It’s been a few months now since I first tried my hand at booking next year’s WrestleMania and already, as they tend to do in wrestling, things have changed pretty drastically. Here are just a few factors that have altered the card I proposed just back in August:
-Triple H and C.M. Punk already had their one-on-one match and it seems unlikely that feud will be revisited at the moment
-John Morrison has left WWE
-Mark Henry came out of nowhere to become the monster heel we never knew we needed
-Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara both look to be out with injuries that will extend past WrestleMania
That said, while the dream lineup I imagined four months ago may no longer be probable or in some cases possible, I do not mind going back to the drawing board and giving it one more college try…
JOHN CENA vs THE ROCK
Again, this is the set main event of WrestleMania XXVIII and that’s not going to change between now and March. Last time out, I talked about how this match does not need the WWE title involved, and I maintain that. I also said that I didn’t think John Cena needed to turn heel, and that’s where things have gotten a bit interesting. WWE is not shying away from addressing the issue of many fans booing Cena, swapping out their “most controversial superstar in history” rap at least a bit by having everybody from Miz to Roddy Piper put it right out there. I do think from a creative perspective, a Cena heel turn has a lot of potential to enrich the character. The guy who did everything right but still gets no respect and is bitter about it has possibilities, and the idea of Cena is the unstoppable juggernaut bad guy ala Brock Lesnar is intriguing. On the other hand, I get why from a business standpoint a Cena heel turn is not the best thing; beyond the merchandise issue, he is an incredible ambassador and it would suck for him no longer to be available for Make-a-Wish, etc. Normally I hate when corporate trumps creative, but maybe I’m just growing up—or getting boring—because I get it here. I do like that it’s all on the table, not being ignored, and I’m interested to see where it goes.
WWE Champion C.M. PUNK vs RANDY ORTON
First off, early reports have Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble. Second, if WWE is serious about C.M. Punk—and at this point there’s no reason they shouldn’t be—it would be nice for him to hold onto the title through WrestleMania and give it some much needed stability. Third, there’s a dearth of big time heels to challenge Punk on the grand stage, as Alberto Del Rio seems to have crashed and burned out the main event and Miz doesn’t have that big time feel in this scenario. So how about Orton wins the Rumble then chooses to face Punk because “he’s the future” and/or because he’s beaten him before. Both guys have enough juice with the fans that I don’t think WWE risks turning either heel, but each are also edgy enough that they can go beyond the played out mutual respect angle. Punk can do what everybody loved seeing him do over the summer, blurring the lines between fiction and reality, getting on Orton about being “born into the business” and about his undisciplined early days; Orton can fire back by being his bad old self. We know they have good in-ring chemistry, so it’s a fairly guaranteed solid match between two legit stars worthy of the WrestleMania spotlight.
World Champion MARK HENRY vs DANIEL BRYAN vs WADE BARRETT
They’ve done a great job booking Mark Henry as a dominant heel the likes of which WWE hasn’t seen in quite some time, and again, I think it’s imperative he doesn’t get dethroned until WrestleMania (and it would be nice if he could get a decisive win over Big Show at some point). He can busy himself with a returning Kane beginning later this month into 2012 to set the stage for a showdown with Money in the Bank winner Daniel Bryan in March, a match that has foreshadowed nicely with the underdog taking his lumps thus far but getting shots in too. I would spice things up by having Wade Barrett—who is also on a monster roll right now and shouldn’t be an afterthought—win at Elimination Chamber, maybe getting the final fall on Bryan, and earning a spot in the World title match at Mania. This opens up the booking options to Bryan getting the emotional win (my pick), Barrett stealing the title, or even Henry retaining; you could have Bryan pick up a submission on Barrett and thus still needing to prove himself against Henry, providing another month or two of solid feuding.
TRIPLE H w/ SHAWN MICHAELS vs KEVIN NASH w/ SEAN WALTMAN
I would have preferred to see Triple H putting Punk over here, but barring that, they may as well go the distance with this Nash feud and pull out all the stops. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to bring Shawn Michaels in and to have Sean Waltman back as well (in a perfect world you could involve Scott Hall as well, but likely he’s not up for it and his continuing health is more important). The promos between all parties involved leading up would be dynamite and then you hedge your bets for the match itself by making it a street fight, letting everybody go to town and HHH get the win after an HBK superkick for the big pop.
CHRIS JERICHO vs THE MIZ
This one comes courtesy of Jason Knize, who suggested it after my last post. The scuttlebutt is that while he’s been playing coy on Twitter and whatnot, Jericho could be on his way back to WWE, and he’s said in the past that if he does return, he wants to reinvent himself as much as he did going from Y2J to his serious heel persona in 2008. In interviews, Jericho has taken Miz (and others) to task on occasion for ripping him off as far as wearing suits, talking slow, etc. An angry return for vengeance on those who have taken his revolutionary actions and made them bland and assembly line could work nicely for Jericho, and Miz would certainly be a game opponent to kick off that new direction.
R-TRUTH & ZACK RYDER w/ HUGH JACKMAN vs DOLPH ZIGGLER & JACK SWAGGER w/ VICKIE GUERRERO
It’s not WrestleMania without token celebrity involvement, and personally I thought Hugh Jackman was fantastic during his Raw appearance and it would be awesome if WWE could get him back for an extended program. If he’d be up for it, Jackman actually working a match would be great, but barring that, seconding the wacky duo of Zack Ryder and a once again babyface R-Truth would be gold. I somewhat regret “wasting” Ziggler in another stunt tag match given how money he’s been lately, but you can also count on him to deliver the goods and he and Ryder would be excellent for promotional appearances in the mainstream.
Beyond those, I’d keep Undertaker vs Sheamus from my original card, and then things get a bit murky. It would have been nice to have Mysterio or Sin Cara available for a title vs mask match with Cody Rhodes, but maybe you slot Kane in there. With nothing better for either, perhaps Big Show and Christian wrestle one another? As for Alberto Del Rio, if Rey makes a miracle recovery they could face off, or otherwise maybe team him with Brodus Clay to go after the Tag titles, held by Air Boom or whoever.
What do you guys think?