For one jam-packed weekend per year, professional wrestling besieges a city and beckons fans from around the world to make the trek. Fuelled by their unrequited love for sports entertainment, these devoted revellers pay thousands of dollars in order to congregate en masse and celebrate this unique brand of theatre-in-the-round. With smaller shows scheduled across New York & New Jersey from Thursday onwards, at the epicentre of it all is the 35th annual Wrestlemania at MetLife Stadium. After months of anticipation and build-up, the WWE’s premiere “showcase of the immortals” is nearly upon us and this year’s show has all the components to become an iconic edition of this storied event. Renowned as the platform for WWE superstars to cement their legacies, the card is shaping up to be a historic instalment that sets the course for sports entertainment’s trajectory for the coming years. Poised to be the first page in a new, multi-faceted chapter in WWE’s lore, it’s time to break down the mammoth 15-match card and predict who’ll emerge victorious based on tried-and-tested booking logic, build-ups and what we know of the company’s agenda going forward.


WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Buddy Murphy Vs Tony Nese

Ever since its inception in 2016, the cruiserweight division has been WWE’s diamond in the rough. Centering around its weekly WWE Network show 205 live, it comes without the creative lethargy of main roster shows such as RAW and Smackdown! Live but doesn’t possess the internet fan’s stamp of approval with the same universality as NXT. Nevertheless, the company’s best-kept secret is home to fast-paced, acrobatic action that regularly defies logic, gravity, and any safety precautions to deliver enthralling matches time and time again. Since capturing the purple brand’s title in October of last year, Australia’s Buddy Murphy has done all he can to help lift the profile of the show and is undoubtedly its finest champion since Neville’s departure in 2017. Consigned to the pre-show once again, the former NXT staple turned best-kept secret will do battle with the “premier athlete” Tony Nese in a match of show-stealing proportions. While it could go either way, the smart money is on the heel champion being rewarded for his toil on the grandest stage of them all and sets up Nese’s eventual triumph over his former ally some ways down the road.

Winner - Buddy Murphy

 


Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal

The second annual match of its kind, this year’s women’s battle royal basically boils down to something for any female competitor that’s been left middling on the undercard to do. Following Charlotte Flair’s capture of the Smackdown Women’s Championship, this also extends to the Japanese phenom that is Asuka and marks a distinct downturn in fortunes for “The Empress Of Tomorrow.” Saddled with little to no expectations, now would be the perfect time for WWE to bolster the profile of one of the countless talented women on their roster. As the leader of a devious faction that will have a numbers advantage over everyone else, the wisest choice would be to help reinvigorate a woman that’s been squandered time and time again in Ruby Riott before it’s too late. By winning via a shock elimination of Asuka, Carmella or Naomi, The Riott Squad’s head honcho could regain some of the steam that she’d lost after a slew of squash matches against Ronda Rousey.

Winner - Ruby Riott


Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Upon its initial unveiling, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal seemed like a viable launching pad to fast-track rising stars to the upper reaches of the main event scene. Yet as we await its 6th edition, it now seems that it’s something that the writers don’t enlist as a ringing endorsement but as a niggling obligation to fulfill. Set to feature competitors such as The Hardy Boyz, Jinder Mahal, Rhyno, EC3 and Heath Slater, it seems as though there’s only one man that’ll really benefit from the match. Once tipped as the next ‘top guy’ in the WWE, much of the build for the match has hinged on the ongoing conflict between SNL’s Colin Jost & Michael Che and the quick-tempered “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman. Although the safe money remains on the big man to capture this dubious accolade, a defeat would signify that the muscle-bound colossus has fallen completely out of favour with the company’s top brass.

Winner - Braun Strowman


WWE Intercontinental Championship: Finn Balor Vs Bobby Lashley

Over the past month, Irish fan-favorite Finn Balor and the MMA/wrestling hybrid Bobby Lashley-- along with his infuriatingly cocky mouthpiece Lio Rush-- have been feuding over the illustrious Intercontinental title on RAW. With one big victory apiece, this rubber match could’ve realistically gone either way until WWE unveiled one fateful caveat that made its result glaringly obvious. Among the most fiercely protected tropes since Undertaker’s streak, the news that Finn Balor will be summoning his “demon king” alter-ego makes a win all but a certainty. Enlisted to even the playing field against the physically imposing Lashley, why he didn’t adopt this enhanced form for his Universal title match at Royal Rumble remains a bewildering plot hole but it’ll garner him a much-needed victory at the MetLife Stadium and hopefully place him on the path to his first meaningful title reign since the NXT days.

Winner - Finn Balor


Shane McMahon Vs The Miz

In a tale that’s taken from page one of the pro wrestling playbook, Shane McMahon’s unrepentant betrayal of The Miz at Fastlane set the stage for a grudge match on the grandest stage. Beaten and sullied in front of his own father and a hometown crowd in Cleveland, the “A-lister” has something to prove to, not only his former partner and Smackdown GM but himself. Set to wage war in a falls-count-anywhere match, The Miz and the heir apparent to WWE’s throne will be sure to pull out all the stops and deliver a high-octane contest. In the end, it only makes sense for The Miz to gain his retribution over the corrupted boss before making a beeline for the WWE championship picture. Expect Shane McMahon to do something flagrantly dangerous as he always does on the way to defeat.


Winner - The Miz

Triple H Vs Batista

Jovially billed “Kratos Vs Drax” by fans, the no-holds-barred match between former Evolution running mates Triple H and Batista is the culmination of years of animosity. Coyly teased way back at Smackdown 1000, the incremental build-up came to a head at Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebrations when the Marvel star returned to decimate the ailing legend. Little more than a year on from a life-threatening coma, this assault on Triple H’s mentor was all it took for the match to be set in stone. Based around the perceived mistreatment that Batista endured at the hands of Triple H, “The Animal” is now hellbent on running Hunter out of WWE. Should he lose, the DX leader will formally retire from in-ring competition. Triple H has never defeated Batista in numerous attempts, and the constant reiteration of this one blemish on his record and the proviso of retirement has made the outcome all too clear. Over the course of a long battle of attrition that’ll have no shortage of high-spots, Triple H will vanquish his foe and send him packing back to Hollywood.

Winner - Triple H


AJ Styles Vs Randy Orton

While there’s little doubt that Randy Orton and AJ Styles’ square-off will be an entertaining bout, there’s a lingering feeling that it could’ve been saved for a time where it’d be more impactful. A battle of two bonafide main eventers, the preamble has got increasingly personal in recent weeks as “The Viper” rebuffed Styles’ claims to be the architect of Smackdown! Live and stated that when he was “down in Florida with Dixie Carter,” Orton was racking up titles in the WWE. As a riposte, AJ remarked that “when I was in indie show wrestling in front of dozens of people,” Randy was “getting suspended for failing drug tests.” Primed to be an exhilarating contest, it’s one of the few matches that is by no means cut and dry and will ultimately come down to what WWE has in store for both men in the foreseeable future. That said, AJ’s recent decision to ink a new deal and his continued prescience at the top of the card makes a win for the Phenomenal One highly likely. 

Winner - AJ Styles


WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Uso’s (Jimmy and Jey Uso) (c) vs Ricochet and Aleister Black vs The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) vs Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev

In a move that epitomizes WWE’s disdainful relationship with tag teams, this fatal four-way seemed to be thrown together to meet a quota as opposed to any flash of inspiration. Comprised of seasoned veterans and upstart pairings that are likely a transitional move for their careers, this match contains enough talent to be remarkable if it’s granted enough time on the bustling card. For the second year running, it looks like The Uso’s reign will conclude at the granddaddy of them all. As to who’ll walk away with the gold, it feels like there has to be some reason behind Nakamura and Rusev’s pairing that goes beyond them both portraying dastardly foreign heels. For that reason, it seems likely that the eternally underutilized pair will have their moment to bask in the sun.

Winners - Nakamura and Rusev


WWE United States Championship: Samoa Joe Vs Rey Mysterio

As it stands, there is a degree of indecision over whether or not this match will go ahead. Landed with a suspected ankle injury, the veteran luchador Rey Mysterio may be condemned to the sidelines come Sunday should he show no signs of recovery. If this grim prognosis comes to fruition, then it’d be a real shame as fans will be robbed of what promises to be a thrilling contest. Pitting Rey’s mesmeric style against Samoa Joe’s mix of brutality and unheralded agility, something would have to go very wrong for it to be anything other than an immensely entertaining bout. With little build to speak of, this seems to be nothing more than an action-packed means of depicting reigning champ Joe’s eminence by adding a fully-fledged legend to his trophy cabinet.

Winner - Samoa Joe


Kurt Angle Vs Baron Corbin

When Baron Corbin was announced as Kurt’s opponent for his farewell match, there was a collective gasp of exasperation from the live crowd and all of those watching at home. No matter how much sense it makes as a storyline-- Baron made Angle’s life hell during his tenure as RAW GM-- fans overrode their practical thinking to fawn over dream matches against John Cena, The Undertaker or even former protégé Shelton Benjamin. While there has been talk of an elaborate ruse, wrestling tradition stipulates that a performer goes out staring at the lights in order to endorse a future star. Should this match go ahead as planned, Corbin raining on Angle’s parade with one devastating End Of Days would make him one of the most reviled figures in recent memory. Yet if there’s a bait-and-switch, that divisive roar that always heralds John Cena’s arrival would give Kurt’s final match the prestige it deserves.

Winner - Baron Corbin


Roman Reigns Vs Drew Mcintyre

Two short months after he captured the Universal Championship at SummerSlam, Roman Reigns’ life was left in disarray. 11 years on from its emergence, the man born Joe Anoa’I was battling Leukaemia once more and the WWE universe that had never fully accepted his status as a top guy suddenly rallied behind him. After stepping away to undergo treatment, Roman is in remission but he’s got another hurdle in front of him at the grandest stage of them all. Malicious, dominant and imposing, “The Scottish Psychopath” Drew Macintyre goaded Roman into the match after plaguing his “The Shield” brethren Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins over the past couple of weeks. With the odds stacked against him, this gives the perfect opportunity for “The Big Dog” to overcome the physical toll of Drew’s assault and leave the tumult of the past few months behind him to give the crowd a feel-good moment.

Winner - Roman Reigns


WWE Women's Tag Team Championship: The Boss 'N' Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley) vs Nia Jax & Tamina vs The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay) vs Natalya and Beth Phoenix

Crowned at this year’s Elimination Chamber, Sasha Banks and Bayley employed all of their grit & determination in order to win the first Women’s Tag Team Championships since the days of the Glamour Girl and The Jumping Bomb Angels. Three decades removed from their runs, The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection have upheld their pledge to be “fighting champions” at every turn but they may finally meet their match in this fatal four way. Complete with the in-ring return of Beth Phoenix, expect the chaotic nature of the match to be their undoing and for the shrill Australian duo of The IIconics to walk away with the belts. While they’re likely to lose them shortly after, WWE is powerless to resist the pop that their underdog victory would garner from the crowd.

Winners - The IIconics


WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan Vs Kofi Kingston 

Called upon as a last-minute replacement for the injured Ali, WWE couldn’t have predicted that Kofi Kingston would’ve captured the hearts and imaginations of WWE fans with his hour-long gauntlet match performance. Teamed with an impressive showing in the elimination chamber, officials were forced to heed the rabid response of their audience and put The New Day’s veteran presence into his first singles match for The WWE Championship. Forced to jump through a series of uncompromising hoops by Vince McMahon, the tumultuous journey to this match has seen Kofi labeled with the pejorative “B+ player” label by WWE champion Daniel Bryan. Once the focal point of a similar grassroots fan campaign, “the new” Daniel Bryan is irreconcilable with the leader of the “Yes Movement” and has taken his environmentalist preaching to infuriating heights. In the biggest crowd-pleasing moment of the night, Kofi will finally capture the WWE Championship 11 years into his career and MetLife Stadium will implode with unabashed joy.

Winner - Kofi Kingston


WWE Universal Championship: Seth Rollins Vs Brock Lesnar

Since outlasting 29 men to win the Royal Rumble, Seth Rollins has had one goal in mind-- slay the beast. Reviled and adored in equal measure, Brock Lesnar and his entrusted advocate Paul Heyman have continually prodded at “The Architect” and have successfully gotten into his head. Due to his part-time schedule, Lesnar’s stewardship of the Universal Championship has left a gaping hole in Monday Night Raw and it’s time for it to return to someone that’s there week in, week out. Dependable, beloved and with talent to spare, it’s time for Seth Rollins to climb to the summit once more and embark on a lengthy run.

Winner - Seth Rollins


Winner Take All match for the WWE Womens’ Championships: Ronda Rousey Vs Charlotte Flair Vs Becky Lynch

A historic bout in every sense, the first ever women’s main event at Wrestlemania has transfixed audiences ever since it was first alluded to. Contested between the kayfabe-flouting Ronda Rousey, the anointed Charlotte and “The Man” Becky Lynch, the end of the “go-home” Raw before this Sunday culminated in all three women being dragged into police cars after chaos ensued in the ring. A crossover star in the making, there is no other note that this year’s Wrestlemania can conclude on other than The Man standing tall and holding both women’s championships aloft as fireworks engulf the sky.

Winner - Becky Lynch