WrestleMania 35 Preview: Flair, Rousey and Lynch set to make history

This week Caroline, Jimmy, Nug and Anthony give their predictions for WrestleMania.

The bell is set to ring for WrestleMania 35 this Sunday at MetLife Stadium, in the shadow of New York City, as the biggest event in sports entertainment returns to the New York area for the first time since WrestleMania 29 in 2013 — which was also held at MetLife Stadium.

There are 16 scheduled matches on this year’s card, which looks a lot different from years past with a number new faces, but also several regulars missing.

What’s New?

A history making match to end the evening

This year WrestleMania will be headlined by the most popular wrestler in the company, the biggest crossover star WWE employs, and arguably the most athletic superstar on the roster. There’s nothing new in that regard.

The road forks when we arrive at the fact that, for the first time ever, the show will be headlined by women’s wrestlers. Several years ago WWE coined the term "Women’s Evolution", and it appears as though the evolution will hit its zenith when three of the most remarkable wrestlers across the entirety of the professional wrestling business close out WrestleMania in front of approximately 80,000 people.

Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch are set to make history, and despite the fact that each woman has harped (or has at least been told to) on that aforementioned fact, the match feels organically in place. Each woman is a star on their own, not needing one or the other to help elevate her star status. Each woman can also carries their own weight in the ring, which is where the history making aspect actually fulfills its billing as a pro wrestling main event.

It’s a history making match that doesn’t need justification. The perfect main event for WrestleMania.

What’s Old?

The Game and The Animal

WrestleMania has always been a gateway to attract old wrestling fans back to the product. The type of fan that watched WWE in the late 1990’s, growing up on Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind and… Triple H. If the fan stayed tuned in for a few more years following the "Attitude Era", they will probably also remember the stable "Evolution", featuring Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and… Batista.

Or maybe you’ve just seen Guardians of the Galaxy.

Either way, this is one of the nostalgic acts that casual fans or Attitude Era fans will look at and say, "these guys are still wrestling?" Well if Triple H loses this match, he won’t be wrestling any more as he’s put his career on the line against his old frienemy. The build has been fun, with Batista setting the stage for this match way back in October after a quick, "you’ve beaten everyone but me" comment.

Don’t tune in for a wrestling clinic. Instead, tune into to watch the 50-year-old Batista and 49-year-old Triple H turn back the clock, and perhaps bring out an old friend or two that will make you, once again, say "this guy still wrestles?"

What’s Missing?

The Dead Man and a 16-time WWE Champion

Or are they?

Heading into WrestleMania, The Undertaker and John Cena were both left off the card. Both superstars have also been off television for months. However… never say never in WWE. Undertaker could very easily be one of the surprise wrestlers who appears during the Triple H/Batista match. His last match was against HHH and Shawn Michaels in November, so there would, at least, be an organic reason for his appearance.

The Undertaker has wrestled in 26 WrestleMania’s, amassing a record of 24-2. It’s become a yearly right of passage to see The Dead Man in action at the grand daddy of ‘em all, however there is much less certainty this year.

Mark Calaway, the man behind The Undertaker persona, will be appearing at the wrestling convention Starrcast in May — the same weekend of All Elite Wrestling’s (a hot start up brand) first ever pay-per-view, Double Or Nothing. It’s his first non-WWE booking in almost 30 years. It isn’t known what the relationship is like between ‘Taker (Mark?) and WWE, but an appearance at WrestleMania will clear up any questions of loyalty on both sides.

And then there’s John Cena. He’s been strangely silent in the lead up to WrestleMania. Cena is still one of the biggest draws in WWE, and can bring a lot of mainstream attraction to the event when his star power is on the card. But nothing this year. However, there is one good working theory as to what Cena will be doing on Sunday and it surrounds…

What’s Ending?

The career of an Olympic gold medalist

One of the most celebrated in-ring talents of all-time is set to hang up his boots after one last match on the grandest stage of them all.

Kurt Angle entered the WWE already carrying the pedigree of one of the greatest athletes to ever step foot in a professional wrestling ring. What he did afterwards, though, is the stuff of legend. Angle adapted to professional wrestling quicker than anyone before him, and achieved uniquely paralleled success the business. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest performers of all-time. So that brings us to WrestleMania. Angle is set to lace them up for the last time against…

Wait for it…

Baron Corbin.

Yes… a WWE hall of famer, Olympic gold medalist, multi-time WWE champion, and one of the greatest of all-time is going up against a man who wears his most average business casual attire to the ring at all times.

It’s a huge let down to think about, which has left wrestling fans thinking about an alternate universe where Angle gets the send off that he deserves, and that send off brings us back to who’s missing.

Angle welcomed Cena to the WWE in 2002, so it only seems fitting that Cena would help Angle ride into the sunset in 2019. Cena’s unusual silence in the lead up to ‘Mania has fans clamoring for a surprise appearance, saving Angle from a Baron Corbin send off.

What’s Good?

A B-plus player vs. a former B-plus player

Kofi Kingston was inserted into the WWE championship picture in February, and after an incredibly inspiring performance in a gauntlet match on SmackDown, Kofi-Mania was born. It has been truly incredible to witness the wave of momentum behind Kofi and his quest to become WWE champion after over a decade in the company, and never really coming close to a title opportunity beforehand.

In a wonderful bit of contrast, Kofi’s title chase has mirrored that of his opponent on Sunday, Daniel Bryan, from just five years prior. Bryan was chasing an impossible dream at WrestleMania 30, finally succeeding to become WWE champion. The role has been reversed for Bryan this time, however. "The New" Daniel Bryan is exactly the opposite of what he portrayed at WrestleMania 30. This time around, he’s an egotistical, smart-ass, better-than-you heel who wants you to know that you’re ruining the environment with your meat eating and gas guzzling SUV’s.

Bryan, once dismissed as just a "B-plus player" has quite literally flipped the script five years later, echoing Vince McMahon in labelling the challenger a "B-plus player."

In an age where the wrestling audience has never been smarter or more connected to the product, it’s hard to persuade fans to genuinely care about a storyline or wrestler. But Kofi and Bryan have managed to create an atmosphere where emotions have never been higher.

It’s terrific, and it’s genuine.

What should you expect?

It’s hard to lay high expectations on an event that already represents the biggest and best show in professional wrestling. At some point in the history of WrestleMania, the show became bigger than the matches and performers, while always leaving plenty to be desired, but also leaving fans generally satisfied.

Having said that, it doesn’t feel like there are high expectations surrounding the event this year. Outside of three or four matches, the WWE Universe has been rather tame in their anticipation of the in-ring action. There will be plenty of good, plenty of bad, plenty of other… but that just leaves room for a WrestleMania moment that will trump any other moment from the evening.

 
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Match Predictions:

Becky Lynch defeats Ronda Rousey (C) and Charlotte Flair (C) to win Raw & SmackDown Women’s Championships

Seth Rollins defeats Brock Lesnar (C) to win Universal Championship

Daniel Bryan (C) defeats Kofi Kingston to retain WWE Championship

Finn Balor defeats Bobby Lashley (C) to win Intercontinental Championship

Samoa Joe (C) defeats Rey Mysterio to retain United States Championship

The Usos (C) defeat Ricochet & Aleister Black, The Bar, and Nakamura & Rusev to retain SmackDown Tag Team Championships

The IIconics defeat Bayley & Sasha Banks (C), Beth Phoenix & Natalya, and Nia Jax & Tamina to win Women’s Tag Team Championships

The Revival (C) defeats Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder to retain Raw Tag Team Championships

Buddy Murphy (C) defeats Tony Nese to retain Cruiserweight Championship

Triple H defeats Batista

Baron Corbin defeats Kurt Angle

The Miz defeats Shane McMahon

Randy Orton defeats AJ Styles

Roman Reigns defeats Drew McIntyre

Mustafa Ali wins Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Ruby Riott wins Women’s Battle Royal

What time does it start?

Tune into the WWE Network at 5:00 p.m. EST for the pre-show, which is followed by the main card at 7:00 p.m. EST. The event will most likely wrap up around midnight EST, so get ready for a long night of wrestling.

Make sure to visit Sportsnet.ca at 7:00 EST to follow along with Sportsnet’s live coverage of WrestleMania.

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