With all the chatter there has been about the Undertaker coming back one more time to take on John Cena (a bad idea that thankfully looks like it’s not going to happen), I started thinking of when this match could and should have happened instead. I’m not a big fantasy booking guy anyway, so for me to do it here I wanted to be as realistic as possible. No point in speculating on how things would shake out if The Rock or Brock Lesnar came back to the ring a year earlier than they did, or Shawn Michaels chose to come back one more time instead of staying retired. So with that in mind here are my ground rules:
- Everything that happened before stays as is. The point of me doing this kind of booking is to show how it could have worked and fit in under the same circumstances as the choices that were actually made. For example, if Brock Lesnar never leaves this whole thing is a moot point.
- I’m not going to change too much of what would come after. Yes, changing this one event will alter the course of the future but speculating too much gets you into territory where you are reaching really hard and extrapolating all kinds of stuff. So I’m going to keep things as realistic as possible. AJ Styles wouldn’t have jumped to WWE in 2011 as a result of this, for example.
Before we get started let’s set things up a bit. It’s 2011, John Cena is running out of people to face. Bautista was beaten in 2010 and left the company shortly thereafter. He already beat HHH and Randy Orton. Shawn Michaels is retired, and Cena already beat him anyway. Miz is the WWE Champion, way before he was ready for it. Edge is about to retire due to injury. That leaves the Undertaker. But for some reason Vince and company decide to just keep the streak going so Taker gets HHH, Orton gets to finish off his feud with the ascending CM Punk, and Cena gets Miz in the main event. This of course underwhelms everyone so to juice things up, Vince reaches out to the Rock and gets him to host ‘Mania 27, then come back to main event 28 and 29. That salvages the interest in 27, and sends it through the roof for 28. So what do we do differently?
Putting Cena and Taker together then would have made a lot of sense. Cena at the time was unbeaten in WrestleMania main events and Taker still had the streak going. To my knowledge Cena hadn’t faced Taker in a meaningful match in years, so it would have really fresh. And Cena had already beaten everyone else worth beating on the roster. That’s the easy part. But what about the rest? Miz beat Orton for the title by cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase so a final rematch between the two is an easy pick, maybe with some stipulation. And then you put HHH and Punk together. A feud between Hunter and Punk’s New Nexus faction could easily replace the feud Orton had with them at the time. Boom, done. Card rearranged. You can even keep the Rock as host and continue on with the setup for the next year as is.
So why here and not at an earlier or later date? Mainly because this was the last WrestleMania where Taker could do all his stuff in the ring, and this was also the point where Cena had rounded into a guy that could hold up his end in a good, longer match. That wasn’t the case for him before and Taker began to decline after that show so this is the perfect meeting point in my book. You could have given them the 30 minutes Taker and HHH got on that show, maybe shave off five minutes, and had yourself a really good main event match. Now who goes over? Hmmmm……………I’d have Taker win and keep the streak going. You obviously want some kind of shenanigans to occur in order to keep both guys strong, but not to the point of overbooking, so here’s how I handle that.
Cena goes for the AA, ref bump, he has Taker down but no three count. He goes to revive the ref, Rock comes down and puts on a referee shirt, match continues. Taker gets the Tombstone, Rock counts three. Afterwards, Cena gets pissed at Rock for not coming in when he had Taker down but being there when the tables were turned. You get your Cena-Rock confrontation to set up next year’s show, and there you have it. As for the other two matches, Miz can retain the title and lose it the next month to Cena at Extreme Rules as things went in real life, and HHH can do what he was still doing best and go over the up and comer. Punk lost to Orton at the real show anyway so it’s not that big of a deal. Everything else afterwards continues on as it went.
The one other big change I would make would be on the midcard. For some reason they gave Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole almost 15 minutes, but kept an eight man tag match featuring Wade Barrett’s Corre vs Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston to a minute and a half. That gets rectified by taking 10 minutes away from the former and giving it to the latter. The rest of the show was fine as it went. All in all I think this was one of those instances where they overthought things. Maybe they wanted to save Taker vs Cena until the last possible time they could do it, but that window closed when Cena had to miss WrestleMania 32 with an injury and Taker had to face Shane McMahon instead. There are times to hold off and times to go ahead and pull the trigger before it’s too late and I think this was the time to do the latter.