Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Intercontinental Title Seven-Way Match
Background: It looked like we were headed toward Kevin Owens defending his Intercontinental Title against Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, and Sami Zayn. Suddenly, Zack Ryder, Stardust, and Sin Cara also found themselves in the match. The tensions between Owens and both Ziggler and Zayn have been well-established, and Miz has interacted with them at different times, as well. The addition of the other three is a head-scratcher. Sure, it’s great for more guys to get Wrestlemania bonus checks, but the quality of the show comes first.
Analysis: With Owens, Zayn, and Ziggler, WWE has three of its top workers involved in one match. Unfortunately, the match is so cluttered with other wrestlers- some of them even very talented- that it is going to be hard for any one of them to stand out. The wrestling is destined to be frantic, and it is extremely difficult to tell any sort of story with so much going on at the same time. The redeeming virtue is that we know what kind of spectacle Owens and Zayn can create around ladders from their rivalry in ROH.
Prediction: I’ll say this much: I’m confident that Ryder will not be leaving Wrestlemania as the Intercontinental Champion. Realistically, I think Owens and Zayn are the two most likely winners and the title storyline will revolve around them in the near future. Ziggler lends the match legitimacy, though it does not seem like the right time for him to walk away with the belt. Miz has carved out a heel niche without the need of a belt, and Stardust feels like a gimmick past its expiration date. There’s always the possibility of a surprise, but my money is on Owens escaping with the belt.
US Title – Kalisto vs. Ryback
Background: In yet another effort to see if Ryback can break out of the midcard, WWE switched him from a singlet to black trunks and gave him a more aggressive attitude. As part of his selfish turn, he started to lecture Kalisto about the weakness inherent to tag team wrestling and his diminutive size. While it seemed like the high-flying Kalisto was the wrestler destined to defend his secondary title in a multi-man match, he got this match with Ryback instead. Just a few months ago, the idea of either Kalisto or Ryback having a singles match at Wrestlemania would have seemed unlikely. Instead, they are left with a big opportunity.
Analysis: Big Man vs. Little Man is a well-worn wrestling story and it works quite often. If WWE’s goal is to make Kalisto into an updated version of Rey Mysterio, think back to Mysterio’s matches against big men like Kane and Big Show that helped get him over. Ryback has an odd skill mix as a wrestler. He is huge, powerful, and surprisingly athletic for his size. On the other hand, he often makes mistakes or moves clumsily in a way that disrupts the flow or the story of his matches. Kalisto has shown fluidity and creativity, both in tag matches and singles matches. His only memorably bad match on the main roster seemingly arose out of a miscommunication with Alberto Del Rio about whether to call the match in English or Spanish. If Kalisto can use that creativity to work around Ryback, they should be able to have a good match that makes him look good.
Prediction: Even though Ryback is in the early stages of his repackaging, it seems like this match is a showcase for Kalisto to take the next step as a singles star. Whether his support within the company is motivated by WWE’s desire to have a high profile Latin-American star or the fact that he is truly very entertaining, it is a clever move by WWE to give him a big stage before he has established himself over a long period of time. Consider that Dolph Ziggler has never had a Wrestlemania singles match like this one and it’s clear that it’s a valuable spot for Kalisto. I believe he is very likely to win, but regardless of the result, expect Kalisto and Ryback to continue their rivalry over the coming months.