Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Beta Likes Wrestling #1a: WrestleMania 32 Pre-Blog Part 1

That was a good night...
WrestleMania 32, the premier wrestling event of WWE, will take place in Arlington, TX at the AT&T Stadium (...damn you, corporate brand recognition strategy) on April 3rd, 2016. As I mentioned previously I'll be writing about it over the next week.

Here’s the deal; we’re going to go through each announced match individually, giving a brief summary of the storyline of the match. I’ll also talk about matches that will likely be on the card even if they aren’t announced as of the time of writing. In addition I’ll give my brief opinions of the match (because that’s what I do on this blog with movies and comics; why shouldn’t I do it with wrestling) as well as predictions. I’ll also toss a few notes that I think you might find interesting. Before we get to it here are a few terms that you may be unfamiliar with that I may bring up during this blog.

Babyface/Face: A wrestling “good guy”.

Heel: A wrestling “bad guy”.

Luchador: Usually refers to a Mexican wrestler, especially if they're wearing a mask.

NXT: WWE’s developmental promotion. Think of it as the minor league team that the major league franchise owns as use as a feeder program.

Preview after the jump.




André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Has had no less than two comic books written about him in 2015
What’s Up: This an annual match in its third year. It is a Battle Royal, a match where 20 men start in the ring and can only be eliminated by being forced over the top rope onto the floor. The winner gets a trophy and pretty much nothing else. The match is a tribute to André the Giant, a legendary wrestler who worked from the 1960s until the early 1990s, shortly before his death. André’s match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 3 is considered one of the most important matches in WWE history. 

Beta Says: WWE likes to get as many wrestlers on a WrestleMania card as possible so they can justify giving their talent the big event bonus/payday, so they will occasionally have these big multi-man matches that ultimately mean nothing and may or may not actually be that all interesting. This match will be on the pre-show and if you miss it probably won’t affect your day. 

Prediction: As I’m writing this the full roster of wrestler participating in this match have yet to be announced so it feels a little weird to bother making any assumptions about who the winner will be. It probably won’t be Tyler Breeze, though, so I guess I don't care either way.


The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
The Dudleyz haven't beaten up the Uso's dad yet
How am I supposed to take this match seriously?
What’s Up: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) in the last few years have been the center of the WWE tag team division while the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) are considered one of the most legendary tag teams in history. After returning to WWE after more than a decade the Dudleyz initially played up a “good guy nostalgia” act until suddenly turning their backs on their fans and refusing to indulge in their desire to use tables as weapons (which was old team’s signature). Furthermore they have repeatedly targeted the Usos over the past few months, eventually leading to the two teams agreeing to settle things at WrestleMania.

Beta’s Says: I love tag team wrestling but in 2016 I struggle to care all that much about either team. It should be fine; the Usos are talented and the Dudley Boyz are veterans who know what they’re doing. This is another pre-show match.

Prediction: Meh. Maybe the Usos?

Notes:

-The Dudley Boyz have been active for twenty-years, forming in 1996, and have been champions in several major promotions in that time including WWE, ECW, TNA, and NJPW 

-The Usos are part of the multi-generation wrestling Anoa’i family, which also include such wrestlers as The Wild Samoans, Rikishi, Yokozuna, Roman Reigns and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (through familial loyalty; the Rock isn’t a blood relative)



United States Championship Match 
Kalisto (c) vs. [The] Ryback
Will this be Beta's bathroom break? We'll find out on Sunday!

What’s Up: Coming up from NXT with his tag partner Sin Cara (collectively known as The Lucha Dragons), Kalisto surprised many by defeating former world champion Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship. Meanwhile [The] Ryback began dressing in different wrestling gear, walked out of his allies during a tag match, and told anyone who would listen that he’s going to look out for number one from now on (though politely, to be fair). [The] Ryback soon began targeting Kalisto, eventually challenging the luchador to a match at WrestleMania with the title on the line. Not one to back down from a fight, Kalisto accepted.

Beta Says: I like Kalisto but I’ve never really warmed up to [The] Ryback in all the years he’s been on WWE television. I’m actually bummed out that this is a one-on-one match when the Intercontinental title is not (I much rather see Kevin Owens fight in a singles match than against six challengers any day of the week). I think the main reason this is on the card is to do a classic “David vs. Goliath” story, which I’m sure will work out fairly well at least.

Prediction: I feel like Ryback sort has to win, as his character has been seemingly circling the toilet for some time now and losing a big WM  match feels like it may be the last nail in the coffin. It does feel too soon for Kalsito to lose the belt but he has so much upside to him I imagine he could handle a loss better. WWE may go for the “feel good” moment, though, so I guess we’ll see.

Notes:
-Kalisto previously wrestled as “Samuray del Sol” before joining WWE and was considered one of the top high flyers in the world

-I cannot stop calling this guy “The” Ryback!


Total Divas  vs. B.A.D. & Blonde
Welp, this'll probably be a clusterf**k!
What’s Up: Lana began targeting Brie Bella, mocking her husband’s recent forced retirement and attacking her more than once. Since then both Lana and Brie have had other women in the division backing them up and things continued to spiral out of control until a challenge for WrestleMania was made. Currently Alicia Fox, Paige, Natalya and (ugh) Eva Marie (all cast members of the reality show Total Divas) have sided with Brie while Naomi, Tamina Snuka, Summer Rae and Emma have backed Lana and been collectively referring to themselves as “B.A.D. & Blonde” (previously the name of Naomi and Tamina’s group with Sasha Banks)

Beta Says: Oh boy. This has the smell of “Let’s Get as Many People a WM Paycheck as Possible” all over it. On the one hand this match seems like it has far too many people to be decent, especially since it’s very likely it wouldn’t get more than ten minutes (and that’s probably a very generous number). On the other hand it is one of two women’s matches, which almost never happens at WrestleMania, so even if this match is a train wreck and mildly sexist (as is tradition for these types of matches) we may still get to see women wrestlers doing something worthwhile at the show.  This match will appear on the pre-show.

Prediction: Hard to say (or care) who wins here but I’ll throw it to Team Bella, since rumor has it that Brie Bella will be retiring soon to start a family with her husband, and more often than not babyface women wrestlers tend to leave WWE with a win. That said Eva Marie might turn on Brie and the other babyfaces and make them lose; I mean, she's gonna get booed by the crowd either way.

Notes:

-Brie Bella is the twin sister of Nikki Bella (out with injury) and the wife of Daniel Bryan (retired due to injury)

-Lana was rumored to be a favorite of the higher-ups in the company, despite never having wrestled a match on television, and a large chunk of the show was dedicated to her storylines. However Lana has spent the last six months barely on TV at all.

-Emma originally debuted in WWE from NXT in 2014 where she was regulated to a Comedy Duo with the now retired Santino Marella. She ended up doing nothing of note before being sent back to NXT where she reinvented herself as a bitter villain. This storyline marks her return to the Raw/Smackdown roster.

-Naomi and Tamina were known as Team B.A.D. along with Sasha Banks, though Sasha has since left the group to go solo (more on her later)

-Natalya, Paige and Tamina Snuka are all multi-generational wrestlers. Tamina is the daughter of alleged murderer WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka, Paige is the daughter of Ricky and Saraya Knight, and Nattie is the daughter of Jim Neidhart and member of the famous Hart Family.


 Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn...and also some other dudes, I guess
Also Stardust
What’s Up: After winning the IC title earlier this year Kevin Owens’ ego had grown completely out of control. He has been antagonizing just about every wrestler in the midcard. While this was happening Owens’ archenemy, Sami Zayn, returned to Monday Night Raw (having been injured in his Raw debut and spending the last few months in NXT) to exact revenge on his former friend for years long offenses. Owens, who continued dodging opponents all the while claiming that he has no real competition, finally pissed off enough people (the authority figures included) that he was booked to defend his title at WrestleMania 32 against Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, The Miz, Stardust, and Zack Ryder in a Ladder Match (wherein the title belt is hung in the air and the only way to win the match is to retrieve it by using a ladder).

Beta Says: Right. This match. So. I’m pretty certain this will be a great match but WWE sort of dangled the idea of Owens defending against Sami Zayn in front of me and it got me all excited. Also the older I get the less I want to see dangerous matches like multi-man ladder matches, as they happen several times a year and become less special every time.

Prediction: I feel like there are more story telling options if Owens slithers out of this match with the title, so I’ll go with KO for the win.

Notes:
-Owens and Zayn have been portrayed as allies and enemies for a decade, even before either came to WWE.

-Despite being under contract with WWE since 2006 this will be Zack Ryder’s first match at a WrestleMania, in a move that pretty much surprised everyone.

-Stardust is the son of the late, great Dusty Rhodes and younger brother of the legendary Goldust. Prior to this current gimmick he performed as “Cody Rhodes” in a variety of excellent characters. 

-Sin Cara is not the original Sin Cara! Long story short: initially there was a different man under the mask that…didn’t work out well. Currently the original Sin Cara works as “Carístico” in Mexico.



The New Day vs. The League of Nations
A Battle with No Consequences! 

What’s Up: For months and months The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods) have dominated the tag division with their evil, but crowd pleasing, antics. After beating, and insulting, most of the other teams on the roster they found themselves targeted by the League of Nations, a sinister group of international wrestlers (Sheamus from Ireland, Wade Barret from England, Alberto Del Rio from Mexico and Rusev from Bulgaria) mainly because the New Day would not stop making fun of them. After defeating members of the group several times while defending their Tag Team Championship a four-on-three handicap match was made for WrestleMania to settle things once and for all. 

Beta Says: Initially everyone thought this would somehow be for the tag titles but apparently this is a non-title match, meaning the stakes are even lower than I originally assumed. With the titles not up for grabs I’m not sure what’s the point of this match anymore, especially since they haven’t been defended at WM proper since 2013. Better luck next year, I guess. 

Prediction: Now that the titles are definitely not on the line I suspect the LON will walk away with the victory, setting up one or more of the member to be strong challengers for the World Heavyweight Title later in the year. I mean, they won’t look like strong challengers either way but that’s neither here nor there. 

Notes: 

 -The New Day originally debuted as babyfaces; dancing, smiling positivity preachers. However the fans didn’t like it (and you can make an argument that the gimmick was a little racist) and booed them heavily, forcing them to become heels where they basically said whatever they wanted every night. The crowd LOVED this and began cheering them despite them being clearly evil. This match marks their return to babyface status. 

 -There’s a rumor that Wade Barret is leaving the company this summer, so this may mark his final WM appearance. 

-I was pretty “meh” on Rusev ever since he first appeared in NXT until last year at WM 31 where he made his entrance in a f**king tank! Now I want Rusev to crush everything forever!

We're running long so we're wrap it up for now. Next time we'll look at the marquee matches, including the Women's Divas Championship match, the Hell in a Cell match, and the World Heavyweight Championship match. [Update: Part 2 can be found here]

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