In my previous column I explained the reasons why I feel the WWE has been neglectful in its preparation for Wrestlemania 21. Well, never let it be said that I’m the sort of person who complains about something without suggesting a sensible alternative so here are my ideas for the card of Wrestlemania 21 if I were in charge. I’ll have to make certain allowances for causality because the history of the last few months in WWE would have been different taking into account my preparations for the event, but the basic circumstances are roughly the same. Matches are listed in no particular order.
HHH v BATISTA (WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
Title can be lost by DQ or count-out.
JBL v JOHN CENA (WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
JBL’s Cabinet barred from ringside.
The first thing to notice is that I’ve left the two title matches as they are. That’s primarily because the build up to these matches has been creative and intense. The only aspect of the build up to the HHH/Batista encounter I would change is the persona that HHH has adopted since Batista’s face turn. I would have much preferred to see HHH as the cerebral assassin character and then we could have seen two uncompromising psychopaths working up to a head on collision. As you can see I’ve also added the stipulation that the belt can be lost by disqualification or count-out. I feel this would add an extra dimension to the spots during the match and it would mean that Flair’s interference would have to be more subversive, less obvious. Plus, it would annoy HHH because this rule would virtually eliminate the use of the sledgehammer (or so we’d think!). As for the WWE championship match, again I’d leave it as it appears but I’d bar JBL’s Cabinet from ringside because that much interference would be counter-productive and obstruct the flow of the action.
RANDY ORTON v HBK SHAWN MICHAELS (LOSER LEAVES RAW MATCH).
I can’t remember the last time I saw a ‘loser leaves’ match without it being painfully obvious who was departing and this would be no exception if reports are to be believed. Orton’s demotion from the main event circle was mercifully swift but I feel the match against the Undertaker is either a punishment or a reward too far so I would keep his profile lower but put him in a match with a fast-paced wrestler like HBK. The feud could be worked around the idea that Raw isn’t big enough for the ‘Show-stealer’ and the ‘Legend-killer’ so one of them has to go. Orton’s departure from Raw would obviously be followed by his appearance on and subsequent contraction to Smackdown.
TRISH STRATUS v MOLLY HOLLY v VICTORIA (WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
Triple-threat elimination rules.
Once you’ve removed Christy and replaced her with two credible female workers, this match has some genuine appeal that goes beyond the aesthetic. It could be founded in the idea that Trish is unbeaten in her two triple-threat matches at Wrestlemania (18 and 19) so she would be supremely confident going into the bout. I would apply elimination rules to avoid the constant breaking up of three counts, which can become tedious, and the first fall would give the crowd the signal that the finale was about to happen and any two counts after that would be well received.
SHELTON BENJAMIN v CHRIS BENOIT (INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
Best 2-out-of-3 falls.
Based on their four-minute match on Raw two weeks ago I would give these two guys the time to showcase what they can do. I would keep them as two faces in the build up and allow them to work a respectful but aggressive match utilising a good twenty to thirty minutes of the event. I’d run no interference, no ref bumps and I’d have a handshake at the end (hopefully) inducing a standing ovation from the live audience.
ORLANDO JORDAN v BIG SHOW (UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
I am fully aware that this match will hardly be the one that you remember come Monday morning but in comparison to Show/Akebono it’s a far more acceptable alternative. Big Show would be a massive favourite (in more ways than three) and Orlando could almost be a reluctant title defender taking a beating during the match but escaping with the gold due to interference from the Basham’s.
LUTHER REIGNS v UNDERTAKER (NO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH).
Go back more than a few weeks on Smackdown to a passionate and convincing promo from Luther Reigns where he rejected fear for the Undertaker by explaining all the terrible things he’d been through during his life. Much to my disappointment, they had Luther running away from the Dean Man on the very same show but it could have been different. Jindrak should have been the one to run from the Undertaker but Reigns stands his ground and doesn’t flinch in the face of the Phenom. The match between the two at No Way Out would still have been a plodding, turgid encounter but a violent no-contest finish would have set up a barnstorming no disqualification bout between the two with liberal weapon use and arena wide brawling, something they could both manage with much believability.
KURT ANGLE v CHARLIE HAAS (SUBMISSION MATCH).
In my opinion Charlie Haas is the most under-utilised wrestler on either show and it’s a crime that he hasn’t been given a Wrestlemania spot. I’d have waited until the Kurt Angle Invitational worked its way round to Charlie’s hometown and have him get punked by his former Team Angle mentor for having the audacity to challenge him. A submission match would be the best way of highlighting the competition between Kurt’s ankle lock and the ‘Haas of pain’ and the awesome overall wrestling ability of the two of them would make for an exciting match.
EDGE/CHRISTIAN v REGAL/TAJIRI (WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
I know that many of you would feel that this match, and the title belts around their waists should they win, would be something of a poison challis for Edge and Christian. I appreciate that neither of them would relish a return to full time tag wrestling considering their recent solo successes but Team EC make fantastic reluctant partners and they could use this re-association as another platform for future singles pushes. At the time of writing this column, neither set of tag team championships are scheduled to be defended at Wrestlemania and this shows a lack of interest by management in what is an art-form in itself and should be continued with pride by good quality performers.
Y2J CHRIS JERICHO v MOHAMMAD HASSAN.
I accept that by putting Jericho in what appears to be an opening match against an untried wrestler with no title at stake I am running the risk of not seeming like a fan of Y2J. On the contrary, I think Chris is a fine wrestler and one of the best microphone workers in the business but his current position far from any title picture is not due to bad luck. Right now, Hassan is hot but he needs an opponent who can give him the colour he needs in interviews and someone who can call a match to help him through his in-ring teething troubles and Jericho is that man. Y2J’s easy going and fun-loving persona is also the perfect foil for Hassan’s indignant misery and it has already lead to some enjoyable exchanges between Jericho and Hassan’s ‘creepy little sidekick’, Daivari.
REY MYSTERIO v EDDIE GUERRERO.
I’m just about resisting the temptation to make this a ‘Hair v Mask Match’ because, ever since losing the mullet, Eddie seems to have lost his way slightly and the bald look might work as well for him as it did for Kurt. When it comes down to it, this match doesn’t need a silly gimmick and the wrestling action alone should be more than enough to make this a much anticipated encounter. The WWE did the right thing in teasing a heel turn for Eddie and not blowing it all a month ago only to have us then hypocritically despise him for his ‘lying, cheating and stealing’. My only hope is that, if they do turn Guerrero heel again, they persevere with it this time. Me? I’m just glad we still get to see him wrestle, heel or face.
CHAVO GUERRERO v PAUL LONDON (CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH).
This match deserves a spot on the main show but it will more than likely be demoted to the pre-PPV edition of Heat. First and foremost, I’d take that ridiculous fur coat away from Paul and only give it back to him when it’s time to go home; it makes him look like Mantaur. Take your pick from any number of superficial feud storylines that the WWE deemed unnecessary when booking this match but, even with the most understanding of writers, it’s only going to get a six or seven minute slot near the start of the PPV.
PLAYBOY INVITATIONAL BIKINI CONTEST.
Wait a second. Before anyone starts accusing me of being as sexist as the permanently horny Mr McMahon, let me say this. The WWE has just had one of its employees on the cover of Playboy and I’m expected to ignore this marketing opportunity? Just be grateful I haven’t put Christy Hemme in a wrestling match for the Women’s Championship (but then no one’s that dumb!). Here’s how I minimise the damage. Hold the contest on the staging area, not in the ring, so the contestants come out quicker and it’s over faster. Some lightly covered flesh appears only for Snitsky to come out and act weird and creepy around the women and spoil the mood much to the annoyance of the male audience. Then, burst of flames, out comes Kane and the Big Red Machine Tombstones Gene on the stage and we all go away happy (apart from Snitsky who just goes away).
And that’s my Wrestlemania 21. I like to think I’ve placed a little more emphasis on wrestling than Vince without filling the card with ‘boring’ matches and I’ve used gimmicks and stipulations as merely constructs or consequences, not a smokescreen for lazy booking like the six-man ladder match that we’ll see in April. I’ve tried to be creative without being ephemeral and I’ve rewarded those who for me epitomise hard work and show a dedication to the craft of wrestling. Sorry? Akebono who?