In case you’ve had WWE programming on mute for the past several weeks, WrestleMania 35 is fast upon us, which means it is our eminent duty to periodically roll out excruciatingly detailed previews of each individual match in the month-plus leading up to April 7. It is, to be pointed, The Ringer’s WrestleMania Match Book.
As of this writing, the card for professional wrestling’s biggest night has finally (we think?) been fully confirmed. Over the past several weeks, we’ve covered the preeminent showdowns in depth. And for this ultimate pit stop, we’re rounding up the remaining nine matches that either weren’t set in stone soon enough for a deeper dive or, frankly, feel pretty shallow. So without further ado, behold our abridged Match Book addendum, in which we tersely tell you a good deal of what you need to know about Mania’s outstanding miscellany.
WrestleMania Match Book, Volume 2: Everything Else
Chapter 1: Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin in Angle’s Farewell Match
The former Olympic gold medalist (that would be Angle, not Corbin) has been on a weepy, withering farewell tour across Raw and SmackDown for weeks, sapping some of the oomph from this Mania blow-off. The ceremonies supposedly will get sewed up on Sunday, hopefully with redemption against recent nemesis (of both Angle and the entire WWE universe) Baron Corbin. There is every expectation that John Cena—who is conspicuous in his absence from the card and famously beat Angle in his first televised match 17 years ago—might arrive, squash Corbin and sub himself in. Though for all we know, Angle’s story line son Jason Jordan could come out and sabotage his kayfabe dad and incite Kurt’s actual final feud. If WWE plays it straight or less than totally askew, this will mark a wrap on one of modern wrestling’s most magical careers.
Chapter 2: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Finn Bálor for the Intercontinental Championship
The big news here is that Bálor’s demonic alter ego (ingeniously dubbed “The Demon”) is back, and judging by his appearance on Raw this week, dealing with some unwieldy salivary glands. Lashley, who’s been quite excellent as a heel alongside mini-him Lio Rush, has traded the Intercontinental belt back and forth with Bálor for most of this year, though there really isn’t much of a story outside of some little-man-on-little-man harassment between Rush and Bálor and Lashley doing everything he can to stack the deck against a guy half his size. Expect a solid if unspectacular match, and consider Bálor’s triumph a likelihood. If that’s the case, will this finally spell the end for Lashley and Lio’s special arrangement? What, you don’t care? Fair enough.
Chapter 3: Sasha Banks and Bayley (c) vs. Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs. The IIconics vs. Tamina and Nia Jax for the Women’s Tag Team Championship
Less than a year ago, friends-turned-mortal-adversaries Sasha Banks and Bayley were in therapy to work through their deep-seated conflict. But look at them now! All’s well with the first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, who have found themselves targeted by no less than three dynamic duos. First, Beth Phoenix assumed the annual “I’m unretiring for a few months to burnish my legacy” mantle—claimed last fall by Lita and Trish Stratus—by rejoining former Divas of Doom partner Natalya and aiming to prove the old pros can still go. Then there’s bullies Nia and Tamina, who don’t really win a whole lot (though an oddsmaker might bet on that changing this weekend) but tend to show up everywhere and throw their weight around. And last but maybe-possibly least, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, a.k.a. the Ilconics, a comedy duo nevertheless boosted by fan support and whose shared history actually trumps that of Beth and Natalya. This is mostly about making time for everyone involved on the card (did we hear an echo re: the men’s SmackDown tag-title four-way?), just about all of whom—all things being equal, we’d find a way to fit an Asuka or Naomi in there—merit as much.
Chapter 4: The Usos (c) vs. The Bar vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
This can’t be what Nakamura had in mind when he came over from Japan three-plus years ago. As for his fly-by-night partner Rusev (their arrangement is the rare heel spin on begrudged respect resulting in a new alliance, rehashed from very recent example the Bar), the Bulgarian brute spent much of 2018 vying for SmackDown tag supremacy with the self-professed Shakespeare of Song (now 205 Live color man) Aiden English, so nothing’s shocking. The Bar and the Usos are natural adversaries—as opposed to Usos and New Day, whose chemistry as peers overpowered their bad blood—and Black and Ricochet have been given multiple title shots on Raw and SmackDown despite still technically being considered NXT hands. Black and Ricochet needn’t pick up a win here, but it’s a chance for WWE to showcase its two future dynasts regardless. None of these teams needs this win, really. The expectation is they’ll razzle and dazzle and hype up the crowd (and maybe open the show so the world can see them shine outdoors in broad daylight?). If the hope for Rusev and Nakamura is that they can jell into something approximating Sheamus and Cesaro’s unforeseeable union, giving them the victory would be a solid first step toward finding out.
Chapter 5: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio for the United States Championship
You know what’s never a good look heading into a Mania title opportunity? Losing to Baron Corbin on the go-home SmackDown. Especially if you’re a legend like Rey Mysterio staring down U.S. Champ Samoa Joe in his first Mania match. And that injury Rey apparently suffered against Corbin that may have hastened his defeat? Judging by Joe’s subsequent promo, it won’t actually keep Mysterio from MetLife Stadium. Come to watch as Joe invariably wobbles into prone position for the most shamelessly choreographed setup move in pro wrestling, stay to watch Joe retain (or not) in a 10-minute meeting of hurricanranas and rear-naked chokes. Just try not to go to sleep.
Chapter 6: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese for the Cruiserweight Championship
Murphy’s held the title for half a year and hails from halfway across the world in Australia. Tony Nese has lots of abs and, as a native Long Islander, is more or less fighting for his hometown crowd. This has the makings of a feel-good win for Nese (who, in story line terms, was buddy-buddy with Murphy until he felt taken for granted as a competitive threat). Either way, Murphy gets to go home with the Mania host.
Chapter 7: The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Not impressed that past winners include Mojo Rawley and an aging Big Show? What if we told you that Braun Strowman—who’s almost certain to be the last monster standing this year—will have to contend with his recent nemeses, Mania 35 correspondents Colin Jost and Michael Che of SNL? Eh? Point is, this now five-year-old homage to wrestling’s most legendary big man (as embodied via a trophy that could be mistaken for a life-sized Andre the Giant fondue fountain) is a glorified clearinghouse for guys otherwise left off the card. It has no real consequence. But it’s still a battle royal, and it’s still a chance to play “Hey, that guy!” while your friends try to improve the WiFi connection through your PS4.
Chapter 8: Women’s Battle Royal
The women have been done dirty this year. With all the promotional eggs—and female singles gold—firmly in the main-event basket, former SmackDown champ Asuka and every other active woman not in said headlining triple threat or previously discussed eight-person tag-title dance has been relegated to this second annual kickoff-show scrum. It’s less explicitly ceremonial than the men’s equivalent, and ergo a bit more intriguing, Names like Nikki Cross and the underutilized Zelina Vega are in the mix this time, and if anything, all competitors can take heart: The Man Becky Lynch—the hottest star heading into Mania 35, period—fought in this same battle royal in 2018 and didn’t even win. Can only go up from here.
Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins challenge for and win the Raw belts or we riot. [Editor’s note: No riot necessary.]