Saturday, July 9, 2016

Our Freedom Begins in Faith.

"So I need to believe in God in order to be liberated from economic destitution?"

If you associate faith squarely and solely with religion, or even squarely or solely with God, then you misunderstand faith, and you misunderstand human beings.

Faith is complete trust and confidence. Not blind trust, not absolute trust, but complete trust. Not, "I follow you because you know better than I", but moreso, "I walk with you because I, while whole in and of myself, am made stronger through my bonds with you." And that kind of faith can be had in other human beings, in ideals, not just in religion, not just in God. Faith is an acknowledgement of human flaw, coupled with the will to persist. Human beings are hardwired for faith, and for good reason: faith gives us strength when it is impossible to be strong. Humanity would have expired long ago if not for faith. Belief is our greatest asset, and to wield it yields this: power.

Money, the lifeblood of our American economic system, is an accepted trading chip on the good faith of citizens. I exchange paper money for goods not because paper money is itself valuable, but because we collectively, and implicitly, trust in the government that issues it. Our society is fundamentally organized around faith, around trust. That trust is regularly violated, but we mustn't ever lose faith in ourselves, or in each other. We must place our faith in worthy ideals, and our faith will carry us when our legs cannot.

But trust, and faith by extension, doesn't exist in a vacuum. Trust is built through experiences. And our experiences in America, particularly the experiences of Black Americans, of poor Americans, of homosexual Americans, of gender nonconformist Americans, etc, are colored with mistrust. And that mistrust often translates into the threat of, and often the execution of, violence.

Not long ago, actor Jesse Williams spoke on this broken trust, and mentioned documented instances of police brutality. When many applauded his words, some raised a question: "Why is this black man receiving more attention than other black men who deliver the same message?"

Never mind the issues inherent in the assumption that only black men spread this message, those questioners were answered by this thought: the medium is what afforded Williams a greater audience.

I completely agree that the medium, TV, is the only reason Jesse Williams had a bigger reception than say David Banner, or Dr. Umar Johnson. But the rebuttal is: "Well, how did Jesse get the nationally televised platform? Why don't Dr. Johnson and Banner have it too?" The answer to that is that Jesse worked for it, and that Dr. Johnson and Banner haven't shown enough public interest in that platform. But even there, you'd run into people saying: "Jesse may have worked hard to get where he is, but his light skin made the path easier."

And that's what makes colorist thinking hard to overcome: there are grains of historical truth in it. Never mind for a moment the fact that those grains were seeded by a supremacist power structure, and acknowledge those grains as partial truths. Yes, the colorist thought process itself is badly flawed, but there's just enough truth in it that people can hold it up as an answer and not be completely wrong. Colorism isn’t what allowed for the reception Williams' words got, television is, but American history, particularly black American history, is bounded up in colorism. The history of blacks in American entertainment is bounded up in colorism too, so colorist thinkers will always have a leg to stand on when it comes to that discussion, even if their viewpoint is logically faulty.

We can't erase these centuries-entrenched divisions with thoughtful and well researched arguments, especially not when those trenches were dug with action (mostly violent action). Spreading the message that Black people are suffering disproportionately has become an exercise in futility because the message isn’t being acted upon in a meaningful and transformative way. Hope can't in and of itself transform suffering into prosperity. And neither can smart arguments. You can bring facts, and evidence in the form of statistically significant findings, and people will still argue you down because they have anecdotal evidence that supports their worldview. It just isn't enough to spread a message. It wouldn’t even be enough for black people to come together as an economic unit, as is often called for. It wouldn’t be enough because a unified front of 75 million people suffering under the weight of inequality would fall short because American resources are so concentrated at the top. 

The cries of, "black America possess 1 trillion USD in purchasing power!" are misleading for several reasons: the 1 trillion USD is based only on the 30% of black households that have bring in an income of 50,000 USD or more; the average black household is nearer to the poverty line for their respective household size than to 50,000 USD; the federal rules regarding what constitutes impoverishment actually obscure how many black families are actually impoverished; if household income, household ages, and household size were not wed as the measure of impoverishment, many, many, many more black families would be federally recognized as impoverished; and that income does not constitute wealth, as even free income not spent on groceries, rent, and utility, are typically swallowed whole by consumer debt in the form of student loans, housing loans, business loans, and auto-loans.  The poorest black people constitute the poorest American demographic, and American poverty is likeliest in the black community. That 1 trillion dollars in purchasing power is not only much weaker than it seems, but it is also not accessible to most black families. 

And if calls for black unity are calls to pick up a gun: this isn't 300. The revolution can't be initiated by a small portion of American citizens, roughly 75 million people, raising their guns against the strongest military state in the world, with the most powerful economy on Earth behind it.

If neither black economics, nor black militancy, can usher in the revolution of their own accord, what then is our recourse?

I believe that the revolution can be initiated through a combination of the intellectual discussion we’re clamoring to have, combined with an increased access to more economic opportunities, and a system of protection that can answer our needs by defending our bodies from rogue law enforcement agents, and by holding those same agents accountable. We need help from outside our community, and I believe firmly that the American government can provide it. Will it provide it? It will if we, along with the rest of our American family, very purposefully define what help we need, and then relentlessly demand it. Attempting to withdraw or ignore politics, these are not solutions. Going off the grid, i.e. self-reliance, is a coping mechanism for souls fed up with what they perceive as insurmountable obstacles, it is not a means of uplifting the least of us. We must work together, but does that work entail? It isn’t enough to say that black women are undervalued, there has to be some redress of that undervaluing. There has to be monetary recompense, along with increased social engagement, and protection of her being.

Yes, you must bring attention to suffering, but you’re just never going to have enough evidence to convince everyone with socioeconomic leverage that our suffering is real enough and constant enough to warrant change. The scientific method cannot change hardened hearts, only inspire open minds. There has to be a fundamental restructuring of the American political process into a form that acknowledges that our society is made up of constantly changing cultural parts, and mostly distinct ethnic parts. There has to be a fundamental restructuring of the American economic system into a form that acknowledges this: since our history is mired in destructively divisive policies and practices, and many of the social elite are informed by this history, any attempt to create a completely unregulated, and truly free market will always lead to our economy devolving into the elite class monopolistically controlling the resources. The institutions themselves are not the problem, the unconscious prejudice of many of the leaders that people it are.

Black people in America are the lost children of Africa, but are no longer African. That was taken from us before we were born and destroyed, much as our ancestors were taken from their homeland. That aspect of our familial history was long ago eradicated. We are Americans now, for better or worse.

But more important than looking back is living now. Where we live, America, this is the house that our families helped build, our blood is in its foundations. And to make our house into home, we will have to do more than spread the message of our suffering. We will have to do more than support black businesses, we will have to work to deconcentrate economic resources.

Some white people, e.g. Tomi Lahren, have taken offense to Jesse Williams because folks of her ilk assume that his words implicate them as racist just for being white. If this is your understanding, then you possess a flawed and incorrect perception of what race even is.

Whiteness, in and of itself, is the basis for American racism. That is not to say that white PEOPLE are inherently racist, it is to say that WHITENESS as an ideal is fundamentally racist. “Whiteness” was used as a means of asserting hierarchical socioeconomic and sociopolitical supremacy in the New World.

In antiquity, skin color had no useful meaning as a social category because those ancient societies prioritized birthplace. But whiteness as we understand it today was invented, to borrow Jesse Williams’ phrasing, to differentiate between pure Europeans (white), pure New World natives (brown), and slaves (black). Racial thinking of that nature led to the racialization of the new world. Slavery was racialized as a means of establishing order among the people living in the new world. In effect, racism created race.

In American specifically, race, particularly Whiteness, truly came into being after poor Americans banded together with slaves against wealthy Americans (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion). The rich Americans and the Englishmen they were loyal to had to diffuse that situation, so rich American lawyers restructured American social categories to prioritize “whiteness” and suppress “blackness” (e.g. Virginia Slave Codes of 1705). This restructuring, this prioritization of skin color and ethno-national heritage, led to the creation a codified, LAWFUL, social hierarchy which theretofore had not existed in America. Whiteness became a way of unifying European people in America. But Whiteness was initially fractured, as you were only “white” if you were an Anglo-Saxon Protestant. But as wars were fought, Whiteness became "inclusive" of all Europeans (e.g. Irish Catholics were assimilated into Whiteness after World War II). Poor, or uneducated, you were White so long as you were of European descent, and Whiteness was the highest American social class, above “mixed race” persons, Natives, and the slaves. The American constitution reflects a desire to protect minorities, but that desire is overwrought by well-meaning judges and Justices. The only minority that early American lawmakers sought to protect was the wealthy. They were understood as the driving class of America, so they and their assets had to be protected against the desires of the masses. The poor masses were divided against themselves in the name of Whiteness, and black persons, then slaves, have suffered and continue to suffer the worst under this arrangement. Poverty came to be the greatest enemy of American progress, and it is so resilient because the lowest of us, black people, were devastated to the point where recovery for America as a collective will necessitate sustained legislative effort aimed at specifically at the poorest of us. Indiscriminate anti-poverty legislation will cause a rising tide that cannot lift all boats, because the poorest black boats were, generally, sunken under the weight of White supremacy.

You must understand a simple thing: Whiteness is inherently racist. Whiteness, i.e. ethno-national heritage and complexion, is the metric by which Americans for centuries have been measured, and those that do not meet that standard have been, destroyed, killed, ostracized, and alienated. Though black people suffered the worst of it, and to a greater degree, "white" people were also alienated (e.g. "No Irish need apply"). Yet Whiteness being inherently racist does not mean identifying as a white person makes a person racist. Having the complexion and craniofacial build associated with whiteness does not make a person racist. If a person identifies with their whiteness, chances are high that they do so only because it was the ethnic culture handed to them. But many "whites" identify with their ethnic heritage because Whiteness initially alienated them too. 

I will go so far as to say “Whiteness” and “Blackness” are empty identifiers. But I do not dismiss race because it is a social construct, because that is nonsense (though I did once believe otherwise). That race is an abstraction does not correlate with its consequences being illusions. In other words: even though race has no scientific justification as a biological category, race is and was understood as a real line of demarcation, and people were and are killed over it. Once blood is shed, an idea no longer gets to be set aside as just a bad idea— it is now a social reality. That bad idea of ordering people according to race had real consequences, and we as human beings still suffer under the weight of those consequences, and we as human beings have to deal with them together. So when I say that “Whiteness” and “Blackness” are empty identifiers, I mean that the vast majority of the people those words refer to are not active participants in a racially supremacist power structure. And while there are many active participants, the most difficult thing to accept is that we all participate, even if only passively.

And that said, it is important to note that while Whiteness itself is inherently racist, poor individuals, in general, cannot be racist. Individuals can be prejudiced, and they can act violently or callously upon those prejudices, but even those prejudiced actions do not in and of themselves constitute the creation of an oppressive, repressive, and suppressive hierarchical system that is ordered and maintained according to racial identity. In this discussion, the subject at hand is supremacism, not mere prejudice. Violence perpetuates that supremacist system, yes, but violence is just the oil that keeps the gears working. Whiteness is its engine.

When otherwise well-meaning people bemoan “black privilege” and “reverse racism,” they are trying to call attention to the efforts of society to undo the damage that the invention of whiteness caused. These people feel that whiteness is becoming the trampled upon social class because so much has been done to uplift the descendants of slaves. These claims, while understandable from the perspective of the average American who was taught that Natives and Pilgrims were perfectly friendly parties that shared a warm, loving, bonding dinner on Thanksgiving, are ignorant (that isn't condescension, I too believed that there was only peace in the times of Columbus and Squanto). Whiteness, the ideal, NEEDS to be brought down. Again, not white PEOPLE, but WHITENESS. Not the color of a person's skin, but the perception of that skin, and the heritage of that skin, as inherently valuable because it is white. White PEOPLE are human beings; WHITENESS is an ideal. If you possess aspects of that ideal, then use your whiteness as a platform to bring a light to the racist, sexist, and transphobic issues, but do not identify with an ideal that was and is used as a justification to oppress, suppress, and repress other human beings— identify with a better ideal.

Cries of “black privilege” are also mistaken because “privilege” in this context refers to aspects of the dominant, hegemonic class. There can be no “black privilege” because white wealthy men constitute the dominant social class in America. If you do not possess at least one of those three traits, whiteness, wealthiness, maleness, you are at a disadvantage, and if you do not possess the first, you at a disadvantage even if you possess the other two (hence why poor black women and poor black gender nonconformists suffer the worst of any demographic in America). There is no reverse racism because Black Americans, for all the social programs aimed at uplifting them (many of which failed and continue to fail because they attempt to uplift all boats without specified concern for black suffering), do not now possess the power to subjugate, oppress, repress, and suppress white people. Obama’s presidency has done nothing to change the fact that white Supremacy is fundamental to the American experience.

White supremacy was understood as so fundamental to the American experience that White Southerners seceded from the Union and started their own nation to build around it, fought and killed their own family members to protect it, and gave their lives to defend it. Yes, the Civil War was fought over states' rights- a state's right to have slaves. And that understanding of Whiteness as the ideal, that supreme valuation of Whiteness, it did not die with them, nor did it die in the one hundred fifty-one years since the Civil War ended. Whiteness still holds as the supreme racial category in America, although now in a much subtler, less overt way. Gone are the racial legal codes, replaced by racialized attitudes that inform the decisions and public activities of laypeople, practitioners of the law, law enforcement officials, and even lawmakers. Its virus-like adaptation to our attempts to destroy it can be seen through social experiments that show bus drivers, black and white, are likeliest to allow a white person ride without paying, that show employers are likeliest to hire persons with “White” sounding names, and that show that disabled blacks are, when compared to disabled whites, the likeliest to be refused government benefits. Though that last example points to a study that is over 20 years old, it is still evidence that these types of prejudices did not die away, even in the post-civil rights era. Again, Whiteness is not about people, but about an IDEAL. People feel safest with what registers as familiar, and blacks, homosexuals, and transgender persons are aliens to the White ideal, and those demographics are thus alienated by White America, and that alienation is one of the largest contributing factors to the nearly insurmountable economic disadvantage of poverty. White supremacy, now removed from American law, lives on in the hearts of Americans. Now an internalized attitude, racism, invaded and now pervades all aspects of American culture.

This gaseous form of White supremacy cannot be overcome just with marches, nor with speeches. This form of White supremacy is impervious to just a presentation of evidence, be it televised, printed, or digitized. This form of White supremacy cannot even be quashed solely with laws, and the rule of law is America’s greatest accomplishment. These things must be executed as part of one, carefully researched, thoroughly planned, and unified approach. Executed separately, these approaches are a complete waste of our energies and efforts. We rise together, or fall together.

Americans, as a whole, must accept that Whiteness is the foundation of the racialized system of dominance that colors the American experience. Yes, present tense, colors. To be American is to understand yourself in racial terms. The Census survey identifies us by race. Our driver’s licenses identify us by race. For all this generation’s political correctness, we, and our predecessors, still find a measure of descriptive value in stereotypes about other races. Racist acts are generally perpetuated by individual perpetrators, e.g. the writers of the Virginia Slave Codes, but it endures because those “lone wolves” are alone only in action, in deed, not in thought, not in feeling. It is for that reason that Morgan Freeman’s plan of ceasing to talk about race will not dismantle this system: people will still harbor harmful feelings and problematic thoughts. And those feelings, those thoughts, will continue to give rise to people who act on them.

What then is our course of action? When Hillary Clinton meets with BlackLivesMatters activists and tells them that her business is changing policies, not hearts, what are we to respond with? The gaseous nature of White supremacy means that the work of changing this world for the better lies squarely in changing people’s hearts and minds. But if that cannot be done through law, through the government, how are we to do it?

Just as many black men and black women are still being destroyed inside by the antisocial “wisdom” handed down by their elders, so too are many white men and white women corrupted by the antisocial dogma (sometimes spread through humor) that is taught to them by their elders. Countless Black American parents have clipped their children’s wings over the past two centuries, and White American grandparents have been active in spitting vitriolic messages, and White American parents have been sharing informative jokes about other races with their children for even longer. How are we to undo that damage? How am I to teach a black boy that his life has value when his father tells him that running around outside carries the potential of death? How am I to teach a homosexual black girl that her life has value when her orientation makes her father consider himself a failure? How am I to teach a young Black gender-nonconformist that their life has value when their mother disowns them for trying to understand themselves? How am I to teach a young dark skinned girl that she is beautiful when the elder female cousin she admires skin bleaches herself? How am I to teach a young light skinned boy that he is a valuable part of the Black community when his blackness is regularly dismissed by grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, and friends? How is a young white boy to understand that his skin tone was used to as a justification to subjugate and kill people colored dissimilarly, without him questioning the value of his person? How is a homosexual white girl to understand that her experience as a queer woman does not preclude her from enjoying the social privileges of Whiteness?

Those last few questions are understandably dismissed by many as “white tears”, as it isn’t the job of the oppressed to make others comfortable with the burden of their social reality, but they are legitimate obstacles because the people with the power to start meaningful conversations withhold their thoughts over those questions. How do we answer these questions, then?

I believe very firmly that the answer to all of those questions begins in lovingness, in patience. It isn’t enough to say that we have to do better, it isn’t even enough to actually do better. We can’t eat representation, hope isn’t sustenance, we need economic goods, but despair robs us of people that could have otherwise changed our world for the better. The answer to that despair, is love. Love imparts hope. If I am to teach you that you have value, I must welcome you. More than accept you, more than tolerate you, I must love you. We cannot allow ignorance to inform how we interact with each other. The way to create the kind of loving openness is not through political correctness, but through open dialogue that allows for the airing of viewpoints that may offend our sensibilities, and through open discussion of our need, our desires, and our goals in relation to those viewpoints. And open dialogue is more than just voicing an opinion that offends and leaving it there, it requires sharing the stories behind the formation of that opinion. If Americans are to dismantle this gaseous White Supremacy, we must begin with openly loving our own: the light-skinned, the dark-skinned, men, women, intersex, heterosexual, homosexual, genderqueer, all of us. That means gaining intimate knowledge of our own, and doing away with our ignorance.

But the work does not end there. It is not enough to talk to a poor black woman, to give ear to her grievances, and to be emotionally supportive of her. That work must be followed with the consignment of a room of her own. She must be afforded not only my kindness, but also economic opportunity. Whether that be the space to pursue artistic endeavors, or the funding to pursue a study of astrophysics, she must be afforded the opportunity to exercise her creative powers.

Whiteness will lose its power when whites and nonwhites are understood as equals, not merely in the eyes of the law, but squarely in the hearts and minds of Americans. Redistributive programs that focus solely on the poor inevitably feed into the sense that whites and nonwhites are not equal, so perhaps a better approach would be to universalize benefits (perhaps through instituting a system of Universal Basic Income).

The analogy of a race is often used to discredit social visions. In the analogy, society is a race, and wealthy people are Usain Bolt, and poor people are not athletic. While it’s unfortunate that the poor person is a lesser athlete, the race in and of itself is fair. In this analogy, progressive would try to rig the race so that Usain is somehow inhibited, and that the lesser athlete is able to finish at the same time, and that this is unfair to Usain.

The analogy is wrongheaded because it assumes wrongly that the idea behind extending benefits through taxes is a desire to to rig society against the most creative of us. The idea that progressives want everyone to cross the finish line at the same time is nonsense, the progressive wants everyone to start at the same time, and at the same line. The following animation illustrates this version of the analogy well:

A study of history produces a different picture of the race: wealthy people are not Usain Bolt, and poor people are not terrible athletes. Instead, wealthy people started running along a largely obstacle free path when the gun went off, and poor people were given a signal to stay put. When wealthy people had amassed a nearly insurmountable lead, poor people were given the sign to go, and had to run along an obstacle laden path.

In America, Black dark-skinned poor homosexual gender nonconformists have five obstacles in their racing lane: they are black, they look black, they are poor, they are not heterosexual, and they are genderqueer. At the opposite end of the spectrum are White, fair-skinned, wealthy, and heterosexual men. Those five categories, race, color, gender, orientation, and economic power, intersect, and depending on the axis of intersection, they grant privilege in varying degrees, but can only offer the maximum grant when the intersection includes Whiteness, and Maleness.

But, again, the purpose of this is to acknowledge that we are at war with an IDEAL, not with people. Though people will fight for the ideal, and against us in the process, our war is not with them. Killing some police officers will not kill the ideal that informs the violent activity of many police officers. We are at war with thoughts and feelings, and our work is to change minds and hearts. Our work isn't to erase the racial differences, it is to deconstruct Whiteness as an ideal. There is no issue with people being categorized, there is only an issue with using the categorization to dehumanize people. And that is what Whiteness was, historically, legally used to do, and is presently, informally, used to do. Those who lose themselves and fight in the name of Whiteness, they too are victims of a savage ideal, lost souls who become our enemies because they had faith in a vicious ideal.

Ideals like Whiteness cannot continue to be what we have faith in. Black people reveled in the ideal of Blackness because their original culture was taken from them and Blackness is what was given them. But it too is empty:

To be "white" is nothing, to be a "Negro" is nothing. To be an American has value, but its value is badly warped by Whiteness, and black Americans suffer discord among themselves because of their relationship under the foot of Whiteness. Black is beautiful, but light skinned blackness is to be regarded with vitriolic skepticism. Black is powerful, but, in general, black people are so economically disadvantaged in the wake of Whiteness that that supposed "power" is little more than a people desperately trying to keep sane through positive thinking, and through a symbolic repossession of that which was taken from us, African-ness, and that which was handed us, Blackness. There is no beauty in the struggle, only ugliness, suffering, and death.

We, all Americans, are of a land that was given a name by supremacists; we, all Americans, are a people named by supremacists. But our faith cannot be in their now ancient racial ideals, but in the overarching principles of liberty. We cannot continue to place all of our collective faith into the institutions that supremacists built, we must redevelop those institutions into forms that reflect what we have learned of ourselves, and what we have become.

I, a light skinned black man, am of this land. Sean Bishop, my friend, a white man, is of this land. Our ethnic heritages are so different that we, in another time, would be wholly alien to one another. But America is a nation where unity can only come through civic nationalism, through bonding over ideals. He and I are, effectively, part of the same people because we are both American, because we share the same faith in the ideals of America. America cannot be made whole through prioritizing ethno-national heritage, as other nations, e.g. Japan, and Scandinavia, are able to do, for doing so here caused nearly irreparable damage to all of us. Yes, all of us. Just as Patriarchy harms men, so too did Whiteness corrupt and harm white people. But we do not have to erase our ethnic heritage in order to progress, and to do so, to act as though the racial ordering never occurred, to act as though the differences are imaginary, would do more harm than good. There is no "transcending" race, there is only the work of dismantling a social ordering that prioritizes Whiteness. We have to accept that our differences are real, and that our predecessors actively destroyed their own, and that our present-day America is psychologically fractured because of that destructive activity. And that is where I believe our work begins: in acknowledging that we are different, and in embracing those differences; in accepting that our present and historical experiences are different, and in respecting those differences.

Progress for us as Americans begins in placing our faith in the founding ideals of America: equality among all Americans, a right to life for all Americans, a right to liberty for all Americans, and a right to pursue happiness for all Americans. Earlier generations of Americans did not do the work it took to create legitimate equality, and did not do all the work it will take to secure those rights. Establishing equality among all Americans will require that we secure those rights.

Securing the right to life means that our understanding of violence must change: the taking or damaging of an American life under any circumstances must be understood as an unfathomably egregious and grievous offense. There can be no excuses: if you fatally wound someone, if you kill someone, this action must be understood as an offense against the entirety of the American people, no matter who perpetrates it, no matter what circumstances surround it. Violence that threatens our lives must be understood as unacceptable in all circumstances, because any allowance for any manner of violence will come part and parcel with the execution of violent activity. If an officer kills someone, he or she cannot be absolved of this on the strength of their occupation. The question of self-defense will be raised, but a right to life is one of our founding ideals. Self-defense techniques that do not result in death must be the bedrock ideal for our republic.

Securing the right to liberty means that our understanding of economics must change. Our economic situation is beset on all sides by our government's historically active, and presently passive, participation in the subjugation, oppression, repression, and suppression of segments of our population, particularly the members of the African diaspora. To correct this will require intensive research into discovering what will resolve the issues that support, maintain, and strengthen American poverty, particularly black American poverty, and then the restructuring of our system to address those issues. It is not possible to exercise one's agency in the wake of the gaseous, and even the tangible, institutional racial discrimination that led and leads to economic deprivation, and mass incarceration. Designing frameworks that allow for all Americans to exercise their agency with respect to each American's right to life, this must too be a bedrock ideal that we place our faith in, and use our energies toward realizing.

Securing the right to pursue happiness means that our understanding of wellness must change. Though one can point to many improvements, and many people on the front lines promoting that change, it remains that our collective perception of mental illness is altogether too dismissive. Correcting this will require social engagement on a level that many Americans are to this day afraid of, a fear reflected in the informal (by which I mean that there is no law enforcing it) housing segregation. We do not want to live among people unfamiliar to us, and this is reasonable, and understandable. But if we are to progress as Americans, we will have to be more than tolerant of that which we do not understand: we will have to learn to be loving toward one another.

The work of establishing equality for all Americans can be done. If you hurt for the loss of American life, of black lives, of the lives of officers, of human life, then know that the heart in you that bears that pain is the reason the work can be done. Do not correct someone who says, "Black Lives Matter," with, "All Lives Matter." Quiet yourself, and allow them the space to air their grievances. Be patient, be kind, be loving. Let us value life, liberty, and happiness, let us value love, patience, and kindness. Let us place our faith in these ideals, and let us work toward realizing these ideals.

We can know liberation, just believe, and place your faith in worthy ideals.


May love ever possess you, may peace come into your life.

WWE Brand Split Mock Draft

So we're coming up very close to the brand split in the WWE, where RAW and Smackdown will be exclusive brands with exclusive rosters, and Smackdown will be going live every Tuesday.

Now, there are a number of factors that could shift the way the draft is handled. For example, we're still uncertain which show Shane and Stephanie will run. We're still unsure if they're certainly going to bring back the World Heavyweight Championship, or run with my idea and merge the IC/US titles and make that the main title on Smackdown. We're still not aware if tag teams will be split, if each show will have a unique division and title. We're still not sure if we're going to have women exclusive to each show and what that means for the Women's Championship.

Now, barring all surprise (not currently on the roster, and not NXT) draft choices, let us work with a few assumptions. First, I want to assume they will be bringing the World Heavyweight Championship back. I want to assume they will only keep one tag team championship and the whole division is spread through both shows but all aiming for the WWE Tag Team Championship. I want to assume the women will be split on both shows but will all be aiming for the WWE Women's Championship. I want to assume that the IC title will be on Smackdown, and the US Title will be on RAW. Lastly, I want to assume that Stephanie McMahon (and Triple H) will be running RAW while Shane McMahon will be running Smackdown. Also, Brock Lesnar is untouchable (and default RAW). Also note some NXT talent may not be with NXT and are open to this draft.

The first 12 selections will be done on Smackdown on July 19, and the next 20 will be done on the following RAW after Battleground. There will be a few selections on Network after.

So with that in mind, here is my mock draft, complete with some explanation.

1. John Cena. Yes, I have Cena going to RAW, which has for the first time dipped below a 2.0 rating since early in the Attitude Era. RAW needs ratings, and much of this dip was in response to Roman Reigns as WWE WHC, so Cena will be the reliable first selection.

2. Dean Ambrose. I believe Ambrose loses the WWE Championship to Rollins at Battleground, so splitting them up before the PPV hints at the change but it makes it seem like Smackdown could take the WWE Championship with them.

3. Seth Rollins. I initially wanted to put Rollins at number 1, but the ratings decline forced my hand with Cena. Rollins will be number 2, which plays out well in this current run where he's accepting challenges and pinning guys in the middle of the ring (mostly clean). It also starts to build towards Rollins vs. Triple H at Su... we'll talk about that later. Will be WWE Champion following Battleground.

4. Sami Zayn. Shane McMahon's character since he has returned is about new talent, new faces, new matches... so Shane McMahon's character needs to shine through in the draft. It is not a selection about who is most popular, it's about new, and fresh, and exciting. Shane taking this chance shows that Smackdown will be different than RAW.

5. Roman Reigns. Yes, yes, I know... this puts Reigns and Cena on the same show and people have said all along that they have to be on different shows. Well, I have Reigns being a full-fledged heel at this point to counter Tweener Rollins and babyface John. And Reigns needs to be near Triple H on- and off-screen.

6. Kevin Owens. I know what you're thinking: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens need a break. I agree. And they will, for a while. Owens and Shane need to be paired up. They both teased it, and Owens' brilliant improvisational mannerisms sold he wants to fight Shane. It happens at some point after building on Smackdown. May be World Heavyweight Champion when they crown one at Summerslam.

7. Randy Orton. Sticking with that status quo thing. Also, he's facing Brock at Summerslam, and this isn't a feud you build on different shows. You mix them up on RAW.

8. AJ Styles. Styles gets away from Cena momentarily, but they will have their rubber match at Summerslam. Having 2 months built into this feud already allows them to not have to work on the same show to build match 3 (or it allows a few Cena appearances on Smackdown in order to add some established star power to the show's first month).

9. Sasha Banks. Sasha will NOT be the Women's Champion at this point, but she will still be embroiled in a feud with Charlotte, who Stephanie has not been fond of recently on-screen.

10. Charlotte. Still the Women's Champion, Charlotte to Smackdown keeps her away from Steph and the siblings keep their own rivalry alive symbolically through Sasha v Charlotte.

11. Robert Roode. Yeah, they have had Roode touring with NXT doing live events and while it has appeared that he may be on NXT's roster, bringing him to RAW makes an even bigger impact. We also know that the WWE main-roster audience is familiar enough with guys from that other company.

12. Finn Balor. Finn will be gone from NXT following his match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Just in time for the WWE Draft as well. This pick will close the show on Smackdown.

These next few picks will be supplemental following Smackdown on the Network and will not count towards the numerical order of the Draft.

A. Apollo Crews. Crews to RAW makes a lot of sense to me. He gets to be a bit of filler, but also gets to work on his character a bit more, whereas his ring work comes naturally.

B. Lana. An awkward selection, especially going before Rusev. But we will rectify that very shortly.

C. The Vaudevillians. Throw more superstars over to RAW to keep the roster packed for 3 hours and give them a pair of reliable workers. We will put a few of the lesser teams in this supplemental round.

D. Dana Brooke. Have to keep her with Charlotte.

E. The Dudley Boys. Even more bodies on RAW, especially with Bubba Ray who is capable of having some solo matches.

F. The Lucha Dragons. Throw another team on Smackdown, and add more reason for the Hispanic/Latino audience to tune in to Smackdown.

G. Titus O'Neil. Far better suited for the RAW roster, and hopefully Vince is okay with him at this point and he can get some substantial time to progress.

H. Darren Young w/ Backlund. DY gets to show off on Smackdown and use his Crossface Chicken Wing to help get over. Hopefully DY being showcased in good WRESTLING matches with some notable tapout wins will make this storyline actually mean something.

I. Natalya. Natalya to RAW is a safer bet for me, since she will be paired up with Sasha, who is going to get face reactions no matter what for the time being. Could be a great feud following Sasha v Charlotte.

J. Becky Lynch. Get her away from Natalya. Their feud shouldn't last, entertaining as it may be. Becky fits what I think Smackdown will be built as.

13. Alberto Del Rio. He makes a lot of sense on Smackdown if the focus will be on in-ring, but Del Rio is the kind of guy who can enhance RAW's show in a 3-hour format.

14. Rusev. The Bulgarian Brute needs to be on the show that will showcase his ability in the ring, and be away from the bigger superstars that WWE is inclined to bury him in feuds with.

15. The New Day. Yes, all 3 members. As I said, the tag team division will be spread but they will keep teams together. It also allows for more draft picks in a shorter time span on the show itself. New Day's entertainment factor will put them on RAW rather than Smackdown.

16. Enzo & Big Cass. Responding straight away, Shane drafts his buddy Enzo and brings his tag partner along. While the entertainment factor would probably benefit them on RAW more, it brings something different to Smackdown's programming.

17. Sheamus. Sheamus is just a body for RAW at this point. He's capable of making a feud physical and can be a stopgap if anyone gets injured.

18. Neville. Not only should Neville be returning soon, but he should be on Smackdown where he can show off his in-ring work and maybe bring back his feud with a Kevin Owens.

19. Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt is going to RAW in this mock draft even though I feel he needs the same focus that Rusev needs. However, Bray is more character than in-ring worker, and RAW being 3 hours every week allows Bray ample time to be shown in vignettes, promos, and matches.

20. Luke Harper. This is my shock selection of the draft. Immediately following Bray's selection, Harper is split from Bray and sent to Smackdown. He will still be on the shelf but there's a hint at something greater here.

21. Dolph Ziggler. Smackdown would be the better option for him, but RAW needs some in-ring ability, and someone who can bump and sell and put on entertaining matches with anyone.

22. Chris Jericho. This run has been more than we expected, and Jericho has gone back to the heel tactics. Maybe that's why he is so happy to keep this run going this time around. Plus, we need a ton more from Jericho & Owens going forward.

23. The Usos. It's time to start going back to tag teams, and these guys fit on RAW where they can be some filler and maybe even be heel and keep along with Roman.

24. The Club. Dropping hints at them joining Finn and turning on AJ.

25. Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman. They get to follow Bray to RAW, and they can continue their feud with The New Day on one show without having to force travel the first month.

26. Cesaro. I wanted Cesaro on the RAW roster, but I think he's better off against guys on my Smackdown roster where ring work is more important. Plus, Vince won't be directly overseeing Smackdown, so hopefully that allows Cesaro a little more freedom and breathing room.

27. The Miz w/ Maryse. I wanted to put Miz so much higher based on his current run being so entertaining. I also think he works better with some of the Smackdown roster, but he's a good enough heel to help maintain babyface reactions for guys like Cena and Dolph.

28. Bayley. Yep, she will be on her way to the main roster soon enough.. might as well do it at the draft and try to get her there as quickly as possible.

29. Baron Corbin. Relax, relax... I'm not suggesting they do any more Baron v Dolph matches, I just think that he's best suited on RAW where he can be another powerful heel.

30. Ryback. Yeah, yeah, I know... he's in a contract dispute, or happiness dispute, or shoot mode, or something... it's all a work. Ryback took time off to get necessary surgery and get his mind right. He has also been trying to rehab some nagging injuries, so this break was worked to look like Ryan Reeves was unhappy.

Following this RAW, the rest of the roster will be determined on the WWE Network.

A. Zack Ryder. Ryder needs character development more than anything... and he IS a good character. Hopefully with 3 hours and a limited roster, Zack is able to get some on-screen time and show off his creativity.

B. Breezango. This is more for Tyler Breeze than Fandango. I think the team sticks together for a while, but I think the goal has to be to find a way to put these guys over as workers.

C. Golden Truth. I am not thrilled about this team at all... but Vince McMahon is. They're bodies on RAW.

D. The Ascension. Get them the Hell away from Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I know it's built to look like Shane is running Smackdown, but that's Triple H's show in reality and he knows how to make these guys look strong.

E. The Shining Stars. Yeah, Primo and Epico to RAW... because why not? They'll be given lame promos and camera time for a couple of weeks.

F. Paige. Paige belongs on Smackdown where maybe she can start caring about WRESTLING again.

G. Nikki Bella. I'm still unsure when she's set to return. They've suggested multiple times that it could be any day now, but that has been going on for a little over a month. She's not going to be far from Cena, especially while shooting for Total Bellas.

H. Big Show. Kinda just throwing a part-time giant who does a lot of face work for the company now over on Smackdown where he can help elevate some talent. As much as I dislike Big Show the wrestler in 2016, he's still capable of telling a good story IF booked correctly.

I. Social Outcasts. There was a "squad" back in the day... they will fill this role. And no, I will NOT use that word and disrespect Kevin Owens.

J. Alicia Fox. Just filling gaps now.

K. Naomi w/ Tamina. Naomi isn't going to be far from her Uce husband.

L. Jack Swagger. Again, filling gaps.

M. Kane. I guess I have to put him somewhere.

N. Rosa Mendez. Yup.

O. Eva Marie. She's got legit heat, can't wrestle great... she can mask that deficiency on RAW and just be a face for the brand.

P. Summer Rae. Better in ring than she has looked since joining the main roster. Needs the right opponents to help her out.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Star Wars Snoke & Rey Theory

Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduced us to some interesting new characters. The first being Finn, a runaway storm trooper who does not agree with the tactics used by The New Order. The second being Kylo Ren, estranged son of Han Solo and Leia tempted to the Dark Side of the Force to join The New Order (or something else entirely, which we will discuss). The third being Rey, a young orphan who has untrained (and for the most part, unmatched) ability with The Force. The last character of interest is Snoke, a character who appears only via holographic display but has a mysterious position of power and control.

Before I get started, I want to discuss Finn a little bit. There are plenty of theories based on his apparent lack of use in The Force that he is not at all able to use it, drawing comparisons to Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. There are even theories that he is the son of Lando (entirely possible, but also maybe improbable). I also do not believe that Finn has no power in The Force. In Star Wars literature (canon to the stories), Han Solo was even able to dabble a bit into The Force. 

As the movie is titled "The Force Awakens", we have to consider it is about plenty more. Obviously Kylo Ren has been trained for much of his life in The Force, so it is not as though The Force has not existed this entire time, or that there was much true imbalance (consider that Luke is still alive and meditating). I would not put it past Finn being part of The Force, and perhaps his "awakening" to the wrong of The New Order is what truly Awakened The Force.

Kylo Ren displays powers we have not seen or thought possible in Star Wars. In the very first introduction to Kylo, we see him stop the laser of a blaster (pure light). Light manipulation was thought impossible, yet here is our Dark Side villain able to stop light mid-air and hold it while he focuses elsewhere. This suggests one of two things. Either the Dark Side of the force has grown so strong that it can control light, or Kylo still has enough light in him to control light. It's widely accepted in Star Wars canon that when it is your time to go, you will die, but if it isn't, you will remain alive until you have served your purpose. Perhaps Kylo's purpose is not to be a Sith Lord.

Now I want to discuss Snoke & Rey.

I'm not going to be the first to suggest that Snoke is Anakin. And fan theory and a recent "leaked" script suggest that Rey is Anakin reincarnated. I thought of similar when watching The Force Awakens but wanted to dispel them as, at the time, I did not have a logical theory in mind for how either works. While I'm not the first to suggest either of those theories, I will be the first (as far as I'm aware) to suggest that Snoke AND Rey are Anakin Skywalker.


So I've bought in that Snoke is Anakin pretty much from the beginning. I never thought Snoke could be Palpatine. In order for Anakin to return to the light, he had to kill Palpatine and restore order. Palpatine did not survive that fall, and he was not as strong as people want to believe him to have been, otherwise he would have never failed at wiping the world out. He knew he couldn't surpass Anakin, so he molded him to be the instrument of destruction that he could not be.

Image Courtesy of Ryan Higgins of  Comics Conspiracy taken from Star Wars
So why is it possible that Snoke is Anakin? Let us look at the few theories out there already. Snoke's face is scarred on the forehead and left cheek. Anakin, when unmasked as Vader by Luke, had a huge scar on his forehead and left cheek. These were there during the burns when Anakin "fell" to Obi Wan Kenobi in Episode III. The image above shows a comparison between the two.

How is this possible? Anakin was cremated at the end of Episode VI, and we saw his force spirit appear beside Kenobi and Yoda. I'm not suggesting that Anakin Skywalker did not die. In fact, his death is the premise of this entire theory.
"Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying."―Palpatine
Palpatine used the knowledge of Anakin's desire to save loved ones from death—based on his Force Visions—to convince Anakin to join the Dark Side. It was with the revelation of Darth Plagueis' power that Palpatine planted the real seeds of Anakin's turn. If one can prevent others from dying or create life, surely they can return someone from death?
"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

—Obi Wan Kenobi
Kenobi uttered those words in his battle with Vader in Episode IV. From what we know about Anakin/Darth Vader, there is no way he did not want to learn of everything he could in The Force, especially if it meant making him even more powerful. Considering that Anakin wanted to reach the power of Plagueis (or beyond) it would make sense that the more powerful he is, the closer he would be to achieving such goals. Many have questioned whether or not Palpatine was telling the truth about Plagueis' abilities, but it is accepted in canon that Plagueis resurrected Venamis in the presence of Darth Sidious (Palpatine).

So what does that have to do with Snoke? Simple. Someone, at some point, knew enough to resurrect Anakin. Since Snoke is with The New Order (or something greater), we can assume that it was a member of The Dark Side who tried to resurrect Anakin. Why? Because it's Anakin Skywalker. In fact, considering Kenobi's words to Vader, perhaps it was even Sidious through death knowing that his pupil did what he was destined to do and hoping a resurrected Vader would not be Anakin at all. Maybe Sidious had another apprentice he trained and instructed to resurrect Vader once he fulfilled his purpose as Anakin? It would not be the first time someone broke the Rule of Two.

So assume with me (even if you think it's a reach) that Snoke is Anakin? Need a further look at how this may be possible? Take a look at the following picture.
Image Taken from from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
As you can see from the picture, the eyes are not aligned properly, the left cheek is destroyed, the mouth is off-center (towards the right of the face) and the jaw line is almost a perfect match. The nose is also twisted in the same directions, bent left at the tip, the bridge shifted to the right.

My impression from the films is that Anakin's body was resurrected, but since his Force Spirit was seen in canon to be alongside Yoda and Kenobi, I don't believe The Force was revived with him. This may explain why Snoke took Ben Solo and turned him into Kylo Ren. It may explain his knowledge of the Skywalker clan. It may even explain why Snoke has relied on an apprentice who can use The Force instead of using it himself. Snoke does not actually have the ability to use The Force, because his Force Spirit is no longer connected to him.

And that brings us to Rey.

According to the idea above, Rey is the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker. While I once believed that Rey may have been a Kenobi, thinking about the fact that she is the reincarnation of Anakin makes a lot of sense the more that I piece together. Perhaps the immortality that was once discussed is strictly about the Force Spirit being able to merge with another host? It would certainly explain how Obi Wan can become more powerful in death. It would definitely be a power that Anakin/Vader would have sought to gain, and there is no reason to believe that he did not achieve such power.

The link above also suggests that the idea was that Anakin (I will say his Force Spirit) is meant to exist for eternity as The Chosen One, and emerge whenever imbalance is thrown into The Force (except when that imbalance is Anakin/Vader, I guess). So the idea isn't too insane.

In Episode VIII, we see Rey with no training at all (to our knowledge, or hers it seems) able to wield a lightsaber and use the force to call it to her. Rey also has Force Visions (in Cloud City among others, as the above article states). Rey was also called to the lightsaber, something even Luke did not experience. This may be that Anakin's Force Spirit recognized the presence of the weapon and sought its own reconciliation (there is plenty discussing the bond between the lightsaber and the host).

There are only few who are strong enough to learn The Force with so little training so late. Even a very young Anakin Skywalker was thought to be too old to train. Luke was also an exception, and Leia to a degree. Rey, however, is not receiving instruction, she is seemingly teaching herself, or recollecting via Anakin's Force Spirit.

So my theory is that when Vader's body was resurrected, he was absent his Force Spirit, which sought a suitable host for many years. Someone who loved and craved the idea of family as much as Anakin. Someone who was pure light to combat the evil that the body would teach. So Snoke was born from the rebuilt remains of Vader, and has physical memory, but no power (that we're aware of) to use The Force. After years of searching, Anakin's Force Spirit found Rey and attached to her in order to be the good.

It also makes sense when you consider that Snoke was able to sense a great awakening. Perhaps he realized his Force Spirit had returned, and that is why he is so enamored with and desiring to meet Rey?

Also consider that Kylo prays to Vader's helmet. Maybe it's his only connection. It would make sense he would adore his grandfather, but maybe he adores Anakin and Vader equally. It may also explain why Snoke told Kylo this is the greatest battle he has faced. Perhaps Snoke knows that Kylo worships Anakin and Vader, and knows that he is going to be torn no matter how committed he acts.

Finally, consider Rey's meeting with Luke. It's brief, but powerful. She goes to hand the lightsaber to Luke, who stares at her as though he knows exactly who she is but just can not believe it. Luke also does not reach out to grab the lightsaber, and according to the "leaked" information, he may end up revealing to Rey that the lightsaber belongs to her, not him.

Let me know in the comments what you think of my speculation, if you agree, disagree, have anything to add or dispute. We will find out the truth in Star Wars Episode VIII in December 2017.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Booking The Shield Triple Threat At WrestleMania 33

So I saw an idea of how to kickstart a Roman face turn recently, and I liked the premise of where it starts. I also laughed at the notion of a Roman Reigns face turn.

So basically their idea was to turn Ambrose heel before Money in the Bank. The idea being that a heel Ambrose could help turn Reigns face if executed correctly. I agree slightly, but I want to book long-term for something bigger and meaningful. Faces and heels don't exist in WWE anymore, that's clear as day, but you can still trigger reactions.

Build to Money in the Bank

So a few weeks before Money in the Bank, Ambrose gets put into a qualifying match in place of Sami Zayn against Jericho after Zayn is attacked. The heat is on Owens (who is seen near Zayn being loaded into an ambulance), because why wouldn't it be Owens who attacks Zayn? Owens is adamant that it wasn't him. Ambrose beats Jericho and is in the MITB match.

Also, a returned Seth Rollins is now a face (because that's just how it works for Crossfit Jesus) and he is on a quest to get HIS title back, from Roman Reigns. Rollins is granted his match by the Authority (who will be back in power by this point) and Shane actually agrees (splitting 50/50 on the power trip) after Rollins and Reigns team to defeat Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.

Money in the Bank

At MITB, Dean Ambrose is climbing the ladder, and is cut off by AJ Styles. Dean slips as AJ gains the advangtage climbing the same side. Ambrose hits AJ with a low blow and climbs to grab the briefcase.

In the main event, Seth Rollins has to pull out all the stops to beat Reigns. He hits a Pedigree, Roman kicks out. He hits a Scorpion Death Drop, Roman kicks out. Rollins takes a comeback series of Superman punches and a Spear, but rolls out of the ring. Roman goes for the Spear through the barricade but Rollins dodges him and Reigns collides hard. Rollins throws Reigns back in the ring, climbs the turnbuckle, and hits a Phoenix Splash for the three count. Your NEW WWE World Heavyweigh Ch...

Ambrose makes his way down to the ring. He hands the ref the briefcase and as he's handing it over to the timekeeper, Ambrose hits Rollins with a low-blow. Reigns sees this and confronts Dean, and gets hit with Dirty Deeds. Rollins grabs Ambrose, goes for the Scorpion Death Drop, but Dean twists and shoves Rollins back, kicks him and hits Dirty Deeds for the three count. Ambrose leaves MITB as your new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

Build to Battleground

The next night on RAW, Ambrose comes out to pops (as will be expected), but he starts running Rollins down. He runs Reigns down and the crowd cheers a bit and then Reigns' music hits. He comes out and Dean doesn't even let him make it to the ramp before saying "I've got word that you won't be getting a title shot tonight." Rollins' music hits and the crowd goes crazy... Ambrose tells him, "Hey, same goes for you!" Rollins and Reigns start heading towards the ring when Anderson and Gallows run out to attack Reigns and Rollins. Dean is laughing and AJ attacks him from behind.

The next couple weeks see Reigns and Rollins attacked constantly by Anderson and Gallows. AJ is trying to get a title match but Ambrose is dodging. Finally Shane decides he's going to grant AJ the title shot if he can defeat Ambrose in a non-title match. AJ has the upper hand, but Ambrose shoves the referee and gets disqualified. Because AJ won by DQ, he gets his title shot at Battleground.


Dean has to defend the WWE WHC against AJ Styles. Reigns and Rollins have a tag team match with Anderson/Gallows after weeks of being attacked from behind. Reigns and Rollins win their match, but Anderson and Gallows still attack after the match and stand strong. In the main event, Dean is close to losing to AJ who is getting ready to go for the Styles Clash. Ambrose drops to his knees and low-blows AJ to get disqualified and keep his title.

Build to Summer Slam

On RAW, AJ demands a rematch, but he is cut off by Sami Zayn. Zayn comes out and says that while he was out, he watched Dean slip out of multiple predicaments with the help of dirty tactics. He says he was attacked before his qualifier for the MITB match, and it was not Kevin Owens who attacked him, but Ambrose. Shane comes out and makes Zayn vs. AJ for a #1 contender match to face Dean at Summer Slam for the WWE WHC. In the match, Ambrose sneaks out from under the ring while the ref is preoccupied checking on AJ Styles following a collision. Ambrose slides in the ring and low blows Zayn and slides out and hides. AJ takes advantage and hits Styles Clash for the pin and win.

The following week, Shane corrects the situation by adding Zayn to the match at SummerSlam to make it a triple threat. Reigns and Rollins are still battling BC.

Summer Slam

At Summer Slam, Reigns and Rollins start to get the upper hand when the lights go out. They come back on and Anderson and Gallows are standing over them wearing Demon bandanas over their mouths. They beat Reigns and Rollins down and use chairs. The match is a DQ.

In the main event, Ambrose is constantly thrown out of the ring and AJ/Zayn fight it out. Ambrose finally gets in the ring and AJ is going for Styles Clash on him, but he again drops to his knees and goes for a low blow. Realizing that he can't be disqualified, he low blows Zayn, goes outside to grab a chair, hits both men, then hits Dirty Deeds on AJ for the pin.

Build to Night of Champions

Heading into Night of Champions, AJ is still cool with Bullet Club, which offends Reigns and Rollins. They're confronting him in the back about it when Anderson and Gallows attack from behind. They turn their backs to the camera, tie the bandanas around their face, and walk off with AJ looking confused.

Dean is ready to move on, but Shane grants Zayn a 1-on-1 opportunity at Night of Champions. He is attacked by Dean and again loaded into an ambulance and it's unclear whether he's going to make it to the show. Kevin Owens gets in Dean's face after Dean is waving off Zayn in the ambulance. Owens tells Dean he'll see him at Night of Champions.

Night of Champions

Reigns and Rollins are once again facing Bullet Club. Rollins is fighting for the hot tag, and as he finally makes it, the lights cut out and a red flashing heartbeat fills the arena. 10 men walk out onto the stage wearing Demon bandanas over their faces and point guns at Reigns and Rollins. The lights go out, the men disappear, Anderson and Gallows attack Reigns and Rollins and get disqualified.

In the main event, Kevin Owens makes his way to the ring. Dean comes out. Cole plays up the uncertainty of Zayn being able to make the match, but Sami's music hits and out he comes. Zayn hits the ring fast and goes straight after Dean. Owens lets them fight. Sami hits Blue Thunder Bomb on Ambrose, but Owens breaks it up. Dean throws Sami into the ropes and goes for the Pop Up Powerbomb, but Zayn flies overhead and hits a dropkick on Ambrose. Owens throws Sami into the corner and beats him down. He's going for the Cannonball, but Zayn moves, hits the other turnbuckle, runs back and hits Helluva Kick. Ambrose rolls into the ring and low blows Zayn before he can get his leg off the top rope. Dean covers Owens for the pin and the win.

Build to Hell in a Cell

Reigns and Rollins bitch about Balor Club and that they're fed up of the mindgames. They call out Finn. The lights go out, 12 men (Anderson and Gallows among them) hit the stage. The lights go out again, the 10 extras drop into the smoke, pop back up randomly wearing demon masks with the red flashing heartbeat lights. The lights cut out, the breathing kicks in, fans are ready for Balor. The lights come on, and nobody is there.

Zayn is backstage furious. He asks for a 1 on 1 match with Dean. Triple H refuses to give him the match. He says Zayn and Owens must team up and if they beat Reigns and Rollins, they will both be put in the Cell title match. In the main event, Ambrose is on commentary. Reigns and Rollins vs Zayn and Owens. As Reigns gets the hot tag, the lights go out. The lights come back on and all 4 men are laid out on the outside of the ring with Demon bandanas draped over their faces. Ambrose laughs on from commentary as the ref calls the match off.

The following week, Shane announces there will be a rematch, but this time if there is any interference, all four men will be added to the Cell match for the title. Dean, furious with the stipulation, seeks out Anderson and Gallows backstage and begs them not to attack. They threaten Dean to get out of their face and he'll have his answer later in the night. As the match is underway, Dean is back on commentary. Rollins is tossed outside in front of Dean who talks trash. Fans get excited when Rollins gets in Dean's face. The lights cut out. We hear a crash through the announce table. The lights come on and Dean is laying in the wreckage as Rollins and Reigns look on from in the ring. Reigns bursts out of the daze with a Spear on Zayn. Owens throws Reigns out of the ring and Rollins kicks Owens and goes for a Pedigree. Owens reverses and throws Rollins into the ropes for the Pop Up Powerbomb. Zayn manages to hold Reigns just out of reach of breaking the pin.

As Owens and Zayn leave the arena, the breathing and heartbeat starts up again. The lights come on and a Balor Club flag is placed over Dean on the outside and Reigns is missing.

The next week, there's a black and white video stream on the tron Shield style, but it's Anderson and Gallows. In the background, Finn is dressed as the demon with the Balor Club flag draped over his shoulders but he doesn't show his face. Anderson and Gallows cut a promo about how The Club is taking over WWE and they show Reigns tied to a chair. They say they have a price on him if WWE wants him spared. They tell Triple H he will add Finn to the WWE WHC Cell match or they break Reigns.

Triple H comes out at the end of the show and calls out Balor Club. He tells them to bring Reigns and release him, they have their way. The arena turns red, Reigns is dragged out and the crowd is chanting for Finn. Finn shows up on the tron as the Demon, and he tells Triple H he made the right choice. The lights go out, they come back on and Balor Club are surrounding Triple H in the ring. There are Yes chants as Finn stares Triple H down. Dean's music hits and he runs down to the ring and goes after Finn but Anderson and Gallows don't let him. They beat him down and Finn climbs the ropes to hit Dean with the Coup de Grace and the show goes off the air with Balor Club placing the flag over Dean.

The next week, it's announced that Reigns & Rollins will once again face Balor Club, but this time in the Cell.

Hell in a Cell

In the first Cell match, Reigns & Rollins face Balor Club and it's a brutal match. Balor Club get the advantage and beat down Reigns while Rollins recovers, then switch their focus. Any time Reigns and Rollins can get any sort of momentum, Balor Club beats them down. When Reigns and Rollins finally get the upper hand, Reigns hits a Spear. The lights go out and the referee is knocked out when the lights come back on. Rollins tries to wake the ref, Anderson is rushing, Reigns goes for a Spear but Anderson moves and Reigns hits Rollins. Balor Club take out Reigns and pin him in the middle of the ring for a three count.

In the main event fatal 4 way Hell in a Cell match for the WWE WHC, the demon makes his main roster debut. He is targeted by all three men for much of the match but continues to get the upper hand as Sami is also determined to get his hands on Ambrose. Finn dropkicks Owens through the wall of the Cell and the fight spills outside. Dean however, keeps Zayn in the ring. He hits Dirty Deeds on the stairs as Finn and Owens battle on the outside. Dean gets the win and Finn snaps. He runs in and attacks Zayn. Owens goes in to help but the lights cut out, Balor Club attacks Zayn and Owens and leave them covered in Balor Club flags.

Build to Survivor Series

Now it's time to start getting into the real tease of the build. Balor Club has made their statement, but they've made enemies of everyone. So they open RAW already in the middle of the ring in red light surrounded by darkness. The Demon speaks a-la Ministry Taker without a mic in his hands, and tells the world his sights are set on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and he will not stop until he gets a hold of it. He brings up Anderson & Gallows beating Reigns and Rollins at which point they make their way onto the stage. They start heading down to the ring when the lights go out. When they cut back on, Rollins and Reigns are face-to-face in the ring. Rollins shoved Reigns and things are boiling over from the Spear at HIAC. Reigns shoves Rollins back and Triple H comes out.

Triple H tells Reigns and Rollins they have to work together at Survivor Series in order to get what they want. They both look confused. Triple H tells Reigns and Rollins that if they can win their match against Balor Club at Survivor Series, they will get a #1 contenders match at TLC.

Over the next few weeks, Balor Club repeatedly attacks Reigns and Rollins, who are teaming up but having trouble staying on the same page. They bump each other, tag themselves in, and the final RAW before Survivor Series, Reigns once again Spears Rollins by accident. In the main event of that RAW, Sami Zayn is facing Finn Balor in a #1 contender match to face Dean Ambrose at Survivor Series. Finn hits Sami with the Shotgun Dropkick and begins climbing the turnbuckle. The lights go out, they come on, and Ambrose is beating Zayn. Dean runs through the crowd to get away from Balor Club, and it's announced that Sami Zayn won by disqualification. Finn snaps and Balor Club chase Dean out of the building.

On SmackDown, Rollins has had enough. They win their match against the Vaudevillians and in the celebration, Rollins uses the Scorpion Death Drop on Reigns and walks out disappointed. In the back, Reigns is looking for Rollins and Dean is spotted laughing. Reigns tells Dean he hasn't forgot what happened, and on Sunday his journey back to the title begins. The Vaudevillians attack Reigns from behind and Dean watches. Rollins runs up to make the save and referees break up the fight. Reigns shoves Rollins and Dean walks between them both and says "Looks like neither one of you is starting your journey back to this anytime soon."

Survivor Series

Rollins and Reigns in a handicap match against Balor Club is a struggle. They seem like they're on the same page early on, but things start to break down as Rollins struggles to make it to the corner for the tag. Reigns at one point even backs down off of the apron out of frustration, but returns once he's thought about the fact he needs to win for a chance to get back in the title picture. He makes it in, makes the hot tag, and clears house. He's hitting huge clotheslines from corner to corner, and catches Finn with a Superman Punch to take him out of the ring. Rollins gets back in to help even the numbers. Reigns is whipped towards Gallows by Anderson and Gallows moves. Reigns stops himself from Spearing Rollins, but Gallows clubs Reigns into Rollins who tumbles through the ropes to the outside.

Finn tags himself in and is headed to the top, but Rollins gets onto the apron and crotches Balor. Rollins hits the springboard knee to Gallows who is holding Reigns on his shoulder. Reigns pops up and hits Anderson with a Superman Punch. Finn jumps from the top rope into a Spear by Reigns mid-air. He goes to Spear Gallows who once again moves, and Reigns again stops himself from connecting with Rollins. Rollins shoves Reigns out of the way and gets kicked by Gallows. Reigns off the ropes and Spears Gallows as he turns. Reigns pins Gallows for 3 and he's being stomped by Finn and Anderson right away. Rollins enters the ring with a chair, and Balor Club leaves.

In the main event, Dean collides with the referee on the rebound lariat. Sami with Blue Thunder Bomb, but there's no ref to pin Dean's shoulders down. Sami is frustrated and attempts to wake the ref when he's hit from behind by Dean with a low blow. Dean goes for the roll-up but the ref is still out. Dean rolls out of the ring and grabs the title and goes to hit Sami. Sami ducks and hits the exploder suplex into the turnbuckle. Sami is pumped up waiting for Dean to stand for the Helluva Kick when the referee wakes up and sees the title on the floor and Dean knocked out. Sami pleads his case, the referee decides to let the match carry on, and hands the title to the timekeeper. As he's handing the title over, Dean hits a low blow on Sami and then hits Dirty Deeds to pin him, but Sami kicks out at 2.

Dean is pleading with the ref for the 3 count, and Sami is getting to his feet. Dean is still preoccupied with the ref as Sami rushes him into the corner with the ref caught between them. As the ref is attempting to break them up, Dean rakes Sami's eyes and clotheslines Zayn from behind. Dean picks up Sami and hits another Dirty Deeds for the 3 count. Instead of celebrating, Dean starts attacking Sami. Multiple referees attempt to pull Dean away when the lights go out. When they come on, Balor Club are on the apron a-la The Shield. Dean is telling them to bring it, and the lights go out again. When they come back on, Dean is gone but Balor Club is standing in the ring around Zayn. They attack Zayn and drag him out of the ring to close the show.

Building to TLC

It's announced that because of their win, Reigns and Rollins will face one another at TLC in a ladder match to grab a contract to face Ambrose for the WWE WHC at Royal Rumble. But in a major twist, the loser of the match will enter the Royal Rumble at #1. Shane and Triple H seem to be working together at this point to make these decisions w/ Shane acting as a buffer for the ideas. Balor Club appear on the screen and say they will see anyone who stands in their way to the same fate as Zayn. Anderson and Gallows hold Zayn up so he can be shotgun dropkicked into a bay door. Triple H sends security back.

Zayn is once again loaded into an ambulance (all too familiar sight in this booking, eh?). Triple H demands security find Balor Club and have them removed from the arena.

Owens challenges Dean to a match on RAW and Dean accepts. They're on to close the show. They lock up and have a good match, but Dean starts raking the eyes and attacking Owens' knee. Just as he's calling his spot for Owens to get up, the lights cut out.


Balor Club start coming down the stairs in the crowd towards the ring. Ambrose is defiant and watches as Balor Club start knocking out security. Balor Club get on the apron, stare Dean down, the lights go out, come back on, and Dean is once again gone, with Balor Club in the ring surrounding Owens. Owens starts to fight back, but the numbers game takes its toll and they drag him out of the ring.

The following week, Balor Club are shown on the tron to start the show. Finn tells Triple H "I told you anyone who stands in our way is going to be treated like Zayn. Finn turns and runs at Owens being held up by Gallows and Anderson and hits a Shotgun Dropkick through a dressing room door. Owens is being loaded into an ambulance following the break.

Dean is paranoid in the back. He encounters Reigns who shakes his head and walks away. He encounters Rollins who does the same. He finds Triple H and asks him for the night off. Triple H says they don't answer to demands of anyone and books Dean in the main event, against himself.

They get going, Dean is distracted and can't focus on the match. Triple H starts working his spots and hits the spinebuster. The lights go out.


Balor Club once again come through the crowd and Triple H orders security to cut them off. They start fighting security. Dean low blows Triple H and Balor Club hit the apron. The lights go out, they come back on, and this time it's Triple H surrounded, beat down, and dragged out of the ring.

The week after, Balor Club open the show in the back on a grainy camera and say "Another stands in our way, and another falls." Finn turns and runs at Triple H for the shotgun dropkick into a stacked pile of tables, ladders, and chairs. Finn turns back to the camera and tells Dean "Believe in Balor Club!"

Shane takes Dean off the show. In the final segment they are doing the Reigns vs. Rollins contract signing. Shane is overseeing. Reigns signs, Rollins signs, and then:


Balor Club once again make their way to the ring. Security scatters. Shane is pissed. Reigns and Rollins flip the table and get ready to fight. Balor Club hit the apron, lights go out, and when they come back on, Shane is surrounded with Reigns & Rollins nowhere in sight. Shane stands and fights to no avail. He's beat down and dragged out of the ring.

The next week, we start with Vince on RAW. He's pissed off. He demands Balor Club spare Shane. Balor Club on the grainy camera on screen. Vince yells at them to cut the feed, but Finn laughs and says "I can't be cut off. I've possessed this company. And I told you anyone who stands in my way will fall." He gets ready to turn and Vince asks "What is it that you want!?" Finn tells him, "The brass ring isn't worth enough. I want the gold title." Vince says Finn has a TLC match at TLC with Dean, he just has to spare Shane." Finn laughs, turns, and hits the shotgun dropkick on Shane against the grill of an 18-wheeler. Vince calls police to find them but Balor Club are gone when they get to the loading bay.

In the back, Vince is yelling that Balor ruined his own opportunity. All he had to do was spare Shane and he could have had his match. Vince calls the cops off and looks into the camera and tells Balor "I'll be out there at the end of the show."

Reigns & Rollins team to fight the Social Outcasts, and beat them with relative ease. Reigns and Rollins one-up each other with finishers and stand face-to-face. 

At the end of the show, Vince makes his way to the ring. He calls out Balor Club, but they don't respond. Vince says if they don't get out there, they're fired. Nothing happens, Vince is getting ready to fire Balor Club and the lights go off. They come back on and Dean is in the ring standing over Vince. 


Balor Club make their way down through the crowd, security scatters once again, and Balor Club hit the apron. The lights go out, but Triple H's music hits. He makes his way to the ring with the sledgehammer and Balor Club stay on the apron as Triple H gets in the ring and Vince gets up showing that it was a trap. The lights go out, and when they come on, Balor Club are in the ring standing over Vince with Dean gone and Triple H standing with them with a Demon bandana tied around the sledgehammer. Balor Club drags Vince out of the ring and Triple H declares that Finn will receive a title shot at TLC in a TLC match.


Reigns vs Rollins in a ladder match w/ a contract suspended for a shot at the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. The loser enters the Royal Rumble at #1. Typical ladder match with high spots and strikes with the ladder. Rollins does some stunts. He's going to the top but Reigns manages to knock him off. Rollins bounces off the ropes, shoves the ladder, Reigns falls and bounces back then connects with a Superman Punch. He Spears Rollins and climbs the ladder to take the briefcase.

Before the main event, Balor Club show up on the screen and they're holding Vince up. Triple H is there. Finn says, "the last man to stand in my way falls tonight." He turns, but Steph gets in the way to save Vince. She looks at Trips and asks "why are you doing this!?" Trips looks at her and before he can say anything, Steph turns and slaps Vince. She orders Finn to go for the shotgun dropkick, but Sami, Owens, and Shane rush the room. Triple H hits Shane with the sledgehammer, but Sami and KO clear the room and cover Vince and Shane.

Dean makes his way to the ring, and then Triple H & Steph come to ringside. Balor Club enters through the crowd and Demon Finn makes his entrance. They go through the match, and as Dean starts getting the upper hand, Balor Club attack. They position a table and put Dean on it and hold him down as Finn climbs a ladder. Finn hits Coup de Grace off the ladder through Dean and the table. The lights go out. They come on and Sami & KO are in the ring clearing house. Triple H gets in and they take out Sami & Owens. Then the lights cut out with Bray's cue and The Wyatt Family make their way to the ring, slowly. Triple H and Bray stare each other down as The Wyatt Family hit the apron circling the ring. They let the tension build, then hit the ring and get the upper-hand. Bray hits Sister Abigail on Finn and pulls Dean over him. After the ref pins Finn down, Wyatt grabs Triple H and hits Sister Abigail on him. Strowman, Harper, and Rowan beat down Anderson and Gallows and then the lights go out. When they come back on, the Wyatt Fam is gone and Finn is missing.

Building to Royal Rumble

Roman opens RAW and says it's time to set his sights on the only thing that matters. And that's the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He says he hasn't forgiven Dean for what he did, and they will settle that at the Rumble. Dean's music hits and he comes out and says he's survived bigger and badder obstacles than Reigns. Reigns invites him to the ring, but Dean just walks away to boos.

Rollins in the back is asked about having to enter at #1. Rollins says "Shawn Michaels is one of my heroes, and he set a mark for all to follow, so if I have to go from #1 to get back into the title picture at Mania, that's what I'm going to do." Trips walks up and Rollins looks uneasy. Trips says, "relax. We don't have any problems... do we?" Rollins doesn't answer and Trips raises the sledgehammer as Balor Club walks up behind him. "Don't worry, we've got bigger and badder problems to deal with than you." Before he walks off, he tells Rollins, "oh, and good luck at the Royal Rumble."

The following week, Balor Club are put into the Rumble. Bray shows up on screen after the announcement with Finn wearing a burlap sack on his head. Bray tells Triple H if he wants his Demon back, The Wyatt Fam will be placed in the Rumble at spots 26-30. Triple H tells them they can be in the Rumble, but they will get spots 20-24. Bray laughs and accepts and the feed cuts. Triple H is furious and is demanding to know where they're at.

Roman has a match with AJ Styles and Dean comes down to ringside. When things get chippy in the ring, Dean trips Roman and pulls him outside. They brawl to close the show and AJ is furious at the DQ and gets into the fight as well.

On Smackdown, Bray teases Triple H more saying he will release Finn if Triple H inserts himself into the Rumble at #25. Triple H accepts.

The following RAW, AJ Styles walks in to confront Triple H about not having a spot in the Rumble. AJ demands in, and Anderson & Gallows get in his face. AJ backs off but tells Triple H he better make this right.

The RAW before Royal Rumble, The Wyatt Family carry Finn to the ring, still wearing a burlap sack on his head. They tie him to the ropes and Bray tells Triple H his little scarecrow is right there waiting. Bray says crows may run from Finn, but the Buzzards will devour. The lights cut and the Wyatt's vanish and Finn is left tied up as Balor Club comes to his rescue.

AJ finds Triple H and demands again to be put into the Rumble. Triple H tells AJ if he can beat Strowman, he will get spot #30. If he loses, Finn gets entry #30 and Styles has to watch on a monitor from the back. AJ accepts, and Anderson & Gallows attack him from behind. In the main event, AJ is beat up and Strowman just looks at him. Bray calls Strowman and whispers in his ear. The lights cut, and when they come back on, The Wyatt Fam is gone and AJ is left standing alone in the ring to beat the 10-count.

Royal Rumble

Reigns vs. Ambrose goes on right before the Rumble. Dean is resorting to any tactic he can to win, but it's not enough to stop Reigns. He tries to low blow Reigns, but Reigns manages to block him and mounts a comeback. Dean hits a rebound lariat and rolls out of the ring and grabs the title. The referee goes to block Ambrose and take the title, and Reigns runs in for the Spear. Dean pulls the ref into the way. Dean turns Reigns around while he's checking on the ref, drops and low blows him and hits Dirty Deeds. He shakes the ref, covers Reigns, but Reigns kicks out after a long 2. Dean is furious and slaps the ref. The ref is getting ready to signal for the bell, but Reigns grabs Dean, punches him, and tells the ref to let it go. Dean shoves Reigns into the referee and low blows Roman again. The ref doesn't know what happened as Dean hits Dirty Deeds again for the win.

Rollins enters the Rumble at #1 and Sami Zayn at #2. They both survive as the ring begins to fill even more at entry #17 when Kane hits the ring. Anderson & Gallows enter the Rumble at spots 18 & 19 and start clearing some of the weight. The Wyatt Fam hit the ring at 20-24 and go after Anderson & Gallows. They brawl under the ropes to the outside. Triple H's music hits at #25 and he marches to ringside instructing Balor Club decimating the Wyatt's. Bray gets an upper hand and gets in Triple H's face in front of the announce table and the crowd goes insane. Balor Club attack from behind. At #26 is Finn Balor and he runs out and helps beat down The Wyatts. Inside the ring, Seth is starting to clear house. #27 is Jericho, #28 is Kevin Owens, #29 is John Cena, and #30 is AJ Styles. Owens, Zayn, and the Wyatt Fam start taking out Balor Club. Cena, Styles, Rollins, and Jericho clear house and are the last 4 standing in the ring while the rest battle outside. As they begin to grapple, everyone runs in and mayhem ensues.

Wyatt's and Balor Club start taking each other out until we're left w/ a final 7 of Seth, Owens, Sami, Cena, Balor, AJ, and Triple H. Owens and Sami go after Balor and Triple H. Seth and AJ are going after each other and Cena is assisting anywhere he can. Sami is thrown out by Triple H, who then ducks and uses Owens' momentum against him to eliminate Owens. AJ turns his attention to Finn. Triple H rushes at AJ and clotheslines Finn over the ropes. Finn is pissed and Trips is apologizing. AJ throws Triple H out, and gets thrown out by Cena. Rollins and Cena go toe-to-toe for about 7 minutes, Rollins skins the cat, and tries to throw Cena over. Cena is holding on and Rollins is running the ropes. Cena throws a punch but Rollins with a baseball slide through Cena's legs to the outside. Rollins pulls Cena off of the apron for the elimination. Rollins is heading to Mania to face Dean for the WWE WHC.

Build to Fastlane

The next night on RAW, Rollins is talking about going from #1 to win the Rumble. He's insanely over with the crowd. Cena comes out and applauds him for his effort and clever strategy. Then comes Dean. Dean says Rollins got lucky everyone else in the match was more worried about others than themselves. He's running down Rollins and Cena says "at least Rollins didn't have to cheat to win." Dean says, "but that's the stuff Hall of Famers are made of! There's Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels/DX, Macho King Randy Savage, even Eddie Guerrero." Cena cuts Dean off and says all those men deserve more respect than being called cheaters. Shane comes out and announces that Dean will defend against Cena at Fastlane. Roman Reigns comes out and asks why he doesn't get another shot considering Dean cheated to win. Shane says that's a good point, but Reigns had his opportunities as well. Shane says if Roman can beat Styles in the main event, he will add him to the title match at Fastlane.

Balor Club are now preoccupied with The Wyatt Fam and tension is building between Finn & Triple H. Triple H and Shane also have problems now and are building toward a match at Mania.

AJ vs. Roman in the main event is a long-fought match. AJ goes for a Phenomenal Forearm but catches a Spear mid-air. Dean's music hits. Reigns looks around waiting, and AJ rolls him up, but it's only a 2-count. Reigns starts to get the upperhand and Dean's music hits again. Reigns is focused on the ramp when Ambrose slides into the ring from the crowd and starts beating on AJ Styles. Styles wins by DQ, Roman doesn't get added to Fastlane's WWE WHC match.

The next week, Reigns confronts Triple H and Shane who are nearly hostile in the back towards each other. Reigns says he's going to be added to the title picture one way or another, and one of them is going to make it happen. They tell him he has to earn his shot by beating the winner of Dean vs. Cena the next night on RAW.


At Fastlane, Dean puts the title on the line against Cena. Cena is beating Dean senseless all over the ring. Dean starts to get the upper hand and is controlling the match. As Cena starts getting his comeback, Dean ducks the flying shoulder. Cena rolls out of the ring and Dean hits the suicide dive. Dean rolls Cena back into the ring and goes for Dirty Deeds but Cena reverses and hits an AA. Cena can't cover Dean and there's a gong and the lights go out. The arena is dark and filling with smoke. Undertaker's music hits and he makes his way out to the stage. He has a mic and tells Cena, "The time is up... your time is now!" He crosses his throat, Dean hits Dirty Deeds and pins Cena for the win.

Build to WrestleMania 33

The following night on RAW, Cena/Taker becomes official. Balor Club vs. Wyatt Fam becomes official. Shane vs. Triple H for control of the company becomes official. Reigns faces Dean in the main event in a non-title match. If Reigns wins, he's in the WWE WHC match at WM33.

Reigns is getting the upper hand, and they redo the Spear on the ref spot. Reigns doesn't hesitate, he Superman Punches Dean who falls out of the ring. Reigns breaks down the announce table and is going to go for a powerbomb but Dean drops and hits a low blow. Dean pulls Reigns up and gets him back in the ring. He's trying to pick Reigns up, but Reigns with a low blow. Reigns hits Dean with a haymaker, hits the ropes, and Spears Dean. The ref crawls over and makes the count. Roman wins and is added to the title match at Mania 33.

Over the next few weeks, all three men have problems with each other. Rollins is attacked by Dean one night. The following week, Dean attacks Rollins and Reigns comes to make the save. Rollins shoves Reigns and it's clear all three men are in it for themselves.

WrestleMania 33

For an overview of how I would have things play out...

Taker loses to Cena in a long, physical match. It takes more than one AA to put the Deadman down. They show their respect after the match and it's clear Taker's retirement will be celebrated the following night on RAW.

Triple H uses the sledgehammer to beat Shane and gain full control of the WWE.

The Wyatt Fam take on Balor Club who have added a 4th member... The Not-So-Lone Wolf Baron Corbin. Balor Club get the win but it's evident this feud is not yet over.

The Shield Triple Threat kicks off in the main event. Reigns is dominating most of the match. Then he and Rollins put Ambrose through the announce table with the powerbomb. Rollins and Reigns go at it in the ring, Rollins is getting the upper hand and gets his spots in. Dean crawls in and low blows Rollins and then starts attacking Reigns. Reigns manages to gain momentum, and he's hitting Superman Punches on Ambrose. Ambrose ducks a third one and kicks Reigns with a low blow. Ambrose locks the arms to go for Dirty Deeds, Rollins grabs Dean and hits a Scorpion Death Drop in unison with Dirty Deeds. Reigns is out, Rollins heads up top and hits a Phoenix Splash on Dean and pins him for the win to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.