Doctor's Orders: WWE and WrestleMania 31's Future is Now
By The Doc
Apr 8, 2014 - 11:42:13 PM
The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment.
The Snowman is a genius
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Of all the new stars currently being pushed or debuting from NXT, which one are you most excited about? How do you see them fitting in at next year’s Mania?
WrestleMania XXX is over.
Time to get ready for WrestleMania 31.
The WWE embodied the above statements last night. Some post-Mania Raws can feel like an extension of WrestleMania rather than the “new season’s premiere.” At this stage of my fandom, I much prefer it to feel like a night that the WWE starts anew.
And start anew they did very well…
Adam Rose and Bo Dallas were announced to the main roster through well-produced vignettes. Paige made a splash in defeating AJ Lee to become Diva’s Champion in her debut. Alexander Rusev and his smoking hot blonde manager/interpreter/Brigitte Nielsen finally walked past the stage and got in the ring (Rusev may not be super, but he’s an impressive athlete). Cesaro took another step forward in his already established career. Bray Wyatt capped off an incredible week in New Orleans for his character. The Streak was conquered and its conqueror was championed as the newest unstoppable force in the sport. Daniel Bryan was cheered like the new “People’s Champion” that he is. Not to be outdone when all was said and done in the Big Easy, The Shield stamped themselves as budding main-eventers to close out Raw.
The youth movement has arrived. The product has not felt this fresh in a long time. The OVW class of 2002 may still be major players in the WWE’s modern game, but there are a whole host of newly cemented major opponents with whom they can mix it up. Last year’s WrestleMania 29 was a financial success, but a critical disaster heralded by many fans as “too stale to be historically significant.” My disagreement with that aside, this year’s WrestleMania was both (presumably) an economic home run and a celebrated night that many are already calling one of the most immortal “Showcases” of them all. Domestic WWE Network subscribers plus the usual international PPV buys could make this one of the biggest fiscal boons in WWE lore. Think back to one year ago today, when the post-Mania 29 Raw took place. It was a fun show thanks to the crowd, but did it foreshadow the next year’s Mania in any way? No, it did not. Daniel Bryan was still toiling away in the tag team scene. Clairvoyance was necessary to predict his Summerslam main-event that led to his WrestleMania Moment. Bray Wyatt had not even debuted. Cesaro could not even sniff relevance. The Shield had merely scratched the surface of what they would become. Look how Mania XXX turned out.
I stated recently that Bryan winning was good for the business. His organic rise to the very top of the industry has reinvigorated wrestling across the board. He represents possibility. One year ago, he was a bit player on a WrestleMania top heavy with part-time stars and established main-eventers. Today, he holds the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. Last night’s Raw pushed the crop of current and near-future headliners into the forefront and planted the initial seeds for WrestleMania 31 in San Francisco.
Bray Wyatt, coming off an awesome night at WrestleMania XXX, appears poised to have a big 2014. His feud with John Cena will presumably continue for awhile. How Bray evolves his character will be one of the most intriguing stories of the year. He is very unique and has done a marvelous job of adapting his promos to fit the stories that they want him to tell with his opponents. Someone asked me over the weekend whether or not I thought that what Bray was doing with Cena might lead to the long-awaited heel turn for “The Golden Boy.” I responded “No.” Yet, after Mania, I do believe that we may be in for the most psychologically stimulating storyline that we’ve seen in quite some time. Simple stories are great. Daniel Bryan is proving that. Classic good guys vs. bad guys can sell and sell big. Yet, it’s also nice to have something a bit different to sink your teeth into, as a fan. Bray vs. Cena fits that bill. As I peer into the crystal ball, the WrestleMania 31 path for the Wyatt Family is unclear, but I see Luke Harper stepping up to a more significant role by year’s end and Wyatt reengaging Daniel Bryan. Summerslam will be telling for Bray. As was pointed out by my colleagues prior to WM30, Wyatt does not have a logical next challenge once he’s done with Cena. We almost have to hope that another babyface rises up to match Bray’s current heel level. I think Sheamus vs. Wyatt would do wonders for the Celtic Warrior, though I’m not sure how much it would do for Bray beyond giving him a proving ground to showcase his ability to rise to the very top but stay relevant once he predictably and understandably plateaus after running out of main-event babyfaces with whom to engage.
WrestleMania 31 prediction for Bray Wyatt - With the presentation at Mania 30 and how quickly they have pushed him to this point, it would be a real shocker to see Bray in any other role but another headlining match next year. After beginning his Mania career with a match against Cena, he could go as high as the main-event. Do not rule out a big-time Harper face turn leading to a major match between them along the lines of Raven’s Flock leading to Perry Saturn’s defiance in WCW.
Cesaro being a “Paul Heyman” guy has all the potential in the world. It was amazing how Heyman’s promo about Brock Lesnar ending the Streak was able to garner such an incredible heel reaction at 9PM EST, but that Cesaro’s association with Heyman was able to garner such an incredibly positive reaction 90 minutes later. We, The People wish to cheer The King of Swing. Does being managed by Heyman automatically mean that we should, instead, boo? Clearly not, given the pop that their pairing received in New Orleans. Brock will probably disappear for the next two months, but Cesaro gives Heyman a reason to stick around. I love that. Heyman is an incredible asset to WWE TV. Is it possible for Heyman and Cesaro to be a babyface combo, but for Lesnar and Heyman to be a heel combo once “The Streak Conquering Beast Incarnate” returns? I’m curious to see how that dynamic plays out. The one question I had about Cesaro’s ability to achieve the main-event level was his inability to verbally communicate at an upper echelon level. Heyman takes care of that. Now, the WWE can simply focus on the amazing gifts that Cesaro does bring to the table instead of the obvious piece of the puzzle that he is missing. Of all the talents poised to take the next step this spring, Cesaro is the one with the most unpredictable future, both in the immediacy of this current time period and in the future. That being stated, it has been nearly a decade since a wrestler that won a mid-card match at Mania started the new season with the kind of momentum that Cesaro has after Raw. A handshake with Hulk Hogan and Paul Heyman as his manager 24 hours removed from bodyslamming Big Show to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? It was a great weekend for the Swiss Superman.
WrestleMania 31 prediction for Cesaro - This one is almost impossible to predict with any level of certainty. He’s so good and his pairing with Heyman could be amazing, but there’s always such a logjam at the top of Mania cards. He’s got a long way to go in the next year to be in consideration for a headlining match, but there are plenty of 2002 guys for him to work with if he can somehow get to that position. Batista, Randy Orton, and John Cena all have unclear Mania paths, as well. It’s the by-product of the changing tide. Rumor has it that Cena has a lot of respect for Cesaro. Imagine their February Raw match with a 75,000 fan backdrop.
The Shield was as well positioned for the future as Raw went off the air as anyone. Reports are flying in on the dirtsheets about a potential feud between The Hounds and The Evthority. It’s funny. Just minutes before their backstage segment set the tone for their main-event run-in, I actually found myself wondering aloud how the WWE could get them back on track next week after seemingly being left out of a significant spot on a very important Raw. Then, it became clear that they were about to take the next step in their babyface run by challenging Trips and Co. War Games came to mind as Raw was fading to black. Pipe dream? Maybe. Extreme Rules is the next PPV. Some variation of it is as possible as ever before. Anything involving The Shield locking horns with the kinds of established main-eventers that were present in that final segment last night will be huge for their careers, especially now that they’ve shifted gears to portraying a new take on their characters. Dean Ambrose is surprisingly easy to cheer. Seth Rollins has a move set fit for a breakout high flyer. Roman Reigns is getting better by the week at accentuating his power and intensity. One of the most anticipated feuds of the year is going to be their eventual break-up and feud. The Authority could very well be the vehicle that makes it happen. Imagine Ambrose joining Trips and Steph, initially, and then Rollins following suit. Triple H is a magnet right now, so the heat would be off the charts. No matter how the split happens, the night that those three men fight each other is going to be incredible. I’m patiently awaiting it.
WrestleMania 31 prediction for The Shield - I stated in my Mania 30 review that Brock Lesnar beating The Streak means something if he puts someone else over next year as the next “Next Big Thing.” Reigns fits that bill. That’s my call, as of now, for the Mania 31 main-event: Reigns vs. Lesnar. It could be Cena vs. Reigns, but I think that they’ll go all out to try to build up Reigns for a match with Cena at Mania 32 in Dallas. A modern “Ultimate Challenge” if you will. I could be totally off base with Reigns, but he just strikes me as the future. His next few months of momentum-building will be key to his chances of ascending that far that fast. Of course, The Shield split could be a huge Mania 31 storyline in its own right. Held off for another year, it could be one of the top 3-4 matches, but nothing on the horizon seems as likely as Reigns getting to the top in the next 12 months.
Daniel Bryan will be one of the most intriguing wrestlers to watch this year. We have seen the rise of the underdog in the past. Even when it led to great payoff moments like Mania 30, the ensuing title reigns have often wound up being little more than “OK, you got your time in the sun, now back to the mid-card you go” sorts of occurrences. Bryan does seem above that. He is more popular than any similar star that has ever achieved his position. I’m not so much concerned about what he does for the next few months, but I’ll be very curious to see what happens with him at Summerslam. CM Punk was able to parlay a lesser moment three years ago into a consistent headliner push that really never went away until he dropped off the face of the earth. Bryan is worthy of it, but there’s also a lot more competition for his spot right now than Punk had for his. Punk could talk circles around 99% of the roster, too. Will the #Yes!Movement cool off? Surely it will eventually. Then what for Bryan? That underlying story will be fascinating to me. I’d like to see “his” Mania be the catalyst for him to become this generation’s Shawn Michaels. What that would mean for him would be occasional stops in the main-event against the champion, but mostly just a steady run of headlining matches where he gets the chance to steal the show every month. Bryan has always exceeded my expectations, but I’m giving him a huge career arc to live up to in claiming him as the next HBK. Quietly, the guy has become my favorite wrestler. It didn’t begin that way, but that’s the way it ended up. I’ve invested so much energy into his success. Nothing would please me more as a wrestling fan than to see Bryan spend the next ten years meeting my expectation while forging a “Mr. WrestleMania” caliber legacy all his own.
WrestleMania 31 prediction for Daniel Bryan - I think a Bryan vs. Lesnar match has to happen or an opportunity will have been missed, but I currently have that slated to happen before Mania 31. I honestly see Bryan facing one of the many up-and-comers talked about today. If the WWE can find an upper echelon spot for Seth Rollins once The Shield splits, then a match between he and Bryan could be an unbelievable addition to the WM card. Add a story to the caliber of work that they are capable of and you’ve got a recipe for an amazing match. Cesaro could step in and do the same. Ditto for Ambrose. If a heel comes about in the next year that the WWE feels can achieve elite status, then that’s a possibility, too. All that I want for Bryan is a chance to steal the show. He has youth, heart, and desire on his side in a way that I wish Punk had.
The future is now. And I’m very excited about it.
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