As we do every year around this time, we take a look at what has happened to build up the current WrestleMania and give our thoughts on some alternative booking decisions that we feel would have led to a better event. As WrestleMania 31 is about to hit us in just a few weeks, that is our target. What would you do if you were in charge of building up to the biggest show of the year?
Here are the rules:
1) You need to justify your choices within a reasonable mindset of what WWE has in store. Just because someone is a favorite of yours does not mean WWE would be pushing them to the title in any realistic fashion.
2) You cannot include people who are not a member of the roster, whether they are retired, working for another company, or obviously deceased. You can, however, work under the assumption that injured stars will return in time for certain events (but keep it within reason). Also, be realistic when it comes to bringing NXT stars up to the main roster. WWE never brings up 15 people in a year, so don't flood the market.
3) The earliest time frame you can begin planning is after last year's WrestleMania. You can't go back several years.
Commentary Team = Michael Cole, John "Bradshaw" Layfield & Jerry "The King" Lawler
Backstage Interviews = Byron Saxton, Eden Rhodes and Rich Brennan
Pre-Show Hosts = Tom Phillips and Scott Stanford
Kickoff Panel = Renee Young, Booker T, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair
Master of Ceremonies = Vince McMahon
Of course, this is primarily used for talking about what is going to happen later on. Our panel consists of Renee Young holding down the fort, as she's so good at doing that, along with legends that can give perspective on the WWE vs WCW aspect as well as other matches. Transitioning between the live tweets and such are Tom Phillips and Scott Stanford. Vince McMahon is the host of the event itself because there's no reason for him not to be, in my mind. He doesn't need to do much other than introduce the event, the Hall of Fame, etc.
* Production Note #1: Video packages are kept very tight and short. WWE fans have already watched everything unfold and don't need to be reminded of it for the entire pre-show and then again before every match. If they aren't watching the television shows and they still can't get what's going on with a 1-2 minute video, then that's their fault. Make them want to catch up on YouTube and the WWE Network. With no incentive, they'll just keep fast-forwarding.
* Production Note #2: Just because a match is listed as being under a certain hour doesn't mean that it is strict to that. Certain matches end before the hour is up and certain matches start before the hour starts.
1. [NXT Championship Scramble Match]: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor
Scramble matches should make a comeback. They give you a chance to do something different once in a while, include multiple people, but keep yourself to a strict time limit and develop a sense of panic. NXT should be featured somewhere on this card, but since they are developmental, they shouldn't be on the main show itself. Make this a match where all four men get a chance to show off, but by the time it's over with, Owens has retained the title and looks like a total asshole. He's the focal point, after all, and title changes should take place on NXT rather than at WrestleMania where it will be buried amongst the other important things that will happen later on.
2. The Miz vs. Damien Sandow
These two should have a generic singles match here. Since Owens wins the first match, Sandow wins this to even up the babyface/heel win ratio. This also helps spark a rematch between the two at Extreme Rules.
3. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
Sheamus returns as a stooge for The Authority to screw Daniel Bryan in the Royal Rumble. This prevents fans from booing Roman Reigns for winning, as the heat gets transferred to Sheamus. Bryan has a bone to pick because of their past two encounters at WrestleMania as well. Your setup is complete. You start this event with this match because it makes people nervous about how it might end quickly. These two feud until Bryan moves on to Seth Rollins and Sheamus moves on to Roman Reigns down the line a few months afterward.
4. Team Rebels (Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Ryback and Erick Rowan) vs. Team Authority (Seth Rollins, Big Show, Kane, Bad News Barrett and Luke Harper)
These guys split up for Extreme Rules into different feuds, but since I'm not fond of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, there needs to be a spot for a good number of them. The down side to this is that the Intercontinental Championship doesn't get defended, but that's up to WWE to make it a priority before and after this event so nobody minds the absence of the title defense. Most of these guys deserve solo matches, but there just isn't enough time to fit them all in. To save time, no individual entrances.
5. [Backlot Brawl Retirement Match]: Dustin Rhodes vs. Cody Rhodes
WrestleMania is in California, so they reference the match from WrestleMania XII by having this match as the sendoff for Dustin Rhodes. Both of them go into the match dressed as their Goldust and Stardust characters respectively, but are billed as the Rhodes brothers. They beat the hell out of each other to the point where their face paint wears off and they are just Dustin and Cody. At the end of it, Dustin retires and Cody turns face and is prepped for a big push in the upper midcard (where he will be the next feud for Bray Wyatt, which will revolve around taking personas and whatnot).
6. [Tag Team Championship Battle Royal]: The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs. Prime Time Players vs. The Ascension vs. Los Matadores vs. The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Curtis Axel & Heath Slater vs. J&J Security vs. Real Americans
No Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but we get this! The Real Americans, by the way, have been reformed with Sawyer Fulton joining Jack Swagger. To keep things fair, The New Day is represented by Kofi Kingston and Big E while Xavier Woods acts as an outside manager (but gets involved in the match nonetheless, since it's no holds barred). Kofi can do some kind of a spot like he normally does. Also, no more rule where if one tag member gets eliminated, the whole team is done. This possibly ends with new champions being crowned as two members of the heel champions are in the ring with one member of a babyface team, but he fights back against the odds to dump them both out and win.
7. [No Disqualification Match]: Sting vs. Triple H
The baseball bat versus the sledgehammer needs to come into play here, so this can't be a regular match. Sting wins and on Raw the following night, points out that Triple H isn't the real heart of WWE...Undertaker is. He's not out to kill WWE is, though, like Triple H was out to kill WCW. Instead, he wants to get in on the action that he missed out on. He'll be challenging Undertaker for WrestleMania 32.
8. [United States Championship]: Rusev (c) vs. John Cena
First off, this never should have happened at Fastlane. For that matter, I never would have named that pay-per-view Fastlane to begin with—I would have gone with Road Block if they wanted a similar concept. Second, despite what I've been saying for the longest time about how I'd want to see Cena win here, I think Rusev should win this. I still think he's overrated, but he's been taking steps forward over the past few months and I just can't get past how much good it would do him to win here, clean. Yes, clean. He pins John Cena with no bullshit or interference or cheating or prior injuries that Cena suffers before going into the match or anything. MAYBE the latter is okay, but the objective here is to make Rusev strong. You can have a rematch at Extreme Rules where Rusev cheats to win, but I think someone other than Cena can get the notoriety of beating Rusev to represent America, maybe in July at the Great American Bash special event? Eh? Eh? Maybe that guy can be Daniel Bryan to compensate fans that are upset that he's not the champion while Roman Reigns has the title? Eh? How about that?
9. The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
This match is kept short, not only because of Wyatt's limitations, but also possibly Undertaker's. That way, we don't have to go another year before wondering if Taker can properly walk again. This isn't the most important match in the world, so it's okay if it only goes 20 minutes in total with entrances included. Next year's match between Undertaker and Sting is much more important. So long as you put Wyatt over enough so he doesn't look like a chump but you have Undertaker win, you're good. The longer this match goes, the more it hurts Undertaker's legacy, as it can't possibly be amazing.
10. [Divas Championship Lumberjill Match]: Nikki Bella (c) vs. Brie Bella
This, unfortunately for the #GiveDivasAChance folk, is indeed a bit of a bathroom break to an extent, but it isn't just a throwaway, either. Give them 10 minutes. That's more than enough time to have a proper match that includes all of the Divas around the ring and gives the Bellas a chance to show off their talents.
11. [WWE World Heavyweight Championship]: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Similar to the Undertaker match, this is a scenario where I'd rather see a good 20 minute match than a 45 minute match that drags, goes on too long, and forces them to work while they're winded. Sometimes, less is more. Reigns puts up a good fight, but Lesnar is too powerful, until Reigns gets the energy to pull out the win and celebrate as the new champion to end the show.