As we head into Wrestlemania, all eyes are on the ultimate thrill ride, and rightfully so. It’s not WWE’s pinnacle for no reason. But, as ever with WWE storylines, a big part of the excitement around Mania is the possibility for what will come next. So I’ve put my fantasy booking hat on (I mean come on, I don’t really ever take it off) and come up with eight rivalries I want to see on SmackDown coming out of Wrestlemania season. In case you’re wondering, I’m only doing SmackDown because I’m too uncertain about who will be in what spots and roles on Raw, and I’m doing eight feuds because there are eight segments in a typical SmackDown broadcast. And the roster isn’t really big enough for more. Got that? Let’s go!
WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt ©
I don’t see this feud ending at Wrestlemania, and I don’t really see any reason why it has to. They wrestled one match before Mania, and then teamed up for months. It’s still going to be a relatively fresh match for at least a month or two after Wrestlemania. Also note that I have Bray Wyatt keeping the title at Mania. I wrote about really wanting him to keep it earlier today, and since these are my scenarios, it’s my choice, and I want Bray to win tomorrow night. I think it’s the best thing for Bray to legitimise himself as a main eventer, and Orton doesn’t need it nearly as much right now. If WWE doesn’t have Bray walk out of Orlando as champion, he has to win it back in a month surely? In my scenario though, Bray keeps the title, and would do for the duration of the feud. Depending how the other rivalries work out and who gets over, you could have Orton win it in a couple of months time, where Bray will have had at least a three month reign as champion instead of six weeks. But again, it’s me, so Bray’s keeping the belt for a while.
AJ Styles vs The Miz
So again, I’m not at all convinced this will happen, but if it was me I’d have Styles and Miz both winning at Wrestlemania. I’d then have AJ turn face, because he’s already ridiculously popular and he’s more than good enough to do it. I think this would be a really interesting pairing because AJ has been SmackDown’s standout performer inside the ring in the last year, and Miz has been SmackDown’s standout performer on the microphone in the last year. I would also have this eventually build to a number one contender’s match, which as I said before could go either way depending on who’s holding the WWE Championship, and how people get over. Personally I would have AJ “win” the feud and move on to challenge Bray for the title, but this really is the kind of feud where both guys can get over and look better than they did before, and I would havae both guys in the main event picture before too long with The Miz winning the Money In The Bank briefcase in June.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Dean Ambrose
Ok, ok, I know this seems ridiculously unlikely as things stand right now. And this is where the “fantasy” in fantasy booking comes in to play. It seems likely that Nakamura is getting the call up from NXT at some point in the next week, at the minute nobody seems all that sure whether he’ll end up on Raw or SmackDown. There was even a report from the Wrestling Observer that Vince wants him on Raw, and Triple H wants him on SmackDown. Personally, I think he’d be of more use in the John Cena role on SmackDown, with Cena departing to go filming. The other aspect of this is that I’m turning Dean Ambrose heel. It’s just time, there’s really nobody left for him to feud with as a face, and hopefully he can rediscover some magic with a fresh perspective. He can talk about being forgotten by the fans, being overlooked by management, and can take out his frustrations on SmackDown’s newest superstar. It’s a way of giving Ambrose an edge he hasn’t had for a long time at this stage, while immediately putting Nakamura at the level of the former WWE Champion.
Intercontinental Championship – Shelton Benjamin vs Baron Corbin ©
So you might have noticed I didn’t have Dean Ambrose as Intercontinental Champion in that last pairing. There’s not any doubt in my mind that Corbin is winning the strap tomorrow night, and he should hold on to it for a while. He needs to be pushed as a huge threat, and that means he should dominate his first couple of opponents for the title. So, with that in mind, his challenger can’t be someone who will be hurt too much by taking a one-sided defeat or two. So who will have enough momentum to be a credible challenger for the belt, but not suffer too much from Baron Corbin’s push? A returning, former three-time Intercontinental Champion of course. Shelton Benjamin was due to return soon after the draft, but hurt his shoulder. He has only just been cleared again, but he’s a good enough worker I would still bring him in to work with, and put over, the younger talent. Shelton can challenge Corbin up until Money In The Bank, where they could both be in the ladder match and Corbin can put Shelton through a ladder or something to put an exclamation mark on the end of the feud.
SmackDown Women’s Championship – Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James ©
The SmackDown Women’s Championship match at Wrestlemania is one I at times feel is one of the most open matches on the card. At other times, I feel Naomi is winning, but I also wouldn’t rule out Alexa holding on to the belt, Mickie winning it, or Becky or Natalya winning it. Sorry Carmella. Here I have Mickie winning, but since it appears to be a one-fall match the crucial detail is that she didn’t pin Alexa. Those two still have some unfinished business, it’s nice recognition for Mickie to get another run on top on the biggest stage, Alexa would be protected by not taking the fall, and these two are right at the top of the SmackDown’s women’s division. You want strong matches coming out of Mania to try and keep as much momentum as possible, and this is the best pairing currently available on SmackDown. Becky is right up there with these two in terms of ability, but she has already faced both of these women a lot in the last few months and needs some sort of change. There have been rumours of officials being unimpressed with Alexa’s in-ring work, and if anybody can help her improve that right now it’s Mickie. They’re both strong enough promos that they don’t need to be in the ring every week, and it should set both women up for a memorable programme.
Natalya vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella
I know I just said Becky needs a change of scene, but if you’re going to keep her face (which with Nikki taking time off is probably a necessity) she can’t keep feuding with Alexa. I would have this as a three way number one contender’s feud. Have Bryan set up a number one contender’s match between Natalya and Becky, and have it end in a double count-out. Then, in the rematch the next week, have Carmella attack both women, causing a double disqualification. On Talking Smack, Carmella should say she’s tired of being overlooked on SmackDown, harking back to how she had to buy a skybox to get any airtime on Elimination Chamber, and being forgotten about when the Wrestlemania title match was first announced. Keep doing interruptions or post-match attacks when some combination of two of the three are in a match, before finally having a number one contender’s triple threat match. You could maybe even throw in a stipulation and make it a hardcore or falls count anywhere triple threat.
American Alpha vs Luke Harper & Erick Rowan
And now on to the tag division. I have been championing for a greater use of Luke Harper for months now, and I even wrote in February about how it could be a career-defining time period for him. Well, as far as I’m concerned when he’s had the chance to prove himself, he’s delivered, but WWE still seem hesitant to use him for some reason. So if they’re not going to use him as a singles wrestler (my backup option for Harper would be a singles feud with Dolph Ziggler, leading to him being Corbin’s first real challenge for the IC belt and maybe even taking it from him eventually), put him in a team with his old partner Erick Rowan. Rowan has just been cleared to return from his injury, and they don’t necessarily need to re-align with Bray Wyatt to become a feared duo again, they just need a platform to showcase themselves. American Alpha also need a momentum boost, and tearing the house down show after show with Harper and Rowan can be the way to do it. Alpha are in a rare position of not needing a microphone to get over. The New Day, while being accomplished wrestlers, needed their personality to get over. Enzo and Cass most definitely need the mic to get over. Alpha will win people round with their in-ring work. Their match against The Usos a couple of weeks ago was really good, probably the best tag team match on SmackDown since the draft. Give them workers with a point to prove like Harper and Rowan and magic could be on the table. Again, eventually I’d have this leading to a match for a title opportunity somewhere down the line. Speaking of which…
SmackDown Tag Team Championships – The Broken Hardys vs The Usos ©
Matt and Jeff hardy are coming back to WWE. It’s an open secret at this point, and any attempts by Matt or Jeff to downplay those rumours are probably WWE driven to make it as much of a surprise as possible. We don’t know if they’re going to Raw or SmackDown, but with Triple H’s likely NXT stable on the red brand I’d see it as fair if The Revival go to Raw and the Broken duo head to the blue brand. We also don’t know the legal situation regarding the “Broken” gimmick, but Matt Hardy has claimed he owns the trademark, which would mean they can use it in WWE. When they come in, they have to be pushed to the top, and that means going after the titles immediately. This rivalry has to be all about the gold – The Usos will be the cocky heels believing they are the best tag team in the world because you can’t beat the chemistry being brothers gives you, then Broken Matt and Brother Nero arrive in WWE. Have them win the belts, and then you can have the rematch. After that, you’d probably need to do something other than the Usos vs American Alpha again, but the Broken Hardys vs the pseudo-Wyatt family could be a lot of fun.
So there you have it. That’s what I would like to see in the weeks and months after Wrestlemania on the blue brand. Chances are a lot of this won’t happen, since most of the feuds are interlinked and there are so many variables and unknowns I’m playing with. But it would be pretty awesome to see wouldn’t it?
What do you make of my picks? Is there anything you would particularly like to see? Or is there someone you would do something completely different with? Let me know in the comments below.