If there is one thing that I try not to get into across social media, it’s fantasy booking. There isn’t a much more solid brick wall to hit your head against than plotting a path for your favourite WWE Superstar to take to glory because, let’s be real here, none of us are Vince McMahon and we never will be. When Vince dies, his absolutely ripped ghost will still outwork the living and haunt the earpieces of the announce team. So, why get yourself into hoping for something that won’t come to pass?
Well, I have something to write about for one. And, for two, because I don’t have many wrestling buddies to chop it up with so you, dear readers, have to endure my thoughts and speculations. Or, go read something by Andy Burns, I guess.
With the current state of RAW being what it is, a state of decline, it seems like now is the time to go back to some fundamentals of pro-wrasslin’ booking, while still holding onto the “sports entertainment” aspect of the show that people have come to expect.
Let’s start at the top with the Universal Championship.
This belt means nothing. Not a damn thing. Nada. What was a colourful red brand stunt to give each show its own major belt during the brand split has become what Vince Russo has always said the belts were: a prop. An underutilized one at that. Current champion, Brock Lesnar, does not work TV or house show matches and only appears on network specials when he has nothing else to do. Now, that’s not a knock on Lesnar, because he is a “less is more” character, but it is a knock on WWE Creative for not finding a way to make their centerpiece belt a core aspect of their story telling.
So what should they do?
Pick two guys, a heel and a face (bad guy and good guy) and spend now until Wrestlemania with them fighting over who gets to be the one that beats Lesnar. Don’t pit them head on in a TV match. Don’t have them losing clean to anyone at any time. And, don’t let them talk about anything else. Not their Twitter, not the Mixed Match Challenge, not their friends, just how bad they want to be the one that beats Lesnar for that belt. Make it Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre and let them start first and second in the Royal Rumble and work all the way to the finish without getting eliminated. Let them each go on an undefeated streak tearing through the roster. Make them special. An ultimate hero and a sick, twisted, badass villain. No comedy spots, no backstage jokes or appearances on Xavier Woods’ YouTube show. Just two guys that want a belt heading toward an ultimate collision at Wrestlemania where one of them gets the gold and the other guy is left wanting.
The Women’s Title.
One of the things that seems to be hitting the mark for WWE right now is the women’s division. The breakout success of Becky Lynch and the undeniable star power of Ronda Rousey are a Rock and Austin type one-two punch that should lead to some healthy competition on top. Throw Charlotte Flair into the mix and you have three women that could and should all be considered for the main event at this year’s Wrestlemania.
Just don’t book them in a triple threat.
If it were up to me, which is the premise of this column, I would have Becky enter the Rumble, maybe even as a champion just because she can, and win it to go on to face Rousey at Mania. I wouldn’t let them meet or get physical until way down the line, but I would sure have them throw plenty of shade at each other along the way. Similar to the men, build them up. No jobs. No comedy. Just the two most badass women alive, separated by brands, waiting to fight.
The RAW Tag Team Titles.
Where the creative team has found success with the women, they have floundered almost to death in trying to come up with ideas for what is, at least in terms of talent, one of the most stacked tag team rosters in the history of the business. With the Authors of Pain (or AOP, because Vince assumes saying three words out loud is too much for his audience) diminished and made to look soft with elvish manager Drake Maverick peeing on things, let’s go with the idea that new champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable are going to get a run with the belts. Let’s tell the story of this veteran/rookie team learning the ropes (pun intended), making the towns, and pulling out win after win over everyone except the AOP. Even as the wins are stacking up however, AOP goes into the woods, the desert, the mountains… somewhere, with a new manager and get back to basics. They go out and fight, lift, and generally do badass stuff until such a time as Roode and Gable have established themselves as a successful, but beatable combo. Gable is getting cocky, Roode is wanting a singles run, AOP returns and pounds them into the ground to claim the belts.
Also The Revival return to NXT and there is much rejoicing.
The Intercontinental Title.
I see the IC strap as a belt that can be used to elevate a bunch of guys at the same time. Do something to vacate the title and have a tournament. Put it on Lashley and let him squash the entire mid-card before a showdown with Balor. Give it to Elias and have him sing less and fight more. Let Ambrose get it, then use his new germaphobe gimmick to get super clingy with the thing. He can’t bear to think of anyone contaminating his property, so the only way to keep it clean and pure is to pre-emptively destroy anyone that poses a threat. Have Bray Wyatt come out of the woods and reveal that he has a global, intercontinental vision for his Fireflies and that he needs the belt to make it real. I’m not saying play hot potato with the thing, but get a handful of guys with an investment in the belt so serious that the only way to settle it is with one of those multi-man ladder matches that look so great against the back drop of Wrestlemania.
The rest of the Women’s roster.
A few ladies are going to have to be sacrificed to keep Rousey strong. She will have to run through Tamina, Ruby Riott, Dana Brooke, and maybe Sasha Banks too. They can all look good in the process, but if Rousey is the one, then she has to win. The rest of the ladies can get into some serious competition with the introduction of a Women’s tag team championship tournament that runs from the Rumble until Mania. Tamina and Nia, The Riott Squad, Sasha and Bayley, Nattie and Alicia (Cat Lady and the Foxxx. That’s a free idea for ya, WWE Creative!). Lots of possibilities, lots of first time matches, and most importantly, a reason for them to fight.
The rest of the Men.
With the massive amount of talent the WWE has under contract right now, it’s an unfortunate truth that some guys are essentially enhancement talent with entry music. No Way José, Jinder Mahal, Zach Ryder, Tye Dillinger, Apollo Crews, Heath Slater, the list is enormous. It’s probably fair to say that getting paid to lose in WWE is better then winning for gas money on the indies, but it’s also fair to say that a lot of these guys could stand to go away for a while and “learn a new hold,” as JR would say. But as long as they are on the roster, they need to provide credible threats to top talent so they can look good. Let them organize, let them fight for opportunity, let them have the middle hour of RAW, just give them a chance to connect with the fans and see if something is there.
What about Braun?
I think Braun Strowman is an attraction-type wrestler that has been overexposed to the point of irrelevance. He’s a monster, he pushes stuff over, he’s going to make sure you “get these hands!” He has also lost clean to Brock Lesnar on multiple occassions and failed at cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase, so he’s not a threat. Get him off TV, shoot some creative vignettes of him doing monster stuff out in the wilds. Let his presence, or absence in this case, become larger than he is. And when he does appear, for goodness sake, don’t let him talk.
The GM role.
Holy bleep, is this gimmick worn thin. Whether it’s a heel or a face in the role, the GM character has become wrestling booking by rote. No creativity, no motivation, just a person that makes matches either to please Stephanie McMahon or in fear of her. What if, instead of a single person, RAW was run by a board of five? The board gets a room, people make their case, the board makes decisions. Mirror the bogged-down bureaucracy of real politics by putting five distinct personalities with varying agendas into power and watch them play off each other. Put Hall and Nash in there as the shady backroom dealers going up against two baby-face personalities like Trish and Lita and give Woken Matt Hardy the deciding vote. Mix it up, play politics, create an atmosphere where the locker room becomes part of the storyline as the boys and girls create fault lines of allegiance along the ideologies of the board. The behind-the-scenes stories of wrestling are almost always more compelling then those on screen, so draw inspiration there and create something new.
Change the tone.
The last thing I would do if I had the pencil and eraser backstage at RAW would be to make the show about winning and losing again. Wins should make people feel good and losses should make them feel bad. Take some of the performance out of entrances and let the performers feel something on the way out. Lost a match last week? Maybe they cut out the smiles and posing on the way out this week. On a winning streak? Let’s see some arrogance, some drive. But, most importantly, everyone, every single person on the roster, should be focused on winning matches and winning championships. There will be comedy and acting and romance and all that stuff too, but if they aren’t fighting to win, then why are they fighting at all?
So there it is, fans, my quick and easy blueprint to wrasslin’ success, written without a day’s work in the industry, and from the comfort of my desk at home.
Pretty sure I nailed it.