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27 March, 2015

The Wrestlemania 31 Card

   Much has been made about the card for Wrestlemania this year, its poor booking, its misuse of some of their best performers (most notably Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose) and the return of The Undertaker who is now 50 years old and sporting a losing streak at the Showcase of the Immortals.
   Regardless, the card intrigues me. More accurately, the order of the card intrigues me. As a producer of television for 25 years I look at the slate of matches and wonder "what's the best way to put this show together." It's not exactly a Rubix cube, but it is a puzzle that has some interesting parts.
   I'm not the type of fan who devours all the articles and rumors on the internet. I don't second-guess the bookers or the wisdom of Vince McMahon. I just sit back, watch and decide if I'm entertained or not. So my thoughts are based on nothing more than what I think will work, how entertaining it will be and how the flow will maximize the value of the card. I've also enlisted the help of some of my wrestling fan friends, whose names should be familiar to you, and asked for their cards as well.
  Besides all of that, there's this, you can turn this into a pool! Assign X number of points for each match predicited correctly. Give additional points for correctly picking the winners. Deduct points per slot missed, i.e. if your pick for match #2 ends up being match #7, you lose 5 points. You can also award more or less points to certain spots (we all know what the last match will be). You could even do a pool within the pool and do a draw for the Battle Royal.

  Without further ado, the card predcitions.

Gus Ramsey:
  The lead-off match at 'Mania has to be great. It sets the tone for the whole night. It has to be Rickey Henderson, not Luis Polonia. This year's card has 5 matches that can fill that role.

Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Sting vs Triple H
Randy Orton v Seth Rollins
John Cena v Rusev

   The ladder match and Orton v Rollins offer the same element, excitement. These matches should have the crowds on their feet throughout, featuring high-flying manuevers, violence and great athleticism.
   Cena v Rusev will get the crowd lathered up. Cena does that by himself but throw in the Rusev/Russian factor and a possible Russian Solider Entrance with dozens of  "Russian Soldiers" leading the Bulgarian Bear to the ring and Levi Stadium will be bursting at the seams.
   Similar to the ladder match and Rollins/Orton, Sting v HHH and Bray v 'Taker also offer the same element, sentiment. Imagine if the first thing we hear at 'Mania is the Undertaker's music! Even though The Streak is dead, The Dead Man still gets folks fired up. Same can be said for Sting. The  issue with both matches is the same as well; how good will they be? Not sure there's enough there in terms of match quality to put them in the leadoff spot.

  So with that, I'm going with Rollins v Orton. With Orton's recent absence this feud hasn't had too much build up, which is a good thing. It doesn't feel like we've been "doing this" match for months. It's still fresh. These guys are among the best performers the WWE has. There's no reason to think it won't be an A+ match. I'm giving the nod to Rollins.

2) Intercontinental Ladder Match. Speaking of The Undertaker,  Bryan, Ziggler and Ambrose are all buried in this match, but that won't stop them from performing at the highest level. Everyone hopes this match will steal the show and it probably will. Given the talent involved, it's a tough one to call. It seems like Vince and Co, are more inclined to deny Daniel Bryan's fans of the moments they hope for than they are to give in to what the WWE universe wants. Same can be said of Ziggler. With that in mind, I think the frustration continues for those fan bases and Ambrose wins the title.

3) AJ and Paige vs the Bellas. The most intriguing part of this to me is how long the match goes. Will Vince actually #GiveDivasAChance ? The match has potential to be excellent. Let's see if it's given the chance to be. A.J. and Paige get the win with A.J. using a GTS as her finisher.

4) Undertaker vs Wyatt. Bray's promo on the last Raw was outstanding. One of the best of the year. He may have to be that good with his wrestling to make this match memorable. Undertaker turned 50 this week. He hasn't been seen in a year. He might have more rust on him than the '68 Oldsmobile I drove to high school every day in 1985... and 'Taker has more miles on him. That said, he's not coming back to lose. Undertaker gets a W and begins a new streak that he'll take into Wrestlemania 32 at Jerry's House.

5)  Cena v Rusev. Someone said to me on Twitter recently that WWE was hiring a hundred people to come in as Russian soldiers for Rusev's entrance. The scene could be epic. Get Nikolai Volkov to lead the way and you've really got something. I would imagine the expectation is for Cena to get the W here and finally hand Rusev his first loss in front of the largest audience of the year. I think it's "best for business" if Rusev wins and keeps his aura of invincibilty going for a while longer. Rusev gets the duke and then receives a congratulatory phone call from Vladamir Putin in the locker room after the match.

6) Sting v Triple H. The trick to the Match before the Match is that it can't be so great that it steals the thunder and drains the crowd before the main event. No one really knows what Sting has in him. The crowd will be excited to see he him but the match itself likely won't be so over-the-top great that everyone in attendance will be gassed from cheering. It's kind of a sleeper hold match that will allow the crowd to regroup. Part of me thinks HHH will want to do this earlier so he can be backstage for most of the night, but the other part thinks they want to give Sting this slot to warrant his coming to WWE and making him feel special. They'll also accomplish that by giving Sting the W.

7) Reigns v Lesnar. The news that Lesnar has re-signed really makes this an interesting event. Before I would have thought it was 90/10 Reigns wins. Now I think it's 75/25 Brock wins. I know Brock said the money was too good to turn down, but I have to think keeping the belt was part of the deal. There's always the chance they still give it to Reigns and Rollins cashes in sometime in the near future setting up a triple-threat match down the road, but I still think Brock wins. More importantly, the biggest thing I need from this match is violence. This match needs to be a physical, mano y mano showdown where they just beat the living hell out of each other. Win or lose the best thing for Reigns right now is to go toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow with the Beast. He may not be a great talker but if he can prove to be a great fighter, that will do wonders for him going forward. Brock wins the match. Roman wins over (some) of the haters.

Here are my friends predictions:

Todd Grisham (ESPN anchor) @GrishamESPN:

1) Orton v Rollins  - Orton wins
2) Cena v Rusev - Rusev wins
3) Ladder Match - Bryan wins
4) Sting v HHH - Sting wins
5) Undertake v Wyatt - Undertaker wins
6) Divas match - Bella Twins
7) Lesnar v Reigns - Lesnar

Robert Flores (ESPN anchor) @RoFloESPN:

1) Orton v Rollins (Rollins)
2) Cena v Rusev (Cena)
3) Ladder match  (Bryan)
4) Divas match
5) Sting v HHH  (Sting)
6) Undertaker v Wyatt  (Taker)
7) Lesnar v Reigns  (Reigns)

Sean Grande (radio voice of the Celtics) @SeanGrandePBP:

1. Ladder Match
2. Cena-Rusev
3. Taker-Bray
4. Orton-Rollins 
5. Divas
6. Sting-HHH
7. Lesnar-Reigns

Sean offered these thoughts (which I love) on the main event:
"I don't know what they're going to do, but I've held fast on my finish for almost six months now.  Reigns wins, going heel when Heyman turns on Lesnar.  Now you've got a hot Reigns, with the belt and Heyman every week.  Faces lined up (Cena, Bryan, Orton, Ambrose, maybe Sting and eventually after keeping him at bay, Brock at SummerSlam) to feed to him.
It's similar to what they did with Rock in late '98...knowing he'd eventually be the face of the company, they gave hima  run on top as a heel because there were other faces fans would cheer." 

Ashoka Moore (ESPN producer) @AshokaESPN:  

1) Rollins v Orton (Orton)
2) Ladder match  (Bryan)
3) Divas match    (Bellas)
4) Cena v Rusev  (Cena)
5) Sting v HHH   (Sting)
6) Undertaker v Wyatt (Taker)
7) Brock v Reigns  (Brock) 

Sal Iocona (Jimmy Kimmel Live) @TheCousinSal:

1) Divas match  (Bellas)
2) Orton v Rollins (Rollins) 
3) Undertaker v Wyatt (Taker)
4) Sting v HHH (HHH by DQ)
5) Cena v Rusev  (Cena) 
6) Lesnar v Reigns (Lesnar) 
7) Ladder match  (Bryan) 

Michelle Beadle (SportsNation) @MichelleDBeadle: 

(***editors note: Michelle just sent in some thoughts, not the order***)
  "I think no way Lesnar loses. Reigns isn't ready yet. Heyman did allude to wanting Reigns in the podcast. And Reigns isn't great on the mic. Yet. Hmmmmmm. 
   Sting beats Triple H. Only to stick around for a bit. 
    Undertaker can't possible lose or that streak has just been cheapened beyond words. 
    Paige and AJ lose. 
    And I expect that damn Money in the Bank to be cashed in. I also predict I eat many calories and many more sweating during my cheering!!" 

     One last note, though I didn't include the Battle Royal since it was publicly moved to the pre-show, almost everyone is picking MizDow to win that. 
      Enjoy Wrestlemania, everyone!