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The Voice Of Reason #4: WrestleMania 31 Preview

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Voice of Reason. I normally post every other week but I decided to wait until this week to preview WrestleMania 31 and all of the hoopla surrounding it. Let’s dive right in.

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  • WrestleMania 31 Preview

WrestleMania 31 Preview

In my former days at Wrestling News World, I would preview a PPV by going down each match on the card, giving my thoughts and projected winner. This time, there are a few things I want to get out of the way before I go through what I think will happen vs. what should happen.

For years, WrestleMania was something I looked forward too. It was the showcase of the immortals and other nicknames that were given to it. Leading up to WrestleMania, nearly every match felt important. The video packages, interviews, etc. made the matches feel important and “big time.” I always looked forward to getting the fancy cable box during my high school days. I’d get so many extra channels for a week and I’d get to see WrestleMania. My first “cable box” WrestleMania was 19. I continued this practice until WrestleMania 23, when I purchased the webcast. I’ve watched every WrestleMania since online and last year, of course I got the Network.

This year, as Richard Gray said, it feels more like a regular, $9.99 event on the WWE Network and not a big time event. I read somewhere that the buildup didn’t mean as much to Vince McMahon because people will tune in anyway. I’m a football fan and some years, the Super Bowl matchup isn’t “sexy” or “big time” to the media or the casual fan. It may be an awesome matchup for a hardcore football fan so they’re excited. Meanwhile, your casual fan will watch the event anyway due to the commercials and because it’s the Super Bowl. The WWE isn’t the NFL. WrestleMania isn’t the Super Bowl. Be careful what you wish for because fans won’t always tune in simply because it’s WrestleMania.

Let’s not forget about the constant bombardment on how you are a complete moron if you purchase this event through a regular PPV means. Never mind that you’re giving the company more money for the event than if you bought it through the cheap WWE Network, you’re still an idiot in the eyes of the marketing department of WWE. This frustrates me to no end how idiotic this marketing strategy is. I cringed every time they would say this. “Look, we know you’re a loyal fan and you give us extra money every time you buy a PPV at regular price. But, you’re an idiot and we know what’s best for you. You do not.” Isn’t this the attitude of a lot of “rich” and “powerful” people? We know better than you do what’s best for you.

Moving to the storyline front, how WWE doesn’t see the natural, and gift wrapped storylines for them, I’ll never know. Some of the best storylines in sports in general are those natural storylines of good vs. evil, retribution or revenge, underdog vs. giant, disrespectful punk against the savvy veteran, new blood vs. the old guard. The problem is, you can’t force natural and organic storylines. I realize this is sports entertainment. But some of the best television shows and movies go through natural storyline & character progression. They give the fans what they want and don’t force things to happen that just will not work. Just in the last few months, we saw a natural storyline involving NXT’s Kevin Owens.

First, it was a longtime friend winning the title the same night he debuted. He had an amazing debut and then turned on his friend. His friend got a contract, push, title run, etc. before he did, despite both guys going similar roads. He turned on his friend and then coerced him into putting his title on the line when they finally fought. The whole build to the actual match made you want to see them due battle. How does NXT build stuff better than the main roster?

WWE had a golden, probably moneymaking storyline with Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is the monster that’s a hired gun to take a title from John Cena, a title that Cena only got due to Daniel Bryan being stripped of it due to an injury. So you have Daniel Bryan, returning from a career threatening injury, wanting his title back that he never lost. It’s the underdog vs. the giant. Bryan has legitimately overcome the odds his entire career. He beat 3 top Superstars last WrestleMania for the title. The crowd loves him. Imagine Paul Heyman cutting promos on “little” Daniel Bryan. Imagine The Authority deciding to “test” Bryan because they want to “protect” their mercenary. After all, they think he’s a B+ player. There is no way they can allow him to overcome any odds and look like a star. So, they line up one Superstar after another each week on RAW. Big Show, Kane, Luke Harper, any other “big” heel is pitted against Bryan. Like he’s done in the past, he uses his speed and kicks to chop them down, then end them. Then he faces Lesnar at Mania. Whether he wins or not is debatable. Of course I’d want him to win but how is the storyline not so clear? Instead of shoving the golden boy down our throats? Oh I forgot, they know what’s best for us. Take a look at how football is now. People want to see the fast-paced offenses (Ziggler, Bryan, Rollins), not the old, boring offenses (Kane, Reigns, Show).

Let’s get to the preview of the card!

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

First off, I realize why this is on the card and how it’s prudent to get all the workers on the show but late in the week, we learned it was moved to the preshow for some reason. Last year’s ended up being a debacle. They swung & missed with Cesaro and couldn’t capitalize off the momentum from him winning. The only difference between this and the older pre-show Battle Royals at past WrestleManias is you’re on the main card and you get a big trophy. Quite frankly, I could give a crap who wins this as long as Mizdow turns on Miz.

WWE Tag Team Championship

This match deserves to be on the main card but is relegated to the pre-show. I don’t understand why Los Matadores and The New Day were thrust into the match. The Ascension is more deserving than those two teams with the wins they’ve accumulated before they were dropped to jobber status. I love the tag team with Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. They bring a unique dynamic to the roster with their pairing because the writing staff can’t figure out what to do with them. The Usos are involved but since WWE likes to break them up, when is that day? They can’t stay together forever. I’m sure they’ll screw up the turn and the storyline at some point. I hope the Brass Ring Club retains but, they probably won’t. I hope this resurrection of the tag team division continues and finds a permanent place each month on the card.

Give the Divas a Chance Tag Team Match

The question will be how long will this match get and who will get to perform. They should get at least 10 minutes. Wasn’t there a match a long time ago in WWE or TNA involving a singles title but the actual match was a tag match? And whoever got the pin would be champion? After the debacle of the Nikki-Brie storyline, that would have made an interesting dynamic. They deserve some time and not a crap spot like last year’s title invitational. They had a terrific promo on SmackDown but it was something they should’ve done all along. I think the Bellas go over in this one.

Side note, I heard somewhere on a podcast that they’re going to start making RAW a promo-centered show and SmackDown a wrestling centered show. How about striking a balance between the two like they do in NXT?

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

Another match involving multiple stars for a prop. Disagree? Have you watched how they’ve treated the title? First off, Barrett came back after WM30 and was a star. He ended up winning the title but got hurt. Since coming back, he’s been treated like a buffoon that can’t keep up with his title. R-Truth hasn’t done much of anything the past few months but he’s in a title match? I love the guy but the character hasn’t done much. Dean Ambrose was one of the hottest stars during the summer. Instead of letting him be himself, they diverted down the hot dog angle and losing at every PPV. He’s like a skinny Luke Harper. Speaking of, Luke is a weird guy who wears the same clothes every week. Sure he won the IC title a while back but he’s lost since his split from Wyatt, as is his brother Erick Rowan. Ziggler is one of the few deserving of this match. They can’t decide whether to bury or push him. Stardust should be facing Goldust on the preshow or main show but he’s put in this match. Since Daniel Bryan couldn’t get a big title shot, they put him in here. Rumor has it he’s getting the title to in turn, make it seem more important. I hope that’s the case but knowing WWE, they’re on a roll for screwing things up.

United States Championship

Rusev has been built properly. He’s been slowly built up since debuting after last year’s WrestleMania. Someone was doing something right. But now, he’s involved with everybody’s favorite “Marine” and company star, SUPER CENA. I quit counting the days until Cena would finally turn heel. That was YEARS ago. Last year, he had a chance to put over Bray Wyatt on the grandest stage but went over. This year, he’s got Rusev in a similar position. Forget the stereotypical wrestling storyline involving the Russian vs. the American. Rusev and Lana have developed an awesome heel persona & routine. PLEASE don’t feed him to Super Cena. I’m begging you. I enjoy Rusev and Lana. Having his first loss to Cena would kill his momentum. If you want to make Rusev a monster heel, continue his undefeated slow build until next year’s WrestleMania and put him in the title match. He’d deserve it more than Roman Reigns.

Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

Perhaps the best path taken after the “Destruction of the Shield” (send me a DVD royalty check), Rollins has done a great job in being a slimy heel. He always gets out of sticky situations. But, WWE screwed this one up again. He took out Orton. Instead of keeping him away from Orton, they had Orton brought back into the Authority and took their time having Orton turn on The Authority. What happened to the storyline of telling two guys they can’t touch each other until WrestleMania or the match is off? What about coercing Rollins to put the MITB on the line after a couple of weeks of build? What about having slimy Rollins getting into the face of Orton, trying to provoke him & getting him to snap? Remember those voices Orton would hear that would make him snap in an instant? Yeah, neither does WWE but it could have helped. I hope Rollins goes over to continue his momentum but I think Orton could win. The theory is if Orton wins, Rollins cashes in later but who knows.

Sting vs. Triple H

This build has gone well. I just wish they had done more “rafter action” with Sting so it would make it seem like he was there even though he wasn’t. I hope Sting wins. They’ve used the WCW vs. WWE angle but I highly doubt Sting would go along with being embarrassed. Then again, he did wrestle Jeff Hardy while he was under the influence in TNA. I could see Stephanie getting involved to screw over Sting. Triple H has lost 3 out of his last 4 WrestleMania matches against The Undertaker twice and Daniel Bryan but beat Brock Lesnar. Yes, really. If we’re going to see a Undertaker-Sting match next year, Sting needs to win.

The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

I really wish the streak was still going on and Wyatt would be the one ending it. After getting hot last year, Wyatt went on a downward spiral, losing to Jericho, beating Jericho, being destroyed by Cena, a semi-decent feud with Ambrose, to having a tremendous showing in the Royal Rumble. He’s carried the feud with the Undertaker with little to no involvement from anyone else. Since he’ll probably go under to Taker, what’s next for Wyatt? Does he feud with Kane again? Cena? Rusev? I love Wyatt. I think he’s got the type of character that can be constantly reinvented and last decades like Undertaker or Kane. I hope Wyatt wins but this is the Undertaker we’re talking about.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Barf up. That’s what I say about the Golden Boy. Now that Lesnar’s resigned, he’ll be a fan favorite in Levi’s Stadium. There were many scenarios involving how the match would end and who would go over, depending on if Lesnar resigned or not. Now that he’s back, he cannot lose to Reigns. The crowd wants blood. They want to see Reigns destroyed. If he somehow gets the win against Lesnar, there may be a revolt. Perhaps they’ll do Lesnar-Bryan at Summerslam. I don’t want too much into the possibilities because it’s a waste of time. They cannot do a situation where Reigns wins and the crowd is forced to accept it. That is, unless they turn Reigns heel with Heyman or something. Let me say this: Heyman is gold on the mic. Freaking gold. I think Brock wins, especially since he's got a new contract. If Seth Rollins' music hits, I'll mark out like a little kid when Cena's music hits.

For the most part, I look forward to the show because it’s WrestleMania. I hope they pull some surprises out for us. I went on a tour of Levi’s Stadium when it was being built. There’s a theme park next to it! Many people are looking forward to next year’s WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium. I’m hoping to go, since there will be so many tickets needed to be sold. But let’s not discount this year’s WrestleMania. I think if given time, everybody should be able to put on a show. Step your game up! Don’t make this into just another $9.99 event. Make this event special. Every WrestleMania has had its special moment that sets itself apart from past events. Whether it was the Rock-Hogan staredown at WrestleMania 18 or Daniel Bryan winning the title at WrestleMania 30, every show has that one (or more) iconic moment. Let’s hope this show delivers as well!

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