WWE Quick Takes on John Cena, Shayna Baszler Booking, MVP the Manager and More
Although Super ShowDown isn't set to take place until Feb. 27, this past week in WWE still managed to be a newsworthy one for Raw, SmackDown and NXT. The card for the event further took shape, familiar faces reemerged and the stage was set for Sunday's stacked TakeOver special in Portland, Oregon.
Every TakeOver that has been held since its inception in 2014 has ranged from good to phenomenal, and Sunday's installment may prove to be among the best yet. It will also be interesting to see how the results of the event affect WrestleMania 36 and the overall future of the black-and-gold brand.
Once TakeOver: Portland passes, fans will have Super ShowDown to look forward to. WWE's semiannual shows in Saudi Arabia typically underwhelm, but at least "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt vs. Goldberg for the Universal Championship should be a spectacle, if nothing else.
WWE has done an excellent job in lately of sending the message that anything can happen recently, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility Goldberg walks out with the title. Additionally, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that John Cena will be involved in a marquee match at WrestleMania or that MVP will be brought back in a regular role on Raw if recent events have been any indication.
Combined with Shayna Baszler's shocking assault on Becky Lynch on Monday night, there can be no doubt that the Road to WrestleMania is off to a strong start. These quick takes will examine all of the aforementioned moments and offer analysis as to what we can expect next from each of them.
Does TakeOver: Portland Boast One the Strongest TakeOver Lineups to Date?
No TakeOver special NXT has ever done has been presented as filler, but the Portland show coming up Sunday on WWE Network appeared to be just that when it was originally announced because of it happening so close to WrestleMania.
However, looking at its card makes it feel like WrestleMania weekend has come early. That's how stacked it is.
The main event alone of Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Championship has been in the works for a while and could go either way. The same can be said for Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair for the NXT Women's Championship, which went from ordinary to extraordinary as soon as Charlotte Flair entered the title picture.
Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor is a dream match for the ages and could be an instant classic if given the time it deserves. Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai has been an equally intense rivalry over the past several months, and their Street Fight should be stellar.
Rounding out the card are two heavily touted title matches pitting Undisputed Era against The BroserWeights for the NXT Tag Team Championship and Keith Lee against Dominik Dijakovic for the NXT North American Championship. Both bouts are guaranteed to be great and have the potential to steal the show.
Lest we forget, the build for TakeOver: New York last April wasn't off the charts (not to mention how its lineup was changed at the last minute because of Ciampa's injury), yet it ended up being the best TakeOver to date. It's possible Portland could be remembered just as fondly by fans.
SmackDown Lacks Believable Opponents for John Cena at WrestleMania 36
It was announced on the latest episode of WWE Backstage that John Cena will be returning to WWE TV for the first time in more than six months on the Feb. 28 edition of SmackDown, which will emanate from his home turf of Boston.
Nothing else was revealed as far as what he will have in store for the WWE Universe. However, considering WrestleMania 36 is right around the corner, one can only assume that he plans on getting back in the ring on the Grandest Stage of Them All after not competing at last year's installment.
The real question is who he faces, as SmackDown's roster doesn't have a ton of depth. The blue brand could benefit from having the extra star power around, but if there isn't a logical opponent for Cena at 'Mania, he shouldn't be brought back at all.
WWE insider Twitter account WrestleVotes, which has broken several stories before, tweeted Wednesday that Cena will be allowed to choose his 'Mania opponent. Whether that will prove to be a good or bad thing remains to be seen, but it seems like his options are limited.
Assuming Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt is the direction for the Universal Championship, that doesn't leave a whole lot of Superstars for Cena to pick from. King Corbin would be a massive letdown, while a match with Goldberg doesn't have any appeal on paper.
Daniel Bryan may be the best possible person for Cena to square off with given their history and chemistry, but there must be a reason for that matchup to happen. With so much uncertainty surrounding Cena, it's worth questioning what his motivations are for coming back in the first place.
MVP's Real Value in WWE Going Forward Will Be as a Manager
Many fans assumed MVP had wrapped up his run with WWE after he revealed on Instagram that his most recent Raw match against Rey Mysterio was his last for the company. It took him all of two weeks to return to the flagship show, this time to host his talk show, The VIP Lounge.
His guest was none other than Drew McIntyre, who couldn't have been more confident about his chances heading into his WWE Championship clash with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36. MVP played devil's advocate and attempted to convince him that he needed a manager, only to receive a Claymore Kick for his efforts.
There has been no indication that he will be re-signed by WWE and have a regular role on Raw going forward, but following his performance Monday night, he most definitely should have a future with the company.
Even at 46, MVP has a lot more to offer the business. He has already expressed interest in transitioning into an agent role at some point, but his above-average skills on the mic shouldn't be wasted.
Managing McIntyre wouldn't be the best idea because the 2020 men's Royal Rumble winner is better off on his own, but Bobby Lashley would be the perfect person for him to form an alliance with. They worked well together in TNA years ago, and having someone like MVP do the talking for him would help rebuild Lashley into the monster heel he was destined to be.
Why stop at one person? MVP could lead an entire group of disgruntled heels on the roster. Between EC3, Cedric Alexander and his old pal Matt Hardy, the possibilities are endless for Superstars he could bring back to prominence.
Shayna Baszler the Vampire
Shayna Baszler's Raw debut Monday was memorable, to say the least.
She was always expected to arrive on the show at some point and target Raw women's champion Becky Lynch, but the fashion in which the feud kicked off was questionable. Baszler ambushed Lynch following her hard-fought win over Asuka and proceeded to bite her neck until blood spilled out of her mouth.
The disturbing sight did more to confuse viewers than it did to make them afraid of Baszler. It would have been perfectly acceptable if that were her gimmick in NXT, but since she has zero history of doing that to her opponents, the angle felt forced.
It didn't help that Lynch came off as unlikable while refusing medical assistance and stealing the ambulance. Then again, that might have been by design. She has been teasing a heel turn for some time, though it's imperative she remains babyface for as long as her rivalry with Baszler lasts.
The Queen of Spades' first appearance on the flagship show this year wasn't exactly ideal, but there's no reason to think she can't bounce back from it. If WWE continues to book her to look dominant and establishes that she targeted Lynch because of their unfinished business from Survivor Series (and because of what she did to Ronda Rousey), all will be forgiven.
Goldberg or Bray Wyatt: Who's the Better Opponent for Roman Reigns?
From the moment Bray Wyatt captured the Universal Championship in the fall, all signs seemed to point to Roman Reigns beating him for the belt at WrestleMania 36. Reigns was forced to vacate the title in October 2018, so it would be fitting for him to regain the gold at WWE's biggest event of the year.
That said, Goldberg's recent return to the ring on SmackDown has complicated things. He will get his long-awaited opportunity to vie for the championship again at Super ShowDown, and if he finds a way to win, it's possible he goes on to WrestleMania to defend against Reigns in a battle of the former football players.
Cases can be made for both bouts, but Goldberg vs. Reigns would mean Wyatt losing the title to the WWE Hall of Famer. The company has put too much effort into The Fiend for him to not walk into WrestleMania as champion.
Regardless of whether it's Goldberg, Reigns or someone else, odds are that Wyatt will not successfully retain his title at WrestleMania. But getting to that point with the prize in his possession is all that matters. No other match makes sense for him at the Show of Shows, and his momentum should not be cut short at the hands of Goldberg, no matter how popular he may be.
Goldberg can be protected in defeat at Super ShowDown and go on to redeem himself with a win against a lesser opponent at WrestleMania. John Cena could be a mildly intriguing option even if there's no reason for that matchup to happen. But he could also ride off into the sunset after Feb. 27, and the WrestleMania card wouldn't be that much worse off without him.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.