Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas predicts WrestleMania 36

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

Professional wrestling fanatics come in all ages, demographics and occupations. One of them is the general manager of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kyle Dubas hasn’t been shy about his affinity for the squared circle, posing with WWE superstars like Becky Lynch as well as legends like Ric Flair during SummerSlam in Toronto last year. So with the NHL regular season paused and with WrestleMania 36 scheduled for this weekend, we asked Dubas for his predictions of the “Showcase of the Immortals.”

Here are Dubas’ picks and justifications for WrestleMania 36, which will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, having relocated to an empty, controlled facility after initial plans to hold the event at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa were scuttled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But don’t worry: Former New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski is still your host.

Note that this was the WrestleMania card as of April 2 and it’s expected to change by the time the event airs.

Here are Leafs GM Kyle Dubas’ WrestleMania 36 picks:

WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre

Pick: McIntyre

Justification: The health and safety of everyone is paramount right now. That aside, there’s nobody I feel worse for on this card than Drew McIntyre. He has worked endlessly to get to this level and been excellent in the run-up to this match. He will miss out, rightly so, on sharing this moment with 70,000 people. I’ve gone back and forth as to whether Lesnar wins and they save this moment for the future. That said, I think McIntyre takes it.

Universal Championship: Goldberg vs. TBD (originally Roman Reigns)

We found out last week that Reigns will not perform at WrestleMania 36 in this spot against Goldberg. Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoa’i, is a leukemia survivor and potentially immunocompromised. While there is much rumor and innuendo on his replacement, there is no official word yet.

John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Funhouse Match

Pick: Bray Wyatt

Justification: There’s zero reason for Wyatt to lose this match unless they want to completely undo all of the great work he has put in since last summer, which is already in jeopardy thanks to the loss to Goldberg. A loss for Wyatt here would be devastating, and as a result, I think he easily tops Cena in the Firefly Fun House.

The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a “Boneyard” Match

Pick: The Undertaker

Justification: Taker ain’t losing a “boneyard” or graveyard match. Simple as that.

Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match

Pick: Edge

Justification: The greatest wrestling talent of his era returns to singles action in what should be one of the best matches at WrestleMania. Edge’s return at Royal Rumble was one of the best moments in WWE in a long time. Unsure of what the future holds for either man, but Edge takes this one.

NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair

Pick: Rhea Ripley

Justification: This is a really tough one to call. Ripley is one of the brightest young wrestlers on the planet, has enjoyed a meteoric rise and hasn’t had a clean loss in singles action in North America this year. Flair is the Queen of the entire division, and a win here for Ripley would be her biggest to date by a wide margin. In the end, I could see Ripley losing the NXT title to fast track her ascension onto the main roster and put Flair into a rivalry with Bianca Belair in NXT. However, I just can’t see Ripley getting tarnished at this juncture. She will get the win over Flair.

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler

Pick: Shayna Baszler

Justification: My feeling is that Baszler takes the title here, though this match and the Ripley/Flair match are really tough to call for similar reasons. They both feature up-and-coming stars against those at the very top of the division. In the end, too much has been done to advance Baszler across all platforms to have her fall to Lynch, who has worked to become so popular that a loss here will have zero impact on her. This feud should continue through the spring.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

Pick: The Kabuki Warriors

Justification: I can’t see the momentum of Asuka and Kairi Sane being slowed down here by Bliss and Cross.

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler

Pick: Otis

Justification: Why not? The win or loss will have no real impact on Ziggler at this point. Otis takes the match and Mandy Rose leaves Ziggler for him to boot.

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

Pick: Seth Rollins

Justification: This one is a real toss-up. I can’t remember the last time the “Monday Night Messiah” scored a clean win over anyone going back to before losing the title against Bray Wyatt. Rollins matches have ended in some form of controversy over the past few months. This should be a solid match between two of the best wrestlers on the planet. Rollins should take it, and then both will move on to their summer programs.

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi

Pick: Bayley

Justification: Bayley will likely keep the title, but my hope is they find a way to get this into a space where Sasha Banks can make a run for the title into the summer.

Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Pick: Sami Zayn

Justification: Zayn has done excellent work since his return, and a win here is much more important for him than it would be for Bryan. This should be an excellent match and just the beginning of what could be an excellent feud into the spring and summer.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Miz and John Morrison (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day

Pick: The Miz & John Morrison

Justification: Derailing the growth of Miz and Morrison would be puzzling especially against two of the most established tag teams of the previous decade.

Raw Tag Team Championship: The Street Profits vs. Austin Theory and Angel Garza

Pick: The Street Profits

Justification: Theory may have a lot of support within WWE and a bright future, but Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford aren’t losing to a hastily assembled tag team put together after an injury has prevented Andrade from joining Garza in this contest.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

Pick: Aleister Black

Justification: This is as big of a lock as there is on the card. Black has been dominating — with just one singles loss in the last year (to AJ Styles), which was avenged six days later — and seems poised for a massive year. He should win this one very easily.

Elias vs. King Corbin

Pick: King Corbin

Justification: Corbin by DQ after interference from Rob Gronkowski, kicking off the inevitable feud between Corbin and Gronk heading toward Summer Slam.

Thanks to Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs for making time for this during a difficult juncture.

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