WrestleMania XXXI takes place Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The annual "Showcase of the Immortals" starts at 7 p.m. and is available on the WWE Network.
Newsday's Josh Stewart and Alfonso Castillo offer these predictions on WrestleMania's lineup.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (champion) vs. Roman Reigns
Castillo: Although Lesnar’s signing of a new three-year deal with WWE adds new intrigue to the otherwise underwhelming hype for this match, WWE has invested too much time and effort into making Roman Reigns its next big star to get cold feet now. While I wouldn’t rule out a double-turn that would cement Lesnar as an indestructible good guy, and Reigns as the Authority’s hand-picked new face of WWE, I don’t see Lesnar retaining his title here.
Winner and new champion: Roman Reigns
Stewart: Lesnar’s signing both solves and creates a problem for WWE. It locks up the one guy who can still legitimately get people to suspend reality and create the “big-fight atmosphere” Paul Heyman has talked about before. But it also limits WWE creatively -- after finally developing guys with main event talent/charisma such as Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose, they’re stuck behind Reigns, who’s not supported by the fans, and Lesnar, who works twice a month. That said, if you’re going to pay as much money to Lesnar to work part-time and there are serious doubts whether Reigns can carry the ball, a title change is just too risky.
Winner and still champion: Brock Lesnar
Sting vs. Triple H
Castillo: Not surprisingly, the WrestleMania match with the best build is the one in which WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H is set to make his in-ring return. Fans in attendance are sure to shower Sting with the adoration you’d expect in his first WWE match. And that’s sure to fuel Sting in putting on an admirable performance for a 56-year-old man. I expect an entertaining match between these two wrestling legends, and for Sting to conquer “The Game.”
Stewart: The list of guys brought into the fold since Triple H became a real-life WWE executive is becoming as impressive as his work in the ring. Sting now joins Bruno Sammartino and the late Ultimate Warrior as guys you’d never thought you’d see at WrestleMania time. Triple H will lose this match, but the man known during business hours as Paul Levesque won this encounter long ago.
U.S. Title Match
Rusev (champion) vs. John Cena
Castillo: WWE’s year-long build of Rusev as an unstoppable foreign menace was designed to lead up to his eventual showdown with wrestling’s ultimate babyface, John Cena. While some fans may be disappointed if WWE chooses the polarizing Cena to end Rusev’s undefeated streak, it would be the right move. Cena remains WWE’s top attraction and must be kept strong. And Rusev only benefits from working with Cena on wrestling’s biggest stage.
Winner and new champion: John Cena
Stewart: This feud always has felt like a little bit of a test case for WWE -- more for Cena than Rusev. As resilient as Cena has been despite countless injuries, the truth is that his days as a full-time competitor may be waning. WWE needs to learn how much value it can get out of Cena three years from now if you bring him back from vacation into a secondary feud two months before Mania -- see Chris Jericho, etc. The answer so far has been positive. Fans embrace him more as an elderstatesman making the most out of a mid-card match as opposed to being force-fed into another main event. He’ll get a good pop when he wins the title Sunday.
Winner and new champion: John Cena
The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
Castillo: This match only serves as a depressing reminder that the Streak — long one of WrestleMania’s biggest attractions — was unnecessarily squandered last year when Undertaker lost to Lesnar. With the Streak no longer on the line, the Undertaker a year older, and Wyatt’s gibberish promos becoming less comprehensible by the day, I’m not looking forward to this one. But I fully expect ‘Taker to pick up his 22nd WrestleMania win.
Stewart: This match is sort of a placeholder for WrestleMania XXXII at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas -- home of the Dallas Cowboys. There it’s likely that Sting and Undertaker will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, then face each other the following night in a match that will be WWE’s equivalent of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao -- long overdue but still a guaranteed ticket seller. Undertaker likely will help set a WWE attendance record next year. This year he’ll just try to be respectable in a match that should take place unusually early on the card for the Deadman.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Castillo: If given enough time, Rollins and Orton — two of WWE’s very best in-ring performers, could steal the show with this grudge match. Rollins, in particular, will be motivated to prove that he could, and should, headline future WrestleManias. Rollins should factor big into WWE’s post-Mania plans, so I expect him to come out victorious here.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Stewart: WWE has done a much better job pushing Rollins than it has with other up-and-coming heels in recent years. His in-ring prowess is undeniable, but they’ve given him stooges Mercury and Noble to offer a classic bad guy hook. (He actually cheats to win sometimes; what a novel idea for a villain!) Orton is at his best as an edgy good guy, so WWE actually has the right two guys in the ring and they’re booked properly. This is a potential instant classic.
Winner: Randy Orton
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Wade Barrett (champion) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth vs.Luke Harper vs. Stardust
Castillo: WWE deserves some credit for trying to elevate the long-disregarded IC belt with a WrestleMania match loaded with star power, and sure to deliver some thrills. But I still expect this to be not much more than a hurried series of death-defying stunts that likely will open the show and quickly be forgotten about by WWE’s announcers, and therefore, by many fans. At least one of the match’s participants, Bryan, deserved better.
Winner and still IC champion: Wade Barrett
Stewart: Is it too much to ask for Stardust to win this thing, wipe off his face paint and be Cody Rhodes again, allowing WWE to start setting up his world title WrestleMania XXXII main event with Daniel Bryan? Um, yes, it is. With that pipe dream cast aside, might as well give the win to someone who excels in this kind of match and is on the upswing again with WWE’s kingmakers.
Winner and new IC champion: Dolph Ziggler
AJ Lee & Paige vs. Nikki & Brie Bella
Castillo: I’ll also give WWE kudos for giving its female performers ample television time to build up their lone WrestleMania match, as opposed to throwing together a meaningless 10-Diva tag match as they have at recent WrestleManias. All the ladies here can more than hold up their end of a watchable match, and I expect them to have their working high-heel boots on for this one.
Winner: The Bella Twins
Stewart: Ronda Rousey gets an assist from afar for improving WWE’s female in-ring product. The increasing exposure of Rousey and her women’s MMA counterparts have created an atmosphere where people want to see women actually wrestle, and do it well. The Bella Twins always have been good athletes who have often been typecast by their supermodel appearances. Combine that with some real-life edginess in Paige and AJ Lee and this is a match with genuine chemistry.
Winner: Paige and AJ Lee
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Castillo: There are a lot of interesting options for the winner of this pre-show match. WWE could look to showcase its NXT developmental system by giving the win to Hideo Itami, who won a tournament to earn a spot in the battle royal. It could go with a returning Sheamus, or even a debuting Samoa Joe. But I’ll put my money on Damien Mizdow getting his Virgil moment, and finally standing up to—and tossing out—the Miz and winning the gigantic trophy.
Stewart: This is where I get to admit that I got to see my esteemed partner's picks before making mine. The Samoa Joe pick is tempting -- as much as WWE trumpets its own training program, look no farther than fellow Ring of Honor alums Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins for the company’s foundation. But WWE tried to use this match to give Cesaro a big push last year, and it didn’t end well. Look for WWE to go the more traditional route this time around.
Winner: The Big Show
Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (champions) vs. The Usos vs. El Matadors vs. The New Day
Castillo: With Jey Uso nursing a bad shoulder, and the Matadors and New Day nursing bad gimmicks, the only logical option is for Cesaro and Kidd to retain. Expect some quality athleticism here.
Winners and still tag-team champions: Cesaro and Kidd
Stewart: This is usually where WWE tries to nurse a bad gimmick by dressing it up with some shiny title belts. I hope the company resists the urge, but…
Winners and new tag-team champions: New Day