Too Big For One Night: Previewing WWE WrestleMania 36
Believe it or not, WWE WrestleMania 36 is this weekend. The event is “too big for one night,” which should drastically change the viewing experience. Of course, the absence of fans and the show’s new location — the WWE Performance Center — make this WrestleMania unique, to say the least. Say what you will about WWE’s firm adherence to “the show must go on” mentality; no matter what, we’re still getting WrestleMania this weekend, and that’s worth celebrating.
To be fair, this year’s Showcase of the Immortals won’t be anything near the spectacle we’ve come to expect. Fans are a crucial part of every wrestling show, so without the electricity of the crowd, this year’s matches may seem relatively dry. Still, WWE has built a strong card for WrestleMania 36 and, given that it’s loaded with matches, let’s take a look at them and offer our predictions.
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
Who would have thought that Otis would be the star in WWE’s most fun storyline? But that’s exactly where we find ourselves heading into the Showcase of the Immortals. Otis’ love story with Mandy Rose has been a hit from the get-go. What was a classic rom-com is now a love triangle featuring Ziggler. Ziggler has been an effective foil for the charming, fun-loving Otis, so this match could tell an entertaining story in the ring. Plenty of fans want to see Otis run wild this weekend, and anything other than a strong victory for the big man would be shocking. WWE WrestleMania is supposed to be one massive celebration, and what better way to give the fans what they want than to have Otis finally get the girl?
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
It’s a shame this match hasn’t been built up at all. Black has quickly become a breakout star on RAW, as his Black Mass finishing move is one of WWE’s finest. Meanwhile, Lashley remains criminally underutilized but, with the right creative, he could easily be a legitimate main eventer again. The Almighty hasn’t come out on the better end of the love triangle with Rusev and Lana. Maybe a loss here will motivate a split between the happy couple and, eventually, get Lashey back on track. But a win for Black at WrestleMania is practically a lock at this point.
Raw Tag Team Championships: The Street Profits (c) v. Austin Theory and Angel Garza
The team of Garza and Andrade could be electric. But, due to an injury to the United States Champion, we’ll have to wait to see Zelina Vega’s clients team up again. Enter Austin Theory. The up-and-coming NXT star is getting the opportunity of a lifetime because he’s already making his WrestleMania debut. The Street Profits are practically incapable of putting on a bad match at this point so, though this bout feels thrown together, it should still be a quality contest. There’s no reason to expect the Street Profits to lose the titles already. Hopefully, after WrestleMania, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins will enter some hot programs with RAW’s other talented teams.
Elias vs. King Corbin
There’s not much to this match, other than the fact that it pits two guys WWE’s clearly high on against each other. Maybe WrestleMania host Rob Gronkowski will get involved to add some buzz to it. After all, Gronkowski’s the one who unofficially booked the match on SmackDown a few weeks ago. Elias has comfortably settled into his role as a comedy act (for now,) so look for Corbin to notch another victory at the Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment.
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Women’s Tag Team Championships: The Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
The Women’s Tag Team Championships have been around for just over a year now. In that time, they’ve often been underutilized despite WWE’s loaded roster. These two teams have feuded throughout the history of the titles, which is why it’s disappointing that this particular match hasn’t been built strongly in recent weeks. Though Kairi Sane and Asuka are both immensely talented, it’s time for Bliss Cross Applesauce to win the titles again in order to shake things up a bit. Maybe, in the months to come, we’ll finally get to see Cross’ relationship with Bliss lead to a heated blow-off match. That story could start with a victory this weekend.
Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
Zayn’s first defense as the Intercontinental Champion is a dream match between two former Ring of Honor stars. Plus, it organically gives two of WWE’s best wrestlers a place on the WrestleMania card. Bryan’s rivalry-turned-alliance with Drew Gulak has been one of the best storylines on SmackDown while Zayn’s coalition with Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro has finally yielded some success for the new champion. For Bryan, a win would look nice on his impressive list of accolades, but for Zayn, it could add some much-needed legitimacy to the title. Either way, expect a technical masterpiece when these two stars collide.
NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
The build for this match has fallen flat, and the feud hasn’t been hot. Even the competitor’s motivations aren’t particularly strong, though the story of The Queen’s return to NXT should have made it easy to tell a winning story. Flair has next to nothing to gain with a win; she’s already a living legend in WWE’s women’s division. But Ripley would benefit greatly from a victory this weekend. Many fans see her as the next Becky Lynch. Defeating Flair at WrestleMania could only strengthen those parallels. Win, lose, or draw, Ripley has the chance to show she’s got what it takes to be a main player.
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks
This match puts several of the top stars from SmackDown’s women’s division on the WrestleMania card. While we can appreciate that, the original plans, which reportedly called for a match between Banks and Bayley, could have been much more compelling. True, the build would have been rushed, but that’s true of several matches on the card anyway. Regardless, Bayley’s run as the champion has left a lot to be desired. It’s past time that WWE gives someone else a shot with the title. They missed the boat when fans briefly rallied around Evans a few months ago. Naomi would be a believable champion. But maybe it’s Boss Time. That way, the company could kick-start a feud between the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection.
SmackDown Tag Team Championships Ladder Match: The Miz and John Morrison (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day*
On paper, these three teams should give fans the usual fast-paced, frenetic multi-team tag match at WrestleMania. They’re WWE’s three best teams of the 21st century, and the chemistry between the Usos and the New Day is always a recipe for success. The reunion of Miz and Morrison has been more than a trip down memory lane, as the champions are still an elite team. While it’s great to see the New Day still running strong, It’s hard to believe that, a year after KofiMania, Kingston has been relegated to this spot. Any of these teams could win this match, but there’s still a lot of mileage behind the Miz and Morrison comeback tour. If the rumors that this match won’t go on as scheduled hold true, let’s hope these three teams clash at some point down the road.
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