The Road To WrestleMania 38: Who Is Making The Marquee In Dallas?
As the new year rolls around, so does the Road To WrestleMania, which will invariably be kickstarted at WWE’s upcoming PPV, ‘Day One’ on New Year’s Day.
Vinnie Mac likes to go hell for leather with his storylines as soon as the calendars tick over to January, with the Royal Rumble usually defining the first quarter’s marquee programmes. However, with Day One now appearing on the schedule, it seems the journey to Dallas at the beginning of April will start a little earlier in 2022.
Of course, before going any further, the Covid sized elephant in the room needs addressing before we rev up our engines at the starting line of the road to WrestleMania. This pandemic being what it is, attempting to predict anything from week-to-week, especially with the Omicron variant running wild, is almost impossible. It is already threatening to derail Day One’s card this Saturday and who knows what situation it may leave us in over the next few months. Who knows, the dreaded ThunderDome may even be wheeled out of retirement? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and the world can continue with as much normality as possible. But it is a lingering nightmare that we are sadly unable to ignore.
But, onwards to Dallas, and another two night spectacular, this time at the AT&T Stadium, which played host to it’s first ‘Mania in 2016, when the 32nd ‘Grandaddy of em All’ emanated from the Lone Star State and saw Roman Reigns exit as WWE Champion after vanquishing Triple H in the main event, following on from Shane McMahon’s death defying Hell In A Cell loss to The Undertaker and, who can forget the show stealing triple threat for the newly reintroduced Women’s Championship between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks?
So who’s names are going to be on the marquee? Who main events night one and who night two? Are any unexpected names in line for the proverbial rocket strapping to the back and should we be keeping an eye out for any celebrity involvement to follow on from this year’s resounding Bad Bunny success?
Here’s what we think/hope/expect will happen between now and the beginning of April…
The Road To WrestleMania: Family Feuds and Canadian Beef
Bret/Owen, Undertake/Kane, Matt/Jeff, Vince/Shane. WrestleMania has played host to some memorable family feuds over the last 37 years and looks like it could be set for another. Typically, brother vs brother has dominated the interfamily rivalries, but for the 38th edition of the springtime classic, it looks as though father vs son is returning for the first time since WrestleMania 17, coincidentally also hosted in Texas.
While the stakes may not be as high as Vince and Shane McMahon duking it out in a streetlight while a seemingly comatose Linda looks on, fresh off Shane’s trip to Panama City to purchase WCW from under his dad’s nose, the heavily rumoured Rey vs Dominik Mysterio bout should still generate plenty of interest.
With the Mysterios coming up short in several matches recently, most notably this week’s loss to the Street Profits in the final of the R-K-Bronament, a victory that would have earned them a shot at Randy Orton and Riddle’s Raw Tag Team Titles, it is only a matter of time before junior turns against senior and decides to forge his own path, starting with the mowing down of his old man on the grandest stage of all. Whether Dominik is actually ready for a solo run is to be seen, but his consistently unsuccessful singles matches are certainly playing into the unrest that will eventually see him turn his back on the man who once won him in a ladder match. He will no doubt level the blame for his losses at his father’s unsuccessful mentoring, which will perhaps see the elder Mysterio refuse a match with his son for in the embryonic stages of the road to WrestleMania, before he is pushed too far and accepts the challenge. Adding Rey’s iconic mask to the stakes would also generate a ton of extra buzz for an all Mysterio affair.
Elsewhere on Monday Night Raw, Kevin Owens could be looking to make it a Canadian hat-trick at ‘Mania, by adding another countryman to Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn on the list of fellow Canadians he has thrown down with at WrestleMania.
KO is currently 2-0 against his buddies from North of the border, but perhaps his biggest challenge yet could be on the horizon.
Last week, at the traditional Boxing Day show from Madison Square Garden, the newly re-signed Owens did battle with Edge inside a steel cage. The match received a ton of intrigue online, no doubt because it felt like a PPV calibre bout that most fans were deprived of seeing. Feedback seemed generally positive and both men have expressed a solid interest in a more longterm feud. And where better to put that into practice than the Road To WrestleMania?
Owens may have a WWE Title bout to navigate at Day One, while Edge takes on The Miz, but it would appear as though these battles are to be one and done scenarios or, at best, programmes that extend to the Rumble at the very latest before concluding and allowing the two Canadians to engage in two months of promo wars, sneak attacks and Brood Baths.
Of course, Owens may yet dethrone Big E at Day One and have alternate plans for WrestleMania, although they could still involve Edge as a number one contender to his throne. However, this feels like one that is best left titleless to deliver some real heat to the undercard.
The Road To WrestleMania: The Mayhem of the Mid Card
Piecing together high profile grudge matches and main events may be a lot of fun, but the mid card of a WrestleMania can be a chaotic, lawless place. Especially when you’ve got two nights to fill.
For a start, it doesn’t feel as if the R-K-Bro alliance is going to be one which lasts much further than spring, despite Orton and Riddle becoming a pairing who are wildly popular with the crowds. A split could easily happen at any moment, given Orton’s history of treachery and more obvious suitability as a heel. Riddle has worked very well in the odd couple role, grinding Orton’s gears one minute, impressing him and earning hugs the next. However, that can only last so long, and once those Raw Tag Titles are lost, where do R-K-Bro go from there? Straight on The Road To WrestleMania, that’s where. Not only would a match between the two be a fascinating mesh of styles, but it could also involve a programme in which MSK are injected, being Riddle’s NXT 2.0 proteges and all. An occasional Orton appearance on the revamped NXT, along the same lines as what we’re seeing with AJ Styles and his feud with Grayson Waller at the minute, would be a huge boon to the house that Bron Breakker built. Plus, MSK potentially getting some airtime on Raw wouldn’t exactly harm their careers either, especially when placed alongside one of the company’s biggest acts of the last 20 years ahead of WrestleMania.
Elsewhere, Damian Priest seems poised for a very, very big 2022, yet much of that probably doesn’t involve his United States Title. This year saw the Archer of Infamy gain a huge amount of traction via his tagging with Bad Bunny during their memorable tag team match against The Mix and John Morrison. Ever since then, Priest has been on a winning streak of epic proportions, doing very little else apart from pin opponent’s shoulders to the canvas. A more violent edge has been seen recently, with Priest snapping at Survivor Series, costing him his match against Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura by DQ. This newfound savage nature could very well lead Priest on a path to a title defence against another persona who is geared towards the more physically extreme – Finn Balor’s Demon.
The Irishman is currently embroiled in a feud with Vince McMahon’s latest flavour of the month Austin Theory, who will no doubt rile the chairman up just enough to earn his ire sooner or later. Probably after a failed attempt to vanquish the former NXT Champion. Once Theory is out of the way and the Royal Rumble is dealt with, Balor targeting Priest and his US Title via his Demon King alter ego feels like a logical move for both superstars. It’s a fresh match up between two popular names, with a victory helping Balor re-establish some much needed legitimacy on the main roster after his sublime return to NXT, and a loss not dampening Priest’s heat, while also freeing him up to move further up the card.
And what of AJ Styles? The Phenomenal One’s break up with Omos came out of the blue and, if reports are to be believed, isn’t going to be the dissolution of a team that evolves into a long term programme. Indeed, Styles is already pre occupied with NXT 2.0 starlet Grayson Waller, with Omos nowhere to be seen. Of course, there’s still plenty of time this month for the former Raw Tag Team champions to throw down, but after that, it would appear they will be walking their own paths. For Styles, a return to babyfacedom beckons and with that, hopefully, comes a blockbuster bout against Seth Rollins.
Both men have history, with Styles unsuccessfully attempting to usurp Rollins as Universal Champion at Money In The Bank 2019, where they put on an instant classic. Given Rollins’ ego and how it is spiralling out of control, Styles bringing him back down to earth by reminding him who really is the most phenomenal talent on Monday Night Raw would be an easy way to get this feud off to the races while also guaranteeing us an absolute barn burner of a bout. Give them 20 minutes and watch them fly.
As for Omos? It might not be much fun or even all that original, but an Andre the Giant battle Royale win seems most likely, with no main event options realistically open for him to pursue at this early stage of his career. A record breaking performance in the Andre could help solidify his singles push, however.
As for the IC Title, King Nakamura’s relationship with Rick Boogs can’t be far off running it’s course, but will likely last the distance through WrestleMania, if not for their entrance alone at the Grandaddy of em All. Imagine THE SIZE of the guitar riff, after all. But if their relationship will last through ‘Mania, in all likelihood, Nak’s IC title reign won’t, and it should be stopped by one of Cesaro or Mustafa Ali. Both superstars have proven themselves time and time again, with Cesaro coming off a year where he finally landed his WrestleMania moment, at the expense of Seth Rollins, and also challenged for the Universal Title, one-on-one, on PPV, where he was unsuccessful in taking the seat of Head of The Table Roman Reigns. Ali, meanwhile, has delivered in every role he’s been put in, whether it was the doomed Retribution angle from last year or his tag team with Mansoor this year. An excellent promo and a sensational in-ring talent, put him with Cesaro and Nakamura and expect magic. Lots of it.
The Road To WrestleMania: WrestleMania 2.0
The technicolor NXT 2.0 may have been met with more than a few furrowed brows and snorts of derision, but there’s plenty to be cheerful about down in Orlando, with Bron Breakker, Grayson Waller, Io Shirai, Raquel Gonzales, Toxic Attraction, LA Knight, Odyssey Jones, Cameron Grimes, Pete Dunne, Legado Del Fantasma, Solo Sikoa, Timothy Thatcher, Tony D’Angelo, Carmelo Hayes, the aforementioned MSK and Malcolm Bivens’ Diamond Mine all holding the fort in impressive fashion. Add to this a potentially returning Samoa Joe, WALTER dipping in and out and Tomasso Ciampa sticking still, for the time being, holding onto Goldie, and there’s every reason to believe that 2022 could be a banner year for the former Black and Gold brand.
Better yet, with the likes of Riddle and AJ Styles visiting Orlando, some extra star value is being sprinkled on top of proceedings, which also allows for potential main roster crossovers for developmental talent who yearn to be seen as more than just that.
With two nights worth of ‘Mania to fill, looking to NXT 2.0 wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world and a recent booking decision down in Florida could also be replicated in time for the big weekend in Dallas.
Carmelo Hayes and Roderick Strong will soon do battle to unify their respective North American and Cruiserweight Titles at ‘New Year’s Evil’, and it’s an idea that would also be well served with the NXT Women’s and WWE Women’s Tag Titles, given the lack of depth in both divisions at the moment.
The original premise of the main roster Women’s belts was that they could be defended across all three brands, which ensured NXT always received some main roster rub. However, their own straps being introduced, followed by a slew of releases, has meant that neither set of titles can really be treated with any degree of seriousness as the roster depth simply isn’t there for a procession of challenging teams to step up. A unification bout at ‘Mania therefore could be the way to go, with current main roster title holders Carmella and Queen Zelina putting their gold up for grabs alongside that of Gigi Dolan and Jacy Jayne.
On top of this, Goldie having a defence at the Show of Shows wouldn’t be a bad way to present your recently revamped brand as a big deal. By ‘Mania time, big Bron should be holding the gold, with a rematch against Ciampa set to go down next week at New Year’s Evil. By the time the first weekend in April rolls around, a Samoa Joe return could be possible, with the former champ on the warpath wanting to reclaim the gold that he never lost OR, maybe a visiting WALTER could provide a challenge to the second generation Steiner? Either way, a lot of eyes will be drawn to a brand that desperately needs the attention.
The Road To WrestleMania: The Main Events
So, a Roman Reigns vs The Rock dream match seems to be off the card, with no reports of The Great One being confirmed for a ‘Mania match, having missed his proposed Survivor Series showing in November due to quarantine restrictions encountered while filming in Australia. That’s not to say that the People’s Champion won’t show in Dallas, but the chance of him main eventing against his younger cousin seems very slim at best.
But then who challenges the Tribal Chief for the Universal Title he has defended successfully for the last 16 months? The list of challengers seen off since the summer of 2020 is almost longer than the Ano’ai family tree, leaving Reigns relatively short of fresh marquee match ups for the Show of Shows.
This leaves the most realistic challenger as Drew McIntyre, who had to endure maiden WWE Title run behind closed doors, with no live crowds on hand to share his victory over Brock Lesnar or the start of his second reign against Randy Orton. Nor were they on hand for defences against the likes of Seth Rollins or Goldberg.
With Reigns’ Brock Lesnar programme likely drawing to a close with a Paul Heyman swerve helping see off the Beast Incarnate once again at Day One this weekend, it’s probably safe to say that Reigns and McIntyre face off at ‘Mania, while Lesnar seeks someone else to suplex his frustrations out on. McIntyre is in desperate need of that WrestleMania moment and, with a history already existing between him and Reigns (Roman downed McIntyre at ‘Mania 35 and then again at Survivor Series 2020), the Scotsman has something to prove, not only to be the first person to vanquish the Tribal Chief as Universal Champion, but to finally get his victory back over Reigns. Tie that in with his frustrations at losing his rematches against Lashley, especially his opportunity in front of fans at ‘Mania last year, and McIntyre has plenty of fuel to ride into Dallas with.
Now, as for Lesnar, another loss to Reigns would mean it’s two out of two since his SummerSlam return and 0-3 if you take into account his title loss to McIntyre at ‘Mania 36. So the big man needs a big time victory. As does Bobby Lashley, the former WWE champ who once looked unstoppable but has since seen his dominance derailed by Big E and Bill Goldberg. The match between the two MMA crossovers has long been touted but never actually signed, with this year’s SummerSlam once believed to be the event at which it would happen. However, when that failed to materialise, ‘Mania seemed like the only logical option.
While using the bout as a vehicle for Brock to return to all conquering form, a losing effort for Lashley could actually tie in with a more longterm arc for the All Mighty, who finally rediscovers his dominance later on down the road. So booking wise it’s a safe bet for both men and gives us a fresh match up we’ve never seen before.
Elsewhere in the World Title scene, Big E is also looking a little bereft of challengers, which could open the door for something a bit more surprising for his WWE Title defence (as long as he successfully defends his championship en route to Dallas). So step forward KING XAVIER WOODS.
OK, OK, this is probably a LONG shot at best, but Woods is the only member of the New Day not to be given the World Title treatment. There was Kofimania three years ago and Big E’s coronation earlier this year. Woods, meanwhile, is fresh off his King of The Ring victory, which he had been dreaming of for years and now feels poised for a serious singles push, which would help freshen up New Day away from the Tag Title scene and give us a history making match up. And where better to kickstart Woods’ push than the road to WrestleMania?
Two African American male superstars have never competed one-on-one for a World Title at WrestleMania, and who better to break down that barrier and make that history than the New Day? Woods as a surprise Rumble winner who then gets to choose which title he wants to vie for, before choosing his partner’s gold would be a brilliant story that could be celebrated for years to come. The programme can be kept babyface vs babyface, with plenty of ‘will one turn?’ tension and a torn Kofi left in the middle providing plenty of added drama. The promos would be gold and the shock value of Woods as number one contender heading into ‘Mania is a refreshing move no one would see coming. Not to mention the fact the match would absolutely BANG.
As for the Women’s division and their two titles, we probably shouldn’t expect either Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair to be riding on the road to WrestleMania their brand’s respective titles around their waists. Who knows, perhaps Liv Morgan will upset Lynch at Day One, but realistically, Vince is going to want The Man rolling into town at the beginning of April as his champion as it also makes the most sense for who her most likely challenger is – Bianca Belair.
After returning at SummerSlam to steal one off Belair, bringing an end to the EST’s reign as SmackDown Women’s Champ before pulling a full blown heel turn, Lynch has had one over on this year’s Royal Rumble winner. The move to take the title off Belair in Vegas did seem derail a decent amount of her momentum, which she is yet to regain with her failed attempts to climb back to the top of the mountain. So where better to finally right all those wrongs than at WrestleMania? It may never come close to replicating the history her and Sasha Banks made together this year in Tampa, but another Bianca title win, over The Man, no less, would still be a moment that lives long in the memory.
And what of her opponent at this year’s ‘Mania? Sasha Banks is too big a name to be left without something monumental to do at the biggest show of the year. But then again, you’ve also got Shayna Baszler who could really do with a major programme to revive her main roster credibility. Oh, and then there’s Charlotte Flair needing someone to defend her SmackDown Women’s gold against. Throw in the recently debuted Xia Li, Toni Storm (who has recently had her issues with the Queen) and oh, I dunno, a returning Bayley? And you’ve got yourself a six way match that is lacking just one thing. Ladders. Lots and lots of ladders. ‘Mania has hosted some of the most memorable ladder matches in history, and one for the Queen’s gold, maybe to kick off one of the nights, would be a spectacle for the ages, especially if Bayley’s return is saved for the show itself, leading to her turning back babyface and reclaiming the title. Who knows, maybe a reappearance from Alexa Bliss could prove to be Charlotte’s downfall?
Throw in an Undertaker Hall of Fame induction in his home state, plus some shenanigans from Stone Cold Steve Austin (special guest referee for the Reigns vs McIntyre match, maybe?) and you’ve got a WrestleMania weekend for the ages.
How do you see the Road to WrestleMania mapping out? Maybe plan your own Road to WrestleMania in our comments section on Facebook…