A Challenger to Roman’s Reign

Fantasy Booking/PPVs, Raw, Wrestling

Following the absolutely devastating injury to Seth Rollins’ knee, the WWE landscape is devoid of a top heel. It seems pretty obvious that Roman Reigns will come out of Survivor Series as the champion in a few weeks, but, with Rollins on the shelf, who is going to be his biggest dancing partner?

Could it be Brock Lesnar? The guy he main-evented Wrestlemania 31 with. It would make sense, given that the two have unfinished business from the match. Remember, that was the match that saw Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank contract to steal the title.

However, is that really the best the WWE can do? I mean, all of these injuries should light a fire under Vince McMahon and co. to start promoting more legitimate new-age stars. Is Brock Lesnar the biggest obstacle to conquer for anyone in the company? Yes, but I don’t know how many tickets a Reigns-Lesnar main event is selling.

Therefore, I think it’s important that the WWE brass dig deeper. Kevin Owens is a valid option. He already finds himself as the #1 heel in the mid-card division and, given his indie pedigree, it’s not a stretch to say he can handle an extended run in the main event scene.

That said, Owens is doing great work as the Intercontinental Champion. That belt needs a strong worker who puts on amazing matches night after night attached to it and Owens is performing that responsibility admirably. Owens’ time is coming; I just do not think right now is the best time.

Outside of Owens, your biggest heels are guys like Sheamus, Stardust, and Bray Wyatt. Sheamus is certainly a threat given his MITB contract; I just don’t think you use that here, especially against Reigns. In fact, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Sheamus successfully cashes in his contract. He simply hasn’t been booked as a threatening presence and a championship run seems unbelievable, at this point.

Stardust would be a very interesting opponent, but I don’t see Roman having much chemistry with the Cosmic Prince. He’s just too out there and Reigns doesn’t seem to be in a situation where he can have a jokey storyline this close to Mania season. He needs a feud that legitimizes his spot as champion.

Wyatt has too much on his hands right now with his on-going story between himself and the Brothers of Destruction. That feud probably comes to a head this month at Survivor Series; however, unless he can cleanly beat either the Undertaker or Kane, it’s hard to see Bray as a credible #1 contender.

So who should become the WWE’s #1 heel over the next few months and face down Roman Reigns for the title at Wrestlemania? Well, you what he says, “your time is up, my time is now!”

Just kidding, a John Cena heel turn doesn’t solve anything, instead, I think it’s time the WWE finally lets Dean Ambrose out of the Asylum. During his run with The Shield, everyone and their mother predicted that Ambrose would be the break-out heel from the faction. The WWE was smart to play against type and twist the dynamics of that team by having Rollins be the one to break the group apart. However, now is the time for Ambrose to take his rightful place on the bad side of the spectrum.

Ambrose was born to play a heel. As a face, he can be charming and hilarious, but always seems to be holding himself back from his true potential, especially on the microphone.

And it’s not like he’s been tearing the world apart as a good guy. Sure, he’s had a few high profile feuds, but the WWE wants to push Reigns to the moon and that means guys like Ambrose are left to languish in the mid-card.

This is the time to turn Ambrose. Well, actually last week’s Team Reigns vs. Team Rollins was the time to turn Ambrose, but the WWE couldn’t know about Rollins’ future at that point.

Unfortunately, the WWE missed the perfect chance to have Ambrose turn on Reigns when the two of them were the last men standing for Team Reigns last week on Raw. Had Ambrose stepped aside when Reigns went for a last second tag and let Rollins pin Roman to win the match, this feud would have been set and we might’ve been staring down a dream Ambrose vs. Reigns vs. Rollins match at Wrestlemania.

That said, the WWE still has a great opportunity to make things right. Say Ambrose meets Reigns in the Finals of the new WWE Championship tournament. Then, Roman wins the match, but does so through somewhat questionable methods, we’ll say a countout. Ambrose is incensed the next night on Raw and accuses Reigns of not giving him a fair match. That sets up a rematch because Reigns is trying to be a “good guy”. And then, when the match happens, Ambrose blatantly cheats and steals the title from his former friend, turning heel in the process.

That sets up a months long feud of Reigns chasing Ambrose, which culminates in The Authority, unable to control either wrestler, bringing back Rollins for a three-way match at Summerslam (or, of course, Wrestlemania, if Rollins is healthy by then).

It’s a near perfect long con to get Rollins back in the title picture in meaningful way when he comes back. Further, it lets Ambrose explore more of his character and get out from under Reigns’ shadow.

Is this the outcome we can expect from Survivor Series? Probably not, but it just might be the one that makes the most sense if the WWE is thinking about the long-term payout surrounding a Shield feud.You might say, it’s best for business.

Fantasy Booking – Night of Champions 2015

Fantasy Booking/PPVs, Wrestling

The WWE just wrapped up a star-studded weekend in Brooklyn. NXT tore the house down with amazing performances from Bayley, Sasha Banks, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and more. Then came the actual Summerslam event, which delivered almost across the board (more on this later), followed by one of the best Raw’s in recent memory. So how does Vince McMahon and co. top themselves at Night of Champions? Well, they probably don’t, but that won’t stop them from trying. And, why shouldn’t I try too? What follows is how I’d book Night of Champions. Enjoy!

Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens – U.S. Championship

Night of Champions is the one night a year that every single title must be defended and since Rollins currently holds both the U.S. title and the World Heavyweight Championship, he is forced to pull double-duty. Luckily, the WWE has a solid pairing to match him up with that is sure to set the tone for an excellent show. Cesaro vs. Owens was one of the most underrated parts of Summerslam and a second collision is sure to be must-watch TV. Because those two can do the heavy lifting in the ring, Rollins is able to hold something back for the main event later on in the night. The buildup would be very basic. Owens uses the knowledge that every championship must be defending to force Rollins into a match. Owens has demonstrated that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve his paycheck and this represents an easy opportunity for him to bump his pay grade. Triple H agrees to the match, but tells a shocked Owens that not only will he face Rollins, but Cesaro will be in the ring as well. During the next few weeks, Rollins’ attention is obviously elsewhere, but Owens and Cesaro continuously harass him during promo segments to remind him that they’re still around.

Taking the title off of Rollins could really cheapen his win over Cena, but I think he can stomach the loss. Owens beat Cesaro at Summerslam, so it would make sense for him to go over here. However, the most interesting scenario would be to have Cesaro take the title, especially considering the recent groundswell of fan support for the Swiss Sensation. This sets up a Hell in the Cell rubber match between Owens and Cesaro and Rollins isn’t hurt too much by a loss in a three-way dance. The correct booking would have Rollins sitting out most of the match, trying to play the opportunist, while Owens and Cesaro put on a show. Rollins tries to seize an opportunity and Pedigrees Owens. Before he can get into the pin, Cesaro runs in, delivers a European Uppercut, pins Owens and becomes your new U.S. Champion. The rubber match for the title is set for Hell in a Cell and Rollins has to do minimal work for his first match of the night.

Stardust vs. Neville

The early news out of Raw in Brooklyn is that Stardust turning on King Barrett was a storyline reason to give Barrett some time off to film a movie. That takes him out of this storyline that didn’t really seem to be over following Summerslam. Minus Stephen Amell’s involvement, the story has some potential to flounder, but, at the very least, Neville and Stardust know how to deliver a great match. In this scenario, we’re sticking with the super-hero gimmick and turning the next month into a game of cat-and-mouse between The Man Gravity Forgot and the Cosmic Prince that hopefully reminds the audience of the rivalry between Batman and the Joker. Stardust should consistently put Neville into moral dilemmas and test Neville’s resolve as the hero of the WWE. Neville should show doubt in his own abilities to rise above Stardust and be the hero we deserve. Maybe Neville has to choose between a star-making win against a big name or saving a damsel that Stardust is holding hostage backstage. They need to really go all out with this one or it will fall flat.

This pairing has the potential to elevate both stars, if given enough time. Therefore, I would have Stardust go over at Night of Champions, potentially by using the hostage situation discussed above to distract Neville. Then the feud would continue for at least one more PPV. In a perfect world, I’d love to see a Team Neville vs. Team Stardust at Survivor Series to play on the Avengers/Suicide Squad/Justice League teamups that are so popular in mainstream media. That said, Stardust and Neville might not have enough star power just yet to pull that off, so a blowoff at Hell in a Cell seems like a solid consolation prize.

New Day vs. Dudley Boyz – Tag Team Titles

The Prime Time Players have a legitimate stake to be in this match, but frankly, the tag team division needs an injection of some new (though old) blood. Further, I’m personally tired of seeing multiple team matches after Summerslam and want a traditional match for my next PPV. So, PTP gets the boot and has to wait until after Night of Champions to use their rematch clause. And really, the New Day needs this. They need a run with a team that has clout like the Dudleyz to elevate them even further in fan’s minds.

Obviously, New Day has to go over here. They are the most over full-time team on the roster and should be the standard bearer for the division for at least six more months. The Dudleyz, on the other hand, are likely to be at the start of a three month-long run at best and don’t need the titles to get a huge reaction. Keep the belts on Xavier Woods and co. and use the next few weeks to build up the Prime Time Players characters to the level of New Day.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

We know this match is coming and we also know that these Ziggler and Rusev can deliver a great match if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, this ongoing feud has largely focused on the two men fighting over Lana, while Summer Rae stands around and tries to look like the Ravishing Russian. After a double-countout at Summerslam, this angle needs a decisive blowoff and Rusev needs to either get back with Lana or leave her behind for good (or at least a year). The buildup to this one needs to have Ziggler continuously getting one over on Rusev and Lana mocking him the Bulgarian Brute every week. In some ways, Rusev needs to become the babyface heading into Night of Champions, while Lana plays the heel and Ziggler plays a hybrid.

From there, Rusev goes over at Night of Champions in an absolute war. These two need to beat the tar out of each other and capitalize on their in-ring chemistry. Ziggler was born to make brutes like Rusev look like a million bucks and Rusev is one of the more skilled big men in the WWE today. They should slug it out in an old-fashioned brawl that potentially leaves both of them bloody. However, at the end of the day, Rusev needs to just barely gut this one out and stand defiant over Lana; proving that he doesn’t need her to be successful. The two can then go their separate ways; with Ziggler likely heading into a program with someone like Sheamus and Rusev potentially feuded with Cesaro or Randy Orton.

Ryback vs. Sheamus – Intercontinental Championship

Ryback’s match at Summerslam against The Big Show and The Miz was largely forgettable, which is honestly how his entire IC reign has been so far due to injuries and bad storylines. Ryback showed some great chemistry with Kevin Owens on the Raw after Summerslam, but Owens needs to finish off his program with Cesaro before he can move onto The Big Guy. Much like Ryback, Sheamus doesn’t really have any obvious opponents to challenge right now. The Heavyweight Championship scene is locked up right now, so using the Money in the Bank suitcase seems like a big stretch; and no one wants to see him go up against Randy Orton for the millionth time.

So, in the only match on the card without a solid angle to back it up, Ryback and Sheamus go dancing. The easy story here is to have Ryback squash a few challengers in a few title matches on Raw and Smackdown and then have him claim there is no one big enough to take on The Big Guy. Then Sheamus’ music hits and he says something like, “You want somebody your own size? How ‘bout me fella?” and the two have a brawl. This one doesn’t even need a conclusive finish, as it would make sense to have this one end in a countout or DQ and continue past Hell in a Cell. That would give both guys a solid holding story until other opponents become available. This match ends in a DQ and Sheamus and Ryback fight in a Street Fight or No-DQ match at Hell in a Cell with Ryback going over. From there, Ryback moves into a feud with Kevin Owens and Sheamus gets more serious about cashing in his MITB case. Not the most exciting booking, but sometimes being effective is better than surprising the smarks.

Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks – Women’s Championship

The Women’s Division on the main roster could really use a kick in the pants. Which is a nice way of saying that Nikki Bella should not be holding the title. However, she has been a champion for almost a year, so you can’t just have her lose the title that easily or you risk devaluing the strap. That means she’s needs to lose in a way that doesn’t make her look weak, but does the job of getting the title to someone who can actually wrestle. Enter the Fatal Fourway. Charlotte and Sasha Banks used this match title to, along with Bayley and Becky Lynch, really put the women’s division on the map in NXT and I think they could do the same here. Nikki is used sparingly and Paige takes Bayley’s slot as the unquestioned babyface.

Sadly, Becky Lynch has to stay on the sidelines, but, at this point, Charlotte and Banks have a much bigger following and Paige is a bankable star that we know we can count on. Lynch will get her chance at a later date; this just isn’t it. I would love to put the belt on Sasha Banks because she’s the best women’s character in wrestling when they give her time to talk, but Charlotte seems like the safer belt. Charlotte was dominant in NXT and had some incredible stories with Banks and Bayley, plus she already has name recognition because of her father. People will want to get behind her and she can wrestle with anybody. Banks will get the title by next Wrestlemania, but for now, Charlotte is the standard bearer for the division. Charlotte pins Paige to win her first Women’s Championship.

Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, & ??? vs. The Wyatt Family

With the Wyatt’s introducing their newest family member Braun Strowman on Raw this week, it’s time for Ambrose and Reigns to gear up for a war and bring in a third member. The safe money on what WWE will do is to bring in Big Show after his apparent face turn this past Monday. However, no one wants to see Show muck up what could be a legitimately interesting feud, so I’m going another way. Bray brought in a guy from NXT (though one who has yet to wrestle on TV) to be his third man, so Ambrose and Reigns should do the same.

Finn Balor would be a huge get and would actually fit in pretty well from a wrestling standpoint. He can do the high-flying maneuvers that Seth Rollins used to do in The Shield and is a believable giant-killer if that’s what’s needed. Samoa Joe is another solid option that would bring some needed muscle to offset Strowman’s advantage. Joe doesn’t really need to be on NXT anymore, so a main event push seems imminent. The final NXT option could be Baron Corbin. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of his in-ring work, but he has a good look and would fit in with The Shield well. Plus, they can give him a bulletproof vest to cover up the belly fat he’s still working on shedding.

Of course, bringing in any of those NXT guys could be problematic if they don’t have anything to do after this match, so maybe there’s one more option. Mark Henry isn’t doing anything, would be believable up against Strowman, and is a better in-ring worker that Show at this point in their careers. With that said, regardless of who joins Ambrose and Reigns, The Wyatt Family has to over here. Bray needs to build some credibility and this feud is tailor made for a blowoff at Hell in a Cell. Look for Strowman to be the star here and throw enough people out of the ring for Bray to hit Sister Abigail and get the win.

Seth Rollins vs. Sting – WWE Heavyweight Championship

This is the one match that is already set in stone by the WWE and honestly, after what happened on the Raw after Summerslam, I’d have to get really creative to think of a way to change this. I’ll say this; the ensuing bout between Rollins and Sting is a very interesting one. Will Sting still be fighting for “the old guard”? Or is this just a way to try Triple H into another match? Only time will tell, but one thing is very obvious, there is simply no way this contest has an actual finish. Whether the interference comes from Triple H running down to save his golden boy or John Cena reinserting himself into the main event scene (and teasing a possible heel turn) by taking out Sting before he can pick up a win, this has to end with Rollins holding onto the title through dubious means.

That’s unfortunate because Rollins is one of the best, if not the best workers in the company and his constant dirty victories are making him look like a chump (a smart, conniving chump, but still a chump). He is THE World Heavyweight Champion and, even if he’s playing a rat-faced heel, he needs to be a believable in-ring threat. Him constantly winning by cheating cheapens his title run and hurts the company in the long run. It’s safe to have him beat Sting due to outside interference at Night of Champions, but he needs an actual, big-time victory over someone like Cena at Hell in a Cell or he needs to drop his title. In short, this match will mostly be used to set the table for what are sure to be a few big feuds of the fall. And, if nothing else, we know Rollins will deliver a memorable performance like always and Sting will get a gigantic pop if and when he brings out the bat. And we’ll all go home happy.