WrestleMania 33 is not until April, and it won't be until late-January before we have any kind of an idea about where the company is headed. But let's be honest, this is Vince McMahon we're talking about: Apart from Rock vs Cena, when has Vince ever had a WrestleMania main-event planned out months in advance and actually stuck with it? At one point, in early 1999, Steve Austin vs Big Show was planned to main-event WrestleMania 2000. Ted DiBiase vs. Hulk Hogan was going to top the bill at WrestleMania V. The Hart vs. Michaels Iron Man match at WrestleMania XII was supposed to be the first round, with WrestleMania 13 providing round two (and if that had gone well, the rubber match was going to be saved for WrestleMania XIV).
Vince changes his mind is all I'm saying.
So while it's very likely that there is, scribbled on a notepad somewhere in Titan Tower, a list of planned matches for WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, it's also just as likely that those plans will be scrapped, rewritten, re-rewritten and shredded into tiny pieces and taped to a wall so that darts could be thrown at it.
I'm not saying my guesses are as likely as Vince's plans, but I am saying that it's not unheard of to look at the current storylines, plus consider past road to WrestleMania histories and make an educated guess about where things may end up come April 2, 2017.
Keep in mind that the show is likely to be long this year. WrestleMania 32 was an exhausting eight hours for the live audience present at AT&T Stadium (I was there) and WM33 promises to continue the tradition. So with all that time to burn, we're likely to have a lot of matches, which is good since the roster is expanded.
Let's get to predicting...
1 PRE-SHOW BRUHAHA: NEVILLE vs. BARON CORBIN
Last year's WrestleMania pre-show was two hours long (most of which was commercials) and featured three matches of little import. It's mostly an opportunity to work in the lesser tier guys and others that "creative had nothing for" so that they could get a paycheck and a chance to work the biggest show of the year. This match would be, for all practical purposes, a repeat of the Ryback vs. Kalisto match from last year's pre-show. The difference here is that it would be an inter-brand competition, so perhaps that comes about by way of a tournament on their respective shows. Maybe the winner could get a mid-card title shot? Something to give the match some stakes.
Nah, it'll just be tossed out and done in five minutes. Corbin gets the win because when you have a match where nothing matters, always default to the big guy (not that big guy).
14. RAW vs. SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM FREE-FOR-ALL
A staple on many big PPV pre-shows is the "throw the left-overs in a match" match. Here we're predicting that a bunch of tag teams from RAW and SmackDown go at it. The fact is, there are too many titles floating around for them all to be featured at WrestleMania (when you account for all the big non-title matches that hog up whole hours). Something's gotta give and this time it's the RAW tag belts. By the time Mania comes around, I suspect New Day will have finally dropped their titles and the division will be in sort of a rebuilding mode.
The teams on RAW plus a few odd-pairings across both shows can easily kill 12 minutes of pre-show time, which is all Vince cares about anyway. Let's say Anderson and Gallows get the win in the battle royal-rules match, giving them the first significant win of their WWE careers (it leads to nothing, of course).
13. CHARLOTTE vs. BECKY LYNCH
As with the previous match, the Smackdown Women's Title also is forced to miss the main show, but in this scenario, champion Becky Lynch accepts a challenge from Charlotte in an inter-brand match for something-something women's brand superiority or such. The two had a few one-on-one matches during their time on NXT and later on RAW, but they never really locked horns in a major match (one-on-one that is).
The WrestleMania pre-show isn't exactly big time, but it is a big stage and if there's one thing the four horsewomen of NXT have proven time and again, it's that they shine on big stages. They probably wouldn't get the time to do too much on the pre-show (no more than eight minutes, likely), but that just means they could go 90 miles an hour and keep the crowd (who by that point will be jittery and antsy for the show to begin) thoroughly engaged.
12. FIRST HOUR FUN: LADDER MATCH FOR THE CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
After years without the show-stealing Money in the Bank matches at WrestleMania, the company brought back the frenzied, frantic tradition of a Mania ladder match a couple years ago. For the past two Manias the Intercontinental Title has been on the line, but now---thanks to the restored Cruiserweight division---a better choice would be to have the sub-205 lb entertainers throw their bodies around. Doing so would serve multiple purposes: It would continue the tradition of having a big, high-energy ladder match on the show, it would free up the mid-card performers to work their own storyline-driven matches as well as appear in the Andre Battle Royal, and it would showcase the Cruiserweights on the biggest stage.
It would be a win all around. Sure it's possible Vince just tosses them into a meaningless tag match on the pre-show and continues using this as a vehicle for the IC belt, but maybe smarter heads will prevail here.
11. SAMI ZAYN vs. SAMOA JOE
This one is a little out on a limb, but it seems like Joe's NXT days are wrapping up, having just dropped the title back to Nakamura at a taping in Japan. He may not be called-up by the time Mania comes around but this would be a great way to transition him to the main roster, the way Kevin Owens split time between the two (as NXT Champion, no less) in the summer of 2015. Imagine a scenario where Joe regains the title at the January Takeover event, then appears in the Royal Rumble the next night. He can appear on both SmackDown (please) and NXT in the run-up to Mania, and be slotted in an inter-brand match with Sami Zayn.
The feud could even spill over onto Wednesday nights (as well as Monday and Tuesday). Imagine Zayn assisting Joe's opponent in defeating him for the title on the night before Mania, giving their fight real drama.
10. AMERICAN ALPHA vs. THE REVIVAL
This is pure fantasy booking right here, but if there is any tag match that deserves 15 minutes at WrestleMania this is it. American Alpha have been a little too under the radar since getting called up, despite having all the tools necessary to be huge with the main roster. They are over right now, but with a little sustained push they could be gigantic. Meanwhile there's The Revival, who might just be the best pure tag team in the game today. They've done all that can be done in NXT and deserve a call-up immediately.
Send them to SmackDown, let them rekindle their too-short NXT feud with American Alpha, put the title on the line and just let them tear the roof off. The chemistry these two teams have (as teams and against each other) is undeniable and, if given time, could easily steal the show at WrestleMania.
9. SECOND HOUR SETTLING-IN: KEVIN OWENS vs CHRIS JERICHO
Most would probably predict that Finn Balor vs Kevin Owens would be the big Universal Championship match, but that's predicated on Balor being back in time. Let's assume he is, though: can we really predict that Vince will go with that as his big RAW title match? It feels more like a SummerSlam match. It seems more of a "Vince McMahon" thing to do to finally pay off the Owens/Jericho story on the stage where stories like that were meant to be paid off. The real question is who would be the heel and who would be the babyface?
The temptation would be to turn Jericho babyface, but his current run has been so good you almost don't want to rock that boat. Owens can be a great babyface (as proven on the indie scene) and this could be a great match. Balor can get his shot for the red belt later in the year.
8. RANDY ORTON vs BRAY WYATT vs LUKE HARPER
This is one of the handful that seem like a lock for 'Mania. Randy Orton has been palling around with Bray Wyatt for a while now and tensions are starting to bubble up between he and Luke Harper. It's only a matter of time before Bray decides to turn on Luke, thinking Orton is a stronger ally, only to have Orton then reveal his true intentions and RKO Bray. That easily sets up the triple threat. The turn on Harper would happen at the Rumble; the Orton turn on Bray would only need to happen in the weeks before Mania. The pieces are in place, it's just up to Vince to make his moves. It doesn't seem like good timing to rush the Orton turn for the Rumble. Saving it for Mania season allows for maximum impact and gives you a big marquee match that's exclusive to SmackDown.
7. SASHA BANKS vs. BAYLEY
Here's another match that should be a lock for Mania. Ever since Bayley was called up to the main roster the prevailing wisdom regarding her place in the RAW Women's division has been "patience." She was never going to get the instant push that Charlotte and Sasha got, as WWE seemed to understand the potential they have in her to be the "female John Cena." With Sasha and Charlotte swapping the Championship back and forth a few too many times, the WWE Universe seems more than ready for some new blood to inject themselves in the title picture.
Though the bigger, more intimidating Charlotte might be the more natural heel for an underdog like Bayley, Sasha proved in NXT she can be a money villain when given the chance. And of course, the two of them have stolen enough shows together to justify giving them a one-on-one at WrestleMania.
6. THIRD HOUR HEAVYWEIGHTS: ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL
This year's Andre Roussimoff Memorial Battle Royal (ARMBAR to some fans) will be able to serve a few different needs. It will provide an easy inter-brand match that the 'Big Four' shows each year promise to highlight. It will also give a stage to the wrestlers that were too good for the preshow but not good enough for a marquee match. There's also those guys who are big and important enough for a solo match but will instead be used here to give the match some sense of importance.
In that regard, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose seem like good choices, from RAW and SmackDown respectively, to be the big stars that shine in the match. You could even use this as an opportunity to work in The Rock's customary WrestleMania cameo. Rock could even get eliminated by Erick Rowan as payback for last year's epic match!
5. SETH ROLLINS vs. TRIPLE H
This one seems like it's been penciled in for WrestleMania 33 since WrestleMania 32. Fans know to expect a big Triple H match every year and Rollins had been a loyal stooge to Triple H for a long time to that point. As everyone knows, Triple H is the worst friend in pro wrestling history so it wasn't hard to put two-and-two together. When Triple H returned in August to cost Rollins the Universal Title the writing was on the wall. Now it's only a matter of working out the little details (and the pesky matter of the winner) so that the feud lives up to the standards of past Triple H feuds.
Since moving to semi-retirement, Triple H's Mania battles with Undertaker and Daniel Bryan lived up to expectations, while his feuds with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns disappointed (fans are evenly split on the Sting feud). Here's hoping for the former.
4. BROCK LESNAR vs. GOLDBERG
The Survivor Series match was easily one of the most surprising finishes in pro wrestling history. Most predicted a Brock Lesnar win and while some were willing to concede that Goldberg might take it, no one in their right mind could have guessed that it would have been a Goldberg squash akin to a 1998 episode of Nitro. As it turns out, WWE had a long-term plan in place with Survivor Series being only the first act. Act two comes at the Royal Rumble, where both men have been announced as participants.
It's not hard to imagine that each will have a hand in eliminating the other (with perhaps them eliminating themselves at the same time, mid-brawl), with the conclusion to their feud coming at WrestleMania. WWE previously tried a big three-part Lesnar feud with Triple H and Undertaker, and both disappointed. Maybe the third time will be a charm here. Either way, the match is coming.
3. FOURTH HOUR EXHAUSTION: THE MIZ vs. JAMES ELLSWORTH
Usually late in the WrestleMania show there's a moment of levity to let fans catch their breath, grab some concessions and hit the head. Last year brought us Rock vs Erick Rowan. It was also The Rock...and a flame thrower. A year before that it was Ronda Rousey and Triple H/Stephanie). WrestleMania XXX gave fans a chance to process The Undertaker's loss by throwing the "divas" in a match no one could have cared less about. This year let's give the honor to The Miz. Granted, he's been doing MVP level work on SmackDown so giving him the cooldown spot late in the Mania evening might seem a little undeserved, but I'm imagining a great heel promo followed by an open challenge that is answered by James Ellsworth.
After two minutes of toying, there can be some attempted distraction by Maryse that goes askew ending in Ellsworth shockingly winning the belt. Now that would be a great WrestleMania moment.
2. AJ STYLES vs. FINN BALOR
Remember Finn Balor? (Oh I remember). When he was called up, most thought he'd be ruined but instead he was pushed straight to the top, winning the red brand's World Title. An injury derailed his reign but he's expected back for WrestleMania. As previously mentioned, it's been assumed his Mania opponent would be Kevin Owens but perhaps a different opponent could be arranged. The reasoning is AJ Styles needs a big opponent and John Cena (Styles' presumed challenger like Owens is Balor's) will be preoccupied. So kill two birds with one stone and let RAW's Finn Balor challenge SmackDown's Styles for the WWE Title.
Admittedly, this is not likely, as I predict there will be two Royal Rumble matches this year with each brand's winner challenging for their respective World Titles, and Balor won't be cleared by January. But in my head this is how it goes down, and in my head it's a four star match!
1. THE MAIN EVENT HOUR: THE UNDERTAKER vs. JOHN CENA
Pesky Undertaker. Without him these final two matches would be easy: Balor vs Owens and Styles vs Cena. But how many more Manias are you going to have with Undertaker (or Cena for that matter)? You have to make hay while the sun shines and this is arguably the only must-see Undertaker match left. Based on Taker's appearance on SmackDown recently, it seems that the 51-year-old vet is in good shape and if not, John Cena is more than capable of literally carrying him through the match. This isn't just the biggest Undertaker match left on the table, it's the biggest matchup WWE has at its disposal, bar none.
If both guys are available---and it seems they will be---this has to be done, and it has to main-event. Nothing else could come close to the drama, pageantry and "showcase of the immortals" feel that WrestleMania is built on than The Undertaker vs John Cena.