Bonus post: Fantasy booking Wrestlemania

(If you’re not a wrestling fan, you can skip this one. I posted a Saturday update earlier today and I plan to be back tomorrow with more news.)

The show of shows, the biggest event of them all, WrestleMania 33, happens tomorrow night. I will be watching on the WWE Network. I figured I’d do a little fantasy booking in advance of the show. Now, I’m not going to try to book every match, because a lot of them I just don’t care about: The Andre the Giant battle royal, for example. There are a few, however, that I think could provide interesting storylines for the WWE going into the future.

Bray Wyatt (C) vs. Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: For months Orton pretended to be a loyal follower to family father Bray Wyatt, earning his trust. Then Orton turned on Wyatt, burning down the Wyatt Family compound and consuming the soul of Sister Abigail. The widespread belief is that former Wyatt family members Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will return to the flock, giving Bray the help he needs to retain the World title.

I would indeed have Harper and Rowan come down to the ring and beat on Orton when the ref’s back is turned – but over and over and over again, their interference wouldn’t work, with Orton kicking out of pin after pin, with Wyatt on his knees in disbelief each time. Finally more refs and security would emerge from the back, having had enough of Harper and Rowan, escorting them out of the arena and locking the door behind them.

At that point Orton would seize the advantage in the match, slowly wearing Wyatt down. Orton would hit the RKO, but Wyatt would kick out at two. After a couple more minutes of abuse, Orton would connect with a second RKO on Wyatt. Wyatt would again kick out at two. Orton, however, would not be on his knees in disbelief the way Wyatt was earlier…he would be sitting there with a sadistic smile on his face, knowing that Wyatt is just about done and the next RKO will bring the title home. Orton would pace the ring, like a tiger stalking its prey…

… And then the newest members of the Wyatt Family, Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero (Jeff Hardy) would pull Orton out of the ring and beat him down. With the ref checking on the nearly unconscious Wyatt, he would miss the action going on outside. After a savage beating, the Broken Hardys roll Orton back in. Wyatt wakes up enough to drape an arm over Orton, and one, two, three. Bray Wyatt retains the World title.

It’s a win for everyone. Bray needs to hold the World title for a while to build up credibility as a main eventer and a cult family leader. As for Orton, losing doesn’t matter, especially when there’s outside interference. He’s perpetually over as a top guy. And, he’ll soon have a new main-event Smackdown star to potentially feud with, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) claims to hold the intellectual property rights to the Broken Hardys gimmick, and the Hardys currently have the matter tied up in court. Vince McMahon could pay some coin to make the lawsuit go away and let the Hardys use the Broken gimmick on Smackdown. With their showmanship, people assume the Hardys are a fit for Raw, but given the moribund state of the tag teams on Smackdown, the blue brand needs them more. Most of the tag teams there are a bunch of jabronis that nobody cares about. The Usos have lost their luster. American Alpha is the team of the future, but nobody knows it because up to this point, they haven’t had any top level talent to feud with. The Hardys can still go, as their TNA run proved, and would bring out the best in American Alpha. At some point the Hardys could leave the Wyatt family, drop the Broken gimmick, and turn face, prolonging their careers even more so.

Luke Harper could be repackaged and challenge Baron Corbin for the Intercontinental title after Corbin beats Dean Ambrose on Sunday. He needs to get away from the Wyatt family association, but is talented enough to be an upper mid-card performer as either a heel or a face.

As for Rowan, I think you send him down to NXT, maybe pair him with a newcomer there and build him back up. His character is a dead end on the main roster.

AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon: This is a straight up wrestling match, not a gimmick match that can hide 47-year-old part-timer Shane’s deficiencies. Shane would be toast in a regular match against the man who is perhaps the greatest wrestler in the world today. So, prior to the match, a doctor would come out and say that Shane has suffered an injury as he trained for the match, and is not medically cleared to wrestle.

AJ is totally justified in feeling screwed, and rightfully so. Shane-O-Mac booked World champ Styles to defend against five men in the Elimination Chamber in February, and with the odds against him, Styles was pinned and went on to watch Wyatt win the title. Styles was never granted a fair one-on-one rematch for his title, with Wyatt defending against Styles and John Cena in a three-way match in March. And now, the ultimate insult. Shane was going to rig it so that Styles would not have a match at all on the biggest card of the year. A main-event level star would miss out on a payoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars by missing WrestleMania.

But then Shane would announce, don’t worry, AJ. You WILL have a match at WrestleMania. And your opponent is… Shinsuke Nakamura! Without having time to prepare for his opponent, Styles would be at a disadvantage, and after putting on a 25-minute clinic that would see dueling fan chants of “Thank you AJ” and “Thank you Nakamura” interspersed with “This is awesome,” Nakamura would score the pin.

Styles would get his payday and we’d get to see him perform at a top level, which wouldn’t have happened if he’d wrestled Shane. Yet Styles still would have a beef with Shane – he was booked against one of the top wrestlers in the world on a moment’s notice, deprived of time to study his opponent. The door would be open for a rematch with Nakamura where Styles could get his win back. The door would also be open for a match with Shane at a lesser pay-per-view, which would be fine.

As for Nakamura, he has more than earned his spot on the main roster. Smackdown needs a new top face, and since it is known as “the wrestling brand” Shinsuke is a better fit there than on “the sports entertainment brand” Monday Night Raw.

Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker: Reigns is the most underrated wrestler in the WWE. His ring work is absolutely worth of a top spot on the card, and his interview skills have come a long way since he first came up to the main roster. The problem is, it’s been too obvious for years that he was being groomed as The Next Big Thing, the next Cena, the next Rock, the next Austin, the next Hogan. Fans don’t like being told who they are supposed to like. As a result, Reigns, although a face, hears more boos than cheers.

So Reigns would work the match with The Undertaker, being very careful not to do anything to injure the big man or knock him for a loop since that has been a problem in past matches. It would go back and forth for about 10 to 12 minutes, then Reigns would hit his Superman Punch on Undertaker, sending him to the mat in a crumpled pile. Reigns would take a second to sit on his knees and smile and take it all in before scoring the pin, realizing he is going to be only one of two men to beat The Phenom at WrestleMania, perhaps mentally taking a moment to thank his father Sika and his uncle Afa for training him.

… And then Taker would sit up. For the next 5 or so minutes he would take Reigns to school, beating him around the ring. Reigns would narrowly avoid submission by making it to the ropes. He’d take the chokeslam. He’d take the Last Ride. He’d kick out of those, but as the minutes went on, Reigns’ frustration would show. Why can’t he beat a 52-year-old man? And why did the fans have to boo him so relentlessly?

Finally Reigns would snap. He would throw Taker outside, get a steel chair, and smash him with it, drawing the DQ. Reigns would sling Taker across the Spanish announce table, relentlessly beating him with chair shot after chair shot, as well as the ring bell, monitors, microphones, whatever he could find. Each blow to the Undertaker would also be a blow to the Undertaker’s fans, seeing the legend destroyed right before their very eyes, as well as to Taker himself. Reigns’ former teammates Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose would come out to try and reason with him… and they’d eat chair shots too. On and on and on the beating would go, for a good 10 minutes before the entire dressing room came out to pull Reigns away. A stretcher would be rolled out, and Mania would end with the sight of The Undertaker being loaded into an ambulance.

The next night on Monday Night Raw, on the Jumbotron there would be a solemn interview with the doctors taking care of Undertaker. They will tell the crowd that Undertaker’s injuries are too severe, and they have told him that he will never wrestle again. A shot will be shown of Undertaker motionless in his hospital bed, as the fans sit in shock realizing that the legend of WrestleMania has retired, without even a proper sendoff.

Later in the show Reigns would come out and stand in the middle of the ring, cutting the heel promo of his life. He would say he did everything he could, he worked his ass off, he tried to be the very best he could be (which is all true)… and nothing he did was ever good enough for the fans. Screw the fans. It would evoke memories of the night Hollywood Hogan betrayed WCW fans and joined the NWO many years before. Fans would fill the ring with garbage. At that point Reigns would be established as the merciless, monster heel and would finally take his deserved place at the top of the card.

As for Taker, at 52 he could sail off into a well-deserved retirement, having put over the top star of the next generation as is expected on the way out. In addition, he would do so without a loss, leaving Brock Lesnar as the only man ever to beat The Phenom at Mania.

What if Taker isn’t ready to retire? Have him lay low until July, while Reigns piles up victory after dirty victory, bragging every week that he is the man who retired the legend. Then Taker could reappear on TV in July, setting up a rematch for SummerSlam. Reigns should win that match clean to build even more heel heat. Since it isn’t WrestleMania, an Undertaker loss would be less emotional.

If Taker needs to think about how to pull off a fake retirement, all he’d need to do is visit the WWE corporate office in Stamford, CT and go to the video library. Perhaps the greatest ever to lace up the boots, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, un-retired twice in his career. In 1983, Cowboy Bob Orton and Dick Slater thought they put Flair out of action for good, but they were wrong. In 1989, Flair came back after Terry Funk piledrived him through a table.

Reigns could take the path of his cousin The Rock – be a hated heel for a couple of years while building up his promo skills to the point that he’s so good that the fans can’t help but sing along with him. At that point you switch him back and he becomes the top face Vinnie Mac has wanted for years, just in time for Cena to hang up the boots.

Those are my thoughts. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Apologies for any typos, because I had to get this typed in a limited time. Back tomorrow with Sunday news.