Friday, November 20, 2015
WrestleMania 32 booking
By Rick Morris
While the Seth Rollins injury supposedly didn’t shake up the top of the card at WrestleMania 32 – which should be the biggest in history by one very important metric, a live crowd which should top 100K for the first time – it should have. The thought of him not being in a top match after being on top most of the year – albeit, yes, with the same “Honkytonk Man chicken-s” booking that also did Miz no favors back in 2010-11 – and not being used at ‘Mania in a top spot seems a terrible waste.
Thus, let’s lead off with the matches that I wanted to see on top before his injury:
Dean Ambrose (WWE World Champion) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar
In essence, it’s Brock vs. all of the members of the Shield, with Dean as the champ joining last year’s main event. How do you get here? Relatively simply. Roman takes the title from Seth, as would have apparently happened anyway, but gets immediately jumped by the Wyatts again. Oh, by the way, Dean would have beaten Sheamus for the briefcase prior to this. He runs in ostensibly to save Roman, but instead he joins the attack, joins the Wyatt family, actually, and cashes in. Roman wins the Rumble again to get his rematch, but Seth and Brock make successful appeals to HHH to join the match. Dean and Bray together leading into ‘Mania would be the kind of Roddy Piper/Jake Roberts heel pairing on top that we never got back in 1986. Roman takes the title, pinning Ambrose and leaving open rematches with all three men.
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
This is a pretty straightforward respect match. It’s arguable that Cena needs the win less than ‘Taker if there’s 1-2 more ‘Mania matches left for the Dead Man – as seems to be the case – and nobody’s ever lost luster by losing to Undertaker at WrestleMania, so that probably dictates the booking.
OK, with those might-have-beens out of the way, let’s revisit the usual ground rules in this space for fantasy booking. All of this has to be within the parameters of the possible, so John Cena jobbing clean to Cesaro in 30 seconds – while I, as a bona fide smart mark, would pay big money to see that – and other such ridiculous scenarios are off the board. For example, Roman Reigns is going over for the World Title no matter what, so I’m not fighting the impossible battle, merely trying to show how it could best be done – and that’s the same approach for the booking up and down the card.
John Cena (WWE World Champion) vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Vince McMahon is reputed to be torn between Cena and Lesnar as dance partners for his new lead star. Why not both? On a card that’s going to be apparently deprived of some of the old-school name value that we thought maybe we’d see (The Rock) or saw last year (Sting), why not load up a main event that would be one of the most star-studded three-ways in history? Here’s how you get there. Reigns does win the tournament at Survivor Series this Sunday, but Sheamus immediately cashes in on him due to an attack from Wade Barrett. While Reigns is pursuing revenge against Barrett, Sheamus quickly loses the title to Cena. Reigns wins the Royal Rumble again, while Paul Heyman successfully petitions to have Lesnar added to the match since he never was pinned for the title and had his rematch disrupted by The Undertaker. Here’s the finish, setting up rematches for Reigns against both men: with Roman outside the ring, Cena has Lesnar locked in the STF when Heyman interferes. Cena grabs Heyman, while Lesnar delivers an F5, only to be met with a spear from Reigns as he hoists himself up to crawl over to make the pin. Reigns steals the pin on Cena and gets his moment to celebrate at the end of the night.
HHH vs. Dean Ambrose – TEXAS DEATH MATCH
This card needs to be about cementing the stars of the next generation – in an aspirational sense, like WrestleMania 14 with Austin, The Rock, the New Age Outlaws, HHH, Mankind and Kane. As such, that has to determine the booking and placement of the existing top guys. This match is a no-brainer: the figurehead of The Authority vs. the biggest anti-authority (and anti-Authority) guy on the roster. Position Ambrose as the initial challenger to Sheamus during his brief spell with the WWE World Title and position HHH as the man who, horrified at the thought of Ambrose as “face of the company,” redoubles his efforts to keep him away from the belt. This can easily build towards the kind of all-out brawl that could steal the show. Here, HHH has the chance to pay it forward in giving the final push towards superstardom that Mick Foley bequeathed to him 16 years ago.
The Undertaker vs. Daniel Bryan
With Bray Wyatt super-unlikely to be a ‘Taker foe two years in a row at WrestleMania, just about any hate-filled-feud angle is out the window, so we’re back to the concept of a respect match. This would be a perfect one, since Bryan is reputed to be on the verge of being cleared: Undertaker could do a lot to put him over simply by issuing the challenge, noting that the Bearded One has become one of the very best in the world and somebody who could challenge him sternly on the grandest stage. As with Cena, it would make more sense to have Undertaker go over, especially since it could kick off a “re-proving himself” angle for Bryan after being out of action for the vast majority of the last two years.
Paige (WWE Divas Champion) vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Brie Bella
Brie gets into this match simply because it can’t be presumed that Nikki will be cleared by then and, storyline-wise, with the Bellas as the top figures pre-“Revolution,” one of them does belong in this match. This would be a perfect place for Sasha to take the title for the first time and cement her face turn in the process, leaving Naomi and BAD behind. It remains to be seen how nasty the WWE will let Sasha be as a face, since the last thing you’d want to do is take away her personality even if the crowd is forcing her to become a “good guy,” but that concern can’t affect the outcome here.
Kevin Owens (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Cesaro
Ideally, neither man would take a loss on this card, but there’s only so many wins to go around and a 4 ½-star epic would at least somewhat elevate both. KO won at Summerslam and Cesaro is more in need of a boost right now, so he would go over here in a moment that, ironically, will mean much more than it should given how stingy the WWE has been with allowing him the successes he deserves after winning the Andre battle royal two years ago.
New Day (WWE World Tag Team Champions) vs. Dolph Ziggler & Ryback
The top of the face ladder is pretty crowded and the company is reluctant to give Dolph the “all the way” push, so this is a good spot for a heel turn, maybe reprising the Strike Force breakup of 1989. This outcome keeps New Day on top of the tag division even longer – keeping in mind that, with the epic stretch that they’ve had, like The Shield, they’re going to need at least a brief face run on top before they split up – without costing the now-feuding Ziggler and Ryback any heat in the process.
The Dudley Boys vs. Wade Barrett & Sheamus
Honestly, you could whip up any kind of a pretext angle to put these four men in the ring in Arlington. This match would deliver the nostalgia pop that fans enjoy on this stage, whilst putting over Barrett and Sheamus – who, hopefully, have something left to offer.
Tyler Breeze vs. Neville
The setup here is simple: Breeze, having never been able to beat Neville for the NXT Title and having had to wait eight months longer for the call-up because of that failure, seeks the chance to make things right at WrestleMania. He goes over, but, in having put over Neville’s dominant NXT streak (which, sadly, hasn’t been mentioned nearly enough on commentary since he joined the main roster), he keeps his British rival strong for rematches.
Alberto Del Rio (US Champion) vs. Kalisto
Granted, their World Title tournament match was a debacle, but a matchup of top Latin stars has been a tried-and-true staple for putting backsides in seats in Texas for decades. Plus, the WWE is reputed to always be angling for a chance to get the world record for masks being worn in a venue, and featuring Kalisto in a match would fit the bill. This should be a hot opener, with ADR blatantly cheating to go over. Then, the next night on Raw, he can mock the old “US Open challenges,” only to be shockingly answered by Cena coming out to accept and win back the US Title.
(Pre-Show) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The storyline going in is “4 vs. 26,” as the Wyatt Family has vowed to come away with the big win. The assumption is that Braun Stroman would be the man to emerge, if they could pull it off, but Luke Harper, as the best worker by far in the Family, could do more with the rub. Stroman could go out as part of a big tumble over the top also involving Big Show and Kane. Harper and Stroman could both come out of this match as viable contenders for Reigns in his first year on top.