James Ellsworth Kills Time, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

AJ Styles, James Ellsworth, WWE Smackdown, October 18, 2016 By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, Raw brought us the return of Bill Goldberg after 12 years. And over on Smackdown we’ve got…James Ellsworth challenging for the WWE Championship. In a way, that makes perfect sense.

Let’s be honest, Smackdown is basically just killing time until they really start to build toward Survivor Series. That’s why we’ve had our champion messing around with James Ellsworth for two weeks. Yes, Dean Ambrose is in those segments very prominently. But we’re not exactly clamoring for another Ambrose vs. Styles match, are we? Ambrose vs. Cena, on the other hand…

On the subject of Cena, rumor has it he’ll be wrestling at Survivor Series. This means Smackdown‘s team will likely consist of Styles, Ambrose, Cena, Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt. That’s a damn good team. And hopefully they can use that match to transition into different programs, i.e. Ambrose vs. Cena and Styles vs. Orton.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Bray Wyatt, WWE Raw, October 18, 2016During a match between Randy Orton and Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt comes to the ring in a casket. Wyatt is later surprised when Kane emerges from the casket to attack him. This was not a good promo night for Randy Orton. When he’s fierce and fired up, he can be really good on the mic. But tonight he sounded monotone and uninterested. Almost bored. Never a good way to start a show.

In WWE, caskets are Undertaker imagery. Bray even had his own spin on ‘Taker’s druids. So it was no surprise to see the Dead Man’s baby brother dust off the old surprise casket appearance trick. But here’s my question: Why is Kane even involved in this program anymore? The story is about Orton and Wyatt, and Orton doesn’t need a run-in buddy, Give Kane something else to do.

Alexa Bliss def. Naomi. Naomi is really coming together as a single. It’s not just her entrance, but she’s so athletic out there. That being said, the right woman won this match. Alexa has a title match coming up, and now she looks that much more threatening.

After taking a punch, Curt Hawkins opts not to face Apollo Crews. When I realized who was supposed to be wrestling, I balked. As de-emphasized as Apollo has been lately, there was no way they were going to let him lose to Curt Hawkins. Especially when Hawkins is playing a pretty silly character. A character who’s going the Eva Marie route, with all these premature exits.

WWE Smackdown, October 18, 2016, Nikki Bella, CarmellaCarmella calls Nikki Bella out for her relationship with John Cena. I’m never happy when Nikki gets a microphone. I get memories of, “I wish you died in the womb!” Carmella also seemed to have trouble sticking to her accent. But from a substance perspective, this was a good segment. They even let Carmella have the last word, talking about how Nikki had used both her looks and Cena to get to the top.  While this likely means we’ve got more talking segments from Nikki in our future, this could go someplace interesting.

The Miz & the Spirit Squad def. Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater & Rhyno. Mauro happened to mention Ken Doane played college football after leaving WWE. I’d forgotten he was only 19 when he made it to the main roster in 2006. That’s really something, considering some of the stuff he got to do during that run,

I’m still not used to Heath Slater getting the hot tag. It works. But I’m not used to it. Of course, he lost to a roll-up, as at least one person has to do on every WWE broadcast.

Natalya vies to be the first entrant in the women’s match at Survivor SeriesSo when Nattie came into Bryan’s office and pitched herself for the match, Daniel Bryan went “Why you?” Excuse me? This woman was one of your first female draft picks. She’s a former champion and a Hart. So why the hell not her?

Baron Corbin, WWE Smackdown Live, October 20, 2016Baron Corbin def. Jack Swagger. One of the better Corbin outings I’ve seen on national TV, specifically the spot with the forearms on the barricade. This guy still has miles to do, but he’s making progress.

James Ellsworth def. AJ Styles via disqualification, with Dean Ambrose as the guest ring announcer. For the second time this week, I was pleasantly surprised at how into things the crowd was. Ellsworth is more over than guys a lot bigger than him, who probably make a lot more than him. So he deserved this chance to shine, and AJ even sold his “no chin music” super kick like a champ. We’ve even got a James Ellsworth t-shirt. I can’t imagine what this guy’s worth must be like these days.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Bill Goldberg, Survivor Series, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE Survivor Series 2016, general managersBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I realized something while watching this show. WWE is doing something they haven’t done in years. They’re thinking ahead in terms of pay per view promotion.

For obvious reasons, we always hear about Wrestlemania. We spend a good portion of the year thinking about it. Where is it going to be? What’s attendance going to be like? What are the big matches? Who’ve they got for Undertaker and John Cena? Things like that. But Wrestlemania is a staple of the WWE brand. They’re always hammering it in as the show to top all shows.

But what about, say…Survivor Series?

For the longest time, Survivor Series has been the red-headed stepchild of the classic WWE pay per views. Never as big as Summerslam or the Royal Rumble, and never even in the same conversation as Wrestlemania. It was always simply the November pay per view that happened to have some gimmick tag team matches on it.

Try this: Off the top of your head, what’s the most recent big Survivor Series match you can think of without Googling? For me, it was The Rock’s return to the ring in 2011, teaming with John Cena against The Miz and R-Truth. A few minutes later, I was able to trace things back to Roman Reigns against Dean Ambrose from last year.

WWE Survivor Series 2011, The RockThis year, however, they’re upping their game. On this week’s show, not only were they talking about Hell in a Cell in two weeks, but they’re already setting the table for Survivor Series. We’ve got Goldberg coming back for that show, and they’re establishing the Raw vs. Smackdown stuff. In addition, they’re already talking about the Royal Rumble coming back to the Alamo Dome in January.

I’m sure it’s not paying dividends yet, but folks, this is how you get people interested. You give people reasons to care by building things up in advance, and not taking things on a month by month basis. I can’t even tell you when the last time Survivor Series had this much buzz around it, much less when they were talking about the Royal Rumble as early as October.

More of this, please. We have more pay per views than ever, but we can still make the big ones mean something.

Ponderings From Raw:

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho open the show. Seth Rollins challenges Jericho to a rematch from last week, which he wins. I was surprised at how hot the Denver crowd was for what was essentially your standard opening promo. It’s a testament to just how good Owens and Jericho are as a duo. Had they put, say, Roman Reigns, Rusev, and Lana in this spot, it would have been business as usual. They even got that “sparkle crotch” line over.

Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 17, 2016Given the segment we’d see later with Stephanie McMahon, it looks like they’re saving Owens vs. Jericho for Roadblock in December. The crowd is going to pop huge when Jericho tells Owens he’s made the list.

Lita conducts one-on-one interviews with Charlotte and Sasha Banks. I always like when they do this kind of thing. They did it with Seth Rollins a few weeks ago, and it went even better this week. Great intensity from Charlotte. It made me wonder if she was about to cut a promo on Lita. I wouldn’t mind seeing that…

As for Sasha, we all love her. But they need to give her some new talking points. We get it. You wanted this as a little girl. You’re making history. You were with these girls in NXT. You said this stuff every other week. Please move forward.

Golden Truth & Mark Henry def. Titus O’Neil & the Shining Stars. I really wish I didn’t have channel changing heat with the Shining Stars. But whaddaya gonna do?

Oh…hi Mark Henry…?

Big E. def. Sheamus. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how strong these guys are. Big E. literally caught Sheamus in a powerbomb position before slamming him. That should have been the win right there, as opposed to the roll-up spot they went with. Still, now Big E. can say he beat a former four time heavyweight champion in Sheamus.

Bo Dallas, WWE Raw, October 17, 2016Want to get drunk real fast? Take a shot every time someone said Facebook Live during this segment.

Bo Dallas def. Neville, turns on Curtis Axel. I’m still not into those little poems he recites. But by and large, I’m into crazy Bo Dallas. This begs the question: Why didn’t they do this sooner? Crazy Bo sure as hell beats Social Outcasts Bo.

Dana Brooke def. Bayley. This one was a dud, made worse by a botched finish. Dana Brooke was obviously supposed to get her foot on the bottom rope for added leverage, thus cheating to beat Bayley. But the way it came off she looked like she beat her clean. Sorry ladies.

Paul Heyman addresses Bill Goldberg via satellite. The best part of this promo? Heyman putting that condescending emphasis on the name Bill. “It’s a game, Bill. It’s a fantasy, Bill. Not Goldberg. Bill. That got a laugh out of me.

After winning a three on one squash match, Braun Strowman is challenged by Sami Zayn. Oh Sami, no. I’m so sorry, buddy…

Roman Reigns, Rusev, and Lana have an in-ring segment. Yeah, I won’t lie…I DVRed through this one. Sorry folks, I just didn’t have the stomach for more awkward Roman and Lana dialogue this week. By the time I hit the play button, Roman and Rusev were fighting, and Rusev won. Fair enough.

Big Cass, Karl Anderson, WWE Monday Night Raw, October 17, 2016Big Cass def. Karl Anderson. Corey Graves: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised. Big Cass dispatching of Karl Anderson in relatively short order.”

I understand wanting to maintain the illusion that a six foot tall, 240 lb man can beat up a seven foot tall, 275 lb man. But c’mon, Corey. Don’t say stuff like that. It hurts your credibility, and you’re one of the more credible announcers they have right now.

When I saw Enzo in that pink….whatever that was, it became clear the show was falling off the rails. It’s third hour syndrome, folks.

Brian Kendrick, Tony Nese, & Drew Gulak def. TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, & Rich Swann. I like the Brian Kendrick story. But here’s an observation: They keep saying this might be his last chance. But he was given a spot on Raw after losing in the Cruiserweight Classic, and he’s now getting his second opportunity at the Cruiserweight Title. Just saying.

I was looking at Tony Nese and Cedric Alexander in this match. They’re the budding stars of this division as far as I’m concerned. On the flip side, I’m really trying to like Rich Swann. That leaping hurricarana from the mat to the top turnbuckle was amazing, and of course he loves his somersaults. But his on-air personality grates on me. I have no use for the dancing gimmick.

cvbmqubumaa1v3r-jpg-largeBill Goldberg returns to Raw, accepts Brock Lesnar’s challenge for a match. As always, Goldberg got a really cool entrance. Nice touch having him walk past some of the current guys. And I’ve got to give it up for that Denver crowd again. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a crowd chant “Goldberg!” louder.

One of my favorite wrestling podcasters, the Solomonster, talked about this on his show this week: I’m not sure people remember just how big a deal Goldberg was during the Monday Night War. He was a franchise player for WCW. Was he as big a star as Steve Austin or the Rock? Probably not. But everybody knew who he was. And having him back is a big deal for WWE. Against Brock Lesnar, no less.

They made no mention of Survivor Series being the venue for this match, but it’s been widely reported that’ll be where it happens. I’ll reiterate that I’m very interested to see how Goldberg looks compared to Brock.

Goldberg’s proclamation of, “You’re last!” was interesting. That seems to indicate they’re marketing this as Goldberg’s last match. That’s fair enough. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to squeeze just one more out of him for Wrestlemania. Even if it’s just a spear and a jackhammer.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Batman: Night of the Monster Men Review – Hollow Monsters

Batman #7, 2016, cover, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: “Batman: Night of the Monster Men”
AUTHORS: Steve Orlando, Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV
PENCILLERS: Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald
COLLECTS: Batman #79Nightwing #78Detective Comics #941942

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This “Night of the Monster Men” crossover boasts an extremely talented group of writers and artists, stars Batman and some of his more popular allies, and is even inspired by one of the very first Batman stories. It also began a week after DC “killed” Tim Drake. So there was a lot of potential here for a creative, emotional, thrill ride.

Yeah, none of that happened. “Night of the Monster Men” feels like your wife dragging you to one of your friend’s weddings. It’s an obligation you’re stuck with, so you try to make the best of it. But in the end you’re just happy to get the hell out of there.

Running through BatmanNightwing, and Detective Comics, this story sees Hugo Strange create giant monsters that attack the city. Much of Batman’s surrogate family gets wrapped up in the chaos. But despite all the innocent lives that hang in the balance, Strange’s entire plot is about Batman himself.

Batman #1, Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters, 1940, Bob Kane and Bill FingerAll this Hugo Strange/Monster Men stuff is inspired by a story from 1940’s Batman #1 entitled “Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters.” It’s a respectable early outing for the Dark Knight by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in which Strange creates a bunch of big ogres to terrorize the city. Matt Wagner took the same cue for his 2006 miniseries Batman and the Monster Men, which was exponentially better.

“Night of the Monster Men” suffers from a variety of problems. But chief among them is a lack of emotional stakes. That’s an odd problem to have, considering what just happened with Tim, and how many of Batman’s surrogate family members are in this fight. In the first issue, Batman repeatedly emphasizes that no one else is dying. This gives the impression that we’re going to get an overprotective Batman, frantically trying to micromanage the efforts of his partners to keep them from dying. This would be futile, of course. But it would have made a great emotional backdrop. We also had the perfect cast for such a story, with Bruce having recently trusted Batwoman to train this new crop of young heroes. And of course, we’ve got his original partner, Dick Grayson. Hugo Strange’s motive also would have been more poignant.

Instead, we mostly get a story about Batman fighting monsters. Monsters created from cadavers, no less. We can’t even go the route of, “Don’t kill the monsters! They’re people!” Later, two of our heroes are turned into monsters, but they don’t mine this for much emotion either.

Granted, they’re cool looking monsters. “Night of the Monster Men” enlists Riley Rossmo and Andy MacDonald, both of whom excel in the fantasy/horror side of things. We also have they very capable Roge Antonio, who give us a nice blend of horror and naturalism. Instead of going the ogre route, the story mostly opts for a mix of mutant aberrations and giant kaiju type monsters. They’re fun to look at, but they’d be more fun if they were more than mere physical threats to our heroes Batman. There’s little of any depth or substance to them, and what the final issue attempts to pass as such via Strange’s motivation doesn’t connect in a meaningful way. (That monster represented fear? But weren’t we supposed to be afraid of all of them?)

Detective Comics #942, monster two-page spread, 2016So instead of a coherent crossover that ties into and takes advantage of Batman’s fragile emotional state, what we essentially get is a bunch of fluff that they attempt to tie together at the end with some psych mumbo jumbo. It’s all so hollow.

“Night of the Monster Men” also suffers from being a little too long, and a little too crowded. The story struggles to give Spoiler and Orphan something to do in all of this. Like Booster Gold in his Justice League Unlimited episode, they’re mostly relegated to crowd control. There’s a cave sequence (not that cave) involving Spoiler, Orphan, and Harvey Bullock that largely feels like padding. If they’d cut that out, along with the ridiculous scene where our heroes use giant guns and harpoons on top of buildings (conveniently adored with the heroes’ insignias) to stop a monster, they’d probably have been able to trim this down from six issues to four. Five at most.

Nightwing #8 and Detective Comics #942 also make full use of the “Hugo Strange dressed as Batman” trope, as we learn that Strange himself wants to be Batman. A fine motive, though not necessary in this case. “Night of the Monster Men” would have worked fine as Strange’s attempt to spotlight Batman’s inadequacies and force him to hang up the cowl, in the process pouring salt in the wound left by Tim’s departure. Perhaps the urge to use the only piece of classic Batman/Hugo Strange imagery was too intense. Admittedly, at that point I was just happy we were finally getting a scene between two human beings, as opposed to hollow monster battles.

batman-clayface-suit-detective-comicsOn the upside, this story makes fine use of Clayface’s new status as one of Batman’s allies. He plays a practical role at first, spreading himself out to guide people out of the city. He also plays an integral role in the finale. But his highlight here, and one of the highlights in “Monster Men” as a whole, comes in Batman #8. As the Dark Knight is about to face one of the monsters head on, Clayface envelops him, effectively becoming a suit of armor. Does technically this fall under the banner of giant awful Batman robots/armor? Absolutely. But the execution is unique enough that it gets a pass from me.

“Batman and the Monster Men” offers good showings from the artists attached, and a bright spot here or there. But by and large, this was a turn off and a waste. Nightwing and Detective Comics were both on a solid course up to this point, and things were starting to look up for Batman. Hopefully we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming in short order.

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A Darth Vader #25 Review – “Not like this. Please not like this.”

Star Wars: Darth Vader #25, 2016, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #25
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLERS: Salvador Larroca, Max Fiumara. Cover by Juan Gimenez.
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: October 12, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I maintain that this Darth Vader series doesn’t have to end simply because Kieron GIllen’s story is ending. It’s not like there’s a shortage of creators out there looking for a crack at the dark lord. Nor is there a shortage of fans that will read stories about him. Nevertheless, for now this is the end for Vader’s ongoing adventures. Thankfully, he goes out on a hell of a dramatic note.

As this series has progressed, we’ve learned it’s essentially a bridge story between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Vader goes from being in the doghouse after the destruction of the Death Star, to being in a more powerful position and obsessed with finding his son. But it’s also about Aphra, a crafty archaeologist Vader forms an uneasy alliance with. She knows Vader will kill her when she’s of no further use. In issue #4, she flat out asks him to give her a quick lightsaber through the neck when the time comes. She also asks him not to eject her into space. That scene has hung over the entire series. Like Aphra, we all knew it was coming.

I didn’t think we’d actually come back to the space ejection thing. But low and behold…

Darth Vader #25, 2016, airlock, Doctor AphraLarroca’s face work with Aphra isn’t the best here, and this isn’t the most natural looking thing in the world. But that top panel on the page at right makes the whole scene. Her body language is perfect. Then on the next page you have the simple line: “Not like this. Please, not like this.” It’s a fantastic pay off to what we saw in issue #4.

And then she lives, which was actually a disappointment. While I really dig Aphra, that’s a waste of an awesome death scene. But we’ve got a Gillen-penned Doctor Aphra book coming in December that needs its title character. That could be a great book, if for no other reason than Triple-Zero and BT-1 will be in it. Plus, after what he gave us in this series Gillen deserves to stay at the table as long as he’s hungry.

Someone I could use a break from is Salvador Larroca. He’s extremely talented, he draws an incredible Darth Vader, and he’s a very natural fit for the Star Wars universe. But it’s so obvious he draws off of stills from the movie that it pulls me out of the story. Case in point, he was obviously looking at Revenge of the Sith footage when drawing Palpatine for this issue. Perhaps the key is to put him on characters that don’t appear in the movies, a la Aphra or Sana Solo.

On the plus side, Larroca’s final two pages are very good. First, we see Vader and Luke Skywalker reaching out to each other in a dream-like scene (shown below). It’s somewhat reminiscent of the climax of the Empire duel, where Vader beckons his son to come with him. Then we cut back to reality, with a long shot of the bridge on the Super Star Destroyer. Again, much like Empire.

Darth Vader #25, 2016, Salvador Larroca, Luke SkywalkerWe get a bonus back-up story here, pencilled by Max Fiumara. It turns out the Tusken Raiders had a rather unique reaction to Vader’s slaughtering of one of their villages back in issue #1. The story is silent, which is a nice change. There are a pair of pages where Fiumara switches to a more storybookish style, which is a cool textural change.

One thing I found confusing: Someone who’s apparently meant to be an elder of sorts appears after the attack. The “storybook” part of the back-up recounts a village slaughter by a man with a lightsaber. Is this supposed to be Darth Vader’s attack, or Anakin Skywalker’s from Episode II? I’d like to think it’s the latter.

At one point, Darth Vader stood head and shoulders above every other Star Wars book Marvel was putting out. Over time it lost it’s must-read status, but remained supremely executed and mostly well drawn. I’m sad to see it end. Hopefully some of its momentum will carry over into Aphra’s series.

But seriously, what a waste of a death scene…

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Bill Goldberg’s Return, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much sense leading with anything but Goldberg, is there?

The big news this week is Paul Heyman’s challenge to Bill Goldberg, which was promptly accepted via Twitter. Next week, Goldberg returns to Raw after over a decade away from the ring. Rumor has it the now inevitable Goldberg vs. Lesnar II match will take place not at Wrestlemania, not at the Royal Rumble, but at Survivor Series. That’s a fine choice, though a bit odd. It leads one to believe plans are already in place for Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent (The Rock? Roman Reigns?).

If this Survivor Series rumor is true, then the best case scenario is we get two or three matches out of Goldberg. One in November, then one at Wrestlemania, with perhaps one in between at the Royal Rumble. An appearance in the Royal Rumble match itself wouldn’t be a bad move. I’m curious to see how Goldberg’s physique looks come bell time. How long has he had to get himself back in ring shape?

Either way, the finish of Goldberg/Lesnar II is rather obvious. Brock hasn’t gone unpinned for three years just to lose to Goldberg. They’re playing this up as Brock avenging his loss at Wrestlemania XX in 2004, and avenge that loss he will.

Someone they might consider bringing to Raw to hype this up is Steve Austin. He was the referee for the 2004 match, and as Dean Ambrose will tell you, Austin’s always got something interesting to say.

Moving on, I’m going to be a little more selective in what I talk about this week, as we’re covering both Raw and Smackdown. But there’s no shortage of material to touch on…

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Sasha Banks to face Charlotte inside Hell in a Cell. Normally I can’t stand when WWE puts more than one cell match on a show, as it waters everything down (more on that later). But if they must do more than one cell match, this is the way to do it. It’s different from what we typically see on the Hell in a Cell show. If this Sasha/Charlotte match will be one thing for certain, it’s different.

There’s been some buzz about WWE possibly giving Sasha and Charlotte the cell. I’m thrilled for them. They’ve earned this opportunity by giving us something I’d argue is worthy of the match. More so than Reigns vs. Rusev, to be certain. But I’m also very nervous for them. These two take a lot of risks when they work together. Now they’re in a an extremely dangerous match, and the pressure will be on them to deliver. Please be careful, ladies. Make us proud, but come home in one piece.

Kofi Kingston def. Cesaro. Every week when the New Day are out there, Michael Cole mentions that Demolition record. It’s 478 days. So they’re either going to break it, or come close to breaking it. That means Sheamus and Cesaro aren’t winning the belts at Hell in a Cell. So what happens after that? Do they break up? Do they work with another team? I’m curious to see what the endgame is here.

After a victory, Bayley gets attacked by Dana Brooke. Happy to see Dana acting like a heel again. They were inexplicably trying to shoehorn her into a babyface role. That’s clearly not her specialty, and the squeaky clean Bayley will be a good opponent for her.

Sin Cara, WWE Monday Night Raw, October 10, 2016Sin Cara & Lince Dorado def. Tony Nese & Drew GulakThe luchadors were fun to watch, here. Perhaps they’re the Lucha Dragons, Version 2.0? On that subject, I’m still bewildered that Kaliso ended up on Smackdown. This cruiserweight division seemed tailor-made for him.

Mick Foley announces Kevin Owens will defend against Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell. Owens and Chris Jericho come out to protest. They got greedy. Two cell matches is usually too much. Three is simply overindulgent. I understand wanting to wait until Survivor Series to add Chris Jericho to the mix. But this match didn’t need the cell. Owens and Rollins are more than capable of holding their own without it.

Is there supposed to be tension between Mick and Stephanie McMahon? Two weeks ago she emasculated and browbeat the poor guy, as she’s done to so many others. But this week she sounded like his biggest fan.

Notice that Jericho said “Team Chris and Kevin,” while Owens said “Team Kevin and Chris.” Some nice subtle foreshadowing there.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson attack Enzo & Cass before a match. It looks like we’re finally back on track with these two. Joyless, heartless buzzkillers. Putting them with Enzo and Cass is a good pairing.

Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, October 10, 2016Roman Reigns & Sasha Banks def. Rusev & Charlotte. Sasha showed some nice fire here. As excruciating as this will be for some to hear, she and Roman don’t make a bad team.

Now that we have three cell matches at the pay per view, it’ll be interesting to see where Roman vs. Rusev falls on the card. My earlier impression was that they’d headline the show. But putting Sasha and Charlotte on last wouldn’t be the worst idea. Although that would put even more pressure on them to deliver.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. The wheels are definitely in motion for a Chris Jericho babyface turn, as they continue to tease making him an opponent for Owens. In a way it’s sad. Jericho has always been a better heel, and he’s been one of the better parts of Raw lately. When he leaves again there’s going to be a big gap to fill.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Dolph Ziggler def. Ken Doane & Mike Mondo. I wasn’t a fan of the decision to put the belt back on Ziggler at No Mercy. Firstly, he’s been the Intercontinental Champion a bunch of times already. What does it really mean at this point? Secondly, Miz was having a great run with the belt. Taking the belt off him could have been a great notch on the belt for a newer star, instead of just giving it to Ziggler again.

Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, October 11, 2016Third and most importantly, Ziggler being forced into retirement would have been a good story. Even if he came back a few months later, Miz could have gloated about it, and gained that much more momentum as champion.

I am, however, happy to see Doane and Mondo back. Whether they’re getting a regular gig remains to be seen. But why not? If they can bring Curt Hawkins back to waste our time at No Mercy, these guys at least deserve a shot.

Smackdown challenges Raw for Survivor SeriesThis isn’t a surprise, and it’s a little disappointing that wrestlers from the two rosters will already be mingling. But better Survivor Series than a show like Bragging Rights.

It’s a pleasant surprise to see WWE trying to reemphasize the importance of Survivor Series. This show has been largely sub-par for years now, and it should be one of the best they put on. Between these matches, and the potential Lesnar/Goldberg match, this should be a memorable night.

James Ellsworth def. AJ Styles, with Dean Ambrose as the guest refereeAJ has some Kurt Angle in him, in that he’s got some goofy tendencies. He hams it up sometimes. That wouldn’t work for most other guys, but he’s so good it works for him.

AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 12, 2016So James Ellsworth just “beat” the WWE Champion. Does this guy have a contract yet? People are obviously into him. And as we learned on Talking Smack, he’s even getting a title shot next week!

Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper def. Randy Orton & Kane. Harper is definitely a welcome sight. With all due respect, he’s so much more credible than Erick Rowan, and he’s a better in-ring talent. I wouldn’t have put his return at the end of No Mercy the way they did. But now he can say he was in the main event of a pay per view, can’t he?

On the subject of credibility, Bray Wyatt really needed that win over Randy Orton. But I’ve got to think it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back in Orton’s favor. They’re going to need a fresh opponent for Styles before long, and he’s the perfect man for the job.

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A Champions #1 Review – Young Justice

Champions #1, 2016, Humberto RamosTITLE: Champions #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
PENCILLER: Humberto Ramos
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: October 5, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, and Sam Alexander all made their debuts in different books by different creators. But when they’re put together, they somehow become one of the most compelling teams in modern superhero comics. They see the Marvel Universe through younger eyes, and creators have mined a lot of fun and intrigue from that. Their ethnic diversity doesn’t hurt either.

The next logical step for this trio occurs in Champions #1, as Mark Waid gives them their own team, fueled by much of the same youthful idealism and teen angst that made them such a breath of fresh air to begin with. In the wake of Civil War II, Miles, Kamala, and Sam have broken away from the Avengers. In short order, they opt to form their own team, with the addition of Hulk (Amadeus Cho), and Viv Vision. Young Cyclops of All New X-Men, who we see on the cover, presumably joins the team next issue.

Two weeks ago I referred to the image of Miles Morales clutching Captain America’s dead body in Civil War II #5 as a “black lives matter” moment. In essence, it’s Marvel looking at real events through its own flamboyant and colorful lens. We get a bit of that here, though it’s less poignant, and more direct.

Near the end of the issue, Ms. Marvel winds up in front of a camera, and we get the following panel. Note that not only are there cops behind her, but so is Miles Morales

Champions #1, 2016, Humberto Ramos, Ms. Marvel

She later finishes the monologue with: “Help us win the hard way–the right way–not with hate, not with retribution, but with wisdom and hope. Help us become champions.”

Obviously, this is a thinly veiled speech about modern police affairs. But one can potentially read some other things in there, i.e. politics, the American wealth gap, etc. It all depends on your perspective. Either way, that thread of reality makes it that much easier to connect with Champions. 

Impossible as it seems, this is the first collaboration between Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos since Impulse in 1995. Ramos has always been an interesting study. His style is incredibly exaggerated and cartoony, with an energy to match. But when its time for him to get serious, he’s more than up to snuff. Case in point, things get more than a little grim when our heroes find a human trafficker. One that’s dressed like a clown, no less. The scene that follows has all the appropriate wait, and transitions perfectly into Kamala’s big moment. I wouldn’t put Ramos on a Punisher book. But his versatility is delightful.

 Champions has piqued my interest with a tremendous set-up, likable young characters, and a creative team that’s more than capable. Obviously we’re only one issue in. But the smart bet is this will be a quality book for the foreseeable future.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Ric Flair/Halle Berry Creepiness, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Ric Flair, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Looks like Uncle Ric is in trouble again.

A recent episode of The Ric Flair Show over at MLWRadio.com has drawn some heat for ol’ Naitch. Flair made a comment about sleeping with Halle Berry in 1997, shortly after her divorce from baseball star David Justice.

TMZ reports Berry is quite offended by what Flair said. They got a quote from a Berry rep that, for my money, says it all: “A man doesn’t get to sexualize and lie about a woman he’s never met to better himself or his name. It’s offensive, demeaning and beyond misogynistic.”

Having heard the clip from the podcast, I get the sense Flair was partially in wrestling promo mode when he said this. That’s one of the sad things about Flair. He always seems to be in promo mode, because he’s still trapped in that character. It’s not entirely his fault. We all have fond memories of that playboy persona, and even at 67 years old, that’s who a lot of fans still want Flair to be. That doesn’t make what he said acceptable or less creepy. But it’s worth noting where his mind likely was at the time.

Ric Flair deserves respect and admiration for his in-ring accomplishments. But these embarrassing slip-ups are making it painfully obvious that times have passed him by. I guess it’s not easy being an aging ’80s playboy in a world as politically correct and issue-sensitive as ours has become.

Ric Flair, Charlotte, Raw, November 30, 2015Case in point: This past spring, Ric was involved in the program between Charlotte and Natalya, and accidentally told Nattie to kill herself during a promo on Smackdown. While the show was taped and WWE was able to clip that line, you can find it on YouTube.

All this Halle Berry drama comes at a really interesting time, as lately his name has been brought up on Smackdown quite a bit. John Cena may be about to tie his record or 16 Heavyweight Titles. WWE obviously didn’t feel the need to avoid Flair’s name, and I expect we’ll see him on TV to talk about this at some point.

Bottom line, Flair got attention for his remark. But it wasn’t kind of attention he wanted. Just a sad situation overall.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kane def. Bray Wyatt via count-out. I maintain this Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton program would have been better off had they let Bray beat Kane at Backlash. Now the poor guy can’t even beat him on free TV. By the law of averages alone, Bray does have to beat someone at some point, right?

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016That shot of an upside down Bray suddenly noticing Orton on the tron was cool. Good acting by Bray. It lent credence to the idea that Orton is inside his head.

It looked like they were going to simply reverse the story they told last week, with Bray hunting Randy this time. Instead Randy trapped Bray in a storage container, and we got some nice grainy footage of Bray in there with the rocking chair. Very found footage. Randy also had a good line: “Lord have mercy…or not.”

Nikki Bella def. Alexa Bliss via disqualification after Carmella interferes. Bliss & Carmella win a subsequent tag match against Bella & Becky Lynch. Carmella was out there on commentary, and was doing an exaggerated New York accent. That only reinforces the whole Real Housewives vibe I’m getting from her. She’s also got a really grating voice when she’s screeching at opponents in the ring. All this translates to big heat with me. The good kind of heat, not Shining Stars channel changing heat. That accent’s not going to be easy to maintain all the time, though. Just ask Lana.

I did, however, get a kick out of Carmella calling Nikki a Kardashian wannabe. Also, nobody compared Alexa to Harley Quinn, and that Twisted Bliss moonsault is still gorgeous. So a good week for the women of Smackdown.

The Spirit Squad, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016The Spirit Squad returns during Miz TV, as Miz pays “tribute” to Dolph Ziggler’s career. One of the highlights of this segment was Ziggler cutting Miz off with: “I’m not gone yet, ass face. Say that again, I’ll knock the hell outta you.” Would it have killed them to just let him say asshole? That’s what he, and everyone in the audience is thinking. You’re on prime time TV, guys. Just let him say it.

Dolph went a little John Cena on us here, talking about kids looking up to him, doing Make a Wish stuff, etc. A bold move, considering Cena’s been doing that promo for years now, and probably busts it out before Thanksgiving dinner.

Hearing him talk about cashing in Money in the Bank the night after Wrestlemania really rang true. That’s the one moment in Ziggler’s career that everybody remembers. Unfortunately, it’s become a testament to this guy’s wasted potential.

On the subject of wasted potential, the big surprise here was the return of Ken Doane and Mike Mondo in their Spirit Squad gear. In an era where WWE is looking to pad their roster a little bit, I’m hopeful these guys can come back and deliver on some of that potential. WWE is actually advertising the return of Curt Hawkins for No Mercy, as if he wasn’t strictly an enhancement guy when he left. Wrestlers who didn’t leave on a great note are getting second chances.

Jason Jordan, Jey Uso, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016Jason Jordan def. Jey Uso. This one wrapped up quickly. A bit of a let down, actually. I’m always anxious to see Jordan suplex the hell out of somebody. Though it’s not like we won’t see him in there with the Usos again. The smart bet is Jimmy and Jey take the belts on Sunday, and we officially transition into a tag title feud with American Alpha.

Jack Swagger def. Baron Corbin by “submission.” Interesting finish, here. Corbin repeatedly reaches for the ropes in rapid succession, his wrist hitting the mat repeatedly, so the ref calls it a tap out victory for Swagger. Not sure if we’ve seen that before…

You know what Baron Corbin needs? A mouthpiece. Ironically, he’s in the same position Swagger was in before Zeb Colter came along. Yes, Corbin is the “Lone Wolf.” But he’s a lone wolf that’s getting eaten alive every time he opens his mouth.

AJ Styles, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose share a ring before their title match at No MercyBoth Styles and Ambrose jumped on Cena when this segment started. It made sense, given who Cena is and how good his mic work was on Talking Smack last week. But did it also made them look insecure? I can’t decide…

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016When it was his turn to talk, Ambrose went the backstage politics route. The line about “the guy who plays John Cena on TV” was good. There’s been some buzz about both these guys taking time away from Smackdown after No Mercy. Cena’s got his TV show, and Ambrose is allegedly shooting a movie. If that’s true, we lose the most compelling thing on this show, which is the stuff between the two of them. I’ll say it again: They need to work a singles program after No Mercy.

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