Thursday afternoon, the news came out that WWE Champion Seth Rollins’ knee went kaplooey and there would be a tournament to crown a new kingpin at Survivor Series. The fantasy booking sirens went off, as every Richard, Thomas, and Harold began to throw out scenario after scenario for both the tournament and WWE’s uncertain creative future. Luckily for you all, I am a Thomas and I also went hard to work on a make-believe sports entertainment plot to escape the dull torture of work and life.
Being painfully pessimistic, I couldn’t help but immediately throw together a plan in my head of what they will most likely do, so I won’t be disappointed when they don’t make a billion dollars with my genius idea.
(NOTE: I fantasy-booked based on a 16-man bracket, thinking that Raw & Smackdown this coming week will be filled with qualifiers or “first round” matches to fill TV time. Also, I went off of the idea that the Wyatt Family/Brothers of Destruction match is still on for Survivor Series and no one from those groups would be available.)
Roman Reigns beats all the usual big guys clean on his way to wrestle the guy that checks off all of WWE’s star qualities on paper, but doesn’t normally connect – Alberto Del Rio. Roman even beats Dean Ambrose in the semifinals to kill the heat of their eventual feud under the guise of “teasing it”. Very few exciting matches and a whole lot of boring.
From there, I stopped being disappointed in WWE’s most plausible strategy and focused on having fun with a wacky scenario that would be way more fun. I like having fun. It’s usually fun. I threw this thing together and doubtlessly put way too much thought into it.
Upon first glance, it doesn’t seem too bizarre. A little fantasy booking-y, but not super off-course. But alas, young people. Let me explain, match-by-match…
FIRST ROUND/QUALIFIERS (on Raw/SmackDown)
Dean Ambrose defeats Big E – Big E’s entertaining and the New Day are great, but I think you can sacrifice Big E in a singles considering that the New Day’s momentum is as the sum of its parts. While it stinks to beat one of the Tag Team Champions like this, there are very few credible heels on the roster and Ambrose needs a tough road. You need to weigh out the positives and negatives.
Chris Jericho defeats King Barrett – Chris Jericho is in Europe right now, touring with Fozzy. If WWE is desperate enough (and I’m pretty sure they are), they could absolutely throw enough money out and make it happen. Barrett is one of Jericho’s hand-picked house show opponents, so they probably have a good enough match down to make for entertaining TV. It’s someone Jericho can beat without stopping anyone’s momentum.
Kevin Owens defeats Neville – On the surface, Owens just needs a semi-credible babyface to beat early on. Beyond that, tournaments need good wrestling and WWE needs TV matches with guys who can go two or three segments and keep it entertaining. As mentioned before, TV is being shot in Europe this week. The heat will be there to keep it entertaining.
One thing that stinks, though – the shows are in England, but none of the Europeans are winning. That is, until…
Finn Balor defeats The Miz – I’m under the impression Finn will be at TV this week. The European crowd will give him a star reaction. The formula for this one is really easy – The Miz comes out with a microphone and blabs about being a former World Champion. Give him just enough time to make the audience think that it is just a generic promo before just any boring Raw match. But then, drop the lights. Do the crazy Finn Balor entrance for the first time on Raw (not “The Demon”, obviously). Send Finn Balor out to run through his big high spots and beat Miz really quickly. The key is to give the audience enough of Finn to think, “WHOA! Who’s this guy?”, but not enough to fill them up. Leave something for Survivor Series.
Roman Reigns defeats Sheamus – Most fans are going to think Sheamus is going to cash in at the end of Survivor Series anyway. Book to make them think that way. Give him an issue with Roman with this loss to direct thought that way. Maybe even have Sheamus vow to “ruin Survivor Series” for Roman beating him here – but don’t have him say he’s going to ruin the night for Roman.
Cesaro defeats Big Show – When you flash the brackets on TV, the general thought will be that Big Show will so Roman can slay him in the next round like what always happens. Everyone, from commentators to both Show and Reigns, act as if it’s a foregone conclusion that Show versus Roman is the quarterfinal match. Reigns cuts a promo on Show after his match with Sheamus. Go all the way with is. But then. you give a positive swerve – Cesaro wins and does something physically impressive to Show. Again, the European crowd will be hot for Cesaro and while Show won’t mean much for most guys to beat, Cesaro can do some really cool power moves to Show that would make it memorable. Then, sometime before Survivor Series, Cesaro confronts Roman about looking past him to give that match a bit of heat.
Tyler Breeze DDQ Dolph Ziggler – It’s weird giving away the first match on TV, but give them a bullshit no-contest finish so you can bring it back. Plus it plays into the bigger story of…
Alberto Del Rio defeats Zack Ryder – Play into the social media buzz of this being just like the Deadly Game tournament. Change it up so it’s not completely predictable (you’ll see how I’m thinking in a moment), but do the Duane Gill deal with Zack Ryder (for those of you who are too young to remember – at Survivor Series 1998, Mick Foley was given a mystery opponent by Mr. McMahon who was hyped really big, to the point where online/hotline rumors were out that it would be Shawn Michaels’ return from injury. ). Triple & Stephanie McMahon, from the moment that Del Rio is the chosen champion from the onset.
QUARTERFINALS (Survivor Series 2015)
Dean Ambrose defeats Chris Jericho – The angle at the end of the night won’t necessarily reboot the entire top-end of WWE, but it will change most directions. You’ll need to tie any loose ends hanging before it does. This is one of those loose ends – take care of what was left hanging at the end of Night of Champions after the six-man tag team match with these two and Reigns against the Wyatt Family. Ambrose wins, big fist bump to acknowledge that the beef is squashed, and we move along,
Kevin Owens defeats Finn Balor – This is where you give away a long Finn Balor match. Atlanta’s typically more the type of crowd that’s just into what is presented on Raw every week, but the pay-per-view crowds have been swaying more into the Mania weekend types. I wouldn’t be afraid about putting them out for 15 minutes. Owens wins the match against a very competitive Balor. From there, either you can keep Finn on TV and just build on him hanging with Owens for the future, or you send him back down to NXT and bring him up whenever you’re ready.
Roman Reigns defeats Cesaro – On the pre show, do a quick backstage just showing Cesaro coming out of The Authority’s office, seemingly conflicted. The commentators should not ignore it, but it is more of a thing for the audience to think about to themselves. The match itself should be every WWE match in 2015 with any sort of length. Cesaro would play subtle heel – nothing over the top, only that he would be the one on offense during the heat of the match. If the audience is the type that has been showing up to pay-per-views in 2015, they will end up getting progressively angrier as they realize that Reigns is going to win like he normally does. However, the commentators should completely ignore any sort of negative reaction that might happen. After the match, do the babyface embrace.
Alberto Del Rio BYE – Del Rio has the easy road because he’s the chosen champion. The commentators speculate that the Authority bracketed the tourney, knowing that Breeze & Ziggler would eliminate each other somehow and that this would happen.
The format of this segment is vital. Michael Cole pitches backstage to whichever backstage interviewer is working on this show to have Triple H announce Del Rio’s bye. It cuts midway into Triple H storming away from the interview set to storm back to his office. Instead of Triple H announcing the bye, the interviewer speculates amongst the chaos that The Authority is in scramble mode after Roman Reigns advanced to face Del Rio in the semi-finals. It is NOT worry that Reigns will win the WWE Championship (as they don’t have an issue with Reigns), but that the chosen champion Del Rio has the toughest competition in the tournament in the semifinals.
Kevin Owens defeats Dean Ambrose – This is another “loose end” match. Ambrose & Owens started an issue this past week, but it won’t be the main focus for either character going forward. Owens would win clean, as it does him no good to cheat to win going into the angle at the end of the night. Plus, Owens is leapfrogging everyone into the position he will end up in at the end of the show and needs everything to boost him.
Roman Reigns defeats Alberto Del Rio – There’s an easy story going into this – it is the one we think is the babyface fighting the odds against the one we think is the chosen tournament winner. Early on, Zeb Colter would try to sneak Del Rio some sort of small weapon, like a chain. However, the referee would catch him, throw the chain near the corner, and ban Colter from ringside. As Zeb scoots away, he would scream, “But it was part of the plan!” repeatedly. Commentary should not overly acknowledge this. From there, it’s a pretty straightforward match, with the exception of Reigns sneaking the chain in his glove before the Superman punch. Yet the commentators would play it up more as Reigns being clever and outgunning an evil heel who tried to cheat against him, not him creating an unfair advantage to win.
I would put a match between this and the finals (time permitting, NOT the Wyatts/Brothers of Destruction bout). During a slow point, commentary would bring up that there is chaos happening with The Authority in the backstage area. Maybe not directly said, but something to the extent of, “There’s a lot of yelling and screaming in our headsets that is a bit distracting during this match. We can hear Triple H & Stephanie McMahon yelling at someone, but nothing in particular. We’ll try to keep you updated after this match”.
Right before the final match begins, do a backstage that begins as a Kevin Owens interview. Quickly, Triple H interrupts and starts pep-talking Owens. Triple H gives a version of those motivational speeches that we’ve seen him give on the WWE 24 and ESPN specials before NXT shows, but as a heel. The gist is that Reigns ruined Triple H’s vision of the future of the WWE Championship, so Owens needs to stop Reigns from obtaining the top spot in WWE.
Roman Reigns defeats Kevin Owens – Before either competitor comes out, bring The Authority out in front of the crowd with the WWE Championship belt. Triple & Stephanie McMahon view the match from ringside, as they are out to present the Championship belt to the winner, WrestleMania 4-style.
Very early in the match, send Sheamus out to sit at ringside by The Authority, to set the bug in the viewer’s mind that Roman’s winning and Sheamus is immediately cashing in as per The Authority’s ruling. As the match gets longer, Triple H seems to get more frustrated.
As it is getting towards the end of the match, Sheamus starts creeping closer to ringside. Owens & Reigns would knock each other down for a ten-count, as often happens in main event wrestling matches. Sheamus rushes the ring as Triple H yells “PLAN B! PLAN B!” (the viewer thinking that Plan B is Sheamus cashing in, as it was with Seth Rollins). At that moment, send Ambrose out to cut him off. Triple H gets his hands dirty and brawls with Ambrose, as Sheamus breaks free and throws his briefcase into the ring…
Reigns knocks out Owens with the briefcase. The referee turns around, counts the pin, and Roman Reigns becomes the new WWE Champion.
After the match, Reigns embraces The Authority, as they celebrate over Owens’ prone body. Ambrose crawls into the ring, trying to drag himself to his best friend Reigns to get some answers. But before he can do so, Sheamus blasts him with the Brogue Kick. The show ends with The Authority, Sheamus, & Reigns raising arms.
The next night at Raw, the build would start for an Owens/Reigns rematch at WWE TLC 2015. The promo material would write itself – The Authority think Owens doesn’t have what it takes to be the “top guy” because of his aesthetic issues and Owens is willing to slash apart The Authority verbally like only he can. I’m not a fan of shooty promos, but considering WWE’s quirks about size and physiques have been brought up on television over the past few years, everyone involved in this could go there, make the situation feel more legitimate, and not lose the audience.
The explanation for this convoluted plan with Reigns as the chosen champion would be that it’s a marriage of convenience – Reigns has had to struggle for the past year as the audience has turned on them and The Authority needed a new chosen champion who was bigger, stronger, and more durable than Seth Rollins. Pawns had to be used and people had to be confused in order for it to work, but they did it. That episode of Raw would have to include a segment where Del Rio would confront The Authority about them using him as one of those pawns, but they would settle with him using the language he knows best: money. Del Rio is a heel – he shouldn’t want to demand another fight for the Championship if he is presented with free money (especially if he’s already the United States Champion). You could bring that story back eventually if you need a bridge between WrestleMania and whenever Seth Rollins would return, with Del Rio going against Reigns when it slips that Reigns got the spot because The Authority thought that Del Rio was a “loose cannon”, playing off of his hiatus from WWE while being vague enough that it could tie into how his character operates on television for those not in the know.
The top babyfaces are Dean Ambrose & Kevin Owens – not as a pair, though teaming isn’t out of the question if needed. There would always be the unrest of the two of them being lone wolves and having just briefly feuded. Cesaro could possibly be slipped in whenever a fresh face would be needed or six-man tag team matches would occur, coming out of his weird meeting with The Authority at Survivor Series (which would be revealed as them asking him to take it easy on Reigns before their match).
I’m sure some of you are like, “Why is The Authority all over this thing?”. I’m not a fan of the act either; it’s a tired trope. However, the McMahons aren’t leaving WWE TV in that role for a long, long time. USA Network prefers it and TV right fees are king right now. If they have to be around, use them in a way that isn’t completely hokey. Pit them against babyfaces who can create real tension and not WWE-manufactured robots feuding with other WWE-manufactured robots, where you can tell that every word out of everyone’s mouth comes from a script that Vince McMahon approved. With Owens and Ambrose, they both talk in such a way that, while their verbiage comes from the same writers, they can deliver the lines in a way that sound unlike that style of promo. Plus (especially Owens), they’re really good at playing the trolling babyface that brings out the best in a heel Triple H and playing on real emotions and conflict. The story writes itself with WWE having not pushed anyone that looks like Kevin Owens in a long, long time and how the people in power might not be happy with a chubby guy in basketball shorts as a main eventer.
With the rest of the picture, there would also be Dean Ambrose versus Sheamus at TLC (possibly even a ladder match for the Money in the Bank briefcase). Save Reigns/Ambrose for the Rumble (which would include Brock Lesnar returning to win the Rumble itself). Fastlane in February would be headlined by either another Ambrose/Reigns match or some multi-man match with all of the major players in this story. Mania would be Reigns/Lesnar and either Owens or Ambrose against Triple H (if The Rock falls through). Personally, I would lean towards Owens because the promos would be better, but either would be interesting and gain something from beating Triple H on the biggest show of the year.
Did you like that? I hope not. It will never happen.
The first scenario – the more boring one – will undoubtedly be the more likely to happen. Roman Reigns has been positioned already as the guy who takes the protagonist helm of World Wrestling Entertainment in the future. He is sliding into the forefront of WWE’s charity promotions, his merchandising is foremost at most of the live event booths, and they’ve spent literally years of expensive television time building him to that point.
I will not claim that the giant block of text that you read above is absolutely perfect. I’m sure I will get e-mails ([email protected]) or tweets (@NotThatTomGreen) from people who will pick my thoughts apart and expose me for the joker that I am. But at its core, it is a change-up from the reality of WWE programming in 2015. It’s an abrupt change in the course, albeit one based in the facts of the world that WWE’s fiction operates in now. This isn’t an original idea, but WWE television needs excitement and change right now worse than it ever has. If you can’t change the television production, the person producing the commentary, or the in-ring style and formula, why not at least find a logical reason to switch out what we know is good and evil out of complete desperation?
In the meantime, I know I’m excited for Roman Reigns to power out of Big Show’s chinlock and knock him over with a big ol’ punch en route to his first WWE Championship as our reigning hero and savior. I’m sure you are too.