RtWR 2016 Summary
Did you see that coming?
It took four months of development, but the Road to Wrestlemania Rewritten 2016 has come to an end (yes, I'm aware that this is being written a month after completion). Dean Ambrose is the world champion, Kevin Owens is the top heel in the company (or maybe Roman Reigns is... or... Jack Swagger?!), and the company has a wide collection of storylines to build upon going forward.
Hopefully a better platform than they had coming out of the televised Wrestlemania 32 (not that they haven't made some inroads to correct course since then).
Let's start with the structural changes made to the show.
Removal of the Pre-Show
If you can't fit 12 matches into four hours, because you are filling air time with pointless commentary and advertisements, you are approaching the show wrong, and should reduce the number of storylines AND advertisements.
Yes, I know it is all about making money. But if you are pushing the US Championship onto the pre-show card, then either you are diluting the quality of the main card, or undermining that title entirely.
Removal of the Hall of Fame fight segments
Don't get me wrong. Seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Shawn Michaels come out to fight together was great. Make that a match. I'll throw my money at the screen.
Just don't undermine a young stable by having them get a key victory, and then get beaten up by legendary good guys for a cheap pop.
And we aren't going to talk about the Rock and Bray Wyatt. Because I'm still angry about Backlash.
The Women's Championship Reveal
I said it at the beginning. Should never have been called "Divas". Undermined a generation of female wrestlers.
Now for the matches themselves. There were four matches removed from the original card, not counting the Rock vs Erick Rowan, which should not be counted. Ever. You could argue the first one, but the storyline was changed, so I'm calling it as removed.
B.A.D and Blonde vs The Total Divas
This was purely Total Divas promotional marketing, with a set up for Brie Bella's victory lap retirement, and a Nikki Bella face turn return pop. Ugh.
The Dudley Boyz vs The Usos
The storyline had played itself out. That's why this one ended months previous in the rewrite. Short storylines are fine as long as they pack punch. Long ones have to have a slow build for them to not burn themselves out. No one really cared for this match by this point.
Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles
Once again, this rivalry was dragged on far longer than necessary. Yes, they are great in the ring together. But AJ showed within moments of his arrival that he could be the star WWE could rely on. Dragging this rivalry on did little for him, particularly with a loss at Wrestlemania at the end of it.
The New Day vs The League of Nations
Non-title? Really? At Wrestlemania? /flips all the tables.
Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar
This had all the potential in the world to make a statement: WWE was going back to pushing the boundaries of PG. It could have cemented Ambrose as a lynchpin Austin/Foley hybrid. But the interviews since have suggested Lesnar wasn't interested, and this match did neither competitor much good.
All that said, there were some solid storylines to build upon and change within the pay-per view. I've covered them below.
United States Championship
This one really has two parts to it. The original match, Kalisto vs Ryback, made little sense. We'd seen it before, it got moved to the pre-show, and the championship feel got entirely undermined. So instead I looked forward towards a time when some differentiation between the two mid-card belts would be needed, and started shifting towards that.
Rather than a singles match, I took the Ladder Match that had previously been set for the Intercontinental Championship, and built storylines throughout that provided plenty of potential winners for the match. Fandango, Tyler Breeze, one of the Usos to split the team, Stardust, Kalisto, or Sin Cara all seemed to have the potential to, if not win, then at least be the cause of someone losing the championship. Which is what you want from a non-singles championship match.
Putting these four on the grandest stage together was a no brainer. While I would have loved to have Owens vs Zayn for the title, there were too many variable storylines taking up space to really make that a centrepiece. For Wrestlemania 32, anyway.
Instead, I changed the Ladder Match to a straight Fatal-Four Way, and replaced Stardust, The Miz, Zack Ryder, and Sin Cara with AJ Styles.
You can't tell me that isn't an upgrade.
With the build up playing off the years of friendship between Owens and Zayn, and the complicated relationship they have had, combined with Dolph Ziggler's desire for vengeance and AJ Styles looking to cement his place in a new company, the match would have cemented all four of them as top tier stars. Or, at the very least, Ziggler would have put all three of the others over.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Honestly here, the only changes I made was the winner, and the intertwining of other storylines. I dislike matches for the sake of face time, but with this being an annual part of the show now, it made sense to me to give the victory to Samoa Joe rather than Baron Corbin. Keeping the Lone Wolf hungry by continuing to deny him opportunities plays to his character's strengths more than an otherwise meaningless victory.
Smackdown has the right idea now. If you are planning on keeping Bayley on NXT for a little longer, then this is the moment to make Becky Lynch the star. She's the underdog. The one that no one expects to win. Charlotte will do whatever it takes, and Sasha Banks will flitter between good and bad just to win. So strengthen the whole division by showing Becky Lynch isn't just there to be the good girl who gets betrayed at every turn.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
That match at Roadblock was great, until the end. Shift it here, change the ending, and suddenly you have a horror show for the Authority. The second coming of Steve Austin/Mick Foley taking on Triple H for the championship? There's the potential match of the night.
Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker
I imagine there are some people unimpressed with my booking here.
But hear me out.
Undertaker winning was the wrong result, because it did nothing for the story (and to be honest, it was basically reversed on the following Raw, so what was the point of it?). At the same time, Shane McMahon being the one to retire The Undertaker? That's... painful doesn't even begin to cover it.
But what about The Roman Empire...
Build the story around the end of the Authority. Shane McMahon is coming to take back control. Vince McMahon knows this is a problem he has to cut off at the knees, so throws his son into the cauldron. Undertaker vs McMahon. Hell in a Cell. Triple H is rabid that his power could be threatened on two fronts.
And then Roman Reigns returns to take it all away from him. Roman ensures The Undertaker is retired properly, even if Shane McMahon is the one that gets the victory.
Now, Triple H has been stripped of all power, the Authority is ended, The Undertaker is retired properly, and Shane McMahon is in charge (he could still gift Stephanie control of one of the shows). Damien Sandow is over, the fans are even more conflicted about Reigns (he ended the Authority! But he retired the Undertaker!)
Now you've got a story to tell...
Which leaves us with the six matches that I added to the Wrestlemania 32 card.
Chris Jericho vs The Miz
These two are so great in the ring together. The gift of Jericho is one of the best things Raw has going for it at the moment, and The Miz is brilliant as the Intercontinental Champion. I hope that is building to something great, and doesn't end up dragging on and becoming a wasted story. That said, putting these two in a match at Wrestlemania opens the show with a bang, puts the two major showmen of the company at odds, and gives them both a platform to build into their current televised personas.
Brie Bella and Natalya vs Naomi and Tamina
This would be the match that some might argue is not new. A carefully cut down version of the Total Divas match, this is all about building the undercard of the Women's Division. Brie Bella still gets her chance to retire at Wrestlemania, though without a win this time, Naomi and Tamina are cemented as dominant heels ready to threaten the title picture, and Natalya puts over the heels without losing position.
The League of Nations vs The Social Outcasts
Of the members of the League of Nations, two have left the company, unhappy with how their characters were handled, since Wrestlemania. Here was an opportunity to finally get Bo Dallas over with the crowd, in preparation for a stunning twist (that we will discuss shortly). Shatter the League of Nations, and springboard the Social Outcasts to victory, and an even greater rivalry...
Emma vs Paige
At the Wrestlemania where three of the four Horsewomen fight for the championship, it makes sense to honour the two women that began the change, with a final blow off match to their long running rivalry. Rather than participating in the Total Divas match, Emma and Paige get a showcase all of their own, the first women's Submission Match at Wrestlemania. Emma gets put over, Paige doesn't lose too much ground, but more importantly, the entire division is raised by the quality of these two.
Tag Team Championship Match
What's that? The Tag Team Championship is actually on the line?
Huh. Never would have seen that coming.
Yes, Enzo and Cass lose. Now isn't the time for them to win the championship. The New Day are getting stale, but they are still solid enough to be used to put over a new tag team (*cough* Balor Club *cough*) post Wrestlemania. First though, they need a final, signature win over a crowd favourite to prepare themselves for losing the championship at Extreme Rules.
Enzo and Cass will get their chance at Summerslam or Survivor Series perhaps, but for now, we are setting the stage for Balor Club to reign.
Brock Lesnar vs Jack Swagger
Oh that was worth the wait.
From the moment I started writing this, this was the end game I was waiting for. Because I believe in Bray Wyatt. And Jack Swagger, a talented cast-off underutilized by a company not really sure what to do with him, was the perfect target for the Wyatt Family to prey upon.
Because Bray Wyatt's words have not really meant anything, really. He loses big matches, the Wyatt Family is mostly used to put others over... it is a waste of talent and opportunity.
Now? Now the Wyatt Family have a true superstar in Bray Wyatt. They have a new, fresh face in Jack Swagger - a former world heavyweight champion who has found solace in Bray Wyatt's words. And a brand new over babyface in Bo Dallas (Bray Wyatt's real life brother), ready to lead his Outcasts against the Wyatts.
Imagine Bray Wyatt as World Champion, Jack Swagger as Intercontinental Champion, and Erick Rowan/Braun Strowman/Luke Harper as Tag Team Champions, decimating the roster. Bo Dallas fighting them at every turn, his Outcasts unable to defeat the overwhelming force, as more wrestlers are pulled in to either side. Until Bo Dallas has no choice but to ask for help.
Survivor Series: The Wyatt Family vs Balor Club. Who do you cheer for?
Just a thought. Hope you enjoyed the Road to Wrestlemania Rewritten: 2016.