The WWE enters Wrestlemania coming off one of the most bizarre years in company history. COVID-19 completely altered everything about the programming and presentation of the product.
Last year, Wrestlemania was forced to move to the audience-less WWE Performance Center in Orlando, kicking off a year where they were forced to come up with concepts like the “Thunderdome” to work around having no crowds along with having to cycle through on-screen talent as various COVID outbreaks forced superstars off television for extended periods of time.
If you have not watched since last year’s two-night spectacle, here’s a quick refresher of what to look for heading into this year’s showcase at Raymond James Stadium.
Who are the standout WWE superstars?
At last year’s Wrestlemania, Drew McIntyre was officially anointed as the face of the Monday Night Raw brand by defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, but had the misfortune of doing it in front of no fans due to the pandemic. Since then, he has been one of the strongest booked babyface characters the WWE has featured in years, delivering fantastic match after fantastic match while sitting atop the Raw card. As the challenger for the WWE championship once again, they’re basically looking for a do-over from last year so he can have his big moment in front of an actual crowd.
Also on Raw, Asuka has carried the women’s division for the past year in the absence of Becky Lynch, who took time off due to her real-life pregnancy. Having mixing it up with the entire division, the “Empress of Tomorrow” will have a new challenger at Wrestlemania this year when facing Rhea Ripley, a former NXT Women’s champion who just got called up to the main roster a few week’s back.
The aging veteran Randy Orton had a career revival in 2020, doing some of his best promo/in-ring work in years which ultimately culminated in him having a brief run with the WWE championship after defeating Drew McIntyre. Orton is now embroiled in a long-running feud with “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, whose supernatural presence on the show has only gotten more bizarre as the pandemic era has raged on. Their match at Wrestlemania will be intriguing as it is unclear whether or not it’ll be a straight-up match in the ring or a pure spectacle.
On Friday Night Smackdown, Roman Reigns has been the dominant WWE Universal champion since the summer as his heel turn and allegiance to manager Paul Heyman has breathed fresh life into both the character and the performer. Roman will have his hands full when defending his title against both Edge, who won the Royal Rumble from the No. 1 spot in January to earn the opportunity, and Daniel Bryan, whose in-ring career may be coming to a close soon and is desperate for one more major Wrestlemania moment.
In the Smackdown Women’s championship scene, Sasha Banks conquered former best-friend Bayley for the title in the fall and has had a decent reign on the blue brand since. “The Boss” will have a formidable challenger at Raymond James Stadium in Bianca Belair, a breakout rookie who is one of the fastest rising stars in the entire company and is poised to be anointed to the top at Wrestlemania.
Who are the champs?
Here’s who is holding gold heading into Wrestlemania weekend:
WWE Champion: Bobby Lashley
Raw Women’s Champion: Asuka
United States Champion: Matt Riddle
Raw Tag Team Champions: The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods)
24/7 Champion: R-Truth
WWE Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
Smackdown Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks
Intercontinental Champion: Big E.
Smackdown Tag Team Champions: Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
Women’s Tag Team Champions: Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax
Other programs to keep your eye on
- International pop superstar Bad Bunny has been a solid celebrity guest on Raw since the Royal Rumble and will step into the ring for the first time against The Miz. Bunny’s partner will be Damian Priest, and The Miz will have John Morrison with him.
- Intercontinental champion Big E. has been embroiled in a blood feud with newly turned heel Apollo Crews and their match could be a star-making spectacle for both guys.
- A.J. Styles and bodyguard Omos will challenge the New Day for the tag titles. This will be the 7’3” Omos’ in-ring debut, so keep your eye out on that.
- Kevin Owens will finally fight Sami Zayn one-on-one at Wrestlemania, culminating a on-again, off-again friendship/blood feud that spans numerous wrestling organizations.
- The car crash that is a Shane McMahon match is happening once again, this time against the “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman. The match will be inside a steel cage, but there’s a good chance that they’ll somehow end up by the pirate ship at Raymond James, where Shane will surely be thrown off.