It's been a crazy week in the WWE. The fans in Pittsburgh (of which I'm proud to say I was part of the crowd) basically revolted when Daniel Bryan didn't make an appearance in the Rumble, let alone win the thing. Then CM Punk apparently quit on Monday a few hours before Raw went on the air, in what is either a huge blow to the WWE roster, or a well-orchestrated work that taps into the fan discontent going on right now. All of this hinges on what is expected happen at arguably the biggest landmark event in WWE and professional wrestling's history -- WrestleMania XXX.
Purportedly, the powers that be in the WWE -- Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon -- have been deadset on WWE Championship match between Randy Orton and Dave Batista to headline WrestleMania XXX. And when the smoke cleared after the Royal Rumble, the first major stop on the Road to WrestleMania, that appeared to be exactly what we're getting. Orton retained the WWE World Championship against John Cena, with assistance from the Wyatt Family (feeding into a rumor that Cena vs. Bray Wyatt is expected to be a top match at the April showcase as well) and Batista emerged victorious in the Rumble earning a guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania as well.
Of course, there is a pit stop on the road, and that's the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view -- the final pay-per-view before WWE launches its WWE Network, where a major selling point is including PPVs (usually priced at $45 to $65 depending on your distributor) as part of the $9.99 a month subscription, beginning with WrestleMania XXX. It wouldn't be unheard of for WWE to shake things up in a major way at the February PPV offering to give fans a WrestleMania card more in line with their expectations. And more in line with a milestone anniversary show like WrestleMania XXX. (Then again, you may recall that Triple H vs. Randy Orton match headlined WrestleMania 25 over Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker.)
As it stands, the rumored WrestleMania XXX card looked something like this:
WWE World Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista
Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Triple H vs. CM Punk
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
This card, in my opinion, leaves a lot to be desired. Nevermind that CM Punk is likely no longer part of the equation, after walking out on the company last week.
Rumors began surfacing today that Vince McMahon called a meeting between top officials to hit the reset button on WrestleMania XXX in the wake of the Punk walkout, but also because of the reaction to certain Superstars in the past week. Here's a look at what I'm hoping they came out of the board room with. Let's start by working with the one thing we know is as close to a lock as anything happening at WrestleMania XXX at this point in time: Batista is going to challenge for the WWE World Championship.
WWE World Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Batista.
This probably isn't what a lot of fans have in mind. They'd much rather see Daniel Bryan in this equation, regardless of who he would be facing. And right now, Lesnar is on the outside looking in. He's not one of the six participants at the Elimination Chamber match next month. But if the WWE is insistent upon having Batista wrestle for the title at WrestleMania XXX, I think this is the match that must happen. It would be a first-time clash between two guys who were part of the infamous Ohio Valley Wrestling Class of 2002 that also produced Orton and Cena. It's actually somewhat amazing these two have never crossed paths. Both have MMA training and experience (obviously Lesnar was much more successful than Batista) and both have the cross-over appeal of bringing in lapsed wrestling fans and those of other mediums (Lesnar of UFC/MMA and Batista, at least in theory, bringing in an audience that might be curious since he'll be starring in the upcoming Marvel Comics movie). Realistically, isn't that what the WWE aims to do with WrestleMania? Bring in viewers that wouldn't normally tune in for an event like, say, Elimination Chamber or Extreme Rules? If that's the goal, this is the best possible match-up WWE can put together with what is available to them. Getting the belt on Lesnar shouldn't be too difficult. After all, he's been claiming to be the rightful No. 1 contender anyway, so perhaps he'll just beat up the winner of the Elimination Chamber match (Bryan, perhaps? Earning himself a ton of heat heading into WrestleMania?) or enter himself in the match like Edge did in 2009 by taking out a competitor (Christian? That would be somewhat ironic, actually.) and take the title.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H
CM Punk walking out on the WWE presumably had a lot to do with being slated to face the King of Kings at WrestleMania. At least one report says he didn't view it as a big enough match. Others say it's because he realized the likely outcome (Triple H going over). Some other reports indicate that WWE may have decided to change course after the Royal Rumble and put Daniel Bryan on tract to face the Game, which upset Punk, who would likely move down the card. Whatever the case, I think this is the match that should've been in the works ever since Triple H nailed Bryan with the Pedigree at SummerSlam, allowing Randy Orton to cash-in his Money in the Bank and win the WWE Championship. The story always should've ended with Bryan getting Triple H in the ring one-on-one, with Triple H rebuffing his challenges multiple times along the way. Heck, if you really want to juice this one up, make Shawn Michaels the special guest referee. After he screwed Bryan in his last title opportunity at Hell in a Cell, that would just be one more storyline and deck stacked against Bryan. Ultimately, however, Bryan has to overcome his adversary. If fans get this match and get a Bryan victory, I think it will calm any potential hijacking of the main event by the fans at WrestleMania, in addition to providing closure to Bryan's feud with the Authority and giving him a much-needed signature victory on WWE's biggest stage.
The Undertaker vs. John Cena
At this point, Taker needs to work with top guys and nothing but. It's WrestleMania XXX, he needs an epic opponent. Is Lesnar that guy? Sure. I have no problem with that match. But I'd almost rather save Lesnar for next year, when it will likely be the final match of Lesnar's WWE career. Put him in the title picture this year, during the middle of his 3-year run, but end it with the Undertaker vanquishing him from WWE forever. Sting is certainly that "epic" opponent, but to the best of my and everyone else's knowledge, he's not under WWE contract at this point. And a one-and-done match against Taker might not be appealing for him, and you might not get the mileage out of him you want. Meanwhile, Cena, the company's biggest draw of the past decade, is rumored to face Bray Wyatt in a nothing match. Seriously, are they going to put Wyatt over Cena at WrestleMania? I don't see that happening. So Cena defies the odds once again, blah blah blah, which does nothing for Wyatt. Nevermind the fact that, after two straight years headlining against the Rock, this just feels like a total waste of Cena, doesn't it? So why not Taker-Cena? We've never seen that on a big stage. They had a small feud when Cena was a young heel and Taker was still an American Bad Ass. I mean, what else does Cena have to accomplish other than attempt to end the Streak? Half the crowd is going to boo Cena anyway, so might as well put him up against the biggest icon in the company. And when he loses, no biggie, he's back there the next night despite giving his all. Heck, if it's Cena, people might actually BELIEVE this is the year 'Taker loses.
Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus
I do believe that Bray Wyatt could be a big deal in the WWE. He hadn't really impressed me until the Royal Rumble, then he tore the place down against Bryan. He's most definitely over. And he needs a big moment at his first WrestleMania. So rather than feed him to Cena, why not feed Sheamus to Wyatt? Sheamus has already been positioned pretty high on the card in the WWE. The Celtic Warrior has won both the WWE and World championships and has a Royal Rumble victory under his belt. But he hasn't put himself on that next level of Superstar the way Cena, Bryan and others have. But he can certainly have a good match, especially with a talented opponent like Wyatt. This would be a fun, hard-hitting affair in the middle of the card that gives Wyatt a much-needed victory and positions him for a feud with Cena post-WrestleMania season.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
The Face of the WWE? Best for Business? Hardly. Part of the reason those things have been drawing so much heat is because they aren't even close to true. Orton hasn't done much to move the needle since his early years in the company. From a kayfabe standpoint, there has been ongoing tension between him and the Authority. Perhaps, if Punk were to come back, they could work a match together, although that doesn't seem to solve Punk's complaints, it would be fun to see (they faced each other at WrestleMania 27 with Punk as a heel and Orton a face). If not, why not Kane? Another WrestleMania rematch, sure, but with a different story. Bottom line, Orton doesn't need to be in one of the top matches at arguably the biggest WWE show ever. Fans aren't tuning in for him.
Here's a few other WrestleMania matches I'd like to see:
Intercontinental Championship: Big E Langston (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Speaking of hoss fights, these are two young up-and-comers who could be the next big thing. If you believe the rumors, Langston may unify the IC title with the U.S. title, currently held by Dean Ambrose of the Shield. Perhaps after defeating Ambrose for that belt and beating Seth Rollins in a title defense, he could face the hulking Reigns at WrestleMania. A victory by Reigns would be a nice launching point for his singles career, and the IC title seems like good trial run to see if he's ready for main event stardom by the end of 2014. Defenses against Ambrose and Rollins after the inevitable Shield break-up could dominate the mid-card for the next few months after WrestleMania.
Goldust vs. Cody Rhodes
I'm not sure if I'd rather see this or have them continuing to tag together for a bit longer.
Tag Team Championship: New Age Outlaws (c) vs. The Usos
Perfect match for the WrestleMania preshow. Let's get the straps on the Usos, please.
Jack Swagger w/ Hulk Hogan vs. Antonio Cesaro w/ Zeb Colter
Somehow, Swagger always nails a big spot at WrestleMania. Since a "Real Americans" break-up is looking inevitable, why not align Swagger with another "Real American" for the biggest show of the year? It can't be any worse than Ric Flair and the Miz, right?