It’s the day after the go-home episode of Raw heading to WrestleMania 29. The final card is set. Main Event, Superstars and Smackdown were all taped on Monday prior to the live show and after reading the spoilers, nothing happens to impact the show at all.
The performers now have a week-long media frenzy of appearances, radio/TV interviews and run-throughs to prepare for the biggest show of the year at MetLife Stadium. I can’t wait to be there live.
With the final card set, it’s time for predictions/fantasy booking. Considering the current card, this is how I would like to see it play out. The below booking takes into consideration the realistic parameters of the WWE as we know it today while projecting some interesting twists to the product that may freshen up the summer programming.
Matches appear as they would on the show. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Intercontinental Title: Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
It’s hard not to feel bad for Wade Barrett in this scenario. He seems to keep getting what appears to be the beginning of a push before the creative staff loses interest. His series with Kofi Kingston was hot and had the crowd going. When that ended, it looked like he would ignite a feud with Sheamus, but that was before they opted for the Irishman to lead a team against The Shield.
Miz had been in a strong feud with Antonio Cesaro that was starting to gain traction, but then the Miz lost and moved onto Barrett. It’s not clear if this was a move up or down the card since nobody knows where the IC or U.S. titles rank in importance. Neither does the creative staff, obviously.
While I don’t like the idea, the Miz is going to win the match and the belt to open the show. He turned face and nobody cared. So they brought back his show to be “controversial” and nobody cared. They paired him briefly with Ric Flair and gave him one of the most legendary finishers in the Figure Four Leglock, and nobody has cared. Now, they’ll give him the belt, and still, no one will care.
With Rock and Brock both hanging around past WrestleMania for a month or so, I don’t see the title rising suddenly to great importance. It will just be something for the Miz to carry to the ring.
Tons of Funk and the Funkadactyls vs. Rhodes Scholars and the Bella Twins
Like Barrett, the Rhodes Scholars deserve better. Unfortunately, they will square off with this month’s flavor of kiddie fun time. While it hasn’t been announced, I bumped this match to the pre-show because I can’t imagine it lasting very long.
Barrett and Miz can get a good 15 minutes in that they wouldn’t have received had they been on the main card. This match will have more time spent in the intros than in-ring action. Between the good guys dancing and Rhodes and Sandow condescending, we’ll probably get five minutes of actual match.
I’d like to see Rhodes and Sandow score the victory here, preferably with one of the two notching a pinfall victory on Sweet T. The match can end with shenanigans, which leads to Rhodes Scholars and the Bellas being chased from the ring. One of Rhodes or Sandow is left behind to eat a big splash from Brodus Clay and we get more dancing.
Winner: Kids who think fat men dancing is the peak of entertainment.
Tag Team Titles: Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston w/ AJ
It’s been good to see the way they’ve circled back to the AJ/Kane/Bryan love triangle that received extensive play in the last year and was seemingly forgotten by the end of the fall. Her attachment to Dolph as his girlfriend battling the two spurned lovers is a good storyline that can give us some good matches.
We know Dolph and Bryan are the work rate part of the teams while Langston and Kane can provide a few big bruising standoffs. While this match could be a barn burner, I don’t expect the match itself to receive more than 10 minutes. Even with pushing the eight-person mixed tag to the pre-show, you still have eight matches on the main card with a Diddy performance to boot.
It’s not quite time for the Team Hell No split, but it’s the right time for them to drop the belts. They can work a month or two trying to regain the gold, only to lead to a fallout and subsequent pay-per-view match at a show that doesn’t include Rock or Brock in a few months. Kane eats the pinfall after being distracted by AJ.
Winners: New Tag Champs, Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston
Mark Henry vs. Ryback
What could really put the hype for this match over the top is a tale-of-the-tape segment. During the pre-show, have both men give their measurements taken and step on a scale. We get a nose-to-nose stare down with Teddy Long assigned to keep them from making any physical contact. Replay this prior to the match on the main card and pump up the crowd for two monsters.
This match shouldn’t get more than five or six minutes of in-ring action. The two behemoths should have a few shows of strength, followed by some power moves and rest holds. Without ruining potential for big power spots later in the show, it would be impressive to see Ryback thrown through a barricade at ringside. Henry takes charge in the middle until Ryback rallies back for a meathook clothesline and the Shellshock.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
The first two matches on the show shouldn’t take any more than 40 minutes combined. This match is one that needs a little more time to breathe so that Vince McMahon’s new pet project can get a showcase.
It’s Fandango’s first match and a debut at WrestleMania should necessitate an impressive entrance for the cocky, flamboyant young heel. I’d like to see this match get 14-16 minutes. That’s not long by any means for a Jericho bout, but Y2J knows how to get a lot out of his time in the ring.
I open the match with Jericho losing his cool and jumping Fandango before the bell. While the referee tries to pull him off, Fandango turns and kicks Jericho flush below the belt, sending him to his knees in pain. The announcers play up that Jericho’s fury got the best of him, putting him in a vulnerable situation that Fandango took advantage of.
Fandango dominates the opening parts of the match, getting to show off a series of moves that will become his signature moves going forward. Jericho does the spunky babyface thing and rallies back. He’s runs to hit the moonsault off the middle rope, but Fandango catches him with his knees to the midsection.
Fandango hits a few more strong spots that lead to a top-rope leg drop for the finish. This should lead to a storyline where Jericho is said to have lost a step. He was once the brash, young showboating high-flyer, but that was 20 years ago. Guys half his age are now coming into this company and revealing to him just how nobody beats Father Time.
A feud between Fandango and The Miz over the Intercontinental Title could be a good next step for both men.
World Heavyweight Title: Alberto Del Rio w/Ricardo vs. Jack Swagger w/Zeb Colter
I really don’t think anyone has been paying attention to this feud. In the last few weeks, all of the rest of the matches remaining after this one have received more TV time and greater crowd reaction. I’d say even Henry/Ryback and Fandango/Jericho have garnered more attention.
This is one that didn’t get the reaction the creative staff intended and will likely get short shrift on the PPV. Del Rio shouldn’t be happy and smiling when he comes to the ring. His manager had his ankle broken and he was beaten with a kendo stick less than a week prior. If I see Del Rio smiling on his way to the ring, I'll give up on him entirely.
Swagger has been dominantly booked as of late, but the crowd’s lack of interest in Del Rio has hurt him and Colter. Swagger is likely taking his suspension after WrestleMania, so look for Del Rio to earn the win here. They will have a strong, technically sound match, but I don’t think the crowd will be into it.
Del Rio wins, but doesn’t make Swagger tap out. Colter kicks Ricardo’s legs out from under him and helps Swagger attack Del Rio after the match. Swagger slaps on the Patriot Lock and cranks on the champ’s ankle.
This of course, leads to Ziggler cashing in the MITB. I don’t mind giving Ziggler a shorter match to start off the show because, in my book, he’s walking out with double gold. He’s the show off and he stole the biggest show of the year as the biggest winner with the world title over his shoulder.
Winner: Del Rio
New Champ: Dolph Ziggler
Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show vs. The Shield
I wrote about this yesterday in my belief that this is a big moment for The Shield. They’ve remained without equal since arriving in November. Unfortunately, they have also remained without direction.
There was the belief that they were working for Heyman, which they sort of were. They say they are out to end injustice in the WWE, which I guess they are. But beyond an abstract, philosophical purpose, they don’t seem to have any concrete goals. That’s fine, as long as they win at WrestleMania.
This match should be very good, though, I worry about potential restrictions that will be in place due to the rest of the card. Both matches The Shield has had since their debut were brutal brawls with lots of bodies crashing through stage settings. With Henry/Ryback, Triple H/Lesnar and CM Punk/Undertaker also relying on these devices to flush out a match, I don’t know how much they’ll be allowed to do here.
Orton, Sheamus, Rollins and Ambrose can all put on very good technical, psychologically rich matches inside the ropes. Big Show plays his role very well in this environment and Reigns has shown competence in the short bursts he’s asked to participate. They won’t steal the show here as they have their last two times out, but I expect The Shield to win. Orton turns on Sheamus in/after the match or on Raw the next night.
Winners: The Shield
The Streak: Undertaker vs. CM Punk w/Paul Heyman
Some may scratch their heads for putting this match on before Triple H and Lesnar, but on a show where I’ve booked a number of heels to win, I think it’s a good time for the crowd-pleasing Undertaker match.
Punk should have cut at least one promo earlier in the night about how he already dug Undertaker’s grave halfway on Raw last week and will finish the job tonight. He says a few more words prior to the Undertaker’s grand entrance. The entrances for this match should go on with about two hours remaining in the show.
Punk dominates the early stages of the match to pick up where he left off before. Since this isn’t a No Holds Barred match as the last three Undertaker matches have been at WrestleMania, I expect Punk to hold up the majority of selling here. I also expect at least one of the announce tables to be destroyed with Taker either powerbombing or chokeslamming Punk through.
I do not think this is the Undertaker’s last match, so he score the victory here and retains the Streak. Punk kicks out of at least one Tombstone and maybe a chokeslam and a Last Ride. He also has Taker in the Anaconda Vice at some point during the match. Punk needs to be seen as the Undertaker’s equal coming out of this match, win or lose.
Winner: The Undertaker
This is where you insert the Diddy performance. Without a Divas Title match to serve as a cool down, a musical performance is the best time for the crowd to take a bathroom break.
No Holds Barred Match: Triple H w/Shawn Michaels vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman
Once the Heart Break Kid was added to the complexity of this match, I immediately wished it was an "I Quit" Match. With Stephanie McMahon also at ringside, after a brutal, bloody match Brock Lensar would slap on the Kimura, but would refuse to quit. With the towel over his HBK’s shoulder, Stephanie runs over and grabs it, tossing it into the ring.
Reminiscent of when Bret Hart lost the WWE Title to Bob Backlund, Triple H would never have given up, but his wife—claiming fear and compassion for her husband—threw in the towel for him. Triple H refused to blame his wife, so he turned on his best friend for letting her get a hold of the towel. He had given Shawn strict orders to never consider tossing it in, but he failed him. Triple H goes heel and destroys Shawn.
Instead, we’ll do it differently. Michaels accidentally costs Triple H the match. It’s No Holds Barred, so there isn’t any disqualification. Heyman enlists The Shield once again, but Michaels is able to fight them off for the most part. Swinging a chair, he trashes The Shield before they overwhelm him and he goes through a table himself.
They work over Triple H for a while until Michaels climbs back into the ring with a sledgehammer and levels all three members of The Shield. He turns to hit the Sweet Chin Music on Heyman, who ducks and clocks Triple H under the jaw. The Shield nails Michaels as Lesnar hits the F-5 for the finish.
Michaels helps Triple H to the back. Ultimately, Triple H determines that Michaels was the guy that cost him the match and his career. He tears up HBK’s Legends Contract and sends him home to San Antonio, telling him he’s no longer welcome in the WWE. Triple H leaves until late in the fall when he returns as a heel authority figure. Stephanie, upset with how her husband is running the company that her father built, confronts him.
Triple H shoots her down and tells her that he may be the father of her children, but first and foremost, he’s her boss so she better know her place. Stephanie hires Michaels back, claiming he’s the only person that’s ever been able to talk sense into him and we get one last match between the two at WrestleMania 30.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
WWE Championship: John Cena vs. The Rock
Over the last two weeks, they’ve really gone out of their way to make us think that John Cena might turn heel. He started making excuses during the Q&A session. He wasn’t his always above-board self during his opening promo on the last Raw. He even seemed to soak in the heel heat.
I think it’s all a ploy to add some intrigue to the match. They realized nobody found a redemption story to be that compelling because everyone knows that Cena isn’t in need of redemption. He’s a superhero and never lost that luster with his fans. The only way the match has a hook is if people wonder will he or won’t he turn on the fans and do everything it takes to win the WWE Title.
My guess is that he won’t. What made the Stone Cold heel turn at WrestleMania X-7 so stunning was that it came out of nowhere. Austin always carried himself as an antihero that could snap and go either way at any moment. Cena has been so pure of heart for the last few years that any deviation from the norm is a monumental shift in his character. It’s too foreshadowed to happen. It’s a red herring.
Cena will win this match clean and to a chorus of boos. He’ll be shouted down as the entire arena heckles him. And he’ll still be the face.
Winner: New WWE Champion, John Cena