We’ve reached the magic number (or at least J.K. Rowling’s magic number) in this series right as we perhaps might be maybe possibly getting our first glimpses into WrestleMania 30. You might call me a fool for turning on my blinker when we’re still miles out from the Road to WrestleMania, but off the heels of WWE’s worst-reviewed pay-per-view of the year (at least by Canton standards), I can’t say I’m excited for any of the ongoing programs. Therefore, I happily turn my sights onto arguably premature WrestleMania speculation, because frankly, I think I’ll pry off my own fingernails if I have to type out “The Authority” one last time.

The Good

Shawn Michaels: No need for a creative heading. We’re talking about Shawn Michaels here. His name is a better heading than anything I could think up. It’s always great to see The Heartbreak Kid, especially now when he’s introduced as a much-needed dose of flavor to the Bryan/Orton storyline. I feel like Orton and Bryan have run out of things to say to each other since before Night of Champions. Granted, leading into Battlegrounds, Orton had been making promises to become the Viper of old, but until he starts punting old men and kissing corporate wives after dropping them on their heads, he’s just the same ol’ Orton of the past two years with a slightly angrier monotone. Bear in mind, I know we probably won’t see the punt anytime soon with WWE’s ban on the move, but the chair-assisted knee drop’s a poor substitute.

As for Shawn Michaels, I’m looking forward to see how he’ll challenge both Bryan and Orton on the microphone. I doubt that Michaels and Bryan will be acting all buddy-buddy. Like the ‘Taker-HBK-Trips promos leading into WrestleMania 27 and 28, I rather see him agitating both contenders, making Bryan hungrier than ever, drawing out some nuance in his articulated drive than the just-waiting-to-become-stale-and-mocked lines about wrestling in high school gyms and army barracks to get where he is. This is a legend they’ve introduced into the storyline. We can set our sights further than Bryan satisfying a childhood dream, which he’s technically already done. Show us the long-term ramifications. Let’s talk about legacy, about immortality; let’s talk about having a performance that’ll be recorded in the annals of WWE history. It’s all banal kayfabe lingo bordering on WWE marketing language, but if it didn’t sell WrestleMania wouldn’t consistently be WWE’s most profitable event every year. (That’s probably reductive, but shh.) We’ve already seen Bryan staring back at his dreaming childhood self and grinding his teeth as he struggled to climb the mountain of WWE stardom. I want to see HBK point him toward Olympus and say, “Aim higher, kid.”

Bryan and the Royal Rumble: There’s a rumor floating around that WWE’s considering Daniel Bryan for their 2014 Royal Rumble victor. As a D-Bry guy, I’d love for my all-time favorite to pluck that golden feather and secure it in his cap. However, we all know to take these rumors with a grain of salt, especially when we’re still months out from WrestleMania. However however, even if it’s a little early, isn’t the hype part of the fun? Even with Colorado leaves turning every shade of autumn (you know, when those leaves aren’t busy catching fire or being washed away in floods across the whole state) and Walmart replacing summer gear with aisles of costumes and candy, I can’t help sniffing the air and wondering when I might catch that first whiff of Christmas snow. And although I spent hours and hours and hours and hours ad infinitum enjoying the crap out of Skyrim, one of my fondest memories of the game is watching the announcement trailer at the 2010 Video Game Awards.

Daniel Bryan winning the Royal Rumble would be a belated Christmas present for me. Before Monday, I couldn’t imagine how WWE was planning on getting from point A to point B, but with HBK and the question, “Will he really be an impartial official?” lingering, I can imagine a few scenarios where Bryan is left without the title and therefore forced to scratch and claw until earning another opportunity at the Royal Rumble. So there’s a few pieces for his possible Road to WrestleMania, but we’re a ways out from solving the puzzle. However, with the weekly drudgery that’s been WWE’s early fall programming, I’ll happily indulge in any premature WrestleMania fantasy as video promos and ‘Mania moments dance in my head.

John Cena to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship: If I’d heard it prior to Raw, I would have said it was far-fetched at best and complete lunacy at worst. But here we are, although not without a reasonable helping of doubt. Personally, I’m fine with being led on if being led on I am; but I don’t see why they’d tease something like this. WWE’s certainly never deceived me before.

The main reason I’m interested in seeing this match happen is that close to nothing has been happening with the World Heavyweight Championship. Alberto Del Rio has somehow become a go-to world champion, despite my ardent protests that, if creative actually by chance heard, I’m sure they would treat with all the respect they show a fan’s confiscated sign. I’d feel naïve saying this is an opportunity to re-elevate the title for the long-term, but it could help in the short-term, especially if the aim is to have Damien Sandow cash in. Could you imagine a feud, albeit a transitional feud akin to CM Punk’s pre-WrestleMania rivalry with Dolph Ziggler in 2012, between Damien Sandow and John Cena? Who better for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses to redress for his intellectual shortcomings than the face of the WWE, best known for raps, wiener jokes, jorts and Fruity Pebbles? Sounds like a feud made in heaven to me. Again, I have serious doubt WWE will maintain this momentum for the World Heavyweight Championship division once they start gearing up for their WrestleMania programs, but it’ll at the very least breathe a bit of life back into our weekly programming. Plus, I remember Sandow and Cena having a pretty darn good match earlier in the year on either Main Event or SmackDown, so we might even be in for some good wrestling from a relatively fresh pairing. In my book, that’s something to look forward to, and at this point that’s all I really want: a bit of WrestleMania magic.

The Bad

Maybe not the best way to choose a number one contender: For some strange reason, not everyone shares my enthusiasm about John Cena challenging for the World Heavyweight Championship. Plenty of people are by default disinterested in anything Cena. Others are more understandably upset that they’d shoehorn him into a return title match without any occasion for it. It certainly doesn’t help that Vickie Guerrero announced the match on what appeared like nothing more than a spiteful whim. However, since I wasn’t really floating on the division’s current anyway, I’m glad for any bend in the stream. And although I agree it feels a bit flaccid to announce the match as if on the drop of a hat, I think WWE has plenty of time to recover, explaining how Vickie and Cena had already been in talks, how she’d needed a big match for his return and the opportunity just so happened to present itself, yadda yadda yadda. Personally, I’m fine without all that, ‘cause I get why they’re legitimately doing it and I’ll probably end up fast-forwarding through the kayfabe exposition should they air any. I’m just interested in the match and what it means for the division and ALSO (and this is a big ‘also,’ hence the capitalization and bold font) Damien Sandow.

The Ugly

Five-time, five-time, five-time less votes than Bob Backlund: Before I proceed, here are the standard caveats: yeah, I ‘unno how legit polls are; yeah, it’s just a poll; yeah, the wrestlers probably don’t even care; yeah, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Regardless, under the condition that the poll is an accurate reflection of fan voting, I wonder how Booker T felt getting five-times fewer votes than the 20-years-mostly-retired Bob Backlund. Maybe it lends some credibility to those reports showing 76-percent of fans are 21 or older, of which 57-perent are 35 or older. The latter’s prime age for growing up a Bob Backlund fan, though it’s definitely not a prime age for understanding how to use smartphone apps, or at least as my parents have shown. Maybe people just liked his suspenders or the charming, elderly smile on the ol’ “Howdy Doody.” In any case, for the much more contemporary Booker T, it must have been a bummer.



Nicholas LeVack is a double major in English creative writing and journalism whose interests include writing, wrestling, video games and occasional outdoorsy things. You can follow him on Twitter, email him at nalevack92@gmail.com and take part in his first venture into video game journalism at doublejump.co.