WWE WrestleMania 2014 is set to beget a new era.
While the event will rely plenty on marquee names and established stars, wrestlers racing up the company ladder are set for career-defining moments. Daniel Bryan will achieve the biggest night of his career, Bray Wyatt is set to claim his biggest victory yet and The Shield will extend its record at "The Show of Shows" to 2-0.
WWE's biggest show of the year hits New Orleans, La. with Hulk Hogan as host and the WWE Network experiencing is first major test.
Who will be celebrating in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome? Who will create the lasting images that will be talked about as some of WrestleMania's greatest moments?
The following preview provides a look at backstage reports and how they might affect the pay-per-view's outcomes, the match card and predictions for every bout.
News, Potential Spoilers
Don't write off AJ Lee's chances of retaining at WrestleMania. Despite having to face 13 challengers in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational, the latest backstage word may hint at her surprising fans with a victory.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc, reports the following:
Word is the finish for the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational has not been decided on yet but AJ Lee retaining has been pitched with the idea that it's going to be such a "face-heavy" card of winners and they need a surprise heel win.
Tamina Snuka, Summer Rae and Aksana are also among the heels in that crowded match. Either one of them winning would be a surprise to different extents.
A recent surprise announcement has revealed that Steve Austin will have a role at WrestleMania 30.
A number of other potential returns are also the subject of recent WrestleMania buzz.
Could Shane McMahon be back to join or go up against The Authority? According to F4WOnline (h/t Middleton of Wrestling Inc), "There's a feeling within WWE that Shane McMahon will be backstage at WrestleMania XXX."
Being backstage, though, could simply mean a friendly visit and nothing that shows up on camera. Just a cameo from "Shane O'Mac" would be mighty exciting, though.
It's looking likely that The Rock will be making an appearance of his own.
According to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Middleton of Wrestling Inc, "The impression given is that The Rock will be on the show in some form of a cameo, but whether it's live or taped isn't known." With his busy schedule, the most likely way he shows up for the event is something pre-taped.
Could the star-studded pay-per-view also include CM Punk? "Stone Cold" believes so.
Don't count on that scenario. Punk hasn't appeared for WWE since the Royal Rumble, partially over a dispute about his position on the WrestleMania card, per TMZ.com. Why would he now settle for a non-advertised appearance?
- Pre-show Match: The Usos vs. The Real Americans vs. Los Matadores vs. Curtis Axel and Ryback (Tag Team Championship)
- Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (Winner Gets Added to Main Event)
- Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational
- The Shield vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
- Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena
- Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
- Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Triple H or Daniel Bryan (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
The Usos Retain
Only The Real Americans pose a real threat to The Usos.
Los Matadores haven't been portrayed as serious contenders. They lack signature wins and instead have fallen to The Shield and The Wyatt Family several times. The bullfighters, like Axel and Ryback, haven't strung together enough victories to be seen as titleholders in waiting.
WrestleMania offers WWE the chance to spotlight The Usos and begin the night on a high note.
Cesaro and Jack Swagger should give them a tough fight, but WWE Tag Team Championship history says that the brothers will hold onto the titles for a while longer.
Other than The New Age Outlaws, the last seven Tag champs, including David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty, have had reigns of over 90 days or more.
Daniel Bryan Gets Revenge
WWE has done its best to insert doubt into fans' minds about the outcome of this match, but it's one of the safer bets on the card that Bryan beats out the COO.
The story so far has been heavy on Triple H mocking or thrashing Bryan. He handcuffed and assaulted him on March 17.
That beatdown added to months of irking Bryan's fanbase, of playing the Goliath toying with David. For WWE to go any direction but a Bryan triumph would only serve to gut the excitement from WrestleMania.
Imagine the chanting that would break out if Triple H defeated Bryan, ending his chances of getting the happy ending that has eluded him since SummerSlam.
Bryan's journey has required a wealth of patience from fans. The winding nature of his road to this night only makes sense if he emerges as the winner.
Tamina Snuka Turns on the Champ
Although the aforementioned report from Wrestling Observer Newsletter notes that WWE officials haven't decided on how this match will end, the story of Tamina breaking away from AJ has been building for a long time now.
The most notable instance of tension between the allies came on the March 17 edition of Raw.
After losing to The Funkadactyls, AJ barked at Tamina. She got into her face—to the point that Tamina pushed her over.
They have since made up, but that's enough of a splinter to suggest that their alliance won't make it through WrestleMania. AJ will go in assuming Tamina will protect her in the 14-Diva clash, but eventually, that animosity will return.
Besides, the pull of championship gold is often enough to split up friendships.
Believe in The Shield
Only The Wyatt Family has been able to consistently fluster and control The Shield. Otherwise, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have beaten all-star teams that have included Chris Jericho, Bryan, Undertaker and Punk.
Last year, The Shield bested a trio of former world champions in Big Show, Orton and Sheamus. For the group to then lose to three guys past their physical prime would make little sense.
Unity is no longer an issue with The Shield, either.
When Reigns and Ambrose were busy barking at each other during matches, it was conceivable that they could lose. They have since taken care of every team they have faced, including The Real Americans and Cody Rhodes and Goldust.
Underhanded tactics and an edge in experience isn't going to be enough to stop "The Hounds of Justice" from winning, just as they did at WrestleMania 29.
Sheamus Adds to His Resume
On the last Raw before WrestleMania, Dolph Ziggler, Titus O'Neil, The Miz and Sheamus interrupted Roddy Piper. Expect the first winner of the Battle Royal to emerge from that field.
If WWE intends to make this 30-man match a WrestleMania tradition, giving the honor of being the inaugural winner to a man of Sheamus' stature is a smart move.
Sheamus can provide star power to the match's history and is in need of a way to make his way back to the top tier. Beating out Big Show, Mark Henry and the rest of his competitors does just that.
His recent winning streak, which includes a pinfall win over The Miz on Tuesday's Main Event, has him heading into this bout with more momentum than his peers.
Take that as a sign of him taking home the Andre the Giant trophy.
The Monster Debuts
Cena can afford to lose. He has a stockpile of championships and a decade's worth of wins on his resume. For WWE to have Wyatt lose his first WrestleMania and what is the biggest match of his career would be short-sighted.
The goal of Wyatt vs. Cena should and likely will be to build "The Eater of Worlds" into a top star.
Expect him now to follow Fandango's footsteps and make a huge statement in his first trip to WrestleMania.
Betting against The Undertaker at WrestleMania hasn't worked out in 21 tries.
His undefeated streak has become a star attraction. If he's able to work WWE's answer to the Super Bowl two or three more years, having him losing takes away value from those performances.
It's not as if WWE has portrayed Lesnar as capable of beating him, either.
The focus of this buildup has largely been around Undertaker's streak, painting him as an immortal battling mortals. Lesnar has been made to look weak, a coward in a warrior's body.
Take his reaction to Undertaker emerging from a casket on March 24, for example.
According to Wrestling Observer (h/t Nick Paglino of Wrestle Zone), "Many backstage in WWE feel Lesnar should have been booked to be a much bigger threat to The Streak at WrestleMania."
That fact that he hasn't points to Lesnar losing. If WWE ever decides to break the streak, the company will make the bout seem more final, building it up as the match at WrestleMania. That hasn't happened this year.
Daniel Bryan's Moment Arrives
WWE didn't see the negative reaction to Batista winning the Royal Rumble coming. It certainly knows now what would happen if Batista won the championship.
There's reason to believe that either an Orton or Triple H victory would create the same echoing explosion of boos. Fans have waited for their hero to triumph, and it has only happened in spurts before he suffers another setback.
WrestleMania can either end as the Rumble did, anger throbbing through the arena, or the way the Jan. 13 Raw did.
Look for officials to opt to begin the Bryan era and for the Superdome to shake from the loudest "Yes!" chants ever. The fans have made it clear who they want as their top star, and WWE can't afford to delay that coronation any longer.
Bryan will win twice in New Orleans, challenging WrestleMania XX for the most emotional ending to a WrestleMania ever.