The road to wrESTlemania begins!

WrestleMania 37 logo.jpg

It is truly the best time of year for WWE fans. The Royal Rumble is in the books and we know who’s going to be challenging for the title at the biggest show of the year. Of course Mania of 2020 was one that I don’t think we will look back upon with much joy or fondness, not because of the show itself (which contained some great matches and moments across both nights) but more because it was at the start of what has been I think the worst year of many of our lives. In 2021 WrestleMania wont quite be ‘normal’ but we seem to be half way there in terms of what a WrestleMania will be like. And to be honest I’m almost already looking to 2022 and a return to AT&T Stadium in Dallas and over 100,000 fans in attendance once again. But anyway lets look at the road to this year’s two-night event in Tampa. The road to which began this past Sunday night with the Royal Rumble.


The 2021 Royal Rumble PPV

Roman Reigns Receives Unexpected WWE Royal Rumble Opponent

I think I speak for wrestling fans everywhere when I say if WrestleMania is the biggest show, the Royal Rumble is the fan’s favourite. Just by the nature of the Rumble matches themselves leads to it being a constant stream of surprises and big moments. And of course at the end we know half of our big championship match for the main PPV in a few months time. With this year’s show there was a quiet sense of optimism and excitement about some of the possibilities and things that COULD happen, but with the natural pessimism and fear (mainly Goldberg) that comes before any WWE show where they have to strap the rocket ship to WrestleMania to one man and one woman. I can speak for most this year though when I say the show as a whole was one to remember for all the right reasons, which in the ’empty arena’/pandemic era those shows have been few and far between. I think the biggest compliment I can give this show is that in years to come I’m not sure I’ll watch back a lot of the shows and moments that happened in this horrible time period, just because I wont want the memories attached from the time, but I’d think I’ll watch back this show, and particularly both rumbles, over and over and enjoy every moment.

The kickoff show saw Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler reclaim the Women’s tag titles from Charlotte and Raw Women’s Champion Asuka.

It went pretty much as I expected with Lacey distracting Flair enough to cost them the match, and the titles rightfully so changed hands. Asuka as champion going into Mania season didn’t need the tag titles as well, and it set up a few things ahead of the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Sound stuff.

WWE Royal Rumble 2021 results: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler win tag team titles  - Cageside Seats

The main show saw the most nerve-wracking 2 and a bit minutes of many WWE fans’ wrestling fandom for a long time. Goldberg challenging Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship OPENED the PPV proper!

Drew McIntyre (C) defeated Goldberg to retain the WWE Championship

Goldberg was wearing Brock Lesnar style shorts… or more like ones Triple H wore late 2003 to help his recovery with an injury… maybe that was the case this time too or maybe he just wanted to be comfier I don’t know. To be fair to the 54 year old his arms and body looked in tremendous shape. A headbutt and a spear from Drew before the bell, and Drew got sent into steps before a spear from Goldberg sent McIntyre through the barricade. A battle-worn Drew eventually got into the ring and then bell was rung, Drew hit a kick and then a Claymore for a 2 count (commentary noted that only Brock Lesnar before this had ever kicked out of the Claymore, now THATS a protected finisher). He missed a Claymore after as Goldberg moved and then hit a Spear, then another Spear but Drew kicked out at 2. Goldberg JUST about managed the Jackhammer, but thank god Drew kicked out! Goldberg went for a spear after but hit the turnbuckle as McIntyre moved… he then hit a big Claymore for the 1,2,3. Drew retains. I thought this was booked perfectly. I don’t know what next for Goldberg, but he did give props to Drew after which was cool, and the mutual respect was definitely there. Another HUGE W for McIntyre.

Next on the PPV Sasha Banks retained her SmackDown Women’s title in a fine match against Carmella.

Aside from the nasty bump she took face first this was one of Carmella’s best outings for a while. Banks rolls right on to (ideally, but I’ll explain more later) a big Mania title defence???

The women’s rumble followed that. I thought this was really fun, lots of people got chances to shine, and the finish… my word…

Bayley was number 1 (as I called) and Naomi returned at number 2 (she went on for another 47 minutes in a great showing). Belair was 3, and she continued her feud with Bayley. Billie Kay was 4 and she had a great comedy act in the early part where she would try and befriend each entrant after (I called this too, cause she’s tremendous). Billie eventually buddies up with her IIconic partner Peyton Royce, but soon gets eliminated by her new “friends” Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, who in turn both got eliminated by Royce which was fun. Rhea Ripley looked a real star in this rumble at 14… so of course at 15 had to be Charlotte Flair. Lacey Evans was 18 and immediately brawled with Charlotte. I really don’t know where this stuff with her and Ric is going… I can’t see that being the WrestleMania match for Charlotte but perhaps a few times in between to take Flair up to the big show time…? … Alicia Fox was 21 and we had her winning and then losing the 24/7 title (I love R-Truth but I’m so over the 24/7 title now to be honest). Lana came back at number 26 and her big spot was eliminating Nia Jax (Jax before that had eliminated her fellow tag team champion Shayna Baszler, with Shayna lasting at impressive 41 minutes). Alexa Bliss was number 27 and this was really… well weird… she came out in her FunHouse gimmick all happy and smiley, and she battered everyone in sight… then they all tried to gang up on her but she fended them off… then she looked to be setting up her “change” into her darker character, but as the lights were going down and she was transforming, Rhea Ripley just tossed her over the ropes and that was that… ok then… we were eventually left with a final 3 of, Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair.

And after Flair was eliminated we had pretty much everyone’s dream final 2 of Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley. Just over a year ago these 2 women had a match for the NXT Women’s title, now here they were as the final 2 in the Royal Rumble! This sequence between these two was widely praised after, with some even mentioning it in the same breath as the amazing mini-match when Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker finished off the 2007 rumble.

It was really great stuff and ended with Bianca sending Ripley over the ropes for the big win. She cut the most amazing, emotional and really genuine babyface promo in her post match interview. This really felt like a great moment, and that shot of her whipping her hair in signature fashion as the fireworks went off and with the big WrestleMania sign in the background… awesome stuff it really was. This felt like the right result. Bianca Belair is someone I’ve thought could be the future of the company since her time in NXT. She just has everything to be a star and has only improved on her already large skillset. We even spoke before on Zoom about how I said I thought Bianca could be as big as Becky Lynch or even bigger in terms of star power and reach to the wider population in years to come. But that’s all to be decided, for now let’s just celebrate and enjoy what a fine performer this woman is and applaud at what a great finish and moment this was. GOOD SHIT!!!

Roman Reigns then retained his Universal Championship against Kevin Owens in a wild last man standing match.

They went all over the arena and in other parts of the Tropicana Field venue that currently houses the Thunderdome. They did do a lot of spots but in matches like this you kind of need to to keep the flow going, these matches can be really hard to keep the excitement going but i enjoyed it. Always tough for any match that’s sandwiched between 2 rumbles but they did good. Roman marches on to a big defence at Mania as we all expected, what next for Owens I’m not as sure of…

Then it was finally time for the men’s Royal Rumble match. And if a match ever had big shoes to fill it was this one. The Men’s rumble last year I personally had as the best ever, and people as well were blown away by it. A masterpiece of pro wrestling. If that last year was 5 stars and I’d say this one was about 4&1/2 , so all in all it was pretty good.

Contrary to what was advertised it was Edge who came out number 1 and Randy Orton at number 2. They went at it right away picking up from where they left off last year with a really intense brawl. We had some hilarious stuff with Orton and Zayn, one of the main stories of the match slowly unfolded. Orton was slumped outside the ring and appeared to have some form of leg injury… eventually he was helped to the back and looked to be out the match for good. As I said this was a really fun rumble… Carlito made a surprise return (he looked like he’d put on A LOT of muscle).

Xavier Woods and Big E did stuff with Ali (Mustafa eliminates woods and E then eliminated Ali so that was cool), Damian Priest came in at 14 and had a really strong showing including eliminating number 18 KANE, Daniel Bryan was number 17 and he of course did stuff with former tag partner Kane which was great.

US Champion Bobby Lashley was number 22 and he came in on an absolute tear and really looked a star, 23 was The Hurricane and he recreated his spot where he attempts a double chokeslam (2002 it was Austin and HHH, 2021 was Lashley and Big E…) and it went the same way this time… and well last year it was number 21 was when we got out MOMENT… this year was number 24, and even though it would’ve been incredible with the pop a live crowd would’ve given him… number 24… CHRISTIAN!!! He looked in phenomenal shape and had a really good showing in this match.

Aj Styles was number 25. And as we all saw coming Omos was a big factor, saving Styles a few times from elimination whilst also getting into it with Big E. The Messiah Seth Rollins returned at number 29, and finally Braun was 30. Strowman had a moment that really made me laugh when he picks up Styles, and goes to throw him out only to see Omos ready to catch him… so Braun runs quickly over to another side of the ring and chucks AJ over the ropes on another side to Omos. In what was a bit of a shock Seth eliminated Bryan kinda as if Bryan was just another guy… ah well… we eventually had Seth trying to persuade Braun to help him against Edge and Christian. Braun didn’t agree and eventually Rollins got out Christian, before Edge got out Braun and Rollins and looked to have won the match…

But of course back came Orton, RKO! But as he went to throw Edge out it was reversed… and…

So 10 years to the day of his first Rumble match win, Edge does it again. What a story this is. I’m sure you all know by now but seeing him come back last year and come back again this year… and to WIN it… amazing.

I came away from this show in a great mood. I thought it a great show. And in terms of building and looking ahead to WrestleMania the fact we will have Bianca Belair and Edge in two of the featured matches is really exciting stuff. I for one can’t wait already!!!


We had a couple of interesting reports regarding the status of two of the biggest names possible…

Firstly John Cena appears to have put the brakes on any possibility it would be possible for him to appear at WrestleMania. He was quoted as saying “Given the quarantine regulations, if I were to leave Canada, upon return I would have to quarantine for another two weeks. Essentially, that would shut production down. Strictly based on the letter of the law right now, there is no logistical way I can be there. We film now until July… It’s very difficult to say because I know it’s going to be disappointing for a lot of people, but according to the letter of regulation right now, there is no mathematical way I can be at WrestleMania this year”. I guess taking this on face value it’s a bummer, but a couple of things to consider… firstly this is of course wrestling where ANYTHING can happen, secondly Cena is speaking of the Covid rules and regulations as they are right now… there is a long time still until Mania. Things change all the time as we know, so who knows. I do know that Cena has a very big role in the show he is filming so shooting without him for the time he’d need to be away for Mania would be tricky sure… who knows…

Secondly as we know Becky Lynch recently became a mother, and the dream would be she comes back in time for the show she headlined two years ago… but Dave Meltzer and a number of sites reported that she would be back “soon” . I speculated that maybe she’ll be the host of Mania? And ease her into a proper return. It would be difficult enough to put a date on when a new Mum would be able to return. I guess her being a mega fit athlete helps the likelihood of her coming back sooner, but in today’s world you have to think of the risks as well. We’d all love her back sure, but let’s hope it’s done in the safest and right way when Becky is ready.


Monday Night Raw – February 1st 2021

The main headlines from the post Rumble Raw were the confrontation between the WWE Champion and the Royal Rumble winner… and a shocking/not so suprising turn…

Sheamus and Drew later basically made a future title match official. I think this will be a feud for Drew to take him up to Mania and not for the main show, with all due respect to Sheamus I think McIntyre needs a bigger match. For the time being given their history we should be set for a great time of promos and confrontations, and for those who saw the Drew stuff on the network will know there’s a lot of backstory to delve into with these two long time associates.

Elsewhere Riddle was basically screwed out of his US title opportunity against Lashley. I think that’ll be a PPV match in the not so distant future.

Bad Bunny appeared on Miz Tv. Now I’ll be honest, before rumble weekend I didn’t have much knowledge of the guy, but to my ignorance… turns out he’s one of the biggest Latino musical artists going, so him being in WWE is a huge deal. He performed his song on the rumble PPV (you gotta see Booker T in the video and during his rumble performance), and he also did some stuff with both Miz and Morrison during the rumble show and match and they followed that up here…

So WWE were very clever here. Attaching a big mainstream star to a new guy to the brand. And of course Priest got the upper hand on Miz and Morrison with Bad Bunny besides him.

Elsewhere he had Woods and Retribution keep their thing going, Benjamin and Cedric of the Hurt Business just about retained the Raw tag titles against Lucha House Party, and bizarrely…

Yeah… Naomi and Lana are now a tag team and are the number 1 contenders for the tag titles… ok then…

Jeff Hardy and the returning Carlito got a tag win. It appears Carlito is being trialled as a backstage producer alongside a possible part time in ring role (similar to how MVP made his way back in to WWE this time last year).

To finish off the show we finally had a conclusion to the Bliss – Cross story…

And then in the main event, we had what looks to be a conclusion to another long term story as Edge and Randy Orton faced off ‘one final time’…

So what now for Edge? Well… I’ll get onto that. But with Bliss doing her thing it only adds to speculation that HE is coming back, and he is not done with Randy Orton…


After Raw some very interesting and maybe surprising reports came out… I read (before the Rumble) that WWE had decided on what the Roman Reigns match would be at WrestleMania… Apparently that’s going to be EDGE! Wow… I was almost sure it’d be Drew, but Edge vs Roman is blockbuster for sure! I’ve no idea who you’d have go over, I can see good reasons for and against each bit if that’s the match then I’d be all for it!

It also appears that Christian hasn’t been in his last hurrah after all. Reports that he’s going to be a part time guy now after being quietly cleared to return to in-ring competition the week prior to the Rumble. He looked brilliant in the rumble match so I can’t wait to see what he does going forward.

A bizarre one now given he would go on to be back for SmackDown, although he didn’t wrestle, but Jey Uso (who I figured would have a key role in the rumble) wasn’t in the 30-man showpiece after he wasn’t apparently medically cleared.


Wednesday night came NXT… and after some teasing on Twitter it was soon confirmed that EDGE would be making an appearance on the Black and Gold brand…. his appearance did not disappoint as with an appearance on SmackDown already confirmed to be coming up, Edge followed The Undertaker 2007 route of confronting all 3 possible champions he could choose to face at WrestleMania…


So no Rhea Ripley appearances after the rumble on any of the 3 tv shows… but she IS now a main roster superstar. It’s been LONG overdue, and I think her rumble outing shows wherever she ends up (ideally Raw) she’s going to be a top star.


Friday Night SmackDown – February 5th 2021

SmackDown kicked off this week with Roman and his cohorts (Heyman and Jey Uso) coming out and he cut a promo on Edge, but Kevin Owens came out also so again we had a case of the champion dealing with the winner of the royal rumble and another challenger…

Elsewhere Dominik Mysterio beat Corbin with help from his dad. Perhaps this will cause some dissension between the two, maybe Dominik will want to be his own man… or maybe they’ll forget all that and they’ll end up winning the tag titles, which I’d think would be a route they’ll go down eventually…

Cesaro beat Daniel Bryan in a great ‘rasslin match. Another L for Bryan to follow a mini theme in recent weeks…

Given people had gone earmarked as a potential rumble winner with talk of him becoming part time fairly soon it’s interesting and I guess make sense he’s now putting over people often, but let’s hope it’s not every time else it’ll start to mean less. Bryan and Cesaro showed mutual respect after the match so this could be leading or be a Cesaro face turn…

Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks teased a mania match and AGAIN we had rumble winner – champion – current challenger in a segment…

SmackDown Tag champions Ziggler and Roode beat Otis and Chad Gable. My god they’ve really got to make these tag titles on both shows mean a hell of a lot more. Often I forget who the champions are to be honest…

Seth Rollins, after appearing in the rumble match, makes his return to SmackDown next week… which I’d hope might have something to do with the main event match of Friday’s show…

Big E retained the intercontinental championship in a fun three way with Sami Zayn and Apollo Crews. Now (and he eluded to such on Talking Smack as well), he’s regularly had matches with both these guys for a little while now and hopefully now he’s won again it’ll be it for them. Nothing wrong with Zayn or Crews I just want to see new people mix it with the great Big E. And he really is great isn’t he?

If you want a tip for the winner of the rumble in 12 months time, I think there are many worse bets than Big E.

The final segment of an amazing week of WWE TV saw rumble winner Edge finally have it out with Universal Champion Roman Reigns. In my opinion (regardless of what the internet says) they’ve teased on TV that he’ll pick Roman more than any of the other two champions, and it looked like we’d get a proper answer from Edge… until… Kevin Owens showed he’s not done with Roman Reigns just yet…

Again I don’t know we need another Owens vs Roman match where we know who’s going to win, but I’m sure they don’t have much left to take us to Mania so perhaps it’s better Edge announces its Roman sooner rather than later.


WrestleMania Card…???….

So it seems we already have some subtle, and some not so subtle hints as to what the card for the two nights of WrestleMania might look like. And whilst I made some predictions before the Royal Rumble, I think the last week has given us some clearer indications… so what’s some of the matches we may see then:…

  • Bianca Belair vs Sasha Banks (c) for the SmackDown Women’s championship
  • Edge vs Roman Reigns (c) for the Universal Championship
  • Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt (in some form… likely involving The Fiend, and possibly a FireFly Funhouse match…?)

These all seem locks for Mania. And would all be huge matches and make sense. I’m going to guess Edge vs Roman is the main event (of night 2) and I would love if Bianca’s title match was the main event of night 2…

Elsewhere some possible mania matches…

  • Big E (c) vs ??? For the Intercontinental Championship

Possibly Seth Rollins might return and make a claim for this spot when he returns next week. Maybe even Cesaro or Shinsuke Nakamura or Daniel Bryan??? There’s a lot of talent in and around that sort of scene on SmackDown right now, wouldn’t shock me if we had another multi man Ic title ladder match that, as past Mania shows have given us, could be a recipe for a classic.

You would have to think also the women’s tag titles will be on the card? At the moment with Nia and Shayna the champions, Lana and Naomi number 1 contenders, a women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team classic tournament over on NXT with the winners getting a title shot going on right now, and then teams like The Riott Squad over on SmackDown… there are plenty of would be challengers around right now… but with a couple of months still to go any of them, or a completely different team, could be in the spot come the show of shows…

The Raw Women’s Championship is an interesting one… currently held by Asuka, who recently lost the tag titles with Charlotte, who’s in a feud with Lacey Evans but also had a thing with Rhea Ripley at the royal rumble, who eliminated Alexa Bliss, who beat Asuka clean a few weeks ago and then had her title match end with an RKO from Randy Orton… lots and lots of different parts in this at the moment… I’m sure it’ll all make sense in time for WrestleMania…

You would have to think Bobby Lashley and the US title will be on the card, Christian (who is going to be part time apparently so if he’s gone wrestle again you’d think he’ll be at Mania surely?), the NXT Championship has been talked about as being on the WrestleMania card this year (a perfect place for Balor vs Karrion Kross maybe?), then there’s the Raw tag titles, the SmackDown tags, maybe we see a return of both men’s and women’s battle royals?, then there’s what you might do with Goldberg?, with Bad Bunny?, with Becky Lynch if she’s able to appear?…

And finally then there’s the small matter of Drew McIntyre and the WWE Championship… now of course they’ve set up Sheamus as a challenger, but given they shot the angle already I can’t see that being the WrestleMania match… I mean sure a great story between the two as I’ve said, but I think that’ll just be to take Drew to the next two PPVs up until the main show. After that… well Keith Lee has lost to Drew already, and he’s currently (I think) quarantining… but he’s a name… elsewhere looks like The Fiend is still pre occupied with Randy Orton… AJ Styles has had his shot… The Miz has the MITB case still of course… but I just can’t see that going anywhere or with The Miz being WWE Champion in 2021 (I could be wrong and maybe I’ll have to eat my words but…)… so given Drew has had quite the year as THE guy… and if Edge really is going to go after Roman Reigns instead… who for Drew McIntyre??? Well I think after Mania you can build up a few guys for the future like Priest, like Riddle, do a draft and have people like Owens maybe … there’s a tonne of names… The Fiend vs Drew is a huge money match for the future for me, but you have to round off this Randy Orton rivalry at WrestleMania for me… so who???? Well I might be wrong, and there’s been little indication it could or will go this way… but if I’m booking WrestleMania, I’m making the call right now, getting whatever travel/quarantining rules we have to adhere to sorted, making sure the guy is in tip top shape, and offering him whatever he wants money wise. For me, a match that could be a WrestleMania world title match with no or minimal build, the rematch we would’ve at SummerSlam if COVID wasn’t a thing… the only opponent that could get everyone to unite in favour of our hero Drew McIntyre…

Image result for brock lesnar gif

Josh.

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