It doesn’t take a brain scientist to see where we’re headed for WrestleMania season. The picture is becoming clearer and clearer.
The main event in Dallas will be for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and it will feature Triple H and Roman Reigns. Which of the two will be the champion? That will be decided on January 24 at the Royal Rumble.
Back in the early fall when Seth Rollins was still the champion before his injury, people were wondering how we were going to get to a point where Reigns is the good guy in a WrestleMania main event. The formula used by WWE has been, actually, pretty simple.
Rollins’ injury was a good thing for Reigns’ ascension to becoming the company’s top good guy. If the two were involved in a match at WrestleMania, the crowd would have likely gone for Rollins, especially with it being the most hardcore of fans present in Dallas.
Over the past couple months, though, WWE has gone with guys that will undoubtedly be booed against Reigns. It has worked. Everyone likes, or at least respects, Reigns at this point in time.
Who would root for Sheamus over anyone at this point? He’s annoying in the ring, walks around like he owns the place, and frankly he looks quite stupid. Then bring in Stephanie and Vince McMahon, who yell and slap and annoy Reigns to no end. Who’s rooting for the two that can’t wrestle and make millions to win in this situation?
Before Rollins’ injury, he and John Cena appeared to be Reigns’ most likely WrestleMania opponents. Now, because the duo are sidelined, Triple H, the most capable man for the job, steps in. Who on earth is going to root for Triple H at WrestleMania over Reigns? Who enjoys Raw starting out with a promo from him, his father-in-law or wife?
It’s very difficult to root for Triple H. It’s getting easier and easier for the casual fan to root for Reigns, and this potential matchup makes it simple. (I was on the Reigns bandwagon after his match with Daniel Bryan at Fastlane in February 2015, but obviously many of the more passionate fans frankly wanted the current champion to prove himself to them.)
The match itself could definitely be great. All of Triple H’s recent work in the ring has gone very well, while Reigns is improving weekly.
The rest of the WrestleMania card is still a great unknown. If we’re ever going to get the rematch from Backlash 2003 between John Cena and The Undertaker, it’s going to have to wait. Injuries have put the matchups involving both Undertaker and Brock Lesnar up in the air. Is The Rock going to wrestle? Will we get the match between Kevin Owens and Lesnar we all want? Is Bray Wyatt going to get another shot at ‘Taker?
For the first time in a long time, no one is quite sure, and that’s a good thing. I just wish it wasn’t because of injuries.
Shinsuke Nakamura bids farewell to New Japan
“The King of Strong Style” is all but officially headed to WWE, after he was stripped of his IWGP Intercontinental Championship and his farewell match date was announced (January 30). Having seen interviews with fellow New Japan wrestlers Togi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi, it sounds like Nakamura has their and the company’s blessing as he heads stateside.
There has been some criticism of how New Japan has handled this situation, and I feel it’s unwarranted. Once the news came out of Nakamura’s departure, a match dropping the championship against Kenny Omega would’ve been a formality, and not a great way for the now-former champion to go out. Professional wrestling is covered as sport in Japan, as well, so a match where Nakamura loses his title wouldn’t have been ideal with the outcome in little doubt. Let the company celebrate Nakamura with the six-man tag match they have planned, and let the man leave with his head held high.
Also, the timeline for Nakamura sounds like he could be a big part of WrestleMania weekend. He finishes up at the end of the month with New Japan, and moving his life and getting settled in the United States will likely take some time. A potential debut on the Raw after WrestleMania sounds great to me.
Royal Rumble surprises
I don’t think we’re getting Carlito and Shelton Benjamin this year (although the former is possible) but there are plenty of names that could show up in this year’s Rumble match, especially with the stakes so high. Here are a few off the top of my head:
- Daniel Bryan: I don’t have to elaborate here. It would be awesome, and a positive sign for Bryan’s career moving forward that he will have been cleared to get back in the ring.
- Randy Orton: If he doesn’t need neck surgery and can be back for WrestleMania season, get “The Viper” back in the ring for this big match.
- A.J. Styles: With the Rumble being in Orlando this year, a lot of the crowd will likely be familiar with Styles compared to other parts of the country. If “The Phenomenal One” is going to debut and go straight to WWE, this is a great opportunity to make that happen.
- The Rock: Unlikely to happen at this point, but if there was a dream match against Lesnar on the cards for WrestleMania, this could be a great place to set it up.
- Sami Zayn: If last Thursday night in Milwaukee was any clue, Zayn and Kevin Owens aren’t done with each other. The Rumble could be a platform to reignite the feud, which could see its next chapter come to an end in front of nearly 100,000 people in Dallas. As Steen once told Generico, “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
- MVP: Montel Vontavious Porter isn’t attached to any company right now, and the superstar athlete’s agent could probably hook him up with a spot in the biggest Rumble match since 1992.
- The Undertaker: I’m expecting this. The Deadman will come calling for the biggest prize in the company.
- Ronda Rousey: I know, but it would be pretty cool, right?
The best wrestling commercial I’ve seen in awhile
— DaleBruce (@iamdb1990) January 14, 2016
Wrestling award season
It’s that time of the year in the wrestling world. The Wrestling Observer’s annual awards are soon to be handed out, while we here at Voices of Wrestling will have what will be a fantastic compilation of the best matches 2015 brought us.
For me, the wrestler of the year is Styles. At the age of 38, he consistently put forth impressive performances and went beyond just having great moves. Styles told stories in his matches, and had me captivated more than any other wrestler in 2015. His match against Tanahashi is my favorite of the year, and he has others that will definitely be in contention.
Match of the Week
Go watch any and every Rumble match you possibly can. I think it’s fair to say the consensus choice for best Rumble ever is the 1992 match. I’d suggest going out of your way to catch that one before Sunday’s big show. I couldn’t find the entire match online, but assume any of you reading this have access to the WWE Network. (If you don’t then I apologize.)