Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you under somber circumstances.  Going into Wrestlemania week, I had hoped that we happy few members of the NAIborhood would find nothing but frivolity and joy, but it seems, as with all things, we must take some time to be sad.

Today, we lay to rest one of our dearest favorites. . . Someone whom we thought might one day live forever.

Today, we say goodbye to the dearly departed Bray Wyatt.

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Mr. Wyatt came to the attention of WWE fans during my Lost Years, but even as only a very casual observer, I remember being puzzled by the then-named Husky Harris.  “The Army Tank with a Ferrari Engine” remains as one of the all-time dumbest nicknames I have ever heard in my life.  I knew he was the son of a legend, yet I also knew there was much more work to be done in order for this character to become a mainstay.  I was not surprised when young Husky disappeared from view.

My Lost Years became truly lost as the 2010’s rolled on.  Marriage and focusing on my career took precedent over reading RAW results and perusing news sites.  In fact, I believe I was unaware of the existence of this so called “Wyatt Family” until deciding that I would once again re-enter the wrestling watching fray with the debut of the WWE Network, and when I did, the man I knew as Husky Harris was literally and figuratively unrecognizable.  

Slimmer, shaggier and with a wardrobe that I believe was actually pulled from the Waylon Mercy collection, Bray Wyatt was a monster unlike few I had seen before.  Part Skinner, part Raven and yes, even part Undertaker, I drank the Wyatt Family Kool-Aid soon after our first meeting, and yes friends, that was without seeing any of their feud with The Shield.

I firmly believed that Bray Wyatt was a stone’s throw away from greatness.

In hindsight, I can not be blamed for this.  The man was in the midst of a feud with John Cena, multi-time world champion and face of the company!  Surely this was going to be the debut ball for Monsieur Bray, and when that demonic child sang to Mr. Never Give Up, giving Wyatt the win, I knew there had been the dawn of a new era in WWE.  

This was Bray Wyatt’s world. . . It was in his hands. . . We merely lived in it.

While he didn’t win the war with John Cena, I did not lose heart. Merely being in the ring, merely standing toe to toe with “The Face That Runs The Place” was enough.  His next target was Chris Jericho and with all due respect to Y2J, he was clearly a foe much more easily vanquished when facing the might of the Wyatt Family.  It is worth mentioning that he did, in fact, win that feud.  Bray Wyatt was on the periphery of the main event scene, and when Bray set free his Family, I knew this was a symbol; the heralding of Bray Wyatt’s arrival.

Bray’s next target was Dean Ambrose and in him, I believe Wyatt found a kindred spirit.  Both, I believe, were agents of chaos, as evidenced by the wildness of their matches.  One more, Bray Wyatt stood tall and once more, I knew this was the final hoop to jump through before ascending to the throne of the immortals.

Then came, as Michael Cole so often says, the turning point - Bray Wyatt challenged The Undertaker. . .at Wrestlemania.

Those of us still under the thrall of our Face of Fear leader danced in celebration - The Streak may be over, but the legacy of The Undertaker is without compare.  This could be the torch passing we had all expected - The symbolic movement from one WrestleMagic Phenom to another. 

For the next two decades, the world would tremble at the feet of BRAY WYATT!

Then he lost.  Badly.  Sure, we could blame the unfortunate injury Wyatt suffered mere days before Wrestlemania, and yes, Bray Wyatt still shared a ring with The Deadman on the grandest stage of them all, but this was a blow, without question.  If Bray Wyatt was not the next great supernatural wonder. . . Who was he?  We quickly learned that he was the man to take on Ryback, and if the loss to Taker didn’t begin to make you question your faith. . . This did.

Sure, Bray Wyatt defeated Ryback at Payback but what was he doing there in the first place?  This man challenged icons.  Legends.  Men far above, or at the very least on the same level as Bray himself. . . Now he chooses Ryback?  Skepticism reigned. . . Until...

Roman Reigns.  Those of us who questioned our savior once more drank from the cup of good tidings - Roman Reigns was the heir apparent to the title of “Mr. WWE.”  To feud with him, especially in the way said feud started, made us revel in the wonder of the feeling that Bray Wyatt was moments away from being the Piper to Roman’s Hogan, the Orton to Reigns’ Cena. He couldn’t be THE guy, of course, but being THE guy’s most hated rival is certainly a badge of honor.

Then he lost.  Again.  Once more, the excuses poured into our minds, but at the same time, we began to see them as excuses for the first time.  One can only take so many of the same kind of beatings before you begin to realize that the common denominator in all of them is YOU.  Were we wrong to put our faith in Bray Wyatt?  Was he not going to save us after all?

Members of our congregation, who had already began leaving in dribs and drabs, started to depart with more haste and vigor.  I held firm, though, especially when it seemed the feud with The Undertaker (and by proxy, Kane) would resume.  Once more, I allowed my rational brain to. . .well. . . rationalize.  “Of course, Undertaker can’t lose at 2 consecutive Wrestlemanias. . . This is where the torch passing will happen. Sure, it won’t have the same effect as it could have, but it will still be memorable.”

Then he lost.  AGAIN.  When next we saw Bray Wyatt and Family, they were feuding with Team ECW, a group of talents whose primes, with respect, were not in this decade. . . If even this century.

It was then that I had to make a hard choice.  I looked in the mirror and, perhaps for the first time ever, truly realized what Bray Wyatt was.

Bray Wyatt is, at his very best, a B+ heel in the WWE.

He can feud with the greats of his day, though he will rarely, if ever, come out victorious.  He will dominate the mid-card when it suits him, but the idea that he could truly climb to the top of World Wrestling Entertainment was a falsehood.  

The Golden Calf of the Wyatt Family was hollow all along.

I tried to make the best of it.  After all, not only am I the Pope of Positivity but I am also the Maven of the Mid-Card.  If Bray Wyatt’s ceiling was the IC and US title scene, I would be happy with that.

Then it happened.  The final nail in the coffin for the character of Bray Wyatt.

The Wyatt Family, in full costume, went to Wall Street and rank the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

There is no coming back from that.  You can not possess Wrestle Magic whilst in Midtown Manhattan.  Once you ring the bell at the Stock Exchange, there is no mystique to you anymore.  You’re just an unshowered man in hippie clothes who speaks in half-worked riddles.

At 9:30 AM on Monday, March 28, 2016, Bray Wyatt passed away.  He leaves behind multiple members of his family - Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan (please pay them a visit down in NXT sometime in the next few months) and, saddest of all, Luke Harper, who had to watch this travesty unfold while preparing for knee surgery.  I sincerely hope that Harper can be saved - In fact, perhaps the House of Harper can rise from the ashes of The Family of Wyatt. . . But at this point, can we even hope for that?

I can.  

I am the Pope of Positivity and I will try, as delusional as I may seem, to find the silver lining in all things.  I take solace in the notion that by the end of this calendar year, perhaps Luke Harper will get a chance to set his own course in World Wrestling Entertainment.  His talent is on par with the best in the company, and I believe he’ll get a chance to show it.  

As for the man formerly known as Bray Wyatt?  I believe, my friends, only days past the Easter holiday, that Bray Wyatt can be resurrected!  HE CAN BE SAVED!  However, he’ll need some help…

 

Dean Ambrose

deanambrose

Remember, they are kindred spirits, both agents of chaos.  They also have recently both caught the ire of one Brock Lesnar.  This sounds like the beginning of a Two Man Crazy Train to Suplex City, except just like in Batman Begins, the train is planning on blowing itself up, taking the city with it.   

Faces. . . Heels. . . I don’t think it would matter.  The combined insanity of Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose would be a joy to watch.  

 

Shane McMahon

ShaneMcMahon

Shane has repeatedly mentioned the problems in WWE, specifically the ones about the wrong guys getting all of the attention, while the truly talented ones get screwed.  Go back and read this eulogy again - HE’S TALKING (ALONG WITH OTHERS) ABOUT BRAY WYATT!

Plus, who is Shane battling?  The Undertaker!  It’s not like those he and Bray are chums!

Bray Wyatt helping Shane McMahon beat The Undertaker is, in my mind, WAY better than any Bullor / Ballet club storyline.  First of all, Wyatt is already a known commodity, which, and I’m sorry friends, Bullet Club is NOT.  People will recognize the T-shirts, but that’s about it.

Second, Shane has spent all this time talking about the guys currently in the company.  He has NO NEED to look elsewhere for help.  There should be a line out his dressing room door of guys willing to take out Taker in order to give themselves a better shot in Shane’s “New” WWE.

Now we come to my favorite one. . . Which, of course, means it is the most ridiculous.

 

Bo Dallas

raw-bolieve

I’ve been saying for months now that Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are far more similar than many of us choose to think.  Both were cult leaders in their own right - Bo Dallas, sadly, just never got the chance to amass a following.  They each preached in the power of their philosophies, which involved saving WWE from itself.

Why couldn’t they join forces - The yin and yang saviors?

If this idea doesn’t work for you, don’t worry, I’ve got another one - PUNT!  The gimmicks aren’t working, so trash them and give them new ones.  Let these boys embrace their kayfabe heritage as the sons of Irwin R. Schyster!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Harris Wyatt and Dallas Beau, the Rotunda Brothers!  Each has callbacks to their previous gimmick (in Bray’s case, his past 2 gimmicks) while also sounding extra snooty.  Put the hair in ponytails (or cut it short - let’s get CRAZY), dress them up in suits (with red suspenders in homage to Daddy) and let them have some fun!  Make them Authority lieutenants, put them in the tag division to feud with New Day, the Usos and Enzo and Cass. . .  I don’t care - Just do SOMETHING!

Put their real life sister Mika with them. . . BUT HER NAME IS ABIGAIL!!! ABIGAIL ROTUNDA!  SHE’S THEIR SISTER AND HER NAME IS ABIGAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

. . . . Ok, I might have gone too far with that one.

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Yes friends, Bray Wyatt is no more. . . But if WWE has taught us anything, it’s that one can never say never. . . and nothing is ever truly gone forever.

 

Shane McMahon Undertaker WWE WrestlemaniaTwitter is ablaze with comments about the latest developments in the Undertaker v. Shane McMahon storyline that is being built for WrestleMania this year. The most vocal portions of the audience are displeased with the overall direction of the angle, and every new development only seems to heap more fuel upon the already blazing IWC (Internet Wrestling Community). I'm just not so sure that this storyline is as bad as everyone wants me to think it is.

Just this last week on Monday Night RAW, another stipulation was added to the match at WrestleMania. Not only is Shane McMahon fighting for control of RAW, but now the career of the Undertaker is on the line.

Well, sort of. It isn't exactly clear whether the Dead Man's career is actually at stake. When Vince McMahon made the stipulation, he said that if Taker loses, then this will be his last match at WrestleMania. It is entirely possible based on the exact phrasing used that Undertaker could conceivably continue to work for the WWE if he were to lose his match against Shane. Just never again at a WrestleMania.

The IWC is pretty much at a consensus that this is a completely pointless stipulation. The detractors of the angle say that if Shane were to win the match, then Vince would be out of power and Shane could just refuse to fire the Dead Man. I personally don't think that this represents a large hole in booking logic. In my mind, there are a number of ways that this could develop that would all ultimately result in good storytelling.

First, why isn't it possible that Shane would not want to hire back the Undertaker? After all, Shane is nothing if not a fierce competitor, and Shane has given the Undertaker every opportunity to back away from this fight. To some extent, by agreeing to and participating in the match, I could easily see Shane's viewpoint that the Undertaker is sealing his own fate. Frankly, I think it would be uncharacteristic of Shane, acting as a face or not, to allow Undertaker immunity from Vince's stipulation.

The other possibility that I see lies in the subtleties of Shane's own stipulation. If he wins, Shane gets control of RAW. Although it has been said on air that this would essentially put Shane in control of the company, the key word in that statement is essentially. In reality, Shane would run RAW, but not the company. Unless the stipulation changes before WrestleMania, even if Shane wins, Vince McMahon continues to be the Chairman of the Board. That means that contract decisions still ultimately fall to Vince and that Shane would really have no say in whether the stipulation is enforced on the Undertaker.

Honestly, I actually like that latter scenario a great deal. If Shane wins at Mania, I see him coming out on RAW, dismissing Stephanie and Hunter from their roles as the Authority, and then attempting to reconcile with 'Taker by offering to drop the consequences of the stipulation. This provides an immediate and logical reason for Vince to assert his Chairman authority and cements Shane as a face in front of an extremely pro-Dead Man crowd.

Don't get me wrong, I don't love the storytelling that has been going on in regards to Shane v. Taker these last couple of weeks. However, I hardly agree that WWE Creative has "booked themselves into a corner" on this one.

Disagree? Register and leave a comment below.

-Doc Manson
@DocManson

For weeks, perhaps even months now, the WWE Universe has been wondering one thing…

Who will Undertaker face as Wrestlemania 32?

As time goes by, that question becomes even more fervent, especially since all the likely options seem to be dwindling faster than Titus O’Neil’s WHC chances. (Though as I wrote last week, I still think there’s a way to salvage this from a storyline, which then means a PR, point of view.)

So on a whim this afternoon, I began jotting down a list of potential opponents for The Phenom. Some of these are popular options I’ve seen online; some are completely original.  Well, technically I don’t think anything can count as original anymore, but some were created by me without getting help from the NAIborhood.

Therefore, I humbly present to you. . .

DC’s Dozen Potential Opponents for Undertaker at Wrestlemania

 

Group 1 - The Obvious Choices

Kane - With only 45 days until Mania, the timeline for storytelling is slim, at best.  With Kane, you have almost 20 years of history to use as fodder, so there doesn’t need to be much in the way of new tales told.  In fact, all you need to do is have Kane turn on Ryback and Big Show at Fastlane this Sunday, joining the Wyatt Family.  In the next week or two, Taker returns to save his brother, even if it means destroying him once and for all in the process.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Brock Lesnar - I know the smart money is on the aforementioned Wyatt Family taking out Lesnar during the main event of Fastlane, therefore leading to some version of Brock vs. Bray at Mania.  I do get that, but that storyline seems to have fizzled VERY quickly post-Rumble, to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE was just going to drop it entirely.

In my mind, Lesnar and Taker still have unfinished business.  I didn’t find the Cell match they had in October to be definitive enough to be the ending of their story - There needs to be some finality.  A handshake, a nod of mutual respect, or perhaps in this instance, the ending of a career.

Taker comes out to screw Brock over again, Heyman says Taker doesn’t have anything else worth fighting for, Mark Callaway puts his career on the line.  To paraphrase one Mr. Schiavone, that WILL put some butts in the seats.

Sting -  Once again, we all firmly believe that Steve Borden’s in-ring career is done, and while that’s likely true, it’s also possible he has one more match left in him, especially if it’s “The Battle of the Icons”

Undertaker comes out on the RAW after Fastlane and begins to issue an open challenge to the roster but before he can finish, Sting’s music hits and from the rafters (or as close to the rafters as WWE allows him to get), Sting points his bat ominously at The Deadman.

You know, these stories are pretty easy to write when you have a blank canvas to work with.

I know what you’re saying, “But DC, that’s a bit of a swerve right there, since Sting is technically on the published WWE roster.”  That’s true, friends, but this is WWE we’re talking about.  You’ve got to expect a swerve.

Speaking of which…

Group 2 - The Swerves

John Cena - Now I’ve gone to great lengths to explain why I don’t believe this is happening, and I still hold firm to that.  The injury was too severe, the timetable was too short.  Cena can cryptically tweet about gambles all he wants, but I doubt he’s going to seriously risk his career just for a chance at Taker.  Especially when he’s locked in to be Taker’s opponent at Wrestlemania 33, most likely.

However. . . In the effort of being an impartial broadcast journalist (just like Bobby Heenan), we should consider the possibility.  Undertaker comes out to make his open challenge, John Cena answers the call, shocking the world.  The Phenom vs. The Face that Runs the Place.  It’s a great storyline that would, like many of these others, not need a lot of extra work done.

So, it COULD happen. . . But I still say it won’t.

Randy Orton

I’ll give all the credit in the world to NAI’s ace producer Bill Neville for putting this idea in my head, because it’s a solid one.  Thanks, Bill.

Randy Orton is, or at least, he was, the Legend Killer.  Even with the Streak ended, Undertaker is THE legend of WWE.  Once again, the storyline writes itself.  Same Taker challenge, same surprise return, with the added wrinkle of Orton trying to avenge his loss from Wrestlemania 21.

Want to make it even more interesting?  Orton puts his own career on the line.  There’s been rumors that Randy is leaning towards hanging up his tights and punting boots in the near future, what better way to do so than by one more epic battle with The Undertaker?  Can you think of anyone else who deserves to put the RKO-master to bed?

Well, yes, if I may answer my own question.  I can, and that brings us to my favorite “swervy” option of them all.

Cody Rhodes

Some of you may scoff at the very notion of this statement, but be real with me, NAIborhood - More than a few of you just fanboy / girl-ed out at this very notion.  We’ve heard that Stardust is being put to bed, and if that’s the case, Cody Rhodes needs to return in a BIG, BAD way.  This is what does it.

I’m reminded of Taker vs. Jeff Hardy, back during the ABA days.  Even in a hard-fought loss, which it definitely would be, a fist-bump or quiet nod of accomplishment from Taker to Cody puts him right back on the path to stardom, which is where so many of us have long believed he should be.

Think about it.  It could work!

Group Three - The Reaches

Triple H - This is where the storytelling gets a little murky, folks, I admit it.  There’s not a great way to put these longtime foes back in each other's’ crosshairs.  Still, there’s history there, which makes life easier, and I’ve long thought that Undertaker’s last match should be winning the World Heavyweight Championship, and then retiring on top.

Quick aside to explain that logic - Yeah, sure, there’s a whole lot of power to be had if you’re the guy who retires Undertaker, but the only person who really deserved that honor was Bray Wyatt, and that ship has sailed.  Who else is going to do it?  Cena? (Doesn’t need it)  Owens? (Doesn’t need it - No, seriously, he doesn’t)  Finn-flipping Balor?  (Needs it but doesn’t deserve it.)   Nobody makes sense.

So don’t do it at all.  Let him win the title one last time and then retire as champion - The Big Dog still running his yard.

Plus, doing this allows you to once again take the pressure off of Roman Reigns (and, to a lesser extent, Dean Ambrose), allowing him to build at a more natural pace.

So what happens to the title?  Glad you asked.  Taker beats Triple H and wins the belt.  Maybe he retires the next night on RAW or maybe, in one final display of WrestleMagic brilliance, he pulls a Keyser Soze and disappears from the ring, leaving the belt behind.

We’re not going to have a tournament since we just had one a few months ago, but luckily, help is on the way.  It’s the Elimination Chamber, which took place at the end of May 2015.  We get a series of qualifying matches and a truly meaningful Chamber match once more, which crowns a new World Heavyweight Champion.

Wow.  That went WAY longer than I expected.  Time to move on.

Samoa Joe - I fully intended to write a column on how Samoa Joe can become the Ric Flair of NXT by winning the title during Wrestlemania weekend, and I do believe that to be the case.  Perhaps later.

If that doesn’t happen, Joe would make an ideal Undertaker opponent.  He’s got the size, he’s got the pedigree, he’s got the devil-may-care attitude that would allow an NXT superstar to step up and challenge the Deadman.  It would work.

But like I said, he’s going to beat Balor and dominate NXT in a way we’ve not seen since Big E Langston. . . If not even more so.  Still, nice idea.

Baron Corbin

I don’t recall quite what Corbin is booked to do during the Wrestlemania Takeover, and I’m glad for that.  #SpoilerFree, folks.  Regardless, it’s not the title match, so it could be more easily changed.

Again, this is a R-E-A-C-H, but like Joe, Corbin’s got the size and the attitude to be seen as someone who could feasibly stand toe-to-toe with Taker.  It would also be a great way to introduce him to the WWE roster.  Like with Cody, all he needs to do is look good in a loss, and his career is on the fast track to stardom.

I’ve begun to come around on Baron Corbin.  No, I don’t think this option is feasible, but it’s something I at least considered, whereas even 2-3 months ago, I didn’t want Corbin in a wrestling ring.   Marvel at the power of demanding someone go back to an independent promotion they were never part of in the first place.

Group Four - The Big What If’s

This group goes beyond even reaches. These are the pie in the sky picks.

Bill Goldberg - The biggest Goldberg mark we all know, one Jason Moltov, is the first person I saw floating this idea around, though it’s a fairly common rumor.  It would be The Battle of the Streaks, though a whole lot of work would need to be done on WWE’s part in order to educate the mainstream fans on who exactly Goldberg was and what his streak meant.  Thankfully, they have WWE Network, so I imagine they could do that pretty quickly.

Truthfully, I’m just putting this here because I want to see and hear the tears of joy from Moltov if this ever happens.

How would it work, story wise?  I’m not sure on all of the specifics, but it would help if you had Goldberg as a guest on a WWE Network show, to begin the education process and get the ball rolling. You know which one I’m talking about - The one hosted by the other bald guy with facial hair?

Stone Cold Steve Austin - This isn’t even pie in the sky, this is a chocolate souffle in the atmosphere type of pick.  I don’t think Austin has any intention of wrestling again, nor (if I’m being honest) do I think this match would be any good even if it happened.

Still, I doubt Vince cares about that - He just wants the marquee matchup to sell tickets.  And both of them are from Texas, which happens to be the home of Wrestlemania. . . And I suppose Taker and Austin never clashed at WWE’s Show of Shows. . .  So, it’s at least remotely possible. . .

You use Austin’s podcast to set this up, too, having The Undertaker as the guest and having them both talk about the potential matchup.  Both agree that it’s a ludicrous premise but there is some dissension between the two as to how it would end up - Each man claiming they’d be victorious.  One thing leads to another, and away we go.

I know, I know, it’s borderline impossible. . . Just wait until you see my last idea.

With this idea, we’re beyond Earth’s orbit now - This is a Baked Alaska on the Coldest Side of Neptune idea.  I mean, it is NEVER going to happen.

Let me trace my thought process for you - Undertaker has pretty much wrestled every big name in WWE / WCW history, save for some of the guys previously mentioned on this list.  There is no other name in any other American wrestling promotion who could feasibly live up to the name value of a Taker Mania match.

. . . Except Kurt Angle, who truthfully didn’t pop into my head until I wrote the previous paragraph. . . That’s how far TNA has sunk in my memory. . . So let’s make this a baker’s dozen!

So I began thinking internationally, and of course my mind immediately went to Japan.  Shinsuke was a possibility, but he has an NXT matchup, I believe, and whoever this is probably needs to be a one-time guy.  I considered Jushin Liger for a quick minute, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The Great Muta

While I lay no claim to having any puroresu expertise at all, what I can say is that Muta is, in my mind and I’m sure the minds of many others, the embodiment of WrestleMagic in Japan.  The entrance, the face paint, the mysterious multiple-colored mists.  He’d be the perfect choice to go up against Undertaker.

Now, Keiji Mutoh doesn’t work for New Japan - If my Wikipedia research is right he runs his own promotion called Wrestle-1.  If he owns it, though, he gets to make the rules, so I’m not sure if anything would stop him from his first WWE appearance.

He’s also a guy who definitely belongs in any wrestling Hall of Fame, so that helps.

And with a Global Cruiserweight Series, you’re going to want some Japanese talents.  If New Japan doesn’t provide them, Wrestle-1 could.  In fact, on the Wrestle-1 roster right now are Kaz Hayashi, Sakamoto and Yoshihiro Tajiri, three talents who have WWF / WCW experience.

The more I think about this, and I feel that the more you do as well, the more this starts to make some sense.

Undertaker vs. Great Muta at Wrestlemania 32.  That’s a 100,000 seat matchup right there.

---

What do YOU think?  Be Heard

Over the last few weeks, RAW ratings have been. . . Slipping is probably too casual of a word. . .Plummeting might be too harsh. . .Let's settle on declining, and its causing panic within WWE and questions and debate outside of Titan Tower.  The Twittersphere has been abuzz with potential problems and supposed solutions, and one of the most common ones is the idea that there just aren't enough "top stars" for WWE to build stories and content around.

This led to questioning the NAIborhood, asking them to pick 6 stars that they'd center their booking around for the next 4-6 years.  Since I always try to answer the questions I ask, I'm here to offer my own "A-Team".

Since it was my question, I can tweak it, so I decided to come up with a Top Ten. Unlike my usual lists, I'm actually going to rank them from top down, instead of building to number 1, and since I'm already working backwards, might as well put my overall thoughts and conclusions first.

Conclusions

Completely unsurprisingly, I went ahead and chose 10 guys (I limited myself to male talents, which was the original premise of the question I posed) with what I consider superior wrestling chops, assuming that the rest would take care of itself.  Probably a bold assumption on my part, as prior history shows (Hello Dean Malenko) that in-ring ability doesn't equal commercial success.

Having said that, I think all of these talents would and could succeed if creative and management bought into them and was willing to work to create compelling stories and aspects to their characters.  Since the question put me in charge of WWE, I can guarantee that would happen.

Notable omissions

Dean Ambrose, while he might have the potential to be the most captivating character in the company, doesn't have the ring work to back it up, which to me is a problem.  If this wasn't the PG era, I'd probably have included him in my list, as an "extreme" heel Ambrose would be must-see TV.

John Cena probably should be on this list.  In the next 4-6 years, he's going to be a major presence, and having him as a cornerstone of the company allows for other stars to become bigger because of him.  Having said that, it really wasn't in the spirit of the question to include him.  Sorry, John.

Apollo Crews was a popular choice by most of the NAIborhood participants, but he was never really an option for me.  I'm still not sold on him as a wrestler.  He's got some skills, no denying it, but I haven't seen him wrestle someone on his level, and that to me is a big thing.  Anyone can have a good squash match (well, that's not true, but let's go with it), but Crews vs. Breeze will go a long way of getting me on the Crews Ship for good.

Crews Ship?  Why isn't NXT running with this?

New Day could be the biggest thing to come out of WWE (besides maybe The Shield) in this decade, but since they are at their best solely as a combination of parts, it wouldn't make sense to include them.  Sure, I could have bent the rules, but I already expanded my list to ten.  I didn't want the hate mail.

Roman Reigns not being on this list proves that I did want at least a fair amount of hate mail, as I'm sure many people will be very put out he didn't make the cut.  Look, he's good, and he's getting better, but he is only ever going to be "OK" as a professional wrestler if he keeps relying on a stupid punch and an overplayed spear.

Bring it on, people.  I, like Roman Reigns should, will #EmbraceTheHate.

Number One - Seth Rollins

No question on this one, Seth Rollins is the best wrestler in either WWE or NXT and will likely remain so for at least the next decade.  He wrestled two matches at Night of Champions and looked. . . tired.  Not exhausted, not wiped out, not "blown up", just tired.  Like he just completed a moderate Crossfit workout.

He's going to be the biggest babyface WWE has had since vintage Cena in the next 12 months.  Count on it.  #PreDCtion

Number Two - Kevin Owens

There's a sizable gap between Rollins and the rest of the field, but Kevin Owens could make some headway catching up in the next 6 months, depending on how this IC run is booked.

Owens has supreme skills for a wrestler of any size, and the fact that he's not quite #BullFit only makes it all the more impressive.  A heel Owens and a face Rollins could main event MULTIPLE Wrestlemanias.

Owens is like Peter Pan.  He can fight, he can fly, and he can crow.  No wonder he was a consensus NAIDraft Top 3 pick.

Number Three - Cesaro

While already 34, Cesaro (and the wrestler that's next on this list) has the physical abilities and body type to wrestling well into his 40's, so I'm not worried about age.  Cesaro does things in the ring that I've never seen before on a regular basis, and that's ALWAYS going to make somebody special in my eyes.

I get the reasons he's not main eventing right now, but remember - in this hypothetical, I'M in charge, so Cesaro can be as Swiss as he wants to be, just as long as he lets me put all the money he makes me in one of his countries' lovely bank accounts.

Number Four - Finn Balor

Doc Manson and I have both gone on record during the NAIborhood Podcast in saying that we're not huge Balor fans.  The character needs work and I'm sick to death of the double stomp as a rule, but I've never denied he's a top shelf wrestling talent, and that's what matters.  We can tweak the Demon if we need to, or, as I really want to do, we scrap is completely and let Balor be Balor.

Number Five - Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn is only at this position (and possibly only on this list) because of the feud potential with Kevin Owens.  If I'm starting a wrestling promotion from the ground up and can cherry-pick talents from anywhere, Owens and Zayn are probably the first two guys I pick.  Even above Rollins.  Both are excellent wrestlers and their chemistry together is just perfect.  I can build stories around their on-again off-again friendship for years.

Number Six - Luke Harper

This is probably my #PieInSpace pick - the one that's way out there and probably will come back to bite me in the end.  Luke Harper is already 35 and unlike Cesaro or Balor, doesn't necessarily have the body type that can last into his 40's (although with that tank top on, maybe he does and I just don't know it).

I'm picking Harper because he is the best 'big man' (only 6'5") I've seen in ages.  He's super athletic, he can fly (and I don't even think we've seen his best aerial stuff yet) and he can brawl.  Any promotion I am in charge of has Harper as a main event talent, beard or no beard.

Actually, I've seen pictures of him without the facial hair - He needs the beard.

Number Seven - Kalisto

For those who don't know, I'm working on a long term project where I have pseudo-Fantasy Booked (some realism included) from Night Of Champions (my predictions, not the actual results) to Wrestlemania 32.   In my work, Kalisto goes from a tag team to a mid-card singles star, and if I expanded further (which would be a nightmare, don't make me do it), he's probably a main eventer.

A lot of people compare him to Rey Mysterio, and that's fair, except he's probably more athletic than Mysterio was in his prime.  I think Kalisto could be bigger than Rey.  #PreDCtion

Number Eight - Bray Wyatt

There's something about Bray Wyatt's ring style that makes me completely and utterly happy. Maybe its the way that he often just throws his sizable frame at people.  Maybe its because a lot of his moves look like car crashes, but unlike Foley's, hopefully won't shorten the length of time where he's able to walk well.

Bray is 28 (younger than everyone on this list but Kalisto) and a complete blue chip talent, in my book.  Bray vs. Rollins or Wyatt vs. Owens could last years and I'd love every second of it.

Number Nine - Neville

Neville was someone I debated for a while.  I love his in-ring work, even if its a bit formulaic at times, but I did have to spend a bit more time weighing that against his character / gimmick deficits than I did with the other guys on this list.

I'd have to go back and explore Neville's minor heel stint in NXT, where he was a little more arrogant and a little less. . . Dopey might be the right word.  That's a character I could work with.

NO CAPES!

Number Ten - Rusev

The damage might be irreparable in the real world of WWE, but I'm still a big Rusev supporter.  I'm a sucker, wrestling wise, for guys who I think look like me, size wise, yet can move around.  Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man, Amish Roadkill, Bray Wyatt, Rusev.

Put him back with Lana, drop the nationalist gimmick and just let him fight.  #FreeRusev

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That's it.  Ten talents who can have amazing matches night in and night out, even if I'm the only one watching them.

What do YOU think?  Who would you build around, and more importantly, why?  #BeHeard

Remember when Hulk Hogan and race in wrestling was all anybody could talk about?  You know. . . About 10 days ago?  How quickly things change in this social media world, for in less than a fortnight, we’re now talking about Piper (obviously, that would have happened no matter what), Ultima Lucha and some team that may or may not be called ‘Beef Mode’.

For those who wondered how Hogan survives the fallout of his released audio, the answer is in the previous paragraph.  Today’s society has a massive case of collective ADHD - We automatically move to the next shiny thing that captures our attention.  If Hogan were to disappear from the public eye for a while, only to come back in 18-24 months with a series of tell-all interviews, giving a total mea culpa for his actions and showing us that he is actively seeking forgiveness, a lot of people would break out the red and yellow boas and welcome him back with open arms.

It might seem ludicrous right now, but its true.  It could, and possibly will, happen.

Regardless, while most of the world is now too focused on the difference between the “fake” and the “real” forms of entertainment, there’s still the racial elephant in the room, specifically when it comes to how WWE responds in the coming days and weeks.  Tonight’s Roddy Piper tribute will offer an opening answer - We’ll see through the editing and clip selection how far away from Hogan the company will choose to go, but it’s even more than that.

While Vince McMahon & company have avoided the majority of the racial magnifying glass, at least with the mainstream media, they still should probably do something in response, and not just crown John Cena as the new World Heavyweight Champion, and thus the REAL American WWE flag-bearer.  If I’m on the WWE creative team, I’m trying to find the best way to put as much focus on African American talent as possible, and as much as I like them, I’m not talking about New Day.

Now is the time to start trying to build to the first ‘black’ World Champion in WWE history, and in this Chief of Staff’s opinion, there’s a talent currently on the main roster that could be that guy.

The Case for Titus O’Neil

I’ll freely admit, up until the Prime Time Players reunited recently, I didn’t have a high opinion of O’Neil as a wrestling talent, and based on the conversations I had on Twitter last night, there are a number of you that still feel the same way.  Take a look at his work thus far in 2015 (both in NXT and as one half of the PTP), though, and you’ll see there’s some workable talent there.

I’m not saying he’s the second coming of William Regal, or that he’s even on the level of Booker T, but Titus has shown he can be  a dominant ‘power-wrestler’ who can hold his own in a match.  Take a look at the history of World Champions (can you say Batista?  I knew that you could), and you’ll see that the description I just gave you is good enough for a title or two.  WWE will happily overlook a deficit in wrestling ability if you make up for it in other ways.

There’s far more than just talent to being a World Heavyweight Champion, otherwise Shelton Benjamin would have won about half a dozen or so during his WWE stay, as would Billy Gunn, Mr. Perfect, Tito Santana and, oh yeah, that Sandow guy. . .

Being the World Heavyweight Champion means you are an ambassador for WWE.  Besides John Cena, who has long passed the point of needing championships to define him, the WHC is THE public face of professional wrestling.  Seth Rollins was on The Daily Show last week, not Sheamus or Roman Reigns or even The Miz.  World champions appear on talk shows (I remember Kevin Nash going on Regis and Kathie Lee with his WWF title), they do promotional appearances, and they walk around in public carrying a large gold trophy.  Ring ability is not their only pre-requisite.

A World Champion needs to be eloquent, camera-friendly (that’s a very politically correct way of saying physically attractive), and preferably trying to make a positive difference.  In other words, just like Titus.

We’ve heard him on commentary verbally slapping JBL around - Titus can talk.  He’s a physically imposing specimen who smiles a lot and puts people at ease.  He’s been voted best Dad and he takes homeless people out to dinner.  He’s ALREADY one of WWE’s best superstars from a public relations standpoint.  He is, from a color blind viewpoint, the ideal talent to consider as a future World Champion.

I’m not willing to delve too far into the intricacies of the racial views of the folks behind the WWE curtain, so for the purposes of this column, I’ll assume that Titus would get serious consideration as a contender for the title.  So, our major question is. . .

How do you get Titus from his current position in the company to World Champion?

It can’t be too quick - If he randomly won the title in the next month or two, everyone would know EXACTLY what was going on.  This needs to be relatively gradual. . . In fact, the ideal scenario would be building Titus to his own “Wrestlemania moment”, which gives us 8 months to work with.  I’ve put on my fantasy booking hat, and sketched out a PPV schedule that I think could work.  Are there better options?  I’m sure there are, and I invite you to leave a comment with your own plan.

Summer Slam

- Prime Time Players lose their titles to New Day in whatever multi-team match they’re planning.  In my head, New Day cheats (obviously) to get their belts back, causing even more bad blood between the tandems.

Night of Champions

-  Titus and Darren, extremely frustrated at how New Day used their three man advantage to win, sets out to end the trio tyranny, challenging the Positive Power to one more match at NOC.  The stipulation?  The losing team must disband.

New Day wins, of course, because this group is amazing and must remain together, and this forces the split between Darren and Titus.  In a perfect world, Darren Young goes on to get a solid mid-card push while also being able to address being the first openly homosexual wrestler in WWE, but that’s another column.

Hell in a Cell

-  Titus begins his singles run and almost immediately falls into conflict with Big Show.  Hate him if you must, but there’s no denying that a win over Paul Wight is almost always the first step towards main event status.  Cena did it, Reigns did it, and frighteningly enough, Ryback’s going to do it.

Titus battles and defeats Big Show at HIAC, sending Titus into the upper mid-card.  This leads us to. . .

Survivor Series

- In an actual Survivor Series elimination match (shocking, I know), Titus, along with Ryback and the recently promoted team of Enzo and Big Cass, takes on Big Show, Rusev, and a team I’ve had in mind for quite a while now, King Barrett and a newly heel Neville.

Titus is the sole survivor of this match, overcoming 3 on 1 odds by defeating Big Show, Neville and finally Rusev all on his own.  Rusev attacks him after the match, however, which takes us into. . .

TLC

and a “Bulgarian Brawl” - basically a No DQ streetfight between Titus and Rusev, who obviously is back to being a monster, and not just a funny fishmonger.

Since I can’t fantasy book one guy without fantasy booking others, I’m going to say that Rusev wins this match, just barely, although TItus continues his strong showing.  He definitely doesn’t tap or pass out to The Accolade - I’ll say the two of them wind up crashing through a table somehow, and Rusev manages to drape his arm over Titus.

Royal Rumble

- Entering somewhere in the middle (14th?  17th?), Titus is one of the more dominant participants in this year’s Rumble, eliminating multiple guys, including Rusev, earning a little bit of payback from his loss at TLC.

Dominant participants are the name of the game this year, as Titus, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns all have single handedly eliminated more than 5 men.  They are so strong, in fact, that the three of them are all alone in the ring before all 30 men have entered the Rumble.

In fact, we’re just about to see who drew Number 30. . . The buzzer goes off, there’s a little bit of silence, and then. . .

Sami Zayn, making his return to ring action and his official WWE debut, sprints to the ring, springboarding off the top rope and diving onto Kevin Owens, enacting just the beginning of his revenge for the NXT events of 2015.  The two of them wind up brawling with such fervor and fury that they eliminate each other, continuing to fight all the way backstage, setting the scene for their Wrestlemania clash.

That leaves Titus and Roman Reigns. . . The same Roman Reigns who won last year’s Rumble, the same Roman Reigns who has spent the last 12 months fighting and clawing his way to the top, overcoming overwhelming obstacles and finding respect and admiration from the fans of World Wrestling Entertainment.

And then Titus tosses him out. . . Fairly easily, I might add.

Roman snaps, as we’ve all been hoping he would, and the Samoan Savage is unleashed, taking out Titus, maybe even dusting off the powerbomb and putting O’Neil through the announce table.

I’m taking way too long for this booking, so moving quickly through 2016. . .

Fast Lane

- Titus vs. Reigns, not for the chance to go to Wrestlemania, just because they hate each other.  Steel cage match, and a brutal one at that.  Much like TLC, this is another chance to showcase Titus’ bona fides as a main event star, but just like TLC, Roman gets the win, escaping the cage mere seconds before Titus can climb out.

Regardless, as winner of the Rumble, Titus heads to. . .

Wrestlemania

to take on the World Heavyweight Champion.  I considered Lesnar as the champ, but Jason Moltov is right, the next person to beat Lesnar needs to be, really and truly, the Next Big Thing, and at 38 years old, Titus isn’t that.

(In case you’re curious, in this alternate universe I’d have heel Reigns exact some revenge, beating a face Lesnar)

No no, the champ really needs to be John Cena for this to work.  Being the first African American champ is amazing unto itself, but doing so by beating THE superstar of WWE. . . That’s really something.  It’s an unspoken signal that the race problems in WWE, while they might still exist, have overcome their biggest hurdle.

Wrestlemania 32 ends with Titus O’Neil’s children in the ring with him, celebrating.  John Cena shaking his hand and raising his arm to the Dallas faithful.  The ring is filled with wrestlers who have come to congratulate the new champion, of all races, though Darren Young chief among them.  The Prime Time Players embrace in the middle of the ring, doing the Millions of Dollars dance one more time, but this time Titus has the World title on his shoulders.

And, just for fun, we’ll have Darren Young as the US champ as well.

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Will it happen?  Sadly, I doubt it.  WWE is set in their ways, and I mean more than just race when I say that.  Roman Reigns looks to be THE guy in 2016, and if not him it’ll be Kevin Owens or maybe even Cesaro.  I don’t think many of us would complain if that was the case.

But, the fact remains, Titus O’Neil COULD be a World Heavyweight Champion.  He’s got the tools, he’s got the look, and, as you just read, he could have the story.

What do YOU think?  Could Titus be the first?  How would you book it?  Be Heard.

One of the less-talked about aspects of the “Attitude Era”, mainly because it wasn’t very exciting to most people, was the ‘gang warfare’ that took place in the late 90’s.  I’m obviously not talking about the nWo or DX here, rather the feud between the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas and the Disciples of Apocalypse.

Now if two of those stables are completely unfamiliar to you, I wouldn’t be surprised - as I said, it’s not necessarily a hallmark of the era, but I loved it, solely because as anyone paying attention knows, I’m a big stable fan.  I think there should be stables all the time, so naturally, I crafted a What If Wednesday that goes along perfectly with that.

What if “Gang Warfare” happened again in WWE, but on a much larger scale?

Today I’m mainly focusing on the WWE roster.  You’re welcome to make your own version, or do an NXT edition.  All fair game.

For those who follow along with me on Twitter, many of these will not come as a huge shock to you.  All set?  Good, on with the show!

The Wyatt Family - Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Bo Dallas and The Ascension

Besides the Authority, we’ve gotten away from the “mega” stable, and this would rectify that.  As I’ve spoken about repeatedly, Bray and Bo would be the double headed leaders of this group, though obviously Bray would get more of the main event push.

Truthfully, if I was running this, Bo would be more of a manager than anything else.  He’s capable enough in the ring, but it’s on the microphone where he does the majority of his best work, so I’d stick with that.

Bray goes after the World Title, Harper is the mid-card belt contender and The Ascension could handle the tag titles.  Rowan would be the silent muscle, like if Mr. Hughes wore a sheep’s mask.

World Elite - Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Natalya, Rusev and Kalisto

Yet another one of my favorite ideas, though adding Kalisto was a last-minute thing for me.  He’s going to eventually get a major push beyond just being a Lucha Dragon (provided he doesn’t keep having issues like he did at Elimination Chamber), and this could be a fun fit for him.

As much as I love KiddAro as a tag team, this really would need to be Cesaro’s time to shine, though I imagine Rusev might have something to say about that.  Also, and not surprisingly, I’d want there to be a cruiserweight division so that Kidd and Kalisto could have something to do besides being the undersized underdogs.

The Samoan Swat Team - Roman Reigns, the Usos and Tamina

We’re taking slight artistic license here, since Snuka is from Fiji, not Samoa, but I imagine Vince wouldn’t care about that.  He had a Bulgarian Russian, he can have a Fijian Samoan.

Reigns is going to turn heel at some point and when he does, having him lead a group would be a good step forward.  He wouldn’t even need to change his ring gear for this - everyone else would just start dressing like him.  I think this trio (quarter, including Snuka) could be fun.

And no, since you’re asking, I wouldn’t put Samoa Joe in this stable.  I’m not sure he’ll be around long enough to be in a group of any kind, but that’s another article.

Team Gorgeous - The Miz, Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae

You could go a lot of different ways with members for this group.  Ziggler, Adam Rose, Fandango, all would make sense.  I’m choosing these three because it all fits together right now, and I have other plans for the other guys.   If you wanted to add one of them, I wouldn’t be offended.

Rather than a stunt double here, Breeze becomes Miz’ protege, and we don’t wind up seeing dissension in the ranks for a long time.  Breeze and Summer have been rumored to be a duo when Tyler gets his WWE call up (which should have happened months ago) and Miz and Summer have the movie connection, so it all makes sense.

What am I doing with Ziggler then?  I’m glad you asked.

The currently unnamed ‘Frat Boy-esque” stable - Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger and Curtis Axel

This whole idea stems from my belief that Swagger looks like every 80’s movie college bad guy in history.  I imagine him in a varsity letter jacket or a sweater vest.  While this wouldn’t be Mean Street Posse 2.0, it would harken back to the days of Pete Gas and Joey Abs.

While Ziggler got top billing above, I’d really want this to be Cody’s group.  (I’d also make Ziggler go back to a brown crew cut - No more showoff!)  Swagger and Axel could be the tag team, Ziggler would handle the IC belt and Cody could finally ascend to the main event picture.

New Day - Same as it is now

This group is so good I’m not touching it.  Keep on keepin’ on, boys.

The NXT Invaders - Adam Rose, Fandango, Heath Slater, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder

Frustrated that all these NXT guys keep coming up to WWE and “taking their spots”, this gang heads down to Full Sail to take out their aggression on these “young upstarts”, while hopefully also redefining their own careers at the same time.  This is cheating a little, as I wouldn’t have this group in WWE at all, but I just wanted to mention it.

The Kingdom United - King Barrett, Neville, Paige, Sheamus

A little dig with the name on the ROH Kingdom stable, and if I’m being honest, I just came up with it about 12 seconds ago, so its a title in progress.  Barrett needs a group to “rule” in order for this King thing to be more than just a jobber in a cape, and these guys would all work well together.

Plus, you leave the possibility open for Finn Balor and Becky Lynch to come up and join sometime in the future, leading to all sorts of possible shenanigans.

Los Boricuas 2.0 - Primo, Epico and Carlito

Each time I see the Matadors, I cry a little inside.  Both these guys are talented, but they’re floundering right now.  They need a change.  They need new attitudes.

They need an apple spit in their face.

This is the only time I’m bringing in a new superstar, though it’s technically an old superstar being brought back, but if I’m WWE, I’m signing Carlito and letting him smack the masks off his relatives faces.  I don’t want them becoming bandana waving, bicycle riding thugs, but I do want them being proud of their heritage and standing up for themselves on this roster.

It’d be cool.

Team WWE (aka the CeNation) - Cena, Ryback, Sandow, Big Show, Prime Time Players

A catch-all to get more guys on the roster, I imagine that with all this craziness happening, Cena would want to unite some folks to be able to stand as one, fighting to save WWE from being overrun by these mobs.  Pretty much take any wrestler not listed above and they’d fit here.  Big Show could turn face (he’s good at that) for a while, and I’d have Sandow be the standout, naturally.

Alright, only one stable to go, and this is just a toss-in to try to break the internet and get all your money.

The Sword - Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens

While The Shield tried to save WWE, this group is trying to destroy it.  Just imagine these three cutting a promo together.

You’re welcome.

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What do YOU think?  What changes would you make?  How would you stable-ize WWE?  Be Heard.

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