The Road to Wrestlemania is just up ahead. I can see the exit from here. But before we make that turn, we have to get over the roadblock that is the Royal Rumble (and not the WWE Roadblock PPV, in an odd turn of road-metaphor events).
This column will delve into a little fantasy booking of this PPV. As of this very moment, there are only eight known entrants for the Rumble match itself: Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Braun Strowman, and Baron Corbin. Given that there are due to be 22 other Superstars entering the match, trying to fantasy book the Rumble at this point seems a little premature. I know we probably won’t know all the participants ahead of time, but hopefully by next week we will have a few more people throwing their figurative hat in the literal ring.
So, today, I am going to focus on the few other matches already announced for the card. Because a PPV can not be a battle royal alone. Thus far, the WWE have announced an Universal title match, a Raw Woman’s title match, and a WWE World title match. Let’s start with the Universal title match – Roman Reigns challenging Kevin Owens.
No one likes Roman Reigns. Except for the boys in the back. And Vince McMahon. Which is basically why we are having this match again. Kevin Owens, by all intents and purposes, is the de facto face whenever he goes against Reigns. And nothing would make most fans happier than to see Owens crush Reigns one-on-one and bask in the glory. If the WWE is serious about this New Era stuff, setting it up for Kevin Owens to headline Wrestlemania is the way to go.
There is, of course, another factor here. Chris Jericho, who is also entered in the Rumble match, will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage (probably on loan from Paul Ellering). Since this 80’s-throwback stipulation seems to exclude Jericho from being physically involved in the match, what will happen? Well, since the WWE is making an odd choice to try to get Seth Rollins over more as a face by aligning himself with his old Shield buddy, I expect Rollins to show up at ringside. Will we get a swerve of some sort? Probably not. Here’s how it could break down in order to set up the next few months.
Reigns and Owens would have a nice little match, with Owens controlling most of it while Reigns would get some sporadic Superman punches in to stay in the game. Eventually, Reigns would miss a drive-by dropkick and go crashing to the floor. Owens would pick him up and hit a pop-up powerbomb on the floor. Owens would then drag Reigns’ lifeless body into the ring and make a cover. However, Reigns would kick out just before three, because, well, just because. Owens would sit in the middle of the ring in disbelief while Jericho would yell down to get his friend’s attention. Owens would ignore him for a while, but Jericho’s screams would get the ref’s attention. Finally Owens would stand up and stagger into a corner and look up at Jericho. Jericho would then toss a chain out of the cage towards Owens, but the chain would go outside the ring. The referee would start yelling at Jericho and Owens while Owens claimed innocence.
At this point, the ref would go out of the ring to confront Owens with the chain, and Jericho would take that opportunity to drop brass knuckles straight down into the middle of the ring. Owens would dive onto the brass knuckles and hide them in his tights before the ref got back into the ring. Before anything else can happen, Seth Rollins will head down to the ring to alert the ref to the shenanigans (that goody-too-shoes). Before he can say anything to the referee though, Motorhead blares over the loadspeakers and Rollins turns to see Triple H walking out. Rollins charges Triple H, forgetting about his mission to tell on Chris Jericho, and the two of them fight on the stage and into the backstage area.
Meanwhile, Reigns will have finally gotten up and when Owens attempts another pop-up powerbomb, Reigns hits a superman punch to the boos of the crowd. Reigns then catches a second breath and starts prepping for the spear, but Jericho starts throwing streamers down on Reigns (because Vince isn’t above saying fuck you to an indy fed during a title match). This distracts Reigns and the referee just enough so that Owens can retrieve the brass knuckles from his tights. As the referee scolds Jericho again and tries to move the streamers out of the ring, Reigns charges at Owens for a spear and Owens clocks him in the temple with the brass knuckles. Owens then covers Reigns and gets the three count to retain the Universal title.
Post-match, they bring Jericho down and release him from the cage. He celebrates with Owens and then tells his buddy that he is going to go win the Rumble and Owens looks deeply concerned. Reigns is finally out of the Universal title picture for the moment and can maybe think about defending that U.S. title one day.
The second match that has been announced is for the Raw Woman’s title as Bayley gets her shot at Charlotte Flair for the belt.
This feels rushed to me. I am all for Charlotte moving on from her feud with Sasha Banks for the time being, and I love Bayley (hell, who doesn’t love Bayley), but it seems too early to have her take the title here. In addition, they are pushing this whole PPV streak that Charlotte is on, and I think they can drag that out a little longer.
I think these two can have a great match and can really showcase each others’ strengths. I think the match will be a strong contender for match of the night. The story of the match will be that every time Bayley starts gaining momentum or comes close to winning, Charlotte finds a way to counter or overpower her. They will get the crowd into the match if given enough time, but the end will come when Bayley misses a charge into the corner and Charlotte will hit the Natural Selection. Bayley will kick out however, and Charlotte will get pissed. She will then lock in the Figure 8, but Bayley will not submit. She will eventually get to the ropes to break the hold. Before Bayley can shake it off though, Charlotte will hit a second Natural Selection. Bayley will AGAIN kick out because she is the plucky underdog. Charlotte will then say screw this and go up top to finally hit her moonsault. That will get the three count and Charlotte will retain.
This is only the beginning though. Charlotte will attack Bayley after the match is over and introduce a steel chair to the proceedings. Bayley will take several chair shots to the back and stomach and will then take a third Natural Selection onto the chair. Charlotte will leave victorious and even more heelish than before. Bayley will then begin her climb to get even with Charlotte by taking her title at Wrestlemania.
The third match that has been announced is for the WWE World title as a returning John Cena goes up against the Champ That Runs the Camp, AJ Styles.
I really don’t like Cena getting a title shot here. Despite not being on TV recently, the last time he wrestled (4 months ago) he was pinned by AJ in a triple threat match for the World title. It makes no sense for Cena to be getting a title shot. But here he is, and most likely the WWE will put the belt on Cena going into the build for Wrestlemania. But how would I book it?
Well, first, Styles would come to the ring with a microphone and announce a special guest. At that point, pregnant crack-addict Claire Lynch would come down to the ring and accuse Cena of cheating on Nikki Bella with her and being the father of her unborn crack-baby. Cena would deny it while Styles would just laugh.
Oh wait, that was a 2014 TNA nightmare. Let’s all collectively erase that from our memory.
For this match, I would have Cena look dominant whenever he used his strength, but whenever the two men “wrestled,” Styles would outclass Cena greatly. For example, at one point, Cena would go for a pin after a powerbomb or something and Styles would kick out. Cena would spin around and place AJ into his piss-poor STF. Styles would struggle for maybe 5 seconds and then smoothly reverse it into his Calf Crusher/Killer, whatever he is calling it now. This dynamic would go on for a while with Cena trying to find a way to maintain an advantage while Styles would be happy countering and making Cena look foolish every time he tried to wrestle.
The end would come with Cena doing his Cena-ing up bit and looking like he would take the match over. He’d go for an Attitude Adjustment, which Styles would flip out of and hit a Pele kick. Then Styles would try his springboard 450 splash, but Cena would move out of the way. Cena would pop up and try another AA, which Styles would flip out of again. But when AJ would try the Pele kick again, Cena would back up and AJ would splat on the mat. Cena would then go to put Styles in the STF again, but Styles would pivot and roll Cena up for a long two count. Cena would then club down Styles and start yelling about how he is better than him. He’d pick Styles up and try to use Styles’ own Styles Clash, but Styles would basically hit a reverse Frankensteiner on Styles, using his legs to pull Cena into the ropes. With Cena stunned, Styles would race to the other side of the ring and Cena would walk into a phenomenal forearm and the pinfall.
This result would allow Cena to turn full heel in the coming weeks, screaming at everyone that he hasn’t lost it, that he is still the best, etc. Finally, Cena would challenge the Undertaker to a match at Wrestlemania to prove to everyone that he is still the man. And that is how you can start a Cena heel going up against a face Undertaker at Wrestlemania without having them hog the World title.
As for Styles, he would hold onto the World championship and be challenged at Wrestlemania by either the winner of the Royal Rumble or maybe a returning Finn Balor (since Seth Rollins has started co-opting some of Balor’s moveset over on Raw, Balor could make the move to Smackdown. It could even be a nice little storyline that Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon feel betrayed by Balor but Balor sees Smackdown as the better show and would rather be there).
I will get to the Rumble match itself next week most likely, but this is how I would like to see these three matches go down. We could always have another match to add a title change to the card (the Intercontinental title or the Smackdown Women’s title could be an option). But the Rumble match is the main event and the star of the show, so major title changes would probably not be good. Do I think these matches will play out this way? Hell no, but I can dream.
When it comes down to it, I think this Rumble and Wrestlemania season will be a true test of whether Vince McMahon can accept that his kids and son-in-law are going to take the company in a new direction, or will he hang on for relevance and put the belts on his favorites. Let’s find out.
I’ll be back in a few days with a new Ring of Honor 10 Thoughts column and be sure to come back next week as the Royal Rumble talk is heating up. Until then…
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, bayley, Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, charlotte flair, Finn Balor, Godberg, John Cena, Kevin Owens, New Day, Roman Reigns, seth rollins, Triple H, undertaker, VInce McMahon