WWE Champion Bray Wyatt’s chilling feud with Randy Orton is set to reach its climax this Sunday when the two square off at Wrestlemania 33.
Wyatt dethroned former champ John Cena to win his maiden WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber and has been on a collision course with Orton more or less ever since.
It’s a match that promises plenty in terms of entertainment, storytelling and in-ring wrestling as these two superstars bring their unique brand of talents together to present Smackdown Live’s biggest match of what is the biggest show of the wrestling year.
Third-generation superstar Orton is already something of a veteran in the company despite his relatively young age of 36, but he’s some time removed from a concerted spell as one of the company’s top figures. Wyatt, meanwhile, is generally regarded as one of WWE’s finest workers, and has heavily invested in his on-screen persona.
General momentum and the flow of history would lean towards Orton clinching the title in Orlando, but the beauty and depth of Wyatt’s dark, mysterious and vaguely malevolent character means that he’s not often damaged or boosted by winning or losing wrestling matches – his stock is in cultivating fear inside his opponents and many of WWE’s fan base so, in that sense, it’s really hard to see how he’ll leave the grand stage of Wrestlemania a loser, even if Orton walks away with the gold.
If Wyatt is hailed as the company’s best character while also being a decent in-ring talent, then the opposite has to be true of AJ Styles – arguably the finest wrestler in the world right now, while also being more than handy on the microphone. Styles meets Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania to cap another very well-built feud between the two in recent weeks.
Styles administered a horrific, gritty beat-down of McMahon on an episode of Smackdown Live recently and the on-screen Commissioner of the blue brand duly responded by stepping up to the plate and dishing out a challenge to the former WWE Champion. So many of Shane’s stand-out moments in the past have seen him jump from ridiculous heights or manage all sorts of strange feats with a myriad of weaponry – not an option for him this Sunday given that their bout is a standard wrestling affair rather than a no-holds-barred affair that he’s more accustomed to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shane do more than pull his weight in this department on Sunday and this could be a candidate for match of the night.
Smackdown Live’s other offerings including a contest for the Intercontinental Championship as Dean Ambrose defends against Baron Corbin – another bout that could really shine if given a fair amount of time – so too the six-pack challenge for the brand’s Women’s Championship, which has sadly been relegated to Wrestlemania’s pre-show. Smackdown works diligently every week to build storylines and characters solidly, so it’s difficult not to see this as a something of a snub for the women’s division, but it would be just true to form for the combatants, Champion Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Naomi, Becky Lynch, Mickie James and Carmella, to deliver beyond measure and give their Raw counterparts something to follow.
The only slight downside to this Wrestlemania card is the lack of a tag team offering. Newly-crowned champions The Usos, won the gold in a stellar match on television last week as they downed the hugely-talented American Alpha. At the very least I’d have been desperate to see these two teams put on a rematch this weekend as it would be a guaranteed winner – alas all four men must make do with the cross-brand Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
The Miz and John Cena join forces with their respective partners to take on one another in a mixed tag team match in another high-profile match. Miz is a constant asset to WWE when it comes to his mic work and he’s blitzed Cena in recent weeks to the extent that you genuinely feel the dislike between the two men. The attention-starved film star is desperate to have the last laugh against fan-favourite Cena and his better half, Nikki Bella, but may well end up frustrated in front of more than 70,000 at Camping World Stadium.
WWE has billed this year’s Wrestlemania as the Ultimate Thrill Ride – and it’s fair to say that you can point in many a direction for likely thrills on Sunday night. Will we wake come Monday morning to a Viper as WWE Champion, or will the dark reign of Wyatt continue?