The GPS to Wrestlemania XXX, Part 1 (Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Dolph Ziggler, Natalya)

Welcome back everyone.  My thanks to all those who commented on my initial column, especially to Jeff Hetherley of Guys and Divas for the generous praise and pimpage.  I also hope he has learned his lesson about sticking his nose into in-depth, long-term fantasy booking around here (cracks knuckles).  Nothing personal Jeff, just business.  I have my eye on you too Ralph Hardin and your plotting.

Before we get into this week’s topic, I wanted to introduce a segment that will begin each column.

Second Thoughts:

This will be a spot for me to mention an idea or two that was brought up in the comments from the previous week’s column.  So last week, I overhauled the WWE’s format, focusing on a hard brand split that allowed for an 8-week break for each show to allow performers much needed vacations, but still allow for original wrestling to occur every week.  With the split, I had two separate champions.

In the comments section, CB asked me to address how I would deal with having one, unified champion based on the current Cena/Orton program.  I responded in the comments that my best solution was making the “Undisputed Champion” designation the WWE’s equivalent to a Super Bowl title whereby the World and WWE champions faced off at the December PPV for the honor of being considered the undisputed champion for the following year.  Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for CB (some people), and wanted me to integrate the one champion into my paradigm.

Given all the factors in play, the best solution is to put the Undisputed Championshipship on a set, three to four month rotation between the two separate brands.  This way, the championship is evenly divided between the two shows and it moves at a designated point.  During the hiatuses, the championship obviously resides on the active brand.  For the brand that does not have the championship, there is an interim brand title that indicates the top for that period.  When the Undisputed Championship transfers to that brand, the brand champion is the number one contender for the undisputed title. The Money in the Bank briefcase naturally is a contract for the Undisputed Championship. The key is to ensure the rotation of the championship is kept consistent to avoid the potential of preferential treatment for one brand.

Now with, that out of the way, let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Booking Wrestlemania XXX (Part 1)

We are in the turn lane for the on-ramp to the road to Wrestlemania right now.  Many are asking what will the “granddaddy of them all” look like for its 30th anniversary (by WWE logic; I do know this is not the 30th anniversary).  Some others on this site, who do not know their place, provided their own thoughts regarding the top of the card.  Given we are four months out; it is the perfect time (and format of this column) to put together Wrestlemania XXX’s card based on the current roster and storylines.  The card is presented top down in match order along with the storyline explanation of how we arrive at this point.  I also provide a brief comment on my thoughts about the match in its overall place in WWE continuity and rumor.

This week we focus on the top of the card.  Why two parts for the card?  Because after I got to the sixth match, I was already two pages longer than my debut column.  While I intended to write a long column every week, I know people will eventually reach burnout reading it.  Therefore, this week I present the upper card and main event (six matches) and next week will provide the undercard (four matches, plus the preshow match).  This allows more space to address questions and comments about these matches in next weeks “Second Thoughts.”

So, on with the show:

Undisputed, Unified, There Can Be Only One WWE World Heavyweight Champion of the Universe (formal name pending)

Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Daniel Bryan

How we get here:  We start at TLC, where no shenanigans ensue (versus all expectations) and John Cena claims both titles and is deemed the undisputed champion and face of the WWE.  On Raw the next night, Cena is awarded his new title by the Authority and he launches into a promo about how he looks forward to defending the title against the cream of the crop of contenders such as Punk and Bryan.  The Authority cuts him off, noting it’s not Cena’s place to book his opponents anymore, and that he should not get the hopes up of those who are not “company material.”  Cena does his good guy, voice of the common man and fair opportunity spiel.  He’s warned that he will toe the line, as he can always be replaced by someone with more marketability and cross-promotional appeal.  Cena refuses to stand down, and actually challenges Bryan that night, to a SummerSlam rematch for the title.

The match does not occur however.  Bryan is laid out backstage and abducted once more by the Wyatts.  When Cena comes out and demands that the Authority book the rematch for the Rumble, they agree, but it won’t be a Cena/Bryan rematch.  This brings out Brock Lesnar, making it a rematch of their 2012 Extreme Rules encounter.  It will also be the first undisputed champ in 11 years versus the last undisputed champ (who never was beaten for that title).

Lesnar defeats Cena for the championship at the Rumble.  He then goes on to successfully defend the title at Elimination Chamber against Cena, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, and a returned and now heel Sheamus in the Chamber.

Bryan on the other hand loses his match at TLC to the Wyatts by disqualification when at the end of the match, he snaps and grabs a chair and goes nuts on the clan and storms off in a fit of rage.  At Raw the next night, he’s blindsided by the Wyatt’s backstage where Bray compliments him on the progress he’s making down the path of his destiny, but there’s still work to do and is dragged off for more supposed brainwashing and release like a tagged animal.  Bryan wins the Rumble, which includes an extended segment where he must face all three Wyatts and overcome them during the match.  At Elimination Chamber, Bray and Bryan face off in a steel cage match, where it is win by escape rules.  The point made by Bray that when the time is right, Bryan will do the right thing and know his place in the confines of the Wyatt family.  Towards the end of the match, as Bryan is making his comeback, Bray starts making some kind of gesture, saying its time.  Bryan slows down and starts to look like he is under sway.  He will stand before Wyatt, who will tell him to kneel and wait as Wyatt leaves.  Only Bryan doesn’t kneel.  Wyatt becomes more and more infuriated and starts slapping Bryan, who just starts smiling and chanting No.  He then hits his running knee, locks Wyatt into the Yes Lock in the middle of the ring, and keeps it locked in until Harper and Rowan make their way to ringside and scale the cage.  As they start to descend into the cage, Bryan bolts up and out, leaving Bray Wyatt an apparent broken leader.

This way, Lesnar and Bryan do not start feuding until after Elimination Chamber and can run through a modified version of the past summer program where Bryan is challenging the power of the Authority again.  This time though, it is through Lesnar’s mouthpiece Paul Heyman.  It is a storyline of the well-known face and name of MMA returning to dominate professional wrestling, versus the barely-known, scrawny independent wrestler whose own fans wouldn’t recognize on the street.  The match is a classic David versus Goliath story and culminates with Bryan’s victory with the running knee and finally an actual run as champion.

Side Note: I know many people are asking why not Lesnar vs. Punk II as the main event?  I feel the narrative of the struggle of Daniel Bryan to fight back to the top and prove victorious justifies him in the Title match.  I also feel Lesnar is the right opponent, especially with the way he is brought in and built up (as elaborated above).  I felt Punk was better suited in the match I discuss below.  I also found a better place for Orton, preventing a Bryan vs. Orton title match.

Yes, like Jeff, I do feel Kane should be revealed as a member of the Wyatt family (after all, the last time he was seen before he went corporate was being dragged away by the Wyatts at SummerSlam), and that Bryan should become a target for them again once that connection is revealed.  You will just have to wait two weeks to see how I would play that out.

Triple Threat Elimination Match

 John Cena vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker

How We Get Here: John Cena comes up short in the Elimination Chamber of capturing the title and getting his match against Daniel Bryan.  On the Raw following Elimination Chamber, he comes out and starts going on about he was up all night trying to figure out what to do after the loss.  Should he hang them up considering his increased injuries he’s both worked through and been sidelined with?  What is there left for him to accomplish?  He’s been every nature of champion and faced just about every modern legend in the industry.  But it’s Wrestlemania and he can’t just walk away from that.  And he then realizes that there is one thing that he’s not done at Wrestlemania.

Before he can come out with it, the Rock comes out to interrupt him.  He notes that he and Cena have unfinished business.  The two of them are one and one after the last two Wrestlemanias.  Therefore, there needs to be one last encounter; a rubber match to truly determine who is the best.  Cena retorts that he wasn’t thinking of the Rock, but the Undertaker.  But Cena appreciates the reminder and decides that the best way to cement his legacy is to beat two legends in one night. And come to think of it, the Rock never faced the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Cue the blackout, the gong, and the sudden appearance of the Undertaker who “Wrestlemanias” to the sign then points to each man and does the cutthroat sign.

The match is elimination style to allow Cena to beat the Rock to close the book on those two definitively, and then Undertaker to beat Cena and go to 23-0.

Side Note: My preference is to just have Cena vs. Undertaker with the build-up of the one challenge Cena has not gone after in the WWE is taking a shot at “The Streak.”  They could reference Cena’s first year in the WWE when Undertaker ran what I call a “tough love” angle where he tagged with Cena, but at times double-crossed him or left him on his own to teach him to be ready for anything.  I merely put Rock in here given the split decision he has with Cena over the last two years and all rumors that the WWE wants the Rock at Wrestlemania XXX.  The idea of the Rock and Undertaker going at it is appealing given the two did not have a lot of encounters in the years past.  The match is elimination style to add a little more intrigue and ensure that Undertaker definitively wins with the final pin and no one saying they were not beat in the match.

Shameless Ego Stroking Match

Triple H (with Stephanie) vs. Randy Orton (with Mr. McMahon)

How We Get Here: So following his loss at TLC, Orton demands a rematch for the unified title, claiming some other weak excuse about why he lost and how he deserves another shot.  This is of course shot down by the Authority as they bring in Lesnar to be their new corporate approved champion.  This leads Orton to demand a preferential spot in the Rumble, saying he should be given the main event at Wrestlemania and a shot at what he feels is his championship.  When he comes up short in the Rumble, he immediately demands placement in the Elimination Chamber match, with no need to qualify.  Further, he feels entitled to be in the last pod to open in the match, so he can save himself for the main event of Wrestlemania after he wins the title.  When he fails to win that match, he then demands that the Authority make the title match a triple threat match, and include him as the third participant, as by his lineage and accomplishments, he is entitled to headline Wrestlemania.

After dealing with months of Orton’s endless whining and demands of what he is “entitled” to, Triple H finally pops off and dresses him down.  He digs into their history and notes that if it wasn’t for Triple H’s pity and influence, Randy would be just like most sons of former wrestlers; a never was that relies on his family lineage to get anywhere.  He also notes that while Orton was picked by the Authority to be the face of the company, he failed miserably as the Authority had to protect his ass the entire time.  Orton furious, vows to make Triple H regret his abuse.

This leads to Orton going over Triple H’s head to Vince.  Vince notes how Triple H’s accusations are hypocrisy. He notes that if it wasn’t for Shawn Michaels bugging the hell out of Vince to give Triple H a chance, he would never have come close to sniffing the WWE Title.  Vince goes on to say that part of being a successful promoter is grooming your selected champion, just like Vince did with Triple H.  Of being there to give him that extra push, to find that opponent who isn’t better than him, or to make sure the referee’s count is just a hair faster than usual to ensure the chosen champion retains.  Vince notes Orton was Triple H’s first big test as an executive, and he failed and Vince had to protect his ass again with going out and getting Lesnar.

The war of words culminates with a challenge for a fight, but Vince concedes he’s not a spring chicken anymore, and will therefore rely on the man who Triple H failed; Orton.  The match is a rare heel versus heel match.  Both sides should be insulting to each other and the fans.  The pure self-centered ego of all four players should not be downplayed at all.

It’s a coin flip over who makes the most sense to go over.  Be it Triple H who shows that while he is now an executive, he can still bury the competition; or Orton, who with an assist from Vince is the preferred choice of the company owner.  I’m a sucker for tradition, so let Triple H bury Orton (again).

Side note: I am not crazy about this match.  However, given the rumor mill about Triple H and Vince wanting to do a Wrestlemania program and the need for Orton somewhere on the card (despite what people feel about him, the fact he is considered main event cannot be ignored), this storyline makes a lot of sense.  The part I am most sold upon is Orton’s months of whining and demanding preferential treatment and failing.  Also, it keeps these four all contained and away from the Undisputed Title program by letting Heyman be the much needed mouthpiece for Lesnar.

Unification Title Match

Big E. Langston (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Dean Ambrose (U.S. Champion)

How We Get Here: Big E. impresses with his win over Damian Sandow at TLC.  Langston and Ambrose have their first collision during the Rumble, where Langston falls victim to a Shield beatdown and elimination.  This leads to Langston having an obvious grudge against the Shield and wanting some retribution against them.  Roman Reigns accepts the challenge, but Langston has to put the Intercontinental Title up at Elimination Chamber.  Reigns wants to obtain his first single’s title, and put himself on equal footing with Ambrose.  At that match, Ambrose causes some minor distraction that leaves Reigns susceptible to Langston capitalizing and retaining.  The question arises if Ambrose’s interference was an accident, or was it intentional, in order to keep his unofficial position as leader of the Shield (since he is the only one who still has a title).  Ambrose steps in and then decides that he will set the example for the Shield and deal with Langston.  And since it will be champion versus champion, why not do it right and unify the belts?

The match is like a precursor to the Undisputed Title match as it is power versus skill.  The rest of the Shield is absent from ringside following a minor squabble earlier in the evening (discussed next week).  Ultimately, Ambrose falls victim to the Big Ending, and Big E. captures both titles (which will just be known hereafter as the Intercontinental Title).

Side Note: With the company unifying the main title, there is no reason not to unify the secondary titles.  Big E. having to take on the Shield and coming out on top would help with to continue to build his monster-like push.  It will also help to develop his promo skills and let his witty side (as reportedly shown on Twitter) come out.  This program helps to sow the seeds of a three-way Shield break-up that would extend into the spring and summer.

The Loose Cannons Match

CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler

How We Get Here: In the lead up to Elimination Chamber, Ziggler is desperate to get into the Chamber, which requires the participants to have been former champions.  The Authority, naturally degrade, insult, and belittle Ziggler for his brief title runs and that they are not sure if he is the right material.  After all, he has a problem with the company line, and that a champion needs to have a certain amount of decorum and tact.  They give him a chance to prove himself over the weeks by competing in a series of qualifying matches against other potential candidates (Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Mark Henry).  On the other hand, the night after the Royal Rumble, Punk cuts a scathing promo about how the Authority is scared to put the Straight Edge Superstar into the Chamber because their worst nightmare would be Punk vs. Bryan at Wrestlemania and they be proven wrong when it blows out all buy rates.  They are also scared that Punk will not just beat, but embarrass their chosen champion Lesnar as he extracts his revenge from SummerSlam.  The promo leads to a confrontation with Triple H who in a fit of anger just gives Punk a spot in the Chamber match.

In the Chamber match, Ziggler at one point nails Lesnar with the ZigZag and goes for the pin, but Punk breaks it up.  Ziggler is livid as he does not understand why Punk would do that, given the rules.  Punk gestures that Lesnar is his.  The two then start going after each other with Ziggler getting the upper hand.  But he then turns right into an F5 by Lesnar and is eliminated.  Later in the match, Lesnar eliminates Punk (in fact, I would have Lesnar eliminate all five opponents in the Chamber, to build up his monster status and the challenge that Bryan faces).

The night after Elimination Chamber on Raw, Punk comes out to the ring for a promo and is blindsided by Ziggler who administers a significant beatdown.  Ziggler then delivers a promo against Punk.  He complains how Punk talks about how he is the voice for the voiceless, the outsider, and the rebel.  If that is so, then how come Punk still gets all his promo time?  How is it that Punk is always at the top of the list of Undisputed Title contenders?  Sure, Punk gets beaten and attacked, but he is still on TV, and always is given the opportunity say more.  Dolph on the other hand, when he opens his mouth, he is buried.  He’ll go weeks without a match.  And when he is put in a match, it is some joke of a contest where he always ends up getting destroyed; made to look weak and pathetic.  Ziggler then declares Punk is not a true rebel; he’s the corporate approved “rebel.”  The perfect image of counter-culture and just the right foil for the corporate leadership.

The remaining of the build for this match is an intensely personal promo based fight as Ziggler attempts to undercut Punk’s credibility as an outsider.  He also turns on the fans, noting how the moment he got injured, he dropped out of their favor and replaced by Bryan.  Where were the Ziggler chants?  Where was the rally of support demanding he not be screwed over?  Ziggler declares his independence from anyone and everyone.  He will just be a cog in the WWE machine; a cog that destroys everyone that the fans like until there is no choice but to make Ziggler champion.

The match itself should be the most intense and personal of affairs as the two have attacked each other’s integrity, which is one of Punk’s dominant qualities.  If possible, the two should agree to work the match stiffly to sell it.  The flashy moves should be kept to a minimum to portray the hatred and make it a technical brawl (yes I know that’s an oxymoron).  The match ends with Ziggler breaking out a new finisher that catches Punk by surprise and helps to send “The Show Off” back up the ladder with a new, ruthless demeanor.

Side Note: This style of blurring the lines of reality and fiction program is right up Punk’s alley.  Ziggler is the perfect opponent for the feud and it provides an easy inroad for rebuilding Ziggler, provided WWE feels he has been punished enough.  Punk can survive the loss, despite his large number of losses in big matches over the past year.  The key is to helping build up the upper guard and making Ziggler feel important and legitimate again as a main eventer.

Diva’s Title Match

Tamina (Champion) vs. Natalya

How We Get Here: At the Royal Rumble, there is a Diva’s Battle Royal for the title.  AJ spends most of the match using Tamina as a blockade to protect herself; and taking opportunity of weakened opponents.  Towards the end of the match, someone strikes Tamina, which causes her to fall back into AJ and send her out of the ring, eliminated.  Tamina ends up as the champion.

While AJ is initially infuriated about the outcome and is demanding her bodyguard give her a match for the title where Tamina just lays down and accepts a pin, Tamina instead offers to let AJ carry the belt for her all the time.  This is acceptable to the unhinged woman and the two maintain their alliance.

Natalya becomes the number one contender and the two have a rivalry, based in part on looking to build their reputations as wrestlers outside the shadows of their respective fathers.  During the feud, Paige is brought up as Natalya’s protégé and sparring partner.  Paige impressed Natalya on NXT, especially when she defeated her.  Therefore, Natalya decided to bring the rookie up to help her make the leap to the big time.  During the match itself, AJ starts a brawl with Paige on the outside of the ring which leaves Tamina susceptible to Natalya, who ends up claiming victory.  After the match, AJ goes bat-guano insane that she no longer has the title in any form and takes it out on Tamina.  The former champ levels AJ and leaves her laid out in the ring, leading to the start of a face turn for AJ.  It also can lead to the start of a feud with Paige, who will hold her NXT victory over Natalya’s head, spurring her on to an eventual match.

Side note: My initial thought was to have Brie Bella in this match.  You know WWE would love to have an image for Total Divas of Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella together with their respective titles at the end of Wrestlemania.  However, I feel this would be a better program, as it involves two wrestlers and the basis of the feud (standing on their own two feet, out of the shadows of their fathers) is better than most of the feud ideas the WWE comes up with for women.  It also opens the door to a strong feud with Natalya and Paige; a feud based off skill and victory; not eyeliner and boyfriends.

So, there you have it, the top of Wrestlemania XXX and where it comes from.  I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions on not just the matches, but the prospective build-ups. Be sure to come back next week for the undercard, including an innovative pre-show match that would actually get the crowd excited.

Until then, I relinquish creative control.

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