Canada’s Sami Zayn ready for ‘unique’ Wrestlemania match with Knoxville

Sami Zayn, right, and Johnny Knoxville, pictured above.

WrestleMania is certainly no stranger to celebrity involvement. The first edition of the show in 1985 included the likes of Mr. T, Liberace and Cyndi Lauper, among others.

This year, WrestleMania will feature three matches involving a celebrity. Former NFL player and current SmackDown commentator Pat McAfee will take on Austin Theory. Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio will tag up to face The Miz and social media phenom Logan Paul. And lastly, Montreal native Sami Zayn (+242) will go up against the star of the Jackass movie franchise Johnny Knoxville (-370).

“It’s been a pretty unique experience because I don’t know, in all honesty, that this was always the plan,” Zayn recently told Sportsnet.

Whether it was long-term plan or not, Zayn has been entrusted in guiding a non-wrestler through a wrestling match on the biggest wrestling show in the world.

“Our characters played off each other very well,” noted Zayn when recounting how the two were paired together. “He makes a fool of people and my character you want to see get made a fool of so there’s a natural connection there. I think the chemistry was good, and the reactions were good enough to get us to this point which is to face off at WrestleMania.”

There is a sect of fans vocally perturbed by Zayn’s involvement in the celebrity match, insisting that it is a waste of his talents. That could not be further from the case, though, especially if you were to ask Zayn.

“I really enjoy it,” said Zayn. “I see the occasional comment (that) I should be doing something more, something better than wrestling Johnny Knoxville at WrestleMania. I’m kind of thinking to myself, ‘what do you want exactly? What’s better?’ Unless you’re main eventing for the world title. Not everything is, ‘you’re main evening for the world title or you’re being misused.’”

Zayn and Knoxville have had some fun on their road to WrestleMania, with the latter chartering a plane carrying a banner with Zayn’s phone number written on it, which has led to hundreds, if not thousands, of phone calls and text messages to Zayn, which he has been sharing on social media.

Zayn recently celebrated 20 years in the pro wrestling business, meaning he has seen and heard quite a few loud crowds over his career. However, Zayn noted that, among recent crowds, “every time (Knoxville) comes out, he gets the loudest ovation of the night. And I know because I’ve been in the ring for all of them.”

Zayn and Knoxville will be in the ring on Sunday in front of a crowd that will eclipse at least 50,000 in a match that that will be “anything goes” which suits Knoxville perfectly thanks to his frequent use of anything and everything resembling a foreign object in the Jackass series.

Zayn, meanwhile, has been given a ripe opportunity to carry a major program that has garnered plenty of mainstream, and will grab more headlines in the wake of ‘Mania.

Prediction: Johnny Knoxville wins

Roman Reigns (Universal Champion) vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE Champion), title unification match

This is a big one. But have we seen this match so many times already that it’s lost all meaning? Well, WWE would say no, and to underline their point they’d add that we can see it again and again, so long as the stipulations change. And again, and again… But oh boy, do we have a big stipulation for this.

Yes we need to see this match, again and again.

In Roman Reigns (-455) and Brock Lesnar (+284), WWE is trotting out their two biggest names, on their biggest show, in the main event and they’ll be competing for what will be the newly minted biggest prize in pro wrestling.

Lesnar comes into ‘Mania as hot as he’s ever been, riding a wave of popularity not seen since his fist run in WWE almost 20 years ago. But unfortunately for Cowboy Brock, there is no one hotter on the planet right now than Roman Reigns. Last year at WrestleMania, Reigns stacked two Hall of Fame calibre talent in Edge and Daniel Bryan to retain his championship and now, like a 40-foot wall of sulfuric acid, he will continue to burn everyone in his path.

For Brock Lesnar, the goggles will do nothing.

Prediction: Roman Reigns wins

Edge vs. AJ Styles

Two of the best pure pro wrestlers over the last 20-plus years will serve us a dream match when Edge (-133) and AJ Styles (-105) go head-to-head on WrestleMania on Sunday.

It feels as though Edge has complete creative control over the direction of his character during his second incarnation in WWE, therefore the current dark side he’s channelling must be his idea and implementation. His investment into this character has been full force, giving Styles the rub as a full-fledged babyface. Having said all that, I’m not so sure it was necessary for Edge to lean into a major heel character, as the crowd would still be thrilled for a babyface vs. babyface dream matchup. This match didn’t need a clear-cut bad guy and good guy.

Having said that, Edge developed a strong reason why he needed to ignite this darker side, saying that he hasn’t been as successful as he’s wanted to be since his return. With that attitude, he’s a slight favourite to win at just over -130, with Styles near even money.

Styles delivered a classic matchup against The Undertaker in 2020, but in his last billed “dream match”, in 2018 against Shinsuke Nakamura, the results didn’t live up the billing. Here’s another opportunity to deliver a classic matchup on the biggest wrestling stage in the world for Styles, this time against Orangeville, Ont., native Edge.

Prediction: Edge wins

Seth Rollins vs. Mystery opponent

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the mystery opponent was Shane McMahon? Could there be a bigger troll job from Vince McMahon? Rumours circulated following this year’s Royal Rumble that Shane quietly left the company following some questionable booking decisions. Now it’s been floated by various internet rumour mills that WWE will bring Shane back, in a role that no fan is interested in, which is as the mystery opponent for Seth Rollins.

In reality, it’s been reported by reputable sources, such as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, that it will be Cody Rhodes, who most recently worked in All Elite Wrestling, where he was one of the founders of the company.

After leaving AEW in February, Rhodes was immediately linked to a WWE reunion, where he worked from 2007 to 2016, and now it appears he’s set to return on the biggest stage of them all. If there were an advanced statistic to measure pro wrestler value year-over-year, Rhodes (-667) would undoubtedly be at the top of the list. His popularity and wrestling acumen skyrocketed after leaving WWE, and he returns now as one of the top stars in all of sports entertainment. Meanwhile, Rollins (+375) continues to wrestle at an elite level, meaning these two have the capability to tear the house down.

Prediction: Cody Rhodes wins

Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey returns to the main event of WrestleMania after a near 3-year hiatus away from WWE. The former MMA star lost her Raw Women’s Championship in the main event of WrestleMania in 2019, before leaving the ring for an extended period to start a family. Rousey returned this year at January’s Royal Rumble, winning the event to guarantee a title shot at ‘Mania.

Now we get see two of the biggest stars in pro wrestling/combat sports go head-to-head as Rousey (-1,000) will challenge Charlotte Flair (+450) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in the main event on WrestleMania Saturday. In what mirrors the Reigns/Lesnar main event of Sunday, this match is everything that WrestleMania is billed as and that’s the biggest stars, in the biggest match, in the biggest event of the year.

With Rousey back in the fold and the women’s division, finally, once again starting to flourish with new, fresh matchups available for Rousey, her championship coronation should be nothing short of guaranteed.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins

The Kevin Owens Show featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin

On WrestleMania Saturday Marieville, Que., native Kevin Owens will host an edition of his “K-O Show” with special guest Stone Cold Steve Austin.

It’s been an extremely entertaining build to this confrontation, with Owens carrying the bulk of the program byway of segments in the ring where he mocks Austin and his home state of Texas, also the home of WrestleMania this year, but also with some brilliant video packages produced by WWE.

The upcoming confrontation is undoubtedly a thrill for Owens, who grew up as a massive Stone Cold fan. Owens recently told Sportsnet that when he went to WrestleMania 18 in 2002 in Toronto, that one of the three matches he was most excited for was Austin versus Scott Hall.

Meanwhile Owens, after receiving a blessing behind the curtain from Austin himself, has started using the “Stone Cold Stunner” as his finishing maneuver and has now submitted to the WWE Universe that he is the king of the Stunner.

The K-O Show confrontation will allow both Owens and Austin an opportunity to flex their verbal muscles, but also provide a chance for one of them to dish out a Stunner. You can even bet on who will receive a Stunner first.

Owens to receive Stunner first: -1,000

Austin to receive Stunner first: +500

While it isn’t a match, the confrontation is still guaranteed to provide a memorable WrestleMania moment from a current star and, perhaps, the biggest star in the history of pro wrestling.

Other match predictions

• Bianca Belair (-333) def. Becky Lynch (C) (+225) to win Raw Women’s Championship

• Rey & Dominik Mysterio (-147) def. The Miz & Logan Paul (+106)

• Drew McIntyre (-1,000) def. Baron Corbin (+485)

• The Usos (C) (-222) def. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs (+165)

• The New Day (-286) def. Sheamus & Ridge Holland (+195)

• Rhea Ripley & Liv Morgan (+200) def. Carmella & Zelina Vega (C) (+375), Sasha Banks & Naomi (-154), Natalya & Shayna Baszler (+800) to win Women’s Tag Team Championship

• Austin Theory (+124) def. Pat McAfee (-172)

• RK-Bro (-167) def. Alpha Academy (C) (+460), Street Profits (+175) to win Raw Tag Team Championship

Make sure to head over to Sportsnet.ca on both Saturday and Sunday to join Kevin Michie for live blog coverage of WrestleMania Night One and Two.

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