SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
The current plan for the women’s division at WrestleMania 34 features two title matches.
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss is scheduled for the Raw women’s title, while Asuka and Charlotte are set to steal the show for the SmackDown championship.
Even with those matches in place, there is still one major question: where does this leave Ronda Rousey?
The plan for Rousey at WrestleMania 34 is a mixed tag match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
A tag match certainly works to WWE’s benefit, as it protects Rousey as well as allows her some in-ring time with Stephanie McMahon. But Rousey needs a tag team partner with star power to make the match work.
According to sources close to the company, the four men that WWE has in mind for Rousey’s partner are, in order of preference, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon, and Seth Rollins.
The Rock is the perfect fit, but he is extremely limited due to language in his movie contracts that prevent activities that include contact and a high-risk of injury (ie: pro wrestling). If The Rock is unable to work the match, then Kurt Angle is likely to slide into an extremely high-profile spot at WrestleMania.
Shane McMahon is another possibility as Rousey’s partner, but he is in a prolonged storyline with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The outsider of the bunch is Seth Rollins, who fought Triple H at last year’s WrestleMania but has no set path or opponent for this year’s card.
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In other news…
• Dolph Ziggler is extending his stay with WWE.
Ziggler, who opened and closed this week’s SmackDown, just signed a new two-year contract for a reported $1.5 million per year.
Contrary to reports, multiple sources close to WWE confirmed that Ziggler was always planning on re-signing with the company. Ziggler’s performance on SmackDown included a victory over Sami Zayn that engraved his invitation to the main event at March’s Fast Lane pay per view in a “Fatal Five-Way” for the WWE title.
• New Japan Pro Wrestling announced that Rey Mysterio will be wrestling Jushin Thunder Liger at the March 25 “Strong Style Evolved” show in Long Beach, California airing on AXS TV.
Mysterio and Liger last wrestled against each other at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium during WCW’s Starrcade in 1996.
Sources close to New Japan confirmed that Chris Jericho is still scheduled for the March show in a match against Tetsuya Naito. Sports Illustrated can also confirm that New Japan made an offer to Hulk Hogan to appear at January’s Wrestle Kingdom as an honorary member of the Bullet Club.
When Hogan’s camp named its price, which SI learned was $750,000, New Japan officials declined the offer.
• EVOLVE returns to action this Saturday in Queens, New York with a show headlined by company champion Zack Sabre Jr. defending his title against Austin Theory.
Theory just made news with his performance at last week’s three-day WWE talent try-out at the Performance Center in Orlando. If signed by WWE, he would immediately be one of the company’s top prospects.
EVOLVE’s Sunday show is Joppa, Maryland with WWN champion Keith Lee battling Tracy Williams in a no holds barred match. Both shows are available on WWNLive.com, with fifty percent off for members of Club WWN.
• Only two days after last week’s report from SI.com, Booker T and Corey Graves confirmed that their feud was nothing more than an angle designed to draw interest in Booker’s “Heated Conversations” show.
Booker noted that his critical words about Graves were a spur-of-the-moment decision, and that he and Graves are actually close friends.
To follow-up from last week’s story, Booker’s role as an analyst on Raw was only supposed to be temporary as a replacement for David Otunga. Booker’s style resonated with fans, which extended his stay on Raw, but he was never slated to be a permanent fit for the show.
• The world of wrestling never sleeps, and a show that will turn heads is Lucha VaVOOM’s annual two-night spectacle that includes wrestling, comedy, and burlesque beginning tonight at Los Angeles’ Mayan Theater.
“This is a fusion of naked women and naked men,” said Lucha libre star Magno. “This is not a typical wrestling show. There are women dancing before the wrestling matches, and there are very special and intense wrestling matches.”
The 33-year-old Oscar Vasquez has worked across the world, including NXT, Impact, Ring of Honor, CMLL, and AAA as the masked warrior Magno.
“I’ve worked for the biggest companies in the world, and a lot of that has to do with the passion I have for the wrestling business and Lucha libre,” said Magno. “I don’t stop training. Even though I worked in those places, I still don’t consider myself the best I can be yet. I want to get bigger and better.”
The card also includes Joey Ryan, a tag team known as the Crazy Chickens, and guest commentary from actor and comedian Ron Funches.
“People will fall in love with it,” said Magno. “It’s out of the normal routine. If you like striptease dancers and superstar wrestlers, then you’re going to love this.”
• In an exclusive for SI.com, the Week in Wrestling has learned that Mattel is revealing its new line of WWE RetroFest wrestling figures this Sunday at the New York Toy Fair, and the new line of figures will include the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels.
The Savage and Michaels figures will be available exclusively at GameStop this spring. For more information regarding the WWE figures at the Toy Fair, follow my Twitter account this Sunday.
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson returns this Friday at noon ET with a new podcast, looking at the nearly-forgotten No Way Out pay per view from February of 1998.
“People really want to hear about No Way Out,” said Thompson. “Shawn Michaels no-shows the event, so we’ll spend a lot of time discussing Shawn and where he was. Shawn was advertised for this show for a long time, and the show was built around a main event of Shawn’s team vs. Steve Austin’s team, and I’ll ask Bruce about how the company was handling Shawn outside of the ring.”
Michaels’s spot in the main event was instead given to Savio Vega, which made no sense on the build to WrestleMania 14.
The main event also includes Terry Funk, as well as the headlining debut of the New Age Outlaws.
“The rise of Billy Gunn and Jesse James from ‘97 to ‘98 is fascinating,” said Thompson. “This is their coming out party, and there are a lot of interesting aspects to the undercard. Sometimes we look back with rose-colored glasses on the ‘Attitude Era’, but there is some real horrible sh-- on the undercard. We’ll discuss that, too.”
Thompson plans on taking a deeper look at Vince McMahon’s decision to cut ties with Bret Hart and build his company around Shawn Michaels.
“Vince bet all his chips on Shawn instead of Bret, but imagine the alternative,” said Thompson. “By this point, in February of ‘98, it feels like Vince got the decision wrong. Bret and Austin could have had a WrestleMania 13 rematch at WrestleMania 14, and that would have been a much better crowning moment for Austin.
“Instead, Bret is wrestling third or fourth from the top in WCW, and Shawn is not even there. We can say it’s because of injuries, but it really wasn’t. If his back was that bad that you had to retire, but you never had surgery and you came back to wrestle for 15 years, then how bad was your back? We’ll discuss all that, and more, this Friday.”
Tweet of the Week
For those curious, North Carolina deleted Notre Dame on Monday night in front of die-hard Tar Heel fan Jeff Hardy.