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Anything can change in WWE in normal times, let alone during a pandemic. Even the most important shows of the year such as WrestleMania can be upended by last-minute changes nobody could see coming.
However, the 2021 Royal Rumble is coming up January 31, which means we’re on the Road to WrestleMania 37. Surely, WWE has some plans in mind for The Grandest Stage of Them All.
While nothing is set in stone, the way certain feuds are shaping up may indicate how some of the card will shape up—for better or worse.
Let’s get ahead of the game and consider some way-too-early matchups that might be scheduled for this year’s WrestleMania.
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While SmackDown has plenty of talented Superstars, there is no other realistic option to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship than Daniel Bryan.
It’s imperative The Tribal Chief has someone of main event value as his challenger to maintain the interest of fans.
As great as it would be to see Big E climb the ladder, he’s holding the intercontinental title. Shinsuke Nakamura isn’t likely to get a big push out of his recent gauntlet match based on his previous title shot at WrestleMania 34 when he lost to AJ Styles.
King Corbin and Lars Sullivan are heels, and the latter has been off television for weeks. Kevin Owens already had his shot at Reigns, so who else is left other than Bryan?
The leader of The Yes Movement has already stated that winning the men’s Royal Rumble match is one of the few things he’s yet to achieve.
Outlasting 29 other Superstars will allow him to check that off his list—righting the wrongs of 2014 and 2015 when he, arguably, should have won instead of Batista and Reigns—and give him momentum to face The Tribal Chief.
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It’s doubtful anyone saw Goldberg coming as Drew McIntyre’s challenger at the Royal Rumble. It also made no sense, as the veteran’s platform revolved around the Scot being disrespectful, yet he hadn’t.
This has already been a mess, but the marquee will still read McIntyre vs. Goldberg on January 31.
Unfortunately, bringing Goldberg back into the mix indicates WWE is afraid of the ratings slump and feels he will help offset those numbers. That may also mean the company wants to put the title on him yet again.
That would be a major mistake. McIntyre as champion isn’t the reason fans aren’t tuning in. Assuming bad creative doesn’t win out, The Scottish Warrior should head into WrestleMania 37 with the belt in his possession.
Having already fought Keith Lee numerous times, as well as AJ Styles, Bobby Lashley and others on the red brand, some effort will have to be made to set up a proper challenger, likely through Elimination Chamber.
The only logical choice right now is Sheamus. He has been best buddies with McIntyre for some time, and they’ve remained true to their friendship despite the occasional clash.
Twisting that to become bitter rivals is an easy story to tell. As a multi-time world champion, Sheamus is a genuine threat and knows McIntyre well, so he could be the best person to get under his skin for a proper feud.
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For almost the entirety of her time as Raw women’s champion, Asuka has been on the sidelines. WWE rarely seems to have been properly invested in her.
More focus has been put on the people surrounding her, such as Lana’s story with Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler or The Golden Role Models coming over from SmackDown to usurp her screen time.
This isn’t a good sign for her to be walking out of WrestleMania 37 with the title—or even into the event, for that matter.
So much more attention has been on Charlotte Flair since her return that it’s hard to believe she and The Empress of Tomorrow won’t fight for the top prize at some point. It’s either happening at WrestleMania or beforehand.
If it takes place soon, we could be looking at Flair going into The Show of Shows to defend against someone like Rhea Ripley, who may be one of the top picks for the women’s Royal Rumble match. Otherwise, it’s just The Queen beating Asuka at WrestleMania.
Both scenarios cast away someone supremely talented, though. A Triple Threat match could be the way to solve that problem, but rest assured Flair isn’t the one taking the pin if WWE books it.
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Just as there are few better options for Reigns than Bryan, SmackDown has the same problem with its women’s division. It’s Bianca Belair against Sasha Banks or a variety of disappointing alternatives.
The Boss has already beaten Bayley and Carmella, while a match with Natalya doesn’t scream “special” unless the challenger is given a heavy push to build up steam.
Billie Kay is great, but she won’t be able to put this title shot on her resume. That’s above her pay grade.
Belair should be one of the top Superstars to watch out for in the women’s Royal Rumble match. She has a better chance of winning it than most. If she fails, she can still win at Elimination Chamber or a No. 1 Contender’s match on television to earn a shot at the champion, who she has teamed up with recently.
It’s not much to start their story, but it will suffice. The biggest draw will simply be watching these two fantastic athletes in the ring at WrestleMania.
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Bobby Lashley has had a dominant reign as United States champion with his most recent defense being against, Riddle, which should rule him out of the running for WrestleMania.
The All Mighty’s biggest threat should be Keith Lee. He has missed out on the WWE Championship several times, but he’s more than ready to hold the U.S. title. His size and athleticism make him a fantastic opponent for Lashley, and they could have the sleeper match of the night.
On SmackDown, Big E holds the Intercontinental Championship but almost lost it to Apollo Crews on the January 8 edition.
If The New Day man did drop the title before WrestleMania, it’s hard to imagine WWE having something better in mind for him than challenging to win it back, so he might as well keep it.
With that in mind, looking for opponents becomes tough. He already defeated Sami Zayn to win the title, so revisiting that isn’t all too interesting. Otis, Owens, Murphy, Dominik and Rey Mysterio are babyfaces, and Aleister Black has been absent for so long that it’s hard to justify a title opportunity.
This mostly boils down to a few names: Lars Sullivan, Seth Rollins, King Corbin or Jey Uso.
Sullivan would make for a tough opponent based on his size alone. Rollins has the star power to elevate this to a more prominent match. Corbin would pose a solid threat, albeit a predictable scenario. Uso is more of a matter of whether his brother Jimmy will be fit to return to go by then or not.
If there’s no reformation of The Usos, it may be Jey’s time to fight for a title to keep him in the spotlight with Reigns. If that’s not the case, expect Big E against Corbin or Rollins—two solid backup plans.
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The Usos against The Street Profits seemed an easy pick for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship up until Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode won the titles on January 8. That was beyond shocking.
The Dirty Dawgs now hold the belts, but they might not have them come March 28. After all, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins won the Raw tag titles prior to WrestleMania 36, so who’s to say that won’t happen again this year?
If WWE can do The Usos against The Street Profits, that’s the best possible tag team match on the blue brand. If not, maybe it’s time for the Mysterios to get in on the title hunt.
On Raw, The Hurt Business are already breaking down, with Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin arguing. WWE loves splitting teams for no reason, but it’s scary to think this faction may not last several more months.
When there isn’t a clear high-profile idea, WWE tends to toss a bunch of people into a match with the argument that quantity equals quality of star power.
Don’t be shocked if the Raw Tag Team Championship match is The Hurt Business against The New Day, The Miz and John Morrison, Retribution, The Hardy Bros, Elias and Jaxson Ryker or any combination of those teams. AJ Styles and Omos may even get in the mix, though that’s less likely than the other combinations.
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COVID-19 restrictions may still prevent the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal from happening, but there’s a decent chance they’ll take place.
Sadly, there isn’t much to talk about even if they are booked. History has shown WWE cares little about these matches. They exist purely to get as many people on the card as possible. Even the winners don’t matter.
Not one person who has won either of these matches has had a push from it that lasted more than a handful of weeks at best. Typically, they win and it’s forgotten about by the time the next event comes along.
What will happen here is that anyone who doesn’t have something to do will be put in these matches and WWE will arbitrarily pick a winner and then do nothing with them.
However, it would be nice to see someone like Damian Priest get the win and use that as a launching pad to his main-roster career.
Also, this could be where WWE implements the idea of Lana winning by default as the two others in the final three take each other out and leave her last in the ring. It’s more forgivable here than at the Royal Rumble.
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Bray Wyatt’s feud with Randy Orton is a strange one. The Fiend and Alexa Bliss continue to go back and forth between evil heels and sympathetic punching bags for The Viper.
That story should end long before WrestleMania 37, though, and Wyatt will need to move on to someone else.
Assuming WWE doesn’t have something special in mind like John Cena in a Firefly FunHouse match last year, the most likely opponent for The Fiend on Raw would be Jeff Hardy.
The Charismatic Enigma has said he wants to bring his Willow persona into WWE to fight The Fiend in a cinematic match. This would be enough of a hook to justify putting it on the card and making it different to the other matches.
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Once Orton is done with Wyatt, things will come full-circle back to Edge.
Unless The Rated-R Superstar is unable to return to action, this match has to happen. There needs to be some finality to this rivalry.
As they already had a Last Man Standing match and a regular wrestling contest, this would need to be a different gimmick but something with sticking power.
Sometimes, though, it’s less about the gimmick and more about what it means. It could be more impactful for this to be an “I Quit” match. That way, Edge can make Orton definitively lose both the physical and philosophical battle in one shot.
After that, he can finally move on to feuding with other people post-WrestleMania, while The Legend Killer can take some well-deserved time off.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.