I’m calling it. I know the so-called “New Era” is not that old yet. I know the WWE inserted a Brand Split into the New Era and there is going to be growing pains. I know not all of the new talent the company has acquired has yet to premiere on Raw or Smackdown Live. But yet, here we are heading into Summerslam and I am bored. I’m bored of the product being provided. Yes, I think Seth Rollins and Finn Balor will be a good match. But I am much more interested in the Samoa Joe/Shinsuke Nakamura match at NXT: Takeover or even the Jay Lethal/Adam Cole match at Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor.
So, given that this column is all about fantasy booking, I said to myself, “Self, what would it take to turn up the juice on this New Era?” And I responded to myself that I need longer-term thinking. So this column will not be dedicated to making the current product better. Instead, I will lay out a tentative card for next year’s Wrestlemania 33. I know we are still 7.5 months away, but that’s okay. If we use this tentative card as a goal line, we should be able to get a good game plan in place. (Yes, I am happy football is almost back.)
We will start the Pre-Show with the Andre the Giant 20-Man Battle Royal. The participants will be the following (and you will see from the start how we are shifting focus onto the next generation faces): Randy Orton, Sheamus, Rusev, Baron Corbin, Kane, Jack Swagger, Jay Uso, Dolph Ziggler, Hideo Itami, Big Show, Mark Henry, Bobby Roode, Titus O’Neil, Alberto del Rio, Rhyno, Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Goldust, Apollo Crews, and Kalisto.
With a lot of big names in the ring, there will plenty of time for interesting pairing off, big moments, familiar moves, etc. However, the final four will come down to Baron Corbin, Hideo Itami, Bobby Roode, and Apollo Crews. Itami and Roode will go after each other as they would have been feuding down in NXT for a while previous and this would continue their rivalry. Crews and Corbin would go after each other as well, possibly setting up a one-on-one match down the line. Itami and Crews would manage to toss Roode and Corbin, respectively. In the end, Itami would try to hit a Go-to-Sleep on Crews, but Crews would flip out of the attempt and throw Itami out over the top rope to take the trophy. And with that, even the pre-show establishes that this truly is the “New Era” for which everyone has been waiting.
The second match in the pre-show will be a woman’s match. This will be a grudge match of some sort and probably be between Natalya and Eva Marie. They could have built some issue between these two on Smackdown Live over Eva Marie not respecting the business and Natalya wanting to defend wrestling’s honor. Or something. It probably won’t be a great match, given Eva Marie’s involvement, but it would serve as a good step in their feud and character development. Eva Marie would pretty much have to go over here though.
The final match in the pre-show (and sort of the main event of the pre-show) will be a four-way tag team match to determine the #1 contenders for the Unified Tag Team titles (which will happen later). The teams will be Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, The New Day, The Hype Bros. (Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder), and Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. I know the New Day and The Club are feuding right now, but I would separate them from each other after their Summerslam match. Give them both something else to do, maybe brief runs with the belts, but never at odds with each other. That way, by the time WrestleMania 33 rolls around, the pairing of these teams will feel fresh again. The Hype Bros. could be a solid tag team on Smackdown Live and even held the Smackdown version of the tag belts for a bit. And Ciampa and Gargano could be coming off a long run with the NXT tag team titles, a victory in the Dusty Rhodes tag tournament, and a fresh call-up to the “big leagues.” I would probably have Anderson and Gallows get the victory here to try to create a big match atmosphere for the tag belts going into the doldrums of the net few PPVs on the schedule, but I would seriously consider giving Ciampa and Gargano the push here as well. Especially since, well, they are awesome.
After the pre-show, we would move into the main program. To kick off WrestleMania 33 proper, we would start with the WWE Intercontinental Title match. The match would involve the Bray Wyatt taking on AJ Styles. Wyatt would be the champion here after the belt bounced around for a bit at the end of 2016. Styles going after it could be part of a storyline with him trying to make one last push through the wrestling world, so he can go out on top. The match would get the crowd amped up and Styles would pull out the victory with the Styles Clash. Wyatt’s WrestleMania failures would continue, but Styles would start the final act of his career in a big way.
The second match would be a Money in the Bank match. However, this would be for the women in the WWE, as there would still only be one Women’s title that both Brands would go after. The competitors would be: Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Nia Jax, Asuka, Paige, Dana Brooke, and Emma. Everyone would get a ton of spots, establishing everyone as a threat to the Women’s title. In the end, Asuka would climb the ladder to get the briefcase. Immediately the announcers would start to wonder if she will cash in later tonight.
The third match would be a match to unify the tag team titles. After Smackdown Live created their own tag team belts, American Alpha made a push and grabbed the belts. Over on Raw, Enzo and Cass would win the belts at the Royal Rumble and refused to let them go. The two teams started making challenges to each other and ignited a rivalry between the two brands. Eventually, Daniel Bryan and Mick Foley agreed to unify the belts here at WrestleMania 33. Enzo and Cass would essentially be the heels here, but the crowd would be seriously into both teams. It wouldn’t really matter who won, but with The Club winning the #1 contender match on the pre-show, I would say give the victory to American Alpha here. That feud can run for several months pretty easily.
The fourth match would be a fatal-four-way match between Dean Ambrose, Neville, Shelton Benjamin, and the current NXT champion Austin Aries. The reasoning behind this match would be a little convoluted probably. Neville will have had to be traded to Smackdown Live at some point prior to this show. With all four of these wrestlers on the same show, it will be billed as a Smackdown showcase. However, all four men will complain and say they want more than just being in the best match of the night. So Shane McMahon will put a WWE World title match on the line for the next Smackdown Live in two days. Former champion Dean Ambrose will win this match which will have Neville and Benjamin flying all over the place. Aries will get a few very close near falls, but Ambrose will get a disputed victory as he pins Benjamin while Neville taps out to Aries at the same time. However, the referee was only concentrating on the pin, giving the match to Ambrose. Aries can carry this dispute back to NXT and eventually onto further events on Smackdown Live.
After this match, there will be a slight break and an in-ring interview segment will happen. Smackdown Live would have promoted The Miz and Miz TV while Raw would have promoted The Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho. Jericho and Miz will have a nice little comedy segment and then the legends will be trotted out. Jericho will introduce The Rock and Steve Austin, the two men Jericho beat for the first Undisputed World Title. Miz will counter by bringing out a returning Hulk Hogan. In the midst of all this, Austin will hit a Stunner on Miz. The Rock will hit a Rock Bottom on Jericho. And then, returning from injury after many, many months, Luke Harper will come out. He may be repackaged some, but he will retain the crazy Bruiser Brody-esque qualities about him. He will hit Hogan with a big boot to the face and then clothesline The Rock out of the ring. Austin will back out of the ring looking a bit scared (which would be a huge rub given Austin’s normal character). Hopefully this will give Miz and Jericho some time to crack us up on the mic and then bring back Harper as a superstar who will crush anyone in his way.
The match to follow this will be a No-Disqualification match for the United States title. The champion will be Roman Reigns, because WWE is not going to let go of the Roman Reigns push. His opponent will be Kevin Owens, vowing to make this year KO-mania. The crowd will basically force a double-turn for these two men, turning Reigns heel (finally) and Owens face. These two will battle in and out of the ring, having a wild brawl. Owens will eventually take the pinfall with a big pop-up powerbomb through a table.
How to follow that? Well, why not give a title match for the WWE Universal Title? This match will be a triple threat between the long-time champion Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn. Zayn and Cesaro will have gone through a tough road to get into this match, including several times when they had to face each other. Rollins will have been orchestrating the tough road for his challengers, continuing to establish himself as the Architect. The victor of this match doesn’t really matter, although they will probably get a Roman Reigns challenge soon after. I say we have a surprise victory here, after Sami Zayn teases everyone with about 60 near falls, and after Seth Rollins appears to come out on top after every major rush by the challengers, Cesaro will steal the victory. Let’s say he catches Rollins in the big swing, crashing him into Zayn and knocking Zayn out of the ring. Then he will lock in the Sharpshooter in the center of the ring and Seth Rollins will tap out.
The next match would be the showcase for The Undertaker. This year, however, the Demon King, Finn Balor, has been the one playing mind games. Obviously Balor had a big entrance to Raw getting right into the WWE Universal Title picture. However, I will say Seth Rollins wins that belt at Summerslam and doesn’t give it up until the match directly preceding this. Balor will be all over the Raw brand up until the Royal Rumble. Then the Demon King will return and start calling out The Undertaker. Taker, angry over how he was used at last year’s WrestleMania will start back at Balor, saying that maybe he has finally found someone to ascend to the throne of darkness once he abdicates it. The two men will probably have about 30 minutes for their entrances alone. However, Undertaker will be in the best shape he has been in years and will put on a hell of a match to “pass the torch” so to speak to Balor. Finn Balor will win a long and draining match after reversing a Tombstone and then hitting the Coup-de-Grace. Post-match, both men will take their time getting up and recovering from the match. They will both meet face-to-face in the middle of the ring where The Undertaker will shake Balor’s hand. As they are shaking hands, the lights will go out and the ring will be filled with thick smoke. As the smoke starts to clear, a red spotlight will come down in the middle of the ring where only Balor will be standing.
How do you follow that? No one will want to, I am sure. But then again, the next match is not with wrestlers who really care what people think. About a month or so before WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman will come out and state there is no one for the beast to beat. He says they will take a few weeks and decide if Lesnar wants to take the Universal title, the US title, the World title, the Tag Team titles, hell, any title he wants because no one can stop him, etc. Samoa Joe will then come out in his WWE Raw debut. He will face down Lesnar while the crowd goes nuts with chants of “Joe’s Gonna Kill You” mixed in with “Suplex City” chants. These two men will get into one major brawl after another for a couple weeks until Vince McMahon steps in and personally signs the match for WrestleMania 33, under the condition they do not have physical contact with each other until then. The match itself will be brutal, will probably have lots of blood hard way, and Lesnar and Joe will both have a lot of time on offense. In the end, Lesnar will hit an F5, but delay just a second in going for the pin. When he does, Joe will lock on the Kokina Clutch until Lesnar passes out in the ring. Yes, Samoa Joe just knocked out The Beast Incarnate. And the crowd goes wild.
Following this match is another challenge, and people are skeptical about WWE’s care over the Women’s division by giving the title match this slot. But this match is a title match between the champion Sasha Banks and the ultimate babyface Bailey. These two women take on the challenge and put on a contender for match of the night. If the crowd needed downtime, it didn’t get it here. This match is even better than their main event NXT title match. And in the end of a long and awesome match, Sasha Banks will retain as she will reverse a top rope Bailey-to-Belly into a Frankensteiner in mid-air. After the match, Asuka’s music hits and she comes out with the briefcase. The crowd is going nuts, but Asuka just smiles that evil and sexy little smile and goes back into the back.
Finally it is time for the main event. And it is a match for the WWE World Title. John Cena will have won the belt a while back (because of course he would) and he will be entering this match as the champ. His challenger would be none other than Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura will have come over to Smackdown Live from NXT declaring one thing, that Strong Style was superior to John Cena. The match was signed because Cena demanded it, but Nakamura destroyed a few others in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania, including Erick Rowen, Jimmy Uso, Konnor, Aiden English, etc. (This is also being used as the reasons these superstars were not on the WrestleMania card). Cena would do all his Cena stuff during the hype to this match, trying to downplay Nakamura’s accomplishments and talent. That is, until he just couldn’t deny it any more. And that happened after Nakamura kept showing up during his interviews and knocking him out cold. The match itself was as epic as you would expect, with Cena turning up the workrate like he can do, but only in big showcases. And Nakamura would, of course, be his usual amazing self. The winner would be a bit of a surprise to most, but Nakamura would take the WWE World Heavyweight Title here.
So, at the end of WrestleMania 33 we would have the following champions:
WWE World Champion – Shinsuke Nakamura (with Dean Ambrose getting a title shot at the first Smackdown Live after WrestleMania)
WWE Universal Champion – Cesaro
WWE Intercontinental Champion – AJ Styles
WWE United States Champion – Kevin Owens
WWE Unified Tag Team Titles – American Alpha (with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows the #1 Contenders)
WWE Women’s Champion – Sasha Banks (with Asuka holding the Money in the Bank briefcase)
We would also have a new Dark King in Finn Balor. We would also have a beast-killer in Samoa Joe. We would also have a crazed Luke Harper back to wreck havoc. We would also have the Women’s Division in solid shape. We would also have Apollo Crews winning the Andre the Giant battle royal to begin a major push for the young and athletic superstar. We would also have Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Neville, Shelton Benjamin, Hideo Itami, and Bobby Roode all over the place looking for gold. We would also have Austin Aries representing the NXT title while making forays onto the main rosters.
And with that, WrestleMania 33 would firmly establish the “New Era” the WWE has been promising for months.
Want to waste some time before now and next week’s Fantasy Book? Leave a comment or two here and join the discussion on the “New Era.” And check out my 10 Thoughts on Ring of Honor television each week. It’s a blast.
Tags: AJ Styles, apollo crews, Asuka, Bailey, Brock Lesnar, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Enzo and Cass, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton, sami zayn, Samoa Joe, sasha banks, seth rollins, shinsuke nakamura, undertaker