SWEET CHIN MUSINGS: Can you TLC The Road To WrestleMania?

SWEET CHIN MUSINGS: Can you TLC The Road To WrestleMania?
By Rick Nash

John Cena and Randy Orton meet to unify the WWE and World Championships this Sunday at WWE TLC.

 

WWE fans would agree with the legendary Andy Williams when he refers to this as 'The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year'. While most may feel that way due to a combination of boozy Christmas parties, turkey and selection boxes, not us. We feel it because, with Survivor Series now out of the way, finally it became okay again for us to dust off our imaginary scorecards and start devising fantasy WrestleMania line-ups!

That's right folks, if we can just make it through this Sunday's TLC pay-per view (headlined by John Cena and Randy Orton as they put both of their World and WWE Championships on the line in a historic Tables, Ladders & Chairs match - and this one is free on Sky Sports 4), then we've arrived at the build-up towards the Royal Rumble making us officially in WrestleMania season!

In recent years, WWE have been preparing their WrestleMania cards with even more advanced notice than usual (most notably when they publicly announced John Cena vs The Rock a year in advance), so there's a good chance that certain plans have been set into motion and they are beginning to reveal their hand ahead of April's extravaganza. With that in mind, and surely not for the last time in this column before April, let's look at some of the potential dream match-ups we have waiting for us on the 30th anniversary of 'The Grand-Daddy of 'Em All'.

Of course, in doing so, we have to contend with the very real possibility that:

a) Some of these are purely fanboy pipe dreams of yours truly and may have no basis in reality, and,

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b) Plans change in WWE all of the time, so even if these are in the works, then they are very provisional Plan A's.

...so be sure to add your own dream matches you'd like to see in the comments.

CM PUNK vs. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN

This one has been rumoured for years, ever since CM Punk dropped his first anti-authority 'pipe bomb' on WWE bosses and, in doing so, became a real-life embodiment of Stone Cold Steve Austin's legendary (and fictional) struggles with CEO, Vince McMahon. Incidentally, Punk wore a Steve Austin t-shirt for the aforementioned promo, either by coincidence or design. And the latter has spoken of 'The Best In The World' in near-reverential terms since, regularly mentioning him in his podcast in the same breath as the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race (two wrestling heroes of Austin's youth). If this match were to happen, it would be Austin's first singles match since his in-ring retirement in 2003.

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Why It Will Happen: Picture this scene for a moment - it's the Royal Rumble match. CM Punk finds himself in the ring battling one of his current foes, Dean Ambrose, when the countdown begins. Out comes Ambrose's Shield team-mate, Seth Rollins, and a 2-on-1 beatdown ensues. The crowd are hoping and praying for someone, anyone, to save Punk from this onslaught. The countdown begins again. As it reaches 0? The glass breaks. The live crowd in Pittsburgh and millions watching around the world (including at the WWE Party in Woolshed Baa & Grill, Dublin - details TBA soon!) erupt in shock as Steve Austin makes an unexpected return to the ring. He clears house, eliminating Rollins and beating down Ambrose. Punk regains his bearings and the two team up to double clothesline Ambrose over the top rope. Then, as the crowd exhale from this epic moment, in typical Austin fashion he nails Punk with the Stunner and your scene is set for WrestleMania 30. A match for the ages. Giving the fans exactly what they want.

In short, this has to happen, because the above scenario is too amazing not to happen!

Austin has stated publicly that he's ready and waiting to come back to the ring, if the circumstances are right. A chance for a dream programme with the one opponent he'd stay up at night dreaming of working with are probably those exact circumstances. For his part, Punk openly admits his admiration for Stone Cold's work and has, in the past, even trolled fans by needlessly dropping Austin's name into numerous in-ring promos. WWE bosses are also aware of the demand for this match, testing the waters with mini-features like the WWE '13 promotional interview with Jim Ross, that enabled the two to trade verbal jabs.

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Why It Won't Happen: As stated, Steve Austin has said he's ready and waiting to come back, if the circumstances are right. But he's also aired a number of very public grievances with the current product. Whether these are valid or just a case of him crying that things were better in his day is irrelevant, what matters is whether or not he'd feel those circumstances are legitimately possible? Because while you can listen to him on his podcast constantly mentioning how the wrestling bug never gets away from you, at times it also seems like he's at peace with his wrestling career being in the past. He has the podcast, has a fun but not-too-taxing movie career, and several reality TV commitments, all keeping his creative juices flowing. Is it worth the energy to him to come back if he can't have complete faith in the product he'd be returning to? Sadly it may not be.

PROBABILITY: 40%

What We'll Probably Get Instead: CM Punk vs. Randy Orton

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DANIEL BRYAN vs. SHAWN MICHAELS

This past week's 'Slammy Awards' edition of Raw shed further light on another mouth-watering dream match that may be in the works, as Daniel Bryan and Shawn Michaels met face-to-face for the first time since Bryan locked his real-life trainer in his 'Yes Lock' following October's Hell In A Cell pay-per view. After being awarded with the 'Double Cross Of The Year' award for turning on his protege at said event, later Michaels was given the honour of awarding him the 'Superstar of the Year' award, before the two came to blows later in a mass brawl that saw Bryan take his mentor out with a high knee. This was a rivalry that fans had largely forgotten about and could've easily been swept under the carpet, and yet it became a major talking point of one of the biggest Raw shows of the year. Funny that.

Why It Will Happen: Bryan's hot streak is such that Monday night's fans in his home state of Washington wouldn't allow the scheduled go-home promo for Cena and Orton's showdown on Sunday to go ahead, as they simply wanted to chant Daniel Bryan's name. It was an instantly legendary moment that illustrated wrestling fans' ability to change the script through their interactions, and can't have gone unnoticed by higher-ups considering that it was (Executive Vice-President of Talent) Triple H that they were interrupting. While Vince McMahon may have soured on Bryan's ability to carry the company as top guy, surely some kind of reward for his elevated popularity is in order. And a mentor-versus-pupil match with Shawn Michaels would have wrestling purists salivating, with WrestleMania classic potential to burn.

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Why It Won't Happen: WrestleMania 30 will take place just a week after the four-year anniversary of Shawn Michaels' retirement. Since then, he's gone onto host his own hunting show on The Outdoor Channel and, in doing so, appears to have filled the creative void that wrestling usually leaves (as Steve Austin has done with his podcast). Despite occasional cameos, Michaels has never given any kind of indication that he'd like to return to the ring for one more match, and genuinely seems content with his new life. Wrestling retirements tend to be fickle once the opportunity for a big payday and dream match comes along (as Michaels learned before, returning after another four-year hiatus in 2002), but until WWE started putting seeds of doubt into people's head with the Daniel Bryan programme, it appeared as if this one would stick. Unfortunately, this could be as good as it gets for these two. Reserve full judgement until Michaels gets one over on Bryan again.

PROBABILITY: 55%

What We'll Probably Get Instead: Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

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THE UNDERTAKER vs. ROMAN REIGNS

Survivor Series usually gives us one or two small indications about future plans for WWE, usually in the form of a new star being elevated. This year there was no question that that star was Roman Reigns, as he absolutely beasted it in a show-stealing Survivor Series elimination match that saw him eliminate four opponents and leave the sole survivor. Son of former WWE star, Sika (of The Wild Samoans), and relative to such alumni as The Rock, Rosey (of 3-Minute Warning), The Usos and the departed Umaga and Yokozuna, Reigns has pro-wrestling coursing through his veins and the kind of look and presence that they love. At this stage of his career, Taker tends to only come out of retirement for WrestleMania matches (and is now on a 21-0 streak at the event) and appears to be a lock for this one as he's being featured on local advertising in New Orleans.

Why It Will Happen: Reigns briefly feuded with Undertaker following last year's WrestleMania, sending him back into retirement as a part of The Shield and seeming to setup for some kind of future showdown. The added element of The Shield at ringside would make the match, and the possibility of 'The Streak' being ended, a lot more compelling. Plus, if you're Undertaker, ending the streak is one of the few creative boxes you've left to tick in your career. As a former pro-wrestler myself (though I wouldn't dare to claim to know what goes on in the mind of a veteran like Undertaker), I would have zero interest in ending my career with the streak intact, and would spend days upon days thinking of cool, creative ways to end it. This is a business where you go out on your back, putting over the new generation in the process, and a talent like Reigns who seems ready to break out on a huge tear over the coming year would become an overnight legend with a win like this on his resumé. Even if WWE nixed the idea of Reigns winning, the elevation of being 'the guy' who fights Taker at Mania is still a fantastic rub. Whether he wins or not is really just a case of whether or not Taker feels he has another few matches left in the tank.

Why It Won't Happen: There are very few reasons for it not to happen, but these days Undertaker WrestleMania matches tend to be left until a few weeks before the event to be announced, so something as simple as an injury to another main event star could see Taker subbed into an alternative match. A lot of this also has a lot to do with timing, so while this match may be pencilled in for right now, if Reigns were to drop the ball or lose momentum over the next couple of months it'd be difficult to see him being rewarded with a big money match at Mania.

PROBABILITY: 75%

What We'll Probably See Instead: Undertaker vs. Sheamus, Roman Reigns vs. Big Show

JOHN CENA vs. BROCK LESNAR

We're reaching the point where I'm trying to fit the big names announced for WrestleMania 30 into believable matches. Brock Lesnar is on all posters and local advertising for the event, so it seems as if his return for the first-time since SummerSlam has been planned well in advance. Rumours state that he was originally scheduled to set up a WrestleMania storyline with The Rock on the Raw following WrestleMania 29, before Rock pulled out due to injury. With Rock not being advertised and the likelihood that his management freaked out that he'd hurt himself in his foray into wrestling (throwing his many other commitments into jeopardy) high, I don't see that still being on the cards.

Why It Will Happen: With that said, John Cena will therefore need a high-profile opponent that could sell a pay-per view in what will likely be for the (as of TLC) WWE Undisputed Championship. He's feuded with Lesnar in the recent past, with their match at Extreme Rules 2012 ending up a Match of the Year candidate, but the beastly Brock going for WWE gold could still draw big numbers on a stacked card. He is, of course, still the highest drawing Heavyweight Champion in UFC history. Put that against WWE's highest draw in recent history at their showpiece event and you've an instant cash cow. That would, of course though, require Lesnar to win the Royal Rumble. So don't be shocked if he makes an unannounced appearance then...

Why It Won't Happen: Because it's not being touted as a possible main event, aside from me trying to fit all the pieces together in my own fantasy WrestleMania card. And that merry chess game requires both Stone Cold Steve Austin AND Shawn Michaels to leave their happy retirements. So with this in mind let's chalk this down as an 'extreme maybe'.

PROBABILITY: 35%

What We'll Probably See Instead: John Cena vs. CM Punk Part 27 or John Cena vs. Randy Orton Part 376; Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock (you know, the match that people have actually mentioned as possible)

 

THE ROCK & SOCK CONNECTION vs. THE SHIELD

A match that literally existed in nobody in the world's brain until seconds ago...but why not? Mick Foley's phone appears to always be on when WWE come calling, and The Rock has worked the past three WrestleManias, so a comeback is never far away. As cool as Brock/Rock II (post-Lesnar's UFC run - with the original being the match that saw Brock catapulted to stardom) would be, it just seems unlikely to me that Rock would risk getting in there with a part-time wrestler who seems to consider safety a dirty word, especially after last year's injury may have made him and his entourage gun shy. So, with that in mind and for the sake of including Rock on this fantasy card, why not team him with his old partner Mick Foley for one last showdown with the new top dog team in The Shield (comprising of Rollins and Ambrose - since Reigns is otherwise engaged)? It'd be considerably less risky than a 30-minute, one-on-one match with Lesnar and would elevate The Shield no end, paying off their fantastic work since their debut in 2012.

Why It Will Happen: It won't.

Why It Won't Happen: Because, as I said, I've literally just made it up. But wouldn't it be fun?

PROBABILITY: 1%

What We'll Probably See Instead: Mick Foley on the Kick-Off Show, one of The Rock's tweets being given a shoutout by Michael Cole on the night, and Rollins and Ambrose flanking Reigns for his match with Undertaker.

 

Rick's WWE TLC Quick Picks

World Champion, JOHN CENA over WWE Champion, RANDY ORTON in a TLC Match to unify the belts

DANIEL BRYAN over THE WYATT FAMILY

THE SHIELD over CM PUNK

WWE Tag-Team Champions, CODY RHODES & GOLDUST over THE REAL AMERICANS, RYBACK & CURTIS AXEL, BIG SHOW & REY MYSTERIO

NATALYA over Divas Champion, AJ LEE

Intercontinental Champion, BIG E LANGSTON over DAMIEN SANDOW

Pre-Show: DOLPH ZIGGLER over FANDANGO


Rick Nash is a former professional wrestler who currently runs WWE Parties Ireland (hosting large scale events for big WWE pay-per views in Dublin). He's also a DJ and terrible sports gambler, so feel free to share any WWE thoughts or sports tips with him on Twitter.

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