The summer was already shaping up to be an interesting one in the WWE, and that was before Wednesday's announcement of a renewed brand split coinciding with SmackDown going live on Tuesday nights. The main event scene is anchored by lightning rod Roman Reigns, the compelling AJ Styles and recent returnee Seth Rollins, not to mention the roster will be boosted by the forthcoming comebacks of John Cena, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. The mid-card is buzzing with standout performances from the likes of Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and a reinvigorated Miz. Plus, there is a fresh wave of new NXT talent trying to make their mark on the main roster, along with numerous other names being speculated upon.
Of course, since this is the WWE, there remains an ever-present question of whether the creative department can actually turn this influx of talent into entertaining and exciting television. The direction looks promising so far, with Reigns and Rollins set to be embroiled in what could be a lengthy feud and Styles set to duel with his "club" amidst almost guaranteed speculation of Finn Balor's pending arrival. Reports suggest that WWE writers have already laid out the booking framework leading into a SummerSlam Pay-Per-View that remains nearly three months away. That would mean that matches for the likes of Reigns and Cena have already been determined, as has the status of part-timers like Brock Lesnar and, albeit unlikely, The Undertaker.
Especially when it comes to the main event scene, you can't simply just throw two marquee wrestlers into a feud and expect money-making magic. A feud without thought and intrigue will flop regardless of how recognizable the participants are, as Orton and Batista and Goldberg and Lesnar can tell you. Therefore, some planning is required to make sure fans will invest in some of the bigger programs that WWE has planned for the future. Here are eight feuds that should get the green light and eight that should not. And no, another McMahon-centric saga is not the way to go!
16 Do: Randy Orton vs Brock Lesnar
Randy Orton's return to the ring may not be the most anticipated of the injured big four, but it might be one with the most rife with possibility. Rollins predictably returned as a heel in pursuit of the World Title, just as Cena will come back as a babyface and Wyatt as somewhere in between. Orton could reemerge on either side of the fence, leaving just about any feud in play. And what do you know, there happens to be a certain superstar around - part-time, anyway - who Orton rose up the ranks with but hasn't faced in over 12 years.
15 Don't: Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins
A feud with Orton/Lesnar would accomplish a number of goals. It would offer a fresh program involving two parties that aren't currently connected to any other storylines and it would move Orton away from some overly familiar foes. The last thing that the one-time Legend Killer needs is a rehashing of his feud with The Authority, either through more clashes with Rollins or a been-there, done-that battle against Triple H. A feud between Orton and Lesnar offers the rare opportunity to see two legacy stars engage in a rivalry that WWE hasn't already over-exposed.
14 Do: The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
This one takes a little hope and faith, but what if The Undertaker declares himself physically healthy for another 2016 program? The Deadman is likely coming to the end of the line in a WWE ring and next year's WrestleMania looks to be his swan song, but who says there can't be a little extra 'Taker before that? Last year, he resumed a feud with Lesnar through SummerSlam and even grappled with The Wyatt Family afterwards, so it's not like he can only be counted on for one match per year.
13 Don't: The Undertaker vs John Cena
We all know that a match with John Cena is penciled in for WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, ostensibly The Undertaker's last match. That is probably the proper send-off for the WWE legend, but between that and this year's win over Shane McMahon, 'Taker has hardly used his rare in-ring appearances to elevate young rising stars. Though he has already engaged in feuds with Wyatt, one last battle to put The Eater of Worlds over could serve as a significant boost without damaging the now-cemented aura of The Undertaker.
12 Do: Finn Balor vs AJ Styles
It may not be tomorrow and it may not even be next month, but Balor will be making his way to the main roster some time in the near future. It remains to be seen, however, how the former NXT champion and Bullet Club leader will be introduced to the WWE Universe. It would be typically arrogant of WWE to underestimate their fans' pre-existing knowledge of Balor and assume they have to introduce him through an introductory push over an established Superstar. In fact, you can just see writers dreaming up a feud between Balor and Sheamus over their common Irish ancestry.
11 Don't: Finn Balor vs Sheamus
It's not that a feud with Sheamus would necessarily be a bad idea, but more so that WWE would be wasting a hot, fresh act on what could turn out to be a pretty tepid introductory program. The pieces are in place for Balor to easily fit within present WWE storylines, identifying himself as the former leader of the "club" referenced through Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. Whether Balor debuts as a babyface alongside Styles or as a heel aligned with Anderson and Gallows, it would be a disservice to Balor and WWE fans not to thrust him right into a hot program.
10 Do: Charlotte vs Sasha Banks
This one is currently less in the hands of the WWE bookers and more under the control of the injury gods. Sasha Banks is reportedly suffering from serious concussion symptoms, which might jeopardize a rumored summer program with Charlotte for the WWE Women's Championship. Since losing to Charlotte in the three-way title match at WrestleMania, Banks has been strangely absent from the title scene, a curious choice that could only be explained by WWE choosing to delay her eventual title chase.
9 Don't: Charlotte vs Becky Lynch
Now, they might be stuck in a less than enviable position without another babyface who is perceived to be a threat to Charlotte. Natalya has done some excellent work in her recent feud with Charlotte, but fans have still shown reluctance in investing in Bret Hart's niece as a legitimate contender to take the belt off of Charlotte. Without Banks around, WWE will be forced to either hotshot Bayley into the title picture or fall back on a trusted hand like Becky Lynch, who has easy history with Charlotte but hasn't been fullyy embraced by fans.
8 Do: Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens
Next up on the Pay-Per-View calendar is Money in the Bank, with six superstars having already qualified for a chance at the briefcase that grants the holder a World Title match at any time they choose. Historically, this has been a crucial platform used to push rising talent like Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins and even Damien Sandow, albeit to a less successful end. It has also, however, offered examples of complacent reverting to the status quo, with Cena, Sheamus and Orton all getting their hands on the briefcase. What we're saying here? Have KO win the MITB briefcase and embark on a program with the champ.
7 Don't: Roman Reigns vs Alberto Del Rio
Particularly with all the discussion of a "new generation" arriving on WWE programming, this looks like a prime opportunity to hand the briefcase to a fresh face on the main event scene. Owens will be in the ladder match, as will Zayn, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho and Del Rio. It is the first three of the already announced participants that bring the most hope for any real change. And since the briefcase has traditionally been most effective in the hands of a sneaky heel, Owens would truly be an ideal winner as an undeserving champion who could also hold his own in a feud with Reigns. What's the last option we'd like to see play out? Del Rio winning the MITB briefcase and engaging with Roman Reigns.
6 Do: John Cena vs AJ Styles
The long-billed return of Cena comes this Monday on the Memorial Day edition of RAW and it looks like he will be greeted with feuds against some familiar foes. He is booked against Del Rio at a number of upcoming live events and is rumored to be getting set to do battle once again with the new US Champion Rusev. While the resumption of Cena's US Title Challenge would certainly be a welcome weekly highlight for RAW viewers, particularly once the brand split takes hold, it is likely that bigger plans await the soon-to-be ESPY's host down the road and we hope they include The Phenomenal One.
5 Don't: John Cena vs Roman Reigns
One marquee feud that has long been speculated on is Cena challenging Reigns for top dog status in the battle between the two faces of the WWE. The hype is understandable, given that this is one of the last few dream matches that the company has left in their chamber, but it is also misguided. A feud between Cena and Reigns would force fans to choose between two babyface wrestlers that have been rejected by a large portion of the audience and two that are similarly perceived as company men. How about pitting Cena against Styles or even Ambrose, both of whom can comfortably play the anti-establishment role.
4 Do: Triple H vs Seth Rollins
At the "Big Four" pay-per-views, most notably WrestleMania and SummerSlam, you can pretty well count on Triple H loosening his tie, dusting off his ring tights and leaving COO mode for an in-ring return. The Game is fresh off of dropping his WWE Championship to Reigns in the WrestleMania main event, leading fans to speculate as to where his next feud might come from. We're hoping that we get the long awaited Rollins/Triple H feud. That is, until the dominoes fall into place to allow for a much-anticipated WrestleMania clash with The Rock.
3 Don't: Triple H vs Shane McMahon
Two possibilities seem to loom large for Triple H. There's a teased rivalry with Rollins, with whom he was aligned before Rollins' injury and who happen to currently share a finishing move in the Pedigree. But a possible program with Shane O'Mac would offer two things that the booking team can't seem to resist: some supposed real-life inspiration and McMahon involvement. Shane just went toe-to-toe with The Undertaker, so it isn't hard to imagine him being booked strongly against his brother-in-law, with whom he has reportedly had tension since returning to WWE. Still, a match with Rollins carries way more potential than any Hunter/Shane program would.
2 Do: Brock Lesnar vs Kevin Owens
All but certain is The Beast's presence in Brooklyn for SummerSlam, with the only question being which poor soul might be headed to Suplex City. A feud with Wyatt and The Wyatt Family makes sense, given how it was teased but never really revisited after the Royal Rumble. But if you are looking at Lesnar-involved feuds that were started but never truly resolved, you need look no further than a clash with Reigns that died out as soon as Rollins crashed the party at WrestleMania 31 with his Money in the Bank briefcase. Lesnar would be better suited in a feud with Owens, where KO could be elevated by holding his own in the ring with Lesnar and on the mic with Paul Heyman, facing formidable foes in both senses.
1 Don't: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
Knowing how highly WWE Creative thinks of Reigns, it is difficult to imagine that they have let go of any prospect of a Lesnar/Reigns rematch. Unless the writers go through with a Reigns heel turn, however, the problem remains that the champ will find himself in the unenviable position of being booed despite being presented as a babyface. Remember, the Rollins' cash-in was noticeably cheered by the vocals males resistant to a Reigns' title reign.