Outside of a few matches, no one knows what to expect at WWE WrestleMania 33—and that makes everyone a winner from the jump
With the 2017 Royal Rumble less than a week away, there is still plenty left to the imagination. The belief is that Roman Reigns will defeat Kevin Owens to win the WWE Universal Championship. Likewise, no one would blink if John Cena were to top AJ Styles to take hold of the WWE World Championship for a record-tying 16th time. However, just like with the outcome of the Royal Rumble match itself, none of that is a certainty.
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In the so-called Reality Era of WWE, the element of surprise is something that’s dissipated in a tremendous manner. With rumors, dirtsheets and spoilers available after just a few clicks, the chance to be surprised is something that hardcore professional wrestling fans have ultimately sacrificed thanks to technology. Perhaps the most notable example of this has been in regards to WrestleMania match cards.
For instance, just one year ago, the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 32 lost a bit of their luster because of how unpredictable they ultimately were. WWE tried their best to make it seem like that wasn’t the case, but it was always headed towards Triple H (or a hired gun) winning the Rumble and Reigns getting his redemptive win in the main event at Mania.
Luckily for fans, though, the same can’t be said of the buildup to WWE WrestleMania 33 as we near late January.
Just over a week out from the Royal Rumble, there are only three matches that you would consider solidly in place and only one that’s been confirmed by WWE. The one confirmed would be the showdown between Shaquille O’Neil and Big Show, a real five-star classic in the making. Beyond that, the rumors and assumptions all indicate that Triple H vs. Seth Rollins and Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar will also be on the card. Outside of that, though, the parts are still moving, the questions are still being answered and it’s all ultimately shrouded in uncertainty.
Perhaps the best example of this was the recent news from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. After fans had spent a full year assuming that The Undertaker vs. John Cena at WWE WrestleMania 33 was a foregone conclusion to happen, Meltzer tore that down by saying it’s off the table. While we can assume that means that match will happen in New Orleans for WrestleMania 34, that leaves two of the biggest pieces in play for WWE WrestleMania 33 that fans have no concrete idea of who they’ll be facing.
Credit: WWE Network
The Undertaker and Big Match John aside, though, there are still countless moving parts that could influence the card at WWE WrestleMania 33 that have yet to land anywhere. There are rumblings that WWE is after Kenny Omega with him taking a hiatus from New Japan Pro Wrestling following Wrestle Kingdom 11. Moreover, there are two stars in the waiting ready to come up from NXT, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura. Then there’s also the impending return of the Demon King, Finn Balor, as he’s slated to return from a shoulder injury sometime before WWE WrestleMania 33.
Maybe some of those pieces either don’t land in WWE or don’t ultimately end up affecting the card for Mania. That’s entirely possible. However, the fact that we don’t have a clue or any real indication in any direction is wholly a positive for the buildup to WWE’s biggest annual event.
As much as WrestleNerds (an affectionately used term) enjoy waiting on the latest spoiler or rumor from Meltzer and the Observer or from any other pro wrestling news source, there’s a reason that the business has been so successful in the past with the benefit of being able to shock, awe and surprise fans. It’s a proven formula that ramps up excitement, gets fans in the seats and builds anticipation. And with anticipation comes the consequent benefit of the payoff being more rewarding in the end.
Even just one year ago, the rumors circulated that AJ Styles was coming to WWE after Wrestle Kingdom 10, along with others. However, there was still a question of when he’d arrive, what would happen, and what effect he’d ultimately have on the show. When he made his arrival as the surprise No. 3 entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble, it was one of the best and most memorable moments of the year. Sure, part of that was because AJ-freaking-Styles had finally arrived in WWE, but discrediting the value that the element of surprise played in that is ignoring reality in the Reality Era.
As the Royal Rumble is just days away, the card will start to become clearer for WWE WrestleMania 33. By who holds the titles, what teases happen in the Rumble match, and by any surprises that might happen throughout the show, the company and creative team will start to tip their hand to a degree. Though the Royal Rumble is one of the biggest shows of the year, its ultimate purpose is to set the stage and framework for Mania, after all.
That said, we’re all just guessing as to what’s going to happen in San Antonio for the Royal Rumble—even if we have various rumors to make an educated guess. Thus, we’re all just throwing darts at an unmarked board when it comes to piecing together the match card at WWE WrestleMania 33. That guess-work and eventual surprise, though, has fans everywhere buzzing, anticipating the big moments and reveals sure to come. Subsequently, fans and WWE alike win with the WWE WrestleMania 33 buildup playing out like so.