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.