Saturday 11 January 2014

Fantasy Booker: WrestleMania Season 2014

Wondering how I’d book WrestleMania XXX if I wound up in charge of WWE tomorrow? Of course you are. You’re only human. As a special treat I’m going to detail exactly what I’d do. Within reason, of course. I’m not going to detail every episode of RAW, for example. Because life’s too short, isn’t it?

I’ll start with Royal Rumble. With that show still a few weeks away I obviously have to make some assumptions about who’ll be feuding with who. Brock Lesnar will be clashing with Big Show at the show, while Batista will be gunning for Alberto Del Rio. I’ll ignore the former match because it’s boring. The Rumble’s a starting point, both for this post and in reality.

There are a lot of maybes and possiblys below. That’s because WWE is set up to have input from various backstage minds. I wouldn’t want to ignore those guys, so anytime there’s a maybe or a half-thought assume that it’s because it’s a detail that I’d ask for input on. What I’m detailing is a outline, not minutia.

So… the WWE World Heavyweight championship match. This and the Rumble match itself are the only matches confirmed for the pay-per-view that I’m interested in. I’d have Orton and Cena take the penultimate spot and put the Rumble on last. The thirty man match stands a far better chance of being exciting and surprising than ‘The Viper’ and ‘The CeNation Leader’. It would seem the natural thing to do.

Orton would retain the championship cleanly. If he’s to be the WWE champion at the biggest show of the year he has to be considered credible. The constant whining and trying to get out of title matches would have to stop, and while Orty would remain affiliated with The Authority it would be a priority to make him a heel in his own right. Bear this in mind as you continue reading.

Cena and Orton would get fifteen minutes. That’s long enough for people not to feel cheated but short enough not to bore anyone (well, most people). I’d also encourage a fast pace. Orton is far easier to watch when wrestling a quick match and Cena is underrated when it comes to speed (although it makes him sloppier, but that’s a price worth paying). I think it would make the match stand out from their other encounters.

The undercard would probably get by with just two other matches. An obvious match to go with is a Divas title match. It gets AJ Lee on to the show and decreases the number of guys working twice, which is something that WWE seem to have become against in the last few years. I like the idea of there being a Divas Royal Rumble on the RAW or SmackDown before the PPV, with the winner facing AJ. Anyone could face her really, it’s not like the Divas division is stacked with great challengers. Let’s just say it’d be Rosa Mendes and move on.

The other undercard match I’d have going on would be for the tag team titles. Unlike the Divas division the tag scene actually has more than one worthwhile act in it. Obviously I’d want a good match to open the show but it wouldn’t matter overly who the challengers were because Cody Rhodes and Goldust would win. I like the idea of Miz and Kofi Kingston somehow winding up as challengers, playing off the feud they had late last year, but it could just as easily be the Usos, the Prime Time Players or RybAxel getting the match.

The Rumble itself would, as I’ve already said, go on last. A broad overview first, yeah? Entrant number one would be Alberto Del Rio. He’s a big enough name to not be a disappointment going out first but not so big that it’s using up someone who’d be of more use later on. Number two could be pretty much any mid-card babyface. Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston or The Miz. Someone of that nature.

The big name entrants would be dispersed evenly. Daniel Bryan (four), Roman Reigns (fifteen), Rey Mysterio (nineteen), CM Punk (twenty one), the returning Rob Van Dam (twenty five), and Brock Lesnar (thirty) are the ones I’m most interested in (we’ll get to why below) but Mark Henry (eight), Big Show (seventeen) and Kane (twenty three) would get their entry points based on keeping a constant stream of big names. In between these guys there would be mid-carders to keep the numbers up and Legends™ to get cheap pops (and keep the numbers up too). Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts would be among the names in that category.

So, a general Rumble plan. Let’s start with Daniel Bryan. Between now and the Rumble I’d tease decent between him and his new Family. I know he only joined two weeks ago. I don’t care. I think it’s stupid that he’s a part of the Wyatt faction in the first place so a split would be high on my list of priorities. The general idea would be that Bray intends to have Rowan, Harper and Bryan do all the work eliminating guys so he can win the Rumble match and become WWE champ. In true henchman style Harper and Rowan would be totally on board with that while Bryan’s body language would hint at reservations.

The split would come in the Rumble match with Bray taking one liberty too many with Bryan (maybe demanding that he eliminate himself because after he’s gotten rid of a load of guys) and finding himself eliminated for it. Bray would have an early twenties number and work with Bryan for a while before the incident leading to his elimination occurred.

Where would Harper and Rowan be, you ask? They’d have numbers somewhere in the first half of the match and that would have left them at the mercy of entrant fifteen. In order to continue teasing Mr Roman Reigns’ face turn he’d quickly eliminate everyone in the ring when he arrived, except for Daniel Bryan (maybe there’d be a spot where he’s knocked between the ropes to the floor to keep him officially in the match). ADR and Batista would have gone for each other as soon as ‘The Animal’ entered and they’d eliminate one another as the final major spot before Reigns entered.

Reigns would clear the ring (yep, that includes Mark Henry) and then take out everyone that entered. A disposable guy at sixteen, followed by Big Show at seventeen, and another disposable at eighteen. Michael Cole would be instructed to hype this as much as possible, screeching about how Reigns could plough through everyone and win the thing.

Rey Mysterio would be the man to hold him up. Anyone familiar with Reymond’s work will know that he could convincingly get tossed over the rope, landing on the apron each time, for several minutes. Him managing to last until entrant twenty (another disposable) strolled out would stop Reigns’ roll and allow wrestlers to begin entering the match again. For the record, I think Bryan would probably re-enter during Rey’s exchange with Reigns.

This probably begs the question of when Rollins and Ambrose would enter. Rollins would be amongst the first entrants and amongst the first eliminated, avoiding having him interact with his Shield partners. Because I’d have something planned for Reigns and Ambrose. Ambrose would saunter out in the first half of the twenties (let’s say twenty four) and co-exist with Reigns for a while. They’d work together a bit, but not loads. After a couple of minutes Reigns would eliminate Ambrose accidentally with an errant clothesline, setting up the dissention of the group.  But that’s for later…

The final six men in the match would be Bryan, Punk, RVD, Mysterio, Reigns, and Lesnar. There’s no elaborate finishing sequence in my mind for them but the six names will become important below. Reigns would be thrown out by a group effort, I’ll add that. Probably Bryan, Punk and Mysterio: three men of that calibre teaming up to get one guy out illustrates what a threat he is.

The final two would be Lesnar and Punk, a rematch of sorts from their (horrendous let down of a) match at SummerSlam. Lesnar would maul ‘The Second City Saint’ around the ring but be unable to actually eliminate him. Punk would be all about surviving. And that would be the story of the final two. Eventually Punk would manage to chuck the beast out. Again I’m not sure how. Maybe a blocked F5 followed by a GTS and a clothesline on a staggered Lesnar.

However it happened Punk would win the 2014 Rumble.

Between the Rumble and Elimination Chamber I'd want to keep some placeholder feuds going. Del Rio v Batista would be one. It'd be the standard WWE stuff: calling each other out, interfering in matches, and then having a contract signing (on SmackDown, natch) ending in the two coming to blows and ADR narrowly avoiding taking a Batista bomb through a table.

Rumble winner! Yeah!
The post-Rumble RAW would start with a Triple H promo. He'd refer to CM Punk's WrestleMania spot as secure and wish him good luck. Then he'd say that the man Punk will challenge is still yet to be determined. Punk would have had to go through a gruelling Royal Rumble match to earn his 'Mania main event and 'The Game' would feel that the WWE champ should earn their way into the headline bout too.

The main event of Elimination Chamber would be announced as Randy Orton defending against five deserving individuals inside the Chamber itself. The five would be the final six from the Rumble minus Punk (because he won, obvs). So that's Orton defending against Brock Lesnar, Rob Van Dam, Rey Mysterio, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns.

Speaking of Reigns he'd appear in a segment with Rollins and Ambrose on the January 27th RAW. It would be about Ambrose trying to cajole Reigns into saying that his elimination of Ambrose was an accident and that, had they worked together like the teammates they are they would have been the final two. Rollins would encourage Reigns to make peace but the trio would be interrupted by CM Punk.

Punk would spiel about being the man who did win and say that the result would've been the same no matter how many Shield members were involved. The Shield would challenge Punk to get in the ring and fight them and he'd be joined by Cody Rhodes and Goldust to even the odds. They'd brawl and a six man tag team match would be made for later in the show. This would lead to Ambrose and Rollins challenging for the tag team titles at Elimination Chamber.

Punk would move into a short dispute with The Real Americans which would peak with a match against Antonio Cesaro at Elimination Chamber. Putting him against a tag team would allow for some tag matches with various partners on TV as well as a singles match with Jack Swagger.

Daniel Bryan would revert to his regular attire and officially leave the Wyatt Family on the post-Rumble RAW. Naturally he'd be outnumbered by the Family and it'd be John Cena making the save. His reasoning? He would support Bryan’s decision and think him right to turn his back on the Family in favour of embracing the fans. They'd fight off the Wyatt gang and Cena would be announced for a singles match with Bray at EC. The Wyatt v Bryan match wouldn't be held off for 'Mania. It would happen on the episode of RAW before Chamber, allowing for a bit of time to hype it.

That would be five meaningful matches for Elimination Chamber: Alberto Del Rio v Batista, Cody Rhodes and Goldust v Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, CM Punk v Antonio Cesaro, Bray Wyatt v John Cena, and the Elimination Chamber match itself. I’d add another match, probably an IC title match to keep Big E Langston in people’s minds. A six match card would be a bit light but one of them would be a Chamber match with a lengthy running time and there’d also be a significant non-match segment. I’ll get to that in a moment.

The ECPPV would open with John Cena and Bray Wyatt’s bout. I’d want Cena’s match out of the way early (for reasons that should become clear below). Sticking him in the opener would achieve that and wake the crowd up early. Match two would be the tag team championship match. Goldust and Cody Rhodes would retain their titles and not split up. Because that’s an obvious route. Part of the reason I’d want this match is because both teams would be rumoured to be splitting and feuding. And because it’d be good, of course.

Match three would be Batista versus Alberto Del Rio. Batista would need to win to remind everyone that he’s a genuine star. And to prep him for ‘Mania. Who would he be facing? Sheamus. Yeah, Sheamus. ‘Great White’ would run in through the crowd after Batista’s win and Brogue Kick him. There would be no promo or other Shaymo-related shenanigans. Just a Brogue Kick, a heelish, satisfied nod, and then a shot of the back of his head as he left.

CM Punk would get a decisive win over Cesaro after that. It wouldn’t go longer than eight minutes. Punk would need to win as he’d be challenging for the WWE championship on the next pay-per-view.

After that would be the non-match segment. If this were actually happening the man it involves being on this show would have been announced weeks in advance, possibly even at the Royal Rumble. But because this is, loosely speaking, a narrative I thought it would be better to hold the reveal off until now to get the literary form of a pop (this isn’t a joke, I genuinely think like this). The non-wrestling segment would, of course, be the return of Hulk Hogan.

This would be the standard Hogan promo. He’d talk about it being great to return to WWE (I can imagine him saying “home”) and say he’s looking forward to being at WrestleMania XXX. The implication would be that he’d retired and would be at ‘Mania as a spectator only. But we all know that’s nonsense.

"You, brother!"
One of two things would happen here and it would depend entirely on ‘The Hulkster’s’ physical capabilities as determined by WWE’s medical staff. If he were able to wrestle a one-on-one match he’d be interrupted by John Cena who’d cut a babyface promo about watching Hogan growing up, respecting him, and thinking that it would be an honour to face him at ‘Mania. Hogan would milk that and then agree to the match. If he were only able to wrestle a light match he’d be interrupted by The Real Americans. Zeb Colter would claim Hogan is un-American and so forth before telling him Cesaro and Swagger would make sure he wouldn’t make it to ‘Mania. Cena would come out for the save, setting up Cena and Hogan versus The Real Americans for WrestleMania.

I’d be surprised if Hogan was up to wrestling a singles match, even if he was protected and against a relatively undemanding opponent like Cena. I think the tag team match is what would end up happening. Neither match would be good but if I were actually booking this my preference would be Hogan v Cena. That, much like the twice in a lifetime Rock v Cena match, is a once in a lifetime thing.

That’d be followed with Big E Langston’s defence of the Intercontinental championship. Filler to keep him on screens and the minutes ticking over. Yeah!

However… if Goldberg was interested in making a few appearances on RAW and wrestling a match at WrestleMania the Big E Langston match wouldn’t take place. Instead Ryback would squash a disposable good guy and then get on the microphone to challenge Goldberg to a ‘Mania match. If ‘berg was uninterested then Big E would retain his PPV spot here.

Then there’d be the main event. For the record Lesnar would only have been on TV once since the Rumble, in a show-closing six-way battle involving the Chamber contestants on the pre-pay-per-view February 17th RAW. The rest of his appearances would be saved for the final push towards WrestleMania XXX. In Lesnar’s absence Heyman would have been talking about him becoming the WWE champion, defeating CM Punk again and then tearing WWE apart until there was nothing left.

The Chamber match would start with Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio. Orton entering the match with the advantage of being fresh would encourage boos, Reigns’ entrance should encourage cheers (furthering his gradual face turn), Van Dam’s too clumsy to keep in the match for long, and Lesnar is at his best in short bursts. Bryan and Mysterio could wrestle for five minutes and hold the crowd’s attention without a problem.

The first pod to open would be Orton’s, just as Mysterio and Bryan have some sort of collision that sends them both down to the mat. Orton would take control and keep it until the next pod opened and Reigns entered. The heels would ally with each other and continue controlling the pace. Inevitably there would be some sort of miscue and they’d have a disagreement, which would lead to Reigns once again behaving like a face and plastering Orty. He’d spear him but have to deal with Bryan and-or Rey before he could go for a cover.

Van Dam would come in and work a bit and then the eliminations would kick in. Reigns would spear Orton, Bryan, RVD and Mysterio, in that order, pinning the last two immediately after their respective spears. Reigns would probably spend some time roaring, allowing Bryan to get up and ready himself for the running knee. That would stagger the Shield member and ‘The Viper’ would follow up with an RKO. Reigns would be eliminated.

Before Bryan and Orton could revive their feud one-on-one the final chamber would open and Brock Lesnar would enter the match. ‘The Pain’ would dominate both men, as is his wont, and begin toying with them instead of pinning them. Orton would be scooped up for an F5. That would be reversed into an RKO (a spot I’ve always wanted to see). And then the lights would go out.

They’d come back on after thirty seconds or so to reveal The Undertaker in the ring. Lesnar would stagger to his feet and then they’d have a brief exchange of punches and rope running, ending with ‘Taker ducking a clothesline and scooping Lesnar up and blasting him with a Tombstone piledriver. The lights would go out and Orton would be covering ‘The Pain’ when they came back on. Lesnar would be eliminated by the WWE champion.

That would leave Bryan and Orton as the final two, resuming their disappointing rivalry from late last year. They’d be told to have the exchange that they should have been having when they were wrestling on pay-per-views regularly. They’d have over ten minutes and would be encouraged to have lots of near falls and a few false finishes. It would be a chance for Bryan to convince WWE they made a mistake by not pushing him and for Orton to prove to fans that he’s not the undeserving dullard he appears to be.

This is not a show-closing image
Orton would win. There’s a chance the match would end via a loosened turnbuckle pad (Orton shoves Bryan into it and then gives him an RKO) or something of that nature. But probably not. I’d favour a clean finish to build Orty up for WrestleMania. Sticking with undecided issues there’s a chance I’d have CM Punk go to the ring to face off with ‘The Apex Predator’ to close the show. The thought of the event ending on a shot of Orton posing with the belts as the cage is raised isn’t particularly interesting.

All that’s left is to say what would be happening on the final six weeks of TV before the big show. I’ll start by addressing the tag team champions. Between Elimination Chamber and ‘Mania Goldust and Cody Rhodes would be targeted by the Wyatt Family. The beard boys would want the gold. The four would meet in a match at WrestleMania XXX. It would be a significant match because Cody and Goldy would be teaming at ‘Mania and it would be the first title opportunity on the main roster for the Wyatts.

On the RAW following Elimination Chamber Daniel Bryan would challenge Triple H to a WrestleMania match. ‘The Game’ would say no and Bryan would trap him in the Yes Lock. The next show would see Triple H say he’d considered suspending Bryan but that he’d thought better of it because that would make Bryan think he’d gotten under Tripper’s skin. Bryan would again confront the boss and they’d brawl, being separated by agents, security, and the rest of roster.

A couple of weeks in, say the March 10th RAW, Shawn Michaels would appear on RAW and tell Triple H that the only way to deal with Bryan would be to grant him want he wants: a match. ‘The King of Kings’ would do it but announce that HBK would be his corner man, and that anyone interfering on Bryan’s behalf would be fired. At least one episode of RAW after this would feature a promo segment in which Bryan and Michaels discuss their history and motives for siding against and with Triple H.

Back to the February 24th RAW. Sheamus would again attack Batista but there would be no explanation. That would come the week after (because the February 24th RAW is pretty talk heavy). ‘The Celtic Warrior’ would explain that he attacked Batista due to feeling that Batista doesn’t deserve a spot on the roster. Maybe he’d be told to make some comments about people being excited for ‘The Animal’s’ return but not for his. Because jealousy is a staple of modern day heels. They’d brawl and interfere in one another’s matches (and tag against each other in matches mixing ‘Mania feuds) before meeting on ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’.

Randy Orton and CM Punk would have the sort of feud you’d expect. To be honest I think this is what’s actually going to happen and I don’t think it’s going to be particularly enjoyable. The reason I’d do it is that there’s not really much else for either man to do yet they’d both need to be included on the WM card. If it happens in reality I think Orton’s going to continue his pseudo-coward gimmick, which won’t convince anyone to watch the show. I’d present him as being aggressive and not have him back down. Make him the sort of man fans want to see get beaten rather than a coward: you know the coward’s going to lose in a ‘Mania setting while you’re less certain about the aggressive guy and you want to see the result more.

If the Goldberg and Ryback match were to happen Ryback would continue calling out Goldberg after winning squash matches on RAW. He’d be answered on the March 17th RAW with Goldberg marching to the ring and barking “You’re next!” while giving The Point of Doom™. ‘Big Hungry’ would back up the ramp looking fearful.

The next week Goldberg and Ryback would meet face-to-face and ‘back would use a chair to clobber his ‘Mania foe. Then he’d stand over him posing. Maybe he’d hit a Jackhammer too but probably not because I can imagine the pair of them botching that somehow.

Back again to the post-Chamber RAW. The Shield would head to the ring and Ambrose would take a mic. He’d remind everyone that he’s still the only member of the faction to have a title, the prestigious United States championship, and that he and Rollins came “this” close to becoming the tag team champions at Elimination Chamber while Reigns failed miserably in his quest for the WWE championship. This passive aggressive approach would raise Reigns’ ire and he’d get in Ambrose’s face. They’d go nose to nose and then Rollins would attack Reigns from behind. Rollins and Ambrose would kick away at the big guy and then leave.

The next week there’d be a Rollins v Reigns match. The week after that there would be an Ambrose v Reigns match. And on the RAW after that Ambrose and Rollins would team against Reigns and… someone. Probably Big E Langston (I’m using him as a space filler a lot aren’t I?). During the tag match Rollins and Ambrose would bicker and Rollins would end up walking out on the match, leaving Ambrose to get pinned by Reigns.

Yep, The Shield would split up and meet in a three-way dance at WrestleMania. Ambrose’s US title would be on the line. Reigns would be the star babyface, Ambrose the heel, and Rollins either a heel or a tweener. Nothing much else to say here.

Cena would be left floating around during this period, no matter whether he was facing or tagging with Hogan. He’d end up with The Real Americans in either case. If he were wrestling a singles match with Hogan the Real boys’ motivation could be their feeling that they are better suited to facing Hogan in a singles match. If it were the tag match then sticking with The Real Americans would keep Cena busy with something relevant, but he’d need something else going on too (I don’t know what) because six weeks of Cena handling The Real Americans alone would make his tag match even more pointless. Hogan would appear now and then in either case.

Finally there’s the Brock Lesnar and Undertaker feud. Undertaker’s motivation for attacking Lesnar would be keeping him away from the WWE championship. Lesnar (via Heyman) would explain that he’s not bothered about the title, more in bringing the company down to amuse himself. Obviously this would end in a Streak challenge, with the reasoning being that ‘The Pain’ ending The Streak would do just as much harm as him being champion.

Then there’d be the big show itself. If Hogan and Cena were having a singles match then they’d go on last and Cena would win. If they were tagging with one another they’d wrestle on the mid-card (Jack Swagger cannot, under any circumstances headline a WrestleMania). Cena and Hogan would win the tag. Cena would win the singles match. Either way the current face of the company wins and gets a form of rub.

If Hogan and Cena teamed up then it would be Orton and Punk going on last. No matter where they were on the card ‘The Second City Saint’ would capture the WWE championship. Having him leave WrestleMania with the title would set him up to be as interesting as possible (which isn’t very interesting, but whatevs) in the post-‘Mania stretch. Bryan and Triple H would be high on the card and ‘The Dazzler’ would win cleanly with the Yes Lock after eliminating Michaels with the knee strike.

Dean Ambrose would retain his US title in the triple threat match. Two reasons for that. Firstly, I’d want to keep his lengthy run going. Secondly winning that title does nothing for Roman Reigns. It’s a third tier belt and I think it would harm his standing. The Intercontinental championship should be the first singles prize his wins. The finish I’d book would be Reigns spearing Rollins and then being hit with Ambrose’s tumbling DDT. Ambrose would pin Rollins though: that would get over Reigns’ spear and create cause for a rematch (which Ambers could cheat to win at Extreme Rules).

Sheamus would defeat Batista, because he’s the man he’s going to be on TV regularly and I think most viewers would expect a win for ‘The Animal’. WrestleMania needs a surprise result or two. Another match that might fit the surprise bill would be the tag title bout. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan would win the gold. There would be no split for Cody and Goldy. They’d simply embrace and be happy at having wrestled alongside one another at WrestleMania. Goldberg would squash Ryback in under two minutes, harking back to his Nitro heyday.

Finally, there would be Undertaker v Lesnar. Obviously Lesnar would lose. As I’ve written in these posts before I’d never book The Streak to end.

The WrestleMania XXX card I’d want to book:
Dean Ambrose to defeat Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins
Sheamus to defeat Batista
Goldberg to defeat Ryback
Daniel Bryan to defeat Triple H
The Wyatt Family to defeat Cody Rhodes and Goldust for the WWE tag team championship
The Undertaker to defeat Brock Lesnar
CM Punk to defeat Randy Orton for the WWE championship
John Cena to defeat Hulk Hogan

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