Writer's Note: This article was written before Monday Night Raw went on the air this week.
John Cena vs Roman Reigns
Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman
At one point, each of those matches was rumored to be the main event of WrestleMania 34 next year. As we all know, wrestling rumors, even when they're accurate and legitimate, can be very fickle. You can read something one day, and read something that directly counters the first thing you read only a few days later. For WWE-related rumors, that's because of the mental whirlwind that is being inside of Vince McMahon's mind.
The first of those three that I recall hearing about for next year is Lesnar vs Reigns. I was in attendance at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California for their first encounter at WrestleMania 31. In person, it was a blast of a match that told a really entertaining story. The Beast was viewed as unstoppable, but no matter what he did to Reigns, the challenger took it, smiled, and asked for more. On paper, there's no reason to believe that a singles rematch at Mania would be anything less than another fun match. However, is that the big match we're all waiting to see? Personally, I'd rather see something fresh, or at least fresher, than that. While they haven't had a one-on-one match since Mania 31, they've been involved in a few other matches together, including a four-way feud that we just saw come to an end at SummerSlam.
The next rumor I remember seeing was Lesnar vs Strowman. When I first read about it, my interest was piqued immediately. The way WWE has been booking Strowman has been very similar to the way they've presented Lesnar. Both men slice through their opponents and obstacles like the proverbial hot knife through butter. At SummerSlam, we saw Strowman physically dominate Lesnar like nobody we've ever seen before, and that was carefully done by the people in charge of putting that match together. I was excited to see them go one-on-one on the "Grandest Stage Of Them All", but then I thought about it... with Lesnar retaining the title but only "surviving" Strowman, that would mean BRAUUUUUNNNNN is next in line for a title shot. Sure enough, we waited an entire 24 hours to find that to be true, and WWE is giving us Lesnar vs Strowman at No Mercy on September 24th. What does that mean for giving them a one-on-one spot six-and-a-half months later?
John Cena vs Roman Reigns is as polarizing a match as WWE can give us. Whether you like it or not, it's also the biggest match WWE can give us, mostly because we've never seen them in a singles match before. Yes, Cena was involved in a feud with The Shield for a while, but the 2013 edition of Reigns is very different than the 2017 edition. For all intents and purposes, Reigns is the John Cena of the newer generation. He gets the same type of "women and kids love, men hate" crowd reactions week in and week out, and his haters still confuse "I don't like you" with "you can't wrestle". If we're never going to get Cena facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania, and it damn sure looks like that ship has sailed, then I'm all for Cena vs Reigns in what can only be described as a match that will undoubtedly cause Vince McMahon to look like this when all is said and done...
The thing about Cena vs Reigns is that Mania is almost eight months away, and Cena was just moved to Raw to be on the same show as Reigns. Keeping them apart for that long was going to be virtually impossible with how impatient WWE has been recently, and now, we know that they will only be kept apart for a couple weeks as they will face off at No Mercy. Not at WrestleMania. Not at SummerSlam. Not at the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series. No Mercy. Their feud has been on social media for a while, but it has begun on television now, following their back-and-forth promo battle on Raw. For the life of me, I simply can't understand what the big rush was. I've seen a rumor or two saying that this is WWE's way to try and keep fans tuned in during the fall months, instead of losing them to football on Monday nights. Here's a bit of a news tidbit... nothing is keeping droves of viewers away from the NFL. It's a ratings juggernaut. Even in a down year (regular season television ratings for 2016 were down 8% from the 2015 regular season), the NFL still saw an average of 16.5 million viewers for a typical game. For the sake of comparison, the latest episode of Raw pulled in 3.3 million viewers. More and more wrestling fans are finding alternative ways to view WWE televised events, whether it be on Hulu or through YouTube videos. Chances are, that isn't going to change now that the NFL is back. The company can try to put on compelling matches and stories, but fans will still choose to do other things while Raw is on, and choose to catch up after the fact.
While we're on this subject, there's another event I've seen people say they're hoping to see at WrestleMania... a reunion of The Shield, even for just one night. People have been talking about that one for a while, but especially since Seth Rollins turned face again. Of course, WWE couldn't wait for that one, either, and now we have Rollins and Dean Ambrose as the Raw Tag Team Champions. Could they reunite with Roman Reigns one day? Definitely. There's a definite problem there, though. Even if WWE can, somehow, wait to pull the trigger on a full Shield reunion, Reigns isn't exactly loved by live crowds like Rollins and Ambrose are. Yes, if he were to join back up with his Shield partners, some of the more vocal males in the crowd will cheer, but you have to think the majority of those fans will still boo Reigns and still wish he was anywhere but in the ring. That would "ruin" the moment, no? In the ideal situation, a building's roof would blow off if Rollins and Ambrose are being beaten down by some dastardly trio, only for Reigns' music to hit and he comes out to make the save, reuniting The Shield. That's just good fantasy booking. Unfortunately, as I said, I think he's still going to get booed if and when something like that happens.
What do I want to see at WrestleMania? I think you could do well with Smackdown's "main event" being AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Title. They both want the match, so let's just give it to them. Sticking with Smackdown, why not have Charlotte vs Becky Lynch for the brand's Women's Title? They're easily the two biggest and best stars currently on Tuesday nights, and it could be a good time to finally give Becky a big moment. Raw's Women's Title picture is filled with people that seem to feature a total of 800 title reigns between them, so in the interest of going with a fresh match, let's go with what I think would be the best pairing we could get, and that's Sasha Banks vs Asuka. I would've preferred Neville chase the Cruiserweight Title a bit longer if he needed to lose it, but I think he'll be the champion come Mania, probably after dropping the title once more and winning it back. If you've been reading my columns, you'd know who I feel can be a true breakout star in the 205 division, so I'm giving him the title shot here, giving us Neville vs Cedric Alexander. I understand the need to bring in casual and lapsed viewers for an event like Mania, and a certain Raw General Manager returning to the ring is something that fans from bygone "eras" would love to see. I'll go against what has been rumored for Mania, and go with Kurt Angle vs Samoa Joe, because it would be a better match, in my opinion, than the rumored Angle vs Triple H bout we might be seeing. I'm a very stubborn person. With that said, I'm not going to change my two top Mania matches for the Raw brand, even with WWE taking a hot, steamy poop on those plans by having those two matches take place at No Mercy. Yes, that means we'd be getting Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman for the Universal Title. Brock's contract is up just after Mania, so if he's really leaving, he can put Strowman over as the "new Brock Lesnar" on his way out the door. As for the other rematch, I really didn't want to put Cena and Reigns together if it wasn't going to be the first singles match they've ever had against each other. In the end, though, it's still WrestleMania, and there is no bigger match that WWE can give us than John Cena vs Roman Reigns. Why not spice things up a bit, though? Cena will be 41 years old only a couple weeks after Mania is over, and he is transitioning more and more into Hollywood. There isn't much left for him to achieve, outside of breaking Ric Flair's World Title record. Call me crazy, but maybe Flair's recent health scare could lead to a second thought about whether or not Cena should break the record. I don't think Cena gets his 17th title reign, and I think he puts his career on the line at Mania. We've all seen the rumor about Vince wanting this match so that Cena can "pass the torch" to Reigns. What better way to try and make that happen than to see if Reigns can be the guy who sends Cena into retirement?
That's just a sample. I want to point out that I said those are the matches I want to see, not necessarily the matches I'm predicting that we will see. You know we're going to get several matches with no real build and as many people thrown in as possible, just so everyone can get a Mania payday.
What say you? What is your level of faith that WWE's Creative Team can hold off on "ruining" some of the proposed "dream matches" for WrestleMania? What are some matches that you hope we get come April 8th, 2018? You know the drill... hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) or drop a comment below and let me know what you think.