WrestleMania and the road to it are the times fans from around the world give WWE another chance to capture our imaginations and make us feel like kids again. Beginning with the Royal Rumble, sometimes going through the Elimination Chamber and Fastlane en route to The Grandest Stage Of Them All, WWE usually ramps things up as much as they can in their never-ending bid to recapture the glory days of The Attitude Era, if not in style then at least in popularity. In that quest, fans of WWE have sat through some of the stupidest, most insulting moments as Vince and his cohorts tried to create bizarre moments, punish unruly superstars, court mainstream attention, and satiate his legendarily questionable sense of humor.
Fans haven't forgotten baffling WrestleMania moments such as Santino Marella becoming 'Santina' to win the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal, or Akebono Vs Big Show in a sumo fight that made our eyes bleed and Big Show look ridiculous. Even when the moment is somewhat well-intentioned, such as Sheamus blasting through Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds, Vince so badly misread the situation that it backfired enough to create the exact opposite star he was trying to out of pure fan fury.
Wrestling is such a delicate balance, sometimes swaying from art to science and back again that any success should be applauded, but with these plausible scenarios we're going to explore we're hoping it doesn't give Vince ideas. Whether it's so stupid that it's surely going to happen, so nauseating that Vince probably thinks it's hilarious, or so tone deaf that it's guaranteed to blow up in his face, these are all somewhat on the table for better or much, much worse. If we somehow avoid all these, WrestleMania 34 will be one of the best ever. But that's a big 'if'.
15 Roman Wins Straight Up
Let's get the obvious out of the way first, Roman is more than likely going to again be positioned at the top of the card, in a WrestleMania 31 rematch against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship where he finally takes him down. Everyone is seeing it coming whether WWE wants to hide it or not, and if they go down this route without deviation or creativity the fans will again turn on Roman out of pure boredom and predictability. Anything but this paint-by-numbers re-re-re-coronation for Roman is a better option, especially if WWE intends on retaining fans who will likely watch this main event hearing the entire stadium booing Vince's chosen one. Simply kicking out of an F-5 en route to victory isn't going to salvage something so mundane, and will instead hurt Roman all over again. Best to have a backup plan, or fans will be heading to the parking lot mid-match to beat the traffic out of New Orleans.
14 Shane Goes Up, But Still Goes Over
Shane McMahon has earned a healthy level of respect from the fans due to his insane stunts and willingness to really put forth the effort to give the people in attendance a show they won't forget. The flipside to that is that his father Vince McMahon is probably realizing right about now that despite Shane's spectacular stunts he has been pinned in every match he's been involved with since returning (even at Survivor Series 2016 where his team won after his elimination). What does that mean?
We're always closing in on Vince wanting to give Shane a win to keep him legitimized, but no one wants to see someone's career sacrificed to Shane.
If Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, or even Daniel Bryan end up facing off with Vince's progeny at WrestleMania this year, we need to be cautious of Shane because at this point Vince could see him as a proxy and he'll want to keep Shane's perceived value as an attraction high. That means someone has to go down, and it won't be pretty whoever has to do it.
13 The Undertaker's Last Ride For Cena's Sake
The Undertaker's cryptic at best, and bizarrely nonsensical at worst promo from the 25 Year Raw celebration heralds that he may indeed be going around for one last ride, and rumours are swirling that John Cena of all people is going to get that entirely unnecessary accolade. With last year's poignant display at the end of WrestleMania it seemed The Undertaker was giving his final effort towards Vince's golden boy Roman Reigns. If Cena is also going to get that coveted spot as they trot out The Deadman one more time it's likely to not be a pretty sight, in several ways.
Cena is well and truly a part-timer now, his film successes gaining him that foothold to cross over, and having him further sully The Undertaker's WrestleMania record is only going to cause renewed resentment from fans who have mostly turned in Cena's favor finally. It's been said before, and it's probably too late now that Undertaker is 'beatable', but anyone else would be a better choice for his potentially final, FINAL match. If Undertaker raises Cena's hand, or shakes it in a recreation of their first interaction on SmackDown, expect boos. Big boos.
12 12. The New Day Don't Get Their Due
If any one group act has stood the test of time lately, developing and keeping an entertaining edge and delivering between the ropes it's been 'ya boys', The New Day! The one area of exception with this is their WrestleMania record is looking pretty forgettable. Even though they hosted the most recent WrestleMania, their previous entries for the biggest show of the year were completely botched, losing twice in the pre-show and even more bafflingly losing to the worst stable in recent years, The League Of Nations.
WWE and Vince's bad habit of underutilizing one of their unsung attractions has hopefully been broken, what with New Day featuring on Jimmy Fallon and getting around in the media with deft ease, so fans of the pancake-flinging, hip-gyrating trio will be hopeful Vince has more for them to do this year of consequence rather than feeding them another wasted opportunity. If all they do is fling pancakes to celebrities who get more screen-time than them, then why are they even at WrestleMania?
11 Kane Does Kane Things
It's not Glenn Jacobs' fault that besides his run in Team Hell No with Daniel Bryan he's been just about the worst thing to happen to any wrestler paired with him for the last half-decade. Whether he was Corporate Kane and involved in stupid interactions with The Authority, being unnecessarily built up at the cost of Finn Balor earlier this year, or generally being the filler you force upon someone when they're in a holding pattern, Kane is not who you want any of your favourites going against come WrestleMania.
Kane's tenure and willingness to do absolutely anything has no doubt favored him in Vince's eyes over the years, but if Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman or Elias has to spend the month leading into WrestleMania playing scared of the 'Big Red Machine' it will only stall their momentum.
Kane is a legend, but like The Undertaker, facing him now at WrestleMania is akin to babysitting an elder who still wants to play with the young kids.
Kane is the consolation prize for wrestlers not important enough to warrant a WrestleMania match of consequence, and The Big Red Machine should instead be in the Andre Memorial Battle Royal being eliminated early for someone's benefit.
10 Speaking Of Braun Strowman..
At all costs, Braun Strowman must not repeat his last years run into WrestleMania. Braun had exploded into relevance and outright quality by being a force of nature among the roster, and yet he spent the month before WrestleMania losing to Roman Reigns, ending his undefeated streak, and backing down from The Undertaker, before being unceremoniously eliminated by the mob in the Andre Memorial Battle Royal.
He has earned a better spot and wasting him another year when he could be creating a genuine WrestleMania moment is a crime.
Fans love this roaring behemoth for the pureness he brings back to wrestling, allowing him to do silly things like emerging from a garbage truck's trash compactor like The Terminator to thunderous cheers despite the insanity of it all. Braun either has to win the Andre Memorial Battle Royal if he's stuck in it (and carry the trophy around in his gigantic pocket), or deliver a meaningful match against someone worthy.
9 Ridiculed Revival
As soon as The Revival spent the Raw before the 25 Year celebration proclaiming that they were professional wrestlers and not sports entertainers, a chunk of the wrestling fanbase pessimistically predicted that they'd be eating a beating from a group of legends the following week. The more optimistic fans thought that if they said it live on Raw, it must have been approved as part of their throwback gimmick and we should get excited.
Raw 25 came, and we all saw what happened. They didn't get to say a word in their defense on the mic and were fed to DX and The Balor Club. If WWE history teaches us anything, it's that this is only the beginning. If Hornswoggle were still around we'd be dreading him scoring a pinfall over the 'Top Guys' come WrestleMania, but whatever punishment is likely in store for this beset upon team, they deserve so much better and Vince's petty word-policing is no good reason to waste one of the best tag teams WWE has. Failing with The Ascension is one thing, but failing with NXT's best ever tag-team is unforgivable.
8 Derailed Women's Revolution
Having an entirely new division finally come into its own in WWE has been one of the best things of recent years. It hasn't all been roses, with a bit too much Bella twin banality and Stephanie McMahon pitching herself as the center of it all, but the women putting out the much-improved product in the ring has been great. That can all be regressed if Vince falls into old habits when he decides their involvement in WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
The current rumors are that Ronda Rousey figures largely in plans going forward.
All of this is fine, but the whole thing can be ruined if they begin feeding every woman to her top to bottom.
They could also have her get involved in some love triangle story, or generally stuff up this surefire winner with decisions worse than the WCW Invasion from back in the day. The women's division is on that edge where they can tip over into genuine prolonged relevance or fall backwards, and WWE is going to need to not put all their eggs in the one basket at WrestleMania to tip the scales the right way. Don't screw up Ronda, and don't screw up the rest of the division by focusing only on Ronda.
7 Stephanie Making It All About Her
Stephanie being on the commentary table for the Women's Royal Rumble lends a sense of impending doom to the women's future that can't be overlooked. This goes to show that she can usurp the focus from the women in the ring, which means we're in for a horrible few months that won't be worth whatever payoff they envision for WrestleMania. Stephanie makes the women's roster look like how the cruiserweight division is portrayed among the men, and that's not a good thing. It belittles their talent, condemns them to a lower tier and does more harm than good for the association with her.
If we avoid Stephanie involvement for the majority of the WrestleMania build it'll be the first time in 5 years, and that's too much Stephanie, even if she's just mimicking Vince while parroting Triple H. If we end up with Ronda Vs Stephanie somehow coming out of this, it is truly a dark time and a regression for the women relegated below them.
6 Triple H Brings the Hammer
Speaking of Stephanie's other half, we may be enjoying Triple H's work with NXT by and large, but when it comes around to WrestleMania, The Game always finds a way to insinuate himself in an overblown feud. Quite often it's one he shouldn't win but half the time he does anyway such as against Sting and Booker T. Add onto that his poor record of under-delivering in matches with his chosen projects like Randy Orton and Roman Reigns and the apprehension grows.
Fans should hope his match, with whomever it may be, ends in a clean victory for the younger star.
Triple H seems to be always hunting for that last epic Wrestlemania match but it looks like his best in a while was against Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX and now he's just gradually less than the performer he was each outing. Hopefully, he does the job, and there are no shenanigans that make a straightforward story into a melodramatic farce.
5 Celebrities Are Better Wrestlers Than Wrestlers
We saw it again last year when Rob Gronkowski invaded the Andre Memorial Battle Royal, and that is the fact that if a celebrity gets between the ropes they are instantly better than the majority of the rosters employed by WWE. There is a right way and wrong way to do this bit and WWE has both perfected it with inclusions like Mike Tyson & Ken Shamrock, kinda done okay with Ronda Rousey a couple of years ago, and outright tanked it with Gronk and Lawrence Taylor.
In short, the list of bad celebrity physical interactions far outweighs the good and the moment a wrestler puffs up their chest and steps towards any celebrity in the current era, they're soon sat on their behind and humiliated without any upside. Usually, it's only some comedy fodder like Heath Slater or Santino Marella, but this kind of thing just sucks to sit through nearly every year now regardless of how low the wrestler in question is on the totem pole. Pray for The Miztourage, because our crystal ball has them the odds-on favorites for the next round of humiliation.
4 Musical Misfire
A running joke is that Vince McMahon's obsession with his work means that he only discovers movies and trends half a decade or more after they've come and gone from the public eye. This extends over to music where invariably he'll bring in an act that is already well past their prime to take up 15 minutes of precious WrestleMania time for a crowd who are well into their 5th or 6th hour of wrestling and couldn't care less for such a detour. Pitbull, Flo Rida, Kid Rock, P Diddy & MGK, all were varying levels of bad and every crowd gave them the polite 'why did you make us sit through that' applause they deserved.
It'd be the same if you went to the new Star Wars and 2/3 of the way through they had you watch 12 minutes of middling basketball. Whatever the quality of it is, it's not what you paid for or wanted to have forced on you. Musical acts haven't all been busts though, with Living Colour, Snoop Dogg, Rev Theory, Motorhead, and Mark Crozer and the Rels all giving excellent versions of wrestler's theme songs as they headed to the ring. Keep it to that and it won't bring the show to a standstill like Vince seems to like doing.
3 The 3 Minute Special (If You're Lucky)
For a show that now looks to last an ungodly 7 hours from bell to bell, it's amazing that when it comes down to it, the time-crunch that still eventuates. Matches that have been hyped for weeks, months or all the way back to the previous year are not immune from this curse. The Shield vs Kane & The New Age Outlaws from WrestleMania 30 was in fast forward mode and ended in less than 3 minutes. Daniel Bryan and Sheamus are cursed at WrestleMania, having had an anticipated US title match become a pre-show Battle Royal, and the next year their World Title Match became an 18 second farce. Neville and Austin Aries' hotly hyped Cruiserweight Championship match got bumped to the pre-show (where it stole the show and was then cut from the DVD anyway).
It's going to happen again. It keeps happening.
Fans who invest in certain storylines Vince doesn't favor need to temper their hype because this is no longer rare or uncommon, it is a yearly certainty that something you like is going to get shafted.
2 The Final Straw For Bray Wyatt
For someone who came into the previous WrestleMania as the WWE World champion this possibility should be unfathomable, yet here we are. Bray Wyatt should be undefeated at WrestleMania. He should have beaten John Cena, been the second man to achieve victory over The Undertaker, and held onto his WWE Championship against Randy Orton in that weird worm projector match last year. Instead The Eater Of Worlds is far less than he was even in his mystique-heavy, early Wyatt Family days. If Vince looks at WrestleMania as a time he can feed Bray to whomever he wants to give a victory to, Wyatt's cache will have been completely spent and he'll be a moment away from interacting with Heath Slater in comedy sketches.
He only narrowly avoided a seemingly doomed Sister Abigail reveal in the aborted Finn feud, but unless there's a solid plan post-rumble for his WrestleMania match Bray Wyatt could end up fodder for Kane, or a returning Big Show and no crowd is capable of caring about those matchups in 2018.
1 Woken, Broken, Forgotten
WWE is so close to failing with Matt Hardy and that it is beyond sad. The gimmick that revitalized both he and his brother, was successful around the entire world, crossed language barriers and hardcore and casual fans alike adored, is being snuffed out right in front of our eyes. Matt Hardy dragged himself out of wrestling has-been territory so successfully that he deleted half a decade of average performances en route to returning to the big leagues.
Now, with WrestleMania approaching, on the anniversary of their triumphant return, Vince better have a massive plan for the Hardys, and it looks like he doesn't.
Matt Hardy has proven to be an endless font of resources and creativity with his 'Broken Universe', and now with the legal fumbles behind them they need to accelerate this into overdrive before it is relegated to simply a quirky, comedy sideshow. It's already happening, but at WrestleMania where the fans in attendance will be clamouring for this to work, there has to be, for lack of a better word, an awakening.
If Matt doesn't find his footing, the blame will be squarely set at Vince's feet, because Matt has proven his worth and only mismanagement could halt that ridiculous momentum.