WrestleMania 39 ended the way that most major WWE premium live events have ended over the past few years: With Roman Reigns holding his titles high. Reigns had just dispatched the man many felt would finally be the one to overtake him: Cody Rhodes. With the victory the Bloodline's leader remains strong, though many questions about the faction still remain. How will Solo Sikoa's role grow? Will the Usos be welcomed back into the fold, even if they're beltless?
The defeated Rhodes demanded a rematch on the Raw after WrestleMania, but instead of a clear path back to Reigns, Brock Lesnar is now standing in his way.
And that's just how WWE wants it to be. There are stars in the company who had standout moments this past weekend, such as Gunther, Logan Paul and Rhea Ripley ... but where do they go from here? How will they make this next year even bigger, build their brands and make a more dominant splash at WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia?
Marc Raimondi, Mike Coppinger, Arda Ocal, Greg Wyshynski and UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier make bold predictions about WrestleMania 40 and how we might get there.
Gunther will defeat Roman Reigns in the main event
Coppinger: In the year since Gunther made his debut on SmackDown, the Austrian has quickly cemented himself as one of WWE's top performers.
With his hard-hitting style that always leaves his foes with red chests from his knife-edge chops to his shotgun drop kick and all the heavy blows he doles out in between, Gunther is no doubt the most believable challenger to Roman Reigns.
On Sunday at WrestleMania 39, Gunther elevated himself again with yet another classic match, a victory over Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in a triple threat to extend his Intercontinental title reign to 297 days. Gunther has single-handedly restored relevance to the often-ignored midcard title. He's clearly ready for far bigger moments.
Wrestling under the ring name Walter, he made a name for himself in the U.K. with his bruising matches. Now with a transformed physique, Gunther also looks the part of a WWE champion. The intensity he displayed -- ripping the title from the referee after he power bombed both Sheamus and McIntyre -- and even his promos all scream WWE champion and top star.
"Gunther put himself on a different level tonight; different playing field ..." WWE chief content officer Paul "Triple H" Levesque said at the post-WrestleMania news conference. "The sky's the limit for him. I can't say enough good stuff about him. He's a throwback. And when it comes to storytelling in that ring, every single thing he does means something. And I don't see that a lot."
So why not set up a match next WrestleMania between Gunther and Roman Reigns? Maybe even bring Gunther's Intercontinental title along for the ride.
Conor McGregor will have some role in WrestleMania 40
Marc Raimondi speculates on the possibility of Conor McGregor appearing on WWE programming following the merger with UFC and its parent company Endeavor.
Raimondi: Maybe it's not a match, but McGregor will make an advertised appearance at WrestleMania 40. This isn't even that much of a bold prediction after the events of the past several days. By the time Mania in Philadelphia rolls around, UFC and WWE will officially be part of the same publicly traded company. If we're being honest, even if that never happened, the potential for McGregor showing up in WWE was always there.
Remember a few years ago when he was trashing wrestlers and John Cena specifically? He was clearly angling for a big-money appearance, maybe even a match. Floyd Mayweather has done it before. Mike Tyson was a special guest referee. McGregor will be part of WrestleMania at some point, there's little doubt about that. "The Notorious" was one of the first fighters to tweet about the merger news Sunday, before it was even official. He posted a photo of himself with a UFC title on one shoulder and the WWE championship on the other -- and then he and his agent, Audie Attar, got into it with WWE on-screen manager Paul Heyman. C'mon. This is a no-brainer and likely something McGregor has fancied since he was a kid.
🇮🇪 @wwe, @ufc, @TheMacLife 🇺🇸 #itsinevitable pic.twitter.com/4m75uwZr23— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 2, 2023
The Irishman hasn't been very vocal about being a wrestling fan growing up, but all you have to do is read between the lines. You can't be Conor McGregor without some of that over-the-top WWE influence. He's even referred to himself as "Big Poppa Pump" on social media over the past few years, a reference to WWE Hall of Famer Scott Steiner.
McGregor in WWE? Yeah, that's basically a foregone conclusion.
Rhea Ripley vs. Dominik Mysterio
Wyshynski: Factions are made to be broken. If the Judgment Day isn't around by WrestleMania 40, it's likely that some internal personality conflict led to its demise. Like, say, a narcissistic nepo baby turning on his "Mami" for reasons that could range from jealousy to insecurity to whatever other petulant act could drive Dominik Mysterio deeper into heel territory.
I have to hand it to Dom-Dom: What started as "go away" heat has turned into legit loathing of his character by the fans. The trick is to entertain those fans enough to where they don't mind hanging with a story until that heel gets their comeuppance. He's funny, his in-ring work has improved, and he's made them care. Kudos to him.
I think there's a lot of love for Rhea Ripley if Judgment Day turns on her, and especially if it's Dom that leads the attack. Time it right and a WrestleMania match between the two could really pop.
Almost all of the intergender wrestling matches at WrestleMania have been tag team matches, so this would be out of the norm. But as Ripley recently told TV Insider about intergender wrestling: "I like to push boundaries. I know Triple H is the same. I don't know what the future holds with intergender wrestling. But I just hope if it does come to that point, I can be that person to do it again. I think it just has to make sense."
Watching Ripley pulverize Mysterio at WrestleMania makes sense to me. Of course, this would obviously have to be a "Jailhouse Rules" match, if only to level the playing field for "Prison Dom."
Editor's note: If you are wondering more about intergender wrestling, we highly recommend you read this.
It's Solo Sikoa's time as 'Head of the Table'
Cormier: Solo Sikoa has been on the main roster for just a few months and they've already built him like a monster. He was incredibly important in the main event and single-handedly gave Reigns the victory. He also just pinned Kevin Owens and had an incredible match with Rhodes just before WrestleMania.
It will not take long for WWE to get him over, and more than anything else -- he's good! He's really good in the ring. The only thing is, we still haven't heard him talk. They're keeping him a little mysterious, and I think that's what makes a run like this for him even more intriguing.
Brock Lesnar faces Gable Steveson
Raimondi: If he's not in a title program, there isn't a whole lot that would probably interest Lesnar for next WrestleMania. But you bet he'd buy into a program with Gable Steveson, who has been something of a protégé of Lesnar and started training with WWE last year. The two are both alums of the University of Minnesota wrestling team and have trained in amateur wrestling together. If Steveson doesn't end up trying for the Olympics again, you'd imagine by next year the reigning Olympic heavyweight gold medalist will be ready to go for his first WWE match.
The story tells itself. Lesnar can pass the torch onto someone he surely likes and respects. And if Lesnar likes and respects someone, he can have a tremendous match with that person and be very giving.
It might require Lesnar turning back to a heel, and maybe that just started on Raw with Rhodes this past week. Or maybe the two start out as a tag team and Lesnar turns on Steveson.
There are several different ways to gain an entry point into a storyline between the two of them. Maybe throw ESPN's own Daniel Cormier, the former Olympic wrestler and UFC double champion, into the mix as a mouthpiece. It could be a lot of fun.
Logan Paul is in a title match
Ocal: I think Logan Paul will become WWE champion and is championship material. Like Triple H has said many times, Paul has no business being this good this soon, but he is. Whether you like him or not, want him to succeed or not, resent him being in WWE and taking your favorite wrestler's spot or not, he's excellent. He is a natural and is crushing it, even the little details that performers often take months or years to hone.
Paul as WWE champion makes sense from a business perspective -- he wins a title at the Royal Rumble, leads to WrestleMania and drops it to a superstar that is already made. I actually think it could be the Universal championship if Reigns loses it at King of the Ring (but I also really wouldn't be surprised if Reigns kept it until WrestleMania 40).
But either way, Logan having hardware going into Philly would be great for the company and headlines. Logan generates interest and would bring that title everywhere he goes.