WrestleMania Rewrite: WrestleMania XXI-XXX

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, the time has arrived! We have gone through WrestleMania 1 – 20 and here are the final ten. WrestleMania’s 21-30 ushered in what many have called the Cena Era in the WWE. He took the reigns at WrestleMania XXI and hasn’t looked back since. While he may be the staple in the WWE for this time period, there were some other matches that took place during WrestleMania that we would have rather seen. To top it all off, we take a look at the event that hasn’t happened yet, WrestleMania 30, and put together a match that could have happened. I want to thank David Vandver, Dave Hall, Ben Morse, Patrick Fenton, Marc Clair, and Ryan Howard for contributing to this piece. Let’s take a look at what could have been…

WrestleMania 21 – Big Show defeats Akebono

David Vander: I like this WrestleMania a lot. I liked the Big Time theme, and I felt the storylines were pretty strong going in, with the notable exceptions of the women’s title match. The change I would make was to something that was more of a segment than a match: The sumo challenge between Big Show and Akebono. Here we have The Big Show, a man who has had an up and down career if anyone has, at the biggest show of the year, facing an outsider from a legitimate sport. This is a chance to make Big Show out to be a royal badass and build him up to be a killer monster in the months leading to Summerslam and an epic battle with the hero of your choice. My pick (I know we had seen it before, but not on this level) would be John Cena. It would be the best monster huge heel vs. hero showing at a Summerslam since I was terrified that Earthquake was going to squash Hulk Hogan!

The build to this match was done very well with Big Show exhibiting his inhuman strength, even shoving over a jeep at one point. While not much was actually known about Akebono, his reputation as a sumo Grand Champion and a legend in Japan lent enough believability that this was a clash for the ages. The ring entrances were grand and the stage was set. Can Big Show do the unthinkable and enter a new arena, proving he is a formidable force to be reckoned with against a world-class opponent? Or would Akebono’s reputation precede him and would he dispatch Show and prove he deserves such accolades? Well… in the real world, the second scenario would clearly be the best story and what would also be the most plausible. However, in the wrestling world, as we all know, there are a different set of rules. Big Show being able to topple this legend would set him up for a huge year. Not to mention Akebono was one and done in the WWE, so giving him the win would do nothing for anybody. So clearly the WWE opted for the latter, right?

Sadly, wrong. In less than a minute, Akebono steamrolls over an uncomfortable looking and clearly outclassed largest athlete in the world. While this certainly pleased the contingent of Japanese fans who purchased the pay-per-view, it left a future weapon of mass destruction looking like a flailing idiot who had zero chance to win to begin with. The payoff to this match, if you even want to call it that, was not even remotely close to being worthy of the buildup. It came across as a time killer and a way to get Big Show on the big card. While obviously his career did not exactly flounder, he wound up spending the bulk of the rest of the year in uninspired mid-card feuds. What could have been a big moment for Big Show and the WWE became the lone blemish on an otherwise memorable WrestleMania card.

WrestleMania 22 – Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker for the World Title

Dave Hall: In 2006 the Wrestling world was in a state of healing, following the tragic death of Eddie Guerrero in late 2005. It seems that the WWE was determined to honor the memory of Eddie by pushing his close friend Rey Mysterio to victories in the Royal Rumble and at WrestleMania to capture the world title. Mysterio would be facing then world champ, Kurt Angle, the man with whom he stole the show at Summerslam 2002 early in his WWE career. These two men could have really honored Eddie and set Mysterio up for his world title run with a great match.  The only problem was that the WWE inserted Randy Orton into the match, and the result was a lackluster, and surprisingly short, match that did the opposite of what should have happened… it started Mysterio’s title run in a lackluster way. In reality the man hardest hit by all of this was Kurt Angle.  Angle had really transformed in the previous 6 months.  Angle had been the man who had helped lift John Cena’s game by having a great series with him in late 05, and really tried to help Cena overcome the negative reactions he was receiving.  The problem was that the fans had come to truly respect Kurt, and he was being cheered regardless of what he did.  He then saved the Smackdown brand when he returned in January following the injury to Batista.  Angle captured the world title and quickly established himself again at the top of the card.

Angle deserved a real reward for bailing out the company following the tragedy and injuries that hit it in 05/06, and what better reward than a match with Undertaker at WrestleMania? The two men had a really good match at No Way Out a month earlier, but if they had held that match off and built all the way to WrestleMania I think we would have seen a classic.  Kurt was really at the top of his game, with a character that would have seemed a genuine threat to the streak at that time.  These men would have told a story that few could have topped.  It would have fit the angle they started at the Rumble with Undertaker coming out at the end of Angle’s title match, and they could have had Mysterio wrestle for the other title in honor of Eddie.  A match like this may also have helped alleviate some of the tension that led Angle to leave the company a few months later.  I would have loved to see Angle vs Undertaker in a WrestleMania moment, and I think many others would have as well.

WrestleMania 23 – HBK and Ric Flair vs. Rated RKO

Ben Morse: I didn’t watch this show live and don’t have much attachment to it. However, looking over the card—and having seen it recently—there’s not all that much to change. It also did a huge buy rate on the back of the “Battle of the Billionaires,” so how much tinkering can you do?

The interesting aspect has to do with the card WWE wanted to have but had to change due to injuries and contract negotiations falling through. If you choose to believe the rumors, Triple H had been scheduled to challenge John Cena for the WWE title rather than Shawn Michaels, but suffered a quad injury, while the company hoped to get Hulk Hogan and Big Show on board for a match that would commemorate the 20th anniversary of the “Hulkster” taking on Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, but couldn’t make the numbers work. I’d hate to lose Cena/HBK, but assuming things went according to plan, what could have been done with “Mr. WrestleMania”…

Since a DX/Rated RKO feud had been percolating all fall and winter, perhaps Triple H earning a title shot puts Shawn in a hole where he needs to recruit none other than Ric Flair—wasted on the pre-show here—for a blow off tag match as the “Nature Boy” had also been victimized by Edge and Randy Orton. Flair’s regular partner Carlito as well as Kane—no longer obligated to face Great Khali in the poor man’s attempt at Hogan/Show—could slot in the two empty Money in the Bank slots and there you go.

I’d still rather watch the actual show though.

WrestleMania 24 – Ric Flair  vs. Edge for the World Title

Dave Hall: In 2008 Ric Flair was winding down his career and preparing to retire from the WWE.   The WWE had introduced an ingenious storyline where Flair had been informed if he lost another match, he would have to retire. Flair seemed a little rejuvenated, and we saw some solid matches against a variety of opponents. The man who had been “THE MAN” for so long was again in a prominent role in preparation for the end.  As we know, he lost a great match against Shawn Michaels that night that supposedly ended his career. The one thing that I always felt would have made his retirement storyline even better would have been if he had received a title match as part of it. A match for the title he held for so long. A match to see if he could once again be “THE MAN”.

The story could have been perfect. Ric Flair draws a late number in the Rumble, like number 29 or 30. He is not expected to win, but as men like Triple H, Cena or Batista battle it out near the ropes, Flair comes over like the crafty veteran he is and dumps them out to surprisingly win the Rumble.  He then begins to proclaim that he has one last run as champ left in him. He targets Edge, which would allow Edge to spend weeks berating Flair as being too old and past it. Edge’s arrogant character at that time would have been the perfect foil for the aging veteran hoping for one last run with the belt. At WrestleMania, the two men could have had a match that led people to believe Flair may actually win, including a figure four spot in the middle of the ring. Then Edge cheats to win, and Flair’s dream and career are at an end. The story would have been compelling, and Flair could have passed his torch to someone who could have played up that he beat THE MAN. Flair could have put over a man who, at the time, was legitimately viewed as someone who could have been on top for many more years. I must admit, I always felt that Michaels did not need to be the man who beat Flair. I really think a loss in a title match would have been a more fitting way to send Flair out, and would have lifted Edge to a whole new level in the process.

WrestleMania 25 – Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels for the World Title

Ben Morse: Now here’s a WrestleMania that can stand plenty of tweaking. The much-ballyhooed 25th anniversary of the show, outside of a Shawn Michaels/Undertaker classic, it ended up being disappointing not just for a milestone, but for a big event in general. Let’s take things from the top…

Beginning in the spring of 2008 and lasting into the fall, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho had the feud of the year. Jericho became involved with Michaels’ feud with Batista, questioned HBK’s morals, turned heel, assaulted his rival’s wife, and then after a brutal street fight, still managed to win the World title. Michaels got one shot to wrest the championship from Y2J in a Ladder match at No Mercy, but lost and then got shuffled off to a heatless feud with JBL that led him to Undertaker at Mania while Jericho, the hottest heel in the company, dropped his title to John Cena and then slid down the card until he got booked against three retired wrestlers at the premiere show of the year.

In my perfect world, Shawn Michaels still comes up short in his attempt to dethrone Chris Jericho at No Mercy, but the feud does not end there. Y2J manages to hold onto the title against Batista, Cena, etc. but lives in fear of HBK getting another shot. Michaels claws his way back, defeats JBL, wins the Royal Rumble, and the best feud of 2008 gets its major blow-off in 2009 at WrestleMania, providing a suitably huge World Title match and celebrating one of the men who helped get the show to 25 years with Shawn Michaels hoisting major singles gold high for the first time in over six years.

While Michaels and Jericho tore up Raw during the fall of ‘08, Jeff Hardy ascended into the stratosphere as the most popular babyface in WWE on SmackDown. He finally won the WWE title in December, then lost the belt to hated rival Edge when his brother Matt betrayed him at the Royal Rumble. The Hardy’s ended up having a decent No Disqualification match at WrestleMania while Edge lost the WWE title to Triple H, won the World title the same night, and went into a heatless triple threat against John Cena and Big Show. Meanwhile, Christian, the fourth man from the Attitude Era’s division-defining tag team feud, made a quiet return to the company on the ECW brand.

If I’ve got the book, Edge holds onto the WWE title until WrestleMania where he puts it on the line against the guy he beat in Jeff Hardy, a guy he has always hated in Matt Hardy, and his former partner Christian in the match they made famous: a Ladder match. Two hot heels, two molten babyfaces, the gimmick that has defined them, and another chance to celebrate performers and rivalries that put WWE and WrestleMania on the map.

This takes the WWE title out of the Triple H/Randy Orton main event but, given their history, they could have built a feud without the gold and just not gone on last, which turned out to be a disastrous decision anyhow. The big blow to my new card would be no Undertaker/HBK, but John Cena’s dance card just opened up, providing a huge name opponent for ‘Taker who also knows how to deliver in spades when it comes to the big stage.

My WrestleMania XXV: World champion Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels; WWE champion Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Christian in a four-way Ladder match; John Cena vs. The Undertaker…plus everything else you already got and I’d find a way to get Ricky Steamboat on the card.

You wouldn’t buy that?

WrestleMania 26 – Batista and Vince McMahon vs. John Cena and Bret Hart for the WWE Title

Patrick Fenton: How can you pick just ONE match to want to change on this card? Ugh, some really good matches, and some really poor booking seem to be the norm during this era of WrestleMania. I’ve chosen to put two matches together into one match for this card. Mr. McMahon with his enforcer, WWE Champion Dave Batista, against “Hitman” Bret Hart, and his enforcer, John Cena. To me, it makes more sense to put these two matches together. Mr. McMahon was upset that John Cena sided with Bret Hart after Bret had returned to the WWE. Batista had stuck his nose into that feud by stopping Hart from getting his hands on Vince during an episode of RAW. Batista would do Vince’s bidding for him, in return Vince would gift “The Animal” a surprise title match after John Cena won the WWE title at the Elimination Chamber. Batista would defeat John Cena that night.

Now, we could use this event to set up the tag team match. Bret could claim that “Vince screwed Cena” as he did to Bret all those years earlier. Vince would deny it, of course, but Cena and Hart would challenge the two to a tag team match at WrestleMania. Vince would agree for him and Batista, with added stipulations. They would want to add that if Vince wins, Bret leaves the WWE forever. Cena and Hart could counter with if they win Cena becomes the WWE Champion. Vince would obviously try to stack the deck, as he always does, making it a No DQ match. You could even let him do the last-minute lumberjack style match with the Hart Family at ringside, like they did for real at this year’s WrestleMania. That was fine for what they were trying to accomplish for Bret. This would get both angles tied together, and when Cena and Hart win, it would be the great celebration one looks for at WrestleMania. A new WWE champion in John Cena, and Bret Hart gets his revenge for the events of 1997.

Also, on a side note, I would add The Hart Dynasty to the tag team title match earlier in the evening. With the added time of losing one of the matches for the tag team match, you could add those extra minutes to this tag team title match, and it would get over the young Harts on this, a Hart family reunion evening.

WrestleMania 27 – The Rock vs. John Cena; The Miz vs. Jerry Lawler for the WWE Title

Patrick Fenton: Wow, where to begin? I can’t just change/add one match, it’s just too much to choose JUST one. Now, this may be a stretch as well but, to me, this would be more entertaining to watch than what we were given. The first match, the main event…Rock vs Cena. Why wait the entire year? It’s a hot feud, let’s just do it. It’s not like you’ll never do a rematch, right?

Scrap Michael Cole versus Jerry Lawler. I know that the WWE title deserves to have a high, very important spot on the card, and I totally agree with that. I think, considering what feuds were going on at this time, that the WWE title match should have been Jerry Lawler challenging The Miz at this show. They had a really good TLC match on Raw near the end of the prior year so, instead of doing that match on Raw, move it here to WrestleMania. Bring in Jim Ross to do some commentary here, and you could even bring in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to guest referee the match. The Miz could get the win still, but feed Alex Riley for the Stunner afterwards, and maybe even Cole could eat a Stunner at the end of the match to make the crowd happy. Then the fans at home could be happy with a JR/Lawler reunion for the main event.

WrestleMania 28 – Cody Rhodes vs. Booker T for the Intercontinental Title

Marc Clair: I have to say, I was *this* close to blowing this whole card up. After giving heavy consideration to changing the HHH  / Undertaker Hell in a Cell match, a re-watch convinced me that this match was too epic to alter. It was probably best to avoid the explosion of the Internet that would likely occur had I committed such a sin.  The other top matches on the show – Punk/Jericho and Cena/Rock really delivered the goods so, once again, I look to the midcard title picture for a rewrite. As I examined the card, I began to focus squarely on one Mr. Cody Rhodes, the Intercontinental Champion going into the show, who unfortunately was saddled with a bad matchup with the Big Show. I like both guys, but it’s a weird combo and their 4-minute match was “blah” to say the least. But we all know Cody is capable of much more, so the search was on for a proper opponent. My requirements? 1) A good worker who can highlight Cody’s in-ring skills, 2) a guy the crowd cares about 3) someone worthy of a WrestleMania singles match on a show without many of them to go around. And I found the perfect candidate middling away in the dreadful Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy Match – the Master of the Spinarooni himself, Booker T!

A Cody Rhodes vs. Booker T. match for the Intercontinental Title would serve several functions. Firstly, the two would certainly put on a much better match than Cody / Big Show. Second, Booker T. simply deserves a better final appearance at WrestleMania (assuming the Hall of Famer doesn’t wrestle in another one, not an impossibility in a world where every wrestler is a nice paycheck away from unretiring) than being a bit player in the Johnny Ace vs. Teddy Long feud. And third would be to give Cody a solid rub, as I would put him over Booker T. cleanly in a 12 minute match. Booker misses the Spinarooni, Cody hits Cross-Rhodes, and goodnight! Booker ends his WrestleMania career with a solid match, Cody looks like gold with a clean victory over a legend and, best of all, the fans no longer have to sit through the boring Cody-Big Show match. Everybody wins!

WrestleMania 29 – CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. The Rock for the WWE Title; Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

Ben Morse: I attended last year’s WrestleMania live and definitely enjoyed the show, as most did who took it in. However, no question it probably won’t go down in the history books as an all-time on the “Best Of” list, so let’s see what we can do to change that…

Once again, starting from the top, we had John Cena against the Rock in a good match with great heat, albeit a repeat of the year before and hampered by the “Great One” suffering an injury early on. The true victim of this main event would be CM Punk, who had his record-setting WWE title reign cut predictably short by Rock so that this could have the gold on the line. If things had gone slightly to the right, perhaps Punk manages to utilize the outside interference of the Shield at the Royal Rumble and hangs onto his title a bit longer. Then, Rock wins an Elimination Chamber to enter this match alongside Royal Rumble winner Cena as part of a triple threat. Now you get a likely  better match with Rocky not being forced to hang one on one in spite of his ring rust. Plus Punk’s reign ends on the grandest stage. If Cena pins Rock, he gets his redemption, but the unseated champ also has a gripe that rejuvenates the best feud of the modern era for another run on top.

With Punk in the main event, Undertaker loses his opponent—a running theme with my shows, it seems. A nice fix there could have been Triple H, his victim the year before, appealing to the “Dead Man” to help him out against the guy who ended his own career and take out Brock Lesnar. Would anybody have complained about getting to see Lesnar/Taker as opposed to Brock and HHH going at it for the second time in under a year?

One last tweak I’d make would be to scratch the weird Chris Jericho/Fandango insta-feud and instead have Y2J against Dolph Ziggler to settle up their lingering issues from the previous summer. Team Hell No can defend their titles against Team Rhodes Scholars, while I’d also bump the to-come AJ/Katilyn Divas championship match to here as well.

WrestleMania 30 – Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker

Derek Cornett: As we approach WrestleMania 30, there is one notable name is who is missing from the card and that is CM Punk. As we have seen over recent weeks, Punk’s departure has opened up room for Daniel Bryan to get the payoff that everyone has been waiting for. With the American Dragon in line, let’s take a look at the man who is next in line to be THE top man in the WWE… Bray Wyatt. There are two main events at WrestleMania each year and it is hard to decide which match means more, the World Title Match or Match for the Streak? With a character the likes of Bray Wyatt… the Match for the Streak could top the card.

Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker writes itself is so many ways but the most important comes down to the super-natural aspects. Bray Wyatt killed the Kane character that we knew and loved and turned him into Corporate Kane. Kane is the Undertaker’s brother. Bray continues to work the angle of “taking souls” like Kane and then adds a couple of others to the list. This is the entry point for the real reaper of souls, the Undertaker, to make his appearance and make the challenge. Bray continues with the angle of wanting to take the soul of the WWE and that is the Undertaker. The match itself I could see being very entertaining with Bray’s facials and ability to sell. His character is well suited to match that of the Undertaker and without a doubt, Bray’s loss at Mania is a win because it makes him a marquee man for years to come in the WWE.

So there you have it, 1-30, every WrestleMania given a little bit of a different look. I want to thank all those who contributed to this piece and Place to Be Nation for letting us have a chance to re-write the book for the biggest shows of them all over the past 30 years.

Author: Derek Cornett

Derek Cornett is a longtime member of the Place to Be Nation. He is sports enthusiast and follows the UFC, NFL, and WWE regularly. Derek is also a big movie fan and enjoys all forms of cinema.