My booking was waaaayyyy off from what transpired at Survivor Series. It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the event. I liked most of it. Here are my thoughts on the show:
-Tye Dillinger needs to move up to main roster. The 10 chant is going to be the next “Yes!” or “What?”. Bobby Roode can have a brief run with the NXT title before his own promotion.
-Authors of Pain are going to need more seasoning. A few times they looked sloppy and the recent graphic botch seems to indicate they got some more work to do.
-DIY and the Revival are going to elevate the tag division once they come up to main. WOW.
-Samoa Joe re-gaining the title was quite the surprise. Curious to see how he and Nakamura go forward. I, like many others, thought Joe would be coming up to main after a loss.
-Asuka and James was also a good match. I’m hoping James is signed to NXT to help work with the talent there and get a re-match with Asuka.
-Like many, I was stunned by the result of Brock vs Goldberg. It was a positive shocking moment but hurts the rest of the main roster. I don’t see how they book themselves out of this problem as Goldberg is not going to be able to have long matches. I figure he’s going to get booked into multi-man matches (triple threats, Rumble, Fatal Four ways, etc) until the final blow off of Lesnar vs Goldberg.
-Despite the ratings, the crowd at Raw and SS were firmly behind Smackdown pulling the win. I was surprised at how over AJ Styles is even in Canada when he got a reaction similar to Kevin Owens for his entrance.
-The Ellsworth spot with Braun was fantastic.
-Orton and Wyatt’s storyline as a team is far more interesting than their lackluster feud earlier this Fall.
-I didn’t realize how much I dislike Roman Reigns until he was the last man standing for RAW. I, along with the fans at the ACC, were rooting for the Wyatts.
-Going into the event, I was really dreading to see “Super Shane” but I got behind him when he was beating down Reigns and Rollins. The spot with him ramming Rollins’ head into his own knee was lame though.
Smackdown was a bit in limbo in the weeks heading into Survivor Series and the last two weeks have gone in fast forward to set up TLC. I did not like Styles losing thrice to Ellsworth, but the exchange between the three on the go home show was what needed to be done. Personally, I would have had kept the whole bit about Ambrose being barred from the arena without the run ins on the Smackdown following Survivor Series and have AJ destroy Ellsworth there. This week, Ambrose and Styles would be brawling throughout the show.
With Rumble next month, I feel TLC is a good time to put an end to several of the current feuds and maybe begin to tie up a few loose ends before setting up Wrestlemania season.
Ambrose vs Styles (c) – TLC – WWE World Title: I’d have Styles go over here. Following this week’s brawl, I’d have the story that both wrestlers go over board with wanting to destroy one another. Have Styles yell “respect me!” to the crowd while he’s beating down on Ambrose. Conversely, Ambrose has plenty of opportunities to climb the ladder for the win but opts instead to deliver another devastating maneuver on Styles. Have Otunga sell it with comments like: “Dean, you got the championship won!” and the like. In the end, Styles defeats Ambrose with a Style Clash off a ladder and onto a table. Ellsworth will not be involved in the match.
Bliss vs Lynch (c) – Tables Match – WWE Smackdown Women’s Title: Bliss has been very effective as a heel. However, I feel Lynch has been just as effective a babyface. Personally, I think the money match for Mania on the Smackdown side is Bella vs Lynch for the title. Therefore, Bliss is not going to come out the winner here. However, she is going to hopefully put on a solid performance. I usually don’t advocate for an inconclusive finish, but I think this is an apt one as there will be a few months of TV time to fill out. Ending of the match has both women jostle on the top turnbuckle and both fall onto a table at the same time, leading to a non-finish. Lynch retains as champion to continue the story for Rumble with a twist (see below).
Miz (c) vs Ziggler – Ladder Match – WWE Intercontinental Title: This feud has been the best on Smackdown but has gone on a bit too long due to [lack of] roster depth. Both have had career resurgences this year with Miz’ star shining brightest of the two. Looking over the current SD roster, I just don’t see many options for a Miz title reign:
-Crews has been done recently and he doesn’t connect with the crowd.
-Kalisto cannot carry feuds on the mic. He’s a decent worker and Miz would look good throwing him around.
-Swagger is also terrible on the mic and has been a jobber for a really long time. He’d have to rebuild his credibility to get to that point.
-Kane is getting long in the tooth. Could be his last hurrah with an IC title run I suppose.
-A demoted Dean Ambrose?
-James Ellsworth shouldn’t win any titles unless he really begins hitting the gym and start turning himself into a legitimate worker at the WWE level.
-Slater & Rhyno: both are ok if they drop the tag titles. I’d prefer Slater since he has more to offer long term. Rhyno can be used to put over some of the heel talent like Corbin. As a tag team, they could also allow the Spirit Squad to stick around a while longer.
-Zack Ryder is a decent singles competitor. Plus, seeing the interaction between Maryse and Mojo would be hilarious. You can also have Mojo counter the Spirit Squad.
Conversely, Ziggler seems to have better options for challengers:
Baron Corbin: he’s the logical choice here on the heel side to see if he can handle a high profile feud. He doesn’t need to win, but put on a good showing.
-Curt Hawkins is at least competent on the mic compared to the face choices. He could be used to give Ziggler a successful title defense to solidify his position.
-Breeze & Fandango: The fashion police schtick is mildly amusing but they are both solid in ring performers. I think they could play off well against Ziggler personality wise and deliver a decent or even breakthrough match.
-Luke Harper: He could go after the title to prove he’s still a valuable member of the family. Having Ziggler get involved in the Wyatt and Orton story would also build that story and could involve the tag team division.
Based on what transpired at Talking Smack, I say the ending should have both Ziggler and Miz laid out. Maryse climbs the ladder to pick up the title for her husband. Ziggler is the first to come to and threatens to push the ladder over if Maryse doesn’t climb down. Miz, not seeing his wife, charges Ziggler who “accidentally” pushes the ladder over. Maryse falls to the mat and Miz looks up at the title, then to his wife, the title, then goes to help his wife. Ziggler stops and allows the EMTs to come to her aid before the two resume. Miz shows fire for what happened to his wife but eventually Ziggler comes through with the win.
This gives Maryse the comeuppance for her constant interference while adding some layers to Miz’ character. It also makes Ziggler look to be the stand up babyface who won’t take advantage of the injured woman nor physically attacking her. JBL can crow all about how it was Ziggler’s fault Maryse was hurt, etc and this can give Miz some motivation later on to avenge his wife or even go baby face because the audience can relate to caring about a loved one over the title. He can still remain heel and it works too, if the Enzo vs Rusev teaches us anything. *rolls eyes*
Beauty and the Manbeast (c) vs Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton – Tag Team Title: I think Slater’s redemption story has plateaued with capturing the tag titles with Rhyno. They do have a good dynamic but I think Slater can go back to a singles program. I want Wyatt and Orton to go over clean here. To mirror what transpired at Survivor Series, see Bray take a GORE! for Randy who follows up with an RKO on Rhyno for the title. Luke Harper’s interference will be countered by Kane.
Nikki Bella vs Carmella – No DQ: Although I’ve written Bella will challenge Lynch for the title at Mania, she already has a built in story against whoever attacked her backstage at Survivor Series. Instead, I think Carmella should be able to take advantage of the No DQ stipulation and pull out the win using dirty tactics. You can have Nikki dominate the match 60-40 here so she doesn’t look too bad either. This elevates Carmella on the roster enough to propel her a women’s title match against Lynch.
Corbin vs Kalisto – Chairs match: After seeing Corbin’s work on Talking Smack, I firmly believe he has more upside than Kalisto. His in-ring work is fine and still developing. He is one of the rare guys who seems comfortable in the heel persona; a rare commodity. The use of chairs can allow Kalisto to even the odds a bit, but eventually the size and strength difference is too much. End of Days on a chair for the 1-2-3.
Pre-Show: American Alpha vs Breeze & Fandango: Have the two teams go out and deliver a solid match. American Alpha can have a pre-match interview where they say they are re-focusing after the Wyatt loss and will be going through the rest of the Smackdown tag team division if they have to. After the match, the Usos run in and attack Alpha to hopefully lead to the blow off of their feud before Rumble.
Post TLC to Rumble
Following TLC, the feuds leading up to Rumble need to be established. With no intervening Smackdown PPVs, there will have to be a slow build to get to where we need to be. Here, I’m in favour of stretching out the stories. The Rumble will likely be a 4 hour event with the Rumble match itself taking about a quarter of that.
I would normally want to setup Rumble qualification matches but the sad truth is there aren’t enough singles competitors on Smackdown for that. Excluding AJ Styles and the tag division, there are only 14 wrestlers (I’m including Undertaker here and the Wyatt family minus Eric Rowan) eligible. So I’m going to delve a bit into NXT to shore up the numbers as I dislike throwing tag teams in there.
WWE WORLD TITLE: The first segment on SD following TLC will have John Cena return (if filming of his TV show and possible movie role permit). If not, it will be fit somewhere during the 8 week build. He will come in challenging AJ Styles, 1 last time, 1 on 1 for the World Title. AJ, still hurting from TLC blows him off. “I beat you at Money in the Bank, Summerslam and No Mercy. You don’t deserve to face me.” This brings in Dean Ambrose who is also selling his injuries from TLC. Here, Ambrose agrees alluding back to their build up to No Mercy. “You can’t just come and go as you please, part timer, and demand a title shot.” The Wyatt family stinger hits and Orton and Wyatt are standing in the middle of the ring. With everyone circling Styles. Miz’s music hits, it’s immediately interrupted by Daniel Bryan’s theme to Miz’ annoyance. Bryan acknowledges Ambrose’s point and decides to set up a fatal five way with all those in the ring to determine the #1 contender. Before leading to commercial break, AJ blindsides Cena with the title sending him stumbling into Ambrose. This starts off a brawl. Styles immediately escapes the fracas.
Later in the main event, Wyatt and Orton are working as a team throughout, forcing the Miz, Ambrose and Cena to work together begrudgingly. With Styles at ringside running down the faces and giving respect to the heels on commentary. As Cena sets up to get the win, Styles runs in and hits him with a chair. Then a chair shot for Wyatt, Ambrose, and Orton. Miz’ smartly, scurries away. Smackdown ends with a non-finish with Styles smarmily proclaiming himself the “Face that runs the place”.
Week 2: The next week, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan call out the competitors of the previous main event. As the group argues their case, shoving commences which leads to blows. Daniel calls for them to stop and declares that the Wyatts have some unfinished business with the tag titles. They’ll face Rhyno, Slater, and Kane in a 3 vs 3 tag match later that night. As Daniel faces away from Miz, he seems to want to grant another shot to Ambrose or Cena. Shane interrupts and tells Bryan he will make the decision as his conflict of interest with the Miz is affecting his judgement. In the mean time, the main event will feature Miz vs Cena vs Ambrose so they can settle their problems and their performance might sway him to decide a number #1 contender.
Backstage Styles is speaking to Bryan and McMahon. He runs down Bryan in front of Shane for not doing his job by failing to keep Ambrose out of the building two weeks ago. Ambrose, still incensed rushes in and attacks Styles from behind. Once more they get separated.
During the main event, Styles comes out focuses his attack on Ambrose for revenge while Cena and Miz brawl in the ring. As Cena once more gets the upperhand, Styles pounces with a springboard chair shot to Cena. Again, SD ends with Styles on top. Miz wisely rolls out of the ring to avoid Styles. This plays into his “I never get injured” talking point.
Week 3: Styles is out first, crowing about how there seems to be no clear #1 contender. Ambrose comes out once more. Styles bails out of the ring. On the mic he yells out: “You had your re-matches and chances and you came up short.” Ambrose agrees but points to the entrance. James Ellsworth’s music hits. “He has a match though.” AJ is fuming while he stares daggers into Ellsworth. Ambrose capitalizes by attacking Styles from behind and leaving him clutching his shoulder after being thrown into the steel steps.
Styles is in the trainer’s office complaining he’s hurt badly. Daniel comes in to assess Styles’ condition. He claims if Styles cannot compete, he will lose by forfeit to Ellsworth. Faced with going down 4-0 to Ellsworth, Styles is irate and claims he’ll be ready and can beat Ellsworth even when injured.
The main event transpires with Ambrose once again at ringside causing mischief. However, the Miz intervenes and attacks Ambrose. Enraged that Ellsworth gets a title shot ahead of him. Furthermore, Miz would be mad about Ambrose claiming to be THE workhorse of the WWE. Styles, now free of distraction, can dominate and take out Ellsworth once more.
Week 4: Cena, Miz and Ambrose are gathered in the ring. Shane announces the Wyatts are too busy with the tag title scene at the moment and with the Rhyno-Slater re-match, have been removed from contention. Bray, ominously says “this isn’t over Shane. I have tasted gold and it is ambrosia…”. This brings out Styles who wants to know who among these “losers, no offense Miz” he will be facing. Ambrose and Cena have had enough and attack.
This leads to a main event tag team match. If Ambrose and Cena win, they both go on to face Styles in another triple threat match. If Styles and Miz win, Miz gets the title shot. Thus, the heels have a legitimate reason to work together. Styles would prefer the 1 on 1 match to the triple threat against the faces and Miz to get the World title opportunity.
During the match, the heels work together more effectively and double team Ambrose. Eventually, he gets the hot tag to Cena who runs roughshod over first Styles and then Miz. As he prepares to defeat Miz, Styles throws a chair into the ring. Ref bump ensues etc, and the heels use the chair to take advantage. Just before the ref recovers, Styles hits Miz with the chair, betraying his partner. He lays the arms of Miz and Cena on top of one another. This leads to a double pin.
Week 5: At this point the story of Styles trying to avoid having to defend the title has reached its end. Now we have to deliver a match. There are two scenarios based on availability. The first is a fatal fourway between Miz, Cena, Ambrose and Styles for the title. This certainly plays into the whole babyface authority figure wanting to punish the heel champion for interfering in the #1 contendership. The other option as rumoured, is more intriguing to me though. Assuming the latter goes through, here is how I set it up:
It’s announced Shane will deliver his decision on the #1 contendership “later tonight”. In the lead up, Ambrose, Cena and Miz will try to talk to Shane to plead their case but Daniel intervenes. He states Shane is in deliberation and he’s making his decision based on the body of work of each competitor. Cena argues what better moment for the 60,000 strong crowd at the Alamodome to see him winning his 16th world title. Ambrose wants revenge for what Styles did to Ellsworth. In a very tense moment, Miz claims he stepped up and were it not for Maryse’s injury he’d still be IC champion. He brought prestige to that championship and would do the same for the World Title.
In the ring, as Shane is about to announce who will face Styles at Rumble, the three principals interrupt. Finally, Styles interrupts Shane reviewing each of their accomplishments. Styles runs them all down before finally stating: “It doesn’t matter who Shane picks. There is no man alive who can take this title from me.” GONG. Undertaker’s music plays. Shane announces: “At Royal Rumble, it will be The Phenom vs the Phenomenal One for the WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPSIONSHIP!” Styles should be selling the announcement as if he were shitting his pants. The show fades to black as the Undertaker stalks towards AJ. For the live crowd, every competitor can take turns attacking AJ.
Week 6-8: This will be devoted to the build between Styles and Undertaker proper. If Undertaker is planning to retire at Mania, have him announce during the build he’s looking for one last ride with the title over his shoulder. Styles can repeat the motto: “I’m a winner. Winners find a way to win.” to psyche himself up. They could even tease the previous rumour of Styles vs HBK with Styles saying: “The closest you’ve ever come to face me was Shawn Michaels, but I am younger and out to prove I am the best in the world.” (also alluding to CM Punk here).
Down the road, HBK could make an appearance and help fuel the build by saying he’s been following Styles’ career and has been impressed by what he’s seen. But fighting the Undertaker is nothing like Styles has done before, etc. You could throw Styles vs Kane out there as a tune up match while Taker plays mind games with Styles. I’d keep this to a minimum though so it doesn’t dilute Wyatt’s schtick. In fact, I’d have Styles be paranoid with the Undertaker playing this very straight. Give Taker a squash match or two along the way to see how he holds up and to allow some physical confrontation between Styles and Taker where the deadman prevails.
Inevitably, I think Styles should go over clean if Taker is retiring to set up the retirement match between Taker and Cena. I don’t think Cena vs Taker, particularly a retirement match, requires a title to be involved. If he is sticking around, a disputed finish to continue the feud.
WOMEN’S DIVISION: On the women’s side. Nikki confronts Carmella backstage once more who is harping about her victory at TLC to Alexa Bliss. Alexa is still fuming about the result of the tables match. Again, Carmella claims she was not responsible for the attack at Survivor Series but wishes she had. Bliss also proclaims her innocence saying “Nikki, you weren’t worth the effort. I was busy with more important matters like winning the title.” Nikki takes exception to this and attacks Bliss and Carmella. Natalya eventually comes in and suggests the women put aside their differences plagiarizing inspirational song lyrics. This sets up a match between Bliss and Carmella vs Nikki and Natalya. However, once more, Nikki is attacked backstage and Becky comes out to replace the fallen Bella. the match ends with the heels getting the win after a miscommunication between Natalya and Becky.
I’m trying to throw the scent off Natalya here. Besides James or Asuka, no women on NXT seem ready to make the jump to the main roster. I don’t want to turn Naomi nor Becky heel either. So that leaves only Natalya and a returning Eva Marie as culprits. However, I do want to plant the seeds for an eventual Nikki heel turn. I feel she is better suited for that role. To accomplish this, Natalya will be “investigating” what happened. As the weeks progress, she will have segments with Daniel. Saying there was “dark hair” at the scene of the crime. He can dismiss this as it being Nikki’s hair. Natalya thinks otherwise and points to Naomi. Later she can accuse Becky Lynch who would have been jealous as champion not being team captain. When called on her hypocrisy, she’ll claim she was happy to be team coach.She could then accuse some of the Raw women which might lead to verbal exchanges or Nikki “invading” Raw.
The eventual culprit will be either Natalya or Mickie James. Natalya is the obvious choice here but I want to create some doubt of a potential swerve. If Mickie is signed by WWE, I’d have a similar story to The Brian Kendrick. Mickie desperately wants to get back in the WWE and losing to Asuka she knew she had to make her mark. She was hoping to get into the match but Natalya intervened sooner than expected. Or you could have them both be complicit with James being the attacker but Natalya the benefactor. That should carry Nikki until the lead up to Wrestlemania.
SD Women’s championship: The inconclusive finish between Lynch and Bliss will push for another match. However, Carmella inserts herself into the mix to make it a triple threat. This prevents repetition of the Bliss vs Lynch feud by adding an additional actor to spice things up. Leading to Rumble, the heels will take turns or team up to beat down Becky every week until Becky manages to stir enough trouble between the pair (along with the “who attacked Nikki?” saga going on throwing itself occasionally into the mix).
SD Tag Team championship: As I wrote above, the tag title scene will be thrown for a loop when Orton and Wyatt capture the championship at TLC. The Wyatts and the more serious Usos and American Alpha’s gimmicks don’t mesh well at all with the rest of the goofy Smackdown tag division. Only the Hype Bros aad Slater and Rhyno blend the line of serious/goofy to mesh between the upper and lower card tag team acts. With the Cruiserweights and the “big names” in the women’s division on Raw, I think Smackdown should be the destination for the more serious tag division. Ideally, I’d prefer to see the Club move over to SD to be paired with AJ Styles, call up DIY and the Revival to SD and move the Vaudevillains, Tyler Breeze and Fandango, and the Ascension to Raw or down to NXT. Later down the road, TM-61 and a more experienced Authors of Pain can jump to SD. Spirit Squad is really a novelty act around Miz and Ziggler. With their feud over after TLC, I don’t see them sticking around in my scenario with Ziggler reclaiming the gold. That said, I will book to keep things “as is” as much as possible.
I’d have the champs get their re-match sooner than Rumble, I think there is some time to at least build to said re-match seeing as there was hardly any for the first match. Two weeks after TLC, the feud is renewed with a 6 man tag match between Rhyno, Slater and Kane vs the Wyatt family. The faces will prevail here as Harper visibly opts to not save Orton when he has the opportunity. The story will be Harper is loyal to Bray but not Orton.
For the next couple of weeks, you can throw in permutations of the members on each team in singles’ matches with all the shenanigans on the outside. Kane and Harper will also be included. Besides, seeing Orton reverse a GORE into a powerslam will be a thing of beauty. The final singles match should be reserved for Wyatt vs Slater. Slater should be freaked out at this point as his team is being outmatched in singles competition and he falls to Bray. This would be similar Xavier Woods act during the brief New Day vs Wyatt family feud just before the brand split. Slater overcomes his fears to face off against Wyatt but the cult leader proves too much for the One Man Band allowing Wyatt and Orton to retain with a clean win. After Kane or another nullifies Harper.
Meanwhile, American Alpha are still angry about losing to the Wyatts and hope to become the new #1 contenders. They ask Daniel Bryan to allow them to prove themselves. Each week, they will have a match against every tag team in the division. If said team beats Alpha, they get the #1 contendership. If Alpha goes through them all, they are the contenders. Have them start with the Spirit Squad before the cheerleaders are sent off. Next should either be the Vaudevillains or Ascension, followed by Breeze and Fandango. Up next would be Hype Bros and finally the Usos (because obviously). This covers 7 of the 8 weeks of programming between TLC and Rumble. The final week can have a showdown between the Wyatts and Alpha.
Intercontinental Title: With Ziggler on top we need to build a heel program. Personally, I’d save Corbin for a Wrestlemania match if SD isn’t getting any call ups. Nevertheless, I’m calling up two guys for SD to be revealed later but saving Corbin for now as I’d rather his break out take place in the Rumble.
The first week following his win over Miz, Ziggler will call out to the back to see who is man enough to face him for the title. Out comes Curt Hawkins who counters if Ziggler is man enough to “face the facts!”. During the match, Corbin interferes, causing a DQ. The heels take turns beating on Ziggler before Apollo Crews runs out for the save to a likely tepid response, but we have to start somewhere.
The following week, Hawkins states the facts. He would have won the match were it not for Corbin’s interference. Bryan, annoyed by Corbin interrupting another match decides to suspend him for 2 weeks without pay. Punishing Corbin by forcing him into a match is silly because as a wrestler his job is to have matches. Corbin’s character is about beating people up and getting paid to do so. Preventing him of both is a far better punishment.
Hawkins does get his re-match but this time, Luke Harper (now trying to curry favour with Bray), goes after Ziggler during the match. Again, the pair of heels beat Ziggler down until Kane intervenes (as part of the on-going Tag title saga). Crossing storylines here gives the feeling of a shared “universe” of sorts and helps fill out time while providing action.
In week 3, Hawkins again blames outside interference for the result of the match. Another match is booked, this time Jack Swagger joins in the beatdown, wearing Ziggler down. Kalisto, returning from his injuries at TLC makes the save. By the end of the show, Ziggler will go up to Daniel and express his frustration of all these attacks, saying he’d fight all of them at once than face these sneak attacks. Bryan says he could do that at the Rumble. Ziggler agrees to be included. However, as it pertains to the IC title, he’ll have something planned for next week.
Week 4: Has a 4v4 faces/heels tag team match pitting Ziggler, Crews, Kalisto and Kane vs Harper, Corbin, Hawkins, and Swagger. The heels implode during the match when Corbin gets bumped by Hawkins after a drop kick from Kalisto. He slams his partner, then lays out Kalisto as the illegal man on the outside. The team loses by DQ but not before a brawl between the teams gets out of hand. By the end, Ziggler apparently stands tall but gets clotheslined by Harper as he is turning to head to the back.
Week 5: With 7 would be contenders, and Royal Rumble approaching, Daniel Bryan has them compete in a Battle Royale to determine who will face Ziggler for the IC title. Harper eventually prevails.. After the match, Ziggler returns the favour from the last week with a super kick to Harper’s face.
With week 6 concluding the tag team title feud, I’d have ZIggler lay out Harper. The Wyatts still win, as described above, but it sets up Wyatt family beatdown of Ziggler in week 7 backstage. The final week can show a six man tag between American Alpha and ZIggler vs the Wyatt family. Alpha and Ziggler win after dissension between Randy and Luke cause the team to lose. This would tease Harper not getting involved during the match at Rumble.
Elsewhere on the card: If given time, I’d move along Jack Swagger’s heel turn by setting him up as a “gatekeeper” for new talent for SD Live. I’d call up NXT guys like Orney Lorcan a few weeks ago, face Swagger for a spot on the roster. Swagger will be seen as “keeping down” the young talent. He’s a decent worker and it’s a role that doesn’t require a lot of mic work. Eventually, he will lose to Tye Dillinger who “breaks through” and earns a SD live contract. Livid, Swagger demands a re-match, stating it was a fluke victory. Bryan agrees and sets it up for the Rumble pre-show. However, Swagger’s spot in the Rumble will be on the line. This helps introduce Dillinger to the audience. Post-match, Tye would be given Swagger’s draft ball. Pleased, he utters: “Perfect.”
Now, not having written down the Raw side, I’ll focus here on the SD entrants and the few little tidbits of stories leading into the Rumble which can fuel the next PPV which appears to be Elimination Chamber.
My entrants are:
John Cena: After being passed over by the Undertaker, Cena has a sitdown interview with Todd Philips (much like Cole does for Raw). He explains his recent absences by putting over Styles and Ambrose slightly. Explain he’s been at top for so long, it takes a toll but he’s still pushing himself. “Maybe I’ve lost a fraction of a step. It’s a testament to the strength of the roster that slight drop means the gap is that much tighter. Have him show a humble side and vulnerability. Humanize him some to where he can elicit sympathy.
He can even throw some barbed comments to the Raw roster to make himself look strong: “With all due respect to Raw. The only thing that is next, is me becoming WWE World Champion at Wrestlemania.”
Dean Ambrose: I started the seeds of an Ambrose vs Miz feud but it won’t culminate at Rumble yet. I want Ambrose to be the Smackdown “ironman”. To allow that, he won’t have an undercard match to keep him fresh.
The Miz: Excluded from the world title picture, Miz blames Daniel Bryan. In a Talking Smack confrontation, Miz demands what he has to do to get the support of management. Daniel, as the babyface acquiesces he might have been hard on the Miz but if he wants to prove himself, he can enter the Rumble as the first entry for SD Live. Miz, frustrated and in the heat of the moment, barks out “fine! I’ll go in first and I’ll be the last one there to have my arms raised up as the winner.”
Slater and Rhyno: Following the loss of the titles, the pair have parted for singles careers on amicable terms. Rhyno would tell Slater he’s proud of him for overcoming his fears and standing up to Bray even though they lost. It gives a slight rub to Slater. I don’t think all tag teams should end in a feud. With the Rumble approaching, both will enter and can have a moment where they team up one final time to eliminate someone physically imposing like Kane, Titus O’Neal, or Corbin who isn’t at the main event level yet.
James Ellsworth: At #30 because it will get a huge pop as a semi-surprise entry and it would be different to have the #30 be a joke rather than one of the main contenders.
Baron Corbin: As the guy being built up for bigger things, I’d have Corbin go in and have a decent run of eliminations; the most among the SD roster. He won’t make it to the final 4 though.
Tye Dillinger: He defeats Swagger on the pre-show and is the #10 entrant in the Rumble. I’d have him get eliminated by Corbin to set up a feud between the two before Mania.
Apollo Crews: Right now his character is extremely fragile. He has all the physical talents to succeed but he needs more of a character than “happy to be here”. I’d like to pair him with Shelton Benjamin who is slated to recover from injury sometime around or post-Rumble. I’d have him put on an ok showing but get eliminated pretty quickly. This would be the impetus for Benjamin’s return where Daniel Bryan has the veteran mentor Crews. The two are very much in the same mould and so it would be a natural pairing. They are teamed together post-Rumble. I think having Benjamin there to interact with Crews will develop his character. The two would be amazing in the ring and do well on the tag scene by replacing the loss of the Spirit Squad and Heath and Rhyno going to pursue singles careers.
Wyatt family: The Wyatts make true on Bray’s ominous warning about wanting more gold. The three join the Rumble and working together can be a force to be reckoned with. Bray or Randy would be my pick to win the thing under the premise Taker is retiring. Ideally, I’d have both be the last men standing. The face-off between the two would be energetic as the commentators beg Randy to betray Bray. Instead they both jump out at the same time to setup a triple threat.
Dolph Ziggler: The IC champ will be a late entrant. I’d have him come in the 20s. He’s an amazing bump and selling machine so he’d make the top contenders look fantastic before he is ultimately eliminated.
Kane: For nostalgia’s sake. Kane makes what might be his final Rumble appearance.
With 14 spots taken up by SD, that leaves one spot which I think is best to reserve for surprise entries. In this case, my pick would be… SAMOE JOE. His arrival should be met by surprise by the commentators who announce they don’t know which brand he represents. This could be a mystery leading into the first two weeks post-Rumble.
Match results at Rumble:
AJ retains the World title over Undertaker cleanly if Taker is retiring or via hook and crook (Club run in, low blows, etc) if he isn’t. Either or, this can set up an amazing Elimination Chamber match with AJ vs Undertaker vs Miz vs Ambrose vs Cena vs Samoe Joe. Or you keep the Chamber for a #1 contender’s match (with Orton and Wyatt not winning Rumble) to determine who faces Styles at Mania. If the latter, replace Styles and/or Undertaker with Corbin or Wyatt and Orton.
I’d prefer Lynch retaining, but Bliss pinning Carmella also works. If Lynch retains, have her get a win over Carmella. Lynch could finally defeat Bliss before Wrestlemania. At Mania, Nikki can get the title which leads to a natural feud of Carmella vs Nikki into the late spring.
Ziggler retains the IC title over Luke Harper who does not receive any help from the Wyatt family after Orton convinces their leader that Luke must win it on his own.
Harper is barred from ringside in the tag team title match as an additional stipulation following the loss in the 3v3 tag match on the go home SD Live show. Alpha uses this to their advantage to capture the titles. With Orton and Wyatt winning the Rumble, I feel they can drop the tag titles for now and allow Alpha to shine. Besides, Wyatt and Orton could have a re-match scheduled at the Chamber which could then be used to finally tease the break up of the two.