Before we get to the meat and potatoes of my expert analysis of this year’s Clustermania, a few notes on having attended this past Monday’s Raw go home show in Philly:
– Enzo and Cass are over as fuuuuuuuck. Seriously. They got the biggest pop of the night besides Undertaker. Great to see them thriving on the main roster, even though (and this will become a theme here) their shtick is wearing a tad thin these days, which brings us to…
– New Day! Still hidden backstage due to the Paige… uh… unpleasantness, there were plenty of bright green shirts in the audience, and it sucks that people who are actually still super into this didn’t get to see it “in person”. New Day have really been languishing since losing the Raw Tag Titles after their historic run, and this made-up “hosting” gig at Mania isn’t helping, especially given how talented in the ring these three are. Maybe WWE should establish a Trios Title, it can’t possibly be any more mis-managed than…
– The Cruiserweights! I’ve actually been enjoying the Aries and Neville build quite a bit (more on that, later) , but the CW matches on Monday’s Raw card got literally nothing from the audience, with the smartass little kids in front of us even trying to start an “awkward silence” chant. Of all the times I’ve ever wished I could force choke someone, this was definitely one of them.
– The dude in front of us was way too into the Raw theme music. I think he might’ve been Shinedown’s dad.
– That thing with the Big Show sure was a thing, wasn’t it. And Braun too! I like Braun, and Show to be honest, but this was a bad segment.
– Undertaker’s still got it! And Roman, well…
– That Zayn and Owens match was amazing! Amazing! And then we left, because, well, I didn’t care about Goldberg when he could actually wrestle for longer than 30 seconds, and Brock’s dickish part timer persona is stale as fuck.
– And finally, after my lovely wife purchased our Raw tickets she presented me with a series of questions: Is John Cena going to be there? The Bellas? The Miz? Daniel Bryan? What about AJ Styles? Clearly SmackDown Live is more over than Raw even with people who don’t watch wrestling.
This poster made wrestling fans really angry. Why? Roman isn’t big enough.
This year’s star studded Flo Rida concert with also some wrestling comes from Orlando, Florida, and if the show’s “Ultimate Thrill Ride” theme and the gauche set currently under construction are any indication, they’ve taken what Orlando is best known for and run it into the ground just like they do anything else. Since the bill is so stacked (read: overbooked), several high profile matches have been shuffled to the “pre-show” (better known to us Attitude Era kids as “MTV’s Sunday Night Heat”, and the “Free For All” before that) and those include:
Austin Aries vs. Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship
As stated earlier, I’ve enjoyed Aries’ ascension from injured snarky commentator to legit contender for Neville’s “throne” (even though all that “package” talk was a bit too “Bad Attitude Era” for my tastes), that said, black clad angry heel Neville has been a revelation, of course in the ring but surprisingly on the mic. I wouldn’t be mad at seeing either of these guys walk away with the strap, but if it was up to me I’d keep it on Neville. Unfortunately I see Aries getting the rub.
Who I think SHOULD win: Neville.
Who I think WILL win: Aries.
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Naomi in a Six-Pack Challenge for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
I’ll go to bat for the Cruiserweights but not for the SmackDown Women’s Division, which has been a bruise on the show’s otherwise sterling reputation. Of course Becky’s great, and Bliss is greener than goose shit (as Stone Cold Steve Austin would say), but at least she’s got personality, and personality counts for a lot. Anybody else, well, Carmella doesn’t make much sense to me without Enzo and Cass, Natalya’s “annoying mom” voice makes me wish I was deaf, and Mickie James is a relic of the very, very, bad “Ruthless Aggression” era Diva stuff that was bad, very bad indeed. Naomi’s never done much for me, but maybe that was just the stink of charisma-less Tamina and “WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS TO SASHA!?” Team BAD. A huge deal was made about her return on this week’s SmackDown though, so perhaps she can ride that momentum into a Title win.
Who I think SHOULD win: Bliss.
Who I think WILL win: Naomi.
The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Braun? *nods* Braun.
Who I think SHOULD win: Braun, but give Show and especially Sami Zayn at least a cool moment or two.
Who I think WILL win: Braun Braun Braun.
Ladies love cool Braun.
ON WITH THE MAIN SHOW!
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
Poor AJ, he deserves better than this. Shane’s gonna jump off some shit, AJ’s gonna get his shit in, and hopefully win and go on to feud with whoever wins out of Orton and Wyatt. The end.
Who I think SHOULD win: AJ after Shane botches another big spot, but this time it’s a work and they don’t pretend he didn’t miss.
Who I think WILL win: AJ, but they’ll still make Shane look way too strong and capable.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
This one’s a no brainer. Cena’s on the precipice of a legitimate Hollywood career and The Miz has nowhere else to go but The Marine 7: 12 Rounds 4. Mid-aughts Cena may have balked at the idea of doing the honors for a doofus like The Miz on his way out but mid-teens Cena is another more gracious and generous story. As for the rumor that Big Match John is set to propose to Nikki as part of the segment, well, get the Kleenex ready.
Who I think SHOULD win: Cena, obviously. Hot current run or not Miz is still just THE WORST.
Who I think WILL win: Nikki, obviously, the luckiest girl in the (WWE) universe.
Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
I just… ugh. So much ugh.
Who I think SHOULD win: Taker after Roman goes full heel and throws everything at him but the kitchen sink.
Who I think WILL win: Roman clean as a whistle.
Triple H vs. Seth Rollins
Heavily rumored to feature the return of Finn Balor, I don’t expect this to be much of “match”, per se, but as a “segment” it’s probably the portion of the show I’m looking forward to the most. Will The Demon side with The Architect despite him being the one who put him on the shelf? Or The Creator despite his alliance with Balor’s NXT arch enemy Samoa Joe? I can’t see H putting himself over either way. These are his boys, after all, and he can’t help but be proud.
Who I think SHOULD win: Rollins clean.
Who I think WILL win: Rollins with overbooked shenanigans aplenty.
Triple H poses with the only guy that he’d put over clean.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs. Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass for the Raw Tag Team Titles
This is another one that’s kind of a mess either way. As much of a mark as I am for “first appearance” Bullet Club I’ll agree with everyone else that Anderson and Gallows (Southpaw Regional Wrestling notwithstanding) have been treated like hot garbage in WWE, and the Marvel Team Up of Sheamus and Cesaro does absolutely nothing for me. Fuck it, why not? Put the belts on Enzo and Cass. Catch phrase fatigue be damned, keep those awful “Cuppa Haters” shirts flying off the shelves!
Who I think SHOULD win: Book The Club strong as fuck.
Who I think WILL win: Corny face Enzo and Cass.
Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the US Title
Word around the old campfire is that Jericho’s only under contract for another month before he “goes away” again, maybe forever, so this could be The Ayatollah of Rock N’ Rolla’s last Mania ever. As much as I like Owens, perhaps Y2J deserves to stand tall at one last Mania, especially given how rock solid he’s been during this last run.
Who I think SHOULD win: Y2J clean. Let these Canadians really put on a goddamned clinic.
Who I think WILL win: Still Y2J, but with a whole mess of Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn and other such bullshit interference.
Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental Championship
The smart money says that Corbin isn’t ready to go over at Mania, despite his Andre Battle Royal win last year and his consistent improvement ever since. Despite the Intercontinental Title’s reputation as the “workhorse belt” though, and Dean’s reputation as one hell of a worker, he’s barely defended the damn thing and has had a pretty unremarkable run. Saving Dean to give the rub to Corbs at Mania? One can only hope…
Who I think SHOULD win: Corbin.
Who I think WILL win: Ambrose.
Corbin’s audition to star in Shenmue 3 went really well.
Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Title
This could be the dark horse match of the night if handled correctly. The Sasha Banks heel turn has been well telegraphed, and that could very well still go down, and a feud with squeaky clean babyface Bayley ignited in the process. That development doesn’t necessarily need to put the belt on The Boss though, and if it were up to me I’d have Nia Jax steamroll everyone to begin an epic monster heel run, at least until Asuka makes her way to the main roster.
Who I think SHOULD win: Heel Nia. She’s not like most girls.
Who I think WILL win: Heel Sasha.
Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship
This angle’s been weird and dumb in a Ministry of Darkness-y way that I can really get behind, for the first time in a while showing a fundamental understanding and appreciation of what makes the Bray Wyatt character so special. Stranger things have happened, but I can’t see them fucking it up at this point. No disrespect to Orton, but Bray definitely deserves the W (and the *cringe* “Wrestlemania Moment”) here.
Who I think SHOULD win: Bray.
Who I think WILL win: Bray.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship
Sorry to end on a downer, but I really could not possibly give a fuck less about this match. Keeping the Universal Title on Owens at Fastlane through some chickenshit heel motherfuckery would’ve been the way to go, thus having KO’s Mania blowoff match with Jericho be title for title. But now we’ll have a Raw champion going forward who either can’t wrestle (Goldberg) or won’t (Lesnar), which is shitty not just for viewers, but for the guys on the roster who actually show up to work every week. Boo.
Who I think SHOULD win: Bane Lesnar literally breaks Goldberg in half
Who I think WILL win: Brock does the job for Bill because even if he can’t wrestle for more than a minute, at least Goldberg will be on TV every week with the strap and a decent attitude.