Perhaps the biggest difference between WWE and “legitimate” sports (aside from pre-determined outcomes) is that wins and losses don’t really matter. A wrestler’s record isn’t flashed on the screen as he heads down the ramp, and there are no standings to follow in the daily paper. (Or wherever you get your standings from these days.)
As every college basketball fan knows, March Madness is the best part of every hoops season. With the tournament about to start, I was inspired to create my own version of WWE March Mayhem. We’ll start with 16 wrestlers and work our way through the brackets to select a winner. Only full-time wrestlers need apply. The champion will receive – absolutely nothing. Thus, consider this a modified version of the King of the Ring or Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin – This is a good style matchup. Reigns, in the ring, is what Corbin needs to be someday. No matter what the fans think of him, Roman nearly always delivers a stellar match when the pressure is on. Both men are bruisers here, and Corbin is the heel that WWE should have made of Reigns about a year ago. This one will be a slugfest, In the end, Reigns spears Corbin into the barricade outside of the ring, and barely beats the count, while Corbin remains unable to get up. Reigns moves on, and Corbin is elevated in the process.
Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles – Styles is what Zayn aspires to be; an awe-inspiring performer at the top of the card. Zayn is what Styles is afraid of becoming; a talented wrestler who’s stuck in the midcard and can’t seem to pick up a win when it matters most. This match might be the highlight of the first round. After Styles smartly avoids a Helluva Kick by sitting down in the corner, both men trade signature moves all over the ring, but Styles ultimately wins with his flying forearm. Styles advances and Zayn goes back to his taxi cab or pizza delivery car, or whatever it is he does when he’s not wrestling.
Randy Orton vs. Finn Balor – I like this one for the utter unpredictability of it. Orton is the consummate WWE opponent. His fluid style and powerful offense work nicely against just about any opponent. Balor’s technical expertise makes him a perfect foil for Orton’s style. I think these two could have an epic battle. Orton pushes Balor all over the ring, but is unable to hit that one devastating final shot. Balor wins when Orton goes for an RKO (Outta Nowhere!!!!), and The Demon reverses it and hits the 1916 (AKA The Move Formerly Known as Bloody Sunday.) Orton looks good in the loss, and Balor makes a triumphant return to the roster.
Neville vs. Kevin Owens – A matchup of two of the most prominent NXT alums currently on the roster. If Neville continues his strong run atop the Cruiserweight Division, I think you might see him in some matchups outside of the division. Owens will need some direction as the U.S. Champion. This is the first full-fledged heel vs. heel match in our tournament, so skullduggery should play a big part in the match. In the end, Neville wins by reversing a Pop-Up Powerbomb into some sort of submission hold. Owens beats him down after the loss. (Side note – in my fantasies, Neville decides to join the UK division, much like he did the Cruiserweights, and takes that title. He beats Owens in a rematch for the U.S. Title, and takes the Raw tag championship with Sami Zayn, who finally snaps and turns heel. Then, with four belts draped over him, collapses during his entrance at the next PPV.)
John Cena vs. Braun Strowman – WWE did an outstanding job of building Strowman as an unstoppable beast until they inexplicably fed him to Reigns at Fastlane. Since John Cena has been willing and able to put over young talent of late, this is an opportunity to start Strowman back down the path to dominance. In the match, Cena hits all his signature offense, but Strowman just keeps getting up. Eventually, a frustrated Cena goes for a chair and clubs Braun across the back. Strowman turns, takes the chair and hits Cena with a shot so powerful that he flies out of the ring, and lands on his head. Strowman wins by count out, then picks Cena up, carries him to the announcer’s desk, and slams him down on top of Byron Saxton. Cena is out until after American Grit is done airing, and Saxton is never seen again.
Dean Ambrose vs. Austin Aries – This is a match between two babyfaces who use a lot of heel tactics. Aries has enjoyed the spotlight since his return to action after injuring his orbital bone in an NXT house show in Fresno. (I was in the second row with my son, Jake. It was a brutal kick from Shinsuke Nakamura that put Aries on the shelf.) Ambrose has been a solid Intercontinental Champion, but it feels like he’s been a little bit lost in the Smackdown shuffle since he dropped the WWE Championship to AJ Styles. I think Ambrose needs this win more than Aries, who is one of the few cruiserweights that can work just as easily with big men and smaller opponents. This match will take place more outside of the ring than in, with each man utilizing creative means to beat the count several times. Eventually, Ambrose prevails with Dirty Deeds after Aries misses a rolling discus elbow.
Bray Wyatt vs. Samoa Joe – If there’s one man on the WWE roster who wouldn’t be affected by Bray Wyatt’s spooky persona, it’s Samoa Joe. If the brackets were announced a couple of weeks before the matches took place, I can just see Wyatt spinning one of his long, dark, somewhat confusing but wildly entertaining soliloquies while Joe stares blankly. Bray giggles, Joe glares. Bray laughs, Joe looks vaguely annoyed. Joe wins the match when Wyatt turns upside down, and Joe simply lifts him onto the turnbuckle and performs a muscle buster. Then, Joe storms backstage and pancakes James Ellsworth, who is creeping around outside the women’s locker room. Joe advances and Ellsworth joins Byron Saxton in Curtis Axel’s basement.
Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins – This is a match we’ve seen before, but Rollins needs to re-establish himself after a long absence from the main roster. Nobody is better than putting an opponent over than Jericho. Y2J has done some of the very best work of his career in this latest visit to WWE, and sending Rollins back to the top of the card could be his parting gift to the WWE Universe. I see Rollins winning after an exciting back-and-forth match. In fact, I also see Seth using the Curb Stomp to send Jericho into his latest (temporary) retirement. Rollins moves on, and Jericho moves out. Expect Jericho to return about the same time that Rollins takes the WWE Universal Championship – demanding revenge and a title shot.
I’m only doing the men’s side here. If I did a women’s tournament, I’d have Charlotte vs. Asuka in the final, with Asuka going over after a brutal 45-minute contest.
So, our remaining contenders are Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Neville, Braun Strowman, Dean Ambrose, Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins. Who faces who? You’ll have to come back next week to find out.