Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Welcome to the WrestleMania Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, March 27th 2017. As it’s a busy week ahead (and a very busy weekend), this week’s preview is a bumper edition covering all the key events around WrestleMania and the days that follow. Let’s get to it!
Monday, March 27th – Raw
Key points: The go-home Raw for WrestleMania takes place tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will both appear, while Triple H will be bringing a ‘Hold Harmless Agreement’ for Seth Rollins to sign if the latter wants his WrestleMania match. Rollins tweeted that he’ll be in Philadelphia.
Sick. Stranded. Hobbled. But I'll be at #Raw tonight with a final decision. See ya soon Philly.
— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) March 27, 2017
What to expect: Goldberg still hasn’t paid Lesnar back for the F-5 he suffered a few weeks ago, so all roads – and maybe I’m just being optimistic here – surely lead to a pull-apart brawl to send us off to WrestleMania with a hot crowd and a promise of fireworks? Meanwhile, Seth Rollins will obviously sign the ‘Hold Harmless Agreement’ for what will effectively be an unsanctioned WrestleMania match against Triple H. Raw’s other matches for Sunday will get a final lick of paint, while the WWE.com preview is making a particularly big deal over the vacant General Manager’s position after Mick Foley’s departure. Appointing a new GM (or a return to a Stephanie McMahon reign of terror) may therefore turn out to be a central theme of the show.
Following the show, there’s a new episode of WWE 24 on the WWE Network, looking at the night-after-WrestleMania Raw last year in Dallas.
Tuesday, March 28th – SmackDown Live & 205 Live
Key points: The last stop for Tuesday nights before WrestleMania is at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Bray Wyatt wrestles Luke Harper in a non-title match.
What to expect: The WWE Champion should win his announced non-title match to go into WrestleMania looking strong, though Randy Orton interference shouldn’t be ruled out. Will the rest of The Wyatt Family (Harper and Erick Rowan, who is reported to be cleared to return) also be a factor on Sunday? Meanwhile, the Tag Team Championships seem to be operating in a parallel dimension; after a few weeks of not being on screen at all, American Alpha swiftly lose a non-title match and then an even better title match to The Usos, two weeks before the year’s biggest show. One suspects some announcement on a contractual rematch may be made this week. Otherwise the blue brand continues to build its matches for Orlando and AJ Styles continues to get into the arena surprisingly easily for a guy who was fired.
Following Talking Smack on the WWE Network, the full version of Corey Graves’ interview with Kurt Angle will finally air.
Wednesday, March 29th – NXT
Key points: Announced for this week’s episode of NXT is Kassius Ohno vs Elias Samson in a ‘Loser Leaves NXT’ match, a triple threat match between Akam, Johnny Gargano and Dash Wilder, and an appearance by tag team Heavy Machinery.
What to expect: Regrettably, it’s not too hard to join the dots with the likely consequences of the Loser Leaves NXT match. Muscly man with a well-established gimmick drawing huge heat faces a guy who’s just arrived back on the developmental brand after a previous false start, in a match recorded over a month ago but screening just in time for post-WrestleMania call-ups (there having been no announcements of anybody’s release from the company in the intervening time). Hmm. A positive word here also for Heavy Machinery, who in their previous couple of appearances look like they could bring something unique and interesting to NXT’s illustrious tag division in the near future.
Thursday, March 30th – Axxess opens
Key points: WrestleMania Axxess, WWE’s four-day fan festival, opens today at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
What to expect: The annual Axxess event starts on Thursday, which means we can expect WWE’s media channels – YouTube, Twitter and so on – to be saturated with bits and pieces from the Orange County Convention Center. Those going can expect the usual mix of autograph signings, pop-up merchandise shops and exhibition matches. Those matches are the intriguing part, with independent UK promotions PROGRESS and ICW being explicitly featured and Hideo Itami continuing his return from injury. You can check out the schedule of matches at WWE.com. Meanwhile, on the WWE Network, Peter Rosenberg will host an episode of Bring it to the Table from the site of Sunday’s big show.
Friday, March 31st – Hall Of Fame
Key points: The first in a series of nights at the Amway Center, Orlando FL, over WrestleMania weekend is the 2017 Hall of Fame ceremony, starting at 8pm EST (1am BST) on the WWE Network with a one-hour ‘red carpet’ show beforehand if that’s your kind of thing. Here’s the list of inductees as announced by WWE.com:
- Kurt Angle (inducted by John Cena)
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (inducted by Jim Cornette)
- Teddy Long (inducted by JBL & Ron Simmons)
- Diamond Dallas Page (inducted by Eric Bischoff)
- Beth Phoenix (inducted by Natalya)
- Ravishing Rick Rude (inducted by Ricky Steamboat)
- Eric LeGrand (Warrior Award; inducted by Dana Warrior)
What to expect: Kurt Angle leads another well-deserving group of inductees, including a couple of the usual how-are-they-not-in-already figures in Rick Rude and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Recognition by WWE in the Hall of Fame may not always be quick in coming, but to their credit it does mean that every year’s class continues to feel like a big deal. Angle’s induction will be a welcome homecoming for one of the all-time greats and also gives John Cena a chance to flex his ever-growing entertainment muscles. It should be another great event for long-term fans, and any indication given by Angle that he’s far from finished in the ring would be very well received.
Top of my personal wish list for the ceremony (apart from the Angle thing) is Teddy Long being escorted to the stage by a couple of beautiful women, seeing Farrooq and Bradshaw already standing there and forgetting his speech as his internal monologue loses a battle against the instinct to make a tag team match. That, and the nagging possibility of Jim Cornette going off-message.
Additional to the announced main list of inductees, it’s being reported WWE will also welcome Luther Lindsay, Rikidozan, Farmer Burns, Toots Mondt, June Byers, Betty Grable, Dr. Jerry Graham and Haystacks Calhoun as Legacy inductees.
Saturday, April 1st – NXT TakeOver: Orlando
Key points: We’re back at the Amway Center again for NXT’s big WrestleMania moment. TakeOver starts at 8pm EST (1am BST) and is preceded by a 30-minute Kickoff show. Officially announced matches at the time of writing are as follows:
- NXT Championship: Bobby Roode (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura
- NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs Ember Moon
- NXT Tag Team Championships: The Authors of Pain (c) vs #DIY vs The Revival (elimination match)
- Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Aleister Black
What to expect: We should probably know not to be surprised by now but, despite having their roster depleted by call-ups since this time last year in Dallas, NXT has rebuilt and promises to deliver another solid show in its home territory. Expect a hot crowd to gobble it up.
In truth, the three-way elimination tag match could probably last for one of the show’s two billed hours and nobody watching would feel bored or short-changed on the rest of the card. That match should be one of the best of the weekend and will bring the substance, while a championship rematch between Roode and Nakamura brings the spectacle in bucketloads. It’s also to be commended that, in a division which lost Bayley, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella in the past year, we’ve managed to save Asuka vs Ember Moon for a truly special occasion. The main roster – Raw especially – could learn lessons.
Additional to the announced matches seems the virtual certainty of a four-on-four bout between SAnitY and Tye Dillinger, No Way Jose, Roderick Strong and Ruby Riot (the former Heidi Lovelace). TakeOver shows usually run with five full matches on the card, so an addition of some sort is likely. Unless that tag titles match really is going an hour.
Sunday, April 2nd – WrestleMania 33
Key points: The biggest show on the wrestling calendar goes down at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando FL (more widely known as the Citrus Bowl), starting at 7pm Eastern and local time, midnight BST, and is preceded by a two-hour Kickoff show. The confirmed card at time of writing looks like this:
- WWE Championship: Bray Wyatt (c) vs Randy Orton
- Universal Championship: Goldberg (c) vs Brock Lesnar
- The Undertaker vs Roman Reigns
- Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles
- Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs Charlotte Flair vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
- United States Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs Kevin Owens
- John Cena & Nikki Bella vs The Miz & Maryse
- Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs Baron Corbin
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs everyone available from the SmackDown women’s roster
- WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs Austin Aries
- Raw Tag Team Championships: The Club (c) vs Enzo & Big Cass vs Cesaro & Sheamus
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H should be official tonight and Smackdown Tag Titles could be on the line.
What to expect: The Citrus Bowl is an open stadium, so let’s deal with the environs first. One week out, the weather forecast is set fair; 87ºF (that’s around 30ºC for those of us watching abroad) with little cloud expected and an 8% chance of rain. Sunset in Orlando is scheduled for 7.44pm local time. When WWE was last in the stadium for WrestleMania 24, the weather was overcast and it only got properly dark around fifteen minutes after sundown. We might therefore expect anybody whose entrances benefit, theatrically speaking, from darkness – chiefly Undertaker, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, Sheamus, Finn Balor and Naomi (if those last two appear) – not to wrestle in the first hour.
Who’s wrestling at the other end of the show seems easier to predict, with most people assuming the Universal Championship match between Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will go on last. It’s likely to be quick, intense and – unless news leaks before Sunday of a new contract for Goldberg – should end in a Lesnar victory. The body of the show looks likely to rest primarily on the WWE and United States Championship matches, Undertaker vs Reigns and Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles.
John Cena is on the undercard (whatever the poster might make you think) in an intergender tag match, while the other announced title matches have plenty of appeal. Disappointingly – although we must’ve come some way if two women’s matches without a sniff of a celebrity guest is disappointing – both brands’ women’s divisions have each been crammed into a one-fall-to-a-finish contest, but they’ll be on a mission to steal the show for the second consecutive year. It’s also expected for that unsanctioned bout between Seth Rollins and Triple H to be added to the card this week.
Otherwise the lineup looks pretty much complete, with the rest of the roster being funneled into the battle royal. The only other obvious possibilities are a contractual title rematch between SmackDown tag champs The Usos and American Alpha and something involving the rest of the cruiserweight division – though both would have to be considered contenders for the Kickoff show at best. The New Day will be the ‘hosts’ of WrestleMania, which will likely involve them opening proceedings with a promo and then not a huge amount else afterwards.
For anyone who keeps an eye on attendance figures, WWE quoted 74,635 for WrestleMania 24. The Citrus Bowl has undergone some renovations since 2008 – but that’s probably immaterial and we might expect WWE to quote a figure above 75,000 on the night, regardless of how many they actually pack in.
As always, John and the team will be here at the end of the week with a full match-by-match preview.
Monday, April 3rd – Raw
Key points: Back to the Amway Center for the annual night-after-WrestleMania Raw and its now-traditional crazy happenings.
What to expect: The Raw after WrestleMania is the closest WWE has to a proper season premiere, following as it does the most climactic of WWE’s periodical climactic events. That makes traditional previews a lot tougher and less essential than usual (hence this week’s omnibus edition), but there are a few things we can expect with some certainty.
Firstly, put the house on Michael Cole going in hard with the “don’t adjust your set, the WWE Universe always cheer and boo at the wrong times on the Raw after WrestleMania” line from the outset – especially if a victorious Roman Reigns is booked to come out and cut a babyface promo. There may also be some debuts from NXT – Shinsuke Nakamura is considered by many to be next in line and a hot tip to appear on main roster programming this week. Also, if not already resolved on the final Raw before WrestleMania, there may be a new General Manager and a ‘free agent’ AJ Styles to factor in.
Tuesday, April 4th – SmackDown Live & 205 Live
Key points: The final night of the weekend at the Amway Center will be for SmackDown Live and 205 Live.
What to expect: Though not enjoying the kind of billing the previous night’s Raw gets, this episode of SmackDown Live should also offer up a raucous atmosphere and a few notable events. The same certainly goes for the possibility of some debuts, especially if AJ Styles is gone from Tuesday nights.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of a new cycle begins for the cruiserweight division outside of the title picture on 205 Live, or if they’ll effectively just pick up where they left off from the pre-WrestleMania programming. At the least, the remnants of the weekend’s pilgrims to Orlando should give them plenty of love; this episode may have the hottest crowd in 205 Live’s short history, which is nice.
Wednesday, April 5th – NXT
Key points: Even if you’ve been stuffed to bursting point with wrestling over the past few days, there’s always room for a slice of NXT as dessert…..
What to expect: A breathless week-and-a-bit ends with an episode of the yellow brand, which tradition suggests will centre around the dark matches from TakeOver. Given the names missing from that card, Kassius Ohno, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are among the more likely to figure. In Dallas last year, a lot of the NXT matches at Axxess made it to broadcast too – for a few weeks in fact – so there’s a possibility one or two of those may also be tossed into the mix. The next set of Full Sail tapings take place this very same evening (no doubt the end of a long week in Orlando for some hardcore fans), so we’re likely to be back to business as usual on the following week’s episode.
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s less pressing WrestleMania-themed talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- Which match do you think will have the longest running time at WrestleMania?
- Which match do you think will be the best of the weekend, from either WrestleMania or TakeOver?
- Who are you picking to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal?
There’ll be no formal preview next Monday, in among all the reports and fallout from the year’s big show. Until then, strap in, enjoy WrestleMania weekend and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.