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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

The Magnificent Seven 4.06.14: The 7 Most Compelling Matches of This Year’s WrestleMania
Posted by Mike Chin on 04.06.2014

It's Wrestlemania Sunday! You really expect me to write about anything but tonight's show? I recognize that the concept of writing a countdown of the seven most compelling matches on an seven-match show may not seem like an instant winner, but what can I say—the questions of which matches are more interesting than others is up for debate, and moreover, this column offers you a fairly thorough preview of the ‘Mania card.

#7. The Divas Invitational

I first drafted this article before the four-way tag match was relegated to the pre-show, so even if that one were part of the PPV, it would have just missed the cut. The fact that it doesn't include The Rhodes Brothers or The Shield means it's a foregone conclusion to me that The Usos are winning (or at least, really, really should. Cesaro is begging to break out of the tag ranks, Los Matadors are a comedy act that's mini-mascot is more over than them, and Rybaxel is WWE's best attempt at salvaging something from failed singles stars of varying degrees. The Usos have plenty of upside and will probably go a long way toward single (double?)-handedly making a decent match, but I'm not expecting great things, and I find the four-corner tag rules particularly unappealing because they basically cripple all conventional tag logic (how do you build a proper heat segment when the face in peril can tag out to three out of four corners, and what's to stop any six of the guys not on the controlling team from breaking up any given pinning combination or hold?)

The Diva Invitational itself probably won't be very good, but the wide open first-fall-to-a-finish rules among fourteen (announced participants affords WWE plenty of room for intrigue.

The match is likely one of the final few showcases for AJ Lee's lengthy, if only "OK" first title run. I expect her to retain, with Naomi as a dark horse for working through her eye injury to resume her well-earned momentum, and Brie Bella having a shot just for her affiliation with Daniel Bryan who, frankly, the night is all about. That, or we get the surprise debut of Paige on the main card, and all bets are off.

#6. The Shield vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws

I'm among those who was pleasantly surprised by The Shield's face turn. First and foremost, it keeps the team together just a little longer, and Dean Ambrose eventually (or perhaps very soon…) turning heel on his buddies plays a lot more naturally than Roman Reigns up and deciding to break out as a solo face.

The bottom line: Kane and The Outlaws are the wrong team for this match. I respect the hell out of all three guys for all they've accomplished and for still going at the level they are now in the year 2014. That said, The Shiled deserves crisper workers to really work their style of match, and bigger names to really accomplish something.

All that said, The Shield simply does not have bad six-man matches, so this one should be reasonably fun to watch, and hopefully it will either add one last feather in the three-man unit's cap before they part ways or offer up sensational ‘Mania moment if Ambrose were to make his turn in New Orleans, and do so in as dramatic fashion as he's capable of.

#5. The Thirty-Man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Battle royals typically aren't all that entertaining unless there are gauntlet rules like the Royal Rumble, or some other special bell or whistle to complicate matters (without making them too convoluted—I'm looking at you, TNA reverse battle royal). That said, WWE has hyped this one enough and included enough big names that it feels like this match could mean something.

The outcome? I'm of two minds. Either this is Big Show's culminating coronation is the guy who officially picked up the ball and carried forth the Andre legacy of giant with serious longevity (and who could finally add a big battle royal win to his name, which it's sort of weird he hasn't done yet). The other school of thought—WWE could do what it probably should do, and use the battle royal as a monster push opportunity for an up and comer. Big E. is the most likely beneficiary in that scenario, with Cesaro as a darkhorse if he ends up pulling double duty between this and the tag title match (maybe a face turn in the tag, then a win the push of this big win to get over the new dimension of his character).

#4. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

Make no mistake about it—the build for this match has blown, making the most monstrous wrestler of all-time, Brock Lesnar, look like he stands no chance of winning in a match for which the whole purpose of the build really should be to make us think he might win (even though, cooler heads are well aware there's no way it's happening).

All that said, Brock Lesnar has turned in very good-to-great matches every time out since his return (barring the Big Show outing at Royal Rumble, but that was more plot development than match), and when's the last time ‘Taker had a less than stellar showing at Wrestlemania (I'll go ahead and give you the answer—versus Mark Henry eight years ago (Triple H-haters be darned)). Thus, I expect when these guys actually step in the ring, the results will be suitably epic, adding a worthy, if not premier chapter to the lore of The Streak.

#3. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

Second to the main event (we're getting there) this is the match I'm least sure how to call, and I mean that in a very good way. Sure, conventional wisdom holds that this is Wrestlemania, John Cena is still the man in WWE, and he's not going down in defeat in his first non-world title, non-main event match in ten years.

But then, there's Bray Wyatt.

Wyatt is one of WWE's hottest properties. Sure, he's still a bit more sizzle than steak—a great promo man with even better videos and props around him, but he's good in the ring, too, and getting better. There would be few surer ways of cementing him as a main eventer than letting him top Cena at the biggest show of the year—and I think WWE just might pull the trigger.

#2. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

Whatever happens in the main event , this match is all but guaranteed to provide a breakout moment for Daniel Bryan. Sure, he's already had a bigger moment, beating John Cena clean for the WWE championship last August—but this is Wrestlemania, in front of 70,000 or so fans live and a million or so more onlookers via PPV. After Cena, ‘Taker, and Lesnar, Triple H stands tall as the biggest dance partner you can get nowadays at Wrestlemania—even looking competitive stands to elevate Daniel Bryan to a new high in the public consciousness and I struggle to imagine a scenario in which D-Bry doesn't win this match. It might be a small package. It might a running knee. Ermegerd, I hope it's a Yes Lock, and he makes Trips not just tap, but scream "yes" along with the crowd when the ref asks if he gives. Regardless, Daniel Bryan is in a dream scenario, and stands to advance to legit superstardom in this match.

#1. The WWE Championship Match

Conventional wisdom has it that Daniel Bryan is going to have and eat all the cake he can get his hands on. It is Wrestlemania, and he is the show's featured performer, so it's altogether possible that it will be his crowning night. That said, call me traumatized from the booking this autumn, or over-inclined toward overbooking, but I have my suspicions that the main event is not going to be that simple and may not end up so satisfying.

There's the very real possibility Bryan beats Triple H, but emerges too battered and beaten for more than a valiant effort—not a victory—in the main event, setting him up to chase Batista or Randy Orton for the months ahead when he is at full strength.

Even if Bryan does emerge champion, there are some different paths he could travel. He could beat Triple H but get beaten down so badly during or after that match that he can't seem to compete—only to join the main event midway through (sparking further controversy and justification for Orton and Batista to chase him coming out of ‘Mania). A friend recently posed the option to me of Triple H winning by nefarious means, only for host Hulk Hogan to set things right by re-inserting Bryan in the main event for a fatal fourway.

However things might go down, and as much as I'm not enamored with Orton or Batista as in-ring performers, this match is going to see Daniel Bryan challenging for the strap at Wrestlemania, and therefore, it is going to be epic. And I can't wait.

What match are you most excited for tonight? How do you think the main event will shake out? If you're reading this post after Wrestlemania, where do you think WWE is headed next? Let us know in the comments section.

As an aside, if you haven't seen it yet, check out my countdown of all 287 Wrestlemania matches to date on Buzzfeed! That's all for this week. See you in seven.

Read stories and miscellaneous criticism from Mike Chin at his website and his thoughts on a cappella music at The A Cappella Blog. Follow him on Twitter @miketchin.


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