Let the countdown begin. One hundred days until WrestleMania 33. Not that we're excited or anything.
Of course, we don't really know what most of the final card will look like, but we've already tried to figure out some realistic possibilities for what'll go down in Orlando.
That process got the wheels turning in a different way, too. What if we could create our own matchups? And what if we weren't restricted to the realities of the modern world and could break the boundaries of time to bring together today's top stars and those from bygone eras?
Everybody has their fantasy match that could never be, and in the spirit of the holidays and the forthcoming Wrestlemania season, here's an informal exploration into some of the most mouthwatering encounters we could dream up.
The icons: Hulk Hogan vs. John Cena
They both transcended this business, plain and simple. Hogan is the guy even your church-going aunt knows about. Cena has been a franchise player -- as despised as he is loved -- for more than a decade. This would be Jordan vs. LeBron, Tyson vs. Ali. Can you imagine if Hogan returned to the ring at WrestleMania after a long suspension for inappropriate remarks? Can you imagine Cena and all that stardom standing there, staring Hulk down? Can you imagine this atmosphere? Bone-chilling. We saw the moment Hogan and the Rock created at WrestleMania 18. This one could be bigger, and better, if only Hogan still had it in his body to hit one more big boot and leg drop.
Keeping it in the family: The Rock vs. Roman Reigns
A family feud between these stars? Yes, please. Sure, they're not technically cousins, but their close cultural ties have connected their families for generations. While the Rock has gone on to more lucrative endeavors, his path to the WWE wasn't so different than Reigns'. Both toiled in professional football (The Rock played in the CFL, while Reigns spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars) before making the leap to wrestling. Beyond their pigskin backstory, these two, with similarly hulking physiques, rose to the upper echelon in WWE in quick (and polarizing) fashion. The Rock had a long stint in Vince McMahon's corrupt Corporation, while Reigns was one-third of the villainous Shield. Of course, The Rock is now a megastar in the entertainment world, and this year was named one of Time magazine's most influential people. Reigns can't seem to step into a ring without getting booed out of it, but he's a main-event staple, and that's not going to change. With some smart storytelling, he will be a top-level star for years to come.
Technical masterpiece: Shawn Michaels vs. AJ Styles
The venerable Jim Ross summed up Styles perfectly in a recent Ross Report podcast: "He's the closest thing to Shawn Michaels in Shawn's prime that I can recall seeing, and if you're like me, I think Shawn Michaels is the greatest all around in-ring performer that I ever saw in the business." Styles joined the WWE only a year ago, and while his "face that runs the place" gimmick is a little cheesy, not a single performer can outdo him when it comes to the combination of technique, personality and all-around engagement. Unlike the other dream matchups on this list, there is a small amount of daylight that this could actually happen. Recently, rumors have surfaced that Michaels and Styles could face off as early as January's Royal Rumble. Doubtful, but even Styles got into the possibility back in October.
Interesting photo..... is it not? pic.twitter.com/MKgF4XoAF1
- AJStyles.Org (@AJStylesOrg) October 20, 2016
Stickin' it to the man: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dean Ambrose
There's little question that these are two of the leading anti-establishment personalities in the past couple of decades, although Austin will always stand alone, having defined the Attitude Era starting in the late 1990s. Led by his unruly, beer-quaffing antics, he became the top star of his generation. Ambrose has a similar insubordinate way about him today and seems to thrive best when living in the gray area between good and evil. Both Austin and Ambrose are unfiltered and believable. They're loners. Neither was blessed with the most graceful in-ring style, at least at their peaks, but it doesn't matter. No one tops either of them when it comes to living on the edge, and you can add in the real tension on display during Ambrose's appearance on the Stone Cold podcast as the cherry on top of this build.
Women's evolution: Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair
They both spent time in the spotlight in their respective eras, but they got there in far different ways. Charlotte has risen to the summit of the WWE women's division in a fraction of the time it took other female stars. Stratus was a phenomenal performer, but her big break came at a time when the WWE was focused on cultivating women's storylines based on their potential to sell swimsuit calendars. She had to work incredibly hard to have people respect her in-ring endeavors, and who knows how much she could've achieved if she came up in an era like the one we're in right now. Of all the women's matches we missed out on by an era, this one is likely among the biggest.
Wearing the war paint: Jeff Hardy vs. Finn Balor
These two caught the wrestling bug early and never stopped, spending copious hours leaping from whatever great heights their environments could provide during their teenage years. Any WrestleMania confrontation between these two could be confused with a Cirque du Soleil show -- and not just because of the face paint. Although today's landscape caters to aerial artists, Hardy was one of the first to seemingly defy gravity and cast aside any aspersions of self-preservation. Call in sick to work and spend a day watching his tables, ladders and chairs matches on YouTube if you're somehow unfamiliar or haven't seen them in a while.
Part of what made Hardy so valuable was the manner in which he could sell a match against a much larger competitor -- his classic ladder match with The Undertaker took the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride. Balor might not take as many risks as Hardy (and who could?), but he's more of a hybrid mixture of technical and high-flying styles -- and he might further tone things down upon his return from a serious shoulder injury to try to prolong his WWE career. Still, we can't deny that these two could create fireworks if they ever battled -- especially if they had a ladder in the ring.
Who outworks whom? Kurt Angle vs. Seth Rollins
Even if these two weren't the A-number-one top guys for significant chunks of their careers, it doesn't matter. The desire to put on the best match on the card night in, night out would push these guys to go out there and steal the show. Even as a six-time WWE champ, Angle often was overshadowed on big shows like WrestleMania by The Rocks, Stone Cold Steve Austins and Triple H's, but his performances -- from his incredible match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21 to his run-ins with Eddie Guerrero, the Undertaker and Rey Mysterio -- were not just executed in a pristine, methodical manner rarely seen before, they were electrifying in a unique way. Although Rollins might not be quite on the same level technically speaking (Angle's certainly among the best all time), he thrives in a similar me-against-the-world existence -- not just in the ring but on the mic and in everything he does. Let's make this one an iron man match and see somebody try to top that.