WrestleMania 31 Preview, Picks And DFS Game Strategy
The Grandest Stage of them All, the Show of Shows has finally arrived. For me, the excitement level is at an all time…Eh. But, this isn’t all about me. Maybe I’m just not on the pulse. Maybe my smarmy snarkiest self is just too much at this point. To break down WrestleMania, perhaps from a much more optimistic/positive perspective (or maybe just as ambivalent) this month we have a full on email exchange with the All in Kid Jake Ciely.
Gregg Sussman: So Jake after watching the final build up to ‘Mania, which literally ended in Tug Of War rather than any sort of physicality, are you excited for the 31st edition of WrestleMania?
Jake Ciely: It’s going to sound as if we don’t want people to read or watch after I respond… but I have to say… I’m about a 6 on a scale of 10. As you alluded to, RAW ended poorly. I sat there thinking USA cut the feed too early. Now, I know the last RAW before WrestleMania is normally more fluff than your normal Monday night, but it’s more about the state of WWE than the show itself being disappointing. We’re supposed to invest in a champion who could be leaving (again) or a guy pushed way too fast, as seen with his lacking mic and limited ring skills. The most interesting and best talent is all thrown into one ladder match: Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett. I am excited for that match and Rollins vs. Orton, but it feels like the WWE is banking too much on the Undertaker and Sting. Is it just me or don’t those two (with Undertaker not even showing up until Wrestlemania) prove the point of how the WWE continues to waste their best/young/new talent? That has to be part of the reason you’re “meh” too, no?
GS: Well let me go back to that ending of Raw before I give my obvious forthcoming opinion on the Sting/Undertaker. Last year’s final edition of Raw ending like this with Daniel Bryan showing up and kicking the crap out of Triple H and the Authority and getting you PUMPED to see Bryan finally capture victory and defeat the odds/Authority. You say the final Raw before ‘Mania is always fluff, but last year I came away more excited than I was before the show, which is legitimately all you are asking from a go home edition. This year, rather than a brawl, a beat down, someone running away, a contract signing, someone hitting someone with a car , we got Tug of War. TUG. OF. F**KING. WAR. How can anyone think this is a good idea? I get Vince McMahon still believe it’s 1995 and he thinks he’s pushing Diesel (congrats on the Hall Of Fame by the way, Big Sexy), but having a legitimate bad ass in Brock Lesnar playing tug of war with his number 1 contender is even low for Vince and his crack pot creative team of yes men. How does tug of war sell PPVs or the Network?
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JC: Fair point, and I guess I should clarify that the show as a whole. Yes, normally the last segment involves something huge. You’re right. Playing tug of war doesn’t sell the WWE Network at all. I don’t know if they’re banking on Paul Heyman still pulling in buys thank to his mic work, but he can only ramble on so much for so long. Put it this way, when Heyman comes out and says “ramble, ramble, ramble” because he has nothing left to say, you know you’ve gone too far. There is a reason I DVR Raw now and fast forward through several parts. The WWE has focused so much on established (see: old) talent and making it family friendly that their main customer base is becoming indifferent. I don’t see how the WrestleMania match slate changes that.
GS: And this is where we agree and get back to your point about relying on the old generation as WWE has done for years. Perhaps some of this year’s “meh” feeling is once again the over reliance on part timers, rather than the superstars that main event pay per views all year. In the Top 3 matches this year (counting Bray Wyatt vs. Taker here), two of the wrestlers are full timers. TWO. One third. One of the other four is the champion that wrestles four times a year, one is the COO of the company, one wrestles once a year, and one has a six appearance clause in his contract and has NEVER wrestled for the company. This is WWE telling us, repeatedly, that everything they give us from April through December, every year, is irrelevant. I have no reason to care about the “ascendance” of Dolph Ziggler at Survivor Series, of Dean Ambrose at Hell in a Cell, or even the dominant undefeated streak of the Russian Bulgarian Rusev. “Hey Vince, I have this great idea! Why don’t we have Rusev go undefeated for a year and then lose to Super John Cena in a storyline from 1985 at WrestleMania.” “Goddammit… that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard!” I legitimately would be stunned if this is a conversation that didn’t happen. Like, more stunned than finding out that A-Rod used steroids in 2009 stunned.
JC: The writing has been poor for years, and honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised at this point. You only need to look at the level of NXT talent and see how often they’re ruined at the “main level” to know the WWE is still run by monkeys on typewriters. You brought up Cena versus Rusev, and that’s all people need to know. Cena is seemingly inhuman – maybe the WWE thinks he’s really Captain America, I don’t know – and brushes off beatdowns and finishers like they don’t matter. It’s infuriating and why Cena gets so much heat, but alas, now we will see him be the first to defeat the unstoppable Rusev. Honestly, it would be one thing if they just made Cena fairly unstoppable, but since we’re talking “talent,” it’s his disregard for selling falls/moves or letting others take the spotlight that annoys us so. Now, we’re in this weird place. I think the WWE finally realizes they can’t have Cena in the title picture every dagon week, but we also know there is no way Cena doesn’t win at WrestleMania. Right? Or, is there a slimmer of a chance the match surprises us and they find a way to make you enjoy watching Cena?
GS: Every major feud over the last 10 years has involved Cena. Cena vs. Punk, Cena vs. Bryan, Cena vs. Edge… no there is no way at this point that Cena can be made interesting to me at this point. I believe it was Chris Hero, who revealed a few weeks ago that Cena desperately wants to turn heel around six years ago. It hasn’t happened yet… it still won’t happen. And since Cena is in the third or fourth most important match on the card this year, you can pretty much bank on Roman Reigns vs. John Cena main eventing WrestleMania 32 in Dallas. Unless, they do prove us wrong have Rusev go over and maybe build to Rusev vs. Reigns. Two young guys that can go, that’s pretty interesting. But is that the right path? Will the fans get tired of Rusev and/or Reigns? Are we already? If Brock leaves does WWE just say screw it and pair Heyman with Reigns and re-elevate a Bryan, Ziggler or Ambrose? Or realistically for the next year should I just expect seeing Reigns/Rusev feud with Cena and Randall Keith Orton?
JC: The WWE will never let their kids + military cash cow of Cena turn heel, so we’re forced to deal with it… forever. I don’t know what they’ll do for the future/next year, as I’ve heard the “The Rock will return for WrestleMania 32” talk, which is just more “let’s go back to the old well.” The problem is that we shouldn’t need Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose – heck, even Barrett, Sandow, etc. – elevated, as they should have had their push and stayed. I’m tired of relying on others (Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Ric Flair, even Heyman) to increase excitement. That’s not what the WWE should be about. Alas, we could crap on the writing/booking/direction all day.
What I don’t get is if the fans are just desperate for anything new given the responses to Orton and Ryback. Orton has been back and forth between face and heel before, but he’s always just been “pretty good.” Ryback was hated just last year… hated… and now he’s a fan favorite? Is that the push we’re going to get outside of the main event possibilities you mentioned? Some mix of Orton, Rollins, Ryback and a return push for one of Bryan/Zigg/Ambrose for the next year? Because if it’s not mostly Rollins, that trio, Bray Wyatt and a Barrett/Sandow type, I’m not sure how we’re any more excited come this time next year.
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GS: Unfortunately, I think it’s quite obvious what happens next year. The same exact thing that happened this year. Build a crew of guys up for nine months and then forget about it for next January. You mentioned, The Rock, and sure Rock vs. Brock, sounds good… just like it did 13 years ago. But it’s nothing new. Perhaps the best thing WWE did this year in creating a new star was Seth Rollins. Mr. Money in the Bank is a legitimate main event heel and for the better part of the last year has carried the company as the main target of everyone’s rage. Of course, he is in arguably the fourth or fifth most important match on the card at WrestleMania this year, but hey it’s better than where his old Shield counterpart Dean Ambrose is. Orton vs. Rollins should be fun and you have to believe Rollins is a future WWE Champion (especially with the briefcase). I expect him to go over at ‘Mania and pick up a much needed singles victory. Do you think we continue to see the ascendance of Rollins and that there’s any chance at WrestleMania 32 (hopefully not known as WrestleMania star, like this one is known as WrestleMania Play Button) we get the much needed Shield triple threat for the WWE Title? That would be three young superstars on the highest level and officially usher in the new era and that’s a very good thing. But is that possible?
JC: I actually do think we see a Shield triple threat match for the title, but we’ll get it before WrestleMania 32. It would be nice to dream and say that “young blood” can headline next year’s event, but if The Rock is around, there is no chance he’s not headlining. It appears that Rollins is here to stay, but the bigger question we keep coming back to is what about those not in the main event/title/storyline picture? Bryan was there pre-injury, but is now in the ladder match for the IC belt, even though he’s still just a popular as ever. The fans love Ambrose and Ziggler (and rightfully so), but Ambrose went from Hell in the Cell main event winner to mid-card, and Ziggler lost the title and momentum after his own injuries. So Rollins appears safe being the main heel of the company, but why can’t we get more of these guys and less of Kane and Big Show? Why does the WWE take up so much time for those schlubs or 15 minutes of Triple H and Stephanie mic slobbering, when we could see an extra match or two from the prime talent? Even Bray Wyatt, who has exceptional ring and mic skills – what is going to happen with him? We have to assume he loses to Undertaker after last year’s streak debacle, so does he end up floundering in obscurity like the rest?
GS: These are all great questions, so I’m going to try and take them one at a time. Besides the Triple H/Stephanie one…you already know the answer to that one. I believe WWE sees Bryan, much like they see Chris Jericho.
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He can lose 1,000 times in a row and his credibility will never be damaged in the eyes of the fans. They will still go bonkers with the YES! Chant and they can push him up and down the card as they see fit. He is essentially the ultimate ‘B+’ player. I’m sure he will main event a few pay per views this year, and I believe he will walk out of WrestleMania as the Intercontinental Champion. Sure would be interesting to see Reigns with the WWE title, Bryan with the IC title, and Cena with the US title right? Talk about making those props matter again. Legitimately, any of the three can main event a pay per view which is actually very good business. When it comes to preferring guys like Ziggler and Ambrose to Kane and the Big Show, it’s simply a plain formula that we joke about, but it still holds true. Vince loves the big tall guy strong guys. That will never change and I think we should stop pretending it will. Ziggler and Ambrose will move up and down the card when they are needed, neither cementing their place up top…unless we get that Shield triple threat. Where does Bray go from here absolutely is the best question you posed. Being the new face of fear is an awesome moniker, but how much longer can he stay a heel. He would make an incredible face, the crowd would easily get behind him, if only the office would. Feuding with Reigns, seems premature, but if they don’t want to match up Rollins with Reigns quite yet, that definitely could be a possibility. I also see a future feud with Randy Orton in Bray’s future, as that is one of the main event level talented faces that Bray hasn’t squared off with yet. Speaking of Rollins though, he becomes the second briefcase holder (besides Ziggler) to head into WrestleMania with the Money in the Bank contract. Do you think we see a cash in? Personally, I think Reigns gets his moment at ‘Mania and then Rollins cashes in the next night on Raw, setting us on a Rollins vs. Reigns path (which, as you predicted, eventually leads to the Shield Triple Threat).
JC: Great call on the Bryan comparison to Jericho. Fitting too, since they are two of my all-time favorites. Bray, even as a heel against Taker, is still getting fan support as he always has. I think it’s because the knowledgeable fans simply love talent and originality. But, I hope he stays heel. There are too few great bad guys right now. After Rollins, who do we really even have? Staying with Rollins and since you brought up the MITB contract, I agree and thinks he cashes in at WrestleMania or the next night on Raw but loses, now that Brock is sticking around. Talk about timing. As we write this, Lesnar announced he’s re-signing with WWE, so now my excitement is heightened a bit. This hopefully allows the WWE to keep the title away from Reigns and head in a different direction post Mania. I just hope Brock’s new deal isn’t as appearance-limited as it was before.
GS: Unfortunately, I think it’s inevitable that Brock’s deal includes limited appearances. As he mentioned on SportsCenter, he’s getting paid a full time salary for a part-time schedule. Who can turn that down? Perhaps the biggest ramification though from Brock’s Mania week announcement, is that the show just received more buzz than it built up for itself at all over the last two months. Now, on Sunday, Brock will be embraced as the hero. No matter what rhetoric Heyman gives us, Lesnar will be cheered like the favorite son. Reigns is dead in the water. It almost seems impossible to think now that WWE will be silly enough to have Reigns go over Lesnar now cleanly, because he will get booed out of the building. Like Batista Royal Rumble booed. It’s amazing how Brock re-signing has changed my opinion on the event. I’m excited for the cheers of Brock, what the hell they will do in the main event. Triple H said it right on the Steve Austin Podcast; the storylines are almost second nature in the reality era. The real drama is what the creative team will decide to do, the decisions playing out. That’s the reality era for you and as a smart mark, I love it. So Lesnar is back… let’s hear the official All In Kid prediction. Who walks away from WrestleMania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion?
JC: It’s going to be Brock. No question. No other possibility. Brock was already a quasi-heel, getting cheers at certain times. Now, as you said, his re-signing will put more of the crowd behind him, a crowd that already dreads the thought of Reigns winning the title. However, this does add intrigue to my earlier prediction. Now, Rollins can cash in the MITB contract and lose OR win because Brock is going to be a fan favorite, if not a “true face.” Rollins could take advantage of the opportunity to win the belt, cash in and lose or do either on Raw and set up a terrific storyline of Lesnar vs. Rollins for a while. You have to agree, right?
GS: Amazingly enough, the wild card here is Reigns. He’s the face that’s in an awkward position. Rollins proved at the Royal Rumble he can be a long term heel and there’s money in Rollins vs. Lesnar. I think, what winds up happening, is Lesnar somehow retains at Mania. Then, on Raw on Monday, Rollins (with assistance from the Authority and perhaps Heyman) destroy Lesnar, winning the title and setting up Rollins/Reigns for a while and then when Lesnar comes back form his next hiatus, Lesnar vs. Rollins (vs. Reigns vs. Orton?). As WWE tends to do, they will want Rollins to look weak before winning the title. Does that mean he loses to Randy Orton earlier in the show?
JC: You kind of set up the expectation. If Rollins beats Orton (which would fit for opposite momentum purposes), then I don’t expect him to take the belt. If he loses, well, then I will be on the edge of my seat until we fade to black. I’m actually wondering if we might see Reigns turn heel whether at Mania or Raw, and wouldn’t it be interesting if they used Heyman in an “I told you Reigns was a legitimate threat” fashion?
GS: I’m hoping to hear Heyman proclaim Reigns, “The NEXT Next Big Thing.” Of course, this beat down will be led by Triple H after losing to Sting… right? And is there some sort of passing of the special powers torch between Taker/Bray. (AKA your prediction for both of those matches please).
JC: I think nearly everyone is hoping for the same. There is no way Sting doesn’t beat Triple H. After all, talk about limited appearances! The WWE won’t bring in Sting to lose and disappear for months. With Taker/Bray, I do think we’ll see Bray win, and I only say that because Brock ruined the streak last year. If Undertaker was still undefeated, there would be no chance, but if we’re looking at the ascension of Bray Wyatt, it makes no sense to have him lose. I think most of the 1-on-1 matches are easy to pick, maybe Rollins being the only one that isn’t clear. It’s the ladder match and battle royal that seem real tough to pick.
GS: Can you really not see WWE/Triple H/Vince sticking it to WCW one last time? It’s what Vince lives for. I honestly can see Sting losing to Triple H. I won’t pick that, but that one will not surprise me. I also, contrary to your beliefs, think the Undertaker will NOT lose two years in a row. I think he will beat Bray, but will earn respect for Bray or some crap like that. Of course this is the terribly wrong decision, as Bray is the younger guy and desperately needs to be elevated. When it comes to the ladder match, I am going with the theory that WWE is doing their best to elevate both the US and Intercontinental Championships. If John Cena wins the US title, it’s tough for fans to bitch when Bryan wins the IC title. I think both happen at WrestleMania. When it comes to the Battle Royal(e), I’ll take Sheamus to make a big impression on his return. He’ll come, get a nice pop, and then return to being boring again. Although the heel turn is extremely long overdue. I believe he currently has the second best odds to win, behind Damien Mizdow. I’ll root for Sandow and whichever NXT guy ends up in the match. Also would pop majorly if for the second year in a row Cesaro participates in the tag team match before the show and then wins this thing. That would rule.
JC: Interesting to see how we differ on the thinking. Guess one of us will certainly be wrong (most likely me), but it at least adds intrigue for what I feel are “given” outcomes. Sheamus seems like the hot pick for the Battle Royal, but I think his return could be enough alone in promoting him. So, I’m going to say Mizdow in his turn on The Miz. I just hope it’s not Ryback (and I’m still baffled how he goes from hated to loved in less than a year when he has done nothing different). On second thought, I think the Ladder Match is clearer than the Taker outcome. The fans/crowd nearly burned down the place when Bryan was eliminated the Royal Rumble. He has to win the IC belt at WrestleMania and give us a rousing Yes! chant.
GS: WrestleMania… this Sunday. Any final thoughts?
JC: Please don’t disappoint me WWE. Although, I know that is asking for the impossible. It probably sounds like we aren’t happy unless we get what we want. That’s not the case at all. We simply want a good product and story. “Wrestling isn’t Wrestling.” The reason fans (we) are frustrated is because the entertaining and talented wrestlers are overlooked or squashed for what Vince/Triple H/WWE wants. You can shove a pound of brussel sprouts in my mouth, but I’m never going to like it. I wouldn’t be pissed if Bryan, Sting or Brock doesn’t win, as long as it’s for a good story/reason/angle.
Whether you are a fan that will take anything WWE gives you or the ultimate critic looking to poke holes in every possible segment, there is no way not to get excited for WrestleMania. It’s the Super Bowl of professional wrestling and second guessing everything that happens is half the fun. Fantasy booking how you would script everything is half the battle. I fantasy booked a WrestleMania storyline leading to Ziggler vs. Triple H this morning. I couldn’t help it. It’s WrestleMania; where even the cynics have to smile.
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