The biggest week in the wrestling year is here as fans prepare for Wrestlemania 2018 from New Orleans.
The big event on Sunday night in front of 70,000 fans at the Mercedes Benz Superdome is the crown jewel of a string of events across the next few days.
From the annual Hall of Fame show to two nights of frantic television early next week, it’s a non-stop marathon of events for the WWE, their superstars and fans across the globe.
To help you keep track of it all, we’ve discussed some key topics heading into WrestleMania…
When is WWE Wrestlemania 2018?
WrestleMania itself takes place on Sunday, April 8 2018 from New Orleans, Louisiana. The show, including its two hour ‘kick-off’ programme airing right before the main broadcast, is scheduled to last a mammoth six hours, starting at around about 10pm UK time on Sunday night and climaxing at around 4am on Monday morning.
Those wanting to watch can order the event on Sky Box Office as a one-off, or also stream the event using the subscription service WWE Network at a usual cost of £9.99 per month, but new users can register for a free trial.
Why is the event so important?
It’s the equivalent of the SuperBowl or FA Cup final for wrestling fans and, in fairness, it’s an event without many peers in terms of live entertainment. As well as the athletic showmanship of WWE’s wrestlers as they battle it out in the ring, there’s always an array of live music performances, theatrics, pyrotechnics and celebrity involvement that would gladly occupy the attention of any casual fan.
Over the last 34 years the event has only grown in stature and how plays hosts to fans from all 50 states and from hundreds of countries around the world.
What’s the latest with NXT?
NXT is WWE’s developmental territory, where wrestlers learning their trade have a global platform for their talents. Every few months, the NXT roster stages their Takeover marquee events – fiercely popular and, held the night before WrestleMania, always a real way to whet the appetite for the thousands of fans who take in the weekend’s shows. The current NXT Champion is Andrade Almas, and this Saturday night sees his title on the line as he meets Dutchman Aleister Black. Birmingham’s Pete Dunne – the WWE UK Champion – is also on the show as he teams with Roderick Strong in the final of the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic tournament against the Authors of Pain.
Who is wrestling at WrestleMania?
We’ll finally get to see Ronda Rousey’s first WWE match. The former UFC star has been steadily building her first storyline in WWE since signing full time with the company at the start of the year.
She teams with Kurt Angle to face Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Elsewhere, WWE Champion AJ Styles defends his WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte Flair defends the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Asuka while Raw’s women’s champion, Alexa Bliss, meets Nia Jax.
Brock Lesnar is re-joining UFC, so does that spoil his match ending?
Maybe so, but only a fool would take that as a definite! In case you missed it, UFC president Dana White confirmed on Thursday that Lesnar would be stepping back into the Octagon in the near future.
Lesnar is the current Universal Champion and is set to defend against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. The champ’s current WWE contract is set to expire, so all signs point to him dropping the title on Sunday to allow Reigns to carry it forward. But WWE is famed for ‘swerving’ its audience.
Given the outcome of wrestling matches are predetermined, word often gets out as to the direction of certain matches, leaving the company tempted to promptly change outcomes away from the expected ending to something else entirely. Reigns will get the gold eventually – I just wouldn’t be 100 per cent sure it comes his way this Sunday.
Is The Undertaker coming back?
It appears most likely, just a year after appearing to retire at WrestleMania 33 after being beaten by Roman Reigns. Taker – real name Mark Calaway – is 53 and has wrestled just once a year over the last few years. There seems little mileage in bringing him back for a one-off match against John Cena as has been touted; Cena is already established in WWE and is in fact on his way out himself, and Undertaker’s legacy isn’t one that needs cementing with a final win.
All that aside, though, WWE have spent weeks on their Monday Night Raw show teasing a bout between the two – and little by way of promotion is wasted at this time of year.
Any chance of the UK hosting WrestleMania?
Not for a long time, according to Triple H – one of WWE’s top brass behind the scenes. Real name Paul Levesque, the legendary wrestler told The Independent that the UK may be lucky enough to get a pay-per-view or special event in the future, but the show of shows itself is unlikely to be hopping across the pond any time soon.
Are there any decent rumours doing the rounds?
WWE has no off-season, but WrestleMania tends to be their way of rounding off a year’s worth of feuds and stories before it all kicks off again the following night. As such, there’s always plenty of chatter about new faces, graduates from NXT to the main roster and more.
Former Raw star Samoa Joe – out for the last few months with injury – is said to be closing in on a return, as is Alicia Fox. There’s a Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania, and several NXT talents are expected to feature, including Aussie pairing the Iconic Duo.
What about ‘Raw after Mania’?
Easily the most raucous night of the year, the episode of Monday Night Raw that’s screened 24 hours after WrestleMania rarely disappoints. The rabid atmosphere inside the arena is created largely by the Brits and European fans who’ve made the journey to the States. Many don’t stick around for Smackdown Live the next night, so this is their last chance to blow off some steam. Last year’s Raw after Mania saw the return of Kurt Angle to an on-screen role, the comeback from injury of Finn Balor and the graduation to the main roster of NXT tag team The Revival. Keep the volume up for this one!