This weekend, the 39th instalment of WrestleMania will be unleashed, and this year promises to be a bit more interesting than most. For the first time since the event’s inception, Vince McMahon will not be running the show (probably), and all eyes will be on how smooth things run, and how the event is received.
The WWE has been through a few events like this since Vince stepped down last year, and response has largely been good, with overall morale improving, and the big events finding a lot of purpose. Now, comes the biggest test – because even after Vince brute forced his way back into power at WWE, it appears as though he’s been largely kept away from the company’s creative (despite whispers that he’s still pulling the odd string here and there).
Given the situation, folks are wondering if the old man wanders onto the set in front of the fans to see what happens. It would be a very Vince thing to do, making everything about him once again, but who knows.
Anyway. If you’re like a lot of people, some of what I just said will have sounded like absolute nonsense. You might not follow wrestling, or you might not have been following for a while. That’s where we come in.
We’ve put together a handy dandy guide to (almost?) everything you will need to know about WrestleMania if you find yourself pulled into its orbit. Which happens. You might be at a friend’s house, or wondering just why the hell folks on your social media are talking about the big bad meat men and women fighting over belts. Folks will be talking about the madness. We’re going to give you the basics (and some weird facts to toss back, if you so wish).
Now before we dive in, you might want to know some basics. (We took Danica’s parents to a local wrestling show once, and quickly realized that everything happening means nothing if you don’t know the building blocks.) So quickly:
A person can win a match if they can pin their opponent’s shoulders to the ring mat while the referee counts to three. Or, a person can make their opponent “tap out” or pass out in a submission – the tapping signifying “quitting”.
If the match taking place is a championship match, and someone pulls an illegal move that is caught by the referee, that person will lose the match – but the “champion’s advantage” means the championship WILL NOT change hands via disqualification. Unless there are special bonus rules. There often are, and we’ll being them up as needed.
Now, on with the show!
SOME LARGER CONTEXT
We talked a bit about it at the top, but this year’s WrestleMania will carry a different air, due to all the madness that Vince McMahon brought to the company over the past year. It’s been no secret that Vince has been a garbage human being for the majority of his life, but last year, Vince entered the “find out” phase of his life when building reports of hush money payments caused him to resign from the company.
What followed was a bit of a golden time for the company, with Triple H running creative while Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan running things as co-CEOs. Then rumblings came about that Vince was upset that he had listened to the folks who were telling him to resign, as he felt as though things had “blown over”. He used his status as a majority shareholder in the company to brute force his way back.
Folk on the inside have insisted that Vince is not running much of the day-to-day of the company as he used to, instead focusing on trying to sell the company, and take it private. This is said to be something we hear more of before the end of the year, as their current contracts for Smackdown on Fox and Raw on USA are coming up for negotiation – and if the company is sold to a private company, they’d more than likely want to either negotiate those contracts themselves, or use the content to bolster their own channels or streaming.
Rumours have Vince insisting that a condition of the sale would be a guaranteed position for himself in the company going forward – though many have pointed out such a thing would likely just devalue the company during negotiations.
Anyway, WWE is said to have chosen Los Angeles for this year’s big show because many of the players that might be bidding on the company would be “in town” and see just what kind of economic boon the company brings with it when WrestleMania lands. Not only is it big for the WWE, but pretty much every other single wrestling company descends on the town and runs a show around the event. It’s wild.
Now personally, I’m hoping some of the more “Hollywood” types take the bait and make an offer, because one of the most talked about suitors to purchase the company is (checks notes) Saudi Arabia and uh… no. No thank you. It’s bad enough the company runs two blood money shows a year over there, I’d rather not have that permeate the whole friggen company. Also, it would probably mean we wouldn’t be seeing Sami Zayn on the show anymore. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s pull back, and get to the show.
After a few years of being a truly monstrous affair, WrestleMania split itself in two, and my goodness, did that change everything. The final one night ‘Mania saw the first ever women’s main event, but the show itself clocked in at over 7 hours, and you could hear the fatigue in the crowd. So the night split in 2020 in front of an audience of no one during the height of the pandemic, and hasn’t looked back. This is wonderful as it, allows folks to engage with the stories without almost falling asleep during the biggest match of the year at the end. Prayer hands comma hashtag blessed.
United States Championship
Austin Theory (c) vs. John Cena
TL;DR // Some idiot child thought it was a good idea to call out Big Match Jeeeeeyoonnnnnnnn Ceeeeennaaaa, and he’s gonna’ be rewarded for it.
How Did We Get Here? // Theory has been an entertaining garbage baby, and was once a Vince pet project. Then Vince went away, and everyone started watching for what was going to happen to the kid. When Vince was still in charge, they gave him the “Money in the Bank” briefcase that offered him a chance to challenge any champion of his choice, at any time. Traditionally a sign that the company trusts you to be a heir apparent, the briefcase felt more like an albatross with Roman Reigns being untouchable as the main champ. Then Vince left, and it seemed like Triple H was pulling back from the kid, having him cash in for the US Championship, and lose. But it was all just wrestle-magic. Theory eventually won the belt, and decided to call his shot for WrestleMania by being a dick to one Jonathan Cena. Normally, this wouldn’t be a good idea, but Cena’s shooting schedule for various projects is pretty intensive right now, so there’s no chance he’s winning. In fact, he was barely around in his build to this match, which is in stark contrast to when the star popped back in for a few months in 2021 to build to a title match with Roman Reigns. The question here is more how Cena loses – either by shenanigans to keep him strong, or clean as a whistle, pushing Theory as a guy to look out for.
Fun Fact // This is a spoiler for the newest WWE video game, so skip this bit if you don’t want a very funny thing wrecked for you.
In the game, you can play a career mode, fighting as a bunch of folks who have defeated John Cena, a man who was infamous for an “LOLCenaWins” meme at the height of his powers. When you get near the end, the game trolls you by letting you pick an opponent that Cena immediately murders, and hits you with the meme. John somewhat apologizes before telling you to try again – at which point “Super Cena” comes out – an invisible man wearing Cena’s gear. Because you can’t see him.
A team of developers would have spent a lot of time to make that happen, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Trish Stratus, Lita + Becky Lynch vs. Damage CTRL
TL;DR // The first two women to main event an episode of Raw team up with one of the first women to main event WrestleMania to fight a Karen and her diverse pals.
How Did We Get Here? // Bailey used to be a pretty chill, happy lady. Then a heel turn (the act of becoming a bad guy) saw her become one of the very best parts of the no-audience, pandemic era of wrestling, when she took it upon herself to feud with long time WWE announcer. That said, she hasn’t been on the past two WrestleMania cards, one due to injury, and one due to (in my opinion) booking incompetence. This is a big comeback for her, and her crew in Damage CTRL, who have been needling babyfaces (the good guys) since they arrived at last year’s SummerSlam.
Now, they’re fighting against the current WWE Tag Team Champions, Becky Lynch and Lita (yes, the Lita from the Attitude Era) with their pal, Trish Stratus – the kind of legends match that somehow still utilizes four current full time roster members, instead of acting as a showcase for the past. This should just be a fun one. It also has the potential to come with a bit of a surprise, as rumours have Lita and Trish around for a “unique storyline” that hasn’t really started.
Rey Mysterio vs Dominik Mysterio
TL;DR // Dominik, Rey’s legitimate* son has a new girlfriend and now he hates his dad.
How Did We Get Here? // Where to start with this one. If we want something quick, wrestling legend Rey Mysterio (who will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this weekend) had been teaming with his son Dominick for the past few years. Then they started running afoul of a group called The Judgement Day, and things got complicated. Dominick ended up turning on his dad and his dad’s pal Edge with the ol’ low blow, and joined The Judgement Day – which has been great for the kid. He’s really come into his own as a legacy goof who has cool friends who are getting him into trouble. Dude storyline went to jail for half a second and came to work at the next Raw talking about how being on the inside changes a man. He had also been begging… begging his father to stand up to him and hit him. Rey finally did this past week after Dominik started talking garbage about his mom, and Dominik responded with “what kind of monster hits their own kid?” Top notch work by all.
Fun Fact // *Back when Dominik was a kid, the WWE ran a storyline where legitimate longtime family friend Eddie Guerrero claimed to be Dominik’s real father. Rey and Eddie ended up fighting over custody of the kid in a ladder match, which is also just perfect goofy wrestling nonsense. (And to everyone’s credit, Dominik was protected during this storyline, included and consulted for comfort levels and paid for his work).
Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul
TL;DR // Seth Rollins hates Logan Paul because he is a loathsome, garbage human. Logan Paul has responded by being an asshole whenever he can. They’re going to do a fight about it.
How Did We Get Here? // uuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH! Given my druthers, we would not be talking about Logan Paul. It is the thing he wants, the thing he craves, and I’d rather he just go away. But the assignment is what it is, and really, where are we drawing the line when giving ink to horrible people in wrestling?
So. This starts two years ago, at WrestleMania, where he stood in the corner of Sami Zayn – who at the time was a heel who (checks notes) raises money for the disenfranchised in Syria. The whole thing was supposed to end with Logan Paul becoming a good guy. It didn’t people still booed him. So the next year (last year), they had Logan Paul teaming with consummate a-hole The Miz in a tag team match, where The Mix turned on Paul, again with the intent to make Paul a good guy. To their credit, the WWE crowd has not been on board with good guy Logan Paul, ever. So he’s finally playing a bad guy here, with Seth Rollins being very online about how this guy sucks and needs to walk into the sea.
Now, the worst part? Admittedly? Paul is good at this. He’s good at wrestling. Full stop. They gave him the main event spot at their Saudi Arabia blood money show near the end of last year, and by all accounts, he killed it (I’ve only seen highlights, because I do not fuck with the Saudi shows), and he pulls off things like this when he pops in randomly.
Anyway, apparently Paul’s contract is up with this match. He’s hoping WWE keeps it going. I hope they just take what they got from him, have him lose here, and walk away from it all. I’ll end this like I did the last time I ran one of these columns:
Fun Fact // Logan Paul can eat garbage.
Smackdown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs Rhea Ripley
TL;DR // A lady who seems into stepping on necks for a living is going to step on someone’s neck.
How Did We Get Here? // This one goes back three years to when Charlotte Flair won the Royal Rumble, and challenged Rhea Ripley for her NXT Women’s Championship. This was a first, attempting to put some more shine on NXT’s division, but it didn’t really work because not only did Charlotte win that match, she really didn’t bring much shine to the stars who faced her on NXT.
Now, it is three years later. Ripley has become the unofficial leader of The Judgement Day (while the team doesn’t have a leader, it is hard to argue that the boys take direction from Ripley) and has “corrupted” young Dominik Mysterio. She’s also been tossing around dudes like they’re nothing. She won the Royal Rumble, and decided to use that as an opportunity to take a championship back from Charlotte. And she’ll probably do it to. Or rather, she should.
WrestleMania Showcase Match: Fatal Four-Way Men’s Tag Match
Braun Strowman and Ricochet vs. The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. The Viking Raiders
TL;DR // WrestleMania famously has a big payday attached for its participants, and so the company likes squeezing as many people as they can onto the show as a result. This is that.
Special Rules // In a Fatal Four Way, there are no disqualifications. In a tag match, there are two men in the ring who are legal at any given point in time. You have to tag, or be tagged to switch out, and only the legal men are able to pin, or be pinned.
How Did We Get Here? // Nothing more than an announcement that the company would be showcasing their tag teams at WrestleMania, with this match (with three actual tag teams and one fresh pairing) and night two’s women’s match (which only has one real tag team. Kind of.)
Fun Fact // These people are going to tear it up though. Ricochet, The Street Profits and Alpha Academy in particular won’t let you forget they are on the show.
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
TL;DR: Just a big ol’ fight between family that’s part of a… (checks notes) two-and-a-half year storyline in WWE, and an entire lifetime outside of it.
How Did We Get Here? // Folks, this could be a a whole article in and of itself. I’ll keep things as short as my excitement will let me.
Within the WWE, this is part of The Bloodline storyline that’s been happening since Roman Reigns came back to the company at SummerSlam in 2020. It is at that point where he started amassing titles and power, eventually bringing his cousins under his sway, with both of the men’s top titles in singles and tag wrestling in tow.
This part of the story is about The Usos, who have been doing Roman’s dirty work for years, and how a dude named Sami Zayn came along and pushed through a large campaign to become a part of the Bloodline. By all accounts at WWE, this was a story that was supposed to run a couple of short weeks, with the then heel character Sami Zayn somewhat goofily trying to help the team out so he could get a little bit of their shine. This story sat on a slow boil for almost a year, with Sami adding new and vibrant flavour to the story that had been running for a year and a half at that point.
He spent time slowly winning over members of The Bloodline, which Jay Uso being the main hold out. During this time, he was building some of the absolute best content you were seeing from wrestling.
With Roman becoming a more part-time player with his latest contract, it was Zayn that was providing the glue from week to week, keeping storylines moving and keeping the whole train on track. This built to a point where, once finally accepted by The Bloodline, Kevin Owens started coming around, telling Sami that he was being used by Roman Reigns, and that Roman didn’t care for him at all.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have been best friends and brothers since they started together in the business. They have been fighting in classics with and against each other for years and years, moving apart and coming together. This was an emotional plea from someone who did care about Zayn. Who wanted to see him happy. Sami refused to believe him, instead staying with The Bloodline until this year’s Royal Rumble, when Roman had defeated Kevin Owens, and demanded that Sami Zayn finish the job with a steel chair. Sami, finally, after months and months of slowly become a member of The Bloodline’s family – after becoming an “honorary Uce”… after carrying everything for so long… snapped and turned against Roman. It didn’t end well for him, but surprisingly, Jey Uso didn’t join the beatdown. He left.
This became a few weeks of Zayn trying to get Jey out. Obviously, since this match is taking place, that didn’t happen. But the storytelling has been so good. At the start of the whole business with The Bloodline, Hey only fell in line because Roman had threatened his brother Jimmy, who was recovering from knee surgery. You could just see flashes of that memory in his eyes when we was asked to punish Sami for protecting his brother, Kevin Owens.
It’s just a good friggen’ build, and if it doesn’t main event the first night of WrestleMania, I’m not sure how the crowd will react. I know I’ll be upset.
Going into this weekend’s WrestleMania, there are a few questions floating around, and we figured we’d address some of those, just in case they are part of any surprises that happen during night one. (We’ll be posting our run down of night two shortly after night one wraps, to address anything wild that happens).
Here’s a few:
- Is Vince going to show up? We talked about this briefly at the top, but is the old man going to flex a bit of the pull he has by appearing? He was on last year’s show, just embarrassing himself with terrible wrestling skills, and taking one of the worst stunners to ever occur. Will folks be able to keep Vince from strolling out, even just for a “welcome to WrestleMania”? I hope so.
- With Triple H taking over, we saw a lot of different people Vince had fired return to our screens, and none with more pomp or circumstance than Bray Wyatt. The dude was given months long teasers before finally appearing, and then in mid-February, disappeared from the screens, just after challenging Bobby Lashley to a fight. Folks are saying it was down to a mysterious illness. Others are pointing to the fact that Bray left right after Vince came back. Could something be happening here? Anyway, if you see any weird spookums, possessed dolls or a fellow in a mask called “Uncle Howdy” (a story for another time), just know that it will be a bit of a return for someone who has been built up for quite some time.
- Are we going to see Pat McAfee back on commentary? A huge bright spot as a commentator on SmackDown, he truly breathed new life into Michael Cole, as the long time talker has professed. Pat has been largely off the air since taking a job at ESPN’s College Game Day, but came back at the Royal Rumble to help call the card. Michael Cole and Corey Graves had not been told. Apparently, only a small handful of people at WWE knew about the surprise, and the results were a joy, top to bottom. Will he pop in for the biggest show the company puts on, and lend some of his wild energy?
- Alexa Bliss was getting built back up into having potential connections with Bray Wyatt’s spooky nonsense, before abruptly disappearing from the company. She had tweeted out “they know where to find me” at one point in time, causing a lot of speculation as to why she wasn’t being used. Well, the answer came in two parts: first, when she posted about a minor surgery getting some skin cancer removed, and second, when she was revealed to be on the weird Masked Singer show as one of the folks in the wild costumes on this season. Will she make her return at this show?
That’s going to do it for this instalment. Join us again tomorrow, shortly after night one wraps for a look at what’s to come for night two.