This three week reign with only one successful title defence was the culmination of a story that had started in the autumn of 2004. Edge had become increasingly bitter about his status within the company and his lack of world championship opportunities at the expense of the "old guard" lads like Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Despite these perfectly legitimate complaints (he really had been marginalised both in storyline and in reality) fans turned on him.
That an eighteen month build ended with a three week title reign that did nothing to elevate Edge was frustrating. It was made more frustrating by the fact that the RAW after Edge's title victory got the show's highest ratings in years. People were interested in Edge as champion. WWE did nothing to encourage people to stick with the product, a disservice to themselves and their newly crowned champion.
|'The Rated R Champion'. Boom!|
Things should have been different. Edge had been a presence on WWE television since 1998. For all of that time he had been presented as a future main event star. His first world title victory and reign should have been presented as a far bigger deal. WWE got it right with the booking of Edge's win over Cena and with his "live sex celebration" with Lita the next night on RAW (they rolled around in a bed set up in the ring) but faltered by continuing his uninspiring feud with Ric Flair and giving him only three weeks as champion.
So I thought it would be nice to kick back in the ol' armchair for a brief spot of fantasy booking. Here's what I'd have done...
The January 9 edition of RAW would have featured the "sex celebration" as was, because it was amusing, got over Edge's scumbag character perfectly, and helped to attract a strong rating. Usually I don't keep things that actually happened when I'm writing these fantasy booking things but let's just assume that whoever suggested it would still have suggested it, eh?
Although I've criticised the decision to continue Edge's feud with 'The Nature Boy' I'd do the exact same thing. The difference is that I wouldn't be planning to take the belt off of Edge so quickly, meaning that his bout with Flair wouldn't be the only successful defence he'd make. I'd have Flair, as he did in reality, knock Edge for conduct unbecoming of a champion1 and set up a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the following week's RAW. Naturally that would be won by Edge.
The pre-Rumble RAW would be all about hyping up the Edge-Cena rematch and the Rumble itself would be where I'd finally diverge from reality. Edge would successfully defend the gold against 'The Franchise', but he'd do it via some shady, heelish tactics. I would want to build Edge up as a crafty, cowardly heel who'd win at any cost, a man desperate to keep the world championship he's worked so hard and waited so long for. Because, well, that would have actually made sense considering the story arc he'd been on for the preceding eighteen months.
Let's say Edge would have won with a belt shot to the head of Cena while Lita distracted the referee. That would get over Edge's character, make use of Lita, protect Cena (still a fairly legitimate concern at this point as he'd only been granted his top guy push in the spring of 2005), and create reason for a rematch. Elsewhere on the show Rey Mysterio would still win the Rumble only he'd do so by last eliminating Shawn Michaels (instead of real life finalist Triple H), with HBK overcoming Vince McMahon flavoured interference throughout the match2. Mysterio would go on to challenge for SmackDown's World Heavyweight championship at 'Mania.
The third Edge-Cena match of the series would take place on an episode of RAW between the Rumble and WrestleMania 22, because at this point WWE was doing the branded pay-per-views ting and February's No Way Out was a SmackDown show. In the lead up to this the Cena and Edge programme would begin to crossover with the Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon programme. Michaels would confront Edge about not having proven himself capable of beating Cena fairly. Cena, the valiant babyface, would thank Michaels but tell him he can speak for himself (tension!). McMahon would interject to endorse Edge as company figurehead and champion and make some claim along the lines of "Edge is ten times the champion Shawn Michaels ever was." The idea would be to keep each feud a separate entity but begin teasing the possibility of Michaels v Cena and Michaels v Edge.
Being the blow off to the rivalry, and coming after two regular rules matches between the two, the hyped-up-RAW match would need to have a stipulation. Last Man Standing would work. Cena's good in those. A cage would work too. Let's say it would have been a cage match (I can't bring myself to break Cena's LSM streak, even in a fantasy booking scenario set a decade in the past). Cena and Edge could probably do something good in a cage, and they'd have Lita at ringside to throw a chair or two in if needed.
|Edge wins lol.|
More importantly they'd have Lita to pull a chain and padlock form under the ring and lock the door shut as Cena tries to escape. With Cena arguing with the referee about getting the door opened, possibly even going so far as to try and wrench the door off its hinges (because Super Cena™), the champ would try sneaking over the top of the cage. Cena would spot him, grab him, and pull him back into the ring for an AA. During this sequence Lita would unlock the padlock and scrabble into the ring to grab Cena by the leg as he tried to climb out (with the commentators making it clear Cena still thought the door was locked). Edge would then crawl through the open doorway and slump down to the mats to win.
A cheap, convoluted finish. Using a woman, no less! Outrageous! Exactly the sort of thing a cowardly champion would dream up.
Also on this specially hyped episode of RAW would be Shawn Michaels versus Vince McMahon in a street fight, with the stipulation that Michaels would get a WWE title match at WrestleMania if he won and renounce God if he lost (which isn't my idea of a great stipulation but would fit nicely with the existing themes attached to their feud). Naturally Michaels would win, setting up 'The Rated R Superstar' versus 'The Heartbreak Kid' for WrestleMania.
Edge would successfully retain in this match too, though Lita's influence would be less pronounced. She'd interfere throughout the first half of the match and get wiped out by a Sweet Chin Music aimed at Edge (who'd move, obvs). Just to be clear, I'm not a big fan of man-on-woman violence in wrestling (or out of it for that matter) but used sparingly it can be impactful. WrestleMania is exactly the sort of show that can benefit from a rare spot and Lita is the sort of woman who should be involved in this sort of thing: she had massive heat at this point, making the spot count for more.
After Lita's elimination Edge would kick out of a Sweet Chin Music. Michaels would kick out of a spear and the lifting DDT Edge had used earlier in his career and ascribed about four different names too. Edge would avoid another SCM (assuming he'd have taken one before Lita went backstage, meaning he'd taken two in total) and hit Michaels with a spear for the win. This would hopefully carry enough credibility for a WWE championship match on 'The Showcase of the Immortals' but keep Edge's cowardly streak alive by again featuring heavy interference from Lita.
Backlash would be the traditional WrestleMania rematch, giving us another Michaels v Edge exchange. This would be a Last Man Standing match with more interference and shenanigans than the WrestleMania match. The finish would see Lita distract Michaels, allowing Edge to sneak in with a spear and half a dozen chair shots to the back. He'd then finish the challenger off with a Conchairto.
|Only Cena could do this justice.|
All of which brings me to the problem of fantasy booking something like this: at some point you have to acknowledge One Night Stand. WWE's second ECW reunion show was used as launching pad for the ill-fated ECW "brand" and was built around Rob Van Dam cashing in his Money in the Bank title shot against John Cena. Having the title on Edge for that show would produce a better quality match but that misses much of the point of the exercise. One Night Stand needed the spectacle of John Cena, the most WWE guy on the roster, facing the personification of ECW, Rob Van Dam. Only Cena and RVD could produce that main event atmosphere that was needed.
Cena would need to win the title back from Edge so that feud would be reignited. But, because it would have only been wrapped up a couple of months earlier, it would need to happen in a spur-of-the-moment kind of way, setting up and having the match in one night. So Cena would interrupt a show-opening promo from Edge, remind him that he never beat him in a fair one-on-one match, and goad him into a title match in the main event.
Edge would drop the belt to Cena. Cena, the newly crowned two-time champ, would then be confronted by Rob Van Dam. We'd get the RVD v Cena at One Night Stand match and Van Dam would leave as champion. Edge would have had the inaugural world title reign he deserved (or at least something closer to it than he got in reality). And when Van Dam failed the drugs test we'd be in a great position to keep people guessing as to who'd replace him as champion: Edge or Cena.
There we go. Better than reality.
1 Yes, Ric Flair, the limosine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing sonnovagun, actually accused Edge of not behaving like a true world champion because he was celebrating his world title win by rolling around in bed with a hot woman. The hypocrisy of this is baffling: it's hard to imagine a segment more geared towards 'Naitch' in his prime than Edge's "live sex celebration."
2 Michaels and Vince had been feuding since December 2005 after Vince had taken it upon himself to mock Michaels Christian beliefs. In reality Michaels defeated Vince in a no holds barred match at 'Mania 22. Vince would team with his son Shane to face Michaels and God3 at Backlash. Vince and Shane won that one4.
3 Yes, really.
4 If it surprises you that Vince McMahon, the owner of the company, would book himself to not only face but defeat God in a wrestling match then you're clearly not very familiar with him. "Eccentric" does not do him justice.