An early look at the WrestleMania 33 card

AJ Styles, right, wrestles with Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, April 3, 2016.
AJ Styles, right, wrestles with Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, April 3, 2016. (Jae S. Lee / AP)

After a wild week on both the RAW and SmackDown brands, WrestleMania has really taken shape three weeks out, and we now basically know the entire card. While things can certainly change, we basically know 11 matches, plus the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. There has been a lot of complaints about the WWE, particularly coming out of Fastlane, but the card right now is certainly an interesting one, with a lot of possibilities for creative direction coming out of the matches. And if you can say one thing about it, it's certainly star-studded. Will it be an all-time great card? Well, we'll have to see, but here's my perception on each of the matches we know about to this point.

On the RAW side:


Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title

Look, we've talked about this before. Do I agree with this match? No. Do I understand it somewhat from WWE's perspective? Yes. If the match was Owens/Jericho, like I would have preferred, it ran the risk of being buried under the star-stacked card. Lesnar/Goldberg was always going to be the featured match, and matches like Triple H/Rollins and even the mixed-tag match involving John Cena, Nikki Bella, The Miz and Maryse, would have dominated the marketing circuit. So they throw the title here to give a title match a true big-match feeling. Would I have gone that route? No. But from a business side, it makes sense, and more often than not in WWE, business wins out. This gives WrestleMania a star-studded main event for the title. The question now simply is how the match happens. Can Goldberg go more than five minutes? Will it simply be a Lesnar squash. Or is there something bigger that could happen at the end?

Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Title

If business wasn't a thought, then this was a no-brainer for the main event of the night. Jericho/Owens felt like a classic build that would culminate at WrestleMania. It's funny to think of the teeth-gnashing back in August when these two beat Enzo and Cass at SummerSlam. What we didn't know then was that it would be the cornerstone of RAW for the next six months. This has been a near-perfect build, and even though it won't be for the Universal Title, it's still going to feel important, and very easily could be the match of the night.

Something involving Triple H and Seth Rollins?

Triple H and Seth Rollins had been penciled in since August as one of the big feuds of this year's card. Believe me, if Rollins wasn't injured, this would be built on the same level as Goldberg/Lesnar. It would not shock me if this is the third-last match of the night, which generally is the spot where they put the second-most important match. Rollins' injury does throw this match somewhat in doubt, but you know WWE has some backup plans. It would not surprise me if this turns into a tag match, where Triple H gets Joe, and Seth Rollins gets Finn Balor of all people. We know Balor is going to return imminently, and while a Balor/Rollins team would be awkward because of the way Balor was injured, all they need is a quick line to explain it away. If Rollins is 100 percent, and they can have the singles match between Triple H and Seth Rollins, then I do expect Samoa Joe and Finn Balor to face off in singles action at WrestleMania.

The RAW Women's title

Right now the match is a triple-threat between Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte. This build has been so frustrating to me. They give Bayley the title, and then make her almost irrelevant in her own title reign. This is Bayley we're talking about. The ultimate face. The rare wrestler beloved by kids and adults alike. And she can't win without outside interference? Get out of here. This has been all about building Sasha Banks as a probable heel, which makes putting the title on Bayley in the process somewhat unforgivable. Anyway, outside of that, I do not believe this stays as a triple-threat. I think Nia Jax gets put into this match, as she's been far too prominently involved to stay away.

Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

This match seems to be a lock in some form after RAW. The build of this match could end up being the most fascinating because of the Roman Reigns factor. Fans, especially in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, which will host RAWs before Mania, are already predisposed to boo Reigns. Throw in the fact that he's facing The Undertaker, and it really seems like they're putting Reigns in position to get the biggest boos of his career. Why would WWE do that? Well, throw in the "This is my yard now" comment, and you have to start wondering if they're actually thinking about finally pulling the trigger on the Reigns heel turn. Without it, and this match could fall on its face. With it? You have a truly compelling match where the young angry buzzsaw tries to chop down the legend. The one X-factor in all this is Braun Strowman. It's unlikely based on the way he was booked this week, but it would not shock me if he was inserted into this match.

The Club defends their tag titles

Enzo and Cass and Cesaro and Sheamus are facing off on RAW for the right to face The Club. This is a weird spot, because the tag division is such a mess right now. If I had to guess now, I'd guess that this ends up being a triple-threat, and it leads to Enzo and Cass finally earning the straps at Mania. I just don't know what you do with the losing team other than throw them into the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and you know that they want everyone on the show. Either way, they need to get the tag division back on track after Mania, because it seemed like they had things fairly set back in the fall.

Neville vs. Austin Aries for the Cruiserweight title

This seems to be a near-lock to happen at this point. I love this decision if it's truly the way they're going. It was either this, or do a multi-man match which, while not the worst thing in the world, is not as good as a true spotlight match for the division. Austin Aries is going to get a ridiculous pop in Orlando, and for the first time, it'll really feel like these are two of the best in the world in the WWE cruiserweight division. So kudos to WWE for pulling the trigger.


Now we get to SmackDown:

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Title

Some people have made the claim that this match doesn't feel big enough to be a title match. And there's some truth to that. At the same time, much like Owens/Jericho, this is a match that has been building since August, so it's hard to complain about it being for the title. It's also interesting because there really isn't a clear winner, as you could make compelling cases for both here. The real question to me is how much the other former members of the Wyatt Family, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan get involved both in the build and the match itself. It's a true blood feud after Randy Orton's antics at the Wyatt Compound, so this could end up being the most compelling build over the last 3 weeks.

John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

This is a match that we had heard rumored for a while, and now seems to be basically official. I'll be honest. I thought I would hate this. But the past two weeks have been incredibly compelling. The Cena/Miz feud has hit the right notes in promos, and I've been surprised at how much the women are adding. The other thing about this is that you can tell that Cena and Nikki in particular are enjoying working together. Both had grins on their faces basically the entire time they worked the match together on SmackDown. It's a small thing, but when you can tell the wrestlers are actually enjoying a program, it adds so much. And don't be surprised if this ends up being the second-most promoted match on the card, behind Lesnar/Goldberg.


AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon

This is the match that on paper that I think was the biggest mistake. AJ Styles, arguably the best in-ring wrestler you have, and the person who was most important to the SmackDown brand since the split, should be in a match against a better opponent, to give him a shot for the match of the night. That being said, I get the argument that Shane is a marquee opponent. And to be fair, they've done a pretty good job of getting to this point. The post-SmackDown segment with AJ going after Shane backstage was excellent. So it's hard to be too upset with this. We've said that AJ can carry a broomstick to a decent match. We'll find out at WrestleMania how true that is.

Alexa Bliss vs. The World for the SmackDown Women's Title

This match is very simple. The SmackDown women's division has been excellent since the brand split, better than anyone would have expected. So you throw them all in the same match because they all deserve a match. The fact that Daniel Bryan specified that it's anyone who has a contract is interesting. It seems to indicate that there could be a surprise here. That could simply mean that Naomi will return early from her injury. Or it could be that Daniel Bryan will make a last-minute signing of someone like Asuka.

Those are the 11 matches we know or heavily suspect so far. There of course also will be the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, which will likely include a heavy dose of Smackdown wrestlers, including the whole tag division. Overall, while it may not be the best card on paper, there's potential for some breakout matches there. It just depends how the final details work out as we head down the final stretch.

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