Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
After months of planning and weeks of build-up, the pieces are set and we’re just hours away from WrestleMania. In line with the 2020 edition of the Showcase of the Immortals, there are two jam-packed nights of action but there’s one huge difference in 2021. For the first time in more than a year, WWE welcomes fans back to one of their events. With an…interesting card on offer, Andy Spoors previews the weekend long event and, as always. pulls no punches…
Let’s address the elephant in the room straight away shall we? The list of matches that make up WrestleMania 37 will, in all likelihood, not live long in the memory. That, however, only tells half the story. If you’re asking yourself ‘should I watch WrestleMania 37?’ then the answer is an emphatic ‘hell yeah!’.
That may sound slightly confusing but in a time when very little makes sense, why should wrestling be any different? The huge ace up WWE’s sleeve — and arguably the biggest selling point — is the return of the WWE Universe to ringside. Sure, NXT has managed to welcome a handful of fans to the CWC, but there’s something so intangibly special about a Mania with fans.
The attendance will be limited and the noisy British, Aussie and European fans won’t be on hand to bolster the atmosphere. Only the most ardent of fans will be making the pilgrimage to Mania this year.
There are some huge omissions from this year’s card with very little in the way of explanation. Superstars such as Jeff Hardy, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bayley, Charlotte and Jey Uso all find themselves unfortunately watching the action from the side-lines.
Of the matches announced, there are some eye-catching affairs. Look no further than the Royal Rumble winners and you’ll find two huge bouts to start. Weeks of back and forths between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan saw the latter insert himself into the picture and turn Edge’s dream match into a nightmare.
All three men have endured health issues that have meant months — and in Edge and Bryan’s case — years of lost time. The fact that they will meet on the biggest stage in the industry deserves huge recognition.
With the days of the Four Horsewomen of NXT dominating the women’s division slowly fading away, it’s refreshing to see two new faces gain an opportunity at the top of the card. Both Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley have opportunities to make history as well as kickstart the future.
Since winning the Rumble back in January, Belair has been locked in a begrudging friendship with SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks. At times the rivalry has lost its way but expect fireworks when these two finally go one-on-one on Saturday night.
Ripley’s story has been rocket strapped in just a handful of weeks. Arriving on Raw, the imposing Aussie immediately demanded a Championship match against Asuka at WrestleMania. It feels unlikely that both upcoming Superstars will walk away as new champions, especially when you take in to account the pedigree of the current champions.
With WrestleMania, it isn’t always about the best pure wrestling matches: the event has always been a pop culture phenomenon ever since Cyndi Lauper and Muhammad Ali appeared at the inaugural event.
Fast forward to 2021 and rapper Bad Bunny will compete in a tag team match and YouTube influencer Logan Paul will appear as part of the Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn grudge match. It may not be to the taste of every member of the WWE Universe but their inclusion will bring not just new eyes to the product but mainstream media headlines too.
On the other side of the coin, Cesaro vs Seth Rollins, Matt Riddle vs Sheamus and Bobby Lashley vs Drew McIntyre should offer the wrestling purists something to tune in for.
A raft of other Championship and grudge matches round off the card, from the Women’s Tag Team Championships to the Intercontinental Championship. The Fiend looks for retribution over Randy Orton and the seven-foot Omos teams with AJ Styles in his first ever WWE match as they take on The New Day.
It feels like the eyes of the world will be on Raymond James Stadium as we wait to find out what the WWE Universe makes of Superstars and storylines they have been unable to give their live opinion too. Where will WWE go from here? Will they continue to put on live PPVs? They are questions for another day. For now, grab some snacks, fill your glass, put your feet up and enjoy a huge weekend of wrestling.
Night 1 matches announced (so far):
WWE Championship Match
Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair
Bad Bunny & Damian Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison
Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins
Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods (c) vs. AJ Styles & Omos
Steel Cage Match
Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon
Tag Team Turmoil to earn a WWE Women’s Tag Team Title Match on Night 2
Naomi & Lana vs. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs. The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina
Night 2 matches announced (so far):
Universal Championship Triple Threat Match
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan
The Fiend vs. Randy Orton
Intercontinental Championship Nigerian Drum Fight Match
Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews
United States Championship Match
Riddle (c) vs. Sheamus
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
WWE Women’s Tag Team Title Match
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs. the winner of the Tag Team Turmoil Match from Night 1