Tuesday 3 April 2012

Fantasy Booker: WrestleMania XXVIII and Beyond

A few months ago I posted a blog detailing how I would book the 2012 WrestleMania Season were WWE to put me in charge of the company (read it here). I thought it would be nice to post a follow up of sorts describing what I’d do between WrestleMania XXVIII and SummerSlam on August 19th. I should make it clear before I start that I’ll be using the actual WrestleMania card as a starting point, rather than the one I laid out.

So then… WrestleMania. I would open the show with the Jericho v Punk WWE championship match, give them enough time to attempt to construct “the best wrestling match in the history of the event” (which they’d fail to do because the competition is too stiff), and have Punk retain the gold. There would be no post-match sneak attack and the finish would be clean. Punk would be booked to offer ‘Y2J’ a handshake but the rock star would snub him. A different approach to getting heel heat there.

Orton would beat Kane in match number two, which would be followed by Cody Rhodes v Big Show for the Intercontinental championship. Cody would be taking big bumps and making Show look like a monster but would end up squeaking out a victory by chopping the giant down in size with kicks to the knees and Disaster Kicks to the head before finishing him off with (an awkward to connect with) Cross Rhodes. ‘The Dashing One’ would need to go over clean to look like the star. Big Show has worked hard in the last nine months or so, but he’d be sacrificed for the greater good.

That match would be followed by Sheamus v Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight championship. I’d give them around ten minutes. I think they could do something memorable with that amount of time. Bryan would make cowardly attempts to use AJ as a shield throughout the match, gain the upper hand for a few minutes and then go down to a Brogue Kick and lose the championship.

Bout five would see John Laurinaitis’s team of heels triumph over Teddy Long’s ragtag bunch of misfits. That match would need to be booked like an ECW Run In Spectacular. There are so many personalities involved that it’s best to go for pure comedy and cheap heat over an actual match. It helps to break up the card and make the match stand out too. Miz would not tag in during this match, the story being that even when booked in a match he doesn’t actually get to wrestle. Aksana would slap Santino to signify a heel turn, allowing Dolph Ziggler to hit a Zig Zag for the pinfall victory.

Match number six would be an instantly forgettable win for the babyface Divas over the heel Divas. Eve Torres would do the job for Maria Menounos. That would be followed by Undertaker keeping The Streak alive in the Hell in a Cell. That match would include some sort of crazy bump from Shawn Michaels, to keep his reputation as ‘Mr WrestleMania’, and numerous teases that he would refuse to rule in favour of ‘The ‘Phenom’. Ultimately he’d do the right thing. The Jumping Tombstone would be wheeled out to keep ‘The Game’ down.

From there The Rock would put over John Cena in the main event. Both men would kick out of each other’s finishers and use them against one another too. Cena hitting a People’s Elbow (or People’s Five Knuckle Shuffle) is something I imagine we’re going to see anyway. Cena would need to win this match clean via the AA. So that’s what would happen.

I’d start the following evening’s RAW with… John Laurinaitis gloating about becoming the new SmackDown GM. This would be the perfect time to announce that the Board of Directors had finally made him permanent GM of RAW too. It would be silly if that issue were not addressed (and we can’t allow silliness in wrestling!). All members of Team Johnny (including Aksana and whichever Bella supports Laurinaitis) would be present, except The Miz, congratulating the new boss.

The proceedings would be interrupted by CM Punk. In his usual snarky manner he would comment on Laurinaitis getting to ruin two shows instead of one. Laurinaitis would “discipline” Punk by booking him in a singles match with Mark Henry. ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ would win after interference from Jericho. Yep, I’d be keeping that feud alive for a rematch at Extreme Rules.

Elsewhere on RAW I’d dedicate some time fresh acts. The post-‘Mania RAW is probably the final opportunity the company has to capitalise on the interest WrestleMania brings with it. Zack Ryder would wrestle in a competitive match against Cody Rhodes; Brodus Clay would squash a no-name jobber (or perhaps the Brooklyn Brawler, as a comedy cameo) only to be attacked by Miz during his post-match dance routine, with ‘The Awesome One’ cutting a promo to remind us that he was on the winning team at WrestleMania but doesn’t get invited to Team Johnny’s victory party or a match while Clay does; Lord Tensai would debut and assault Randy Orton; Ziggler and Swagger would begin a run as a permanent unit; and Santino would lose the United States championship to David Otunga in an interference-filled tussle.

The final segment of the show would see The Rock and John Cena come face-to-face again. I expect this will happen in reality though I’ve no idea what will actually be said. I would want Rock to grudgingly admit that Cena beat him fair and square and then vaguely hint at a rematch in the future. I’d have Cena extend his hand for a handshake (because I imagine whoever offers a handshake will get boos and it’s better for Cena to be booed in Rock’s hometown than vice versa) and ‘The Great One’ pause to work the crowd. Before the handshake was accepted Ziggler, Swagger, Rhodes and Daniel Bryan would run in through the crowd and flatten both men with punches, kicks and finishers.

The post-WrestleMania RAW would go off the air with the four heels standing tall over the prone figures of John Cena and The Rock.

The following evening’s SmackDown taping (and I’d be trying to get SmackDown moved to a live Tuesday night spot as soon as possible because I think it’s a better day to get ratings and that live shows are better in general) would begin with the Swagger, Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, and Cody Rhodes (along with Vickie Guerrero) stood in the ring wearing suits. They would each cut promos about how they’ve been overlooked by management in favour of John Cena, The Rock, Undertaker and Triple H. Bryan and Cody would remind people that they both went into ‘Mania as champions but were reduced to sideshow acts in favour of guys long past their prime and a man who can’t wrestle. Ziggler and Swagger’s grievance would be that in order to get onto the show at all they had to accept bit parts in the battle of the General Managers.

The segment would finish with the group revealing that they have taken the Four Horsemen name and throwing up the famous hand sign of that group.

I’m unsure of The Rock’s schedule so haven’t included him in my plans below. He would appear “live via satellite” to promise retribution for the Four Horsemen. That’s a storyline I’d leave dangling for whenever Rock returns (which I assume would be Survivor Series).

The rest of the time before Extreme Rules on April 29th would be dedicated to introducing a greater emphasis on longer matches and character development. A tag team division would be established so that the tag team titles can mean something again. Epico, Primo and Rosa Mendes would be united with Hunico and Camacho to form a mid-card stable of heels. A new status quo would be introduced with regards to storyline management, what with Johnny Ace being in charge and all. Christian would be installed as the “Interim Senior Adjutant of Talent Relations” on SmackDown until he’s healed from his ankle injury. That would save having to overload WWE television with John Laurinaitis appearances and give a talented talker in Christian something to do.

I’d also be calling up several new wrestlers. For the tag team division I’d be putting Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli back together as the Kings of Wrestling. It doesn’t matter if they own the rights to those names. Who cares? They’re far superior to Kassius Ohno and Antonio Cesaro and they have established gimmicks ready to roll. I’d have them film some vignettes introducing them to WWE audiences and have them debut at Extreme Rules with a victory over the Mid-Card Mafia. The Kings would be heels because that’s how they do their best work.

Seth Rollins would also get a call-up from developmental, though he wouldn’t get to revert to his Tyler Black moniker. He’d start out fluking wins in an underdog babyface role against the likes of Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal. By late May or early June the fluke aspect would ideally be dropped and Rollins would be winning on merit and skill. On a side note I like the idea of Rollins wrestling in trunks with an ace prominently displayed on them as that would allow the announcers to begin referring to him as “WWE’s Ace in the Hole” in a seemingly organic manner.

I’d restart the push of Johnny Curtis by having him participate in more wordplay backstage segments. They were just the right level of silly to work. If used as babyface with a sense of humour I think Curtis could get over.

The final call-up for the first few months would be Dean Ambrose, who would be booked to run-in on matches and cause disqualifications. After five or six weeks of that he would finally consent to a backstage interview with Matt Striker and reveal his name (likely Dean Ambrose but possibly something else) and his motivation for causing the DQs: wanting to get himself noticed by GM Laurinaitis to earn a contract. Otunga could then sidle into shot and enigmatically say “We should talk.” From there Ambrose would wind up as a contracted heel performer.

The lead feuds going into Extreme Rules would be CM Punk v Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan v Sheamus for the WWE and World Heavyweight titles respectively. On the undercard I would have kept the David Otunga v Santino feud simmering on TV, with Otunga relinquishing the gold back to Santino at the PPV, and built up a three way feud for the tag team title between champions Epico and Primo and the challenging duos of Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger (who would officially compete under the team name All American Perfection) and Zack Ryder and John Cena. Putting Cena into the tag title hunt keeps him busy without having to include him in the WWE title picture, gives a rub to ‘Long Island Iced Z’ and builds logicially on the beating he suffered at the hands of the Horsemen on the RAW after WrestleMania.

Cody Rhodes, the fourth member of the Horsemen faction, would put his gold on the line against Kofi Kingston. The idea would be to have Rhodes defend the belt in exciting, balanced matches but cheat in the closing moments to get him some heat and make it clear that he’s concerned about losing to a more skilled opponent. Kingston would be the first to wrestle Cody on PPV because he deserves the chance to climb the ladder. He’s clearly not going to be reuniting with Air Boom partner Evan Bourne any time soon considering Bourne’s broken ankle.

This man's push would continue if I were in charge

Beth Phoenix would clash with former friend Natalya. I’d start this feud immediately after WrestleMania, with ‘The Glamazon’ branding Natty an embarrassment and a disgrace to the wrestling business because of her wind problem. That would create a reason for introducing the stupid gimmick in the first place, allowing for it to be quietly written out during the feud. Phoenix would gain a tainted victory (holding onto the ropes or something similar) to keep the rivalry alive and necessitate a rematch.

I haven’t forgotten the Lord Tensai character. He would have been brawling with Randy Orton in the weeks since his debut to set up their match here. He would gain the victory after interference from FCW talent Jiro, who has been seen in the Tensai vignettes. I assume will end up being his manservant.

Punk v Jericho would have been steered away from the cheap heat device of mentioning Punk’s family and instead focused on what should always be the core dispute of their program: who’s the better wrestler? They would get a decent amount of time to put together a pure wrestling match which would again see ‘The Second City Saint’ go over. I imagine that by late April Jericho would be heading off to tour with Fozzy so this would be his last appearance for a while.

The Sheamus v Bryan feud, meanwhile, would be more about Sheamus battling against the odds of the Four Horsemen. Bryan would start out the match alone (I imagine I would quietly drop or downplay AJ as his valet) before getting into trouble at around the ten minute mark and signalling (via the trusty hand signal) for the other members of the stable. The numbers would prove too much for Sheamus and he would find himself on the wrong end of a small package, relinquishing the WHC back to Daniel Bryan. That would instigate a “Yes!”-fest.

While this show is called Extreme Rules I wouldn’t feel compelled to make every match a gimmick match. I feel that Santino v Otunga, Punk v Jericho and Sheamus v Bryan could all get away with being stipulation bouts as all are rematches and part of feuds that have already seen the opponents face off at least once. To that end Sheamus v Bryan would be a street fight (which handily allows for the outside interference I mentioned), Punk v Jericho would be a two-out-of-three falls match (not particularly extreme, but hey) and Santino v Otunga would be a strap match. I’d consider making Tensai v Orton a tables match if a Baldo Bomb through a table spot had been included on RAW or SmackDown during April.

The following evening on RAW would start a new feud for CM Punk. During a show opening bragging session about how he’d sent ‘Y2J’ packing from the WWE Universe the WWE champion would be confronted by the Four Horsemen. All four men would be wearing suits, all four men would be carrying gold. This would be the revival of the Punk v Bryan feud that we saw glimpses of during February and March. Getting into Punk’s face Bryan would say that he’s the ‘Best in the World’ and that he’ll prove it by having more entertaining championship matches than Punk and making the WHC mean more than the WWE title.

The main event of that RAW would be the Four Horsemen v CM Punk, Santino, Zack Ryder and John Cena. That would allow the AAP v Cena and Ryder feud to continue without the baggage of Epico and Primo (they’d be booked to sink down into the middle of the tag team card and help establish a proper division) and give Punk and Bryan the chance to one-up each other to get their feud rolling. They would face each other semi-regularly in singles and tag matches on TV over the next few months.

The Horsemen would gain a tainted victory via shenanigans and the match would end with Bryan pinning Punk. Note that it wouldn’t be a clean victory, and the other babyfaces would return to the ring to chase off the cheating heels. That would leave Punk alone in the ring. He would recover and drag himself up to his feet only for Christian to run in through the crowd and hit him with the Unprettier (or the Killswitch if you’re a modern fan).

The following episode of SmackDown would begin with Christian handing in his notice as the Interim Senior Adjutant of Talent Relations in order to pursue CM Punk’s WWE championship. John Laurinaitis would award ‘Captain Charisma’ a title shot at Over the Limit for a job well done.

Elsewhere on the post-Extreme Rules RAW the Brodus Clay v Miz issue would continue with ‘The Awesome One’ finally getting the better of Brodus, connecting with the Skull-Crushing Finale for the first time. Randy Orton and Lord Tensai would have another match, which would be billed as their feud-ending collision and would be won by Tensai after interference from a returning Alberto Del Rio.

From here Tensai would go on to meaningless squash victories for a few weeks before being announced as the challenger to Santino’s US championship at Over the Limit. I’d be booking ‘The Milan Miracle’ as a thorn in the side of John Laurinaitis, with the idea being that the GM doesn’t want a comedy character like Santino representing the company. No no no, he’d much rather have David Otunga or Lord Tensai hold the title instead.

How could you stop the push of someone as over as this guy?
As a first time feud ADR and Orton would be kept apart until their first match at OTL. Del Rio’s logic for targeting Orton would be that it’s the perfect way to make a name for himself upon his return. He would have been off TV for four months or so, and he could cut some realistic promos about how he needs to reassert himself as a dominant player in the “WWE Universe” to earn his way back to a championship. The best way to do that is to take out an established star and he would have selected Orton. There would be no physical interaction between them until Over the Limit, although I like the idea of having ADR sacrifice Ricardo Rodriguez for an RKO.

Beth Phoenix would continue her feud with Natalya. I’d bring in Kaitlyn as a partner and backup for Natty and Eve Torres as a sparring partner slash slightly-untrustable associate for ‘The Glamazon’. That would give enough combinations for a few TV matches before the PPV, on which the four women would clash in a tag match.

Back towards the main event, tag team champions Ziggler and Swagger would wrestle on as many shows as possible and put the tag titles on the line a couple of times. Two weeks before OTL Cena and Ryder (I’d like them to have a team name but it’s the sort of thing wrestlers themselves should be involved in and, well, I just don’t have access to either man to find out what they’d go with) would win a tag team gauntlet match on RAW to earn a title shot on the pay-per-view. Every team I’d have created (and there would hopefully be in excess of half a dozen by this point) would be involved in that match, although I’d take care not to have Cena and Ryder meet the Kings of Wrestling. That’s a feud that would need to start on pay-per-view.

Cody Rhodes would continue his quest to keep hold of the Intercontinental title at any cost, this month finding himself in a conflict with R-Truth. Truth’s enough of a star to be immediately believable as a contender to a mid-card championship, so I wouldn’t need to prepare him. I would perhaps have him win a battle royal on the post-Extreme Rules RAW to earn a shot at the gold at OTL. They could then feud for a few weeks.

At this point I would begin preparing Justin Gabriel for a run with Cody Rhodes. He’s not as well established as Truth, partly because he hasn’t ever had a strong babyface push, so fans would need to be given a reason to get behind him. I’d feed him a series of victories to prepare him for a title shot at No Way Out in June.

Back to the top again: Daniel Bryan would spend the month finishing off his feud with Sheamus. I like the idea that by this point the champ would be established enough to be able to work competitive TV matches with mid- or low-card talent, enhancing them by allowing them to enter spirited performances against a man of his position. Tussles between Bryan and ‘Great White’ would occur frequently, with Johnny Ace eventually ruling that they will clash for the final time at OTL in a steel cage match, so as to avoid Horsemen interference.

Over the Limit would open with Santino defending his US title against Lord Tensai. Santino’s regular (but strangely over) comedy routine would be a fine PPV opener. They’d get around five or six minutes then go to a disqualification finish, allowing Tensai to look monstrous by Santino to cling on to the championship.

From there we’d go through a slightly lengthier R-Truth v Cody Rhodes Intercontinental title match, which would see Rhodes retain, and onto the Divas tag team match. Natalya would score the clean pinfall over Phoenix in that one, keeping her in the title hunt for another month.

Match number four would see Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton clash. They’d have to get around twelve minutes minimum, and do some pretty amazing stuff to live up to expectations. I think this is a feud we’re going to see happen after WrestleMania in reality, and I predict that they will have some very enjoyable matches together. ‘The Viper’ tends to have realistic matches by WWE standards and I think Del Rio’s stiff tendencies will add to that. I’d have ADR go over with the cross arm breaker submission, but only after Ricardo had interfered so that ‘The Apex Predator’ could be caught in the first place.

That would be followed by the tag team title match between All American Perfection and Zack Ryder and John Cena. By this point I would hope that Ryder would have far more credibility as a performer. In order to try and safeguard that work, and also to advance the heels, I’d have Cena take the pinfall loss for his team, clean via a Zig Zag from ‘The Show Off’. The commentary team would push that while Cena is the top dog he’s still adapting to life in the tag ranks and AAP have been a unit for a longer time so have the edge. Following the match the Kings of Wrestling would run-in to brawl with Ryder and Cena. They would all be separated by officials.

Match six would be the first competitive match for Brodus Clay under his ‘Funkasaurus’ gimmick. Miz is a good choice for that role because he’s talented enough to be able to make Brodus look good while being enough of a name talent to realistically offer some resistance. This would be another five or six minute match which would see Brodus power out of a SCF attempt and hit Miz with a What the Funk splash.

The cage match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan would be up next and would see Bryan win clean. This may harm ‘Great White’ as it would mark two pay-per-view losses in a row for him. I don’t think it would be catastrophic though. The guy’s bounced back before and will again. I’d want to keep the belt on Bryan as I think he has more potential to become a big money name for WWE than does Sheamus. The finish would be Sheamus about to exit the cage, having just finished giving the champ a pasting, by climbing through the middle and top rope to the floor. Bryan would race from the other side of the ring and dive over the top rope onto a couple of waiting referees (who would cushion his fall). He would have just pipped Sheamus to the post and retained his title.

Cries of “Yes!” and a beating from the irate Irishman would ensue.

Christian v CM Punk for the WWE championship would go on last and get around twenty minutes. I think these two men could have great matches with one another and that they would provide a fitting end to a pay-per-view event. Punk would win clean via a GTS and the two men would scowl at one another as the show went off the air.

The May 21st RAW would open with Ryder and Cena. ‘The Doctor of Thuganomics’ would apologise for losing the previous evening and promise Zack that they would get back to the top. Ryder would say something to the effect of “Don’t sweat it, bro” and the two would then address the Kings of Wrestling. Hero and Castagnoli would come out to the stage and say that they’ve been in the company for a month and have already proven they’re the best team going today, but it’s Cena and Ryder that get tag title matches on pay-per-view. They would want a match with Cena and Ryder to prove they’re more worthy of championship gold. The faces would offer to have the match then and there but the heels would decline with a lame excuse (Claudio has a cold, Hero has a sinus infection and they’re not cleared to wrestle, something along those lines) and instead challenge them to a match at No Way Out. That would be agreed on and Laurinaitis would sanction it later on in a backstage segment.

The main event of the evening would be Punk versus Mark Henry. Punk would just manage to pull out a victory only to be confronted by Christian. ‘The Instant Classic’ would claim Punk stole a victory from him the previous evening and demand a rematch. Laurinaitis would come out and say that sounds fair and make a bout for No Way Out. Christian would then attack Punk from behind.

An even fight would take place until Mark Henry lumbered back into the ring to involve himself. That two-on-one action would continue until Rey Mysterio ran in to stop things (I’m aware there’s something very wrong with Mysterio running off Mark Henry but he would booked to dropkick the lard bucket’s knees and then give him a 619, which is plausible by wrestling standards). Punk and Rey would stand proud in the ring as the show closed.

That program would continue until No Way Out, with Mysterio earning entry to the match with a win over Christian and Henry then being added to the match “because he’s earned it” (I think that’s a suitably naff Johnny Ace line). Singles matches between the four and a tag match on the pre-NWO RAW could fill TV before the event.

Elsewhere the Orton v Del Rio feud would heat up and pique the interest of Daniel Bryan. A week after Over the Limit he would interrupt a promo segment between the two and announce that he’s been paying attention to their developing rivalry. He would say he enjoyed their match at OTL but that he’s getting sick of them eating up his air time. ‘The Viper’ would respond by saying he’s sick of Bryan cheating to win before challenging him to step in the ring with him and put the World title on the line. ADR would cut in and say he deserves a match with Bryan more than Orton does. A number one contenders match between the two would then be agreed upon, which would end in some sort of double finish to set up a three-way at No Way Out.

This is a good point to mention that the Punk and Bryan rivalry would not have been forgotten. The two would be making comments about one another in promos and occasionally interacting directly on RAW and SmackDown. The idea would be to keep the feud simmering and make it clear there is professional pride at stake between the two.

No Way Out would be the event where some of the newcomers would begin getting their chance to make an impression. Dean Ambrose would be paired up with Miz in his continuing feud with Brodus Clay. A match between Ambrose and Clay would be announced for NWO, with Miz in Ambrose’s corner.

Meanwhile Seth Rollins could have his first true feud with Hunico (now united with Epico, Primo, and rosa Mendes as well as Camacho). By this point I would hope Rollins would be sufficiently over as a mid-card babyface for fans to be able to get into a match between those two.

What would Sheamus be doing with his program with Daniel Bryan finished? I like the idea of him crossing swords with John Laurinaitis. A logical starting point is Sheamus requesting another title match with Bryan and Laurinaitis refusing. Sheamus could be booked in matches in which the metaphorical deck is stacked against him, only to pull out a win every time. This would rile the GM and provoke him to book a singles match between ‘Great White’ and a mystery opponent for NWO. Who would that opponent be? Stay tuned!

By this point I would hope Evan Bourne would be ready to return to action. I’d have Kingston fall to Rhodes in a TV match for the Intercontinental championship following interference from Ziggler and Swagger. Bourne would rush in to make the save alongside Justin Gabriel, setting up both Cody’s IC defence against the South African and a bout between All American Perfection and Air Boom for No Way Out.  It would also allow for what I imagine could be a superb six man tag match of Swagger, Ziggler and Rhodes v Kingston, Bourne and Gabriel on TV (probably on SmackDown where the match could get the time it deserves).

While there’s no room for a Divas match on the No Way Out pay-per-view I would keep the Natalya v Beth Phoenix rivalry going and consider booking a title switch on a heavily promoted match between the two on an episode of RAW or SmackDown. Such a match could be used to gauge interest in the women’s division and the two performers in particular: if the ratings for the match were good it would be a positive sign.

No Way Out itself would open with All American Perfection v Air Boom. Those teams have clashed before. We all know how good their matches can be. There would be no title changes so the Horsemen would have to go over. That doesn’t matter: fans would still have a great show opener.

The second match of the evening would be the Justin Gabriel v Cody Rhodes Intercontinental title match. The commentary team would be instructed to ram home the importance of the opportunity for ‘The Werewolf of Cape Town’, reminding fans that it’s his chance to make an impact in one night by upsetting Rhodes. At this point Rhodes’ title reign would have lasted for ten months. That would need to be mentioned too, as it would enhance both Rhodes and the championship.

Rhodes would retain the title after a low blow and Cross Rhodes combination. That would setup a rematch that fans would, hopefully, believe Gabriel deserves to win.

Match three would see Dean Ambrose take on ‘The Funkasaurus’. It’s possible I’d change my mind but my original plan would be to have Brodus overcome constant interference from The Miz and pin Ambrose clean with the What the Funk splash.

That would be followed by the less-interference riddled Kings of Wrestling v John Cena and Zack Ryder clash. I’d want this to be a match between two even teams. Yes, Cena’s the bigger star but the story would be that Hero and Castagnoli have the superior teamwork and know how to use that to their advantage. It would be a close thing and the Kings would just manage to pull out a victory. This time Ryder would do the job. If the match is as even as I’d like then getting pinned shouldn’t harm him at all.

That would be followed by Sheamus facing his mystery opponent. Who would it be? Well, there are multiple options. My first choice would be Wade Barrett, though it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t have recovered from his injury by this point. If he was ready to return he would, and the two men would battle to a double count out as they brawled at ringside. Were Barrett not an option I would either have Sheamus beating David Otunga (which would be a comedic and short squash match), Lord Tensai (which would be booked in exactly the same fashion as Sheamus v Barrett) or a muscly newcomer from developmental who would become Laurinaitis’s hired gun (that would mean a loss for Sheamus to give the new lad a strong start).

Match number six would see Seth Rollins enter a valiant effort against Hunico and pick up a DQ victory after lots of interference. It would be unrealistic for a mid-card face to fend off his opponent and four people at ringside but a win via disqualification would avoid him losing outright.

The evening’s penultimate bout would be the triple threat match for Daniel Bryan’s World Heavyweight championship. Bryan would leave as champion, with the finish being Orton hitting an RKO on Del Rio only to be aggressively tossed out of the ring by Bryan before he could make the cover. Bryan would then hit a kick or a Shining Wizard or something of that nature on ADR and get the win, dashing to the back with his title before Orton could get to him.

The main event would be the CM Punk v Christian v Mark Henry v Rey Mysterio four-way match for Punk’s WWE championship. Henry would be booked strong in the early going before being written out for a breather. I’d essentially want him to get involved only at key points to keep the match from degenerating into two babyfaces against one heel.

I reckon Rey Mysterio will be back by June

Punk would leave this match as the winner, taking his title reign to the seven month mark. I think that’s pretty good by current standards. I also think that with ‘The World’s Lardiest Wrestler’ working in a subdued role this is a four man match that could be excellent. The number of signature and finishing moves that the various participants have means that you could get a great nearfall sequence going.

The following night’s RAW would begin the build to SummerSlam with Punk and Bryan (backed up by his Horsemen cronies) finally agreeing to have a match at the ‘Summer Spectacular’. Laurinatis would involve himself and say that the match would be title v title but that it would not necessarily be Punk v Bryan, as both men have to hold onto their respective belts before getting to the show. Two number one contenders bouts would be announced: Rey Mysterio v Christian v Mark Henry for Punk’s title and Sheamus v Wade Barrett v Alberto Del Rio v Randy Orton for Bryan’s (this is, of course, continuing on the assumption that Barrett had returned from injury).

The winners of those matches would be Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, giving us CM Punk v Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan v Randy Orton at July 15th’s Money in the Bank. The Bryan v Orton feud would see ‘The Viper’ have to go through a member of the Horsemen and the interference that comes with such a match each week. That’s a nice, easy to understand story that can be told comfortably in a month of TV. Each match would need to be competitive and Orton would ideally win the final one, but he wouldn’t need to win them all. That would just make Ziggler, Swagger and Rhodes look like jobbers. What’d be the point of that?

Punk v Mysterio would be based around mutual respect and honour, as all good babyface v babyface matches should be. Each man would cut promos saying that they want to steal the show by having the best match on what has become one of WWE’s most entertaining annual events.

The Money in the Bank matches themselves would not be tied to qualifying matches. It always amazes me when WWE takes that approach as they don’t have a deep enough roster to present matches in which fans can be unsure of who’s going to win and get into the ladder match. I think it’s best to simply announce the line-ups for each match and then spend the interim weeks of television booking singles and tag bouts between the competitors.

I would promote two Money in the Bank matches as there would be two world titles at the time of the event. The commentary team would be instructed to talk about the possibility of neither MITB winner cashing in until after SummerSlam, at which point there would be only one champion. The general gist would be that if only one world champion remains both briefcases will still be valid, but it will make a tactical cash-in far more difficult as there would be the possibility of the second cash-in occuring.

The RAW ladder bout would feature the following men: Christian, David Otunga, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Santino, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne and Brodus Clay.

Meanwhile the SmackDown cash-in-fest would involve: Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, Wade Barrett, Hunico, Yoshi Tatsu, Seth Rollins, Johnny Curtis and Sheamus.

That’s two units with four faces and four heels each. Plenty of options for TV-filling singles and tag bouts there. The pre-Money in the Bank RAW and SmackDown shows would each feature eight man tag matches involving all the participants from the relevant show.

Down on the undercard Justin Gabriel and Cody Rhodes would continue their rivalry over the Intercontinental championship. A nice TV match on the way to MITB would be Gabriel and Orton v Rhodes and Bryan. Being associated with such big names, tagging alongside one of the company’s top guns in Orton, would considerably raise Gabriel’s profile.

The tag team division would continue to be built around the Kings of Wrestling, All American Perfection and John Cena and Zack Ryder. I like the idea of having an in-ring segment in which the Kings challenge All Americans Perfection to give them a title match, only for Cena and Ryder to get involved and talk their way into the match too. I think a three-way tag title match between those three teams could be excellent if it got enough time.

The final match I’d be putting onto Money in the Bank would be Beth Phoenix v Natalya v Eve Torres v Kaitlyn. Phoenix or Natalya would be the Divas champion at this point and I think a four women match would be the natural conclusion to the storyline. It would be getting old by this point, and I imagine Layla would be available to return to TV by this point for a match with someone at SummerSlam. Fresh face and all that.

The Money in the Bank show would open with the RAW Money in the Bank bout. An eight man ladder match is not something that is easy to fantasy book, so I’ll just say that the competitors would be given a free rein to try and steal the show. Given the talent involved I think it would be possible. The plan would be to have Christian win, though it’s possible that would change to Miz.

The second match of the evening would be the four women Divas title match. I think there’d probably be enough time for them to have a ten minute match, which is far more than WWE usually allocates its female performers. Their task would be to get the Divas title and themselves over.

Match number three would be the Intercontinental title rematch between Justin Gabriel and champion Cody Rhodes. I think by this point Gabriel would be ready for a run as a featured singles star and that these two could have great chemistry for lengthy matches if they were paired up on house shows for a few months. A win for Gabriel feels like the right plan to have.

Up next would be the World Heavyweight championship clash between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. Ideally this match would get around twenty minutes and be every bit as good as their televised clash from SmackDown in February. I think both men could do that. Bryan would be booked to win via Horsemen Hand Sign, leaving ‘The Apex Predator’ spoiling for a rematch at some point in the future and as a logical early contender for the winner of Punk v Bryan.

The evening’s fifth match would be the SmackDown MITB match. The plan would be to have Sheamus come out victorious, though it’s possible I’d end up switching to Wade Barrett or ADR.

That would be followed by the tag team title match pitting All American Perfection v the Kings of Wrestling v Zack Ryder and John Cena. If Cena’s involvement were limited I think by this point fans would not resent him so much. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking but he would have been in a diminished role putting over younger guys for four months by this point so I think there’s at least a chance.

The story of Ryder and Cena’s title chase would finally come to an end here with the two winning the belts via a Rough Ryder on either Ziggler or Swagger. If the two celebrated like it meant something (and all four heels acted as though they’d missed out on something truly meaningful) then the tag belts should mean more in the eyes of fans.

The main event of the show would see CM Punk defend his WWE championship against Rey Mysterio in a face v face contest. Punk would retain his championship clean via the GTS. Both men would shake hands before and after the match.

That would leave me with a few weeks to build SummerSlam on August 19th. The main bout would be CM Punk v Daniel Bryan in a title unification match (yep, exactly what I’d have booked for WrestleMania XXVIII). I think that with the other members of the Horsemen faction and Sheamus and Christian (as Money in the Bank holders) all on the edges of the feud some great TV could be created. I’d mix Orton, ADR, Mysterio and Barrett into the peripheral title feud too, and build to a six man match at SummerSlam with the selling point being that every man involved wants and has an argument for receiving a title shot.

Cody Rhodes would get his teeth into a feud with Seth Rollins. ‘The Ace in the Hole’ would get a surprise victory over Rhodes on the post-MITB RAW, igniting a rivalry between the two. From there Rhodes would attack Rollins once or twice before Rollins cost him his Intercontinental title rematch on an episode of RAW. This would leave Justin Gabriel free to move into a program with Hunico.

Meanwhile Miz and Dean Ambrose would move on from their feud with Brodus Clay to the newly crowned tag team champions John Cena and Zack Ryder by sneak attacking them on the post-Money in the Bank RAW. Ziggler and Swagger would continue their rivalry with fellow heels the Kings of Wrestling (who would begin playing tweeners at this point) and be joined by Air Boom, allowing for another multi-team match at SummerSlam.

Finally, as I mentioned above, Layla would likely be ready for television again by this point and would return for a face versus face clash with Natalya.

SummerSlam would open with the tag team title match between challengers Miz and Dean Ambrose and champions Zack Ryder and John Cena. There would be no title switch. The champs would retain decisively while making the challengers look strong.

From there we’d move to Gabriel v Hunico. This would need to be a good wrestling match for the most part, with the various seconds of Hunico only involving themselves at the end of the match (or possibly directly after). Gabriel would keep hold of the title and probably get the clean win, though it may end up a DQ finish.

Match three would see Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins clash. The two men would have a wild, even tussle before Rhodes hit a low blow and a Cross Rhodes for the victory. A post-match betadown by Rhodes, Ziggler and Swagger would set the scene for a rematch at the September pay-per-view.

After that Natalya and Layla would get seven minutes to put on as good a face versus face match as possible. Again, the women would be instructed to make themselves and the Divas division look as great as possible. That would be followed by the Kings of Wrestling v Air Boom v All American Perfection. Given twelve to fifteen minutes that could be another show-stealing match for the tag team division.

Randy Orton, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio v Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett and Christian would be the evening’s penultimate event. The commentary team would need to emphasise that no man trusts his partners and that the result of the match would have ramifications on the title scene. Christian would attempt to wallop ‘Great White’ with a briefcase at the finish, only to be caught with a Brogue Kick for the pinfall loss. A Sheamus victory would be the right thing to do here I feel.

Going on last would be Punk v Bryan. I’d like them to have around twenty-five minutes to do their stuff and pack the bout with nearfalls and classic counter wrestling. With that amount of time I think they could construct a classic match. Who’d win? Who’d leave the Staples Center as the unified champion? It could go either way and it would depend on how I felt at the time but my initial plan would be to have Daniel Bryan leave with both belts via some shady tactics. Both men could then enter interim feuds across the following months before finally having a rematch at Survivor Series under rules that means Bryan’s cheating ways are either effectively outlawed or completely legal (so that Punk knows they’re coming and can use them too).

And that is what would be happening on WWE television if I made booker tomorrow. Better than what we’re going to get? That’s not for me to say, but there are elements of the above plan that I think are very good ideas that WWE should be using. I’d be placing an emphasis on trying to create new stars without downplaying (too many) established ones. If WWE is going to survive indefinitely they have to start doing that at some point, whether they like it or not.

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