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  • Connor Ewens

Fantasy Booking: Wrestlemania XXVIII

The beginning of your first relationship. Your first kiss. Getting your appendix removed. A blind boy finding a four-leafed clover. These are all examples of things you could consider 'once in a lifetime' moments. Do you know what isn't once in a lifetime? John Cena vs The Rock. WWE managed to go one full year before booking Cena vs Rock 2, absolutely misleading marketing especially when it is rumoured that a rematch at Wrestlemania 29 was always the plan. This show is generally positive. Out of the 8 main card matches, 3 of them are great and they're the 3 most important matches on the show so that is good. 3 matches range from being okay to mediocre. 1 match is pretty terrible. 1 match though, is so bad that it does a full 360 into being one of the most important booking decisions in recent WWE history. 18 seconds. That is all I have to say. Here's the card:

Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus, Heavyweight Championship

Kane vs Randy Orton

Cody Rhodes (c) vs Big Show, IC Championship

Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres

The Undertaker vs Triple H, Hell in a Cell

Team Johnny vs Team Teddy

CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho, WWE Championship

The Rock vs John Cena

The three marquee matches delivered, but there was a clear lack of effort in building the rest of the show. I mean, Kane and Orton literally feuded over them shaking hands a year prior when Kane was a good guy. Now he is a heel, he sees the handshake as a sign of weakness. Yeah, that is pretty weak. Then there is the burial of Zack Ryder because fuck him and us for liking things other than the same stars we have seen for the past 5-10 years. Then there is the18 second match, a kiss and a kick ending Daniel Bryan's Heavyweight championship reign. A fuck up so bad that it created a whole movement elevating the bearded vegan to the main event scene whether WWE liked it or not. There is an argument to be made that without the 18 seconds, the Yes! Movement never would have took off. That may be true, but Bryan was so popular with the fans for his wrestling ability and likability that I think he could have been elevated anytime. He didn't need to be done so dirty. WWE, this is how its done.

The show begins similarly to how it did in real life. On the pre-show we got The Colons defending their tag championships against Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd as well as The Usos's in a 5 minute sprint of a match. I would like the tag division to be taken a bit more seriously. Give them a spot on the main card, give them more time and give them a match stipulation to gain fan respect. Neither team have much heat but they're all pretty talented wrestlers. Do you know what 3 teams with great talent but little recognition did in the early 2000s? They had ladder matches and changed the landscape of tag team wrestling. I'm not suggesting these 6 lads will be able to make such waves, but they can at least work an exciting match to remind us how good they are. Give them 10-15 minutes to get their spots in and create some moments and have Primo and Epico Colon retain their titles.

I refuse to allow my boy Zack Ryder to be done so dirty by WWE. I never expected him to become like a WWE world champion, but he definitely deserved a good run as the US champion. Around when Ryder defeats Dolph Ziggler for the US championship at the TLC event in December, we see the spooky vignettes teasing the return of Kane who has been off injured for 5 months. If you remember many days ago now, I had Kane "unmask" but then quickly adopt a new mask. A colder, featureless mask to be spookier. In these vignettes, we will see him peel off his mask and discard it. Scrawled text on the screen reads "The devils favourite demon will return" as we see Kane's 2003 mask lying on the table. The dark red and black half mask that he wore during his peak era. A few weeks after being US champion, Kane begins targeting Zack Ryder and telling him to "embrace the hate". He believes Ryder is a disingenuous person, pretending to be this way to appeal to the audience when all he cares about is success. Ryder says this is all not true. Kane targets Ryder week after week with attacks and threats, including chokeslamming him off the stage. Ryder even hosts a livestream on his internet show 'Long Island Iced Z' in which the lights go off and his house is filled with red smoke. Kane appears and once again lays waste to him. After weeks and weeks of assaults, Ryder is worn down physically and mentally, but he refuses to accept this as his fate. "Everyone has demons that they must overcome. You are my demon, and I will exorcise you." Woo woo woo. After a couple of weeks off-screen, Ryder returns at Elimination Chamber just as Kane has been eliminated from the Chamber match (he and Cena do not main event the show, their match sucked). He wails on Kane with a steel chair, knocking Kane off the stage and through electrical equipment in a small act of revenge. Ryder challenges Kane to a match at Wrestlemania to settle the score for good. Kane dominates the match, but Ryder is resilient and finds ways to dodge attacks and stay in the fight. He manages to reverse out of a chokeslam into a Rough Ryder, which could look pretty cool. Ryder hits Kane with a barrage of Broski boots, like 5 of them before getting the 1-2-3. Ryder retains the title. I'd keep Zack as US champion for the following months until August where he drops it to Antonio Cesaro.

Cody Rhodes has held the Intercontinental championship since August of 2011. In the lead up towards Wrestlemania, he lists all of the great opponents he has beaten during his reign. Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, even Booker T. In one reign, he might go down as the greatest IC champion of all time. After saying that he is interrupted, out steps Chris Jericho. We have a war of words between these two future AEW founders, Jericho comes back as a face and plays the seasoned vet whilst Cody is wanting to prove he is on the same level if not further ahead. Jericho feels disrespected and eventually this leads to a singles match at Wrestlemania. It is Chris Jericho vs Cody Rhodes, of course this is going to be good. Jericho uses his experience to control the match but the champion uses underhanded tactics to stay in this. Rhodes puts Jericho with a Crossroads and uses a leverage pin to get a muddy victory. You can still have Rhodes vs Big Show at Extreme Rules, because I think the finish to that match is genius. Then, Rhodes can brag about his title reign even more, which brings back Christian to finally dethrone Cody as IC champion at Over the Limit.

I've got 4 big names with nothing planned for them sooooo let's have a number 1 contender match! Easy booking. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and Big Show compete to be next in line for a title of their choosing. This should be a very enjoyable match. Sheamus as the physical brawler, Ziggler as the acrobatic bumper, Mysterio as the eccentric high-flyer and Big Show as the immovable giant. Sheamus should get the win here, setting up his feud with the Heavyweight champion for the following few months.

Talking about the Heavyweight championship, its time to talk about Daniel Bryan. I was a big fan of everything they did with Bryan. He was the hard-working midcarder but after he cashed in his MITB briefcase on Big Show he became an opportunist, willing to remain world champion by any means necessary. He manages to hold on to his title by a mixture of luck, cheating and the services of AJ Lee in his corner. Ahead of Elimination Chamber, Daniel Bryan gives Randy Orton a concussion and he is forcibly removed from the Elimination Chamber match. That actually happened but WWE decided to not follow up on it and instead have Orton fight Kane over a handshake. Stupid. Orton returns after the PPV and he says that Bryan attacked him because he knows that Orton would have walked out with the world title. Orton baits Bryan into challenging him to a match at Wrestlemania with the Heavyweight title on the line. Bryan and Orton wrestle a competitive 10-15 minute match. Bryan has Orton beat, he climbs up the turnbuckle looking for the diving headbutt but before he dives, he leans to the outside and gives AJ a good luck kiss. He makes his leap, Orton is back on his feet and plants him with a brutal RKO to win the match and the Heavyweight championship. This way you can still progress the Bryan and AJ storyline; Bryan blaming her for his loss, the break up and AJ Lee becoming Raw GM. This builds things nicely without having Bryan humiliated.

Now for this next match we are getting into the fantasy a little more, purely because I can't NOT book this dream match of mine. I had high hopes for Kharma in WWE, however pregnancy took her off screen almost immediately after debuting. She made an appearance at the 2012 Royal Rumble entering the 30-man match and eliminating Michael Cole, but 6 months later she was released. She was not ready to make a full time return and WWE grew impatient. It is a shame, because I have a dream match in mind. So for this, let us just pretend that Kharma had her baby, appeared at the Rumble and felt ready to make a return at least for one singles match. Let's go back to the Rumble. Michael Cole enters number 20, Kharma enters at 21 and eliminates him. She stares down the rest of the men when number 22 enters; Beth Phoenix. The two powerhouses have a big stare down before clubbing the piss out of each other. They fight towards the ropes and end up eliminating each other. They separate and stare at each other once again before being escorted to the back. Kharma returns to the main roster with unprovoked attacks to almost the entire women's roster. Eventually she cuts a promo where she savours the destruction she has caused, but she is left feeling unsatisfied. No one can stand up to her, she is a harbinger of pain that cannot be prevented. Beth Phoenix fires back by claiming she is the only woman able to deliver some karma to Kharma. The dream match is booked; Beth Phoenix vs Kharma, two of the most powerful women wrestlers. Kharma brings a whole lot of brute force, but the Glamazon is more than capable of weathering the storm. Phoenix manages to hit one colossal Glam Slam to win the match. Out of respect, Kharma shakes the hand and takes her leave. Kharma can go back to not wrestling for a while until she feels ready to compete wherever she wants to. This is the last we'll see of Beth Phoenix for a little while, she gets a nice big win.

Up next, Undertaker vs Triple H inside Hell in a Cell. This remains pretty much unchanged, but I need to do some storyline tweaking since I did not run this match at Wrestlemania 27. COO of WWE Triple H makes his entrance and is preparing to address the fans regarding CM Punk (more on that later) when he is interrupted by the Undertaker. The Deadman talks about his legacy and his undefeated run at Wrestlemania. The man who came the closest was Shawn Michaels and he challenges HHH to do what his mentor could not. Triple H has no interest in retiring him, until Taker calls him inferior to HBK and goads him into accepting the match. The rest of the story plays out the same, with HBK being heavily involved and the whole 'End of an Era' thing. The match plays out the same way because it is easily in the top 5 Hell in a Cell matches of all time. That sweet chin music into a pedigree is one of the best near falls I have ever seen. It still gets me to this day. Undertaker wins to go 20-0. He, Trips and HBK walk out of Wrestlemania together, great foes but even greater friends.

After earning his WWE title match and dropping the 'Pipebomb' promo, CM Punk walks out of Money in the Bank as the WWE champion, defeating the heel champion John Cena. If you're confused, read yesterday's article. CM Punk leaves through the Chicago crowd, "stealing" the WWE championship like he said he would. He does not return literally a week later, instead he actually appears at some local indie shows. They can be at shows nearby to Raw and Smackdown showings so he can still be a WWE promotion tool. Meanwhile, Vince McMahon is relieved of his duties as chairman of the company and Triple H assumes the role of COO. He creates a tournament and unveils a brand new WWE championship design to go with it. Ooooo. It can look like whatever you like as long as its pretty. The tournament is won by Rey Mysterio because that was a really nice moment, then John Cena returns. Also worth noting, Cena's job isn't on the line at MITB because seriously who believed for a second this guy would be getting fired. There is absolutely no mention of CM Punk by management or by Cena, though he is referenced by commentary and other face wrestlers. Cena says he deserves to be first in line for a WWE title shot, he is the face that runs the place is he not? HHH respects Cena even if he has became increasingly more swallowed by his ego. Heel Cena should be similar to face Cena except he plays oblivious to the fact that he does anything wrong, he still thinks he is the righteous man but in reality he is being a bit of a nob. The match is booked for Summerslam, Mysterio vs Cena and it is Mr Hustle, Loyalty and Respect who walks out as champion, shock. As he celebrates, we hear Cult of Personality play for the first time and out steps CM Punk holding the previous version of the WWE championship. This sets up the big champion vs champion match that will take place at Night of Champions, which CM Punk wins to be the undisputed WWE champion. Triple H doesn't like how Punk embarrassed the WWE with stealing the world title and promises to make him jump through hoops to prove he deserves to be here. "I've been jumping through hoops since day 1, its you and your stupid family who set them up or did you forget that, Paul?" This sets up Triple H vs CM Punk inside Hell in a Cell, a rematch from their Wrestlemania match with the title on the line. Punk retains but the big story is Awesome Truth invading the cell and brutalising both men. Punk and HHH form a loose alliance to face Awesome Truth at Vengeance, this happened for real but unlike real life Punk and HHH actually win the match. Afterwards, HHH pedigrees Punk and summons Alberto Del Rio, Mr Money in the Bank. Del Rio cashes in and wins the WWE championship. I know, not ideal but I don't like the MITB briefcase being wasted. Trust the process. The following Raw, Triple H gives respect to Punk but he is not what they're looking for in a champion. He fully supports Del Rio as the embodiment of a champion, he looks the part and dresses the part. CM Punk interrupts the promo holding a sledgehammer which he swings at Alberto Del Rio's pristine white limousine many times. Punk says it is his destiny to be WWE champion and be a champion the fans can be proud of. CM Punk loses a rematch at Survivor Series thanks to interference from the Miz with some unfinished business from a couple months earlier. We get the TLC Triple Threat in December which Del Rio also wins. Triple H says he has been more than fair and now Punk is out of chances. Punk declares for the Royal Rumble, which gets messed around with by Alberto Del Rio who pays the tumbler operator to fix the lottery. CM Punk enters the match at number 2. Although he has the rough task of running the gauntlet, Punk succeeds. He wins the 2012 Royal Rumble and secures himself another WWE championship match. After his marvellous Rumble win, Triple H offers a handshake to Punk and says that he has more than earned another WWE championship shot and if he wins, there will be no complaints from him or management. "WWE is about business, and you could be what is best for business." At Wrestlemania, CM Punk finally has a clear shot at Alberto Del Rio with no bells or whistles. After a GTS into an Anaconda Vice, Punk forces ADR to submit and win another world title. Punk will now go on his historically long WWE title reign. More coverage of that tomorrow.

The main event has to be Cena vs Rock. It is arguably the biggest match possible in wrestling, only maybe rivalled if they ever do Steve Austin vs CM Punk. The build can be mostly the same, both men using their mic skills to take pops at each other in their promos. One important part of the narrative though, is that the Rock says Cena is lost. After a couple years shy of a decade, Cena has absolutely dominated the WWE but now he feels lost. Why? Because no one wants him there, the fans never liked him and you thought that if you hustled and respected hard enough that eventually they would come around. They haven't. "Cena, I'm not the bad guy because I left. You're the bad guy because you're still here. I knew my time was up, but do you know that yours is too?" By this time, John Cena has been fully active in WWE the same time if not a little longer than the Rock was during his first run. The Rock justifies Cena's heel turn as trying to remain on top anyway he can, but questions if it is worth it or not. Cena of course fires back with plenty of ammunition of his own but now he feels like he has something to prove not only to the Rock and the audience, but to himself. The match goes down exactly like it does, Cena losing because he got too cocky fits this narrative perfectly. A cocky error costs him the match, he looks dejected on the ramp whilst the Rock soaks in the adulation of the crowd. This should kick off a year full of L's for Cena, resulting with him doing some soul searching and a gradual return to being a face. He gets murdered by Lesnar, he loses to John Laurinitis, he loses to Big Show. Every major PPV match he has for the rest of the year Cena should lose until he finds a way to pull himself together and remember who he is.

And that is how I would rebook Wrestlemania 28. Here is a recap:

The Colons (c) vs Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd vs The Uso's, Ladder for Tag Championships

Zack Ryder (c) vs Kane, US Championship

Cody Rhodes (c) vs Chris Jericho, IC Championship

Sheamus vs Dolph Ziggler vs Rey Mysterio vs Big Show, number 1 contender

Daniel Bryan (c) vs Randy Orton, Heavyweight Championship

Beth Phoenix vs Kharma

Undertaker vs Triple H, Hell in a Cell

Alberto Del Rio (c) vs CM Punk, WWE Championship

John Cena vs The Rock

Did you like it? Do you want your 18 seconds of Daniel Bryan back? Lemme know your thoughts and come back tomorrow when we look at Wrestlemania 29. Twice in a Lifetime? No thank you. See ya!


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