”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE’s top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Let’s presume that Brock Lesnar’s boring act is off the table, what would you like to be the Universal Title match at WrestleMania 35?
As I stated this week on The Doc Says podcast, WrestleMania 35 will be my final night actively using the pen name “The Doc” Chad Matthews. For the better part of fifteen years, I have been writing for this website, interacting with many of you for that entire period but, after finishing this latest book and constantly assessing where I’m at as a wrestling fan these past several months, I have decided that I am ready to go back to being more of a normal viewer, to watch wrestling again like my daughter has begun to watch it and, in the midst of doing so, explore other interests with the 4-7 hours per week that I spend writing columns or recording podcasts (and the requisite wrestling viewing that comes with them).
Between now and then, I will be finishing my collaboration with Samuel ‘Plan on the New Generation and writing three other series that I have always wanted to write. So, there will be no shortage of content from me these next eight months as I begin to make the transition away from analytical critic.
For the first of what I’m sure will be several times between now and next April, I want to thank you, and I really want this thank you to speak directly to you if you are reading this. God, it has been such a blast doing this. I’ve spent my entire adult life writing here. If you had not taken the time to read and comment, there is absolutely no way that I would have kept doing this for so long. I have said it repeatedly over the years, but the discussion that has come from my columns and podcasts was the fun part. We have argued with one another (especially more recently), we have rejoiced together, and I would like to think that we have broadened each other’s horizons since May 2004. You know, when my dad passed away in 2012, the one comforting thing about it was that we knew it was going to happen, so we had time to say goodbye, and I have carried that lesson into other aspects of my life since; I want to have that opportunity with you too, ladies and gentlemen. I intend to make the most of my remaining time sharing this space with you.
So, as for today’s topic, any of you that have conversed with me consistently over the years know that WrestleMania is the event that for a very long time was my yearly fandom renewal source. Recent years have not kept that tradition going, honestly, but the hope remains – especially given what WrestleMania 35 will mean to me as Chad Matthews V1 turned CMV1 turned Dr. CMV1 turned “The Doc” – that the grandest stage’s return to MetLife will bring with it a transcendent WrestleMania that segues my diehard enthusiasm for WWE to a new stage rather than ushers me further toward the desire to just be a casual, occasional viewer. I have an idea of the kind of WrestleMania that I would like to see and that also blends elements of what WWE has clearly made apparent is its Show of Shows priority.
Here we go…
Kevin Owens © vs. Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship
I think Balor’s niche at shows like WrestleMania will be finding a spotlight somewhere that reminds everyone what he can bring to the table, which is to say that I think WWE understands that he has value. Owens, regardless of recent booking, has established a bit higher of a ceiling for himself, while showing continuously that he can be utilized anywhere from the main-event to the mid-card. I could see KO getting a match with someone like Triple H just as easily as I could see him involved in a multi-man Ladder Match. This spot would be good for both parties and add something to this card comparable to what KO offered in 2016 and 2017 at Mania. In this scenario, I envision “The Demon” making its WrestleMania debut to capture the gold Balor had been chasing for a while.
Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles
The verbiage that has been the highlight of Orton’s promos since his recent heel turn seem likely to eventually put him on a path to The Phenomenal One, who fits the sort of high flying, flippy move rhetoric as well or better than its current target, Jeff Hardy. Really, the only question is when Styles and Orton will face each other and, given their media interviews since 2016 that have stated a mutual desire to work together, WrestleMania seems as likely as any other event to host their first PPV encounter. In this scenario, I see Orton being the catalyst for AJ losing the WWE Championship to The Miz around or at the Royal Rumble. This would be a potentially awesome match to close out the first hour, playing a similar role as Orton-Rollins, Styles-Jericho, KO-Y2J, and Asuka-Flair in recent years.
Samoa Joe © vs. Big E (w/ The New Day) vs. Cien Almas vs. Rusev for the United States Championship
Given WWE’s disinterest in pushing tag team wrestling in recent months, I am guessing that the spot for several relevant talents to get put onto the main card next year will again revolve around the United States Title. This time around you might actually have a mix that gels and delivers something quite show enhancing.
Becky Lynch © vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
With Lynch’s recent shift in character dynamic, the door has been kicked wide open for Asuka to eventually combine with her for another huge match between icons of the Revolution. Questions may surround the time and attention that this match would receive, but if it got an opportunity comparable to the Jax vs. Bliss saga this year, then there is no question that Lynch vs. Asuka could create a sleeper hit on the under-to-mid-card. This would be one of the most anticipated women’s matches in recent memory.
John Cena vs. Rey Mysterio
The part-timer section of my proposed card will be kept brief this year, mainly because I feel like with Rousey excelling, WWE should simply feel less of a need to rely on the past. That said, you know they are going to heavily factor part-timers onto this card and Cena vs. Mysterio is one such combination from yesteryear that still very much strikes a chord with me. At one point in the build up to Mania 34, there was a rumor that WWE wanted to do this match if Taker decided he did not want to participate. Personally, I’m all for it – at least with the partial acceptance on my part that we have to deal with a part-timer quota. I always wanted to see them wrestle a pay-per-view match and, if Cena is on this card, I would much rather him have a shot at a legacy-enhancing performance than a goofy segment segueing to him getting squashed or a mixed tag team match segueing into an engagement proposal.
Pointless Undertaker segment
The Deadman will take up thirty minutes of the show. It is one of the great constants of WrestleMania unfortunately. I figure the only way to avoid such time wasting will be to see Taker be part of the Hall of Fame class, then all we would have to endure is another walk to the ring and some posing, but at least there would not be a convoluted Raw type segment leading up to it. (FYI, Taker’s last three Mania appearances have been signs from the universe begging him to go away, but he never listens and, yeah, I’m getting a little bitter about it in my own advancing age…)
Kurt Angle vs. Drew McIntyre (w/ Angle’s career on the line)
Here is my complete shot in the dark choice. As of right now, The Rock is the only rumored part-timer in talks for a WrestleMania 35 match, but Batista (vs. HHH = yawn) and Lesnar (vs. anyone but perhaps Batista = yawn) are certainly ones to keep an eye on. If Mysterio is treated in that legendary role instead of the above three and Rock finds a non-wrestling spot, then you are basically ensured of a match involving either Shane McMahon (no thanks…ever again) or Angle, who I think has performed admirably well despite clearly being a shell of the wrestler we remember. Meanwhile, if WWE is not extremely high on McIntyre, then I would ask, “Why not?” Drew is in his prime – he is a younger version of early decade Sheamus with a higher upside. Slap the career stipulation on this bad boy and let that young man go to work (for the record, I think the Jason Jordan story, if JJ ever comes back, will be dropped, but if it is not, then Jordan fits here too).
Triple H vs. Braun Strowman (w/ The Rock as special guest referee)
Honestly, this does not excite me, but when building my card around the Raw main-event and not feeling confident about the presence of some of the usual suspect part-timers, Strowman and HHH seem to fit together. There is a history between them, we confidently can state that The Game will never miss a Mania spotlight (and maybe he shouldn’t), and it feels like this might the year that Braun’s profile will be elevated on the grandest stage. The thing that weighs down my interest is that Trips has never been particularly awesome opposite opponents who are bigger than he is, but potential nevertheless remains for it to exceed my expectations. If The Rock were added in as a special referee, then it would give him a more engaging role than just showing up to cut a promo and his presence would further elevate Strowman, which should basically be the point of this entire exercise anyway.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz © for the WWE Championship
If Bryan vs. The Miz makes it all the way to WrestleMania, then I will be very enthusiastic about watching them compete for the WWE Title and giving Bryan that cathartic moment to complete his comeback, but by now you know that I base many of my predictions on precedent…and it would be unprecedented for a singles match that featured heavily into the Summerslam of one year to be repeated for the following year’s WrestleMania. That said, if Team Bryan gets the better of Team Miz at Hell in a Cell, then there would be enough of a potential feel good moment to buy WWE the remainder of 2018 to distance them from one another so that Bryan and Miz could then work themselves into the main-event in the first quarter of 2019. So, with all of that in mind, I am not as optimistic that Miz vs. Bryan for the WWE Title will happen at MetLife as everyone else and I think that everyone should prepare themselves for something different, but it remains a distinct possibility and I’m excited to watch the Smackdown main-event story unfold.
Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey © for the Raw Women’s Championship
I went on record earlier in the year in stating that this is my presumed WrestleMania main-event for next year and, to be honest, I would still call it the frontrunner for that distinction. If they do run the MMA vs. WWE Four Horsewomen match at Survivor Series, then the historical ante will have been raised that much further for Flair vs. Rousey, making them that much more likely to be put in the final spot at the biggest wrestling show on earth. This is gold, in my opinion; Rousey has been the smash hit of the year for WWE in 2018 and Flair, regardless of her face/heel dynamic, is her ideal opponent.
Main-Event: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns © for the Universal Championship
WWE has an interesting opportunity on its hands, here, and I hope they can disassociate their passion for part-timers in the most important WrestleMania positions long enough to see what they have in another Shield triple threat. The best thing about this most recent Shield reunion is that it sets the stage for Ambrose turning heel to drift from our minds a little bit, allowing his eventual, still-presumed turn to the dark side to be more emotionally gripping and less predictable (like it would have been at Summerslam). It is entirely possible, then, that WWE would be able, through this match, to combine the tweener intrigue from a maniacal Lunatic Fringe with the nuclear heat from a lengthy Roman title reign and the increasing popularity of The King Slayer. A guaranteed all-time classic would logically ensue.