What do the current superstars have in common: John Cena, Nikki Bella, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Daniel Bryan and Sting? The answer, of course, is that they’re all injured and are expected to miss Wrestlemania. This doesn’t include Barrett, Sin Cara and Natalya, who all have reported minor injuries that also may lead to them missing the showcase of the immortals.
WWE have had injury problems before, but none to this extent around the biggest time of year for the promotion. Cena, Rollins, Orton and Bryan are particularly bad misses, as those four make up the very top of the company. Without them, the main event scene is looking rather…bland, as it seems Roman Reigns is set to fight Brock Lesnar again simply because there’s no other option.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. WWE is at its very best when their back is against the wall. The legendary Attitude Era only came about due to WCW destroying Vince McMahon in the ratings, after all. With such a bad injury crisis, it’s time to really pull something magical out of the hat. In case ol’ Vinny Mac is reading, I’ve got a few suggestions that can help make this WrestleMania exactly what they’re trying to push it as – the biggest one of all time.
15 Stone Cold Steve Austin
After watching main event matches with Sting and Kane last year, I’m quite happy if we don’t see an old man try and entertain in a young man’s game, and I think Stone Cold would agree with me. He’s said multiple times that he doesn’t see himself returning to wrestling. But there’s nothing stopping him from hosting the show.
For my money, he is the only host that makes sense. He’s in his home state, and is among the biggest names WWE have to offer. Having him host the show would help bring a sense of significance to the event, which in this trying time, it definitely needs.
14 Utilize The Runtime
Recently I watched Wrestle Kingdom 10, the Japanese version of WrestleMania. It clocks in at 4 hours long, the same that WrestleMania usually runs for. However, if you look at the amount of time each promotion spent on actual wrestling, Wrestle Kingdom has a significant 50 minute gain on WrestleMania, and still left just under an hour and a half for entrances, promos and skits.
WrestleMania 31 had approx. 99 minutes of in-ring action. You could fit that into an episode of Raw and still have enough time to fit in the pre-show. When I sit down to watch WrestleMania this March, I want to see, y’know, wrestling.
13 Sasha Banks
Despite her rather lackluster main roster run, Sasha Banks is still money, and still has the capability to be the top woman in the WWE. Her matches with Bayley in NXT made history, and she can continue making history if featured prominently on the WrestleMania card.
Whether it’s in a grudge match against another competitor, or feuding for the Divas title, Sasha can create an absolute classic, and hopefully show that the Divas Revolution was never about a hashtag, but about giving fantastic wrestlers the chance to shine, regardless of their gender.
12 Strowman vs. Big Show
Okay, I’m not gonna lie, this as a match would not set the world on fire. It’ll likely be slow, plodding, and quite short. But what it represents from a company perspective and a build-up perspective makes it a quite an interesting match-up to consider.
Big Show needs to retire soon. He’s not getting heat as a heel anymore, he’s just getting heat because people find him boring. But WWE will always want an overly large competitor to utilize, and Strowman is the obvious heir to the Big Guy Throne.
Putting the 6-foot-8 Wyatt member against the seven foot giant in a fight for vertical supremacy will allow them to move Strowman forward as their big powerhouse.
11 Bully Ray
There are currently rumors that the Dudley Boyz are being split up, with Bubba Ray going on a singles pursuit. WWE fans will have horrid flashbacks to the original brand split, where Bubba floundered away in the Hardcore championship scene for a bit, but it’s not all bad. TNA made it work. He spent years fighting against the villainous stable Aces & Eights, before revealing himself as the president in a shocking moment.
If WWE can capture some of the Bully Ray attitude that propelled him to the top of TNA for a few years, then he would be an effective character to bring into WrestleMania.
10 1o. Ronda Rousey
Whether Ronda will ever compete in a full match in WWE is debatable, as there’s a lot of red tape between her and the squared circle. But if last year was any indication, people want Rousey in that ring. Even if it’s just a tease like last year’s segment with The Rock, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, it’ll be enough to keep people glued to the screen.
If they can get together and give her a whole match, putting her against a technically gifted wrestler like Sasha Banks or perhaps NXT’s Asuka would create on-screen magic that would be talked about for years to come.
9 Roman Reigns vs. Triple H
Everyone loves a good ol’ “Beat the Boss” story-line. Admittedly, nothing will ever reach the heights of Stone Cold or Daniel Bryan, but there’s always something cathartic about it. Even a competitor like Roman Reigns, who has seen a lot of backlash by fans over the past year, can get a huge ovation for punching Vince McMahon. At 70, Vince can hardly wrestle a match anymore, but his son-in-law can.
Roman against Triple H has been brewing for a few months now, and if this match doesn’t happen, I’d be extremely surprised. The only holdup I have about it is the inevitably of it being for the WWE Championship.
8 Use Smackdown to Elevate Midcard
The mid-card in WWE is bursting with talent just waiting to be given the chance to shine. With two championships to fight over in the U.S. Title and Intercontinental, there’s plenty of room to push some new stars out of the stagnating mid-card.
With Smackdown getting more of a focus due to its network switch, there’s a great opportunity to push the likes of Neville, Tyler Breeze or Kalisto to new heights. With the Owens and Ambrose feud likely culminating at the Royal Rumble, there’s room to introduce some of these players into the fold, making stars out of any one of them in time for ‘Mania.
It’s completely crazy how much the indie circuit from 5-10 years ago has graduated to WWE. If you told me that one day Kevin Steen, Jon Moxley and Pac would all be major stars in the WWE one day I would have laughed in your face. Yet, here we are, albeit with different names in Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose and Neville respectively. With news of A.J. Styles joining, and NXT already holding Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn, the indie wrestling scene is becoming fully embraced by WWE.
So why not use WrestleMania as a chance to get some fantasy matches together? Something like Samoa Joe against Dean Ambrose would be an indie fan's dream, and would certainly help give the card some “indie cred”.
6 Daniel Bryan
His doctors say he’s fine, but it’s the WWE doctors that say no. Rumors are flying that they’re worried Bryan would distract from Roman’s push, others say they’re overly cautious about his high-flying style being prone to more injuries. Whatever the reason, WWE needs to ignore that perception if Bryan is in fact 100% because they need someone to sit at the top of the card.
Daniel Bryan is perhaps the most popular wrestler other than Cena currently signed to WWE, and has proven he can hold a WrestleMania together when he wrestled twice, including the main event, at WrestleMania XXX. With him waiting in the wings, it’s ridiculous to imagine Bryan missing out a ‘Mania that needs him more than never.
5 Push Nakamura
As we push ever close to the signing being confirmed and his appearance on WWE, it’s time to seriously consider Shinsuke Nakamura. Some call him the greatest example of a 21st Century Wrestler. He calls himself The King of Strong Style. I call him a WWE star in the making.
There is no one currently active in the world that’d compare to Nakamura when it comes to sheer charisma in the ring. The way this guy moves, taunts and competes just oozes character, and even with English being his second language, he can quickly win over the crowd and become a major player in this WrestleMania season.
4 Brock Lesnar Faces Defeat
Lesnar has been built up too much to be effective, in my opinion. We’ve seen him beat The Undertaker several times now, and he decimates anyone else he’s put in the ring with. If Lesnar is given an opponent, we just expect Lesnar to destroy them and win. As much as I’m still excited by him, it’s getting more and more predictable. Which is why Lesnar needs to face a challenge that threatens his own win streak (his last clean loss was to Triple H at WrestleMania XXIX).
Lesnar needs someone that we can realistically see toppling him. With some strong booking, it could lead to a very interesting match.
3 Undertaker Retirement Match
It’s finally time for The Undertaker to rest in peace and retire from in-ring action. This alone, to be honest, would be enough to save WrestleMania. But with Cena and Sting out, we’re missing the obvious choices to give The Undertaker a fitting last ride.
I nominate Luke Harper.
Yes, I know, he’s second fiddle in his own stable and already lost in the previous feud. But Harper is a fantastic worker who’s shown in the past that he can put on great matches. With options running rather thin, he seems like the best choice who wouldn’t otherwise be used elsewhere on the card. Because honestly, it doesn’t matter his opponent. This is The Undertaker's last match. That alone would be the draw.
2 Pull The Trigger on Balor Club
With A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows presumably WWE bound, it seems that Finn Balor will be reuniting the classic stable The Bullet Club, under the moniker he’s been teasing for a few months now, Balor Club.
While the main draw of The Bullet Club using Western tactics in an Eastern promotion won’t carry over to a brand that’s already very Western, an NWO-type invasion could help mix things up for WrestleMania season. It doesn’t hurt that it’s some of the best wrestlers on the planet fronting this invasion in Styles and Balor.
1 Take Risks
What it all comes down to though, is that WWE needs to avoid playing it safe. Putting Reigns against Brock as the main event is safe. Having Ambrose and Owens fight again for the IC title is safe. But these matches will bore as it's things we’ve seen before. With the worst injury crisis in recent memory plaguing the WWE, they need to do something out of the box and off-beat. They need to surprise us fans, and they need to take huge risks to do it.
Of course, a risk might not pay off, but I daresay we’ll all respect an interesting but average WrestleMania as opposed to a bland and average Wrestlemania.