In my near-nine years as a wrestling fan, I have been extremely fortunate to have been to dozens of wrestling shows (all of which you can see photos from here), and at one point, I put together a "Wrestling Bucket List" of things I wanted to accomplish/attend. Since then, every item (which included going to an NXT event, a Ring of Honor show, a wrestling event in Madison Square Garden, a WWE pay-per-view, etc) has been eliminated, with the exception of attending a WrestleMania. This Sunday, I will finally fulfill that decade-long dream when I'm in attendance for WrestleMania 33 (in the same building that hosted WrestleMania 24 in 2008, which I had hoped to purchase on pay-per-view when I first got into wrestling).
To say I'm excited for the event would be a massive understatement, and regardless of how lackluster the road to WrestleMania has been at times, I still strongly believe this pay-per-view has the potential to be a blockbuster. The entire weekend should be a blast, and seeing as how I will also be in attendance for NXT TakeOver: Orlando this Saturday, I thought it would be fitting to run down the top six matches I'm anticipating the most. Note: Next Era Wrestling's very own RJ Marceau wrote something similar on Monday, so check out his list when you get the chance!
6. asuka vs. Ember Moon (NXT Women's Championship)
With so much attention on WrestleMania 33 as well as the NXT Championship rematch between Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura taking place at NXT TakeOver: Orlando, I feel Asuka vs. Ember Moon has slipped under the radar a bit. Asuka has had some thrilling title defenses at past TakeOver specials against the likes of Bayley, Mickie James, Peyton Royce, Nia Jax, Billie Kay and Nikki Cross, but Moon is easily her biggest threat to date.
NXT has done a great job of keeping these two apart since Moon's arrival on the brand over the summer as well as keeping Asuka undefeated over the last year and a half. This is a marquee match for NXT's women's division and it should surely deliver from an in-ring standpoint. All eyes should be on this bout if only because it could finally mark the end of Asuka's dominant run as champion. I don't think she'll be main roster bound any time soon (at least until after she gets her rematch), but it will be a major moment when she loses, nevertheless.
5. Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
I honestly didn't think I would end up looking forward to this WrestleMania match, but here we are. I was, and still am, frustrated with the fact that AJ Styles, who was undeniably the MVP of WWE in 2016, is facing Shane McMahon of all people at the company's biggest show of the year and not an active member of the roster. But that said, it's a somewhat high profile match for The Phenomenal One and the build to the bout has been relatively well done over the past month or so.
As of this writing, no stipulation has been added to the match, and I'm not sure one will considering there are already a few other gimmick matches already scheduled to take place at WrestleMania. It would definitely benefit from being an Extreme Rules match considering that's where Shane tends to thrive, but I'm sure they'll make the most of whatever match they're in. It could go either way, but I'm expecting this match to surprise some people with how fun it will ultimately be.
4. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship)
How could you not love a long-term story told over the course of eight months with two of the most entertaining Superstars in WWE today? Yes, I am as disappointed as the next guy that Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens won't be for the Universal Championship, but at least it puts the United States Championship in a marquee match at WrestleMania (even though the focus of the feud has been on anything but the belt). They were fantastic as friends and now they're even greater rivals, as their run-ins in recent weeks have been among the best parts of Raw.
I would have been fine with this match opening the event, but with ladders being added to the Raw Tag Team Championship match today, I assume that will be the first match on the main card. And that's fine, as long as Jericho and Owens get the time they deserve to contest the matchup I know they're capable of producing. Most assume Jericho will lose because he's on his way out, but he should be around through the Payback pay-per-view in late April, so it's actually unpredictable who walks out of this matchup with the title in tow.
3. Authors of Pain vs. #DIY vs. The Revival (Triple Threat Elimination NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
The NXT Tag Team Championship matches, to me, have become the most anticipated matchups at these TakeOver specials I would say since TakeOver: London in December 2015. Even with a shortage of teams, they continue to steal the show on the grand stage every single time. The pair of matches #DIY had with The Revival last year were absolutely incredible, and the matches #DIY has been having with Authors of Pain have been quite good as well. Thus, you can only imagine how exhilarating it will be to see all three tandems clash in one match at TakeOver: Orlando.
Not only that, but it will be an elimination-style match, so if Authors of Pain lose the straps, they would have to be pinned... which they haven't been up to this point. #DIY are money in chase mode, Authors of Pain are money as ruthless champions, and The Revival are just money, period. With enough time (which I'm positive they'll be granted), this match can be something special, and I would not be shocked if it was the best bout of WrestleMania weekend. They're determined to leave a lasting impression in the minds of fans on Saturday night and I have no doubt that they will do so.
2. Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Non-Sanctioned Match)
It's funny that the one match we all knew was happening at WrestleMania 33 as early as August wasn't confirmed for the card until this past Monday night. That's because Seth Rollins got hurt, but truth be told, that injury he sustained might have been more of a help to this feud than a hindrance. Originally, Rollins vs. Triple H was all about revenge, and it still is. But now, it's about more than that: Rollins has redemption on his mind as well, and he has been hitting it out of the park with his latest work as a rebellious, badass babyface.
Furthermore, HHH has to be given credit for the killer promos he has been cutting in Rollins' absence. The history these two have together would have been enough to sell me on the match, but everything they have done to build it up since January has merely added to my excitement for it. On Raw, it was made official that they will do battle in an Non-Sanctioned match, which promises to be a tremendous treat. Some of Triple H's best matches have come in that extreme environment, whereas sky is the limit for what Rollins could attempt to pull off.
1. Neville vs. Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
Words can not describe how disappointed I was to find out on Monday that Neville vs. Austin Aries for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship was being moved to the Kickoff show. Of course, not every match can occur on the main card, but why bump the one bout that most fans were looking forward to more than anything else? Again, it isn't as if the contest was cancelled all together, but these two deserve so much more than competing in front of a portion of the audience (people are still piling into the building at that point).
On the bright side, there's a chance they could receive more time on the Kickoff show and go all out. The Cruiserweight division has left a lot to be desired since September, but as Mr. Marceau said in his own article, it has been growing on me with Neville at the helm as its champion. It's so damn cool to see him getting a one-on-one match at WrestleMania along with Aries, who I never thought would make it past NXT. Perhaps being booted from the main card will motivate them to have an exceptional match, so exceptional that no one else can follow it. Either way, I'm highly anticipating this encounter and can't wait to see what they'll have in store for fans when they go one-on-one.