With just 100 days until WrestleMania 33, and the Royal Rumble as the next major milestone on the horizon, we thought it'd be fun to put together a WrestleMania card in a draft-style format. The goals going in were to produce a fun, entertaining and altogether realistic version of the WrestleMania card -- knowing full well how many moving parts there are to deal with.
We put a few basic rules in place. There are 14 matches (giving us more room to maneuver than the WWE will likely have), all contracted WWE superstars are in play, and once a competitor is off the board, they can't be used again. Each person was given a wild-card selection outside those parameters (if they so chose), and two matches -- the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and a multiman ladder match -- had to appear somewhere in the show.
Without further ado, here's how it all played out. Brian Campbell called heads and won the coin toss, and he elected to pick first.
(c) indicates defending champion going into Wrestlemania (not necessarily the current reigning champion)
Brian's pick: Seth Rollins versus Triple H
Man, I wish I could see Shane McMahon-Triple H happening this year -- especially because of the recent story from Vice -- but they're really telegraphing this Seth Rollins-Triple H match. While I'm far from the biggest "Rollins as a face" fan out there, if you're going to do it, you might as well do it against someone as prolific as Triple H. I really hate how long they've taken to get Triple H back on-screen (and we're still lacking that payoff) after he screwed Rollins out of the title and made Kevin Owens his new "golden boy."
I will call "son versus son-in-law" for Wrestlemania 34, though.
Reaction: Yeah, Shane may take a while to get back into the ring after what happened with Roman Reigns at Survivor Series, but every indication here has been that we're on our way to Rollins-Triple H. Let's hope that there's a nice payoff in this and, once it's done, that we'll start down the path of Rollins heading back toward the dark side, where he belongs.
Let's face facts -- John Cena is going to tie (and quite possibly break) Ric Flair's all-time record for most world title reigns. Sure, you could build an entire pay-per-view event around that match, but in reality, the only stage big enough for an occasion of this caliber is Wrestlemania. You want the match itself to feel like a big occasion, and you want it to be a high-quality match -- and you won't get a better opponent for that sort of circumstance than Styles. There's no other good guy that quite matches the stature of Cena as far as potential title contenders on SmackDown, and Styles has very much earned two things in particular with his performance in 2016 -- a lengthy title reign (and it would be if it stretched to Wrestlemania), and a high-profile match at the biggest show of the year. We got this match at Summerslam, and it was one of the best matches of the year in all of wrestling, but the program itself was a bit too short. Give them a full Wrestlemania program to work up to this match, and you won't be disappointed.
Reaction: Talk about a swerve, Timmy Fever! Not only did I not see this coming, it completely blows up a number matches I was hoping to make. Look, it's not like I wouldn't enjoy this or that both superstars couldn't tease five-star match potential once again, but it does feel a bit like we just saw this (mostly because we did). It feels a bit too soon, and with the all-time great 2016 that Styles just put together, there are many more superstars I want to see him in there against. So I'll begrudgingly accept your pick, knowing it's not only strong enough to main event, it probably steals the show just the same."
Brian's pick: Roman Reigns versus The Undertaker
Seriously, I can't reiterate how much taking Cena off the board early messed with my plans, so I'll have to adjust on the fly. And while I'm surprising myself a little bit in selecting this one since I'm just about the biggest detractor at the idea of WWE keeping Reigns a baby face, there isn't a bigger rub he can be given than a potential victory over The Undertaker in what I'm booking it to be Taker's final match. Throughout all the boos from smart marks and questions from critics, WWE has held firm in its booking of Reigns. They might as well go the distance and formally pass him the torch one more time. He's worthy.
Reaction: You know what? This is the kind of matchup I had in mind when I took Cena off the board. As much as I've been a proponent of Cena-Undertaker, it makes more sense to give someone who's going to be around full-time for a long time the Undertaker rub, and I think this match and how he reacts to massive boos at times during this rivalry would go a long way to determining the direction Reigns goes in the future.
Tim's pick: Kevin Owens (c) versus Finn Bálor for the WWE Universal championship
I make this pick with the thought that the next few months will allow enough time for the Chris Jericho-Kevin Owens friendship/rivalry to play out by the Royal Rumble (though I'd love to be wrong and have an epic Owens-Jericho showdown on wrestling's biggest stage). I'm of the belief that the big plans WWE had in mind for Finn Bálor in 2016 will get reignited the moment he comes back -- and I think he will be healthy in time for Wrestlemania. Both Owens and Bálor will play a big part in the future of the WWE, and I think these two play off each other nicely in building a great story and a tremendous in-ring match. The built-in history of their showdowns in NXT should only serve to enhance the build.
Reaction: You'll hear no form of argument from me on this one. A tremendous pick, and like you mentioned, it allows WWE to pick up right where it was likely headed with Bálor before his untimely injury at SummerSlam.
Brian's pick: Charlotte Flair versus Bayley versus Sasha Banks for the WWE Raw women's championship
"I'm as tempted as anyone to select a Fatal 4-way involving the members of NXT's original Four Horsewomen, in part because the triple threat involving Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 32 just about stole the show. But it's a complicated match to consider due to brand extension storylines and the fact that there are now two women's championships. Heck, I'd like to really go out on a limb and have Flair and her spotless pay-per-view record go up against a still-undefeated Asuka. But that would likely mean leaving Banks and Bayley off of Wrestlemania, and that's just unforgivable. Let's do a different triple-threat variant and let these ladies cook.
Reaction: As Mauro Ranallo is so fond of saying, "Momma Mia!" Despite NXT still being in recovery mode as far as the women's division goes, the thought of Flair versus Asuka is tantalizing. I think, in the interim, this match should suffice -- and it gives us an addendum to Flair-Banks without simply throwing another crazy gimmick into play.
Tim's pick: WWE United States championship: Chris Jericho (c) versus Sami Zayn
It's not the cleanest and clearest path to this match, but as currently constructed, someone has to take this title off of Reigns before his match with The Undertaker (or whomever he ultimately faces -- and I'll nominate the guy who already should have done it in Jericho. I'm putting him up against Zayn, who I'm hoping will continue his recent surge in momentum and feel worthy opposite Y2J. Some might argue that Jericho deserves a little something more after the year he's had, but I think he'll either get a Universal championship match at the Royal Rumble against Owens, or they'll continue their bromance well into 2017. Either way, issues with Owens' former best friend make all the sense in the world in what would be a stellar showdown between a couple of Canadians.
Reaction: Now that's some well-thought booking right there and something I can get behind. Plus, it would be great to see Jericho get a chance to cap off his recent resurgence by winning a world title he has yet to capture over his legendary career.
Brian's pick: Triple-threat match -- Big E versus Kofi Kingston versus Xavier Woods
This doesn't mean that it's time to break up The New Day for good or that it has to last any longer than the one month buildup toward Mania. But try to tell me you wouldn't be excited to see how a surprise turn like this -- the kind that has WrestleMania written all over it -- plays out? The New Day has been on top for so long that seeing them drop the belts and suddenly implode would be an interesting swerve. And should WWE decide that keeping them apart for even longer is the right move, a match like this could be the perfect launching pad toward the Big E getting the kind of singles push many have wanted to see for quite some time.
Reaction: This brings true sadness to my heart, and I'm offended that you could think the power of positivity could evaporate so quickly among The New Day. It wouldn't be the first time things have fallen apart in a hurry once the titles are out of the picture, though, and I agree wholeheartedly that these three need a dramatic step to maximize on their post-record-setting reign.
Tim's pick: Randy Orton versus Bray Wyatt
My initial thought was to have a triple threat match that also included Luke Harper, but I think we have enough of those already. As good as these guys are, and as much as they've been rolling on SmackDown Live, it seems like there's an expiration date ahead in February or March -- just in time for this match to happen. They have tremendous in-ring chemistry, and I have all the faith in the world that they'll each go out there a bit earlier on the card than they'd like and produce with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
Reaction: Interesting turn of events here. But considering how underwhelming their initial feud played out, coming back to it so quickly after a successful partnership (just as fans were really taking to the idea of them as a superteam) might be the perfect move to constantly keep this feud feeling fresh.
Brian's pick: The Miz (c) versus Dean Ambrose versus James Ellsworth
There has been too much consistent drama between The Miz and Daniel Bryan, the SmackDown Live general manager, for plans not to be in the works for something major. As much as I would love to predict an in-ring return for Bryan, it's one of those possibilities that I'm not willing to fully entertain unless it's officially announced that he's cleared to compete again, out of respect for the head injuries that forced his early retirement. If Bryan can't gain retribution on The Miz himself for all of the trash talk exchanged between the two of them, why not put two bodies in front of him in Ellsworth and Ambrose, who is quickly getting into a very heated and personal conflict with the Intercontinental champion. Neither Miz-Ellsworth nor Ambrose-Ellsworth is Wrestlemania-worthy, so let's put it all together.
Reaction: My immediate reaction was not great, but the more I think about it, the more I'm coming around. I don't know how much more you can squeeze out of Ellsworth after this moment, though.
Tim's pick: Fatal 4-Way for the SmackDown women's championship: Alexa Bliss (c) versus Becky Lynch versus Nikki Bella versus Natalya
OK, I tried my hardest to make sure that there wouldn't be another triple threat, so I'm going to combine two good feuds on SmackDown Live into one big title match. This checks off all the boxes for what the SmackDown women's division needs for the biggest show of the year. Lynch has played too big a part to be left out, Alexa Bliss has come into her own as SmackDown women's champion, Nikki Bella deserves at least one more WrestleMania moment, and Natalya has come on strong of late and doesn't seem too out of place -- especially if she continues to embrace her Hart lineage.
Reaction: Great booking there and a smart way to get multiple superstars into one big match on a card that's already pretty jam-packed.
Brian's pick: Goldberg versus Brock Lesnar
It's incredible we waited this long to throw this match out there, considering its potential to attract casual and crossover fans. It has the kind of star power to main event the card on its own, and their surprise squash match at Survivor Series really set the table for what could become a memorable feud. The Royal Rumble match offers an opportunity for the two legends to escalate matters and set up for the payoff at WrestleMania, which should be plenty physical as Lesnar looks for retribution.
Reaction: I think we both realized this particular showdown is basically an inevitability, but you're right -- this is going to be one of the biggest attractions to casual fans, and an anchor to this show, for sure.
Tim's pick: 8-man ladder match for the WWE cruiserweight championship: Rich Swann (c) versus TJ Perkins versus Brian Kendrick versus Jack Gallagher versus Cedric Alexander versus Tony Nese versus Noam Dar versus Lince Dorado
The WWE always seems to include one ladder match in the mix in recent years, and with no Money in the Bank match to rest upon and the Intercontinental championship taking over the last couple of years, we'll give the cruiserweights the chance to really show what they can do here.
Reaction: As much as I've enjoyed the return of the cruiserweights to WWE, I'm not sure I can see them cracking the card because of how much competition for space is out there. But your idea to get as many on the show as possible is a good one, at the very least. (Although the amount of screen time given lately to Ariya Daivari might make me question why he was left out of your draw.) And I can't imagine a scenario in which this match didn't get the crowd fired up, which could make it perfect to close the preshow.
Brian's pick: The Big Show versus Shaquille O'Neal
The Big Show officially issued a challenge on the red carpet in July at The ESPYS, and Shaq initially accepted, although not much has happened since then to confirm (and The Big Show was somewhat noncommittal in a recent ESPN interview). It's a match that makes a lot of sense, considering the history they have going back to a 2009 episode of Raw when O'Neal was the guest host. It doesn't have to be long to be effective, and the publicity of Shaq having an official match (after making a surprise appearance in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at last year's WrestleMania) in his hometown of Orlando can only help ticket and network subscription sales.
Reaction: This is what it is, but I'm in full agreement. I ended up liking Big Show-Floyd Mayweather in Orlando at Wrestlemania 24, so maybe this will be better than it seems on paper too.
Tim's pick: Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Well that's about it. We've stocked this match with a lot more talent than it needs, simply due to space issues, but this match benefits greatly. To have Dolph Ziggler, Rusev, Cesaro, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (and a whole lot more) in this match is a gift in disguise, so let's appreciate all of the star power. I think we've been positioned in a way that giving Strowman the rub here feels even bigger with who he has to run through to get there.
Reaction: What else is there to say?