Then all of a sudden, you’re stuck watching WrestleMania at a bar full of sweaty excitable beasts or at home surrounded by junk food and Red Bulls. And may be wondering what the hell is going on.
Don’t worry, your old friend Darren is here to help. Not only have I subjected quite a few people to a sneaky trip to a wrestling show (as my girlfriend and long suffering family will attest), but I’ve also been watching wrestling for 18 years.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together something of a Blaggers Guide to WrestleMania 34. 5 bullet points on every match, with key facts on the whos, hows and whys, and links for extra reading should you want to go the extra mile. Plus I’ll throw in a little heads up over what to expect match quality wise, because it’s in my blood to critique!
So, should you find yourself trapped watching WrestleMania 34 against your will, you can at least have some idea of what is going on, surprise some of your friends with a sudden in-depth knowledge, and maybe even - gasp - enjoy the show!
- WrestleMania is basically the “season finale” for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the biggest wrestling company in the world. Everything over the course of the year builds towards this event
- WrestleMania 34 is taking place on Sunday, April 8th. The first event took place in 1985, with Mr T of all people teaming with Hulk Hogan.
- This year’s event is taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This was the site of WrestleMania 30, which saw an attendance of 75,000 people(!).
- It is the culmination of a whole week of wrestling, where New Orleans will be taken over by every wrestling company and fan in the world. On top of holding a week long wrestling convention in town, WWE holds shows on the Friday with their Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and on the Saturday with their “up and comers” brand NXT. This isn’t to mention the other 30-40 wrestling shows ran by smaller companies in and around the city.
- WrestleMania itself will consist of 14 matches. The whole event usually clocks in at 7 hours, with a 2 hour pre-show and a 5+ hour main show. It will air live on the WWE Network, which is basically Netflix for wrestling, and you can watch the show for FREE if you sign up for the one month free trial right now!
- The WWE Universal Title is one of the two most prestigious titles in the WWE, being the top title belt on the Raw TV show.
- Brock Lesnar (above, left) will have held the title for a full year by WrestleMania 34, having won the title at WrestleMania 33. Formerly a Mixed Martial Arts champion in the UFC between stints with the WWE, Brock works a part time schedule, so hasn’t defended his title very often over the last 12 months.
- Roman Reigns (above, right) won his title shot by winning an Elimination Chamber match last month. He is being positioned as one of the top stars in the company, and has wrestled in the last match of the three previous WrestleManias.
- These two have been on very similar paths over the last few years. They met in the main event of WrestleMania 31 in a match neither man won, and are the only two men in history to beat the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania.
- The story in the build up has revolved around Reigns calling out Lesnar for being a paper champion, and someone kept in place by management. Lesnar has retaliated by having his manager Paul Heyman attack Reigns verbally, before Brock himself has attacked him physically.
What to expect: A good old fashioned brawl. There is no out-and-out favourite between the two with the crowd, as both have been subjected to disdain over the last few years, but this will likely be the last match of the night. Their WrestleMania 31 was basically a bar brawl, so expect more of the same.
- The WWE Title is the other elite level title in the WWE, where it is defended on the Smackdown TV show. It can traces its lineage back to 1963, and is the title the likes of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock held.
- AJ Styles (above, left) has been champion since November. He worked around the world for years honing his craft in different wrestling companies, being one of the top stars in his previous company TNA. He joined the WWE in 2016 and has been very successful ever since.
- Shinsuke Nakamura (above, right) won his title opportunity by winning the Royal Rumble match in January. He worked around the world for years honing his craft in different wrestling companies, being one of the top stars in his previous company New Japan Pro Wrestling. He joined the WWE in 2016 and has been very successful ever since. Noticing a pattern?
- Both men have already met on a grand stage - they were one of the main events at Wrestle Kingdom 10, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s equivalent of WrestleMania. It was an instant classic that saw Nakamura pick up the win.
- So far, both guys have been nice and polite to each other, showing a great deal of respect, but with a bubbling undercurrent of “but who really is the better wrestler?”. Both men could stake a claim to being the best wrestler in the company, and that’s all fans have needed to get invested.
What to expect: A wrestling clinic. Both AJ and Shinsuke are held in super high regard by wrestling fans, so expect big reactions from the hardcore fans in attendance. It’s unlikely to close the show, but that won’t bother the purists if they come anywhere near to matching their Wrestle Kingdom match from two years ago.
- One of the two elite women’s belt in the company, this one being exclusive to the Smackdown brand.
- Charlotte Flair (above, left) has been positioned as the top dog in the division for a few years now, having competed in title matches at the last two WrestleMania’s. She is the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair.
- Asuka (above, right) won her title shot by winning the first ever women’s Royal Rumble this past January. She has never been pinned in her WWE career, debuting in 2015 after years spent in her native Japan.
- Much like Reigns vs. Lesnar, this has had the feeling of “inevitability” about it, with the long running champion coming up against the undefeated badass. This has basically been the story over the past few weeks - can Charlotte possibly stop someone on a 200+ winning streak?
- This is the peak thus far of the “Women’s revolution” the company has been going through over the last few years. The last 12 months have seen the division raise its profile considerably, with several “first time ever” matches helping to shift the fan opinion on a previously mishandled section of wrestling.
What to expect: A styles clash. Asuka has mowed through everyone in her path, but Charlotte has been portrayed as the women’s wrestler in the company. And something’s gotta give! This sets this up to possibly be the best women’s match in WrestleMania history.
- This is for the other women’s belt in the company, which has been around Alexa’s waist since August, making her the second longest reigning champion in the company behind Brock Lesnar.
- Alexa Bliss (above, left) is known as “5 feet of fury”, for being both very small and very angry. Her look pays homage to Harley Quinn, amongst others.
- Nia Jax (above, right) is physically the biggest woman on the roster, and has traditionally been portrayed as the monster bully in the division. She is related to The Rock (they’re cousins).
- Bliss started picking on Jax out of the blue, bullying her about her weight and size. This allowed the usually “bad” Jax to be shown in a more sympathetic light, which lead to her becoming cheered for the first time in her WWE career. Bliss has since tried to stay far away from this new threat she unwittingly unleashed.
- Don’t worry about all the mean things Alexa has said to Nia though - in real life Jax and Bliss are BFFs!
What to expect: A clash of styles, part 2. This is unusual in wrestling - the status quo is the gigantic “bad guy” takes on the underdog “good guy”. Now the rolls have been reversed, which gives this match a nice niche to set itself apart on a busy night of wrestling.
- The Intercontinental title is the secondary title on the Raw TV show. Kind of like the silver medal. This match with see all three guys wrestling each other at the same time.
- The Miz (above, left) is a slightly delusional “A-lister”, having starred in a few straight to DVD movies. He is one of the best talkers in the industry, and a former WWE champion. He is followed by his “Miztourage” - an entourage made up of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel.
- Seth Rollins (above, right), also a former WWE champion, is a cocky prick, but he’s OUR cocky prick. He was the guy who won the WrestleMania 31 main event between Lesnar and Reigns, by inserting himself into it at the last minute thanks to a contract he held that granted him one WWE title shot whenever he wanted it.
- Irishman Finn Bálor (above, middle) is another well travelled independent wrestling star and former WWE Universal champion. Alongside Rollins, he is an elite level wrestler in the ring, but with the added twist of his “demon” persona. During big matches, he comes out painted to look like a monster, to get in his opponents heads.
- The Miz has goaded his two opponents into a alpha male contest, which has worked to get both men to wear each other down instead of him.
What to expect: A weasel trying to outsmart two snakes. The Miz has done his heavy lifting in the build up with his talking skills, and will likely spend the match trying to use every trick in the book to escape with his title against two of the best in-ring wrestlers in the company. All three men could be challenging for a top title had the cards fallen differently this year, but they’ve had a lot of attention lavished on them on TV so expect this to be a key match on the show.
- This is Smackdown’s second best title, and will be defended under fatal four way rules - all four men are wrestling at the same time.
- Randy Orton (above, middle left) only won the title last month when he beat Bobby Roode. It was the only title Orton hadn’t won in his 16 year career in the WWE. His deal is he is a vicious, ruthless man, and he is cheered and booed based on who he has chosen to attack that month. At the moment, he is being cheered.
- Bobby Roode (above, far left) followed a similar path to AJ Styles by spending the bulk of his career outside of WWE until recently. He is a narcissist, with an entrance music that literally just screams the word “Glorious” in a proud and happy chorus.
- Jinder Mahal (above, middle right) was the man AJ Styles beat to become WWE champion in November. He has since turned his attention to the US Title, in an up and down career that saw him released from the company as recently as 2014 before being resigned in 2016 ahead of a surprise WWE title win last year.
- Bulgarian Rusev (above, far right) was a last minute addition to the match, having scored a win over Randy Orton on an episode of Smackdown (the US title was not on the line as it was during a tag team match). He will be accompanied by his singing best friend Aiden English, who will bellow “Happy Rusev Day” - because Rusev has decided that every day is Rusev Day.
What to expect: A toilet break. I’ll be honest, this is the least interesting of the title matches this year, only spiced up by the late inclusion of Rusev, who fans are warming to in a big way after he started his “Rusev Day” thing. Big shows like WrestleMania require these types of matches to let people catch their breath or go to the bathroom, and unfortunately for those involved, that burden falls to them this year.
- The Bar, a team comprised of Irishman Sheamus (above, middle left) and Cesaro (above, far left) from Switzerland, have been tag team champions on Raw since November. They are called The Bar because not only do they set the bar for the rest of the tag division, “They are the bar”.
- Braun Strowman (above, middle right) is a giant of a man, nicknamed “the monster among men”. He won this title shot by winning a battle royal featuring the other tag teams on the Raw roster.
- You read that right - Strowman entered the match as a one man team, and managed to eliminate everyone else in the match. It appeared as though he would be facing The Bar 2 on 1.
- However, management told him he has to name a partner, and Strowman has thus far not revealed who that partner will be. He has stalled when asked, wanting to enter the match by himself and become the sole owner of the titles, and even went as far as to come out in glasses and a shirt, declaring himself to be “Brains Strowman, Braun’s brother and new tag team partner”.
- However, we will find out his actual partner on Sunday. Rumoured names include WWE legend the Big Show, wrestling singer Elias, and returning high-flyer Rey Mysterio.
What to expect: The unexpected! The door is wide open for who could team with Braun, and his choice will go a long way to determining match quality. I was OK with him challenging and winning on his own, so he could say “I am the Tag Team Champions”. But alas, we now leave things to the power of fate.
- This match should see all three teams facing off at the same time, although this hasn’t been confirmed (Triple Threat tag matches have a few variations, so we may not know until the night).
- Jimmy and Jey Uso (above, middle) are the Samoan twin brother champions, the sons of WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi and cousins of Roman Reigns. After years of the being fun lovers, they recently adopted a mean streak, and saw success, holding the WWE Smackdown Tag Titles since last October.
- The New Day are a three man team comprised of Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E (above, far right, left to right). They embrace everything millennials do, including video games, unicorns, pancakes, and everything in-between. They epitomise “random”, but can get it done in the ring, and broke the record for the longest tag title run in WWE history in 2016.
- The Bludgeon Brothers are Rowan and Harper (above, far left, left to right), who . . . aren’t really brothers. They are silent monsters, who come to the ring with hammers and have been destroying everybody in their path for several months now.
- These three teams have circled each other for a while on Smackdown, and will finally meet at WrestleMania 34. The Usos are also determined to finally have a match at WrestleMania after 8 years in the company.
What to expect: Chaos. The Usos and the New Day have been having great matches for years now, but the Bludgeon Brothers have introduced disorder into the mix. All three teams will be determined to prove they are worthy of their spot on the card, so this could be a dark horse for match of the night.
- The Cruiserweight Title is the top (and currently only) title on the 205 TV show. You can only challenge for the title if you weigh below 205 pounds.
- The title was vacated in January when the champion at the time was released from the company after some very serious allegations.
- A tournament was put together to decide a new champion, with the final taking place at Wrestlemania
- Cedric Alexander (above, left) and Mustafa Ali (above, right) won their respective sides of the brackets, setting up this match. Neither man has held the title before.
- As both have been portrayed as “good guys”, much like in the AJ Style and Shinsuke Nakamura match, the build has centred around mutual respect and the odd sly jab.
- Although not for a title, this is one of the biggest matches of the night, pitting two icons against each other. That’s if it happens at all - this hasn’t been officially announced yet, although all signs do point towards it happening.
- John Cena (above, left) is the face of the company, despite efforts by those in charge to supplant him with Roman Reigns. He has reduced his appearances slightly as his acting career has started to pick up steam (he is currently starring in the movie “Blockers”), but he is still the most famous modern wrestler in the world.
- The Undertaker (above, right) is a legend. He went 20+ years undefeated at Wrestlemania until #30, when Brock Lesnar ended “The Streak”. His character is hard to describe - he’s basically an undead warlock cowboy who can control lightning. Oh and he is also occasionally a biker. It’s far too complex for one bullet point, so just go with it.
- Undertaker seemingly retired at the end of WrestleMania last year after losing to Roman Reigns, leaving his coat and hat in the ring as a symbolic gesture. He hasn’t wrestled since.
- John Cena has been trying to goad Undertaker into “one more match” after he endured several unsuccessful title challenges in hopes of securing a big match at WrestleMania. It started out civil, but as Undertaker has so far not turned up to accept the challenge, Cena has started calling him a “coward” and a “disappointment”.
What to expect: Uncertainty. The Undertaker has not looked in fantastic shape for the last few WrestleMania’s, incapable of matching some of the classic he had prior to his WrestleMania 30 loss. However, John Cena is a hell of a wrestler, so he may just drag a good match out of him. The winner is anyone’s guess, but the real mystery is which Undertaker will turn up - Deadman Taker, or Biker Taker?
- Ronda Rousey (above, middle left) is a former UFC champion, and was shoulder to shoulder with Conor McGregor as the faces of Mixed Martial Arts until two back to back defeats lead to her leaving the company. A life long wrestling fan, she signed with the company in January - this will be her first ever wrestling match.
- Kurt Angle (above, far left) was a star in the company during the late 90s and early 2000s, after winning an Olympic gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling at the 96 games in Atlanta. He spent 10 years away from the company until returning to join the Hall of Fame last year. He was named the general manager of Raw last year, and has only had two matches since.
- They are facing real-life married couple Stephanie McMahon and Triple H (above, middle right and far right). They are portrayed as “evil” authority figures on TV (Steph is the Raw co-general manager with Kurt), somewhat mirroring their real-life roles in the company (Stephanie is the Chief Brand officer and the daughter of the owner Vince McMahon, and Triple H is the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative).
- This story has its roots at WrestleMania 31, where Ronda was sat at ringside. Triple H, Steph and The Rock were in the ring. The Rock invited Ronda into the ring, and after some cross words, Ronda threw both Triple H and Steph out of the ring.
- Ronda resurfaced at the Royal Rumble this past January. Presented as a major coup for Triple H and Steph, they said they would forgive her for WM 31. Angle couldn’t help but stir the pot though, saying Triple H and Steph had been bragging about Ronda being gullible and their pride that she now “worked for them”. Ronda dropped Triple H through a table, and with Kurt standing by her, demanded this match.
What to expect: Clunk and thunk. This match involves someone wrestling their first ever pro wrestling match, two part timers with a handful of matches between them in the last two years, and a non-athlete. So WWE will load this with bells and whistles to distract from the inevitably clunky action and stiff shots from Ronda (that will be the thunk). That’s not to mean it can’t be good - WWE have managed to coach the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Mr T, Arrow actor Stephen Amell and Snooki from the Jersey Shore to entertaining matches in the past!
- Daniel Bryan (above, middle left) is the surprise story of 2018. Forced to retire in February 2016 after a series of concussion issues, only a few years removed from closing WrestleMania 30 as the WWE champion after a huge swell of crowd support, it was thought he would never wrestle again. However after years of treatment, including experimental ones, Bryan was surprisingly cleared to return just a few weeks ago.
- He will be teaming with his Smackdown co-general manager Shane McMahon (above, far left) (brother of Stephanie and son of Vince). However, Shane’s place is in doubt after being diagnosed and hospitalised with diverticulitis in real-life only a few days after Bryan was cleared to return.
- Whoever teams with Bryan, they will be facing the team of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (above, middle right and far right). For years, the two were portrayed as former best friends turned bitterest of enemies due to Owens’ selfish behaviour. However, they got back on the same page when Zayn interfered on Owens behalf during a match with Shane, helping Owens to win.
- The two have waged war with Shane ever since, while Bryan actually seemed to side with them slightly. However, that went out the window when Owens and Zayn brutally attacked Shane. They were “fired” by Bryan on the following episode, causing the pair to then attack him.
- Bryan wanted this match as a measure of revenge, so enticed Zayn and Owens to take part by promising them their jobs back if they win. However, if Bryan and McMahon win, Owen and Zayn won’t be coming back to Smackdown.
What to expect: The Daniel Bryan reunion tour. I’m afraid I can’t remain unbiased on this. Bryan is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time, and to see him return to the sport he loves so much is something akin to a miracle. He left at the top of the sport, and the hardcore fans who had his back the whole time will be out in force to welcome back their hero. Expect to see a little extra venom on everything he did after two years of watching from the sidelines.
- A Battle Royal involves all the participants starting in the ring at the same time. Wrestlers are eliminated when they are thrown over the top rope and have both of their feet touch the floor. Last man standing wins.
- It is named after wrestling legend Andre the Giant, known as the 8th Wonder of the World. He was a huge star in the 80s, even staring in the Princess Bride, before passing away in 1993. He was the first person ever inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
- This match was started at WrestleMania 30, being announced by Andre’s old nemesis Hulk Hogan. The winner gets a trophy with a little golden Andre at the top.
- It was created to allow ever male wrestler not booked in another match to appear at WrestleMania. In the past, these wrestlers would either have a normal Battle Royal or appear as “lumberjacks” - tasked with surrounding the ring while a normal match took place in it, and throwing anybody who exited the ring back in.
- A few familiar faces expected to be in the match this year include Matt Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, last year’s winner Mojo Rawley, and the previous year’s winner Baron Corbin.
What to expect: Lots of men scuffling before throwing each other out. It is not a fancy match ladies and gentleman.
- This is the first “prestige” Battle Royal for the female wrestlers on the big stage since the woeful “Miss WrestleMania” Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25. That match was won by a man in drag.
- As I mentioned in the Charlotte vs. Asuka match, this year has seen a lot of “firsts” for the Women’s division, culminating in this match. This has included the first Women’s main event of a PPV, the first women’s Royal Rumble, the first women’s Elimination Chamber, and the first women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
- Originally, it was named after WWE Hall of Famer The Fabulous Moolah. Like Andre, she was a huge star in wrestling’s heyday, holding the women’s title for a total of 11,106 days, AKA 30 YEARS. She died in 2007.
- However, the decision was met with severe criticism and backlash after a long list of abuse allegations were made about Moolah both before and after her death. Sensing a PR disaster, WWE removed her name from the event only a few days after announcing it.
- This year will see the likes of Becky Lynch, Natalya and Naomi compete. The main story though is the recent bad blood between former best friends Bayley and Sasha Banks, which expected to come to a head during this match.
What to expect: Lots of women scuffling before throwing each other out. It is not a fancy match ladies and gentleman.
And that’s everything! WrestleMania doesn’t actually “end” anything - the WWE will continue on with Raw the night after, assuming their normal non-stop touring schedule after this big week. But hopefully you’ll come away from WrestleMania 34 having had fun, and hopefully less apprehensive about watching another wrestling show.
After all, Backlash is only 4 weeks away! Because WRESTLING NEVER ENDS.
Any questions? Let me know on Twitter - @TheGutteridge.