WWE can be more risqué. It can change the faces of the company. However, there is one thing that with the launch of the WWE Network, that WWE will never do, and that is downsize its programming hours. Having now created its own online channel, shows like Raw will remain at three hours long. As a result, it is undeniable that feuds take place far too rapidly, and that matches that should be headlining massive live events have been seen multiple times, with Wrestlemania only functioning as closure.
That is not just to say that matches should happen less often. There is also no denying that massive, iconic matches were rematches. Rock vs. Austin may have headlined three Wrestlemanias, but they collided a trillion times on weekly shows. As did Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels. And Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. It is the match’s significance that matters, but even WWE has erroneously demoted what used to be the ‘Big Four’ (Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series and Summerslam) into the ‘Big One’. Subsequently, even some Summerslam bookings, however much of a dream match they are, may come across as a waste.
The matches should happen throughout the year, but WWE have yet to make their mind up about the priority of the rest of the year. The events surrounding them should be treated as far more important than just a glorified Raw. But what are these matches?
Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn (For the Intercontinental Championship)
Where?: Hell in a Cell.
The match to inspire such a write-up, the connection between Owens and Zayn is no secret. These two have had many a match, and have been friends since ever. Even WWE, who have a habit of pretending that nothing else ever happens outside of the vicinity of the company, have addressed their history. It is a rivalry that is destined to continue for as long as both men are in the same promotion. As far as WWE are concerned though, their next match is the one to be labeled Owens vs Zayn III.
Owens is one of the best heels in the main roster, and Zayn would be a terrific Bryan like figure to watch climb to the top to a revived US or Intercontinental Championship Division. Two wrestlers who have plenty of business apart from one another before their eyes finally meet in the ring to a massive ovation, weeks down the line.
Instead, within weeks of Zayn’s full-time promotion to the main roster, after an amazing match with Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Dallas, their next meeting was already booked. Sure, this is presumably going to end with a disqualification or by foul play, and it is not for a title, but it is undoubtedly a bit quick. A likely compromise, would be for either combatant to acquire a title at Night of Champions, and to meet at Hell in a Cell for the umpteenth time.
AJ Styles vs John Cena (For the United States Championship)
Where?: TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs
Since the rug was tugged from underneath Sting vs Undertaker, this has been the match that has been dreamt of for the longest that could still happen. Considering how AJ Styles will have been demoted from the WHC picture as Reigns pulls through in the near future, that Styles will presumably be booked as a heel, and Cena will soon pursue the United States Championship that he gave up due to injury, this match is highly likely.
It has long been extremely symbolic, as AJ Styles originally left WWE at the time that Cena’s rise began, and seemed to avoid WWE until 2016. In a similar vein to the era-vs-era of Cena vs Rock, there is an incredible amount of history for such a match to be promoted. Unfortunately, the path can be laid out within the next few weeks. One win for Cena against Rusev, and one more PPV loss against Roman Reigns for Styles, and they are ready. There is no way that WWE will resist this until Wrestlemania.
While Styles and Cena may cross paths beforehand, the title feud will presumably peak with a Team Cena vs. The Club match at Survivor Series, before the feud progresses to a one-on-one match at TLC.
Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins (Triple Threat)
Where?: Night of Champions
This has been Captain Obvious’ prediction at Wrestlemanias 31 and 32, and yet it still hasn’t happened. Coming to think about it, this has been teased multiple times. All three appeared in a Fatal Four Way match alongside Randy Orton at Payback 2015. Even the two faces of the time, Ambrose and Reigns, faced each other in the World Heavyweight Championship tournament at Survivor Series. This was a booking that weeks beforehand one would have expected to be a big deal in the progression of the relationship between Shield members, but no. The match was nine minutes long, and in loss, even Ambrose seemed very happy with Reigns’ win.
It is undeniable that having been built up for so very long, that this should be a Wrestlemania match, and it can be. Each member has an agenda ready for them at the moment to keep them apart from a while. Rollins clearly can feud with Triple H and company, Reigns has his title to defend, and the nuttiness of Ambrose can show up just about anywhere.
The problem comes with how so little has to happen before it is ready. Rollins will automatically be received as a face upon his return (whether WWE like it or not). WWE are trying desperately to make Reigns ‘just the guy’ – an anti-hero. All that WWE need now is a heel turn for Dean Ambrose, and the match will be ready. One can’t help but doubt that WWE will be able to resist booking this match until April 2017.
Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar II (For the World Heavyweight Championship)
Also adding to the doubt of The Shield getting their first fabled Triple Threat match at Wrestlemania 33 is the beastliness of Brock Lesnar. Reigns and Lesnar will undoubtedly meet again once the latter returns, and on top of this, I seriously doubt that Lesnar will not be in the title picture (if not actually holding the title) come Wrestlemania 33.
With Reigns presumably holding onto his title at least until Summerslam, and with Lesnar having little agenda for revenge when he returns, one can only imagine that he will head straight for the belt, and won’t let go of it for quite some time. This rivalry being exhausted by April 2017 may be for the better (especially considering the rumours surrounding Lesnar’s return to MMA), so to prevent a repeat headline booking (see Cena vs Rock at both WM28 and 29), although a Rollins vs Reigns vs Lesnar (with Rollins there from the get-go this time) wouldn’t be out of the question, nor would the involvement of a Money in the Bank holding Ambrose.
Sasha Banks vs Bayley III (For the Women’s Championship)
Where?: As yet untitled Women’s Division Network special, after Night of Champions.
What a Wrestlemania this year was for the Women’s Division. Considering the sheer tedium of the seven-hour show, and all of the fireworks surrounding the match, you might wish you switched off after the Women’s Triple Threat match, as a great honorary main event. However, as much as WWE has enjoyed pointing out that they are journeying to equality in their programming, the Women’s Division is definitely not going to be given identical screen time to the men. It is for this reason that the compromise will be found by featuring fewer one-on-one singles matches, in favour of Triple Threats and Fatal Four Ways at high-profile events (and even those have required oversized cameos by Ric Flair and Bret Hart).
Like Owens vs Zayn, this is a simple feud that seemed to write itself in NXT. After an amazing feud there, the next meeting is eagerly anticipated. However, considering the monumental status of Sasha Banks and Bayley’s matches (co-headlining NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, and WWE’s first women’s Iron Man match), means that they are each under pressure to have unique stipulations that women have yet to be booked in, or at least booked as extremely important. That’s not to say that this match at Wrestlemania is impossible. It could happen, and could be the ultimate feelgood moment if Bayley wins. However, if it does show up on the card, it will presumably be closer to Bayley vs Banks VII, than it is III.
For this reason, this match will materialise later in the year in a Network special that surrounds the women.
Charlotte vs Bayley vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch II
Where?: Night of Champions
“They called themselves the Four Horsewomen.” – Michael Cole. Probably. Many, many times.
Continuing the collision of wrestlers with a history, the reprise of a Fatal Four Way for a title or for contendership, between the already legendary Four Horsewomen must happen. However, once again, the inevitability of more women being involved in the title picture simultaneously means that this will presumably happen within weeks of Bayley’s arrival, perhaps even on Raw. Ideally, this should be booked as a Triple Threat rematch of Banks vs Lynch vs Charlotte, only for Bayley to interrupt the booking and find her way into it.
While I doubt that it will be nearly so smooth (the emergence of Dana Brooke, and desire for Emma to finally come out on top amongst the women, something along these lines will presumably take place come Bayley’s transfer to the main roster, and will have done by Night of Champions.
Which monumental matches do you think won’t get quite the monumental billing that they should? Leave them in the comments below.