Category Archives: WWE

Fantasy Booking TLC to Rumble

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.

TLC

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.”

Royal Rumble

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.

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Survivor Series Booking

Booking both shoes alone and trying to keep up with the PPVs was too much. Hell, with the quality of some of the episodes, the current staff being paid to do it can’t sometimes do it well subjectively. I’ve decided going forward for this feature to just outline from PPV to PPV for my own sake.

Pre-Show

The pre-show is supposedly two hours long. After the length of Summerslam dragging down the overall quality of the show, I was disappointed the WWE brass didn’t learn their lesson pf overbooking the show and draining the crowd. Thankfully, they cut out a lot of the filler matches to focus on the “fantasy warfare” tag line they are overusing. From a storyline perspective, the only match that makes sense on the pre-show is a Cruiserweight #1 contender’s match between Rich Swann and TJ Perkins. Give them a full 15 minutes without any move limitations and allow them to wow the crowd. This helps put both men over, the division and adds some stakes to the Kendrick vs Kalisto match later on.

After the cruiserweight match, have Daniel Bryan meet both competitors backstage and congratulate them on the match. Foley will interject, telling Bryan Kalisto hasn’t won yet and to stop tampering with his roster.

Other than that, show various members of the roster “earlier today” arrive at the arena and get interviewed about their upcoming match:

-Ellsworth excited for being at his first PPV should be touched upon. Perhaps he can fanboy over the event with Bayley.
-AJ and the Club reuniting to fawn over the World Title, but AJ asking them where is their tag team title to create a bit of friction.
-Miz facing off against Sami in a backstage segment as they didn’t have any real build to their match.
-Kendrick talking about how he’ll defeat Kalisto is also a must seeing as Kalisto can’t be counted on to carry a feud on his promo abilities.
-The Wyatts brooding somewhere as they get ready for the match. Even a promo where Bray leaves a message for Braun… “RUN!”
-Charlotte showing up with Dana carrying her bags. The two would cross paths with Becky who carries her own things. This would play up Lynch being “blue collar” type champion.
-A Shield reunion tease.
-Jericho and KO reciting and adding to the list, running down the Smackdown team. One example would be adding Orton for having RKOed Jericho at Battleground.
-Enzo tries to hit on Carmella, who seems more interested in the 7 foot tall Cass – alluding to their real life relationship.
-Heyman and Shane McMahon cross paths. Heyman comments sarcastically that it’s good to see both Shane and Randy Orton have recovered from Summerslam, alluding to the beat down delivered by Brock Lesnar. Shane would then retort he’s got more important things to deal with than Heyman or Lesnar as his team faces off against Raw.

Main Show

During the elimination matches, I’d have Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves call the action. The regular commentators for Raw will do the duties for Brock vs Goldberg and the Cruiserweight match. Conversely, Smackdown’s team (minus Mauro) will cover the Miz vs Zayn match to allow Tom Phillips a chance to actually show what he can do to the regular audience who doesn’t follow NXT.

Tag Team Elimination Match

In the interest of spacing out the elimination matches to keep them fresh, the tag team elimination match will start off the show. I’m only going to cover the high points, signature spots and the eliminations for these matches.

Both the New Day and Enzo and Cass should have a promo segment running down their opponents to really pour fuel on the fire and get the crowd invested in the proceedings. Further, New Day should call out Daniel Bryan for saying every Smackdown team can beat them. When Breezango comes down as final Smackdown team, they’ll give out tickets to every Raw team until they get to Enzo… who receives a dozen or so tickets. Slater should also be seen to be trash talking the Shining Stars and wanting to get a hold of them before the rest of the Smackdown roster shows up.

The story leading up to the show was the disunity on the Raw side. This will be the theme of some of the match with forceful tags taking place, particularly between the Club and Sheamus towards the rest of the team. There have been some hints leading up on the show on potential brand rivalries. Here, the New Day would have a chip on their shoulder and want to start things off. American Alpha will want to start, but the Usos will tag in before Jason Jordan has a chance to even lock up with Big E.

As the Heels, the Usos will get the upper hand for 3-4 minutes before Big E goes for the hot tag to Kofi, but instead Primo or Epico will steal a tag. Honestly, they are pretty interchangeable. This brings out Slater who wants to avenge being conned into buying “stocks in Puerto Rico”. Rhyno and Slater score the first pinfall over the Shining Stars to give some legitimacy to the SD champs  and get a slight pay off to that storyline thread.

This will lead to a huge brawl between every remaining team after Smackdown has scored first. Cesaro and Sheamus will be the ones left standing in the ring after the dust settles and the referee finally restores order. The two will nod to one another as a sign of respect before arguing over who should remain the legal man after the elimination. This gives Mojo Rawley the opportunity to tackle Sheamus from behind. Here, the two would have a good back and forth as two big men before Sheamus re-establishes dominance over the Hype Bro. Normally, Mojo never plays the babyface in peril so this should be an interesting flip of the script and allow to see if he can handle that role. It also solidifies Sheamus and Cesaro as the toughest guys in the match. Sheamus and Cesaro would alternate on pounding Mojo before he “hypes up” à la Huk Hogan to get Sheamus to tag in Big E.

Big E will regain dominance over Mojo before he manages to land a spine buster on the champion. This leads to the spot with both crawling to their respective corners. Fandango will get the tag for SD, and Enzo for Raw. Enzo will be a house of fire wanting to avenge the insult about his attire. He’ll throw an elbow to Breeze which draws Prince Pretty into the ring but he gets intercepted by a big boot from Cass. The two Italian-Americans will finish off Fandango and even the score. This leaves us with the more relevant teams on each roster. Not that I dislike Breezango, but there are treated as less important than the others currently.

With Cass as the legal man, Ryder comes in, assuring an anxious American Alpha that “I got this, Bro”. They’ll get into exchanging blows before the 7 foot tall Cass gets the upper hand. Cass and Enzo will double team Ryder who shows his resiliency by kicking out of several double team moves. As E&C set up for their finisher, Rhyno will intervene with a massive GORE! as Cass is setting up to throw Enzo, the legal man, onto Ryder. Chaos ensues as each team takes its turn to come in and topple the interference of the other. Big E tackles Rhyno to keep the man beast contained. American Alpha comes in but before they even get a chance to do anything they get attacked from behind by the Club, specifically targeting Gable’s knee with a chop block. Slater runs in to save Gable with a neck breaker on Karl Anderson. Kofi hits trouble in paradise on Slater for his troubles. In the chaos, Ryder manages to crawl over to his corner and the Usos tag in. As the referee tries to get the Raw side back into their corner, the Usos low blow Enzo behind the ref’s back and score the pin. This gives the pair additional heat while not hurting Enzo and Cass. It also creates future heat between the two teams if ever the Usos return to Raw to rejoin Roman Reigns.

Despite the four on three advantage, I’ll have the Raw team get the upper hand from this point on. My intent is for American Alpha to come out as the stars of this match and to accomplish that, they need to come back from behind. They will sell frustration at never getting tagged in. The Usos remain in the ring, calling out New Day. With emotions high on both sides, the ref should be overwhelmed as each team distracts him from his duties. Opportunities like these allow the Usos to continuously do cheap shots on Kofi like raking the eyes, not tagging in (playing up their similar appearance), etc. Xavier Woods will foil one of the attempts by using Francesca II and tripping up the Usos allowing Big E to get tagged in. He is a house of fire and manages to score the pinfall close to his team’s corner with Cesaro and Sheamus providing cover from interference.

The Usos will be rightly mad at Woods’ interference and will attack him at ringside before leaving. Kofi will splash the twins with an over the top rope splash. The teams then square off on the outside, brawling. As the resident tough, Sheamus excels here and seemingly stands tall posing. He pounds his own chest boasting he’s the best. This leads to Mojo coming in as the legal man from behind and a stare down. As the biggest guy on his team and their earlier exchange, this will hopefully pay off with a good reaction. Sheamus will again strike Mojo a few times, who no sells it. Flustered, Sheamus tags in Cesaro. The two bicker briefly as Cesaro comes in. The Swiss Superman and the Hype Bro brawl with Cesaro eventually getting Mojo into the Big Swing. Ryder will come interrupt the move with a Rough Ryder from the top rope. As Ryder poses after hitting the spot, he’ll get a big boot of doom to the head from Karl Anderson which knocks Zack out of the ring. By then Cesaro will recover and hit the neutralizer on a dizzy Mojo to eliminate the Hype Bros.

With Smackdown now down for the first time in the match, American Alpha are desperate to get in and hopefully the crowd picks up on this. However, Slater comes out to be the legal man, yelling “he’s the champ and the One man band!”. He gets a Brogue Kick as he turns around. Rhyno GORES Sheamus before being pulled back by the ref. Meanwhile, the Club comes in, pretending to have tagged by slapping their hands together in and hit the Magic Killer and a pinfall on Slater. As the Rhyno awkwardly gets in the way for Alpha  to interrupt the pinfall. This should hopefully give the Club additional heat for eliminating a crowd favourite.

Chad Gable will be the first legal man for AA. The Club will be shown grinning from ear to ear. Anderson, the legal man will too sweet Gallows to come in as the bigger man. Alpha, being fresh from having been kept out for most of the match, are able to score some offense in before the numbers game constantly gets the upper hand. Nevertheless, Gable refuses to be pinned and kicks out. Gable manages to reverse a setup for a power bomb into an ankle lock. Before Gallows can tap, Anderson saves his partner but gets thrown out by Jordan. Gallows uses this opportunity to tag Kofi in. Kofi isn’t fast enough to intercept Gable from tagging Jordan who runs roughshod over the smaller Raw champ. Cognizant of the numbers game, Jordan will knock Cesaro, Big E and Sheamus off the mat before applying an ankle lock. With only Gallows in a position to stop the submission, he pulls his hand away just as Kofi is trying to tag. Unable to reach the ropes, Kofi taps out. Incensed, Cesaro pushes Gallows demanding to know why he did that. Gallows kicks Cesaro in the groin and throws him into the steps. Gallows, with Anderson’s help, will limp out to sell the effects of the ankle lock and the Club gets counted out. All of this should put massive heat on the Club for betraying Raw by going after some baby faces.

Now, the piece de résistance is American Alpha vs Cesaro and Sheamus as the final teams representing both brands. As the best workers on both teams, I’d have this go a good 5-10 minutes before Alpha finally pulls the win with a double ankle lock on both Cesaro and Sheamus, giving Smackdown a 1-0 lead. Back on Raw, Sheamus and Cesaro can still claim to be next in line for the title as they were the last team standing and would’ve beat New Day at Hell in a Cell if not for the screwy finish. With the exception of the Shining Stars and a lesser extent Breezango, I feel this series helps elevate every team on their respective rosters:

American Alpha are the big winners here which could lead to a renewed feud with the Usos who were eliminated due to interference by Xavier Woods and would still claim to have sidelined Gable earlier this year.

Slater and Rhyno were fairly involved in the match, breaking up many pins and keeping their team in a position to win. Slater remains a somewhat comedic act so him losing in the way he did plays into his goofy character. The payoff for beating the Shining Stars rewards the audience for watching Smackdown and Talking Smack and shows he isn’t entirely comedic.

The Hype bros got several good spots, with Mojo getting a chance to stand up to Cesaro and Sheamus as a legitimate tough guy who can hang with the Europeans. The odd couple in turn get to stand tall even in defeat. Being eliminated due to a low blow doesn’t hurt Enzo and Cass and having them score a pinfall on Breezango gives them a small win. The Usos and Club continue their heelish ways, selling them as legitimate threats as a team and worthy of being booed for their actions.

Finally, the New Day are set to beat Demolition’s record. Lasting a good deal of time in the match and their promo is sufficient enough to keep them hot. Further, they were featured heavily in the match on the Raw side which might help dispel Daniel Bryan’s statements during the State of the WWE Universe address.

Interlude

After a long match, the crowd might need a slight break so I’d put a segment cutting away to the Pre-show crew talking about what just happened. This will give the ring crew the opportunity to change the ring ropes. Another cutaway will show Mick Foley confronting the Club backstage. They will retort they warned the New Day of the betrayal two weeks ago. Foley will suspend them for their actions and tell them he better not see them the rest of the night.

Cruiserweight Championship: Kendrick vs Kalisto

Now, I’m torn on what the WWE will do with the new 205 Live show debuting soon and taped after Smackdown. Raw is often a drag to watch and removing the whole division would be a blow to filling out the three hour show. On the other hand, NXT Takeover might offer the opportunity for a few call ups to fill in some holes. Furthermore, the division is fairly new and having the title exchange hands often will hurt the credibility of the title. However, there is a way to serve everyone.

Daniel Bryan will join commentary for the match. Along with AJ and Jericho, he has to be one of the MVPs for WWE this year in his role as Smackdown GM. His history with Brian Kendrick will add to the commentary as he will be torn between friendship and brand loyalty. He can also help put over Kalisto who just can’t get himself over on the mic.

The two are quality workers though and I think a good back and forth for 10 minutes or so would be highly entertaining. Just as Kalisto appears to be heading to victory, Kendrick will flee the scene and run to the back. Kalisto will chase after him, knowing full well the title doesn’t change hands on a count out or DQ. However, Kalisto won’t be fast enough and runs back into the ring in the nick of time to beat the 10 count while Kendrick is clutching his belt smugly, waving goodbye to Kalisto.

Interlude #2

Going back to the Pre-show commentary crew, they’ll sell disappointment in the result of the match before Renée is told she is getting news they have an interview with Kendrick backstage. Kendrick will gloat about being smart, and preserving his title and the division on “the flagship” show. Bryan will show up demanding an explanation. Stephanie  McMahon will interrupt in turn, telling Bryan “you won, congratulations. Now leave MY cruiserweight champion alone.” She’ll smile smugly, praising Kendrick for his wits as Bryan is left staring daggers towards the two.

Women’s Elimination Match

As a quick aside, the Raw women’s roster is definitely top heavy… in terms of star power that is. Sasha, Charlotte, Bayley and a lesser extent Nia Jax are all bigger names than all but Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch on Raw. While it’s disappointing Natalya won’t get to be in the match despite the PPV being in Canada, I do feel there is more depth on the Smackdown roster. The writers have done a good job giving each woman a character and reasons to fight or align with one another. My personal favourite has to be Alexa Bliss; disregarding her silly “Bliss me off” catch phrase. Carmella has also shown herself to be effective in an irritating heel role. With Eva Marie shooting movies, Dana Brooke is the weakest link on both shows. Although imagine if Eva was in this match and she scored the final pinfall. The boos would be deafening.

I’d have Natalya introduced first to get the crowd going. As a canuck, the Toronto crowd will be firmly behind her and cheer loudly. Here you can then alternate between the rosters with Lynch or Bayley as the final arrival to end on a good pop. Again, the story on Raw was the women were divided between Charlotte and everyone else. Thoughout the match, Charlotte will be heard ordering her team around condescendingly. On the other side of the ring, Natalya will be giving silly or useless advice and words of encouragement. For added fun, she could pull out some lyrics from Canadian musical acts.

Both team captains will start the match with the announcers recalling Nikki attacking Charlotte on SD. They could also play up how Charlotte originally ended Nikki’s record title reign as Divas champion. Charlotte will get the upper hand early, grand standing to the crowd. She’ll tag in Nia Jax to continue the beat down. Nia and Charlotte will isolate Nikki from the SD side, working her over but the she will not stay down. Nia will line up John Cena’s girlfriend in a neutral corner for her bull rush charge but will miss after Nikki sidesteps. She’ll then roll to her corner and tag in Becky. If she can manage it, have her score a power move on Jax, followed by the Disarmher. Naomi will interrupt the opposing women’s attempt to break the submission with a springboard splash. Jax will power out of the move flinging Becky away forcefully. As Nia drags herself slowly to her corner, Alexa and Naomi also run in to prevent the tag but Nia brushes them aside. Finally, Nia tags in Alicia Fox who goes up against Naomi and performs a northern lights suplex into a bridge for the pin. Out of all the women, Alicia needs a pin the most here and Naomi is the only woman not firmly involved in a feud on the SD team who can eat it.

Before Fox can celebrate though, she’ll be blind sided by Carmella. Eventually, the Princess from Staten island will lock in her neck submission hold. The women will all run in to brawl except for Nia who is still selling the effects of the STF from earlier. The various women on both sides will lock in submission maneuvers on opponents: Banks statement on Bliss, Figure 8 on Nikki, and the Disarmher on Bayley. All of these submissions make it difficult for the ref to sort out who is the new legal woman after Fox taps out for the Raw team. So he breaks all the holds and many of the women are left selling on the mat or outside the ring. Hopefully, the visual of all these submission maneuvers will look great and allow to clear the ring a bit.

Tied at four a piece, Charlotte’s team has a slight edge though as they had Bliss and Nikki in submission moves, leaving Becky and Carmella vs Sasha, Charlotte and a recovering Nia Jax. Becky comes in here against Charlotte as Mauro yells “CHAMPION VS CHAMPION! WHO IS THE MOST DOMINANT WOMAN IN THE WWE?” Dana Brooke will begin interfering to help Charlotte gain an advantage over Becky with trips near the ropes and such. Sasha, somewhat of a tweener won’t say anything about this but Bayley should show some resentment of having to utilize these tactics. Natalya will begin chasing after Dana trips Carmella on the ring apron to prevent a tag. All of this leads to some confusion allowing Becky to tag a reinvigorated Nikki who saves Carmella from Bayley but the distraction at ringside has Natalya accidentally clothesline Charlotte at ringside in plain view of the referee. This has the ref send her away to the back to a chorus of boos.

Mauro and Corey would play up Nikki getting’s injury and loss of the title to Charlotte and this is a chance at revenge. Nikki will dominate Flair but a timely intervention from Dana will allow Charlotte to score the pinfall. A bit early to eliminate Nikki but she’s not the best worker on the SD side among the 4 remaining and yet it’s not shameful to be pinned by Charlotte and due to interference no less.

Carmella comes in and slaps Charlotte, yelling “Nikki’s mine!” and showing frustration that she wanted to take her out after the match. Eventually, Charlotte turns the table and tags in Nia who just destroys Carmella handily and gets the pinfall. Outnumbered at this point, the SD women can’t prevent the pinfall leaving only champion and challenger to have to work together against 4 women.

Now, with TLC coming first, we need to keep Becky and Alexa strong for that PPV. There will be plenty of opportunity to build up the next challenger for Charlotte’s title match. Bayley will be eliminated due to Dana’s interference backfiring. Bliss will score the pin with a roll up. Before Bliss has a chance to celebrate, she’ll be run over by Nia. The size difference here is the most significant and so it will play well for Bliss to be a de facto baby face here. Charlotte will berate Bayley as she heads to the back for being a loser and not ready for the main roster, etc. Incensed, Bayley will go to hit Charlotte but think better of it. Charlotte will gloat before Bayley clotheslines Dana Brooke instead, followed by a Bayley to Belly on the ramp. Charlotte will be distracted by all this while Sasha and Nia fight Bliss and Lynch.

Back to the action in the ring, Bliss will be thrown outside the ring like a rag doll. The babyface Becky will go to check on her partner despite their rivalry. Bliss will see Nia coming for the charge and sidestep while using Becky to take the hit. The pair would crash into the barricades hard. As Nia tries to get back in the ring at a count of eight, Bliss will hit a baseball slide preventing Nia from saving herself from a count out elimination.

Becky will be left out for a while to sell the effects of being rammed into the barricade by Jax.  Charlotte and Sasha will bicker as they take turns working over Alexa. Each time Alexa uses an underhanded tactic to create some separation, she’ll yell to Becky to “get up”. Finally Becky makes it to the mat for a hot tag and Charlotte gets put in the Disarmher for the submission elimination as both Sasha and Alexa are laid out. Graves here can now talk about how Becky could never defeat Banks in NXT. Becky will be fired u at this point as she allows Sasha to get up and fight face to face. The 2 on 1 advantage will however prove too much for the Boss. As Becky goes for the final elimination, Bliss tags in to steal the win for herself.

Post match, the ref raises the two women’s hands. Becky offers to shake Alexa’s hand who teases to reciprocate but instead walks off, giving fuel to their feud without having to end up a brawl putting one or the other down.

Interlude #3

A backstage segment shows the SD tag teams celebrating at a shindig organized by Slater and Rhyno. The other tag teams react negatively to the menu of crackers and spray cheese. The SD women will come in to be greeted by cheers from the male tag team roster. This will help create a level of camaraderie and put the male and female competitors on a similar level. Daniel Bryan will also congratulate the teams. The Miz and Maryse will interrupt the festivities and boast they will return with a win but they expect better catering. He’ll also inform Daniel will have to renegotiate the contract again otherwise he’ll just go to Raw with the title.

On the flip side, Stephanie will be incensed at going 2 down and have an emergency meeting with Foley, threatening the Raw roster. She will not be embarrassed with a clean sweep. She would then call out Sami Zayn specifically that he better come back with the IC title. This should hopefully create stakes for the final men’s match beyond brand pride. Foley will come to the defense of competitors, but blaming the Club for the tag team loss. He can also explain his leniency on them for fear they might simply jump to Smackdown if they were outright fired.

IC Title match

While on paper, Ziggler vs Zayn would have probably been the better match, Miz is no slouch and his mic skills and character have been great. I think the decision is based purely on the heel/face dynamic and the match taking place in Toronto might not go well for Ziggler. Raw has really dropped the ball with Zayn since the brand split so the logic of Miz as the heel would better serve Zayn. Nevertheless, I feel having the title switch hands and brands seems a bit much in such a short time span.

I’m not against SD not having a mid card title, but  there would be too many singles titles on Raw without clear divisions. On SD, there are just not many feuds available. Kalisto, Apollo Crews, Jack Swagger and maybe Kane are the only non-main event faces on the roster who aren’t part of a tag team who could face Miz. All underwhelming options for different reasons I won’t go into here. With tag teams you could have Slater and Ryder in the mix. Ziggler as champ doesn’t have many alternatives either with Hawkins, Corbin and Luke Harper as the likely candidates. Out of those listed, I’d prefer Harper vs Ziggler.

Just as Zayn comes out, I’d make sure to have the ring announcer emphasize Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The pop for his entrance should be top 3 of the night. I’m positive the pair can put on a good match but eventually, Miz will begin cheating. First with Maryse, but then have to resort to waving in the Spirit Squad. However, they will be stopped by Ziggler who superkicks them both. This is very much in line with what a babyface is in line to do. As a twist, despite how I wrote earlier I felt Zayn has been languishing, I’ll have him pull out the win for the more or less home crowd and to create some buzz. It would create even more tension between Miz, Ziggler and Bryan.

Interlude #4

Bryan and Shane will be in Shane’s “office”, showing some disappointment of Miz’s loss. Daniel should show conflicting emotions. He’s happy for Sami and seeing Miz lose but losing the title is a big blow. Shane reassures him though that after SD clean sweeps Raw, they’ll be the dominant brand. Cue Stephanie McMahon who will come in and gloat about getting the IC title “back to where it belongs”. The trio will argue but Stephanie, ever the hateful woman, will be rankled when Shane brings up that SD would’ve won the Cruiserweight match had Kendrick not ran away and SD is poised to sweep the elimination matches. This leads to a bet between the two. A sort of “double or nothing” bet, where SD can reverse the result (from a brand perspective, not the competitors) should they pull out the win in the 5 on 5 men’s match. If Raw wins though, Shane will go on Raw and admit defeat and step down as commissioner. Steph agrees and the two shake on it.

Brock vs Golderg

It looks like this match might be the main event, but I feel the match won’t be as good as the final 5 vs 5 elimination match. Further, I don’t want to see the rumoured Wrestlemania Shane vs Brock match. I don’t see Goldberg coming out and losing here and ending Survivor Series on a down with the heel winning would be a bad end. Thus, I would position this match here.

Have the two start off doing a semi-MMA fight before the german suplexes begin. The match would devolve into an Attitude Era type brawl on the outside. A stiff back and forth between the two with frequent cuts to Goldberg’s wife and son. If the two can emote, show them grow increasingly worried when Brock is on the offensive. Throughout the match, Heyman will berate Goldberg about having his son watch him get destroyed. Eventually, Goldberg begins the comeback and lays out Heyman as he berates Goldberg’s family. Brock uses this distraction to regain the upper hand and prevail, but barely. This can then setup a potential rubber match for Goldberg if he feels up to it. Despite the loss, Goldberg would be allowed to look strong, have his family come to the ring and pose with him for the crowd.

Interlude #5

As Brock and Heyman come through the back, Shane could make a comment to them about how heroic it was to bring another man’s family as a distraction. This can continue to tease the tension, but at this point in time, Lesnar is spent and won’t get physical. It will still tease the feud between the two and make people think Lesnar might get involved in the main event.

Follow this up with the interviews with the various participants in the match:

  • Seth Rollins explains he was promised a face to face encounter with Triple H. He knows he’s the best, and is going to prove it one more time to all the doubters, etc.
  • Jericho explains how all of Smackdown is on the list (recapping the pre-show) and once you are on the list, “you will never, EEEEVER be the same, agayne!”
  • Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton do a typical Wyatt family promo mixed in with how he created Braun, and he can also destroy him.
  • Roman Reigns just says whenever he is in the ring, he gets the job done. Tonight, he’s got 5 opponents, and he aims to eliminate all 5 himself.
  • Ambrose takes exception to Stephanie calling Smackdown the “B show”. It’s not the B show because he beat Reigns and Rollins at Battleground in the triple threat to keep the World title on Smackdown.
  • Kevin Owens claims he is the best champion because he’s the Universal champion.
  • Styles echoes begrudgingly Ambrose’s previous statement. However, he adds he beat John Cena and Ambrose for the title. He runs down KO for receiving help from Triple H for his title after Balor was injured.  His title is the same lineage as those greats like Bruno Sammartino, Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, etc. All of the competitors are great, but there is only one who is phenomenal…

Main Event: Men’s Elimination Match

This should be a full 40+ minutes affair with your rosters’ main event talent involved. The challenge here is the importance of elimination order is through the roof as you can’t afford to “bury” your main guys. Steph will want to take Shane down and she will resort to every underhanded trick she can muster. So the temptation is to overbook the hell out of it. Jericho and Kevin Owens are the two Canadians in the match and will both get cheers despite their current status as heels. Reigns will get booed out of the building as usual. Styles will get more cheers than boos. Everyone else will get modest crowd pops.

Braun Strowman will be the first man introduced. He’s the lowest on the pecking order as established stars. He’ll be followed by Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton together. The trio will stare each other down as “BREAK THE WALLS DOWN” hits. Jericho, sporting a scarf and the List will come down to cheers. Next down will be Roman Reigns to put back the emphasis on Raw but also to get the boos out of the way early. Ambrose is out next, he pauses at the top of the ramp to allow Ellsworth to catch up. Next out is Seth Rollins. Here, AJ Styles comes out as the crowd pops continue to build. Styles should clearly be looking at Jericho and Reigns as they feuded earlier this year. As Universal champion, Kevin Owens is the last member of his team out. He begins trash talking Styles as he came out last as the more important champion. Then, As Shane is about to come out, he’s attacked by Rusev. As the Smackdown team is stunned, they are outnumbered with the 5 Raw men in the ring who lacking a true babyface, block Smackdown team from intervening to assist their boss.

GONG! Undertaker comes out and chases Rusev away. Medics will come in and check up on Shane before helping him to the back. Tensions are high in the ring as the ref tries to keep the two teams apart. Undertaker makes his way to the ring. Jericho will get face to face with the Deadman who stares him down. Jericho backs away and Undertaker joins the Smackdown team. Rusev is a great performer and not having him on the show was disappointing. This gives him some heat for going after a baby face and a possible story with Stephanie favouring him later on. Adding the Undertaker to the match, even if unannounced will add to the big match feel and people who missed the show another reason to regret it.

As the team “captains”, Styles and KO will start things off first. As the two are about to lock up, KO steps back smirking. He yells out  “I’m the champion of the Universe!” and tags in Braun Strowman. Like the SD women, I feel it’s more important to book the main event for TLC as strong as Raw has more lead up to Roadblock. Especially with Styles being a bit embarrassed in the Ellsworth matches. It is in KO’s character to act dastardly. He has been booked as an opportunistic but otherwise weak champion. Styles is a heel too, but he only does it as a last resort and he has not been shown to back away from matches but in fact challenge his opponents outright. He’s more of a smarmy heel. He’s also the most athletic of the SD team, so he can bump like mad for Strowman to make him look great.

Eventually, Strowman will fling AJ into the SD corner before roaring. At this, Bray will tag in, giggling briefly before becoming deadly serious. Bray would get some offense in here. He’s bigger than Styles so it would give more credibility for Strowman to sell for him. Orton would tag in to help out and the pair manage to contain Braun until Rollins tags himself in to turn the tide. Eventually, a stand off between Bray and Rollins occurs and the cult leader grins, tapping Ambrose in. Ambrose and Rollins have not interacted since the triple threat at Battleground so the animosity between the two would still be there from a storyline perspective even though Rollins has turned face.

After some back and forth, Rollins takes over and works Ambrose over in his corner. The Lunatic Fringe side steps a Stinger Splash. He follows up by punches to KO and Jericho to draw both into the ring. Styles will take out Jericho with a Phenomenal forearm but get speared by Reigns. RKO on KO as he tries to set up the pop-up powerbomb. Eventually, Reigns clears the ring of everyone but the Undertaker who had not come into the match yet. Ambrose, reeling, extends his hands to the Deadman, who tags in. Soupbones to the US champion who, despite his kevlar vest, falls back. Strowman is in next to challenge the Phenom. Have the two go at it with trying to intimidate one another through feats of strength but the younger man seems to have the slight edge.

Ever the opportunist, KO will come in once the Undertaker is slowing down before the onslaught from Strowman. He and Jericho take turns beating on the Undertaker. With Jericho working over Undetaker, have Ambrose go to ringside and pick up the list and begin going through it. This distracts Y2J who demands they drop… IT. Styles snatches the List out of Ambrose’s hands and snaps the clipboard over his knee. Infuriated, Jericho yells “You Stupid Idiots!” Cue Undertaker wrapping his hand around Jericho’s neck as he slowly gets up. Chokeslam for Jericho. As Taker goes for the pin, Owens attempts a six star frog splash from the top, but Taker sees it, and rolls out of the way. Owens splashes Jericho. Taker tags in Wyatt who covers Jericho for the first pinfall. I have the heels get over Jericho who has been turning face because of the List. Styles should get some heat for breaking the list. Wyatt could use a win since he’s not going to be a survivor here. On the flip side, this adds some tension to the Owens and Jericho relationship.

A lot of posters on the internet seem to think Strowman shouldn’t be pinned as it would reduce his standing. I disagree. His inclusion in this match is elevating him. Strowman’s elimination would come not without some shenanigans though. After a sequence against Ambrose who is thrown to the outside, Ellsworth would try to stand in Strowman’s way. The big man would easily swat Ellsworth aside but the brief interruption would allow for Ambrose the opportunity to surprise Strowman with a lariat sending the latter stumbling. Back in the ring, Ambrose strikes Strowman as he tries to get back in, eventually setting up the tag to Bray Wyatt who smells blood (figuratively of course). A blind tag to Randy Orton just as Strowman lifts Wyatt for a running power slam. Orton dropkicks Wyatt who falls on top of Strowman. He rolls Bray off, gets up to be greeted with an RKO for the 1-2-3. After the pin, the lights go out, and Wyatt, Orton and Strowman are gone from the ring, leaving Ambrose, Taker and Styles to face KO, Rollins and Reigns.

This leaves Smackdown team confused as they have lost their advantage. While, I disagree with Reigns position as a babyface, turning him heel here is a poor choice. He would get overshadowed in the shuffle of the stories coming out of the event. Ambrose and Reigns would be in the ring and fist bump before going at each other in earnest. Ambrose will duck a superman punch, and so Reigns will go after Styles in the corner and knock him off the mat. As he goes to hit Taker, he blocks and tags himself in to put down the one who claims to be the “big dog”. Reigns would put up a good fight and I’ve have him get the pin after KO delivers a super kick to the back of Taker’s head setting up a spear. The pin would be in line with WWE’s push of Reigns heading to Roadblock so I don’t have issue with this. It also allows for an Undertaker vs Reigns or Taker vs KO at a later date depending how long Taker will be performing before his retirement.

Styles follows up by pinning KO. The sequence will come after KO jaws off to the former shield members who decide to leave him out to dry. Styles would deliver an emphatic Styles Clash in the middle of the ring.

Down to the ex-Shield + Styles, the Raw team gets the upperhand as action spills to the outside. Styles will get double power bombed through the Spanish announce table, taking him out for several minutes, leaving Ambrose to fend for himself against his former partners. As Rollins and Reigns take turns beating on the Lunatic, he is cheered on by Ellsworth and refuses to stay down. Out of the crowd, HHH comes out, drawing Rollins’ attention. Still mad for costing him the Universal title, Rollins will jump over the ropes to land on Triple H as they brawl on the outside.

Next out is the club just as Styles begins to groggily make himself back to the ring. He smiles, as Ambrose and the Club begin to surround Reigns in the ring. Big boot to Ambrose! The announcers yell out, the Club is team RAW! Styles is shocked. As Reigns looks at both, he goes for the pin on Ambrose. The Club pulls Reigns off and delivers the magic killer. They then slump Reigns’ body on top of Ambrose and flee the ring as various Raw and Smackdown superstars come down to start an all out brawl between brands. The referee counts the 1-2-3 on Ambrose. Styles, then lifts Reigns up for the Styles Clash and the win.

As I’m running a tad late before the show commences, I’m going to follow up in part 2 for the fallout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy Booking 29-30/08/2016

On Raw, Finn Balor’s injury was truly disappointing as it presented not only a new face but also a new direction. Rumours of Jericho and Owens being involved in the Universal title hunt until Survivor Series were particularly intriguing. Those two are constantly entertaining as heels and can put on good matches with a varied move set. This was arguably the best Raw since the stellar premiere but dragged at times as even their larger roster felt stretched and exposed for how shallow the roster is. More on that in the booking.

Smackdown was very well paced and quite enjoyable. By the time the show was over, I barely felt like an hour had passed, no less two. Much of that was the commercial interruptions. Styles and Slater were both the MVPs of the show. The only weakness was Naomi and Natalya on commentary. Both women were hardly engaged in the banter. The former felt very subdued and showed little passion or presence. I can certainly understand not wanting to overshadow what is going on the ring, but the two women need to take a page from Dean Ambrose or the Miz on commentary to see how to contribute to the match at hand while also showing personality.

Talking Smack though has opened quite a debate in the light of the Miz vs Bryan promo. Their feud feels genuine on screen. Bryan set things up well to allow the Miz to deliver the promo of his career. Instead of resulting in a shouting match, Bryan’s walk off stage gave Miz the platform to deliver his message. While I enjoy the Miz’s work as a chickenshit heel, the passion he showed definitely deserves recognition for greater things to come. Whether or not it does, remains to be seen but I feel invested in Mike Mizanin to have greater success whether as a face or heel. The Miz wasn’t the only one to be fleshed out more but the talk with the Usos and even the Carmella vs Nikki Bella acts were enhanced. The show is becoming quite integral to the experience. I know more about the Usos in that one segment than I did throughout their entire program against the Club. Now, they didn’t necessarily endear themselves to me (they sound like jocks), but at least I have something to relate to other than “twins who dress alike and do the Rugby pre-match chant; also cousins to Roman Reigns”.

 

Prime Time Players Tussle

I start off with the worst segment from last week. Titus O’Neil flubbing his lines at numerous occasions made him look amateurish in front of the audience. Further, the whole Darren Young vs O’Neil feud is not captivating although I at least enjoy the fact Titus is calling out Young on never having been great in the first place and to their shared history. But as easily as he dismisses Young, he needs to explain why it matters that he come out on top of the feud. There needs to be stakes for us to feel invested. The Young and Backlund relationship is an interesting one. The amount of time it took for Young to intervene during the Backlund and O’Neil fight did no one a service except maybe Backlund. I think this can be exploited.

During the show, O’Neil will be interviewed backstage on what happened last week. O’Neil will point to him having Backlund being the one with the initiative to come out and Young being too late to help him. Return this back to their time as a tag team with O’Neil accusing Young to not pull his own weight and never having his partner’s back. Accuse Young (the face) to be the selfish one. As the heel, O’Neil should look like the hypocrite and get the audience against him at least. Later in the show, Young attacks O’Neil face to face instead of a sneak attack in the locker room. Have him yell out the accusations of not standing up or not taking initiative to motivate himself in the attack. This enforces the narrative that the underdog is stepping up to the bully.

Universal Title Fatal Fourway

The WWE has booked a lot of impressive fourway and even six-pack matches with talented workers. However, the emphasis here is “a lot”. Too much of a good thing becomes stale. Thankfully, there appears to be room for some outside shenanigans with Enzo, Jericho and even Rusev having reason to interfere in the match. This can make for a great title match which normally could be reserved for a PPV. However, putting this on free TV will certainly help give a slight bump to the ratings.

I’d start Raw with a Highlight Reel segment involving KO and Jericho. Here, KO and Jericho essentially give themselves verbal pats on their backs, before running down the remaining competitors. This draws each in turn to give their rebuttal before all hell breaks loose. Throughout the night, the backstage interviewers will attempt to speak to the four for their thoughts after the altercation. Tom Phillips will do the honours with JeriKO of course. Tangential to this, Jericho and Neville would have a match where Jericho wins due to a low blow missed by the referee.

The details of the match would have Rusev screw Reigns, Enzo and Jericho more or less cancel each other out. I’d involve Neville to tip the scales against KO in revenge for Jericho’s involvement. Rollins will pick up the win and claim the title confirming his status as top heel on Raw. I’m hoping this sets up a Sami Zayn challenge the next week.

Raw Women’s Division

Bayley’s promotion to the main roster was a welcome arrival. The women’s division on Raw is sorely hurting with numerous injuries and poor builds. However, her and Nia Jax are still new and not firmly established yet to be seen as legitimate contenders to casual fans. The squash matches for Jax should continue here with her facing another local talent. Bayley however will face a tougher challenge. No, not Dana Brooke but rather a current heel on the women’s NXT roster. She will face off against Ember Moon. The story here is Ember will be jealous Bayley was promoted despite her loss against Asuka and wants the opportunity. Foley agrees but on the condition she can defeat Bayley on Raw. Moon will come up short but gracious in victory, the two will hug after a good match (hopefully) and allow Moon to go back to NXT with some more momentum despite the loss.

For the heels, Dana Brooke will face off against Alicia Fox after a segment where Charlotte tells Dana she better “step up” her game. Charlotte will be on commentary heeling on Fox and Bayley. Dana will earn a win here with a pin using the bottom ropes as leverage to regain Charlotte’s favour.

Raw Tag Team Division

With Enzo and Cass set to be involved in the main event and a rematch against JeriKO at Clash of Champions, that leaves few options for a lower card build. With the Dudleys departing WWE, there are only two established teams: The Shining Stars and the Golden Truth. The Puerto Rican gimmick was dead on arrival and so despite their talents, I can’t see them accomplish much without another repackaging. Golden Truth is a comedy act. Having both fight one another is fine for Superstars but not necessarily Raw. Which is why I think it is time for a call up.

Tommasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano are well suited for Raw. They can pull double duty for the upcoming Cruiserweight division (more below) and tag team division. Have them come up on a visit to Raw and being shown around by Foley. The pair are introduced to the Shining Stars who suggest instead they visit Puerto Rico instead; implying they might not be ready for the main roster. The two NXT guys will take exception and request a chance to prove themselves. Foley acquiesces by having them fight a group of local jobbers to allow the two the opportunity to show off their move set and hopefully wow the audience. They won’t immediately go to the main roster, but their show case will create some buzz around their eventual promotion.

Cruiserweight Division

Along with the Ciampa and Gargano match, I’d have Sin Cara shown backstage paying attention to the two on a monitor. However, the show would be of the back of his head, unmasked. The mask itself will be positioned next to him to inform everyone of his identity.

I’d also include a video package going into further detail on the four guys officially confirmed to be coming up to Raw; basically a repeat of their CWC interviews.

Sami Zayn

In light of my plan to have Zayn challenge for the title at the next PPV. I’ll need to give Zayn a high profile win. Although the Big Show isn’t on TV very often, he still cuts an imposing figure. A competitive match between the two with Zayn prevailing over the much larger opponent would be good, particularly if Zayn can manage a Blue Thunder bomb or at least a flying helluva kick to pull out the win.

Cesaro vs Sheamus Best of 7

For Sheamus to have any credibility in this series, he’s going to have to win again. This time, let’s go for a  win after he targets Cesaro’s taped up shoulder throughout a long match. This would put the Celtic warrior 2-0 in the series (in truth a 2-2 tie as they had fought twice just prior to the series).

 

 

Fantasy Booking for August 22nd-23rd

UPDATE: Due to injury, Balor is relinquishing his title which screwed up a lot of my plans. I’ve left the original idea on but it threw me off and so I’ll finish up the Smackdown portions tomorrow. 

 

Summerslam was a very off paced show. The order of the matches was off, even with the necessity to re-charge the crowd. Styles vs Cena was an amazing match and signaled the peak of crowd engagement. They never recovered and only rose up for Finn Balor’s entrance and to boo the presentation of the new title belt.

wwe-universal-champion-belt-195841
The colour scheme is bad and they didn’t take the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and design something with a more distinct look.

The finishes of the several of the lower card matches as also heavily heel-centric which didn’t help keep the crowd motivated through a 6 hour show. Great value for your dollar, but the show was clearly too long and even then managed to somehow feel rushed at times. Thankfully, I missed the first half as I was performing at an improv show. I started watching at the woman’s tag match. I later caught the Styles vs Cena match on Youtube. Anyways, on to the fallout and preparation of future storylines!

 

Universal Title

Predictably, Balor came out ahead. Unfortunately, news seems bleak for his title reign. Hopefully, he can recover quickly and return to the ring in time for Clash of the Champions (a silly premise for a PPV but I digress). The booing of the championship belt has to be addressed if only to acknowledge the crowd’s opinion and not have it hover over Balor and all future competitors’ heads. Balor should have an impassioned speech explaining what the title represents symbolically. However, the tone mustn’t be condescending otherwise the fans might turn against them. There shouldn’t be any interruptions or even worse, talking down to the crowd from authority figures. Crowds tend to react negatively when being told how to act. As the perception out there is of a lackluster show, it’s important not to incite fans further.

Now, Rollins of course will want a title re-match. This will play out in a backstage segment with him demanding a re-match for the title. Foley will state Balor was right to say Rollins was given an opportunity for the title without qualifying for it. This time, it will be different. There will be a fatal fourway to determine the #1 contender. I’m tempted to give the winner of the Sheamus vs Cesaro best of 7 the title shot but neither have been built up to be legitimate challengers yet.

This leads to various wrestlers coming to petition for the shot. Lesnar will be suspended for his actions during Summerslam and be ineligible to participate. Owens will present his case that he never got his re-match for the NXT title and deserves a shot at Balor’s new title. Jericho will talk about how he was the first Undisputed Champion. Slater will show up and claim he beat Orton before Lesnar and he deserves a shot. Cesaro and Sheamus will also make their pitches at the same time but told they have their 2nd match tonight. Reigns will ask for his re-match opportunity but Foley will explain he remains the contender for the US title.

At the top of the first hour, Foley will come out and make the announcements of the challengers. The main event will feature Zayn, Rollins, Owens, and … Neville as the surprise entrant. This hopefully creates some friction between KO and Jericho which will lead to the break up of their make-shift team. It also allows Neville to be rub elbows with people higher than him on the card to help establish his credibility.

A lot of the build up on the show will be through backstage segments: Rollins complaining to Steph about needing to qualify, Zayn and Neville saying last night was a one night only thing and tonight they are opponents, KO asking Jericho to “watch his back” during the main event, etc.

Neville will be taking the pinfall loss here, but I think it’s time to raise someone to the main event scene. Jericho will try to interfere in the match to help KO, but will be foiled by Enzo and Cass to set up the rematch to their feud. In the confusion, KO will manage to pin Neville due to the distraction caused by Jericho-Enzo and Cass.

World Title

Following Summerslam, the only legitimate contender is AJ Styles. Had Orton put in a good showing or Bray interfered as I’d hoped, we could have had a larger field to choose from. Smackdown will be built towards Cena addressing the “WWE universe” on the meaning behind leaving his “Never give up” armband in the ring following his loss to Styles.

Just as Cena begins to talk, Styles music will come on. Smugly, he explains he wants to be in the ring to hear this. Cena will admit Styles was the better wrestler, but his attitude sucks. The two will argue over who is the best on Smackdown Live which obviously draws Ambrose’s attention as the champion.  Ambrose will say Styles never had to go through what Ambrose has in the WWE. Sure he beat Cena, but Cena wasn’t the champion. He is. Styles will smirk then cheap shot Ambrose and begin wailing on him until refs break the two apart. Cena will then run Styles off but instead of being grateful for the save, Ambrose will hit Cena with Dirty Deeds to end the show.

Tag Team Championship

Enzo and Cass’ loss precludes them from challenging for the titles. The DQ finish during Summerslam naturally leads for the feud between the Club and New Day to continue. Raw marks the 1 year anniversary of the New Day capturing the titles which leads to a celebration and all the silliness the champions will muster to congratulate themselves.

The Club will come out sans lab coats, a joke which was fine for 1 show but that’s it. No verbal exchange, no cutesy jokes. Just a brawl between all 5 men. Foley will come out and admit the Club deserve a rematch. Tonight! This will spoil the celebration as the duo will prevail due to underhanded tactics leading the odd man of the New Day to jump up to the ring apron to call the ref’s attention. This distracts the ref further for even more blatant cheating and the pin to dethrone the New Day.

Women’s Championship

With news Sasha is taking time off to nurse some injuries, Charlotte is left without a challenger. This is the perfect time to introduce Bayley to Raw. Charlotte will come out, declare herself the alpha female of the Women’s division now that Sasha has “gone home to cry”. Bayley will be defending the honour of her friend and demand a non-title match. Instead, she’ll have to face and defeat Brooke to start the program between the two.

IC Title

The Miz will host a talk show segment with Ziggler. He’ll condescendingly ask Ziggler “What’s next for you after losing your one shot at the title.” Clearly irate, Ziggler will ask what was next for the Miz after he lost his single world heavy weight championship? The two will continue to argue before Miz is on the receiving end of a super kick.

I already covered Slater’s appearance on Raw. On Smackdown, he’ll make the case he deserves a title shot after beating Orton; milking his DQ win for what it’s worth. Shane will explain he isn’t even on the roster before Daniel interrupts and agrees. Before Shane can ask him why, Daniel will say “Trust me on this.”

Slater will come out and instead of Ambrose’s music. It will be The Miz. Maryse will be on commentary complaining it is unfair her husband has to have a match after getting a super kick earlier. Allow Slater to get some offense in, but eventually Miz does get the win due to a thumb to the eye and a skull crushing finale. As he prepares to lay the boots to Slater to further add injury to the free agent, Ziggler runs down and chases him away.

Smackdown Women’s Division

With the addition of Nikki Bella to the division, Smackdown now has 7 women although that is counting Eva Marie who is on suspension. In the GM office, all 6 active women will be showing solidarity by demanding a title. Daniel and Shane will inform them they have an answer as the camera pans to a bingo tumbler. They’ll announce a single elimination tournament to decide the next Smackdown Live Women’s champion. One of the women will speak up, say Carmella, about the fact they are only 6 of them.

Shane will add that they are actually 7 once Eva Marie returns from vacation. But that is why there is the bingo tumbler. They will be drawing the brackets with the first one to get a bye. Obviously, the winner of this “bye” will be Eva Marie to get her even more heat. The matches will take place once or twice a show. This allows for Eva Marie to get back in time from her suspension for her 2nd round “match.” It also helps pad the cards for a few weeks as Backlash is on September 11th and could feature the semi-finals and the final match having a proper 1 build going to the next PPV.

With Nikki Bella’s return, let’s have her get a match against Carmella or Naomi and take the pinfall loss.

Smackdown Tag team division

The tag division needs to move away from the clusterfuck booking and go to more traditional matches. However, American Alpha are clearly marked to become the champs. However, let’s stretch this out some and make their competition a round robin. Each team thus faces one another and earn points (2 for a win clean win, 1 for a DQ/countout victory, 0 for a loss).

This allows one or more teams to establish “dominance”. You could book the eventual outcome as a tie to set up a final match. Another option is for the winner of the tournament having lost to another team during the tournament.  This naturally sets up the first #1 contender. You could play up these rankings in such a way to establish a sort of pecking order and clear underdog/favourites. With DQs/count-outs giving fewer points, this can also play into the story. Maybe Alpha goes into the final match of the tournament with 7 points and their opponents have 8. Alpha has to win clean in order to be crowned champion. The other team could end up trying to lose by count out or DQ or interference come in wanting to screw the faces. Heck, this doesn’t even have to happen to the top team but earlier in the tournament to set up under card feuds. Perhaps midway through the tournament, a team needs to win cleanly to keep their chances alive. A screwy outside interference takes place eliminating them from possible contention.

And here is where I suggest something controversial. Make it the “Smackdown Tag Team Cup” instead of a belt. It makes the whole thing unique and distinct.

Fantasy booking August 8th 2016

I’m still experimenting with the exact format on how to present these blog posts. On reflection though, doing segment by segment alternating between shows took more time to write than keeping the stories contained. Anyways, let’s begin with…

Thoughts on last week

  • Last week’s Smackdown was an improvement over the inaugural show following the brand split. That said, Smackdown is going to need some of the talent on the injured reserved list to join the brand once they are healthy and ready to get back into the ring. I’m getting used to the Smackdown presentation far faster than I expected to be. However, Renée Young’s interview panel is way too high. Natalya looked tiny standing behind it.
  • The Sasha-Charlotte-Jericho-Enzo segment had some great lines but was awkward at a few other times making it feel disjointed and meandering. The match was decent and the pst-match interview was great.
  • Reigns vs Rusev has potential but I’m disappointed there won’t be any follow up on Rollins’ slander job in the build up to Battleground.
  • Miz’s work on commentary was far better than I expected. Miz, Ambrose and KO are shoe-ins to become colour commentators once their in-ring careers end.
  • Paul Heyman is fantastic. The Orton and Lesnar bout is building up towards being the main event for Summerslam. I also liked the continuity of Fandango challenging Orton for the comments made during the Highlight Reel.
  • Ziggler showed a lot of fire and got me on board for what comes next. I felt Ambrose did a fantastic job provoking Ziggler, setting him up near perfectly for his rebuttals.
  • I felt AJ Styles’ promo was fishing for cheap heat. I did like Daniel Bryan coming to Styles’ defense on the Talking Smack show.
  • I was originally disappointed there were two false-starts for the women’s division on Smackdown. After some reflection, I understand what they are going for and see it as placeholder until they establish a title of some kind. They are trying to establish the characters before focusing on the in-ring performance. Besides Beckie and Natalya, I don’t know if the rest of the roster are good workers. So a slow build here makes sense.
  • Bobby Roode’s entrance music is the best theme song ever! I listened to it at least 40 times over the week.

 

Orton vs Lesnar feud

Titles should be at the forefront with a few exceptions. Thankfully, Brock Lesnar is one of them.  WWE has already announced Foley has invited Bryan to Raw to discuss the Orton-Lesnar fight. Normally, I’d be against these non-wrestler confrontations but as long as the primary purpose serves to put over the wrestlers’ feuds then it works.

My goal would be to make the audience look out for the possibility of Orton or Lesnar “invading” either show. It looks to me that for now, Orton is being portrayed as a baby face. Raw will open with Foley out in the ring, inviting Bryan out. Bryan joins him in the ring to a chorus of YES! chants. Mick chastises Bryan for not punishing Orton for escalating the feud with his actions last week. The Smackdown GM retorts Foley didn’t seem to make any effort to warn Lesnar not to reciprocate. Further, he doesn’t see why Foley should be calling Bryan out when his time should be better spent to discipline Brock. This leads to Brock’s theme music playing but only Heyman coming out.

Heyman will scoff at any attempts to discipline Lesnar. “Brock Lesnar does, what Brock Lesnar wants to do.” In fact, Heyman will explain he is ready to pursue litigation in that event and remind Bryan Smackdown security was a joke and couldn’t stop Lesnar. Just like Orton won’t be able to stop Lesnar, nor would anyone else on the Raw or Smackdown roster. Having heard enough, Orton comes out to his theme music. Foley is apoplectic and staring holes into Bryan who tells Orton “I asked you to stay backstage while I handle this.” Orton politely replies he has all the respect for Daniel’s accomplishments and for standing up for him but he can do the latter himself. Here, Orton will address Foley and call back to their epic feud which legitimized his main event status. How he went toe to toe to the “hardcore legend” and prevailed. Foley will acquiesce he’s one tough character (PG era).

Heyman agrees Cactus Jack was a sadistic, cruel and twisted persona and someone few would dare face in the ring but this is BRRRRO… to an RKO by Orton who has heard enough from Paul. Orton sheepishly shrugs and excuses himself as “You talk too much.” At this point, Foley’s had enough and calls for security. Bryan and Orton are forcibly removed from the building with Bryan facetiously scolding Orton all the way out before admitting it was kind of cool to RKO Heyman.

The suddenness of the RKO on Paul Heyman will again put the point across at how the finisher can come at any time while adding fuel to the fire with Heyman to goad Lesnar to destroy Orton.

The next day on Smackdown, Lesnar invades. Security confronts him but quickly back down when he doesn’t. Throughout the show, Randy orchestrates hit and run attacks backstage infuriating Lesnar more and more while Bryan and Shane try to organize the inept Smackdown security. An example might be Orton leads Lesnar into a chase into a doorway. Orton hides behind the wall and slams the door in Lesnar’s face, stunning his pursuer long enough to escape. By the end of the show, Lesnar has had enough and storms the ring. He calls out Orton right there and now. The two end up brawling with Lesnar dominating. He sets up an F5 which is countered into an RKO to end the show.

WWE Universal Title

We did get the first verbal exchange between Rollins and Balor last week so the impetus is to continue to showcase Balor to a wider audience but this time through in-ring performance. As it stands, most of the heels seem to be already paired up in feuds except for Sheamus. I’ll repeat what I wrote last week to lead to a bout between the two.

However, where I differ here is Rollins will be at commentary in street clothes to rag on his opponent. During the match, Saxton remarks to Seth Balor beat Reigns to earn the title shot. Seth dismisses this, going back to his promo last week “Roman is a disgrace. He shouldn’t have even been allowed to take part of the title match at Battleground. Besides, I beat him first, and did it better to WIN the title and not just a title shot.” A minute or two later, Reigns assaults Rollins. The latter reeling, makes his way towards the ring after a flurry of punches from the disgraced challenger. This draws the attention of those in the ring and eventually Reigns missing a spear on Rollins but hitting Balor instead. Balor gets a win by DQ which annoys Sheamus who joins the fray.

Later, Foley has all four men in his office demanding an explanation from Reigns for his actions. He’ll look intensely at Rollins and say “I’m fed up of hearing him run his mouth behind my back.” Foley sympathizes with this and books a tag match involving all four men. Rollins is furious as he was promised by Stephanie he wouldn’t be competing tonight. Sheamus is happy about it because he gets to beat up the little new era punk. Finally, Balor confronts Reigns and tells him to not get in his way. Reigns, replies he shouldn’t get in his way either… alluding to the spear. I’m not a fan of Roman Reigns nor his booking, but I dislike loose ends more. I am compelled to at least address these loose threads to tie things together.

In the main event, Balor starts out against Sheamus to resume their bout from earlier in the show. Sheamus will overpower Balor at first towards the “face” side of the ring. Reigns will tag himself in with a hard slap on Balor’s back. After a flurry of offense, Rollins will intervene and the heels take control before going to a break. When we get back from commercials, Reigns will be playing the baby face in peril role as Rollins and Sheamus take turns beating him up. This will show Reigns in a vulnerable position until he can get the hot tag to Balor. Chaos will eventually ensue and the show ends with Balor scoring the pin on Rollins.

This sets up the confrontation for next week between Rollins and Balor. This also preserves Sheamus from taking the loss as I feel he can be a solid mid card guy to feud with some call ups and perhaps leaves him open to a fight with Balor after Summerslam. It also retroactively makes Cesaro look good for getting the pin over him last week.

US Title

I haven’t forgotten the Reigns and Rusev altercation from last week. However, after Cesaro beat Sheamus to “impress for a title shot” this needs to be settled in perhaps a creative way.

The title match will be introduced by the commentators who explain Cesaro didn’t want to wait and immediately requested for his title shot to take place this week. The two Europeans go toe to toe, hitting each other with stiff punches before Cesaro gets the upper hand with an uppercut sending Rusev over the ropes. The two continue to brawl outside with Rusev targeting Cesaro’s taped shoulder. Eventually, the ref does call for the bell after Cesaro is unable to hoist Rusev and much like Styles did at Payback and opts to get the count out victory. Cesaro shows frustration at not being able to score a decisive win to obtain the title and sells pain when the ref goes to lift his “injured” arm in victory.

The plan is for Rusev to come out the following week to run down how Switzerland is as pathetic as the USA and can’t compete with Russia or Bulgaria on a fair playing field. This would then lead to both Reigns and Cesaro getting involved and leading to a Triple Threat for the title at Summerslam. There are already 5 singles matches and at least a tag team match booked for the card so this would give a different flavour during the show. Rusev of course will be livid as he won’t even have to be pinned to lose the title. Now this angle accomplishes a few things:

  1. Clearly defines Reigns as a midcarder to fans who disliked his meteoric rise to the top.
  2. Allows the possibility of Rusev moving on to the main title scene by not taking a pinfall loss but losing the title.
  3. Allows three good to great workers to put on a good show on an already stacked card.
  4. Gives Cesaro and Reigns a potential program between the two leading to the next PPV.
  5. Elevates the US title by having a very recently main event level competitor try to win it.

Smackdown women’s division

As I wrote earlier, the writers are trying to establish and/or build the characters before introducing a championship. I actually really enjoy what they are doing with Eva Marie, although I understand she has a really bad reputation amongst fans. Unlike Roman Reigns, they acknowledge that heat and are using it in a positive fashion. That is, we are more invested in wanting to see one of the women beat her up.

The attack on Carmella was where I had some troubles. Her character is brand new and having her get attacked by the veteran and made to tap out before the match even began does put heat on Natalya but does nothing for Carmella unless the plan is for her to rise up as the underdog. From what I’ve seen, Carmella’s character rides a very fine line between face and entitled “bitch”. To get people on her side, she either needs to back up the talk with in ring action against a very loathsome heel or we try to get sympathy for her. The roster is not deep enough for two strong baby faces yet especially as she doesn’t come with the same pedigree as the 4 horsewomen.

Obviously, Lynch and Natalya are the two who need to “captain” the division to help establish the others. Having a firm grasp on what they are trying to do, I will contradict my previous suggestions somewhat by keeping Lynch and Natalya away from one another in singles matches for now and try to involve the different women.

In this vein, the natural storyline progression would be a tag match involving all the false starts from last week. Natalya & Eva Marie vs Beckie Lynch & Carmella. What the story here is Natalya will be doing the lion’s share of the work on the heel side. Every time she tags in Eva Marie, the all red everything will deliver a slap or a punch and immediately tag Natalya back in. Lynch will be the one being worked over, finally getting the advantage during a sequence Eva Marie deigns to be in the ring leading to the hot tag to Carmella. The Princess of Staten Island will get an upper hand on Natalya briefly while Lynch rolls to the outside following the tag. Natalya turns the tables and when she is ready to score the pinfall, Eva Marie will tag herself in to score the 1-2-3.

This should only help Eva Marie’s heat as fans are smart enough to recognize (especially with say Otunga saying Nattie did all the work) that Natalya carried her team. The goal here is to soften the rough edges on Carmella’s character for a near future feud with Eva Marie and eventually one against Natalya.

As for the other two women, I suggest giving one of them a squash match to show off their offense to a wider audience than NXT. They can then alternate the next week with the face/heel fighting Natalya and Lynch. With such a small roster, my inclination is that whenever they decide to introduce a title, it would probably be best as an elimination 6-women match on a PPV, with say Carmella or Naomi being the runner up to Natalya. This could then segue into a brief feud with the runner up until an eventual Lynch vs Natalya match at Survivor Series for the belt.

Ziggler vs Ambrose

The beat down by the Wyatt family logically should lead to a tag match involving Ambrose and Ziggler against the cultists in order to get revenge. The story here is for Wyatt to try to insert himself into the title picture. To start this off, Ambrose will make his way to the ring and call out Wyatt. He’s obviously mad at being attacked. He’ll explain he intervened because he wanted Ziggler at his best so there wouldn’t be any excuses. Ziggler takes exception and heads to the ring.

Ziggler says he got to be the #1 contender on his own and he also has a problem with Bray attacking him after the bell. The lights will go out and Wyatt will address the pair from the titan tron. He’ll ignore Ziggler and address Ambrose directly. Ambrose will feed into this by not acknowledging Ziggler’s grievances until the “Show off” loses patience and interrupts the two. Wyatt finally admits Ziggler won but only because of the exposed turnbuckle and he could destroy him and more importantly Ambrose at any time he wants… just like he did to both last week. This sets up the tag match later that night just before the ending of the Orton-Lesnar story.

Ziggler and Ambrose won’t be on the same page here. Several times, Ziggler will hold his hand out for the tag but Ambrose will refuse until the heels eventually take over. After an extended period of control, Ambrose will get the wacky lines maneuver on Bray and look to Bray who begins to crawl towards Erick Rowan. He looks to Ziggler, then back to Wyatt, before finally crawling to Ziggler. Wyatt tags Rowan who charges to the other side and pulls Ambrose away just as the tag is made.

Ziggler jumps in and takes over. Things are going well for the faces until Wyatt stirs and begins to beat down Ambrose on the outside, putting him through the announcer table with an Uranage. As he drags Ambrose back into the ring, Ziggler pounces with a fame-asser on Wyatt but he isn’t the legal man. Rowan charges Ziggler who ducks. The two run the ropes and Rowan accidentally stumbles into Wyatt. Looking down at his fallen leader, he turns around to a super kick and Ziggler scores the win.

Ziggler is made out to look strong in the victory which he desperately needs for momentum. This also makes Wyatt not take the pinfall and show he had the upper hand on Ambrose leaving plenty of opportunity to explore matches between these guys later on. This also continues to give Ziggler a chip on his shoulder and can build to an eventual heel turn or to plant seeds of doubt that he could”overcome the odds and win where no one else thought he could”. If he does come out with the championship, it will at least not come off as un-earned but rather there was some foreshadowing he might be able to pull it off without it feeling forced.

Women’s Title

Sasha as a “fighting champion” will come out and declare she’s putting her title on the line to any woman in the back with the guts to take her on. Unlike the previous champ, she’s not going to hide behind her daddy or someone else to fight her own battles. As news seems to indicate Paige is nursing injuries, let’s have Alicia Fox come out for the first time in a while.

During the match, Charlotte and Dana Brooke will come out to commentary. Charlotte will express a mix of displeasure that Sasha is putting the title on the line thus putting her own bout in question but Dana will interject Alicia could also soften Sasha up for Summerslam. As things get heated in the match, Charlotte will say to Dana “this table is getting pretty crowded. Maybe you should go get a closer look at the action.” Once at ringside, Dana pushes Sasha off the corner ropes as she prepared to land an aerial maneuver on a prone Alicia. After the bell, Charlotte joins Dana in the beat down before Alicia comes to and evens things up. The faces prevail but the champ is left holding her knee.

Tag Team Championship

My plan for Enzo & Cass vs the New Day seems to be dead in the water (for now) with the budding feud they have with Jeri-KO. Normally, I’d be disappointed but seeing Jericho paired with Kevin Owens has me hyped for the backstage skits between the two as they prepare for their matches. More on them later.

As far as I’m aware, Big E and Kofi are the usual two who defend the titles. The drama here is Big E’s injury to his groin area will prevent him from competing. Thus leaving the rare pairing of Xavier Woods and Kofi to battle the Club. Kofi and Xavier will address the crowd as Big E is shown on screen from his home couch, sporting a comically large ice pack on his groin.

The Club can be funny guys and they both have excellent comedic timing while being condescending as the #beatupJohnCena bit, their podcast and Ride Along showed. Here, the Club will give as good as the New Day can dish out to make fun of Big E’s groin injury before they make their way to the ring and beat down the champs. A funny bit could have Big E try to armchair general his team mates to no avail. The Club threaten to do the same thing to Xavier if they don’t get a title shot at Summerslam. Big E, on the titan tron,  eventually agrees. The heels of course follow through anyways because heels.

Styles vs Cena

American Grit’s renewal for a second season casts Cena’s near future on the show in uncertainty. I’ve read reports he might be gone for up to 2 months. Now, most Cena fans are kids so they might not be aware of this. But the smart move here is for Styles to go over at Summerslam. However, last week Styles got what he wanted; a match against Cena. I’m tempted if this is going to be a blow off of their feud, to make it a stipulation match but the brand split and the intervention of Enzo and Cass has kind of distracted from that. If the Club were to be a factor, I’d say a cage match would be in order to prevent outside interference. WWE booking logic dictates Cena one-up his rival to build the feud.

Instead, let’s do some good to put over some of the midcarders: Cena vs Corbin and Styles vs Ryder. Styles and Cena will both come out winners here. Cena’s US open challenge was fun from what I caught of it and he can carry Corbin to a solid match before scoring the pin fall. I don’t want to make Styles appear the cheater but a legitimate main event threat. He won’t intervene but while on commentary he discusses Cena’s weaknesses and talks up Corbin’s strengths. After the match, Cena grabs the mic and tells Styles: “Well big man, I’m right here. Aren’t you going to come after me?” Styles distracts Cena long enough for Corbin to attack from behind and hit the end of days. Styles then waits for Corbin to leave before pummeling Cena some more.

Bryan and Shane will confront Styles backstage after a commercial break and inform him he is going back out there as he has a match with Zack Ryder. Right now. Ryder will have Mojo Rawley in his corner. Every time Styles goes to do some dirty trick, Rawley interjects himself without being physical. A sort of re-hash of Battleground. Styles, unnerved by the hype bro is distracted but eventually wins the match. As he goes to add more punishment, Rawley enters the ring and Styles retreats.

Having Corbin lose to Cena at this stage doesn’t hurt him. As Jim Ross would say, by being in the ring with him one on one, and not being squashed does elevate him. Not having Styles interfere elevates all three because it makes them appear legit strong without shenanigans. The goal here is to make Styles and Cena one of the top feuds all the way to Wrestlemania the likes of say Triple H (Styles) and Rock or Stone Cold (Cena).

IC Title

With Apollo Crews as the #1 contender, the match is set between him and the Miz. The champion is already established and truly loathed by the fans as one of the few true heels. The problem with this feud is Crews’ personality remains fairly untapped. He’s “just happy to be here guy” which is bland and doesn’t energize the crowd to get behind him. WWE needs to flesh out his personality and a Miz TV segment allows for that personality to come out with Miz helping him along.

Apparently, in NXT the story was he came from a dirt poor family. Miz’ persona as a privileged movie star contrasts perfectly against this. Miz can play the sympathy card with Crews and the audience. Saying he too came from nothing but the difference is he has the “IT factor”. Something hard work, dedication, etc can never replicate. “The truth is, Apollo you’re just happy to be here. I’m not happy until I have it all: a beautiful wife, championships, millions of dollars, adulation of the fans (he can pose smarmily for the camera) and being an A-lister.”

Here, Apollo has his make or break moment. He snatches the mic from Miz’s hands and talks about how he had to struggle to get where he is today. Just because he’s happy, doesn’t mean he’s content. He’s humbled by being in the WWE like so many of his heroes growing up. He can list off a few names to pops. But he understands opportunities aren’t handed to you, you have to earn them and make the most out of it. At Summerslam, he’s going to do everything he can to reach that next step and that Miz is in his way.

Of course, Miz takes exception to this and says. “There’s only one way to the top… and that’s my way!” He sucker punches Crews and begins beating him down. Crews fights back and just as he’s setting up a standing 450 splash, Maryse pulls her husband out of the ring.

Squash Matches

I’m actually enjoying the presentation of the squash matches on Raw and would like to see these continue with Strowman and Nia Jax. These should continue until Summerslam for now as the rosters, even Raw’s, are a bit shallow and need to be bolstered. Once the Cruiserweight division is implemented, these can be scaled back or dropped entirely. I will say in the case of Strowman, his squash matches should be against progressively bigger guys until he naturally faces the Big Show and/or handicap matches. Heck, I’d like to see the interview of a pair of jobbers argue on how they would split the money. Nia’s appeal is her unique body type when compared to the rest of the main female roster. Having her face smaller women plays better to bolster her dominance once they are ready to pull the trigger on her first singles feud.

Heath Slater vs Rhyno

The One Man Band’s storyline has been amusing so far. The shelf life of the story though is finite before people lose interest if he doesn’t prevail for too long. Had the brand split been later in the year, I’d have made his big moment come at the Rumble with say a final 4 performance (as the #30 entrant of course). Unfortunately, timing isn’t perfect so the story has to come to a conclusion by Survivor Series at the latest.

Heath will get caught in the cross-fire of the Orton vs Lesnar backstage fighting and get laid out before his match. He’ll come out first limping to the ring, but Rhyno doesn’t wait and charges him on the way. Rhyno continues to batter Slater without remorse and finally rolls him into the ring. The ref calls for the bell, and Rhyno pins him immediately; the match lasting a whole 3 seconds. Hopefully, this creates sympathy for Slater’s next attempt but also gives some heat to Rhyno to help propel him into later feuds with some of the faces on the roster.

Jeri-KO vs Enzo and Cass

A one on one match between Jericho and Enzo will highlight the first hour. I’m going to resist putting KO on commentary. Too much of a good thing spoils it and I already have Charlotte and Rollins on commentary this week. Instead, Enzo will be first to the ring with Cass in tow, delivering their spiel. Jericho’s music interrupts with his “Quiet” routine to bolster his already impressive heat. He’s followed out by KO with his own theme music to avoid relegating him to being Jericho’s flunkie.

A good back and forth match here with KO often distracting the ref with his antics at ringside allowing Jericho to get cheap shots in. Cass eventually gets mad and tries to get involved until the ref sends him to to the back when he jumps onto the ring apron. This allows for Jericho to get the pin. Following the bell, he and KO lay the boots to Enzo. Cass naturally runs out and the heels escape and run before the “dangerous one” catches up to them.

What to do with Zayn?

Tom Phillips will interview Zayn to follow up on how he feels since his last match against Owens (a follow up we never got), his loss to Rollins and what is next for Sami Zayn. Zayn will talk about how losing to Rollins showed him how far he still has to go before making it to the top of Raw. He said tonight he’s going back to the basics and only by competing can he get better.

Summerslam is such a stacked card already it is difficult to figure out what to do with Zayn. Much of the roster is paired up in feuds leaving few options for him. I’d advocate for him to have a match against Curtis Axel to help put over the “Mr Irrelevant” moniker. A great way for the heel to get heat by demanding people stop calling him that. Give Axel some offense in a 3-4 minute match before losing cleanly to Zayn.

Prime Time Players explode… again

I didn’t like last week’s presentation of the match between Titus O’Neil and Darren Young. They could have mined their former tag team run together more to fill out the backstory. Another tag team story playing out involves Pokemon Go so let’s throw these together as I kind of run out of ideas…

The match here is that to try to mend the rift of what happened last week, the former Prime Time Players pair up to face the Golden Truth. During the match, Backlund is shouting orders to his team but Titus is having none of it. Eventually, he loses patience with Backlund while Young is in the ring with Golddust. He slaps the manager to shut him up. Young leaves the ring and attacks his tag partner. During the fighting, R-Truth wanders in between the two, immersed in his game. They look at each other, then to R-Truth, then to each other, both punch R-Truth at the same time in a comedic bit and resume their fighting until Gold Dust rolls up Young for the pin and O’Neil walks away in disgust.

 

How I’d book week 1 of the WWE brand split

Seeing the huge uptick of views from my last wrestling based blog post, I decided to make it a weekly feature. The draft and Battleground (a fine show btw) are good jumping points to begin fantasy booking plot lines going forward on both Raw and Smackdown. These posts will be based on the previous week or following the “Network Specials” rather than following my own week to week posts. Thus, there may be points where I differ or drop certain story lines if the WWE chooses to go another route. I have to keep this one short as I began writing this with less than an hour before Raw.

Raw vs Smackdown

Shane McMahon had stated he’s looking to make an impact on how the show is shot, how it looks and to place an emphasis on the superstars rather than authority figures. This implied Raw will have the latter; reinforced by the dichotomy of Stephanie McMahon’s on-screen persona and that of Mick Foley. That said, at Battleground Foley parroted the Smackdown mantra. Nevertheless, early on Raw there will be an address from Stephanie and Mick to the locker room. This would be presented as an “earlier today” segment. On Smackdown, it will be an address by Daniel Bryan, Shane and Dean Ambrose to the fans surrounded by the rest of the roster in ring. This frames the differences between the shows (for now).

The theme of Steph’s speech will be that of doing what’s “best for business” and also making Raw better than Smackdown with an underlying insecurity in her tone. She’ll applaud the winners at Battleground, Rusev in particular for his defeat of Smackdown’s Zack Ryder. She’ll admonish Darren Young and Backlund for failing to capture the IC title. As she turns her attention to Rollins and Reigns, Foley will step in and give the “raw raw” (pun intended) pep talk.

On Smackdown, they will be taking the high road acknowledging the other show but saying they will focus on what they can control and building a show everyone on their roster can be proud of. They’ll put over various talents throughout the card; even those who lost at Battleground. Ambrose will then take the mic and position himself as a fighting champion and lay out a challenge for the locker room to come get the title he defended to keep on the show.

Ideally, Smackdown will have the opportunity to gradually change the set in such a way as give it a different look than its Monday counterpart over the next few weeks. This allows experimentation and bad ideas to easily be scaled back.

WWE title fallout

On SD, Dean Ambrose will need a challenger for his title. With AJ Styles and Cena liked position to face off at Summerslam and Orton vs Lesnar, we need to establish a challenger. Unfortunately, no one is ready to take up that mantle quite yet on the SD roster.Bray Wyatt and Alberto Del Rio are potential choices down the road but they need a few high profile wins to position themselves higher on the card. That is why, I reluctantly have to give the shot to Reigns in an inter-brand match.

WAIT! Before you leave, read the rest of the paragraph. Reigns is going to lay down for Ambrose in Brooklyn. The story is going to be one about Reigns getting a one on one rematch after Rollins got two. This will be the road towards the fabled Reigns heel turn. On the coat tails of his substance abuse suspension, it will culminate in Reigns taking short cuts in order to win the title. He’s going to get ruthlessly booed anyways so you might as well embrace it. However, he’ll be foiled by Ambrose in the end.

On the other end, Rollins will rail against the decision and go out to prove he is the best man on the roster, facing the likes of Zayn, Cesaro, Owens, etc to continue to build up his credibility amongst the fans who might still have reservations about his in-ring work and thus gain their respect for an eventual face turn.

Brock vs Orton

Paul Heyman can sell anything, and positioning Brock as a heel under the current circumstances will be a piece of cake for him. The story behind Brock accepting this match is Brock was displeased when Orton beat his record for being the youngest man to hold the championship. However, he did it without the help of his friends in Evolution; specifically Triple H. It will be a fine rebuttal for the “no enhancements needed” line from the Highlight Reel.

On Smackdown, Orton will have his first match, say against Dolph Ziggler, a guy who can bump and make anyone look fantastic. The talk will be about his rehabilitation over 9 months and about his training. This will be important later on.

Styles vs Cena

Instead of the usual Cena coming out to challenge his opponent, it will be Styles initiating the conflict. He’s going to claim the Cena pinfall was a fluke and while he doesn’t have the club anymore, Cena won’t have Enzo and Cass either. He’s challenging Cena for a one on one match to prove who the better man is. Ambrose will be seen backstage watching the exchange before cutting to break. This will tease the winner becoming the next challenger after Reigns.

Banks vs Charlotte

Sasha will come out and challenge Charlotte for the title, replaying video of the champion tapping out to the Banks Statement. Charlotte will come out, giving Banks back handed compliments for her win the previous night. This leads to her accepting. Before ending the segment, she reminds Sasha Bayley is back on NXT and she and Dana Brooke lay a beat down on Sasha to soften her up before Summerslam.

Cesaro & Rusev

Rusev will have a squash match against some local enhancement talent. Cesaro will be on commentary, giving analysis of the match. After the bell, Rusev will not release the Accolade until Cesaro gets pissed and enters the ring. Rusev bolts. After a break, Renee Young will interview the Bulgarian Brute and say Cesaro has issued a challenge for the US Title. Lana and Rusev will reply they will not acknowledge a challenge from a non-american born citizen…

Cruiserweight division

Until the Cruiserweight tournament is completed, the division will be starting off slow. It will be announced the winner of the tournament will be the champion. But their first defense will come up against a member of the main roster, leading to a qualification match for the #1 contendership to take place at Summerslam. A returning Neville will face off and defeat Sin Cara.