The Rock vs. Roman Reigns? Bianca vs. Sasha?

In recent months, new life has been breathed into WWE. Since Triple H took over as creative director, storylines have been freshened, characters tweaked and new impressive stables born.

Fall is also a time when the building blocks of the next WrestleMania begin to form. Next year, WrestleMania 39 will be held in Los Angeles on April 1 and 2, and in the first 24 hours of sales, more than 90,000 tickets were sold across both nights, a record for any event, according to WWE.

It might be a bit early to predict the show’s biggest games, but several avenues are already being paved. So let’s call the following a projection rather than a prediction. Some matchups are obvious – Roman Reigns in a starring role – and others less so.

David Dennis Jr. and Marc Raimondi try to lay out what we might find on the two biggest WWE nights of 2023.

Universal Championship: The Rock vs. Roman Reigns

Dennis: While these predictions mainly focus on tea-leaning the storylines already created, this one is based on the meta-storylines, which have been in the business for over two years. First, the entire “Bloodline” era of Roman Reigns was built around him as the “head of the table” for his family, the kings of the Anoa’i dynasty. The Rock belongs to this dynasty. Every time Reigns and The Usos declare that he’s the king of Samoan wrestling, there’s always an implied “…bigger than The Rock” around every corner.

The Rock had not appeared on WWE television in significant capacity in years, his last significant moment coming when he held up the hand of a struggling Babyface Reigns as the Philadelphia Reigns crowd booed at the end of the 2015 Royal Rumble. So there wasn’t much opportunity for The Rock to tease the match. However, he has found other ways to hint at the eventual main event. Most prominently, on an episode of Young Rock, a cute little Easter egg teased a young Roman who said he would face his cousin at a future WrestleMania.

We know the event is taking place in The Rock’s backyard in Los Angeles. We also know that nobody on the WWE roster seems ready – from a storyline perspective – to pose a legitimate threat to Reigns at this point. It’s all lined up for Rock to come back and give his cousin the ultimate stamp of approval for what may be Rock’s last match.

For the WWE part, they haven’t silenced their desire for this match to happen.

“It’s up to him. The platform is certainly there. WrestleMania. LA two nights, we’ve already sold over 90,000 I think,” Triple H told Ariel Helwani on BT Sport. “The tribal chief sits there waiting for him or anyone else he wants, right? It is magic.”

I’m sure WWE has a lot of backup plans for Reigns, but there’s no way that’s high on the map.

Raimondi: Banks and Naomi’s return seems imminent. Michael Cole even mentioned Banks’ name in a comment on Extreme Rules over the weekend, in what may be the first time she’s been mentioned on WWE television since that bizarre let’s-all-down monologue from Cole back in May. The pair will likely return as a tag team, but at some point WWE Banks will have to sign on as one of their top stars. No, not one of his top female stars – one of his top stars, period.

If Banks and Naomi have done anything since they left WWE five months ago, it’s allegedly due to issues with creativity that has established them as women who can quickly move into things outside of pro wrestling. That should have been obvious by now – Banks is in a Star Wars series, after all – but maybe it wasn’t for the previous regime.

Meanwhile, Belair has been heavily booked since it was acquired by Triple H. She may not hold the Raw Women’s Championship until WrestleMania, but booking her against Banks in a rematch of the historic 2021 WrestleMania 38 Night 1 Main Event seems like a no-brainer. Maybe it’s not a lock, but it would be appropriate considering Belair knocked out almost everyone else. And again it’s time for Banks to get that singles push and the big mania match – and win mania – she didn’t get that last event. Los Angeles is the perfect place for it.

Dennis: This has become one of the more compelling matches WWE has played with in recent months. Zayn has been entertaining as a Bloodline volunteer and has become a lackey of the most powerful faction in wrestling. Meanwhile, Owens has used the change in management to make a new move – hosting Games of the Night almost weekly.

A few times over the past few months, Zayn and the Bloodline have interacted with Owens, who has been pretty much begging Zayn to break away from it and find his pride. This was usually a one-off back-and-forth, but they’re always there to remind us that Zayn and Owens were once a stellar tag team.

It feels inevitable that the Usos will finally move on Zayn and Owens will come to the rescue. If it goes like this, we’ll get a tag team match that will finally give the Usos that five-star match at WrestleMania, which is the only thing missing from their resume. Add a ladder and you have what it takes to be a guaranteed classic.

Raimondi: This may seem a little muddled, but listen to me. WWE’s roster is stacked, and you know there will be matches involving legends and celebrities (we’re talking about you, Logan Paul and Bad Bunny).

These four men need a big match and it might be difficult to get it in a one-on-one situation. So why not a match with Rollins, Rhodes, Orton and Riddle together? They almost all have a history with each other in some way, shape or form. The most obvious storylines include Rhodes vs. Rollins, Riddle vs. Rollins, and Orton vs. Riddle. Orton and Riddle were last seen as the dominant tag team, but RK-Bro’s days will most likely end with Orton turning on Riddle. Rollins and Rhodes have already wrestled three times this year, and another singles match at WrestleMania — like the one at Mania 38 — might not be the best booking. Rhodes hit Rollins three times, including once with a visibly torn pectoral muscle.

That brings us to our next point. Rhodes and Orton will sustain relatively serious injuries. You want them on the map, but maybe not letting them do the work of a purely solo game might be a good idea. Fatal four-way competition would mitigate these risks. Then the long story between Rhodes and Orton plus Rollins and Orton can be turned into excellent storytelling. Of course you want all four of these men – all stars – in big one on ones. But that seems like a happy compromise.

Dennis: This one has a built in story that is years old. Lynch pinned Rousey to the WrestleMania Main Event three years ago, prompting the former MMA star to take an extended hiatus from wrestling (story-wise, at least). They have not engaged in any meaningful capacity since then.

In her most recent run, Rousey, now a champion, crossed the line between babyface and heel, even as fan boos grow louder. Rousey beating fan favorite Liv Morgan at Extreme Rules will only make those boos more deafening. A heel twist seems inevitable.

The last time we saw Lynch, she had just made a turn herself, shedding her heel persona to stand with Belair after her Summerslam match. Now that she’s back, what better time to return than to win the Royal Rumble, go head-to-head with Rousey and prove she can beat the champion one-on-one? This leads to a heated feud and allows Lynch to bolster the Smackdown women’s division while she goes through her Persona refresher.

The match would give Rousey a veteran on Mania to make sure the match goes well and a compelling story to delve into, which she didn’t have at Blue Brand.

Raimondi: It’s obvious that this has to happen at some point. WrestleMania wouldn’t be the worst option if WWE continued to slowly burn the storyline. Between now and April, WWE can build Dominik under the influence of Rhea Ripley and Judgment Day as a legitimate threat. He’ll probably need to win a few individual wins for that.

It wouldn’t hurt to pair the older Mysterio with a female talent to take on Dominik and Ripley in some mixed tag matches. If Ripley were to be included in a title program with Belair, these would be obvious pairings. Dominik needs credibility as a competitor before he earns a one-on-one match with someone of his father’s caliber at Mania.

To spice things up, a traditional Lucha de Apuesta (Spanish for “Bet”) requirement can easily be implemented here. For years, even before Dominik’s heel turn, there was talk of taking the Mysterio Torch from his father in the form of Rey’s iconic mask. What better way to do this than in a mask vs hair match? There is no more dynamic way to end a feud in Mexican lucha libre than an apuesta match. It would be perfect here considering the action and show take place in Los Angeles.

The Mysterios hail from nearby San Diego, and Southern California’s Mexican-American population is vast. Rey lost his mask to Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in WCW back in 1999. If there is one person in the world he would probably most like to have it taken from him, it would be his son. The Rock vs. Roman Reigns? Bianca vs. Sasha?

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