I think WrestleMania 34 is going to be an outstanding event. It hasn't been the case the last few years with WrestleMania, but as we get closer to the biggest wrestling show of the year, I'm really excited.
The gripe with WrestleMania 34 is the length of it because it will be about seven hours including the Kickoff Show (the main show was five hours last year), which is always going to tire an audience out. If the match quality is good, though, the time of the show is less of a factor.
When I write previews I don't really say how many matches might hit the four-star level out of five (or at a level where I'd call them excellent if you don't like my ratings lol), but in this case I believe there's a chance that four or five WrestleMania matches will be at that level, which is pretty crazy. A lot of it depends on the time of the matches too.
Here's an example of what I mean by the timing being so important at a WrestleMania: At WrestleMania 22 in 2006, the match I was most interested in was Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight Title. Mysterio won the gold in an incredible match, but it only went 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the entrances of Triple H and John Cena went longer than that and they were given 21 minutes for their match. I still don't understand why the triple threat was rushed so much considering some of the other crap on that card, but that's what happens at WrestleMania sometimes.
Regarding the NXT Takeover New Orleans show, I watched NXT from this past week and I'm so ready for Takeover now. The Ciampa/Gargano angle is on fire and I'm so excited for that match (spoiler I guess, but you can tell it's happening). In addition to that, Andrade Cien Almas vs. Aleister Black will be an awesome NXT Title match, the 6-man Ladder Match to crown the North American Champion will be scintillating and you know the tag division and women's division will deliver too. I don't see a bad match on that card that should have three or four matches at the four-star level or higher. I know Ring of Honor also has an incredible show the same night at NXT Takeover New Orleans, so there's going to be a lot to look forward to that weekend.
The focus of this column is to look at the WrestleMania card that will feature 14 matches, which are either confirmed on WWE.com or expected to happen. This is a ranking of the 14 WrestleMania matches in order from what I am most excited about to what I'm least excited about it while offering up some early predictions as well.
1. WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I've seen them wrestle before when they were in Japan where they had excellent matches, but not in WWE. That's because it hasn't happened in WWE yet. The tease at Money in the Bank last year was great and I'm glad that WWE went ahead to set this up with Styles as the WWE Champion and Nakamura is the Royal Rumble winner. If they get 15-20 minutes or more like I expect then this will be one of the best matches of the year. This is the most excited I've been for a WrestleMania match since Daniel Bryan's two WrestleMania matches in 2014. Nakamura winning the WWE Title seems like a lock.
There is some mild concern that Styles is dealing with an injury. However, he worked live events on the weekend in tag matches, so he should be good to go in less than two weeks.
2. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
It's not official, but that's the plan after Owens and Zayn attacked Shane McMahon last week as well as Daniel Bryan this week on Smackdown. Owens and Zayn are currently fired from WWE in the storyline, but with two more Smackdowns to go until WrestleMania, that's not going to last. My excitement level is very high for the match because it's the first Daniel Bryan match in nearly three years. I think the New Orleans crowd will be as hot for this match as much as anything on the show. I also think it would be a good idea to make it a Street Fight or Hardcore Match to allow them to use weapons due to the violent attacks by Owens and Zayn in the last two weeks. Then again, with Bryan coming back after nearly three years off with concussions, I'm fine with it being a regular match too. This should be a win for Bryan and Shane.
Moments after I posted this, WWE.com posted that Shane has diverticulitis and needs a hernia operation as well. This could be changed to a triple threat or somebody else tagging with Bryan. Maybe WWE can pull the trigger on a Rusev face turn. People are trying to tell me Chris Jericho makes sense and it does, but he's got a music gig the day of WrestleMania, so I don't think he's going to be able to make it. I'm not sure right now what might happen.
3. Smackdown Women's Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
A case could be made that this is the most high profile women's match in WWE history. Asuka has been undefeated for 2.5 years while Charlotte Flair has been the most dominant female performer on the main roster during that same period. It's a face vs. face match that would be better if Charlotte was in her more natural heel role, but I don't think both women as faces is really going to hurt the match. There may be some chemistry issues since they've never worked together before. I think they'll be fine, though. There's plenty of time to set up the match. A win for Asuka seems very likely here.
4. Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
Triple threat matches are overdone in WWE. Frankly, I'm sick of them. However, The Miz is one of the best heels in WWE right now while Rollins and Balor are two of the best in-ring performers that are going to go all out to make this a memorable match. I'm also genuinely happy for Balor making his WrestleMania debut after being healthy for the show last year only to sit out because creative had nothing for him. A title change makes sense with Balor most likely as the winner.
5. Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
What version of Lesnar will we get? That's the question I have here. When they wrestled at WrestleMania 31 three years ago they had an exciting 15-minute match that was hard hitting, competitive and intense. That was interrupted by the memorable Money in the Bank cash in from Rollins, which ended up becoming one of the coolest moments in WrestleMania history. The result is a no doubter with Reigns ending the one year Universal Championship run by Lesnar.
6. Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
The big question mark for this match is how is Ronda Rousey going to look in the ring? I'm optimistic about it because she's been training to wrestle since last summer and they have likely practiced the key spots in this match several times by now. Rousey making Stephanie tap out to the armbar feels like the obvious ending. It's another match where the crowd should be hot.
7. John Cena vs. The Undertaker (Rumored)
A few years ago this might be number one on a list like this. In 2018 with The Undertaker at 53 years of age, it's harder to be as excited about it. The crowd will be hot for the match, so even as they stand in the ring face eachother there will be "this is awesome" chants. They don't have to do too much and the crowd will be right there with them. To expect a great match, though, seems like a bit much. I really hope this is the end of The Undertaker because I hate when wrestlers stay past their prime too long. A win for The Undertaker would be a great way to go out.
8. Raw Tag Team Championships: Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Braun Strowman and ???
Strowman has a surprise tag team partner that could be somebody like Elias, Samoa Joe, Big Cass, Dean Ambrose (if he's ready) and there are other options too. We don't know who that person is right now, so that's intriguing about this match. Strowman winning gold for the first time in WWE seems like the right call here.
9. Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The New Day (Rumored)
It’s not official, but based on The Bludgeon Brothers attacking both teams at Fastlane, it seems as though that’s the direction. Since this show is lacking in terms of gimmick matches, maybe a Ladder Match or a Street Fight would work here. Congrats to The Usos for finally getting a match on the main card at WrestleMania…unless it is on the Kickoff Show. The Bludgeon Brothers winning gold is a strong possibility.
10. United States Championship: Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal
This match is clearly not as exciting as the other triple threat match for a midcard title. It will be the WrestleMania debut of Roode as well as the highest profile WrestleMania match for Mahal, so it’s big for them. Orton should retain because there are so many other title changes that are likely.
11. Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
Two great athletes that will put on a show in the air. The problem is they will likely be on the Kickoff Show and some of the crowd may not be in their seats yet, so that may hurt the match. It's going to tough to stand out at WrestleMania with so many big names on the card. I would rank it higher, but there are too many face vs. face feuds on this show already. I think the lack of a story will hurt.
12. Raw Women's Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax
Jax was given the title match just because Alexa Bliss said mean things about her. Jax lost to Asuka multiple times recently, yet she’s getting a title match? It was odd that WWE just announced it like that and didn’t have Jax earn the title. This feels like the kind of match that should only go for five minutes with Jax dominating her former “best friend” Miss Bliss and Jax will win her first Women’s Title. If it goes longer than ten minutes it would be a bad idea.
13. Andre The Giant Men's Battle Royal
It's hard to get that excited about a battle royal that doesn't have a payoff other than a guy winning a trophy, so it goes near the bottom of the list. Last year's winner Mojo Rawley was a surprise. I think a surprise winner like Big Cass (he is reportedly cleared to return) may be the winner.
14. WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal
What I said about the men's battle royal applies here as well. Battle royals just aren't that exciting especially when there are two of them on the same card. There might be something here where Bayley or Sasha Banks turns heel, so that's something to watch. Other than that, it's just a way to get more women on the show.
That’s the lineup. It looks better than most WrestleManias from this decade and as long as the right matches are given the most time, we could be talking about many incredible WrestleMania moments after the show is over.
Thanks for reading.