POWER vs POWER: THE JON SNOW GROUP
If Jon Snow would quit sulking around and actually embrace his calling, he could be the great king Westeros needs. Put him up against a challenge and he—tall and handsome—certainly looks the part of a hero. There are three such heroes in WWE who could challenge Brock Lesnar…
Definitely he is the favorite this year, not just among those who look the part, but among the entire field. Even before his runner up finish at last year’s Rumble, he was the guy in the Shield that the powers that be had pegged the next face of the company. Granted, they’ve done that before to guys who failed to meet their expectations, but the way Reigns was protected in the trio and then pushed as a solo act shows they have yet to lose their confidence in him.
Whether or not they think he’s ready this year to carry the torch will be known at the Rumble, but it’s clear he’s the one they want to be ready. If he gets the nod the story will be very by the book, with Lesnar (mostly via advocate Paul Heyman) showing overconfidence and Reigns champing at the bit to just get in the ring and shut the beast up. The challenge will be in keeping the crowd from turning on Reigns and turning the main event of WrestleMania into the fiasco WrestleMania 30 almost became.
Assuming we’re not going to get a David v Goliath story, and assuming the powers that be decide Roman isn’t ready, then who would be a safe alternative pick? Who better than Randy Orton. Here’s a guy who has a ready made motivation. He lost his title at WrestleMania and never got a rematch. The belt moved from Orton to Bryan to being held up and claimed by Cena and now is in the possession of Lesnar. Orton returning as an anti-hero who is out for his own interests allows him to butt heads with Triple H and the authority while Lesnar’s limited dates keep him distant. It would not be the most exciting road to WrestleMania out there, but it would be a safe one.
Odds of this are not great, but if you had thrown his name out as a potential Rumble winner after WrestleMania 30, it wouldn’t have been crazy. He was just starting to peak when the rug was pulled from under him. It’s clear, for whatever insane reason, Vince suddenly lost confidence in him as a top flight guy, despite having a great look, no backstage drama, with incredible strength and being one of the best wrestlers in the world. He’s almost the total package if it wasn’t for his birthright and accent. But so what? Here’s the story: He’s Paul Heyman’s other guy, who was ditched by the Advocate of the Beast and went into a professional tailspin as a result. Now he’s determined to simply out-wrestle everyone in his way on his road to proving he’s the best. A Cesaro/Lesnar match will probably never happen, but it would it would be, pound-for-pound the most athletic match Lesnar could have.
DAVID vs GOLIATH: THE TYRION LANNISTER GROUP
Poor little Tyrion. So full of life and self and vigor but because of his size will always be disrespected. When given the chance he has proven himself, but rarely is he given the chance. There’s a few WWE guys who fit that bill and if the WWE wanted to go in that direction, there’s three guys on the roster who could put on quite a show against Brock Lesnar…
Several questions are in my mind and will stay there until I see him work multiple lengthy PPV matches. Before his surprise return to RAW I was convinced he was all but retired. Reports would occasionally come out regarding his injury with phrases that did not inspire confidence: “They don’t know why…” and “there’s no timetable” and “it’s not healing like they thought” were all mentioned throughout the summer and fall of last year. I figured it was just a foregone conclusion that he would quietly face the reality of his broken body, leaving his incredible January-March 2014 to be his farewell to wrestling.
Is he really back? Is he as good as ever? Is he good enough? There’s so much that’s not certain and may not be known by anyone. I can understand the hesitancy to give him the ball two years in a row after being forced to give it up last year. He’s still very very popular but the fans aren’t nearly-rioting in support of him the way they were last year. If, however, Roman Reigns is not ready then the real alternative is to go with Bryan and do a little guy vs the monster story. The details are obvious: Bryan never actually lost his title; he was stripped of it because of injury. In his absence a monster has ascended to his throne and now sits as a pretender. Bryan wants to defeat him to prove he’s still the best; Lesnar doesn’t respect Bryan because he sees him as weak and small and fragile.
Has there been a performer like Dolph Ziggler? Here’s someone who has done everything needed to grab that proverbial Brass Ring of Vince McMahon, only to have it be pulled a little bit out of his reach every time. Through it all, as both heel and face, the fans have always appreciated him. They love his hard work, his tenacity, his unwillingness to get lazy when “creative” factors backstage work against him. We love him because it seems obvious that powerful people behind the curtain do not. We love him when he succeeds—even a little—because we like to think our constant support forced the hand of the bookers. His victories, albeit brief, are our victories. If Reigns isn’t ready and Bryan isn’t as healthy as they’re saying he is, then Ziggler would be a great pick. He could have a year like Bryan did last year, without shamelessly trying to duplicate that magic with Bryan again. His willingness to sell his body out in the ring would be a tremendous showcase for Lesnar’s strength, and the sight of him winning it—as a thumb in the eye to the on-screen Authority—would be priceless.
Here’s a radical idea: Why not take the guy from The Shield who is most ready to be the next face of the company. He’s already booked like a PG Stone Cold. He’s the only character on the show that, every week, the fans wonder what he’ll do on RAW this time. Everything from hot dog stands to ice bucket challenges to leaping from atop ambulances has been done by the so-called Lunatic Fringe. He’s got the it-factor everyone backstage keeps hoping Reigns has. He’s a natural on the mic and has a real connection with the audience (which is what Rollins lacks). A feud with Lesnar would add another element to the David vs Goliath story: the idea that Paul Heyman doesn’t know what Ambrose is capable of. Heyman is the master strategist, but you can’t strategize for someone like Dean Ambrose; he’s too off-base, too unpredictable.
WILDCARD vs BEAST: THE DAENERYS TARGARYEN GROUP
If you’re watching (and not reading) Game of Thrones, then you’re anticipating the time when Daenerys and her dragons will finally join the rest of the world in fighting for the Iron Throne. She’s been off doing her own thing away from everyone but she’s inching closer and closer to Westeros. One day she’ll return and who knows what will happen when she does. In WWE there are three legends who could make surprise returns to challenge Lesnar. They’re wildcards because they would signify that no one was either ready or able or acceptable to carry the torch for the company this year, so Vince went with the big name. Keep in mind I don’t know the schedules of these superstars. I don’t know their commitments. It’s possible that Vince has reached out to one or all of them but couldn’t work out a deal. It’s also possible that a deal has been made and one of these guys could return to shake things up…
As far as we know he’s filming the next James Bond movie. He also has a remake of Kickboxer to shoot, the next Guardians of the Galaxy and potentially he’ll be added to one of the two “Avengers: Infinity Wars” films. Dave Bautista has solidified himself in Hollywood. He needs the WWE even less than he did when he came back last year. Though 2014 ended with Batista being praised, it started about as badly as it could. Fans soundly rejected him, both in concept and execution. They wanted Bryan not anyone else, and to make matters worse Batista did no favors to himself and made no attempt to try and win over the fans. When he turned heel things got fun, but January-early March was a rough period that no party looks back on favorably. Could he come back and try again (schedule permitting)? Sure. He’d have to come back as a babyface again to challenge the heel Lesnar…would the fans be more accepting of him after his great WWE work in the late Spring and his marvelous turn as Drax in the summer? Probably. Is it worth the risk? No. Still, if you’re looking for a wildcard, he would certainly fit the bill.
As with Batista, and perhaps even more so, this is a very busy Hollywood superstar. It was talked, among WWE officials, about doing a Brock v Rock match at WM30 or SummerSlam 2014. Obviously those plans fell through, but it’s clearly a dream match that people in power want. Their one and only match was in 2002 as Rock was on his way out and Brock was on his (brief) way up. The rematch would see both men having achieved far greater mainstream success in the meantime. Towards the end of last year, it was rumored that Vince and Triple H were at odds over who should mainevent Mania vs Brock, with Triple H wanting to push Reigns and Vince trying to secure Rock. Maybe Vince struck a deal? He’s not the athlete he was in 2001 but his star is much brighter in 2015. If there’s a chance at getting Rock to come back, WWE will take it. Whether or not it’s even possible is the issue.
I don’t think anyone would have thought—this time last year—that there was more of a chance to see Stone Cold main event WrestleMania 31 than CM Punk, but here we are. Punk is off doing UFC promos while Austin is hosting a podcast and talking about always being ready if the offer/moment was ever right. He’s the ultimate longshot wildcard. No one can deny that hearing the glass break would blow the roof off the Royal Rumble arena, but whether its possible is another issue. As with the other two, Austin has to want to come back. He’s got to be sure he can go so as not to tarnish his legacy. If there was any matchup that could bring in a bigger buyrate (or increase in Network Subscriptions) than Rock vs Brock it’s Lesnar vs Austin.
Of course the one name left out of all this speculation is John Cena. But the thought that Cena could somehow lose the title match, enter and win the Rumble, and face Lesnar for a fourth time (and third in eight months)…is unfathomable. It’s unthinkable. It’s unpossible!
It’s…something to watch out for.