Goldstein On Rasslin: Fantasy Booking WWE WrestleMania 31 – An Exercise In Futility

As a rule, I try not to partake in fantasy booking upcoming wrestling events. Mostly because I’m terrible at it. Take my Wrestlemania prediction last year that saw John Cena teaming up with a returning Hulk Hogan (and his patchwork knees, hips, and spine) to face Bray Wyatt and his latest disciple, Daniel Bryan. (Remember that story?) To me, this made tons of sense around the time of DBry’s joining of the Wyatt Family. Obviously I was dead-wrong and blinded by a bout of acute Hulkamania. Funny thing is, as a former member of WWE creative, this was my job! (In part, to fantasy book was a big part of the gig for all of us, when we weren’t “eating shit and liking the taste” – thank you Michael P.S. Hayes) Anyway, the point is, I’m terrible at predicting what Vince McMahon is thinking, at any given time, in terms of booking his big shows and his most important storylines. And truth is, most of us on Creative – as well as planet Earth for that matter – were and still are. That’s why to engage in fantasy booking the WWE on social media is an exercise in futility.

(NOTE: If you like solid, logical, thoughtful fantasy booking – with an eye on the big picture, check out @sethmates on Twitter. He’s a rare exception to the rule)

But, that’s the fun with fantasy booking, most of us are downright terrible at it but we do it anyway. We can’t help it. It’s the fun part of being a “smarky mark” wrestling nerd. So even though I couldn’t book myself out of a paper bag,  indulge me, won’t you? Here now is how I, @angegold, (please follow me, I’m so close to 10K! My self-worth depends on it…) would book Wrestlemania 31:

(ADD’L NOTE: This card does not include Daniel Bryan but at the time that this brain synapse fired, he was still at home getting his rear-naked choke on with Brie Bella/nursing a broken neck)

Golddust vs. Startdust
At their best, brother-vs-brother storylines are the prototype for what a grudge match should be. From Jacob vs Esau in the bible to Brett vs. Owen at Wrestlemania X. They are literally stories of biblical proportions. But they can also suck. Hard. Like Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy (Even though Matt burnt down Jeff’s house and killed his dog that son of a bitch!) or Nikki Bella wishing that her sister, Brie died in the womb… (Oof) Either way, sibling rivalries are simply captivating regardless of execution. And Goldy vs Cody would be just that. Oh the story they could tell in and out of the ring: Sons of a legend, both living in his 300-plus-pound shadow, one with well-publicized demons who has managed to ruin every big break he’s ever gotten, and the other a brash millennial determined not to let big brother’s flaws do the same to his career… But both covered, head-to-toe in glittery gold body paint and a patent-leather onesie! C’mon, this has to happen! And if it does, and does NOT include big papa “Dust-Dust” in full Golden gimmick, gyrating and gesticulating and snarling and lisping at the camera a la both of his celestial sons, it will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in modern wrestling history.

John Cena vs. Rusev
Sadly the opportunity to end the Bulgarian Brute’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania will not belong to Kurt Angle. Which is a damn shame and a rip-off both for his legacy and his fans. But I digress… Absent YOUR American hero, who better than Super Cena to chop down the mighty Rusev? Every time Cena kisses that dog tag around his neck, on his way to the ring, it’s an affront to everything Rusev stands for. Plus the story writes itself. The man who implores his “Cenation” of pre-pubescent fans to “Never Give Up” vs. the man who’s made literally everyone on the WWE roster do just that. Then you throw in Nikki Bella in John’s corner bumpin’ silicone with Lana!!!! Plus all the corny, dated Russia jokes John could make about Gorbachev’s birthmark and Vlad Putin riding horseback shirtless and you’ve got VKM’s three biggest turn-on’s all in one match: Childish humor, hot females under his employ, and AMERICA! It’s a no-brainer.

Reigns vs. Rollins vs. Ambrose
This match is simply about recovering the Scrooge McDuck bank vault full of gold bullion that WWE left on the table after hastily splitting the Shield into three disparate pieces this summer. I mean, honestly how did this match never happen? It defies all logic and common sense – and certainly was not “best for business”. Sure, they’re pushing Reigns to the moon, grooming him for his Mania moment – whether he’s ripened to the point of absolute readiness yet or not. And sure Rollins has become the top heel in the company, displacing Randy Orton from the Authority’s teet, as their desired face of the company. And sure Ambrose is off channeling Brian Pillman’s “loose cannon” gimmick, as far away from his former brethren as possible… but on paper, the Shield three-way is undoubtedly the match everyone wants to see! It’s Hayes vs. Gordy vs. Roberts. Flair vs. Arn vs. Tully. HHH vs. Orton vs. Batista. You want eye-balls, dollars, and Network subscriptions? Give me all three members of the Shield in one-ring clobbering each other on the biggest show of the year and I’ll figure out the rest.

NXT MITB Ladder Match:
Perhaps my best and most sound idea in this exercise. Think about it: Zayn, Neville, Breeze, Itami, Balor, Owens, Corbin, and Enzo in an 8-man, MITB ladder match with a WWE contract for the taking, suspended above the ring? That sound you hear is every wrestling nerd with access to the WWE Network sprouting a Hacksaw Jim Duggan-sized, two-by-four piece of wood. Aside from the collective wrestling boner this would give the WWE Universe at large, am I alone in missing the MITB match at Mania? Normally, I’m not a fan of crash-and-burn, kitchen sink, free-for-alls with no purpose other than popping the live crowd (Just check my recent WK9-related Twitter back and forth with Young Buck, @nickjacksonYB) but the MITB match at Mania is different. There’s a clearly defined method to the madness with that match and always provided a forum for the undercard (and in this case the super-under card) to shine on the biggest stage in the game. This one really should happen come April.

Sting-HHH:
In the absence of the Undertaker’s physical ability to ever wrestle again (Speculation based on the last pic of the Deadman to circulate on the internet where he looked like my 65-year old, Uncle Joel), and even if it is against a dusty old Buick like Sting – chasing a Wrestlemania moment before he ascends back into the rafters for retirement – I say, “sure, why not?” They planted the seed at Survivor Series well enough. Might as well pay it off. And who better than HHH to give Sting his long-awaited and even longer-overdue first and last WWE match? Not only can Hunter squeeze an outstanding match out of pretty much anyone on the planet, but the contest would be soaked with historical significance – something HHH has heroically resurrected from the WWE trash heap (See Bruno, Warrior, Savage) – plus it would also add gravitas to the Mania 31 bill by providing the card with a true once-in-a-lifetime event to promote: The chance to see the Icon vs. the Game.

Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar:
I know what you’re saying? Randy Orton? What? How? Why? Got it. 10-4, I hear ya. But please hear me out:

This wouldn’t be any ordinary Randy Orton. Nope, this would be a Randy Orton we’ve never seen before. This would be a fresh, returning, babyface, Randy Orton – hell-bent with a Stone Cold-like disdain for authority. Think about it: When last we saw him, RKO had had it up to his buzz cut with Hunter and Steph’s choosing of Seth Rollins over him as the heir apparent. His frustration boiled over in only the way Randy’s can – with a spasm of full blown, reptilian aggression – which then led to a hellacious and humbling beat down by his former entourage, landing the Vipor on the shelf for the last few months to lick his wounds and check his ego.

Now that Team Brock has aligned with the newly-reinstated Authority in his absence, upon Randy’s return, what better way to stick it to his former cohorts than to pick a fight with the Beast Incarnate himself? If Randy wins he would achieve everything the Authority stopped believing he ever could. He slays the dragon, he becomes the reigning, defending WWE world heavyweight champion, and he becomes the face of WWE. But more than that, he would have done it all on his own, without taking any shortcuts – as has been his critics’ refrain throughout his entire career. A career by the way that shadows John Cena’s in longevity and top placement on the card, but certainly not significance. This match and this win would solidify Randy’s legacy as the Savage to Cena’s Hogan in the pecking order of top guys of the 2000’s.

Moreover, it would perfectly coincide with and take maximum advantage of Orton’s current viral stardom amid the whole “RKO Out of Nowhere” phenomenon sweeping social media. Where WWE has failed miserably in the past to capitalize on these organic bursts of online coolness (i.e. Zach Rider, Fandango, CM Punk post-pipebomb) this would be their ultimate make-good, catapulting the “RKO” to “Stone Cold Stunner” status, vaulting WWE back to must-see status, and would anoint Randy as truly the new face of the WWE.

Could it all play out just like this? Yes, of course it could. If the WWE machine believed in these coordinates wholeheartedly and invested in moving their ships in this direction, with their resources, Vince and co. can literally make ANYTHING happen. But will it? Probably not. And that’s ok, because after all, I’m just fantasy booking.

Follow me on Twitter for more musings on RASSLIN’ @Angegold.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

About Andrew Goldstein: Andrew is a former WWE creative writer who is now a morning TV producer and comedy writer.

  • jamesbryan91

    Best article ever.

  • Pat Carragher

    All fun matches of course, but how do you ignore what Dolph Ziggler has done recently and leave him off the card. He deserves a match and not some BS battle royal

    • Tuan Nguyen

      It’s funny, Dolph fans typically blame the WWE for holding him down. I’ll go ahead and say it. Dolph really hasn’t done anything this year, it was just the wwe booking him strong.

      • Pat Carragher

        Hasn’t done anything? Two IC title wins and the Survivor Series win? That’s way more than nothing. Sure call it favorable booking, but he’s still a top 5 talent in the ring night in and night out.

  • Cas

    No Ziggler or Bryan? No defence of any title other than the main one? Pass.

    • Matt

      It said in the article that he wrote this before Bryan Msgr the announcement he was returning…

  • Dillon Rains

    Nice ideas. Love the Orton idea. $$$…..What about Cesaro vs Bryan fighting for a “best WRESTLER” in the WWE award. Match could be like a Michaels/Angle showdown from WM21

    • Arvind

      They’d have to work really hard to build Cesaro to a level that’s anywhere near the champion who was never really defeated.

  • Upgrayedd

    Great ideas. The only match I would add is Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler has been the fans most recent favorite under dog replacing Bryan. Ziggler can go heel where he works much better and face Bryan. It would be an amazing match.

    • Matt

      I wouldn’t do Ziggler vs Bryan because I don’t think Ziggler deserves to go heel because he is so over with the crowd, that would be an injustice and it would hurt him again… Ryback was crazy over, turned heel and then nobody cared about him… You turn heel and go against a guy like Bryan and lose and that’s just going to hurt youb because your not going to get back to the top… Now that Bryan is back, I would say either he gave Rusev at Mania and end his streak which would make a little more sense because of the segment they had before when he was hosting and all that, or face Lesnar for the championship, have Orton go against either Lesnar which would be fine or Seth Rollins because they aren’t going to face each other at the Rumble and probably not at that new fast lane ppv do Mania would be perfect, I would put Reigns against Rusev if Bryan faces Lesnar because they are both big guys and I can see Reigns ending the streak and it could help him for next year if they want to give Reigns that time to say is this the guy they want and he can prove it with the US Title… I would have Dean go against Bray, I know, I know they had like a million match but it’s not over, and I think Dean is going to get that last laugh on the gender stage if them all because honestly, I don’t think Bray will be facing Taker… Last but not least, I would have Ziggler face against Cena, that’s right, Ziggler vs Cena and I would honestly put Ziggler over, you have to… Cena is starting to fade and they are looking for that next guy, you talk about grabbing that brass ring? And I mean the story is right there, Ziggler was on team Cena, he fully trusted and had faith in him, it’s because of Ziggler they won and Cena threw it all away and guess what? Now he is fired because of Cena, revenge but not in a heel way because they are going to cheer Ziggler anyway… And the other matches he has had are fine, I kinda wish Wyatts were together cause I would love to see them vs The Ascension but I can settle with like The Usos and them… Plus, Paige vs Charlotte for the Divas Championship…

  • Upgrayedd

    Oh and Wyatt vs. Taker.

  • Arvind

    I’d love the NXT MITB match, but put Kidd instead of Enzo. Enzo’s great on the mic, but still really green in the ring. Right now the only thing he should be doing is working tag team with Big Cass. His opportunity will come.

    • Jay

      That doesnt make sense. Kidd already has a WWE contract and has forever.

  • Jay

    As awesome as it sounds, the NXT Ladder Match would send all sorts of wrong messages. Why would NXT guys get a spot on the main show when some guys have been waiting for years for that kind of spotlight. It also kind of only really works for this year, as the WWE has all these guys with indy backgrounds. But many will move up this year sometime.

    It would be an interesting pre-show match idea, but even that’s pushing it.

  • Jam it

    Overall I’m liking it. Orton – definitely not, as that whole viral thing you’re talking about was hot 4 months ago and is fading dramatically and in 4 months time will be a little lame. I like the idea of him being a Stone Cold/Sting style character that isn’t an Authority guy OR a faction member, attacking good and bad guys a like. It’s been a while since we had someone who just came down and attacked anyone and everyone good and bad. Just don’t know where this would necessarily sit at Mania though. For this kind of anti-hero character against all people i would throw Cesaro in there as that man. Have him battling people one by one Authority and Babyfaces in his frustration to make a name for himself. This obviously won’t happen as the Kidd tag team seems to be the way they’re going so meh.

    I’d also say the Shield triple threat should be for the Championship. Say wha? Yup. rollins wins the title at Rumble and have the 3 way dance that way. But maybe that’s just too early – maybe WM32?

    Possible main event options are with possible winners at the Rumble:

    – Cena (c) vs Reigns (only thing that will make Reigns look good and go babyface against Cena and the time for Cena to do the Hogan at WM6 offer of handing it to Warrior or of course turn heel….)
    – Cena (s) vs Bryan (again as above will be the change Cena needs to go do something in a different way but would be a classic match everyone will want to see)
    – Brock (c) vs Bryan (classic David and Goliath story. the ultimate come back story and Bryan is really over. Only issue is that if Brock is no longer gonna be with the company post WM, the stakes in the match will be minimal and be another Goldberg Lesnar disaster)
    And one hell of a curve ball….
    Cena OR Rollins (c) vs Ziggler (the new Bryan in a way OR go crazy and make him heel again! Get him chucking out Bryan to win the Rumble – that would be awesome, really giving him that ball at last to run with. The most unlikely, but there’s a story already building there of Ziggler pinning rollins at SS, and the underlying possible feud with Cena – getting fired, not getting the recognition etc etc).

    Well thats my two cents…

  • Tuan Nguyen

    Really good booking in my opinion. You could also have Daniel Bryan vs Cesaro. Dolph vs Wade Barrett.

  • Creature_of_the_Night

    Danielson is a smark “entertainer” – the geeks on wrestling boards love him and worship the ground he walks on.

    WHILE the people who are casual fans – and the other end of the spectrum….die hard old school fans – see no appeal in the ugly goat and find him overrated.

    Danielson has ZERO crossover appeal.

    Beyond that – it is proven he doesn’t get ratings – no better ratings than say a Cena or even a Druggie BOrton.

    Danielson is no Rock or SCSA in getting numbers. Danielson doesn’t have that kind of charisma.

    Short of turning Cena heel, or bringing back SCSA (which if he comes back it will be in Dallas next year) – this Mania is going to be as bad as the last 4.

    I haven’t seen a Mania since WM26 – which I attended.

  • Creature_of_the_Night

    Think of it – Anoa’i is already starting to get Cena hatred, Good Ambrose’s pop has dropped considerably, and Rotunda Wyatt promos got old about a year ago.

    When RAW hits a 3 now it’s considered good…when it used to be the norm.

    Then you got the spot monkeys in NXT.

    WWE’s future is bleak.

    • ATLANTIS

      Anoa’i is already starting to get Cena hatred because the IWC has an attention span that can be measured in nanoseconds

  • Creature_of_the_Night

    I love PWI – have since I was a kid.

    But when a guy makes Number 1 wrestler of year, and makes appearances you can count on 2 hands – shows how far WWE and the industry has fallen.

  • Creature_of_the_Night

    Nemeth vs Danielson would be a borefest – Smark match.

    No charisma and none of that larger than life quality you get in Wrestlemanias 1 – 5.

    THOSE guys were stars.

    The people in WWE now just don’t have IT- I keep getting crucified for saying it – meanwhile the numbers are consistently, slowly, but steadily dropping for WWE.

    It’s not as popular as it once was.

    And the smarmy intolerant Universe members on wrestling boards don’t help matters.

    Universe members are idiots.

    • tobimobi

      You should check out TNT, SNME and PTW on the wwe network.

    • ManxMadcat

      I’m just curious, are there any talents from WWE that you would like to see in TNA? Given the more free reign a non-PG product that focuses more on the in-ring aspect of the business has, do you think they might have a better quality end product if they were given access to the alternative, and their talent pool?

  • Creature_of_the_Night

    Danielson doesn’t have IT or that larger than life persona that say a Macho Man or Warrior had.

  • Hindu

    The Icon vs The Game would be great. Especially the buildup to the match

  • ATLANTIS

    You engaged in an exercise of futility and I read your exercise of futility and regret doing so. I can see why wwe product has been in the toilet the last half decade or so