Mike-NXT-cup.jpg

Mike Pankow

Welcome to Windy City Slam, wrestling coverage from the heart of Chicago and beyond.

Women in spotlight as WrestleMania 35 takes over the weekend

Women in spotlight as WrestleMania 35 takes over the weekend

By Mike Pankow

April 4, 2019

Long-time rivals Charlotte Flair, right, and Becky Lynch will join Ronda Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania 35 on Sunday. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

Long-time rivals Charlotte Flair, right, and Becky Lynch will join Ronda Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania 35 on Sunday. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

WrestleMania 35 weekend is here and history will be made when the women will be the main-event match with Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey facing SmackDown! Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and arguably the most popular wrestler in WWE in Becky Lynch.

Over the last several years, the Women’s Revolution has brought a multitude of firsts to WWE: the first Women’s Royal Rumble match, the first Women’s Money in the Bank match, the first WWE all-women’s pay-per-view in Evolution, and the introduction of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.

Now the women will headline the “Showcase of the Immortals.” Many figured that Rousey and Flair was the planned main event from the second Rousey, the former UFC champion, stepped into a WWE ring at WrestleMania 34. However, over the last seven to eight months, Lynch’s momentum couldn’t be ignored.

Lynch has looked like a badass inside the ring and out, in the mold of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in his heyday. Will WrestleMania 35 see a finish where the fans are thrusting adulation onto Lynch for the ultimate happy ending?

The match is now “winner-take-all” as in the winner taking home both the Raw and SmackDown! Women’s Championships. A victory would vault Lynch into the stratosphere and put her in the same class as Rousey, a credible fighter, and Flair, an eight-time world champion and daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair.

The two main male championship matches are also featured bouts with Brock Lesnar defending the WWE Universal Championship against the Quad Cities-own and die-hard Chicago Bears fan Seth Rollins and WWE Champion Daniel Bryan facing Kofi Kingston.

Many believe it’s time to take the title off Lesnar, who some believe may end up doing more fights for UFC. Rollins would make for an ideal Universal Champion, a workhorse who appears on Raw every week and one of the very best in-ring performers in recent years.

On the SmackDown! side, #KofiMania is gaining serious traction. Kingston, an 11-year veteran of WWE, always has been a top-notch performer, but finally is getting a major main-event push. Kingston, like Bryan was several years ago, is easy to get behind as that hard-working underdog-type wrestler. It will be interesting to see if WWE will pull the trigger on a title change here as Bryan’s heel run has been well done and very similar to CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society gimmick from about a decade ago.

At this point, there is no sign of WrestleMania stalwarts John Cena or the Undertaker, so it appears WWE is starting to get away from the old-reliable performers and looking more toward the future.

Here is a look at WrestleMania 35 weekend with predictions:

WRESTLEMANIA 35

Sunday, April 7 at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J., Kickoff: 4 p.m. (Central), Main card: 6 p.m. (Central), TV/streaming: WWE Network. Host: Alexa Bliss; Musical act: Elias.

Winner take all: Ronda Rousey (Raw champion) vs. Charlotte Flair (SD champion) vs. Becky Lynch: Three of the very best women’s wrestlers in the world on the grandest stage. It should be a hell of a match, given the crazy build-up over the last few weeks. Prediction: There won’t be any police activity here. After about 20 minutes of dramatic near falls and big-time moves, Lynch submits Flair with the Dis-Arm-Her to win both titles. Lynch gets her WrestleMania moment.

Seth Rollins challenges Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35 on Sunday (Photo by Mike Pankow)

Seth Rollins challenges Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35 on Sunday (Photo by Mike Pankow)

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins: Is it time for Lesnar to drop the title? Many would think so and Rollins would be the perfect person to win it. These two have put some great performances against each other on before, but they were in triple-threat matches. Prediction: Lesnar retains when Dean Ambrose spoils Rollins’ party by screwing him over. Ambrose wasn’t even mentioned on Raw this week and hasn’t been booked for the show. WWE has been very public about his contract expiring, so much so you would think it might be a work.

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston: Kingston jumped through hoops just to get this match, running the gauntlet himself, having his New Day brothers run the gauntlet and putting in 11 years of hard work. Bryan’s heel work recently, with Erick Rowan at his side, has been very solid. In five years, Bryan has reversed roles, putting Kingston in the beloved underdog role. Prediction: Bryan retains, denying Kingston of becoming the 51st man to hold the WWE Championship. I’m feeling either someone like Luke Harper or Bray Wyatt comes in and helps Bryan or even a member of New Day betrays Kingston.

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre: With his Leukemia in remission, Reigns is back in the WWE spotlight while McIntyre is getting his biggest WrestleMania match of his career. There’s no doubt Reigns will back in the championship picture at some point, but a slow burn back to the very top of the card would be refreshing. Prediction: I would love to see McIntyre to go over here, but he will get over in a very strong performance. Reigns eventually pulls out the hard-earned victory.

AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton: Some of the recent verbal sparring between these two has been top notch. This match could be a show-stealer as both of these guys are true professionals. It truly could go either way. Prediction: After 20 solid minutes of action and both men kicking out of finishers, Styles finally subdues Orton after a Styles Clash.

No-holds-barred match: Triple H vs. Batista: Batista returns to in-ring action after nearly five years away. His role as Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been universally praised. Triple H’s in-ring career is on the line here. If he loses, he no longer will wrestle, which in the history of wrestling, sometimes means absolutely nothing. The history between the two makes this a good matchup. Prediction: Triple H pulls out the victory after resorting to his trusty sledgehammer.

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Finn Balor: At some point in the future, we could see a Lashley-Lesnar showdown, which would be a pretty interesting spectacle between the two wrestling-MMA guys. Here with Lashley and Balor, it’s a great clash of styles. Many have been clamoring for a bigger push for the beloved Balor. Prediction: With the confirmation of Balor coming out as “The Demon,” let’s go with Balor winning the title. That Demon entrance usually is saved for big moments, and Balor winning the IC title at WrestleMania would be huge.

WWE United States Championship: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio: Another classic clash of styles, big man vs. little man. This is Samoa Joe’s WrestleMania debut as he was injured or recovering from injury the last two years. This is Mysterio’s first Mania appearance since 2014’s WrestleMania XXX, so both guys will be hungry. Prediction: Joe retains the title when Rey’s son, Dominic, somehow becomes involved in the match. Notice how Dominic almost looks like a miniature Joe, especially facially? Hmmmm.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs. Nia Jax & Tamina Snuka vs. The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce): I believe this is an underrated match and could provide some great highlights. The return of WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix to in-ring competition to team with Natalya is great. Prediction: Phoenix and Natalya win the titles after a Hart Attack clothesline in tribute to the Hart Foundation’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

The Miz faces Shane McMahon in a falls-count-anywhere match at WrestleMania 35. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

The Miz faces Shane McMahon in a falls-count-anywhere match at WrestleMania 35. (Photo by Mike Pankow)

Falls Count Anywhere: The Miz vs. Shane McMahon: Some people probably groaned when this match was teased when Shane turned on The Miz and attacked George Mizanin, Miz’s father. However, as most Shane McMahon matches are, this will be a spectacle with plenty of high spots and big bumps. The Miz, who is awesome as a natural heel character, surprisingly has been very good in his short time as a babyface. Prediction: The Miz wins after a Skull Crushing Finale on the floor. After the match, George will get a few licks in on Shane.

Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin: This is advertised as Angle’s final match of his career. Corbin is a serious heat magnet and has been a strong heel since his emergence in the company a few years ago. Angle, while a shell of his former self, will deliver one last great in-ring moment in a Hall of Fame career. Prediction: Angle hits the Angle Slam and gets Corbin to tap with the ankle lock. Angle leaves his boots in the ring.

SmackDown! Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. Ricochet & Aleister Black vs. The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) vs. Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura: Eight great performers will put on a strong match. They may not get the time they deserve, but it will still be very good. Ricochet and Black cap the week in their third different tag team championship match. Prediction: In a bit of surprise, Rusev and Nakamura get the win here. Both men are excellent and are in need of some juice heading into the post-WrestleMania season. Richochet and Black will go the separate ways after this.

Raw Tag Team Championship: The Revival (c) vs. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins: Just announced Thursday, the long-time friends and recently reunited Ryder and Hawkins were granted a championship match even though Hawkins is in the throes of a long losing streak. Prediction: Since Hawkins was my previous pick to win the battle royal, I’ll have to stick with Hawkins and Ryder winning the titles here. Woo, woo, woo, you know it.

Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese: Murphy has had a strong run as the face of 205 Live since winning the championship in Australia last October. It’s great to see a good hand like Nese get this opportunity. He’s probably the most underrated guy on that 205 Live roster. Prediction: Nese wins the title after the Running Nese in an entertaining affair.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Braun Strowman and Saturday Night Live sketch comedians Michael Che and Colin Jost are the spotlighted performers in the sixth version of this match. Last year’s Andre the Giant winner Matt Hardy also is advertised. The advertised list of participants include Strowman, Che, Jost, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Ali, Karl Anderson, Andrade, Curtis Axel, Shelton Benjamin, Tyler Breeze, Apollo Crews, Bo Dallas, EC3, Chad Gable, Luke Gallows, Gran Metalik, Jinder Mahal, Kalisto, Konnor, Lince Dorado, No Way Jose, Titus O’Neil, Otis, Rhyno, Bobby Roode, Heath Slater, Tucker and Viktor. Prediction: Hmmmm? Strowman is the obvious choice, which is probably why he won’t win. Somehow, the SNL guys will get help and eliminate Strowman. Jost and Che will “get these hands” outside the ring following Braun’s ouster. Now I have to make a pick and since Hawkins is actually in the tag team match now, I’ll give the battle royal to Chicago’s Ali, who seems destined for a nice push on SmackDown!

Women’s Battle Royal: The second edition of this match takes place after Naomi eliminated Bayley to win last year’s event. Just over a week after losing the SmackDown! Women’s Champion, Asuka is the favorite to win this time around. Confirmed entrants include Asuka, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Nikki Cross, Sonya Deville, Mickie James, Lana, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Naomi, Ruby Riott, Mandy Rose and Zelina Vega. Prediction: Shayna Baszler jumps from NXT, makes her surprise debut, and eliminates Asuka to win it. Don’t be surprised to see Lacey Evans also debut here.

WWE HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY

Saturday, April 6 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Red Carpet: 5 p.m. (Central), Ceremony: 6 p.m. (Central), TV/streaming: WWE Network, Hosts: Corey Graves and Renee Young.

Inductees: D-Generation X (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, X-Pac and Chyna), The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim “The Anvil Neidhart), Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray), Torrie Wilson, Honky Tonk Man, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and Sue Atchison (Warrior Award winner)

NXT TAKEOVER NEW YORK

Friday, April 5 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.: kickoff: 5 p.m. (Central), main card: 6 p.m. (Central), TV/streaming: WWE Network.

Pete Dunne, left, will defend the WWE United Kingdom Championship against WALTER, right, at NXT TakeOver New York on Friday night in Brooklyn. (Photos by Mike Pankow)

Pete Dunne, left, will defend the WWE United Kingdom Championship against WALTER, right, at NXT TakeOver New York on Friday night in Brooklyn. (Photos by Mike Pankow)

WWE UK Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs. WALTER: A dream matchup of European competitors. Dunne is approaching 700 days as champion and has been the face of the NXT UK brand. Dunne’s match with Joe Coffey on NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool in January was brutalizing, so definitely expect much of the same with the “Bruiserweight” and “Austrian Anomaly.” Prediction: Dunne retains in a classic. This won’t be the last time we see Dunne and WALTER face one another, so this rivalry will continue.

NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (c) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet: There’s no doubt this one will be great. Black and Ricochet are starting to become fixtures on the main roster. Expect one more great performance from them before they leave NXT. Prediction: War Raiders retain and enter a feud with the Undisputed Era, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, following WrestleMania weekend.

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Matt Riddle: This is Riddle’s first main-event level match at a TakeOver and he and Dream will put on a barn-burner. With Dream’s flamboyant character and high-flying moves and Riddle’s striking and ground game, this match has a chance of being a show-stealer. Prediction: The Dream continues his reign.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Kairi Sane vs. Io Shirai vs. Bianca Belair: The NXT Women’s Division just keeps churning them out. Baszler, in her second reign as a champion, is an established badass. Sane and Shirai are entertaining high-flyers who can also get it done on the mat. Belair has all the tools to be a champion for a long time. Prediction: It’s time for Belair to shine. The former Tennessee track star can do it all and she will be a great NXT Women’s Champion heading into the summer. Baszler likely heads to the main roster (see above).

NXT Championship (2-out-of-3 falls): Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole: With Tommaso Ciampa’s neck injury, the title was declared vacant. Ciampa’s long-time friend and rival Johnny Gargano has seen his share of ups and downs in NXT after a great feud with Ciampa. Cole will main event his first TakeOver as a singles wrestler. The former ROH Champion can definitely be a standard-bearer. Prediction: Gargano wins an epic thriller, two falls to one. He finally gets his moment to celebrate mid-ring with his wife, Candice LeRae.

Busted Open going 10 years strong on SiriusXM

Busted Open going 10 years strong on SiriusXM