There is no stage bigger, there is no stage brighter, there is no stage more noteworthy in the world of professional wrestling. There is only one WrestleMania.
After 37 years, it has become quite evident to anyone who’s ever watched a WrestleMania match that the event will bring out the best in those who compete on the card.
That may be amplified at this weekend’s WrestleMania 37 as, for the first time in over year, WWE wrestlers will be competing in front a live crowd, meaning the energy will be amped up even more than usual.
Any wrestler will tell you that the feedback of an audience will always greatly improve a match. For instance, if you were to watch The Rock versus Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 18 without sound, it appears to be just an ordinary match. But add the deafening crowd eruptions of the Sky Dome from that evening, and the match cements itself as one of the greatest ‘Mania matches of all-time.
Each and every wrestler on the two-night WrestleMania card this year will now have even greater incentive to put on a show-stealing effort.
Before we get to this year’s predictions, remember to follow along with WrestleMania Night 1 and Night 2 with Sportsnet.ca’s live blog coverage. Check back with us on Saturday and Sunday for news, analysis and highlights.
Night 1 (Saturday, April 10)
WWE Championship match: Bobby Lashley (C) vs. Drew McIntyre
The return of the crowd will, perhaps, bring no bigger intrigue than in this match. Despite being portrayed as somewhat of a villain, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to hear fans cheer WWE Champion Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania. Lashley has been fantastic over the past year or so, thanks to in-ring dominance and his alignment with The Hurt Business.
It’s tough to say how the crowd will react for this match, however, as Lashley has distanced himself from parts of The Hurt Business, a faction generally approved by fans but has continued his run of beastly dominance in the ring.
He’s going up against Drew McIntyre, a wrestler who’s been portrayed as a good guy for over a year, stretching back to when fans were still allowed in arenas. But it’s hard to know whether fans will still approve of McIntyre in person, after a year of only being able to display their emotions online.
Lashley recently told Sportsnet that, “Drew (McIntyre) is a big, popular guy. It’s going to be one of those things where the crowd’s going to be like, ‘Yay, we love Drew,’ but ‘Yay, we love Bobby,’ and ‘Boo, he’s doing that wrong,’ and ‘Boo, he’s doing this wrong.’ So we really don’t even know what we’re going to have. So for us, we’re just going out there to fight. I’m really interested to see in how the crowd is going to react. I think it’s going to be real favourable, and from then I think we’re going to have to make them hate (me).”
Lashley is as strong as ever and looks poised to carry that momentum long past WrestleMania.
Pick: Bobby Lashley
SmackDown Women’s Championship match: Sasha Banks (C) vs. Bianca Belair
Before even considering who may come out on top in this match, it’s important to recognize that two Black wrestlers will be competing one-on-one for a major championship at WrestleMania for the first time ever. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair deserve every accolade they get ahead of their match while working their way to the top of the card.
As for the match, Belair has been on a meteoric rise to the top not seen since Goldberg in WCW. WWE has portrayed Belair as the future of women’s wrestling. Meanwhile, Banks has cemented herself as one of the top Superstars in all of WWE. However, outside of the ring it’s rumoured that Banks is ready to return to filming The Mandalorian and will therefore be unavailable for a long period of time. So, this one is a no-brainer.
Pick: Bianca Belair
Singles match: Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins
This match has show-stealing capability. Cesaro and Seth Rollins have probably wrestled each other over 100 times in their careers, stretching as far back as when they were both on the indie wrestling circuit. There has been an eye-rolling story build to this match, in Rollins not wanting to be swung around in the ring by Cesaro, but I’m going to choose to ignore just how stupid that is and, instead, enjoy two of the best wrestlers on the planet going at it.
Cesaro has never had any sort of career-defining win. That will change at WrestleMania 37.
Steel cage match: Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon
I can imagine that when WWE was trying to figure out what to do with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania this year, they asked themselves: ‘What will Shane jump off?” And the answer was: a steel cage.
This is another match with an awful build, where McMahon has been calling Strowman stupid, making the big man upset. And now they’re fighting at WrestleMania because of it. I don’t have high expectations for this match.
Pick: Braun Strowman
Raw Tag Team Championship match: The New Day (C) vs. AJ Styles & Omos
Eleven-time tag champs The New Day, represented by Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, are squaring off against perhaps WWE’s greatest in-ring performer in AJ Styles, and Omos, who is making his in-ring debut at WrestleMania.
If this were just Kingston versus Styles, my expectations and interest would be higher. However, this seems like a hastily thrown together tag-team angle that will have little-to-no pay off.
Pick: AJ Styles & Omos
Tag team match: Bad Bunny & Damian Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison
In early February, WWE announced on their Q4 earnings call that they would be making a large push into Latin America, and that push started, in part, with a partnership alongside Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny. That push is now in full effect as Bad Bunny teams with Puerto Rican-raised Damian Priest.
This match was designed to garner interest from Latin America and it has almost certainly done so, but it has garnered no interest from me.
Pick: Bad Bunny & Damian Priest
No. 1 contenders match for Women’s Tag Team Championship
This is a tag-team turmoil match to determine the No. 1 contenders for the Women’s Tag Team Championships, for a match that will take place on Night 2.
Of the four teams competing for the titles, I’d like to see Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan get a shot. There really isn’t a whole lot of intrigue behind this match.
Pick: Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan
Night 2 (Sunday, April 11)
Universal Championship match: Roman Reigns (C) vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan
Similar to Night 1’s WWE Championship match where the crowd will dictate quite a bit of interest, the Universal Championship match will also garner intrigue based on how the crowd may react.
Much of that intrigue surrounds Orangeville, Ont., native Edge, who returns to a major championship match at WrestleMania for the first time since WrestleMania 28 when he retained the World Heavyweight Championship. Edge’s return to wrestling, following a forced retirement due to a neck injury in the immediate after of WrestleMania 28 in 2011, at the Royal Rumble last year has become a symbol of a previous era, where fans were still allowed inside for events. The reception for Edge’s surprise return at the 2020 Rumble was legendary, with fans losing their collective minds. Now, though, Edge has been positioned as a villain on television heading into WrestleMania thanks to his reluctance to accept Daniel Bryan as a third participant in the Universal Championship match.
While it’s easy to plan for Edge to receive a poor reaction, it’s unrealistic to expect it. I have very little doubt that Edge will receive a hero’s welcome from fans at Raymond James Stadium. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine any one of the wrestlers involved receiving a negative reaction. Fans will be getting their first in-person glimpse of the new, villainous Roman Reigns, which will no doubt leave the crowd in a frenzied state of excitement. Meanwhile, Bryan remains as popular as ever with fans, and his position in the main event on the biggest stage will do nothing to quell that excitement.
A victory for Edge to re-capture a major championship he never lost would be a brilliant piece of storytelling and emotion, but there are many who believe Reigns is destined to carry the Universal Championship for another year, leading to a major clash against his real-life cousin The Rock at WrestleMania 38. However, a loss by Reigns wouldn’t deter those plans. Reigns could easily make the switch over to Raw, capture the WWE Championship, which could set up a match against The Rock for the flagship title next year.
This is Edge’s time to shine.
Raw Women’s Championship match: Asuka (C) vs. Rhea Ripley
There is no title in WWE in more need of a change of scenery than the Raw Women’s Championship. Asuka has been a very good champion, and justifiably represents the best in the women’s division on Raw, but her challengers have been severely lacking throughout her almost year-long reign as champion.
Thank goodness Rhea Ripley was called up from NXT to compete on Raw. Ripley is a future star with WWE, and her rise to superstardom will start on Sunday when she takes the Raw Women’s Championship away from Asuka.
Pick: Rhea Ripley
Singles match: The Fiend vs. Randy Orton
This has been a long, strange road travelled between The Fiend and Randy Orton. The two walked almost that exact same road in their previous WrestleMania encounter, at WrestleMania 33 in 2017, culminating in a generally disliked match amongst fans. There is a danger in these two wrestlers walking that same line into this year’s one-on-one encounter, in that it feels as though this match will not deliver.
Whatever these two end up doing in or out of the ring, it will be difficult to wow audiences due to what they’ve done in the leadup to this match. That includes, Orton lighting The Fiend on fire, The Fiend coming back from the dead, Orton becoming possessed be demons, and more.
This is going to be weird, but still has the chance to be good.
Pick: The Fiend
Nigerian Drum Fight for the Intercontinental Championship: Big E (C) vs. Apollo Crews
Let’s get this out of the way right away. No, I don’t know what a Nigerian Drum Fight is and, actually, neither does one of the participants. IC Champion Big E is also unaware what is in store for him in this match, which leads everyone to believe that challenger Apollo Crews has the distinct advantage.
Crews has already lost several times to Big E in the lead-up to this match, but somehow he got another shot and it comes at the biggest event of the year. The intrigue in this match surrounds what exactly a Nigerian Drum Fight is.
Pick: Apollo Crews
Singles match: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
This is my pick for match of the weekend. Two Quebec natives, in Marieville’s Kevin Owens and Montreal’s Sami Zayn, could potentially steal the show. These two have a long history together, wrestling on the independent circuit together well over 10 years ago, then reuniting in WWE 2014 where they have stayed intrinsically linked since. Where earlier I mentioned that Cesaro and Seth Rollins have likely wrestled over 100 times, the same can be said for Owens and Zayn, but even more.
The chemistry between these two exists nowhere else on the roster, so I’m confident in saying, provided they are given a good amount of time, this could be one of the better matches in ‘Mania history. These are two of the best wrestlers on the planet, and the two Canadians will get a chance to showcase that on Sunday.
As for the winner, Owens has looked dominant lately while Zayn has looked anything but. However, never count out the underdog from the underground.
Pick: Kevin Owens
United States Championship match: Matt Riddle (C) vs. Sheamus
Matt Riddle is an extremely talented professional wrestler, taking to the profession quickly after transitioning out of his mixed martial arts career. However, while his in-ring ability shines, his out-of-the-ring ability is dismal but through no fault of his own.
Riddle has been saddled with a character that would be the equivalent of the annoying guy sitting alone at a bar, but then trying to come join you and your friends at a table after hearing you mention one thing that he thinks he’s an expert on.
“Absolutely the Leafs need to trade William Nylander immediately, probably for like Sidney Crosby or something.”
Having said that, Riddle is just getting started in his WWE career. His U.S. Championship should stay around his waist following WrestleMania after what should be a solid match against Sheamus.
Pick: Matt Riddle
Women’s Tag Team Championship match: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C) vs. No. 1 Contenders from Night 1
Referring back the No. 1 contenders match on Saturday, if Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan do indeed get the opportunity to participate in this match, I’d love to see them pick up a victory. The Women’s Tag Team Championship titles have gotten stale, and it would be great to see new blood wearing the gold.
Pick: Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan