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EMP’s “WrestleMania 33” Predictions

Who’s walking out of Orlando with gold? Who’s having a “WrestleMania moment”? EMP’s predictions are right this way…

It’s that time of year again! WWE’s annual celebration of all things rasslin’ has arrived, as around 70,000 rabid fans are predicted to pack the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida for WrestleMania 33. Anybody with the slightest interest is sure to find something to enjoy – there won’t be a dry eye amongst old-school fans as Kurt Angle finally takes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame after having to endure years of wrestling in a theme park. NXT TakeOver will showcase the company’s future stars, having arguably topped its big brother last year. Aaaand of course, there’s the granddaddy of them all, WrestleMania itself, an epic five hour (seven if you count the pre-show)-long extravaganza showcasing every major star in the company in thirteen epic battles. A lot’s at stake – championship gold in some cases, pride in others, and in one case, a big gold André the Giant. Who’s winning? Here’s what we think…

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Show your support for the Lunatic Fringe by picking up a Dean Ambrose coffee mug or one of TWO EMP-exclusive Dean Ambrose t-shirts! Choose from a grey tee with the “DA” logo or this double-sided black tee! Image © WWE

Intercontinental Championship: Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose (champion)
These two need to pay off a buildup which has featured an above-average amount of forklift action by having a wild vehicular hardcore brawl. Baron’s the future, and I’m picking him to put Dean down.

Image © WWE

Image © WWE

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss (champion)
Who’s got the edge? I think we’re due a surprise due to WWE’s insistence on billing this match as “Alexa defending against every available woman” – Asuka? Eva Marie? Paige? Beth Phoenix? Regardless, I’m going with the mighty Carmella – she’s formed a cracking double act with 2016’s least likely breakout star, James Ellsworth, who’s going to throw everything he’s got (which doesn’t amount to a lot, admittedly) at making sure his “friend who’s a girl” walks out with the strap. F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.

Image © WWE

Image © WWE

Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Championship: Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (champions)
Enzo’s already got his WrestleMania moment sewn up – hearing the best part of 100,000 fans chanting along to his pre-match schtick is going to be unlike anything witnessed before at the event. But is that going to be enough to carry them to the titles? I’m going with yes.

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John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
It’s down to some sterling work from all involved that this doesn’t feel small-time in comparison to the Cena/Undertaker match we were rumoured to be getting. Miz is approaching godly status on the microphone and, by virtue of actually getting booed consistently, is probably the top bad guy on the roster. That’s why he and Maryse are taking the win via some rule-breaking shenanigans.

Image © WWE

Image © WWE

Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match for the Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (champion)
If we don’t get fifty 100ft tall wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men, then it’s an absolute travesty. As for the match itself, it’s a tough call – but because it’s WrestleMania, home of the feel-good wrestling moment, my money’s on Bayley.

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Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
Whether you’re vocally anti-Reigns, or you think a lot of the boo-boys in the crowd are joyless basement-dwellers who would’ve turned on Hulk Hogan in the ‘80s and Steve Austin in the ‘90s if today’s internet had been around then, there’s no denying that last year’s sight of Reigns lifting the WWE Championship amid glorious victory fireworks, rabid announcer praise and 100,000 people loudly booing wasn’t the ideal end to the biggest show of the year. Which makes the E’s choice to go with Roman as Undi’s opponent this year rather than the more obvious John Cena a puzzling one. Roman wins, he gets booed out of the building; Undi wins, and the young buck set to carry the company for the next decade has just gone down to a bloke in his 50s. But there is a third way (and perhaps I’m going with heart over head over this): unconscious ref – low blow – Roman thwacks Undi with a chair – new ref – 1, 2, 3, EVIL REIGNS STANDS TALL, LAPPING UP THE BOOS. Make it happen.

Image © WWE

Image © WWE

United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho (champion)
Jeri-KO’s bromance gone bad comes to a head here, and though I would consider myself a “friend of Jericho” and think Y2J’s renaissance has been great viewing, the logical conclusion is for the dastardly KO to put his former best friend down here.

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AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Shane takes a beating like nobody else and after the year he’s had, there’s no way AJ isn’t a) walking out the victor and b) having the match of the night. Strap yourselves in, this one’s going to be phenomenal.

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Non-Sanctioned Match: Triple H vs. Seth Rollins
You’ve got to admire Seth’s gumption for showing up, but – come on, mate. Hunter’s going to tear that gammy leg off and beat you around the head with it. And if Samoa Joe shows up to give daddy a hand…well, it was nice knowing you, Rollins.

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Which of these monsters of the mat are you picking to walk out as champion? Pick a side with a Goldberg or Brock Lesnar t-shirt! Image © WWE

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg (champion)
Goldberg was the biggest star in the company from the moment he walked out on the October 17 episode of Raw, and that’s broadly who a show’s top belt should always be on, regardless of whether they show up every week to trade near-falls with Cesaro. But he’s had his comeback story now, and though every second of it has been wonderful, it’s time for Brock to wrestle top spot back from his old rival.

Image © WWE

Image © WWE

WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (champion)
Six months ago, I assumed we were in for another four weeks of Bray bothering another fan favourite, talking vaguely mystically about how “it was always meant to be this way” or some other gubbins before staring at the lights for said fan favourite on a secondary pay-per-view. But no, the six-month build to get here has been perfect sports-entertainment, and proof that storylines are what’s needed to create a buzz, rather than endless 45-minute technical clinics between two men in pants who respect each other but want to find out who the better man is (as some dark corners of the internet would have you believe). Hopefully Bray takes the victory here – Randy doesn’t need it – and the end-of-Mania fireworks budget goes on some weird festival of darkness where he uses his new magic powers to bring on a thunderstorm and hundreds of sheep-masked extras dance and sacrifice a viper. Hopefully.

Are you looking forward to WrestleMania? Who’s walking out with a victory, and who’s not walking out at all? Will there be any surprises? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on our Facebook page, and check out our WWE merchandise page to score some kick-ass wrestling merch! See you Sunday!

Salva

TV

The WWE UKC Tournament and the Potential of WWE: UK

This weekend, WWE decide their first “United Kingdom Champion” via a 16-man single-elimination tournament broadcast on the WWE Network, which is likely to pave the way for a UK-based weekly TV show.

Wrestling to me has always been a wholly American thing (I was born a little too late for the legendary British institution World of Sport, though I did get a kick out of its gaudy New Year’s Eve reboot a couple of weeks back), mostly conducted (until recent times) by North American wrestlers for North American audiences, quite understandably. This tournament and the potential series that is likely to follow, however, are a totally different proposition, giving Network subscribers in the UK localised content with exposure and financial backing not seen since the days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. And that’s very exciting.

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Irish-born Sheamus batters Roman Reigns. The UKC tournament won’t have quite this crowd – perhaps if they follow the template outlined in this post, one day they will…

Though British grapplers like William Regal and Finlay have all had great runs as big-ish players in WWE in recent ties, they mostly represented their country via an early 2000s Nickelodeon movie kind of Britishness. Regal was a snooty, tea-drinking toff; Finlay a Northern Irish pub brawler who was accompanied to the ring by his leprechaun son and used to bonk people over the head with a shillelagh. Even in 2017, Mancunian Jack Gallagher’s current run has come about due to his character “The Extraordinary Gentleman”, a sophisticated, urbane sort of fellow who challenges rivals to gentlemen’s duels and requests one-on-one meetings “in parlay”.

This is not a slight on WWE, fashionable as that may be. No, I’m of the school of thought that believes it’s all about character, and that you need to get maximum mileage out of whatever makes you different from the next guy along; if that’s toff-toffington Englishness or an association with folklore fairies, then so be it. Two recent examples of English talent whose nationality was incidental rather than central to their character that prove the rule are Wade Barrett, a generic baddie who progressed through about seven indistinct characters and seventeen entrance themes, shouted “BOOM” a lot and left the company last year after treading water for half a decade, and Neville, who was immediately dealt a dud hand by being made to share a name with one of the least capable students in Gryffindor’s history and is only just emerging from the wilderness after barely being featured on TV for months.

The point I’m making is that when you’re putting Brits in a ring to tell a story of good vs evil in front of 10,000 baying Americans every night, there isn’t a lot of room for nuance. But what a UK WWE brand gives us is an opportunity to enjoy more characters that are exaggerated versions of the stereotypes of people we in the UK are familiar with; rather than having to go out in front of a US audience and play “British {insert British-ish gimmick here}” in a way that allows a global audience to immediately understand who they are, the new recruits can just play “{insert gimmick here}” in a way that a UK audience can immediately recognise and get on board with.

Some of the tournament competitors look like they’ve already nailed this; Tyson T-Bone wants to declare himself “King of the Travelers” and uses a finisher called the “Gypsy’s Kiss”, while Tyler Bate’s twirly moustache and use of the “Gotch-Style Tombstone” suggest he might play some form of wrestling Shoreditch hipster. Others’ WWE.com profiles suggest little more than “nice man who wrestles” and “nasty man who wrestles”.

What I want from this potential new brand is more of the former and less of the latter. Think a stable of The Apprentice contestants who walk down to the ring to Prokofiev music in mid-range Debenhams suits, cut promos in illegible business jargon and have a different member take on the role of ‘project manager’ every week, resulting in each match being wrestled in an entirely different style every time, followed by an inevitable defeat and post-mortem in a greasy spoon. Or an obnoxious public schoolboy who wrestles with a style influenced by the tribes he met on his gap year, accelerated to an improbably high position on the card despite being only six months out of university due to his dad being in a position of power, who makes his prone opponent do a beer bong after defeating them with his finisher, the “D.I.O.”. Or an old-school saaaahf-east Laaahndan boxer sort accompanied by a dastardly flat-capped, chain-smoking “promoter” who bonks people over the head when the ref’s not looking with a spit bucket or corner stool. Or, if you want to get really base with this, a builder whose tights don’t quite cover up the entirety of his posterior. Just think of the storytelling opportunities!

These lads can wrestle to a very high standard – but so can every talent WWE features on TV. This is why to differentiate itself, the UK operation has to be British through and through; I want brawls to look like they’re taking place in a pub car park and technical matches to carry on using the slow, methodical style introduced to American audiences by Zack Sabre Jr. and Jack Gallagher in last summer’s Cruiserweight Classic. I want Michael Cole’s stint on commentary this weekend to be a one-off before he’s replaced with a gravelly-voiced Brit yanked from an obscure subscription channel’s coverage of regional MMA. Also, fingers crossed we get a rowdy crowd seven or eight pints in by the time the first bell rings and who cheer and boo who they’re supposed to, rather than the sort that chant “this is wrestling!” at the first chinlock of the match.

Who’s gonna win the thing? My head says Trent Seven, based purely on the fact that he’s at the front of the pack in most of the promotional images that I’ve seen and is one of the few guys I’ve heard of with my limited exposure to non-WWE wrestling. But my heart wants Danny Burch, for precisely the reasons I’ve outlined above: though he’s not the biggest guy, he looks like he’s got a bod honed not by months of careful dieting and gym work, but years of backbreaking manual labour and Saturday afternoon post-football tear-ups, knows all of the staff in Wetherspoons by name and would glass anybody who got in between him and the fruit machine. Come on Danny.

Wrestling fan? Check out EMP’s range of WWE merchandise here, and stay tuned to our blog for more WWE coverage as well as thought and opinion on rock, metal, movies, TV, gaming and everything else EMP!

Salva