Xtra Mile's Wrestlemania 31 predictions, hopes and dreams
by Barney Sonic Boom Six and Brad
IMPORTANT NOTE: Barney from Sonic Boom Six will be live tweeting Wrestlemania. This is guaranteed to be a lot of fun, so follow the band's Twitter @sonicboomsix from 12am Monday, 30 March 2015 through to the end of the event for some entertaining commentary.
Also you should find out what the band are up to via their website and what the deal is with their new album Operation Boombox via Pledgemusic, which has fairly regular updates by the band. Go support them if you love them. They are fine, fine people and make excellent racket. You should support them. You can also buy their previous Xtra Mile releases here.
You may wonder: why wrestling? It's really stupid and childish. Yeah? Well so are comic books and all those Marvel movies you watch. That's actually the closest parallel to wrestling - it's comic book superheroes come to life, though more HULK and Batman than, say, Thor or Spiderman. But really, it's just entertainment. Try and imagine a scripted drama pretending to be a real sport that's about fighting and winning championships as well as settling scores. These overpowered big (and sometimes little) men (and sometimes women) balance acting, trying to make fighting look real, while also making it look spectacular at times and hence entirely unrealistic. It's a sort of brutal ballet. And it's all done live in front of audiences in sports arenas. In addition to fake fighting with real pain and injuries, these characters talk to the audience, to each other, to interviewers, reciting lines or improvising, video promos, sometimes saying things that are real, mostly making up a load of rubbish. And they are also treated like movie stars by fans at conventions and shows.
I'm not going to get hyper-defensive here. Wrestling has been, and still is in various degrees, extremely dangerous, vulgar, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, offensive and embarrassing. But then, so are most of the things you like. They're also inane, puerile at times, and treat you like idiots. Reality TV, soaps, videogames, actual sport, a bunch of literature and musicals, most Hollywood blockbusters; there is as much inexcusable stuff that you like. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining nor that you can want things to be so much better but still enjoy these things.. And so we watch and we discuss and we hope that things will get better. And they do, however slow.
Wrestlemania XXXI is on Sunday, 29 March 2015. Or as it's now known, simply Wrestlemania, because numbers make you seem old.. We happen to think that there's a few fans among you - and no shame if you are, you probably think this whole business as stupid as we do. But we also take it DEADLY SERIOUSLY.
Barney from the lovely Sonic Boom Six, and I, will be your guide - your JR and Jerry Lawler, if you will (or if you're not sure who they are, your Cole and JBL, I guess) - to this potentially disastrous wrestling spectacular. We have rapidly diminishing faith that 31 can pull some surprises. Either way, it'll be exciting won't it?
The lay of the land at the end of the road to Wrestlemania (by Barney Boom)
I’m going to have to be real here… I’ve thought the build, in terms of the main event, has been a catastrophic mess. Despite a strong showing with Daniel Bryan in the last pay-per-view (Fast Lane) I don’t think Roman Reigns is ready and his attitude outside the WWE world comes across as self-entitled and defensive, and suggests that he doesn’t understand why he’s getting so much heat from fans. I’ve enjoyed the Sting vs Triple H stuff and the Cena vs Rusev angles, but from the Royal Rumble onwards, their continuing ill-treatment of D Bryan - who the fans love - has really left a bad taste in my mouth. While I wasn’t a ‘cancel the network’ guy, I did consider it, because it’s hard to shell out on a company that takes its audience so clearly for granted. But when I look at the card now, it really is exciting because while normally I can go top to bottom and guess who’s going over, this year I’m genuinely unsure about most of the bouts, which certainly makes things more interesting...
Predictions, hopes and dreams (by Barney and Brad)
MAIN EVENT: Brock Lesnar (WWE World Heavyweight Champion) vs Roman Reigns
Barney: With Brock’s re-signing (after a tease about leaving to return to UFC, where he has been champion in 2008 and 2009), this has suddenly become very hard to call. With the stubbornness that Vince has shown over the last few years, I was convinced that, despite Roman not being ready and the crowd turning on him, Vince was going to dig in his heels and put Roman over. I thought the match would just be a dud. But the last couple of weeks have been interesting because in the build, they’ve really stopped representing Brock as a villain. Brock was going to get cheered anyway, but now he’s re-signed and did an interview on ESPN saying how much he likes entertaining the fans, he’s going to be the biggest babyface on the card. The fact that they chose to announce the re-signing - which they didn’t have to do - has thrown a huge question mark over everything. What I think would be ‘best for business’ is to turn Brock into the biggest babyface in the company for the next couple of years and turn Roman heel - which he’s far more suited to. But I can still see Vince cutting off his nose to spite his face, as he’s done continually over the last few years, and putting Roman Reigns over because that’s just what he wants. So, although this match is suddenly a lot more hard to call, I’m going to have to put my money on a Roman Reigns win. Prediction: Roman Reigns
Brad: We all knew Roman Reigns would eventually be 'the guy'. We just didn't think it would be so soon and at the expense of our hero, and Frank Turner's friend, Daniel Bryan. From being worried about his in-ring skills, especially after months of injury that ended just before the Royal Rumble (which he won, inevitably), to finding out how bad he is at promos, things have looked worse and worse for RR. The crowds have turned on him - largely because expecting something means it can be very disappointing when it's all there is to look forward to - and some of our favourites were cruelly disposed of at the Royal Rumble so Reigns could look INCREDIBLY STRONG. Anyway, this is what we have. The saving grace has been Brock Lesnar, as it always is. Him and Paul Heyman have been pure fire raging through the shitfest that is WWE's storylines since Survivor Series last year. They seem to work of their own volition, and Brock's tease of going to UFC has led from "yeah Roman is taking the championship BORING" to "HOPE IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW" as Brock exclusively signed a multi-year deal with WWE and retired from UFC. Now, the main event of the biggest event of the year is uncertain. Throw in old Shield teammate Seth Rollins and his ever-present Money in the Bank briefcase for a title shot at ANY time and we have a choice of three potential champions as the credits roll. Excited yet? Prediction: Roman Reigns
Sting vs HHH
Barney: The build up for this has been pretty cool, once HHH stopped going on about WCW. I have to wonder if that was his way of trying to get WWE fans on his side, which would be right up his conniving little street. I loved Sting doing the live promo on Monday, without that goofy Darth Vader voice. He looked like a star and stood up to Stephanie and that was great. When he said ‘it’s not about getting revenge for WCW - that would be ridiculous’ I did a little fist pump because that put that whole thing to bed. These are two veterans who can still go a bit, doing what they do best. They’ll be a lot of out-of-the-ring brawl stuff in the match I reckon, but it should be good, and I’m going with Sting. Prediction: Sting
Brad: Sting vs HHH will be Sting's first ever match in WWE - the biggest star in wrestling not to have wrestled in WWE ever is finally here. And OF COURSE he's against the defacto owner of the company. We are all worried Sting can't do wrestling any more, but HHH proved himself last year as an excellent hand still. The build, seemingly about HHH somehow being single-handedly responsible for destroying WCW - Sting's legacy essentially - instead of the truth, has been bad. But I think just having these two really important wrestling types in the ring will be enough anyway. Unless they're planning on dragging this out, it'd be stupid to have Sting lose his first (and possibly penultimate) WWE match. Prediction: Sting
Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship: Bad News Barrett (Intercontinental Champion) vs Dean Ambrose vs Daniel Bryan vs Luke Harper vs Stardust vs R-Truth vs Dolph Ziggler
Barney: It’s an absolute travesty that Daniel Bryan is being reduced to this. He is the biggest babyface they have and because he doesn’t look the part to Vince, he’s just been continually buried to the point fans have got so frustrated, their enthusiasm for him has been diminished. The fact that he’s even in one of these clusterfucks, where he could easily get injured again after 8 months out after neck surgery, is ridiculous. The build up for this, with Truth running away with the belt, has been juvenile, and racist. Just absolute bobbins. You can’t ’steal a title’. You’re stealing a belt. Where do they come up with this nonsense!? But I can see it being exciting in terms of the action, at least. I say Daniel Bryan will win, and they’ll try and get the title some steam behind it, making it the Smackdown-based 'worker’s title’ like it was in the late 80s and early 90s. But this is nothing but an insult to Daniel. Prediction: Daniel Bryan
Brad: The seven-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship has had a pathetic build based on everyone involved stealing the championship belt like some insane relay race. The huge plus though is that pretty much everyone involved is ace, including last year's Wrestlemania story protagonist, Daniel Bryan (how far the (truly) mighty have fallen). But with flyer Dolph Ziggler, mad Stardust, twisted Dean Ambrose, bulldozer Luke Harper, reliable Wade Barrett, and afterthought R-Truth, the match should be incredible. Just by what it could do for the Intercontinental 'division', Bryan should win, even though he should be fighting Brock Lesnar next and Brock is leagues above that championship. Prediction: Daniel Bryan
Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins
Barney: Anything involving The Authority, I’m always wary of, because anything involving Triple H and Stephanie always gets big-footed by the fact they constantly have to be the cleverest and biggest in the room. They have a huge blindspot to the fact that the way they treat babyfaces makes them look weak and stupid. But the Orton revenge story when he joined and tricked Rollins was pretty cool, if completely implausible. Rollins is an excellent baddie, and never goes for that ‘cool heel’ thing that messes up characters like Bray Wyatt. Rollins wants people to hate him, and we do. And Orton seems to have a spring in his step again and is obviously great in the ring so I think this one will be a barn burner. I’m going to have to go with Rollins, because I think this feud can run and run, and they generally have a couple of heel wins. Prediction: Seth Rollins
Brad: Randy Orton's long-running beef with Seth Rollins has basically been Orton attacking him and his mates J & J Security, Kane and The Big Show, then making friends again, rinse, repeat. It's been a tedious, overlong, over-explained build - which is almost exactly how Orton and Rollins talk on the mic, which just HAS to be intentional: a match made in boredom. However, contradiction in terms, this could be the best match. Rollins is consistently excellent in the ring, and Orton can bring it. They are both excellent at being vicious and spiteful and evil. Let's hope this brings it out of both of them. As Money in the Bank briefcase holder, and definite future world champion, Seth should win. Prediction: Seth Rollins
Bray Wyatt vs The Undertaker
Barney: The build to this has been hopeless. They’ve not even really talked about the ramifications of last year’s loss on The Undertaker or created any kind of motivation for Bray Wyatt. They’re both spooky - let’s fight! And personally, while I think both wrestlers are talented and deserving of respect, I don’t think Bray Wyatt knows how to get proper heel heat. His character has great potential, and he inhabits the role well, but he never seems to generate any hatred. I think internet wrestling fans love him. It just does nothing for me at all. Hopefully he can work well enough to get a good match out of poor old Taker, who looked well and truly spent last year. I say Undertaker’s going over in a real wasted chance in terms of build .Prediction: The Undertaker
Brad: Bray Wyatt versus The Undertaker looked like it would be about Bray's respect and fear of the Phenom that has been diminished after the Deadman took his first ever loss at a Wrestlemania, last year, to current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and fearful beast incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Since then there's been lightning, burning rocking chairs and, criminally, NO sign of The Undertaker. While this serves to make his appearance at the event more special, c'mon. A shame really. Undertaker needs his win back. Bray needs a reset and this might give him the boost and the storyline reason to do so. Prediction: The Undertaker
United States Championship match: Rusev (US Champion) vs John Cena
Barney: I love this. Flag-waving boy scout Cena. Lana is fantastic. It’s old fashioned, it makes sense, it just works. I get the impression WWE likes to think themselves above this kind of pro-wrasslin’ angle but it’s what is compelling to me and I think after all the worked-shoot stuff of the last 20 years, it’s what they should go back to. Give us a story that makes sense and stick to it and stop letting us know that you know that we know it’s bloody fake. We all know it is, so just do it well and pretend it’s real from the moment it starts till the end and on Twitter and everywhere else. That’s more sophisticated. Anyway, I’m putting my money on Rusev because I think they’ll want to keep him strong for a feud with whoever the next champion is and a loss for Cena won’t diminish him too much. I think this match will be great, because they’re both good workers in that main event style that gets the crowd reacting.
Brad: What's been the best build-up of Wrestlemania this year? Honestly, I can't think of any match build that has been remotely good. Perhaps Rusev vs John Cena simply because Rusev is the SUPER ATHLETE who, despite loving Russia and Putin but being Bulgarian, has rarely done anything underhanded or without provocation. The child John Cena, on the other hand, spitefully attacked the honorary Russian and wouldn't stop hurting him until Rusev gave him a United States Championship rematch after Cena lost the last one at Fast Lane. Because hero of the show, very popular with the kids, ex-marine, 15-time world champion only ever gets what he wants. And if he doesn't, then he whines about it and does what every child does: have a tantrum and hit someone hard until that person goes "alright! alright! Enough. You can HAVE your new toy!". Good life lesson. Meanwhile, all we've seen Rusev do generally is train hard, win matches easily, show pride in his new homeland, and be an aggressive competitor (nothing wrong with this as long as you're not breaking rules, which he hasn't much - not any more than Cena does at any rate). But basically, Rusev has had training videos. And that rules. Cena wins LOL though. Prediction: John Cena (and by extension, AMERICA).
AJ & Paige vs The Bella Twins
Barney: God knows. I honestly haven’t seen a thing of this. They’re all talented, compelling people, especially AJ and Paige, but they just get thrown the scraps and have to do short matches and stupid angles. I think AJ and Paige will win but I have no reason why. They could do so much more with the females. And stop calling them fucking ‘Divas’. Prediction: AJ & Paige
Brad: Well, AJ & Paige vs The Bella Twins is the token women match. Post-#GiveDivasAChance there's nothing on the line and these four have fought each other countless times. Some dissension was teased between AJ and Paige, and the Bellas have said some nasty things about them. What I'm hoping is that these four put on a blinder and get people on board for women's wrestling again, and not Diva jealousy catfights. Nikki Bella has the championship and they're trying to legitimise the Bellas as competitors. Winning against two of the best female wrestlers in the company, this would achieve that as long as the match is long(ish) and ace. Prediction: The Bella Twins
Bonus Barney bonanza: The Kickoff Show
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Hmmm, I’m hoping Mizdow wins this. That stunt double thing was funny for a bit but it’s reached its elastic limit now - it doesn’t actually make any sense! Anyway, yeah, have Mizdow go over and go babyface and have a big feud with Miz, who has been cracking over the last few months since that ill-advised babyface run. He’s a natural heel and people love to hate the bugger.
Fatal Four-Way for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (WWE Tag Team Champions) vs A New Day vs Los Matodores vs The Usos
The New Day is appalling. Black people like to sing in church and love their mommas! Let’s have our black wrestlers do that! Big E looks like he’s constantly on ecstasy or something - it’s kind of creepy. Anyway, this should be some good action and I reckon the Usos will go over.
Our top 3 Wrestlemania Moments
1) Randy Savage Kicking George Steele in the head - Wrestlemania III
The scene is Wrestlemania III. Indoor attendance record broken. Pontiac Silverdome. The match is Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat; in my opinion, the greatest match of all time. The sun is going down, the action is exciting and coming thick and fast in the ring - and WWF can’t resist doing something goofy because, of course people can’t possibly like seeing actual wrestling, so sends George ‘The Animal’ Steele out to chase around Ms Elizabeth. In an inspired piece of physical theatre that I’ve watched again and again, Randy proceeds to the edge of the canvas and lands the stiffest, gnarliest ‘will you just fuck off’ kick to the gormless face of George Steele, acting out the collective will of the match’s entire audience and allowing the masterpiece these two kings of their craft are treating us to to continue unhampered by a fat hairy idiot.
2) Razor Ramon’s walk under the ladder - Wrestlemania X
Razor Ramon is my favourite wrestler ever. For those few years in the mid-90s when he was in WWF, I really think he changed the game, laying the groundwork for all the ‘cool heel’ stuff that came later, done to various degrees of success ever since. Razor was the counterpoint to the absurdity of wrestling at that Mantaur-Doink period, and was something that a grown-up could enjoy as much as the kids did, with his sarcastic interviews and Scarface references. This, a match with the greatest worker ever, Shawn Michaels - and a ladder - was undoubtedly Razor’s finest match, and though his critics, like Ric Flair, tend to downplay his contribution to it, he was just as much a part of its success as Shawn. The greatest part of all for me is the ring intro, where Razor comes out of the backstage smoke, the crowd going nuts for him and slowly struts towards the ring. Eschewing the idea that ‘bad luck’ is even a thing to someone with that much machismo, he ducks under a ladder and slides out; just the coolest human being you’ve ever seen.
3) Daniel Bryan hulking up on a stretcher - Wrestlemania xXx
After a series of disasters - Batista getting booed, CM Punk pissing off, crowds continuing to revolt - Vince really had no choice but to let the main title of his company go into the possession of what he constantly reminded us was a troll. I mean, why would we like this little weirdo, who doesn’t eat meat or do steroids? Well Vince, he’s humble, likeable and works hard and - even if he doesn’t look like Triple H - does a wonderful job of convincing us he’s a hard little fucker. After continually telling us why we shouldn’t like him, we continued to cheer and got Vince in a corner. Even though we knew this was the only outcome that made any sense, would Vince really allow this odd little vegan to have his title? We all prepared for the possibility that D Bryan would be going home empty handed, but when the plucky blighter started hulking up on the stretcher, we knew that our man was going to get the gold and jumped up and cheered for the fact that in a crazy world and an even crazier business, for one night, all was right in the world. Justice was done and all Daniel Bryan's hard work, determination and effort against all the odds had paid off for our new champion.
1) Owen Hart beats Bret Hart - Wrestlemania X
The best opening match in Wrestlemania history had the simplest story, but one that is as well told as any. Briefly, the younger brother has lived in the shadow of the older brother's significant accomplishments and accolades, and feels he's been overlooked by not only his brother but his entire family. By berating and then attacking his brother, with a fake change of heart in between, he gets what he wants: a chance to prove he's better. Which he does in an astonishing technical wrestling match which brought Owen right up alongside his incredible brother. The sweet spot is when later that night, Bret wins the WWF Championship from humongous heel Yokozuna and is celebrated by the entire locker room, up on their shoulders, glory rightfully raining down upon him. Well, the entire locker room, minus Owen, who looks on up the ramp disapprovingly, shaking his head, bitter, knowing that championship should be his. This was the first time Wrestlemania was almost entirely built up around one feud. The next time they would do it would be 20 years later with Daniel Bryan. Watch a snippet of the match on WWE.com.
2) Brock Lesnar messes up his Wrestlemania moment - Wrestlemania XIX
WWE Champion Kurt Angle and challenger Brock Lesnar have the best technical one-on-one match in Wrestlemania main event history. They are evenly matched in terms of ability, Lesnar outmatching Angle in size and strength, but Angle has this insane amount of will to remain champion. it's a solid, believable and wonderful pro wrestling story. Angle is also wrestling this beast with a broken frickin' neck! The finish is built, and Brock lands his finishing move, the F5, on Angle a second time. He doesn't go for a pin. He walks towards the turnbuckle. People who knew Lesnar from the very start of his development work in WWE, before appearing on television and PPVs, knew what was coming and started getting extremely excited. This HUGE guy, not known for flying off of top ropes or diving onto people from on high, was about to perform the most impressive finish in WWE history. Bigger than Hulk bodyslamming Andre (which by the way, lots of people had done lots of times, including Hulk). Bigger than Mike Tyson counting the (very fast) three on Shawn Michaels for Stone Cold Steve Austin. Brock was going to moonsault the stuffing out of Kurt Angle and wow everyone. BUT Kurt was MILES away from the turnbuckles, and Lesnar hadn't done this move (which he had done several times in development) at all in the year or so he'd been on WWE's primetime programming. And he didn't make it. In fact, he landed on his head. A glass-eyed, concussed, almost-bloody-killed-himself Lesnar (along with Kurt's improvising - again with a broken frickin' neck!) somehow does his still impressive F5 finishing move a third time, and pins the champion. These people are superhuman and it was proven on the grandest stage of them all. Shame we'll never see that finish though. That's lost to us forever. Read about Brock's feelings about this here.
Tell us what you think of wrestling! You can say it's total shit! We've heard it all before! Or come and join us for some livetweeting from Barney @sonicboomsix tonight and have a laugh. Who's your favourite wrestler right now? Whose theme tune would you like an Xtra Mile artist to do for them? Why can't wrestling be BETTER generally? Let us know at Facebook, Twitter @xtra_mile or get at either me @artbaretta or Barney. It'll be fun!