In this first installment, our WWE writers breakdown the biggest PPV cards of the year and explain where they went wrong and how we would do it better.
The Way They Booked It
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Thus far, the likes of Mojo Rawley, Apollo Crews, Big Show and Curt Hawkins have been announced as participants in this year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. And while other competitors have yet to be announced, it’s likely we’ll see another surprise appearance from Shaq given his one-on-one match with the Big Show fell through.
Cruiserweight Championship — Neville (c) vs. Austin Airies: One thing the Cruiserweight division has been in sore need of is a legitimate rivalry between two stars. Sure they’ve flirted with feuds but nothing has really been a draw yet. Neville has established himself rightfully as the King of the Cruiserweights, but Airies looks to bring some much needed star power to the division.
Raw Tag Team Championship — Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus: Not much to say here. Gallows and Anderson’s run as champs has been mostly uneventful, and before them Sheamus and Cesaro were just as uninteresting. Enzo and Cass? Eh, they haven’t won the belts yet. Wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they were crowned here. Vince seems to like them.
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Entire SmackDown roster: Speaking of overcrowded logjams… Smackdown takes the cake here, but I can’t help but speculate that the reason for this scramble is to leave the door open to a surprise return by former champ, Naomi in her hometown of Orlando. If she can’t go, expect Alexa Bliss to hold strong and retain.
United States Championship — Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens: While this match has been penciled in since Jericho accepted Goldberg’s challenge at Fastlane on Kevin Owens’s behalf, it still does nothing to hurt the build. In fact, the only downer is that the title on the line is the United States championship and not the Universal title. Then again, these two are good enough and the build has been appropriately slow enough that it hardly seems to matter. The match could easily prove to be match of the night and another reminder of how great Chris Jericho is as a future Hall of Famer. Who else could get a list over ? PS, the recent addition of Samoa Joe to the rivalry is interesting…
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse: Let’s consider for a moment where John Cena stood the day after the Royal Rumble. He was the 16-time World Champion, tied only with 2-time Hall of Famer, Ric Flair. Flash forward to Elimination Chamber and not only is he no longer champion, he isn’t even the last elimination. To make matters worse? He took a clean loss the following Smackdown in a triple-threat with Wyatt and Styles. Where is he now? In a mixed tag-team match with long-time girlfriend, Nikki Bella, the Miz, and his wife, Maryse. Things move fast in WWE sometimes. I’m not sure what else to say about this match. The promos have been great, and WWE has even figured out how to plug its reality show, Total Divas. Sooo yeah, expect Cena and Nikki to go over just and Cena to pop the question in the middle of the ring. And all that behind the scenes stuff? Yeah, that’ll air on Total Divas down the road.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon: Mentioned above in talking about Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton, Styles vs Shane McMahon feels admittedly forced. The company penciled in this match months ago even as Styles ran through the competition as the WWE Champion. Now, rather than main eventing, he’s being pushed into a program with the boss’s son and Smackdown Live’s Commission. Cool. No disrespect to Shane but this match feels like a consolation prize at best for Styles, whose first year with the company was about as good as it gets despite a slow start. That, plus AJ’s age have some fans concerned WWE may be missing its shot at maximizing the Phenomenal One’s in-ring ability on the grandest stage. Plus, the storyline feels a bit backwards. AJ’s promos are truthful and paint him as the wronged victim despite being cast as the heel. To fix that, creative had him viciously attack Shane this past Tuesday on Smackdown, ending with the Commission ultimately being thrown head-first through a car window. This match should have its spots, and AJ can put anybody over like a million bucks, but ultimately it feels like what it is: a waste of one of the buisness’s best performers in an under-card match.
Raw Women’s Championship — Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax: The Raw Women’s division has been a bit of a mess in recent months, going from only spotlighting Charlotte and Sasha Banks to not really knowing how to shine the light on any one person. The result? A logjam heading into the company’s biggest show of the year. But, considering Smackdown’s plan to literally throw every woman on the show at their Women’s champ, it could be worse. I don’t doubt these four will put on a great match, I just hope it attempts to flesh out the division more than last year’s fatal four way.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H: While this is a storyline fans have been clamoring to see, it feels like the delay in getting there did more to hurt it than it did to build excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the match, and the recent build has been on par. I just wish creative hadn’t bungled the initial weeks and months following Triple H’s betrayal of his former protege. While Rollins was initially angered, and rightfully so, he soon shifted his focus to Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon rather than her husband. Acting instead as fodder to get over the new champion, Kevin Owens, Rollins seemed to drift aimlessly, and while part of that was to avoid overexposing the rivalry before Wrestlemania, it still left some frustrated. Thankfully all that has changed since Rollins stormed the ring at NXT Takeover: San Antonio. With The Game back on Raw and Samoa Joe being brought up to the main roster to serve as his Destroyer, things have certainly picked up. WWE even managed to dodge a bullet when Joe’s initial assault left Rollins with a torn meniscus in his surgically repaired knee. But, as it seems it won’t prevent him from returning to the ring at Wrestlemania, it actually does even more to add to the matchup. Expect this to be a brawl, especially now that it’s been dubbed an unsanctioned match.
Intercontinental Championship — Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Barron Corbin: One good thing to come out of the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match was the storyline feud between the Lunatic Fringe and the Lone Wolf. Since that time, Amrbose and Corbin have been at eac hother’s throats with both men looking strong ahead of their clash. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns: Now that The Undertaker is no longer undefeated at Wrestlemania, and has raked up a couple more wins since his shocking loss to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30, this inevitability won’t upset fans quite as much as it would’ve in the past. Then again, this is Roman Reigns we’re talking about here. And with it already being reported that the plan for next year’s Wrestlemania is for Reigns to knock off Brock Lesnar for the Universal title, the writing appears to be on the wall. Brock will get back his win against Goldberg, thereby taking the gold, and Brock will hold the belt for a year-long build, much like we saw with The Rock and John Cena a couple of years ago. WWE has made it clear they see Reigns as the next John Cena, something fans have been privy to for sometime now. As such, don’t expect them to be excited at the prospect of the new hand-picked face to go over on the Deadman one year and then a rejuvenated and once more monstrous Brock Lesnar the next.
WWE Championship — Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton: This one just pains me. While the rise of Bray Wyatt has been great to see, it very much has the feel of AJ Style’s previous title match with John Cena: a new star (or in Style’s case, new to the company) rising to the top to claim the Blue Brand’s top accolade, only to eventually be fed to the established stars of a previous generation. In fact, Kevin Owens belongs in the same discussion one could argue. Either way, we find ourselves with Bray Wyatt versus his former follower, Randy Orton. To summarize, Orton got here by joining and then fracturing the Wyatt Family, winning the Royal Rumble, ejecting Luke Harper from the family, rescinding his number one contendership, then flip-flopping and defeating fellow number one contender, AJ Styles after Style won (or rather tied) an over the top battle royal and then defeated Luke Harper one-on-one. Twice technically. For story purposes, if the plan was always for Randy to complete his arc with Bray and the Wyatts, why not have Luke Harper go over on AJ, thereby elevating Harper to new heights in the process? Then, when Randy inevitably goes over on Bray, he could rise as the new challenger. Instead, he was unceremoniously cast aside so that WWE could scramble and put something together for Styles.
Universal Championship — Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar: To the surprise of nobody, and to the dismay of Project Shank’s own, Mitchell Barnett, at last month’s Fastlane, Goldberg ran roughshod over then Universal Champion, Kevin Owens. Owens had been the longest reigning Universal Champion in WWE history* but none of that seemed to matter as the aura of Goldberg, even at his advanced age, trumped the Prize Fighter. Whether it was Vince McMahon’s dream scenario or not, we will now get Goldberg vs fellow part-timer, Brock Lesnar for Raw’s top title. Joy. Ask yourself this, did Goldberg vs Lesnar III really need gold on the line to add to its mystique?
So that’s how WWE booked it. Now let’s take a look at
How It Should’ve Been Booked
No cheating here. Any booking options will be constrained to the previous booking already established by WWE. So let’s dig in!
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: I’ll keep this simple. Braun Strowman enters. Braun Strowman destroys. Winning in convincing fashion, Strowman builds momentum moving forward as a force to be reckoned with and resumes his rivalry with Roman Reigns.
Result: Braun Strowman wins Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Cruiserweight Championship — Neville (c) vs. Austin Airies: While I am a fan of Austin Airies and believe he will put on a great match, I have an admitted problem with superstars debuting and immediately winning championships. If done in very rare instances, they would be effective. Alas, they have become commonplace in today’s WWE. As such, I would have Neville steal a win with something like a tights grab on a roll-up, or a missed foot on the rope. Airies will have his day, but it shouldn’t be Wrestlemania when he only officially returned to the ring weeks prior.
Result: Neville retains WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Raw Tag Team Championship — Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus: Of all the matches on this card, this is probably the one I’m least excited for. Even still, in ideal booking, we see The Club go over thanks to the interference of Finn Balor, thereby forming the Balor Club stable. This might be a long shot, and perhaps the stable-forming moment is off, but honestly with Balor back but not yet on the card, I’m not sure where else to use him.
Result: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson retain via pin fall
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Entire SmackDown roster: I’m going to be presumptive on this one. I’m guessing Naomi does in fact return, possibly even entering only late in the match to catch Alexa Bliss off guard and steal the win. This way, everyone wins. Naomi gets her long overdue moment in front of her home crowd, Alexa has a legitimate gripe to keep her spot as the number one contender, other than the simple fact she’s the current champ and the former champ always gets a rematch, and the division gets the shakeup it needs.
Result: Naomi returns and wins the Smackdown Women’s Championship
United States Championship — Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens: Look, I love Chris Jericho’s latest run and I refuse to apologize for that. But something can’t be denied here: Owens lost a lot of momentum after getting squashed by Goldberg last month and it’s crucial for him to get a little of that back. As such, he needs to go over on Y2J in controversial fashion. Perhaps a low blow or concealed weapon. Samoa Joe has injected himself into this rivalry now as well so he should at some point make his way out to the ring and get involved while the ref is distracted or unconscious. Then, as the ref stirs, have Owens or Joe use the List of Jericho on Y2J and lead him into a pop-up powerbomb. 1. 2. 3. Simple, effective. Smart.
Result: Kevin Owens wins United States Championship
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse: Yeah, so, it’s obvious what’s going to happen here. Cena and Nikki Bella will go over Miz and Maryse before Cena proposes in the ring and then goes away again to make a movie. The only thing I would insist on is having Miz and Maryse put up a real fight before falling. It’s important that they aren’t just trampled over on Cena’s way out for several months again.
Result: John Cena & Nikki Bella win via pin fall
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon: So, here’s where I’m going to go back on something I said earlier. I am going to change the booking of this match. Sometime in the week leading up to Wrestlemania, perhaps even the day of, AJ Styles will again jump Shane McMahon. But unlike the previous encounter, he will injure Shane too badly to compete, thereby insisting he must win by forfeit. However, before the ref can declare the match for Styles, Daniel Bryan’s music will hit and the Smackdown GM will announce that Shane did, in fact, have a contingency plan in place should AJ jump him again. Cue Kurt Angle’s music.
Angle, having being inducted into the Hall of Fame the night before and had his moment before the crowd with the other inductees earlier in the night, will be a stunning return. Whether or not this is a one-time thing will remain to be seen, but AJ and Kurt have wrestled classics in the past and the two will do the same once more as Angle and AJ steal the show in the match of the night, culminating in Angle’s triumph with an Angle slam from the top rope. While this will make AJ 0-2 in Wrestlemania matches, it will nevertheless make for a moment that will have people talking and can even work toward his obsession will winning at Wrestlemania 34.
Result: Kurt Angle returns and wins via pin fall
Raw Women’s Championship — Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax: Ideally this match gives each woman a chance to shine. But if I’m being honest, I don’t put the strap back on Charlotte. Nor Sasha. No, I continue to build the monster that is Nia Jax, having her rally late to drop each of her opponents with a devastating All Jaxed Drop. Sasha needs to take the pin here as Charlotte by no means should take pin fall losses in back to back PPVs after her impressive streak came to an end. Bayley, meanwhile, needs to advance her forthcoming feud with Sasha. To establish that, there some come a moment late in the match where Sasha either saves Bayley, only for Bayley to accidentally cost Sasha the match, or to simply continue forth with a “every woman for herself” mindset. After the match, she’ll try to help Sasha and The Boss will snap, tearing down her former friend and completing her heel turn.
Result: Nia Jax wins Raw’s Women’s Championship
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H: It’s not really a mystery how this one should pan out, is it? The betrayed protege should overcome his traitorous mentor, but not before being made to work for it. This match should move all throughout the arena, incorporating weaponry just as Triple H’s unsanctioned match with Shawn Michaels did in 2002. Furthermore, with Samoa Joe lurking around Mania but not in the match, more on that later, the Destroyer should get involved at some point. However, despite Rollins’s eventual win, it’s important to protect Joe as well. As such, there should be some kind of moment where Rollins outsmarts Joe, either leading him into a trap backstage with several superstars Joe has beaten down in recent weeks (or simply Chris Jericho), or handcuffing him to the top rope like the old days. From there, Rollins should still fight and claw to beat The Game with the Pedigree.
Result: Seth Rollins wins via pin fall
Intercontinental Championship — Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Barron Corbin: Dean Ambrose has made for a pretty good Intercontinental champion over the past couple of months, but, as was the case when he was the WWE Champion, he’s always more interesting when chasing gold rather than holding it. As such, Corbin should go over in a hard fought struggle.
Result: Barron Corbin wins Intercontinental Championship
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns: Look, I know Roman Reigns isn’t popular -I know! But now more than ever with his streak no longer intact, it doesn’t make sense to put Taker over on a younger talent and face of the company. As such, I would normally love to say that WWE should have Reigns at least turn heel, somehow cheating to upend the Deadman in his Yard. But with the plan being to elevate Reigns into the title picture with the newly crowned Lesnar, it stands to reason that this is the time to begin rebuilding Reigns’s face image. Now, this is a tough task as simply having him kick out of everything Taker throws at him can easily turn the fans even more against him, look at every previous attempt by creative to get the fans behind him for reference.
So here’s what needs to happen instead: Undertaker needs to show mounting frustration at his inability to keep the Roman Empire down. Reigns should kick out of a choke slam early in the contest, and a tombstone late. From there, Taker should lock Reigns in the Hell’s Gate submission, only to see Reigns escape by narrowly reaching the rope.
Frustrated, the Undertaker will knock out the referee and grab a chair, wailing on Reigns endlessly before a second ref appears. Although Taker will pin Reigns, the second ref will point to the chair as if he’s about to disqualify the Deadman. Seeing this, the Undertaker will catch the ref’s arm before he can motion for the bell and deck him as well. Meanwhile, Reigns will fight back to his feet and begin his rally. A third ref will appear ready to call the overdue DQ but this time it will be Reigns who stops him, saying “Not this way.” Reluctant, the official will continue with the match. As Reigns turns, he’ll walk into a tombstone scoop. Before Taker can deliver the piledriver, however, Reigns will slip away from his grasp and shove his opponent off the ropes, catching him with a spear. 1. 2. KICK OUT.
Now, knowing the crowd, it will still most likely be behind the Undertaker, so it’s going to take one final push to at least nudge them in Reigns’s corner. That push will come in the form an Undertaker low blow after the referee turns to remove a second chair Taker brought into the ring. He’ll set Reigns up for the Last Ride where Reigns will again slip away at the height of Taker’s grasp, bouncing off the ropes and delivering a second spear. 1. 2. 3.
Sure some will be against Roman winning no matter what, but the least they can do is accurately depict him as a valiant challenger as they begin to restore his image. And hey, if they’re that upset, have Braun Strowman rush the ring and obliterate him immediately after the bell.
Result: Roman Reigns wins via pin fall
WWE Championship — Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton: It’s worth noting I expect WWE to go the opposite direction with this booking decision, but I favor building up newer, younger talent over pre-established stars wit a legacy. As such, I’d like to see Bray go over here. Not only has his title run been too short to end now, but he brings something unique to the main event scene that is scarcely seen in today’s WWE. If Vince insists on crowning Orton, let it be another night. Bray has taken more than enough PPV loses over the past three years.
Result: Bray Wyatt retains WWE Championship
Universal Championship — Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar: Earlier in the night, I would have a backstage interviewer talk to each of the men to get their thoughts ahead of their rubber match. Naturally Lesnar’s mouthpiece, Paul Heyman would go first, talking up the destructive force that is his client and stressing that Lesnar was more focused now than ever -that he’d run roughshod over the WWE for so long that he’d lost his competitive edge, taking his training lightly. Lightly, that is, until Bill Goldberg came out of retirement and knocked him from his place atop the mountain. How does he plan to do this? By making Goldberg work. Heyman will tout Goldberg’s raw power, saying it may even rival that of his client. The question, Heyman says, will be whether or not Goldberg is still physically as imposing after finally getting punched in the mouth, so to speak, on Raw when Lesnar F-5’d him.
A short time later, the interviewer will approach Goldberg in his locker room, asking him his thoughts and relaying some of what Heyman had said earlier. With a smirk, Goldberg will shake his head as if he’s up to the challenge before grimacing and stretching out his neck and shoulder. The implication is that he’s not 100%. He’ll even go a step further by hinting he may not have much more left in the tank. Further, referring to his initial promo when he returned ahead of Survivor Series, he’ll assure the WWE Universe he has “one bad ass spear” left in him. That he has “one last devastating jackhammer” left to deliver. From there, the interview will come to close, leaving a somewhat uneasy feeling.
The match itself will go as Survivor Series should’ve gone. Within the first minute Goldberg will hit Lesnar out of nowhere with a spear. The broadcast team will erupt in amazement as Heyman screams for Brock to get up and Goldberg flicks his finger up in the air for a jackhammer. Then, hoisting Lesnar, Goldberg will crush the Beast Incarnate. 1. 2. KICK OUT.
Goldberg will stare in disbelief as Lesnar begins to stir. Unsure of what else to do, he’ll reset in the corner for another spear. But, as he charges forward, Lesnar will sidestep the champion, letting him crash into the ring post shoulder-first. Pulling him back to the center of the ring, Lesnar will begin delivering a series of German suplexes, forcing Goldberg to take some long overdue punishment. This match won’t be long, coming in somewhere around ten minutes, but it’ll tell a story, and that’s what matters. Goldberg will fight valiantly, even kicking out of the first F-5, perhaps even two. But Brock will be relentless in his destruction, hoisting The Man one final time and dropping him with a thunderous crash to capture the pin fall and the WWE Universal Championship.
Result: Brock Lesnar wins WWE Universal Championship
And that’s how I would book Wrestlemania 33! If you have other suggestions or disagree, comment down below!