Last week, we looked at my personal version of WWE March Madness. In the first round, I tried to present compelling matchups that involve my top 16 WWE superstars of the moment. (When I say “top,” I don’t mean favorite – just the performers that I think WWE is booking as the major stars of the moment – with part-timers left out.) I got a little hate mail about my fantasy booking, particularly the results.
This week, we move into the semifinals. Once again, I’m fantasy booking what I think would be the most compelling matchups. Maybe this time around, I’ll make less people mad. (I wish I were like Vince McMahon, so I wouldn’t care.)
WWE March Madness Quarterfinals
Neville vs. Braun Strowman – This one is purely for the optics. I think that Neville and Strowman are actually booked in very similar ways. Both are unstoppable bullies in their respective divisions, and both are amazingly athletic. (Of course, you have to think of Strowman’s athleticism in terms of a 400-pound man who can do a kip-up with no visible effort.) The key to getting a good match here is letting Neville use his speed to avoid getting clubbed into submission by Braun. Neville uses the big man like a jungle gym. Every move has the King of the Cruiserweights dangling from Strowman’s neck, shoulders or head, with his feet roughly 10 inches above the ground. Neville pulls out everything in his arsenal, but his flurry of kicks and punches is foiled by the laws of physics. He simply isn’t big enough to dominate Strowman the way he dominates his competition in the Cruiserweight Division. Strowman is unable to catch the quicker Neville, and his frustration builds throughout the match until he becomes visibly enraged and utterly exhausted. Neville’s offense has left him bruised and bleeding, but still standing. Eventually, Neville comes to realize that it will take something spectacular to take the big man down. He dives into Strowman’s legs from the side, and the big man finally topples. Neville climbs to the top of the turnbuckle as Strowman rolls onto his back, gasping for air. Just as Neville launches into the Red Arrow, Strowman kips up, catches Neville in midair, and power slams him into the mat. Then, he picks Neville up, stands him against the ropes and chops him over the top and onto the floor. Neville can’t get up in time, and Strowman wins by countout.
Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns – While we’ve seen this match a few times before, watching former members of The Shield square off never gets old. Reigns is in the midst of a full-fledged heel turn. (At least it appears that way, cross your fingers.) Ambrose has quietly been holding down the midcard on SmackDown. This is a chance to further the cause of each man. Reigns starts off the bout with a flurry of offense, pounding The Lunatic Fringe from pillar to post. Ambrose, of course, refuses to stay down and taunts Reigns, essentially begging for an even worse beating. Reigns blows his stack, and starts beating Ambrose with a chair outside of the ring. The referee calls for the DQ, and it seems like Ambrose is moving on. However, Dean grabs a microphone and says he doesn’t need to win by DQ, and says the match should continue. WWE officials agree, and new Raw General Manager Kurt Angle (told you it was fantasy booking) says the match will continue as a no disqualification bout. Ambrose gets in some offense, but mostly takes a beating inside and outside of the ring. Eventually, Reigns and Ambrose fight their way up the ramp. Reigns spears Ambrose through one side of the TitanTron, and picks up the pinfall. As the crowd boos lustily, Reigns drags Ambrose by one leg down to the ring, where he sets him up on the turnbuckle, then Superman Punches him into the second row. Then, Regins mimics the Undertaker’s throat-cutting gesture and points to the WrestleMania sign as fans toss debris into the ring.
AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins – I think this matchup will headline WrestleMania in the not-too-distant future. So, like any good WWE booker, I’m going to jump on it before then. (Sarcasm definitely intended.) This match will steal the show in this round. There’s no need for swerves or strange booking. Just put these two in the ring and let them do what they do. The combination of Styles’ aerial moves and Rollins’ strong technical skills will make this a 5-star classic. In the end, Styles reverses a Pedigree attempt into a Calf Crusher on Rollins’ injured leg and picks up the win. Rollins is defeated, but learns a lesson – he should get rid of the Pedigree as his finisher and go back to the Curb Stomp. WWE doesn’t approve. The Kingslayer doesn’t care.
Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe – Much like the Reigns/Ambrose clash, we’ve seen this one before – several times. The difference is that when NXT goes back to a match over and over again, it’s because it works, and it’s what the fans want to see. Since devotees of the main roster who don’t subscribe to the WWE Network (you know who you are) haven’t seen this one before, it’s a chance to please all the fans at the same time. Much like in their previous matches, Joe tries to overpower The Demon King, while Balor uses his quickness and athletic ability to strike and dodge. In the end, Balor survives by hanging onto the ropes when Joe goes for a Muscle Buster. Balor leaps down onto Joe and hits him with Bloody Sunday (formerly known as 1916) and steals the win. After the bell rings, Joe gets to his feet and approaches Balor. The crowd is waiting for Joe to exact some revenge, but instead, he pulls Balor in close and whispers something in his ear, then pats him on the shoulder and leaves the ring. The beginnings of a babyface turn for Joe? Stay tuned.
So, our remaining contenders are Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, and Braun Strowman, What will the semifinal matchups look like? Who will be in the finals of this fantasy tournament? You’ll have to come back next week to find out.