Forget the Final Four.
Forget the start of baseball season.
The biggest event during the next few days is WrestleMania 32.
WrestleMania 32 is so big it can’t be contained to one network. USA Network is going to air a one-hour pre-show at 6 p.m. By that time, the WrestleMania 32 kickoff show will already have been on WWE Network for an hour.
The WrestleMania festivities actually begin on Friday night (9:30 p.m.) with NXT Takeover: Dallas. The Hall of Fame ceremony takes place Saturday night (8 p.m.). Both events will be broadcast live on WWE Network. (See previews at the end of this article.) But the main event is WrestleMania 32 on Sunday.
Despite missing a significant amount of star power due to Daniel Bryan’s retirement and major injuries to John Cena, Seth Rollins and Randy Orton, WWE has put together a promising card for Sunday’s show at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s unlikely that this will be one of the best WrestleManias in history, but the potential is there for some excellent midcard matches to supplement the top three matches.
And if you’re reading this preview, your WrestleMania experience is already off to a good start. You’re the beneficiary of the wisdom of the Greek God of Wrestling.
Let’s take a look at the WrestleMania 32 lineup.
TRIPLE H (champion) vs. ROMAN REIGNS
(for WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Story: The Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) screwed Roman Reigns out of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by making him defend the title in the Royal Rumble match. Triple H, of course, entered at No. 30 and finished off Reigns and Dean Ambrose to capture the championship.
Analysis: Triple H has done every dastardly thing possible to try to get fans to rally behind Reigns. He has “broken” his nose, attacked Reigns from behind and forced Reigns to battle against the odds time after time. It hasn’t worked. Reigns was booed loudly during Monday’s go-home RAW in Brooklyn. There have been times when Reigns seemed on the road to being accepted as the top babyface, but his momentum has stalled. Actually, it appears to be going in reverse.
Prediction: Reigns almost has to win the title. Triple H isn’t a full-time wrestler anymore, so a Reigns victory makes sense. It will be interesting to see how the crowd responds to Reigns on Sunday. The crowd reaction could influence the direction WWE goes with Reigns as champion.
BROCK LESNAR vs. DEAN AMBROSE
(No holds barred street fight)
Story: Dean Ambrose is the only person crazy enough to want to fight Brock Lesnar. The Beast keeps destroying Ambrose, yet Ambrose keeps coming back for more. With the help of foreign objects, Ambrose has bested Lesnar once or twice. The use of foreign objects to level the playing field is Ambrose’s only chance to win this match.
Analysis: There has been an effective build to this match. It has reached the point where it’s believable that Ambrose could win. He won’t. But he could.
Prediction: Lesnar prevails, but Ambrose earns respect by not backing down and by giving Lesnar a tough fight. If Reigns wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the Lesnar-Ambrose rivalry could continue as they both pursue the title.
(Hell in a Cell)
Story: Shane McMahon returned to WWE a month ago after a six-year absence. He wants to wrest control of the company away from his sister, Stephanie, and her husband, Triple H. Vince McMahon responded to Shane interrupting Stephanie receiving the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy Award (named after Vince’s father) by saying he could have control of RAW if he won a match at WrestleMania … against the Undertaker … in Hell in a Cell. Undertaker (left), of course, is 22-1 at WrestleMania, with his only loss coming to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX. To prevent Undertaker from losing on purpose, Vince McMahon said that if Undertaker loses, this will be his last WrestleMania match.
Analysis: Shane McMahon received an incredible ovation when he returned. It’s difficult to truly surprise wrestling fans, but this was one of those instances. Shane almost always put on an amazing show when he appeared in the ring. He’s older now, but appears to be in terrific shape. Still, beating the Undertaker seems like a long shot, especially at WrestleMania.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar broke Undertaker’s unbeaten streak at WrestleMania. To have him lose at WrestleMania two years later would cheapen Lesnar’s victory. The only caveat to that declaration is that Undertaker may not be part of storylines moving forward. If Shane is going to stick around for a few months, it might make sense for him to win. But Achilles Heel can’t see how that would happen.
CHARLOTTE (champion) vs. BECKY LYNCH vs. SASHA BANKS
(for Divas Championship)
Story: These three women arrived in WWE together as part of the “Divas Revolution.” Charlotte has turned heel, with the aid of her father, the legendary Ric Flair. Lynch and Banks both want Charlotte’s title, so there is a bit of a rivalry between those two as well.
Analysis: If given enough time, this match has a chance to be the best women’s match in WrestleMania history. Who knows? It might even crack Eric Fisher’s list of the best WrestleMania matches.
Prediction: The Greek God of Wrestling smells a title change. Banks would be a better champion, but Lynch could win it to build up Banks as a challenger for a few months. WWE should keep it simple: Banks should win the title
CHRIS JERICHO vs. AJ STYLES
Story: Chris Jericho is the WWE veteran who seems resentful that AJ Styles has burst upon the WWE scene. While claiming to respect Styles, Jericho has done a good job of trying to undermine him. They briefly formed a tag team after Styles beat Jericho. The team turned out to be short-lived. Jericho gave Styles a codebreaker after a defeat.
Analysis: This should be a tremendous match. Both men are excellent wrestlers.
Prediction: It makes sense for Styles to win. He’s a full-time wrestler with WWE; Jericho comes and goes for stretches. With Styles up 2-1 in their rivalry, Jericho may get a WrestleMania victory to keep the rivalry going. If Styles is going to move into the Intercontinental title chase, then Styles should emerge victorious. I’m picking Jericho in a minor upset.
KEVIN OWENS (champion) vs. SAMI ZAYN vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. STARDUST vs. SIN CARA vs. THE MIZ vs. ZACK RYDER
(ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship)
Story: Is there really a story to this match? There’s a story between Owens and Zane. There’s a story between Owens and Ziggler. There’s a story between Owens and The Miz. But it’s unclear how all of the pieces fit together. Owens won the Intercontinental Championship from Dean Ambrose in a match with many of these same participants, but that hasn’t been part of the story line.
Analysis: The multi-participant ladder match is usually an exciting match. Given that many of these same wrestler put on a good match without a ladder when Owens won the championship, there’s no reason this can’t be a good match. The problem is that the only wrestlers with a legitimate chance to win are Owens and Zayn, with Ziggler being a long shot.
Prediction: Owens retains the title.
Story: A bunch of wrestlers will compete for this supposedly prestigious trophy. There are some back stories, such as the tease of a partnership between Goldust and R-Truth. Big Show (left), who won this match last year, seemed to have issues with Kane a few weeks ago.
Analysis: The problem with this year’s battle royal is there aren’t many potential winners. Big Show and Kane seem like the only legitimate threats to win, unless Mark Henry wins as sort of a lifetime achievement award. Not among the list of participants in the battle royal, however, is the Wyatt Family. The Greek God of Wrestling expects the Wyatt Family to be added to the match.
Prediction: Big Show won last year, so that should decrease his chances of winning again. I mentioned Mark Henry winning as an appreciation for his long career in WWE, but Kane would seem a more worthy recipient. Of the announced participants, Kane is my choice, but Achilles Heel is going to go off the board and predict Bray Wyatt will be the winner.
NEW DAY vs. LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Story: These groups have been battling for supremacy, with New Day shifting toward being a babyface team.
Analysis: The three members of New Day – Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods – will battle the League of Nations’ Sheamus, Rusev, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio. The tag team titles will not be on the line.
Prediction: New Day has gotten the better of the League of Nations for most of the past month. Unless League of Nations is going to disband, it makes sense for them to win, especially without the tag team titles being on the line.
USOS vs. DUDLEY BOYZ
Story: These teams have been feuding ever since the Dudleys turned heel and put the Usos through a pair of tables.
Analysis: This should be a good, hard-hitting tag team match. Bubba Ray knows how to get a crowd going, so this might be the most crowd-pleasing match (not counting the Divas’ sex appeal).
Prediction: The Usos triumph – and then the Dudleys break their pledge not to use tables anymore.
TOTAL DIVAS vs. B.A.D. & BLONDE
Story: There isn’t on, which is a shame. WWE tried to build suspense by leaving the fifth member of Total Divas a mystery. Here’s some advice from the Greek God of Wrestling. If you’re going to build suspense for a mystery partner, you have to allow more than 10 minutes to elapse before announcing there would be a mystery partner. Furthermore, the mystery partner has to be worth the wait. When Eva Marie ran down to the ring as the fifth member of Totals Divas during RAW on Monday, the Brooklyn crowd responded with vociferous boos. There weren’t good boos, as a heel is supposed to receive. This was what’s known as bad heat. Eva Marie might go down as the WWE’s worst “surprise” since the Gobbledy Gooker.
Analysis: This will probably be an old-style Divas match, and that’s not meant as a positive. The shame is that Natalya and Paige are excellent wrestlers and Naomi of B.A.D. is athletic and can execute some interesting moves, yet the focus is likely to be on Eva Marie and Lana, who is making her wrestling debut.
Prediction: Either Eva Marie or Lana is involved in the finish. Let’s go with the heel team (Naomi, Lana, Tamina, Emma and Summer Rae) for the worst of reasons – a loss will stir up disagreements for the Total Divas show.
KALISTO (champion) vs. RYBACK
(for United States Championship)
Story: The Big Guy (Ryback) vs. the little guy (Kalisto).
Analysis: Not since Donald Trump and Marco Rubio argued over hand size, has there been more attention paid to a size disparity. Ryback makes the argument that a good big guy will always beat a good little guy. Kalisto disagrees. .
Prediction: Unless WWE has a solid plan in place for Ryback, Kalisto retains the title.
HALL OF FAME
The Hall of Fame ceremony has become an annual highlight of WrestleMania weekend. The event is always a lot of fun. There are usually some emotional moments as well.
The headliner for this year’s inductees is Sting. Sting spent most of his career as a WCW icon. It’s nice to see WWE induct someone whose talent mostly came outside WWE.
There will be a Texas flavor to Saturday night’s induction ceremony (WWE Network, 8 p.m.). The Fabulous Freebirds, who first rose to prominence in the South, will be inducted as a team. Achilles Heel is thrilled to see Stan Hansen, a big tough Texan, enter the Hall of Fame. Jaqueline adds to the Texas flavor.
The other WWE inductees are the Godfather and the Big Bossman. Snoop Dogg will be inducted into the celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame. Joan Londen will receive the Warrior Award.
NXT starts off the weekend with NXT Takeover: Dallas on Friday (WWE Network, 10 p.m., pre-show at 9:30 p.m.). In the main event, Finn Balor defends the NXT Championship against Samoa Joe.
In other bouts, NXT Women’s champion Bayley defends the title against Asuka; Sami Zayn faces Shinseke Nakamura, who is making his NXT debut; American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan) challenge The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dah Wilder) for the NXT Tag Team Championship; and Austin Aries battles Baron Corbin.
NXT Takeover: Dallas boasts an outstanding lineup. Every bout has the potential to be fantastic.
SUPER CARD: NXT isn’t the only show in town Friday night. Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor X, is sold out. The main event pits the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) against the reunited Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin). Ring of Honor world champion Jay Lethal defends the title against Lio Rush. Other matches include Adam Cole vs. ACH; Christopher Daniels vs. Bobby Fish; Roderick Strong vs. Moose; Matt Sydal vs. Kyle O’Reilly; and the Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark) and War Machine (Ray Rowe and Hanson) against the All Night Express (Rhett Titus and Kenny King), Silas Young and the Beer City Bruiser.
“Welcome to the Combat Zone, featuring stars of CZW and Women Superstars Uncensored features Masada challenging CZW world champion Matt Tremont in a no-rope-barbed-wire match for the CZW World Championship. Jessicka Havoc battles Cherry Bomb for the WSU Championship.
The independent action doesn’t stop Saturday. EVOLVE shows feature the highly regarded Zack Sabre Jr. against Will Ospreay, also a heavily hyped overseas wrestler. Ricochet will battle Ospreay at a second EVOLVE event. It’s possible that EVOLVE champion Timothy Thatcher will defend his title against Sami Callihan on a second event Saturday, which also includes Sabre against Chris Hero.
HOMESTOWN WRESTLING: Closer to home, CHIKARA has two events, “Phone Home” and “Disk,” on Saturday (2 and 7 p.m.) at The Wrestle Factory in Philadelphia. The events feature the Tag World Grand Prix tournament, with the quarterfinals to take place during the afternoon show and the semifinals and finals during the evening show.
In the first round, The Colony takes on the United Nations; the Punk Rock All-Stars battle the Devastation Corporation; Los Ice Cream meets Team Sea Stars; and Tabarnak de Team face The Osirian Portal.