While the majority of sports around the world have been forced into hiatus due to the devastating effects of the Coronavirus, there is one brand that are preparing for their “grand final” this weekend, having made their name more from “entertainment” than “sport”.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have been doing their best to continue to produce content and entertain their fans during this difficult period under the old mantra of “the show must go on”. Of course, there are no fans in their stadiums and no travelling from city to city, with their headline weekly TV shows of RAW and Smackdown now produced with a skeleton staff inside the WWE Performance Center in Orlando – a facility that is usually used for training and developing future talent.
It’s a unique situation for sure, and there’s nothing more surreal than watching wrestling with no fans in attendance. If there was ever a sport that thrived off audience interaction, it’s the WWE. There’s no cheering and there’s no booing. In fact, there’s no atmosphere at all. Imagine two 300-pound muscled-up wrestlers standing in a ring yelling at each other with no one else there. It’s a bit like a bad high school drama class.
But it is what it is as the WWE head into their grand final weekend with Wrestlemania 36 set for this Sunday and Monday in Australia. The pay-per-view spectacular was originally meant to be held in the 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, but instead it will be a pre-recorded, heavily-edited, made-for-TV production.
The good news is that it will provide us with 7+ hours of entertainment to take our minds away from the worries of the world. And, in even better news, you can also bet on the outcome of the matches with most of the best Australian sports books providing plenty of Wrestlemania 36 betting markets!
There are currently 16 matches on the schedule, but that seems likely to change with several superstars stating that they will no longer be participating due to health concerns over the Coronavirus. Roman Reigns has already withdrawn from his Universal Championship match, while others are reportedly a chance to be replaced at short notice.
Most of the betting markets have a pretty clear-cut, short-priced favourite, so it’s hard to find a lot of value, but there are a couple of bets we like at decent odds.
The Main Event will see Royal Rumble winner, Drew McIntyre, challenge for the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Normally, this would be a tremendous opportunity for McIntyre to claim the title and celebrate his career moment in front of a frenzied live crowd. However with no one in attendance, perhaps we’ll see more matches favour the heels (bad guys) rather than having to pamper to please the live crowd. McIntyre is a warm favourite, and normally I’d agree that this is a spot to put him over, but perhaps the WWE should wait for a better times for McIntyre’s push. A controversial finish and Lesnar retaining might be the right play so that the WWE can wait until we’re back in front of the fans before putting the strap on McIntye. A bet on Lesnar doesn’t seem like the worst underdog bet, but an even better bet might be on one of the fantastic Wrestlemania prop betting markets offered at Unibet. Rather than betting on Lesnar to win, you can bet on Lesnar to hold the title at the end of the event. That gives you a win in the case of a DQ that gives McIntye the win, but Lesnar retains the belt.
The Smackdown Women’s Championship match is a Fatal Five-Way, but in reality, it seems that there’s only two that have a chance to walk away with the gold – Bayley and Sasha Banks. There is a clear pathway to these two clashing for the title at Summerslam, and it involves separating the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection at Wrestlemania - the question remains as to who will turn on who? Bayley has been the baby face for so long in the past, so it would seem strange for her to switch back to that role so soon. So for that reason, I think that Bayley will be the one to screw over Sasha and retain the championship.
Of note for Australian fans will be the NXT Women’s Championship match where Australian Rhea Ripley will make her Wrestlemania debut against the most decorated female superstar in WWE history, Charlotte Flair. Ripley’s rise to fame has been phenomenal and clearly management are impressed with her enough to give her such a high-profile match. Watch for her to make a big impact in the coming years. There’s seems little point in Flair winning an inferior title, and damage one of the company’s rising stars in the process. Expect Ripley to get the win and push into the main ranks.
(Subject to change)
WWE Championship Match
Drew McIntyre v Brock Lesnar (c)
WWE Universal Championship Match
Braun Strowman v Goldberg (c)
WWE NXT Women’s Championship Match
Charlotte Flair v Rhea Ripley (c)
RAW Women’s Championship Match
Shayna Baszler v Becky Lynch (c)
Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match SmackDown Women’s Championship
Lacey Evans v Sasha Banks v Naomi v Tamina v Bayley (c)
RAW Tag Team Championship Match
Angel Garza and Austin Theory v The Street Profits (c)
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Daniel Bryan v Sami Zayn (c)
Last Man Standing Match
Edge v Randy Orton
The Undertaker v AJ Styles
Firefly Fun House Match
John Cena v “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Triple Threat Ladder Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Miz and John Morrison (c) v The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) v The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso)
Tag Team Match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c) v Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
Kevin Owens v Seth Rollins
Elias v King Baron Corbin
Bobby Lashley (with Lana) v Aleister Black
Otis v Dolph Ziggler
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