ZWrestleTalk's newest writer JD explains what's important at WrestleMania 34.
Much like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and World Series, WrestleMania is the culmination of a full, long year of action. Every April, 70,000+ people pile into one of the premiere football stadiums around the country to witness WrestleMania, and millions more around the world watch at home. Despite wrestling’s status as a niche interest to most people, WrestleMania is something everyone can enjoy, whether you haven’t watched wrestling since 2002 or have never watched in your life. The perfect combination of athletics, lights, fireworks, live music, and larger-than-life personalities, WrestleMania is undoubtedly the greatest live event in entertainment today. I’ll be ranking every match by importance to help anyone interested in watching the eye-popping spectacle this Sunday in New Orleans better understand the pageantry that is the 34th annual WrestleMania event.
14. Women's Battle Royal
What is it: There is one thing notable about this match, and that doesn’t even apply anymore. The original name of this match was the “Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal,” named after one of the earliest women’s wrestlers The Fabulous Moolah and intended to be the female counterpart to the all-male Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, it turns out that Fabulous Moolah might not have been worth commemorating, as reports over her mistreating trainees (including that she would pimp out students to make money) caused major uproar, eventually forcing WWE to change the name of the match. Hopefully this ends a little bit better than the last WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, which was actually won by a man in 2009. Classic WWE.
Why it’s important: It isn’t. This match is for the women who weren’t good enough to get a real match on the real show. I’m probably not even going to watch this match.
My pick: Sasha Banks
13. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
What is it: This is the 5th annual Andre Battle Royal, with the first one actually taking place in New Orleans as well, at WrestleMania 30. This is maybe the most inconsequential match in WrestleMania history. The winner receives no incentives besides a big trophy, and no Andre Winner has ever received a legitimate push (move up to the main event, holding championships, more TV time) after winning. This year’s match has a very lackluster lineup as well, with Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Matt Hardy being the only notable names scheduled to participate.
Why it’s important: Once again, it isn’t. I promise I will get more positive from here on out. Until WWE commits to pushing the winner of this match, it won’t mean anything.
My pick: Some surprise return/debut. None of the guys who have announced they’ll be in the match are consistently booked well, so I have no reason to believe they’ll win.
12. Tournament Final for the Vacant Cruiserweight Championship – Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
What is it: Although this match is taking place on the pre-show, there is a high probability it will be match of the night. WWE’s Cruiserweight division consists of young competitors less than 205 pounds, and high-flying, fast-paced action is the division’s specialty. After former champion Enzo Amore was released by the company in late January, a 16-man tournament was organized to crown a new champion, culminating at WrestleMania. These two men were the most impressive competitors in the tournament and deserve this match at Mania.
Why it’s important: These are two of the best professional wrestlers in the world, and they’ve worked their entire life to compete at WrestleMania. Both men are young, in top-shape, and look the part of a wrestling champion. This also features a battle of arguably the two best finishers in WWE today, Mustafa Ali’s Imploding 450 Degree Splash, and Cedric Alexander’s Lumbar Check.
My pick: Cedric Alexander
11. RAW Women’s Championship Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
What is it: For the past year, other than a short 8-day reign over the summer from Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss has been RAW Women’s Championship. Debuting at only 25 years old and standing at only 5 feet tall, Bliss was often overlooked in favor of stars like Charlotte Flair and Banks by fans, but since debuting on the main roster, Alexa Bliss has been the most successful woman in WWE. What Bliss may lack in size, she makes up for on the mic, as she is one of the best female talkers WWE has ever had. Her opponent, Nia Jax, stands at 6 feet tall and weighs over 270 pounds.
Why it’s important: I honestly am not that excited for this match. It’s important because it’s for the Women’s Championship and is the culmination of a long-term storyline between ex-best friends Jax and Bliss, with Bliss assuming the role of “high school mean girl” making fun of Jax’s weight. However, these women aren’t particularly good wrestlers, and the size difference is staggering. I expect this to be no longer than 5 minutes.
My pick: Nia Jax
10. Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships – The Usos (c) vs. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan)
What is it: I’m expecting this match to be a showcase for The Usos, the best tag team on the planet. For years, The Usos were slaphappy, dancing, white meat babyfaces. They put on great matches, but couldn’t connect with the crowd. Frustration over lack of connection caused The Usos to become more aggressive and turn heel, attacking opponents after matches and cutting scathing promos. Since this attitude change, The Usos have gained the respect of fans worldwide, with much thanks to an insane 5-match series in 2017 vs. The New Day that ended inside Hell in a Cell.
Why it’s important: The Usos and New Day are all great wrestlers who have impeccable chemistry with one another. It’s impossible for them to have a bad match together. Throw in the 6’5”, 275-pound Harper and the 6’8”, 315-pound Rowan of the Bludgeon Brothers and you have combustible elements that should make for a fun match.
My pick: The Usos
9. Fatal 4-Way for the United States Championship – Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev
What is it: Ever since Dolph Ziggler vacated the title (for absolutely no reason at all, I may add) in December, the United States Championship picture has been cloudy. Roode defeated Mahal to win the vacant title in January, but lost to Orton, one of the greatest professional wrestlers of this century, last month. Mahal claimed he deserved a rematch with Roode before Orton got his opportunity, leading to a scheduled Triple Threat match at Mania. Hardly anyone cared about the match however, so fan-favorite and leading merchandise-seller Rusev was added.
Why it’s important: Before Rusev was added, this match was somewhat important for one reason and one reason only: Randy Orton. Orton has dominated WWE for over 16 years, and won the WWE Championship last year at Mania. He will always have a high-profile match at the event. However, Roode and Mahal have not inspired much hype. Roode is about as bland a character as there is in WWE right now, assuming a good-guy character that just doesn’t fit his personality. Mahal is one of the most scrutinized wrestlers in the world, with fans saying he “doesn’t deserve what WWE gives him,” although I think he’s hilarious (if he enters Mania on an elephant, I will die). Thanks to the Rusev addition, who is one of the hottest acts in the company due to a silly gimmick where he declares every day as Rusev Day, fans have warmed up to the match just a little bit.
My pick: Rusev
8. RAW Tag Team Championship Match – Sheamus and Cesaro (c) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD
What is it: Ever since turning from bitter enemies into best friends in 2016, Sheamus and Cesaro have dominated the RAW Tag Team scene, having won the titles on four different occasions. Due to this dominance, Sheamus and Cesaro went on Raw, Twitter, and Instagram begging for better competition in the tag division. Who would answer the call? The 6’8”, 400-pound monster among men that is Braun Strowman. Strowman won a number one contender’s tag team match by himself, and was told he must find a partner in time for Mania.
Why it’s important: While Sheamus and Cesaro are wily veterans who are some of the best performers in the company, this match is all about Strowman. Over the past calendar year, Braun Strowman has been the hottest act in all of WWE, and many people argue that he should be in the main event of WrestleMania instead of this match. Over the past year, Strowman has tipped an ambulance, a semi-truck, broke the ring (twice), and beaten up a grown man with a cello. When Braun’s on the screen, your eyes are glued to it.
My pick: Braun Strowman and TBD
7. SmackDown Women’s Championship Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka
What is it: Since being signed to NXT in 2015, Asuka has been the single-most dominant person in wrestling history. The woman is being booked like prime Goldberg. Having never lost a match in NXT, Asuka was called up to Monday Night Raw in October and has still yet to lose a match, including the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match, guaranteeing her a title opportunity at Mania. Asuka chose to switch brands and challenge SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair. Charlotte is a 5-time Women’s Champion, and the most athletically gifted woman on the roster. Asuka has beaten almost everybody, but at WrestleMania, she’ll face Flair for the first time in her career.
Why it’s important: These are two of the most dominant stars in WWE today, and they should pull out all the stops in what could end up being one of the better matches of the night. Asuka works a strong, stiff style and Flair has a dominating presence and varied move-set. While I think Charlotte could be the right pick to break Asuka’s streak, it’s not a great idea for her as a babyface.
My pick: Asuka
6. Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship – The Miz (c) vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
What is it: The Miz, an 8-time Intercontinental Champion, has always loved to claim that the Intercontinental Championship is the most prestigious championship in WWE. Being the holder of this prestigious title, he demanded a worthy challenger to face him at WrestleMania. He got 2 challengers: Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. Rollins, a genetic freak athlete in his prime, is a 2-time Heavyweight Champion and made history when he cashed in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 31. The Irish Balor was one of the biggest stars in New Japan Pro Wrestling and is arguably the most charismatic star in WWE today. Both Balor and Rollins scored wins over The Miz, so this was made into a Triple Threat.
Why it’s important: Another match of the night contender, Rollins and Balor have already proven they are a great pair in the ring, including a thrilling match just this past Monday on Raw. The Miz is always entertaining, and while he can’t go in the ring quite like the other 2, he will definitely be a pivotal piece in this match. The entrances in this match should be a sight too, especially if Balor assumes his Demon alter ego. If so, we’re in for a treat.
My pick: Finn Balor
5. Mixed Tag Team Match – Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
What is it: Former UFC Champion and Olympian Ronda Rousey, one of WWE’s most prized signings ever, made her debut at the Royal Rumble, while signing her Raw Contract at Elimination Chamber with Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and WWE Executives Triple H and Stephanie McMahon present in the ring. Ronda signed the contract, Kurt Angle became the biggest snitch of all time and revealed the McMahons true intentions when signing Ronda, and next thing you know Ronda put Triple H through a freakin’ table. The beef only got worse, and Rousey used her contract to team up with Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle to face Stephanie and Triple H.
Why it’s important: Ronda Rousey is quite possibly the biggest name in WWE today. Her debut match is going to be very important, and is going to have a lot of close eyes on it. Rousey has been a mixed bag thus far in WWE, with flashes of serious badassery sprinkled in with awkward moments. This match could be a train wreck; it could have the hottest crowd reaction of the night, but no matter what it’s going to be fun to watch.
My pick: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey
4. Tag Team Match (If Owens and Zayn win, they are rehired by WWE) – Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
What is it: Ever since coming to SmackDown last April, Kevin Owens has had it out for SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon. Owens accused McMahon of costing him the United States Championship at SummerSlam, challenged him to a match inside Hell in a Cell, and enlisted the help of best-friend-turned-enemy-turned-best-friend-again Sami Zayn to defeat McMahon. Since that victory, Owens and Zayn have done everything they could do to get Shane McMahon off SmackDown, but they’ve met their match in the form of SmackDown General Manager and 4-time Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, who is coming out of retirement for his first match in 3 years to team up with McMahon and stop the rebels once and for all.
Why it’s important: Daniel Bryan! Bryan is one of the most popular stars in WWE history, and him coming out of retirement has sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling world. Bryan will make his return in the same place he won the main event of WrestleMania 4 years ago. Any match with Bryan would be important, but the compelling long-term story between him, McMahon, Owens, and Zayn makes it even sweeter.
My pick: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
3. WWE Championship Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
What is it: In 2016, the signings of AJ Styles and Shinusuke Nakamura, both former stars in Japan, changed the landscape of WWE. Styles was a rare immediate-call-up to the main roster and quickly became WWE Champion, while Nakamura became a 2-time NXT Champion before being called up one year ago. Since Nakamura got called up to SmackDown, fans have clamored for a match between him and Styles. The two faced off in the Tokyo Dome two years ago in a classic match, and the dream rematch became a reality when Nakamura won the Royal Rumble in January, cashing in his title shot against Styles at Mania.
Why it’s important: To the hardcore fans, this is the most anticipated match on the WrestleMania card. Styles and Nakamura have wrestled for every promotion around the world, gaining a steady following before signing to WWE and taking their star to the next level. Styles is the best all-around wrestler in WWE today, and Nakamura is a charismatic, mysterious, hard-hitting veteran who has been long been regarded as one of the best big match performers in the world. There are a lot of expectations for this match, and we’ll see Sunday if they live up to it.
My pick: AJ Styles
2. Universal Championship Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
What is it: The new top star and face of WWE, there has been no wrestler in history as controversial as Roman Reigns. The 6’3”, 265-pound Reigns was bred to be WWE’s next top guy, beginning with his WrestleMania main event match in 2015 vs. Brock Lesnar. The fans had different ideas, though. Reigns ascent as a heroic babyface was met with horrendous reaction from fans, and WWE had to book Seth Rollins to cash in Money in the Bank and steal the WWE Championship. 3 years later and despite all the haters, Reigns is the new top star of WWE, and after winning inside the Elimination Chamber, finally gets another crack at beating Brock Lesnar.
Why it’s important: This match has been rumored for well over a year, and has been presented by WWE as the top storyline heading into Mania. For all the hate he gets, Roman Reigns is WWE’s most consistent performer today, and has an aura around him that only top stars have. Brock Lesnar has long been one of WWE’s most dominant figures, but with a potential UFC return looming, this could very well be his last wrestling match. This won’t just be a match; it’ll be a fight.
My pick: Roman Reigns
1. John Cena vs. The Undertaker "not confirmed"
What is it: The unquestionable greatest performer in WrestleMania history is The Undertaker. Rattling off a never-to-be-duplicated 21 straight wins at WWE’s flagship show before losing to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, The Undertaker once again suffered defeat at WrestleMania last year, losing to Roman Reigns in the main event. After his second WrestleMania loss, the aging left his hat, gloves, and jacket in the ring, presumably retiring. Undertaker was never heard from again, never even to confirm his retirement. After John Cena lost the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and WWE Championship Match at Fastlane last month, he needed to find a way to have a match at WrestleMania. So, he called out the Undertaker. Every week for the past month, and a half. The Undertaker has not responded yet, and Cena says he’ll be at Mania regardless of if Taker shows up or not.
Why it’s important: Just look at those names. John Cena is quite possibly the greatest professional wrestler of all time, and The Undertaker has been a leading force in WWE for almost 30 years. A match between the two has been a pipe dream for wrestling fans for a long time. Undertaker’s match versus Roman Reigns was presumed to be his last, but the match was sloppy and left a melancholy feeling in fans’ hearts. Now, thanks to Cena carrying the feud with promos attacking Taker and provoking every week, fans are as eager to see The Undertaker as they’ve ever been. If this match happens, it will go down as one of the signature moments in WrestleMania history.
My pick: The Undertaker
I'm pumped to be writing for ZWrestleTalk. Readers, you can expect more content from me after WrestleMania. What's your thoughts on WrestleMania 34? Leave a comment below.
Creator of ZWrestleTalk. This page I give you my thoughts on the current state of the WWE product. I look back at the history of WWE. Sometimes even predict the future. If your lucky you get comedic articles too.