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March 31, 2016

WWE WrestleMania 32 preview: The Undertaker and Shane McMahon enter hell in Dallas

Wrestling WWE
033116_Wrestlemania_WWE WWE/Twitter

WrestleMania comes to us from Texas for the third time this weekend.

There’s a lot riding on this year’s WrestleMania for WWE. Emanating from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas this coming Sunday, an estimated 100,000 people are expected to converge on what could be the biggest WrestleMania ever attendance-wise.

As of now, the card doesn’t look as great as we’ve come accustomed to WrestleMania cards looking. We’re in for two big main events – matches that I expect to exceed expectations simply because – but the rest of the card seems lackluster to a degree. That’s not to say the event will be bad. In fact, I think the talent on WWE’s main roster right now does a great job in exceeding expectations when it comes to television matches on Raw and SmackDown.

The Kickoff Preshow will feature four matches, one of which is a title match. I’m not sure why they loaded up the preshow, but it’s not like fans are clamoring to see any of those matches on the main card, anyway.

The Rock will also be in the house, but we’re still not exactly sure what his role is. Could he be the guest host, much like he was at WrestleMania 27? Will he be involved in a match? We’ll have to wait and see.

Here’s what I think will go down at WrestleMania 32 on Sunday, with the first four matches listed being relegated to the preshow:

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

I’m a fan of the idea of this match, but putting it on the Kickoff Preshow two years in a row makes it lose its luster. The first year WWE instituted this match, Cesaro won in amazing fashion. Last year, Big Show won a rather uneventful match after Damien Sandow turned on The Miz. Sandow should’ve come away with that victory somehow seeing as how he was the most over wrestler in the match.

But, nope. Big Show had to win. Now he’s back this year, with Kane also in the mix, so I’m hoping WWE doesn’t make the same mistake two years in a row. Give the win to a young up-and-comer that can actually use the WrestleMania win to further their career. Can you imagine Kane winning this year?

If that happens, I’ll just laugh. Because it’d be pathetic. But I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Yeah, in fact, I’ll go with Kane. Because I could totally see it happening.

Your winner: Kane

The Usos vs. Dudley Boyz

This match sounds great on paper, but what would’ve been better is if the match wasn’t completely thrown together. These two teams could’ve really built a great feud and this match could have been a highlight of the night. I still think it’ll be a good match, it just lacks interest. Why are we supposed to care about this feud? The Usos are using tables and the Dudleyz aren’t. That’s about it. And the match will be on the Kickoff Preshow, so I don’t think many people will find whatever the ending is consequential.

I think the babyfaces win here because it’s not a match many are clamoring for. I wouldn’t be surprised if this feud ends Monday on Raw.

Your winners: The Usos

10-Divas Tag Team Match

Team Total Divas: Brie Bella/Natalya/Alicia Fox/Paige/Eva Marie vs. Team Bad and Blonde: Emma/Tamina/Naomi/Summer Rae/Lana

Eva Marie made her main roster re-debut on Monday Night Raw, but she was met with a chorus of boos that we’re so used to accompanying Roman Reigns nowadays. She sided with the babyfaces but was still booed heavily. We’ll see if that plays a role in this match and whether Eva turns on her team to join the heels where she’s much more natural as a character.

Emma being involved is pretty great because she’s improved dramatically since going back to NXT after a main roster stint that didn’t go well for her at all. Maybe Paige will do something memorable. I miss her doing things that matter. She’ll get the pin here. Maybe.

Your winners: Brie/Natalya/Alicia/Paige/Eva

United States Championship

Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

If this match doesn’t take place on the Kickoff Preshow, I’ll be very surprised. Ryback’s new attitude has garnered him some more interest in the eyes of the fans, but is that interest enough to make him a secondary champion? I’m not so sure. Ryback has been after Kalisto for a bit and he finally accepted Ryback’s challenge. That’s really all there is to it. Ryback’s defeated Kalisto’s tag team partner, Sin Cara, but he hasn’t done much with Kalisto other than talk.

I think the story is a lacking substance and if all they’re going with is Ryback will automatically win because he’s so much bigger than Kalisto, then we’re in for a surprise.

Your winner and STILL WWE United States Champion: Kalisto

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

I always believed this match would be made official for this card, but I didn’t expect it to happen the Monday night before WrestleMania.

Styles has been challenging Jericho to a match ever since Jericho turned on him after the duo lost to The New Day in a Tag Team Title match. Jericho has refused, but Styles finally made him snap after distracting him enough for Zack Ryder to pick up a win against him this past Monday on Raw.

So, Jericho accepted the match, and now the fourth match between the two is on the horizon on Sunday night. Because Styles currently owns a 2-1 edge in the series, and I can see this feud continuing to the next pay-per-view, Jericho winning wouldn’t necessarily surprise me. However, Sting lost last year at WrestleMania in his first match ever in WWE. I don’t think they make Styles’ first WrestleMania match have the same ending. Because it’s just be stupid. Which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens.

I’ll stick with Styles, though.

Your winner: AJ Styles

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Divas Championship

Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

Now, we’re talking. When the Divas Revolution hit the main roster last summer, this is what we were expecting. All three of these women are fantastic professional wrestlers and they’re going to get a chance to tell a story and have a great match in front of what could perhaps be the largest crowd in WWE history.

And they will have a great match. These women have waited too long for this opportunity to not take full advantage of it. Watching them in NXT and now on the main roster honestly allows me to say, without question, this could be the best women’s match in WWE history.

Hyping that too much? Maybe. I truly believe it, though. Charlotte’s character is great and she doesn’t even need her father for heat anymore. Sasha could very well be the best women’s wrestler in the world right now and Becky isn’t far behind. I’m excited to see what these three bring to WrestleMania, and I think this’ll be Sasha’s crowning achievement. The title should change hands, and I don’t really care if Sasha or Becky win, but I have an inkling it’ll be Sasha.

Your winner and NEW WWE Divas Champion: Sasha Banks

4-on-3 Handicap Match

The New Day vs. League of Nations

This is supposed to be The New Day’s coming out party as full-fledged babyfaces, and I have to admit, WWE couldn’t have picked a better rival for the WWE World Tag Team Champions to turn them. The League of Nations, made up of Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev and King Barrett are just glorified nobodies now, and that’s a shame. Sheamus could be great, but WWE has just shown no innate ability to try to get him over. The same goes for the other three – especially Del Rio, who had a great comeback in October only to get lost in the shuffle again.

But, honestly, this is more about The New Day than anything. The crowd is 100% on their side and they’re just getting more and more popular as the weeks go by. I always have a soft spot for guys who are champions and turn in the middle of their reign. No chance the League of Nations wins here.

Your winners: The New Day

Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust

Injuries have really hit WWE hard, as is evidenced by this match being thrown together with the likes of Ryder, Sin Cara and Stardust. I have the utmost respect for these athletes, but having Ryder and Sin Cara in this match won’t provide much other than maybe a Ryder tease that he’ll win (I’m not sure the fans even want to see that anymore) and some high spots from Sin Cara.

Stardust should be involved in something better, but he was thrown into this match and has very little chance of winning. If I’m being honest, this should have been a one-on-one encounter with Owens defending the title against Sami Zayn. That’s the blood feud here, but now it’s being watered down with additions.

I’m over Ziggler and I just don’t see The Miz coming away with the title. After WrestleMania, we’ll hopefully get a one-on-one feud between Owens and Zayn that lasts for a few months. Those two have tremendous chemistry and will bring nothing but the goods if they’re given a chance to do so. But here, I expect Owens to retain.

Your winner and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion: Kevin Owens

No Holds Barred Street Fight

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

The randomness of this match was a bit surprising, especially after they put it together right after Fastlane in February only to put the build on hold when Ambrose fought Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Roadblock a few weeks ago. But the way they’ve built this match, with Ambrose getting destroyed by Lesnar more than once, has made for a good story with a possible surprise ending at WrestleMania.

With Mick Foley giving Ambrose a barbed wire baseball bat and Terry Funk giving him a chainsaw, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ambrose came away with a win. I don’t think that’s going to happen, however.

Lesnar is still a monster and if he’s not in a Triple Threat match, I’m going to go with him as the victor in pretty much every match he’s in. Until he loses one-on-one, I won’t bet against him. And the only reason he lost to The Undertaker at last year’s SummerSlam was so they could have the rubber match of what was their current feud at Hell in a Cell in October.

The No Holds Barred Street Fight stipulation gives Ambrose a chance at a win here, but I won’t believe Lesnar will be beaten one-on-one by anyone until I see it. This is as good a chance as any for Ambrose to overcome the odds and get a huge win, but I’m still sticking with the Beast. I’ll be pulling for Ambrose, though.

Your winner: Brock Lesnar

Hell in a Cell

Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker

If Shane wins, he gets control of Monday Night Raw and it’ll be Undertaker’s last WrestleMania match

It’s taken me a long time, but I could conceivably see WWE putting this match on last on Sunday. The way they’ve been hyping it vs. the way they’ve been hyping the WWE World Heavyweight Title match seems to be night and day. With the video packages of Shane training and the pure hatred Vince McMahon conveys to his real-life son on screen, this has the makings to be one of the biggest WrestleMania main events in history. And last month, I wouldn’t have said that.

The Undertaker’s career is winding down, but with The Streak now dead and buried, he can lose this match to Shane. Will Shane beat him straight up? Probably not. Many can make the argument that someone will interfere on behalf of Shane and ultimately allow him to walk out of Dallas with the win. The Undertaker’s last WrestleMania match should be a loss, but I’m not convinced this is the end of his career.

But why bring Shane back if he’s just going to lose at WrestleMania? They already have a storyline in place – Shane wants control of Raw. There’s really no other storyline here. Undertaker’s last WrestleMania match could wind up with him screwing Vince McMahon. How’s that for a storyline arc? I just have a hard time believing they brought Shane in just to have him lose a match of this magnitude. Then again, with WWE, nothing surprises me anymore. But I’m sticking with Shane.

Your winner: Shane McMahon

WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

And here we are. Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in December at Monday Night Raw in Philadelphia, and was cheered wildly in doing so. Fast forward four short months, and he’s once again the enemy of the people.

The storyline arc was tremendous. It’s how it was executed so poorly that really is the main gripe with fans. When Triple H was destroyed by Reigns at the TLC pay-per-view the night before Reigns won the title in Philly, many believed he’d return at the Royal Rumble and screw Reigns out of his title. He did. In fact, the COO of WWE won the match by eliminating Reigns and then Ambrose to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

That’s where the storyline starts trending downward. Triple H was made to look entirely too strong – but I get it, it’s what WWE wants. He needs to look strong so when Reigns becomes champion again by defeating him, he looks even better. The problem with all of that is Reigns went right back to being booked poorly, being told what to say word by word in his promos, and the crowd which started warming up to him once again turned their back on him.

Reigns is in a no-win situation for the second year in a row. I don’t blame him. Nobody should blame him. He’s being told what to do and given no freedom at all. He’s no John Cena. He’s no Rock. But that’s because WWE doesn’t want him to be.

WWE wants to control all of its talent. It doesn't want its talent becoming too big for WWE. I’ve said that before and I honestly believe it. It puts the WWE brand ahead of any one individual, despite that need for a top star that can replace a Cena or Rock when they move on. The organization did it with Cena. And now it has so many guys that it can make top stars, but it refuses to. It is afraid they’ll get bigger than WWE, so it cuts the wrestlers all off at the knees.

And that’s where we are now. Triple H destroyed Reigns and broke his nose in storyline, and now Reigns has come back and exacted his revenge two weeks in a row. It’s exactly how a pro wrestling storyline should be booked. But that booking cannot undo the terrible booking that’s followed Reigns much of the past year and a half. The crowd won’t love when he beats Triple H on Sunday. So I believe WWE will have a plan that sort of forces the crowd to cheer wildly, much like we did in Philly when he won in December, when Reigns wins the title for the third time. Ah, we forgot Survivor Series already!?

Your winner and NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns

It’s not a very enticing card, but it has the potential to really be one of the best WrestleManias if everybody brings their A game. Triple H and Reigns could have been a great blood feud, but the build has cut Reigns off at the knees in trying to build him as the company’s next Cena. The company needs to get him some new ring gear, scale back on the scripted promos and let him connect with the audience. History has shown that the top superstars have been able to connect with the audience even if the audience has turned on them at one time or another. The project with Reigns isn’t over. It can still be salvaged. But when it becomes about the WWE brand being more important than creating superstars that the fans who come to the events want to see at the top, there’s no room for growth for anybody. There’s no improvement. WWE’s in a really bad rut. And the problem is the people who run the company think everything’s gravy.

The Hell in a Cell match, despite shoddy storytelling, will be one of the best spectacles in WrestleMania history. I’m not even wary about going out on that limb before I’ve even seen the match. It’s going to be great. I can feel it.

Everything else should be good, but I’m going to temper expectations. When I temper expectations, these cards always deliver. Let’s count on history to repeat itself.

We’ll have extensive coverage of NXT TakeOver: Dallas, the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and WrestleMania 32 all this weekend, so stay tuned.

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