The Booking Sheet

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First off, sorry to those who were reading my stuff for not
writing the last two weeks. Things have been kind of hectic around the house.
Second, I like writing long-form pieces that aren’t straight
show reviews, and there are more than enough writers who do a fine job with
that on this blog anyway, so the focus of what I write is going to shift more
into the fantasy booking realm, since that’s what I like to discuss anyway.
I know that fantasy booking isn’t everyone’s cup of vodka, and
I know that long columns also aren’t always people’s thing, so I just wanted to
give fair warning to the readers that you may not want to click on my stuff if
that’s not what you’re into. No harm, no foul on my end.

Now then, where were we?
Ah yes.  Our Viking
Space Lord had just ascended to his mighty throne. Mr. Lesnar, if you could
spare a thought, now that you are the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, what is
best in life?
Succinct, as always.
The WWE has placed itself in a position they haven’t been in
for a very, very long time….a completely dominant heel champion sits on top of
the food chain. The last time a top face sacrificed himself this completely in
a WWE title match, it was…(checks notes) some guy named ‘The Rock’ to a guy
named….Brock Lesnar.
Well then.
All of that notwithstanding, the WWE has a very unique
opportunity in front of them to tell a long-term story that will make an amount
of money that may or may not allow them to purchase, say, Brooklyn.
Of course, that depends on a few different factors, mostly
the following:
1. Establishing a strong contender
2. Waiting to pull the trigger until the biggest show of the
year to give Lesnar a dominant reign, allowing the win to both mean something
and draw the amount of money conservatively referred to in the scientific
community as a ‘metric assload’.
Now, I have little confidence that the WWE can wait long
enough on #2 to make the story work, unless Pat Patterson is booking. (Assload!
Libelous cheap shot!) It’s a long period of time, injuries happen, Lesnar is
part-time, etc. But for purposes of this article, we’re going to assume they
can hold off blowing their wad….unless Pat Patterson is booking. (Numbah 2!)
So, let’s take a look at #1, and ask the question:
Who will be standing over a vanquished Brock Lesnar at
Wrestlemania 31?
THE CONTENDERS:

ROMAN REIGNS

WHY IT WILL BE HIM: He’s the chosen one. He’s got great hair.
He’s been booked in GREAT fashion, getting wins over top talent while looking
dominant hitting power moves. Of any of the contenders we mention here, it
seems most likely he’ll be the one, mostly because they seem bound and
determined not to fuck it up. His ascension has been all but predetermined
since last year’s Royal Rumble, where he pretty much got so bored throwing
people out, he brought in the referees, the timekeeper, the concession workers,
the sign guy, and that asshole who won’t sit down after you finally got good
seats for the taping for the first time in your fucking life so you still can’t
see SHIT and threw each one of them out, too. He’s also a complete WWE product;
a Legacy guy, he came up through only their system, works matches the way they
want him to work them, and doesn’t go off the reservation. He’s got GREAT hair.
WHY HE’S SCREWED: He’s green as shit. The match with Orton
at Summerslam exposed the hell out of him as a singles competitor, at least
right now. Say what you will about Orton, but he should have been able to carry
that match enough to get the crowd invested in Reigns, and he didn’t – they
were more into Orton’s comeback, and the reception was not anywhere close to
what the WWE could have wanted when Reigns won. Orton can sell very well, so
either he sandbagged him, or they just clashed somehow out there. His biggest
issue is one that he will probably solve with time, but it’s still there: he’s
used to standing on the apron as the heavy in a tag match. His whole style that
was honed with The Shield for months involved someone else in the match getting
the shit kicked out of them, and then here he came with the big moves –
Superman Punch, Powerbomb, Spear, win. There’s a reason that Goldberg’s matches
kept it short. Reigns is better, but there’s a ways to go.
DOES HE SEE FIREWORKS AT ‘MANIA?: Probably. He’s got months
to get it together. It seems kind of fucked up to take him to task for his
first match not being a ***** affair, although to be fair, it was barely **1/4,
and a lot of that was Orton’s timing in my opinion. He’s positioned near the
top of the card, so he’s going to get a lot of chances at this thing. He has
improved since the Shield split, so there’s no real reason to think that he
won’t continue improving – the only debate is if he gets there in time.
HOW DOES HE GET THERE?: NOC – Defeat Orton in a gimmick
rematch, some kind of no-DQ type thing. Hell in a Cell – HHH goes down hard,
probably to a either a DQ after getting whipped like a dog, or a clean pin,
although I think that waits until TLC. Survivor Series – Team with other faces
in a 4 v 4, one of the last one or two guys standing. TLC – HHH loses some sort
of gimmick match. Royal Rumble – HHH tries again, putting Reigns out there
early and it backfires, as Reigns breaks his own record tossing people out.
Reigns faces HHH at the Chamber with the title shot on the line, Reigns wins
and faces Lesnar, who barely survives the Elimination Chamber by powerbombing
John Cena into a coma. A big power match at ‘Mania ensues, with Lesnar finally showing cracks in his confidence when faced with another large, powerful wrestler, and he loses after Reigns counters the 3rd F5 into the 3rd Spear of the match, getting the pin.
DANIEL BRYAN

WHY IT WILL BE HIM: Daniel Bryan never lost this belt, but
has problems with the Authority; the Authority is responsible for Lesnar’s
title reign, by giving him the title shot in the first place. They’re still
torturing his wife on-air, which makes him want to stick it to them even more.
Bryan makes the most sense for other reasons. He can paint himself as a
wrestler who can use his technical skills to match Lesnar move for move, and
try to use his small size as an asset. Unlike last year, he’s not directly
fighting HHH or Orton or Batista, so we don’t need to overbook the main event –
there’s two undercurrents at work. One, Daniel Bryan would be the biggest
babyface EVER in this angle, just due to his small size alone, and that draws
bunches of money. Two, the wronged wrestler getting back the title he never
lost to prove himself all over again is also a way to draw bunches of money!
There’s so much money to made, it seems silly to even consider another guy,
except….

WHY HE’S SCREWED: ….he’s coming off not one but multiple
surgeries. Lesnar wrestles a safe enough style, but there’s a lot of suplexes,
a lot of strong power moves that drop wrestlers, and a lot of tossing the other
wrestler around. Plus, to make the angle work to its fullest extent, that is exactly
the match that Lesnar/Bryan should have – Lesnar tossing Bryan around like a
ragdoll until Bryan finally outwrestles him and beats him. That’s the story,
and it’s a pretty tough story to execute with a wrestler, who, at best, MAY be
back in time for the Rumble? Tall order, even for D-Bry. Plus, Bryan is at a
high enough level that he doesn’t need the belt (probably), and if Brock Lesnar
threw around John Cena the way that he did, it would probably be best if Lesnar
lost in a strong style match against a strong babyface like Reigns, who can wrestle
a realistic power style and extinguish the threat that is Brock on a simple,
muscle to muscle style match.

DOES HE SEE FIREWORKS AT ‘MANIA?: Probably not, but
possibly. I think it all depends on how the WWE analyzes the response to Reigns’
push. If they don’t think that he’s ready, they will slow it down. Reigns is
the future, so he’ll keep, and if that means that Daniel Bryan needs to go over
at ‘Mania this year and make them buckets of money, that’s a sacrifice they’re
probably willing to make. I think that he probably does the noble job at either
the Rumble or as one of the participants of the Chamber, and faces Cena or
Rollins on the undercard at ‘Mania, all the while keeping his eye on the title,
much like Eddie Guerrero did before his death.
HOW DOES HE GET THERE?: After Brie wins the Divas title at
the Royal Rumble, she crashes an interview with the Authority, and when
Stephanie makes an off-hand comment about the family finally having another
champion, she smirks and walks away, saying ‘We’ll see’ under her breath. In a
nod to the 1992 Royal Rumble, the music of Daniel Bryan hits early in the
Rumble, probably about 4 or 5. He survives numerous elimination attempts
throughout the match, giving the crowd a heart attack every 5 seconds or so.
Finally, the match gets down to him and Reigns, and after numerous teases that
recall Shawn/Taker, they go the opposite way and Bryan wins the Rumble. Brock
comes out at the top of the stage with Heyman, big smile on his face, and makes
a snapping motion while pointing to Bryan’s neck. Promo wars begin on Raw,
while HHH is determined to keep Bryan away from the title by any means
necessary – he throws the newly heel turned Big Show at him at Elimination Chamber with orders to
break his neck again. Bryan survives. At ‘Mania, he keeps escaping Lesnar suplexes
and throws kicks at every junction, gets caught for a long heel beatdown targeting
the neck, and finally escapes the F5, kicks Lesnar into jelly, and applies the
Yes Lock after another F5 attempt to get the tapout.
JOHN CENA

WHY IT WILL BE HIM: He’s John Cena.
Oh fine, here’s more. Scott likes to talk about Rocky 3 – if
they are intent on reviving that story, Lesnar needs to have a nice long reign
while Cena is forced to work his way back to the top after absorbing the beating
he took initially.
Oh, and….he’s John Cena.
WHY HE’S SCREWED: They seem intent on trying to create
someone new at the top, especially looking at Reigns’ push. HHH might prevent
him from getting that 16th reign for awhile, if only because of his
love for Flair and the history of the business. Cena seems like he’s heading for
a tipping point with the fanbase – yes, he’s still popular as hell, no, he’s
not turning heel, but he’s starting to approach heat that they have to be
slightly uncomfortable with him as a top face. Cena is dangerously close to
getting at least some degree of x-pac heat, seriously. Cena doesn’t need the
belt, and isn’t being painted as the dominant wrestler that he once was – the beating
he took from Lesnar proved that.
DOES HE SEE FIREWORKS AT ‘MANIA?: Possibly as part of a
3-way, or if they lose confidence in Reigns and Bryan isn’t ready. Otherwise,
no. I think they’re ready to move on from Cena having the belt, honestly, and he
works just fine as he did last year, working the midcard with an up and comer,
probably Seth Rollins or likewise.

HOW DOES HE GET THERE?: NOC – loses again, in a closer match
than before, but still loses. The next night on Raw, Cena cuts a promo about
needing to do something to get back to the top, and takes his leave until….the
Raw before the Royal Rumble, where he interrupts Lesnar’s gloating promo about
how he’s going to break Daniel Bryan’s neck again at the Rumble, and cuts his
own promo, about how he needs to prove himself all over again, and enters the
Rumble voluntarily taking the #1 spot. Cena dominates the Rumble in winning it,
eliminating Reigns at the end resulting in a staredown that will carry over
into the rest of 2015. At ‘Mania, Cena wins a classic calling back to
Andre/Hogan (with better workers), where Lesnar dominates with power moves
until Cena makes the comeback and finishes.
DEAN AMBROSE

WHY IT WILL BE HIM: He’s the Daniel Bryan of this year. He’s
the guy who might get it if everything else goes wrong, but we’ll get to that.
He’s the most well-drawn character on the roster, in that he portrays a
character that has allusions to both Pillman and Piper, so we know it’s a
character that they can do well. He pops the crowd every time he hits the
screen, he’s a great promo who can get the crowd eating out of his hand, and he
seems just crazy enough to take on Lesnar because he has no fear whatsoever.
His ringwork needs a little tightening, but that’s a minor thing. The crowd
fucking loves him, and if we learned anything from last year, the crowd can
turn this thing if they get the chance.
WHY HE’S SCREWED: It’s way too soon. Reigns’ push has been
in play for over year, really; since last year’s Royal Rumble, he’s been made
to look like a million bucks at all costs. Ambrose has not been treated as
such. He’s a mid-carder who is seen as one, who may make it up to the main
event with more time. While we may see the Wrestlemania main event as a way to
move him up, they probably don’t; Daniel Bryan last year was probably the
exception, not the rule. Ambrose needs a MITB type thing to get him to that
next level, since I don’t see them putting him over as a dominant face.
Finally, while they have shown they CAN do this character, it is also an
extremely difficult character to maintain, so they will probably take their
time.
DOES HE SEE FIREWORKS AT ‘MANIA?: Barring a plane carrying
Daniel Bryan, John Cena, and Roman Reigns going down Buddy Holly style, he’s
watching from backstage after a satisfying IC title win, or something similar
in the upper-midcard. Next year, Dean, next year.
HOW DOES HE GET THERE?: HITC – Ambrose and Rollins have a
match topping their Raw one, a ****1/2 affair that gets people’s attention.
Ambrose goes over. Survivor Series – Ambrose goes over someone in the upper
midcard, probably Orton, and calls out HHH, taunting him into the ring. HHH
refuses, so Ambrose resorts to the same type of sneak attacks he did against
Rollins, finally angering him enough to agree to step into the ring. At TLC, he
and HHH tear it up in a falls count anywhere match, and Stephanie takes an
accidental shot, which turns the feud into a blood war. At the Royal Rumble,
HHH forces Ambrose to face him again if he wants a spot in the Rumble; after
losing the match, HHH Pillmanizes the ankle and continues to beat on him until
Roman Reigns makes the save; Ambrose hobbles to the ring as entrant #26,
surviving until the final 2, himself and Randy Orton, remain. HHH comes down to
ringside, and heel miscommunication results in Ambrose becoming the surprise
winner of the Royal Rumble. At Elimination Chamber, Ambrose faces HHH one more
time, with the title shot on the line, no holds barred – he wins and sets
himself up for ‘Mania, where he goes over Lesnar after taking a shit-kicking by
catching Lesnar off-guard due to his own arrogance.

CM PUNK

WHY IT WILL BE HIM: BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
WHY HE’S SCREWED: Bitch, please.
DOES HE SEE FIREWORKS AT ‘MANIA?: If AJ deems it so.
HOW DOES HE GET THERE?: United Airlines. Or, he pays $9.99
like the rest of us.
See you next week.
Rick Poehling

@MrSoze on twitter