The Booking Sheet

This past Sunday my store slowed down a bit for about an
hour, and myself and a few of the more hardcore wrestling fans there started
talking about NXT.

Okay, that’s a total lie. We were talking about football.
But we have talked about NXT before, and….
Okay, fine. That first part is also a lie. We were talking
about why we can’t get a coherent DC Universe on the big screen, but the small
screen stuff was working out pretty well, and then we started talking about
looking forward to Gotham, etc.
But we were also all professional wrestling fans, and we had
taken the time to discuss NXT in the past. It strikes me that we’d discussed
both of the NXT ‘network-per-views’ before they happened, but there didn’t seem
to be much to discuss this time out. I wonder if that was because of lack of
interest, their desire to return to their Mechwarrior game, or just because
there didn’t seem to be much in the way of buildup for this one in the same way
that the other two had had, you know? It just didn’t seem as important in some
way. I can’t totally put my finger on it.
But nonetheless, there’s a pretty big NXT event this week,
and I thought I’d use it as a springboard to talk a little about NXT as whole,
who we should expect to see up soon, whether or not they should even BE up
soon, and who will flame out spectacularly. We’ll only be talking about NXT
since it became the current version, so we’ll leave out it’s time in FCW….
Alright, fine! We were gossiping like little girls about
whether or not Oliver was finally going to bang Felicity on ‘Arrow’! Happy?
Emily Rickards is smoking, especially with the glasses! Olicity 
Obviously, the measuring stick of anyone who comes up from
NXT is the following 3 gentlemen:
I would actually argue that the booking of The Shield is the
single best booking that WWE has done with new characters. Ever. Ambrose,
Rollins, and Reigns were brought in and given a badass gimmick that clearly had
more thought process than people give credit for, in that the roles were
clearly defined for each wrestler and they got over through those roles.
Indeed, looking at Roman Reigns trying to get his timing down for singles
matches is a testament to the well-oiled machine that was The Shield; with both
Rollins and Ambrose seeing significant pushes as well generating from the roles
that The Shield gave them (Ambrose as the charismatic maniac, while Rollins has
had his heel turn explained as just him being the smartest guy in the faction),
we can clearly see that The Shield was a complete success. It’s rare that WWE
brings guys in and puts them over this strong, but they did everything right
and the result was the creation of at least 3 new talents that will sniff the
upper-card at various points for a LONG time.
Is there another Shield somewhere on Takeover 2? Well, to
find out, let’s break it down.
We’re just covering the title matches, not the undercard; I
don’t think any of the undercard guys are even close to being ready yet.

WHO MAKES IT TO THE BIG LEAGUES?: Everyone. Why The Ascension
isn’t there yet is beyond me, but we’ll get to that. I fully expect Sin
Cara/Kalisto to go over for the belts here to free up the former champs for a
ticket to the traveling circus.

WHY IS THAT, SIR?: Well, because for all their lip service to
rebuild the tag division, they’ve quietly done a decent job of doing just that,
with the Usos, the Rhodes, and the Wyatts making a good start to the rebuilt
tag ranks. Once the Usos dispatch of the Rhodes at NOC, it only makes sense to
bring up the Ascension as the next challengers before they KO the division with
Big Show/Henry. They’ve been beyond ready, the Usos need fresh meat, and it
keeps the tons of fun away from the tag belts that have become desirable again.
Kalisto is due to be the next failure  attempt to
recreate the success of Rey Mysterio. WWE isn’t going to give up that
sweet, sweet, mask money anytime soon, and Kalisto looks capable enough to carry
the ball when they need to. Sin Cara can always come back to do the job when he
needs to.
WHEN DO WE SEE THEM ON RAW?: The Ascension could happen any
day now; I would think that the Raw after NOC is the best place assuming that
The Usos retain against Cody and Dustin (Although I wouldn’t mind seeing the
brotherhood win; if that happens, expect the debut to happen after the next
PPV.) Kalisto should take his time, build up in NXT against the incoming
Steen/Devitt/Kenta holy trinity, as they could teach him quite a bit if he’s
willing to listen, and he’s not likely to get that type of attention up in the
main fed. I’d expect Kalisto by the end of the year, though. Sin Cara will
bounce back and forth to do a few jobs, make a little love, and pretty much get
down tonight.

WHO MAKES IT TO THE BIG LEAGUES?: Charlotte for sure. I like
Bayley as well, but I have concerns.

WHY IS THAT, SIR?: Charlotte has two things going for her –
her last name and her talent. I think we all know that HHH still has a veiny,
throbbing Flair boner, and I suspect that it will extend to the heiress to the
throne. (Hee, extend) Besides that, Charlotte can wrestle. That having been
said, she could use a ton more time if they’re willing to give it. I was
rewatching her match with Nattie, and Nat carried the match in more than a few
spots, which is completely understandable; Charlotte is less than a year into
this thing. She has potential, but it gets mistaken for ‘she’s better than half
the divas on Raw’ as a good thing. Yes, she is better than half the divas on
Raw. But what does she get if she comes up? Inserted into the Bellas mess, or
the AJ/Paige mess of a feud? There’s nowhere for her to go, because in the
women’s division, the line is very clearly drawn – you’re either on Total
Divas, you’re Paige or AJ, or you’re just not really there at all. It’s a
classic case of there being no place to put Charlotte at this point. I’d rather
see her honing her craft to a fine edge and letting either Total Divas get
cancelled, AJ or Paige quit, or just let the Bellas thing run the course and
then come up to help rebuild the division.
Bayley has a great character, and would be over in a
second if she came up to the Fed with the wacky wobbling inflatables thing. I don’t
get into her matwork as much, and she REALLY needs at least another year down
in NXT before they bring her up. I would hold off.

WHEN DO WE SEE THEM ON RAW?: While I wish it weren’t so, I suspect
they’ll rush Charlotte up faster than she needs to be, and we see her on Raw
sometime in the next few months. Bayley is perfectly safe for another year in
NXT, and that’s where she should be.
And finally,

WHY IS THAT, SIR?: First things first – I have no idea why
Zayn wore that damn mask all those years, because his facial expressions have
become one of my favorite parts of his character and wrestling style. I have to
give them credit for finding his wonderfully expressive face and properly using
Now then: Zayn is the best wrestler and makes it because of
that. Period. Zayn only needs to make sure that he becomes the next Daniel
Bryan and not the next Evan Bourne; that’s going to be his biggest obstacle. I
can totally see him relegated into opening matches in the midcard for the rest
of his life, but if that results in multiple ****+ matches, it’s a sacrifice I
guess I’ll have to live with. Zayn has the most pure in-ring talent when it
comes to selling, when it comes to smoothly hitting moves, and when it comes to
telling a story in the squared circle. His only obstacle will be convincing
creative that his size is not a hindrance. I think he will. Whether or not he
ends up as Jeff Hardy or Kofi Kingston’s tag team partner is going to be his
white whale.
Neville is going to get a shot, but I don’t know if he makes
it. He has a great finisher, he can fly, yes, but he’s not great on the stick
and I’ve seen nothing that suggests that will improve. He’s green as shit, he
needs more time. I don’t know if they’re going to give it to him, but we’ll
see. Either way, he’s a great 5th or 6th dude in a MITB
match, and I think unlike Sami, he will reach that ceiling of Kofi’s tag
partner and go no higher. We’ll see.
Kidd probably gets one more shot, if only because of Nattie
and Total Divas. Yes, I think he should use that as a storyline on the show to
get him back on Raw. Why not? They’re booking the Bellas angle to appease the
Total Divas producers, why not use some Kidd/Nattie drama to spice things up as
well? I honestly think that Kidd gets that shot one more time, but that’s
probably it.
I don’t think Tyler Breeze ever sees the light of day on Raw
outside of last Monday. I remain completely unimpressed with his ringwork (He
chinlocks people in a way that makes Randy Orton nod his head like the Emperor
at the end of Return of the Jedi), and I also think that the arrogant douchebag
works on a smaller scale but not a larger one these days; to put it simply, the
character may get over, but I have a lot of doubts about the guy playing the
character connecting with an audience through his ringwork.
WHEN DO WE SEE THEM ON RAW?: I hope not for a little while
yet. Yes, Zayn is better than most of the guys on the roster now, but where
does he go? I just don’t see it yet. Same with Neville. Kidd can come back any
old time, especially if they need someone to put a guy over strongly. I would
probably turn Neville or Zayn at Takeover; either have Zayn win the belt and
have Neville snap, or have Neville escape with the win and have Zayn snap. I’d like
to see either of them work heel for a little while to see what they would do
with it; I think we see both come up about Royal Rumble time, similar to what
Rusev did last year, and lead up to a Wrestlemania match of some type to prep
at least one of them for MITB.
And so it goes. I would think that, based on the last two
NXT events, we’re in for a nice night of pretend fisticuffs this evening. Let’s
hope that WWE uses the results to carefully analyze when and if they should be
bringing these dudes up; I don’t want another Adam Rose. Or Emma. Or Bo Dallas.
(Eh, I still have some hope for Bo.)
It’s said that those who ignore the lessons of the past are
condemned to repeat them.
If the result is more booking along the lines that created
the Shield, let me say this:
Ignorance is bliss.

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter

The Booking Sheet

How often is the answer to a question in professional
wrestling as simple as just saying ‘Lance Storm’?
Last week, I wrote more than a few words about the
Intercontinental title and it’s, shall we say, horrendously atrocious booking
done by those who probably have combined IQs equal to a severely retarded walrus.

But that PALES in comparison to the gleeful destruction of
the once-proud United States Championship. And this week, we’re going to look
at where it belongs on the midcard, and how the title can be rehabilitated….hopefully.
The US championship pretty much became the sullen 13 year
old that came with the marriage when the WWE swallowed up WCW whole. While the
IC title was a creation of Vince’s and therefore a blessing from the Gods, the
US title was a crappy reminder of life in Hell. In the list of the top 10
wrestlers who have held the belt for the most number of days, Dean Ambrose comes
in at #8, ahead of Nikita Koloff. I would wager to guess that at least 2-300 of
those days came about because he forgot the belt at home and no one really
noticed anyway.
Of course, right now, Sheamus is currently using the belt to
prop up some loose drainpipes after winning it in a Battle Royale (the
culmination of all great wrestling feuds); first things first, we need to get
that thing off of him.
Lance Storm.
See, the one thing that the US title has going for it is
that it can be used to tap into the jingoism that the WWE is so effective at
coercing from the audience. You can count on the crowd chanting ‘USA’ pretty
much on cue whenever presented with one of the following:
-A flag
-A soldier
-A firefighter or police officer (this last is less true in
Missouri these days)
-An opponent who glanced at the US flag sideways
-Curtis Axel (gotta chant SOMETHING when we’re bored. See
also: Divas, The)
So, get the crowd invested in their own pseudo-patriotism by
having a foreigner degenerate the belt in front of them. Of course, the last
guy to do that was our answer: Lance Storm, the one and only Canadian
heavyweight champion in WCW history. Unless, of course, you count what John
Cena did to the belt as degenerating it; if you do, you are correct, but we’re
going with Storm’s renaming of the belt for our purposes. The angle drew heat,
put the spotlight on the belt, and made it a bigger deal when…sigh….Hugh G.
Rection won it from him and rechristened it the United States Championship.
I hate it when my point falls apart because of a Vince Russo
dick joke.
Alright, so Storm is out. To be fair, my expert sources
claim he’s retired anyway, so we need another guy. Perhaps another foreigner,
one who can use the belt as a way to gain even more heat, a way to build on
some sort of Anti-USA fervor….

NOW? (Not Xavier Woods)
It’s amusing to me that this type of booking needs to even
be discussed. There has never been a more perfect way to both rebuild a title
and to keep building a character.
Rusev, love him or hate him, has been booked extremely well
to this point, especially for someone who will in all likelihood be jobbing to
Cena soon. There is almost literally no reason that he shouldn’t have won the title
from Sheamus by now, rechristened it the Russian Federation Championship, and
pissed all over it while singing a Russian translation of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
One of the keys to this booking, especially in rehabbing the
United States title, is to wash the stink off the belt that has been associated
with its less than frequent title defenses. So, I’m going to suggest a
two-pronged approach to this whole idea.
#1 – Rusev wins the belt in convincing fashion, and 2.
Let’s face the facts here – Rusev isn’t sniffing the World
title anytime soon if anyone up in Stanford has any brains. He shouldn’t be
near the inevitable Cena burial either. What we need is to establish a
hierarchy of titles in the WWE, with the World and IC belts being defended very
rarely on TV, and the US title being the modern equal of the fabled Television
belt. That’s pretty much the only way this whole thing can work, if each belt
has different levels of importance in the pecking order of the Fed.
So, Rusev wins the belt. And he should defend it. On Raw. On
Smackdown. On Main Event if you want. Hell, invent a show called ‘Rusev defends
the US title’ and have him defend it there. The point is that Rusev should be
dominating and crushing everything in his path for the next, say, year or so.
And after each match, he should gloat to beat the band. He
should point out how he has dominated the United States in match after match.
Lana can invent more medals to give him, rename the belt a la Mr. Storm as stated
above, and just in general be a dick. It always works, especially if you don’t
shoot him too far beyond what he can handle.
The enduring part of the whole storyline is that Rusev has
to defend that belt all the time to drive home the point that a Russian is
holding an American title because…..
We’re not exactly fond of people pointing out our
shortcomings down South of the border.
I was sort of embarrassed, for any number of reasons, about
the Swagger/Colter stuff over the last year; but the thing that BUGGED the shit
out of me was the complete willingness of the crowd to chant ‘We the People’
after Colter was saying the most racist crap on the mic he could to incite as
much of a reaction as he could. Yes, the crowd knew who the heels were
supposed to be, but getting a crowd to chant along like a bunch of monkeys isn’t
exactly rocket science.
But here’s what truly disturbed me about the whole thing;
Swagger’s face turn didn’t involve ANY TYPE OF TURN. He just started saying
racist/jingoistic shit about a BAD foreigner, and the crowd all of a sudden
loves the guy, and Colter’s just lovable old Zeb who was kicked in the head by
the bad guy and isn’t it swell that he’s back to support Jack and his quest to
beat up said bad guy? It spoke terribly, at least to me, about how we have no
self-awareness as a culture of people as to when we’re being played, that we’re
willing to root for anyone who waves the right flag and boo the guy who waves
the wrong one regardless of the substance of their character. It’s not a great
reflection of the United States, if you think about it.
On the other hand….

But when there’s a dollar to be made, exploit the hell out
of it. It’s the REAL American way. And exploiting American patriotism is so
easy, our government does it on a regular basis and not only gets away with it,
it’s one of the few things they occasionally get praised for. (Occasionally.
Most of the time, we hate the bums so much, we just re-elect them.)
And we walk right into it, every time. As stated above,
Lance Storm, not exactly the strongest promo in the world, had quite the thing
going in re-christening every title he won in WCW as a Canadian belt. Imagine
what Lana could do with the US title on her arm and the mic in her hand.
It would be a thing of beauty.
The fact is, Rusev’s character was made for this belt, and
this time. It will allow you to build up a babyface using the ‘Merica aspect of
that character if they choose, or they can just use Rusev as a machine to draw
the heat. Either way, it actually uses the United States title as something
that is, stunningly, relevant; a feat which it has been struggling to accomplish for quite some time now.
And that would be something to salute.
Rick Poehling

@MrSoze on Twitter

The Booking Sheet

I can remember the first time I ever thought that titles
were important.

It was during a Flair/Luger match; Clash something or other,
Fall Brawl, Mountain Madness. But unlike other Flair/Luger matches, it was for
the US title, and I can distinctly remember the voice of Jim Ross throughout
the match, screaming about how Flair NEEDED to win the US title so he would be
the number one contender for the World title. It was pounded home, the entire
match; need to win the US title to get another match with Sting. Then, at the
end, Stan Hansen attacked Luger to set up their program, and that had been set
up earlier in the show by Hansen wanting to move up the ladder so he could get
paid more money, which would be accomplished if he won the US belt.
Long story short, EVERYTHING in that match, from beginning
to screwjob, revolved around that belt.
Of course, now, the prestigious US title is….well, how
exactly would you describe the current positioning of both the US title and the
ostensibly equally prestigious Intercontinental title, guest wrestling critic
Jay Sherman?

Danke, Mr. Sherman.
Let’s admit something here – the ultimate goal of making
title belts little more than props has been achieved, to be sure, especially
over the last 10 years or so. The ‘prestige’ of a title reign is less than it
used to be.
How can we fix that?
Let’s start with the Intercontinental title this week. We’ll
tackle the US next week.
The Intercontinental title has been, shall we say, passed
around at a rate rivaling a French whore in a Victor Hugo novel in the last
several years, with an actual French whore probably holding the belt at some
point in that time period. (Fun exercise in the comments section: Name that
French Whore/IC Champion!)*
So, what we need is some stability for the belt, some kind
of reign that will legitimize the title again; what we need is someone who requires
some rehabilitation but is still a legit threat to the upper card if we’re going
to try to make the belt strong again.
Bray Wyatt, meet the Intercontinental Title.
Intercontinental Title, meet Bray Wyatt.
Please don’t leave the belt alone with Rowan for any
extended period of time during your days together; he makes us nervous.
Why Bray Wyatt, you may ask?
Well, let’s break it down:
Wyatt is spinning his wheels – and that
may not actually be a cliché, considering the Wyatt family gimmick. You tell me
they have a spinning wheel on that farm, I’d believe it. But still, Wyatt has
been on an uphill treadmill in the fed since the Cena feud. Sure, he’s hanging
out near the top of the card, he main-evented Raw last week for God’s sakes!
Of course, a few weeks ago, so did this man….

….and at least he won!
Bray perfectly fits the profile needed to rebuild a title
right now. He’s an upper mid-card heel; traditionally, for chase type
scenarios, they work best. His character has been defined with him being the one
who chases, which means that we can evolve the character by giving him a belt
and letting him become the hunted as opposed to the hunter. It’s a key part of
how his character needs to move forward – he needs to be on the other side of a
feud, and giving him a belt provides that.
But why would Bray want a title? Well, let me ask you a
question: what the hell DOES Bray’s character want? His motives haven’t been
clearly explained for a lot of these feuds; does he want more family members,
power, what exactly is his deal? So, clarity is necessary. But no problem, WWE –
I already wrote his promo for you!
(This promo works best if you turn out your lights. You
know, for mood and stuff.)
“Heh. In this world, the rich man is the king! Money,
wealth, fame; you all follow the idols created by the television shows they
beam right past your eyes into your sheep’s brain! It’s all about the gold in
this world, this world that needs (giggle) a new prophet, a poor man who will
lead his brothers in revolution! A revolution that burns the false idols of the
blind who worship that which shines away the things they cannot see!
(Muttering) But they tell me that to be the shepherd, you have to play the
game, the game by their rules, the game before you change the rules.
There’s a story they tell in the churches on Sundays, a
story about the golden idol and the vengeance of a God who swept away the
sinners! But those sinners saw the truth of the future, that the gold would be
held above all until the God came to punish the (giggles again) weak. I am the
God. I am the Eater of WORLDS. And this world needs its God, so I’ll play the
games of the false prophets; but when I take your golden idol as my own, you’ll
have to fall to your knees and worship at my feet! You’ll all listen when you
hear the Commandments as read by the God who holds the gold, I will unite the sinners and virtuous alike in ways the story’s God never did; you’ll scoop up
the sand in the desert when I tell you to drink because you can only see the
shine’s arc of the gold adorning the Eater of Worlds.
(Singing) He’s got the
whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole wide world, in his hands.”
Bray Wyatt gets that belt, and then he has a reason to
prophesize and preach, because he finally has something that people want. That alone
should be enough to get him motivated to win the belt, because it gives him
something to force people to chase him; there’s nothing that a cult leader wants
more than to have followers. In Bray’s demented mind, he can see those who want
the belt as a chance to create new members of the Wyatt family. And, in some
cases, he should probably succeed.
The title can be used to evolve Wyatt’s character in several
different ways. 1) As stated above, he can create new members of his stable. 2)
He can start to inject subtle hypocrisy into his positions; what does the poor
man prophet do when he gets a taste of the gold? How does it change him? 3) He
could LOSE family members as well, if jealousy gets injected on behalf of
Harper or Rowan wanting the shiny title. 4) If he were to turn face, the
natural conflict he would have with the Authority could be used; right now, most
of his feuds have been ‘outside’ the main power brokers and structure, but that
conflict could be brought into apparent relief if there was a belt on the line.
Of course, these are all things that would help Bray Wyatt
if he had the belt.
Short answer: it doesn’t. The belt is an inanimate object
that has no actual feelings or needs.
Longer, less sarcastic answer: There is no title that needs
rehabilitation more than the IC title. What is it when we say ‘rehabilitation’?
Well, to me, it’s all about the positioning of the belt to enhance the title’s prestige. You know, unlike, say, fishing a belt out of a trash can. Back in the day,
positioning the belt holder as the number 1 contender did the job.
Nowadays, it’s normally just whoever is holding the belt
doing the job.
That’s a big part of what needs to change. Therefore, the
person who tries to elevate the title again must be only slightly stronger than a
mid-carder (to give a greater variety of wrestlers the chance for a title feud), while still able to make a plausible main eventer (should the time come to elevate them again).
Again – Bray Wyatt. His most high-profile jobs since
Wrestlemania 30 have been to Cena and to Jericho, both of whom there is no shame in losing to. The title needs a strong heel
more than it needs anything else, because heels tend to be stronger standard
bearers for long title reigns, especially with a correctly positioned IC title.
Look at the long roster of IC champs, and most of the best were heels. Savage,
Honky Tonk, Perfect – these were the guys who held that belt and made it one of
the strongest titles in the company.
But more to the point, we’re at a place in the WWE right now
where the belt is necessary if Brock Lesnar is going to hold the world title
until Wrestlemania. The current scenario is tailor-made for the IC title to
once again rise in importance, especially if the main belt is gone for long,
extended periods of time. It will need a strong wrestler and promo guy to be a
part of that rebuilding. Bray Wyatt is the answer. He can elevate the title to
something akin to what it once was. He would make a great champion for either a
long chase by a midcard face to finally go over, a dominant heel champ for many
months, or to use the title as a hotshot to a rookie like Sami Zayn (since the
IC title works better as a hotshot title than the World Title).
Allow me to draw a comparison here between Bray Wyatt and
the most obvious character in the same position….

…um, no. I meant Bray Wyatt and…Curt Hennig.
Hennig’s career trajectory followed Bray’s in some ways. He
went over jobbers for months, was given vignettes that established the
character before he came in, and he worked his way up Hogan with a perfect
record before doing the job to him – but instead of sinking him to the bottom
of the ocean, he went over for the IC belt and became a standard bearer for
that title, holding it for multiple reigns and treating it as though it were
quite prestigious the whole time.
Let’s take a quick look at Bray: vignettes to build up the
character? Check. Winning streak to build up his character? Yup. Worked his way
to the top face in the company and lost the feud? Cena says hello. And now…..
That’s why the IC title was so important. Wyatt is perfect
for it at this point in his career. It gives him focus and it gives him a
storyline that can relate both his strengths as a character in his wacky-ass
promos while still allowing the traditional wrestling storylines to permeate through;
sometimes we forget that the reason that some things are tradition are because
they, you know, WORK. Combine the two and we have a winner.
And that’s the Wyatt is so important for the title. The
title can only benefit from a strong reign by an over heel that could go many
different directions. The title can only be elevated by someone making it a
focal point of their character, especially if that character evolves along the
way as a result of that reign.
So, WWE, take my advice:
Follow the buzzards.
Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on twitter
*As far as I know, there weren’t any French whores that held
the IC title, but here’s hoping it’s good for some chuckles from you all in the
comment section. Fire away. All jokes about The Miz will be ignored because, face it, that one’s too fucking obvious.

The Booking Sheet

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?


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.

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,

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.

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.

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.

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
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.


WHY HE’S SCREWED: Bitch, please.
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