Paste Predicts: 2016 Wrestlemania Predictions

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<i>Paste</i> Predicts: 2016 Wrestlemania Predictions

Wrestlemania: The Grandaddy of Them All, the Show of Shows, the PPV with more nicknames and superlatives than coherent storylines. The annual Super Bowl of wrestling is the biggest day of the year in the colorful, outlandish pseudo-sport/gaudy performance art that is pro wrestling, and you can’t help but love it on some level. It’s the night when wrestling’s pageantry and self-seriousness is at its zenith, which also means it’s the night when the innate hilarity of wrestling as a storytelling vehicle is also maximized. Every year, Wrestlemania is a delicious melange of moments alternatively enjoyed with first irony and then sincerity.

Wrestlemania 32, on the other hand, reflects many of the issues that fans have had with the WWE in recent years; the same issues that seem to repeatedly flare up at this time of year. In a calendar year when the company has been absolutely devastated by injury after injury, we’ve been given a lineup for Wrestlemania anchored by Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Title, a match that seems destined to draw boos from the capacity crowd of 80,000 or more. Still, there are just enough other matches to get fans excited, from the potential mat classic of Chris Jericho vs. A.J. Styles to the three-way diva’s title match, which will hopefully elevate women’s wrestling to a new level of prestige.

Here are Paste’s picks for every match at Wrestlemania; courtesy of wrestling fans Jim Vorel, Garrett Martin, Ian Williams, Luke Dormehl and Jamie Loftus, who has written a nearly year-long column for Paste called “Heel to Face,” chronicling one woman’s attempt to become a pro wrestling fan.

1. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Jim Vorel: This one is a total crapshoot, as we barely have any idea of who will even be in the match. It makes sense for the winner to be someone not directly involved in another feud, match or angle for Wrestlemania, which would make Bray Wyatt an option … but it sounds like his injuries are fairly extensive—ditto for Luke Harper. This battle royal and its trophy have almost immediately gone from “maybe significant” when Cesaro won the inaugural match in 2014 to “essentially pointless” with The Big Show’s win last year. Therefore, I’ll go with another random large person in the crowded WWE locker room—oh, let’s say Braun Strowman.

Garrett Martin: This would be a great spot to introduce somebody from NXT, especially Samoa Joe or Finn Balor. After how Hideo Itami was treated in last year’s battle royal, though, I wouldn’t expect the winner to come from there. I would expect Braun Strowman to win, though, eliminating both Big Show and Kane to start his reign as the next overpushed giant.

Ian Williams: I can’t imagine they’ll give it to Big Show again and everyone is injured, so I’ll say Kane. Good odds it’s a surprise entrant or a NXT call-up, however.

Luke Dormehl: Mark Henry isn’t far off from retiring. A battle royal where he gets to dominate and show off some big power moves seems a fitting send-off for a great talent.

Jamie Loftus: As the only person who gives two shits about this match, IF BIG SHOW DOESN’T WIN THIS I WILL FLING MYSELF OFF THE TOP OF AT&T STADIUM SO HELP ME GOD.


2. The Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox and Eva Marie) vs. B.A.D. & Blonde (Lana, Tamina, Naomi, Emma and Summer Rae)

Jim Vorel: There’s no way that The Total Divas lose this, but it’s ironic that the most sensible reason for them to lose would be for a Total Divas storyline. The pin goes with either Brie Bella (who then retires to be with Daniel Bryan) or Eva Marie because the WWE is so certain that people will love her despite her getting the aural equivalent of being pelted by rotten tomatoes in her audience reception.

Garrett Martin: The ones from the E! Network show (Total Divas) win. Brie pins somebody and then retires the next night on Raw.

Ian Williams: I don’t know. I don’t know why. The Total Divas, I guess, with Eva Marie scoring a pin on Lana?

Jamie Loftus: Hard pass on this one. I’m rooting for B.A.D. & Blonde because I love Emma and can’t stand Eva or Brie, but they might take it on the merit of Brie’s impending retirement. I’m thrilled that there’s two women’s matches at Mania, but this one doesn’t have me very excited.


3. The Usos vs. the Dudley Boys

Jim Vorel: This match has had little to no build, and simply seems to be there to take up space. The winner will be the team that the company plans to do the most with, post-Wrestlemania—which is to say, I have no idea. I’ll pick The Usos, given that the WWE loves to have them win and may be searching for more babyface wins on the big Wrestlemania stage. It also gives them an excuse to break up The Dudleys, if Bubba is going on one last singles run.

Garrett Martin: With their love of nostalgia I’m surprised WWE didn’t make this a TLC match. The Usos will win for the feel-good moment at the start of the show, the Dudleys will finally get the tables out again but wind up going through them themselves, and then maybe Bubba can begin the singles run he earned through his reinvention as Bully Ray in TNA.

Ian Williams: They’ve slowly been transitioning the Dudleys from nostalgia act to tag team scene players. Bubba’s still in remarkable shape for his age and I think the Dudleys pull it off, despite the potential for griping about young guys not getting a rub.

Luke Dormehl: The Dudleys lost a series of big matches to the New Day. Give them the nostalgia pop of a WrestleMania victory in return. It’s not like the Usos—as much as I enjoy their talent—have too much upside.

Jamie Loftus: Let’s go with The Dudleys—I’d be down for them to be the big old school victory of the night.


4. Chris Jericho vs. A.J. Styles

Jim Vorel: Chris Jericho has been in an extended farewell tour of his career for multiple years now, reappearing every few months to have short programs with rising stars and ultimately put them over. A win gains him nothing, and would unnecessarily derail any momentum the company has built so far in promoting one of the best wrestlers in the world in A.J. Styles. This is the easiest to call match on the card: No way A.J. Styles loses this one.

Garrett Martin: Fans have turned hard on Jericho for whatever reason, despite still being one of the best wrestlers in the company and the best promo this side of Paul Heyman. Styles was over from day one due to his skills and reputation, but Jericho deserves respect for how thoroughly he’s put Styles over through his interviews while still playing up how much they hate each other. The matches have been fine but not earth-shattering, but Jericho will ride the adrenaline of the big stage and finally be able to keep up with Styles in one of the two best matches of the night. A.J. Styles wins clean and embarks on whatever feud is next on Raw.

Ian Williams: Styles wins this. Jericho’s content to get his in the middle of a feud before elevating a new or younger wrestler these days, and he already had his moment with the hilarious Y2AJ shirt angle.

Luke Dormehl: This smacks of one of those nonsensical WWE cheap roll-up finishes that has the heel going over because … reasons. But after putting over Fandango of all people at WrestleMania 29, I’d be shocked if the part-time Jericho is booked to go over one of the company’s future hottest talents. I’ve got my reservations, but I hope WWE gives A.J. Styles the win at his first Granddaddy of ‘Em All PPV.


5. Ladder match for the Intercontinental title: Kevin Owens© vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. The Miz

Jim Vorel: Otherwise known as the All Injury Spectacular, coming about as a result of the WWE’s ravaged roster. Two weeks ago, it would have been crazy to suggest that Zack Ryder would even be in a Wrestlemania match, and now he’s the underdog pick of many. Regardless, though, the actual story is all about Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, and they’re the two most likely winners. Prediction: Sami comes inches from winning, is denied, and Kevin Owens swoops in like a vulture to win the match and set up a later one-on-one date between the two.

Garrett Martin: I love Cody Rhodes more than almost anybody else in the company but adding certified dead enders like him, Ryder and Sin Cara to the match just makes everybody else in it seem less important. Sami Zayn will win and set up a summer-long revival of his endless feud with Owens.

Ian Williams: Sami Zayn, but I’m not confident about this. One way or another, Owens and Zayn are going to have a blood feud which continues into the summer. The question is whether it’s for the belt or just emotion; I’m betting the former, though putting it on The Miz so AJ Styles can get into the IC title scene away from the impending pan-Canadian war would be sharp.

Luke Dormehl: It’s very #firstworldproblem of me, but I’m bored of multi-man ladder matches at WrestleMania. This one features a bunch of guys who have been treading water for ages, plus Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. I’m going with Owens, if only because he deserves a lot better at WrestleMania.

Jamie Loftus: OWENS, BABY! Seeing him in the same ring as Zayn, as the world has affirmed since this was announced, will be incredible. I’m on board for this entire card in a major way, but I think that an Owens Mania victory would set the crowd on fire.


6. U.S. title match: Kalisto© vs. Ryback

Jim Vorel: The U.S. Title has definitely fallen in prominence from when it was being defended weekly in John Cena’s open challenges. Ryback has been stuck in this angle as the “I am big and you are small” heel, with Kalisto playing the babyface in peril. The company seems to want to build a crowd reaction for Kalisto and position him as the next Rey Mysterio, and a title defense at Wrestlemania would be a big reward for his first year with the company. So I’m picking Kalisto.

Garrett Martin: Ryback’s latest push seems to have already fizzled out again, but he’ll take this match and the belt because the number one rule in WWE still remains in effect: always bet on the bigger guy (and, in this case, the Big Guy).

Ian Williams: Kalisto’s got a ton of momentum and Ryback seems rudderless. Kalisto keeps riding the giant killer reputation a little longer.

Luke Dormehl: I’m a sucker for big man vs. little man matches and, although there are definitely others I would rather have seen get a singles match at WrestleMania, this bout could turn out to be a surprising amount of fun. With so many of its headliners on the injured list at the moment, Vince McMahon is sure to want to default to his standard “push the muscle guy” strategy. In other words…Ryback wins.

Jamie Loftus: Kalisto, I guess. Ryback turning heel was a drag.

Next: The WWE Championship and more!

7. Handicap match: The New Day vs. the League of Nations

Jim Vorel: Word on the street is that no group is going to get a bigger push at Wrestlemania than The New Day, which has had one of the best years that any tag team or stable has had in the WWE in a decade. It doesn’t seem to make much sense that they would get a huge, ornate entrance, now as beloved faces, only to lose their crowning match. One could argue that it would help get heat on the League of Nations, but the League feels incredibly pointless already and might as well use a Wrestlemania loss (and the departure of Wade Barrett) as grounds for dissolving anyway. The New Day wins and gets their Wrestlemania moment.

Garrett Martin: The League is made up of four guys who should all be bigger and in better positions than they are. Anybody who saw Del Rio wrestle outside the WWE last year realizes he’s a legitimate top level star, and yet he’s one of many guys stifled by the WWE’s creative inertia. All four have been handicapped by bad booking and/or overexposure. There’s little hope they’ll ever get legitimately over, but then the same could’ve been said about the New Day a year ago. Now they’re one of the highlights of the company, and a great example of the benefits of letting wrestlers embrace their natural personalities. Even though it’s not for the tag team belts, the New Day should still win this match, perhaps with the help of a surprise fourth man.

Ian Williams: The League of Nations felt rushed when they were formed to give purpose to Reigns and feel completely superfluous without him as a counterweight. Meanwhile, New Day are the hottest group act in wrestling right now. New Day cement their face turn and win big.

Luke Dormehl: In terms of their elevation up the hierarchy, the endlessly-charismatic New Day should receive a big “WrestleMania moment” win and then be inserted someplace higher than a generic midcard feud. So, of course, my prediction is that WWE swerves us and gives a cheap win to the League of Nations.

Jamie Loftus: Given their ascent in the past year I’m going with The New Day, but it’d be just as fun to watch them play a trombone processional after a loss.


8. Triple Threat match for the Divas championship: Charlotte© vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks

Jim Vorel: Slightly tougher to call than some of the others is the Divas Title match. It’s the most significant women’s match at Wrestlemania in quite a while, and hopefully these three will be given both the time they need and the audience support they deserve in order to put on a classic. It could go any of the three ways: Charlotte, continuing to gain mega heat by cheating to win; Becky finally getting the clutch victory that has eluded her, or Sasha stepping up into the spotlight to steal the show. Considering that option three is what the audience truly wants most, and because Sasha is an uncrowned star waiting to happen, I pick Sasha Banks, followed by lots and lots of tears from the very sincere performer.

Garrett Martin: It’s time to give it to Sasha. She goes over for the title and defends through the summer against Charlotte, Becky and Paige, before losing the title to Bayley at SummerSlam.

Ian Williams: I think they give it to Becky Lynch to set up a summer feud with Banks and Charlotte. No matter who it is, there should be a good three way feud over the title all summer.

Luke Dormehl: This is the match where I care least about the outcome: not because I’m not invested in the match, but just because I want these three talented ladies to have a chance to put on a great, show-stealing match in front of a WrestleMania audience—outcome be damned. In terms of a winner, I think there’s no way that Charlotte walks out as champion. My guess is that Flair accidentally costs his daughter the strap and Sasha Banks picks up the well-deserved win.

Jamie Loftus: Man, what a killer match this is gonna be. I’m a die-hard Sasha Banks girl, but I wouldn’t be sad to see Charlotte win and yank Flair into the ring to cry a good six to ten gallons of dynastic tears before newly minted Hall of Famer Snoop Dogg swoops in to fight on his cousin Sasha’s behalf. Becky can drop the weird steampunk goggles and get back to me.


9. Street fight: Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar

Jim Vorel: There will be blood. Oh yes, there will be blood, intentional or not. Beating Brock Lesnar clean is the most prestigious prize/rub that exists in the WWE today, and has existed ever since Lesnar broke The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak in 2014. Since that time, for the last two years, Brock has not been pinned clean a single time. The question has been who, if anyone, is worthy of collecting that boost. The company would of course love for it to be Roman Reigns, but fans have other ideas. As much as many would like to see Dean Ambrose pull off the impossible and get a huge, career-defining win, I still think that honor is meant to be Roman’s. The WWE will have Ambrose put up a tremendous fight, and hope that almost beating Lesnar continues to build his popularity. And thus, in the end, after any number of chair shots and table breaks, Brock Lesnar is your winner. I hope I’m wrong, but if Ambrose beats Lesnar, the only thing left for him is the WWE Title, which is bookmarked for a disliked babyface (Reigns) who the company won’t turn heel.

Garrett Martin: Every beat in this story has built up to one inevitable conclusion: Dean Ambrose, the extreme underdog, somehow beats the most frightening man in wrestling today because he’s just too crazy not to. This is WWE, though. They don’t tell stories the way stories are supposed to be told anymore. Also it’s well established that they don’t see Ambrose as the guy, no matter how into him the fans get. Expect Brock Lesnar to brutally kill him for 20 minutes with Ambrose repeatedly kicking out at the last second. Eventually Lesnar will polish him off with an especially deadly variation of the F5, probably off of something that’s pretty tall and through a certain amount of furniture. They’ll try to heat Ambrose back up on Raw for his summer program, and Lesnar will disappear until Summer Slam.

Ian Williams: Maybe the most compelling match on the card. The most over face in the company versus the guy whose thunderous pops are built of his mystique as an unstoppable monster means neither can take a loss. I’ll say Ambrose but via shenanigans of a crazy nature which keep Lesnar looking strong.

Luke Dormehl: I love Brock Lesnar. I also like Dean Ambrose a whole lot, although his “crazy” schtick runs the risk of being more Cosmo Kramer than Cactus Jack. What I’m hoping for here is a match that elevates both men: Brock out of his undefeatable “suplex city” formula of matches, which risks getting stale, and Ambrose into the main event. I feel that WWE is gearing up to give us another Lesnar win—thereby elevating him even further above the WWE roster. But I’m going to be optimistic and say Ambrose after a great battle.

Jamie Loftus: I am really, really excited for this one. I love what a loony tune Ambrose is and I think he’s got some big wins in the cards, but it doesn’t seem likely against the winner, Brock Lesnar.


10. World title match: Triple H© vs. Roman Reigns

Jim Vorel: Roman Reigns didn’t get to win the WWE Title at Wrestlemania last year, thanks to Seth Rollins. Short of Rollins appearing again, out of the ether, this is his year to do so. Roman Reigns takes the belt off part-time wrestler, full-time COO Triple H and the capacity crowd pelts him with boos, weak cheers, indifference and possibly plastic cups.

Garrett Martin: Reigns finally gets his big Wrestlemania moment as the largest crowd in WWE history boos him mercilessly. Confetti will fall, the announcers will act like it’s an inspiring end to a nasty blood feud, and fans will continue to discover better things to do on Monday nights.

Ian Williams: If this match gets moved from the main event, it’ll be for one reason: so the outcome, which will be awkward, is quickly forgotten in the spectacle of Shane vs. Undertaker. If Triple H wins, it makes Reigns the two time main event loser as golden boy babyface; if Reigns wins, the biggest Mania crowd ever erupts into boos. Reigns wins, the crowd hates it more than anything we’ve ever seen, and they get very quickly to the Hell in a Cell match to curtail the bad vibes.

Luke Dormehl: Whether it’s putting over He Who Shall Not Be Named at WrestleMania 20, Batista at 21, John Cena at 22, or Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30, Triple H has often been surprisingly giving at WrestleMania when it comes to building new stars. Of course, at other times he’s scored meaningless (and sometimes damaging) wins over the likes of Booker T, Sheamus, Brock Lesnar and Sting — so you never really know which Hunter Hearst Helmsley is going to show up on the night. With that said, WWE is clearly behind Roman Reigns when it comes to giving him the top spot, whether fans like it or not. Roman Reigns wins, accompanied by a whole lot of Michael Cole puns about the Roman empire.

Jamie Loftus: Reigns should lose. I want to see him lose, and I want to see children cry because he loses, but I don’t think there is a chance in hell that he will lose.


11. Hell in the Cell match for control of Raw—if Undertaker loses he is banned from future Wrestlemanias: Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon

Jim Vorel: Ah, here we are, the real main event. Another match that only exists because of injuries, it’s extremely hard to predict because we have no idea of the WWE’s current post-Wrestlemania plans or structure. Both outcomes potentially give them future storylines, although it will be harder to see how Shane McMahon fits on the show if he loses, and thus doesn’t gain control of RAW. The stipulation with the Undertaker’s future at Wrestlemania is meant to make his victory seem like more of a possibility, but WWE stipulations mean less than nothing—if they really want to have The Undertaker back at Wrestlemania next year (assuming he’s able to even go again), they’ll easily find a way to renege. Likewise, Shane taking over RAW gives the bigger array of new story possibilities, so my pick is Shane McMahon … but he’s going to have help. I have no idea who that help will be, but there’s no shortage of wrestlers who (in kayfabe) have reason to want The Authority gone. Hell, Roman Reigns could help the guy for all we know.

Garrett Martin: From the boss’s son-in-law fighting the roundly rejected chosen one, to a 51-year-old part-timer with the most protected gimmick in history squaring off against the boss’s 40-something non-wrestler son, these top two matches feature everything that makes the WWE so insufferable. If Shane wins he takes over Raw. They’re not saying he takes over the company, but one specific show. And also the Undertaker will have to stop wrestling on one of the two or three nights a year he still gets in the ring. It’s going to be a heavily gimmicked stunt show between a past-his-prime wrestler who, in storyline terms, should be able to kill the other guy dead in about 10 seconds, and a guy who’s wrestled less matches for the WWE over his 17-year-career than any full-timer wrestles in any given four months. And its entrances will definitely be longer than at least seven other matches on the card. At the end, one of them will win and it will mean absolutely nothing because within a few months Triple H and Stephanie McMahon will be cutting 20 minute promos every Monday again.

Ian Williams: Shane McMahon wins this, but it’s going to be an overbooked mess of a match. Expect appearances from superstars past (maybe a returning Cena or Stone Cold Steve Austin screwing with Vince one last time), weapons, at least one incredibly dangerous cage spot, and a summer dominated by a McMahon vs McMahon storyline.

Luke Dormehl: So we’re all in agreement this match is a mess, right? Okay, just checking! Does babyface Shane triumphantly return to WWE and … cost the Undertaker a victory in his home state at what could conceivably be his last WrestleMania? Does Undertaker win and give us more of the endless Authority angle? I don’t think WWE has put any thought into this, so I won’t either. Undertaker wins.

Jamie Loftus: First off, what a weird match to take place in front of 100,000 people, but sure. Taker is so fragile after this year and there’s been so much pomp and circumstance around his quarter century anniversary that I doubt he can take a loss on the off-chance that he won’t be able to return due to, you know, natural decay, but seeing the wayward son overtake the Undertaker would be quite a moment. Plus, the inevitable Undertaker forcibly entering a future Mania is pretty appealing.


Miscellaneous:

Jim Vorel: It’s a shame that there’s no Mr. Money in the Bank this year, ‘ala Seth Rollins, to add intrigue to how the title match could play out. I’m sure we’ll see some returns, maybe a Stone Cold appearance, Cena doing something, etc.

Garrett Martin: Steve Austin, the Rock and Mick Foley will show up to remind everybody of when Vince McMahon was desperate enough to actually let wrestlers who aren’t related to him get over. Triple H will basically work as a bad-ass face and the company will continue to wonder why Roman Reigns isn’t popular. John Cena will be cheered heavily in his surprise appearance because the dissatisfaction with Roman Reigns has made everybody look back wistfully at the heyday of Big Match John. I will watch seven hours of a company that consistently disappoints me because I am fundamentally broken in a way I have yet to understand. The Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn match on NXT Takeover on Friday will probably be the best WWE match of the weekend, and yet wrestling nerds will still find some way to complain about it. Wrestling will never make us truly happy again until we’re able to watch it through the lens of our children, who are still able to hope and believe and feel in ways we have long since forgotten. Ric Flair will still make me happy even if he’s just standing quietly outside the ring during Charlotte’s match. Somehow, despite this deep well of negativity about almost all things WWE, there will be at least three awesome moments where my cynicism disappears and I genuinely lose myself with excitement. I will briefly consider ordering an Evolve iPPV, and then not do so. I will continue to act like I am familiar with Evolve’s stars, even though I only know them through reputation. I will pull up some Evolve matches on Youtube but not get around to watching them. I will be wrong on at least half of these predictions. I will want to never watch WWE again but still watch Raw on Monday. I will, deep down, probably actually kind of enjoy myself.

Ian Williams: This card feels disjointed and unpredictable in not good ways, both of which are due to the worst injury crisis WWE’s ever seen. They’re going to throw every appearance from stars past they can muster to get pops; that’s liable to make things feel really cool in the moment but ring hollow a week after. WWE usually pulls off a good Wrestlemania, no matter how dire the lead-up, so let’s hope they overcome expectations one more time.


Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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