Sami Zayn’s Big Break? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sami Zayn, John Cena, Raw, April 4, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Sami Zayn answers John Cena’s US Title open challenge after being introduced by Bret Hart. Firstly, I have to give John Cena credit for his ability to ad-lib. That crowd was all over him, but he went with the flow. Like him or not, he’s great at it.

What a career moment for Sami Zayn. He pops up on Raw, in his home town no less, introduced by Bret Hart no less, facing John Cena no less! I was actually a little irritated they started this match during the commercial break. I didn’t want to miss any of this one.

So was Zayn’s shoulder injury a work? Were they setting up a weakness for his title match against Kevin Owens? I’ve got to believe that’s the case, considering how obvious they made everything from the trainer looking at him to the referee throwing up the X sign. Either that, or it wasn’t that serious an injury. In any event, Zayn gave the casual fans more than enough to want to see him on the main roster. It’s simply a question of when. Needless to say, this segment stole the show.

John Cena, Sami Zayn, Raw, April 4, 2015Cena was obviously great here too. But after seeing him do it a few times, I’m not a fan of the “springboard stunner.” The obvious Steve Austin factor aside, the move doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially for a guy like John Cena.

Kane: “I don’t believe I can allow the WWE World Heavyweight Champion to do nothing while his opponents are in action.” Um, that’s exactly what WWE did when Brock Lesnar was the champion. I’m just sayin’.

Seth Rollins has been the champion for a little while now, and back in the rhythm of having a WWE Champion who defends the title every month. I can’t say I particularly miss having a no-show champion for months at a time. But I do miss that special big fight feel that surrounded Brock’s title defenses, and part of that did indeed have to do with the title not being defended every month. With the WWE Network being free for new subscribers in May, just as it was in April, and we’re basically giving another big show away for free, maybe now is the time to experiment with these pay per views. For instance, the King of the Ring concept could have been a great way to save Rollins’ next title defense until June. But that opportunity is gone. Maybe find some sort of special attraction?

Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, 05/04/2015Incidentally, is it time to find something else to call these pay per views? After all, they’re obviously trying as hard as they can to ween us off pay per view, and on to the network.

Dean Ambrose added to Payback main event after defeating Seth Rollins. Love it. Ambrose deserves to be in the main event scene as much as anybody. Rollins is obviously going to retain at Payback anyway, so there’s really no harm in adding Ambrose to the mix. Especially if he isn’t pinned. Hell, a Rollins vs. Ambrose PPV main event would be much more intriguing than seeing him against Orton or Reigns at this point. They consistently have great matches, case in point, the match we saw on Raw.

Cesaro shines in tag match against The Ascension. In case you weren’t counting, that was 10 consecutive uppercuts to Konner, and the crowd was obviously loving it. And of course, the giant swing is always over. If you’re wondering why Tyson Kidd and Cesaro are babyfaces now, look no further than what we saw in this match.

King Barrett, Raw, 05/04/2015Bad News Barrett returns to Raw as King of the Ring. Yup. Called that one. So here we go. Barrett has some new life breathed into him, and I like the pairing with Neville. That makes it easy for Barrett to play the bully. Now the question becomes: Can Barrett stay healthy, and remain hot as a heel long enough to break through to the next level?

Tamina Snuka returns to Raw, attacks the Bella Twins alongside Naomi. The sad thing is Tamina and Naomi were supposed to be the heels here. But if you’re a couple of dominant chicks who beat the crap out of the Bellas, you’re babyfaces as far as I’m concerned. The “family” aspect of Naomi and Tamina’s connection is interesting, and makes me wonder what will happen to the Usos when they make it back to TV. Could we see a heel Samoan faction? That’d be something to watch…

Tensions continue to mount between Rusev and Lana. I’m really hoping they don’t break these two up. They’re such a great act, and while Rusev has improved tremendously from a personality standpoint, taking Lana away from him would be a big negative. I’m hoping this all turns out to be a ruse, and she ends up staying with Rusev at Payback.

Ryback, Raw, 05042015Fans chant “Goldberg!” at Ryback during his in-ring promo. I respect Ryback for calling the Montreal fans out on this, as it’s long since gotten old. I’m sure Bray Wyatt will end up beating Ryback whenever they end up clashing. But still, a program with Bray looks good for Ryback, who’s obviously looking to get that next tier. Whether the fans will ever take him serious enough for that to happen is another story.

Other Assorted Ponderings:

Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao in massive boxing main event. For the first time in a long time, boxing was culturally relevant again this past Sunday. The sheer amount of buzz for this fight was astounding, even if the fight itself wasn’t the greatest. It drew so many people who would otherwise have been entirely indifferent to boxing, myself included. It actually made me jealous that pro wrestling hasn’t had a moment like that in so long. The last one I can think of was probably when Mike Tyson (another boxer, obviously) was involved with Wrestlemania XIV, and that was more than 15 years ago. I can’t even imagine what it would take to carry wrestling to that point…

Global Force Wrestling to begin revealing their roster at press conference Wednesday. I’m very interested to see who Jeff Jarrett has been able to attract to GFW. There have to be some notable names on there for drawing power. It’ll definitely be worth checking out.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Billy Corgan, Roman Reigns vs. Big Show, and Other Mid-Week Wrestling Ponderings

Billy CorganBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan joins TNA as a “Senior Producer.” Yet another baffling choice made by the higher-ups in TNA. Corgan may be a star in the music industry, but what sort of track record does he have that merits him being brought into the creative end of a wrestling company? Yes, he’s been involved in some indie promotions, and is apparently a life-long fan. That’s great. But why would TNA invest in him of all people? What great success of Corgan’s can we point to and say, “He made that happen. Imagine what he could do for TNA!” Is he going to produce an A&E reality show about Impact that gets scrapped and never airs?

This just seems like yet another attempt by TNA to hitch their wagon to a star and grab headlines in a feeble attempt to seem relevant. I have no desire to see TNA fail, nor should any wrestling fan in their right mind. But Billy Corgan? Come on…

Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, TNAI hate to beat a dead horse here, but it bears repeating. To me, TNA sold its soul in 2009 and 2010 when they brought in Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and that whole crew. If you look back at the company between 2004 and that early 2009 period, there was no shortage of established stars (Jeff Jarrett, Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, etc.). But TNA was also the place you’d see these newer, fresh talents like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, James Storm, Robert (now Bobby) Roode, etc. You could also see some of the best women’s wrestling in the United States. The creative wasn’t fantastic, but the performances of these awesome wrestlers were sufficient to put eyes on the product. TNA, despite its flaws, was a cool place to be.

But Dixie Carter and the TNA higher ups were seemingly so fixated on reaching WWE’s level of popularity that they sold their soul in a feeble attempt to re-create the Monday Night Wars and boost ratings. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Eric Bischoff wound up drawing attention away from the new stars, which left us with an awkwardly focused product.

TNA, Destination AmericaAnd now, five years later, where are they? TNA’s deal with Spike is gone, and many fans now have to fight to even find them on Destination America. Hogan, Bischoff, and Flair are all gone, as are many of the talents that helped build the company in the first place. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Joe, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Velvet Sky, Madison Rayne. Gone, gone, all gone.

That’s not to say TNA is incapable of producing good television. In fact, during their last several weeks on Spike, and thus far on Destination America, they’ve produced some pretty good shows. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. But God knows it’s better than most of what they’ve been giving us over the last five years.

As for Corgan, I’ll now direct you to an interview he did with Josh Matthews (via Skype) a few days ago…

Whether Corgan is this creative genius or not, people need to remember that one person can’t single-handedly change the course of a wrestling promotion. As an organization, you’ve got to have a a vision and a direction you want to go in, and you’ve got to have talents on and off camera that can put make that vision a reality. One man isn’t going to change that, no matter how many records he’s sold…

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, The Big Show, Roman ReignsRoman Reigns and The Big Show earn praise for their Last Man Standing Match at Extreme Rules. After hearing all the buzz about this match, I went back and re-watched it on the WWE Network. It was easily the best match the two have ever had, which granted isn’t saying much. At times it was, as expected, slow. But the psychology early on was interesting, with Show drawing heat from the crowd by breaking all the weapons. Also, I’ll always give credit to show for taking a lot of big bumps that he really doesn’t have to. Reigns throwing him off the top rope to the canvas was one example. But think about all the superplexes he’s taken over the years.

We got to see some nice stuff from Roman Reigns here. He had some nice ferocity with those hose chair shots he gave to Show, and of course, that spear through the table. Plus, hopefully that bump through the table got him some respect from the smarks.

All in all, it was a good match. Not a classic by any means, but a much better match than what I expected from those two.

Mick FoleyMick Foley’s Cheap Pops special airs on the WWE Network. The network seems to be hitting its stride these days. Specials like this one, the Chris Jericho interviews, and Renee Young’s new Unfiltered series are enough to keep me subscribed for at least another month.

Foley is such a great wordsmith. Even though he’s not really doing stand-up comedy anymore, when you put a mic in his hands he always manages to be entertaining. I’d certainly be open to another Foley special. Heck, with talents like Jim Ross and Shawn Michaels doing one-man shows of sorts, I’d say give them the platform as well. This is the sort of thing devout wrestling fans want to see, and will keep people watching the network.

Image 1 from riffyou.com. Image 2 from wrestlingforum.com. Image 3 from miamiherald.com. Images 4 and 5 from wwe.com.

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King of the Ring, Justin Bieber, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

King of the Ring logo, WWEBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

The King of the Ring tournament returns, will take place throughout the week. For the past decade or so, the King of the Ring tournament has always returned on a whim when WWE remembers, “Oh yeah! This was a thing! Let’s make it a thing again!” And then the next year it goes away just as quickly as it returned. I’ve always been of the opinion that if we’re going to do this, let’s build it up and make it a yearly event like it used to be, especially now that the WWE Network exists. With fans having easier access to pay per view events, it be less of a risk to replace a show like Payback with a King of the Ring show. We could still have a WWE Championship match, but the show could also host a one-night tournament and put somebody over big time.

As for the tournament this year, Bad News Barrett seems like the favorite. WWE seems to like the snobby European King persona. They did it with Sheamus and William Regal. Hell, they even did it with Booker T! Plus, the guy is a big star waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of WWE pulling the trigger. Granted, it could be Neville. But for my money, Barrett is the more likely candidate.

Seth Rollins, WWE Extreme Rules 2015WWE lets the fans pick the main event of Payback. Seth Rollins to defend against both Randy Orton and Roman Reigns. I can’t exactly fault WWE for this. When in doubt, just let the fans choose. Though if we’re being honest, the triple-threat match was the obvious choice. That being said, I was hoping to see Reigns get an opportunity to face Rollins one-on-one. There’s certainly enough backstory between the two at this point. Perhaps that’s coming down the line.

Kane gets the line of the night by calling Seth Rollins the WWE equivalent of Justin Bieber. In the aftermath of Wrestlemania, Kane has become relevant again. Does he always deliver great matches? No. But he’s still an amazing actor, and can do great things on the mic.

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, Roman ReignsRoman Reigns def. The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match at Extreme Rules. This match was better than I think anyone expected it to be. Reigns seems to be in the process of doing something he should have done before they had him win the damn Royal Rumble match: Paying his dues as a main eventer. He’s showing the more hardcore fans that he’s not just a good looking guy, but a tough S.O.B. who deserves respect. I always liked the nickname Paul Heyman gave him: The Samoan Bad Ass.

Tension is built between Rusev and Lana, as the Bulgarian Brute loses to John Cena again at Extreme Rules. The two will face yet again at Payback in an I-Quit match. Lana has proved herself worthy of the adulation she’s getting from the fans. Plus, she’s drop dead gorgeous. So there’s that.

So it’s looks like after Payback is over, Rusev will have lost to John Cena on three straight pay per views. I don’t expect Rusev to go away after Payback, but he’ll definitely need to re-establish himself as a dominant monster. But against who…?

Bray Wyatt, Ryback, Raw, 04/27/15Ryback def. Bo Dallas, is then attacked by Bray Wyatt. For those not in the know, Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are actually real-life brothers. It’s actually pretty obvious if you look at them side-by-side. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that they were involved in this segment together. But it does make you wonder how they could work Bo into some sort of story with Bray.

As cool as it would have been to have Roman Reigns be Bray’s next opponent, Ryback is a good choice for him. He’s someone Bray can beat to build himself back up following the Wrestlemania loss to The Undertaker. Plus, Ryback’s pretty weird in his own right. I’m interested to see how he reacts to the Bray Wyatt mind games.

Damien Sandow reintroduces himself to the WWE audience. One of my favorite internet wrestling podcasters, The Solomonster, has joked about the possibility of Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow forming a tag team akin to the Mega Powers. Obviously it would be Axel in the role of Hulk Hogan, and Sandow playing “Macho Mandow.” Not going to lie, I was almost hoping for that during this segment.

Damien Sandow, Curtis Axel, Raw, 04/27/15The WWE fans seemed more into Sandow as a person than they were the comedic stuff on display here. On the plus side, Sandow’s new theme is pretty cool.

The New Day wins the WWE Tag Team Titles at Extreme Rules. Big E. defeats Tyson Kidd on Raw. Part of me wonders if a New Day heel turn was part of WWE’s plan all along. But then I chuckle. As much of a WWE fan as I am, they just don’t think that way. Still, all three of these guys are talented. They deserve credit for really selling this crappy gimmick and making it into something the fans love to hate. This is also a great opportunity for Xavier Woods to prove his worth as the mouthpiece of this group.

R-Truth def. Stardust. I’m an R-Truth fan, but this sucked. Cody Rhodes is so damn talented, and he deserves to be featured more prominently than he is. For that matter, he deserves to pick up where he left off in his feud with Goldust. That program wasn’t even half of what it should have been.

Raw, 04/27/2015, Adam Rose, Rosa MendesAdam Rose def. Fandango after a Rosa Mendes distraction. Rosa Mendes can’t dance. At least not on her own. That seemed like more of a “What the hell is she doing?” distraction than an “Oh my God, she’s so hot!” distraction.

Jerry Springer hosts WWE “Too Hot For TV” show on the WWE Network. Springer said in a recent interview that his audience and the WWE audience cross over. I really wish he hadn’t said that. I don’t doubt that it’s true. But do you have to remind me?

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Into the Cage, Laying Down For Rollins, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Randy Orton, Raw, 04/13/15Ponderings From WWE Raw

The WWE Championship match at Extreme Rules becomes a steel cage match where the RKO is banned. A steel cage match main event is tough to beat. I’m not sure we needed the RKO to be banned, though. The idea that Randy Orton can be disqualified in a steel cage match is pretty lame. But Rollins and Orton will make it work. The main event of Extreme Rules is most definitely in good hands.

Seth Rollins def. Kane, when Kane lays down. This was fairly entertaining. It was fun to see the crowd get riled up for the potential return of “The Demon” Kane. I can only assume Kane’s days in The Authority are numbered. Who needs a director of operations anyway?

Dolph Ziggler def. Neville. AWESOME match. And while some may disagree, the right guy won. Not every new guy on the main roster needs to have a big undefeated streak. Neville was in there with arguably the best performer on the roster, and he knocked it out of the park. That’s what counts.

Neville, Dolph Ziggler, Raw, May 13, 2015Naomi turns heel after Paige wins a #1 contender battle royal. I’m all for giving the girls a chance. And hey, they did get more time tonight. But as soon as Cole said the Bellas were coming to the announce position, I hit the mute button. I’M SORRY! I can’t help it that they sound like the Kardashians…

But what I’m wondering is…are the Bellas still heels? I know they tend to go in between. But if Naomi ends up challenging for the title eventually, it seems like they’ll either have to put it on Paige or turn the Bellas face. The former seems more likely. And I’m totally okay with that. Just sayin’.

John Cena def. Wade Barrett in his US Open. Yeesh, Barrett just can’t get a break. He got totally squashed in the weeks leading up to the big ladder match at Wrestlemania, and tonight he loses a US Title match to Cena. And don’t kid yourself, he’s not getting the IC belt back at Extreme Rules.

John Cena, Bad News Barrett, Raw, April 13, 2015Incidentally, where was Daniel Bryan tonight? He had that backstage segment with Kane, but that was it. What the hell?

The Big Show chokeslams Roman Reigns on top of a taxi cab on the Raw set. I’m slowly but surely becoming a Roman Reigns fan. His smooth swagger, combined with the really good pay per view matches he’s had in the last two months have endeared him to me. It’s just a shame he keeps getting stuck with The Big Show. Those matches are always slow as molasses, and aren’t going to do him any favors.

Images from WWE.com.

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The New WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From Wrestlemania XXXI and WWE Raw

Wrestlemania XXXI, Seth Rollins, ChampionSeth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank during the main event of Wrestlemania, pins Roman Reigns to become champion. Brock Lesnar assaults Rollins on Raw, gives an F5 to Michael Cole. Stephane McMahon suspends Lesnar indefinitely.

Well, that’s one way to book yourself out of a corner.

Actually, it must be said that the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match was not bad at all. It was the match of the night, in my opinion. They built up a lot of sympathy for Reigns (at least in my mind), and established that he is indeed a Samoan Bad Ass. But at the end of the day, Brock Lesnar was the crowd favorite. WWE clearly knew that going in, and booked accordingly. They told a similar story to the one they did with Lesnar and John Cena at Summerslam, but then threw the twist with Rollins in.

Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Wrestlemania XXXITruth be told, if there’s one guy on the roster that deserved that crowning moment, it was Seth Rollins. He’s turned in consistently good, often great work since his heel turn last year. And whether you’re a Roman Reigns fan or not, this loss at Wrestlemania does two very important things for him. First, it gives him more big match experience. Second, it gives him a little more time to cook before they put the title on him.

There was no way they were going to have Brock wrestle on Raw. I knew that thing was a sham from the get-go. What I didn’t see coming was what happened to Michael Cole. If Brock wasn’t a babyface before, he certainly is now. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Cole took that F5 like a man. I’ve got to wonder who pitched THAT to him…

One thing I will say in critique of that Raw segment…JBL and Booker T. couldn’t have been that hurt by an overturned table, could they?

Triple H vs. Sting, Wrestlemania XXXITriple H def. Sting. This one shocked me. After 14 years, Sting finally makes his WWE debut…just to lose to Triple H? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Still, one would hope that’s not the last time we’ll see Sting in a WWE ring.

The general direction this match took also surprised me. Instead of it boiling down to Sting and Hunter they turned it into an nWo vs. DX thing. It all became a giant Attitude Era throwback. It was fun, I guess. But I thought this was supposed to be about Sting coming to WWE to face the tyrannical leader of The Authority? It seemed like an odd choice to me. But it was Wrestlemania-worthy, to be sure.

By the way, that Triple H/Terminator entrance? Really stupid.

The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker looked as good as he ever has at Wrestlemania. But it seemed like he was definitely feeling it physically. Then again, maybe he was just selling really well. But after the match, he did indeed look up to the rafters and mouth “Thank you.” My instincts tell me he’s got maybe one or two left in him. But then again, people have been saying that for years. Only The Undertaker can tell us for sure. One thing’s for sure, seeing him for the first time in a year was a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Rock and Ronda Rousey wind up in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania. This seemed like a set up for one hell of a mixed tag match. Summerslam, maybe?

John Cena def. Rusev at Wrestlemania for the United States Championship, defeats Dean Ambrose in title defense on Raw. Not exactly a surprise that Rusev lost to John Cena. Though as I’d said previously, I’d have loved to have seen Rusev’s streak continue.

Dean Ambrose deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the 48 hours he had between Wrestlemania and Raw. Between the bumps he took in the ladder match, and the match he had with Cena on Raw, he deserves as much respect as anybody on that roster. There’s so much money on this guy, and he’s so unique. I just hope WWE knows what they’ve got with him…

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIDaniel Bryan wins Intercontinental Championship in multi-man Wrestlemania Ladder Match. Bryan wins a title match against Dolph Ziggler on Raw. After all the complaining the internet wrestling community did (myself included) about Daniel Bryan’s demotion on the Wrestlemania card, it’s tough to deny they put him over pretty well. It would have been easy for him to simply get lost in the shuffle in terms of that ladder match. But he came out on top, and had another great Wrestlemania moment. Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t as good as the one he got last year. But it was still pretty good.

In terms of the ladder match itself…meh. I hate to seem so jaded, especially considering some of the bumps those guys took. But we’ve just seen this match so many times over the last decade. At the end of the day, there are only so many things you can do with a ladder. So I left this match feeling a bit less satisfied than perhaps I should have been. The ending with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler butting heads over and over again was pretty ridiculous too.

As for the match Bryan and Ziggler had on Raw, it’s tough to not enjoy these guys going one-on-one. They make a point to show you things you don’t see in other matches, and it’s a real treat.

Sheamus, Raw, March 31, 2015Sheamus returns after Bryan/Ziggler match to fend off Bad News Barrett, ends up heeling on Bryan. I like Sheamus’ tweaked image, although apparently the crowd didn’t agree (“You look stupid!”). I most certainly like his new direction. A Sheamus heel turn has is long overdue. If I had my way, we’d see Bryan vs. Barrett for the title at Extreme Rules, and Sheamus vs. Ziggler, with the winner getting a title shot.

Adrian Neville (as billed as just “Neville”) and The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) make their Raw debut. So the rumor flying around was that WWE was going to give NXT star Adrian Neville a Mighty Mouse-type persona. It looks like they kinda/sorta went that direction, but thankfully left out the inherent cheeseball elements. We’ve definitely seen wrestlers wear worse things out there than a cape. Great exhibition from Neville. Let’s see where he goes from here.

In that same vein, we saw a hell of a showing from Sin Cara, and especially Kalisto. He had that crowd in the palm of his hand. I want to see more, that’s for damn sure. And hey! Who knew you could have a colorful, marketable Hispanic tag team without turning them into a couple of damn cartoon characters! Does this mean we can finally drop the Los Matadores gimmick?

The Big Show, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Wrestlemania pre-show. I’m guessing this match got bumped to the pre-show so we could have the Rock/Ronda Rousey segment. I’m wondering, had it been on the actual show, if Big Show would have won. This match seemed like the perfect opportunity for Damien Sandow to have his big moment. And indeed, he did have a big moment when he eliminated Miz. But for that to be followed by his elimination by Big Show almost waters the whole thing down. Once it was decided the match would be on the pre-show, I wonder if they just said: “Meh. If Sandow can’t win it at Wrestlemania, let’s just give it to Show.”

And what does The Big Show actually gain from winning the Andre battle royal? Nothing really. At least Cesaro got a push (albeit a failed one) out of the deal. Show’s already a top guy, and he’s aligned with the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. So they basically spun their wheels with this one.

Images from WWE.com.

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A Wrestlemania XXXI Preview – The Gang’s All Here

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is it, folks. Wrestlemania is here. Sting is here. The Undertaker is here. Brock Lesnar is here. Still, all things considered, this isn’t the strongest ‘Mania card there’s ever been. We’ve got three squeeze matches, and a main event with a babyface that isn’t exactly a babyface, and a heel that isn’t exactly a heel…

Let’s dive in.

20150320_LIGHT_WM31_kickoffmatch_hpPRE-SHOW MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores

Neither The New Day or Los Matadores feel worthy of this match. With due respect to the talents of those four men, they should have been stuffed into the battle royal.

I’d be okay with either Kidd & Cesaro or The Usos taking this one. But I’m making my prediction based on an unlikely source: WWE just came out with a t-shirt for Kidd & Cesaro. That leads me to believe they’re going to be in the forefront of things for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking the titles will stay with them.

PREDICTION: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_divastag-1The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee & Paige

The Bella Twins are going to take this one. Why? Because WWE loves them for some odd reason. Personally, I respect the fact that they’ve put the effort they have into wrestling. But I just can’t stand listening to them. AJ hit the nail on the head on Smackdown: They’re like the Kardashians. And if there’s one thing wrestling doesn’t need, it’s Kardashians.

Still, at least AJ and Paige got to be featured in a match at Wrestlemania, and they weren’t stuffed into some “lumberjill” match. Then again, plans can always change, I suppose.

PREDICTION: The Bella Twins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_Andre_HPAndre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

You know who should be pissed about this match? The Big Show. He’s been relegated to this match for the second year in a row, but will almost certainly not win. He’s been compared to Andre the Giant his whole career, and how he’s been stuck in a match dedicated to him, but can’t win!

This should be the match where we finally get our Miz/Damien Sandow pay off. If I’m booking this sucker, our last four guys in the ring are The Big Show, Ryback, The Miz, and Sandow. Ryback dumps out Big Show, then Miz gets the jump on Ryback and tosses him out. Then we get our confrontation between “star” and “stunt double,” resulting in Sandow finally standing up to Miz, and tossing him out of the match for the win. This should be a huge Wrestlemania moment for Sandow. The question is, how do they follow up on it? That part sure as hell didn’t work out for Cesaro.

PREDICTION: Damien Sandow

20150309_LIGHT_WM31_Match_BadNewsLadder_HP2LADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper

I know this match will probably be entertaining. But the purist in me doesn’t like it. I’m also not thrilled with the fact that Daniel Bryan got relegated to a squeeze match a year after winning the main event at Wrestlemania. But that’s WWE booking for you…

I’ve read reports that Daniel Bryan will win this one, but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like a Bad News Barrett win to me. WWE likes him, as evidenced by the way they put the belt on him right when he got back. And then they had all these guys take his title away from him, and then he finally got it back, only to have it taken from him again. This all feels like a build up for him to take it back once and for all at Wrestlemania, and then perhaps turn babyface. The fans like this character, and the heel status still seems forced to me. I’m really spinning the wheel on this one, but I’m going with Barrett.

PREDICTION: Bad News Barrett

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_cenarusevWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

In all honesty, I don’t want to see Rusev’s winning streak end. Originally, I was not a fan of his, simply because he was so cold and expressionless out there. But he’s improved substantially, and is one of the company’s best villains right now. That being said, if you have to lose to someone, a loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania isn’t a bad deal. And given the beating Cena just took from Rusev on Raw, it seems like he’s due for a win. And hey, Cena winning the US Title might just restore some of it’s prestige. Lord knows those secondary titles could use a little more shine on them these days.

PREDICTION: John Cena

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HP_OrtonRollinsRandy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

From a pure performance standpoint, this match could steal the show. Randy Orton’s previous Wrestlemania dance partners haven’t always lent themselves to great matches. But with the right ones, he can deliver. His match with CM Punk in 2011 comes to mind, as does his work with Daniel Bryan and Batista at last year’s show. With a guy like Seth Rollins, the potential is obviously there.

The build-up with Randy Orton pretending to join The Authority was decent. Not great, but decent. Hopefully the match makes it all worthwhile. I see Rollins going over here. He’s unquestionably WWE’s most hated villain right now. What better way to keep his momentum going than a cheap victory over Randy Orton? Mind you, he’ll probably take an RKO somewhere in there. But it’ll be his victory nonetheless.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_takerbrayThe Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

For yours truly, this is the biggest match on the card. I’ve been a fan for almost two decades. So seeing The Undertaker in the ring again is worth the price of admission by itself. He could be wrestling Barry Horowitz (look him up, kids) and I’d still pay to see it.

To his credit, Bray has made the majority of this program work with his verbal skills alone. The only input we’ve had from The Undertaker has been in the form of props and video clips. But Bray made it work. This program, as one-sided as it’s been, has elevated his game significantly.

Obviously, “The Streak” is no longer on the table. We can debate the pros and cons of that at a later date. But either way, The Undertaker could, in fact, lose this match. But I don’t think he will. After last year, the fans deserve to have their faith in this legend rewarded. The Undertaker losing last year left a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth. So now it’s time for him to win again. Will it hurt Bray? Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s career has ever been truly harmed by losing to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Bray will be no exception.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2Triple H vs. Sting

If what we heard on Raw this week is any indicator, I don’t think there’s any risk of the WWE fans not reacting favorably to Sting. They were really into him on Monday, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.

I expect we’ll see classic Triple H here, not to mention classic Stephanie McMahon. They’ll use underhanded tactics, and probably that sledgehammer, to get the upper hand. Then Sting will have his big babyface comeback, and of course, get the win. There’s no way they brought Sting to Wrestlemania just to have him lose. And as I said this week, I’m hoping this isn’t a one shot deal. A guy like Sting could really help elevate and up-and-comer. But either way, this night belongs to the Stinger.

PREDICTION: Sting

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_LesnarReigns_HPWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

This match is “car wreck interesting.” In other words, I’m intrigued to see whether the whole thing just breaks down into a mess. What it really comes down to is the crowd. That’s the big drawing factor. What kind of reaction is Roman Reigns going to get? As Brock Lesnar just resigned with WWE this week, the die-hards and the smart fans don’t have much of a reason to boo him. And as Wrestlemania is a show that the die-hards come from all over the world to see, things don’t exactly look good for

I expect the crowd to be the main story in this one. I don’t see either Reigns or Lesnar as “ring generals,” so to speak. So I’m not expecting a classic. In terms of it’s outcome, while this match could end up going in a lot of directions, I still see Roman Reigns getting his hand raised at the end. One of WWE’s major priorities these days (thankfully) is making new stars. Whether we like him or not, Roman Reigns is one of those stars. So this moment belongs to him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Paul Heyman plays into this. He’s more than pulled his share of the weight in all of this. But now that we know Lesnar has re-signed, I’m curious to see if their relationship evolves at all. Will Heyman still be at Lesnar’s side once Wrestlemania XXXI is in the books? Or will he find himself a new conqueror in Roman Reigns? Has all of this been leading up to a Roman Reigns heel turn? Now that would shake things up…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Images from WWE.com.

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A Batgirl Rising Review – The Blonde Bat-Bombshell

Batgirl RisingTITLE: Batgirl Rising
AUTHOR: Bryan Q. Miller
ARTIST: Lee Garbett. Cover by Phil Noto.
COLLECTS: Batgirl #1-7
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

No matter what characters are under the mask, it seems like there’s always a demand for certain heroes or certain groups. They become franchises unto themselves. Aquaman, Robin, the Justice League, the Justice Society, the Teen Titans. They’ve all had various facelifts and changes over the years, but they always have a certain degree of fan support.

Batgirl is no different.

After Battle For The Cowl, in addition to a new Batman and Robin, we got a new Dark Knight damsel. This time it’s Stephanie Brown, the college freshman formerly known as The Spoiler. Batgirl Rising collects her first few adventures, and  breaks her in as Batgirl.

923527-batgirl__1_007_superWhen Cassandra Cain (the character who took on the Batgirl identity several years after the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was incapacitated by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke) gives up her cape and cowl in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s apparent death, Stephanie adopts the identity, much to the chagrin of Barbara Gordon. Barbara reluctantly takes Stephanie under her wing as she battles The Scarecrow, Roxie Rocket, and whatever else Gotham City throws her way.

But will our new Batman want a new Batgirl flying across the rooftops?

Though I’ve been underwhelmed by Bryan Q. Miller’s work on Titans and Teen Titans, it looks like he was given a lot more room to be creative with this title. He takes the ball and runs with it. One of the cool things about this book is that it not only begins a new chapter in Stephanie Brown’s life, but Barbara Gordon’s as well. There are a few scenes where Barbara is trying to mentor a girl who, like her, had her legs taken away from her. They’re touching, and give Barbara that much more depth as a character.

What’s nice is that Miller hasn’t changed Stephanie’s character simply because she’s become Batgirl. This girl is a perpetual screw-up. She knows it, Barbara knows it, and the audience knows it. So why not have a little fun with it?

Batgirl Rising, Stephanie Brown, Damian WayneA writer once told me that when they’re working as a trio, Robin and Batgirl are actually more fun to write than Batman himself. The Caped Crusader always has to be the brooding straight man, while Robin and Batgirl can crack jokes and have a bit more fun. If Batgirl Rising isn’t evidence of that, I don’t know what book is. Miller writes some competitive banter between Damian and Stephanie that’s an absolute joy to read. When a perpetual screw-up teenage girl meets a 10-year-old assassin/superhero with authority issues, hilarity shall ensue.

Batgirl Rising isn’t an instant classic, but it’s a fun book to read. Certain things in this book don’t work as well as others (Stephanie’s attempt at a romance with a fellow college student isn’t a great beat), but nothing falls completely flat. Considering what Bryan Q. Miller books I had been exposed to prior to Batgirl Rising, this book offered him (and Stephanie Brown, for that matter) a measure of redemption in my eyes. Hopefully the best is yet to come.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from comicsblog.fr. Image 2 from ifanboy.com.

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