WrestleMania 34 is approaching very quickly, and with it, 2018’s biggest weekend for wrestling. At press time, the road to WrestleMania is still wide open, with the Royal Rumble yet to crown a number one contender, and plenty of time for dramatic shifts in the WWE landscape. Remember that, last year at this time, neither Bray Wyatt nor Goldberg held world titles, and Randy Orton wasn’t exactly a favorite to win the Rumble.
We are getting close enough to ‘Mania season, though, for the rumors to fly fast and furious. We’re close enough, too, that some of those rumors are getting more credible. WWE is making deals with part timers and outside talent, and booking directions start to crystalize.
There are some rumors that warrant excitement, like the potential debut of Ronda Rousey on the WWE roster, or that Chris Jericho may join the select ranks of stars who have worked the Wrestle Kingdom stadium show for New Japan and WrestleMania in the same year. There are, however, other rumors of what to expect in New Orleans that are underwhelming, disappointing, or down right infuriating for the missed opportunities and misuse of talent at WWE’s disposal.
This article takes a look at rumors surrounding WrestleMania 34 at this point that we hope are off base, or even purposeful misdirection on the part of WWE. No one knows for sure what to expect, and injuries or crowd reactions could always change the course of booking. These are fifteen realistic directions for the big show that would be big mistakes.
16. John Cena Faces The Undertaker
Since John Cena transitioned into essentially part time status in recent years, the stakes have gone up for his WrestleMania programs. With limited dates on his schedule, ever ty program he works is a big one, and at WrestleMania we have the chance to see him put on a classic with a star talent, or perhaps even put over an up and comer who deserves the rub.
Rumors abound that WWE has very big plans for Cena at this year’s WrestleMania. That could mean a record 17th world championship. It could mean a rematch from No Mercy against his spiritual successor as face of the company, Roman Reigns. Or, it could mean a match with The Undertaker.
Cena has publicly stated that he wanted a WrestleMania match with The Deadman, and while fans can certainly respect Cena’s personal bucket list, it seems like an awful idea to book this encounter. After putting on a series of good to all time great performances for the latter half of his WresteMania winning streak, The Undertaker hasn’t put on a good match in his last four ‘Mania outings. It looked as though he was retiring after losing to Roman Reigns, and it seemed like a fine enough time to go, when it was clear he’d never be the performer he once was. No one’s really clamoring for Undertaker-Cena, the match is unlikely to be that good, and it would squander Cena’s abilities at the biggest show of the year.
15. Roman Reigns Slays The Beast Incarnate
At WrestleMania 31, Roman Reigns looked to be traveling one of the most traditional roads to glory WWE has. He won the Royal Rumble and moved on to challenge for his first world title in the main event of ‘Mania, against a dominant heel, Brock Lesnar. WWE seemingly called an audible because fans were rejecting Reigns a little too aggressively, and he didn’t really have the chops to overcome the poor reactions. Three years, later, two more WreslteMania main events and three WWE Championships to his name.
Reigns finally seeing through his destined win over Lesnar is logical enough, but it’s also a painfully obvious choice. Moreover, given Lesnar’s dominance over all contenders this past year, if Reigns does beat him clean, it raises real questions as to whom could possibly challenge The Big Dog for the Universal Championship in the months to follow.
14. Stephanie McMahon Steps Back In The Ring
There’s a ton of intrigue about Ronda Rousey, and perhaps her Four Horsewomen of MMA compatriots mixing it up at WrestleMania 34. Rousey is a big enough star with enough real fighting credibility to be an instant draw. Fans are already speculating about dream matches between her and Charlotte Flair, Asuka, or maybe someone like Sasha Banks or Alexa Bliss.
But what of Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon?
WWE planted some of the seeds for this match in their altercation at WrestleMania 31, and Stephanie does have at least as much name recognition as any active female wrestler. Moreover, she did perform quite respectably in her last in-ring outing with Brie Bella. McMahon is not, however, in the same class of performer as Flair, let alone Asuka. If Rousey is going to wrestle, we can’t take it for granted and WWE should put forth the best possible match it can for this special occasion. Keep Stephanie out of the ring, at least until Rousey has gotten her start against better performers.
13. AJ Styles Misses Out On Another Title Match
After his debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble, AJ Styles quickly evolved into one of WWE’s most important performers. He proved himself as a more than capable main event player opposite Roman Reigns and John Cena. By that fall it felt less like a surprise than an inevitability when he took the WWE Championship off of Dean Ambrose.
Styles ended up getting cycled out of the title picture leading up to WrestleMania 33. Cena took the title off of him at the Royal Rumble to transition the title into the Bray Wyatt-Randy Orton program. Styles got a main card match with Shane McMahon—arguably the match of the night, but it still felt like a demotion.
As 2018 gets rolling, Styles finds himself in a similar spot as champion and the best in ring performer in the company. But will he carry a world title into ‘Mania? Styles has, in a sense, already beaten the odds by getting the title off Jinder Mahal in November. Here’s hoping WWE rewards his excellence and his work ethic by letting him carry the title into ‘Mania for a classic with the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena, a returning part timer, or even a guy like Sami Zayn.
12. Kurt Angle Faces Triple H
Since Kurt Angle returned to the WWE fold for a Hall of Fame induction, rumors started up that he’d eventually face Triple H at a WrestleMania. To be fair, the match up makes some sense. They’re legends of comparable star power and have a ready made story of the two vying for political control on Raw, given Angle’s placement as general manager (enhanced by their Survivor Series storyline).
Despite the ways in which Angle vs. Hunter may well work, it’s about as uninspired of a use of Angle as possible. At this stage, Angle and Triple H each ought to be having dream matches against younger opponents we never thought they’d cross paths with. These pairings are not only fresher, but give the old stars the chance to mentor a newer talent and, win or lose, help get the up and comer over. Triple H would be better positioned opposite someone like Braun Strowman or Kevin Owens. Angle has a match waiting to happen with his kayfabe son Jason Jordan, or intriguing possibilities in a first time encounter with Finn Balor, or new to WWE matchup against Samoa Joe.
11. Jinder Mahal Faces John Cena
One of the prevailing rumors from the fall was that Jinder Mahal would carry the WWE Championship into WreslteMania where he’d defend it against John Cena. Cena would pursue his historic 17th world title and, against Mahal, may actually have found an opponent against whom fans really would get behind Cena.
Mahal has, since, dropped the title, and his direction moving forward is unclear. If he were to hover at or around the main event level, a program with Cena would be a logical step—it’s just unclear if his talent and drawing power can justify that sort of placement.
Given Cena’s star wattage and ability to “play up” to the competition, WWE will hopefully give him more exciting to do. A match with Mahal would probably be passable, but squander another year of big match potential for Cena at ‘Mania.
10. Kane Passes The Torch To Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman has emerged as, quite arguably, the most organically over new main event talent WWE has. His series of matches with The Big Show were surprisingly solid outings and throughout them, Show passed the torch completely to the company’s next giant. Strowman’s program with Roman Reigns also lent each man a fresh storyline with good matches.
When Kane returned and launched an issue with Strowman, it seemed like a fun enough late fall program to further establish Strowman and keep him occupied pre-WrestleMania season with a returning veteran. As the feud continued, however, without Strowman picking up a decisive win, it felt like a step back for his character.
Having The Big Red Machine ultimately put over Strowman strong at ‘Mania might seem like a good idea on paper. It would, however, demand far too long and competitive a program between an aged monster and a guy who should still be mowing down anyone in his path.
9. More Four Way Or More Women’s Title Matches
WWE has the enviable problem these days of having too many talented female Superstars to feature them all properly come WrestleMania. The company has taken the path of rewarding a number of stars, including three and four way Raw Women’s Championship matches at the last two WrestleManias, and match involving the full female roster from SmackDown in Orlando. The down side of giving everyone time on the main card, however, is that no individual wrestler really gets as much attention as she should.
Stars like Asuka and Charlotte Flair are lined up for big nights at WrestleMania 34, while the specter of Ronda Rousey working the show lingers as well. Something has to give, and hopefully WWE will offer us at least one one-on-one women’s match. While it doesn’t entirely do everyone justice, other women’s stars can get their opportunity in a big tag match or battle royal scenario.
8. Bill Goldberg Returns
Bill Goldberg was a huge part of WrestleMania season last year, starting with his return at Survivor Series, which gave way to working the Royal Rumble, then winning the Universal Championship at Fast Lane, and having a a terrific sprint with Brock Lesnar at ‘Mania itself. Through it all, Goldberg proved he does still have a bit of wrestling in the tank, and can still appeal to the WWE audience. He did not, however, prove that he could go in a match for more than five minutes—particularly one in which he took many bumps.
I don’t mind Goldberg making non-wrestling appearances, or even having a match at a lesser PPV. Spots at WrestleMania are at such a premium, however, with the show already so long that there’s no place for him to coming back for another ‘Mania match.
7. Cena Vs. Hogan
If you thought Cena and Taker is a matchup that has no chance of putting on a match caliber suitable enough for the event, how do you think a Cena and Hogan match would go? First of all, who really would think that Hogan, now in his 60s, would prove a credible threat for someone like Cena, who has beaten countless top stars in the company and someone who just beat The Rock a few years ago?
Hogan has been rumored to return to WWE for a while, now that his leaked racist audio scandal has died down for a while. This could just be speculation, as other names like Goldberg and Batista have been floated around as possible opponents for Cena, but this one sounds like a disaster if WWE actually wants to do it.
6. WWE Doesn’t Think AJ Styles Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Is Big Enough For A WrestleMania Title Match
Fans who followed AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura prior to their WWE debuts are by and large familiar with their match at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom. It was a sensational encounter that landed on a lot of critics’ match of the year lists, and according to some sources sealed the deal on WWE ultimately pursuing contracts with both talents.
After it was clear Styles was going to be treated as a big deal on the main roster, and particularly after Shinsuke Nakamura got the call up to SmackDown Live, rumors began to buzz that WWE would build to a proper WWE branded rematch between the two. Unfortunately, more recent rumors suggest that WWE may not see money in the match—particularly from Nakamura’s end—or at least might not see it as a match worthy of a WrestleMania world title bout. Hopefully this rumor isn’t true because there’s little doubt The Artist and The Phenomenal One would deliver on the biggest stage in wrestling.
5. Seth Rollins And Jason Jordan Carry The Tag Titles Into WreslteMania
Rumors for Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 34 mostly pointed toward him feuding with Dean Ambrose again, probably after Ambrose had turned heel to freshen their dynamic. With Ambrose out of the picture due to injury, he’s no longer a factor in Rollins’s ‘Mania prospects, either as an opponent or as a partner.
On the final Raw of 2017, Rollins wound up winning the Raw Tag Team Championship with substitute partner Jason Jordan. This new makeshift team’s direction isn’t clear yet, and may depend on how well they gel and get over. Regardless, while injuries and break ups have ravaged the Raw tag team roster, one has to hope that Rollins will be doing something better than working an odd couple team come WreslteMania season. Moreover, Jordan feels ripe for a heel turn, and hopefully WWE will have pulled the trigger on that to redeem his mostly disappointing run as Kurt Angle’s kayfabe son.
4. Jeff Hardy Misses ‘Mania
Jeff Hardy went down due to injury in the fall, and left his brother Matt largely adrift. Without his more popular brother and tag team partner, and until he got legal clearance to pursue his Woken gimmick, Matt was a man without much purpose or identity.
After the Hardy brothers made such a splash with their surprise return at WrestleMania 33, it would be a real shame for WreslteMania 34 to find Jeff still out of action. Moreover, if the Woken Universe gets the creative time and latitude to play out appropriately, the insertion of Jeff into the proceedings pre-WrestleMania could really help shore up the gimmick, and set up the brothers for the Great War Matt’s always ranting about.
3. The Undertaker Vs. Kane
The end of WrestleMania 33 seemed to mark The Undertaker’s retirement. He and Roman Reigns got the unlikely main event spot, and The Deadman finishing his run seemed to be the occasion. The final images from the show saw him take off all of his signature garb, with a metaphorical suggestion that the man beneath the gimmick was walking away.
Neither The Undertaker nor WWE has publicly commented on retirement, giving rise to rumors that he may not really be done. There was speculation he might resurface after Roman Reigns and John Cena invoked his name in the build to No Mercy, or when Survivor Series went down in his backyard in Houston. Most recently, there’s talk of him wrestling one more time at WrestleMania 34.
Given The Phenom’s receding level of performance at recent ‘Manias, and particularly inauspicious showing in 2017, it may be best for his legacy to stay out of the ring in 2018. If he were to return, it would ideally be against a younger opponent who could facilitate a good match around his limitations, not to mention get the rub from working with him. Kane? He represents none of these ideals. While there is some poeticism to the men retiring together, and completing their trilogy of WreslteMania matches, this is not a WrestleMania 34 match many fans are clamoring for.
2. The Event Stays Supersized
When WrestleMania moved to the WWE Network in 2014, it seemed like a great thing for fans and for the company. PPVs, and particularly ‘Mania, became much more affordable, and WWE was no longer as shackled to cable providers’ schedules. Shows could start early or run late, with extended pre-shows that were easily accessible to serious fans.
Having overrun time available for the biggest show of the year, and limits timing issues that historically led to some matches getting cut from the show at the last minute. However, particularly for WrestleManias 32 and 33, the show was simply too long, with main cards running four and a half to five hours long, not to mention two hour pre-shows.
There’s no sign of things turning around, and WWE loves having live content to air on the Network, and finding a spot for every star to wrestle at ‘Mania. While some pundits have called for WWE to extend WrestleMania to a more manageable two night event, that won’t happen as soon as WrestleMania 34, and it looks like we’re in for another marathon.
1. The Rock Still Won’t Be Back
The last time The Rock worked a full fledged match for WWE was at WrestleMania 29, where he suffered multiple serious injuries in his main event, WWE Championship match with John Cena. The injury had implications for his movie making career, as it reportedly pushed back filming for his GI Joe project.
The Rock made a non-wrestling appearance at WrestleMania 31, and worked a segment with the Wyatt Family, culminating in a five second farce of a match with Erick Rowan at WrestleMania 32. He was missing altogether from WrestleMania 33, which raises the question if we’ll ever see The Rock actually work a proper match again.
There is some controversy about the role of part timers at the biggest show of the year, and reserving more opportunities for full time talent. Still, The Rock is a big enough, transcendent enough star to always justify himself on the WWE stage. Hopefully, his schedule will allow him to return to the Showcase of the Immortals before long.
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