WWE Quick Takes on Updated WrestleMania 36 Card, John Cena vs. the Fiend, More
It was quite the newsworthy week in WWE, to say the least—if only for the last few days.
The card for WrestleMania 36 seemed secure until WWE swerved everyone by booking Goldberg to take the Universal Championship from "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at Super ShowDown on Thursday. That threw all of the rumored plans on the SmackDown side of things into disarray, and now nothing makes a whole lot of sense.
On Friday's SmackDown, it was confirmed that Goldberg will defend his newly won Universal title against Roman Reigns, while The Fiend will face John Cena. There are pros and cons to both bouts, but there can be no doubt that the lack of long-term booking has hurt whatever appeal they would've had if they had been built up ahead of time.
The minimal amount of buzz surrounding NXT in recent weeks has also been a cause for concern. The upcoming TakeOver special in Tampa promises to as phenomenal as any other installment, but the show seems to have been in a bit of a holding pattern lately and hasn't felt as must-see as it was even a month ago.
On the bright side, Jeff Hardy is on his way back to WWE after being announced for Tuesday's episode of WWE Backstage. What he has in store for fans remains to be seen, but the timing couldn't be more interesting with his brother Matt making headlines lately.
This week's Quick Takes will delve into SmackDown's sad state of affairs at the moment, everything else apparently on tap for WrestleMania, NXT's string of less-than-stellar shows, and more.
It's Time to Turn Goldberg Heel
The boos Goldberg received on SmackDown one night removed from beating Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship were too loud to ignore. There is no way he makes it to WrestleMania 36 being portrayed as the same babyface he has been for years, which is why a heel turn must be in order.
Interestingly enough, Goldberg has barely been a heel throughout his illustrious career. The only time WCW experimented with him as a heel was toward the tail end of his run once his undefeated streak had been broken.
Seeing as how that didn't work out too well (and how it essentially ruined whatever momentum and popularity he had left at that point), it may have been for the best for WWE to not make those same mistakes with him. He was largely beloved during his initial run with the company and again in 2016-2017, but it's time for the trigger to be pulled on heel Goldberg now that a significant portion of the audience is obviously upset with him.
To be fair, it has been the booking of Goldberg and how he defeated The Fiend that fans aren't thrilled with, but WWE can turn it into a positive by having him embrace the boos. Roman Reigns was cheered by the crowd in Boston on Friday night for confronting him, so perhaps that was the plan the entire time.
Granted, Reigns outright challenging Goldberg for his title at WrestleMania and not having to do anything to earn it is a whole other issue, but it is possible for WWE to make this work and to have Reigns benefit big time from it.
What Does Jeff Hardy Have in Store for WWE Backstage This Tuesday?
Believe it or not, it's been nearly a year since we last saw Jeff Hardy on WWE programming. He and his brother Matt were forced to vacate the SmackDown Tag Team Championship in May 2019 because of Jeff suffering a serious knee injury within weeks of winning the titles.
Of course, his various legal troubles haven't helped his cause at all, but assuming he has worked through his issues, it will be great for fans to see him back. It has not yet been revealed what brand he will be a part of upon his return, but surely he will shed some light on that during his upcoming appearance on WWE Backstage this Tuesday.
Among the other topics he should discuss is his contractual status with the company. Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported in February 2019 that WWE had rolled over The Hardy Boyz' contacts for a third year, though Jeff will be around a lot longer than Matt after missing time while out injured.
Regardless of what the future holds for Matt, Jeff has proved he can do well on his own in the singles ranks. He held the United States Championship for a substantial period of time in 2018 and would be a fun solo act over on SmackDown.
The Charismatic Enigma still has a lot left to offer in an in-ring role, even if another world championship run isn't in the cards. At this point, however, a Hardy return might be best saved for after WrestleMania to ensure he doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
Booking the O.C. vs. the Undertaker and Aleister Black for WrestleMania 36
Per Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline two weeks ago, the plan is for The Undertaker to face AJ Styles for the first time ever one-on-one at WrestleMania 36.
That was all but confirmed at Super ShowDown when The Undertaker made his grand return to beat AJ Styles in the final round of the Tuwaiq Trophy gauntlet match. It didn't do much to make Styles look strong, but it would have been foolish to give away a full-length bout between them right then and there.
If anyone can get a passable matchup out of 'Taker at this stage of his career, it's The Phenomenal One. Then again, Undertaker has proved to be much better in tag team matches over the years because of how it limits what he can do, and in this case, it would be totally logical for him to want to find a tag team partner to combat the entire O.C.
Enter Aleister Black.
Black already has bad blood with the group after they ambushed him backstage last week on Raw. Black vs. Styles is scheduled to take place on Monday, but regardless of the result, Black should remain a part of this program heading into WrestleMania.
The former NXT champion suffering his first singles loss since joining the main roster to Styles on Monday night would virtually guarantee that he'll be relegated to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the WrestleMania Kickoff show.
After all the effort WWE has put into building him up this past year, he deserves a prominent spot on the card. Teaming with 'Taker would be an incredible rub for him and would instantly set him up for big things post-'Mania, assuming the duo emerges victorious.
What Has NXT Been Lacking Lately?
Despite featuring a blockbuster main event between Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair, this week's edition of WWE NXT was fairly abysmal on the whole.
In fact, the last several shows from the black-and-gold brand have largely been blase by NXT standards. As tremendous as TakeOver: Portland was, the excitement oddly hasn't carried over to the weekly television show for whatever reason.
NXT was producing some of its best programming ever as recently as a month or two ago, but things seem to have hit a wall heading into WrestleMania weekend in Tampa. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa is being recycled yet again, the tag team division is on ice, and the next challenger to Adam Cole's NXT Championship is not yet known.
It's perfectly acceptable for NXT to feature a marquee match every so often on free television, but two Steel Cage matches on one episode is overkill. That's in addition to the two Elimination Chamber matches we'll be seeing that Sunday at the pay-per-view of the same name.
It's difficult to pinpoint what exactly is missing with the NXT product. While it's far from terrible, the lack of compelling storylines gives viewers more of an incentive to tune into AEW Dynamite airing opposite of NXT instead.
The Fiend vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 36 Has Potential but Lacks Logic
After about a week's worth of rumors and speculation, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt officially challenged John Cena to a match at WrestleMania on Friday's SmackDown, an invitation Cena immediately accepted.
This came moments after Cena claimed he had no intentions of competing at the event this year because he'd rather see the spotlight go to the younger talent. It wasn't made clear what changed his mind between cutting that emotional promo in the ring to walking up the ramp and encountering The Fiend.
It wasn't imperative that Wyatt attacked Cena to kick off the build to their bout (like he's done to everyone else he's feuded with over the past several months), but The Fiend pointing to the WrestleMania sign was vastly unnecessary. For someone who is supposed to be intimidating, he sure looked ridiculous doing it.
It doesn't help that there is zero reason for Wyatt wanting to face Cena at WrestleMania aside from avenging his loss to the Cenation leader from six years ago.
Truth be told, the match would have made much more sense had Wyatt still been in possession of the Universal Championship. Cena could have announced his intentions to win the world title for a record-setting seventeen time, and Wyatt could have beaten him in the end.
The odds of The Fiend besting Cena on the grandest stage of them all this year are still fairly high, but it will mean nothing once he is likely fed to Roman Reigns following WrestleMania. WWE has its work cut out when it comes to making people care about Wyatt vs. Cena again.
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.