WrestleMania 38, AT&T Stadium, Dallas, Texas

Rewind to the evening of March 3, 1985. Somewhere in the maze of backstage corridors inside one of the most famous arenas in the world, Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. must have been a pressure cooker of emotions. The man would of course go on to become synonymous with professional wrestling and sports entertainment by changing the industry and the game completely.

But McMahon had gambled everything to put on the first WrestleMania. Pawning everything, calling in favours and striking up ambitious partnership deals with other fledgling companies. In his wildest dreams, could Mr McMahon have foreseen the sprawling pop culture phenomenon that it has become today?

No longer one night, in an arena on closed circuit television. Instead, WrestleMania is an almost week-long event, with international travellers attending in some of the biggest outdoor stadiums, all beamed to every corner of the world on their own network. 

Each year the pressure to deliver moments and matches that will be remembered forever increases. The stakes are raised and although McMahon no longer has to gamble everything, the pressure remains.

Can the 38th chapter of Mania live up to the hype?

Or will the weight of fan expectation buckle the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’? 

Andy Spoors looks to answer all those questions and give us an idea of what to expect this weekend…

Forget the SuperBowl. Forget the FA Cup final. To hell with the Oscars. This is the time of year every wrestling fan in the world looks forward to.

As soon as the Royal Rumble ends, fantasy booking for WrestleMania begins.

Year after year, the pattern repeats. Very rarely can every match be predicted and the road from the Rumble to Mania is a bumpy one with twists and turns. The restrictions placed on attendance for the last two years has done little to diminish the excitement within the industry.

For the first time since WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey, fans can travel from all over the world to see Superstars on the biggest stage.

So what can we expect?

Does the reality of this year’s card match up to the fantasy?

Not exactly.

WWE have found themselves facing a sustained fan backlash for a multitude of reasons. From wholesale releases of Superstars, the emergence of a serious rival promotion in AEW, unimaginative/predictable storylines, social media is constantly awash with ire.

But as always, come WrestleMania everyone is watching. The card this year might not be as exciting as previous years, but look through the scheduled matches and there is plenty to look forward to.

With 16 matches or segments already scheduled over the two-night event, let’s look at some of the most intriguing.

Main Event – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (Winner Take All Championship Unification Match)

Where better to start than the undisputed main event of WrestleMania 38. We have covered at length the epic feud between the pair, but come the early hours of Monday morning we will know who sits atop of WWE’s mountain.

Don’t expect pure chain wrestling or a catch-as-catch-can style match. This is going to be ugly and brutal. The longest running storyline in the company will end and although it has been hugely enjoyable, let’s hope this spells the end and WWE can begin to build some new main event stars.

Don’t discount a shock finish with someone looking to stake their claim as the cameras fade to black…

A Legend Returns

Stone Cold Steve Austin is one of a few that transcends the industry. The beer-drinking, foul-mouthed Texas Rattlesnake revolutionised the company and made wrestling cool at the turn of the millennium.

Nineteen years on since his last match in WWE, the love and clamour to see Stone Cold has not diminished with time. In Dallas, he will make his return to confront Kevin Owens after a spate of verbal barbs by KO.

For his part, Owens has been magnificent. Creating and building a rivalry with one a bonafide legend on his own is a hard enough task, but one he has undertaken with relish. Billed as an episode of the KO Show, it would be surprising to see this encounter play out as a straight chat show segment.

Quite what to expect is up in the air, but one thing is certain. When the glass smashes, AT&T Stadium will come unglued.

Who Is Ready For Rollins?

In a similar vein to Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins has managed to carry an entire programme on his back, albeit with one big difference. The Architect will not learn his opponent until he is in the ring.

Fuelling fervorous fan expectations, rumours have been flying who his mystery opponent could be. Whispers of a return to WWE for AEW founder Cody Rhodes, have built up steam in recent weeks, the timing seemingly all too perfect.

If Rhodes is to make a return to the company, it would be nothing short of shocking. After helping build WWE’s biggest rivals to the force they are today, to then return to the company that he has repeatedly called out would be quite the u-turn.

There is a saying used often in wrestling, that you should never say never, but this would be the biggest talking point the industry has seen for a long time.

Women Set To Wow

With both Women’s Championships on the line in huge match-ups, the WWE Universe have plenty to look forward to on Saturday. Becky Lynch defends her Raw Women’s Championship against the uber-talented Bianca Belair, while Ronda Rousey challenges SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair.

Lynch and Belair have created a fantastic rivalry, heating up at just the right time. Brutal attacks on each other, scathing promos and a clash of styles, it wouldn’t come as too much of a shock if their match is given plenty of time to reflect the long-burning feud.

Since returning and winning the Royal Rumble, Ronda Rousey has made it clear that she is out to prove exactly what she is made of by challenging arguably the most dominant female Superstar of all time.

Charlotte very rarely misses a beat and will need to be at the very top of her game if she is to make it out her match with not just her championship, but all limbs intact.

Ones To Watch

AJ Styles and Edge are considered two of the very best in not just WWE, but wrestling in general.

For a large number of fans, this is a dream match and wouldn’t look out of place as a main event match.

This one is almost guaranteed to go long, as both men have some of the best in-ring knowledge and experience available. Edge has always been an advocate for storytelling in the ring and his recent heel turn gives him even more ammunition to pull out to create a masterpiece.

Elsewhere, a triple threat Raw Tag Team Championship match between RK-Bro, The Street Profits and Alpha Academy has all the ingredients to steal the show.

All six Superstars have an abundance of charisma and the chemistry between the three teams has been evident over the past couple of months.

High octane, high flying and heavy hitting. This is our predicted sleeper hit of the weekend.     

Celebrity Culture

A stuntman, ex-NFL punter and social media personality walk into WWE. No this isn’t the setup for a joke but the reality of WrestleMania. Much to the chagrin of certain sections of the WWE Universe, Johnny Knoxville, Pat McAfee and Logan Paul will all feature in their own respective matches this weekend.

Quite why this has drawn so much ire and attention is simply baffling. Any argument against celebrity appearances at WrestleMania can be discounted by a quick look over previous events. From Mr T. being part of the main event at the very first Mania, Mike Tyson featuring heavily in ‘98 or Floyd Mayweather Jr. facing Big Show in a no-disqualification match at WrestleMania 24, celebrities are part of the fibre of the ‘show of shows’.

There may not have been this many so heavily featured, but in McAfee they have a personality that has had matches in NXT and commentates weekly on SmackDown. The divisive Logan Paul will rely on the years of experience other participants in his tag match possess.

As for Knoxville, a combination of an entertaining build with a game Sami Zayn with his no fear attitude that has been so evident in his years as part of Jackass will stand him in great stead to create some huge moments.

There are plenty of pride and other championships on the line throughout the card.

Will Drew McIntyre defeat the unbeaten Happy Corbin?

Will Lashley be able to lift the 7 foot 3” Omos?

Who will emerge as the dominant tag team in the women’s division?

There’s only one way to find out the answer to all those questions. Thankfully the wait is almost over, the time for talking over. It is time        

Full WrestleMania 38 Card

SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey

Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair

‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin to confront Kevin Owens on ‘The KO Show’ at WrestleMania

Seth Rollins to face an opponent of Mr. McMahon’s choosing on WrestleMania Saturday

Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs. The Miz & Logan Paul

Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus & Ridge Holland

Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin

SmackDown Tag Team Champion The Usos vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs 

WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Universal Champion Roman Reigns (Winner Take All Championship Unification)

Edge vs. AJ Styles

Women’s Tag Team Champions Queen Zelina & Carmella vs. Sasha Banks & Naomi vs. Rhea Ripley & Liv Morgan vs. Natalya & Shayna Baszler

Raw Tag Team Champions RK-Bro vs. The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy (Triple Threat Match)

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos

Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory

Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn (Anything Goes Match)