The Paige/Charlotte Fall Out, Sheamus as Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Reid FlairBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: You’re going to get a lot of complaining from me this week.

WWE got a lot of negative buzz last week after they had Paige say a fairly tasteless line about Charlotte’s deceased brother Reid during their segment. The main event segment, no less. I wrote that what Paige said wasn’t necessarily reprehensible, but some things have come to light since then that shed some new light on the situation.

Firstly, neither Ric Flair nor Charlotte and Reid’s mother knew about the angle. You’d think common sense and decency would dictate that they at least let the parents know about something like that, let alone give them veto power.

Secondly, after WWE got all the heat, they released this statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 2015Essentially they implicated Charlotte, which is pretty sleazy.

I don’t doubt that Charlotte said she was okay with it all. But as we’ve heard from various former WWE stars, the company has a tendency to punish wrestlers who say no to storyline suggestions. It’s not the same thing at all, but Trish Stratus went on record that she once refused to kiss Torrie Wilson on television, and lost the Women’s Title very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, WWE is trying to sweep this situation under the rug. Given how image conscious his company has become, you’d think Vince McMahon, who ultimately has the last word on creative, would have been mindful of the backlash this angle would cause. Particularly when Reid’s parents didn’t know, nor approve.

Sheamus, WWE Survivor Series 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Sheamus cashes in on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, walks out of Survivor Series with the title. A TLC Match for the Championship is made for December. The smart fans weren’t happy about this one, which I get. There was a lot of backlash when Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase to begin with. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least we’ve got a heel champion the fans legitimately dislike.

But you can’t convince me Sheamus is hot as a heel. He was in a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton for months, and then aligned himself with Wade Barrett, who’s been a perennial loser. And the company’s top babyface usually gets booed as much, if not more than he does. That’s why I don’t think there’s any money in Sheamus and Reigns at TLC. We’ve got a cold heel against a babyface that WWE is trying to tell us we should like, instead of letting us choose our own heroes.

Still, the Sheamus era has begun. Hopefully it’s short…

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Roman Reigns, RusevRoman Reigns faces the returning Rusev in the main event. I’m glad Rusev is back, as WWE needs all the depth they can get. But Rusev is yet another cold heel. The last time we saw him he got pinned clean, and took a verbal beat-down from Summer Rae. Whatever happened to the Bulgarian Brute’s balls?

It seems like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev are a group now, which appeared to be the way things were going before Rusev went on the shelf. I wonder if three cold heels can somehow equate to one hot one…?

The Undertaker & Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series. The Wyatts rebound with a win over The Dudley Boyz on Raw. Remember the build-up to Bray Wyatt’s match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania? The buzz was that WWE wanted to keep Bray looking strong so he’d seem like a formidable opponent for ‘Taker. They need to start doing that again, not just with Bray himself, but this entire group. Wyatt spent much of this year losing to The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. We need to reverse that trend and make him look like a winner again. Bray Wyatt is a star. Now he just needs to be booked like one.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 23, 2015I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a tables match with The Dudley Boyz at TLC. The sad thing is, Bubba and Devon have lost most of their big matches since they came back. So after TLC, one of these teams is going to wind up even colder than they are now.

Cesaro reportedly out of action with a shoulder injury. This sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Just when you think Cesaro might finally move up the card a little bit, he gets hurt. It’s bad enough that so many main event level guys off TV right now. But now we’ve got arguably one of the hottest talents in the industry on the shelf too.

The Solomonster pointed out that given the projected four to six month time period Cesaro will be gone for, this might mean he’ll return around the same time as Tyson Kidd. That’s the only upside to this as far as I’m concerned.

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Alberto Del Rio, Zeb ColterJack Swagger confronts Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. This was obviously where they were going before Seth Rollins got hurt, and they had to do the tournament. I understand that Del Rio and Swagger was a built-in match when they started this whole “Mex-America” thing. But Swagger is as much a dead duck as any character they have on that show. Having Del Rio beat him doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s hardly worth more than a one-off match on free TV.

Neville def. Mark Henry. Fresh off of being the only guy pinned on his team at Survivor Series, Neville beats the once dominant Mark Henry on Raw. Makes sense, right?

Henry likely doesn’t mind doing the honors for younger talents. But if they want to do a Mark Henry retirement match someday, they’re going to have a tough time making it mean anything if all he does is lose.

The New Day, WWE Raw, November 23, 2015The New Day celebrate their one-year anniversary on Raw. Damn. These guys died a slow death out there. Much like at Survivor Series, the crowd was absolutely dead for much of this show. You can’t really blame them, given the content of the show they’re watching. But these three have arguably been the most consistently entertaining part of Raw over the last few months, and they just couldn’t get a rise out of the fans. It was downright sad.

In Other News…

TNA lands new network in POP TV. It just goes to show you how many TV networks are out there these days that both TNA and Ring of Honor landed on networks no one has apparently ever heard of.

Still, give TNA credit where credit is due. People continue to write them off, but they keep surviving somehow. Like a lot of fans, I want TNA to do well. They just need to get their feet under them again.

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A WWE Survivor Series 2015 Preview – Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose?

Triple H, Roman Reigns, WWE ChampionshipBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Make no mistake about it, Survivor Series is important this year.

That’s a welcome change from most of the stuff we’ve seen in the last decade. Most WWE fans know that Survivor Series used to be one of WWE’s biggest shows of the year, arguably in league with the Royal Rumble and Summerslam. But over the last several years, the show has lost much of its luster. WWE has actually contemplated “rebranding” their November pay per view, and eliminating the Survivor Series concept altogether. That’s a really sad notion, considering that if booked a certain way, the various Survivor Series tag team matches can be made important again.

However, WWE does seem to be trying to make Survivor Series feel important again. Last year, Sting made his long-awaited WWE debut, and was responsible for The Authority being ousted from power. The impact of that stipulation was nullified just over a month later, but the moment itself was huge.

This year, happenstance has prompted the crowning of a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Survivor Series. And I do mean a new champion. There’s a 75 percent chance that the man walking out with the belt will be wearing it for the first time. Make no mistake about it, in an era where fans are dying for something fresh, a new champion may prove to be a step in the right direction.

More on that later. Let’s run down the show and see what we’ve got to look forward to.

WWE Survivor Series 2015, Dolph Ziggler, Tyler BreezeDolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze

In a way, this match is really sad. Last year, Dolph Ziggler was the sole survivor of his team, and the man who (with some help from Sting) sent The Authority packing. This year? He’s probably going to lose to Tyler Breeze. There’s nothing wrong with losing to Tyler Breeze, but man…how many times can they drop the ball on this guy?

Seeing as Breeze did lose his debut match to Dean Ambrose, I suppose he could theoretically survive a loss to Ziggler here. But that’s not the right move. WWE needs some new blood to step up, and Breeze is more than capable. I just wish they didn’t have to sacrifice Dolph for that to happen.

PREDICTION: Tyler Breeze

WWE Survivor Series 2015, Paige, CharlotteWWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige

I’m curious to see how the crowd reacts to his match, given how poorly many fans reacted to WWE making Reid Fleihr’s death a factor in the storyline. If WWE has its way, every bit of that heat will wind up on Paige, and Charlotte will be the sentimental favorite. But given how smart a large percentage of the audience is in the modern era, that may not be the case.

Charlotte should be the one they go with here. I imagine that would’ve been the case even without all the heat. Charlotte is a good ambassador for what WWE seems to want their women’s division to become. She’s not great on the mic yet. But she’s a great athlete, a good wrestlers, and she can be a positive role model for young girls. I don’t see her dropping the title in the near future.


WWE Survivor Series 2015, The Undertaker, Kane, The Wyatt FamilyThe Undertaker & Kane vs. The Wyatt Family

Oh, come on. Of course it’s going to be Undertaker and Kane. It’s the 25th anniversary of ‘Taker’s debut, and he just lost a Hell in a Cell match to Brock Lesnar. There’s no way they let him take another loss here.

An unfortunate side effect of this match is that The Wyatt Family are starting to look like chumps. Bray Wyatt lost to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He went back and forth with Roman Reigns before finally losing to him at Hell in a Cell. Now he and his entire group are about to lose to ‘Taker and Kane. If booked properly, The Wyatt Family can become one of the most dominant groups WWE has seen in years, and have a real mystique about them. But they’re definitely not headed that way now.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker & Kane

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Alberto Del Rio, Kevin Owens

WWE did the right thing in terms of booking this tournament. They didn’t call John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, or any other big names to throw in there. They stuck with members of the full-time, active roster. Things were a little rocky in the first round, as The Big Show was simply there to be fed to Roman Reigns, and they had to use tag team wrestlers like Titus O’Neil and Kalisto. But for the most part it’s gone very well, and we’ve got some really good matches out of this tournament.

The direction they’re going seems pretty obvious. They’ve even teased it this week. It’s Roman Reigns over Alberto Del Rio, and Dean Ambrose over Kevin Owens. I’m very pleased they let the US and Intercontinental Champions make it this far. But in the end, it has to be the two former Shield members in the finals.

WWE Smackdown, November 19, 2015, Roman Reigns, Dean AmbroseWith Seth Rollins gone, WWE needs a new lead villain. The purpose of this Survivor Series main event should ultimately be filling that role. For my money, it needs to be Roman Reigns. They already planted the seed with that Triple H segment, and in certain arenas he’s already got half the crowd booing him. If they simply let the fans get the booing out of their system, they’ll eventually turn around and start cheering him. That’s how it worked for The Rock, and it can work the same way for Reigns. They just have to go with the flow and stop fighting with their audience. Can Dean Ambrose pull off a heel turn? Absolutely. But he shouldn’t have to. Fans want to boo Reigns, so WWE should give them the pleasure of booing him.

In terms of predictions, I’m going to give WWE the benefit of the doubt and say they’ll do the right thing with Reigns. But considering WWE’s track record of doing the right thing with talents like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Dolph Ziggler, this is a 50/50 toss up at best.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

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John Cena: The Future of “Mr. WWE”

John Cena, Wrestlemania press conferenceBy Richard Brown
Guest Contributor

John Cena has long been the poster boy of the WWE. But as we know, nothing lasts forever. With the likes of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose garnering substantial column inches, how is Mr. WWE coping with such changes?

The 38-year-old Cena made his television debut in the WWE back in 2002 against wrestling legend, Kurt Angle. Since then he’s gone on a meteoric rise to stardom, and is currently the fourth longest serving wrestler to ever feature in the organization. Only Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Hulk Hogan have appeared in WWE for longer periods.

His most successful time in the promotion was arguably between 2006-2010. Cena has won multiple titles and his popularity has extended past his wrestling roots. The promotion has sent the Florida native to the silver screen, bankrolling two films starring Cena: The Marine and 12 Rounds.

John Cena, Vince McMahonWWE Chairman Vince McMahon has a proven record of building stars and turning them into household names. You only have to reference the likes of the aforementioned Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock to see how the pro wrestling business mogul has a track record of developing talent.

Fast-forward to the modern day, however, and Cena is in the latter portion of his career. There’s been an obvious shift in emphasis by the WWE to develop the next Cena in the form of Roman Reigns. After all, Cena won’t be around forever, nor will part-timers like The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. The need to develop the next slew of WWE stars is important for the promotion’s longevity.

But, how is Cena reacting to effectively taking a backseat? What is WWE’s plan for Cena in the coming years?

Like all aging wrestlers, he will undoubtedly be used sparingly. He will likely feature in all the big events, and in significant bouts that appeal to his fan base. It’s also probable Cena will become a mentor for many of the up-and-coming wrestlers WWE acquires, and within its current roster. That’s not to say Cena hasn’t been acting as a mentor for the past decade, as it is widely reported that he’s been mentoring for years and is a very influential figure in the locker room.

John Cena, Sami Zayn, Raw, April 4, 2015Although, Cena is still the biggest star at the company, especially when you consider that out of the top 60 best selling WWE merchandise items, 12 are Cena-related, far more than any other wrestlers on the roster, according to Forbes. The problem is, regardless of the progression of Reigns and other stars, the WWE isn’t ready for life without Cena even if they are lessening his standing gradually.

You only have to look at who was rumored to be facing Cena before Hell in the Cell to see how much his status as a main eventer is diminishing. Bwin suggested that the top 5 likely contenders to face him for the US Championship were Dean Ambrose, Tyler Breeze, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan or Cesaro. Apart from Bryan, the list wasn’t exactly filled with the pedigree Cena is used to facing.

Luckily for WWE fans, McMahon had an ace up his sleeve. The WWE welcomed back the enigmatic Alberto Del Rio to face Cena. The previously sacked superstar would go on to defeat Cena and win the belt. And while WWE built this up to be a marquee event with the reemergence of Del Rio, it shows that Cena isn’t at the top of the pile anymore.

Numerous wrestling news outlets announced Cena was taking some time away from the ring for personal reasons. While it’s unclear when he will return, this extended absence will hit WWE hard especially with Raw ratings falling.

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015It has also been rumored that due to Cena’s hiatus, they may look to push Ambrose into more headline slots to help develop him alongside the likes of Reigns. While McMahon hasn’t been adverse to “bending a knee” to his major superstars and offering them less demanding schedules, Cena has always been very active.

It’ll be hard for Cena to take a less prominent role in the future. But, he’s always been a company man, and while taking a backseat may not be his most preferred options, the likelihood is he’ll do what’s best for the company in the long run. He’s still a financial asset, and while he’s unlikely to feature or win against some of the WWE’s fledgling wrestlers, expect him to be facing iconic stars in the promotion’s major events in the future.

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Paige, the Limits of Good Taste, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We got a really good show this week that was heavy on in-ring action. That’s not a coincidence, folks. Better wrestling equals a better product. In a season where ratings have been on a downhill slide, WWE might want to make note of that.

What’s more, we got the girls in the main event segment for the first time in what must have been over a decade. That’s fantastic. But it might have come with a certain price…

Paige, Charlotte, Raw, November 16, 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Charlotte and Paige main event the show with a contract signing. The death of Reid Fleihr is incorporated into the storyline. In terms of everything leading up to the Reid thing, the segment came off very scripted, especially on Charlotte’s part. I don’t doubt that the tears she shed out there were real. But the dialogue didn’t seem genuine. There were also a few uncomfortable silences, during which I wasn’t sure if Charlotte couldn’t remember her lines, or if she was pausing for effect.

Then Paige said the line about Reid “not having much fight in him.”

Quick history lesson: Reid Fleihr, son of the real life Richard Fleihr (Ric Flair) and brother of Ashley Fleihr (Charlotte), was a prospective wrestler who died of a drug overdose in March of 2013. Poor Ric actually found his son’s body.

Paige, Charlotte, fight, Raw, November 16, 2015Needless to say, this is a sensitive subject. Fans are already crying foul over this. It certainly skirted the limits of good taste. Personally, I don’t think what Paige said was reprehensible. From a story perspective, it gives us very personal connection to Charlotte. We’re now much more invested in this story.

But did they need to play the Reid card? No, of course not. You never need to exploit a real person’s death for a pro wrestling storyline. But they did it. They can’t undo it. So now let’s just hope they don’t stir it up any more.

The Undertaker & Kane to face two members of The Wyatt Family at Survivor Series. More mind games are played on Raw. I can understand why they’d want ‘Taker and Kane by themselves at Survivor Series, but that doesn’t make this decision any less disappointing. The idea of The Undertaker captaining his own four-man Survivor Series team at the 25th anniversary of his WWE debut made for an intriguing selling point. But a straight-up tag match? That’s a downgrade any way you slice it.

Undertaker druids, Raw, November 16, 2015As for Raw, the moment with the moment with the druids and the sheep masks was cool. Most of the mic work was nothing special. I did, however, like Bray Wyatt’s line about a new army of darkness rising at Survivor Series. I don’t know how big a “money match” this is, but that was a money line right there.

Roman Reigns def. Cesaro to advance in the WWE Title Tournament. The crowd seemed really split during this match. It was almost like something you’d expect from a John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan kind of encounter. The older, “smart” fans were rooting for Cesaro, but the kids were cheering for Reigns.

The winner of this match was obvious from the get-go. It was always going to be Reigns going to the finals, and potentially winning the whole damn thing. So that took a bit of the edge off what could easily have been the main event for this week’s show. But it was still a good performance, as Cesaro once again shows us just how damn special he is. I take nothing away from Reigns, as it obviously takes two to tango. But c’mon now…

The idea behind the Reigns promo, and the amount of punishment he took in that match, was to build sympathy for him as an underdog of sorts who hung in there against a machine like Cesaro. However, here’s my question: Does that story work when half the crowd is rooting for the Cesaro to crush the so-called underdog?

Neville, Kevin Owens, Raw, November 16, 2015Kevin Owens def. Neville to advance in the WWE Title Tournament. I’d argue this was one of the best, if not the best outing for both Kevin Owens and Neville on television. Neville’s athleticism was highlighted wonderfully. That reverse headscissors spot was obviously great, as was the turnbuckle bump into the snap German suplex. But I also enjoyed Neville doing something as simple as slowly sliding down the ropes and off the apron when he took that super kick from Owens.

On that subject, WWE really needs to tell their guys to lighten up on the super kicks. Now that Shawn Michaels has been retired for awhile, it’s apparently open season on that move. And it’s not even being used as a finisher.

Kalisto pins Ryback on Smackdown to advance in WWE Title Tournament, loses to Alberto Del Rio on Raw. This is funny, because to me this Kalisto thing is what WWE should have done to begin with if they wanted a new Hispanic star. They didn’t need to shill out a bunch of money to get Del Rio back. Especially given that Del Rio wasn’t exactly hot when he left. I can’t say I’m any more interested in Raw because Del Rio is back. And this whole Mex-America thing seems like it was hastily thrown together.

Still, I don’t think Kalisto loses much by giving up a win to Del Rio. If WWE is smart they’ll start capitalizing on this dynamic talent. At the very least, can we give the Lucha Dragons a tag title shot?

In Other News:

Jay Lethal, Ring of HonorRing of Honor leaving Destination America, will air on COMET in December. ROH must have a better deal with COMET than they had with Destination America. COMET can’t be that much easier to find than DA. Still, kudos to ROH for making more waves (even if they’re small ones) in the television market. Frankly, I’m glad they’re off Destination America. I got a shady vibe from that whole crew after what happened with TNA. Speaking of which, how does this effect TNA, if at all?

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Seth Rollins Goes Down, Roman Reigns Rises? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Seth Rollins injured, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Seth Rollins is inured, and has vacated the WWE Championship. Man, is that a downer. That still photo of his knee during that sunset flip spot was brutal.

Whether or not you’ve been enjoying WWE television lately (I haven’t), it’s tough to deny they made Seth Rollins into a star this year. They really put the machine behind him, and despite being put in some tough situations, a la those long-winded promo segments, he rose to the occasion. He’s arguably been the central character on the show since Wrestlemania, and he’s had some of the best match of the year. The match with Lesnar and Cena at the Royal Rumble, the one with Orton at Wrestlemania, the matches with Ambrose over the summer. We also can’t forget the one with Cena at Summerslam, in which his angle with Jon Stewart was a big factor. So Rollins deserves credit for many of the good things we’ve seen in WWE this year.

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Roman ReignsIn any event, with Rollins down, Randy Orton gone with shoudler problems, and both John Cena and Brock Lesnar out on break, WWE is absolutely dying for somebody to step into a starring role. Roman Reigns seems like the obvious candidate. But there’s also Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Tyler Breeze, and God forbid: Cesaro.

But just because opportunity exists, doesn’t mean the wrestlers, or more likely WWE creative, will capitalize on it…

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE unveils 16-man tournament brackets to crown new WWE Champion at Survivor Series. Obviously this brings to mind the Survivor Series of 1998, when The Rock won a tournament and claimed his first WWE Title. That show meant a lot. It still means a lot, from a historical perspective. This year’s Survivor Series can mean a lot too. More than any Survivor Series in recent memory.

The thing I’ve always remembered about Rock facing Mankind in the main event that night was that neither man had been champion before. I specifically remember Jim Ross saying the WWE Title would be won by “a new man.” That’s exactly what’s going to happen at Survivor Series. With Cena, Rollins, and the others away, a new man is going to step up and become champion.

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Kevin Owens, Titus O'NeilTwo names that stuck out at me from the brackets were Titus O’Neil and Kalisto, both of whom are tag team competitors. It’s interesting to see them spotlighted this way. Titus didn’t last long, and I don’t expect Kalisto to either. But WWE choosing them for this role is intriguing.

Conspicuous by his absence in the brackets was Bray Wyatt. From a writing perspective, he’s obviously not going to be wrestling for the title at Survivor Series. He’s got Undertaker business to take care of. But from a storyline standpoint, it’s odd for them to exclude him in favor of a Kalisto or a Titus O’Neil. Couldn’t Undertaker or Kane have cost him a match, thus adding fuel to the fire?

Triple H tempts Roman Reigns, offers him a chance to face the winner of the tournament for the championship at Survivor Series. Triple H did some really good mic work tonight, hyping up Roman Reigns and his journey thus far, and doing an excellent job of making the temptation to “sell out” seem real and appealing. This could be the seed for a Roman Reigns swerve heel turn at Survivor Series. On the other hand, it serve as a building block for the hero WWE has been trying to create in Reigns. Either way, it made for good television.

And then they followed it up with a Roman Reigns/Big Show match. Hey, at least we didn’t have to endure it at the pay per view.

Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, November 9, 2015Dean Ambrose def. Tyler Breeze to advance to the tournament quarter-finals. Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae work well together, and Breeze has obviously got his character down pat. That’s obviously one of the advantages of the NXT system. Talents have time to get used to the way WWE does things, and get to hone their acts. Though he did lose cleanly to Dean Ambrose tonight, which sucks.

Ambrose and Reigns are the smart bet to main event Survivor Series for the title. With due respect to everybody else in the tournament, Ambrose and Reigns are the biggest stars in the whole thing. And the best friends wrestling for the championship story is simply too good not to tell. Much like 1998, I can only assume one of them will turn heel in the end.

Bray Wyatt attempts to “eulogize” The Undertaker and Kane before the brothers appear in person. I maintain that this angle about Bray stealing ‘Taker and Kane’s “powers” is stupid. But seeing the brothers go against The Wyatt Family is undeniably appealing.

We’re obviously working toward an elimination match with the Wyatts, The Undertaker, and Kane. Logic suggests it will be four-on-four. But who do you put on ‘Taker and Kane’s side? Jason Solomon over at The Solomonster Sounds Off actually pitched a pretty good idea: The Dudley Boyz. Why not? What else are Bubba and Devon up to right now? Plus, they can feud with Harper and Rowan after Survivor Series. Everybody wins.

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Cesaro, SheamusCesaro def. Sheamus too advance to the quarter-finals, via a distraction from Wayne Rooney. Sorry, British fans. I haven no idea who Wayne Rooney is. But hey, he helped Cesaro get a big win. So he’s alright in my book.

One of the nice things about this tournament is that it inherently gives us matches for Raw next week, not to mention Smackdown. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Roman Reigns and Cesaro wrestle before. I’m definitely curious as to what they’ll put together, and even more curious to see how the crowd will act for them. Cesaro obviously won’t be winning that match, but it’s a big chance for him to deliver alongside WWE’s hand-picked golden boy for the future.

Natalya def. Naomi. So WWE is officially turning Sasha Banks babyface. Those “We Want Sasha!” chants aren’t going away any time soon. They’ve done the smart thing and embraced it as a storyline.

Also, Naomi really needs a new finish. What exactly was that spot where she leapt in the air, attempting to do the Rear View? Seriously, try a different move. Preferably one where you can see what you’re doing.

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Raw Ratings Decline, Buff Bagwell, and Other Wrestling-Related Ponderings

Stone Cold Steve Austin, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’re a little bit further from Raw this week. So we’re broadening our horizons a little bit…

Steve Austin talks WWE being “very constricted.” Stone Cold Steve Austin, perhaps the biggest star in wrestling history, recently told FOX Sports that he feels for the talent in the WWE system right now, because of how constricted it is. While he said he didn’t mean to bash the current product, he commented that it’s a “very rigid system and it’s very political.”

Hey man, you don’t have to tell us. It’s pretty damn obvious if you watch the product. It’s also pretty damn obvious if you look at the ratings, which sank to yet another all-time low this week.

There isn’t one specific thing that’s causing the ratings drop. You can blame it on the annual autumn slump, the three-hour format, scripted promos, the wrestlers’ inability to connect with the audience due to some of those constrictions Austin mentioned. But if I had to pick one specific thing to point to, it would be WWE trying to fight with their audience yet again.

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIIt’s not just about Roman Reigns, and WWE’s struggle to get fans to accept him as a top guy. That’s a major part of it, but it goes beyond that. It’s WWE’s refusal to adapt to things that happen organically in an attempt to give viewers what they want. Case in point: The Daniel Bryan situations that have developed during the past two Wrestlemania seasons. Fans were clamoring to see Bryan in a top spot. But WWE needed to have it’s proverbial arm twisted to make it happen at Wrestlemania XXX, and last year they simply dug their feet in and said no.

Whether intentional or not, the message WWE has been sending fans for the past several years is: “We decide who the stars are, not you.” And that takes a lot of the fun out of wrestling. While we’re clamoring for guys like Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, and Damien Sandow to get a fair shake, WWE is digging their feet in with the likes of Roman Reigns, The Bella Twins, and even long-established stars like The Big Show and Kane. I’m not taking anything away from the talent those individuals have. But isn’t listening to your audience an integral part of being any kind of entertainment company? We demand, you supply. But for the past several years, most of our demands seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The WWE machine may have gotten behind Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena, but it was the fans that made them stars to begin with. If you take that element of democracy and audience satisfaction away, then what’s the point of tuning in to begin with?

Based on how ratings have looked lately, it seems I’m not the first person that has occurred to.

Buff BagwellBuff Bagwell: “Jim Ross ruined my career.” On the subject of Austin, he spoke to Marcus Bagwell, a.k.a. Buff Bagwell, on last week’s episode of The Steve Austin Show Unleashed. Among the highlights was Bagwell blaming Jim Ross for ruining his career, spreading a story about his mother calling off some live events for him, and refusing to rehire him after he was released from WWE in 2001.

Bagwell seemed to be in pretty good spirits during the interview, which is nice. But I think it’s rare that one person is entirely responsible for ruining someone else’s career. Plenty has been said about Bagwell’s backstage demeanor at both WWE and WCW. While I’m sure not all of it is true, that much smoke means there’s usually fire of some kind. And I’m sure that disastrous WCW main event between Bagwell and Booker T didn’t help matters.

By the time this comes out, I’m sure JR will have responded via his own podcast. But in the end, what good did it do Bagwell to throw a beloved wrestling announcer under the bus like that?

Ponderings From Raw:

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns officially announced for Survivor Series. Happy to hear this is taking place at Survivor Series, as opposed to TLC. I imagine we will indeed see these two in a TLC match in December, but it’ll be a Survivor Series rematch. I don’t see any reason why Rollins shouldn’t carry the belt to Wrestlemania at this point. Why not? Last year Rollins stole the title in the main event, so this year let’s have Reigns or Brock Lesnar get revenge.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 2, 2015Bray Wyatt claims to have “harvested the souls” of The Undertaker and Kane. The Wyatt Family look stronger than ever. When you look at Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman standing behind Bray Wyatt on TV, it’s believable that these guys could run roughshod over the entire roster.

But here’s the bad news. This promo about “harvesting souls” or whatever, really didn’t mean anything. So Bray has inherited ‘Taker and Kane’s magic pyro powers? What a load of crap. And the thing is, Bray’s delivery was still solid. So had he actually been talking about something that connected, this would have been a great promo.

The Usos return to action, join Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Ryback to defeat Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and The New Day in the main event. There’s your tag team title match for Survivor Series, right there. If WWE is smart (which is debatable), they’ll extend a program between The Usos and The New Day through the end of the year. But much like Rollins, I don’t see any reason to take the gold off The New Day before Wrestlemania.

Sin Cara, Sheamus, Raw, October 2, 2015The Lucha Dragons def. Sheamus & Wade Barrett. Putting Sheamus and Wade Barrett together as a tag team was a smart idea. Both of them were floundering as singles, but together they make a pretty formidable addition to the tag team division.

I’m pleased to see The Lucha Dragons being re-emphasized. For my money, if WWE wanted to look for new Hispanic stars, they didn’t need to throw a bunch of money at Alberto Del Rio. If Sin Cara and Kalisto were pushed in the right way, they could easily have appealed to that demographic until WWE found a new singles star. Hell, they may not have had to look far. Kalisto fits that Rey Mysterio mold. And he can do things in the ring that Rey hasn’t been able to do in years.

Paige def. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Brie Bella to become the top contender for Charlotte’s Divas Championship. This match was more about the journey than the destination. The story surrounding the Divas Title is obviously about Charlotte and Paige right now. I was pleased to see Sasha and Becky get some mic time here. Becky in particular, as she’s largely been overshadowed by Charlotte. Some time on her own would do her good.

Also, a memo to Brie Bella: Please refrain from shouting “Brie Mode!” during your matches. Brie Mode is not a thing. It never will be. Thank you.

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Saying No to Del Rio, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw this week, I’d like to debut a new feature for these weekly reviews.

Now more than ever, Raw has entirely too many overrun by six-man tags. Last week we had an appalling three six-man matches in one show. It’s a sure-fire sign of lazy booking, in my opinion. So from now on, at the end of each review we’re going to make a point of counting how many six-man tags were on the show in question. It will appear at the bottom of the review each week.

Alberto Del Rio, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Alberto Del Rio wins United States Championship at Hell in a Cell, with Zeb Colter at his side. Boy, is it difficult to articulate in human English just how much I hated this. What an awful move.

Just to be clear: I don’t hate Del Rio. He’s an excellent wrestler, he still looks great, and he’s done some good stuff for WWE. But he’s also been part of some mind-numbingly boring television. Part of the reason for that is because his personality, for my money, has been so one-dimensional. And yet, because WWE feels like they desperately need a big Hispanic star, Del Rio is back.

So what’s with this Mex-Americans thing? Del Rio condescendingly referred to Neville as an immigrant before their match. So I assume they’re going for a hypocritical heel angle with he and Zeb Colter. That’s a little awkward. But in all fairness, let’s give the angle the story some time to breathe.

WWE Raw, October 26, 2015, Seth Rollins, Roman ReignsAfter defeating Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match, Roman Reigns becomes the top contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. So is Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns our main event for Survivor Series next month, or TLC in December? I ask because the match isn’t listed on as part of the Survivor Series card.

I assume they’re putting Reigns back in the title picture to plant the seed for him being involved in a title match at Wrestlemania somehow. I can only assume they wouldn’t be dumb enough to have him win the Royal Rumble Match again, but WWE obviously wants him in a top spot. There’s been speculation about Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, which would be an interesting follow up to what happened in last year’s main event. Either way, hopefully this is part of a long-term plan that takes us toward Wrestlemania in Dallas.

After losing to Brock Lesnar at Hell in a Cell, The Undertaker is carried out by The Wyatt Family. After a speech from Bray on Raw, the same happens to Kane. Bray’s promo didn’t do much for me. We didn’t find out where they took Undertaker, or what exactly was done to him. It was just a lot of lip service about the demise of ‘Taker’s soul. Bray’s motivation here is rather obvious. The Undertaker beat him at Wrestlemania. Much like ‘Taker vs. Lesnar, it’s a simple revenge story that they’re overcomplicating.

Kane, Raw, October 26, 2015And now we’ve got Kane in the mix. Interestingly, after Hell in a Cell ended, Jim Ross tweeted about a possible match for Survivor Series featuring The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, & Sting. That’s a hell of an idea, assuming Sting is ready to get physical again. But I think a more likely main event would be Seth Rollins and The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and if not Sting then another babyface the WWE brass are fond of. Ryback comes to mind. That’d be a hell of a nod to the classic Survivor Series format, and it could tell a great story if The Undertaker is left standing alone against some of the Wyatts.

Tyler Breeze debuts on Smackdown alongside Summer Rae, appears at ringside during Dolph Ziggler’s match with Big E. It’s looking like Breeze is getting a strong start. He’s got Dolph Ziggler as his first opponent, so he’s bound to have some good matches. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s being paired with Summer Rae either.

Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015But you know who else got a strong start? Bo Dallas and Neville. And look where they are now. I don’t want to put a damper on Breeze’s debut, but when some of these guys (or girls) leave NXT, they get lost in the shuffle on Raw and simply become roster fillers. In some cases that’s their fault for not being able to make the most of their opportunities. But in other cases it’s WWE’s fault for simply not knowing how best to use some of these talents. Does Bo Dallas have what it takes to be a big star? Who knows. But they definitely could have made him into something more than a jobber.

So good luck, Breeze. You just might need it.

Paige turns on Charlotte and Becky Lynch following loss to Team Bella. So Paige is officially a heel now, finally finishing the rocky journey that started with her wannabe “Pipe Bomb” promo several weeks ago. The crowd still doesn’t seem to want to boo her entirely. I suspect a portion of the male audience will always be into what she does. But at least now they’ve got her acting like a full-fledged villain.

Kevin Owens, Cesaro, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015Kevin Owens def. Cesaro. The best thing Cesaro can do at this point is continue to have great matches. Like Dolph Ziggler, he must be so good that it’s impossible for WWE to ignore him. Allegedly, Vince McMahon finds him boring. Clearly, San Diego had a different opinion this week.

Stone Cold Steve Austin appears in backstage segment promoting WWE 2K16. Ugh. Why do they do this to us? Why create even the faintest glimmer of hope that somehow he’ll stay?

Six-Man Tally: 2

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