WrestleMania 33: What We Got Right (and Wrong)

WrestleMania 33: What We Got Right (and Wrong)

Our WrestleMania 33 recap will analyze the WrestleMania 33 predictions we posted last week, and we’ll examine how right… and how wrong… we were.

Predictions That Came True

Not to toot our own horn, but toot toot.

While we certainly missed the mark on some things, we were pleasantly surprised how spot on we were with others. Here we go.


1) Paul Heyman’s promo, word for word

We wrote just days ago:Paul Heyman will cut legendary promos hyping it as the battle of ‘the 2 in 23-2,’ referencing Undertaker’s win-loss record at WrestleMania.”

Lo and behold, what did Heyman say on Raw? “The 2 in 23-2.” We know that guy too well. It’s a hint of how he’ll hype the Lesnar-Reigns match at WrestleMania 34.

This was scary how right we were.

The promo was strong, and they will get stronger as the feud builds. Brock Lesnar’s next match is likely with Braun Strowman, which is tricky because it means Strowman may have to beat Lesnar to get there. Lesnar will play babyface for that match, as evidenced by Strowman backing down from him on Raw. The matches should be heated, and Strowman will learn to work the big man style even more than he already does. He will continue to improve, barring injury (always a risk when you’re a guy that size moving around the way he does).

kurt-angle-gm-raw
The right man for the job.

2) Kurt Angle is the new Raw General Manager

We had written: “If (Kurt Angle) is not cleared (or even if he is), he may be a General Manager of Raw or SmackDown.”

Bingo, baby. We called this exactly as it happened.

Damn we’re good.

This wasn’t exactly rocket science, as it wasn’t hard to see happening. When Teddy Long first came out, I knew right away it was a joke (and a pretty good one at that). The lack of reaction to him was a sign that everyone else knew it was Angle as soon as Vince said the new GM was a 2017 Hall of Famer.

This is a terrific move. Kurt Angle is the right man for the job because he has the comedic chops for the kind of stuff they like to write, but is a legit badass and can lay down the law when needed as well. His interplay with Stephanie, once she returns, should be really good.

One can’t help but imagine this leads to HHH vs. Kurt Angle down the line, which isn’t the worst idea. I’m not crazy about two part-timers going at it, but both are so good in the ring and ridiculously driven, so it’s not like they’d have a bad match. Both should be putting over young guys, however there’s still time to do that later. And HHH vs Kurt Angle wasn’t a match that was overdone during the Attitude Era, so it feels fresh.

hardy-boyz-1
They were broken, now they’re fixed.

3) The Hardy Boyz returned at the Mania ladder match

We had written: THE HARDYS WILL RETURN! Yes, I do think they will do a run-in of some sort, resulting in perhaps the biggest pop of the show. With the ladder involved, I expect “Delete” changes the whole match. I don’t know who ends up victorious, but yes I do expect a Hardy run-in, complete with the Broken Hardys gimmick.”

Double bingo!

Again, this wasn’t hard to call. Some people thought they might’ve returned at Raw instead, but I figured the lure of the big pop was too much for Vince to turn down.

We were wrong in thinking it’d be a run-in, but the way they did it was better. We were also wrong about the Broken Hardys gimmick, but we were right about which match they’d return in, about the “Delete” chants, and it getting the biggest pop of the show.

It’s hard to believe Matt and Jeff Hardy, at their ages and with their injuries, did back to back ladder matches in 48 hours. From all accounts, they did not phone it in on their ROH match the day before, so they deserve a lot of credit for doing this and having it come off so well.

Another good move, obviously. For those predicting the Hardys will end up like the Dudleys, don’t worry. The Hardys were always way bigger stars than the Dudleys, especially Jeff. Their merchandise will also sell well. In addition, I expect some sort of settlement to where the Hardys will get to use their Broken Hardys gimmick, which will keep them strong. Women love the Hardys, and I think they’ll do better than expected and Raw house shows may even go up (though I hope they don’t work a full house show schedule).

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Luckiest kid ever. I pity whoever bullies him at school.

4) Goldberg lost, embraced his family, and got cheered for it.

We had written: “Lesnar gets a clean win here, whether or not Goldberg continues to do more matches with WWE. And Goldberg will embrace his son and wife and still get cheered on his way out.”

This was another one that wasn’t hard to see coming. He was ‘squashed’ more than I figured, although not nearly as much as he squashed Lesnar and Kevin Owens in his other matches.

Goldberg’s embracing of his family happened at Raw (technically “Raw Talk,” which aired after Raw on the WWE Network). I hope they replay this segment on Raw, because it was terrific, real, and emotional. Who would have ever thought Goldberg would be among the best promos in the business in 2016 and 2017? Such is life when you’re not scripted by people who don’t understand your character.

Imagine if we got real, non-scripted promos on Raw all the time? That’s how it used to be, and it was infinitely better.

His promo was so good that he was cheered like a legend as he left the ring. Keep in mind he was booed like crazy at Mania and on Raw when his name was mentioned.

Will he wrestle again? The scene was exactly the same two years ago, when I was in the building in San Jose. Sting came out after Raw ended, for an in-ring promo that aired exclusively on the WWE Network. He gave no definitive answer on if he’d wrestle again. He ended up wrestling Seth Rollins later that year, and probably regrets it due to the horrible injury he suffered.

Odds are likely Goldberg wrestles again. I can see some foreign group offering him a ton of money, and WWE will want to prevent that from happening. He may not want to do it again, but I think he son will be asking him every day, “Dad, when are you going to wrestle again? Dad? Dad??”

He could work with Kurt Angle in a dream match, or work with AJ Styles and actually have a good match because AJ is so damn great. He could also work with Bray Wyatt and do okay. As Goldberg said before he dropped the mic, never say never.

5) Roman Reigns won, and didn’t turn heel

We had written: “Will Reigns turn heel? I don’t think he will overtly do so, but he won’t need to because he’ll be booed like crazy. He will act more like a subtle heel but I’m betting against a full-fledged turn (and I hope I’m wrong).”

A lot of people entertained the thought that Undertaker would win, but I clearly saw the build for WrestleMania 34 next year as the battle of the only two guys who beat the Undertaker.

The pin came somewhat out of nowhere, but I could tell from Roman’s face on the 1-count that it was going to be the finish, and I was correct. It wasn’t picture perfect, though all things considered, the whole thing went very well. They only blew one spot (reverse tombstone), and that was through no fault of Roman.

They made the right move. I was concerned they’d send the crowd home unhappy. And they would’ve. Luckily the Undertaker standing ovation and subtle retirement acknowledgement of taking off his coat, gloves, and hat were all well received and got an emotional reaction from the fans who had all grown up watching him.

A heel turn isn’t necessary. The problem with a heel turn is that fans would know the company WANTS them to boo Roman, so to be cool and rebellious, they’d start to cheer him. Especially if he became an entertaining heel. By preventing an official turn, he can maintain the kind of heat he has, and in fact intensify it.

There is one thing I’m noticing, and it’s good. I’m starting to see Roman really begin to find his voice, so to speak. It’s the same feeling I got as I watched the Rock, HHH, and Steve Austin go from average talkers to world class talkers. All WWE needs to do is grant him a bit more freedom, and he’ll do fine. His “This is my yard now” line on Raw, followed by the mic drop, was awesome. The way he brought the mic to his mouth, which garnered more boos, and then he lowered it again, was great television.

6) Seth Rollins wins, without Foley’s help

We had written: “Rollins goes over, although I suspect HHH may continue the feud because WWE is going to lose some main event talent in Q2. Logic says Mick Foley gets his revenge, leading to Rollins winning. But I question that will happen if only because I can’t imagine Foley walking that very long distance to the ring from the back in a timely fashion.”

Anything other than Rollins going over would’ve been stupid, so I’m not exactly Nostradamus in this case. Foley did not interfere, and when I saw how long that ramp was to the ring, I knew immediately Foley wouldn’t do a run-in, walk-in, or even a crawl-in. Perhaps he could’ve stolen HHH’s motorcycle.

On a totally personal note, Stephanie McMahon was never my type. I’m a small man, and she’s a big-boned girl designed for a big-boned boy (and she got one). But that leather outfit looked really good on her, and for the first time ever, I had to do a double take on her. Such is what happens when a woman dresses in rock n roll biker gear, which is always sexy.

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Shane Gracie.

7) AJ Styles and Shane McMahon had a good match

We had written: “I expect this to be a good one. AJ is the best wrestler in the country right now, and guys like Ric Flair have carried guys worse than Shane to good matches. AJ will get his usual spots in, while Shane will do his obligatory big stunt that will elicit “Holy sh*t” chants, and the match will be fine.”

It was even better than I or anyone else expected. In fact, I was completely wrong about it being a wild brawl with crazy stunts (as the opening match on the card, it’d be stupid if they did that). Shane did some wrestling sequences, and while many were knocking how bad they were, they don’t get it. We know it wasn’t smooth, but that’s not the point. The point is that nobody expected that from him, so it didn’t NEED to be good. He just needed to do it. And he did, and it was impressive.

Also, Shane deserves credit for some of the difficult spots like catching AJ in mid-air for a submission. And a friggin’ shooting star press. There are plenty of guys today who can’t do those moves. He not only did them, he also did them pretty damn perfectly. Shane was given the match and tried his best and did extremely well for his age, or for any age. What is the Goddamn problem?

What, AJ should’ve wrestled Finn Balor or Nakamura? No, he shouldn’t have. Those matches would’ve gotten lost in the shuffle like Dean Ambrose vs Baron Corbin did. Those matches can be saved for later. I thought this was great for what it was, and obviously the crowd loved it.

john-cena-proposes-nikki-bella
Yeah, like she didn’t see this coming.

8) John Cena won, and proposed to Nikki

We had written: “Even with John Cena taking time off, I expect him to win here just because it’s Cena and it’s WrestleMania and so many people will be watching the show just for him. Miz won’t be hurt with a loss, and I doubt a win would help him much either since the post-match will feature Cena on one knee proposing to Nikki.”

I won’t take any credit for predicting this, as everyone knew it all along. It came off about as well as expected. As a divorced guy who’s totally anti-marriage, the actual scene sickened me and I can’t help but predict this won’t end well. But that’s another column for another day. This was exactly what it should’ve been, and anyone whining about the match quality needs to realize it didn’t matter in the end.

9) Neville won, and nobody cares

We had written: “I’ll say Neville retains, only to lose it sometime this Spring. Match will be talked about as good, but not great because it wasn’t in the position to be.”

This is exactly what happened, no surprise. When they do meet again in a different setting, it’ll be a much better match with much better reactions.

WWE is missing the boat by not taping 205 Live at Full Sail University. The crowds would be hot, the matches would be great, and it would give the Network a huge buzz. It’s understandable why they don’t, because of the costs. Gotcha. So just do the show before SmackDown, instead of after. At least the crowd would be hotter.

nakamura-smackdown
F*cking FINALLY!

10) Nakamura debuted… finally!

We wrote: Shinsuke Nakamura will debut on either Raw or SmackDown next week. As noted above, WWE is losing so many headliners that they really do need him. He’ll make more of an impact on Raw, but I hope it’s SmackDown because they need him more.”

This was really one of the more classic moments from WrestleMania weekend.

It was brilliantly done, not that it seemed all that complicated to pull off. But with WWE, it’s a sigh of relief when they DON’T screw up what’s blatantly obvious. I predict nothing but success for Nakamura, and I really hope he gets the chance to work with the top stars. Can’t imagine he won’t get over immensely.


Predictions That Were Wrong

1) Goldberg didn’t bleed

We had written: “Goldberg will bleed. He’s awful at selling, and the blood will add a necessary element to the match to garner sympathy, put Lesnar over as a monster, and distract people from the fact that Goldberg can’t work anymore.”

Goldberg needed to be hidden, and they found a way to do it without having him bleed. Had they done a longer match, I think he would’ve juiced. They only went 4 minutes, but it was a hot 4 minutes and I don’t think people felt ripped off. They really, really didn’t trust him out there very long.

It’s amazing that each guy only did two moves, yet the crowd reacted huge. It was a series of spears and suplexes, plus each guy’s finisher. Guys on the indies kill themselves doing crazy flips every 10 seconds, and yet these guys did just two moves each.

Then again, guys on the indies aren’t the size of Goldberg and Lesnar, and certainly don’t have their aura and charisma. So they have to do the crazy spots to get noticed. As I’ve been saying since I was a kid who got bullied by the Lesnars and Goldbergs on the playground, it sucks to be small.

2) Goldberg vs Lesnar didn’t go on last

We had written: “Everyone is wondering which match will go on last, and odds are this is the one. And that terrifies me.”

While the two had a hotter match than Reigns vs Undertaker, they were right to end the show with the match that did. If Undertaker were to retire, he should’ve gone on last. And he did.

My only fear was that Reigns and Undertaker wouldn’t have a good match, but Reigns was so good that it was more than passable. Yes, there is major irony in Roman being good enough to save the show from ending on a flat note, yet he was booed all night and the next day on Raw because he “sucks.” Whatever.

jim-jan-ross
R.I.P. Jan Ross

3) Jan Ross wasn’t honored

We had written:Jan Ross will be honored at some point over the weekend, probably at the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Jan’s passing wasn’t acknowledged, and I don’t know that it should’ve been. Michael Cole did acknowledge he had a difficult past couple of weeks (that’s putting it mildly), and certainly most viewers knew what he was talking about.

I know Ross felt he needed to go to Orlando, and it makes sense why. Sitting at home would’ve been worse. Still, it felt so weird that he was calling a match when she passed away not even two weeks prior. He really didn’t have much choice, and this is not a knock because he should’ve done exactly what he did, and we would’ve done the same. Still, it was an eerie feeling. Just a horrible tragedy and there’s no positive way to spin it. However, we’re thrilled to see Ross back in WWE and happy he got so much support from friends and fans when he needed it most.

4) Bray Wyatt didn’t win, and nobody interfered

We had written: “Wyatt goes over and remains champion, but the finish will be disputed. Luke Harper will interfere on behalf of Randy Orton, but Erik Rowan and/or Bo Dallas will even things out for Wyatt. Bo Dallas will become Bo Wyatt and join the Wyatt family with Rowan.”

Obviously we were wayyyyyyy off here. That was one weird match, with the special effects that were cool but also illogical. I do think some of what we wrote might come true in the coming weeks, but at Mania nothing of the sort happened. And probably for the best, as the show would’ve been overbooked if they did.

5) Shane McMahon didn’t fall from the sky

We had written: “Shane will get hurt and do something over the tope from the ‘thrill ride’ set in the building.”

That was written before I saw how high up in the stadium the thrill ride set was, so it would’ve been impossible to jump from there. He could’ve jumped from the second ring that was above the first ring, but luckily that didn’t happen.

What Shane ended up doing was far more impressive. A shooting star press and Vandaminator are no easy moves to pull off. And we’re also thankful his sons didn’t run to the ring with him.

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but Shane’s wife Marisa still looks good. When she used to host the WWF weekend shows circa 2000, I thought she was absolutely gorgeous. He definitely married a great woman there.

6) Baron Corbin lost, but nobody remembers that

We had written: “Corbin will go over, but Ambrose will be booked to look strong. Corbin is on the path to main event heel and I can’t see WWE booking him to lose right now.”

Perhaps they felt the babyface had to go over since this match was moved to the pre-show (swapped with the SmackDown women’s match). Either way, it doesn’t matter because no one is talking about this match. As far as I’m concerned, if it didn’t happen on the main card, then it might as well not have happened in the fans’ eyes.

Ambrose’s star has really fallen. I laugh when I hear people say he’d have been a better option to build around than Reigns. Reigns elicits a reaction because he’s charismatic and makes people care in some way (loving him or hating him). Ambrose elicits very little.

I personally think he needs a heel turn and new ring attire. The jeans and tank top just doesn’t work for a main event star. He’s badly missing something, but he’s not lacking for talent, promo skills, or facial expressions. He’s just stale and needs a makeover of some sort.

7) Chris Jericho lost, as he should’ve

We wrote: “I’m going to go out on a limb and say Jericho retains, only to lose the title either on Raw the next night or soon thereafter.”

There’s no reason Chris Jericho should’ve won, so I’m glad he didn’t. He does need some sort of revenge on Kevin Owens, but he can still get that without winning. And Owens needs heat right now, especially if he is to challenge Lesnar later this year (and he better).

They wisely held off on Finn Balor’s return until Raw, and he came off as a big star to that audience. However, why in the Hell didn’t he wear his body paint? He needs to wear it every single time he wrestles, otherwise he comes off as a small guy with an Irish accent and fragile body. I just don’t think he’ll stay over at this level, and I don’t think Vince will have confidence in him. And why in the Hell did they team him with Rollins when Rollins is the guy who injured him for months?

8) Charlotte didn’t win, and I completely give up on the booking of Bayley

We wrote:Charlotte regains the title for the 785th time, and the hot potato passing back and forth of the title will continue for infinity.”

The booking of Bayley has made zero sense. Why did she win before Mania, or before the PPV show in her hometown? Why does she lose so often on Raw? Why even entertain the possibility of beating her and humiliating her in her hometown?

Why why why. Such back asswards booking. Don’t get me wrong, she needs to keep winning because she has enormous marketing potential. It’s just that their timing of doing all this was suspect.

Please send Nia Jax back to NXT. She’s not ready and she ruins every match. If they want an ass kicker who looks different, they have that in Asuka. Asuka is also sexier than a mofo and has potential to get over in a way that appeals to both women and also hornballs like me.

alexa-bliss
Alexa Bliss.. is she gorgeous, or what?

9) Becky Lynch didn’t win the title

We wrote: “I’m madly in love with Alexa Bliss, but I think Lynch goes over here.”

I was going to be pissed no matter who beat Bliss, and I suppose Naomi should’ve won given it wasn’t her fault she was stripped of the title in the first place. But damnit, I just love Alexa so much. She’s probably upset she lost the title on the grandest stage of them all, and if she needs someone to comfort her, I’m here for her. She can stay at my place and cry on my shoulder all she wants. I love you, Miss Bliss.

10) Mojo Rawley won the f*cking battle royal

We had written: “Most are predicting Braun Strowman, since he’s being groomed for the main events this year. Still, I’m going against the grain and picking Big Show. The poor guy trained his ass off to get in shape for Shaquille O’Neal, and then it never happened. Between that and the fact this may be his last WrestleMania, I think Vince will throw him a bone.”

I can see Big Show not winning, since he doesn’t need the victory and the battle royal is all about younger guys. Strowman was the obvious choice; almost too obvious (which is why I thought it wouldn’t happen). But friggin’ Mojo Rawley?? The guy who will never get over no matter what gimmick they give him?

I honestly didn’t know who the f*ck that Gronk guy was either. Some of us don’t give a f*ck about sports.

The only good thing about Rawley winning is that no one was watching or caring about this match in the first place, and it will mean nothing. As I’ve always said, most real sports guys lack charisma in a pro wrestling setting unless they’re colorful (Kevin Greene/Steve McMichael with the wild hair or Dennis Rodman with his crazy look). Gronk and Rawley, who tries far too hard, are proof of this. WWE will learn yet again the hard way.

Using local sports stars almost never works. Kevin Greene was very talented but meant little outside of North Carolina. Lawrence Taylor didn’t do well on top because few people outside of NY cared about him. The only way sports stars work is if they’re national names (Mike Tyson, Dennis Rodman) and have a look or personality tailor made for pro wrestling. Ditto for actors like the dude from Arrow who nobody cares or talks about.

hulk-hogan
He said the N word, and then WWE said it (“No”) to him.

11) Hulk Hogan was absent

We wrote: Hulk Hogan will make a surprise appearance at WrestleMania, not in a match but in an in-ring segment with the New Day.”

It’s a good thing he wasn’t there, so no complaints. The show didn’t need him, and WWE doesn’t need him right now.

Will anyone complain when he returns? No. Our continuous news cycle makes people forget scandals because we’re numb to them. Besides, nobody really believes Hogan is a racist. Even though he said he was, and even though his words were on tape, we’ve all known Hogan for decades and we truly don’t think he’s racist. And this is coming from someone who really doesn’t like him personally because he’s such a lying bullsh*t artist.

Also, wrestling fans are the biggest hypocrites ever. If we’re supposed to hate everyone who used the N word, then take a gander at that Hall of Fame. Jim Cornette, who used the word in 1993 at the infamous SMW show in Wise, VA, was worshipped by the internet marks. Dusty Rhodes was said to have used the word many times, as Bad News Allen will tell you. Andre the Giant, with a whole battle royal named after him, made racial jokes. Road Warrior Hawk used the N word to Too Cold Scorpio (and got his ass kicked for it) and there’s no outcry from wrestling fans. And Michael Hayes has gotten in trouble too for things he’s said. But Hogan is the bad guy because his stuff was on tape.

And let’s not forget the ridiculous outcry from snowflake wrestling fans who tried to get Donald Trump removed from the WWE Hall of Fame. The same Hall of Fame that has Ric Flair in it twice, a guy who has cheated on his wives more times than there are countries on this planet, and he boasted about it regularly on his podcast. Total hypocrisy of the highest order.

Bringing Hogan back will be fine. When the time is right. And the time isn’t right. And it has nothing to do with his racial remarks.

jim-cornette-2
Cornette’s his name, burning bridges is his game.

12) Jim Cornette didn’t screw up… yet

We wrote: “Jim Cornette will do something stupid. Maybe not so much in the induction speech for the Rock N Roll Express, but in some capacity backstage.”

He was fine during the speech, as we knew he’d be because he loves and respects the RnR Express so much. I was afraid he’d do something nutty backstage or say something in a press interview or personal appearance that burned a bridge, and so far, nothing yet.

Still, he may do so in the coming weeks.

13) WrestleMania was good, but not better than NXT Takeover

We wrote: “Overall I feel the show will exceed expectations and even be better received than NXT Takeover will.”

Mania exceeded expectations a bit, but Takeover exceeded them A LOT. That 3-way tag match was headed towards ***** until DIY was eliminated. Authors of Pain winning took the air out of the tires, in what otherwise would’ve been the match of the weekend.

The other NXT matches were strong. Nothing as memorable as last year, or overall as Mania this weekend, however still a fantastic show.

14) Shelton Benjamin didn’t return… yet

We wrote:Shelton Benjamin will return at SmackDown on Tuesday.”

Given that Nakamura and Tye Dillinger debuted, having Shelton return would’ve been overkill. And it made sense to debut those two this week than Shelton, as he can come later this month and have a bigger impact.

Shelton will work good matches, but as with last time, I don’t think he’ll get over much because WWE doesn’t know how to use him. He had a window of opportunity, and WWE blew it more than 10 years ago and unfortunately I think his moment has passed. But we shall see.

Conclusion

What a tremendous week to be a wrestling fan. So much news, so many great moments, so many good matches, and all sorts of fresh matchups and feuds ready for the summer and fall months.

We were wrong more often that we were right, but that’s all part of the fun of WrestleMania weekend, and it would be boring if it were too predictable. Bravo to WWE for all five shows this week (Hall of Fame, NXT Takeover, WrestleMania 33, Raw, and SmackDown).

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