Saturday, April 18, 2009

WrestleMania 26 -- book it this way!

By Rick Morris

Like I did last year, I'm bringing you a wish list for the next WrestleMania, almost one year out from the big day. As with last year, I'm trying to keep this in the realm of the politically possible. For example, I'd still like to see John Cena end the Undertaker's undefeated streak at Mania, but I don't see that as being at all possible for next year.

^ WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. John Cena. Health permitting, we know we're getting this one next year as Orton is in the midst of the biggest "franchise heel" push since HHH got his a decade ago. The company sees Cena as their current face of the product right now, but realistically he's more at the level of a Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels in the '90s rather than a Hogan, Austin or Rock. He's running out of chances to get to that next level and be taken seriously and this feud could be his make-or-break chance. The WWE doesn't want to hurt his appeal to the kiddies or lose their new PG reputation, but they're going to have to let Cena get some edge back (no pun intended) or he'll get eaten alive by a crowd that doesn't seem to want to boo Orton anyway. If both guys are on their game, this could be one of the most memorable all-time main events. That would be a welcome contrast to this year.

^ World Heavyweight Championship: Edge vs. Shawn Michaels. Think about it: Edge needs a win in a world title match at Mania, something only granted to Orton and HHH so far as heels. Michaels needs somebody who can have another great Mania match with him and there are reports that this match could be his last. Having Michaels cross brands for a few weeks would kill two birds with one stone. And with HBK's reluctance to work on Tuesday nights, you could pre-film enough stuff on Mondays, even extra matches, to give him a presence on Smackdown for a few weeks.

^ ECW Championship: Evan Bourne vs. Jack Swagger. This feud should be built to over the course of the year, with Bourne finally winning the title somewhere around December. That would make this match the blowoff where Swagger wins the title to crown his ECW career before they both move on to bigger and better things on either Monday or (preferably) Friday nights.

^ Undertaker vs. Chris Jericho. We've seen the formula that works over the past two years: super-talented cocky opponent vowing to end the Undertaker's Mania streak. Could anyone possibly be any better in that role than Jericho?

^ HHH vs. William Regal. This would be a great match, and with HHH and Regal as longtime real-life friends, it could be politically possible under certain circumstances. If Regal were somehow paired with Orton's Legacy faction in some way, the combination of his own heat and the reflected heat of Legacy could make this a match that the fans would clamor for under the right booking conditions. Essentially, HHH and his, errrrr, backers in the company would have to settle for a mid-to-upper card win at Mania instead of a match for a world title. Aside from his injury in 2007 and his match with Undertaker in 2001, he's wrestled for a world title at every Mania since 2000 -- the only run that has ever rivaled Hogan's one through the first several WrestleManias. Assuming that the proverbial crowbar could separate HHH from a world title match or rematch from Mania 17 with 'Taker, this would be an excellent substitute.

^ Unified World Tag Team Title Match: Legacy vs. Jeff Hardy & Rey Misterio. Jeff and Rey Rey would make a great high-flying "dream team" combo and could have a great match with Legacy -- the team that figures to be the dominant one over the next year across the company with the (rushed) Miz'n'Morrison breakup.

^ Lumberjill Tag Match. The format that the company used at Mania 24 with the rest of the Divas in the company appearing outside the ring for a tag match was probably the best possible way to get all of them on the card. It really doesn't matter which four ladies you pick for this match, inasmuch as nobody appears to buy tickets on this basis, but I'd look to pair the top faces from Raw and Smackdown against the top heels from those shows. If I had my druthers, it'd be Beth Phoenix and Michelle McCool against Maryse (who would have to turn face by then) and Eve.

^ Battle Royal with Money In the Bank immediately following. If the company wanted to maximize intrigue about who would win Money In the Bank, they'd wait to crown the participants with a battle royal at Mania. Take the final six survivors of the battle royal and then immediately start the ladder match. As for who to elevate, I'm torn between MVP and Shelton Benjamin, but I'd probably give it to Benjamin because I believe that MVP would have an easier time cracking the main event without the "magic briefcase."

^ US Title Match: The Miz vs. MVP vs. Batista vs. John Morrison. A win here could do a great deal to further establish Miz in his own right and with the Mania season cross-brand madness (which actually is only a further manifestation of the rest of the year!), Morrison could easily materialize as a challenger. Optimistically, MVP wouldn't need a win in this match by this time to be taken seriously and Batista would give some good "main event" flavor to the match. I could see him turning heel over the course of the year once he gets his revenge on Orton, because Raw is so thin in terms of main event heels (and don't hold your breath waiting for Matt Hardy or The Miz to get the proverbial rocket strapped to their backsides).

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