It’s getting to be that time of year, and we’re not talking about the holidays. We’re talking about the post-Survivor Series slow build to WrestleMania. This year’s show is going to be held at AT&T Stadium, just outside of Dallas/Fort Worth where the Dallas Cowboys play. With the ability to put thousands of people on the floor, coupled with the fact nosebleed seats are affordable for just about any family, the WWE may well eclipse their record of over 93,000 people who attended WrestleMania III.
The biggest thing WrestleMania III (WMIII) had going for it was that fans wanted to see a lot of the matches because they were either dream matches, or had a great build-up. Back in the mid-1980s, when the WWE (then WWF) didn’t have seven hours of TV that had to be produced every week, they could take their time with stories. They still can, they just have to be dedicated to it.
WMIII had Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant as its headliner. There was no possible bigger match at the time. It had Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, which set the standard for how competitors need to up their game at Wrestlemania. It featured the retirement of Rowdy Roddy Piper, the face turn of Brutus Beefcake and Adrian Adonis getting his head shaved…all in the same match! It had a mixed tag team match of midgets and big men. It featured a match that could only end with a full nelson and one that the loser had to bow to the winner. This card was stacked from top to bottom and Vince McMahon and his crew need to go back and see what the formula was that filled the stadium and made WMIII the show people still talk about to this day.
But, it will be 2016 and 29 years will have passed. While we’re guessing WWE will be able to fill the stadium and eclipse the old record, the bigger question is will the show be remembered for decades to come? Here are 12 matches that are completely possible, and that would make the next WrestleMania an instant classic.
12. The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family
After sitting through whatever the pre-show matches were and the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, this should be the first match that really gets the crowd popping. Unfortunately, there will still be a lot of natural light in Dallas this early in the show, which will lessen the impact of their “fireflies” entrance, but the charisma of The New Day should be able to counteract this. Assuming The New Day still have the tag team titles at this point, this match should be for the belts, and whichever team wins gets to continue with the Freebird Rule that allows a three-man team to use any combination of two wrestlers to defend the titles. It was named after wrestling first great trio, The Fabulous Freebirds, who have been rumored to be at the top of the list of Hall of Fame inductees this year.
11. Goldust vs. Stardust
This is a feud that started to get legs, but between WWE gun-shy on pulling the trigger and Goldust going down with an injury for more than six months, there’s still a lot of ground to be covered. It’s a story that’s never been told. One brother, who understands he’s playing a character vs. another brother who got too lost in his character. The loser of the bout, which should be Stardust, would be forced to give up the character and return to being Cody Rhodes. As for Goldust, he deserves his last big WrestleMania moment. He’s been with the company on and off for 20 years, and aside from a brief Intercontinental title run more than a decade ago, he’s not had many huge moments as a singles wrestler. Both of these wrestlers acting skills are often overlooked because their characters are so out there. The vignettes and backstage interviews leading up to the this one could be classic.
10. Finn Balor vs. Sheamus
WrestleMania, as it rightfully should be, is a showcase for those wrestlers who are at the top of their game and have built a career that defines them as one of the best in history. Those that make the main event slots are in a class unto themselves, but if you look at the last five or six WrestleMania cards, very few have been used to create and build new talent. Last year’s show featuring Seth Rollins pinning Roman Reigns was thrilling because it wasn’t the same old guys doing the same old stuff. If WWE is ever going to get out of their ratings woes and build a future, they need to get more of the NXT talent up to the main roster. Finn Balor could main event WrestleMania in 2017, but the builds need to start immediately and one of the best pieces could be him beating Sheamus and at least establishing himself as the dominant Irish wrestler in WWE. Making this Finn’s first match on the main roster would make it even more special.
9. Bailey vs. Paige vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
WrestleMania is always a place for firsts and we’ve seen plenty of three-way and four-way matches at the biggest show of the year, but we’ve never seen a five-way and we’ve never seen it with women wrestlers. All except Bailey are currently on the main roster and all except Becky Lynch have held either the NXT Women’s Title or the WWE Diva’s Title so this dream match may not be that far-fetched. It would allow Vince McMahon to squeeze the best of his female wrestlers on the show, much like he does for the men in the battle royal. If one of these women has the Diva’s belt at the time, it could be for that, or it could just be for a No. 1 Contender’s spot. Assuming this match only has about 12-15 minutes, it would make more sense to not have it be elimination, but instead the first woman to get the pinfall wins.
8. Samoa Joe vs. Rusev
Out with an injury in mid-to-late 2015, Rusev should be back with the company. Samoa Joe, after a sweet run with NXT, needs to be called up to the main roster. This match would be when it was time to bring out the big guns and there are few men more powerful than Samoa Joe and Rusev. While Joe hasn’t made it up to the main roster yet, having him come up and work a program with Rusev would build him into a legit top guy in the eyes of those fans that didn’t follow him on the indy scene or at NXT. This should be the first match in a lengthy feud between the two and while it should be good, it should also leave the audience wanting more since these two are so evenly matched. Nobody likes a countout or disqualification at WrestleMania, but it is important to come out of the show with not only a lot of questions answered, but with a lot of new questions to ask. Who would win a feud between Samoa Joe and Rusev is a great question and the first part of the answer could happen here.
7. Kevin Owens vs. Daniel Bryan
If Kevin Owens can hold onto the Intercontinental Title through WrestleMania and if Daniel Bryan can get cleared to wrestle after dealing with his neck problems (both things that seem more likely than not), this has the potential to be the best pure wrestling match on the card with a great storyline behind it. Bryan captured the Intercontinental Title in a car crash of a multi-man ladder match at WrestleMania last year, but just weeks after the win he was forced to vacate the title when his neck issues flared up again. There is some debate over if he’ll wrestle again and if he is able to come back, the threat of Owens putting him out of wrestling for good seems legitimate. This is also the kind of dream match that will get the Internet fans giddy with excitement. The outcome of this match could either cement Owens as one of the top wrestlers in WWE or be a hero’s welcome back for Bryan. If done correctly, it should be both.
6. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns
These two have been linked since their first day in WWE and undoubtedly could deliver a solid 20-minute match, or something at least better than their abbreviated Survivor Series match that was just getting going when it end. Like that match, fans will be split over which former Shield member they would like to see win. Anything other than the main event is a step down for Reigns (he headlined with Brock Lesnar last year) but if they did the proper build to the match, it could make people forget about the main event many didn’t think Reigns deserved in the first place. The two stories going into the match could either be two friends who are getting irritated with one another because they each think they’re better than the other or they could do two friends who have devolved into bitter, hateful rivals. Maybe the WWE Title is involved, but unless your name is John Cena, Rock, Undertaker or Brock Lesanar, you’re not at the top of this show. Either way, fans would want to see the two shake hands after the match, like they did at Survivor Series.
5. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boys
The Dudleys reappeared the night after SummerSlam and seem to be doing that last run in the big time victory lap that Vince McMahon gives some of his favorite talent who have been away for a while. Rumors have been swirling lately about the WWE being interested in a Hardy Boys reunion. Neither of these teams should be doing the kind of hardcore matches from the late ’90s that made them famous, but if you were to put Edge in one corner and Christian (who are coming back to WWE for a show on the network) in the other, you’ve got all the ingredients of the Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches together for the first time in over a decade. Yes, it would be a nostalgia moment, but these guys can also still go. Neither of these teams should be in the mix for the tag team titles at this point, but aside from making young guys look good, they could really contribute to WrestleMania by letting older fans relive the past and younger fans see what all the hype was about. Let these guys shine one last time and then put them both in the Hall of Fame in 2017.
4. The Big Show vs. Mark Henry – Retirement Match
Mark Henry has been hinting that he’s thinking about retirement and The Big Show consistently gets chants from fans begging him to retire. By the time Wrestlemania 32 comes around, it will have been eight years since the last retirement match was held between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. While Show vs. Henry certainly wouldn’t reach the level of excitement Michaels/Flair did, it would be a nice sendoff for whomever takes the loss. Both of these big men have been consistent presences in the WWE, with Show debuting in 1999 and Henry, who is the longest-termed wrestler in the company next to The Undertaker, debuting in 1996. Fans are not enamored with either of these wrestlers as they once were, and let’s admit, if you’re in a “retirement match” your best years are behind you. It doesn’t matter which wrestler takes the pinfall. When the referee’s hand hits the mat for the third time, you’re going to see a massive display of respect from fans who have appreciated both of these men’s work through the years. If Henry were to lose, he does it in his home state and gets the proper send-off. These are the kind of moments WrestleMania was created for.
3. Charlotte and Ric Flair vs. Nikki Bella and Ricky Steamboat
This match serves a few different masters. First and foremost, it’s a match that could be penciled in as being 25 minutes long, but could be cut down to 5 minutes if other matches are running long. It’s important to have this built in so there is no need to rush either of the last two bouts. Secondly, this would also allow Charlotte to team with her father one time in their careers, another built-in WrestleMania moment. The ladies would probably have to work most of the match, but after their quality match at Night of Champions in September, we wouldn’t mind seeing them again. Finally, it gives Steamboat, one of the top 3 stars of WMIII a spot on the card that will break the old show’s record. He can still go, as he proved in a mini-feud several years back with Chris Jericho, and Flair is easily Steamboat’s biggest rival, much like to this point, Bella has been for Charlotte.
2. The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar
This match was rumored to be on the drawing board a few years ago, but after Rock hurt himself in his second match with John Cena at WrestleMania, he hasn’t laced up the boots again. While this one match would probably cost more than any other one Vince McMahon has produced, imagine the amount of mainstream media publicity this will get. Rock vs. Brock – It’s a headline writer’s dream, and something the mainstream media will grab onto, which McMahon loves to do for WrestleMania. This is also the kind of match that will leave fans scratching their heads as to who those in power will have win. Do you allow Lesnar, arguably the most legitimate badass in wrestling history who still has time on his WWE contract, to take the victory or do you allow The Rock, easily the biggest crossover star wrestling has seen, to have his hand raised at the end of the match and likely end his in-ring career on a high note? Despite the likelihood of Paul Heyman to try and cast Lesnar as the heel in the match, fans would probably be into both wrestlers, screaming their heads off for the duration.
1. Undertaker vs. John Cena
Many fans think this match never happened, but it did occur on the Vengence pay-per-view in 2003, when The Undertaker was peaking as a performer and when John Cena was just coming into his own. These days, both are iconic first-ballot Hall of Famers. If this match were to happen, The Undertaker should be a surprise entry into the Royal Rumble in January and win the whole thing. For a month, promote The Undertaker vs. Whomever the Champ is at the Time. Then, shockingly, have Cena take the title at the February pay-per-view, leading to the surprise match-up fans have been wanting to see for years. Wrestling purists believe the Heavyweight Championship match should also always go on last, and be the most anticipated match on the show and this would achieve both of those criteria. Thankfully, the now-dead WrestleMania streak won’t dictate the automatic outcome of the match and if these guys pulled off the “I respect you” story before the match, fans won’t know which way this dream match would finish. Toss in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the special referee to get some extra Texas pops. This is also the best opportunity the WWE would ever have to pull the trigger on an idea that’s been floating around for years… where John Cena finally turns heel.