By John Napolitano
Seven months ago I wrote my inaugural John's Jargon column, which featured my predictions for, in my opinion, the hottest, no pun intended, pay-per-view of 2014, SummerSlam. When one revisits that iconic card, the first thing that stands out is that from top to bottom the night was stacked with high profile match after high profile match. From Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins squaring of in a lumberjack match, to Paige and AJ Lee furthering their celebrated rivalry, and all the way to John Cena losing to Brock Lesnar in dramatic fashion for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I challenge someone to find a more succinctly superb show in recent memory, but I digress. After the “Biggest Party of the Summer” concluded, this hashtag heel ended the night four for four in predictions. I’ll be the first one to admit that was not my best work in the prediction department; however, I consider it a testament to the shock value and entertainment quality of the phenomenal show we were given.
Fast-forward 283 days later and the WWE Universe is presented with an equally, if not more, promising card that is WrestleMania XXXI. The 2015 Road to WrestleMania has followed the trend of years past in that it’s had plenty of ups and its fair share of downs. Gone are the days, so it seems, of a full-fledged creative bull rush from the Royal Rumble to the “Showcase of the Immortals.” The Road to WrestleMania is complete with a lot more bumps and detours than is suitable for my taste. I don’t want to completely discredit this year’s build to WrestleMania. Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Paul Heyman, Triple H, and especially Sting have done an incredible job of hyping up WrestleMania XXXI. The card is shaping up to be one of the most memorable in recent years. The execution of each matchup will be instrumental in having the show go off without a hitch, but who will be on top of the mountain when the clock strikes midnight on March 29, 2015? Here are my predictions for the show of shows, WrestleMania XXXI.
The 2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
As far as the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, I’m less than thrilled that it’s making a return at WrestleMania XXXI. I assumed that the match was going to be special to WrestleMania XXX as a means of honoring Andre at the thirtieth installment of an event he helped build. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all in favor for giving as many people as possible a WrestleMania payday, and this is the perfect to way to get everyone on the card. My main issue with this bout is that it means absolutely nothing. Sure, a win’s a win, especially on the “Grandest Stage of them All.” But last year’s winner, Cesaro, gained absolutely no momentum after his victory. In fact, he lost traction and began to fade into obscurity.
If I’m correct, the trophy that was awarded to Cesaro was shattered the next night on Monday Night Raw, and the “Swiss Superman” hasn’t mentioned the incident since. Despite the obvious flaws with the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, it will be an advantageous means of calming down the crowd and preparing the WWE Universe for the next high profile match. I predict that we’ll see an entertaining encounter between The Miz and Damien Mizdow, a good showing from Curtis Axel, and the win from the “Big Guy,” Ryback.
Predicted Winner: Ryback
R-Truth vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Bad News Barrett in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Kicking off the show should be the multi-man Intercontinental Championship ladder match. This match will be key in setting the tone for the show and starting the night off on a high note. Expect stellar performances from Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, and Daniel Bryan, as they are always looking to steal the show. It’s fair to say that R-Truth and Luke Harper will put on some great action but are ultimately nonfactors in the potential title change. I would add Stardust to that list of nonfactors, but I foresee a possible angle where he wins the strap and battles over it with his brother, Goldust, in the coming months.
The final combatant to make mention of is the Intercontinental Champion and my pick to win, Bad News Barrett. My main reasoning for picking Barrett to successfully retain his title is that in this game of hot potato that the participants have been playing over the Intercontinental Championship in last several weeks, BNB has been highly overlooked. No one expects him to retain the strap. Add in the fact that he’s only held the gold for a little over two months, and he seems like an obvious favorite to me. Wade Barrett has yet to have a WrestleMania victory, much less a WrestleMania moment in his career. If he is to remain a valued member of the WWE roster, I suggest you give him one this Sunday.
Predicted Winner: Bad News Barrett
John Cena vs. Rusev for the United States Championship
One of the more personal matchups that is set to take place this Sunday is the newly turned mid-carder, John Cena, versus the “Bulgarian Brute” and United States Champion, Rusev. Many a mark claim that the outcome of this match is set in stone, and John Cena is, without a doubt, walking out of Levi’s Stadium with the United States Championship. More importantly, it appears that Cena may hand Rusev his first official loss by way of pin fall or submission. Tellingly enough, the same people who claim that Cena will be victorious on Sunday are the same people who didn’t give Brock Lesnar a chance last year against the Undertaker. Look how that turned out. I’m not saying that it’s completely out of the realm of possibility that John Cena defeats Rusev at WrestleMania XXXI.
If history has taught us anything it’s that John Cena is the perfect man to completely derail someone’s momentum and send them into obscurity (i.e. Umaga). This might come across as naïveté, but I just don’t believe that the shot callers of World Wrestling Entertainment would give the face of their company a pointless United States Title victory over a young, hungry Rusev. Cena’s at the point in his career where he has cemented his legacy as one of, if not, the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time. His current role has less to do with amassing victories on the grand stage and more to do with giving back to the young bucks of tomorrow. If the creative team steers clear of their short-term memory loss, they’ll remember that Bray Wyatt’s loss to Cena last year didn’t do his character any good. It would be even more detrimental to Rusev if he were to lose to Cena at this juncture. Plus, imagine the magic an undefeated Rusev could create with a certain “Beast Incarnate.” I predict that Rusev defeats John Cena and retains his United States Championship at WrestleMania XXXI.
Predicted Winner: Rusev
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton
The matchup that is going to steal the show, in my opinion, is the highly anticipated clash between the “Viper” Randy Orton and “Mr. Money in the Bank” Seth Rollins. These warriors have history dating back to June 2nd of last year when Rollins abandoned the S.H.I.E.L.D. and joined the ranks of the Authority. The iconic image of Triple H embracing both Orton and Rollins on that fateful night acted as a perfect ironical foreshadowing of the implosion that would take place later that year in November. Seth Rollins, with the help of the Authority, would turn on Randy Orton and take him out of action for three months. The footage of Rollins curb stomping the “Apex Predator” on the steel steps, as disturbing as it might be, was all it took to get the WWE Universe excited for their inevitable confrontation. When Orton returned at WWE Fastlane in February, everyone assumed that he would stop at nothing to get his hands on his assailant.
But he managed to lure Rollins in and gain his trust before ultimately flying of the hinges and decimating the “Undisputed Future of the WWE.” The beating that took place on Monday Night Raw when Orton finally pounced on Rollins was one of the most graphic scenes to ever be showcased on WWE programming. Seemingly, that was just an appetizer for the ever-hungry “Viper.” The only way to truly shut the mouth of the treacherous turncoat and suckling sellout is to pin him on the grand stage. These two talented technicians have undeniable chemistry. The in-ring action will be as smooth as it will be brutal. When WrestleMania XXXI is said and done, I predict Randy Orton will stand victorious over his double-crossing rival, Seth Rollins.
Predicted Winner: Randy Orton
Triple H vs. Sting
Without a shadow of a doubt, the program between the “Game” Triple H and the “Icon” Sting has been the best-built feud on the Road to WrestleMania. When Sting debuted in the WWE at the 2014 Survivor Series and cost Triple H his authority, pun intended, I, like many others, was not thrilled with the idea of them doing battle at WrestleMania. I was much more partial to the idea of Sting and Undertaker meeting at the show of shows in a picture-perfect dream match. It was still amazing to see Sting at Survivor Series, and I was just happy that he had finally made his way to the WWE.
When Sting debuted on Monday Night Raw this past January and assisted John Cena in sticking it to the Authority, I was on board with the idea of he and Triple H clashing at WrestleMania. After their physical encounter at WWE Fastlane, I could not wait to see these legends go toe to toe. The WWE Universe will be white hot for this match and for good reason. This program has not disappointed once on the Road to WrestleMania. I know better than to bet against the Stinger. I predict he’ll defeat Triple H in a phenomenal match.
Predicted Winner: Sting
AJ Lee & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
Many of you may not be expecting much with this Divas tag-team bout. Nothing in recent memory should give you any reason to be excited about a Divas match at WrestleMania. I’ve ordered every WrestleMania on pay-per-view (with the exception of WrestleMania XXVII) since WrestleMania XXIII in 2007. I can’t remember a single show where I have not gotten up to use the bathroom or get a snack when the women came on. I plan to change that this year. I will watch every second of this Divas match, as I predict that the action will be amplified tenfold at WrestleMania XXXI.
The hashtag Give Divas a Chance has been making its rounds on social media, and the McMahon regime has promised that the ladies will be given more action and more screen time, as they should be. These four women are extremely talented and have the potential to create magic in that squared circle. Since AJ Lee and Paige have always been a combustible tandem, I predict that the Bella Twins will come out victorious.
Predicted Winner: The Bella Twins
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
Who will be the “Face of Fear” when the final bell tolls? That’s a great question. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I can answer it. This has got to be the toughest match to predict on the card. I never thought I would see the day that the Undertaker would be defeated at WrestleMania, let alone make a return to the ring the following year. In a perfect world, the Undertaker would have retired after stealing the show with Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII and improving to 20-0 on the grand stage. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and all things must come to an end, even the undefeated streak of the “Phenom” at WrestleMania. Now that the “Deadman” is 21-1 at WrestleMania, there’s no telling what could happen when he takes on the “Eater of Worlds,” Bray Wyatt. Wyatt has done an impeccable job of hyping this match with no physicality and on his own, no less.
This is the first time in 15 years that the Undertaker has been absent from the Road to WrestleMania, but Bray has still managed to make their impending encounter feel equally as epic as any other match on the card. I have gained unlimited respect for Wyatt, as his promos and long-winded rants are legitimate works of art. Bray Wyatt has been on the role of his career, and back-to-back losses at WrestleMania could severely damage his character. The match itself won’t be a five-star classic, but it will host seamless storytelling from bell to bell. As much as I love Wyatt, I just can’t picture the Undertaker losing two years in a row. I’ve got the Undertaker reclaiming his yard at WrestleMania XXXI and beating the self-appointed “New Face of Fear,” Bray Wyatt.
Predicted Winner: The Undertaker
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
I don’t know if there has ever been a more controversially reached main event than the one presented at WrestleMania XXXI: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. Legions of fans have expressed their lack of excitement in seeing Roman Reigns, the newly turned singles star, compete in the main event of WrestleMania. This Sunday will be Roman Reigns’ third one-on-one match at a pay-per-view. He’s never spent as much as one second in the mid-card, much less held a mid-card title. Ever since the disbanding of the S.H.I.E.L.D., Roman Reigns has been groomed to be the next megastar of the WWE. Roman Reigns, a white meat babyface, won the 2015 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the biggest chorus of boos I’ve ever heard. If one takes all of these factors into account, it’s no wonder Reigns leaves a less than favorable taste in the mouths of the WWE Universe. Brock Lesnar has been on the role of his career over the last year. He’s defeated the Undertaker and John Cena one more than one occasion in dramatic fashion. Lesnar has never played the badass heel role so perfectly. He also just signed a multimillion-dollar contract extension with World Wrestling Entertainment, to many a fan’s delight. What’s not to like about the “Beast Incarnate?”
I have a feeling that the atmosphere will be very unusual in Levi’s Stadium this Sunday, as Brock Lesnar will likely reap the admiration of everyone in attendance. Roman Reigns will be lucky if he gets a pop at all. That’s been my biggest concern on this Road to WrestleMania; the man who may very likely dethrone Brock Lesnar isn’t widely loved or widely hated. The WWE Universe just feels indifferent towards him. It’s become status quo for the WWE Universe to sit on their hands during any segment having to do with Roman Reigns. The purpose of being an in-ring performer is to elicit a response from the audience, and he has difficulty doing that. I don’t hate Roman Reigns. I think he’s an extremely gifted athlete who would be much better off main-eventing WrestleMania XXXII. There’s no one to fault except for whoever decided that Roman Reigns was ready to close WrestleMania XXXI. I have thought of every possible outcome that could take place this Sunday. In my pondering, I came up with a scenario that might sound like a stretch at first; however, it’s as likely as any other ending to the “Showcase of the Immortals.”
I predict that somehow, someway Roman Reigns will best Brock Lesnar and claim the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. In a fit of rage, Brock Lesnar will decimate the new champ. Lesnar’s actions will be met by the music of a certain “Great One.” The Rock will come to Reigns’ aide and sideline the “Beast Incarnate.” Just as Roman Reigns begins to celebrate his title victory, cue the music of Seth Rollins. Rollins will come down to the ring and cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on the vulnerable champion. In a quick three-minute spar, Seth Rollins will pin Roman Reigns and become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The headlines will read, “Rollins Reigns Supreme.”
Predicted Winner: Roman Reigns