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WWE Weekly Recap: Let’s rank the post-WrestleMania surprises

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The first Raw after WrestleMania is a key moment for WWE in setting up future storylines that will fill the time until the build for SummerSlam begins. There have been points in time where the company would keep a WrestleMania feud alive through the next PPV, but more often than not, the first live show after Mania represents a change from the WrestleMania season stories.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that the Raw after WrestleMania became dominated by a crowd of hardcore fans from around the world. The “smarks” cheer for whatever they want. From #BeachBallMania to perfectly timing the “YEAH!” portion of The Revival’s entrance, it’s an environment that every wrestling fan should experience at some point.

This year’s schedule presented WWE with the opportunity to keep fans who traveled for WrestleMania around even longer with the addition of Tuesday’s SmackDown Live tapings. The crowd that attended the SD taping sounded like a beefed up NXT crowd, which was particularly enjoyable when they all chanted “ONE FALL!” in unison before the women’s title match between Naomi and Alexa Bliss.

Thanks to the rowdy nature of this specific crowd, Monday’s Raw and Tuesday’s SmackDown presented an ideal opportunity to bring up a few key talents from NXT and return some familiar faces who have been off of TV for awhile due to injury. If there’s a time to make NXT guys and girls feel like a big deal, this is the week they’re going to come off like the most over talents on the show.

So let’s take a look back at all of the surprises from this past week and rank them from worst to OMFG did that really just happen?

Erick Rowan

The big redheaded stepchild of the Wyatt Family has been out of action since early October after getting surgery on his right rotator cuff. Rowan has been reportedly available to return for a few weeks, but clearly, Vince wanted to wait until after Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton had their WrestleMania match.

On Tuesday, Rowan posted this very creepy video on his Twitter account that apparently was supposed to signify his return:

Rowan returned in the opening segment to help Wyatt beat down Orton, but his place on the totem pole was quickly established when Luke Harper and Orton combined for a superkick-RKO combination after Wyatt used some of his “magical powers” to leave Rowan all by himself in the ring. Not only did Orton “fight” his way out of a sneak attack from Rowan, but the gigantic goof ate a clean pin.

I’d say Rowan is in a slightly better position than Curt Hawkins, which isn’t where you want to be.

Emma

Unlike the debut of Emmalina, we didn’t have to wait four months to get the return of Emma’s character from NXT and her brief run on the main roster before she ruptured a disc in her back during a live event last May.

Sure, the Emma vignettes aired for a few weeks longer than they should have, but with the Superstar Shake-Up coming, Emma could be a valuable piece of the Raw women’s division if Charlotte ends up switching brands, which is currently rumored. The move would make total sense in storyline considering that Bayley pinned Charlotte clean at Mania and then Sasha made her tap out on Raw.

Emma’s actual return was lackluster. She was slotted in a six-woman tag match, which was not a showcase for her. She bailed out of the ring before Nia Jax “beat up” Charlotte, so if you’re a fan of Emma’s, this is probably not how you wanted her to come back, but it’ll have to do for now.

Be patient, the women’s division on Monday is so thin that she will have a chance to shine and her aggressive style did get over once, so why can’t it happen again?

Kurt Angle

The rumor of Angle becoming the general manager of Raw immediately after WrestleMania had been floated around for quite a while, so it was no surprise that Vince introduced Angle as the next G.M. character on the company’s flagship show.

Even though Angle’s segments after his in-ring promo felt very similar to what we’ve had over the past few months with Mick Foley, the novelty of seeing Angle interact with Enzo, Cass, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins was enough to keep me entertained. Monday’s three-hour Raw did not drag and these segments with Angle played a big role.

Finn Balor

Am I excited Finn Balor is back on Raw after his shoulder/upper arm was destroyed at SummerSlam after he took a powerbomb from Rollins into the corner of the barricade?

Did it make any sense for Balor to team with the guy who legitimately put him on the shelf for seven months, which included WrestleMania?

I know WWE can think at times that no one cares to remember what happened seven months ago, but there is an easy story to tell here. Why not have Balor team with Rollins and then walk away when Rollins reaches out for a tag? It’s a logical way to continue a story that the crowd will actually invest in because it blurs the line of reality and fiction. The two would eventually have a match and then shake hands after.

The tag-team match between Rollins/Balor vs. Owens/Joe that closed Monday’s show should have been a super-hot tag match between four guys who all established themselves on the independent scene before making their way to WWE via NXT. Instead, it was just an OK match that didn’t have as nearly as much heat as you would think.

The crowd was dying for Balor to return during Brock’s segment, but he’s not going near the Universal title picture anytime soon, it appears. Lesnar isn’t going to be at Payback and when he does defend the title, it will likely be against Braun Strowman and then Roman Reigns.

There are plenty of guys for Balor to work with and if AJ Styles comes over to Raw (heavily rumored), we could have a dream match scenario on our hands.

Tye Dillinger

The crowd was finally able to use the “10!” correctly when Dillinger “answered” Hawkins’ Open Challenge on Tuesday. Because the show felt at times like a big NXT event, the crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando made Dillinger feel like a bigger deal than he will probably end up being on the main roster.

Having said that, he will be in a position to overachieve with his gimmick on SmackDown. If he was on Raw, he would quickly get lost in the shuffle, but with the lack of depth on Tuesday nights and a gimmick that is over to a certain degree (it’s more popular than the Fandango chant IMO) he might end up as a solid mid-card hand for SD.

#FantasyBooking idea: I’d love it if SAnitY followed Dillinger up to the main roster as Eric Young continues to try and recruit him.

The Revival

This was arguably the biggest surprise from the post-WrestleMania shows. I suspected Nakamura would show up on SD as well as Dillinger, but I wasn’t sure which brand the #TopGuys would pop-up on.

When the New Day issued their open challenge on Monday, I wasn’t expecting to see Dash and Dawson show up, but when they did I’ll admit I popped. Scott Dawson has been in developmental for years now (as well as Dillinger), so it’s always great to see someone like that finally get their opportunity to shine on the main roster.

The Revival were given a clean win over Big E/Xavier Woods and then “injured” Kofi Kingston’s knee after the match. It was classic Revival, which is the only way that they’re going to get over with the bigger audience.

Match you didn’t know you wanted until right now: Revival vs. The Hardys

Shinsuke Nakamura

Whoever pitched the idea of having Lee England Jr. perform Nakamura’s entrance live deserves a raise. This was an amazing moment that I will not do justice with words, so if you haven’t seen it (IDK what is wrong with you) or if you’ve already seen it, watch it again and enjoy just how magical this moment was:

As I watched his entrance live I wondered if he would grab the microphone and make a joke to The Miz about being dressed up like John Cena, or if he would simply kick Miz right in the face. Shockingly, neither of these scenarios played out. Instead, Nakamura performed his entrance, soaked in the thunderous “NA-KA-MURA” chants and then left the ring and went to the back.

I was not a fan of how awkward the end of this segment felt as it was happening, but when I went back and watched it a second time (or maybe 10 more times, who’s counting right!?) I thought the segment ended fine. There’s no reason for Nakamura to make Miz look like a jabroni with one strike. He’s right on the cusp of being a main eventer again and Nakamura needs someone to feud with. Don’t underestimate just how entertaining a Miz TV segment with Shinsuke could be.

Time to “Go Home”

So who knows what’s going to happen with the Hardy’s gimmicks, but here’s my idea for the immediate future. What if Matt Hardy became CURED Matt Hardy or something similar to that. My thinking would be that WWE could continue the BROKEN storyline, but create their own character.  

Every now and then, Matt could “relapse” and start a delete chant or use other mannerisms from his BROKEN character.

Jeff Hardy is just going to be Jeff Hardy, don’t expect Brother Nero to make an appearance.

– Something has to be done about the Hardys theme, it just doesn’t sound right with their current look/character.

– Why is Nia Jax making goofy faces at the camera?

– The New Day are also rumored to leave Raw for SmackDown. I’m a big fan of this move because it would hopefully lead to a singles push for Big E.

– Was Tuesday the beginning of Styles’ face turn or was it a one off? I know he gets cheered all of the time like a babyface, but he’s still very much a heel.

– The opening segment on Raw with Roman Reigns vs. the crowd was pretty damn memorable. I can’t think of a person in the last few years outside of Cena who has had that kind of heat during a segment.

– You should go out of your way to listen to the Talk is Jericho podcast with Reigns. He comes off like such a nice dude.

– Even though I briefly mentioned the match earlier, the tag match between Orton/Harper and Wyatt/Rowan was an incredibly lackluster way to end the extended weekend.

– I really enjoyed NXT TakeOver Orlando. Especially Roode vs. Nakamura. The triple threat tag team elimination match between Authors of Pain-DIY-Revival was the best WWE match of the entire weekend.

– I think my favorite match from the marathon that was WrestleMania was Goldberg-Lesnar. It hit all of the right notes and was perfectly mapped out.

– Isn’t it crazy that WrestleMania lasted seven hours and Samoa Joe wasn’t on the show at all?

– During Naomi’s entrance on Tuesday, I thought to myself, damn it would be awesome if the women’s title glowed along with her outfit and then this photo appeared.

– The #RawafterMania really should just be renamed Cesaro appreciation night. Cass got massive boos when he ran wild on Cesaro during a hot tag.

– Those Jordan 8’s Enzo rocked on Monday night are worth around $800-$1200.

– Tom Phillips has done an excellent job filling in for Mauro Ranallo.

– I’d love to see Jim Ross call main events on PPVs. Similar to what he did during his last part-time gig with the company when he called main event matches on NXT.

– I felt so bad for Neville and Mustafa Ali. They busted their ass in the ring on Monday, but the crowd was way more worried about getting themselves over and playing with a beach ball.

– You’d think for being “hardcore” fans that they would, you know, show their appreciation for the product.

The Twitter: @ScottDargis

WrestleMania 33 Live Blog

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WWE’s biggest show of the year is underway from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Follow along as we go for the “Ultimate thri …

You’re right, we’re going to hear that phrase 50,000 times during the next six hours, so let’s just move along. Get your snacks and adult beverages ready because this is going to be a long night.

Pre-show

5:30 ET: This has already replaced WrestleMania 26 as my favorite set. I can’t even imagine what the pyro budget is tonight.

All right Austin Aries got a very good reaction. Glad to see so many people are in the building 90 minutes before the show.

–  Neville’s kick to the head of Aries was nice.

– Oof, the King of the Cruiserweights landed so hard on the outside.

– OMG how is Aries still moving. He landed right on his head from a German suplex.

– Can we all just be glad that this match was on the pre-show. Both guys have had a chance to shine and the crowd was getting up for the big spots.

– Nice striking sequence from both guys.

– Neville pins Aries after heelish tactics led to the Red Arrow.

– No matter how many times I see it, the Red Arrow is still amazing. Neville did almost crush Aries’ face.

– If the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was in the bigger ring, IDK if I would care about it. Just look at these jabronis.

– SAnitY’s entrance would not have worked in the daylight, but annoying that Killian Dain is just another “guy” in this match.

– Oh snap, Braun Strowman and Big Show eliminated 

– That moment when you realize Luke Harper is in the ring.

– Man, American Alpha once again just looks like a couple of guys. Jason Jordan should have at least had a flurry of suplexes before getting tossed.

– Tian Bing with a nice showing. Much better than Hideo Itami two years ago.

So Mojo is winning right?

– The security guard doesn’t know who Gronk is.

– Noticeable sound issues throughout the pre-show. Weird considering how top notch WWE broadcasts are.

– Jinder Mahal just got GRONK’d.

– Gronkowski really should think about joining WWE after his playing career wraps up.

– Dain stunningly lasted until the final three. Must be viewed as a hot prospect.

Mojo eliminates Jinder Mahal to win the ATMBR. 

– WHY DIDN’T GRONK AND MOJO CELEBRATE LIKE STONE COLD?

Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose for the IC title 

 These guys are working hard, but you can tell the crowd just wants the main show to begin. Much quieter than it was for the cruiserweight match and the battle royal.

This match could have really used some weapons.

Corbin reacting to a two count is just hilarious. THAT WAS THREE!

Crowd is starting to get behind Ambrose.

The rotation counter for the End of Days always looks impressive.

Dean Amrbose beats Baron Corbin to retain the IC title

– Really surprised Corbin looked up at the lights here. It felt like he was set for a run with SmackDown’s mid-card championship.

Main card

7:00 p.m. ET – Yes, the pre-show is FINALLY over. Let’s see what opens the show.

– Mandatory performance of “America the Beautiful,” I wonder what’s going through Vince’s mind right now.

“The Greatest Live Event in Entertainment”

– It’s your WrestleMania hosts the NEW DAY.

– Xavier Woods’ hair is a sight to behold.

– Um … is this Raw or WrestleMania? That was a waste of a segment besides Big E “pull the lever” line. At least throw out some ice cream bars.

– WHAT, AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon is opening the main card!?

– MASSIVE POP for Styles.

– Styles’ gear is fire emoji, fire emoji

– Styles’ new shirt is red and his gear has red in it. He’s definitely going to Raw.

– OMG Otunga just said there’s “no way” Styles is going to tire out Shane McMahon.

– Shane is already pouring sweat btw.

– Will say Shane did OK with the chain wrestling sequence. Crowd appreciated that.

– HOLY CRAP, Styles “launched” Shane with a baseball drop kick to the outside. Shane flew over the announce table.

– Is a thunderstorm coming?

– As expected, Shane is getting in a lot of offense. The crowd hated when he back Styles into the corner and threw his terrible looking punches, but Styles made Shane’s running back elbow look solid.

– For those who care, Shane is wearing the Jordan XXXI Chinese New Year.

– Hey, that submission sequence wasn’t terrible! If you would have told me before the match that they were going to do that, I would’ve done this:

– The Styles Clash sequence was top notch. I was really surprised Shane kicked out.

– REF BUMP, DRINK.

– Styles’ coast-to-coast attempt was blocked by Shane and a trash can. Just a reminder that Styles is one of the best sellers in the company.

– Shane with a beautiful coast-to-coast.

– Man this one is going much longer than I thought it would.

– Shane ate it on the elbow through table spot.

– OMG Shane counters a Phenomenal Forearm into a float over DDT and then MISSED A SHOOTING STAR PRESS.

AJ Styles pins Shane McMahon after hitting a Phenomenal Forearm. This may have lasted a bit too long, but the last five or so minutes were very good.

Chris Jericho (C) vs. Kevin Owens for United States Championship 

– The crowd counting down Jericho’s entrance gave me goosebumps.

– A giant list and a light up vest! If only Y2J had a light up scarf.

– Owens’ cannonball to Jericho on the apron looked cool.

– Anyone else chuckle when K.O. yelled “ASK HIM!” at the ref?

– The Roommate laughed when Owens yelled “You have no friends” at Jericho.

– Every time Owens sets up for the package suplex, I think he’s going to hit the piledriver.

– Nasty bruise just above Owens’ right eye.

– Nice counter sequence from both guys. Always amazes me when someone counters Owens’ swanton bomb with their knees.

– The Go-Home Driver!

– I said this to “Easy” Ed on Friday before I left worked, I was worried that Jericho and Owens’ match would slow down a bit too much and that kind of happened. The crowd sat on their hands a bit during the middle of this one.

– Jericho kicked out of the pop-up powerbomb and Owens put his right index finger on the bottom rope to break up the pinfall after a Codebreaker. The finisher kick out counter is now at four.

– Kevin Owens pins Chris Jericho to become the new United States Champions after an apron powerbomb of death!

Raw women’s title match up next, shocked this is happening already. Once again the match order is highly questionable.

– Fireworks for Bayley. Her entrance looked amazing, especially the giant Bayley Buddies by the ring.

– Sasha Banks is riding down to the ring on the back of a fancy golf cart, better get that queued up for the Undertaker’s entrance.

– The camera shot with Charlotte standing close with the fireworks going off in the background was just incredible. The set makes this event feel so special.

– I think this match is going to go like this. Nia get the heat early and then Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha all team up to eliminate her. Bayley and Sasha team-up to try and eliminate Charlotte, but then Sasha gets eliminated and turns on Bayley. Let’s see what happens …

– Jax dominating early. Step 1 complete.

– Dude, Nia Jax just landed right on the back of her head after a double suplex-boot combo move.

– Nia Jax eliminated after getting hit with a triple team powerbomb. Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha all jumped on top of her for the pin.

– Charlotte hit that corkscrew moonsault to the outside perfectly.

– Sasha Banks eliminated after she gets sent into the exposed middle turnbuckle by Charlotte. Crowd was not happy.

– Why did we have to have the Fatal Four Way gimmick if two of the competitors were going to get eliminated this fast.

– Charlotte ran Bayley’s knee into the exposed turnbuckle and is now working it over. Is she going to run through the division tonight?

– Nice backbody drop from the top rope by Bayley.

– Bayley retains the Raw Women’s Championship after hitting a top-rope elbow on Charlotte

– Well that came out of nowhere … gotta wonder if their time got cut before the show started.

HOF recap from Friday, this means I finally get a bathroom break.

– This pop for Kurt Angle is going to be awesome.

– Where does Angle’s theme rank all time? Gotta be top five right?

Raw Tag Team Championship ladder match between Gallows and Anderson (C) vs. Enzo and Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus

– This is Enzo’s best outfit of all time:

– Crowd is thunderous for the SAWFT chant.

– Cesaro is wearing a suit that’s also a kilt. James Bond would never wear that.

– Odds of Sheamus’s giant cut getting opened up during this match is extremely high.

– I just hope Enzo makes it out of this match alive.

– Crowd is not going to be happy when the New Day is the fourth team in the Fatal Four …

– WHAT THE …

– Hey Matt Hardy how does it feel to be back?

– Cesaro is so lucky that he didn’t get seriously hurt when Big Cass potatoed him on the ladder.

– That big boot from Cass to Jeff Hardy looked vicious.

– Cesaro just swung Anderson around like 20 times, while Sheamus delivered the Beats of the Valkyrie to Gallows. Got a standing ovation from the crowd.

– Ah they got the Cass lifting Enzo up the ladder spot out of the way already.

– Enzo is taking a hard fall off of a ladder at some point.

– A Twist of Fate from the top of the ladder to Gallows, a swanton bomb from Jeff Hardy off of a 20-foot ladder through Cesaro and Sheamus who were draped on ladders that were positioned from the ring to the barricade.

Matt Hardy pulls down the titles and the Hardy Boyz become seven-time tag team champions. 

From bell-to-bell this was a very good match. There was never a down moment and the crowd was super hot throughout.

John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse 

– Jerry “The King” Lawler joining the commentary booth. You know what this means? NO OTUNGA!

– Al “Chocolate Thunder” Roker needs to embrace his heel side.

The percentage of the crowd singing John Cena “sucks” was around 75%.

– The Miz is getting thunderous cheers right now. Really didn’t think this would happen.

– Very slow pace to start this one. Miz controlling the action. This match is already going longer than I thought it would.

– No, keep him away from the table.

– Got a bit uneasy when Nikki did the suicide dive. Gotta wonder what kind of shape her neck is in.

– John Cena and Nikki Bella defeat The Miz and Maryse after a simultaneous AA and Rack Attack 2.0. Well that ended in quick fashion. Miz controlled 98% of that match. The worst one of the show so far.

– Is the crowd about to boo Cena’s proposal?

– Is Natalya going to run in and interrupt?

– Cena proposes!

– This is a pretty awesome moment. Feels genuine.

Triple H vs. Seth Rollins 

– This pre-match video package was great when I watched it the first time on Monday, it’s just as good now.

– I love how Stephanie has been incorportaed into Triple H’s entrance over the last two years.

– HHH has to love the fact that he’s not in the final match of the night in this marathon of a show.

– Why isn’t Samoa Joe riding in a side car next to HHH?

– That moment when you thought Seth Rollins was getting a new theme. Very cool entrance though.

– I wonder if Rollins got that torch from Randy Orton’s ceremony.

– Rollins was reportedly battling a rough illness earlier in the week. Hopefully he’s feeling better.

– Going into the show, I thought this would be the Match of the Night, let’s see if these two can deliver.

– We’re less than two minutes in and Rollins has already lost his wristbands. Has the guy ever heard of tape?

– Rollins’ gear getting compared to Goldust. Let’s be real, Goldust never wore anything this awesome.

– The buckle bomb is back. Just know I cringed when HHH hit the corner.

– Gotta think a big spot is coming soon. They’ve been going at a pretty slow pace.

– If you’re wondering if the Hardys are still broken? Here’s your answer:

– Here come the chairs!

– Pulling the table out from under the ring will always get a pop. It will seriously never not get a cheer.

– It’s Falcon Arrow not Falcon’s Arrow. Mike Cole always struggles with that one.

– Rollins has been watching some Johnny Gargano tape.

– Triple H has been watching some CM Punk tape.

– Man the crowd is starting to get a bit tired out. Haven’t reacted to this match very well at all.

– SUPER close near fall after a pedigree. The finisher kick out counter is now at five. Considering the last one happened in the Jericho-Owens match.

– Stephanie just got put through a table. That woke the crowd up.

Seth Rollins pins Triple H after a pedigree. Kinda wish the counter sequence for the pedigree would have happened after Steph went through the table. Crowd was ready to get super hot for the finish. Match stayed at one gear the entire time, so it’s fair to wonder if the knee gimmick didn’t exactly help the match.

Shockingly no Samoa Joe appearance.

– Why couldn’t the Pitbull performance get cut from the show? It’s 10:15 and we still have four matches left. Is this damn show going until Midnight?

Bray Wyatt (C) vs. Randy Orton for the WWE title

– Orton was so damn goofy leading up to this match and this video package can’t change that.

– Wyatt’s entrance looks so wild with this many people holding up cell phones. Must be bone chilling for him to walk down that long ramp and look out into the crowd.

– Woah, the snake on the entrance ramp is a delightful touch.

– ONE FALL.

– Greg Hamilton is seriously underrated.

– It’s now time to wonder if the SmackDown women’s title match got cut from the show. If not, this might go to Midnight.

– Woah, an image of a bunch of maggots was just projected on the ring. That was awesome.

– And now it’s worms.

– Crowd is dead right now, but what else would you expect? This show is a marathon and the crowd is gasping for air like the out of shape person who enters a 5K without training.

– Ah the mandatory punt attempt from Orton at WrestleMania.

– Orton kicks out of Sister Abigail. Finisher kick out counter is at six.

Randy Orton wins the WWE title after an RKO outta nowhere. This was the worst match on the show. The gimmick of Wyatt “changing” the image on the mat was unique and did the job, but the action from bell-to-bell just never clicked and the crowd didn’t even care about the title change.

Goldberg (C) vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship

– I would have to imagine the crowd is going to be hot for this one. If not, maybe the SmackDown women’s title match should get cut.

– The pop for Brock Lesnar was similar to one that you would hear at the third hour of a boring Raw.

– Oh shut up with your numbers to remember Mike Cole.

– Damn, Goldberg is in tremendous shape.

– Crowd didn’t even budge for his pyro.

– Crowd is dead, who you gonna call? Paul Heyman!

– Man, quite a few boos when Jojo introduced Goldberg and now they’re roaring for these Brock suplexes.

– HERE WE GO. SPEAR, SPEAR, SPEAR THROUGH THE BARRICADE

– Lesnar kicked out of the Jackhammer! Finisher kick out counter is at seven.

– This place is going to explode when Lesnar hits the F5.

Brock Lesnar pins Goldberg after hitting an F5 to win the Universal Championship. Lesnar gave Goldberg 10 german suplexes. This match did wake the crowd up quite a bit considering how quiet they were for the entrances. Could not have been booked better.

SmackDown Women’s Championship Six Pack Challenge

– Mickie James channeling Tatanka with her entrance gear.

– Apparently it’s Carmania.

– Naomientrance looks effing crazy on this stage.

– So this match is going to be a quick one. Imagine it’s just going to be a spotfest.

– James Ellsworth just tried to superkick Becky Lynch, who landed an exploder suplex on him.

– A double sharpshooter? I guess that kinda worked.

– She calls that the rear view is apparently still the name of the move.

Naomi makes Alexa Bliss tap out to win the SmackDown women’s championship. This match was exactly what it needed to be considering the time. Everyone got their spots in and no one messed anything up.

Oh no, not another New Day segment …

– Here comes the inflated number for the Citrus Bowl attendance record.

Main event time FINALLY, Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

– This is an amazing video package, but we seriously might go all the way until Midnight.

– What if the Undertaker gets rolled out to the ring in a casket? That will save us 15 minutes.

– Now this one is No Holds Barred. Good call considering how limited the Undertaker might be.

– So glad to see Jim Ross is back in his environment considering the recent tragedy he endured.

– The crowd isn’t tired enough to hold back from booing Reigns.

– Undertaker coming up through a trap door in the ramp for the win!

– This is amazing:

– Undertaker and Reigns trading huge blows to start. Expecting a slugfest from these two.

– One of my favorite little things the Undertaker does is when he stumbles into the corner with his hands up like he’s ready to fight, but clearly on dream street. That always cracks me up.

– Crowd is so quiet that you can hear Reigns and Undertaker calling spots.

– DAYMN Reigns with a wicked spear that drove Taker through the Spanish announce table.

– No one gives better chair shots than the Undertaker.

– Shouldn’t the Undertaker not be surprised when someone kicks out of the Tombstone at WrestleMania?

– Oof, Reigns tried to counter a Tombstone and it led to a very bad botch. Reigns called an audible and hit Taker with another Superman punch.

– Reigns isn’t afraid to swing that chair either.

– This crowd is going to be too tired to riot after Reigns wins.

– Undertaker has kicked out of two spears and Reigns kicked out of a Tombstone, which means the finisher kick out counter is now at 10.

Roman Reigns pins Undertaker after hitting a huge spear. This felt like a squash. Reigns controlled a good chunk of this match especially the final five minutes or so. Really thought Undertaker would hit another Tombstone.

– Undertaker sits up in the ring after Reigns leaves. Somehow he’s back in his entrance gear.

– If this is really it for the Undertaker, you have to wonder how he feels about that performance and the crowd reaction. There was just nothing left for them to give because IT’S AFTER MIDNIGHT.

– Taker is so close to losing it right now. There’s definitely some tears in that ring.

– THANK YOU TAKER

All right folks, that’s it for me. I hope you enjoyed the show. You can follow me on Twitter @ScottDargis

WrestleMania 33 Roundtable Preview

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Instead of me rambling on for 2,000 words about WWE’s biggest show of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to bring a few other wrestling fans from NBC Sports along for the ride:

Jeff Graubart who will be attending WrestleMania 33 and “Easy” Ed Williams who is a big reason why I’m able to have this space to share my thoughts about the world of WWE.

So buckle up and get ready for the ultimate thrill ride before the “Ultimate Thrill Ride.”

Which match are you looking forward to the most?

Darg: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho. This is as close as we’re going to get to an old school, main event level build. Both guys are coming in hot, especially Jericho who is a WHITE HOT (sorry for the gimmick infringement Jeff) babyface. Usually, long builds + over acts X (in-ring veterans who can go) = Four star match, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Jeff: It’s a toss-up for me between Rollins vs. HHH & Y2J vs. KO. Rollins and HHH has been a long time coming and you know they’re going to put on a show. The doubt factor with Rollins’ injury has worked for me and I’m just glad he’s getting an opportunity to take down the “King of Kings” on the biggest stage of them all.

Ed: On paper, the match I should be looking forward to most is Austin Aries challenging for Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship. Especially with the launch of the latest Game of Thrones trailer, I should be on the edge of my seat waiting to see if A Double can overthrow the King of the Cruiserweights, but the fact that it’s on the pre-show takes some of the luster off this potential gem. Yes, the fact that it’s on the pre-show means it may get more time than it would on the main card, but there’s also a good chance they’ll be fighting in front of just hundreds of people. One of the big negatives of 205 Live has been the lack of crowd reaction as people don’t want to stick around after SmackDown Live. Now they’ll face the same problem, except this time they’re going on too early. If anyone can overcome it, though, it’s these two.

On the flip side, especially now that it’s being billed as a normal wrestling match, most people think A.J. Styles vs. Shane McMahon is a total waste of the Phenomenal One’s talents. Of course I’d much prefer to see him face Samoa Joe, Finn Balor or even Luke Harper, but any time a McMahon is in a match, the company sees it as a high-profile attraction. This match had a late start, but the build over the last few weeks has been pretty good. A.J.’s initial beat-down of Shane was great, and the Boy Wonder’s (although at his age, maybe it’s time to retire that nickname) elbow through the table two weeks ago was vintage. At the risk of being put on the List of Jericho, many consider Styles to be the best in the world at what he does, and this is will be his biggest test of that to date. If he can carry Shane-O-Mac to a great match, then his reputation is cemented forever. And something tells me, he’s saying, “Challenge accepted!”

And I think it’s also worth noting that the John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse match has had the best build of the entire card. Everyone was up in arms when the match was announced, since many were clamoring for a Samoa Joe vs. Cena match, but the build for this intergender tag team match has been perfect. It’s had the right balance of humor and intensity. The Total Bellas spoof was hilarious. Cena eviscerating The Miz on SmackDown this week was fantastic, and given The Miz’s character, I wasn’t that upset he just stood there and took it. But with all that being said, I still don’t care about the match at all. The build has made for some great TV, but I don’t think the match will.

What will be the Match of the Night?

Darg: If we’re talking pure in-ring action, it’s gotta be Austin Aries vs. Neville for the cruiserweight championship. Being on the pre-show might end up working out in the end because they should get more time than they would on the main card, but if Camping World Stadium isn’t close to full, the lack of crowd reaction could really hurt the match.

My pick from the main card is HHH vs. Seth Rollins. The non-sanctioned gimmick will really work in their favor. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw blood here.

Ed: As long as it gets enough time, I’m going to go with Kevin Owens challenging for Chris Jericho’s United States Championship. This match has had the best long-term build by far, but it really feels like it’s been overshadowed over the last three weeks or so and has lost some steam. Otherwise this probably would be the match I was most looking forward to. These guys have an undeniable chemistry with each other, and they’re two of the best workers in the company.

It’s amazing what Jericho is able to do in the ring at his age, and his ability to reinvent himself is second-to-none. This run is definitely the best he’s had in years, and you could even argue it’s his best ever (and that’s saying a lot). When a clipboard and the word “it” is over more than the majority of the RAW roster, that’s impressive (or is it…).

Owens has played his role to perfection as well. While Balor was reportedly slated to have a long run at the top before his injury, Owens stepped up in a big way. It was just the boost he needed, too, as he was starting to get a little stagnant. While it’s annoying he relied on interference and heel shenanigans 99 percent of the time, that’s just the nature of the beast nowadays if you’re a heel. These two should have the perfect blend of great in-ring work, humor and psychology to tell one of the better stories on the card.

With Jericho scheduled to go back on the road with his band Fozzy soon, one would think Owens will walk away with the gold. Owens will definitely end up with the belt, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Y2J get the win just to lose it the next night, perhaps, on the RAW after Mania.  

Jeff: I really think that KO and Jericho are going to bring the house down. We all know that KO can put on a solid match with anyone and Jericho is the GOAT, seems like a solid formula. If this is the last match of Jericho’s run, you better bet your ass that I’m gonna drink it in, mannnnnnnnnnn.

Speaking of, who or what will make you mark out maaaaaaaaaan?

Jeff: AJ STYLES – this guy is going to make Shane McMahon actually look like a legitimate wrestler. With no crazy rules or a cage to jump off of, this match is going to be AJ guiding Shane through the best match of his career, just watch.

Ed: If the Ultimate Thrill Ride is brought to a screeching halt by the Broken Matt Hardy, Brother Nero and any other members of the Broken Universe, it will be a WrestleMania moment for sure. There have been plenty of teases that it could happen as WWE and the Broken one himself have been going back and forth on Twitter, but it’s by no means a lock and could easily be saved for the next night or two on RAW or SmackDown Live. They’d be a great fit on the blue brand to feud with the Usos and/or American Alpha.

Since that’s something not scheduled to be on the card, though, I’ll go with Roman Reigns officially turning heel. This is the third-straight WrestleMania the company is trying to push Roman Reigns down our throats, and it’s already rumored he’ll be main eventing next year against Brock Lesnar. He’s going to be booed out of the building Sunday against the Undertaker, and he’ll be booed almost as badly next year against Brock Lesnar if they stay on that path. So, why not just finally pull the trigger and make him a heel? He has shown flashes of a heel persona in the past, and most notably over the past couple of weeks.

The role just seems much more natural for him. He might be the only one in the company capable of getting The Rock booed which happened when the People’s Champ tried to help him celebrate his Royal Rumble win in Philadelphia a couple years ago. The irony of the situation is that The Rock went through a similar situation when he debuted with the company. It got so bad that Hollywood’s highest-paid actor was showered with, “Die Rocky die,” chants. Rather than stay down that path for three years, Rocky Maivia turned heel, and The Rock was born. History needs to repeat itself with his cousin Roman. And Sunday in Orlando is most definitely the time.

Darg: If you’ll let me #FantasyBook for a minute, what if Samoa Joe runs out to help Triple H and Finn Balor makes his shocking return, but instead of taking out Joe, he takes out Rollins and aligns himself with the group of NXT guys that is currently forming around HHH.

Will anyone make a surprise appearance?

Jeff: WrestleMania is the place where anything can happen right? If dreams really do come true, we’ll get an appearance from a very Broken Matt Hardy. Hopefully Broken Matt and Brother Nero get involved in the Raw ladder match for the tag titles.

The other big mystery is Kurt Angle. We know he’s going to be there for the Hall of Fame but is this the time and place for him to debut as the next General Manager of Raw? My gut tells me this will be saved for the Raw after WrestleMania, but a man can dream.

Darg: I’m crossing my fingers and toes that New Day’s big WrestleMania moment will be interrupted by Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero. Not everyone in the crowd is going to know why Matt Hardy looks like “Doc” Brown’s cousin or why Jeff Hardy looks possessed, but that’s OK because the pop will be so loud from the hardcore fans that the causals will join in.

Ed: I’d love to see the Hulkster finally make his return to the company, but I think a more likely surprise would be Finn Balor. I know the RAW side, and the company in general, is short on faces, but I think this would be the perfect opportunity for Balor to come back as a heel.

Just picture this. At the end of the Rollins-HHH match, Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens come out for a  3-on-1 beat-down of Rollins, attacking his leg even more. With Rollins’ career in jeopardy, the lights go out, Balor’s music hits, and the Demon emerges. You get the full Demon entrance, which is tailor-made for such a big stage. The crowd is going nuts, HHH, Samoa Joe and Owens look shocked. Balor helps Rollins to his feet. And then cuts his leg out from under him and joins in on the attack. After all, Rollins was the one who knocked Balor out of commission in the first place. So, Balor makes a surprise return, gets his revenge, and completes HHH’s new NXT stable. Dare to dream.

How long will Goldberg v. Lesnar last?

Darg: If we include entrances, the main event will probably last in-between 15-20 minutes, but I‘m not expecting the actual match to last more than 10. I can’t imagine we’re going to get a one-two minute encounter where Brock goes over clean. I can’t imagine Vince closing the company’s biggest show of the year with the equivalent of a flash knockout.

Ed: I talked about this one in a previous question, but I think this one will go at least 10 minutes and no more than 20. So, let’s split the difference and say 15 minutes once you factor in entrances etc.

Jeff: I give this final showdown (thank God) only about two minutes and I think the majority of it will be a staring contest. After that incredibly main event worthy stare down, expect to see a spear attempt turned quickly into a F5. Lesnar fans will then rejoice.

Which titles will change hands?

Darg: SmackDown and Raw women’s, Raw tag team, United States, Intercontinental, Universal

 Naomi received a shocking reaction from the crowd when she returned on Tuesday, so I think she’s going to get a nice hometown pop after winning the match which may or may not be on the pre-show. I think Charlotte will win the Fatal-Four Way after Sasha turns on Bayley. Owens could really use a title. Corbin does as well, even though his feud with Ambrose has been, for a lack of a better term, suspect.

Enzo and Cass winning the tag titles would be a cool moment, especially if Cass lifts Enzo up the ladder to grab the titles. Even though their act has grown a tad stale, the duo gets a nice reaction every week. If they do win, let’s hope their reign lasts longer than Zack Ryder’s did the night after he had his WrestleMania moment.

Jeff: Raw Tag, Universal, Intercontinental, U.S. Title, Cruiserweight, Smackdown Women’s

I think we’re going to see quite a few titles change hands. The Universal title change appears to be the most obvious. Goldberg clearly only signed on to have a few one minute matches and then ride off into the sunset. I think we’re going to see Enzo and Cass take home their first WWE gold. After what I would consider the best run of Chris Jericho’s career, we’ll see it come to its gracious end courtesy of Mr. Owens.

I also think Corbin, Aries & Naomi will walk out of Mania with gold around their waists.

Ed: Raw and SmackDown women’s, Intercontinental, Universal, WWE World, Raw tag, United States

 The logical outcome for the majority of championship matches would indicate a title change, but you can never think logically when it comes to WWE.

I think the Raw Women’s Championship will go back to Charlotte after Sasha turns on Bayley, bringing Charlotte one step closer to breaking her father’s (and now John Cena’s) record for title reigns over the course of just a couple years.

I think Baron Corbin beats Dean Ambrose for the IC title in the match I probably care the least about. When the build for a WrestleMania match makes you think back to the infamous Judy Bagwell on a Forklift match in the dying days of WCW, that’s not a good thing.

It seems obvious that Lesnar will beat Goldberg, and he should. I can’t see them swerving us on that one.

I think we see Enzo and Cass get their first taste of gold in the Ladder Match. Not much else to say about that one unless the Hardys are somehow involved, which I doubt. It also seems obvious that Owens defeats the soon-departing Chris Jericho. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them drag this out a little while longer, but I’ll stick with a title change prediction for the U.S title.

Bray Wyatt needs a win in the worst way in the WWE Championship match, but I have no faith that’ll happen. I think it’s an RKO out of nowhere for Randy. It looks like there should be a lot of heel victories, so this helps balance things out a bit.

The SmackDown Women’s Championship is a tough one as well. Like with Wyatt, I think Alexa Bliss overcoming five opponents (at least) would go a long way in building up her credibility, but I’ll predict Naomi winning to get the hometown pop.

So, I guess that means the only title I’m predicting not to change hands would be the Cruiserweight Championship. Moving the title to Aries seems a little too quick, and since it’s on the Kickoff Show anyways, it makes sense to hold off on a switch. So, that would make seven title changes. Maybe Bray has a shot after all.

Will this be the Undertaker’s final Wrestlemania match?

Darg: Remember two weeks ago when the “Deadman” chokeslammed Braun Strowman? He made an odd face after he slammed Ol’ Brauny to the mat. At the time it just looked goofy, but after I watched it again I thought …hmm… that looks like the face of pain.

Let’s face it, he’s 52 years old. His body is beat up. He’s not going to embarrass himself because he’s a professional, but I’m not expecting his match with Roman Reigns to be memorable, outside of the reaction from the crowd after Reigns goes over clean.

Ed: I’ll never predict that any match will be Undertaker’s last match. He’s the “Deadman” after all. Based on how he’s moved around in the ring in his limited appearances the last few months, I think it might be a good idea for him to hang it up. And I think Taker may go into this match thinking it will be his last (just like he did last year), too.

But even if that’s what he’s thinking now, he could change his mind as WrestleMania season starts to heat up again next year.

Jeff: Yup, this is it and the man to do it will be Roman Freakin’ Reigns. We all know that Roman “can do anything” and burying the career of a legend like the Undertaker seems only logical. The only thing we can hope for is that a long awaited heel turn comes with it.

Will the Wrestlemania 33 set be the greatest ever?

Jeff: It has to be – I mean, they are building a freaking roller coaster. The sets are so lackluster these days that WWE should be splurging on the show of shows. Supposedly it’s the largest and most expensive set built to date so I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product in person.

Darg: From what I’ve seen so far on the Internetz, the set is very impressive, but it’s ripe for Universal Studio ripoff jokes on social media come Sunday. I don’t know if it’ll be better than WrestleMania 24, 26 and 30.

Ed: There’s a roller coaster. So, uh, yeah. Best. Set. Ever.

Will anyone besides Braun Strowman win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal?

Darg: Have you seen the jabronis from SmackDown in this match? With Samoa Joe out of the equation, Strowman could really use a strong showing here and really I don’t see how anyone else will win, unless Sami Zayn finally gets his revenge on Strowman.

Ed: No. In fact, it should be booked so that Strowman eliminates every other competitor by himself. And after he wins, he grabs his ridiculous trophy and smashes it to pieces, screaming that he wants more competition.

Jeff: Who cares? But if I did care, my answer would be simple…ANYONE BUT THE BIG SHOW. Braun Strowman really deserved a high profile match at Mania and I really hope they use this battle royal to have him absolutely destroy two rosters worth of talent. I wouldn’t mind Sami Zayn sneaking in for the win either. It’s to give one of the hardest working guys on the roster a WrestleMania moment.

Will WrestleMania be 33 be too long?

Darg: After last year’s monstrosity (close to seven hours if you watched from the beginning of the pre-show through the end of Roman Reigns vs. Triple H), I would have to imagine this one will finish before or just after 11 p.m.

But then again, there are 13 matches, with a New Day segment and an obligatory performance from Pitbull, so I may end up melting into my couch by the final hour.

Future live look-in at my living room around 10 o’clock:

Jeff: I’m leaning yes. There are SO many matches but this is a direct result of the brand split. Definitely a few matches I have no interest in but I don’t think the length of the show is going to affect the impact of some of these high profile bouts.

Ed: I’ve been a fan since I was three years old. I watch RAW and SmackDown Live (and usually 205 Live and Talking Smack) every week. I read the “Dirt Sheets” and listen to wrestling podcasts. And I even worked there for a couple years. But yes, seven hours (minimum) is too long for this show given the matches on the card. With the amount of talent on this roster, you could have easily set up a card where seven hours would probably fly by (ok, maybe not fly by, but you get my point. If you had Cena vs. Samoa Joe, Styles vs. Nakamura, Reigns vs. Balor, Undertaker vs. Strowman and even kept Orton vs. Wyatt, Rollins vs. HHH, Owens vs. Jericho and RAW women’s match, then you have yourself a card worth setting aside 7 hours for. That being said, I’ll still be watching all seven hours. I may need several adult beverages to get me to the end, but I’ll still stick it out.

What match will make you say, “wow, that was much better than I thought it would be.”

Darg: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon. When Styles “told” Shane that he wasn’t going to be able to climb anything or use any weapons and had to face the fact that he was going to step into the ring for a “pure” wrestling match, I laughed out loud because the idea of Shane O’Mac wrestling AJ in a gimmick-less match seems preposterous.

This is AJ Styles we’re talking about though, so anything is possible. I don’t know how he’ll do it, but Styles will pull an entertaining performance out of Shane. He’ll figure out a way to make Shane’s ridiculous offense look acceptable and will tell a story with the in-ring time he’s given.

Jeff: I can’t believe I’m saying this but Miz & Maryse v. Cena & Nikki at least has me interested. The Miz and Cena have been KILLING IT with their promos on Smackdown and I can only hope that it translates to in-ring action, although I’d say that’s doubtful. I think there will be a few entertaining spots, but for a concept that I originally LOATHED, I’m at least a little intrigued.

Ed: I’m hoping it will be the SmackDown women’s match, but I don’t think it will be. I think there’ll be too many moving pieces in this one, and unfortunately, it has cluster____ written all over it. I think Alexa Bliss is a phenomenal heel. Her delivery on the mic is different than anyone else. She has some of the best heel facials of anyone in the company, and she doesn’t have to yell to get her point across. She still has a long way to go in the ring, but the last couple of weeks aside, she has shown steady improvement. Becky Lynch, Mickie James and Natalya are proven commodities in the ring and have to be the glue to hold this one together. Naomi looked good during her return Tuesday night, but will she be just as good when Orlando will be unable to see her glow since it’s during the Kickoff show? Carmella just isn’t on this level yet, but she’s been entertaining in her role with James Ellsworth. Put all of them together (and possibly some surprises), though, and I think this one is better on paper.

So I’m going to go with Brock Lesnar challenging Goldberg for the Universal Championship. It seems weird to pick what is likely to be the show-closing main event, but most people don’t have very high expectations for this one. Their first match went less than 90 seconds at Survivor Series, but I think the reason for that was to save everything for the Showcase of the Immortals. There’s a very good chance this is Goldberg’s last match, and he’s in phenomenal shape. I have a feeling he’s going leave it all out in the ring and do everything he can to make this match an entertaining one. This may only go 10 minutes or so, but this isn’t the kind of match that needs to go a half hour. Brock Lesnar matches are not like other matches. There’s a legitimate feel to them. There’s a sense of danger to them. And given Goldberg’s age, that sense of danger will be heightened even more. Given Lesnar’s past and the fact that Goldberg already busted his head open on a door, don’t be surprised to see some “color” in this one either. It won’t be a five-star match, but I think this one will be much more entertaining than anyone expects.