When Joel Embiid sits, it’s the same old story — but Sixers ‘can’t give up’

NEW YORK — Entering the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-round series against the New York Knicks, the health of Joel Embiid seemed like by far the biggest variable. If the reigning MVP could play like he did toward the end of the regular season, if he could even approach the heights he reached before he had surgery on the meniscus in his left knee in February, then the seventh-seeded Sixers would have a great chance to advance, the thinking went. And if he struggled physically, like he did in the Play-In against the Miami Heat, then they would not.

It was not that simple in Saturday’s series opener at Madison Square Garden. Less than three minutes in, Embiid had all nine of Philadelphia’s points, including a corkscrew and-1 layup. Despite an injury scare — the result of Embiid channeling Tracy McGrady with an off-the-glass alley-oop to himself in the second quarter, perhaps the most spectacular play he’s ever made — he finished with 29 points on 8-for-22 shooting (11-for-12 from the line), eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in 37 minutes. The Sixers lost, though, because they were outscored by 21 points in the 11 minutes that he was not on the court.

Philadelphia played without Embiid for two months in the regular season, but it can be “a little bit” challenging to toggle between styles with and without him, forward Nicolas Batum said at the team hotel in Midtown Manhattan a day after the 111-104 loss.

“We think about it during the game now,” Batum said. “When he’s on the court, it’s great. When he’s not … we can’t give up. We still gotta find a way to be effective and can’t [go from being] up 12 and then [be] down 10 because he’s not on the court.”

Sixers coach Nick Nurse didn’t have much of an update on Embiid’s knee on Sunday. “I asked him how he was feeling,” Nurse said. “He said, ‘Pretty good.'” Even if he is able to log 40-ish minutes in Game 2 on Monday, it needs to stay steady — or at least not completely fall apart — when he goes to the bench.

“We gotta figure out ways to play when he’s off the floor,” Kyle Lowry said. “Play with some pace, play with a little bit more decisiveness. You know, he’s such a dominant force for us, and we get comfortable when he’s there. But when he’s not there, we gotta find ways to get other guys involved, get the ball moving, play with a little bit more energy and communicate a lot better.”

This is a frustratingly familiar storyline. Four years ago, without one go-to backup for Embiid, the Sixers tried Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic and Greg Monroe (who started Game 3 of the first round in Brooklyn) in the playoffs, and they tried centerless lineups (with Mike Scott or Ben Simmons as the nominal 5) too. Memorably, Embiid finished their second-round series against the eventual-champion Toronto Raptors plus-90 in seven games, and they were outscored by 109 points in 99 minutes with him on the bench. Philadelphia does not have that kind of hole on the second unit anymore, and there’s no controversy that resembles the DeAndre Jordan vs. Paul Reed discourse of 2022, but the problem persists.

In the regular season, Philadelphia was outscored by 0.6 points per 100 possessions with a slightly below-average offense and a slightly above-average defense without Embiid on the court, according to Cleaning The Glass. In the 43 games that he missed, the Sixers went 16-27.

“I really hoped we would play better in those times when Joel was out,” Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said in an interview on The Rights To Ricky Sanchez last week. “We’re really not built for that, but you do hope you have a few more players step up.”

The Sixers may have become a more complete team at full strength after trading James Harden, but they also became less equipped to win their minutes without Embiid. “James for sure carried us in a lot of those games last year and is used to being the guy,” Morey said in the podcast appearance. “And look, yeah, we just weren’t generating clean looks for guys when Joel was out.”

In Game 1 against New York, Tyrese Maxey scored a team-high 33 points on 14-for-26 shooting and Lowry had 18 points on 5-for-9 shooting (including a 12-points-in-three-minutes flurry to open the second half), but nobody else besides Embiid thrived offensively for Philadelphia. Its bench was outscored 42-7, and starting forwards Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a combined 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting (2-for-6 from deep).

“[Harris] needs to get involved,” Nurse said. “Nico needs to get involved. Kelly needs to get involved. Buddy [Hield] needs to get involved. There’s a lot more people we need to get involved.”

One thing to watch on Monday: Philadelphia’s rotation. In the first game, Embiid was on the court for all of Lowry and Oubre’s minutes, with the exception of the two minutes and 37 seconds that he spent in the locker room after the off-the-glass dunk. Perhaps instead of tethering them to Embiid, they could be subbed out early, then be used to stabilize the second unit when he rests.

“We’ve played a ton without him, we know what our style of play is and what we need to do without him,” Nurse said. “I think that we gotta make sure, as a coaching staff — or I gotta make sure — that, when he is out, we got the right people in. And I think it applies the other way, too. I think there’s some other guys that kind of fit with him, as well. We gotta make sure those guys are in when he is in.”

On that front, it is notable that Hield played only 11 minutes in Game 1, splitting his playing time between lineups that did and didn’t feature Embiid. On The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, Morey said that, when the Sixers acquired him at the trade deadline, they hoped he’d more productive than he was in their non-Embiid minutes.

“We had done a lot of study on Buddy Hield, and I think he probably needs an edge a little more than I might have thought going in,” Morey explained. “He’s not going to like do as much as you’d want when Joel is out, let’s just be frank. We always thought his fit was there with Joel. I thought his fit without Joel was going to be a little bit better, but I think, look, the nature of his game, he’s always played off of others to get his clean looks.”

Nurse said that Hield will “be a factor in this series.” He said that Oubre was not “nearly the athlete that he needed to be last night” but understands what he has to do going forward. He said that Maxey needs to “play more physical and get involved in rebounding and get involved in the physical nature of the game.” He said that Reed “was out of position a lot” defensively and “went for a lot of blocked shots that he didn’t need to,” which led to a few of the Knicks’ 23 offensive rebounds. There is plenty of room for both individual and collective improvement.

Despite being dominated on the glass all game and having a net rating of minus-97 (not a typo) with Embiid off the court, Philadelphia still had a chance to win Game 1 down the stretch. This is a testament to Embiid, a testament to their first-shot defense and a testament to their upside if they manage to get their second unit’s act together. When Embiid takes a seat on Tuesday, the Sixers will have an opportunity to show that they’ve learned from this loss and are sick of the same old story.

“We have to be a little bit more sharp,” Lowry said. “We have to be a little bit more in tune with each other, also.”

2024 NBA playoff picks, Game 2 best bets from proven model

The 4-seed Cleveland Cavaliers hope to move closer to just the fifth playoff series win in franchise history without LeBron James when they host the fifth-seeded Orlando Magic in Game 2 of their 2024 Eastern Conference first-round matchup on Monday. Cleveland has won 21 of its 29 postseason series with James on the team but is just 4-14 without him, with its last such victory coming in 1993. The Cavs gained the upper hand in this 2024 NBA playoffs series by defeating Orlando 97-83 on Saturday. The Magic haven’t won a postseason series since 2010 and have lost five straight playoff games, all by double digits.

Tip-off at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland is set for 7 p.m. ET. Cleveland is a 5.5-point favorite in the latest Cavaliers vs. Magic odds via SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 203.5. Before making any Magic vs. Cavaliers picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters the second week of 2024 NBA playoffs on a sizzling 90-58 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning more than $2,800. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Cavs vs. Magic and just locked in its picks and NBA playoff predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Magic vs. Cavs:

Cavaliers vs. Magic spread: Cleveland -5.5
Cavaliers vs. Magic over/under: 203.5 points
Cavaliers vs. Magic money line: Cleveland -222, Orlando +182
CLE: The Cavaliers are 15-0 when holding opponents under 100 points in 2023-24
ORL: The Magic are 1-12 all-time in Game 2s on the road and have lost nine straight
Cavaliers vs. Magic picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Cavaliers can cover
Cleveland has been almost automatic when hosting Game 2 of a playoff series, going 16-1 overall and winning each of the last nine contests. The Cavaliers will be looking for another strong performance from Donovan Mitchell, who led all players with 30 points in Saturday’s opener. It was the 21st career 30-point effort in the playoffs by the 27-year-old guard and his second with Cleveland, tying him with five others for third in the franchise list.

Center Jarrett Allen and forward Evan Mobley each recorded a double-double in Game 1, with the former registering 16 points and 18 rebounds while the latter had 16 and 11. The 26-year-old Allen, who was 6-for-10 from the field, joined Drew Gooden and current teammate Tristan Thompson as the only players in team history with at least 15 points, 15 boards and a 60% field-goal percentage in a postseason game. The rebound total was Allen’s highest since he pulled down 20 on March 20 against Miami. See which team to pick here.

Why the Magic can cover
Orlando shot just 32.6% from the field in the series opener but had five players reach double figures in points. Forward Paolo Banchero, who led the Magic during the regular season with an average of 22.6 points, scored a team-high 24 in his playoff debut. The first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the 21-year-old also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out five assists.

Franz Wagner scored 18 points and also had seven boards while blocking three shots. The 22-year-old forward has produced at least 14 points in each of his five meetings with the Cavaliers in 2023-24. Guard Jalen Suggs finished with 13 points while forward Jonathan Isaac and center Moe Wagner both had 10 points and five rebounds, with the latter doing so off the bench. See which team to pick here.

How to make Cavaliers vs. Magic picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 210 points. The model also says one side hits in almost 70% of simulations. You can only see the model’s pick and analysis at SportsLine.

So who Cavaliers vs. Magic, and which side hits in almost 70% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Magic vs. Cavaliers spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that has returned more than $2,600 on its NBA picks this season, and find out.

2024 NBA playoff picks, Game 2 best bets by proven model

The Philadelphia 76ers will look to even their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series at 1-1 when they meet the New York Knicks in Game 2 on Monday. The Knicks grabbed a 111-104 win in the 2024 NBA playoff series opener on Saturday. The seventh-seeded 76ers (47-35) had a nine-game winning streak stopped in Game 1. The second-seeded Knicks (50-32), who earned their highest seed since being the second seed in 2012-13, have won six in a row and seven of eight. Joel Embiid (knee) and Tyrese Maxey (illness) are listed as questionable for Philadelphia.

The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Philadelphia averaged 114.6 points per game during the regular season, while New York averaged 112.8. The Knicks are 5.5-point favorites in the latest 76ers vs. Knicks odds from SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 204.5. Before making any Knicks vs. 76ers picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from the proven computer simulation model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs on a sizzling 90-58 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning more than $2,800. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Sixers vs. Knicks and just locked in its picks and NBA playoff predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Knicks vs. Sixers:

76ers vs. Knicks spread: New York -5.5
76ers vs. Knicks over/under: 204.5 points
76ers vs. Knicks money line: New York -184, Philadelphia +166
NYK: The Knicks are 45-37-1 against the spread this season.
PHI: The 76ers are 48-36 against the spread this season.
76ers vs. Knicks picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Knicks can cover
Point guard Miles McBride is coming off a 21-point, four-assist and three-rebound effort in the Game 1 victory. That is 13 points more than his regular-season average. He has played well of late, and over his past nine games, is averaging 11.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 32.6 minutes. He scored 24 points in a 109-99 loss at Miami on April 2, and has reached double-digit scoring in 10 of his last 15 games.

Small forward OG Anunoby has given the Knicks a boost since being acquired from Toronto before the trade deadline. In 23 games with New York, all starts, he is averaging 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 rebounds in 34.9 minutes. He scored 11 points and grabbed four boards in Game 1. In four regular-season games against Philadelphia, Anunoby averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33.5 minutes. See which team to pick here.

Why the 76ers can cover
Maxey (questionable) poured in 33 points, dished out four assists, blocked two shots and grabbed two rebounds in Game 1. Maxey has found his range of late, and has scored 26 or more points in each of the past four games, including a 52-point effort in a 133-126 double-overtime win at San Antonio on April 7. In three games against the Knicks this year, he averaged 26.3 points, six assists and four rebounds. He is also connecting on 44.8% of his field goals and 90.5% of his foul shots against New York in 2023-24.

Embiid (questionable), who has battled injuries all season, scored 29 points, grabbed eight boards and had six assists and two steals in Game 1. He finished the regular season with three consecutive double-doubles, including a 37-point and 11 rebound effort in a 120-102 win over Detroit. During the regular season, he faced the Knicks once and poured in 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. In 39 regular-season games, the eighth-year veteran averaged 34.7 points, 11 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals. See which team to pick here.

How to make 76ers vs. Knicks picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 214 points. The model also says one side hits in well over 50% of simulations. You can only get the model’s pick at SportsLine.

So who wins 76ers vs. Knicks, and which side hits in well over 50% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Knicks vs. 76ers spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that has returned more than $2,800 on its NBA picks this season, and find out.

Looking back at Roman Reigns’ historic title reign ahead of showdown with Cody Rhodes

For years, WWE fans rejected the idea of Roman Reigns as the top star in the promotion. The pushback came from feelings that WWE had forced Reigns down the WWE Universe’s collective throat, removing the organic ascension that has marked professional wrestling’s biggest all-time superstars. Perhaps no moment had exemplified WWE’s seeming desperate need to push Reigns as “the man” as much as the 2015 Royal Rumble, a match Reigns won as the crowd chanted “We want refunds” and where The Rock showed up to provide a sort of endorsement of his cousin, with even the superstar’s appearance doing nothing to win the crowd over to Reigns’ side.

Things finally changed for Reigns in August 2020. After choosing to skip WrestleMania earlier that year and remain on the sidelines for months at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — a personal choice for being immunocompromised from multiple battles with leukemia — Reigns made a surprise return at SummerSlam.

Reigns, having transformed his already impressive physique into an even more impressive physique while on the sidelines, appeared after the main event between universal champion Bray Wyatt and challenger Braun Strowman to demolish both men. By the following Friday, it was official that this was a new Reigns, aligning with Paul Heyman and turning heel — a move fans had long demanded as they had clearly rejected the idea of him as the promotion’s top babyface — in preparation for an Aug. 30 triple threat match with Wyatt and Strowman for the universal title at Payback.

Reigns won the title as he chose to not even join the match until the final moments and finish off Wyatt with a low blow and Strowman with a spear. In that moment, a historic title reign kicked off and signaled that Reigns had become so much more than he ever had been before.

Carrying the ThunderDome era
Reigns’ return and new persona had created a buzz, and it was a buzz WWE needed as they embraced the new world created by the ongoing pandemic, launching the ThunderDome, an experience in arenas where fans appeared on LED boards as a virtual crowd while WWE piped in artificial noise, making the best of an unprecedented situation.

The ThunderDome also allowed Reigns to develop his character in ways that would not have been possible with live crowds. Reigns leaned on a lot of in-match dialogue in those early months as champion, working a slower, more methodical style all while talking to his opponents every step of the way.

That new style was quickly put on display in Reigns’ first feud after becoming champion, a very well-received program with Jey Uso that not only cemented Reigns’ new heel persona but also elevated Uso to a new status as a believable main event star.

The rivalry with Jey — and his twin brother, Jimmy — also established The Bloodline. After Reigns defeated Jey in an I Quit match inside Hell in a Cell, he forced his cousin to acknowledge him as “The Tribal Chief” and new leader of the legendary Anoaʻi family.

A dominant run to the undisputed title
Having brought The Usos to his cause, Reigns continued to steamroll contenders to his universal championship. This included great rivalries with Kevin Owens, Edge and Daniel Bryan — in a rivalry that ended Bryan’s WWE career. Just shy of one year after winning the universal title, Reigns defeated John Cena at SummerSlam, adding another big name to his championship resume.

Things were not perfect, of course, and keeping consistently positive momentum for a yearslong championship reign is an impossible ask.

At times, The Usos constant interference to tilt things in Reigns’ favor could grate on audiences. And a match with Finn Balor at Extreme Rules in 2021 sticks out as a particularly sore spot, with Balor appearing in his “Demon” persona only to lose the match when the top rope “broke,” causing him to fall to the canvas and allowing Reigns to pick up the win. This angle never went anywhere, the program with Balor was ended and both men moved on as if nothing had happened.

Challenger after challenger stepped up and was swatted away, all leading to a showdown with WWE champion Brock Lesnar in a unification clash at WrestleMania 38 in April 2022, more than 580 days after Reigns won the universal championship. Slightly more than 12 minutes after the match started, Reigns was officially the undisputed WWE universal champion.

The Bloodline drama escalates
Reigns becoming undisputed champion coincided with a new contract that saw him on television far less. Since WrestleMania 38, Reigns has defended his titles on television or pay-per-view a total of six times, with four other matches in which he teamed with Bloodline members.

The Bloodline, however, continued to be the premier storyline on WWE television. Solo Sikoa, cousin of Reigns and The Usos, joined the group, as did Sami Zayn. Zayn first began pushing for inclusion in Reigns’ inner circle in the weeks following Reigns’ WrestleMania win over Lesnar and pitched himself as an honorary member of the group, or an “honorary uce.” While The Usos, who went on to unify both the Raw and SmackDown tag titles, initially welcomed Zayn as something of a joke, he helped them win matches and took bullets for Reigns, slowly gaining trust until August 2022 when Reigns presented Zayn with his own “honorary uce” shirt. All the while, Jey Uso was the lone holdout on trusting Zayn, only fully coming around when Zayn was put “on trial.”

Sikoa, meanwhile, joined the group when he debuted to save Reigns against Drew McIntyre at Clash at the Castle, one of the moments many felt Reigns dropping the title would have been the right call, with a rabid crowd in England behind their countryman, only for The Bloodline numbers game to win out again.

Reigns eventually pushed Zayn too far during this period. Despite Zayn repeatedly siding with Reigns over his former best friend, Kevin Owens, it never seemed that Zayn had done enough to earn Reigns’ loyalty. That built to Zayn snapping and hitting Reigns with a steel chair, rather than a defenseless Owens at January’s Royal Rumble.

The betrayal led to a singles match between Zayn and Reigns at February’s Elimination Chamber. Again, Reigns was able to retain his title in front of an opponent’s hometown crowd. And again, Reigns turned away the challenger, disappointing a rabid audience both live and watching at home.

Zayn also lost his final connection to The Bloodline when Jey Uso turned on him in the wake of the loss to Reigns, again cementing that all members of The Bloodline stood with Reigns above all else.

Cody Rhodes and the road to Roman Reigns’ fallen kingdom
Zayn and Owens eventually reunited and set themselves to challenge The Usos for the undisputed tag titles at WrestleMania, the same show where Reigns would be forced to defend his undisputed title against Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes.

Like many of Reigns’ challengers over the more than 940 days since he first won the universal championship, the crowd is firmly behind Rhodes. But perhaps only McIntyre and Zayn have had the same level of time, place and momentum with the fans to be “the right guy” to end Reigns’ incredible run with the title.

And, quite frankly, not having Rhodes win at WrestleMania would be a WrestleMania mistake on par with Triple H defeating Booker T at WrestleMania 19.

Fans were deflated when Zayn didn’t beat Reigns in February. Zayn had become arguably the most popular member of the entire WWE roster and his story had built so perfectly to a shot at Reigns. Similarly, since returning from helping create All Elite Wrestling, Rhodes has been red-hot both in the ring and with the fans, with only injury hampering his momentum.

To have the two most popular babyfaces on the roster lose to Reigns in back-to-back matches would be a mistake that would loom over the promotion and Reigns.

There is good news for Reigns, however. The story of the fall of a king and the aftermath can often be more interesting than their time on the throne.

Reigns has sat atop the WWE for nearly 950 days, fending off challengers, navigating familial drama and controlling every top title in the promotion. What happens when The Usos are no longer undisputed tag team champions and Rhodes takes Reigns’ two world championships? Can Reigns hold The Bloodline together or will failure shatter the bonds that have been built during the longest WWE world championship reign since Hulk Hogan held the WWE championship from January 1984 to February 1988?

Reigns’ time as champion has had incredible highs and some forgettable lows, but he has elevated every current and former member of The Bloodline. The Usos are now superstars whether as a team or as singles, Sikoa has become a legitimate force on the roster and Zayn reached a level of popularity few ever manage in professional wrestling while the group combined to tell one of the best stories in WWE history.

It’s time to move to the next step for both the story and for Reigns as an individual. It’s time to see Reigns sitting in the middle of a fallen kingdom, finally forced to reckon with his own mortality.

We’ll see if WWE pulls the trigger and sets Reigns down that path on Sunday night. Not doing so would be the biggest mistake the company can make.

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 1 predictions, card, matches, start time, PPV preview, location, date

The greatest spectacle in sports entertainment has arrived. After months of buildup and storylines all funneling toward this weekend, it’s time to reach a boiling point as WrestleMania 39 kicks off inside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The two-night event kicks off on Saturday with a slew of intriguing matches.

Night 1 of WrestleMania 39 is currently set to feature seven matches, ranging from a clash between father and son, to a social media superstar battling one of the best wrestlers of his generation, to a long-awaited showdown for the undisputed tag team championships. There’s something for wrestling fans of all tastes on the card, including John Cena’s return to the ring as he takes on Austin Theory for the United States championship.

But that’s not the match most people are tuning in for. That belongs to the epic tag team title match set between undisputed titleholders The Usos and the team of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Zayn had been intertwined in The Bloodline story for months as he became an “Honorary Uce” while betraying Owens, but things changed at the Royal Rumble when Zayn finally turned on Roman Reigns and set off the chain of events leading to this wild matchup between the four men.

With such a big card ahead, CBS Sports’ wrestling experts have taken a look up and down the card to provide predictions for every match on Saturday’s card. Let’s take a look at the way we think things will play out at Night 1 of WrestleMania 39.

WrestleMania 39 Night 1 predictions
Undisputed Tag Team Championship — The Usos (c) vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

WWE should be looking to take all titles off The Bloodline at WrestleMania. It makes for the best story and rewards the babyfaces who have gotten incredibly over with fans in recent months. That means putting Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn over on Night 1. Zayn has been red-hot thanks to the thriving story of his involvement with, and eventual break from, The Bloodline. WWE couldn’t pull the trigger on putting the undisputed WWE universal championship on Zayn right before WrestleMania, but they can reward his work by putting the tag titles on him and his best friend. Hopefully this match is the start of WWE moving to the post-championship stage of The Bloodline story. Pick: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn win the titles — Brent Brookhouse (also Shakiel Mahjouri)

SmackDown Women’s Championship — Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Rhea Ripley

Ripley earned the title shot by winning the Royal Rumble, as was the expectation heading into the event. Challenging Flair makes sense, given the history between the two, but it is an odd move as Judgement Day has been a Raw staple since the group’s inception. The women haven’t gotten much of a build heading into WrestleMania, but the match should deliver solid action. The right move here is to put the belt on Ripley and let her have another go at a run with a major championship. Pick: Rhea Ripley wins the title — Brookhouse (also Mahjouri)

United States Championship — Austin Theory (c) vs. John Cena

The build to this match has been so poor that I’m hesitant to pick Theory, but I’m not sure where you go with Cena as champion considering his hefty Hollywood schedule. This no longer feels like a passing of the torch moment, so a cheap finish in Theory’s favor feels like the safest way out. Cena has also expressed regret over derailing the Nexus’ white-hot run in 2010. This is a vastly different situation, but I have a hunch that Cena would feel better elevating superstars at this stage in his career. Look for Theory to win via shenanigans. Pick: Austin Theory retains the title — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)

Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul

Paul has proven that he can be half of a very good match given the right amount of preparation. There’s no reason to think that won’t be the case again against Rollins, a proven high-level talent. Rollins should get the win here if for no other reason than it benefits him far more than Paul, who is a special attraction regardless of wins or losses. Rollins has been on the losing end of the build-up to the match, which also suggests he should get the momentum back by picking up a win here and staying a relevent player at the top end of the card. Pick: Seth Rollins wins — Brookhouse (also Mahjouri)

Trish Stratus, Lita & Becky Lynch vs. Damage CTRL

I am in favor of the established faction in Damage CTRL getting the win over a made woman in Becky Lynch and two part-time Hall of Famers. The problem is that Damage CTRL has been booked terribly inconsistently and has generally been on the losing end of their exchanges with the tag champs and Stratus. All of this means that Damage CTRL will most likely win at WrestleMania, but I’m pushing back against that. Unless there are concrete, long-term plans to make Damage CTRL a dominant force coming out of WrestleMania, what’s the point? Might as well put a smile on fans’ faces. Pick: Trish Stratus, Lita & Becky Lynch win — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)

Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio

The sensible choice is Rey winning as he has been pushed too far by his son and is also going to be fresh off an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. But, speaking as a father, it’s hard to imagine a dad not wanting his kid to get a win on a stage this big. It’s also very easy to see how much the win could benefit Dominik’s character moving forward. Rey is bulletproof and losing to his kid for the good of that kid’s career makes too much sense. Pick: Dominik Mysterio wins — Brookhouse

It was so satisfying to see Rey finally clock his bratty, punk kid and WrestleMania should offer more of the same. I was initially inclined to give the younger Mysterio the rub, especially considering that the masked man’s career is winding down. Looking back on the feud, Dominik has gotten the better of his father so many times and it just doesn’t feel right to have Rey lose after all of that. Dominik is still very young and has grown leaps-and-bounds in his new role. A loss to his father, arguably the greatest luchador in history, won’t undo his progress. Pick: Rey Mysterio wins — Mahjouri

Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. The Viking Raiders

These teams are in a weird predicament. They’ve all been presented relatively well on television, perhaps with the exception of Alpha Academy, but are generally used as fodder to the top stars. Street Profits are the most established of the WWE teams, but it still feels like a temporary split is on the horizon. Strowman and Ricochet have stumbled upon something interesting with their time-tested big man, small man dynamic. They’ve had consistently strong showings on SmackDown. Ricochet is a phenomenal talent between the ropes and Strowman is too physically imposing to suffer frequent losses. Braun Strowman & Ricochet win — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)

Seth Rollins defeats Logan Paul despite interference from KSI

Since debuting in WWE, Logan Paul has impressed at every opportunity to perform in the ring. At WrestleMania 39, he managed to show out yet again, but ultimately came up short as he took on Seth Rollins.

The two men made entrances befitting the spectacle of WrestleMania. Paul took a short zipline ride to the entrance ramp before being accompanied to the ring by someone dressed as a Prime sports drink bottle. Meanwhile, an orchestra conductor led the crowd in singing Rollins’ theme song before Rollins walked to the ring in an outfit that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated.

Unsurprisingly, Paul quickly proved he was up to the task of hanging with Rollins, tossing him from the ring, hitting a buckshot lariat and unleashing a flurry of punches to the body. Paul would continue to hold onto the advantage for a long stretch of the match, until missing a moonsault during which he got tremendous height.

That mistake allowed Rollins to achieve a moment of catharsis, throwing Paul over the top rope in the same fashion in which Paul had eliminated him during the Royal Rumble.

Momentum would continue to swing back and forth, with big near falls for both men, including after the same big right hand with which he’d knocked out Rollins several times in the lead-up to WrestleMania.

Eventually, the man in the Prime costume was revealed to be YouTuber KSI — who is Paul’s business partner in the sports drink. After aiding Paul, KSI attempted to shoot cell phone video of Paul diving from the ring post through Rollins on the announce table. Rollins was able to reverse the situation, however, pulling KSI onto the table to take the splash in his place.

Shortly after the KSI reveal — and after both men scored with a few more big moves — Rollins was able to get the win with a stomp, finally getting back at Paul after months of being one-upped by the YouTuber-turned-boxer.

Yet again, Paul proved he can hang with one of the best talents in the business, continuing his impressive run in the WWE ring.

Pat McAfee returns to beat The Miz with help of 49ers star George Kittle

Since the first WrestleMania, the annual supershow is known for surprises and plenty of celebrity appearances. The tradition continued on Saturday night at Night 1 of WrestleMania 39 when San Francisco 49ers superstar tight end George Kittle helped Pat McAfee to beat The Miz in an impromptu match.

Miz, who had hosting duties for the two-night event at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, was in the ring with Snoop Dogg to announce the night’s official attendance when Snoop told Miz the night would be better if Miz had a match.

This led to the surprise return of former WWE commentary member McAfee, who was also a punter in the NFL. McAfee challenged Miz to a match, which was eventually made official.

After McAfee got the upper hand, Miz attempted to walk away from the match. As he left ringside, Miz walked past Kittle, who booed the WWE superstar and received a shove in return.

Kittle quickly unzipped his jacket and jumped the ringside barricade before delivering a clothesline to Miz as McAfee distracted the referee.

After a big swanton from McAfee from the top rope to Miz at ringside, Miz was tossed back in the ring for the finish, after which Kittle and McAfee celebrated together in front of the rabid SoFi crowd.

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 card, date, matches, Night 1 and Night 2 match card, rumors, start time, predictions

WWE’s biggest annual event returns to Hollywood for WrestleMania 39. A marquee match between undisputed WWE universal champion Roman Reigns and Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes will headline the events from SoFi Stadium over two days in Inglewood, California on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2.

Rhodes punched his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania by winning the Royal Rumble and now is one match away from completing his promise to “finish the story” and win the world title that eluded his legendary father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Reigns, meanwhile, has held the universal championship since August 2020 and unified the belt with the WWE championship at last year’s WrestleMania.

There are five other matches set for the second night of the incredible spectacle in Hollywood. Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair looks to extend her title reign when she welcomes her latest challenger in Asuka. Intercontinental champion GUNTHER is set to put his title on the line — along with his lengthy title reign — when he takes on the best friends of Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in a triple threat match. And Edge and Finn Balor look to end their bitter rivalry when they meet inside Hell in a Cell.

Take a look below at the confirmed matches for the 2023 WrestleMania 39, both Night 1 and Night 2. And don’t miss our WrestleMania 39 predictions for Night 2.

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 card
Night 1
United States Championship — Austin Theory (c) vs. John Cena: A match between Theory and Cena has been discussed since Theory was on the independent scene. So, when Cena was set to appear on Raw ahead of WrestleMania, it seemed a no-brainer what the end result of that all would be. Indeed, Theory confronted Cena and laid out the challenge, which Cena refused before running Theory down on the microphone, saying Theory was not ready for that level of competition. By the end of the segment, Cena agreed to the match but to please the fans, not to give Theory what he wanted.

SmackDown Women’s Championship — Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Rhea Ripley: Ripley was the frontrunner to win the women’s Royal Rumble match and did just that. Entering at No. 1, Ripley set the record for the longest performance in a traditional women’s Rumble match en route to winning the bout. Ripley officially challenged SmackDown women’s champion Flair the following evening over a match against Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair.

Undisputed Tag Team Championship — The Usos (c) vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens: Zayn and Owens have had their own issues with The Bloodline. Jey Uso stood by Zayn after Zayn’s falling out with the group but eventually turned on his best friend, berating him for thinking he would choose a friend over family. Zayn spent weeks trying to reunite with Owens before the longtime friends finally hugged it out. As expected, that reunion will lead to Zayn and Owens trying to finally get one over on The Bloodline by taking the tag titles from The Usos at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul: Celebrity appearances have been tied to the fabric of WrestleMania since its inception. Paul has emerged as one of the most athletically brilliant celebrity crossovers in professional wrestling. His match against Reigns at Crown Jewel received rave reviews. Certainly, Reigns did the heavy lifting, but Paul over-delivered on his part. Paul returned from injury as a surprise entrant in the men’s Royal Rumble match and eliminated Rollins. Then, as Rollins was one of the last two men standing in the Elimination Chamber, Paul interfered, taking out Rollins and allowing Austin Theory to retain his United States championship. Paul has knocked out Rollins with a single punch multiple times, playing up his prowess as a boxer.

Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Damage CTRL: Lynch’s issues with Damage CTRL have been going for quite some time. Lita made her return to WWE to help Lynch defeat Bayley in a steel cage match, which led to the pair teaming to battle Dakota Kai and IYO SKY for the women’s tag titles. Lynch and Lita managed to take the belts with the help of a returning Stratus. This led to the expected challenge for a six-woman tag at WrestleMania, which Damage CTRL was quick to accept.

Dominik Mysterio vs. Rey Mysterio: After a long build that has seen Rey leave Raw for SmackDown to get away from his son, Dominik finally made an official challenge for a match at WrestleMania. Rey declined, leading to Dominik insulting him. While Rey insists he will never wrestle his son, Dominik pushed him over the edge by disrespecting Rey’s wife and daughter ringside. Rey smacked Dominik on the March 24 episode of SmackDown and accepted his challenge for WrestleMania.

Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. The Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy vs. Viking Raiders (Men’s Showcase): A special four-team match was announced for the card, giving some roster staples a chance to showcase their skills on the biggest stage in wrestling.

Night 2
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship — Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cody Rhodes: Rhodes returned at the Royal Rumble following a seven-month absence to heal a completely torn pectoral muscle. Rhodes entered the eponymous match at No. 30 and eliminated GUNTHER to punch his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania. Reigns and Rhodes have since engaged in a long series of mind games, as well as Rhodes picking up a big win over Solo Sikoa, ending Sikoa’s undefeated streak since joining The Bloodline on the main roster.

Raw Women’s Championship — Bianca Belair (c) vs. Asuka: Ripley’s decision to challenge Flair left Belair without a match at WrestleMania. Authority figure Adam Pearce announced that an Elimination Chamber match would determine the No. 1 contender for Belair’s Raw women’s championship at WrestleMania. Asuka was able to outlast Liv Morgan, Carmella, Raquel Rodriguez, Nikki Cross and Natalya to punch her ticket to WrestleMania.

Intercontinental Championship — Gunther (c) vs. Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre: McIntyre and Sheamus battled on SmackDown with the winner punching his ticket to a match with Gunther at WrestleMania. Imperium attacked both men during the match, which led to a disqualification with no clear winner. As a consequence, both men were named challengers for the title at WrestleMania. Sheamus and Gunther have already had a series of great matches.

Edge vs. Finn Balor (Hell in a Cell): Edge and Balor have been engaged in a heated feud since Balor turned on Edge and took over The Judgement Day. After winning their “I Quit” match by threatening to have Rhea Ripley deliver a Con-Chair-To to Beth Phoenix, Balor seemed to have gotten the better of his rival. Phoenix and Edge came back to win a mixed tag match against Balor and Ripley at Elimination Chamber. Now the two men meet one more time, this time on the biggest stage in wrestling and inside Hell in a Cell. Adding more fuel to bout, Balor has indicated he will enter the match in full “Demon” persona.

Brock Lesnar vs. Omos: Despite not truly settling things with Bobby Lashley at Elimination Chamber, Lesnar was quickly shuffled into a new program when MVP laid out a challenge for Lesnar to face the towering Omos at WrestleMania. Lesnar appeared on Raw, asking MVP to sell him on the match, which MVP did to Lesnar’s satisfaction. After being surprisingly cordial, Lesnar did eventually hit MVP with the F5 after MVP accidentally spit moonshine in his face as they toasted to celebrate the newly official bout. Omos has gotten the better of every physical confrontation between the two giants to date.

Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. Ronda Rousey & Shayna Bazler vs. Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville (Women’s Showcase): It was announced on the March 17 episode of SmackDown that a fatal four-way tag team WrestleMania showcase match would take place. Mogan and Rodriguez were the first to qualify by beating Emma and Tegan Knox. Natalya and Shotzi qualified by beating Xia Li and Lacey Evans; meanwhile, Rousey and Bazler were given free entry into the match. Green and Deville qualified on the final pre-WrestleMania Raw by beating Michin and Candice LeRae.

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 live stream, start time, matches, card, how to watch online, viewing information

The biggest spectacle in sports entertainment touches down in Los Angeles. WWE WrestleMania 39 takes place over the weekend with a star-studded card featuring some of the hottest storylines in professional wrestling.

One of the most anticipated matches in recent memory headlines WrestleMania 39. Dominant, record-breaking champion Roman Reigns defends his undisputed WWE universal championship against Cody Rhodes to close out the weekend. The main event has even more interesting pieces now that The Usos have dropped the undisputed tag team titles to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.

Rhodes punched his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania by winning the Royal Rumble and now is one match away from completing his promise to “finish the story” and win the world title that eluded his legendary father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Reigns, meanwhile, has held the universal championship since August 2020 and unified the belt with the WWE championship at last year’s WrestleMania.

There are five other matches set for the second night of the incredible spectacle in Hollywood. Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair looks to extend her title reign when she welcomes her latest challenger in Asuka. Intercontinental champion GUNTHER is set to put his title on the line — along with his lengthy title reign — when he takes on the best friends of Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in a triple threat match. And Edge and Finn Balor look to end their bitter rivalry when they meet inside Hell in a Cell.

Here’s how you can catch all the action on Sunday night.

Watch 2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 2
Date: Sunday, April 2
Location: SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles
Start time: 8 p.m. ET (kickoff show starts at 7 p.m.)
Watch live: Peacock

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 2 match card
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship — Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cody Rhodes
Raw Women’s Championship — Bianca Belair (c) vs. Asuka
Intercontinental Championship — Gunther (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus
Edge vs. Finn Balor (Hell in a Cell)
Brock Lesnar vs. Omos
Liz Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler vs. Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville (women’s showcase)