WrestleMania ends on feel-good note, sets up fresh future feuds


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Becky Lynch at a WWE NXT event in 2015.

By Alexa Marzina, Staff Writer

In its most off-brand move of the decade, WWE gave its fans three baby face, feel-good winners for its top titles in both men’s and women’s divisions on Sunday at WrestleMania 35 from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Seth Rollins, Kofi Kingston and Becky Lynch all walked out of professional wrestling’s version of the Super Bowl as newly crowned champions — an outcome that even the smarkiest of fans hoped for, but couldn’t predict. In WWE, a face winning a title at the grandest stage of them all pretty much culminates the feud that was built up.

This year’s almost eight-hour show saw an unprecedented six title changes, including the end of Buddy Murphy’s 183-day reign as Cruiserweight Champion and Curt Hawkins 269-match losing streak to win the Raw tag titles with longtime friend and tag partner Zack Ryder.

The show almost felt too good, and it brings into question the futures of a lot of the company’s title pictures. The weeks following WrestleMania typically bring major roster changes, NXT call-ups and general surprises, so don’t be shocked if WWE shakes things up now that most of the crowd’s fan-favorites conquered their respective foes.

In an effort to believe the new McMahon family regime’s promise to “shake up” the entertainment, including eliminating rematch clauses, the next few months should prove to include some brand new matchups, and that can only come with roster swaps. Here are my (potentially bold) predictions for post-Wrestlemania season leading into WWE’s second-largest pay-per-view — Summerslam on August 11.

Drew McIntyre defeats Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship

After a major image change coming off of McIntyre’s Three Man Band stint with partners Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal, the Scottish Psychopath WWE’s newest and hottest monster heel is on a path of reckoning. While he just lost a low-profile ’Mania match against Roman Reigns, who recently beat leukemia for the second time, it isn’t indicative of McIntyre’s future failures.

Reigns is the hand-picked new face of the company by CEO and chairman of WWE Vince McMahon. But without his Shield brothers by his side — Rollins in the world title picture again and Dean Ambrose’s soon-departure from the company — Reigns is going to have to work his way back into the fans’ good graces. They felt like he was shoved down their throats when they weren’t ready for him to basically take John Cena’s place as top guy.

While Rollins is priding himself on being the fighting champion Brock Lesnar wasn’t before he was dethroned Sunday, don’t expect him to have a super lengthy title run. After his fiasco heel run with The Authority in 2014, Rollins is too much of a high-paced, high-flying offensive guy to ever be an effective bad guy. It’s safe to say that he won’t need a title around his waist to make fans want to scream “burn it down” during his hype entrance anytime soon.

McIntyre is the only credible love-to-hate guy on Raw that is a believable contender for the Kingslayer’s belt, and without Reigns or Ambrose in the way, will surely become the badass champ of Monday nights within the next few months.

Hawkins and Ryder will have a lengthy run with the tag titles

While it may have seemed that Hawkins and Ryder were only given the belts as a one-off to start the emotional high of WrestleMania, the former Edgeheads defeated the Revival not once, but twice, successfully gaining and then retaining their titles on two successive nights. This year will be the former jobbers’ time to dig themselves out of obscurity and use their veteran status to help elevate the Raw tag team picture before inevitably transitioning into backstage roles.

Don’t expect to see Ronda Rousey or Brock Lesnar around much more, if at all

Following the potentially botched finish of the historic women’s winner-take-all triple threat Mania main event, reports say that Rousey is angry. Lynch managed to sneak a crucifix pin after Rousey attempted her Piper’s Pit finisher, but her shoulders were clearly not down for the entirety of the referee’s three-count. It’s clear Lynch was supposed to be the winner, but the screwy finish feels reminiscent of the Montreal Screwjob, and I expect Rousey to retire from combative sports and finally start a family with her husband as has been rumored.

As for Lesnar, despite his ability to get a “mainstream draw” and more casual fans to tune in to the WWE product, his championship tirade over the past few years has gotten very stale. Even after taking some losses he was still touted as undefeatable, but with him blatantly awaiting his return to UFC and subsequent huge payday, it’s best that he just doesn’t let the door hit him on the way out.

Smackdown’s move to Fox will mark the end of the brand split

Adding the Smackdown Women’s Championship to Charlotte Flair was a strange choice preceding her Mania match with Rousey and Lynch since it already included the Raw belt. While WWE titles have been unified before, usually to reveal a newly redesigned version of a belt, it seems too soon for that to happen to the Raw and Smackdown women’s titles. But after last night’s Raw, it all makes sense.

In another unnecessary winner-take-all stipulation match, this time with Rollins and Kingston, WWE is gauging the crowd and preparing the fans for superstars to appear on both shows included in the company’s weekly programming, and not just be exclusive to one brand. We last saw this with the unification of the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship belts in 2013.

Fox has been pretty vocal about wanting to put more emphasis on the “sport” element of sports entertainment, and the network doesn’t want Smackdown to be seen as the B-show anymore. To cement good ratings from the beginning, keep old fans and get new ones interested, Smackdown’s return to Friday nights will need all the star power it can get. Expect big names and champions alike to start and end your weeknight entertainment on both USA and Fox this fall.

WWE starts its new “season” of programming with Money in the Bank airing Sunday, May 19, at 7 p.m. on the WWE Network from the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.