The premise is that, in honor of WrestleMania 33, the show will be headlined by two triple threat matches for the two main titles.
I’ve included some results here, and some details on where the feuds would lead to in the weeks and months that follow. I haven’t gone off the deep end about match details. Such things are better left to agents and the wrestlers themselves.
Triple Threat for the WWE Title
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
Cena and Styles are the final two in the Elimination Chamber for the WWE Title, and the match ends in controversy. Each man has a legitimate claim to the win and the title. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are torn, which each taking a different position on who should be the champion and wrestle Orton at WrestleMania. They decide the only fair thing to do is to strip Cena of the title, vacate it, and makes a triple threat for the championship in Orlando. It will be the first time Randy Orton and Styles share the ring, something that Styles hints could be the ultimate x-factor. Cena will be going for record-breaking title number 17. Orton and Bray Wyatt tease that winning the title would allow them to overthrow the machine from the inside.
Result: Randy Orton wins to become the new WWE champion. Cena has Styles beat with a Super AA, but once he hits it, Orton hits an RKO out of nowhere. Wyatt and Orton celebrate with the WWE title. Eventually this sets up and Orton vs. Bray feud, as Wyatt grows lustful of power he can’t quite seem to get a hold of with Orton holding the title.
Triple Threat for the WWE Universal Title
Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Roman Reigns
Goldberg wins the title from Owens at Elimination Chamber, making his match with Lesnar a Universal Title match. However, just two weeks to go before WrestleMania, RAW opens with an irate Heyman in the middle of the ring screaming into the microphone that someone in WWE is out to screw the Beast. Roman Reigns has been inserted into the Universal Title match. The fans erupt in boos, and Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley try to smooth things over. Stephanie says that Roman may not deserve the opportunity, but the order comes “from above.” The tease is that Vince and “the office” are behind another Roman push.
Result: Reigns wins to become new Universal champion. Lesnar F5’s Goldberg, but is immediately locked into a Coquina Clutch by Samoa Joe, who has jumped the guardrail. Lesnar passes out, allowing a groggy Reigns to spear Goldberg and then cover him for the pin. Reigns gets handed the title, but angrily squares off with Joe. Triple H’s music hits. Hunter gets into the ring, steps in front of Joe, then embraces Reigns. The three celebrate together, as Reigns turns heel and forms a new stable.
Sets up heel Reigns vs. face Brock, with the option to renew Goldberg vs. Brock, since there was no final rubber match.
The Undertaker vs. Finn Balor
Stipulation: The Club is banned from ringside
The match is set up by an Undertaker promo on RAW that says that in the Royal Rumble, he started to realize this may be the end of the line for the Dead Man, so he has decided he won’t compete at WrestleMania. Before he can announce his retirement, the Club’s music hits. Gallows and Anderson come out and Gallows says Taker can’t cut it with big men like him anymore and if he was around in the Attitude Era, Taker would have never had a career. Taker steps up to Gallows, but Anderson chop blocks him. The beat down is on, until the arena goes black. When the lights turn back on Finn Balor is standing in the ring between Taker and Gallows and Anderson. He chases them off, turns to Undertaker, and plants him with a DDT. Gallows and Anderson re-enter, beat down Taker, and form the Balor Club, turning Balor heel for his match with Undertaker.
In the coming weeks, Balor says The Demon King will conquer the Reaper and become the new Prince of Darkness in WWE. Taker tells Balor that he’ll fight him, but to truly conquer the Reaper, one must do it alone. Balor agrees to the stipulation, saying Balor Club will be banned from ringside, much to Gallows and Anderson’s chagrin.
Result: Balor pins Taker after 1916 onto a chair Scott Hall has slid into the ring while the referee is knocked out. Hall celebrated and ‘Too Sweets’ with Balor Club, leading to speculation Cody is on the way to RAW.
WWE US Title Match
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho
Owens, now the US champion after the New Day split (see below), keeps asserting in promos that he is the best Triple Crown champion of all time. Jericho is miffed, because he gifted Owens his rematch clause and helped KO win the title, now Owens is gloating and seemingly forgetting his friendship with Jericho in favor of his own legacy. Jericho reminds Owens that he has won every title in WWE. Owens hears that and says Chris is right, he should pursue the Grand Slam honor, so they challenge the Club for the RAW Tag Team Titles. KO has the match won, but Jericho costs him it “accidentally,” to prevent Owens from becoming a Grand Slam champion, ultimately leading to the split of the best friends.
Result: Kevin Owens retains with a Package Piledriver off the top rope.
Kofi Kingston vs. Big E w/Xavier Woods
This match would be the culmination of the New Day break up storyline. To get to this point, Kofi Kingston would win the US title from Chris Jericho at Fastlane. The New Day would promise to defend the title via the Freebird Rule. After a few successful Kofi defenses, Big E defends the title on RAW and loses it to Kevin Owens (after Jericho gifts Owens his rematch clause). Seeing his title be lost without him being defeated discourages Kofi, and when Kingston plots to try to recapture it, New Day won’t take the situation seriously enough. In the rematch against Owens, Woods’ trombone playing causes a fatal mistake, and Kofi loses a chance of being US champ headed into WrestleMania. That sparks Kofi walking out on New Day, saying their positivity is holding him back.
Result: Big E wins. Booty O balloons fall from the sky on top of a furious Kofi.
WWE Raw Women’s Title Match
Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair
Result: Charlotte retains, thanks to a Sasha Banks distraction when Bayley had the match won with a Bayley-to-Belly, to extend her pay per view winning streak. This starts a slow build to Bayley eventually winning the title in Brooklyn at Summerslam.
Special Attraction Match
Big Show vs. Shaq
Result: Big Show wins by DQ when Braun Strowman, enraged by losing the Battle Royal, storms the ring, chokeslams Shaq, then takes out Big Show. Strowman chokeslamming Shaq would give WWE their SportsCenter highlight and mainstream media attention, and leave it open for Shaq to come back in at some point, team with Big Show, and take on Strowman.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Result: Sami Zayn eliminates Cesaro — hoping to become the first-ever two-time Andre the Giant winner — to win. That sparks a main roster Zayn/Cesaro feud.
Mixed Tag Match
Dean Ambrose and Renee Young vs. The Miz and Maryse
Result: Ambrose and Renee win after Renee hits a Dirty Deeds on Maryse.
Tag Champions vs. Tag Champions
Stipulation: The winner earns their brand an NXT call up.
The Club w/Finn Balor vs. American Alpha
Result: Alpha wins to earn Smackdown an NXT call up. The NXT call up selected by Shane McMahon is The Revival, effectively meaning Alpha screwed themselves by allowing their blood rival to be on the same brand as them. The Revival debuts and wins the titles from Alpha.
WWE Smackdown Women’s Title Match
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nikki Bella
Result: Nikki Bella wins to become the new Smackdown Women’s champion.
WWE recently announced Smackdown will air live on Tuesday nights, with a unique roster for each brand. Below, I try my hand at making this work for the long haul.
Where my proposal of WWE’s upcoming brand split takes a turn away from the old is that the two shows are effectively two different companies. Not “brands” of WWE, but companies. WWE continues to run Monday Night RAW, but NXT takes over control of Smackdown.
NXT has become its own brand with its own unique following. I believe the reason why many couldn’t get behind the brand split of the past is because it inherently felt forced. People don’t want to root for a show title. They want to root for a promotion.
Back in the Monday Night Wars days, many where either WWF or WCW-loyal, even if they watched both shows. By making Smackdown an NXT entity, you regain that visceral feeling that comes from rooting for a three-letter promotion by capitalizing on the fans who are already of the mind that the existing NXT brand is superior to WWE-proper.
Draft: The first draft will be held to split up the rosters (rosters below). NXT will get to “protect” two Superstars outside of their current champions (Samoa Joe, Asuka, American Alpha). A draft will be held every 18 months (the first in July 2016, the next in January 2018, and so on). Drafts will only include newly-unaffiliated talent. This includes call ups from the Performance Center and Superstars who had had their “contracts” expire.
Contracts: Superstars will sign contracts for a certain term to give the viewer a sense of stability, just like professional sports. Contracts will vary in term, giving creative flexibility to move onto other storylines, but largely, they contracts will be long-term. Having a Superstar “drafted” to a different brand every year just muddles down the separation of the two new companies. The new brand split will be just like the Monday Night War days. Fans can follow how long they’ll have to wait (Superstar pages can include contract details, driving traffic to WWE.com) until a potential fantasy match up they’ve been waiting for may become a reality.
Trades: Trades are allowed between General Managers, though ideally, would be used sparingly for ultimate impact.
Dual-branded title (champion can appear on either show):
- WWE World Heavyweight Champion
The WHC is drafted to one brand, but can appear on the other show as long as they hold the title. Once they drop the title, they become brand-specific.
All PPVs will feature matches from both WWE and NXT, with the announcer team and ring announcer rotated to call each promotion. The only matches that can be cross-promotional are the Royal Rumble match, the Money in the Bank ladder match, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the A-shows (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series). This allows the WHC to think about short-term competitions from inside his own promotion, and looming long-term threats from the cross-promotion for the major shows. It should limit the monotony of a WHC feud, as well (i.e. no more cycle of three straight identical PPV main events with different stipulations).
The push-pull between McMahons and Triple H:
The over-arching theme of the brand split be Triple H being conflicted between a return to The Authority and his personal success story of NXT. Ultimately, he chooses NXT over his wife, as he cites not wanting to get involved in the middle of her sibling squabble with Shane, and becomes the owner of NXT. This bands the McMahon siblings, now co-owners of WWE, together to show the world that their darling Triple H, who gave them their perfect NXT product, isn’t what made WWE great.
Monday Night RAW, 8:00 PM Eastern, USA Network, LIVE
RAW’s primary focus is to stay the number one wrestling company in the world. Longtime journeymen like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have worked their whole life to be here, and they’re not letting go now. Top dog Roman Reigns is determined to show everyone he can carry the promotion, even with John Cena defecting to NXT. The biggest tweak is to the announce team. Jerry Lawler returns to RAW, playing up his old school heel schtick, and JBL moves to the General Manager’s position.
Announce team: Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
Backstage interviewer: JoJo
Ring Announcer: Lillian Garcia
Owner(s): Shane and Stephanie McMahon
General Manager: John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Exclusive RAW titles:
- WWE Intercontinental Championship
- WWE Tag Team Champions
- WWE Women’s Champion
Roman Reigns (World Heavyweight champion), Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Brock Lesnar (p/t), Titus O’Neil, Big Show
Seth Rollins, The Miz (WWE IC champion), Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Alberto Del Rio, Austin Aries
Tag Teams Division:
New Day (WWE Tag Team champions), The Usos, Golden Truth
The Club, Vaudevillians, The Dudley Boys, The Social Outcasts
Bayley, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella
Charlotte (WWE Women’s champion), Dana Brooke, Emma-x, Paige, Maryse
NXT Smackdown, 8:00 PM Eastern, USA Network LIVE
The subtitling of June 8th’s NXT TakeOver specical as “The End…” has led many to speculate that the brand might not be long for the world. Here’s why: Smackdown is re-branded “NXT Smackdown.” The blue-and-white color scheme is replaced with black-and-white (logo above).
Lighting and graphics packages to take on the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn look.
The NXT title is dropped, absorbed by the WWE World Heavyweight title after general managers JBL and William Regal determine one-unifed title is best for both promotions. Samoa Joe is the final champion, and due to having his title taken from him, is granted a second Money in the Bank briefcase that he can cash in at any time within one year.
The U.S. title becomes Smackdown-exclusive. All other NXT titles stay with their current holders and are made the primary Smackdown titles.
Announce team: Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips
Backstage interviewer: Renee Young
Ring Announcer: Greg Hamilton
Owner: Triple H
General Manager: William Regal
Exclusive Smackdown titles:
- United States Championship (re-branded NXT United States Championship)
- NXT Tag Team Champions
- NXT Women’s Champion
John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Apollo Crews, Hideo Itami-x, Neville-x, Darren Young, No Way Jose
Triple H, Rusev (US champion), Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe, Sheamus, Tyler Breeze, Fandango
Tag Team Division:
American Alpha (NXT tag team champions), Enzo Amore and Big Cass, The Hype Bros, The Lucha Dragons
The Wyatt Family, The Revival, The Shining Stars, Blake and Murphy
Sasha Banks, Asuka (NXT Women’s champion), Alicia Fox
Eva Marie, Nia Jax, Lana, Summer Rae, Alexa Bliss