It’s judgment day for Triple H as WWE’s Head Of Creative, and not just because three members of the stable are in major matches on this show.
When Vince McMahon resigned in disgrace last July, there was always a crushing inevitability about his return looming in the background. That has manifested itself in the form of a potential sale, and a few specific versions of that that could put McMahon right back in his old seat - if he’s not moved to reclaim it already.
In the meantime, ‘The Game’ has been able to make it just about unscathed to one WrestleMania - the event around which everything in the organisation pivots. Business is hot, the card is loaded and a series of stories from Hunter’s period in charge look perfectly pitched to culminate this weekend on ‘The Grandest Stage’, as well they should.
At its best, WrestleMania is a reflection of promotion and performers in harmony, and if he’s curated the cinematic conclusion to his Hollywood-themed ‘Showcase Of The Immortals’, he can at least advocate for himself as the best man for the job. Especially when so much of the hard work has been already been done.
The stakes are high. Can he successfully see it all through?
15. Austin Theory (c) Vs. John Cena
For the first time in just under 20 years, a John Cena match will open a WrestleMania.
There will perhaps be parallels drawn between Cena's WrestleMania XX clash with The Big Show and Austin Theory's big night here in 2023. Both featured stars on the rise taking on opponents that through literal or figurative stature seem too big for them to overcome. Both have to manage the pressure of setting the tone for the biggest event of the company's calendar. And both contests were fought over a United States Championship in a state of neither feast nor famine, ensuring that its prestige would be judged very specifically on the quality of the match.
There's one enormous and crucial difference.
When 'The Champ' was last jerking the curtain on the 'Grandest Stage', he was there to go over rather than get over. Theory needs both. Back then, Cena strolled into Madison Square Garden white-hot and very much 12 months away from climbing the next rung too. Theory seems some way short of that, but his experienced opponent will be trusted with ensuring he doesn't look it by the end.
It's a booking statement from Triple H that one of his biggest available former headliners is going on first. It'll be another one when the United States Champion bucks the 2004 comparisons and retains.
Winner - Austin Theory