Is Goldberg in Trouble? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week’s segment on Raw with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar brought back some interesting memories. Not of either of them, but of Bill Goldberg.

Goldberg was a superstar, make no mistake about it. He was a larger than life superhero. But so was Hulk Hogan. So is John Cena. So is Roman Reigns. As we’ve seen with all those men, sometimes wrestling fans get tired of the superhero shtick. Older fans in particular want someone more complex, someone with more gray area to them. As such, cheers can turn into boos.

Goldberg was no stranger to boos. WCW even tried an ill conceived Goldberg heel turn. But it simply was what it was. Some fans liked Goldberg, others didn’t.

These memories might have been lost to many of us as we basked in the honeymoon period of Goldberg’s return. But as we saw on Raw, the honeymoon may be over. They chanted for Brock despite Heyman’s obvious attempts to get them to chant for Goldberg. Eventually, we actually heard chants of “Goldberg sucks!” Reportedly, Vince McMahon became angry backstage and pulled the plug on the segment.

Granted, it was in Brock’s home state of Minnesota. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to try getting the crowd to chant his opponent’s name. But what happens when they put Goldberg out there in front of the famously opinionated Toronto crowd at Survivor Series? Remember, this was the crowd that famously turned on the Rock at Wrestlemania XVIII. It’s also the home country of Bret Hart, whose career Goldberg unintentionally ended with a brutal kick to the head.

Bill Goldberg vs. Brock LesnarHeel or babyface, Goldberg is a draw. What happened Monday doesn’t change that. But WWE needs to be ready for whatever these crowds decide to do in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series. Fans may have bought a lot of Goldberg DVDs in recent years, but that might not translate to an adoring audience…

Ponderings From Smackdown Live:

Bray Wyatt def. Kane in a no disqualification match, when Randy Orton abruptly hit the RKO on Kane. If they were going to go to the trouble of making this a no DQ match, they could have actually made it seem like the reigns were off a little. Outside of the interference by Orton and Luke Harper, what exactly made this match more dangerous than your average one-on-one match?

Later in the show, Orton simply said: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He took the world’s longest pregnant pause before he said it, but he got it out eventually.

Of course, Daniel Bryan used this same logic a few years ago when he joined the Wyatt Family. He got a hell of a moment out of it on Raw when he finally turned on Bray inside a steel cage. A normal person wouldn’t be stupid enough to fall for this again….

But because these are WWE writers penning this, we’re probably getting a week or two of Randy Orton in the Wyatt Family.

Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Alexa Bliss interrupts Becky Lynch’s return to Smackdown after an injury. There’s so much talk about the “four horsewomen” of NXT. But in terms of charisma, Alexa Bliss is up there. She’s obviously reciting written dialogue, but she’s so natural with it. It’s tough to believe she’s only been wrestling for about four years.

Pleased to see Becky back. When she couldn’t wrestle at No Mercy, I think we all had flashbacks to Sasha Banks having to drop the Raw Women’s Title. It should be fun to see her defend the belt in front of that Scotland crowd in two weeks.

The Hype Bros def. The Ascension, will represent Smackdown at Survivor SeriesSo this Survivor Series match with the tag teams will be 10-on-10, with five teams being represented in each match. So in order to win, do all 10 members of a team have to be eliminated? Or are both members of a team eliminated when one is pinned?

Either way, the Hype Bros qualify as expected. Much like Karl Anderson in a singles match, when the Ascension was announced, the outcome was never in question. These poor guys never get to win.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya to become the captain of the Smackdown women’s team at Survivor Series. Natalya is hereby left out of the match. Carmella ambushes Nikki afterward. Of course Nikki Bella is the captain. Why wouldn’t she be? I assume they’re waiting to announce the addition of the women’s champion until after the Becky/Alexa match in Scotland.

Nikki Bella, Natalya, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016With Nikki’s use of a modified STF to end this match, they continue to build up her relationship with John Cena. I imagine that’ll be part of a larger story down the road. It’s inevitable that one of Cena’s opponents will use Nikki to get to him.

Heath Slater & Rhyno def. The Spirit Squad to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Adding Slater and Rhyno to the mix is a decent way to pad the program with Miz and Ziggler for another month. But after Survivor Series it has to end. These guys need new dance partners. Unfortunately, the only heel challenger that immediately comes to mind for Ziggler is Baron Corbin. That program was done to death earlier this year.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose by disqualification. After they showed a replay of Ambrose doing a big dive to the outside, JBL said: “We need Rick Grimes out here.” Not only did that reference not land, but I can almost guarantee you he’s never seen The Walking Dead, and had no idea what he was saying. Bad form, sir. More accurately, bad form to whoever told him to say it.

Something about Mauro Renallo calling a Fujiwara arm bar made me smile. I can’t remember a WWE announcer saying that since Taz. Inevitably, one of the reasons Mauro gets compared to Jim Ross so much is because, like JR, he calls the moves. That’s the difference between being a wrestling announcer and a sports entertainment announcer.

James Ellsworth, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Ambrose and Styles always have good matches, and I’d been looking forward to seeing what they’d pull out of the hat here. As it turned out, one of their big tricks was James Ellsworth getting overzealous and attacking Styles, costing Ambrose the match. I liked this. It casts Ellsworth as not only a hopeless underdog, but a misfit and a screw up. He played it up even more on Talking Smack, looking like the saddest, most ashamed guy you’ll ever see. You’re not going to go to Madison Square Garden with James Ellsworth. But as a character, this guy is good. He’s an unconventional asset they can use to tell really interesting stories.

Also, No Chin Music is a hilarious name for a finish.

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Mick Foley and Charlotte Sell the Cell, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Lets talk about that segment with Mick Foley, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, shall we?

Having Foley in this general manager role has been a double-edged sword. There are weeks he seemingly struggles to recite written dialogue. We saw a little bit of that early in this segment, as he seemed to skip a line, and jump to “Right here in Minneapolis.” We had an awkward silence, much like we had a few weeks ago. When Sasha and Charlotte realized what had happened, they jumped in and said their lines.

Then Mick went into Cactus Jack mode, admonishing the ladies about the dangers of the cell. Nobody knows it better than him, after all. The intense stuff was split into portions. The first half lacked a certain personal touch, that unique perspective that only Foley can bring when talking about this match. Instead, it felt like Hell in a Cell dialogue they’d write for just about anybody.

But when the second half came, and he talked about not having a hip socket, bone grinding on bone, and his personal connection to both ladies, that was the good stuff. He fumbled over his words, and you could tell he was struggling to elevate the segment. But he got it there. The fans bought into it. They always buy into him, because he makes it so believable. I swear to God, if they’d just take the shackles off of guys like Mick, they’d get where they wanted to go, and then some.

Sasha Banks, Mick Foley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016Meanwhile, Charlotte sold her stuff like a million bucks. I believed her. She had that great line about the belt only meaning anything because of her. And then she brought up Sasha’s injuries, which added a nice layer of truth to things. She was, bar none, the best part of this segment.

As good as she is in the ring, Sasha isn’t on Charlotte’s level in terms of mic skills. And she’s certainly not on Foley’s level. She did her part, but she was outshined here.

On another note, last week they were referring to Charlotte as “Charlotte Flair.” Then tonight, Mick Foley announced her as such. Apparently she now has a last name. Works for me. I’m rarely a fan of wrestlers, particularly female wrestlers, going by first names only. It almost devalues them. Jacqueline, Tori, Melina, even Bayley. Can we at least mention their last names occasionally?

Also ladies, stop calling each other “sweetheart.” They used it at least three times in this segment. Pick another word.

Ponderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho opens the show, searching for the person who stole the List of Jericho. @WWECreative_ish on Twitter joked that the List of Jericho “may be more prestigious than the Universal Title at this point.” The sad thing is, that’s kind of true. This entire segment revolved around the theft of a running gag. But you know what? It’s a great running gag. So it actually works. The crowd actually chanted “Where’s the list?” These live Raw crowds have been better these last few weeks.

Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016

By the way, Stephanie said more than once during this show that it was her job to run Raw. Um…isn’t that technically Mick Foley’s job? I’m confused.

After Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson cut their mics off, Enzo and Cass turn to the crowd to recite their catchphrases. Enzo beats Anderson in a match. Hearing the crowd recite the usual Enzo and Cass dialogue was pretty cool. As for the match, once they said Karl Anderson’s name the outcome was never in doubt. They simply will not let him win a singles match. Come to think of it, they barely let these guys win in tags. Why should tonight have been any different?

Rusev and Roman Reigns cut pre-taped promos on each other. “Roman has done despicable things to me. He has done despicable things to my wife.” That line might have needed another round of editing. Still, I liked the execution on both of these.

Cesaro & Sheamus def. The New Day. Yet another instance of WWE giving us the pay per view match a week before the actual pay per view. Oh. Yay.

This whole program is a jerk off anyway. Cole said it on commentary: The New Day is  50 days away from tying Demolition’s tag title record. They’re not losing the belts at Hell in a Cell. Talk to me around the Royal Rumble. Or more likely, Wrestlemania.

Cesaro, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016Kofi and Cesaro looked good out there. We had the guillotine reversal into a suplex, and then the uppercut into an S.O.S. And then you had that dive over the top straight into an uppercut. Good stuff.

Am I the only one who remembers Big E. pinning Sheamus, a multi-time Heavyweight Champion? Just wondering…

Dana Brooke def. Bayley in an arm wrestling match. I checked out the moment I heard “arm wrestling match.” I like Bayley, and unlike a lot of people I actually like Dana Brooke. But no thanks.

Bo Dallas def. Curtis Axel. Some really nice passion from Curtis Axel before the match, even though it was basically cheap pops. This match had a nice start too, with Axel attacking Bo as if it were an actual fight. And then Bo had to kick out of the Perfectplex, and of course he beat Axel. But this was probably the most memorable match either man has had in a long time.

Golden Truth w/Mark Henry def. The Shining Stars w/Titus O’Neil. So the finish here involved Mark Henry pushing Titus on to the ring apron, thus knocking Primo off the top turnbuckle and costing the Shining Stars the match. Or at least that’s what it seemed like it was supposed to be. Henry basically tapped Titus on the chest, and he jumped backward on to the apron. I never thought I’d have to say this about Mark Henry, but he needed to put a little more muscle into it. An ugly end to a match with no intrigue.

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016WWE begins promoting Hell in a Cell as having a triple main event. This was the spot in the show where they put the Foley/Charlotte/Sasha segment. And with that in mind, I’ll address this triple main event thing: Nope. Sorry.

It’s like CM Punk said on the now famous Colt Cabana podcast: “I’m not f&$*ing stupid. The main event is the last match. … There’s one main event. There’s always been one main event.”

It’s pretty easy as far as I’m concerned. Just give the main event to Sasha Banks and Charlotte. This is the one time this Hell in a Cell show has something we’ve never seen before. How can you not go with that as your main event?

In the end, WWE can keep their sleazy marketing gimmicks. But what’s right is right. Give these ladies what they deserve.

Rich Swann def. Brian Kendrick. As much as I dislike Rich Swann’s dancing gimmick, having him win was cool from a story perspective. Kendrick now has even more doubt in his mind. They also made great use of archive footage of Kendrick. They really should have done it weeks ago. But better late than never.

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016As we saw last week, none of these cruiserweight guys are winning Emmys any time soon. But I liked Kendrick’s acting in that backstage segment with Perkins. Asking Perkins to let him win on Sunday was a big character moment for him.

Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn went to a no contest. I cringe whenever someone gets flung into the barricade like Sami was. It’s a convincing spot. I’m assuming this leads to another match at the pay per view.

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman appear before an opinionated Minneapolis crowd. Is it fair to call this segment a flop? The Minneapolis crowd eventually became the story. It certainly raises questions about how the Toronto crowd will react to Goldberg at Survivor Series. Those “Goldberg sucks” brought back some memories…

Question: Is it too much to ask Brock to look like he cares? Just a little? When Heyman said that Brock was getting pissed off at the chants, he looked like he was thinking about getting back to catering. Just look mean, Brock. That’s all we ask in these segments.

Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in a triple threat match, pinning them both simultaneously. Quote of the match, from Owens: “You don’t pedigree him! Get this idiot!”

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016This match felt like a real main event. Wasn’t this supposed to be on Hell in a Cell at some point? Heck, it should be on the pay per view. It would beat having three cage matches, that’s for sure. Loved the shot on the left of Owens and Jericho looking shocked, and we got a strong ending with the powerbomb on the apron.

When you look at the show as a whole, they did something they haven’t done for awhile, if ever: They built to the third hour. They put the big stuff, Brock and the triple threat, in the third hour. As such, the show struggled early on, but it made it more watchable as a whole. Just sayin’, something to keep in mind for the future…

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A Green Lanterns #9 Review – Too Many Strings Attached?

Green Lanterns #9, 2016TITLE: Green Lanterns #9
AUTHOR: Sam Humphries
PENCILLER: Robson Rocha
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sam Humphries may be the best writer we’ve seen on a Green Lantern book since Geoff Johns. This Green Lanterns title has been that good. With Jessica Cruz he’s given us one of the best portrayals of clinical anxiety I’ve seen in comics

But this issue brings up an important question…at what point have you pulled too many heart strings?

Green Lanterns #9 introduces us to Frank Laminski, a pilot who desperately longs to be a Lantern after being rescued by Hal Jordan. A middle child perpetually in second place, Frank becomes obsessed with becoming Earth’s next Green Lantern. But after years of working to overcome his fears, and seeing others get power rings, Frank becomes more and more desperate. Until he learns of the Phantom Ring, a power ring anyone can wield. But to get it, he’ll have to go through Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Green Lanterns #9, 2016, Robson Rocha, Frank Laminski, Hal JordanFrank Laminski is heartbreakingly relatable. At times it’s almost brutal. We see his torment, his rejections, his almost pitiful desperation, and finally his diminished resolve. It’s all clearly field by a need for personal validation. Humphries channels the same emotions he used with Jessica, particularly with the line, “Please, I need to know. Am…am I wasting my life?”

What makes it all the more crushing is that Frank has such hope. He says things like “I believe a man has the power to change his whole life. All you have to do is push yourself beyond what you thought was possible.” And yet, his situation is largely a hopeless one. Hope is powerful. But it isn’t everything…

Humphries weaves Frank’s story nicely into the Green Lantern mythos. We see his desperation grow as he watches John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and the others debut as heroes. He also pokes some innocent fun at the number of Green Lanterns Earth has. (“There were plenty of rings to around around, it seemed.”)

My question about heartstrings relates to the scene where Frank is at his lowest point, and seems to be praying to the Green Lantern rings to choose him. At that moment, a Green Lantern ring appears to him, and is about to welcome him to the corps. The ring then changes its mind, realizes its made an error, and travels to Guantanamo Bay to find Simon Baz. I loved seeing Frank’s resolve finally break, and I love that he thinks the rings are watching and can hear him. But is the appearance of the ring a little too on the nose? It works, and it conveys that Frank might actually be capable of wielding a ring. But is having the ring tell him “you are not capable of overcoming great fear” too overindulgent? I suppose it’s a matter of taste.

Green Lanterns #9, 2016, ring scene, Robson ROchaThis is my first exposure to Robson Rocha. I can see traces of Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke on these pages, meaning we’ve got something very consistent with two widely successful Green Lantern artists. He makes Frank very expressive. It’s very easy to feel Frank’s hope, pain, and agony, because it’s very accessible. And as always, colorist Blond treats us with a gorgeous palette.

Even as someone who enjoys Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, and a lot of the other Green Lantern “legacy” characters, I’m almost sad Green Lanterns isn’t the only GL book being published right now. This feels like the next logical chapter of the ongoing Green Lantern saga, and we’re seeing some tremendous character work. This is Sam Humphries’ first go-around with these characters and this world. But to his credit, it feels like he’s been with them for years.

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An Infamous Iron Man #1 Review – The Most Unlikely Hero

Infamous Iron Man #1, 2016, cover, Alex MaleevTITLE: Infamous Iron Man #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Alex Maleev
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So this is basically Superior Spider-Man with Doctor Doom and Iron Man. That’s an incredibly simplistic description. But it’s basically accurate, isn’t it? Hey, Superior Spider-Man was really good. If they can capture some of that magic with Infamous Iron Man, more power to them.

In the aftermath of Civil War II, Tony Stark is out of the picture. As Civil War II has been plagued by delays, we don’t know where Tony is, or what’s happened to him. But he’s gone. In his stead, the most unlikely of replacements will take up the Iron Man name: Victor von Doom. But why? More importantly, what is in store for the world now that Doctor Doom is Iron Man???

At face value, this seems to be another story about a bad guy trying to make amends with the world and become a hero. His motivation beyond that remains to be seen. But something’s clearly not right, as evidenced by his creepy scene with Tony’s former love interest Amara Perara. There’s an ominous vibe that seems to indicate things aren’t what they seem. He also makes it clear he’s taking on the Iron Man identity whether Tony (or at least a digital projection of Tony’s consciousness) approves.

Infamous Iron Man #1, 2016, Alex Maleev, Doctor Doom costumeThere’s also something going on with Doom’s mother. They bring her up at the start of the issue, and then we see her at the end. Looks like someone’s got some mommy issues…

Also, the Thing is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So Doom has a built-in first opponent, who he may face a soon as next issue.

Artist Alex Maleev and colorist Matt Hollingsworth let us know we’re squarely in villain territory for most of the issue. Their dark, sketchy, muted M.O. sets a grim tone worthy of Marvel’s most despicable villain. Even when we see Doom rescue Maria Hill from Diablo, it’s difficult to trust him as he’s shrouded in darkness.

Maleev’s rendering of Victor, whose face has been restored after the events of Secret Wars, is interesting. He maintains the suave and sharp look he had in Invincible Iron Man. But Maleev also humanizes him. Early in the issue, there’s a transition from a shot of the Doctor Doom mask, to the same shot of Victor. Male gives him a face slightly touched by age. Mike Deodato modeled him after Vincent Cassel in Invincible. But you can also see a little Peter Cushing (Tarkin from Star Wars) in Maleev’s version.

Doctor Doom is, among many things, delightfully complex. He’s as good a candidate as any to do the villain-becomes-hero routine. Our villain’s attempt to reform will inevitably crash and burn. Given this is Doctor Doom we’re talking about, that crash will undoubtedly be big, epic, and deadly. So for now, Infamous Iron Man has my attention.

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A DKIII: The Master Race #6 Review – History Repeats

DKIII: The Master Race #6, 2016, cover, Andy KubertTITLE: DKIII: The Master Race #6
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, Miller
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As one might expect, DKIII has shown us a lot of the same imagery The Dark Knight Returns did. Armored Batman, Batman being hunted, Batman against Kryptonians, etc.

DKIII #6 gives us yet another one: The death of Bruce Wayne, complete with a heart monitor on the page. It’s just a shame he goes down in perhaps the most anticlimactic way possible.

After striking a crippling blow to Quar and the Kryptonian army via Kryptonite-laced rain, an armored Batman and Superman are set for battle. They’re not alone, as Batgirl, Commissioner Yindel, and the people of Gotham City are set to serve up some justice of their own. But while the battle now takes place on a more even playing field, in the process they’ll sustain a heavy loss…

I’m calling BS on Bruce Wayne being dead. Or if he is dead, he’s coming back by the end of the story. There’s no way Frank Miller’s Batman, even if he’s mostly written by Brian Azzarello at this point, goes out via a quick heat vision burst (shown below). They’ll stick him in a rejuvenation chamber, a Lazarus Pit, or find some other way to restore him. I’m betting this will serve the dual purpose of rejuvenating his body so he doesn’t need crutches anymore.

DKIII #6, 2016, Andy Kubert, kill shot

DKIII was originally advertised as the final installment in the Dark Knight series. So it’s possible they were intending to kill Bruce off here. But now I’m betting plans have changed. If DKIII has proven anything, it’s that there’s still great value in putting Frank Miller and Batman together. The first issue sold 449,100 copies, making it one of the best selling single issues since the turn of the century. Since then, the book has remained a top 10 seller amongst all publishers.

Frank Miller may be controversial, and neither sequel has done much justice to the legacy left by The Dark Knight Returns. But when you put Miller on a Batman book, it’s newsworthy. That’s a well DC can go back to when they need a boost. Miller is apparently willing to go back, as last year he talked about being the solo writer for a Dark Knight IV story. I believe DKIV is happening. But Miller by himself? I’ll believe that when I see it.

As for this issue, it’s mostly fluff until the finale. It looks pretty, and we get some decent one-liners. (“You want to shut him up, or should I?”) But when we open the issue, our heroes already have the battle mostly won. Most of the action comes from a fight between Batgirl/Carrie Kelley and Baal, Lara’s love interest, who is unaffected by the rain. The Batmobile winds up shredded, which is a cool visual. She eventually ends up beating him with, of all things, her slingshot. Another callback from The Dark Knight Returns.

By the way, can we get better costumes for DKIV? Superman’s armor doesn’t look any less stupid this time around, nor does Batgirl look less gaudy.

DKIII #6, 2016, Frank Miller artOur mini-comic this time is Dark Knight Universe Presents: World’s Finest #1, featuring a confrontation between Lara and Batgirl. Wonder Woman eventually intervenes. I’d be interested to know why this wasn’t in the main issue, with the Baal/Carrie fight getting the backseat. There’s so much more meat here, and it’s in line with what we’ve built up to. The Kryptonians have convinced Lara to turn her back on her family and humanity at large. One would think the story culminates in Batman and Carrie having to stop her, which creates tension with Superman and Wonder Woman, and all the drama you mine from that. Where we go now that Bruce has “died” is an interesting question.

As for Frank Miller’s art…it’s Frank Miller’s art. At this point, it is what it is. Here’s what I will say: These mini-comics have always been beautifully colored by Alex Sinclair.

I’m almost past the point of judging DKIII as good or bad. It’s already not my cup of tea. And yet, I keep slapping cash down for it. At $5.99 an issue, it’s not cheap either. But as DC knows all too well, comic book fans will pay to read what Frank Miller has to say about Batman. It’s been 30 years since The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, but maybe we’re all secretly hoping he has one more classic left in him.

Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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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.

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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.

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