The Royal Rumble is in the rearview and we've had a week of Raw and SmackDown to start setting the tone for the road to WrestleMania 34.
While certain matches such as AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura seem all but set in stone, the rest of the card for the biggest show of the year seems to still be up in the air. Asuka will challenge for one of the women's championships, but even if she has her heart set on the Raw title, her opponent-to-be could change at Elimination Chamber. Ronda Rousey will be there, though the role she'll play is still as unclear as can be.
One of the most polarizing possibilities, a rematch of the WrestleMania 31 main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, seems to be on its way to fruition as well, provided Reigns enters and wins the men's Elimination Chamber match.
Whether that match is inevitable or not, there are plenty of ways for plans to change and paths to fork between now and April 8 in New Orleans. With so many possibilities still on the table, we sifted through the potential matchups and various rivalries that could come together to single out five potential matches that could help make WrestleMania 34 even more special.
From main-event possibilities to potential show-stealers, these five (at least somewhat) realistic options stood out in our collective minds:
WWE Universal championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
This year's Elimination Chamber match is almost undoubtedly going to be dominated by Braun Strowman, especially since the winner gets a shot at Brock Lesnar's Universal championship at WrestleMania. While Strowman seems to be more interested in creating a path of total destruction than collecting titles, another opportunity to take on Lesnar one-on-one is sure to grab his attention. Brock has consistently evaded Braun's ruthless attempts to beat him in a match this past year, most recently in their triple-threat showdown with Kane at the Royal Rumble.
This will be Strowman's first Elimination Chamber match since his debut in 2014. We already know he'll be up against three-time winner and six-time entrant John Cena (only Triple H has won more Elimination Chamber matches). The Elimination Chamber itself is notoriously WWE's most brutal cage match, and veteran experience can certainly come into play. However, Strowman has displayed incredible resilience to physical damage this year; when confronted with high-speed ambulance crashes or garbage-truck compactors, he walked away without so much as a scratch. With that kind of track record and a chip on his shoulder, Strowman enters this match with a strong advantage over any other superstar.
Lesnar has his own advantages going into a potential WrestleMania matchup, as evidenced by his recent history as well as some of his early highlights. In his career, he's dethroned current Raw general manager Kurt Angle for the WWE undisputed championship, ended The Undertaker's legendary 21-0 streak and, most recently, won the Universal Championship off of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Goldberg.
More recently, Lesnar became the ninth superstar in WWE history to hold a heavyweight title for more than 300 days. While Lesnar is not the type of competitor who will go into this matchup concerned with the vanity of streaks and reigns, he certainly has more to lose than any other superstar right now -- and Strowman is the most equipped to take it from him. (Meghan Tobin)
Listen, I know everyone is staring at Roman Reigns and waiting for him to appear in yet another WrestleMania main event. Truth is, you know that match would be good. You know that Reigns puts on a good match, and we've seen how well they mesh inside of the ring in highly physical battles.
But this is Braun Strowman's year.
WWE has done everything they can to build up Strowman. They have made him this completely dominant superstar who loses only when others are pinned. That said, his first effort with Lesnar was weak. The triple threat at the Royal Rumble got better, but it's time for Braun to win the Elimination Chamber and earn his spot. There is nobody the WWE universe wants to see as champion more than Strowman, and a crowning moment at WrestleMania would be a perfect time to pay him what he's due after a tremendous year. (Andrew Feldman)
Intercontinental championship: The Miz (c) vs. Finn Balor
Despite his loss to John Cena on Monday night, Finn Balor has been riding a growing wave of momentum since reuniting with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. After being eliminated from contention for the Universal championship with that loss, Balor's looking toward his first WrestleMania without a clear path to travel or adversary to contend with.
Enter The Miz. There was no better way to bring back The Shield than through the antics of The Miz, the Miztourage and The Bar, and he somehow made the moment when Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns reunited feel even more special. Sure, everything that followed became a bit of a mess because of injuries and various other maladies, but the moment and the build were spectacular.
Over the past year-plus, The Miz has earned a meaningful one-on-one WrestleMania match -- something he hasn't had since his WWE championship defense against Cena at WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta. Putting him up against the first-ever Universal champion and one of the most over faces on the Raw roster is about as good as it could get for Miz, and the possibilities are seemingly endless. The Balor Club and Miztourage line up numbers-wise, and would allow for plenty of different configurations on the way to New Orleans without overdoing the one-on-one aspect before getting to WrestleMania.
Most importantly for Balor, standing opposite The Miz would almost certainly give Balor Club some of the edge it's going to need going forward. Miz has a real knack for getting under the skin of his opponents, and for Balor Club to be anything more than a smiling trio that sells a bunch of merchandise, its wrestlers are going to need a reason to bare their teeth.
Both guys get a well-earned showcase, and fans get to see a match and build that would ultimately check all of the boxes for both Balor and The Miz.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
Granted, this match is entirely dependent on Ambrose's ability to return from injury in time for WrestleMania 34, but the matchup offers tons of potential. First, one of the two likely would have to shift to a heel persona, which suits each of them better. Rollins already had the opportunity at a heel run following his dismantling of The Shield, so it would be very intriguing to see Ambrose have a go at it. His temperament fits the role perfectly, and anyone who followed Ambrose's FCW career (or run on the independents) knows that the potential is there.
The pieces to the puzzle in terms of setting the matchup are there. They just need to be put together. When Ambrose went down with his injury, Rollins quickly went on to win the Raw tag team championship with Jason Jordan. While Rollins' pairing with Jordan ended badly at the Royal Rumble, Rollins' quick shift to a new tag team partner could be presented as rubbing Ambrose the wrong way. Perhaps Ambrose could refer to it as the second time Rollins turned his back on him.
Many fans have been clamoring for an Ambrose heel run for years. This is the perfect opportunity. It certainly beats the situation Ambrose was in last year at WrestleMania when he was relegated to a pre-show match with Baron Corbin. (Sean Coyle)
An unfortunately timed triceps injury seemingly has Dean Ambrose in the midst of a nine-month layoff following surgery in December. However, official WWE recovery timelines have been wrong before, artificially or otherwise, in order to create unexpected returns. Think John Cena's shocking entry at the 2008 Royal Rumble less than four months after tearing his pectoral muscle, or Cena returning at the 2008 Survivor Series a few months after herniating a disk in his neck, or Cena returning months early from triceps and elbow surgery to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Or maybe John Cena really is superhuman -- who knows?
If Ambrose can recover from his surgery sooner than expected, it would be the perfect time for a heel turn on his former partner Seth Rollins to set up another blood feud -- this time at the biggest show of the year. It would be a nice reversal of their first post-Shield feud, in which Rollins was the cocky heel and Ambrose was the plucky, crazy face. The heel turn should be easy enough to pull off; Rollins was able to find success with an unexpected partnership with Jason Jordan, winning the tag team championships less than a week after Ambrose went under the knife. This could easily be enough to send the already unhinged Ambrose over the edge.
Whenever Rollins and Jordan get their rematch against The Bar, Ambrose could show up out of the crowd and violently attack Jordan, causing Rollins to intervene. While trying to calm the Lunatic Fringe down, Ambrose brutally attacks Rollins as well. After weeks of additional sneak attacks and promos from a re-energized Ambrose, a street fight is made for WrestleMania, where Rollins finally gets some revenge and a victory over his on-again, off-again brother. (Nicholas Irving)
Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg
I know Goldberg is 51 years old and preparing to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year, but there aren't many bigger matches out there for WrestleMania (both literally and figuratively) than Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman. Goldberg proved he still has more than enough left in the tank to put on a show at WrestleMania in his match with Brock Lesnar last year. He also left the door open for a possible return during his unfiltered promo after Raw the night after WrestleMania. Goldberg won't return for the sake of returning, but a match against a budding star in Strowman might be too much to pass on.
The story for a Goldberg vs. Strowman match could be told over the next couple of months. Imagine Strowman coming out in the weeks leading up to the Elimination Chamber and constantly proclaiming that he is the only one who can defeat Lesnar. Of course, Goldberg swiftly defeated Lesnar at Survivor Series in 2016. Strowman dominates during the Elimination Chamber match and sets himself up as the clear No. 1 contender to face Lesnar.
Strowman goes on to eliminate four of his five opponents until the final two are set -- Strowman vs. Roman Reigns. Reigns, beaten down by having to start out the Chamber match, is getting manhandled by Strowman. Just as Strowman is on the verge of finishing off his bitter rival, the music that has become synonymous with Goldberg begins to play. The crowd erupts in chants of "GOLDBERG! GOLDBERG! GOLDBERG!" as Strowman stares down the entrance ramp. Goldberg's pyro sets off and everyone anxiously awaits his imposing figure exiting on the other end.
Instead, the lights come back on and Goldberg is in the ring waiting for Strowman to turn around so he can deliver his patented spear. Goldberg rushes in and spears Strowman through one of the glass pods, shades of Summerslam 2003. Reigns pins a shaken Strowman and goes on to face Lesnar at WrestleMania. Goldberg, feeling slighted by the new monster in town, goes on to face Strowman at WrestleMania.
Strowman doesn't have an obvious WrestleMania opponent at the moment. Lesnar-Reigns has seemed destined for a long time. Samoa Joe, another potential Strowman opponent, is on the shelf. Strowman is too big of a star to not have a marquee singles match at WrestleMania this year.
In other words: Strowman, you're next. (Michael Wonsover)
United States championship: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
While their Takeover: Brooklyn III match led to the end of Roode's NXT run, I always felt there could've been more to this rivalry then just a one-off match that ended with McIntyre "reclaiming" NXT from the often pompous Roode.
Their roles here would need to be reversed with Roode currently rolling as a face. McIntyre could come back from his injury and get some quick heat with a vicious post-match attack on Roode at Fastlane.
McIntyre could follow that up by cutting bitter promos aimed at the WWE universe, reminding them how poorly Roode treated them as NXT champ and being angry that they were now backing him. Or, he could simply be bitter at watching the guy he took the NXT championship from succeed on SmackDown Live while he was injured. With the NXT title picture getting crowded in a hurry, if a rematch against Andrade "Cien" Almas isn't in the cards, why not invite McIntyre to SmackDown and get him cooking on the main roster? (James Emanuele)