By John Napolitano
The fifteenth year of the first century, within the second millennium Anno Domini is already underway, and that means the atmosphere, once again, is going get hectic in World Wrestling Entertainment. Every New Year in the WWE brings about an exciting stretch of innovation and content creativity known as the Road to WrestleMania. This exciting time period takes place between late January and late March in order to generate optimal excitement for the “Show of Shows,” the “Granddaddy of them All,” and the “Showcase of the Immortals,” WrestleMania. Seeing as though we are on the precipice of the Road to WrestleMania, I see no better opportunity to ponder, nay, demand what contests should take place on the biggest stage in entertainment, WrestleMania XXXI.
The year 2014 was a year of transition for World Wrestling Entertainment. A handful of Superstars, such as Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Rusev, and Roman Reigns, have been scratching and clawing for the proverbial upcoming main eventer spot that was vacated by an injured Daniel Bryan at the start of the year. Daniel Bryan cemented his name as the next top guy at WrestleMania XXX, but an untimely neck injury left him on the shelf for the remainder of 2014 and left us with yet another year of Randy Orton, Triple H, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar running the show. I wish to take nothing away from these future Hall of Famers, but their combined presence made 2014 feel more like 2004. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that a new main event caliber Superstar be created every year, but combined and individually, Randy Orton, Triple H, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar have participated in nearly every WrestleMania Main Event since WrestleMania XVIII in 2002 (Aside from WrestleMania XXIV in 2008 and WrestleMania XXVI in 2010). It is more than time to harvest this young crop of talent and have them takeover as the future of World Wrestling Entertainment. Without further ado, I present the three matches we need to see this year at WrestleMania XXXI.
Randy Orton and Seth Rollins have had their fair share of tension, and then some, ever since the disbanding of the S.H.I.E.L.D. and Rollins’ jump to The Authority in June of 2014. Monday Night Raw simply has not been big enough for the two of their egos, which is what led Seth Rollins to turn on Randy Orton in early November. Orton has not been seen on television since this brutal bashing at the hand of Seth Rollins. Undoubtedly, Orton will be gunning for the “Undisputed Future of the WWE,” Seth Rollins, upon his return later this month. These two Superstars could put on an awesome bout at WrestleMania with superb spots, amazing aerial action, and a fantastic finish. This program might just have the most history behind it out of any of the other potential WrestleMania programs, as it dates back to June, which is why we need to see this match happen at WrestleMania XXXI. The outcome of this contest does not matter. If Orton were to claim victory, Rollins would simply move on to cash in his Money in the Bank contract soon after. If Rollins were to claim victory, it would surely emphasize his ascension to the top of the mountain.
The United States Champion and Russian Renegade, Rusev, has been on a total path of destruction since debuting the night after WrestleMania XXX. He has yet to be pinned or submitted in one on one competition. I only see it fit that this ultimate superpower goes one on one with the face of the WWE, John Cena; however, this match can be in no way reminiscent of WrestleMania XXX when John Cena defeated the “Eater of Worlds,” Bray Wyatt. If Rusev is to cement his legacy as the most vitriolic of villains, then he will, without question, have to vanquish the “Leader of the Cenation,” as there is no logical reason for John Cena to defeat Rusev. I feel that these two forces can put on a better performance than Cena and Wyatt, and tell a better story in the process. If John Cena really wanted to give back to the business, this bout could be even contested for the United States Championship in order to give the title significance. Rusev is definitely ready for that final push into the spotlight, and a victory over John Cena will be more than enough to get him there.
Ever since I witnessed Daniel Bryan’s phenomenal promo on the final Monday Night Raw of 2014, it has been my sincere and honest opinion that there is no one else in World Wrestling Entertainment who should take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship off of Brock Lesnar other than the “G.O.A.T.” This is the same man who just one year ago overcame The Authority, wrestled two five-star matches in one night, and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Albeit, Brock Lesnar’s utter dominance of the Undertaker and John Cena in 2014 makes it hard to envision Daniel Bryan successfully besting the “Beast Incarnate,” but if there was ever an underdog to get behind, it’s Daniel Bryan. This year, it is Daniel Bryan’s turn to win the Royal Rumble and head into WrestleMania XXXI with his sights set on Brock Lesnar. This will give Daniel Bryan the ultimate credibility and make it feel as though the WWE is not just trying to manufacture new stars every year, but really willing to invest in Daniel Bryan. If CM Punk could put on a competent bout with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2013, then Daniel Bryan could do the same. I do not know how, but I know for a fact that Daniel Bryan needs to beat the “Beast.” Of all the potential directions to take on the Road to WrestleMania, this route must be taken, and we need to see this match at Levi’s Stadium this March at WrestleMania XXXI.