As WWE heads into 2015 and the build to one of its most important events of the year, Royal Rumble, the time is now to make concrete plans for the WrestleMania 31 pay-per-view scheduled for Sun., Mar. 29, 2015, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
We won't find out exactly what the promotion has planned for at least another month.
That means we've got some time to craft an ideal match card for next year's "Showcase of the Immortals." Here's my best crack at it.
Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan (Iron Man match for the WWE world heavyweight championship)
With each passing day, it's looking more and more likely that Brock Lesnar will once again bail on professional wrestling to cash in on whatever value he has left in mixed martial arts. With his contract coming up in April, that presents a problem for WWE. The last time that happened, WWE attempted to book a dream match with Goldberg, who was also leaving.
It was a train wreck.
Now imagine a similar scenario except the smark fans are out in mass to watch him drop the title in the main event to a man, Roman Reigns, who many seem to be turning on before WWE has even fully strapped the rocket to his back. Add in the fact that Daniel Bryan returned to announce he'll be in the Royal Rumble, an event that will be held in Philadelphia, of all places, leading to a sure fire scenario that will see Reigns bear the brunt of the blame if Bryan loses, even if it's not his fault.
So, here's the scenario: Bryan wins the Royal Rumble match and guarantees his spot in the main event of WrestleMania 31. This comes after they re-run the finish to Night of Champions in the John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar match except this time Seth Rollins actually cashes in and wins the title, perhaps with an assist from a turn by Paul Heyman.
This sets up Bryan, who will undoubtedly be the hottest babyface in the company at this point, against Rollins, absolutely the top heel with his win over Lesnar and alignment with Heyman, in the main event of the biggest show of the year with the top prize in all of WWE on the line.
No matter what, that's a classic. But let's raise the stakes and make it a match no one would ever forget.
An Iron Man match.
Bryan vs. Rollins, 60 minutes, the WWE world heavyweight championship on the line. No part timers. They can settle up on the undercard. There are no two wrestlers better equipped to pull this off and there may not ever be a better time to pull the trigger on this.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
As mentioned previously, it's looking more and more like Lesnar is leaving the company. If that's the case, you risk telegraphing the finish to the one match you never want to be too predictable. You could argue that's the case anyway, but WWE typically does a fine job of getting you invested in its top story enough to let some doubt creep in.
Then they pay you off.
Here, this would be something like a fan revolt. The idea of Lesnar vs. Reigns is sound, and I'm still of the belief that they can have a strong match together. Brock is the monster who can make Roman, usually a badass who hardly ever appears to be in any real trouble, truly vulnerable. Reigns is the guy with just the right set of moves to overcome the beast.
And while it won't be Lesnar's first loss since he broke Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania, it will be his first clean defeat. Reigns can be the guy who sends him packing while they attempt to find a new way to make him the top guy in the company.
Triple H vs. Sting (Retirement match)
They have to go with this match now, considering the angle they shot at Survivor Series. It got over, too, in a big way. And for as much as I may lament the loss of the long anticipated Sting vs. Undertaker match, Triple H is simply a better fit all around.
That starts with the fact that he's a heel, and one of the best in the business. What's more, he's a far better worker than Undertaker at this stage of the game and if Sting is going to have any shot of having anything resembling a classic in his one and only WWE match, Triple H is probably the safest bet to give it to him.
My only issue here is with the finish. Considering the characters and the story they're going to tell, Sting should win. But this is wrestling and you beat the guy who is retiring, not the one who is sticking around. Evil will have to win this time, and I'm not sure that's going to feel right at WrestleMania.
Still, this is the way to go.
Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt (Casket match)
I'm going to hold out hope that Undertaker can work the show and while I believe the better idea would be to move this to WrestleMania 32 to help sell out AT&T Stadium, I'm going to assume that's not going to happen. At some point, and we may already be there, "The Phenom" won't be coming back.
But I hate the idea that his loss to Lesnar is how he's going out.
I think the only way you end Undertaker's career is in a Casket match in a veritable passing of the Deadman's torch. The only guy on the roster who lives in the same darkness who could make an entire career out of just one character is Bray Wyatt.
He's the guy to put Undertaker down into that Casket at WrestleMania, his final resting place. Brock broke him this past year, and now Wyatt will be the Grim Reaper who comes next year to finish the job.
John Cena vs. Rusev (US title with Hulk Hogan in Cena's corner)
No matter how much you may hate this, dear fans, a heel like Rusev is not made to win a match like this at an event like this against an opponent like John Cena. Realistically, the heel runs through the roster and when he reaches the top, he falters.
Evil does not defeat good, folks, no matter how much you may love the man who represents the former and hate the man who represents the latter.
The way I see it, if they insist on continuing with the Russia/America divide as Rusev's main motivation, his only foil will be Cena, the soldier loving, Marine playing, good guy who fights for what's right. Speaking of which, this is the best way to get Hulk Hogan involved at this show. He won't wrestle, but there isn't any reason he can't climb in the ring so Rusev can run into his fist a few times.
But instead of following up with the big boot and leg drop, he points to Cena so the crowd can encourage him to finish Rusev off via the old "Real American's" finish that put away the likes of Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter. Cena wins to bring the US title back home and that's that.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
There's still plenty of star power to go around and all of them end up here. Considering Cesaro's fortunes after he won last year, there won't be the same expectation for the winner of this year's trophy. That's why it will help so much to have big names like Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Dolph Ziggler competing.
The likes of Big Show, Kane, Ryback, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Cesaro, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, and the rest of the mid-card would make for a relatively star-studded affair. It's also the kind of match that, with the right booking, doesn't have to run long but will help push multiple feuds/programs coming out of WrestleMania.
That's a win for everyone.
Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella vs. AJ Lee (Divas title)
Total Divas will undoubtedly complicate matters, as it always does, but they never really got around to resolving the Nikki/Brie sibling rivalry that dominated television in the last half of 2014. Sure, they destroyed most of the interest in it with laughably bad writing and even worse execution but it's a shame they've never been given the opportunity to showcase their actual wrestling ability.
Say what you will about the Bella twins, they've both proven they can work. Pitting them against each other is a great way to get the most out of each of them.
Adding AJ to the mix is a questionable decision, I'll cop to that, but she's unquestionably the top star in the women's division and it would be impossible to justify leaving her off the biggest event of the year. She's had history with the both of them, and there's plenty material to work with.
That's my card, Cagesiders. What's yours?