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*I think it is time to officially start getting worried about WrestleMania. The prospective card is certainly not without any big-time matches, but as fans become more focused on actual in-ring production, this does not look like a strong card to say the least. We will find out more about Bill Goldberg's in-ring condition on Sunday, but right now it seems unreasonable to assume his match with Brock Lesnar is going to be longer than 10 minutes. Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker is going to be a struggle; Shane McMahon vs AJ Styles is really going to test Styles' ability to carry an opponent, John Cena/Nikki Bella vs The Miz/Maryse is going to be mostly for show.
The only match that I can comfortably say will be good is the presumed Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens match. The RAW women's four-way match could be in trouble because Nia Jax is still not ready for that kind of spotlight, the same can be said of Alexa Bliss and the SmackDown Women's Championship. Triple H vs Seth Rollins could be good as well, but we don't know what kind of condition Rollins is going to be in and Triple H hasn't necessarily blown everyone with his WrestleMania performances the last couple years. WrestleMania is often judged on a spectacle basis, so if the matches feel big then it won't really matter if they are technically strong, but the problem is that on a 5 hour show you have to have some matches that are entertaining from a wrestling perspective; otherwise the show will feel like a meaningless series of entrances and angles without any real substantial action in-between.
* Impact's inability to hold onto Matt and Jeff Hardy, as well as Drew Galloway is unsurprising. Despite the fact that Impact is no longer controlled by Dixie Carter and is at least on better financial ground than they have been in the past, they are going to be plagued by the same issues that have hampered them since their inception. By bringing back Jeff Jarrett (and along with him Dutch Mantel, Bruce Prichard and Scott D'Amore) Impact hasn't really changed at all; they just keep chugging along with the same people over and over again. It wasn't like Impact was the beacon of success under Jarrett; him being brought back into the fold is like a football team going 5-11 under one coach, firing him and going 3-13 with a new coach, than firing that coach and bringing back the first coach. When you hire people who have proven to not have the correct ability or mindset to manage the company, you are going to get the same results.
Losing the Hardys is an incredibly big blow to the company. A big part of Anthem coming and relaunching Impact is that they want to live shows again. Impact struggled to tour in the past and during that time they had a lot more identifiable names, whether that was Kurt Angle or Sting or Christian or even guys like Samoa Joe or AJ Styles. They don't have anyone like that anymore, so they would be in trouble even with the Hardys. Matt and Jeff have developed into very attractive live event wrestlers and are arguably the top draws on the independent scene. Impact really needed those guys and the worst part was that the ball was in their court; Matt and Jeff enjoyed the creative freedom they had in Impact, the schedule was favorable and they could do a lot on the independents. Impact got greedy though, they wanted ten percent of what Matt and Jeff were making on the indies and they obviously balked at that, and soon they were out the door. It was a stupid move, but it is a move that is representative of Impact's history and because they have the same people in charge, they are going to make those same stupid mistakes.
Kevin Owens vs Bill Goldberg: I have a really uneasy feeling about this match. Owens has had a largely ineffective Universal Championship reign; mainly because a large portion of it has been building up to the split between him and Chris Jericho. With Owens finally turning on Jericho he has finally found his stride and had become the arrogant, brutish heel that made him such a commodity in Ring of Honor and other promotions outside WWE. The heat he has gotten in his subsequent promos has been strong and he looks like a real superstar for WWE. Of course, now that Owens has found his stride, the ball is going to be taken away from him as he will almost assuredly lose to Goldberg on Sunday.
Since Goldberg does not seem capable of either wrestling a long-match or taking more than a few basic bumps, the reality is that he probably is going to beat Owens fairly fast and without much of a fight from Owens. Owens will have to drop the title quickly and try and rebuild his character with his matches against Jericho. It is cruel to see a guy finally find his role in the company and then have to almost immediately surrender his best asset (the Universal Championship) to a guy that is unlikely to wrestle a half-dozen more matches for the company. WrestleMania to WWE is about getting the biggest match possible, and right now that would be Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. It is a short-sighted idea but WWE rarely thinks long-term anymore; it is one of the main reasons they have such trouble building new stars.
Bayley vs Charlotte: With Bayley winning the Women's Championship on RAW this sets up another match where Charlotte can win the Women's Championship back to maintain her perfect PPV record. The PPV record for Charlotte is interesting because they promote the hell out of it, but when they do it and Charlotte isn't the champion, it draws attention to the fact that Charlotte may be the best PPV wrestler WWE has, but she is also the worst RAW wrestler in the company, because she seems unable to successfully defend the title on Monday nights. With Sasha Banks at ringside to support Bayley (heel turn alert!) this match is really to set-up the Fatal Four Way at WrestleMania. Since both wrestlers are set to be in the title match at WrestleMania, it really doesn't matter who wins here but since they want to continue to promote Charlotte's PPV streak, she is going to win.
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman: Bret Hart once said that he imagined the WWE roster as just action figures that Vince McMahon picks up and smashes together. Well, if Vince had a toy box the first two figures he would pick up would be Reigns and Strowman. Reigns is supposed to be wrestling The Undertaker at WrestleMania, so it seems likely he is going to get involved in this match. I don't think they would feed Strowman to Reigns and have him lose his first match cleanly; Vince likes Strowman too much for that to happen. Hopefully this match won't be very long.
Sami Zayn vs Samoa Joe: This match and the Women's Championship match really have to anchor the show because the main event and the Reigns/Strowman match cannot go very long. Neither of these men have an opponent for WrestleMania so they could wrestle each other. Joe has been really impressive since he debuted on the main roster, and he looks primed for a big match at WrestleMania; which unfortunately probably means that he isn't going to be wrestling Zayn. Zayn seems to be stuck in the position of a guy who is really talented, works hard in the ring and sells well for his opponents. That is better than a lot of other guys, but it also means he is going to be the guy who loses to the guys on the way up the card. This position might as well be called the Dolph Ziggler position.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: When Enzo and Cass first debuted they seemed like they were destined for the tag team titles, but now that they finally have their shot; I'm not so sure they are going to win. I think their act has gotten the slightest bit stale and I don't know how much longer they can justify having Enzo in the ring. Enzo is one of the worst workers in WWE and unlike guys like Strowman or Titus O'Neil, he doesn't have the physical size to mask some of his weaknesses. He had a terrible match with Cesaro a few weeks ago; something that seemed impossible until Enzo proved us all wrong. He has great charisma and a tremendous delivery on the mic, but his role isn't in the ring--it is as a manager, probably with Cass for a singles push.
Neville vs Jack Gallagher: One of the issues with the Cruiserweight division is that the guys just don't get enough time on RAW to tell stories. Everything feels rushed and the matches are so short it is hard for a guy like Gallagher to get over. Gallagher has a quirky character and for fans to take him really seriously he has to show great courage and fire inside the ring. When you only have 2-4 minutes to wrestle a match; it is almost impossible to do that. They have longer matches on 205 Live but not a lot of people watch that each week, and why would they? On RAW they only have super-fast matches that don't mean anything so who is going to tune into 205 Live if they think that is all they are going to see?
Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks: This is a really unnecessary rematch but since they want to keep Banks relevant they had to give her a match. I like how whenever Stephanie McMahon makes a match she always acts like it is the first time she ever made it; "You are going to be wrestling NIA JAX!". Like, Nia is the only other woman we see wrestle on the roster. Of course Banks is going to wrestle her!