APRIL 7, 2019

Watch: WWE Network

Meet Our Previewers

  • Barry Hess: Voices of Wrestling contributor. If the old Arista Records WrestleMania song from 1993 always gets stuck in your head this time of year then you’ll likely enjoy his wrestling takes. Follow him @BFH171
  • Steve Case: Voices of Wrestling contributor. WrestleMania still gets me pumped like no other show does from any promotion all year. Even if it will have the same duration as a normal workday. Follow me @coachcase44

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
The Revival vs. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins

Barry: Last year Braun Strowman and a child from the audience won the RAW Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania 34; a nonsensical story that was, of course, rendered invalid less than 24 hours later…and that was actually the high point of an otherwise beleaguered tag team division systematically transformed into a meaningless sect of comedy acts, lower card afterthoughts and whatever the Broken Hardy gimmick was supposed to be. I have always been a huge fan of tag team wrestling and the psychology it affords the performers; a unique platform that is otherwise not available during standard singles matches. I remember writing many a preview last year lamenting the manner in which the RAW tag division had been cast aside for no particular reason. If you told me then that just 12 months later The Revival would be tag champions, Aleister Black and Ricochet would be a main roster tag team and Bobby Roode and Chad Gable would become a nice little tag team act, well I would have been jumping for joy. Yeah, not so much. I suppose it really isn’t all that surprising that a team based around the tropes of old school southern wrestling hasn’t excelled in a Vince McMahon-controlled universe.

Since The Revival were crowned champions the tag division has, at least, been upgraded from a black hole devoid of creativity or compelling in-ring action into a poor man’s version of the old WCW cruiserweight segments from the early Nitro days. Now it’s merely a black hole devoid of creativity with compelling in-ring action (with the same old head scratching booking we all have come to know and love). The in-ring work in this match won’t be nearly as exciting as any number of other potential combinations, but ultimately Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins will win the match (because the big push to keep The Revival happy is solely based around the concept that they can never win a match or look like strong champions) and the crowd will likely go wild for the highly orchestrated WrestleMania moment drawing from the organic moment when Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship a few years back.  Prediction: Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins

Steve: So the Revival face Ricochet and Black on RAW this Monday and have a terrific match with a non-finish finish to set up the perfect re-match on the big show Sunday. A match that if given 12-15 minutes, could EASILY steal the show. I’m salivating. Well, nope. They stick the NXT boys in a four way on SmackDown and give the Revival the Edgeheads. Uh-huh. Right. Well, the Revival will try to make the best out of this and Ryder/Hawkins will no doubt put in the best effort possible to make this match probably better than it has any right being. An inevitable comedy spot will lead to Hawkins getting his first pin in ages and continue to push the Revival out the door. If they are going to do this, I would love to see Chelsea Green debut and cost the Revival leading to a new trio. At least that would be interesting. Alas, this will be a match that happens. Prediction: Hawkins & Ryder

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

Barry: After the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble match in 2018 unexpectedly set a high bar in terms of battle royal standards for the Women’s Division, the 2019 version came glaringly short of meeting those standards. With most of the reliable talent in other matches on the card, the likelihood of a vast improvement isn’t very probable. Still, WWE battle royals have been booked very well, for the most part, in recent years so I wouldn’t say all hope is lost – although the fact that this match has been slated for the Kickoff Show doesn’t exactly set the stage for an all-time classic. Lacey Evans is the popular choice and that would make sense, however, I’m looking at this match a bit differently. Carmella has worked her butt off the last 12 months and I think winning this match will be her reward. Prediction: Carmella

Steve: Expect a run of the mill battle royal with lots of missed punches, kicks, and chaos (both good and bad). As long as the women actually get entrances and they treat it as a match on the card instead of beating a historic event into our heads, this will be fine. Obviously, the chances of both happening are unlikely. A match to get everyone on the card, which is fine. Mindless filler that leads to Lacey Evans eliminating Asuka. Prediction: Lacey Evans

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese

Barry: It is more likely that Donald Trump wakes up tomorrow morning, washes his face, brushes his teeth, takes a look around the White House living quarters, realizes what a terrible mistake he’s made, immediately resigns and flies off in Marine One never to be seen or heard from again then it is likely I will ever want to watch 205 Live. That said, I have quite the record in correctly predicting these matches so at least I’m invested in that aspect of the division. In about 10 or 20 years there’s going to be a podcast hosted by some kid who is currently in elementary school that looks back on this latest version of a WWE cruiserweight division. Or maybe around that same time Conrad Thompson will have successfully consolidated the wrestling podcast world to become the kingpin of wrestling audio and he’ll host a 205 Live retro show with Drake Maverick (is he even still on the show, I have no idea?). If either of those two things happen, I promise I will start watching 205. Prediction: Buddy Murphy

Steve: This should be great. Nese has had a nice run on 205 Live as of late with a string of good/great matches to earn this shot. Nese has been a consistently strong performer since debuting in the CWC, and his history with Buddy will add a little steam to this. Buddy is one of the best bell to bell performers in the WWE and has had great matches with just about everyone they throw at him. The combination of strength and athleticism should make for some insane exchanges and high spots from both. I feel like Buddy retains, but you never know. Because moments. Prediction: Buddy Murphy

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Bobby Lashley vs. Finn Balor

Barry: The most interesting thing about this rivalry, at least from a personal standpoint, is how I’ve come around on Lio Rush. I was only lukewarm on him in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla respectively and it went downhill fast after he signed with WWE. Maybe standing in comparison to Bobby Lashley for months at a time exponentially increases your appeal, I don’t know. Nevertheless, I’ve really been enjoying Rush’s character the last few months to the point where I would even be up for a Lashley/Rush feud, which I assume will be coming soon after Lashley’s forthcoming loss to…THE DEMON. I feel like I’ve been previewing Finn Balor vs. Bobby Lashley matches for a year now with absolutely nothing notable coming from any of their numerous encounters. Balor continues to do his best Bruce Banner imitation as he tries to keep his alter ego tucked safely away only to realize he must unleash The Hulk (or Demon as it were) to ultimately prevail. Actually if they actively told that story it would probably be more intriguing than anything Balor has done since returning from his untimely injury that forced him to relinquish the Universal Championship. We are sure to get a cool entrance from Balor, but I’m not expecting much more than that. Prediction: Finn Balor

Steve: The Demon returns! This match is about the Demon entrance. That’s it. End of story. The bell to bell may not even be as long as said entrance. TNA Lashley and Finn have the ability to steal the show. WWE Lashley and Finn will provide a great entrance, a butt pose, Lio Rush taking a beating, and Finn winning fairly easily. Prediction: Finn Balor

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection vs. Divas of Doom vs. IIconics vs. Nia Jax & Tamina

Barry: I had it built up in my head that Sasha and Bayley would be defending these titles against the Sky Pirates, based on nothing other than their declaration that they wanted to defend the titles across all brands. I then slightly revised my expectations and built up a scenario where the Sky Pirates would be one of the four teams involved in a match that had representation from each of the WWE brands. Well, here we are and I’ve got no Sky Pirates. I’ve since revised my expectations yet again and will now be waiting with baited breath for the Sky Pirates to make their debut on the RAW after WrestleMania because I’m clearly a glutton for disappointment. The lack of any pirates from the sky notwithstanding I can’t say I’m all that disappointed in what we’re getting. Sure, we still have Tamina and Nia Jax, but I’ve said everything I need to say about them in past previews and at this point I’m content to leave it at that. I’m incredibly excited to see Beth Phoenix back in the fold. The Glamazon is my all-time favorite female performer to ever step in a WWE ring and she looks like she hasn’t lost a thing since retiring and becoming a Hall of Famer. I’m expecting some fun stuff with her and Nia as well as the IIconics. With such heavy emphasis being placed around the Women’s Division this year I’m thinking this match will get extended time, which may not be such a great thing considering how that 8-woman tag match went this past Monday night on RAW. Sasha will be chomping at the bit to go the extra mile, which can go one of two very different ways as we’ve seen in the past. If we get a well-paced match with a few nice spots and no significant botches I’d call it a success, Perhaps that’s too low a bar, but seeing how discombobulated the RAW tag match was has me quite apprehensive. Prediction: Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection  

Steve: How do we keep Nia and Tamina from making this a dumpster fire? It’ll be tough because Beth is absolutely going to try to gorilla press one of them. The IIconics will provide comedy, and hopefully have a few nice moments similar to the EC match. Sasha and Bayley will do their best to keep this one from going off the rails. I’m guessing a triple team early takes the two big women out to let to workers work, leading to a big spot that Nia/Tamina hopefully execute adequately. Asking a lot. On a show heavy with face wins, I think we get the heels here. Prediction: Nia & Tamina

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

Barry: Roman Reigns is not main eventing WrestleMania for the first time since WrestleMania XXX. It wasn’t all that long ago that this very match was being talked about as a potential WrestleMania main event back when McIntyre appeared to be getting a major push. Since then McIntyre cooled significantly and Reigns announced his Leukemia diagnosis, which completely changed WWE’s roster dynamic. It’s tremendous that Reigns underwent a successful treatment plan and is back in the fold. I was never all-in on Reigns as a character, however, my trepidation never reached the level of backlash that infiltrated the main event scene in recent years. With the proverbial reset button being engaged I’m really excited to see how Reigns develops both as a character as well as in terms of a newfound relationship with the audience. This match is on my shortlist of Match of the Night contenders. These two have demonstrated great chemistry together, they’re both motivated and the crowd will be fully engaged in all the right ways. Reigns standing tall at the end is the obvious choice for the finish, but if this story is slated to go beyond WrestleMania then I would give McIntyre the win to allow for valuable heat moving forward. There’s no reason these two can’t be involved an a Feud of the Year type program that runs all the way through Summer Slam. Prediction: Roman Reigns

Steve: There’s no way this match isn’t good. Drew is a STAR and can hopefully be a top heel in the company soon. His work lately has been fantastic. The real question is how the crowd treats Roman. I think it will be a very warm reaction to start, but how the match goes will determine if they stay behind him. If they cut these two loose and let them have the banger they both can, Roman gets his cheers and Drew stays a hated heel. If it’s a 1980’s Michael Hayes special, they’ll turn on Roman like he never left. I’m banking on the banger because Roman truly seems to be comfortable in his own skin, and Drew should be chomping at the bit to perform in a high profile match on the biggest stage for the first time.Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE United States Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio

Barry: Outside of his early work in ECW and WCW I have never really been a fan of Rey Mysterio. His first WWE run, particularly his World Heavyweight Championship storyline, is among my least favorite runs of any major star that has worked under the WWE banner. I know that may be difficult to fathom considering he is discussed in many circles as one of the greatest performers of all time, but the character always came off as corny to me and I resented how he was pushed down my throat as a main eventer in the mid 2000s. That said, I find myself really enjoying Mysterio’s work over the last two or three years. I suppose it started with his Lucha Underground campaign and has carried over into his return to WWE. While this is undoubtedly Mysterio’s legacy run with the promotion, you’d never know it by his work in the ring. The mask allows the character to appear ageless, however, that’s a benefit Mysterio doesn’t even appear to need; he still has the ability to perform like a young man in spite of decades of wear and tear on his body, which is truly remarkable. His series of matches with Andrade were a joy to watch and while I would have much rathered the blow-off of that story get a billing on the biggest show of the year.

As for Samoa Joe, it’s nice to finally see him walking around with a title over his shoulder, even if it is just the United States Championship. Joe is legitimately among the top 1% in terms of all-around performers currently on the WWE roster which is really saying something considering, like Mysterio,  the current stage of his career. Given the proper time I think these two could have an above average to great match. Unfortunately, I don’t see this getting much more than seven or eight minutes to unfold so my expectations are fairly pedestrian. Late breaking news of an ankle injury suffered by Mysterio makes that scenario even more likely at this point. With the post-WrestleMania roster shake-up looming, I see great potential in a long run with the US Championship for Joe, something that could highlight his time with the promotion and bring life back to a lower midcard title. In my view that would be the proper direction to take. Prediction: Samoa Joe

Steve: I have never been the biggest Rey guy. Especially in his early “mini super Cena” run where I thought he was wildly overrated. I have to admit though, since he’s gotten himself back in shape, starting with his strong Lucha Underground run and leading into his current WWE run, he’s been money. Everyone knows this should be Rey vs. Andrade and Joe vs. Cena. But this should still be a nice consolation prize. Joe will be the strong bully he’s been and sprinkle in some of his trademark big man athleticism, as well as be a great base for Rey’s offense. In the end of a fun, fast paced match, I see Rey getting a flash pin leading to a proper feud over the summer with Andrade, and possibly Ricochet depending on what brand he ends up on. Joe will continue to be Joe, because he’s one of the rare guys that don’t allow losses to hurt him. Prediction: Rey Mysterio

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Barry: I’ve been listening to a lot of people discuss how EC3 absolutely has to win this match. I suppose he could win the match, but HAS to win? Let’s talk about EC3 for a minute. I really don’t understand why so many people are going nuts over how this man has been used since being called to the main roster. Did I miss the part of his NXT run where EC3 was Ric Flair from 1985? Did I miss the part of his career outside of WWE where this guy was just lighting the world on fire and changing the wrestling industry as we know it? I had a ton of wrestling action figures growing up. The Hasbro collection was the best of the best; only Hasbro figures were worthy of the main event picture of my federation. But I had plenty of non-Hasbro figures as well, mostly generic wrestler-looking figures my grandmother would buy from Woolworths or something. EC3 is that generic wrestling figure from Woolworths. Yes, his current ‘mime looking into a mirror’ gimmick is hardly inspiring. And yes, if you call a guy up from NXT you should at least have some semblance of an idea what you want to do with him. But can we all calm down about how EC3 is being wasted? The Revival is being wasted. Asuka is being wasted. Rusev is being wasted. EC3 is just a lower midcard guy not doing anything on TV at the moment. Prediction: Braun Strowman

Steve: Our second “get everyone on the card match” of the night. The placing of these two battle royals will be interesting. If they are smart, the women’s battle royal is the last match on the pre-show to ensure it gets the most attention possible, and they put this on the main show because it’s doomed to get not one care from anyone and be a proper break match during each attendee’s Sunday 8 hour work day. There will be people who complain that, “The women should be treated better! They should have been on the main card!” I would disagree due to my thoughts above. The women should “main event” the pre-show just like they are MAIN EVENTING the whole show. Who really knows with this outcome? I’ll take a shot in the dark. Prediction: EC3

AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton

Barry: There isn’t a whole lot to analyze for this match. AJ Styles is coming down from his dominant run as the face that runs the place on SmackDown Live and Randy Orton is just doing his Randy Orton thang. My hunch is that Styles will be headed to Raw after WrestleMania and Orton is headed toward a WWE Championship angle so I’m leaning towards Orton going over. Prediction: Randy Orton

Steve: I don’t hate Orton. I never have. You what his basement is. Some basic moves, strong presence and crowd interaction, that leads to an RKO, crow pop, 1, 2, 3. He’s a guy that most casual fans always describe as “cool” because his is the prototype pro wrestler. Cool entrance, cool look, cool finish. AJ has taken a lot of heat from the smart crowd lately. No he’s not 2016 AJ anymore. His matches with Nakamura and then Joe were strong, but not all time classics like everyone hoped. That said, he’s still far from the “AJ is bad now” trash I see all the time. I think both these two have something to prove and they will have a match that we will look back on and say was one of the best matches on the card. Their promos have been strong lately as “Indy Killer” Orton (™ Daine Pavloski)  and “Indy Flag Bearer” AJ. AJ’s drug suspension dig on Orton on the go-home SmackDown was great and lead to a hot exchange going into the show. I feel like we will see a hot ***½+ match here. Prediction: AJ Styles

Shane McMahon vs. The Miz

Barry: If you read my previews leading up to WrestleMania you know I was really hoping that Shane McMahon would be the one to turn heel in this story, but I wasn’t optimistic it would play out that way. Low and behold I actually got what I wanted and I haven’t been disappointed at all.The only thing missing from The Miz’s WWE resume at this point in his career is a noteworthy run as a babyface. Not only has he become a babyface, but The Miz has straight up transformed into an ass-kicking combination of Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, who fights through an entire gang of security guards and half the locker room to get his hands on his foe. I’ve had a lot of fun watching this play out. The falls count anywhere stipulation eliminates any concerns about a disappointing in-ring performance and hopefully will help prevent Shane from turning yet another shade of purple that makes me highly concerned about his continued existence on this earth. Since this is one of two plunder matches booked for the show there really is no need for a dangerous Shane spot – though I’m sure he’s got one in mind already –  the psychology of the story can do all the work. Overall this story has been pitch perfect since it began so I’m optimistic this match will serve as the big blow off to the angle and end the feud as it should be. My idea for a finish takes the action back into Gorilla position, where Vince and company are running the show. Miz can finish off Shane right in front of a furious Vince to get the ultimate retribution, leaving Shane as the one still looking for the adoration of a father who will never be ready to hand it over. Prediction: The Miz

Steve: This will be an interesting one. There will be a lot of heat for this because people have finally come around on Miz. He hit the highest of highs early, swam through a river of crap, and came out clean on the other side. Everything he’s ever been given he’s made it important, and people are finally respecting him for it. He’s also been humanized by his show, which in a rare case with wrestling fans, has actually helped him. All that said, he’s not 2016 AJ dragging Shane to that kind of match. There will be a lot of fire, a Shane highspot or two, and some shenanigans. The crowd should be into this though to take to a passable level. Guessing Miz’s Dad somehow gets involved in the finish, or even Maryse, and they all celebrate a Mizanin family victory. Prediction: Miz

Kurt Angle’s Farewell
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin

Barry: It’s a shame that Kurt Angle can’t go out with the sort of big match he and everyone else would like, but his performances during this farewell tour have been all the evidence we need that he simply can’t do it anymore. That’s fine. As a high school and college wrestler myself, Kurt Angle was someone I’ve been following since the early 1990s. In 1996, after the murder of Dave Schultz, my brother and I joined the newly formed Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, an organization designed to help wrestlers aspiring to compete in the Olympics with the opportunity to train and compete without having to rely on private funding from insane billionaires. Angle was also a member of the inaugural DSWC team and went on to win the gold medal in the 1996 Olympic games…with a broken freakin neck. As a pro wrestler Angle is among my top five favorites of all time and my absolute favorite wrestler in the first decade of the 2000s. His matches against Steve Austin in 2001, Chris Benoit in 2003, The Undertaker in 2003 and again in 2006 are some of my favorite WWE matches of the period. His unique Iron Man Match against Brock Lesnar in 2003 is one of the few Iron Man matches I enjoyed. His match with Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania XX is somewhat of a forgotten gem, and his match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 is one of my favorite WrestleMania matches. It always bothered me that Angle departed WWE in such an inauspicious manner; an unfortunate circumstance that was ultimately corrected when he made his return to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. I will always remember the random Shield version of Kurt Angle fondly and his involvement in the Ronda Rousey, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H angle from WrestleMania 34 was great stuff as well. I don’t want this match to be anything but a brief comeuppance spot (which Corbin plays incredibly well) and a WrestleMania-sized celebration of one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots. Prediction: Kurt Angle

Steve: Until it doesn’t happen, I’m calling Cena to actually be in this match. Corbin has the wrong kind of heat for a spot like this. Corbin makes the retirement match of a bonafide WRESTLING, not WWE, WRESTLING LEGEND into a bathroom break match. I’m almost certainly wrong here, but I see Corbin’s music hit and he doesn’t come out, leading to a backstage shot of Cena giving a down Corbin the “You can’t see me.” Or Corbin starts the match and Cena comes down before the bell and he and Kurt lay waste to Corbin, leading to the match. If we get this, I say we get an almost Ric Flair kind of retirement moment. If I’m wrong we get a short Angle smash of almost no significance. I’m going with my idea. Because it’s better. Prediction: John Cena

No Holds Barred
Triple H vs. Batista

Barry: I suppose this is the portion of the preview where I’m supposed to talk about Triple H booking himself into a high profile match, against an opponent that got over on him in the past and all the other echo chamber stuff that makes me roll my eyes on a good day and makes me question my life choices on a bad one. I’m sure there are plenty of other folks who can give you what your want if that’s what you’re looking for. From strictly a storytelling perspective I found it a bit refreshing that a returning star would be booked as a heel for a one-off WrestleMania match, especially in this case because heel Batista has always been the most compelling version of Batista in my view. The execution of the Ric Flair angle was perfect and the ‘Give me what I want’ altercation was well done as well, but this story has had some serious issues as well. I don’t think enough the angle was given enough heat to make the retirement stipulation as meaningful as it should be, which leaves little doubt as far as the match outcome in concerned. I also think the attack on Flair required at least one follow-up, something that would really signify Triple H is the character worth rooting for in this story. I also could have done without the odd worked-shoot style promo Triple H gave a few weeks ago. I’m curious to see just how far Batista is willing to go in terms of plunder spots. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if we get a big swerve and Triple H goes down and depending on how it’s executed it could be a great moment, but as it stands I’m fairly certain Triple H will finally get his win over Batista. Prediction: Triple H

Steve: I’m really excited for this one. Big Dave rules and is everything everyone wants CM Punk to be. Yeah, I said it. He’s also part of my favorite superhero movie ever, so there’s that. I see this being similar to Triple H/Taker from WrestleMania X7 in the kind of brawl we will get. I’m sure Dave is in great shape, but not wrestling shape. The nature of this one will hide that. He’s also legitimately pumped to be here, and won’t just be going through the motions. This will be a Triple H far removed from the awful tag at Crown Jewel. This will be a plunder brawl that goes well into the crowd and all around the ring. The Triple H retirement piece adds a wrinkle. Before, I would have said there is no way he loses. Now I’m not sure. Retirements mean nothing for the most part, especially for a guy that will be heavily involved for years to come. But I can see him taking a pin and getting a huge ovation on the biggest stage. I don’t see it happening though. Big Dave does the honors, because he’s a pro. Prediction: Triple H

WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins

Barry: It isn’t all that often we get a fresh match in WWE these days, especially in the main event tier of the card, but that’s exactly what we have in Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins. Since the infamous gauntlet match on RAW last year Rollins has steadily maintained what I would characterize as top midcarder momentum, but he hasn’t reached the sort of fever-pitched support from the audience you’d like to see in a babyface challenging for the championship at WrestleMania. The build for this match hasn’t really done anything to address that situation, however, when compared against the Women’s Championship build I’m more than happy to take a straightforward story where two guys are going to meet in the ring and fight for the title. I have plenty of confidence in Rollins and Lesnar to deliver a memorable match. Rollins hasn’t been portrayed as an overwhelming underdog, which is also refreshing. Brock is the clear favorite in the story, but Rollins isn’t going to WrestleMania to give it his best shot, or to simply try and survive; he’s made it clear that he’s going to win and has looked stronger for it. I also like the creative wrinkle about Lesnar struggling with guys of Rollins’ size, that was a subtle but effective way to create doubt in the outcome. Lesnar’s reign as Universal Champion, like his WWE CHampionship reign before it, has been among the best told stories produced by WWE so my expectations for this match range from match of the night to all time classic. I realize I’ve been giving WWE the benefit of the doubt in predicting many clear-cut sensible finishes throughout this preview and I suppose that trend will continue here. Since the Universal title match isn’t going on last, I can see a scenario where Lesnar goes over only to be vanquished the following night on RAW, which wouldn’t be terrible as long as it wasn’t overbooked. If it were up to me I’d just keep in simple and crown the new champion in New Jersey. Prediction: Seth Rollins

Steve: The segment on RAW at least moved the needle for me. I don’t care that the babyface had to low blow Lesnar to get the one up on him. Lesnar is the unstoppable, mega heel. He’s used dirty tactics to get ahead before and probably will again, just like most heels do. I look at it as a babyface finally giving a big bad heel a taste of their own medicine. So I don’t buy this hurting people getting behind Rollins.

I agree, Lesnar needs to go away at this point. I’ve enjoyed him more than most, and his matches do typically deliver in ways different than anyone else. I also believe this will be more in the vein of his matches with Bryan and Finn and less in the Roman/Dean realm. That said, I just don’t think Seth is the guy to do it. It doesn’t feel right. They could go in there and tear the house down and it still wouldn’t feel right to me. I like Seth, but the guy that does away with Lesnar should be an indisputable top guy, and I don’t see that as Seth. I may be on an island here, but Seth lost that aura about him when he got hurt and he’s never got that back. He’s always going to be around the main event, and will be World Champion again, but as the guy to beat Lesnar, I don’t think he’s it. Prediction: Brock Lesnar

WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston

Barry: I really hate to sour on a story that so many folks are passionate about, but I have very little interest in this match if I’m being completely honest. From strictly a storytelling perspective this program has been objectively good, I just don’t want or need Kofi Kingston in my WWE Championship stories. I would much rather see Kevin Owens, Ali, AJ Styles or even Randy Orton in this spot. In my view this story should have ended either at Elimination Chamber or Fastlane at the absolute latest. The match itself will likely be very good if not great and I will undoubtedly enjoy it as I have the previous matches. Is this the program WWE will use to show the fanbase that they are listening? If so, I’d prefer they just go back to not listening. My outside hope is that we get a great match and then either Big E or Xavier Woods turn heel and cost Kingston the match. We can pivot directly into that feud, which I think would have great heat, and Bryan can pivot to someone else as he continues his strong championship run. In an era where drawing power and championship title prestige means less than ever before (at least in WWE) I have no strong argument to counter the outcome most are hoping for, it’s just a personal preference. Kingston standing tall with the gold raised above his head would make for a great WrestleMania moment, but then what? The protagonist who successfully completes The Hero’s Journey must cross the threshold back into the known world having been transformed into something greater than the man who began the journey. I have no faith that will not occur in this case. Kingston will go from the midcard act that never got a shot, to the midcard act who is WWE Champion. With the amount of talent WWE currently employs I can think of dozens of people I’d rather see in that position. Prediction: Kofi Kingston

Steve: This is the big match for me. I don’t think there is any chance this doesn’t deliver and deliver HUGE. We are talking all time WrestleMania classic match potential. WWE fell into gold here. The underutilized, underappreciated company man finally gets his chance at the big time due to an unfortunately timed injury to the next up and comer. Kofi’s story these last few months has been great, and has truly made fans realize, myself included, just how good Kofi is. Bryan is also the perfect heel for this kind of story. He lived through this same kind of groundswell support and can pick it apart from the inside. He’s also a guy that, although a heel, everyone respects. So this will be an entire crowd engaged in what’s happening in the ring and taking a match to legendary status.

The one thing I have appreciated in this story in that they have avoided bringing the racial element to the forefront. It would have been easy to do it that way, and many would have more than likely gotten behind it. But by not bringing it to the forefront, it’s made the fans recognize the elephant in the room on their own, making it that much more effective. This match may outshine the main event in crowd reactions. I think this is Kofi’s moment. He’s earned it. And the reaction will be HUGE. Prediction: Kofi Kingston

WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch

Barry: The build for this match has been like a Stanley Kubrick movie; it hit the ground running and immediately pulled me in, then things took a hard left turn in the middle and got really weird only to come back enough towards the end to where I can’t say it was bad. Before I go any further allow me to address that segment of RAW. My wife and I recently celebrated our one year wedding anniversary and prior to our marriage we dated for six years. According to her, in all the time she’s known me she’s never heard me laugh as hard or as long as I did watching that segment this past Monday night (I’m not much of a laugher in general). Everyone in my house came running out to the living room to see what it was that made the giant perpetually grumpy guy laugh so much. Needless to say nobody else really understood what was so great about it but what would you expect from non-fans?. Not since The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar brawling through multiple segments in July of 2015 has a non-match segment captured so much of my attention. Now that that’s out of the way let’s move on to the heart of the matter.

Ronda Rousey shattered all expectations after debuting at WrestleMania 34 last year. In my opinion she was the WWE performer of the year in 2018. Like Brock Lesnar, her matches felt unique and special. She managed to get a career-best performance out of Nia Jax at Money in the Bank, her matches with Alexa Bliss were very well done and her match against Nikki Bella at Evolution was great as well. Everything was going splendidly and then she was booed out of Staples Center after taking a beating from Charlotte Flair. I’ve tried for months to come up with a logical explanation for this sudden change, but it still makes no sense to me. Her shoot promos soured me on the character, however, I do find her UFC-like badass persona very compelling. Charlotte has been the consistent reliable heel since her and Becky Lynch began their feud over the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship last fall. She will be the glue that holds this match together and I have all the confidence in the world she will do a great job. Unlike Kofi Kingston, Lynch’s meteoric rise to the main event has a tremendous upside. Part Daniel Bryan, part Steve Austin and part a unique character of her own she has captured the hearts and minds of the audience in a way that is incredibly compelling. I’m very much in favor of both titles being on the line. As we inch closer to the new FOX television deal WWE appears to be in the early stages of blurring the brand split lines. I’m very much of the opinion that this brand split, like the one before it, is a detriment to the promotion as a whole, There has been no better analysis of this story than on the VOW Flagship podcast. Both Rich and Joe laid out a great case for why this should have been a straight singles match between Ronda and Becky. They weren’t wrong, but I don’t mind the Triple Threat element of this match, especially if both titles may become unified in the near future. In the early days of this women’s revolution I was skeptical it would ever reach the point where the last match of the night would be for the Women’s Championship. I think it’s great that it’s actually taking place and is beyond well-deserved for the roster of hardworking and dedicated women who have cultivated a new era in a promotion where that is very difficult to do. Prediction: Becky Lynch

Steve: I’ll get this out of the way, I was VERY into that RAW segment. It was silly, ridiculous, cool, unbelievable, and pro wrestling to a tee. The crowd was into it too, just like they’ve been into everything in this feud, no matter how convoluted. Yes, the way we got here has had a lot of twists and turns, but we are here now, and it should be great. These three are going to want to kill it and I think they will. Even after 8 hours, this crowd is going to be hot for everything these three do, and they will push Becky to the win. Who knows what Rousey’s future is. Honestly, who cares? She’s been incredible and brought tons of attention to the WWE women. But even if she never comes back, they will be fine with the talent they have. Charlotte is the best women’s wrestler on the planet, Becky is the most popular, and there are tons of women who are capable of jumping into the spotlight. This has been the year of the women in WWE, and the division gets it’s deserved top billing here. It won’t disappoint. Rousey does it the right way and taps to the Disarmher. Prediction: Becky Lynch