Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Welcome to the WrestleMania Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, April 1st 2019. As with previous years, this bumper edition of the Week In Preview covers all of the run-up to WrestleMania weekend plus the days that immediately follow it. We begin, as always, with Raw tonight.
Monday, April 1st – Raw
Key points: The last Raw before WrestleMania comes from the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Confirmed matches include The Revival (c) vs Aleister Black & Ricochet for the Raw Tag Team Championships; Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs The Riott Squad; Bayley, Sasha Banks, Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs Nia Jax, Tamina & The IIconics. Also, Stephanie McMahon will make an announcement about the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania.
What to expect: As expected, WWE brings out the big guns for the final Monday night before WrestleMania, with Brock Lesnar and Batista both announced to appear to sell their matches on Sunday with Seth Rollins and Triple H respectively. I call physicality in at least one of those, if not both. Stephanie McMahon’s announcement will likely address the situation with Charlotte Flair becoming SmackDown Women’s Champion last week and confirming the championship stipulations for WrestleMania. In the six-woman tag match, if either of Rousey, Lynch or Flair turn on the others then that person is out of the WrestleMania match. But WWE surely wouldn’t pull that on us at the last minute…..
In the two other announced matches, it’s hard to see how The Revival lose their titles to Aleister Black and Ricochet, given the latter are also in an NXT Tag Team Championships match on Friday. Is this in lieu of a Raw titles match at WrestleMania? The eight-woman tag sees a return to the ring for Beth Phoenix. Also expect Roman Reigns to come after Drew McIntyre, hints of whether Finn Balor might bring his Demon persona to WrestleMania against Bobby Lashley, the final leg of Kurt Angle’s farewell tour and more aggravation between Braun Strowman and Colin Jost and Michael Che.
Tuesday, April 2nd – SmackDown Live & 205 Live
Key points: The go-home SmackDown (and final 205 Live) before WrestleMania takes place at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Segments include Rey Mysterio vs Andrade, AJ Styles and Randy Orton appearing on Kevin Owens’ talk show, and a contract signing for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania.
What to expect: My first question is what, if anything, is happening now with the SmackDown Women’s Championship? Count me among those who thought it was unnecessary and depressing to see Asuka drop the title last Tuesday to add extra shine to a main event that didn’t need any extra shine. Better that Asuka faces Mandy Rose for a championship in the 11th most important match at WrestleMania than both of them farting around in a battle royal in the 14th most important match at WrestleMania. Anyway, rant over, expect more Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair here, while the WWE Championship contract signing segment will finally give us the fairytale face-to-face between Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston that the story needs before Sunday.
The other big promo segment, being overseen by master shit-stirrer Kevin Owens, might well end badly, while the odds of The Miz and Shane McMahon getting into a brawl (and Shane attempting an elbow drop through the announce table) have also got to be pretty high. In the announced match, I’m always happy to see more Rey Mysterio vs Andrade but I expect Mysterio to win or get taken out by Samoa Joe during it. Might a SmackDown Tag Team Championships match for WrestleMania also get signed?
Nothing’s been formally announced for 205 Live at present, but it’ll certainly include more build towards the Cruiserweight Championship match between Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese at WrestleMania.
Wednesday, April 3rd – NXT & NXT UK
Key points: NXT features Kairi Sane vs Bianca Belair, Oney Lorcan vs Jaxson Ryker and The War Raiders wrestling a non-title match. NXT UK features Trent Seven vs Joe Coffey and Isla Dawn vs Kay Lee Ray.
What to expect: The go-home show(s) for NXT TakeOver this weekend. On NXT, Sane and Belair are two of the participants in the four-way NXT Women’s Championship match. In terms of other business on NXT, the unfortunate lack of build time towards Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole may see that program revisited again, plus a load of general hype for the Friday show. NXT UK, asides from the announced matches, is also providing Pete Dunne vs WALTER for the NXT TakeOver card, so expect that to get some final build on Wednesday too.
Thursday, April 4th – Axxess opens
Key points: WrestleMania Axxess, WWE’s ‘fan festival’ that runs over WrestleMania weekend, takes place at Brooklyn Pier 12 starting on Thursday.
What to expect: We usually mention Axxess in these WrestleMania Week In Previews, partly because it’s something to fill the ‘Thursday’ section with but also because there’s the occasional tidbit of useful information. Yes, the signing sessions, exhibitions and merchandise stores are only likely to be of interest to those people attending – if you are, good for you – but WWE have also announced tapings for a number of tournaments and exhibition shows (including an NXT vs NXT Alumni show and a women-only card that both look interesting) which should air on the WWE Network in the weeks that follow. There are also some tapings for NXT UK too. Here’s our article with the full announcement.
Friday, April 5th – NXT TakeOver: New York
Key points: NXT’s big show on WrestleMania weekend has switched evenings with the Hall Of Fame following last year and, despite taking place at what has become TakeOver’s spiritual home of the Barclays Center, comes with the subtitle ‘New York’ rather than ‘Brooklyn’. It starts at 7pm Eastern (preceded by a one hour pre-show) and the card is as follows:
- NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole (2-out-of-3 Falls Match)
- NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Kairi Sane vs Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair
- WWE United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs WALTER
- NXT Tag Team Championships: War Raiders (c) vs Aleister Black & Ricochet
- NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (c) vs Matt Riddle
What to expect: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the TakeOver card for this weekend looks excellent. Tommaso Ciampa’s injury may have robbed this show of its main event (over a year in the making), but giving Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole – one of whom will become the first man to have won all three of the yellow brand’s NXT, North American and Tag Team Championships – 30-plus minutes and three falls to have the best match they can is a generous substitute.
The rest of the card also stands up; Dream vs Riddle is a fascinating clash of characters, an all-star team is challenging for the tag titles, the Women’s Championship match looks fun and we should be on high alert for Pete Dunne finally dropping that United Kingdom Championship (not that there’s anything wrong with him keeping it, but he’s surely due some new horizons and I’d really like to see a WALTER vs Tyler Bate title feud in 2019). NXT doesn’t do ‘bad’ TakeOver shows, rather they’re just different types of ‘good’ (or more accurately ‘great’). Here’s another.
It’ll have to go some way to top TakeOver: New Orleans last year, but it’s certain to be one of the highlights of the weekend nevertheless. If you’ve got the WWE Network but are not watching NXT and the TakeOver events by now, I really don’t know what to tell you – except that you should be.
Saturday, April 6th – Hall of Fame
— WWE (@WWE) April 1, 2019
Key points: The Hall of Fame ceremony, as with all WWE’s arena events around the weekend, comes from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The ceremony starts at 7pm Eastern on the WWE Network. This year’s announced list of inductees is as follows:
- D-Generation X
- The Honky Tonk Man
- Torrie Wilson
- Harlem Heat
- The Hart Foundation
- Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
- Warrior Award: WWE employee Sue Aitchison
What to expect: I’m loathe to question the value of Hall of Fame inductions. As a way for WWE to give back to those who have shaped its history, both it and its inductees are unquestionably worthy of respect. Thinking about the decisions of who is inducted, and how and when, for any significant amount of time rarely improves it though. Take for example this year’s list of inductees – which I’m going to diplomatically describe as a ‘fudge’.
Remember how Ric Flair has been, to date, the only two-time Hall of Famer? He’s joined here by another three – Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Booker T. Michaels, all-time great though he is, is inducted again as part of a DX group that also makes Triple H a went-in-as-part-of-a-faction-first Hall of Famer and covers off others down to (AEW’s) Billy Gunn. Not that DX and The Hart Foundation weren’t important, but as most fans will likely just see these as posthumous recognitions for Chyna and Jim Neidhart anyway, a couple of individual inductions might’ve been as good. And although I’m happy to see Harlem Heat go in, even that’s got me checking whether anything’s changed since 2013 when Booker T was inducted as an individual by Stevie Ray. Perhaps I’m just a cynic. When the highest-profile individual induction is The Honky Tonk Man, though, it does feel like there have been more golden years.
There have been some reports that WWE would this year be doing away with the tradition of Hall of Famers being formally inducted by other people – which would cut down on the speeches and speed the show along – but as yet I’ve not seen that definitively confirmed. At the least, nobody has yet been announced to do the inducting, so we’ll see. There’s also a one-hour ‘red carpet’ show on the WWE Network immediately beforehand if you like that sort of thing.
Sunday, April 7th – WrestleMania 35
Key points: WrestleMania 35 takes place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (as it did for WrestleMania 29). The main show starts at 7pm Eastern, with a two hour Kickoff Show starting at 5pm. The official card, at time of writing, is as follows:
- Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair
- WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Kofi Kingston
- Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Seth Rollins
- Triple H vs Batista (No Holds Barred Match)
- Shane McMahon vs The Miz (Falls Count Anywhere Match)
- Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre
- Women’s Tag Team Championships: Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs The IIconics vs Nia Jax & Tamina
- AJ Styles vs Randy Orton
- United States Championship: Samoa Joe (c) vs Rey Mysterio
- Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin
- Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs Tony Nese
- Intercontinental Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs Finn Balor
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (announced entrants so far: Braun Strowman, Colin Jost, Michael Che, Andrade, Apollo Crews, Titus O’Neil, Tyler Breeze, Jinder Mahal, No Way Jose, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, Kalisto, Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Heath Slater, Rhyno, Viktor, Konnor,
MustafaAli, Shelton Benjamin, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Otis Dozovic, Tucker Knight, EC3)
- WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal (announced entrants so far: Asuka, Carmella, Naomi, Lana, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Nikki Cross, Dana Brooke, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Mickie James, Zelina Vega)
In terms of possible late additions to the card, matches for the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team Championships are the obvious ones (and we might look to the battle royal listings to extrapolate potential opponents). The Undertaker and John Cena are also conspicuously absent from the card, though both have quietly been phased out of WWE’s hype videos in the last week or so. Alexa Bliss is ‘hosting’ the show. Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of Alexa Bliss?
What to expect: For the first time in its history, the main event of WrestleMania will be a women’s match. Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch have been at the heart of WWE’s most compelling story for the last six months (and in the case of Flair and Lynch, longer) and any other match going on last would’ve been a travesty. As mentioned above, there are some stipulation issues to iron out during the week (officially, the match is currently for the Raw Women’s Championship only), but whichever way that unfolds the match will deliver and is likely to be – with apologies to the largely-blameless Roman Reigns – the best-received WrestleMania main event in several years. It’s practically unthinkable, however, for it to end in any way other than a Becky Lynch victory.
Conversely, the top men’s matches are not as they would’ve been planned six months ago: Seth Rollins’ chances of toppling Brock Lesnar will depend on the long-term plans for Lesnar, the Universal Championship and Roman Reigns (who was a lock for this spot before his illness), while WWE have lucked into an organic appetite for Daniel Bryan vs Kofi Kingston. Again, crowd response for these matches should be more-positive-than-average, and with other potentially crowd-pleasing matches on the undercard – Styles vs Orton, Joe vs Mysterio, the foreseeable possibility of Finn Balor bringing his Demon to play – this has the potential to be a popular, enjoyable WrestleMania.
The two de facto retirement matches, however, are walking a line – which is unfortunate. For the benefit of Kurt Angle’s body (and an audience that’s underwhelmed by his ‘choice’ of Baron Corbin as his opponent), his final match really mustn’t contain anything more than an Angle Slam and ankle lock. Maybe a short encore with John Cena. Otherwise this just needs to be a ‘moment’ for Angle, allowing the fans to give him the warm send-off he deserves. Batista’s retirement match (despite the stipulation, it’s unlikely Triple H will be the one hanging up the boots here) will be more indulgent; ‘No Holds Barred’ will be an enabling mechanism to extend the match’s viable length. Add another choreographed WrestleMania entrance for Triple H and we have something that’ll probably be quite substantial. There’s plenty of other interesting bits to pick from the card (the admirable amount of time and effort that went into building a story for The Miz vs Shane McMahon, Braun Strowman and Asuka being hot favorites to win each respective battle royal as a form of apology for not getting a better match), so while in many ways it might not be the WrestleMania that WWE had originally envisaged, it looks like it should still turn out to be a fairly successful one.
MetLife Stadium being an open-air venue, a look at the weather forecast may be useful – cloudy and a bit chilly, with occasional sun and chance of rain rising from about 15% towards 20% overnight. Fingers crossed the rain stays away! Sunset is at 7:27pm, so it’ll be light for the pre-show and only get properly dark once we’re about an hour in to the main card. As always, John and the team will be here at the end of the week with the full match-by-match preview, so check in with us for that.
Monday, April 8th – Raw
Key points: We’re back to the Barclays Center for the infamous Raw after WrestleMania.
What to expect: We know how the Raw after WrestleMania will begin – with Michael Cole and colleagues metaphorically defecating on the live crowd from a great height, using the words ‘passionate’, ‘boo who they’d normally cheer’ and ‘all in the name of fun’. Seriously, the script’s been virtually identical for the past couple of years. However, you should feel at liberty to nod sagely and struggle through three hours of beach balls and ironic singing or (and you’ll be joining me here) give Cole’s producer the finger, open a drink and enjoy the best Raw atmosphere of the year; there’s no ‘right’ opinion, but the circumstances are guaranteed.
The likelihood of featured storylines will of course depend on the previous night’s events, but there are some points to look out for: Ronda Rousey is widely reported to be stepping away from the company soon to start a family, and an exit angle could happen here. Similarly, Brock Lesnar’s future has become an annual talking point and the impending departure of Dean Ambrose is also something to look out for. Debuts from NXT are also a tradition – though it’s possible that the recent arrival of Ricochet, Aleister Black, EC3, Lacey Evans and others from the third brand may already have addressed this. There are usually a few significant moments on the Raw after WrestleMania, so expect the unexpected.
Tuesday, April 9th – SmackDown Live & 205 Live
Key points: SmackDown Live and 205 Live will be the final live night of the weekend at the Barclays Center.
What to expect: Pretty much everything that applies to Raw the previous evening also applies here, including debuts, surprise angles and a boisterous crowd – many of whom are the hardcore fans who’ve stuck around to the end of the weekend (and whose appreciation might be worthy reward to the performers of 205 Live, who have been busting their asses for the last year).
The only other thing to note here, which affects both Raw and SmackDown, is the upcoming pay-per-view schedule. The next Saudi Arabia show of WWE’s long-term contract with the kingdom is scheduled for May 3rd (a Friday), which gives the company four weeks of television to arrange what might be another slightly bizarre card. Will there be any women’s matches this time? In terms of the next ‘proper’ pay-per-view, Money in the Bank is taking place earlier this year and will be on May 19th.
Wednesday, April 10th – NXT & NXT UK
Key points: NXT, as is tradition, will revolve around the pre-show dark matches from TakeOver at the Barclays Center over the weekend. NXT UK, meanwhile, has already announced Toni Storm vs Jinny for Storm’s UK Women’s Championship.
What to expect: Not a huge amount to add here, except to speculate over the possible matches. Keith Lee has reportedly been out of the ring in the last few weeks due to injury but, if he’s fit to go, finally getting that rematch with Dominik Dijakovic is an obvious option. A tag match is also a good bet, given how spoiled the NXT roster is with tag teams. On NXT UK, I have Toni Storm down to retain her title, though the last few weeks of television have done a good job building up Jinny as a character – something the NXT UK women’s division needs to do more of.
Three Burning Questions
Some broad questions for WrestleMania week; give us a simple answer or explain in depth if you prefer; just throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- Which match are you most looking forward to at WrestleMania?
- Which match are you most looking forward to at NXT TakeOver?
- What single thing would you most like to see happen in WWE in the weeks and months that follow?
That’s your lot. I’m sorry to say that this is the last time I’ll be writing the Week In Preview – thank you, dear readers, for sticking with my ramblings and terrible predictions every Monday for the last couple of years, and thanks also to John Canton for the platform to put them out there every week.
So for now and as always, strap in, enjoy WrestleMania weekend and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.