This year’s Mania is shaping up to be a unique experience, to say the least. As things change on the daily, wrestlers are being pulled from the show for health concerns and it seems the card is being updated every few hours. Personally, I think that if WWE can’t produce a good Mania, they can at least put on an abosolute trainwreck, and it really feels like they’re going to do just that. Even in the last 48 hours we’ve heard that Roman Reigns is unlikely to compete given his medical history putting him in the high risk group, despite SmackDown still advertising him vs Goldberg last night. Who knows what Mania will look like when (or if) it finally airs? At least we can take comfort in Leon Ruff getting that WWE payday he deserves.
Boneyard Match, Graveyard Smash
AJ Styles and The OC believe wrestling belongs to the new, younger crop of stars, so this man in his 40s is going after an ancient grandpa in his 50s. After calling out the great Michelle McCool in his promo last week, Styles followed it up with a topical Tiger King joke this Monday, referencing the Undertaker’s Instagram photos from Doc Antle’s park. I guess Taker hasn’t seen the show yet, or maybe didn’t get the same reading that I got, where absolutely everyone involved was completely batshit crazy. Styles made it clear he didn’t want to wrestle Undertaker the content creator, he wanted Undertaker the phenom at mania. Then, ever the crowd pleaser, AJ gave the fans at home just what they were hoping for; the declaration of a boneyard match at WrestleMania. With every match announcement, Mania this year continues to get stranger and stranger, and I am here for it. Things are already gonna be messed up, might as well go balls to the wall and give me a Phenomenal Forearm off of a gravestone with Mark Calloway’s name on it. Who even knows what a boneyard match is? Doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.
The Man Goes Wild
Shayna Baszler has had one of the most dominant showings on the road to WrestleMania, taking out every woman in the Elimination Chamber and removing a chunk of Becky Lynch’s neck with her teeth. During an interview with Charly Caruso, Baszler explained that she wanted the Raw Women’s Championship because taking it from Becky would destroy her, and Shayna’s #1 love in this life is destruction. Lucky for her Becky seems to be a fan of the practice as well, as she dealt Shayna a few surprise chair shots from out of the darkness. This segment would have felt a lot more energetic with a crowd there, but it still worked to get across Lynch as a formidable opponent for the former cage fighter. Baszler and Becky had great chemistry at Survivor Series and their Mania match certainly has the potential to steal the show.
Somebody Asks for the Smoke
On Monday morning, WWE announced United States Champion Andrade would be teaming with the champion of my heart, Angel Garza, against the Raw Tag Team Champions the Street Profits at mania. There’s not a lot of build up here beyond Garza and Andrade interrupting the Profits backstage, but you guys know me, I’m not gonna complain about seeing either of those men, and the Street Profits have such a fun style they can work with just about anyone. Which is great, because five days later, it seems like the match is now going to include Austin Theory teaming with Garza instead of Andrade. No idea where that pairing came from, but it’s a win for smarmy, buff assholes anywhere.
At least we got to see Andrade and Garza team up in one of the only new matches we received on Raw, facing Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. Another team that doesn’t make sense, but who cases, because this is a match for anyone attracted to men. The Profits watched ringside as flippy men did what they did best. The high flying style translates well without a crowd, with spots still feeling exciting even without the buzz of a live audience. Andrade got the pin for his team after a brutal elbow to Alexander’s head. Andrade and Garza then had a brief tousle with the Profits in-ring before running up the tiny little ramp. Here’s hoping they iMovie add Theory in when they re-air the footage at Mania.
Manager to the Beefy Stars
NXT returned to live wrestling this week after last week’s promo and interview show. The final match of the show saw half of the tag team champions, Matt Riddle, face Undisputed Era’s Roderick Strong. Strong and Riddle have history, as do UE and the Broserweights, leading to a really good match here. The intensity between both men was high, despite the lack of a crowd to feed off of, and they exchanged some hard hitting spots before Riddle ultimately won with the BroDerek. While celebrating, two mysterious and massive men stormed the ring and decimated Riddle. Malcolm Bivens came out to introduce himself and inform Riddle that he was looking at the future of the NXT tag team division. It’s great to see Bivens finally on NXT TV; he’s a fantastic manager and one of the few wrestlers to genuinely be good at Twitter. With him in the driver’s seat, these two should make a very interesting addition to NXT’s tag division.
Best Friends For Now
Bayley and Sasha kicked off SmackDown to absolute silence as they ran down Paige for her announcement last week. They declared their friendship was stronger than any championship match and they would never turn on each other, which I guess ignores the fact that their betrayal has already happened like 3 times before. Lacey Evans came out to interrupt, shortly followed by Naomi. I’d love to see Naomi pick up the win at Mania, especially considering how a Bayley/Sasha feud wouldn’t necessarily need the title, but that would perhaps be overlooking this match’s wildcard. Tamina, making what I believe was her Smackdown debut since being drafted from Raw in October, interrupted next and dealt a headbutt to Naomi and a super kick to Lacey. She scared off Bayley and Sasha and was, somehow, the one standing tall at the end of the segment. Tamina is fine when she’s used well, but putting her in a title match at Mania after not featuring her (outside of a brief Rumble appearance) for six months seems to point to just how thin the women’s division on SmackDown is right now. Bliss and Cross are fighting the Kabuki Warriors for the tag titles, Mandy is braiding Dolph’s hair while Sonya watches. SmackDown might be in need of a little refresher to their women’s division to give whoever walks out of Mania as champ some new options.
The Yes Movement Rolls On
The year is 2016. You inform your friends that one day, Drew Gulak will defeat Shinsuke Nakamura to send Daniel Bryan to WrestleMania, to wrestle in front of a crowd consisting of only Rob Gronkowski. Your friends all laugh, but you know deep inside, there’s no way to avoid this fate. The wheel keeps turning, and life leads us to this exact moment.
This was a good, if short, match, but considering who was involved I didn’t expect much less. It’s still a shame that the Zayn/Nakamura/Cesaro trio feels like such an afterthought considering everyone involved, but at least this time they’re feuding with guys I enjoy watching. Sami was on commentary again, while Cesaro, wearing his sunglasses at night (and indoors) stood ringside for moral support. Gulak got a fair amount of offense in, but it looked like Nakamura was about to win before Bryan pulled Gulak out of the way of the Kinshasa, allowing him to pin Shinsuke. We now get Zayn vs Bryan at Mania, an enticing match that feels even more promising considering it’ll be surrounded by wild gimmick matches and recorded segments.
Another Ramblin Rabbit Bites the Dust
Fruits, veggies, self loathing, and furry friends are all part of a balanced diet for Bray Wyatt. In a new episode of Firefly Funhouse, we saw Wyatt chastise the head lantern he carries to the ring for failing to beat Cena at WrestleMania 30. Cult leader Wyatt may have fallen victim to the man who can’t be seen, but The Fiend thinks he’ll fare a little differently, considering it’s no longer burying season at all costs. After making a nutritious smoothie out of Ramblin Rabbits body, Wyatt challenged Cena to a Firefly Funhouse Match, which, much like the upcoming Boneyard Match, could mean literally anything. The possibilities for what could be projected onto the ring are endless. With much of Mania, if not the entire show, being prerecorded, there’s a chance we could get a genuinely fun, campy match where Cena is haunted by puppets and framed 2007 promo pics of himself while a children’s church cover of “True Colors” plays.
205 Original Strikes Back
With Jordan Devlin stuck in the UK for the foreseeable future, 205 Live remains in a limbo; no champion to challenge, no belt to fight for. The matches are solid, and surprisingly unaffected by the empty audience, although that may be because it’s preferable to view the cruiserweights in silence then hearing “we want Neville” chants in 2020. But there aren’t any clear storylines going on, and it seems the show is treading water until progress can be made with Devlin. Regardless, we once again had the second best wrestler on Twitter in the main event, as Oney Lorcan took on Tony Nese. After the 205 Originals lost to Team NXT a few weeks ago, Nese was determined to make Lorcan pay. These guys have good chemistry, and Nese got the upper hand with a suplex into the turnbuckle and the Running Nese to win. Lorcan suffers another loss here, but he gets to go home to that adorable dog, so he’ll never be down for long.