Draymond Green expected to return Monday vs. Grizzlies after 16-game absence, per report

Draymond Green is expected to return to the lineup on Monday when the Golden State Warriors face off against the Memphis Grizzlies, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Green was suspended indefinitely after a Dec. 12 incident against the Phoenix Suns in which he committed a flagrant foul against Jusuf Nurkic. In total, Green missed 16 games between his suspension and ramp up for a return, and his return is now set for Martin Luther King Day.

Green’s indefinite suspension was the result of several disciplinary issues over the course of his career. He had already been suspended five games earlier this season for a chokehold against Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert. Additionally, Green had been suspended several other times in his career, and the league had cited his previous disciplinary issues as the punishments grew more severe for newer infractions. As part of his return to play, Green needed to undergo counseling.

He revealed on his podcast, the Draymond Green Show, that commissioner Adam Silver needed to talk him out of retiring after the incident. He eventually apologized for what happened. “I was wrong,” Green said. “I was wrong regardless of what I was trying to do, regardless of — none of that shit matters. I was wrong. I accept my fault in that and I apologize.”

The Warriors have struggled mightily lately without Green. They started 5-1 after his suspension began, but are 3-7 since. At 18-21, the Warriors currently hold the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference and will need help just to make it into the Play-In Tournament. The defense that Green typically leads is currently ranked 24th in the NBA.

The Grizzlies, under other circumstances, might not be an ideal opponent for Green to return against. They have been one of Golden State’s primary rivals over the past several years, and Green has publicly feuded with them in that span. However, his primary antagonist in that window has been Dillon Brooks, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, and with the Grizzlies at 14-25 and dealing with several key injuries, this game isn’t as likely to generate controversy as a typical Warriors-Grizzlies matchup might have done. If the Warriors have their way, Green’s return will lead to a quiet victory against the Grizzlies and then a whole lot more of them as the season progresses.

Dwyane Wade to receive statue outside Heat arena, which Pat Riley says will be ‘eight feet tall’

It was only a matter of time before Miami Heat legend and recent Hall of Fame inductee Dwyane Wade received a statue outside the organization’s South Beach arena, and it became official on Sunday. During halftime of the Heat’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, which they dubbed “Dwyane Wade Hall of Fame Night,” team president Pat Riley announced that Wade will soon have the first statue in franchise history outside of Kaseya Center.

“I’m not really the person who gets lost for words. I’ve got too many words actually. I didn’t dream of this, though,” Wade said after the halftime announcement. “I’m just so grateful. I’m very grateful. … I can’t wait for families to be able to experience what that’s gonna be like from all around the world, to come and have a moment of the culture that will be out front. I can’t wait until that day, man, so I’m excited.”

Catch Wade’s full halftime interview featuring the special announcement from Pat 👀 pic.twitter.com/KxO4lHXNkH

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 15, 2024
The unveiling ceremony for the statue will take place in fall of 2024, according to the Heat, with further details being released at a later date. Riley said that the statue will be “eight feet tall,” but no size parameters were provided in Miami’s press release. They did say that sculptors Omri Amrany and Oscar Leon of Fine Art Studio Rotblatt Amrany have been commissioned to create the statue. Amrany has worked on statues of NBA stars before, including those of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Wade played 15 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Heat, leading them to three championships while earning Finals MVP honors in 2006. He is one of three players in NBA history to accumulate at least 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 800 blocks and 500 3-pointers in his career — the other two are LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Wade was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this past August, and will always have a home in “Wade County” as the poster child for Heat Culture.

“When we retired his jersey in February 2020, I said Dwyane was the face of this franchise forever and I meant it,” Riley said. “Dwyane’s legacy is a towering one not only for the Miami Heat but for Miami-Wade County. I can’t think of a better way to honor him than by memorializing that legacy.”

Desmond Bane out at least six weeks with ankle sprain, as nightmare Grizzlies season continues

A rough 2023-24 season for the Memphis Grizzlies just got even more difficult, as shooting guard Desmond Bane will miss at least six weeks with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, the team announced on Sunday. Bane carried the brunt of the scoring load during Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension and was expected to do the same once Morant underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Instead the Grizzlies will have to look elsewhere for the next month and half.

Bane joins a growing list of Grizzlies who have missed significant time this season, most notably Morant and center Steven Adams, who was ruled out prior to the season due to knee surgery. On Thursday the Grizzlies announced that guard Marcus Smart would miss at least six weeks with a hand injury and, in the same press release that provided the Bane update, Memphis said that forward Jake LaRavia would also miss at least three weeks with an ankle sprain.

After a dismal start to the season, Morant’s return temporarily breathed life into the Grizzlies, as they went 6-3 in the games he played. But now, sitting at 14-25 without Morant and with extended absences for Bane and Smart, it’s hard to envision a late run into the thick of the playoff race.

Bane is in the midst of a breakout season, averaging career highs in points (24.4) and assists (5.3) while maintaining remarkable efficiency from the field. He’s shooting 38% on 8.6 3-point attempts per game and making a career-best 55% of his 2-pointers. The team’s offensive rating has improved by 5.5 points per 100 possessions with Bane on the floor this season, so the Grizzlies could struggle on that end during his absence.

Martin Luther King Day game times, live stream, TV channel, odds, how to watch basketball online

The NBA is celebrating Martin Luther King Day on Monday with an 11-game schedule and plenty of afternoon tips for the holiday. Action gets started at 1 p.m. ET with the 76ers hosting the Rockets, and there are five other games that will be underway by 6 p.m. ET. Mavericks-Pelicans, Knicks-Magic, Grizzlies-Warriors are all on the holiday slate, which closes out with Lakers-Thunder at 10:30 p.m. ET. Warriors veteran Draymond Green is set to make his return from suspension in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

During #MLKDay and beyond, the NBA honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through action that answers the needs of today. We are reminded of the continued responsibility to protect and promote freedom and justice for all people.

The time is always right to do what is right. pic.twitter.com/O1opTFpazz

— NBA (@NBA) January 15, 2024
Here’s where you can watch every MLK Day matchup.

Houston Rockets vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Location: Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia
TV channel: NBA TV | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: PHI -305 | HOU +240 | O/U: 227.5
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: American Airlines Center — Dallas
TV channel: Bally Sports New Orleans, Bally Sports Southwest | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: NO -170 | DAL +143 | O/U: 236
Detroit Pistons vs. Washington Wizards
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Location: Captial One Arena — Washington, D.C.
TV channel: Bally Sports Detroit, Monumental Sports Network | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: DET +185 | WAS -225 | O/U: 240.5
Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Location: Madison Square Garden — New York
TV channel: Bally Sports Florida, MSG Network | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: ORL +222 | NY -278 | O/U: 221
San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: State Farm Arena — Atlanta
TV channel: TNT
Odds: SAS +260 | ATL -335 | O/U: 245.5
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Location: FedExForum — Memphis
TV channel: TNT
Odds: GS -305 | MEM +240 | O/U: 227.5
Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland
TV channel: NBC Sports Chicago, Bally Sports Ohio | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: CLE -165 | CHI +140 | O/U: 220.5
Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Barclays Center — New York
TV channel: Bally Sports Sun, YES Network | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: MIA +110 | BKN -130 | O/U: 218.5
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Scotiabank Arena — Toronto
TV channel: NBC Sports Boston, TSN | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: BOS -285 | TOR +228 | O/U: 243
Indiana Pacers vs. Utah Jazz
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Location: Delta Center — Utah
TV channel: Bally Sports Indiana, KJZZ-TV | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: IND +222 | UTA -278 | O/U: 245
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Crypto.com Arena — Los Angeles
TV channel: NBA TV, Bally Sports Oklahoma, Spectrum SportsNet | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: OKC -105 | LAL -115 | O/U: 239

2024 NBA picks, January 15 predictions from proven model

We’ve got another exciting Eastern Conference matchup on the NBA on MLK Day schedule as the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat are set to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Barclays Center. Brooklyn is 16-22 overall and 10-9 at home, while Miami is 23-16 overall and 11-9 on the road. The Nets have dominated this series recently, winning six of the last seven meetings against the Heat.

The Nets are favored by 2 points in the latest Nets vs. Heat odds, and the over/under is 219 points. Before entering any Heat vs. Nets picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the advanced 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 Week 12 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 112-62 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning well over $4,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Miami vs. Brooklyn. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA betting lines for the game:

Nets vs. Heat spread: Nets -2
Nets vs. Heat over/under: 219 points
Nets vs. Heat money line: Nets: -132, Heat: +111
Nets vs. Heat picks: See picks here
What you need to know about the Nets
Last Thursday, Brooklyn couldn’t handle Cleveland and fell 111-102. The Nets have not had much luck with the Cavaliers recently, as the team’s come up short the last three times they’ve met. The Nets struggled to work together and finished the game with only 18 assists. That’s the fewest assists they’ve managed all season.

Despite the setback, the Nets will enter Monday’s matchup confident they can secure the victory. That’s because Brooklyn is 6-1 in its last seven meetings against Miami. The Nets are led offensively by Mikal Bridges, who’s averaging 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

What you need to know about the Heat
Meanwhile, winning is just a little bit easier when you work as a team to post 10 more assists than your opponent, a fact the Heat proved on Sunday. They strolled past Charlotte with points to spare, taking the game 104-87. The win made it back-to-back wins for the Heat.

The Heat’s win was the result of several impressive offensive performances. One of the most notable came from Bam Adebayo, who dropped a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Adebayo has been hot recently, having posted 10 or more rebounds the last five times he’s played. For the season, Adebayo is averaging 22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

How to make Nets vs. Heat picks
The model has simulated Nets vs. Heat 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Over, and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

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.

The duo of @PatMcAfeeShow & @gkittle46 just took down @mikethemiz at #WrestleMania!!! pic.twitter.com/BsMmOsZBfL

— WWE (@WWE) April 2, 2023
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)

2023 WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 2 predictions, card, PPV preview, matches, start time, date, location

While there is always excitement heading into WrestleMania, the second night of this weekend’s WrestleMania 39 has a little something extra. Roman Reigns’ record-breaking run as champion appears in more danger than ever before as he heads into battle against Cody Rhodes.

Reigns has held one half of his undisputed titles — the universal championship — since August 2020. He has bested some of the top superstars in the promotion, including Edge, Daniel Bryan, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Rey Msyterio, Brock Lesnar and more. He unified the universal title with the WWE championship at WrestleMania 38 when he beat Lesnar. Now, he takes on a hungry challenger in Rhodes, who enters as one of the hottest stars in all of wrestling.

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.

Let’s take a look at who the CBS Sports wrestling experts expect to pick up wins at Night 2 of WrestleMania 39.

WrestleMania 39 Night 2 predictions
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cody Rhodes

There is no real choice for WWE but to put the title on Rhodes here. It’s rare to have one babyface challenger that is red-hot with the fans and positioned perfectly to become champion. WWE managed to get two men in that position with Rhodes and Sami Zayn. Understandably, WWE did not put the belts on Zayn in the final pre-WrestleMania pay-per-view, but that decision was deflating for many fans. If they now don’t pounce with Rhodes, completing the story of his return to WWE, they will alienate fans while also likely never again having a moment so “right” to take the belts off of Reigns. Pick: Cody Rhodes wins the titles — Brent Brookhouse

It’s time for WWE to pull the trigger on Reigns’ title loss. There are too many sign pointing to Rhodes’ crowning moment. Rhodes has quickly established himself as one of WWE’s top stars, has crossover interest of the AEW audience, quickly became a top merchandise-seller and is red hot with momentum. WWE passed on giving Zayn the title and there’s not much room to press forward with Reigns. You could build to a Reigns vs. Jey Uso match; however, the Thunderdome-era story requires a lot of time to retell and Reigns appearances are infrequent enough as it is. The responsible choice is to give Rhodes a memorable WrestleMania moment to send the crowd home happy. Pick: Cody Rhodes wins the titles — Shakiel Mahjouri

Raw Women’s Championship — Bianca Belair (c) vs. Asuka

WWE has really dropped the ball with the introduction of Asuka’s darker side. The video package they presented on the Raw before WrestleMania was really good but too little, too late. Asuka has generally been presented more as a cartoonish villain than an unhinged killer. It’s a shame because this character could have been very refreshing as a heel champion. Pair that with the fact that Belair is a reliable champion and Rhea Ripley — who also has a dark, brooding persona — should be favored to beat Flair, and Asuka’s chances are slim. Pick: Bianca Belair to retain the title — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)

Intercontinental Championship — Gunther (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus

No match sticks out as specifically booked to appeal to fans like me as much as the clash for the intercontinental championship. The match features three big men who specialize in blunt-force violence. We’ve seen the three men mix it up in tremendous singles matches and a triple threat should do well to add an extra layer of chaos to the mix. Sheamus, one of WWE’s most underappreciated talents, doesn’t seem as though he’s set for a run with the belt and McIntyre doesn’t need the strap. Gunther is having a long run as champion and that will likely continue as he closes in on the record for longest reign as intercontinental champion held by Honky Tonk Man since 1988. Pick: Gunther to retain the title — Brookhouse (also Mahjouri)

Edge vs. Finn Balor (Hell in a Cell)

Edge has been great in the ring and inconsistent on the microphone since returning from a seemingly career-ending injury. Balor is no spring chicken, but he’s in top athletic shape and one of the best superstars WWE has between the ropes. Judgement Day has had a remarkable resurgence thanks to the individual performers comprising the group. Dominik Mysterio’s snot-nosed brat persona has been a surprising hit and Ripley is in rare form. Balor winning has far more upside than Edge winning, pure and simple. Besides, WWE has so many “send the fans home happy” options that having Balor, particularly in his demon form, take the fall would be unwise. Pick: Finn Balor wins — Mahjouri

Had Balor not defeated Edge in an “I Quit” match before having Rhea Ripley hit Beth Phoenix with a con-chair-to, I’d shade toward Balor getting the win here. Yes, Edge and Phoenix beat Ripley and Balor in a tag match at Elimination Chamber, but a simple tag win doesn’t feel like appropriate payback for the attack on Edge’s wife, nor all the other times Balor has violently gotten the best of Edge. Edge takes this one. Pick: Edge wins — Brookhouse

Brock Lesnar vs. Omos

It has been fun watching Omos get the best of Lesnar in their limited physical interactions. Lesnar is rarely shown as at a disadvantage. Against men like Bobby Lashley or Roman Reigns, Lesnar is usually on equal footing but not physically dominated. Of course, this all leads to a WrestleMania match where Lesnar hits some big moves and a “How did he do that?” moment of hitting Omos with an F5. Pick: Brock Lesnar wins — Brookhouse (also Mahjouri)

Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya & Shotzi vs. Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler vs. Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville

The fact that Rousey and Baszler were given a free pass into the showcase match says it all. They are by far the most cohesive team in this makeshift match and have the most star power. Kicking off the MMA fighters’ journey to women’s tag team champions is the best use of the former UFC champion if you want to keep her away from the singles title pictures. Pick: Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler win — Mahjouri (also Brookhouse)

WWE merges with Endeavor, parent company of UFC, with valuation over $21 billion

Following months of speculation, a sale of WWE appears imminent. Endeavor, the parent company of UFC, has nearly finalized a deal to acquire WWE at a valuation of $9.3 billion, CNBC reported Sunday afternoon.

The deal will see Endeavor create a new, publicly traded company that will run both UFC and WWE. Endeavor/UFC would take a 51% ownership stake with WWE shareholders retaining 49% of the new company.

WWE executive chairman and long-time owner Vince McMahon, the largest current shareholder of WWE, will remain chairman of the WWE portion of the new company sitting only behind Endeavor founder and CEO Ari Emanuel. WWE CEO Nick Khan is expected to remain president of wrestling operations, while Dana White will continue to over UFC as its president.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.

“This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed,” Emanuel said in a press release. “For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together.”

McMahon stepped away from WWE in July 2022 after payoffs of several allegations of sexual misconduct came to light. On March 23, he paid WWE back $17.4 million as reimbursement for expenses related to an extended investigation into the allegations.

Even after resigning as chairman and CEO, McMahon remained WWE’s largest shareholder. Unsurprising to many, he forced his way back into his chairman role in January. In the wake of that move, his daughter Stephanie McMahon, the interim chairman and co-CEO along with Khan, resigned from her position.

With a sudden desire to sell the company along with media rights negotiations about to open for WWE, McMahon announced his return in a press release as such: “The only way for WWE to fully capitalize on this opportunity is for me to return as Executive Chairman and support the management team in the negotiations for our media rights and to combine that with a review of strategic alternatives. My return will allow WWE, as well as any transaction counterparties, to engage in these processes knowing they will have the support of the controlling shareholder.”

Endeavor acquired controlling interest in UFC in 2016. In 2021, the company bought out the remaining shareholders to take 100% control of the world’s largest mixed martial arts brand.

UFC began a five-year deal in 2019 with ESPN, which acquired all of its media rights and became the exclusive home of its pay-per-views. That deal comes up at the end of 2023, in close proximity to when WWE’s television rights deals with NBCUniversal and Fox expire. WWE also signed a five-year deal in 2021 with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which now hosts its network content, including live events, until 2026.

Endeavor’s purchase of WWE could be announced as soon as Monday, according to CNBC. That would come one day after WWE concludes the second night of it’s massive annual WrestleMania event, which is expected to be the most-attended and largest-grossing even of its kind in history.