Sunday Sermon: Booking Wrestlemania 29

Craig Wilson & Jamie Lithgow

WMcover3_original_crop_650x440With two weeks to go until Wrestlemania 29, we thought it would be a good time to turn our Sermon attention to this year’s Wrestlemania. In the last fortnight we’ve build up to this – as long as the build up to some matches on this year’s card – with a look at the best and worst Wrestlemania bouts of all time. So, let’s see how we’d have gone about booking this year’s ‘mania, both in terms of angles and matches and how this show will stand the test of time.

Craig: Much like last year, the build up to this year’s event has focussed largely on The Rock v John Cena, I’m going to look at the card starting with rumoured matches then onto undercard then the main event. In fact, a more logical first step might be to look at some of the big stars in the WWE that have yet to find a way on the card.

I think that three of the biggest all found themselves involved in a triple threat match for the IC title this week on Raw – the champ Barrett, The Miz and Jericho. With Miz taking the fall that makes me wonder if we’ll see more from Barrett and Jericho in the lead up to ‘mania, perhaps with a view of the two having a match on the show.

I does feel like a bit of a step down for Jericho though, as he stated on Raw he is the man with the most IC title wins in history, it has been more than four years since his last run with the belt and wasn’t exactly what I expected him to be involved in when he returned in January. Still, if it gives the IC title a place on the show and the champion something meaningful to do then I don’t have a serious problem with it. However, it does feel a little thrown together and last minute – a theme I am confident that we will return to.

The Rhodes Scholars are another duo with nothing on the go for ‘mania. After being thrown back together after splitting up – presumably with creative having nothing to do with them as solo stars – I thought we’d perhaps see them involved in the tag titles picture again against Team Hell No – a duo we’ve both long anticipated breaking up. Instead, Team Hell No will face a team made up of a superstar in Ziggler who as Money in the Bank winner should have something more meaningful, but has spent most weeks being defeated, and his bodyguard.

Jamie: My reply comes after recent developments and it appears as if anything involving Jericho and the IC Title is off the table. Instead Y2J looks like he will be facing Fandango. If we are talking about how we would book ‘Mania then I would scrap this match straight away. I hate the Fandango character; I wasn’t sold on the former Johnny Curtis’ ring work in his NXT days either. I much prefer the conclusion that Craig jumped to, Barrett v Jericho for the IC Title. This gives a once coveted titles a place on the card (albeit near the bottom) and supplies Barrett with something to do. Not only would I give Barrett something to do, I would have him cleanly defeat put-over guy Jericho to give him a bit of boost en route to a possible push over the summer.

To the top of the card and one match can stay as it is, Triple H v Brock Lesnar. I don’t mind the predictability of this match because there is unfinished business and a genuine appeal to see what happens between these two. I was going to suggest that the stipulation regarding The Game’s career be scrapped, but I’m starting to warm to it. On the surface it sounds ridiculous that Triple H would consider retirement, but then again, why would he keep wrestling? He’s the heir to the WWE throne; he’s feuded with everyone and won everything. It’s not out with the realms of possibility that he could call it a day in a couple of weeks.

The other main events I would change, just switch them around. As soon as The Rock announced last year that he would face the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble I started to see the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Hinting at a match is one thing but this blatantly advertised the fact that Rock v Cena was going to happen. I would have kept the title on Punk and had Rock enter and win the Royal Rumble. We all knew Cena was going to win the Rumble but what if The Rock was in the mix too? Having Rock face Punk at Mania would lift Punk onto the very top tier that only Cena on the current roster occupies. Even in defeat he would reach new heights purely by bringing his record breaking title run to the grandest stage of them all, the main event of Wrestlemania. Punk could be booked to recapture the gold at Extreme Rules. Rock would be protected due the theme of this event more or less permitting cheating and Punk would cement his place among the likes of Cena, Rock, Austin etc.

In the other match The Undertaker vs. John Cena writes itself. However, and I have mentioned this once before on this blog, what about Cena v Taker in an I Quit match? I know, this sounds like a booking black hole for WWE, but it’s a match people will pay double to see, and we know how much Vince likes money! A match with Taker would also help to kick start a Cena heel turn. Having Cena tap to the Hells Gate would essentially kill the babyface Cena character (Never Give Up and all that pish), leaving the door open for him to snap and turn heel.

Craig: I think it’d be suicide from WWE to turn Cena. With viewer ratings falling, and more criticism than ever for 3 hour raw, if they were to revert to two hour Raw’s then a lot of ad revenue is lost. Could they afford to lose the merchandise sales that they get through kids loving Cena.

I do like the year-long booking to Cena v Rock and also have a feeling that there’s another year in the tank – culmination in the rubber match next year.

Punk v Taker is another match-up that I like. For first time in years I’ve felt that the streak is in danger. My main qualm being that it is a feud heavily focused on the urn. What would they have done had Bearer not died and when was last time we saw the urn. Taker hasn’t drawn mystical powers from it in years. I am writing this kayfabe eh?!

However, The Ryback v Henry match does absolutely nothing for me. Ryback is starting to get stale and I’ve never bought into Henry ever. I’ve never really gotten that buzz about him.

As for the US Title match, Cesaro v Miz is yet another match that I like. Whilst I don’t think Miz is a great face by any stretch of the imagination, I have enjoyed the feud with Cesar. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t one of the first matches on the show, that’s if it’s not the YouTube show feature again.

Jamie: In a rare occurrence I completely disagree. John Cena is a double edged sword. Yes, his merchandise sales are a massive incentive to keep him as a good guy but he is also a major reason for the poor ratings and stale product. The kids love him but a massive part of the audience is bored with him, and judging by the frequently poor an unimaginative angles he is involved in the creative department are also struggling with him. It’ll make money, but it was only too easy to book the Rock v Cena II, but imagine if The Rock had never returned, what the hell would Cena have done for the last few years? The guy has beaten everybody, who would he headline Wrestlemania with? The only candidate is The Undertaker, to whom SuperCena would have to lose cleanly or risk being despised more than ever. Neither outcome is preferable for WWE’s golden boy, however if he were a heel there wouldn’t be a problem.

I also slightly disagree with the streak being in trouble this year. Good old fashioned booking has worked on me. Punk has lost too many high profile matches this year for me to take him seriously as a threat. I also don’t see the streak being in trouble until Taker’s retirement match, and he’s not gonna retire any time soon because WWE haven’t booked him against Cena yet. If this match were at Wrestlemania 30, CM Punk was a couple of years younger and Taker had already defeated Cena at Mania then I would totally buy Punk as a threat, but not now. Taker’s not done yet and if he were to ever lose it would be to someone a bit younger who could build a career on the back of such a win, Punk’s just that little too far along.

Getting back to business and I’m with you regarding the Ryback/Henry match. Ryback should be facing The Big Show. Everyone buys into Show as a serious player, he’s a genuine scalp. I also like Cesaro and Miz, I don’t see any other logical opponents for either.

Drifting to the Tag and World Title picture and I think the guys in these matches are all muddled up. Ziggler should be going after the WHC and Rhodes Scholars should be going for the Tag Titles. Although WWE would have had to book these two in a far more favourable way over the last few months for fans to buy into their chances. Why have the top team outside of Team Hell No been used as jobbers for the last few months? I don’t get it, that’s what The Primetime Players are for.

Craig: Ah the tag team division, there was a time a few weeks ago where I thought the future was bright. Team Hell No have played an important part in pulling the division up by its boot straps but the lack of depth has really starting to show. The Tensai/Brodus team being a prime example. I doubt it’ll be long before we see Kofi & R-Truth back together…

You mention Ziggler, and although the cash-in has been mentioned more times than I care to remember. What about the concept of Swagger beating Del Rio then losing straight away to Ziggler? Vince clearly loves Swagger’s gimmick and pre DUI it was tough to see a scenario where Swagger wasn’t going to leave with the belt. But what now? Dolph cashing in means Swagger can win and be punished on the biggest stage of them all within a matter of minutes.

I also guess you don’t care a terrible amount for the six man tag match either?

Jamie: I’m also hoping that Ziggler cahses in, but that is drifting into hopes/predictions teritory. I would have booked him in a World Heavyweight Title match in the first place. Ziggler vs. Del Rio sounded good to me, until Ziggler starting losing all his matches (again) and Jack Swagger showed up with a massive push behind him. I remember one segment on Raw or Smackdown from a few weeks ago that appeared to tease a triple threat, which I would have liked.

As for the 6 man, I don’t mind it at all. I find it slightly odd that The Shield cleanly defeated a team with Cena on it, yet here they are against a lesser force. I would have thought that after beating Cena’s team The Shield would have advanced onto singles matches or doing something different from 6 man tags. They were always going to be in a 6 man at Mania, it’s just odd because they’ve already peaked in these kinds of matches due to cleanly defeating Ryback, Cena and Sheamus.

Craig: It does seem odd that the weakest six man is being kept till mania, I agree with that. The Shield need to do something different. I thought maybe they’d have become involved in the tag division by now. But alas not.

The worst thing that has happened to Ziggler was winning MITB. He’s largely jobbed since. I still think he’s one of the best bumpers in wrestling and has a very bright future. May need a face turn to do that. There’s a top star in him but that diminishes the longer he remains in the role he is. Has there been a least successful MITB holder? Losing the cash in is better than being a jobber.

I take it we’re not anticipating any further additions to the card? Recently I’d blogged mooting the idea of the MITB ladder match returning to the show – a quick scan of the guys that have nothing to do on the mania card highlight not only the depth of the roster but largely how ignored many mid carders are by the creative team pre mania when all the focus has been on three matches on the card.

Jamie: Yeah. A six man at Mania was always on for The Shield but after their victory at Elimination Chamber I would have liked to have seen WWE roll with the punches a little and not stick to the long term plan. They have momentum on their side, but it’s going to waste in 6 man tag matches.

Who hasn’t been booked yet? I worry for Barrett now that Jericho has targetted Fandango. Kofi Kingston, the babyface equivelant of Dolph Ziggler has of course been ignored. The aforementioned Rhodes Scholars are also struggling to get on the card, despite featuring heavily on Raw (albeit in a losing capicity). Can we assume the Sin Cara experiment has officially been abandoned. R-Truth still elects a decent enough response, despite having nothing to do since his return. 3MB are total jobbers, but they’re gimmick works. Kiddies favourites Brodus Clay and Tensai are unlikely to make the grade. Even Christian, who has surely healed from his injuries by now, has yet to be called back into action.

Craig: Ah, the lesser spotted Christian. Yeah there’s a power of guys missing but most feature so rarely on tv that they’d barely illicit a response if they had a match at mania.

Sadly I fear Tensai and Brodus will feud with the next tag team champions that are heels, such as if Ziggler and Langston grab the straps at Wrestlemania. It’s hardly The Midnight Express v The Rock and Roll Express, is it?

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