WWE WrestleMania 29: Booking the Perfect Card
With WWE WrestleMania 29 looming on the horizon, we're approaching that time of the WWE calendar where the formidably entertaining tag team of The Great Khali and Hornswoggle will sadly fade into obscurity and all efforts will be made to construct the card for the "Showcase of the Immortals."
This year's WWE WrestleMania 28 featured an extremely impressive lineup, headlined by the "Once in a Lifetime" meeting between John Cena and The Rock.
With Survivor Series in the books and TLC imminent, most decisions made heading into the Royal Rumble will now be done with a view to building WrestleMania 29's card.
Given WWE's star power of part-time wrestlers, there is considerable scope for concocting a magical PPV featuring numerous main-event-calibre matches.
As we approach 2013, this is how I would book things to create the perfect WrestleMania 29 card.
Rey Mysterio vs. Sin Cara
Since the emergence of Sin Cara in 2011, the premise for a match with Rey Mysterio has surely been contemplated by essentially the entire WWE Universe.
Unfortunately for Triple H's pet project, Sin Cara's career has bordered on being an unmitigated disaster so far, and it has ironically been teaming with Mysterio that has bought him some legitimate credibility over recent months.
The wonderful thing about this match is that it need not be anyone grandiose in terms of storyline. Just match two of the best cruiserweights currently in the WWE together and let them have at it.
The way to book it:
There are two roads to go down here, but for me, the better option in the long term is to pair the two up for one momentous match at WrestleMania before sending them both on their respective paths.
By having Mysterio and Sin Cara involved in an Elimination Chamber title match at WWE Elimination Chamber 2013, we see the early signs of confrontation between the two.
They both exchange breathtaking offence, before both are eliminated, and the following night on WWE Monday Night Raw, the authority in charge, whoever that may be, wants to see more of the action between the duo and books the match for WrestleMania.
In the weeks building up to the event, the rivalry between them is wholly based on respect and discovering just who the better man really is, ensuring the adoration from the fans will continue long after the event.
The second avenue to travel down would be to turn one of them heel, but with Mysterio's career winding down due to his various injuries, a heel run would be very much ill-advised at this stage.
With Sin Cara finally generating some larger cheers recently as well, bringing his face run to an end can't be too high a priority on WWE's list either.
Chances of it happening: Very likely
WWE knows that Mysterio's retirement is nigh, and the "Ultimate Underdog" will no doubt be required to hand the reins over to Sin Cara in the near future.
WrestleMania is a golden chance for both wrestlers to shine on the world stage, and given the rumours that WWE are intent on setting a world record for the most masks in attendance at one event, this really would be a perfect addition to the New York City card.
12-Man Tag Team Match
Mark Henry, Christian, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth & Zack Ryder vs. The Shield, Alberto Del Rio, Antonio Cesaro & Kane.
As ever at WrestleMania, there are superstars left in limbo when the bigger rivalries are formed.
In 2010, we had an eight-man tag team match involving The Corre, Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Santino Marella, whereas in 2011, we had a 12-man tag team match between Team John Laurinaitis and Team Teddy Long.
This year, I propose the same scenario, with a few twists along the way.
The way to book it:
Examining this match, a few things would need to happen to ensure every superstar gets to WrestleMania.
First things first, Mark Henry and Christian will have to return from their respective injuries, which some sources say could be as early as anytime now.
Both men will surely be surprise entries in the Royal Rumble match at WWE Royal Rumble 2013, but from there the build can be relatively straightforward.
With The Shield causing havoc on a regular basis, Mark Henry faces an opponent on Raw in February only for Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to interfere.
Henry, irate at this interruption, starts to pull The Shield off his competitor and over the coming weeks turns face against the former NXT trio.
For Christian and Zack Ryder, the method in which Team Hell No have stumbled into a feud with The Shield is applicable here. They get beaten down and therefore demand retaliation.
My big curveball here is having Daniel Bryan and Kane split up.
While Team Hell No's antics during this year have been wonderfully entertaining, they're just no fun on the same page, as Big Nasty pointed out this week.
I propose that after Royal Rumble, they lose the tag titles, blame each other and end up in an Elimination Chamber title match where they finally get their hands on each other.
Here, I would have Bryan as the babyface and Kane return to his monstrous ways, although not to the point of destruction that essentially ended Ryder's career earlier in 2012.
Kofi, Truth and Cesaro could theoretically still be involved with the Intercontinental and/or United States championships in the new year, and Del Rio will inevitably still be beating Ryder every week so why not throw the foursome into this match to give them a WrestleMania time slot?
Chances of it happening: Likely
While these particular competitors may be spread across different matches, the premise of a huge tag team match is quite likely given the amount of superstars that are aimlessly floating through WWE at the moment.
This year's battle between Team Johnny and Team Teddy was a brilliant way of including the midcard and hopefully it will occur in 2013 as well.
Big Show vs. Ryback
This match has already been reported as a potential encounter WWE are planning for WrestleMania, so I'm taking absolutely zero credit for devising this match myself.
The more you think about this match, though, the more it is absolutely perfect for both parties.
Big Show's career is coming to a close in the next couple of years, and he is still yet to have that one-on-one match at WrestleMania that fans will remember for generations.
Ryback, on the other hand, will need a steady hand to guide him through the event, as he has for many of his better matches this year against CM Punk, and Big Show more that fits that mould.
The potential for a jaw-dropping spot where Ryback lifts up Big Show would be an instant mainstay in highlight reels for years to come, and the path to the MetLife Stadium need not begin until after the Elimination Chamber.
The way to book it:
After Dolph Ziggler cashes his Money in the Bank contract in on either Big Show or Sheamus, he moves straight on to a feud with Randy Orton.
Big Show and Ryback avoid each other during the Royal Rumble match because as you'll see, I've saved a confrontation for that event between two other monsters.
With Ryback still owed a WWE championship opportunity, he is awarded it against CM Punk on an episode of Raw, with Punk of course victorious against The Rock at Royal Rumble.
The stipulation for this grudge match is that if Ryback loses, he can no longer challenge for the gold as long as Punk is still champion.
Punk retains the WWE title through his crafty means, and Ryback ends up in the Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight championship after being included in a No. 1 contender's tournament to decide the participants.
During the match, Ryback pins Big Show, eliminating him from the match, and the next night on Raw the two square up, with the road to WrestleMania well and truly set ahead before them.
Chances of it happening: Very likely
This really is an ideal pairing for WrestleMania for a number of reasons, and hopefully WWE will follow through on what could be the best clash between two behemoths in the grand history of the company.
Ladder Match: Tag Team Championships
Team Rhodes Scholars (c) vs. The Usos vs. Prime Time Players vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel
I have to give immense credit for the way WWE has rebuilt the tag team division this year.
For the first time in years, the company now have several entertaining teams all competing for the gold, and much like the golden era of tag team wrestling between 1999 and 2001, a match is needed at WrestleMania to demonstrate the lengths that teams will go to for the titles.
The classics between Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boys and The Dudley Boys were centred around the theme of all six men giving everything to become champions.
While WWE TLC covers the Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches of the year nowadays, a Ladder match could not just provide some decent spots, but display the winners as those who just wanted the win that extra bit more.
The way to book it:
In a previous slide, I mentioned how the break-up of Daniel Bryan and Kane costs them the Tag Team championships.
As a result, Team Rhodes Scholars swoops in to take full advantage and claim the gold for themselves on an episode of Raw.
The build-up here is as simple as it gets. During a match between Prime Time Players and Kidd/Gabriel on WWE Main Event, some bad blood arises as Titus O'Neil and Darren Young cheat to claim the victory.
On a following episode of Raw, a match to determine the No. 1 contenders for the gold is made between The Usos and the Prime Time Players, where just as O'Neil and Young close on cheating their way to success again, Kidd and Gabriel interfere and cause a disqualification.
From there, a Fatal-4-Way match is booked for WrestleMania, and in keeping with the spirit of classic ladder matches at the event over the years, the ladder stipulation is added as well, much to the chagrin of Team Rhodes Scholars.
Chances of it happening: Unknown
The ladder match aspect is certainly unlikely, but given WWE's commitment to reviving the tag team division, we may indeed see a title match involving more than two teams next year, and not just in a dark match this time.
Continuing the company's good work with an enticing match at WrestleMania is imperative, for the prestige of the titles and the careers of the wrestlers, so hopefully a match featuring drama, excitement and talented tag teams can indeed be written in for 2013.
Sheamus vs. Brock Lesnar
I often wonder what WWE are doing with Sheamus, and just what it is exactly we are supposed to think about the former World Heavyweight champion.
This may be for a whole other article, but with his mood constantly changing between somebody laughing his socks off after coming up with an unfunny joke to beating the holy stuffing out of someone, I have no investment in this character.
There is, however, one man that could really help endear Sheamus to those of the WWE Universe not sold by his work, and that is Brock Lesnar.
There is no denying that Sheamus is a supreme performer in the ring, but he lacks the mic skills of a CM Punk, Triple H, John Cena or even The Miz to take his standing higher.
While Sheamus fails to capture the crowd in the palm of his hand during a promo, what he does do exceptionally well is get angry.
When the "Great White" is angry, I sit up and pay attention, and against Brock Lesnar, that is all Sheamus would have to be to create a truly epic encounter.
The way to book it:
As so many WrestleMania rivalries have begun in the past, Lesnar and Sheamus need simply to collide at Royal Rumble and the seeds are planted.
We get down to the final four of the Rumble match and Sheamus eliminates Lesnar, with the former UFC heavyweight champion then pulling Sheamus from the ring out of frustration before engaging him in a huge brawl.
It really could be as simplistic as that. From there, Paul Heyman would get involved with his client and carry the weight in terms of promos on Lesnar's half, whereas Sheamus can hopefully cut out the drivel and make intense, compelling speeches on the mic that make us belief they want to rip each other apart.
Chances of it happening: Unlikely
I can't envisage Lesnar being in anything other than a main-event-calibre match at WrestleMania, and there is far too much scope for the loser of this match to be perceived as weak.
WWE would not want to see either star lose cleanly to the other, as Sheamus hasn't hit that level yet where a victory over Lesnar would be anything other than surprising.
Lesnar is surely destined for the higher echelons of superstars at WrestleMania, such as Cena, Triple H, Rock or Undertaker, and while this encounter may happen somewhere down the line, it probably won't be at WrestleMania.
Fatal-4-Way Match: World Heavyweight Championship
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. The Miz vs. Wade Barrett
I have a gut-wrenching feeling that next year's WWE World Heavyweight Championship clash will be decisively dismal.
This year's 18-second fiasco between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan was a disaster, and the year before saw Edge's final match against the extremely undeserving Alberto Del Rio.
The World title always seems to be given the short straw at WrestleMania, but I believe this match would more than make up for the recent years of mediocrity.
Sadly, the company has had such a calamitous year in its strides to build main event calibre superstars, especially heels, that heading into WrestleMania it really is hard to find two men who would justify the title match billing.
That is why I have chosen the Fatal-4-Way match as the host for the World title match, and here is how I would see the four men ending up crossing paths.
The way to book it:
With WWE TLC 2012 approaching at the weekend, there is a painfully realistic chance that John Cena may be handed Dolph Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase.
This would be a complete disaster for Ziggler, as what little credibility he has to this day would be diminished, and continue to show how WWE constantly prefers its proven draws over those who have ironically yet to be given that push to main event stardom.
However, assuming Ziggler wins this weekend, and hopefully cashes in on the winner of Big Show vs. Sheamus, we see the "Show-off" scrape by as World champion until WrestleMania.
Therein lies in the difficulty of selecting who should win the Royal Rumble. As you'll see later down my slideshow, my challenger for CM Punk is not a man who will be winning the 30-man match, and therefore it would have to be one of The Miz, Randy Orton or Wade Barrett.
Miz's face turn started slowly, I was the first to admit, but his antics on the microphone have been some of the funniest moments of the year during the last couple of weeks.
His segments with CM Punk and Team Rhodes Scholars have really endeared him to the entire WWE Universe and by keeping the momentum going, I believe giving Miz the rub at the Royal Rumble would be a superb move.
My logic is not great, I will also admit, for including Orton and Barrett. I was tempted to include them in the 12-man tag match, but they have so much more to give the company, and they are extremely deserving of a higher billing at WrestleMania.
Ziggler vs. Miz is an enticing prospect for long-time admirers of the duo, but it is a match WWE would surely have no faith in as a World title encounter.
By having Ziggler and Miz distracted by Orton and Barrett, much in the vein that the main event at Over The Limit came about this year, where Orton and Chris Jericho became inserted into Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio, a Fatal-4-Way match could be born simply from a chaotic tag team match on Raw.
As long as Ziggler or Miz wins the match, their feud could continue and make for one the greatest in years, as if often the case when two young, ambitious superstars are paired together.
Chance of it happening: Unlikely
I am truly stumped as to how WWE will book the World title match at WrestleMania, but I assume, as has been the case for the last few years, that it will a one-on-one match.
I also can't see either one of these men involved in the match. If Ziggler does win the title at TLC, I predict a short title run is on the cards for him that will end at Elimination Chamber, where a seasoned veteran will surely claim the gold and defend it in April.
Hopefully I'm wrong, because the World title needs a prestigious main event at WresleMania, and by including at least two of these four men, we would be guaranteed to get it.
Eve (c) vs. AJ Lee vs. Natalya: Divas Championship
I, for one, feeling hugely saddened at the downturn of the Divas division.
When you consider that even last year, the rumours of a potential Kharma vs. Beth Phoenix were giving adolescents goosebumps across the world, it has become embarrassing that not one prospective Divas match would be an exciting addition to WrestleMania.
Fortunately, WWE has invested heavily in AJ Lee, and this surely is where the future of the division lies.
AJ is the best thing going to rebuild prestige to the Divas title, and in Eve, she has an opponent in the prime of her career whose manipulative heel personality would contrast beautifully with AJ's shambolic loveliness.
Add in Natalya, one of the most under-utilised wrestlers in years, and we could genuinely be treated to one of the all time classic Divas matches.
The way to book it:
The key to building this feud is by doing something that WWE have neglected to do within the division for years; build a compelling story.
The ingredients are all there. AJ, the adorable fan favourite, earns a shot at the Divas title on an episode of Raw.
During Eve vs. AJ, Natalya gets involved and brutally assaults both competitors, leaving both motionless in the ring.
She later explains that her frustration has reached boiling point given her status in WWE. She has been held back for long enough and she will do whatever it takes to regain the Divas title.
Already, that is more of a storyline that we've seen in a Divas title feud in months.
With Natalya forcing her way into the title match, we see a physically intimidating wrecking machine; a cunning champion and an innocent challenger combine in a truly superb contest at WrestleMania.
AJ wins her first title on the grandest stage of them all and maybe for at least one year we can go without a celebrity being signed up to bring some "excitement" to the yearly Divas match.
Chances of it happening: Unlikely
I genuinely believe the WWE is clueless in regards to repairing the division.
Gone are the days of even week long feuds anymore and even the promising AJ vs. Tamina angle that started at Survivor Series angle has completed dissolved.
I suspect another celebrity will be recruited for a WrestleMania tag team match that at least lets the audience take in a much-needed toilet break.
The Rock vs. Triple H
During 1998-2000, The Rock vs. Triple H was one of the many wonderful rivalries that personified the Attitude Era.
They competed in numerous classics, from their SummerSlam 1998 Ladder match for the Intercontinental championship to their Iron Man match at Judgement Day 2000 for the WWE title.
With WWE proving they are happy to combine part-time wrestlers in high-profile feuds (Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar, Triple H vs. Undertaker), this would not only be a brand new rivalry for the modern era, but a lovely addition to conclude one of the company's greatest battles.
The way to book it:
The rivalry begins at Royal Rumble, with Rock's WWE championship match which should still at this point presumably be against CM Punk.
With Rock closing on victory, The Shield interfere and rather than making a beeline for Rock, they pull Punk out of the ring and usher him to safety, hoping for the desired result of the champion being counted out.
With the challenger looking on perplexed, Rock eventually interferes and a huge brawl emerges between the "Great One" and The Shield, with Rock aided by Team Hell No.
Punk ends up making a dash for the exit, being counted out in the process, while Rock, Kane and Daniel Bryan do enough to shepherd The Shield from the ring.
The next night on Raw, Rock demands an explanation for The Shield's actions.
When The Shield fail to emerge, Triple H's music hits and "The Game" makes his way to the ring, initially to a thunderous cheer from the WWE Universe, before explaining, quite vaguely, that WWE simply could not afford to let Rock win the title at the Rumble.
Rock's confusion and aggression starts to build further, before Triple H serves a vicious beatdown on the "Great One," turning heel in the process.
As the weeks go on, it is revealed Triple H is the mastermind behind The Shield's actions, and that granting Rock a title match was simply to appease the "Great One" due to his high profile drawing power for the company.
Triple H had no intention of allowing Rock to win the title, as a champion who has been swanning around movie sets for the last 10 years would be dreadful for business, and just as The Shield had served his will for the previous weeks, they did so again at Royal Rumble.
Triple H begins his ascent into the new Vince McMahon as the evil CEO of the company and we are treated to a wonderful rivalry which will explode in New York City.
Chances of it happening: Unlikely.
With rumours rampant that Rock has been promised a WWE title run at some point in the new year, I can't envisage these two legendary superstars being paired together.
Triple H is reportedly seeking revenge for his loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam as well so it appears both men will sadly have different priorities in 2013 than renewing their famed rivalry.
CM Punk (c) vs. Undertaker: WWE Championship vs. Streak
In a time where so many superstars struggle to break through into the upper echelons of WWE superstars, CM Punk has led by example in gaining the confidence of the company through his performances in the ring and on the microphone.
Over the last 18 months, Punk has become the WWE's second biggest full-time asset, and his monumental title reign that began at Survivor Series 2011 is surely due to come an end quite soon.
When examining the list of candidates that deserve to take the title off Punk, it has to be said that few stand out as worthy contenders.
While The Rock may end up triumphant at Royal Rumble, the moment where Punk is finally defeated for the gold should be a moment of grandeur and historical importance.
It should be on the grandest stage of all and against one of the greatest superstars on that particular stage. At WrestleMania 29, Punk should square off against The Undertaker.
The way to book it:
The simpler the build is for this rivalry the better, as the stakes are so high that there is little need to make it personal, a road which WWE has occasionally travelled down in recent WrestleMania title encounters (Triple H vs. Randy Orton, CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho).
At Royal Rumble, Punk retains the title against Rock and as ever during WrestleMania season, Undertaker returns on a January/February edition of Raw before disclaiming his desired opponent for the grandest stage of them all.
By this point, Ryback is firmly engaged in a feud with Big Show, and with Rock now set to collide with Triple H in my magical fantasy world, Punk is left without a WWE title challenger for WrestleMania.
Undertaker emerges, but much in the vein of 2010 when Triple H abruptly interrupted before the "Dead Man" could speak, Punk arrives with Paul Heyman in a momentous moment in which Punk berates Undertaker, claiming his WrestleMania streak is nothing compared to his title run.
Punk, believing Undertaker to be on his last legs, challenges him to a match at WrestleMania—title vs. streak, and the "Dead Man" happily accepts, providing Punk can make it through Elimination Chamber with the championship intact.
From there, the booking takes care of itself in turns of Punk carrying the feud on the microphone, surviving the Elimination Chamber title match, and doing as good a job as anyone is going to do in convincing the WWE Universe he is the man to end the streak.
Chances of it happening: Likely.
This match has already been touted as a potential WrestleMania main event and I thoroughly believe it is the best option for either wrestler.
Both are outstanding performers, and with so much at stake it really is hard to see how this rivalry wouldn't be anything other than sublime.
Undertaker regains the WWE title, keeps the streak alive, and while he inevitably will have to drop it shortly after due to his part-time status, the memory of this winner-takes-all encounter would stay with fans for a lifetime.
John Cena vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Booking John Cena at WrestleMania seems like tricky work right now. Cena has more or less mowed through the entire roster one way or the other this year, and it appears there are few full-time superstars that WWE will feel can create a main event spectacle with him.
Due to this quandary, Cena's opponent will surely be one of the many part-time juggernauts that frequent the WWE on an infrequent basis.
Firstly, having fought The Rock last year, let me categorically state that it would be in an insult to those who invested so heavily in WrestleMania 28's "Once in a Lifetime" tagline if WWE booked Rock vs. Cena 2.
Cena fought Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules; he has had numerous battles with Triple H in the past, so for the sake of originality and drama, there are only surely only two superstars he should face; Undertaker or Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I believe that Punk vs. Undertaker is such a grand spectacle due to the stakes involved, so Cena vs. Austin is, for me, the match that should be made, and perhaps even headline at the MetLife Stadium.
The way to book it:
Having failed to win the Royal Rumble match, Cena qualifies for the Elimination Chamber WWE title match, along with five others, where CM Punk's title will be up for grabs.
Due to numerous brawls breaking out between the six superstars building up to the February event, where referees have been drawn into the firing line as well, Vince McMahon appoints a special guest enforcer at Elimination Chamber, so no full-time official feels like they are in danger.
This enforcer is none other than the "Texas Rattlesnake" Stone Cold Steve Austin, and during an unfortunate collision in the Elimination Chamber, Cena ends up accidentally taking Austin out (violently as opposed to in a romantic way).
Austin nurses his wounds temporarily, and then with Punk and Cena left standing as the final two, Austin hits Cena with a Stone Cold Stunner and counts his shoulders down as Punk makes the cover.
Instantly Austin is panged with regret, ensuring the bout will be a babyface vs. babyface clash, and as soon as Punk rejoices at his title defence, he too is on the wrong end of a Stunner.
The next night on Raw we view a confrontation for the ages, as the two faces of the last two generations finally agree to clash at the "Showcase of the Immortals."
Chances of it happening: Unlikely
CM Punk vs. Stone Cold has been touted for months now as a WrestleMania main event, but doubts over Austin's fitness have continued to pour cold water on this notion.
Should Austin be in fighting health by April, I doubt the man would want to return simply to lose to Cena, which is surely what the outcome would be given WWE's surefire reluctance to see their poster boy lose two successive WrestleMania matches.
If Austin returns, the chances are he's doing so to win, and therefore a match with Punk would be far more likely than against the man who gets cleanly pinned roughly once a year.
Thank you very much for reading my opinions and if you have any feedback you'd like to leave I'd be delighted to read it. I am also available to follow on Twitter @JWoodfield365.