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

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Smackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ric Flair, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Looks like Uncle Ric is in trouble again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Smackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sasha Banks Repeats History, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not sure if the ratings will reflect it, but this was a good show. Possibly the best since Finn Balor’s arrival. It wasn’t Earth shaking. But we had some good wrestling, some good mic work, and some attempts at comedy that actually landed. If that last one isn’t noteworthy, nothing is.

So let’s dive straight in!

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns and Lana open the show. Lana challenges Reigns on behalf of her husband. Reigns and Rusev to face again inside Hell in a Cell. This wasn’t bad. By no means great, but not bad. People on Twitter were on Lana’s case for accent slippage. But I didn’t think she was any worse than normal. Take that for what you will. Her “Go to hell!” line was a dead giveaway. And then she repeated it for emphasis.

Is this the first time the US Title is being decided in the cell? I can’t recall any other time that would have been done. That’s a nice little coup for that belt. I’m not expecting a classic by any means. But win or lose, being in a match like this will be good for Rusev’s name value. Especially if he wins, as he should. They’ll do some kind of screwball finish, of course. But he’ll still be able to say he beat Roman Reigns inside Hell in a Cell.

Brian Kendrick def. TJ Perkins via submission. I was under the impression this was for the title. So imagine my surprise when Perkins tapped out but didn’t lose the belt. I guess now they have something to do at the pay per view.

The crowd was into this one, which lends credence to the idea that the cruiserweight are a solid bet to get the crowd excited at the top of the show. Granted, this match had a good story behind it, which always helps.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Michael Cole interviews Seth Rollins. They should do sit down interview segments like this more often. As we saw with Mick Foley in 1997, they can help add an entirely new dimension to a character. That’s not what we got here, but anything that breaks up the monotony and the sameness of this show is good.

After another squash match, Braun Strowman demands better competition. While repetitive as can be, these squash matches have done wonders to rehabilitate and build interest in Braun Strowman. Now it seems like it’s time to move on. But who do you put in there with Strowman? I have nothing to base this on, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be Big Show…

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho announce their intention to challenge for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The New Day responds. The big line in this segment was when Jericho said: “It’s not like I’m asking you for an opportunity at your championship.” As weirdly scripted as that line was, the crowd popped for it. We even got some nice “Y2J” chants. That’s a good omen.

It’s so interesting what manages to be funny on WWE TV. The “List of Jericho” is as stupid as any idea they’ve ever come up with. But Jericho’s charisma and delivery made it work. That damn clipboard is over! What’s more, that little exchange between Woods and Owens about “jumping the shark” got a laugh out of me. By God, actual humor! It can happen on Raw!

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Here’s the thing: These guys all remembered their lines. But they weren’t chained to them. They weren’t struggling to remember anything. They just went with the flow. And the crowd ate it up! Nice work, gentlemen.

Bill Goldberg to appear on the WWE segment of Sportscenter this week. They made a point to mention Goldberg more than once this week. It’s really just a matter of time before they announce Goldberg’s return match, isn’t it?

Sami Zayn def. Titus O’Neil. Titus absolutely murdered that in-ring promo a few weeks ago. But this guy is so articulate, and so damn charming. To me, it’s no wonder WWE keeps bringing him back to the forefront after mishaps like that. Hell, it wasn’t long ago he was suspended for grabbing Vince McMahon himself! But he keeps coming back, and I’m glad for it. Hell, I’m into the “Titus Brand” thing!

That being said, I’m not on board for having Titus upset Sami Zayn to get his brand over. That suplex Zayn gave him into the corner was really cool, considering Titus is 6’6 and about 270, while Sami is 6’1 and 205. Better luck next week, Titus.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Golden Truth. I like that the New Day are being talked about in multiple segments involving tag teams. Gallows and Anderson talked about them. Cesaro and Sheamus are talking about them. And of course, we had Owens and Jericho earlier. They’re playing up the importance of the tag titles. That’s a good thing.

Gallows and Anderson, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Gallows and Anderson need some rehabbing. These guys have lost multiple pay per view matches to the New Day, and they need to rack up some wins. Tonight was a good start.

The New Day def. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho, with Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson on commentary. Here’s what I’ll say about Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson being on commentary: At least they weren’t micromanaged. The back-and-forth between Kutcher, Masterson, and Corey Graves felt very organic. To his credit, Kutcher seemed excited to be there. I’d have been alright if they brought them back out for the main event.

After costing Owens & Jericho their match Seth Rollins tells Stephanie he’ll “burn Raw to the ground” if he doesn’t get another Universal Title Match. After seeing Mick Foley become the latest talent to be eviscerated by Stephanie last week, it was nice to see somebody stand up to her. Not that she won’t eventually get to dress him down like everyone else. But it’s a nice change of pace.

Tony Nese def. Rich Swann. Swann is obviously talented, but his smiley dancing act continues to grate on me. On the other hand, Tony Nese is quickly becoming one of my favorites. He’s very much build like a heavyweight, but he moves as quickly and swiftly as any of his cruiserweight peers.

Emma, WWEA vignette airs for the return of Emma. It looks like they’re going in a sexier, more glamorous direction with Emma. Or as she’s now being called, “Emmalina.” I’m skeptical about that being the right direction for her, as charisma aspect of the job has never been her strong point. But best case scenario, this new gimmick allows her to grow as a performer. Hopefully they can also put her back with Dana Brooke.

Cesaro & Sheamus win another squash match. On the subject of charisma, it seems like that’s what they’re trying to pull out of Cesaro with this new pairing. As I said last week, Sheamus is better on the mic than he gets credit for. He and Cesaro are developing a chemistry. They’re not the next Rock n Sock Connection. But hopefully this makes for some okay television.

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte to win the Raw Women’s Title. These two had an epic match the last time they wrestled on Raw. But they also play a little too hard sometimes. We all remember those high spots at Summerslam. As we saw in this match, Sasha is still doing those scary suicide dives to the outside, and Charlotte is still doing flips off the top rope to the outside.

While not quite as epic as their match in July, this was still an excellent main event. Some of these spots may be tough to watch, but these two always deliver. And now we’re one step closer to a Sasha/Bayley title match on pay per view. A good ending to a good show. We don’t get to say that often enough these days.

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

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.

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

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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