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WrestleMania Bubble Watch: Even with card seemingly set, surprises could be in store

Welcome to the final edition of WrestleMania Bubble Watch. It’s been fun mapping out the road to WrestleMania 39 with you all, but with only one week to go this card appears to be nearly set in stone.

Triple H has landed on 13 matches (potentially 14) for the show this year, with two late additions pulling 16 Superstars back from the brink of not making the cut.

Late last week it was announced that there will be not one, but two WrestleMania Showcase Matches. Four Men’s Tag Teams and Four Women’s Tag Teams will get to show that world what they’re made of on the Grandest Stage of Them All with the winners earning the right to.... well, actually no, that’s it.

No stakes what-so-ever have been announced for these matches. They are literally just random filler tag team matches. I’m honestly surprised they even had two qualifying matches for the Women’s Division.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely happy that everyone involved is on the show and getting their ‘Mania spotlight, but this is lazy booking. At the very least give the talent something to fight for and the audience a reason to be invested.

If anyone from WWE is reading this, please make these No. 1 Contenders matches for the Men’s and Women’s Tag Team Championships. It’s really that simple.

Ronda Rousey wasn’t healthy enough to build toward a match with Becky Lynch and Lita in Los Angeles, no problem. Book it for Puerto Rico and start the build now. Ronda and Shayna Baszler are very likely winning the Showcase anyway. Why not have them earn a shot at the champs at Backlash in the process?

There is still a question as to whom the fourth and final team will be in the Women’s WrestleMania Showcase. Cheslea Green and Carmella would have been locks a week ago, but Mella was suddenly and mysteriously unavailable for work this week.

Hopefully she’s ok and we’ll see her back on Monday, but it’s something to watch as the week progresses. If Carmella remains unavailable, I suspect Piper Niven will once again sub in alongside Chelsea.

Don’t rule out Candice LeRae and Nikki Cross emerging to take the open spot either. Really surprised they haven’t already made the cut considering the story that’s been brewing between them for the last couple of months.

Also made official in the past week: GUNTHER defending his Intercontinental Championship against Drew McIntyre and Sheamus in a potential Banger of the Year candidate, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn challenging the Usos for the Undisputed Tag Team Championships following the hug felt round the world and ex-con Dom finally goaded his father into a match.

Turns out, Dom can call Rey Mysterio every name in the book and his father will walk away the bigger man. He disrespected his Mom, Rey’s wife, one time and suddenly Dom got dropped like he tried to pick a fight with the wrong guy in the prison yard.

I can pick apart and criticize the build to some of these WrestleMania matches for hours if I really wanted to, but in the case of the Mysterios, Triple H nailed it. WWE has been building to that punch last night since Clash at the Castle and the Vegas crown erupted when Rey laid Dom out.

A year ago, the crowd cheered on as The Miz and Logan Paul, the heels, defeated Rey and Dominik. Now these two are locked into one of the top two stories in the entire company and Dom has been transformed from Rey’s son to his own man and an absolute heat magnet.

Truly great work all around.

A baker’s dozen booked. Does Triple H have one more in him? And what surprises may be in store for Hollywood?

Let’s assess.

Here’s what’s been announced for WrestleMania so far:

  • Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship
  • The Usos vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens for the Undisputed Tag Team Championships
  • Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
  • Bianca Belair vs. Asuka for the RAW Women’s Championship
  • Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Bayley, Dakota Kai & IYO SKY
  • Austin Theory vs. John Cena for the United States Championship
  • GUNTHER vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus for the Intercontinental Championship
  • Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. Logan Paul
  • Edge vs. Finn Balor inside Hell in a Cell
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Omos
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio
  • Men’s WrestleMania Showcase
  • Women’s WrestleMania Showcase
  • The Miz will host WrestleMania 39

Here is what could be added:

  • Bray Wyatt vs. Bobby Lashley

I’m still holding out hope that Bray Wyatt recovers from his reported illness in time for his scheduled match with Bobby Lashley, but it’s not looking good.

It’s been weeks since we’ve seen either Bray or Uncle Howdy on television and WWE has decided to forgo doing any build toward a Lashley match that the All Mighty could handle himself.

We saw what Seth Rollins did ahead of WrestleMania 38. He set up one of the most highly anticipated matches on last year’s card with nothing but a rumor to assist him. It can be done.

If WWE was certain that Wyatt would be ready to perform in Los Angeles, we would have seen some storyline progression involving Lashley on the last couple Raw or SmackDown episodes. Instead, we saw this announcement last night.

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal will once again be taking place on SmackDown this year as Madcap Moss looks to become the first back-to-back winner. But the real story here is Bobby Lashley being put front and center in this graphic.

This was WWE’s backup plan?

Bobby Lashley went from having an epic blow off to his rivalry with Brock Lesnar to finding himself competing for the Andre the Giant Battle Royal trophy.

That’s quite the slide, folks. And completely unfair to him.

There may, however, be a sliver of hope.

Elver Galarga, a WWE fan in Florida, posted this photo to Twitter yesterday. He claims to have bumped into Bray Wyatt randomly while out shopping.

If this photo was taken yesterday, it’s no doubt a positive development when it comes to the health of Windham Rotunda, the man behind the Wyatt character. But it provides very little assurances that he’ll be ready for a match in seven days.

Cardio is everything. Without knowing the severity of Bray’s illness and how long it’s been since he’s been able to train, it’s impossible to predict when he’ll be able to return to the ring.

So like I said, be hopeful, but not overly optimistic.

What I would like to see is WWE use the Andre on Friday to set up Lashley’s match on the main card. Whether that’s via Wyatt making his return to eliminate Bobby or another talent like L.A. Knight has to step in and create a new story last minute - I truly do not care at this point.

Obviously I’d prefer it to be Bray, but if the man isn’t ready to go after battling a weeks-long illness, no one can or should hold it against him. But Lashley shouldn’t have to suffer. He’s more than earned his opportunity to perform under the bright lights of SoFi Stadium.

Is Stone Cold workin’ or shootin’?

Stone Cold Steve Austin is doing his best to make you believe that he’s done with wrestling. He may have been in one of the marquee matches at last year’s WrestleMania, but he reportedly turned down matches, and probably big time money, with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for this year’s Showcase of the Immortals.

Austin recently spoke with NBC Los Angeles ahead of a WWE 2K23 event, and sure made it sound like last year’s match was a one-off.

“You have to understand that I retired in 2003, so it’s been a long time, so I’m over it. But when I walked away from the business of Sports Entertainment I endeavored into other things: I work with Kawasaki motor sports on the side by side division, I’m in the beer business, and I do other things. Coming back to do something from time to time is fine, because I love my relationship with WWE, but my days in the ring are done…although, I did do the main event at WrestleMania last year in Dallas, but that was kind of a fluke and we pulled it off. It’s good to be back and see some of the faces. I’m looking forward to the guys I’m going to see tonight, but I’ve been gone for a long time, and I do not miss it.”

Always leave the audience wanting more, right? At age 57 last year, Stone Cold returned to main event of Night One of WrestleMania and pulled off a really strong No Holds Barred match in front of his home state of Texas. He then came back on Night Two for one final face-to-face with his old rival Vince McMahon.

Sure, the stunner on Mr. McMahon was by far the worst of all time, but that’s still a Hell of a goodbye to the wrestling business.

In a separate interview with Wrestling Classic, Austin shot down reports that WWE was still negotiating with him to be at WrestleMania 39.

“You know, I haven’t heard anything. We’re literally, as we speak right now, it’s about two weeks away and it’s the biggest show of the year. Right now, I think WWE has got as good a roster that they’ve had since the Attitude Era. They got a deep roster.

So, I think so many guys and gals need those coveted sports. They’ve got plenty of names to draw from. Plenty of talent to draw from. I think they should shine the light and the cameras on their current Superstars.”

Stone Cold was then very non-committal when asked if he could still make an appearance at SoFi Stadium next weekend.

What do we think? Is the WWE Hall of Famer workin’ or shootin’?

It’s hard to tell to be honest and the answer probably falls somewhere in between. Stone Cold is not going to openly admit that he’s booked for ‘Mania if the plan is for him to be a surprise addition to show.

I also 100% believe him when he says the spotlight should shine on the current crop of WWE Superstars. He could also help elevate someone on the current roster simply by being in the ring with them, which is why the rumored encounter with L.A. Knight makes a ton of sense.

At this point, there’s been too much smoke surrounding L.A. Knight for him not to be involved on the main show in some capacity. Whether it’s with someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin or another returning veteran.

Randy Orton reportedly being brought in for WrestleMania weekend

The Viper has been out of action for over 10 months. Orton had reportedly been dealing with a worsening back injury toward the end of RK-Bro’s run with the Raw Tag Team Championships and ended up needing fusion surgery.

I’m no doctor but a quick google search tells me it could be six months to a year before someone fully recovers from that type of procedure. We’re also talking about a freak athlete here. They work on much different time tables than either you or myself.

It’s unclear when exactly Orton when under the knife, but news of the surgery surfaced back in November after his wife posted a photo of Randy on Instagram in a hospital bed.

Fightful Select reported that Randy Orton was adamant that he’d return to WWE at some point, but there were those in the company who felt it would be quite fortunate if he were able to ever wrestle again.

Here we are now a week out from WrestleMania and WrestleVotes, a wrestling insider Twitter account, has heard the Viper may be close to making his return to the company.

“Randy’s name I’ve started to hear a little bit over the last couple of weeks. He’s getting close. He’d like to show up at WrestleMania. Missing WrestleMania 32 in Dallas through injury killed him. So I think if he’s going to return, let’s say the night after, he’d rather just show up in some form at the stadium.”

No disrespect intended, but forget the night after. If Randy Orton makes a surprise appearance in front of 56,000 plus fans at Sofi Stadium, it’ll make for one of the louder pops of the entire weekend.

Once again, I’m looking at L.A. Knight for this spot. Lay it out exactly as I wrote in last week’s article, just insert Randy Orton for Stone Cold Steve Austin.

I actually like using Randy in that spot better than Austin, because unlike Stone Cold, Orton will be around in the weeks after ‘Mania to continue the story and build a rivalry with L.A. Knight as he begins his ascension up the card.

Word on the street is that big things are in store for L.A. Knight in the coming months. A program with the 14-time World Champion would certainly be a great launching point. Multiple sites are also now reporting that Orton will be in Los Angeles next weekend.

My final prediction for the WrestleMania 39 card:

Night One:

  • Austin Theory vs. John Cena for the United States Championship
  • Men’s WrestleMania Showcase: Street Profits vs. Viking Raiders vs. Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. Alpha Academy
  • Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio
  • Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Bayley, Dakota Kai & IYO SKY
  • Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul
  • Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. The Usos for the Undisputed Tag Team Championships
  • Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship (WOR reports this will main event)

Potential Night Two Card:

  • GUNTHER vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus for the Intercontinental Championship
  • Women’s WrestleMania Showcase: Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler vs. Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. Chelsea Green & Carmella (Piper Niven as a backup)
  • Brock Lesnar vs. Omos
  • Edge vs. Finn Balor inside Hell in a Cell
  • Bianca Belair vs. Asuka for the RAW Women’s Championship
  • L.A. Knight Segment (featuring surprise return)
  • Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship

On the bubble:

  • Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Uncle Howdy, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Damian Priest (likely to be involved somewhere on the show)
  • Piper Niven

Most likely off the WrestleMania Card:

  • Maximum Male Models, Karrion Kross, Xavier Woods, Bronson Reed, Santos Escobar, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mustafa Ali, Elias, Rick Boogs, Dexter Lumis, Butch, Ridge Holland, Hit Row, Madcap Moss, Gallows & Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Candice LeRae, Nikki Cross, Alexa Bliss, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Emma, Lacey Evans, Shotzi, Sonya Deville, Zelina Vega

Out due to injury (Kayfabe or otherwise):

  • AJ Styles, Matt Riddle, Bobby Roode, Tommaso Ciampa, Kofi Kingston

What do you think of this potential WrestleMania card? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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