It is around the time of Survivor Series that the Wrestlemania card for the following year typically begins to start crystallizing. Sure, injuries and other snags can happen, but Survivor Series is really the only Big 4 PPV that affords the potential of a long-term build given its place on the calendar. In past years, the elmination-style PPV has seen Undertaker buried to signal his eventual Wrestlemania transformation from American Badass to Deadman ‘Taker and Sting debut to set up a WM match with HHH.
This year is different. Survivor Series has passed and even the most keen-eyed prognosticators are left with little sense of what the Wrestlemania 32 card may shape up to look like, reportedly because even WWE doesn’t know what the plan is. A confluence of factors have completely thrust the card into turmoil, including Seth Rollins’ knee injury, an assortment of injuries to Randy Orton, Sting, Big Show and others, Hollywood commitments for the Rock, Ronda Rousey and potentially Batista, the firing of Hulk Hogan, the legit retirement of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the continued uncertain status of Daniel Bryan.
This is of particular concern this year, where WWE has ambitiously booked AT&T Stadium with an eye on going the epic route in planning an “everything’s bigger in Texas”-esque Wrestlemania. Rollins has not only become a firmly established current star, but he was legitimized during a successful title reign as a reliable workhorse for the company. Missing him is a blow, as is missing some of their go-to legacy stars that often make one-off, headlining appearances.
All is not lost, however. With about five months left to lay out the mega-card, WWE still has some trusted names to lean on. Among current stars, Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt figure to be among the fresh faces playing big roles come April 3rd while trusted names like Undertaker, John Cena, Brock Lesnar and HHH expected to remain focal points once again. Here are 15 matches that could create some serious buzz if they were to take place in Arlington.
15. Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho
We last saw Chris Jericho in a WWE ring at Night of Champions as the surprise partner of Reigns and Dean Ambrose in their match against the Wyatts. The face side lost when Jericho tagged himself in and wound up caught in Braun Strowman’s bearhug sleeper, but the interesting part came after the match when Jericho heelishly shoulder-bumped Ambrose on the way out of the ring. Y2J typically resumes his part-time schedule come Wrestlemania season, so the seeds may have already been planted for this intriguing match-up. If anyone can sell a feud on the mic, it’s these two.
14. Sheamus vs Finn Balor
WWE is in an interesting place with Finn Balor, who appears poised to graduate from NXT to the main roster soon and would provide a dose of unmistakable star power to a roster sorely in need of it. The question, then, isn’t one of if you push him but just how big a push does he get out of the gate. He and fellow Irishman Sheamus would have an easy connection to build into a feud, which could present Balor as a main event level talent (Sheamus will carry the clout of being a recent WWE champ, presumably without still being champion) without putting him in the main event.
13. Goldberg vs Ryback
Vince McMahon loves to dip into his vault of legacy stars come Wrestlemania season, but Goldberg represents one still-recognizable name who hasn’t been repeatedly rehashed in recent years. In fact, the master of the Jackhammer hasn’t been seen in WWE since his WM 20 debacle against Lesnar. It appears that previous ill will is now water under the bridge and Goldberg has expressed an openness to wrestling one more match. And who better to pit him against than Ryback, a guy with no clear current direction who is no stranger to being taunted with ‘Goldberg’ chants.
12. Bray Wyatt vs HHH
It might be a little too late to build a meaningful feud between the leader of the Wyatt Family and the co-anchor of the Authority, not to mention determine who merits a place on which side of the face/heel ledger. But there would be something undeniably compelling to watching Wyatt and HHH go head-to-head. The WWE writing staff seems to view Wyatt as teflon, demonstrating a willingness to job him out in major matches with the belief that he’ll get his heat back thereafter. A win over HHH could really cement Wyatt as a top shelf WWE superstar for years to come.
11. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn
How cool would it be to see this multi-layered feud climb all the way from school gymnasiums in PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla) through ROH and NXT and onto the biggest stage of them all at Wrestlemania? By pairing Kevin Owens with a soon-to-be-returning Sami Zayn, WWE would be reuniting two men who boast an incredible chemistry that has yet to be seen on the main roster, yet are both over with the WWE Universe. Zayn left fans wanting more after getting injured in his debut match against Cena, but should be ready to go again after a quick stint in NXT.
10. Roman Reigns vs Batista
The status of Batista heading into Wrestlemania season remains unknown, with film commitments that may keep him from returning as a bona fide Hollywood star. While his return may bring WWE some much-needed mainstream publicity, it isn’t likely to inspire much endearment from fans who last treated ‘Boo-tista’ with big time hostility. Who better, then, to place him in a feud with than Reigns, who the company continues to hope the Universe will embrace as a face-of-WWE babyface.
9. Charlotte vs Sasha Banks
Another feud fostered on NXT programming that could easily occupy a prominent place on the Granddaddy of ‘Em All, Charlotte and Sasha Banks are the two pillars of the Diva’s Revolution and could anchor the division for years to come. Even though Charlotte is presently a face and Banks is a heel, current storyline winds seem to be blowing both in opposite directions. The reigning champ and daughter of Ric Flair has recently displayed some heel tendencies in the mold of her father, while Banks has long been greeted by chants of “We Want Sasha”. Their classic matches in NXT remain fresh in the minds of WWE fans.
8. Bray Wyatt vs Brock Lesnar
Wyatt hasn’t been in WWE long, but his two Wrestlemania appearances have already featured matches against John Cena and the Undertaker, raising the bar in terms of marquee opposition. Few other superstars can match that sort of lofty status, but one who can is Lesnar. These two have never interacted in front of the camera in WWE, but one could imagine a Wyatt Family beatdown awakening the Beast. Not only would a match between the two surely be intense and hard-hitting, but the mic battles between Wyatt and Lesnar associate Paul Heyman could stand out.
7. Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
I’ve never much cared for using Wrestlemania to rehash old feuds and matches. I didn’t love the idea of back-to-back Cena/Rock WM matches and I was among the few that was actually pleasantly surprised to see them burn through the third Lesnar/Taker match at Hell in a Cell. So even though last year’s Lesnar/Reigns main event was interrupted by Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in, I can’t get all that excited about a rematch this time around. Still, in the continued attempts to legitimize Reigns as the heir apparent to Cena, a win here is the one thing that could do the trick (even if Reigns would be booed).
6. Roman Reigns vs John Cena
… Or Reigns could simply have a more direct passing-of-the-torch moment at Wrestlemania by facing Cena. A lot has changed for both men since they last battled with Reigns a part of the Shield. While Reigns has grown into a main event, PPV-headlining player, Cena had been fashioning himself into a young superstar elevator and boosted the mid-card with his two US title reigns before taking a recent hiatus to film a TV series. Expected back ahead of ‘Mania season, Cena could be poised for his biggest young superstar elevation yet.
5. The Undertaker vs Sting
You may have heard this one before. Undertaker joined Sting on the north side of 50 earlier this year, but there remains an ongoing fascination and demand to see these two complementary characters and enduring legends in the ring together. Of course, an assortment of obstacles remain, not the least of which is Sting’s uncertain health status after suffering a serious neck injury at Night of Champions against Rollins. Even if he’s given a clean bill of health, will WWE put these two greybeards in a significant slot at their biggest event of the year? It would certainly enable the ‘big’ feel they’re shooting for.
4. Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose
Before Rollins went down, multiple reports speculated on a three-way battle of former Shield members being in the works for Wrestlemania 32. This could, however, carry over as a head-to-head match-up between Reigns and Ambrose, with many predicting a heel turn-fueled feud forthcoming, although no one is sure whether it’ll be Reigns or Ambrose who turns. The two men met in the final of the WWE title tournament at Survivor Series, but a feud built around plenty of history and animosity could be compelling.
3. Brock Lesnar vs Kevin Owens
What ol’ Jim Ross would surely have termed a “slobberknocker” back in the day has gained momentum recently, with Owens even Tweeting his interest in facing Lesnar or Undertaker. Apparently WWE writers are listening, as some insider sites have since reported that an Owens/Lesnar slugfest may well be on the Wrestlemania docket. On top of what would be a fascinating battle between two athletically gifted big men and a red hot feud, it would also mark a curious study in future value. Does WWE see Lesnar as a continued special attraction worth protecting, or do they view Owens as a future star ready to explode?
2. Roman Reigns vs HHH
One of the likeliest scenarios in play, a Reigns/HHH battle would keep Reigns involved in a major headlining feud while leaving the title picture open for other superstars. The groundwork has already been laid for this feud, with Reigns spearing HHH upon winning the WWE title tournament before getting attacked by a cashing-in Sheamus. It seems clear that a match-up between the two is in the cards, with the only question being whether WWE can hold off on it until Wrestlemania rolls around.
1. The Undertaker vs John Cena
We know that Undertaker will be a looming presence over the Wrestlemania proceedings, with his signature event taking place in his home state while in the twilight of an illustrious career. The big question, one that few if any know the answer to, is just how many Wrestlemania’s the Deadman has left. If this is it, it makes sense to pit him against the biggest WWE star of the past decade and one that ‘Taker hasn’t worked with much. If he’s still got a few more left, I could see them using Undertaker’s legacy to put a young star over, even if that’s not quite what they did with the Wyatt Family.
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