WrestleMania XXXI Preview

2015-02-26-04.50.34-pmLadies and gentlemen, my name is Dan McGinn and this is the reigning, defending, conquering and most dominating WrestleMania preview that you will only find right here at Place to Be Nation. This at the very least is the only Mania preview on the interwebs with my name on it and that matters because I’m a certified G and a bonafide stud. Even Enzo Amore will tell us all that you can’t teach that. Christmas Day for Sports Entertainment fans has finally arrived. The showcase of the immortals. The Granddaddy of Them All. The night before WWE stock drops! Or to the even more cynical, “the preshow to the Raw the night after WresleMania.” Whatever you choose to call it, this is the biggest night on the WWE calendar and regardless of what happens or who wins, Sunday night still matters!

I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this card when I walked out of Philadelphia dejected just after the Rumble. I was still on the fence going into the go home Raw on Monday. But with the recent announcement of Brock Lesnar resigning with the company, endless possibilities abound for the future meaning anything can happen this Sunday. My hands are shaking just typing that so let’s get down to business! For you newcomers, we go match-by-match and I give picks for each – though I’ll warn you – my predictions are about as right as your current NCAA Bracket is right now (Damn you UCLA!).

WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP FATAL 4-WAY MATCH (KICKOFF MATCH)

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (C) vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores vs. The Usos

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How loaded is this card you may ask? Loaded enough that the tag team titles are pushed to the Kickoff pre-show when this event is scheduled for just under four hours. In Philly this past January, no one was as popular and gushed over like the fans were for Cesaro and Kidd (Non-Brock Division). We all but begged those guys to get the belts and that was still when the Usos were popular and putting on outstanding matches. They finally did capture the straps less than a month ago and have found that everyone is gunning for them now that they stand on top of the mountain.

Over the last several weeks, each squad has proven they deserve a seat at the championship table as they all have traded wins with one another. The Usos were the team of 2014 and certainly have the championship experience having won the gold twice. Los Matadores certainly have the talent though are usually treated like a comedic sideshow most of the time. New Day still baffles me because they should be an awesome unit but no one seems to give a rat’s ass about their existence. In the end, this will showcase the surprising depth of the tag division and spark the early arriving crowd. With so much else going on, it hardly seems like the right time for a title change. The champs retain in an entertaining opener. MCGINN’S PICK: CESARO & KIDD

2ND ANNUAL ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL (KICKOFF MATCH)

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_Andre_HPThey debuted this concept last year and at the time, it seemed like a fantastic idea. You pay homage to one of the greatest attractions the sport has ever seen, you shine a light on some of the “underneath” competitors who may not have appeared on the show anyway, and finally, you could elevate some of those performers in the process. Last year, Cesaro won and brighter days seemingly were on the horizon for the Swiss superstar. Somewhere along the way, that last part got derailed and that put a stain on the 2nd annual battle royal because everyone now assumes it doesn’t mean anything. Here are some of the competitors and why we should care:

Miz & Damien Mizdow – Many feel that Mizdow will pull the Virgil to Miz’s Ted Dibiase and finally stand up for himself and break away from the self-proclaimed A-Lister. The stunt double turned personal assistant remarkably is getting main event level cheers of late and it will definitely heat up the crowd if he puts his name on the Andre trophy.

Ryback – This guy was the “Biggest Free Agent” in the WWE during Survivor Series. Fans still dig him but the company has nothing for him to do. Why not a “giant-sized” victory for Da Big Guy?

Curtis Axel – Stop laughing! He never was eliminated from the Royal Rumble technically. #AxelMania is running wild in Cali this weekend!

Big Show & Kane – The proverbial turds in the punch bowl seem to ruin at least one special event between them each month. Why stop now?

There is speculation that Sheamus could return to compete for the first time since November which would make him an obvious favorite. It was also announced that an NXT star will be added to the fray. What better way to promote the future than to have a Finn Balor or Adrian Neville etch their names into WrestleMania lore by pulling off such a remarkable upset. Since this is an absolute crapshoot, I’m going to go with the best story on the board and hope for the best. Mizdow drops Miz to a deafening pop and a new Hollywood star is born! MCGINN’S PICK: DAMIEN MIZDOW

RANDY ORTON VS. SETH ROLLINS

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HP_OrtonRollinsI know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you forgot this match was even on the card and now you are sheepishly trying to save face by acting like you knew it all along. Like when you trip on the street and then go into a jog like you intended to do that the whole time. I’ll say this. The build to this was garbage. Randy should have come back and methodically dismantled The Authority piece by piece. He was their ace, their golden boy, the top dog before the new kid took over. They tried ending his career by curb stomping his face into metal stairs. If my boss did that to me, that book store I used to work in would be burned to the ground! I certainly wouldn’t go back there and work a few shifts in the cafe for a few weeks before burning that sucka to the earth! That being said, this should be a treat of a match. Orton is better as a babyface and Rollins is as good as anyone out there right now in all of wrestling. I believe he is ready to take that next step. He will bump around the ring like a pinball for the ferocious Viper and he may bust out a few moves we haven’t even seen before on WWE TV. All the talk is going towards Sting/Triple H or the Ladder match for show stealer of the evening. I don’t think we’ll have to wait even that long to find it. This will be vicious, violent and will provide further substantiation of Rollins’ star power. I think he drops a competitive bout here, but his impact on the weekend won’t end just yet. MCGINN’S PICK: RANDY ORTON

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP LADDER MATCH

Bad News Barrett (C) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Stardust vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper vs. Dean Ambrose vs. R-Truth

20150309_LIGHT_WM31_Match_BadNewsLadder_HP2For the first time since 1995, the Intercontinental Championship means something to the WWE! Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. I disagree with the Court Bauers of the world who say that this doesn’t give value to the recently ignored title. Has any segment (again, non-Brock division) been more entertaining than the ones involving these competitors? Did anyone care about R-Truth a month ago? Did anyone remember Luke Harper even was IC champion? But you care now because ladders are involved, and an All-Star cast of entertaining talents and bottomless possibilities for a memorable WrestleMania moment are all in play. One thing is for certain, several matches can be spawned from the outcome of this one. I believe this is Daniel Bryan’s consolation prize. He isn’t in the main event obviously. People are starting not to Yes! as loudly as before. He is losing cleanly on television. It almost feels like he is paying some dues after such a monumental triumph a year ago. Now he is back and healthy and while he won’t be fighting Brock Lesnar, he still could end the night hoisting some gold over his goat faced shoulders.

This pick is simple for me which means I’m likely dead wrong. But think for a second. Barrett and Ambrose ALWAYS lose! Harper is nice and all but this is too loaded of a match for him to emerge victorious. They should also change up his look because it almost looks like he and Ambrose are wearing the same outfit nowadays. Dolph could win but might be better off being the tough luck loser while chasing Bryan all summer for some entertaining battles for the belt. Stardust needs to go away and maybe his older brother Goldust could find himself getting involved after their tussle at Fastlane. Finally, Truth… he’s afraid of ladders! So Bryan is the choice. Not a bad step up for the IC Belt than to put it on the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and still one of your hotter faces on the roster. MCGINN’S PICK: DANIEL BRYAN

AJ LEE & PAIGE VS. THE BELLA TWINS

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_divastagUgh. In an effort to sound like my idol, Jordan Duncan, I really don’t care about this match at all. Seriously, even if you made this into a four-way for the big pink butterfly, I still probably will use this match as either my bathroom break or a chance to squeeze in one more Irish Car Bomb before Boneheads cuts off our table. The Bellas are annoying, AJ hasn’t brought much to the table besides awkward running since her return, and Paige is just biding her time until Charlotte and Sasha Banks are called up. Why don’t they do Playboy Bunny Pillow fights at WrestleMania anymore? Now that’s something I can sink my teeth into! Bellas win because the WWE can’t help themselves. MCGINN’S PICK: THE BELLA TWINS

UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

Rusev (C) vs. John Cena

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_cenarusevCue the Rocky IV montage! It’s finally arrived! The Biggest United States championship match since… well ever… culminates from Levi’s Stadium! The Cold War will finally end for real this time! All I’ve ever been told about Rusev is that he has to keep winning. He has to remain a monster and murder everyone! He must crush! He must keel moose and squirrel! On and on I heard that from the PTBN Reaction Podcast guys to Steve Corino, to my dog Basil (follow on Twitter @KingBasil1110)! And what did they all say afterwards? He must do all that so Cena can beat him! So there you go! Cena has been decimated in this feud. He had to beg to even get this match signed just about. Then he made Lana beg to get him to stop hurting the Hero of The Russian Federation and now we’re robbed of seeing the Ravishing Russian poured into those tight dress suits. Then Cena is killed on the announce table on Monday leaving me to believe that Cena gets the last laugh on Sunday.

Does he need the US Belt after winning it on the same stage eleven years ago? Probably not. But what choice do they have? Rusev eventually has to drop that belt. Why not let Cena run with it and give the strap a much-needed boost. If nothing else, it gives you reason to follow a US Title program. Rusev will hit pay dirt again particularly if a face wins the big belt in the near future. Plus, Cena doesn’t lose at WrestleMania. If he were going to lose to the top young heel on the roster, he would have done it last year against Bray Wyatt. Score one for the U.S. of A. and remember, never give up! MCGINN’S PICK: JOHN CENA

THE UNDERTAKER VS. BRAY WYATT

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_takerbrayThe Deadman returns to the scene of his last defeat as he takes on the New Face of Fear, Bray Wyatt. I’ll give credit to my man Graham Cawthon when he told me in a show that will never air that Bray deserves all the props for single-handedly putting over this entire angle heading into the show. He made all the appearances, did all the promos, shot all the vignettes, even took a ride in a casket flanked by druids all in the name of making this match matter. All Taker has to do is show up to the stadium and try not to look like he’s 107 years old. Bray wants to be the man to officially lay the Phenom to rest. He wants that spot all to himself. Undertaker, meanwhile, is faced with having to avoid a WrestleMania losing streak for the first time in his remarkable career. He also has much to prove because for the better part of the year, fans, commentators and colleagues have all questioned if this creature of the night has anything left in the tank.

I have enjoyed the theatrics of this match and the images I’ll remember for years including the Undertaker shooting down lightning on Bray’s iconic rocking chair and setting it ablaze. The urn being opened and breathing new life into the Deadman who hadn’t been heard from since being ushered to a hospital after his streak was ended. It’s always a spectacle when Taker approaches the ring a Mania so that alone should be worth the price of admission. By right, he should take the fall against Bray and ride off into the sunset, but I believe there is still another match the company wants to see before the veteran hangs it up. Be it Sting or Cena, I boldly predict this isn’t the last time we see The Undertaker at WrestleMania. And for those crying about Wyatt, dude still will go down as facing both Cena and Undertaker in back-to-back Manias. I don’t think we need to light a candle or hold a bake sale for the Eater of Worlds. Taker surprises his skeptics and we are in for a treat come Sunday. MCGINN’S PICK: THE UNDERTAKER

Justin Rozzero examines how this match could affect both Undertaker’s legacy and the future of WWE

STING VS. TRIPLE H

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2The Vigilante and the King of Kings. I will say, when I was a dyed in the wool WCW/NWO fan in 1997-1999, at no point did I ever say, “you know what, I really wonder what would happen if Sting faced Triple H.” However, I am excited for this match in 2015. Are they old? Yes! But this is history. I never would have imagined Sting in a WWE ring let alone a WrestleMania main event. I think he has looked great and gets better with each appearance. I marked out at Survivor Series when he made his historic first appearance. He was sprinkled in at just the right times to further the Authority storylines. For a guy of his advanced years, he still looks the part of a superstar who can put on quality matches if he isn’t overexposed. And Triple H the wrestler will see to it that neither looks foolish on the biggest stage. Will this be as good as a bout between the two in 1998? Not likely. But will it feel like a bigger match and something special? You bet your skinny fat ass! Like I am with Taker, I’m intrigued to see what the Stinger has left and whether or not he can realistically make a contribution to the company in-ring moving forward. For Hunter, I just want to see his stupid face lose again at WrestleMania! MCGINN’S PICK: STING

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_LesnarReigns_HPAnd now, that match you’ve all been waiting for… sort of! Whether you agree with the booking or not, this should be a terrific match. Brock is every bit of the Beast Paul Heyman makes him out to be in those interviews. He is unstoppable and ruthless as evidenced by his destruction of Undertaker and John Cena in 2014. When they merged the World and WWE Championships together, it had to be with this guy in mind. His star is so bright, you’d be tempted to wear your sunglasses at night. He pretty much had WWE, UFC and every other combat sport at his fingertips up until this past week when he decided on a multi-year extension to stick with McMahon. As Jim Ross said before, you don’t turn down too many part time jobs that will pay you in the millions. On the flip side, you have Roman Reigns, who WWE wants you to believe will be every bit of the star Brock Lesnar is someday. He was the Superstar of the Year last year and had several dominant performances before being sidelined with injury. It was probably bad timing for him to win this year’s Royal Rumble but they made their bed and forced us all to sleep in it.

I have nothing against Roman Reigns and I believe he will bring his A-game on Sunday. He will take a beating for sure but he’ll get in his licks too. The rumors are swirling that Heyman’s recent praise of the Samoan warrior is a precursor to a double-switch at Mania. That would be pretty amazing seeing as though fans now love Lesnar while Roman might get booed out of the stadium if he captures the belt. Roman could win it outright even with Brock extending his contract and that could lead to a hot rematch down the road. Still, there is always Plan C. On such a historic night, they could the last card up their sleeve and have Rollins cash in the Money in The Bank contract for the first time ever at WrestleMania. Assuming Rollins wins the belt after Reigns beats Lesnar, now you have at least three ready-made feuds for the newly crowned champion if you include a victorious Orton from earlier in the night. Oh wow, my head is going to explode! Now that’s a sentence I didn’t expect to write in January.

On the safe side, you gotta go with Lesnar to retain and eventually he drops it on one of his limited dates; presumably to either Rollins on a cash in or to the guy Rollins plans on screwing over with the briefcase. It seems logical particularly if you buy into the whole Reigns isn’t ready yet rhetoric. It just makes too much sense. He has the money, the security, and I believe he will keep the belt on Sunday night. Though I might be singing a different tune come Monday. MCGINN’S PICK: BROCK LESNAR

Be sure to check out all the WrestleMania themed articles and podcasts here at Place to Be Nation. In addition to the PPV live blog Sunday night, stay tuned for the PTB Network Reaction Show along with other Mania featured articles for your reading pleasure. Enjoy the show, PTB Nation!

Author: Dan McGinn

Dan McGinn is a former Minor League Baseball announcer, a five-star General in the #sweatervestarmy and an all around babyface who you should be happy to take home to dinner. He also happens to write about wrestling.