmick match by a long shot, but I think (2020 notwithstanding) the past few years have produced a lot of really great chamber matches, and this year promises to add to that.

NOTE: About the Asuka vs Lacey Evans match. WWE still seems to be advertising it as happening, but if it’s true that Lacey is pregnant (which just about everywhere seems to be reporting she is) that match won’t be going ahead. I’m not sure what WWE are going to do about it, but given that I don’t think it’s taking place, I’m not going to predict it. I don’t know who WWE would put up as a replacement, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just didn’t bother, but either way, I think Asuka will still be champion by the end of the night.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Remember when the women’s tag division had actual tag teams to challenge the champs and not just some pairings thrown together on a whim? No, me neither, which is sort of the problem with the whole endeavour right now.

While it’s not been anything incredible, the build has been fairly enjoyable week-to-week, mostly thanks to the overall high quality of Smackdown so far this year. It’s not without problems, though, mainly how the build has focused around Bianca’s uneasy alliance with Banks and that Bianca is definitely going to challenge Sasha at Mania. Jax & Baszler have once again been kicked to the curb a bit in favour of the feuds involving the ‘bigger stars’.

That said, I’m hopeful this will be a good one. This should get a decent amount of time thanks to the lack of matches booked for this show, and three of the four women are among WWE’s best. I’d imagine WWE would be eager to showcase Bianca especially following her Rumble win.

I think it’s a pretty solid lock that Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are going to retain. They may lose the titles only to get them back when Sasha & Bianca fall out, but they literally just did that with Charlotte, so I don’t see the point in doing it again. I think it’d be much better for Sasha & Bianca to fall out here, and we get going with their Wrestlemania build properly. I’m interested to see how that build goes because Bianca is 100% the face that everyone will be behind, but I don’t think it’d be a good idea to turn Banks heel again this soon. Hopefully, WWE will be smart enough to let Banks skirt the line between heel & face a bit, as she’s more than capable of doing it. Either way, having the women’s tag titles involved would just needlessly complicate things, so keep them on the champs for now.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Keith Lee vs Riddle
(United States Championship)

This build has been messy as all hell.

Riddle’s been chasing Lashley for quite a while now, even running the gauntlet of The Hurt Business and fighting them off at every opportunity. So it seems really weird for Keith Lee to suddenly step in on his scene like this. I mean, sure, why shouldn’t he? And I love Keith Lee, so I’m not going to complain too much; it just seems like a real dick move to pull on Riddle. The Hurt Business has continued to be the best part of Raw the past couple of months, giving us some much needed entertaining promo segments on a Raw that is currently an absolute chore to get through every week.

I’m looking forward to the match, though. I wasn’t huge on Lashley for a while, but I’ve come around to him now he’s got a faction backing him up and just needs to rely on destroying fools. Riddle & Lee are both excellent, so I can only imagine the chemistry they’ll have in the ring. Additionally, the triple threat factor means that this match should be a lot of fun with a fast pace and high-impact action.

I can see the result going all three ways if I’m honest with you. Putting the belt on Keith Lee would be something I’m in favour of as he’s not been featured very well in recent months, but it might feel a bit out of nowhere for him to suddenly show up and win the title. Riddle winning the title is a possibility too, he’s been chasing The Hurt Business for ages now, and it’d seem a bit cruel for him to not get it here. Ultimately though, I’m going with Bobby Lashley. In a situation like this, picking the champ to retain is always a safe bet, and I think by keeping the belt on Lashley, the door is open for Lee to take the title in a singles match at Mania.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton vs AJ Styles vs Sheamus vs Jeff Hardy vs Kofi Kingston
(WWE Championship)
(Elimination Chamber)

Generally, I’d go through each of the participants for a match like this and give my thoughts on their chances in the match, but there’s really only one outcome here.

In a clear example of the fact that WWE has no idea who Drew’s going to face at Mania, they’ve thrown this match together on a whim, and while it’s pointless, it will probably be very good. There’s the right mix of hard-hitters and high-flyers in this match, and I think we’ll get a lot of varied action as the thing progresses.

The only real problem here is that I don’t have all that much to say about it. The build’s been very short and okay, I guess; gauntlet matches are pretty fun. All that’s really left to talk about is the winner, and as I’ve already made obvious, I’m picking Drew McIntyre to retain. The dude just beat Goldberg clean, so there’s no way they’d have him suddenly drop the title to Jeff Hardy on a b-show PPV. Not to mention the fact that they’ve already put together the Wrestlemania promo package, which shows both Drew & Reigns holding their titles.

The only person I thought had any potential to take the title was Orton, but it’s clear that he’s going to be dealing with The Fiend at Mania, so that rules him out. Styles already lost his shot in December, and while they’re all former world champions, Sheamus, Hardy & Kingston have not been booked on a main-event level at all over the past year and don’t fit the title at the moment.

Kevin Owens vs Jey Uso vs Daniel Bryan vs King Corbin vs Sami Zayn vs Cesaro
(Elimination Chamber)

AND

Roman Reigns(c) vs The Winner of the Elimination Chamber Match
(Universal Championship)

This is the chamber match that I’m far more excited to see because – with one exception – I adore all of the talent involved, and it’s sure to be a blinder of a match. What’s better is the result of this one isn’t super obvious, so I can go through it person by person.

King Corbin – While Corbin is one of those people that could be catapulted into the main event out of nowhere at any time, it’s not going to happen here. He’s been booked like a chump in the latter half of the past year, and with Reigns on top, there’s no room for another main-event heel.

Sami Zayn –Zayn’s work of late has been fantastic, even if I don’t think it’s going to lead anywhere. The conspiracy theory stuff allows Zayn to get the best out of himself and do wonderfully entertaining things like handcuffing himself to barricade for half of Smackdown. That said, I don’t think it’s going to lead to a real main-event push, and, as I said before, while Reigns is the champion, no other heel is getting a look in.

Jey Uso – Jey’s story with Roman was one of WWE’s better stories of 2020, but it feels like it’s reached a status quo for now, at least until Jimmy returns from injury. While it would be entertaining to watch, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from Uso fighting Reigns again. They could do a finger-poke of doom thing, but that would make everyone very angry, so no.

Daniel Bryan – Now we’re getting into the people I think might win. Bryan & Reigns started building a feud around November, but it got dropped out of nowhere, and they never returned to it. It seemed like it was going to be the Mania match, but now Edge has won the Rumble, and it seems pretty likely he’s going to fight Roman at Mania instead. Bryan would be a good strong win for Reigns, and it’d be perfect for the underdog story of having to go through a Chamber match before fighting Reigns.

I just don’t quite see it. If it’s going to lead to a Mania match (which it might), then I’d be in favour of it, but I don’t think that’s the direction WWE want to go, and given how big of a match Reigns vs Bryan is, I don’t think they’d give it away on a b-show like this.

Cesaro – One of the most surprising aspects of 2021 so far is that fact that Cesaro has actually been getting somewhat of a sustained singles pushed. He’s beaten Daniel Bryan clean twice now, and word was he was originally going to get the ironman spot in that gauntlet match in January. As such, I think he’s in with a shout of getting this one-and-done shot the title on this show. Having Cesaro gut it out in the Chamber, put on an exciting but ultimately unsuccessful showing against might be a brilliant way to build him up even further.

Kevin Owens – The final leading contender here, and this would definitely make the most narrative sense. Owens has addressed the fact that he was totally screwed out of the win at the Rumble, and you’d think that would mean there’s still a loose thread to pull on here. On top of that, Owens has all the momentum in the world, and it would be a shame to see it dropped all of a sudden.

I’m struggling to make my pick here. As I said, Owens seems like the obvious choice, but I’m not so sure. While there is that loose thread to pull on, I just don’t see what can be gained from Reigns beating Owens again. It may be a great performance for Owens, but I don’t think it’ll benefit him any more than the Last Man Standing match did, and Reigns doesn’t look all that great beating a guy he’s already beat twice before, even if it was dirty.

I’ve decided I’m going to go with what I want to happen instead, and I’m picking Cesaro to win the Chamber match. It might not lead to anything huge for the guy, but I think it could be an extremely entertaining story and let Cesaro show that he can hang in the main event, like so many of us have known for years. He’s not going to win, though, and come the end of the night, Roman Reigns will still be Universal Champion.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday for my review of the show!