Finn Balor Arrives, Charlotte and Sasha Kill It, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Dean Ambrose, WWE ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was really surprised to see Dean Ambrose get the win at Battleground. Rollins seemed like the favorite. But I’m not complaining. Ambrose’s win in the triple threat, in addition to his pinfall victory over Rollins on Smackdown, sends an important message: Dean Ambrose is a main event player, and a World Champion.

Ambrose was advertised for the Stone Cold Podcast in two weeks. That’s another strong endorsement. This guy also has quite a story. He apparently grew up in public housing, and dropped out of high school to train as a wrestler. I’d love to see Austin get into that with him.

The downside to all this? Ambrose isn’t going to be WWE’s only Heavyweight Champion for long…

Ponderings From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley announce the creation of the WWE Universal Championship. Seth Rollins to face winner of main event.  *sigh* Well, here we go. Two world titles again. More belts inevitably water things down. But oh well…

And my God, what an awful name. The Universal Championship? They’re basically saying: “Oh yeah? You’ve got a world champion? Well we’ve got a Universe champion! And the universe is bigger than the world!!!!” Give me break.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Finn Balor def. Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro to advance to the main event. I was really surprised to hear Cole run down Finn Balor’s resume, talking about the titles in IWGP, the NWA, and all that. JBL has done that kind sort of thing. But to hear it from Cole, who like it or not is the voice of the company, adds a certain weight. This sort of thing would never have happened as recently as three years ago. All this “new era” stuff is hokey. But it’s not entirely untrue.

Rusev and Kevin Owens worked well together in this match, developing a temporary partnership. They both have a good grasp on their personas, and were firmly in character. I have no desire to see them as a formal tag team. But if they were to team again in the near future, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.

It made sense for Balor to take this one. But I was rooting for Cesaro. As many of us saw, he cut a little “worked shoot” promo on the WWE Network after the draft, venting about his frustrations. There’s still time for them to capitalize on that. But tonight would have been the opportune time. At least he wasn’t pinned, unlike the damn United States Champion.

Nia Jax def. Britt Baker. A good ol’ fashioned enhancement match. Not thrilling to watch, per se. But it’s an effective start for Nia Jax.

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho, Sheamus, and Sami Zayn to advance to the main event. So I know I’ve said this before, and that I’m not the only one, but…can we please just turn Roman heel already? Let the long national nightmare end. You’ll never find a better, more organic time to turn him heel than now. The guy just came back from a drug policy violation, was pinned in his second straight pay per view main event, and the fans are still booing him!

And if you’re going to turn him heel, you won’t find a better opponent for him than Sami Zayn. The “Underdog from the Underground” garnered a lot of great sympathy as he was getting beat down by Reigns. But alas, Reigns is still a superhero.

Also, how hilarious was it wen Reigns went for the spear, and Jericho simply threw a kick and stopped him dead? Maybe I’m biased…

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson trash a New Day celebration. Corey Graves: “Gallows and Anderson aren’t concerned with balloons and cereal. They’re worried about checks and championships.” Great line.

That video package they aired for the New Day was delightfully cheesy. It seems like a long time ago that these guys were heels. And if there’s one team that’s fit to pop their positivity bubble, it’s Gallows & Anderson. Is this why they didn’t get a title match earlier in the year? Because they were waiting for Summerslam? That works for me.

Neville, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Neville def. Curtis Axel. So they’re calling Axel “Mr. Irrelevant” now? At least it’s factually accurate. How far he’s fallen since becoming a Paul Heyman guy.

The re-introduction of the Cruiserweight Division bodes well for Neville. The poor guy has zero personality. But he’s got incredible explosive athleticism. He can easily be the centerpiece to the whole thing.

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte to become the new WWE Women’s Champion. I found myself tempted to tune out a bit during this match. One would’ve thought they were saving Sasha’s win for Summerslam. But nope. Couldn’t.  They got me. I tip my hat to both these ladies. They’re truly great.

Charlotte’s flexibility is amazing. When Sasha got her in that straitjacket hold, the angle of her back was cringeworthy. And the double knees off the apron? Beautiful. We had a great story about the champion being in jeopardy. That is wrestling, folks.

These ladies scared the crap out of me twice in the span of about two minutes. On the subject of bent spines, Sasha’s landing after that dive to the outside was brutal. One can only wonder much adrenaline it takes to keep going after that. Then Charlotte goes for a moonsault on the outside, with only one person to catch her.

Sasha Banks, WWE Women's ChampionIt’s interesting that they switched the title tonight. I can only assume it was to create some extra buzz around Raw now that the brands are split. Either way, this was a long time coming. The fans have been ready for Sasha to take the top spot since she came up to the main roster at about this time last year. To say the very least, she deserves it.

The timing is interesting too, what with Bayley making her first main roster appearance last night as Sasha’s partner.

Corey Graves joins the Raw announce team. JBL moves to SmackdownGraves had a great first night. He felt more like a sports analyst, as opposed to JBL’s cowboy caricature. His time has finally come.

Braun Strowman wins an enhancement match. Braun Strowman is on his own now, which I’m afraid means we have to endure yet another generic giant. I actually would have preferred another attempt to make Erick Rowan a single.

Enzo & Cass def. The Shining Stars. Did Enzo & Cass skip some dialogue before the match? It seems like Cass jumped right to the “S.A.W.F.T.” catch phrase.

Finn Balor def. Roman Reigns to advance to SummerslamWell, so much for Balor being a cruiserweight. This is as big an endorsement of a new star as we’ve seen in a long time. In his first night on the main roster, Finn Balor beats the man who was (and perhaps still is) pegged to be the new face of the company. Balor is immediately established as a main event player, and a new star. Seth Rollins against Finn Balor at Summerslam? I’m in.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Now the question becomes what to do with Roman Reigns. He’s obviously being de-emphasized for the time being. Say, I wonder what Sami Zayn is doing at Summerslam

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Finn Balor debuts. Sasha Banks wins the Women’s Title in an awesome match.

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A New Super-Man #1 Review – What’s the Point?

New Super-Man #1, 2016, coverTITLE: New Super-Man #1
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: Viktor Bogdanovic
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED: 
July 13, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

At face value, a book about a Chinese Superman is not only intriguing, but a PR gold mine in a company (and an industry at large) aching for diversity. New Super-Man inherently calls for something different. A Superman who looks different, a different city, a different culture, etc. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Somebody needs to answer that question. At this point, it’s not apparent what they’re trying to give us outside of another run-of-the-mill superhero book.

Kong Kenan is a teenage bully who becomes a viral video sensation for throwing a soda can at a supervillain. Soon after, he is made the subject of a lab experiment that grants him the same powers as Superman. But Kong Kenan is not Clark Kent. So what does a young Chinese man with a social activist for a father, but also a penchant for bullying, do with the same abilities as the Man of Steel?

New Super-Man #1, Victor BogdanovicGene Luen Yang started writing Superman at a bad time. The whole Truth storyline falls squarely into the “Things That Could Have Been Awesome” category. What made it all the more disappointing is that Yang is an excellent writer, perhaps best known for his original graphic novel, American Born Chinese. With that in mind, a story like this seems like it would be a lay up for him. Seeing him turn in a dud like this is very deflating.

Perhaps this was naive or unfair, but I was hoping New Super-Man could provide an alternate perspective on the American superhero story through the prism of Chinese culture. A Chinese twist on an American icon. With American Born Chinese, Yang’s main character was so empathetic. The book allows those with no knowledge of Chinese culture to learn bit, and to see American culture from a new perspective. There isn’t any of that in New Super-Man. Granted, we’re only one issue in. But there’s no unique hook in this issue to bring me back next month. You could set this series in the United States and it would more or less be the same. It’s stunning how big a disappointment this is.

Victor Bogdanovic does fine here. His somewhat cartoony take on things characterizes everybody pretty quickly in a shallow, caricaturesque sort of way. Kenan is something of a goof, but there’s a heart of gold in there somewhere. And apparently he’s hung up on his mother’s death. We’ve got our vibrant and aggressive Lois Lane stand-in with Laney Lan, and the grouchy buzzkill in his father. There’s nothing with any sort of depth here. But at least it’s fun to look at.

New Super-Man #1, Victor Bogdanovic, chamberNew Super-Man #1 let me down more than any single issue has in quite some time. The ironic thing? There’s precious little that’s new or interesting about what we see here. Considering DC is starting fresh with so many of its books, that’s a damn near fatal flaw. Especially for a new series. Barring some sort of radical twist, I won’t be coming back to this one.

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WWE Draft Picks, and Other Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Dean Ambrose retains over Seth Rollins? Nice! Rollins has been emphasized heavily lately. So it’s cool that they evened the playing field a bit, and gave Rollins a win.

Aside from the title match, literally nothing mattered on this show except the WWE Draft picks. So let’s jump right into those, and see what the rosters look like…

Seth Rollins, WWE Draft 2016Raw‘s Draft Picks
1. Seth Rollins
2. Charlotte
3. Finn Balor
4. Roman Reigns
5. Brock Lesnar
6. The New Day
7. Sami Zayn
8. Sasha Banks
9. Chris Jericho
10. Rusev & Lana
11. Kevin Owens
12. Enzo & Cass
13. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
14. The Big Show
15. Nia Jax
16. Neville
17. Cesaro
18. Sheamus

Dean Ambrose, WWE Draft 2016Smackdown‘s Draft Picks
1. Dean Ambrose
2. AJ Styles
3. John Cena
4. Randy Orton
5. Bray Wyatt
6. Becky Lynch
7. The Miz & Maryse
8. Baron Corbin
9. American Alpha
10. Dolph Ziggler
11. Natalya
12. Alberto Del Rio

Let’s assume for now that the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions will travel to both shows. We haven’t been told otherwise, though I do believe it’s happening. That means Raw now has the United States Title and the future Cruiserweight Title, while the Intercontinental Title is on Smackdown.

John Cena, WWE Draft 2016John Cena being summoned to Smackdown was no surprise. If the idea is to make Smackdown relevant and to drive viewers up, having the face of the company on the show makes all the sense in the world. And as you want some built-in rivalries once the split takes effect, it’s easy to see why AJ Styles would got to Smackdown as well.

What’s surprising is Finn Balor going to Raw. Balor has a built-in history with AJ Styles from New Japan Pro Wrestling. One would think they’d want to capitalize on that, and put him on Smackdown. But The Solomonster made a great point on Twitter: At about 190 lbs, Balor could be WWE’s choice to head up the new Cruiserweight Division.

On the other hand, he has even more of a history with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, who will be on Raw with him. I’m disappointed we won’t get to see Styles and Balor clash in the near future. But at least there’s a chance for them to run with the history that exists between he and The Club.

Becky Lynch, WWE Draft 2016Becky Lynch should be happy. She’s the lead female babyface on Smackdown. You can argue this is a consolation prize, considering she’s in a smaller pond, and Charlotte and Sasha were picked first. But not being put next to those two will give her a chance to develop even more. This woman is a star, and now she has the chance to shine brighter than ever.

Kane should not be happy, at least from a story perspective. A proven commodity dating all the way back to the Attitude Era, and he wasn’t even in the top 30? They even had him chokeslam Zayn and Owens in front of the authority figures. They could easily do some sort of program with this. An aging demon? Hm…

Many of us expected to see American Alpha drafted. Nia Jax is a different story. I haven’t seen much of her work, but her look immediately sets her apart from every other woman in the company. It’s unfair to compare the two at this juncture, but I hope she becomes what Awesome Kong never became in WWE.

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Seth Rollins Strikes Gold? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 18, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s do things a little different this week, and jump right to the main event. We had our WWE Championship Match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, which ended in a double pin. Stephanie McMahon, the Commissioner of Raw, announced Rollins as the winner. But Shane, the Commissioner of Smackdown, was clearly on Ambrose’s side.

After Raw went off the air, Ambrose was confirmed to still be the WWE Champion. Frankly, that’s a surprise, considering they continued to play up Rollins’ comeback story. They even made a point to mention a web site (Bleacher Report?) making him the number one pick in a fantasy draft. Signs seemed to point to him. Either way, I expect him to win the match at Battleground.

So here we go. This opens the door for both become the champions of their respective brands. Tomorrow night in the draft, Stephanie picks Rollins as her top draft choice, and Shane picks Ambrose for Smackdown.

Like a lot of purists, I’m not a fan of there being two world champions. In the end, every other singles title ends up watered down. Plus, the Raw title inevitably ends up being the important one anyway. And isn’t it convenient that this disputed finish just happens to occur on the show before the draft?

Still, dumb ending aside this turned out to be a pretty good show, with two returns to punctuate things…

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Daniel BryanPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley named General Manager of Raw. Daniel Bryan named General Manager of SmackdownFoley is a surprise pick. I can only assume this choice has to do with the soon to be released Holy Foley reality show on the WWE Network. Either way, Mick is one of the best mic guys that company has ever had, and hopefully he’ll create some magic on Monday nights.

The love that the fans still have for Daniel Bryan blows me away sometimes. And it all happened so organically. He’s like the anti-Roman Reigns in that sense. Bryan’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Cruiserweight Division to launch on RawHere you go. This is where a lot of those guys from the Cruiserweight Classic will go. Here’s hoping they don’t lose interest in it after a few years. The WWE’s incarnation of the cruiserweight division was a joke for the last few years of its existence. It was a mercy killing when it finally ended.

Sami Zayn & Cesaro def. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens. On the subject of mercy killings, one of the upsides to this Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens rivalry likely ending is we won’t have to see that awful punching spot they do. I really enjoy them both, but they do it every week and it looks just as awful now as it did the first time.

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Darren Young, Bob BacklundDarren Young def. Alberto Del Rio. So the story with Young is that he wins by accident. I can see Young possibly getting a similar win, and the title, at Battleground. Miz can contest to extend the program, with Young ultimately getting a legit win in the end. Of course, they could just be playing this up for comedy.

Sometimes I wonder how Del Rio feels about the way things have gone for him since he came back. He’s a multiple time champion, and was one of the hottest free agents in the business when they re-signed him. Now he’s just another guy on the roster. Though I suppose having Paige on your arm must help matters.

The Club & The Wyatt Family def. John Cena, Enzo, Big Cass, & The New Day. The in-ring segment before this match was a lot of fun. Lots of different energies and personalities in there, and the crowd ate it up. For the most part, Enzo was on fire. The fun they had in the skit definitely carried into the match.

Somehow I hadn’t connected the dots about there being two six-man tags at Battleground. Does that hurt the show? Maybe. One way they could differentiate them a bit is to have The New Day put the tag belts on the line. I don’t expect them to break Big E, Kofi, and Xavier up. They’ve got a really good thing going with those three, and there’s gas left in the tank. I don’t mean to compare the two groups, but they broke The Shield up too soon, and they don’t want to make the same mistake with The New Day. The Wyatts, on the other hand…

Seth Rollins, WWE Monday Night Raw, July 18, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo in the empty arena before the show. Dean Ambrose does a Shield-style promo with a handheld camera. Any time they do something different like this, it’s a good thing. They could easily have put Rollins backstage with Renee Young and had him looking off-camera, reciting his lines. Ditto for Ambrose. But they opted to do something unique. Well done, WWE.

Baron Corbin def. Sin Cara. Apparently The Lucha Dragons aren’t a tag team anymore. Why they opted not to break them up via the draft doesn’t make sense to me. They always play up how teams could be broken up by being drafted to different shows. So why not break them up that way? You also had Kalisto come out to save Sin Cara from a post-match beatdown.

With the cruiserweight division announced for Raw, I imagine we’ll see Kalisto on that show. Corbin will likely be there as well. As he’s no longer teaming with Kalisto, this likely means Sin Cara is Smackdown bound.

Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch def Charlotte & Dana Brooke via disqualification after an attack by Natalya. My guess is they’re setting up this Natalya/Becky Lynch program for one show, and the Charlotte/Sasha one for the other. I was hoping they’d have one Women’s Champion to appear on both Raw and Smackdown. But in light of this situation with the WWE Title, that seems unlikely. The whole division is likely to suffer as a result. Damn…

WWE Battleground 2016, Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Sasha BanksSasha has a mystery partner against Charlotte and Dana at Battleground. Assuming they don’t opt to have Sasha go it alone, this seems like the perfect opportunity to bring Bayley up. She’s likely being drafted anyway, and this is her opening. We’d better get ready for some wacky arm flailing inflatable tube men!

Rusev & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Zack Ryder. I still can’t get over this push Zack Ryder is getting. In a match that included two former world champions and a monster heel, Ryder came out last. I don’t expect him to win the belt at Battleground, but you never know.

In Other News:

Brock Lesnar flagged for potential anti-doping policy violation prior to UFC 200I’m betting this turns out to be a false alarm. Lesnar reportedly passed multiple drug tests before the fight. Guilty or not, in the wake of Roman Reigns’ Wellness Policy violation, this is a headache WWE doesn’t need. Here’s hoping this is resolved quickly, and we can focus on Lesnar vs. Randy Orton at Summerslam.

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Brock Lesnar’s Victory, The Final Deletion, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFC 200By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Very happy to see Brock Lesnar get the win over Mark Hunt. The doubters weren’t totally justified in questioning Lesnar’s chances. The guy hadn’t had a fight in years. But he was obviously ready. I don’t know if he regrets re-signing with WWE, but it’s clear his heart is still in MMA. I expect we’ll see him back in the octagon soon.

Lesnar will now carry the momentum from this fight into Summerslam, where we now know he’ll wrestle the returning Randy Orton. The announcement of Lesnar’s opponent happened on Smackdown, actually prompting me to watch the show for once. We heard Corey Graves bring up the fact that these two came up together in the WWE developmental system. I expect that will be a large part of the story they tell as we move toward August. I’m a bit concerned about Orton staying healthy in there with Brock. He’s just come off shoulder surgery, after all. But then again, I had those same concerns about The Undertaker, and as far as I know he came out of it fine.

WWE is going to need as many stars as they can fine once this brand split starts. Make no mistake about it, Randy Orton is one of their biggest commodities.

I also loved how they finally acknowledged the damn fight on television this week. Only after Brock had won, of course…

Bob Backlund, Darren Young, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Darren Young wins a battle royal to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at BattlegroundThe obvious choice to win this match seemed to be Apollo Crews, for no other reason than he was the only participant to get a TV entrance, and they played his music through Miz’s pre-match promo. But Darren Young was a pleasant surprise. And they were chanting his name! Imagine that.

However, I’m curious about the way he won. Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated themselves. Young won by accident. So what does that say about him going into Battleground? Either way, any excuse to get Bob Backlund on live TV works for me.

I’ve come to enjoy Miz’s commentary. He does a nice job putting other talents over. He seemed to be getting instructions to put Corbin over. That’s fair enough. I suspect Corbin will receive much more attention once the brand split takes effect. He still comes off really green. But the best solution for that is experience.

Sheamus def. Zack Ryder. I was blown away when I saw Ryder get a clean win over Sheamus on Smackdown. That, combined with his win last week on Raw, leads one to a stunning conclusion: Zack Ryder is getting a push. Four years after he took the wrestling world by storm with his YouTube show, WWE finally seems to be taking him seriously. I’m really proud that he’s persevered after all this time. The only wrestling t-shirt I’ve purchased in the last decade was Ryder’s Broski v-neck. That’s how much of a fan I was, and still am. A United States Title Match with Rusev seems imminent. Will he win? Probably not. But at least he’s in the conversation.

Kalisto, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Tyler Breeze & Fandango def. The Lucha Dragons. During this match the announcers brought up the idea that tag teams could be split up during the draft. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen very much. Remember when they split the Dudleys up in 2002 for no real reason? And then they put them back together a matter of months later? Yeah, let’s not do that again.

Seth Rollins airs mock interview with Roman Reigns using old interview footage. Dean Ambrose comes out to confront him. A WWE Title Match is made for next week’s RawKurt Angle did something like this to The Rock at the tail end of the Attitude Era. It’s an okay little gag. No harm done, even though they are talking about a legitimate drug test violation.

Seth Rollins came off like a million bucks in this segment. He said that Reigns should be taken out of the title match at Battleground, and the fans cheered. He talked about Ambrose sneaking up on him and taking the belt, which did happen. He was also right that Ambrose couldn’t beat him for the belt last year. Rollins has a legitimate argument to being the uncrowned WWE Champion, and being better than both Ambrose and Reigns.

In Ambrose’s response, however, he came off more threatening than he has in weeks. Jokey Dean Ambrose is fine sometimes. But as the champion, we need to see more of the crazy and dangerous Dean Ambrose. When he’s on, Ambrose is as good as anybody in the company. Rollins, to his credit, played off of that intensity very well. He looked intimidated, as his character should be. As for next week’s title match, I don’t expect the belt to change hands. Battleground, however, is a different story.

WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Kevin Owen gets Sami Zayn ejected from the commentary table before his victory over Cesaro. Zayn attacks Owens afterward. I wish they’d just make this some kind of stipulation match that allows Zayn and Owens to fight all over the arena. I just wish they’d stop doing that lock-up/punches thing they do. It takes me right out of whatever scene they’re in.

The New Day journey to the Wyatt Family “compound.” So…was this WWE’s attempt to outdo the “Final Deletion” that TNA did on Impact last week? If so, they failed.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the Final Deletion. It was a match Matt and Jeff Hardy shot on location, which served as the blow-off for the bizarre program they’ve had in TNA this year. Produced by Jeremy Borash, it was a truly ridiculous spectacle. There was a weird vignette with drones and a hologram, spots with fireworks, and the lunacy fans have come to expect from Matt’s crazy character. It was far from your traditional main event, but that was the point. A lot of fans enjoyed it, and it got TNA some much-needed positive buzz.

All I can say about this, is that it’s good to see people talking about TNA again. What that brand desperately needs is some buzz, and they got it.

Fast-forward six days, and we get this. It looked like WWE’s take on a found footage flick, a la The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. But the shaky camera was just awful. There were traces of the Final Deletion. We had the music, the stuff in the water, Bray using an axe, the car crash, etc. The ironic thing is, had they shot this in a more traditional manner, it would have been a lot more interesting. We’d have been able to follow the action more closely. Also, that didn’t look much like a compound to me. More like an open field.

TNA, The Final Deletion, Matt and Jeff HardyOn the plus side, the image of Braun Strowman rising from the water and roaring was awesome. Literally the best thing he’s ever done. And that final image of the lanterns in the forest was cool. But all in all, this was very derivative. WWE drawing inspiration from something TNA did? In 2016? Who’d have thought?

Enzo & Cass def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification. John Cena makes the save afterward. Of course Cena was there. C’mon, now.

Decent match. I’ve got high hopes the match at Battleground will be one of the better six-man bouts we’ve seen on pay per view in recent years. I doubt it’ll top The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. But you never know. This all obviously leads to another match between AJ Styles and John Cena at Summerslam, and possibly a tag title shot for Enzo & Cass.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. I was really curious to see how Banks and Brooke would match up. All things considered, they did pretty well. Absolutely the best match I’ve seen from Dana Brooke since she got called up. They also gave this match a good amount of time, which I credit them for. We wanted Sasha, and they gave us Sasha. They took their damn time, but better late than never.

Vince McMahon names Shane McMahon Commissioner of Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon named Commissioner of Raw. General Managers to be named next week. First off, Vince’s impression of “sweet” Stephanie was awesome. The funniest thing on this show in weeks.

McMahon Family, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016What happened here isn’t surprising. This looked like where they were going. The heel Stephanie on one show, the babyface Shane on the other. The General Manager thing is a bit odd. Traditionally, you have one authority figure that makes matches, stipulations, etc. So does the GM now fill that role, with Shane or Steph coming in as necessary? It all seems redundant. But maybe it’ll make sense when we see it in action. By the way, isn’t Kurt Angle available these days?

I do, however, think Vince gave us a clue about how things are really going to go once this split takes effect. He made a point to call Raw the “three-hour flagship” of WWE. In the end, Raw is like Vince’s favorite child. Even with the added emphasis on Smackdown, eventually it all comes back to Raw.

 Image 1 from rt.com. Image 5 from denofgeek.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.

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A WWE Money in the Bank 2016 Preview – Change Is Coming

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We don’t know much about the upcoming WWE brand split at this point. We don’t know who the general managers will be (though presumably it’ll be Shane on one and Stephanie on the other), we don’t know how the titles or the rosters will be divided, and we don’t know who we might see called up from NXT. But let’s take the time to appreciate the current landscape of WWE. Because by the time Battleground gets here next month, the rosters will be divided. This is our last pay per view with a single, unified roster.

For better or worse, we move onward…

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Dear God, this is still going on. Someone make it stop! Make it end!

Alright, so that segment on Raw where Ziggler kicked Corbin in the balls was pretty cool. But other than that, there’s not much to sink your teeth into here. Just like there wasn’t at Payback. Or Extreme Rules. Or Battleground, if they end up going again next month. I hope Corbin’s learning from Ziggler. Because we at home certainly aren’t getting much out of this.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews

I like this match. I like that it’s actually about something. Sheamus feels threatened by the “new era” wrestlers coming in, and targets Apollo Crews. And they’re such polar opposites that it makes sense for them to dislike each other.

I see Crews stealing a win from Sheamus. With the brand split looming, WWE needs to keep building new stars to hype for these separate rosters. Crews could be a great asset, depending on how they book him.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Natalya, Becky LynchCharlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Natalya & Becky Lynch

It seems like the plan is to do Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the title at Summerslam. If that’s the case, everything Charlotte does until she gets to Sasha should be about building her character. She’s a bratty and arrogant champion, but she needs help to keep the title. They could play that up here by having Nattie and Becky win this match. That could naturally lead to a triple threat match for the title at Battleground.

I’m confused about where Dana Brooke fits into this. On TV they’re planting seeds of dissension between the two. I’m not sure that makes sense, unless they’re either planning to put the two against each other or draft them to separate shows. Frankly, I don’t like either option. Charlotte and Dana are a good team, and I’d like to see them together at least a little longer.

PREDICTION: Natalya & Becky Lynch

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, Rusev vs. Titus O'NeilWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Titus O’Neil

I haven’t been riveted by anything I’ve seen from this Rusev/Titus program. But on paper, everything is positioned the way it should be. Rusev is back to being a a monstrous brute, Titus is the natural babyface, and the more patriotic elements of the US Title are being played up. There’s not much to sling mud at here. I just wish it were more interesting.

Rusev just won the belt back, so I see no point in taking it off him. He needs to be built back up after everything he’s been though in the past year. A successful title defense against Titus will help in that regard.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, The New Day, Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson, The VaudevilliansFATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Enzo & Cass

I’m not crazy about Enzo & Cass being in this match. Like Sasha Banks with Charlotte, I feel like they should be kept away from the titles until they’re really ready to pursue them. This feels like they were just thrown in there because they needed another pair of bodies in the match. They’re better than that.

As I’ve said previously, this match feels like a way to get the belts off New Day without actually beating them. I fully expect either Simon Gotch or Aiden English to eat the pin here, and for Gallows & Anderson to walk away with the belts. From there, it wouldn’t shock me if they wind up actually beating New Day at Battleground, and then facing Enzo & Cass at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2016, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro, Chris JerichoMONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:

Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens. vs. Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Cesaro

WWE wasted the briefcase on Sheamus last year. So there’s extra pressure on them not to waste it here. Thankfully, I don’t think that will be the case. They’ve got two really good candidates in this match: Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. Owens would be great with the briefcase, as it really is a heel’s instrument. But babyfaces have used it effectively, with Rob Van Dam being the best example. Hearing Dean Ambrose on Monday talk about cashing in was simply awesome. I don’t see it happening at this show. But a Shield triple threat is money. Money in the bank, if you will.

But in the end, I think Kevin Owens would be too great to pass up in this role. The mic work alone would be priceless. Let him gloat, let him threaten, let him do all the things a heel Money in the Bank winner should do. The results should make for good TV.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. AJ Styles, WWE Money in the Bank 2016John Cena vs. AJ Styles

So this is a dream match, huh? I never imagined this match being billed as such. But kudos to WWE for playing off the crowd reaction these two got that first night in the ring. They’ve consistently been the most interesting thing on Raw in the last three weeks.

AJ needs to win this match. He lost at Wrestlemania, and he lost two consecutive pay per view matches to Roman Reigns. He needs this win. I doubt he comes out on top in the end. But they still talk about Kevin Owens beating Cena in his first match on the main roster. Maybe one big win is enough. I hope he gets it here.

WINNER: AJ Styles

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, WWE Money in the Bank 2016WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins

In case you haven’t figured it out, Roman is The Guy. That’s what they want him to be, so that’s what he’s going to be. As such, I don’t see him dropping the belt to Rollins, or anyone else anytime soon. But the match itself should be good. It’s Rollins’ first go-around since November. He’s obviously anxious to make an impact.

But going along with what I said up top, let’s appreciate the novelty of having one WWE Championship. By the time Battleground is here, we may have two belts again. They finally got the titles sorted out, and now they may be about to screw ’em up all over again…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.

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John Cena’s Ultimatum, The Shield (Briefly) Reunites, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s disheartening that despite all the hours of WWE content we get these days, less and less seems to be happening on these shows.

I’ve been listening to the occasional Vince Russo podcast over at PodcastOne.com. A few weeks ago, he and Glenn Gilbertti (the former Disco Inferno in WCW) were talking about what one would theoretically be missing without tuning into Raw every week. So often, these shows seem inconsequential. If you’d missed the episode entirely, you really wouldn’t have missed anything at all. For the “longest running weekly episodic show in TV history,” that’s odd, isn’t it? Where are the moments we’re supposed to be talking about on Tuesday morning? What do we remember, then bring up at school or work?

For the foreseeable future, I want to highlight those moments, or the lack thereof. At the bottom of each “Ponderings,” there’ll be a spot for “Tuesday Morning Talk Points.” Those will  be the moments that make Raw worth watching each week. And if there aren’t any talk points to speak of, that’s an indictment on what WWE puts on their flagship show.

The New Day, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

The New Day open the show with Enzo & Cass. They spent a solid minute talking about Kofi Kingston’s shoes. See, because they were the weird Steph Curry shoes. Because people are talking about those. And WWE is obviously hip to what we’re all talking about. Unless it’s Roman Reigns. They can’t seem to hear all the boos directed at Roman Reigns.

Then they started talking about Xavier Woods’ trumpet. I was mildly surprised to hear them go into Enzo having his hands and lips all over her, and what not. Despite being obviously scripted, that’s not nearly as sanitized as typical WWE dialogue. It was still stupid, and nothing like what I expected an encounter between the two teams to be like. Better luck, next time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & The Vaudevillians def. The New Day, Enzo & Cass. I really wish they’d just call him Enzo, as opposed to referring to him as Amore. It’s needlessly awkward.

Right now, my money is still on Gallows & Anderson to walk out of Money in the Bank with the belts. I don’t see any other motivation for putting four teams in this match other than to create a scenario that softens the loss for New Day. I can easily see The Vaudevillians eating the pin. But you never know.

McMahons, Kane, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Corporate Kane lobbies for the job of Smackdown General Manager. Has Kane been on Raw since Wrestlemania? If so, I forgot all about it. I only wish he’d returned in the mask, as opposed to a suit. I can only assume he’ll be a regular on TV again once the roster splits.

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose reunite in The Ambrose Asylum. Why wasn’t this in the main event spot? Because the third hour loses viewers? That’s a valid reason, I suppose…

This was fine. The crowd was definitely having fun. And once they started cranking up the heat, it got interesting. Rollins definitely shined here. All those long Authority promos might not have been great for us. But they definitely sharpened up his mic skills. He’s so much more comfortable in front of those big crowds nowadays.

It was important that Ambrose bring up the Money in the Bank contract and threaten to cash in at the pay per view. He deserves to be viewed in the same light as these two. Especially if they want to play up how important The Shield was, and one day build to these three reuniting for another run. But for now, I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in a triple-threat as we head toward Summerslam

WWE Raw, June 13 ,2016, Paige, CharlottePaige def. Charlotte. Remember when Paige beat Charlotte last month? And now she’s beaten her again. What does this girl have to do to get a title shot?

So Charlotte gets pinned when Dana Brooke throws her back in the ring, and now we’re teasing tension between those two. These two just got together, and now it looks like they’re already breaking up. Seems like a waste to me.

Sami Zayn def. Cesaro. After Cesaro’s win over Chris Jericho last week, I was disappointed to see him lose here. Especially after Alberto Del Rio’s emphatic win over Zayn last week. Come to think of it, they might have put Cesaro with Del Rio this week. Either way, this one got hot toward the end. I’d love to see these two go at it on a pay per view someday.

AJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for Money in the Bank. This was a good segment. Cena’s ultimatum for Styles, to allow or forbid Gallows and Anderson from being at ringside, made this better than your usual WWE contract signing. Also, Cena put AJ over really well when this segment began. He even name-dropped PWG. That made some of the Twitter marks happy. He also seems to like making little inside references to the Bullet Club, though.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016What I really wanted from this segment was for Styles to elaborate on the “Guys like you bury guys like me” comment from last week. That didn’t happen. But we did get some really nice tension. And I’m not sure how scripted this was, either. That’s to say, it felt like they were really talking to each other, not reciting memorized dialogue. Also, much like the story with Styles and Reigns, there was a nice simplicity to it. Both guys think they’re better, they’ve never had a chance to fight before. So now they’re going to settle the score in a big match. It’s tough to go wrong there.

Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio def. The Lucha Dragons. The stipulation here was that if The Lucha Dragons won, they’d get Owens and Del Rio’s spots in the ladder match. Because, you know, that could happen…

Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho. In theory, Raw should build to that final segment right? But Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose is a feud that just ended, and they had this Shield reunion thing built up for a week. Why not air those little Shield retrospectives throughout the show, and have the Ambrose Asylum segment go on last? We didn’t know what was going to happen in that Shield segment. We all knew what would happen here. A big brawl to close the show. They may as well have advertised that.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Dean Ambrose threatening to win the briefcase and cash in on Reigns and Rollins at Money in the Bank. John Cena and AJ Styles’ contract signing.

Images courtesy of WWE. 

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