In short it looks like the top four matches for the event should all be at least good, with the Punk v Undertaker match in particular standing a strong chance of being outstanding.
Adding to the show’s potential is the recent World Heavyweight title win of Alberto Del Rio. This could see him slotted into the Sheamus and Orton match (which I think would actually improve things considerably) or face off with a headliner-in-waiting in either Dolph Ziggler or Ryback. Both of those guys should form a strong part of the ‘Mania undercard whether they tangle with ADR or someone else. WWE seems to have finally gotten their act together on elevating new stars and both men are leading the way.
Generally speaking the whole fantasy booking schtick is most fun when the company you’re writing about are fumbling about aimlessly and you have a clear vision of what would make things better. Which puts me in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand I want to write a fantasy booking piece detailing what I’d do if given the chance to book WrestleMania XXIX (although I’ve done that already: see here). On the other WWE are doing a capable job so far and I’d be setting things up in much the same way they appear to be.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write one possibility of how I’d book ‘Mania XXIX. There are so many options for this year’s show that there’s no clear card presenting itself to me. Below is just one possible line-up.
I’ll start at the Royal Rumble. Right now it looks as though the card for that show is going to feature four advertised bouts: Rock v Punk for the WWE championship, Alberto Del Rio v Big Show for the World Heavyweight championship, the Rumble itself and some sort of Divas match… because there’s always a Divas match.
Let’s assume that for the next few weeks I’d guide the TV product in broadly the same direction as WWE’s current creative team, the only differences being anything that allows the forecast card above to take place.
So… the Royal Rumble on January 27th. I’d open the show with the WHC title bout between champion Alberto Del Rio and challenger the Big Show. It’s worth noting that Dolph Ziggler would still have his Money in the Bank contract. It’s possible WWE will have him cash in before the Rumble. I wouldn’t.
ADR would retain the title. As I’ve written before he needs a lengthy title reign if he is to be the Rey Mysterio replacement WWE seems to be hoping for. Having him lose the championship after a couple of weeks would harm his credibility. Best to keep it on him and give him another decisive victory over ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’.
That would come in the form of a submission win. The story of the match would be Show trying to use his power, concentrating on hitting the WMD punch and the choke slam, with Del Rio using his speed to stay out of ‘The Ginat’s’ clutches and wearing down the arm for the Cross Armbreaker.
Match two would be the Divas bout. I’ll go with a Divas championship bout between Eve and Kaitlyn. That seems like it has a good chance of happening. I’d make it a “Lumberjill” match (which is a rumour for the card anyway) in order to get the rest of the Divas onto the show.
The match would feature a title change and would start a Divas programme for WrestleMania. Both women would take the obligatory tumble to the outside at least once during the match. Eve, as the heel, would head out of the ring for an unofficial breather while Kaitlyn, as the face, would be tossed out by her foe.
Throughout the match AJ would interfere in on Eve’s behalf. The finishing sequence would begin with AJ hitting Kaitlyn with some sort of big move while Eve distracts the ref. The other gals, having had enough of Ms Lee, would pull her out of the ring and pummel her, with that eventually turning into a heels versus faces brawl. With that going on Kaitlyn would recover and get a schoolboy (schoolgirl?) on a distracted Eve for the win.
Following the match the brawlers would quietly disperse, allowing AJ to get into the ring and attack the new champion. Eve would join in for a moment before current NXT star Paige would dash down the ramp to make the save. The commentators would explain this away as Paige being an NXT wrestler who is good pals with Kaitlyn.
There would probably be a filler match of some sort after that. I don’t know who would be in it. It wouldn’t be important. Nothing of consequence would happen.
Match four would be the Royal Rumble. I shan’t bore you (or myself) by listing every person I’d put into the match but amongst the thirty entrants would be John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Daniel Bryan, Kane, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Sheamus, and Randy Orton. I mention those men only because I either have plans for them that will be revealed below.
There would, of course, be surprise entrants. It’s expected that MVP and Shelton Benjamin will be returning to the company at the Rumble as part of an effort by WWE to get their mid-card restocked, so we’ll assume they’d appear in my Rumble too. Add John Morrison for the same reason. I think there’s a good chance he’ll be back as a part of the supposed mid-card push we’re about to witness.
As far as genuine surprises go I’d stick in Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, partly because I think it’d be nice for fans and partly because I’m a big fan of the Outlaws. I‘d try and get another relatively obscure Attitude Era star too. Steve Blackman would be fun. Or perhaps Val Venis (although he’s looking pretty different to how he did in the 90s so perhaps not).
Assuming they’re both healthy the Rumble would serve as the TV return date for both Christian and Mark Henry. Finally, I’d get Chris Jericho back for a one night appearance. He wouldn’t be on RAW the next night if I were booking. I don’t want him clogging up my WrestleMania, but I think he’d be a good Rumble entrant.
As I said I won’t list every entrant but I will say who’d be first and second because those are important spots. The first man out would be Kofi Kingston. I always like a face starting off the Rumble. Fans want to cheer the first person out, so let them. Putting an athletic guy like Kingston out first allows for a number one entrant who can last for a while. That’s important too.
Second in would be Dolph Ziggler. He has good chemistry with Kofi so they’d keep the audience interested for the first couple of minutes and he’s practically a pseudo-face at this point so he’s another guy fans could pop for without having to give up the heel-face dynamic for the opening stretch.
Let me turn my attention to the bigger stars in the match. Daniel Bryan would be out pretty early on because he’s over and can work for long periods. Sheamus and Randy Orton would both enter relatively early too and within four or five numbers of one another. They wouldn’t immediately start blasting away at one another but they would gradually clear the ring and then face off (with Ziggler and Bryan taking a breather in separate corners as they did so).
They’d battle for a few minutes before the next entrant came out. That would be Heath Slater. He’d eat a Brogue Kick and an RKO then get double clotheslined out by both men, allowing them to keep their battle going a little longer. It would be broken up by Big Show, who’d come waddling out and immediately start pummelling both men before pairing off with Orton. ‘The Show Off’ would then recover too and pair off with Sheamus. Nobody needs to see any more from Show and Sheamus together.
After sending out a few more space fillers and having Bryan get back to his feet I’d unleash Sandow, Rhodes and Kane. A bit of clearing would then take place before another set piece. This would involve the two tag teams squaring off. The Scholars would eliminate Bryan (who would stand outside the ring screaming “No!” for a bit before heading backstage) only to be ousted themselves by Kane.
‘The Big Red Machine’ would talk trash with Rhodes and Sandow from inside the ring, allowing Ziggler to sneak up from behind and chuck him over the top rope. Kane would then chase the Scholars to the back. This would give Ziggler a pretty impressive moment in the Rumble, something he needs if he is to be the star WWE wants him to be.
John Cena would go in at number twenty. There’s no particular reason for that number, I just think it would be a good time to have him out there. He’d immediately blast through Big Show, giving him an AA out of the ring to establish that he’s a Serious About Winning. I’d probably have had Mark Henry go out at eighteen or nineteen so ‘The Franchise’ could toss him out too.
Sheamus would go to Brogue Kick Cena out but Cena would dodge, leaving Sheamus straddled on the top rope. ‘The Viper’ would then appear and deck ‘Great White’, sending him to the floor and ending his dreams (as I’m sure Cole would phrase it) of winning back-to-back Royal Rumbles.
‘Y2J’ would head out as the next man after this spot. It’d be a good time to get the audience cheering. He’d be followed by Ryback entering at twenty-seven. That, for those unaware, is the number that most Rumble winners have won with. I learnt that whilst watching my first Rumble (the ’99 edition (I think Billy Gunn got the number but I may be wrong)) thanks to the commentary of one Michael Cole.
At this point I’d like to mention some spots for minor guys: The Shield would enter one-by-one and get beaten down by everyone available, the commentators hypothesising that the rest of the roster are taking the opportunity to mete out some justice of their own; Big E Langston would save Ziggler from multiple eliminations and eventually sacrifice himself to save his boss’s spot; Brad Maddox would enter somewhere around the middle, kick around for a while constantly trying to form alliances with whoever’s doing well, and eventually be eliminated by a bigger star like Orton or Cena; Brodus Clay would enter and be distracted by dancing, allowing Cesaro to muscle him out within seconds; and Miz would be the man to eliminate Wade Barrett.
Heading into the final stretch the big stars still in there would be Jericho, Ryback, Orton, and Ziggler. I’d probably have Antonio Cesaro in there too. He’s a reliable guy who deserves the spot and is an effective antagonist. The final man in would be The Miz. Going out on a babyface is always a good move and ‘The Awesome One’ is even better in the role than I’d expected.
Ziggler would be eliminated cleanly by Ryback after Miz had entered. Then the cleaning up process would begin, with the various extras being eliminated by the men who would comprise the final four. Who would they be? Cena, Ryback, Jericho and Orton. The Miz would be shown the exit by Orton. On which note ‘The Apex Predator’ would show increasingly ruthless traits throughout the bout, not playing a heel outright but continuing to hint at it. His elimination of Miz would be designed to get the audience to boo him, allowing him to play off that a bit.
So, yes, the final four. It’s three definite babyfaces and one mostly-face. That may not be terribly exciting but the reason I’d go with this is that all of them are believable winners. Cena winning could set up his rematch with The Rock, Ryback winning could put him back on the path to a world championship, Jericho returning out of nowhere and winning would be just plausible enough to convince people it’s happening, and Orton winning could set up either a surprise bout with ‘The Great One’ or a World title clash with new face Del Rio.
Orton is the company’s third biggest star, so a battle with The Rock at WrestleMania isn’t totally out of the question for him. His status often gets overlooked but I think in the closing moments of the Rumble people could be made to believe that he has a chance of winning and that the stuff with Sheamus has been a ruse to disguise his true programme with ‘The Brahma Bull’.
First out of these last guys would be Jericho. He’s the most expendable in this situation. He’d be meathooked out by ‘Big Hungry’.
Following ‘The Highlight of the Night’ out would be Orton. He’d be tackled out by Cena, probably with Ryback taking a breather in the corner so that the faces aren’t teaming up on a (mostly-)heel.
Which would leave us with a final two of Cena and Ryback, two of WWE’s most limited wrestlers. ‘The CeNation Leader’ has blundered badly in this situation before: back in 2005 when he and Batista botched the finish and Vince McMahon had to make an unscheduled cameo to smooth things over. I bring this up simply to acknowledge that putting Cena in this position is not the greatest move. It’s one I’d make because he is the heavy favourite to win and I think he needs to be one of the final guys involved.
Despite his status as favourite Cena would not win. He and Ryback would have a two minute scuffle stuffed with near eliminations that I’d instruct them to rehearse several times throughout the day. As extra insurance I’d have those closing moments planned out by Pat Patterson (considered one of the best finishing men in WWE (insert your own joke here)), Paul Heyman, and a cadre of well-respected wrestlers like Jericho and Punk. The two men themselves would have no say in the sequence whatsoever.
Having won Ryback would stand in the centre of the ring pumping his fists in the air and bellowing “Feed me more!” It’s what’s made him popular so let him get on with it.
That leaves the main event: CM Punk defending the WWE championship against The Rock. Before the bell I’d have this announced as a no disqualification match. That gives the two some leeway and gives Punk and Heyman the chance to scrounge some last minute heat by whining off-mic.
I think somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes is about the right time for this match. Any less and fans would feel short changed. Any more and they’d run out of things to do and risk Rock becoming winded.
There’d be plenty of outside brawling and weapon shots during the bulk of the match. Actual wrestling isn’t Rock’s strong point, but there’d be some and it would be led by Punk. The standard exchange of finishers would occur, Rock kicking out of the GTS and Punk escaping after a Rock Bottom, then the obligatory spots of using each other’s finishers.
The closing moments would by a deluge of outside interference. It’s another shortcut, increases crowd heat, and invokes the spirit of the Attitude Era. It would kick off with Heyman breaking up a pinfall off a People’s Elbow. With Punk catching his (kayfabe) breath on the mat Rock would nail Heyman with a Rock Bottom then stand over him shouting (as he is wont to do). Punk would then sneak in with a schoolboy for a close two.
The Shield would then run in from the crowd, Punk slinking back into a corner to watch them stomp away at The Rock. The ref (probably Mike Chioda) would try to get them to stop and would be flattened too. The trio would then hit their triple power bomb on Rock before leaving.
Punk would leave his corner and slither over to The Rock, motioning for a referee from the back before going for a cover. Brad Maddox would come dashing down the entranceway, tugging on a ref shirt, and slide into the ring to make a sizzlingly close two count.
Punk would get to his feet and pull Maddox in for a GTS. He’d then do the “I’m shocked, what do I have to do to beat this guy?” routine as another official (a genuine one this time) enters the ring. Rock would be dragged up to his feet and Punk would try for a GTS, only to be caught with a surprise Rock Bottom. The referee would go for the count but get pulled out of the ring at two. The camera would slide left to reveal that the man who pulled the referee out of the ring was… Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar would storm into the ring, hoist Rock effortlessly onto his shoulders and then blast him with an F5. Punk would then crawl across the ring and slump across Rock to retain the WWE championship.
Yes. Punk would retain.
The next evening’s RAW would open with a Rock promo. It would be the usual valiant babyface routine: he’d refuse to make excuses and say that he lost, but that he can hold his head high unlike Punk. He’d demand for Punk to come out and demand for Brock Lesnar to explain himself. Instead he’d be met with Dolph Ziggler.
‘The Show Off’ would say that Rock is all talk and can’t get the job done. He guaranteed he’d win the WWE championship and let everybody done. There’s no gold in Rock’s future, but there is in Ziggler’s because of his MITB contract. He’s a future World Heavyweight champion while The Rock’s just a washed up joke who’s going to go running back to Hollywood with his tail between his legs.
Rock would rebut this in his own unique way. Simply put he’d make fun of Ziggler, AJ and Big E before challenging ‘The Heel’ to a match on RAW. Ziggler would agree… but not to the RAW part. He would insist on wrestling Rock at Elimination Chamber. Rock would agree and unleash one final barb, prompting Ziggler to dispatch Big E to the ring to eat a Rock Bottom.
Later on RAW Punk and Heyman would be interviewed in the ring by Michael Cole. They would deny any affiliation with The Shield and Brad Maddox. Heyman would point out, helpfully, that Maddox is not even a licensed official anymore so his officiating at the Rumble wouldn’t have done ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ any good at all.
The subject of Brock Lesnar would come up and Heyman would state that while he and Lesnar are very good friends he had no idea Lesnar was going to get involved. If he’d known he certainly wouldn’t have condoned his actions. Punk would add that he’s a fan of Lesnar’s but they’re not friends and they’re not in contact with one another.
Cole would then be sent away from the ring to allow Punk to cut a more general promo. His point would be the complete lack of respect for him, his position and his accomplishments. He would talk about being WWE champion for 435 days and beating everyone put in front of him. He would ask what he needs to do to gain respect. If beating The Rock in the middle of the ring and being the longest reigning champion in decades isn’t enough to make people bow down and declare him the greatest wrestler ever then what is?
Punk would finish his promo with a message for Ryback. He would remind ‘Big Hungry’ of their feud from last year, telling him that he needs to make the smart choice and challenge for the WHC at WrestleMania because he’s tried beating Punk before and couldn’t get it done.
In between all of this I’d advance various other strands. Randy Orton would have a match that gets called off due to interference from The Shield. Sheamus would make the save and Orton would angrily shove him for doing so, exclaiming that he doesn’t need ‘The Celtic Warrior’s’ help. This would prompt Vickie Guerrero to make a match for the following week’s RAW during a backstage segment: Orton and Shaymo versus Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
Kaitlyn would have a title rematch with Eve which would end in a DQ after interference from AJ. Paige would again make the save.
The Rhodes Scholars would win a match against a disposable team (the Usos perhaps) and then mock Team Hell No. They would announce that they’ve been granted a tag team championship match at Elimination Chamber. They’d promise to take the gold from the miscreants.
Ryback would win a match against a member of 3MB, with the other members interfering and getting knocked about too. Following that he’d take a microphone and tell the world that he’ll decide who’s going to face at Elimination Chamber. Hopefully he’d throw in some analogies about eating and food chains and hunger too. They’re always great!
To save the pain of laboriously scribbling what I’d do on each episode of RAW and SmackDown I’ll give you the general gist of storylines between the January 28th RAW and Elimination Chamber. Firstly the Chamber matches would be addressed.
There would be no RAW cage match. I dislike there always being two Chamber matches per show. It devalues the gimmick. I’d have Punk state that he had a stipulation written into his Royal Rumble contract, on the advisement of Paul Heyman, that grants him immunity from a Chamber match in the event of him retaining the belt.
Punk would announce that he’d defend the WWE title against a mystery opponent on the show.
SmackDown’s steel showdown would see Alberto Del Rio defending the World Heavyweight championship against Randy Orton, Sheamus, Big Show, Mark Henry and Kofi Kingston. Those are some credible names for ADR to tangle with and rubbing shoulders with the headliners should help give Kofi the rub.
On SmackDown Wade Barrett would issue a challenge to anyone in the locker room not named Kofi Kingston. Anyone who can beat him in a non-title bout before EC would receive an Intercontinental championship match on the show. The Miz would drop Barrett on the February 15th show to earn the match. I think Miz would probably commentate on Barrett’s match on the February 8th show, to establish that he’s taking the challenge seriously and wants the shot.
Orton and Sheamus would lose their match against The Shield and engage in another shoving match. Tensions would increase over the following two weeks as both General Managers would keep booking them as partners. It’s the sort of foolish decision that happens all the time in wrestling.
Ziggler would get promo segments to further his feud with The Rock. He would warn Rock to take him seriously, reminding him that John Cena joked around too and got beaten at TLC. His opponents at MITB in 2012 didn’t take him seriously but he got the better of them too. He’d also chuck in a couple of hints that his plan is to cash in after the SmackDown Chamber bout and head into WrestleMania as World champion.
Rock would do two things during this period. Firstly he would acknowledge Ziggler as a fantastic wrestler and serious competitor. Secondly he would challenge Brock Lesnar to a match at WrestleMania, adding that he doesn’t care if ‘The Pain’ is under contract or not: he wants payback.
Heyman would respond to Rock’s demand on the final RAW or SmackDown (probably the former) before Elimination Chamber. He’d say he’s spoken with “his client” about Rock’s “request” (I’m using quotation marks because I’m channelling Paul Heyman) and that the answer is no. Lesnar would have no interest in returning to WWE or in facing The Rock.
Winning smile from Heyman there
The tag title feud would unfold in the way you’d expect. The standard drill is to have singles matches between the two teams, which I’d do over a course of four TV shows (one match on each). The final week’s TV would see each team tangling with the Prime Time Players, while the other unit hangs out on commentary.
During this time the PTPs would cut promos backstage about being left out of the tag title picture. They’d announce that they have a plan to get themselves into the title hunt.
A similar tack would be taken with the Divas feud: a series of singles matches involving the four women. This would see Paige make her WWE in-ring debut against Eve, losing after interference from AJ. That would set up a tag clash at Elimination Chamber: AJ and Eve v Paige and Kaitlyn. No, surnames are not welcome.
During all of this Ryback would continue hammering opponents weekly. The commentators would push the fact that he’ll announce his ‘Mania opponent at Elimination Chamber. His treatment would remain unchanged until then: he’d enter, shout, and win. That’d be it. Too much too soon and fans would turn on him (and that would probably happen anyway in the scenario that’s coming up).
This would leave John Cena a bit of a spare part. He would have been deliberately left off of the post-Rumble RAW to stop him overshadowing everyone else. He would return on the February 4th show and acknowledge his position as the guy with nothing to do. Comedic suggestions for a role at EC (ringside enforcer for the Intercontinental championship match, guest timekeeper for the Ziggler v Rock showdown, secret opponent of CM Punk, guest referee for the Divas tag match) seems like something he’d do.
In amongst his nonsense he’d reference Antonio Cesaro’s large nipples. For those who don’t remember this is something he did last year when he was given a week off due to injury before returning to TV to help save the Hell in a Cell buy rate. Only this time it wouldn’t be a childish throwaway comment. It would be a childish comment with a match attached to it. ‘The Swiss Superman’ would interrupt Cena and run him down. I like the idea of Cesaro claiming to be a “better American” than Cena. That’d be a laugh.
This would result in a match between the two at Elimination Chamber. Speaking of which, that’s all the TV talk to take us from the Rumble to the Chamber.
The Elimination Chamber pay-per-view would open with the tag team championship match. If given ten minutes or so I think they’d put on a strong match. In fact they have before, so I know they would. The finish of the match would see the Prime Time Players go to ringside. Darren Young would distract the referee and Kane, allowing Titus O’Neil to slip into the ring and hit Clash of the Titus on Daniel Bryan. Rhodes or Sandow would then cover Bryan to capture the WWE tag team titles.
Match two would be the Elimination Chamber match itself. No, it wouldn’t go on last. How could it? With matches involving CM Punk, John Cena and The Rock there’s no way the Chamber bout could end the evening.
Kofi and Orton would start the match. The former ‘Legend Killer’ would still be in his tweener role, not having officially gone bad but having become increasingly aggressive and arrogant in his manner. They’d be joined at five minute point by Mark ‘The Shark’ Henry. He’d rumble around the ring, dishing out power moves to both men until the fourth pod opened. That would see Sheamus enter the fray.
‘The Celtic Warrior’ would go straight after Orton, with Kofi and Henry helpfully sidelining themselves with a corner pounding spot (not like that). Sheamus and Orton would have what ‘Good Ol’ JR’ would refer to as a slobberknocking exchange. After a couple of minutes Sheamus would counter an RKO attempt, shoving Orton into the ropes and hitting him with a Brogue Kick as he turned back around. That would see ‘The Viper’ eliminated clean.
Thankfully the Brogue Kick has not been established as a move that completely knocks someone out. It’s more a move that stuns a wrestler, allowing Sheamus to get the pin before they’ve fully recovered their wits (see how the move was portrayed at last year’s ‘Mania for a fine example of this). That allows Orton to get back up almost immediately. He’d do so. The officials would instruct him to leave and Sheamus would flash that stupid grin of his (you all know the one) and say “I got ya, fella!” while extending his hand for a handshake.
Orton would look to the door, then the fans, and then at the proffered hand. A moment of heelish consideration would pass and then he’d take Sheamus’s’ hand… then do a DDP and pull him into a crisp RKO. In order to add that extra something to the turn Orton would shove away the referees and give Sheamus the dreaded Punt kick. Villainous roots embraced Orton would then swagger out of the ring and into the back.
Back in the ring Mark Henry would hit Shaymo with the World’s Biggest Splash to eliminate him moments before ADR was released from his pod. Del Rio would go straight after Henry, and I think the two could have quite a fiery exchange. To keep the crowd on the edge of their seats (they paid for the whole thing but they only need the edge!) I’d have Henry get a World’s Strongest Slam on ADR for a close two count. He’d then hit the move on Kofi again, giving Del Rio a chance to recover and writing ‘The Dreadlock Dynamo’ out of the bout.
Finally Big Show would wade into proceedings and there’d be a triple threat match for a few minutes. Del Rio would eliminate Mark Henry and then receive a WMD followed by a choke slam for good measure. Big Show would pin ADR and become a three time World Heavyweight champion.
Bout three would be the Intercontinental title bout between The Miz and Wade Barrett. It would be designed as a cooling off period for the audience following the Chamber clash. Barrett would win with the Bullhammer elbow.
Next would be – shudder – a Ryback promo.
‘Big Hungry’ would march to the ring, wearing his airbrushed singlet despite not having a match, and grab a microphone. It’s important to note that he would refrain from eating the microphone. As a hungry man there’s always the possibility that he’ll gobble whatever he lays his hands on, including electrical equipment.
Again I’d hope for some wondrous allusions to food chains and jungles from ‘back. The gist of his promo would be that he is a man that likes to feast, and as a hungry man he needs the biggest feasts possible, with there being no bigger feast than the Big Show. I’ve tried to capture the insanity of a Ryback promo here but I don’t think it can be done. Just imagine him saying the stuff about feasts and you’ll hopefully be able to imagine what I’m after.
Cena and Cesaro would be up after that. The match would only get around two minutes. That’s so little that even Cena would find it hard to bury Cesaro effectively. They wouldn’t get long because The Shield would enter through the crowd and attack Cena. He’d fight back, naturally, but the numbers would get the best of him and he’d end up taking a pasting. Cesaro would grab his belt and leave.
This would not be as devastating a beating as Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have dished out before. Cena would be brought back out later in the show. Knowing that, and his tendency to shrug off what should be lingering effects, the group’s credibility would be preserved if they refrained from going all out on Cena. Withholding the triple power bomb would probably be sufficient.
That would be followed by the Divas tag team match. They’d get around seven minutes with the idea being to get across the fact that AJ and Eve don’t think they can beat Kaitlyn fairly. AJ would pin Kaitlyn following some sort of shenanigans, setting her up as a contender to the coveted Divas strap.
Match six would be CM Punk taking on his mystery opponent. Punk would again drive home his point about a lack of respect for him. He would say that because the fans don’t respect him he doesn’t respect them, so he’s not arranged this match on their behalf. He’s arranged it because he respects himself. He respects himself enough to prove that, had Ryback chosen to challenge for his WWE championship, Punk would have retained.
Punk says he asked Ryback to come out and face him but Ryback refused, which left Punk in a difficult spot. Luckily he’s a resourceful man and he was able to find someone with even more raw determination, drive and intensity than ‘Big Hungry’. He found someone better than Ryback. Punk would then invite the crowd to sit back and enjoy a WrestleMania quality match: CM Punk… versus… GILLBACK!
Duane Gill would come out wearing an airbrushed singlet like Ryback’s. It would say ‘Gillback’ on it. He’d do the Ryback arm motions in the aisle and get scared of the explosion (just like he used to get scared of the Goldberg pyro… ahhhh memories). He’d get into the ring and Punk would act scared. Lillian, or whoever’s on ring announcing duty, would go to make the formal ring introductions but would be hushed aside by Heyman, who would perform the task instead.
After the hyperbolic intros Gillback and Punk would circle, Gillback would stagger forward and immediately get scooped up into position for a GTS. Punk would connect, pin the challenger and act as though he’s just won the most gruelling title bout of his reign. Heyman would clamber into the ring to congratulate him.
John Cena’s music would then hit and the man himself would return to the ring. He’d tell Punk that nonsense like the ‘Gillback’ schtick is the reason nobody respects him. He can’t be taken seriously because he doesn’t take himself or the title he holds seriously. And if he can’t be taken seriously he certainly can’t be respected.
Respect him and his belt
Cena would leave Punk and Heyman in the ring. Punk would get back on the microphone for one final comment before leaving. Because he’s a character that always needs the final word. He and Heyman would then head backstage.
The headline attraction would see The Rock take on Dolph Ziggler. I’d want them to have around twelve minutes. Anything less would result in an insubstantial match. I think they could have a fun bout in this situation, and Big E and AJ being at ringside would add some distractions. Naturally Rock would go over clean with a Rock Bottom and-or People’s Elbow.
The February 18th RAW would see the WrestleMania XXIX continue to take shape.
John Cena would open the show, once again discussing CM Punk’s lack of respect. I think this use of Cena is a pretty solid way of getting audiences to back him. If they were to cheer Punk over him they’d essentially be agreeing with a man who is open in his contempt of them over someone who has defended them and their integrity.
‘The Franchise’ would then turn his attention to The Shield. He’d say he’s sick of them and as he doesn’t have anything else taking up his time he’s going to dedicate himself to fighting them. This would bring the three men into the crowd and to ringside. Ambrose (it has to be Ambrose, he’s the only one who can speak) would grab a microphone and address Cena. He’d tell him that nobody can stop them dealing justice, no matter how many T-shirts they sell or world titles they win.
Cena would challenge Ambrose to a match. Ambrose would accept, and the bout would headline the show. Rollins and Reigns would interfere, causing a disqualification. They’d beat Cena down before Miz and Kofi Kingston would run in and make the save.
RAW would also feature promos from CM Punk and The Rock. Punk would say he’s been thinking about John Cena’s words from Elimination Chamber. Cena’s wrong. He’s always wrong. It’s not about earning respect. It’s about showing it. He’s beaten everyone put in his way. Everyone. Fans should be lining up to give him respect.
In his situation there’s only one thing left for him to do. Just winning doesn’t appear to be enough for the people, or the locker room or John Cena. He could beat The Rock or Cena or Ryback again but it wouldn’t get him respect because he’s already done it. There’s one man, just one man, he can beat to force respect out of people. One man he can beat that will leave “the WWE Universe” with no option but to acknowledge his status as the best in the world.
At WrestleMania XXIX he officially challenges the Undertaker to a match. Streak versus championship. Legacy… versus respect.
Meanwhile ‘The Great One’s’ promo would draw a line under his programme with ‘The Show Off’. He’d say that he laid the smack down but gained a lot of respect for Ziggler in doing so. He’d announce a refocus. He’d want the man that cost him the title, Brock Lesnar, at WrestleMania XXIX. He’d give Lesnar one week to get back to him and say yes.
Elsewhere on RAW Big Show would come out onto the stage to tell Ryback that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. Show would promise to obliterate Ryback at WrestleMania XXIX; Ziggler would do guest commentary on an Alberto Del Rio match mocking him for losing the WHC and then taunt him afterwards; Sheamus would call out Randy Orton “to fight” but would get no response; and the Prime Time Players would inform the Rhodes Scholars that they deserve a tag team championship match because they handed them the belts, a segment that would end in a three team brawl after Team Hell No involve themselves.
As I did earlier, I’ll join the televisual dots between that episode of RAW and WrestleMania XXIX. It’s six weeks of TV. Nobody wants to trudge through that.
So, the Rock v Lesnar feud. Rock would demand an answer from Lesnar. He’d get Heyman instead. The former ECW boss would tell Rock that Lesnar is not interested in facing him at WrestleMania XXIX or at any other given time. Nor would he be interested in providing a reason for his actions at the Royal Rumble. Rock would then launch into a verbal trashing of ‘The Pain’ including making fun of his (lack of) promo skills, singing songs and referencing “Momma Lesnar”.
This would have the desired effect. Lesnar would return to TV the next week to agree to a match with ‘The Great One’ at ‘Mania, re-signing a contract along the way. I’d probably put in a contract signing segment a couple of weeks before WrestleMania, to keep interest high and to create a way of booking a pull apart brawl between the two.
The bout would be built up as a clash between two of the greatest WWE champions ever and as a meeting between Hollywood and ultimate fighting. Presented in the right way I think it could be a huge attraction.
Meanwhile Rock’s ‘Mania XXVIII opponent John Cena would be tasked with lending his star aura to the middle of the card. Following his showing against Ambrose Cena would have singles matches on RAW against Reigns and Rollins, in that order. The first would end in much the same way as Cena v Ambrose. The Rollins match would see Cena accompanied to the ring by Kingston and Miz, who would run off Ambrose and Reigns once the interfere kicked in. That wouldn’t be the end of the outside factors though: Antonio Cesaro would help out Rollins, hitting a Neutralizer behind the referee’s back to allow the Shield member to get the tainted victory.
A six man tag on an episode of SmackDown, The Shield v Miz, Kofi Kingston and John Cena, would see the heels gain another unfair win after interference from Wade Barrett. Cesaro and Barrett would reveal that they’re not members of The Shield and don’t agree with everything the group’s done but do agree that Cena and his pals need be handed some justice.
The feud would continue with Cena recruiting R-Truth and Zack Ryder to join his team. It’d be a gift for television: a ten man rivalry could translate to various singles and tag team matches, with the two teams of five clashing at WrestleMania.
The tag team title feud would continue much as it had started. Various singles matches and triple threat outings would keep things going. If they were ready to return to TV in time I’d probably stick Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara into this feud to make it a four-way. If not I’d leave things alone. It would just be a simple way of getting the popular Mysterio onto the ‘Mania card.
The tag rivalry could even be crossed over with Cena v The Shield to introduce some variety and keep television interesting. John Cena, The Miz and Team Hell No v Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, and The Rhodes Scholars is one example of a “filler” match that could be great if given twenty minutes.
The Alberto Del Rio versus Dolph Ziggler feud would start out with the two costing one another matches and Ziggler telling ADR that he wished he’d cashed in his contract on him when he’d had the chance. There’s the opportunity for a great line about how Ziggler barely had time to cash in before Big Show regained the belt. Because, y’know, Del Rio only had the gold for a month and a half.
Ziggler would need to cost Del Rio his rematch with Show for the rivalry to work. It would keep ADR a strong babyface because it would avoid him losing clean and it would add heat to Ziggler because he would have cost a beloved Latino hero the world title. The programme could cross over nicely with AJ’s feud with Kaitlyn, giving us a nice mixed tag match on an episode of RAW or SmackDown.
Speaking of that feud Eve and Paige would gradually have their roles scaled down after Elimination Chamber. The focus would be on AJ and Kaitlyn having once been best friends but now being enemies. It’s a basic story but easy enough to tell and follow.
The Randy Orton versus Sheamus programme would build relatively slowly. Having turned heel Orton would refuse to get into the ring with Sheamus. I think this would be the best way to get people to boo ‘The Viper’. He needs to do nothing. One of the things people like from him now is his aggression in the ring. He can’t be booked as a coward because that’s not true to the character, but he can be booked to say ‘Great White’ is beneath him. Cocky more than cowardly.
The weeks would wear on and eventually Orton would agree to face Sheamus… directly after he’d been through a fairly lengthy match on an episode of SmackDown. Orton would rough Sheamus up and pin him with an RKO and Punt combo. Booker T would then make his way out to congratulate ‘The Apex Predator’ and announce that there would be a rematch at WrestleMania XXIX.
Big Show and Ryback would be booked like both of Show’s recent World title programmes (with Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio). Show would be booked as a coward. He’d talk tough and tell Ryback how he’s going to beat him but he’d never get into the ring with him without an advantage.
With Ryback’s tendency to provide unintelligible promos Show would be relied upon to carry this feud on the mic. There would be the standard collection of nonsense segments to keep the programme running. An example? That test of strength thing Sheamus and Show did on SmackDown last year. That’d work nicely with Big Show and Ryback. Something in which the two men have to lift things too, that’s the sort of thing this feud would need.
The best segment idea I have for this feud (and possibly the best idea in this entire post) would be an eating contest. Yes. An eating contest. It would come about with Big Show saying he wants to put Ryback’s ‘Big Hungry’ moniker to the test, waddling to the ring to reveal trestle tables stacked with food. Show would announce that he wants to see if Ryback’s appetite is big enough to handle ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ at ‘Mania.
No it wouldn’t really make any sense, but WWE segments like this rarely do. What’s more worrying than the lack of sense is that this is the sort of thing WWE actually books.
The segment would, naturally, end with Big Show taking a tumble through one of the tables. He wouldn’t be given a Shellshock though. It would be a more simplistic spot, such as Ryback ducking a clothesline and tripping Show through a table, or back dropping him. Part of the build for this programme (a serious part) would be the commentary team constantly doubting that ‘The Human Wrecking Ball’ can lift Big Show to hit a Shellshock, so that couldn’t be given away on free TV.
Finally there would be the Punk and Undertaker feud. ‘The Dead Man’ would return to TV to accept Punk’s challenge on the February 25th RAW, leaving Punk to carry the bulk of the programme with promos about all the respect that will be heaped on him after he breaks The Streak and the fact that people respect a pitiful stat like The Streak but not his monumental title reign. ‘Taker would make one or two more appearances to cut his own brand of whacky promo which would inevitably involve him talking about “bringing an end” to Punk and defending his Streak.
Heyman would stay linked to both Punk and Lesnar during this period. He fits well with ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ and is a necessity for Lesnar.
And so we come to the big show itself. Before WrestleMania XXIX there would be a battle royal involving everyone not on the card itself. I don’t know who’d win. It doesn’t really matter. Probably a babyface though. Alex Riley? Why not?
The show opening clash would be Alberto Del Rio v Dolph Ziggler. Ricardo Rodriguez, AJ and Big E Langston would all be at ringside, allowing there to be plenty of action. That’s always good for an opener. The match would need to culminate with Ricardo and Big E taking dives and Del Rio locking in the Cross Armbreaker for the submission victory.
The tag team title match would follow. This would be Team Hell No’s final bout together. I quietly split them after WrestleMania. By that point they’d have been together for around eight months. That’s more than enough time for them to do everything they can as a pair. I’m not sure which team I’d have leave with the gold, but it would be either the Prime Time Players or The Rhodes Scholars. Mysterio and Sin Cara would not be considered for the win. If they were in the match they’d probably be the ones taking the loss.
The third bout would be the ten man tag match: John Cena, Miz, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder v Antonio Cesaro, Wade Barrett and The Shield. It would be a one fall match. Making it an elimination affair would mean that the pins would need to be sped through. I’m not sure who’d go over. It’d be decided closer to the time, but it would probably be the heels. They’d need it more.
The Divas title match would follow that. AJ would have Eve and Big E Langston in her corner. Kaitlyn would be accompanied by Paige. This is another match that would have its winner decided closer to the time. I’d probably have Kaitlyn retain because the crowd would need a babyface win by this point. She’d need the title more than AJ too: the Dolph Ziggler connection would keep AJ on television with or without the Divas title. If she’s not champion keeping Ksitlyn relevant on TV becomes trickier.
Big Show and Ryback would be up next. They’d get less than five minutes. The aim would be for Ryback to completely dominate Show, proving that ‘The Giant’ was never going to be a match for him. It’s the best thing to do in this situation. Long matches aren’t a strength of either man. A short match full of power moves would be far more beneficial.
It would end, of course, culminate with Ryback lifting Big Show up for the Shellshock. ‘Big Hungry’ would celebrate with the title, with Big Show staggering to his feet and hitting the new champ with a WMD punch. He’d follow up with a choke slam. Dolph Ziggler’s music would hit and he’d sprint down to the ring, hitting a dazed Ryback with a shot from the briefcase before handing it over to the referee. ‘The Show Off’ would then pin Ryback to become the new World Heavyweight champion. Two WrestleMania Moments and a way of keeping Ryback in the role of challenger, which is better for him than the role of champion.
Randy Orton and Sheamus would follow that. They’d get ten minutes to put on the best match possible. I wouldn’t hold out much hope. I don’t really rate Sheamus highly. Orton would go over with an RKO.
I don’t know which order the final two matches would go on in. My initial thought is to have the Punk v Undertaker match go on last, because it’s the only match to feature someone who’d be full time with the company after WrestleMania. It’s for the title too, which helps its case. The trouble is that The Rock v Brock Lesnar would probably be the bout that attracts most people, so there’s a strong case for that going on last.
Whichever order the matches went on in Lesnar and the Undertaker would go over. I think ‘The Pain’ is going to sign on for another year with WWE so it makes sense to keep him strong. Plus Rock is so over that a loss wouldn’t harm him. The Undertaker has to win. The Streak has been one of the most successful aspects of recent WrestleManias. There’s no sense in ending it, no matter how over CM Punk is.
This would leave us with what I think is a decent post-‘Mania season. Undertaker could come back to drop the championship in a gimmick match at Extreme Rules in May, either back to Punk or to Cena. Perhaps even Brock Lesnar could be considered for a title reign, and giving him a win over ‘Taker could set up a rematch at WrestleMania XXX.
Dolph Ziggler and Ryback could feud for the World championship, Orton and Sheamus could continue rumbling into an abyss of nothingness, and Cena could stick with his Shield programme, helping to elevate some mid-card talent for once.
Is this what we’re going to see? I strongly doubt it. A Cena v Rock rematch seems incredibly likely in reality, and it will probably be for the WWE championship. Rock v Undertaker seems like a fair bet, but not for the title. Lesnar will probably return to TV fairly soon to resume his tiresome programme with Triple H, who I left off of my WrestleMania card because of disinterest. Will what we see be better than what I’ve outlined above? Probably, but because we’ll never see my version of events play out we’ll never be completely sure, will we?