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And we’re Back in Business as the 2021 edition of WrestleMania heads to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the original location for 2020’s WrestleMania before the pandemic that it shut down. It will be the first major WWE event that can only be streamed in the United States on the WWE Network channel on the Peacock streaming service. It also is the first major WWE with fans in attendance, an exciting fact since we’ll finally know how the masses have taken to the various wrestlers’ journeys over the past year. Picture a black screen suddenly lit up with Drew McIntyre’s intro, only his music playing through your speakers. He comes out and stabs the sword into the set launching fireworks over the stadium and the excitement of the crowd erupts through your speakers as the camera pans the crowd.
Bonus prediction: At some point we’ll get sick of the reaction shots of (hopefully masked) fans.
Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre – WWE Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Bobby Lashley is in possession of the WWE Championship after he cost Drew McIntyre the title when he brutally attacked him at Elimination Chamber, and now Drew comes to claim what was taken from him in a fair fight.
Back in the day, both Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were anointed to be big players in the WWE but neither lived up to expectations and found themselves out in the independent wrestling circles. There, the two remade themselves and eventually Drew became champion at WrestleMania 2020.
MVP sensing an opportunity to improve his lot attempted to enter Drew McInytre’s orbit but was rebuffed by McIntyre. Unable to physically deal with McIntyre, MVP approached Bobby Lashley (who was currently mired in a storyline where Lana was his “wife”) and reminded Lashley of his true potential. This led to a championship match between Lashley and McIntyre at Backlash 2020 that Lashley lost due to Lana’s involvement.
Lashley dumped Lana and with MVP formed the Hurt Business bringing in Shelton Benjamin and, later, Cedrick Alexander. The group dominated with Shelton and Cedrick winning the tag team titles and Lashley winning the US title. Meanwhile McIntyre defended his title against all comers and the Miz acquired the Money in the Bank contract.
At Elimination Chamber 2021, Bobby Lashley lost the US title when Riddle pinned John Morrison and Drew McIntyre successfully defended his title against five former WWE Champions in a grueling Elimination Chamber match. After McIntyre’s match, Lashley attacked a worn-down McIntyre setting the stage for Miz to cash in the Money in the Bank contract and winning the WWE Championship.
Lashley challenged the Miz and won the WWE Championship while McIntyre was involved in a personal feud his former best friend, Sheamus. A series of failures by Cedrick Alexander and Shelton Benjamin led to Lashley (violently) dissolving the Hurt Business. Lashley then placed a bounty on McIntyre that McIntyre successfully repulsed, setting the stage for their WrestleMania 2021 championship match.
Prediction and analysis: Whether this match is the opening match, which has added significance given this will be the first WWE with a big crowd, or the last on night one, the babyface, Drew McIntyre needs to win. I hope it is a long hard-hitting affair and not a Brock Lesnar five-minute special, although I can see the appeal of that style of match. Whatever the case, I don’t think this will settle things between the two and their feud continues.
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair – WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Bianca Belair won the 2021 women’s Royal Rumble match, and she chose Sasha Banks as the champion that she wanted to face.
After Bianca Belair won the right to choose a champion to face at WrestleMania when she won the women’s Royal Rumble match, she drew out her decision a s she contemplated which of the three champions she wanted to face. She ultimately chose Sasha Banks as her opponent. The two soon became rivals but were embroiled in storyline with the Women’s Tag Team champions, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. The relationship between the two became more and more strained due to Reginald’s infatuation with Sasha costing them matches. Bianca Belair sees this opportunity as the culmination of her path to prove she is the best, while Sasha sees a young upstart that may be an actual threat to her title reign.
Prediction and analysis: The other candidate for match to open or close the show, this one is slightly harder to call. Being the aggressor in their confrontations, Sasha is the heel in this situation but not so much that she inspires hate. If the match opens the show, Belair is your most likely winner. Otherwise, I can see the “cagey vet” retain since this is the first night and fans won’t be upset at Sasha retaining. I still lead towards Belair.
Bad Bunny & Damien Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison
Story in a nutshell: The Miz wanted to rub shoulders with Bad Bunny but was rebuffed several times with things escalating after Miz attacked Bad Bunny with a guitar leading to this match.
Rapper Bad Bunny performed at the 2021 Royal Rumble where the Miz tried to persuade him into collaborating. He was rebuffed by Bad Bunny so Miz took it out on Bad Bunny’s music equipment when Miz came out for the Rumble. This prompted Bad Bunny to come out led to a distracted Miz getting eliminated by Damien Priest. Over the next several weeks things escalated when Miz, frustrated at his impotence to hold on to the WWE Championship, attacked Bad Bunny with a guitar and challenged Bad Bunny to a match at WrestleMania. Bad Bunny responded in kind and agreed to the match. Miz and Morrison then defaced Bad Bunny’s 3-million-dollar car which was a set up so they could double team Bad Bunny. As a result, the match was turned into a tag team match.
Prediction and analysis: Having Damien Priest rub shoulders with Bad Bunny while giving him a dominant win over Miz and Morrison is good for Priest. Priest will likely hit his finish and let Bad Bunny get the pin.
Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods (c) vs. AJ Styles & Omos – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Right after summarily dispatching of the previous champions, the New Day, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, found themselves challenged by AJ Styles (with his bodyguard Omos) who wants the tag team titles since he has not held those titles in the WWE.
AJ Styles is confident he can win the titles that he hasn’t held thanks to his secret weapon, Omos, who is very, very, very, very tall, and hence the scariest most dangerous thing in all of God’s creation. The build to this has been mostly the sillier mid-card stuff with New Day setting up a “game night” to show Styles that it takes time to build chemistry in a good tag team and that slapping two guys together isn’t the path to tag team success. The New Day have chemistry, Styles and Omos don’t.
Prediction and analysis: With the emphasis on tag team chemistry in the story, I’d tend to think that New Day escape with their titles thanks to some miscommunication between Styles and Omos.
Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon – Steel Cage Match
Story in a nutshell: Tired of being bullied because he is so big and strong, Braun Strowman sets out to prove he’s not stupid by beating up a 51-year-old businessman, Shane McMahon.
Thanks to being denied a spot in the Raw Elimination Chamber match which was for former WWE Champions only and Braun Strowman was a former Universal Champion, Strowman got upset with management, specifically Shane McMahon, and accused Shane of having a bias against him. Turns out he was right as Shane repeatedly taunted Strowman by calling him stupid and putting him in bad situations. This eventually led to a match at Fastlane that Shane ducked by faking a leg injury and so Shane drew Elias and Jaxson Ryker into the story. Strowman, tired of Shane escaping him, challenged Shane to a steel cage match at WrestleMania where one of the winning stipulations is to escape the cage.
Prediction and analysis: Stupid build for a stupid story so Shane can jump off of something tall. Strowman wins but not before getting put though something by Shane with the help of Elias and Ryker.
Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins
Story in a nutshell: Feeling disrespected when his return wasn’t as appreciated as he expected, Seth Rollins directed his ire at Cesaro which led to this match.
The (unimportant) members of Smackdown’s roster gathered to witness the return of Seth Rollins expecting to see a changed man. When Seth’s address proved he hadn’t changed at all, the roster turned their backs on him in disgust and walked away. Cesaro lingered. Confronting Seth which led to Seth attacking him but Cesaro got the upper hand by doing a Cesaro Swing that lasted forever. Another attack shelved Cesaro for a while and his former tag team partner Shinsuke Nakamura stood up to (unsuccessfully) defend Cesaro’s honor. Now Cesaro is back for revenge.
Prediction and analysis: Since Seth’s role right now appears to be that of a gatekeeper and a Cesaro win might prep Cesaro for an eventual go at the championship if Roman Reigns or Edge emerge as champion (or regain soon after). On the other hand, a Seth can be using Cesaro as a steppingstone to challenge Daniel Bryan if he were to win. I think Seth wins but Cesaro gets a symbolic victory by swinging Seth forever +1.
Lana & Naomi vs. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs. Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott vs. Natalya & Tamina – Tag Team Turmoil Match
Story in a nutshell: Eight women need a WrestleMania payday and the last team standing gets a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team champions, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax on night two.
Except for Natalya & Tamina, all these teams have been thoroughly trounced and embarrassed by Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax…
Prediction and analysis: …which is why I think it will be Natalya & Tamina despite this leading to a heel versus heel match on night two. Since I think the Baszler and Jax team isn’t long for this world Natalya and Tamina as their replacements works. I can also make a case for Lana & Naomi what with Lana’s history with the champs. The Riott Squad is also the team furthest from their domination by Baszler and Jax. Also, I won’t discount a Carmella and Billy Kay surprise showing in which case they are my pick. Otherwise, Natalya & Tamina are my pick.
Update: Carmella and Billy Kay were added to the match so the are my frontrunners with Tamina and Natalia close seconds.