Will WWE Acquire TNA? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

TNA Impact logoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s about that time, isn’t it? Crunch time for TNA.

Reports have surfaced that the financial well is running dry at TNA again. This time, WWE is reportedly in talks with Dixie Carter to buy the company, acquire the tape library, and cease operations. On the other hand, Billy Corgan is at the table. TNA may end up in his hands, as many have speculated. Either way, TNA’s future will reportedly be decided in a matter of days.

I’ve never felt good about the idea of WWE buying TNA. The purchase of WCW, while great for WWE, was not a good thing for wrestling at large. That competition brought out the best in both companies, and in the end the fans were the true winners. Without WCW, WWE lost a certain drive they’ve never gotten back. While you can certainly argue WWE competes with everything else on television,more major wrestling organizations obviously mean a healthier industry at large.

But to that point, the industry is in a different place today than it was when WCW went under in 2001. For starters, TNA is not WCW. They wanted you to believe they were competition for WWE. But despite involvement from a lot of the same people, and major marquee talent like Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley and the Hardys, that was never the case. That’s why TNA’s attempt to go head-to-head with Raw failed. Both WCW and TNA had big financial backers that enabled them to grow leaps and bounds. But what may have hurt TNA more than anything is that both wrestling personalities and wrestling fans saw it for what they wanted it to be: WCW reborn.

Dixie Carter, Billy Corgan, TNAAlso, while the market for wrestling may be smaller than it was in 2001, the advancement of the internet means wrestling fans get to see more promotions than ever before. Lucha Underground is a distinct alternative, as are Ring of Honor are New Japan Pro Wrestling. We also have smaller promotions like EVOLVE, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, etc. None of these smaller alternatives existed when WCW went down.

I’ve never rooted for TNA to die. But if the time has come to let it go, then so be it. It’s such a tarnished brand at this point, the best choice might be for it to live on through the WWE Network. Consider all the TNA alumni WWE has right now: Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Eric Young, and the damn WWE Champion AJ Styles. You’ve also got content for Hall of Famers like Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T., etc.

Still, I’m not ready to start writing TNA’s obituary yet. Lord knows it’s survived by the skin of its teeth before. One guy who’s probably not rooting for WWE to step in? Cody Rhodes. He was set to make his debut at Bound for Glory on Sunday.

Who knows? Maybe he still will.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Randy Orton hunts for Bray Wyatt. This episode of Smackdown had something Raw frequently lacks: An ongoing story to tie the show together. Wyatt challenged Orton to find him, which lead to a rising action and a climax. By God, actual storytelling!

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016But while things were structurally intact, the opening segment was a dud. Orton’s part of it was fine. But once again, Bray was too cryptic. At certain points, there’s something to be said for coming out and saying exactly what you’re going to do. Bray needs to do more of that, and speak less in metaphor and hyperbole. The gist of it was: Come find me. Is that so hard to say?

The backstage segments of Randy searching for Bray felt slightly reminiscent of the boiler room brawl from Summerslam ’96. There was a creepy vibe with the machinery running, and the announcers staying quiet for the most part. Of course, this felt a bit more like a high school haunted house than a horror flick. That stuff written on the doors (“Predator or Prey?” “I am a god.”) felt very generic. And then you had Erick Rowan getting locked down there. Was that supposed to be funny?

I like the idea of Orton somehow sneaking up behind Bray in that little room he’s always in. But they could have done so much more with that. They just had Bray turn around and take some punches. At the very least, they could have given Orton a cool line. Something to make it memorable, that’s all I ask.

The Usos & The Ascension def. Heath Slater, Rhyno, & American Alpha. Chad Gable has, by and large, had one job these last few weeks: Sell that leg. It’s a tried and true formula. Gable sells, Jason Jordan gets the hot tag. But at this rate, the guy may want to dip that damn thing in cement. It’s the only way it’ll be safe!

WWE Smackdown, September 26, 2016The Usos look good these days, having ditched the face paint for a more “urban” look. I’m hoping they get some mic time before No Mercy. I want to see them as the aggressive antagonists out to kill the high Heath Slater has been on lately.

Carmella & Natalya def. Nikki Bella & Naomi. Carmella is starting to come into her own as a heel. She’s got a Real Housewives of New Jersey kind of vibe on that works in her favor. I don’t have high hopes for the match she and Nikki will eventually turn in. But progress is progress.

Dolph Ziggler agrees to put up his career for one more shot at the Miz’s Intercontinental Title at No MercyThe stars really aligned for this one. Miz and Ziggler in their home state, both sets of parents in the front row, a good story, and a dramatic plot twist. Miz even got a really good video package out of the deal.

I assume this is a course they plotted for Ziggler when he started feuding with Ambrose during the summer. I admit, I thought they’d simply made him a whipping boy for Ambrose, AJ Styles, and Miz. But if this was the plan all along, good for them.

Ziggler can sometimes up the intensity in his promos too quickly. When you crank up the emotion, you often need to take the audience up that figurative roller coaster. When he got to the part about giving so much but getting nothing back, he went a little fast. But he still hit his mark. It rang very true to what die-hard wrestling fans have seen this guy go through for years. And at the end, when he made that offer for just one more shot, you believed him. He may have had tears in his eyes. To his credit, Miz played his part perfectly. The heartless heel preying on the defeated babyface.

The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016This needs to be Dolph’s ticket off TV for awhile. I’m not sure if he’s legitimately going anywhere, but that character needs a break. The problem then becomes finding someone to put in that upper mid card babyface position. There are names they can build up for that spot. Apollo Crews, Kalisto, God forbid Jack Swagger, or even Curt Hawkins. But right now, the only person who might be primed to fill in for Ziggler is Kane. Anybody clamoring for a Miz/Kane Intercontinental Title program? I didn’t think so.

Alexa Bliss attacks Becky Lynch before her match. Like Carmella, Alexa Bliss is still coming into her own on the national stage. But what we’ve seen so far is promising. I just hope once we’ve got a little more distance from Suicide Squad, she can drop the Harley Quinn look.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose to retain the WWE Championship. Guest commentator John Cena lays both men out afterward. This match did its job wonderfully. It got me hyped for the triple threat at No Mercy. All three of these guys are big match wrestlers, and we’re still riding the wave from the Cena/Styles match at Summerslam. Expectations will be high for this one.

Cena and Ambrose really need to work a singles program. The heat between them feels very personal, and not forced. Ambrose has cut a couple of really good promos this year about how WWE is “his” company, as he’s the one main eventing shows night after night, putting all the effort in. To contrast, John Cena is apparently off house shows now. There could be some really good stuff there if they want to mine that for TV.

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Seth Rollins Stands In, More 50/50 Booking, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, September 26, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As people talk about Raw‘s decline in viewership and quality over the years, we often hear about a lack of competition, i.e. WCW. Nitro isn’t there to put the heat on Raw anymore, and force them to up their game.

When called on that, Vince McMahon has said WWE competes with everything on television. While it’s obviously a different ball game than going head-to-head with Nitro, there’s something to be said for that. These days, Raw competes with not only Monday Night Football, but major prime time shows like The Big Bang TheoryDancing with the Stars, and The Voice. This week, they had a new player on the field: The first presidential debate. The pressure was on WWE to deliver something big to keep eyes on Raw.

What we got was a respectable effort. Raw is still feeling the effects of Finn Balor’s injury. Seth Rollins is standing in as the lead babyface right now, but he was playing the dastardly heel almost a month ago. His turn is very much a work in progress. As such, there’s no one in that Steve Austin/Rock/John Cena type role.

With football season in full swing and the threat of the “autumn slump” looming, Raw needs to be firing on all cylinders. While the show can have plenty of bright spots, it’s not quite where it needs to be. They need to be calculated yet careful in how they proceed in the next few weeks. We need definitive reasons to watch Raw instead of Monday Night Football, but the best stuff still needs to be saved for the pay per views.

Wrestling ain’t easy, folks.

Rusev, September 26, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns and Rusev go to a double count-out. In theory, Raw started strong. One of their biggest stars in a title match against a monster heel. They gave them plenty of time, too. It sure as hell beats a 20-minute promo segment.

But as the minutes ticked by, this started to drag. The lame count-out finish didn’t help things either. Good try, I suppose. But it didn’t do it for me.

I’m not thrilled Rusev got pinned at Clash of Champions. But being the US Champion isn’t a bad spot for Reigns to be in right now. Let’s be honest: He’ll be in the Universal Title picture sooner than later. So having him work in a lower slot on the card takes some heat off him for the time being. It’ll come right back, of course. But the change is refreshing.

Mick Foley announces Sheamus and Cesaro will compete for the Raw Tag Team Titles. This segment made me realize something: Sheamus doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is on the mic. I don’t doubt this was mostly scripted. But Sheamus came off very natural and very passionate here, even ad-libbing a bit. To his credit, Cesaro rolled with it, and got fired up right along with him. This didn’t feel like an average segment where two or three guys simply take turns talking. This was good, and should be a model for future segments like it.

Cesaro, Mick Foley, Sheamus, September 26, 2016That being said, this Best of Seven series ending in a draw was, for my money, absolute garbage. 50/50 Booking at its worst. But I get the story they’re trying to tell. These two fought their hearts out and couldn’t settle on who the more dominant wrestler was, so they end up being dominant together. To his credit, in that backstage vignette later in the show, Foley really sold it. Those Cactus Jack style promos really come in handy when put in the right spots.

I don’t have a problem with these two being a team. I just don’t like how they got there. This seems like yet another squandered opportunity to elevate Cesaro.

The New Day def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. When word surfaced about this being the New Day’s 400th day as tag champs, I figured they’d beat Anderson & Gallows at Clash of Champions, then drop the belts to them on this show. That way the announcers can still play up how these guys were tag champs for exactly 400 days. Maybe they’re saving that big win for Sheamus & Cesaro? Or better yet, Enzo & Cass? Either way, time to put a bullet in Gallows & Anderson’s title ambitions.

It’s interesting that they kept talking about Demolition being the longest reigning tag champs in WWE history, considering those guys are currently part of a big class action lawsuit against WWE regarding concussions. I imagine that’s a testament to how far WWE thinks that lawsuit will go.

WWE Raw, September 26, 2016, Kofi Kingston, Xavier WoodsYou’d think after that scary dive Cesaro took at the pay per view, Big E. would forego his usual dive through the ropes tonight. But not only did he dive, he brought Anderson with him on that spear. You’re tempting fate, big guy…

This match had some nice drama to it. Kofi even got some accidental color. They might have been better off going with this as the show opener.

Bayley def. Anna Fields. Anna Fields’ real name is apparently Hannah Hartkopf. I know absolutely nothing about her, but she really came in handy. Bayley needed to be in there with somebody besides Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Dana Brooke. This was good for her, and Hartkopf gave her a solid match.

I half expected Nia Jax to ambush Bayley after the match. Those two can have a great “bullying” storyline in a David vs. Goliath sort of way. Something to look forward to.

Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann def. Drew Gulak & Lince Dorado. The association of purple with the cruiserweights is interesting. Now someone flipping through channels can instantly tell when they’re seeing a cruiserweight match. Are they really switching out the ropes between matches, though? Seems like that would be a hassle.

Drew Gulak, WWE Raw, September 26, 2016This is my first exposure to Lince Dorado. He’s got a great look, and can obviously bring the thrills. The soon-to-be star of this division is Cedric Alexander, but he’s got potential beyond it. He’s got personality, and looks very credible. That Lumbar Check is scary as hell, and was a DVR moment.

Charlotte grants Sasha Banks a title match next week. Somebody on Twitter alerted me to the fact that Charlotte is 12-0 on pay per view. A happy accident to be sure. But they should play it up.

It looked like Charlotte turned her head at the wrong time, and caught that slap right on the nose. Yeah, um…ouch.

TJ Perkins def. Tony Nese. Better late than never for Perkins’ debut on Raw. Fans on Twitter got a kick out of Perkins’ entrance music during Clash of Champions. It’s different. Different is usually good.

I came away from this match with more of an appreciation for Nese. In his first match on the national stage, he succeeded in setting himself apart from the pack with his strength. Again, different is good.

Tony Nese, WWE Raw, September 26, 2016Brian Kendrick will once again challenge Perkins for the title next week. I still don’t see Kendrick walking out with the belt. I’m curious to see what that character does after a second loss to Perkins.

Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho def. Enzo & Cass. Wow. Owens went there, didn’t he? In his promo during the Highlight Reel, Kevin Owens brought up the shoot injuries sustained by John Cena, Sting, and Finn Balor during matches with Seth Rollins. He actually called him the most dangerous man in WWE. I credit them for acknowledging that. I’m not one of these people that thinks Rollins is dangerous in the ring. But whenever you can weave that thread of truth into a promo, it tends to pay off.

An anti-climactic end to our main event. It looks like we’re moving toward Owens vs. Rollins vs. Jericho at Hell in a Cell. My hope was that we’d take a more definitive step toward that. They’ve still got to shoehorn the cell into that equation. With this pay per view, that’s sadly the equation more often than not. But the show isn’t until October 30, so they’ve got time.

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A Civil War II #5 Review – A “Black Lives Matter” Moment

Civil War II #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Civil War II #5
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 21, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s been a bumpy road for Civil War II. Despite its epic scope and game-changing plot points, it’s largely been a big bag of “meh.” And that’s not even getting into the scheduling delays.

Now, five issues in, it looks like things have finally picked up. The end of this book left a knot in my stomach. Despite having already killed off Rhodey and Bruce Banner, this series now finally has that heart-wrenching element that so many event comics strive for.

Thanks Miles Morales, and uh…sorry?

Ulysses, a new inhuman who can apparently see visions of the future, has torn the Marvel heroes apart. In Civil War II #5, they finally come to blows. Captain Marvel, who believes in using Ulysses to stop certain events before they happen, has assembled a group to fight against a team led by Iron Man. Tony Stark vehemently opposes acting on these visions, and questions their credibility. But by the end of the battle Ulysses has yet another vision, in which one of the Marvel Universe’s youngest heroes does the unthinkable. In a story that’s already seen the Bruce Banner murdered by Hawkeye, and Rhodey die in battle, the burning question is: Will Miles Morales be next?

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaThe image at left is our big vision reveal. Miles clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. It may as well be an page from Red Skull’s dream journal. Now all the prior emphasis on Miles makes sense. Bendis and Marquez were planting a seed with a character they both have a lengthy history with. It’s fitting.

Virtually every Marvel book that doesn’t have Star Wars in the title has been effected by Civil War IISpider-Man is no exception. But in the main series Miles has mostly been a background character, albeit one Bendis and Marquez have made sure to keep around. I keep circling back to the two-page spread of Spidey watching the Hawkeye trial verdict on one of the big screens in Times Square. Intentional or not, it brilliantly positioned Miles as someone removed from some of the larger issues that plague more experienced heroes. There’s a certain naivety about him, partially because he’s so young. Those two elements are what set this moment apart from, say, the vision of the Hulk from issue #2.

But lets not kid ourselves. Like its predecessor, Civil War II is trying to be more than just another event comic. Its subtext speaks to the world we live in right now. Civil War speaks to post-9/11 paranoia, and Civil War II speaks to police profiling. It’s not an accident that Miles, a young minority, is shown harming Captain America, a symbol of American justice and values. This entire sequence with the vision and the subsequent arrest of Miles Morales is a Black Lives Matter moment. It’s Marvel looking at what happened with young men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ms. Marvel, Civil War II #5, 2016It’s one thing to show us characters dying in a story about proactive justice. It’s another thing to really connect it to the real world. This is the emotional punch that Civil War II has been missing. It’s a shame we had to wait this long to feel it.

Ms. Marvel also accentuates the big reveal very well. It feels a little too coincidental that the other teenage minority in the scene just happens to be the one consoling Miles.

Speaking of subtext, Miles has an awesome line during a fight with Venom. As the longtime Spidey villain is taking shots at Miles for not looking or acting quite like Peter Parker, our hero replies with: “Another Spider-Man expert telling me how it should be.” That’s barely even subtext. He may as well be looking up at his critics.

The sad thing is, most of what we see up until the vision sequence is largely forgettable. Marquez, artist Sean Izaakse, and colorist Justin Ponsor give us a very action-posed two-page spread of the heroes about to collide. There’s also a lovely shot of Hawkeye cloaked in shadow as he presumably goes into hiding (shown below). But by comparison, it all seems very generic and business as usual for a superhero epic.

Hawkeye, Civil War II #5, 2016, David MarquezFrom a comic book sales perspective, DC Comics has outpaced Marvel since the start of its Rebirth initiative. I estimate Civil War II is largely to blame for that. Marvel may have banked too much on the success of its predecessor, and additional eyes from Captain America: Civil War. The story has failed to capture imaginations until now. We finally have something to sink our teeth into, but it may be too little too late.

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Dean Ambrose pins John Cena, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m still not over how abysmal Raw was this week. I’m not someone who basks in negativity, either. I simply call it how I see it. It was a really bad show. If you buy into the manufactured Raw vs. Smackdown stuff, Smackdown had it easy this week.

What it often comes down to with Smackdown is the very simple philosophy of “Less is more.” That’s a refreshing approach. In 2016, WWE’s approach is almost always, “More is never enough.” We’ve got more than three hours of Raw each week, and pay per views that tend to go on even longer. Not to mention supplementary content on the network.

WWE television used to leave you wanting more. You simply couldn’t wait to tune in next week to find out what happens next. Nowadays, the opposite is often true. We turn off shows feeling exhausted or frustrated. Wrestle mania XXXII went so long I actually considered turning in my fan card for awhile.

In entertainment, there’s always something to be said for conciseness and restraint. Smackdown almost feels like a throwback to an era where there wasn’t a push for so much content, and each minute of WWE TV seemed to matter just a little more.

Alexa Bliss, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

Daniel Bryan hosts a contract signing between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss. Bryan’s a damn charmer. He had that line about keeping things civil, the audience gives him some friendly boos, and he goes: “Don’t boo that.”

Both these ladies are very natural in their roles. They had to recite lines that were obviously scripted. But Becky’s fire was great. Alexa has the snobby high school cheerleader act down pat, and she’s very expressive. I just wish they’d quit comparing her to Harley Quinn. Because here’s the thing: She’s not Harley Quinn. She’s Alexa Bliss, and she’s still coming into her own as a national TV character. The Harley Quinn thing almost sends mixed messages to the audience.

The Usos def. American Alpha to earn a Smackdown Tag Title shot at No MercyRed and black is definitely a better fit for the Usos than red and white. They actually look tough.

Both Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are absolute suplex machines. They’re both so explosive, which is part of what makes them so fun to watch. On the flip side, the Usos need another move in their arsenal besides the superkick. They do know that’s the move Shawn Michaels used to retire Ric Flair, right? And here they are practically beating it into the ground.

Apollo Crews, September 20, 2016During this segment, David Otunga mentioned something about filming a movie with Adam Sandler. That’s not exactly something to brag about in 2016, is it?

Baron Corbin def. Apollo Crews. On the subject of Otunga’s commentary, he said here that this was the first time he’d seen Crews not smiling. That’s a good thing. As athletically gifted as he is, a white meat babyface label can drag your career into the gutter. That’s largely what’s happened to Crews lately.

We also got Jack Swagger on headset during this match. Not sure what we did to deserve that.

The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler to retain the Intercontinental Title. I don’t mean to keep harping on Otunga. But during this match he said “most people never win a title during their time here.” Um, yes they do, good sir. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot more likely now that we’ve got so many belts. In January 2016 we had five titles. Now we have nine. And that’s not counting NXT. It’s a nice idea, and I understand them wanting to make the IC belt seem as prestigious as possible. But statements like that hurt an announcer’s credibility, and Otunga had so little to begin with.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Miz mimic Daniel Bryan’s old move set. It’s a creative little dig. These two may not be able to have a match, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryan gets Miz in the Yes Lock at some point.

WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016, Dolph Ziggler, The MizI’ve heard some buzz about a Miz vs. Ziggler steel cage match at No Mercy. Instead of doing that, why not just have Ziggler wrestle in goggles? It’d protect him from getting sprayed in the eyes over and over, and it would save us from having to watch Ziggler lose yet another match to Miz.

Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan. Bray Wyatt cuts a promo, saying “a god can never die.” That promo was pure fluff. Bray said he and Orton are locked in “the unholiest of matrimonies.” What does that even mean? That line about never dying doesn’t mean anything either. When people talk about Bray’s promos being nonsensical, this is what they’re talking about.

Orion’s got a rematch with Brock Lesnar this Saturday at a house show in Chicago. While we’re out getting Ziggler goggles, we might want to get Orton a helmet.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya via disqualification. So Nikki gets the DQ win after Carmella interferes in a short match. I don’t mind this little program at all. It keeps Nikki away from the title picture for a little while, and allows Carmella to grow a little. It’s a win-win.

Dean Ambrose def. John Cena. Ambrose earns WWE Championship Match next week. AJ Styles had a great line in before this match: “The only way this title gets taken from me, is if I don’t have to get pinned to lose it.”

Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016Very surprised to see Ambrose pin Cena clean. But from a story perspective, it lends credence to what Ambrose said last week about Cena not being able to cut it in the ring anymore. Things feel nice and personal between them. I’m hoping we see them in a big pay per view match down the road.

So Cena accidentally costs Ambrose the title next week, and we take this to No Mercy.

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Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens in a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Rusev, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016It’s that time of year, folks. School is back in session. The leaves will soon be changing colors. The Halloween shops have started opening. Monday Night Football is back on the air. Autumn is here. Which for WWE fans means the “autumn slump.”

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to call it that, but I’m not the first talk about it. The autumn slump refers to the downturn in TV quality we tend to see between September and December. In the past few years, the autumn slump has brought us a Big Show/Randy Orton program for the WWE Championship, Sheamus winning the WWE Championship at a time when his career was lukewarm at best, and what may have been the 100th John Cena/Randy Orton feud.

And so once again, WWE must try to avoid the autumn slump, and persevere through competition from Monday Night Football.

They’re not off to a good start…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Mick Foley, and Stephanie McMahon open the show. Coming off the finals of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament last week, I was hoping they’d open with the cruiserweights. Instead, we got yet another long-winded talking segment. A fairly cold start to things, which led to a cold match between Seth Rollins and Rusev. Even Kevin Owens, who’s usually very natural, came off highly scripted here.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016Meanwhile, we still have no idea why Triple H interfered in the Universal Title Match a few weeks ago. Even Reigns brought up Hunter’s absence. Steph did “guess” at his motivations later in the show. But we still don’t have any answers from Triple H. Perhaps those answers will come at Clash of Champions.

Seth Rollins vs. Rusev goes to a double count-out. As good as both these guys are, I’ll admit I had this match on mute most of the time. What was at stake? And in the end, they had a non-finish. Again, such a cold, cold start.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara. Not the match they needed to go with at this stage of the show. Both guys were perfectly serviceable. But again, not much to latch on to between these two. I found myself utterly bored.

Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Charlotte & Dana Brooke. It took them almost an hour to give us a match that actually had something going on in it. Though were hardly perfect here. I can only assume they’re still trying to turn Dana Brooke into a babyface. To what end I’m not sure. Not only is she a natural heel, but she’s on a roster with two widely popular female wrestlers like Sasha and Bayley.

Dana Brooke, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016So…does Dana cost Charlotte the title at Clash of Champions? They made a point to put the title on Sasha several weeks ago. I assume the reason Charlotte won it back was because they didn’t know how long Sasha would be out with her back problems. Perhaps now they simply go back to their original plan with her.

Bo Dallas wins another squash match. Just when you thought the show was about to pick up… Ugh.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. Their Best of Seven series is now tied at 3-3. I must have rewound my DVR and watched that finish four or five times. Not because it was so spectacular, but because for a moment I thought Sheamus flung himself into an uppercut in the balls. Winning with your feet on the ropes is one thing. An uppercut to the balls? That’s something else.

The New Day, Enzo & Cass, & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & the Shining Stars. The in-ring segment at the top of the hour wasn’t so bad until the Shining Stars came out. As talented as they are, Primo & Epico are about as appealing as a wet fart. After that, everything went downhill. Did Big E. actually say the New Day came out because they had nothing better to do? From the minds of creative geniuses, ladies and gentlemen…

WWE Raw, September 19, 2016, Cedric Alexander, Rich SwannLike most of what we saw tonight, they were just killing time with this stuff. Nothing of consequence at all.

Brian Kendrick def. Cedric Alexander, Gran Metallic  and Rich Swann to earn a Cruiserweight Title Match at Clash of Champions. Once these guys started working, it became painfully obvious they should have opened the show. While the majority of what we saw on this show still would have sucked, we wouldn’t have started with a bad taste in our mouths. The entire vibe of the show could have improved.

A few weeks ago we saw Titus O’Neil absolutely murder a pre-match scripted promo on live television. While Foley’s time out there wasn’t as bad, like Titus you could see him struggling to remember his lines. Yet another illustration of how over-scripting hinders what we see on Raw every week.

The obvious favorite to win the Cruiserweight Classic was Kota Ibushi. But Ibushi opted not to sign with WWE, so he was eliminated by TJ Perkins in the semifinals. Still, the announcers made a point to mention him more than once. So I imagine the door is still open for him.

Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016The only part of this match I didn’t like was Rich Swann flipping around the ring for no reason. The tend to call that “showboating.” Neville does the same thing in his matches. It’s overkill.

Frankly, I’d have had Cedric Alexander go over in this one. But the story they’re telling with Kendrick is a good one. And for what it’s worth, Kendrick has experience in WWE pay per view matches. All in all, a very good start to the cruiserweight element on Raw.

Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens in a steel cage match. At least Reigns won by escape. He didn’t pin the champion. That’s not to say it won’t happen. The way things are going, it’ll probably happen next week…

Corey Graves named the Owens/Zayn simultaneous punching spot during this match. “Hockey fight.” Is that what it’s supposed to be? It still looks awful…

Kevin Owens had the quote of the night, telling Rusev to “Machka something!”

By wrestling standards, I suppose that dive by Rollins off the top of the cage wasn’t incredibly risky. He had both Owens and Rusev to catch him. But after all the injuries we’ve seen this year, and what just happened with Finn Balor, it’s especially unwise to tempt fate these days.

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

A Hadrian’s Wall #1 Review – Where’s the Love?

Hadrian's Way #1, 2016, Rod ReisTITLE: Hadrian’s Wall #1
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel
PENCILLER: Rod Reis
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis had a hell of a showing in last month’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Annual #1. In Hadrian’s Wall, they’re still firmly planted in the space age. We don’t have any swords or witches, but there’s enough drama for everybody!

It’s 2085, and Simon Moore is a divorced detective who’s addicted to painkillers. When his ex-wife’s husband suddenly dies in space, Simon is brought aboard the vessel Hadrian’s Wall for the investigation. But neither the crew nor his ex-wife Annabelle are particularly welcoming. Simon is about to face potentially insurmountable obstacles, both from within the ship and within himself.

What we have here is, in Higgins’ words, an “’80s sci-fi murder mystery,” which also happens to be a break-up story.  It’s not entirely clear, but it seems like Annabelle cheated on Simon for her now-dead husband Marshall. We even learn that at some point Marshall shot Simon four times. What’s more, Annabelle is openly hostile to Simon. Naturally, this should cast him as our sympathetic hero.

Hadrian's Wall #1, opening page, Rod ReisExcept he isn’t. Annabelle is no prize, but Simon isn’t much better. He comes off very bitter, and almost as mean as his ex-wife. We’ve seen few redeeming qualities from him, outside  of him being a detective. Even in that case, it’s established he’s largely taken this case for a big payday. The case can obviously be made that this is only the first in an eight issue story. But we don’t have the entire story in our hands yet. A more likable lead would have given us that much more incentive to come back and buy that next chapter.

In many ways, the real star of this book is Rod Reis. His color palette sets a dreary and bleak tone, which very much fits with how Simon sees the world. The only exception is a one-page flashback where we see Simon and Annabelle together. Both of them are smiling, they’re bathed in the pinkish orange glow of a sunset. It almost looks like a different book. But in the grim aura of present day, you can very much believe in outer space homicide.  There’s also a gorgeous two-page spread of Hadrian’s Wall.

We have a hell of an opening page (shown above). It’s got a nice Gravity vibe to it, with the camera pulling away from Marshall, revealing him floating in the emptiness of space. And dear God, his helmet is cracking. That lower left panel makes my stomach tighten. Look at Marshall’s face, and then look at all the darkness around him in the very next panel. This isn’t even a horror comic, per se. But THAT is comic book horror.

Hadrian's Wall #1, Annabelle, Rod ReisQuestion: Is the design for Annabelle based on WWE’s Eva Marie? Because this girl is basically Eva Marie, with the red stuff swapped out for green. I’m not complaining. As a wrestling fan, it’s cool. It’s certainly a distinct look.

Hadrian’s Wall is a toss-up for me at this point. The concept is a lot of fun, and it’s very well executed. But I need more to latch on to from a human perspective. You wouldn’t think that would be the case in a break-up story. But for many, the art alone will be worth the price of admission.

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An All Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Headshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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