That saying about how there was never a more exciting time to be a professional wrestling fan is used frequently to emphasize major moments in the business. Lucky for all of us, it’s a phrase that actually rings very much true in this day and age; the business is changing rapidly with the rise in popularity of digital services like the WWE Network and WWE’s brand extension which went into effect last July.
Suddenly young men and women, as well as those who have spent years on the independent circuit are getting their shot in WWE. These are people whom many of us never thought we would even see step foot in a WWE ring, like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Owens. The company has drastically changed their outlook regarding what they’re searching for in main event stars and it has benefitted the business and its fans alike. The net has been cast wide and now athletes of all shapes and sizes are welcome, thanks in no small part to Triple H and the way he runs WWE’s development system, NXT.
And now we find ourselves on the long road to WrestleMania, WWE’s annual equivalent to the Super Bowl, and we’ve got all of these fresh new faces who have been doing a wonderful job blossoming into the Superstars of tomorrow mingling with some of the biggest names the industry has ever seen. It would not be inaccurate to say WrestleMania 33 has the opportunity to be the best in the series in many, many years, but in order for that to happen the booking has to be just right. Let’s explore some of WrestleMania 33’s confirmed and rumored competitors and who should go big – as well as who should take the fall.
15. Should Lose: Randy Orton
Over the course of nearly fifteen years, the WWE Universe has seen Randy Orton in just about every scenario possible. Few Superstars have come close to accomplishing all that he has; his myriad of achievements and championship titles have earned him a guaranteed spot in the WWE Hall of Fame in the distant future and it’s well deserved given his natural gift as a sports entertainer. Time and time again Orton has proven that he didn’t need his legendary wrestling family to get him to where he is today because he is simply one of the best pro wrestlers to ever step into the ring.
But while we’ve seen a lot from Randy Orton, that doesn’t mean we’ve seen everything. Ever since WWE’s brand split in 2016 he has been tangled up in one of the company’s most intriguing storylines in years with the Wyatt Family and it’s managed to breathe new life into a career that had started to grow stale. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean Orton shouldn’t take a loss this year given he is likely to be competing for a World Championship after winning the 2017 Royal Rumble match. Another Orton title reign is not something the new era in WWE needs.
14. Should Win: Alexa Bliss
Amid all of the hype and excitement of the women’s wrestling revolution in WWE, Alexa Bliss slipped in under everyone’s nose and became one of the best acts in the women’s division. While all eyes were on Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley, collectively known as the Four Horsewomen of NXT, Alexa was working her way into the SmackDown Women’s Championship picture. It was a position she was given the opportunity to claim after being drafted from NXT to SmackDown Live in the 2016 brand extension and she’s made the most of it, to say the least.
Slowly fans began noticing her remarkable talent for talking on the microphone; her facial expressions and line delivery have made her one of the most convincing heels on the entire SmackDown Live roster and her acrobatic skills in the ring put her on par with any other woman in the company. She’s managed to snag a reign as the Women’s Champion and now looks to her first WrestleMania, where she should undoubtedly be given a huge win for all of her amazing efforts.
13. Should Lose: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is, of course, one of the greatest competitors in the long history of the wrestling business. This is something that everyone knows, given the fact that he’s been competing for three decades and continues to go full speed, full time. The man is not only one of the best in the world between the ropes; he is a certified wrestling genius, having constantly reinvented himself over the years to keep himself in the fray with WWE’s younger talent. Jericho is such a chameleon that casual fans might not even be aware how long he’s been doing this.
His recent work has been some of the best of his entire career, managing to get something as simple as a list of his worst enemies over with the crowd to the point that it was practically a WWE Superstar itself. He has been closely tied to Kevin Owens and will likely face him at WrestleMania 33, but despite his amazing run in recent months Jericho needs to take a loss to the younger Owens here.
12. Should Win: Dean Ambrose
Ever since The Shield tore into WWE several years ago all three of the group’s members have been at the forefront of some of the company’s biggest storylines. The Shield was incredibly popular among the WWE Universe and Dean Ambrose was always over with the audience, but after the trio split it seemed for a very long time that WWE didn’t have any plans to make a big solo star out of him. Finally, Ambrose managed to win the Money in the Bank ladder match in 2016 and almost immediately cash in that contract and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, leading the charge into the new brand extension on SmackDown Live.
But within months he had fallen to AJ Styles and was seemingly demoted. Though he has since recaptured the Intercontinental Championship, Ambrose is not so frequently featured in the main event picture and his career momentum seems to have slowed. Given the fact that his match at last year’s WrestleMania with Brock Lesnar was a letdown, Ambrose deserves a huge win at this year’s and the opportunity to get things back on track.
11. Should Lose: Shane McMahon
Last year Shane McMahon shocked the entire wrestling world when he returned to WWE with absolutely no warning. Everyone was surprised and his appearance almost immediately led to an encounter with the Undertaker at WrestleMania 32 in a Hell in a Cell match where, if Shane won, he would have control over Monday Night Raw. He lost, of course, but in classic Shane McMahon fashion gave us a death-defying leap in the process which we will never forget.
There’s no doubt that Shane McMahon, who is now the Commissioner of SmackDown Live, is a natural performer, but he’s not a professional wrestler. As we inch closer and closer to WrestleMania 33 it begins to look as if he may be facing off against AJ Styles at the big event and if that’s the case the Shane definitely shouldn’t come away with a win against one of the greatest wrestlers in the world.
10. Should Win: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar brings up a lot of mixed feelings for a lot of people. On the one hand, during his original run in WWE, he was one of the best athletes in the business and today he draws in tons of money for how remarkably well he’s been booked as an unstoppable beast. On the other hand, Lesnar has made it clear that professional wrestling is just a job for him; he only shows up a few times a year and only for a hefty paycheck, performing with little passion for the industry.
However, despite their first encounter back at WrestleMania XX getting more boos than John Cena does today, it seems as if a rematch between Lesnar and Bill Goldberg is something everyone is really excited to see. The match has already been made official for WrestleMania 33 and given the fact that Goldberg has already destroyed Lesnar twice in recent months it would seem as though Lesnar will need a big win to keep up his reputation as the Beast Incarnate.
9. Should Lose: Mickie James
Mickie James has given so much to women’s wrestling that she could believably have already been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Instead, this grappling mother has remained active and now competes full-time once again with the company where she made a huge name for herself. Things are quite different this time around, as she gets to use her talents under the umbrella of a women’s division that actually showcases female wrestlers as being just as relevant as the men, so hopefully the former WWE Women’s and Divas Champion will be able to make some more history.
But that history should not come in the form of a win at WrestleMania 33. Obviously, Mickie James is worthy of a WrestleMania win; she won her first WWE Women’s Championship by defeating WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22. But her status as a women’s wrestling legend provides an opportunity to give a huge career boost to someone like Becky Lynch or Naomi and a loss to one of them is the best way she can be used at the biggest show of the year.
8. Should Win: Kevin Owens
As soon as Kevin Owens showed up in NXT a few years ago it became clear that WWE had a huge star on their hands. Owens may not look like what the company has historically passed off as a major Superstar, but he has proven he can hold his own with what WWE considers to be the best of the best, including their golden boy John Cena.
The former NXT Champion has dominated the WWE Universal Championship picture ever since shortly after the title was introduced at SummerSlam in 2016 and has been involved in one of the best storylines in the company with Chris Jericho. Though Owens and Jericho have been on-screen best friends for months, it seems now that turmoil has struck their friendship and they will likely go to war at WrestleMania 33 where, hopefully, WWE will make an investment in the future of Kevin Owens by giving him a win over one of the biggest wrestling stars of all time.
7. Should Lose: Charlotte Flair
There is absolutely no disrespect being shown in suggesting that Charlotte Flair should suffer a loss at WrestleMania 33. Here is a woman who, much like Randy Orton, has proven that her familial connections to the wrestling business have had nothing to do with her success and that she very much belongs exactly where she is today. Those who have watched Charlotte from her early days in NXT are aware of just how far she’s come in such a short time and it’s proof that she is a natural at what she does for a living.
Charlotte Flair is not just one of the greatest heels in the business right now, but she’s also one of the best professional wrestlers of any gender in WWE. Her fluidity and athleticism in the ring have led her to the NXT Women’s Championship, the Divas Championship, and now four Raw Women’s Championships. But Charlotte has a record of never being defeated on pay per view in a Championship match, and it would prove to be an exciting wrinkle in her career for WrestleMania 33 to be the place where it finally happens.
6. Should Win: Roman Reigns
When The Shield was running things as a unit it seemed as though Roman Reigns was going to be just fine on crowd reactions. It was certainly obvious that he was the least popular member of the trio, but his close association with crowd favorites Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose kept him in the good graces of the WWE Universe. Unfortunately, when the Shield was split up, WWE pushed Reigns as the biggest star to come out of the stable and fans grew incredibly bitter at being told who they were supposed to like. So now Roman Reigns, WWE’s top hero, is one of the company’s most viciously booed Superstars.
Regardless of the reactions he receives, Reigns continues to follow in John Cena’s footsteps and wrestle one classic match after another. It shows that WWE didn’t get this one entirely wrong, though their delivery could have been a bit better and a heel run for Reigns might have done wonders for him. Whether Roman Reign goes forward as a babyface or an antagonist, he’s certainly a huge future star for the company and for that reason he needs a big win at WrestleMania 33.
5. Should Lose: Goldberg
When it was revealed last year that Bill Goldberg and WWE were back on working terms fans could hardly believe what they were hearing. The relationship between the two parties had grown unbelievably bitter over the past decade, with Goldberg frequently accusing WWE of tarnishing his legacy with the poor manner in which they booked him during his first run a decade and a half ago. Nonetheless, things seem to have been worked out and Goldberg made a triumphant return to the ring by squashing the otherwise unstoppable Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in under two minutes flat.
The Royal Rumble came next, and when Lesnar and Goldberg met again during the Rumble match Goldberg eliminated Lesnar almost instantly. So with Lesnar having been embarrassed now on two separate occasions, it would seem that he is due a win over Goldberg when they finally meet again at WrestleMania 33, but we hope that doesn’t mean we will have seen the last of Goldberg.
4. Should Win: Bayley
Ever since her days in NXT when she was known as one of the Four Horsewomen alongside Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, Bayley has been the most universally adored female Superstar in all of WWE. Her loveable “hugger” gimmick and her appeal to the younger members of the WWE Universe have made her something of the John Cena of the women’s division and she has wrestled some of the company’s best women’s matches of all time, especially her wars with Sasha Banks over the NXT Championship, one of which was the first female Iron Man match in WWE history.
Now, Bayley has been enjoying a slow but steady rise to the top of the women’s division on Monday Night Raw and she finally managed to knock off Charlotte Flair for the Raw Women’s Championship in one of the more exciting and emotional Raw main events in recent memory. Bayley’s riding the wave of her momentum into true Superstardom and will hopefully be able to build a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, but that all starts with winning her first match at WrestleMania.
3. Should Lose: Triple H
Whether or not you want to claim that he got to where he is because of the family he married into, the fact of the matter is that Triple H is one of the biggest legends in the wrestling industry and the rest of it is really irrelevant. Nothing should ever be allowed to take the man’s accomplishments away from him; he has a plethora of World Championship reigns under his belt and he undoubtedly deserves that as one of the best in-ring competitors of the past twenty years, and no one has a mind for the wrestling business that can equal that of Triple H.
This is evidenced in how he runs NXT. The developmental territory for WWE has proven to be a huge success and is one of the most valuable assets to the WWE Network, which is a massive income stream for the company. But despite all of Triple H’s contributions to the wrestling world, the largely retired future Hall of Famer needs another WrestleMania win like he needs another torn quad.
2. Should Win: Bray Wyatt
When Bray Wyatt first emerged on WWE television it appeared to the WWE Universe as though we had on our hands the new generation’s version of the Undertaker. He was incredibly gifted on the microphone and inside the ring and his creepy nature and backup in the form of his “family,” Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, provided the opportunity for Wyatt to be presented as an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.
Several years later, Bray Wyatt had lost nearly every big match he has been a part of. He had been buried by the likes of John Cena and The Rock and couldn’t get a clean win over seemingly anyone. He had lost any and all credibility he had as a threat to anyone on the roster when the brand extension came along and breathed new life into him. With more television time to spare, WWE finally gave Wyatt the ball and let him run with it and he is now reigning as the WWE Champion. After several losses at the biggest show of the year, a WrestleMania 33 win for Bray Wyatt is an absolute must.
1. Should Lose: The Undertaker
Three years ago WWE shocked the world by having Brock Lesnar soundly defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX and end his legendary streak of victories at the showcase of the immortals. These days, the more shocking fact is that the Undertaker is still managing to compete every year given his declining health. It would seem that every time the “Dead Man” gets physical he walks away in serious pain and often injured, yet here we are in 2017 preparing for yet another Undertaker match at WrestleMania 33.
There are many reasons why the Undertaker should not walk away from this year’s WrestleMania with another victory, not the least of which is that it’s starting to become less believable that he could actually defeat anyone at this stage in his career. But rumor has it that the Undertaker is scheduled to face off against Roman Reigns this year and as the new face of the company, Roman Reigns certainly deserves to pin the Undertaker in what has to be one of his final WrestleMania matches.