Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell
Background: On the heels of Fastlane, it looked like the Wrestlemania card was mostly set, but uncertainty remained over who Undertaker would face. The next night on Raw, Shane McMahon made one of the most genuinely surprising returns in WWE’s last decade. Shane made it clear he wanted control of Raw back from Vince, so Vince told him he would have to beat Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match to earn it. Over the following weeks, tension developed between all three parties.
Analysis: The call to Shane was a bit of a hail mary, but it looks like it worked as intended. With so many stars either out of the company or unavailable for Wrestlemania (John Cena, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, The Rock, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk), WWE needed a big name to distinguish Wrestlemania from any other PPV. While the story mechanics have been clunky at times- what ever happened to Shane’s lockbox?- the broad strokes make sense and the booking has made fans genuinely excited to see this match between two older, part-time wrestlers.
Prediction: The closer we get to Wrestlemania, the more confident I am that Shane will end up winning the match to trigger his stipulation. Vince’s threat that a loss would end Undertaker’s Wrestlemania career seems hollow because a loss would also remove him from a position that would allow him to enforce the decree. There are two other predictions that seem obvious: Shane will one up his elbow drop through the announce table and perform a memorable stunt, and the HIAC cage will not be enough to prevent multiple run ins. As last year’s Sting-HHH match demonstrated, an overbooked mess can be fun if done in moderation, and I think that’s where this match is headed.
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight
Background: Lesnar and Ambrose engaged in a triple threat match with Roman Reigns at Fastlane with the #1 Contender spot on the line. In the build to that match, Lesnar and Ambrose hit it off so well that WWE scrapped the rumored Lesnar-Wyatt Family angle and gave Ambrose a shot at The Beast at Wrestlemania. Ambrose has shown a devil may care attitude and a willingness to absorb punishment, which has endeared him to every subset of WWE fans.
Analysis: Although Ambrose has main evented several lesser PPVs over the last two years, this spot at #3 on the biggest card of the year is still his biggest match so far. Lesnar is one of the highest profile wrestlers in the world and Paul Heyman can make anyone look good with his mic work. The star making process is more than just their showdown at Wrestlemania; it extended back to the moment they started to cross paths with each other. Ambrose is already a considerably bigger star than he was when he lost the Intercontinental Title after the Royal Rumble. If he capitalizes on this opportunity as a beaten-down babyface who won’t quit, it will take him to a much higher level than he has attained so far.
Prediction: Ambrose can come out of this match looking extremely strong even if he doesn’t get the win over Lesnar. If he absorbs Lesnar’s punishment and comes close, that will be enough to elevate him, which means the obvious answer is for Lesnar to get the win. On the other hand, WWE has been saving Lesnar’s first clean loss since he ended Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak and Ambrose might be the right guy to take advantage of the opportunity. Lesnar has been a “non-winner” in a trio of triple threat matches (Wrestlemania XXXI and ’16 Fastlane), and suffered a tainted loss to Undertaker that he quickly redeemed. In other words, he has basically been invincible for two full years. Ambrose might be the guy whose career goes through the roof if he gets that win.
Divas Title: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Background: WWE likely had this match in mind when all three women debut on the same night last summer. Although the “Divas Revolution” looked more like an influx of a few new wrestlers over the first few months, the change has been real. Women’s wrestling in WWE is treated as more serious and competitive now than at any point in the company’s history. Sure, the fractured friendships between Becky and both Charlotte and Sasha add context, as does the ongoing meta-rivalry between Charlotte and Sasha, but this match is about more than the storylines of the wrestlers involved.
Analysis: The only Divas match on the Wrestlemania XXXI card was AJ Lee and Paige against the Bella Twins. Only Paige can hold a candle to this trio, so there’s no doubt that the talent level has elevated. With four matches now slotted for the pre-show, there should be plenty of time for the main card matches to develop. If Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky can put together a match that lives up to the high standard of some of NXT’s best women’s matches, it could immediately become the top the best women’s match in Wrestlemania history.
Prediction: In the storyline, Charlotte has become transcendent as an arrogant heel. In fact, she might be the most effective true heel in WWE at the moment. It would make sense to let her continue the run, especially with other challengers like Paige and Bayley looming in the future. Sasha is also worth consideration because she has not yet suffered a singles loss on the main roster. Becky has been very good in her run as a challenger, but she is not as great as the other two. Sasha has been relatively quiet on the main roster so far. While it might be a bit of an upset, I will pick her to get the win here.