Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WrestleMania 30 fantasy booking

By Rick Morris

Here's a look at what might be the best-case scenario for this year's big card given present reports on booking direction.

RANDY ORTON (WWE WORLD CHAMPION) vs. BATISTA Dave Meltzer has reported that Batista was brought back for this purpose, to win the Royal Rumble the week after his return and be the man to end Orton's reign. Given that some in the company have bristled at being knocked down the Mania card by part-timers Brock Lesnar and the Rock, turning to Batista in this spot will make for some interesting reactions! Regardless of what else is on the card, mere months after uniting the top titles, this match has to go on last. And clearly, Batista has to go over as Orton has to get his comeuppance in traditional style here. Clearly, the build would focus on where each man has come since their Evolution days and if Ric Flair is back to where WWE is comfortable using him, he should join these two and HHH in the ring for a show-closing Raw segment.

JOHN CENA, DANIEL BRYAN AND CM PUNK vs. HHH, KANE AND ALBERTO DEL RIO -- TO DETERMINE WHETHER MICK FOLEY BECOMES WWE UNIVERSE OMBUDSMAN Ever since the Authority storyline came on the scene, the endgame was always a "company control" match at Mania. Wisely, the company has not yet babyfaced Cranky Vince and hopefully won't try. Rather, Mick Foley works better in this spot, as an honest broker who has convinced the "board of directors" that the Authority is out of control and needs oversight. HHH could then challenge Foley to put up the job in a tag match. With Foley and HHH's history, the storyline both gets historical layering and necessary freshening. HHH can complete his team by adding Del Rio, who himself needs freshening, as "WWE Director of International Affairs." Foley would start with Punk and Bryan and leave it up to them on whether to accept Cena, who is not a natural anti-authority rebel. The 2nd Raw after Elimination Chamber should end with Cena in the ring successfully making his case - that he's frankly a different person from them and tends to keep his gripes to himself because he is so idealistic about the company and what it can do, but that he admits that they are right about the need for change and he wants to help make it happen. There can be a development in the Divas match that adds necessary tension at the last minute, but of course, Foley's team has to win. He won't have to be at every TV taping, but he can tape some bits in between live appearances and be in the background generally looking over the shoulders of Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox, who would regain their on-air prominence.

THE UNDERTAKER vs. BROCK LESNAR I'm torn on whether the build would be bigger if you kept quiet about their past history and allowed the newbies to see this as a first-time "dream match," or to play up the fact that the Undertaker has never beaten Brock. I don't generally approve of playing down or rewriting history, but this is a tough call for me given the stakes involved with this potentially being the biggest Streak match ever. Certainly, Paul Heyman can be portrayed as wanting to make up for Punk's failure in this spot under his management last year. For Brock, the sadistic joy he would take in ending the Streak writes itself. Creatively, the goal should be that this would plausibly come off as Taker's biggest win yet given his age and the toll on his body. He'd certainly need Lesnar to work safer than he did with Cena, HHH and Punk, though!

WYATT FAMILY (WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS) vs THE SHIELD -- SIX-MAN MATCH FOR THE TITLES For all of the justifiable frustration about WWE not committing fully to the next generation of stars (i.e. Bryan and Dolph Ziggler), think about the fact that this match would be hands-down fourth from the top on the biggest show of the year. This would be where you split off Roman Reigns, as Dean Ambrose's arrogance costs them the match, with he and Seth Rollins blaming Reigns afterwards. Reigns can run them both off to the cheers of the crowd, cementing his turn on the biggest stage and setting him up for a summer US title program with Ambrose. At the same time, it's a passing-of-the-torch moment as the Wyatts are now the undisputed most-feared faction in the company.

REY MYSTERIO vs. SIN CARA Speaking of passing the torch, the company clearly wants "the new" Sin Cara to fill Rey Rey's role as merchandising/kiddie/Hispanic icon in the future. Also, the company has long wanted this match at Mania for the "world record for people wearing masks in one building" distinction. The build can be simple, with dissension after they lose a tag title match against the Wyatts at Elimination Chamber. It would be counterproductive for Cara to go full heel, but the company shouldn't fight the fact that he'll be booed regardless of what Rey does. Thus, Cara's win will break up the string of "happy endings," although Rey needs to raise his hand afterwards. And Cara needs to get up to snuff on the stick to take advantage of the momentum.

CODY RHODES vs. GOLDUST In the aftermath of dropping the tag team titles, this match is clearly targeted as an opportunity to get Cody over even more. But Dustin has been so great and so over in his return that he'll have to go to heinous lengths that are rare in the PG era to get booed. While this was intended as a short-term return for Goldust, he clearly needs to lose in a way that keeps him viable, because he's too valuable of a worker to part with in an age of three-hour Raws.

BIG E LANGSTON (INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION) vs. ANTONIO CESARO This should be a showcase to get over two of the big babyfaces of the future. While you don't want to replicate finishes too much, having Zeb stick his nose in to try something illegal and have it backfire - like Ambrose in the Shield match - is the perfect spur for Cesaro to turn face on him afterwards. Cesaro, like Reigns, can benefit from the momentum of a turn on wrestling's biggest stage and Langston gets his hand raised, still I-C champ at the end of the night. By the way, Langston should be defending his title by dint of losing a non-title champion vs. champion match at Elimination Chamber, a concept which would always allow for showcasing the most attractive US or I-C title match at Mania. Again, this should be a non-title match between the two, as there is still a place for both titles with all of the hours of TV to fill and the size of the present roster.  Consolidating the titles would be going too far in the other direction, since the championship situation did seem bloated with two world titles.

AJ LEE (DIVAS CHAMPION) vs. TAMINA SNUKA vs. BRIE BELLA vs. NIKKI BELLA -- LUMBERJILLS MATCH The story here is simple: a question of loyalties among the Bellas, each of whom wants the title and with AJ/Tamina, since AJ assumes that Tamina is merely in there to save her bacon - which aggravates Tamina. In the end, AJ and Tamina hit a double-team move on Brie and rather than breaking up the pin, Nikki merely kicks AJ off of her and steals the pin on her own sister, the first subtle step in a heel turn. This can feed into a backstage moment with Bryan and Cena before their match when Bryan asks Cena if he approves of what Nikki did and Cena tries to argue that's a separate matter that should be discussed later. Because the Divas match is being used to advance a dissension tease in one of the two semi-main events, it would not be used in the traditional bring-down-the-drama spot before the main event. That would necessitate the next match for that very slot.

SANTINO MARELLA vs. FANDANGO It's the dream comedy match ... nah, there's little that can be done to polish this particular turd. Set it up with Santino making a humorous advance on Summer Rae, Fandango goes over quickly and this match is ideally never spoken of ever again.

BATTLE ROYAL TO DETERMINE #1 CONTENDER TO WWE WORLD TITLE Nine wrestlers of the 20 in this match should be automatic entrants based on past WWE and/or World Title reigns: Big Show, Booker T (it should be played up that he's stepping back into the ring for this specific opportunity), Great Khali, Jack Swagger, Cristian, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus and the Miz. Bo Dallas should have a spot based on being the NXT champion. The other 10 spots would be determined by a 20-man tag match on the preshow. Sheamus should win, not in heelish fashion, but to foreshadow joining the Authority and battling Batista for the championship.

USOS, PRIME TIME PLAYERS, LOS MATADORS, R-TRUTH, KOFI KINGSTON, XAVIER WOODS AND ADRIAN NEVILLE (OR SAMI ZAYN) vs. 3MB, DAMIEN SANDOW, CURTIS AXEL, RYBACK, BRODUS CLAY, TENSAI, ZACK RYDER AND WADE BARRETT -- 20-MAN TAG MATCH ON PRE-SHOW TO DETERMINE FINAL 10 SPOTS IN BATTLE ROYAL The teams presuppose a few developments: Tensai joining Clay on the heel side and Ryder turning heel out of frustration with his circumstances. And Neville or Zayn should win a "WrestleMania Access" tournament to earn this spot. That tournament would have the first round or two in NXT, with the semifinals and finals at Access and televised on the WWE Network. The final four participants should also take part in a tag match on the final Raw before Mania. With bigger singles names on the heel side, they should win this match.

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