SoFi Stadium will soon be filled with nearly 100,000 screaming fans, a couple of decades worth of nostalgia and larger-than-life personalities looking to put on the spectacle of a lifetime, as WrestleMania returns to Los Angeles for a two-day live extravaganza on April 1-2. While the calendar year might end in December, the year comes to a close in early April for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), as WrestleMania wraps up many months-worth – and in some cases years-worth – of storylines.
This year will mark the 39th WrestleMania, which has a rich history of legendary names behind it, such as Hulk Hogan, who famously fought in the very first event with Mr. T as his partner; The Rock and John Cena, who took their talents to Hollywood and never looked back; The Bella Twins, who leveraged their success into reality television; “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who returned in 2022 for a retirement match at WrestleMania 38; and a plethora of names that have made an impact through the decades.
Wrestling is looked at by some as a sport, but it’s a story-driven form of entertainment. Narrative programs you see on TV don’t have a cast performing their craft in front of live crowds, in one take, and an expectation to hit every leap, kick and slam to perfection. A lot more transparency exists now about what’s real and what isn’t, but even as wrestlers form bonds with fans through videogame live streaming and podcasts that let every cat out of every bag about backstage happenings, it is not likely that late-night guest appearances will end with a wrestler pulling down their pants in front of Bill Maher to show the massive bruising and injuries that occur, as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper once did in 1999.
While the vibes are different, wrestling is still at its best when the stories being told are so good that you are sucked in for two to four hours with disbelief suspended and an urge to know how it all ends. From top to bottom, this year’s WrestleMania at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood will represent the closing of stories involving father and son tensions, historic wrestling family heritages, payback for disrespectful actions, and a whole lot of redemption.
If you happen to notice the WrestleMania billboards on the 10 freeway, or become curious why wrestlers are suddenly showing up on your favorite morning show, it’s because slowly and surely, the wrestling world is set to take over the city at the end of March. Should your curiosity pique and you want to make it out to the events, or just watch as it’s streamed on the Peacock app, here are the most compelling matches to look out for at this year’s WrestleMania.
Rhea Ripley Looks To Make History: We now know that the first night of WrestleMania on Saturday, April 1, will be headlined by the queen of wrestling, Charlotte Flair, and the self-proclaimed “disruptor,” Rhea Ripley, fighting for the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Daughter of WWE Hall-of-Famer Ric Flair, Charlotte always seems to have a championship belt around her waist. Ripley, however, has had a similar trajectory in her young career. She’s been able to claim almost every championship, except the Smackdown Women’s title. The two met at WrestleMania 36 in 2020 under much different circumstances, as a 23-year-old Ripley was still finding her way in the company, compared to the veteran Flair who won the first encounter. The match also occurred in a silent, fan-less, pandemic-affected show that controversially took place at a time when most industries were forced to shut down.
“She has been my kryptonite for too many years now, and I’m sick and tired of it,” Ripley tells L.A. Weekly. “I’m at a different level in my career and my life right now and I can’t wait to step in the ring with her and show her exactly who Rhea ‘Bloody’ Ripley is and become a grand slam champion, the first person to hold the NXT Women’s Championship, the UK Women’s Championship, the Raw Women’s Championship, the Women’s Tag Team Championships and the Smackdown Women’s championship. I’d be the first woman to hold those five.”
Three years have passed since their first match and the company has entrusted Ripley with the highest honor for a wrestler, which is to work a main event championship match at WrestleMania.
“Lucky for me I’m always ready for whatever’s next and it’s something that you really have to do in this profession,” Ripley says. “… just stay ready for absolutely anything.”
Reigns and The American Nightmare: When “The Tribal Chief” Roman Reigns returned to the WWE in 2020, sporting a new arrogant demeanor and permanent scowl, it would have been impossible to guess that it would lead to a nearly three-year story where he put the company on his back. His ability to move the crowd all these years and keep viewers interested in every word he says has carried one of the greatest wrestling storylines of all time, which involves himself and his cousins in the “Bloodline” faction.
Evoking emotion in every step he has taken as champion, manipulating family members, embarrassing fan-favorites and drawing the ire of the crowd night after night without skipping a beat, Reigns made it clear that he was the next mega superstar in the same vein of Hogan, The Rock and Cena. Watching a Reigns match is like watching a veteran guitarist get in the zone during a solo. He hits the right beats, he knows the exact right time to stare into the camera, he knows exactly when to look out into the crowd, single out a fan to bark at them, and he knows exactly when to grab a helpless opponent and whisper insults at them for the fans at home to scream at their TVs in a rage.
On the other side is Cody Rhodes, son of WWE Hall-of-Famer Dusty Rhodes. At 26, Rhodes was not in a position he wanted to be in with the company. In rebellion, he left WWE, not only trying his hand at indie wrestling promotions, but helping build a brand new wrestling company to rival that of WWE’s. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) poached former WWE wrestlers, got a TV deal through Warner Bros. Discovery and sent subtle shots at his former employer, WWE, the whole time.
When Rhodes’ AEW contract ended in 2022, he made his surprising return to WWE, shocking both the fans and the WWE roster. The man who attempted to take down WWE, was welcomed back “home” and will attempt to dethrone Reigns, and “finish the story,” as he’s said multiple times on his road to WrestleMania 2023.
The Bloodline: Reigns has managed to piss off the entire WWE roster, winning nearly every championship match with the aid of his cousins, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso and Solo Sikoa — all of whom have made up the Samoan “Bloodline” faction.
The Bloodline is starting to show vulnerability for the first time in three years, and along with Rhodes taking his shot at Reigns, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will finally get their hands on “The Usos” for the WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championships. Since 2020, fighting in empty arenas due to the pandemic, Owens has been repeatedly bested by the Bloodline’s power in numbers. Of late, even Zayn was a thorn in Owens’ side, as Zayn spent most of 2022 befriending The Bloodline. After a series of back-and-forth betrayals, the dust has settled and the frenemies will do their best to rid Jimmy and Jey Uso of the tag titles.
The Logan Paul Effect: From the moment WWE had its first WrestleMania event, the intention was to create a buzz and get the general public talking. That was the role Mr. T played from the start and it’s a role that is still taken by celebrities today. WWE has enlisted the likes of Logan Paul, the popular vlogger-turned-entrepreneur, who has played a detestable heel to perfection, as he seems to have a special talent for making people hate him. Paul will be fighting former WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins, who has made it clear that he does not want Paul making a mockery of the sport.
If you have not watched one of Logan’s previous matches in the WWE, it is truly a sight to behold. Who can forget the visual of him livestreaming himself flying off the top rope and onto the announcer’s table? Paul is clearly a natural, despite reservations from Rollins.
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Hell In A Cell: “The one thing that I’m really looking forward to is anything that ‘The Judgment Day’ do,” Ripley says about her running mates Finn Balor, Dominik Mysterio and Damian Priest. “I’m looking forward to Finn Balor and Edge.”
The Rivalry between Balor and “Edge” (Adam Copeland) stems from Balor undercutting him and convincing his old group, including Ripley, to turn on him. Now the two will settle their differences inside a 20-foot, fully enclosed steel cage, also known as “Hell in a Cell.” The door will be shut and locked with nowhere to go, as the cell is the ultimate way to settle a rivalry in WWE.
An Old School Slugfest: The fight for the Intercontinental Championship will feature three of the largest, hardest hitting lads on the WWE roster, as Gunther, the “Ring General” from Austria, will defend his title against the “Scottish Warrior” Drew McIntyre and the Sheamus, the “Celtic Warrior.” Fans of 1970s wrestling that consisted of violent chops to the chest and elbows delivered with malice, will love this match-up, destined to be an instant classic.
The Mysterios: Since 1992, Rey Mysterio has put on his luchador mask and entertained thousands around the world. The legend from Chula Vista, California, will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Friday, March 31, before facing off with his rebellious son, Dominik Mysterio. Leading up to WrestleMania, Dominik has had harsh words for his father, often berating him for being away from home for months at a time as he built the Mysterio legacy. Many believe the 25-year-old Mysterio has been negatively influenced by fellow Judgement Day mate, Rhea Ripley, and she did not mince words when speaking to L.A. Weekly.
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“I’m hoping that Dom gets to put his hands on his father again,” Ripley says. “I think everyone’s hoping for it because we all know Rey’s not going to hit back. He’s too much of a coward. I want to see Dom shine. I want to see him shine on the grandest stage of them all at WrestleMania and take down his father who has held him back for years and just show him what a man he is.”
The Beast Returns: What would WrestleMania be without the 7-time WWE Champion Brock Lesnar? Lesnar will be in the unusual position of not headlining WrestleMania, but still has a monster of a man in front of him against the 7-foot-3, 400-pount Omos (Jordan Omogbehin). The wrestling ring has the mighty task of staying in tact as nearly 700 pounds of men will be slammed around it.
Full Match Card for WrestleMania Weekend
- Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes – WWE
- Undisputed Universal Championship
- Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley – Smackdown Women’s Championship
- Bianca Belair vs. Asuka – Raw Women’s Championship
- Brock Lesnar vs. Omos
- Becky Lynch & Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Damage CNTRL, 3-on-3
- John Cena vs. Austin Theory – WWE United States Championship
- Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul
- Edge vs. Finn Balor – Hell in a Cell
- Gunther vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus –
- WWE Intercontinental Championship
- The Usos vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens – Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship
- The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. Viking Raiders vs. Ricochet & Braun Strowman – Fatal Four-Way Showcase
Watch Wrestlemania on Peacock TV or get tickets for Sofi Stadium bouts here.
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