By John Napolitano
The prediction department beckons, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time to return to the universe of the unknown, the chasm of confusion. WrestleMania XXXII is upon us, and yes, this is the 32nd installment of the event despite what WWE would like you to believe. The Roman numerals are still real to me dammit!
This year’s Road to WrestleMania has followed suit of last year’s -- uninspiring. In WWE’s defense, they have been playing shorthanded in a crucial period of the WWE calendar with a disturbing amount of injuries plaguing the locker room. The man who hasn’t missed a WrestleMania since his debut on The Grandest Stage of Them All, John Cena, will not be competing under the bright lights this year. And the man of the hour at WrestleMania XXXI, Seth Rollins, will not be in attendance in Dallas tonight. Despite this year’s lackluster build to The Show of Shows, WrestleMania XXXII still has the potential to deliver in every department.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
This seven-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title is the perfect example of why less is more and how impulse booking is ineffective. Through all of this metal and mayhem, there is a story to be told to between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn -- a story that is being neglected. Owens and Zayn have been at odds since KO’s debut in December 2014. Due to Zayn’s injury last May, their rivalry has not been fully chronicled on WWE programming, but the rivalry is present nonetheless. These characters have an immense hatred for one another, and given their history, a one-on-one matchup between them at WrestleMania could be amazing.
Instead, WWE is ripping a page out of last year’s playbook and throwing together a mid-card mash up. It os as if they think the WWE Universe is so mindless that we can only be entertained by foreign object-filled spotfests rather than narrative driven singles matchups. Nevertheless, the match will be car crash-entertaining and rile up Dallas for the rest of the show. I predict Owens will clear the competition and retain his Intercontinental Championship gold. With any luck, he and Zayn will battle on to Payback and kick off their proper main roster feud.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
For the third consecutive year, 20 directionless WWE Superstars will battle for the ceremonial Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy at The Showcase of the Immortals. The concept of honoring the late Eighth Wonder of the World at a show that he helped build is heartwarming. The unfortunate truth behind the memorial Battle Royal is the WWE Universe has no vested interest in the combatants, and even worse, there is no motivation for winning the match. The winner gets his name engraved on the prize and is swept back into the mid-card shuffle. If the superstar who comes out on top were granted an Intercontinental Championship match at Payback, the WWE Universe’s interest would amplify twofold. It is with a sheer lack of interest that I’ve got Kane surviving 19 other WWE Superstars in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Match of the night alert. “The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles and “The Best in the World” Chris Jericho will tangle in the fourth installment of their rivalry at AT&T Stadium, and the WWE Universe is as excited for this clash as the first time they competed against one another on Monday Night Raw two months ago. This phenomenal feud is as good of an example of great storytelling as any other rivalry in recent memory. The in-ring action, Styles’ character development, Jericho’s slow-burning heel turn, and the commitment to the program make their match at WrestleMania must-see. There is no better way to have introduced Styles to the WWE Universe than with this white-hot rivalry.
In this social media age, feuds are often concluded prematurely due to a universally short attention span, but the fact that this program is being drawn out in order to tell a competent narrative is so refreshing. Who wouldn’t want to see Styles vs. Jericho V in an “I Quit” Match at Payback? If that were the game plan, it would be logical to see Jericho walk out of Dallas with win, tying the series at two a piece, but because this is presumably the final chapter of their rivalry, I predict Styles will be victorious in his WrestleMania debut.
Winner: AJ Styles
The New Day vs. The League of Nations
I realize The League of Nations is composed of four extremely talented individuals, but their involvement with the hottest stable in WWE does little to excite me. If there was a spot on the WrestleMania XXXII card for a Ladder match, this should have been the place. The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos in a Triangle Ladder Match for the WWE Tag-Team Championships would have been exceedingly more exciting than this match.
Nonetheless, Dallas will be hugely receptive to The New Days’ humorous antics, and that alone will make this match entertaining enough to tune in. When the final bell tolls, I foresee The New Day coming out on top of this one.
Winners: The New Day
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar in a No Holds Barred Street Fight
The Lunatic Fringe faces his biggest challenge to date at WrestleMania in the form of the “Sultan of Suplex City” Brock Lesnar. The electricity in AT&T Stadium will reach an emphatic crescendo when Dean Ambrose and Lesnar’s entrance music hits. These are, arguably, the two hottest stars in WWE, and a big fight-feel will fall over Dallas as WWE’s biggest underdog and WWE’s biggest beast lock horns. There is no doubt that Ambrose is at an extreme disadvantage, but the No Holds Barred Street Fight stipulation gives him a fighting chance. We’ve seen hardcore legends Mick Foley and Terry Funk endorse the Warden of the Ambrose Asylum in recent weeks -- raising his stock.
At the end of the day, Lesnar has nothing to gain from defeating Ambrose, but Ambrose has everything to gain from pinning Lesnar. If history has told us anything, it’s that when the lights are on bright Ambrose comes up short. Whether it has been against Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, or Triple H, Ambrose has yet to attain that career-confirming victory. A loss to The Conqueror at WrestleMania could do irreparable damage to the perception of Ambrose. The lawless nature of this matchup does protect Lesnar in defeat, but this bout is The Lunatic Fringe’s to win.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the Divas Championship
Prepare yourselves for possibly the greatest women’s match in WrestleMania history. For the first time in years, the Divas Championship will be contended in a storyline-driven matchup. The WWE Universe has grown so accustomed to pointless multi-diva contests and random tag-team bouts at The Show of Shows that they will not be prepared for the incredible in-ring narrative told by Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks.
The faces of the Divas Revolution will do battle in a Triple Threat match and quite possibly steal the show in the process. They are so familiar with each other and have such undeniable chemistry that the next match will most certainly have a tough act to follow. Expect a fantastic 15-minute match complimented by a series of “This is awesome” chants. I predict that Sash Banks will walk out of Dallas with the Divas Championship in tow.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
In what is one of the most controversial matches in WrestleMania history, Roman Reigns will vie for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against “The Game” Triple H in a No Disqualification match. The WWE Universe has made it abundantly clear over the last year that Reigns is not their hero. His overly rehearsed dialogue, limited in-ring arsenal, and lightning-fast push to the top have not resonated with the masses. In yet, WWE continues to insist that he is the next top babyface. It is hard to ignore the negativity that Reigns has received and defend WWE’s booking decisions, but they have one final opportunity to right all of their wrongs.
The Rock’s undefined role at WrestleMania this year could be a clue to a potential Reigns heel turn. The Great One is not hosting the show and he is certainly not competing in a match. For that reason, the WWE Universe can expect him to run in unexpectedly. What better match for The Rock to interfere in than a match featuring the villainous Triple H and his cousin Roman Reigns.
I may be going out on a limb, but I contend that we will see The Game’s best friend Shawn Michaels plant a superkick on Reigns during the match. Before Haitch can cover a prone Reigns, The Rock’s music will blast throughout AT&T Stadium. The Great One will run down to the ring, sideline HBK, drop Triple H with a Rock Bottom, and finish the champ off with The People’s Elbow, setting up cousin Roman to hit a thunderous Spear. Reigns will pin Triple H and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. During his post-match celebration, Reigns will surprise the world, hitting The Rock with a Superman Punch and following it up with a Spear. Reigns’ heel turn will be complete, and he and The Rock will go one-on-one at SummerSlam for the WWE Title.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker Inside Hell in a Cell
It is the fate of Monday Night Raw vs. the career of The Deadman. If Shane McMahon can somehow vanquish The Undertaker in The Phenom’s yard, he will take control of WWE’s flagship show. Simultaneously, if The Lord of Darkness falls short of victory, he will have wrestled his last match. This match, for all intents and purposes, is a prediction article’s worst nightmare. The landscape of WWE needs a drastic change in the form of Shane McMahon, but who in their right mind can explain The Undertaker losing on a stage where is nearly perfect to a non-wrestler? To say this match is unpredictable is a gross understatement, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.
WWE knows better than to tease its audience with promises of change. The Authority has been in power for almost three years, the market for pro-wrestling is expanding with shows like Lucha Underground, and there is simply a lack of stardom in WWE on its current trajectory. If they don’t change the formula soon, WrestleMania XXXII could be a swan song of sorts. If Shane McMahon were brought in promising positive changes to the company just to lose at WrestleMania and not make good on his word, WWE would be shooting itself in the foot. Unfortunately, it is more likely that The Undertaker wrestles his last match in Dallas, going 22-2, than WWE going back on its pledge for revolution and reform. I do not know how WWE will pull it off, but I predict that Shane McMahon will defeat The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania XXXII.
Winner: Shane McMahon
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