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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Brock Lesnar’s UFC Return, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s a development that probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, but was anyway. Brock Lesnar is returning to the octagon.

WWE’s “Beast Incarnate” will fight Mark Hunt July 9 at UFC 200. Lesnar has reportedly been granted a one-off by WWE. Just over a month later, Lesnar will compete at Summerslam.

So UFC gets one of their biggest attractions back for a night, and will presumably make a ton of money on pay per view buys. On the other hand, WWE gets a big chunk of change for Lesnar, has its name out there in a major mainstream sports story, and gets a lot of added press for Summerslam. It’s that last one that really intrigues me. How many UFC fans will follow Brock back to WWE after July? If WWE puts Brock with a strong opponent, how much does Summerslam stand to benefit?

Call me a cynic, but I’ve never been a big believer in pro wrestling’s ability to appeal to MMA fans. At least not in this era, when interest in wrestling is fairly low. It just seems like most MMA fans don’t see wrestling as a viable alternative. Especially if you expose them to all the stupid comedy we’re so often subjected to. But if Brock has proven anything, it’s his uniqueness. If he fares well against Mark Hunt, WWE may have the chance to ride that wave of momentum and get some fresh eyes on the product.

WWE Raw, August 3, 2015, Brock Lesnar, Paul HeymanBut what happens if he loses? How does that effect the average joe’s perception of WWE, and the so-called legitimacy of its athletes?

Either way, the buzz surrounding this fight is exactly what both parties are looking for. Personally, I can’t wait for the Paul Heyman promos. Perhaps this paves the way for more one-offs between UFC and WWE. We know Ronda Rousey is a big WWE fan, after all…

Ponderings From Raw:

The show opens with the Money in the Bank Ladder Match participants all on ladders in the ring. Teddy Long makes a bizarre appearance. This came off pretty scripted. But the ad-libbing was pretty cool. Loved the crowd chanting “stupid idiot.”

So they trotted Teddy Long out there to hype Smackdown going live…even though Teddy hasn’t been on Smackdown in years. But whatever. At least the crowd was happy to see him. But I reached for the remote as soon as Stephanie came out there to talk to him. Between Teddy botching his lines (bless his heart), and my ill will left over from Steph’s promo on Charlotte last week, it was time to tag out.

Cesaro, Chris Jericho, WWE, June 6, 2016Cesaro def. Chris Jericho. Great win for Cesaro. The big swing into the Sharpshooter was tremendous. I don’t expect Cesaro to win the ladder match. But a victory over Chris Jericho is a nice consolation prize.

WWE airs a video package on Seth Rollins’ quest to be the best, and his rivalry with Roman Reigns. Firstly, I’m very happy they’re starting to do more of these video packages. These are usually pretty damn good.

This one was going fine until they got to Seth’s injury last November. They turned his story from that of an underhanded and selfish villain into a feel-good comeback story. Rollins had the title taken from him, he suffered a terrible injury, and he missed Wrestlemania. And as I understand it, that’s not what they’re trying to do with Rollins. They want him to be a heel, don’t they? They’re sending us mixed messages.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger via count-out. Zipped right through this one on the DVR. Jack Swagger has been cast as a loser. So why should I care about any match he’s in? It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he loses, even if it’s only by count-out.

John Cena, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016John Cena and The Club meet again. Did he say “the pull-it club?”

I was disappointed to see them go with the standard “Cena can’t wrestle” approach with AJ. But he upped the intrigue by using the B-word. “Guys like you bury guys like me.” We in the die-hard audience know what that means. But the casual fans don’t. It would have been nice to hear him elaborate on that point. What exactly does he mean by bury? Is he implying Cena is using politics to hold back the better wrestlers? If so, he needs to say that.

After this segment, Styles has to win at Money in the Bank. It rang true when he talked about Styles losing to Reigns and being desperate. I understand Styles is a villain now, and things like that can be said without necessarily hurting him. But he needs a big win to get some of his credibility back.

The Vaudevillians def. Enzo & Cass via disqualification. This is the match they should have been building up since Enzo got hurt. The Vaudevillians hurt his partner, so Cass wants revenge. It’s nice and simple. But Cass really should have cranked up the intensity when he was beating up Gotch and English. He’s supposed to be enraged right? So act enraged, dude!

Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016Alberto Del Rio def. Sami Zayn. Del Rio desperately needs a repackaging. In the ring he’s great, but from a character standpoint he’s a boring caricature. He can be a player again if they just put some energy into freshening him up.

Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens. I appreciated the announcers playing up how close Dean Ambrose has been to the WWE Championship before. It’s happened multiple times in the last year. We saw multiple clips of him in The Shield on this show, and if they want his star to keep growing, they need to work to establish that he’s in the same league as Rollins and Reigns. A Money in the Bank contract certainly wouldn’t hurt in that regard.

Natalya and Becky Lynch confronted Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Yeah, I zipped through this one too. I normally don’t DVR through so much of the show. But I’d had enough obviously scripted dialogue for one night. And I was damn scared of Stephanie coming back out there and eviscerating Charlotte again. The end result was Charlotte and Dana beating down the babyfaces. It looks like we might get a tag match out of this at Money in the Bank. Fair enough.

Fatal Fourrway Tag Team Title Match announced for Money in the BankThis strikes me as a way to get the titles off of The New Day and onto Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows without having them pin The New Day. If that’s the plan, then do you put them with The New Day at Summerslam, or do you go with Cass & Enzo?

John Cena, Luke Gallows, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016The Club def. Kofi Kingston & Big E. in a three-on-one handicap match after Xavier Woods gets taken out. Cena comes out to stop a post-match beat-down. Poor Xavier Woods. He’s always the low man on the totem pole for some reason.

This was another instance of WWE saving Cena for the rescue spot, and making him look like a douche in the process. The New Day saved him earlier in the show. When Xavier went down, why wouldn’t he come down and take his spot in the match? Is it because they want to save Cena’s in-ring return for Money in the Bank? If so, that’s fine. But then why write the segment this way? Why not have Woods go down during the match, so The Club can get the win and Cena doesn’t look an asshole by waiting all that time?

Image 1 from ufc.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.

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A Superman: Rebirth #1 Review – Death and Rebirth

Superman: Rebirth #1, 2016TITLE: Superman: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 1, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman was created to thin out the number of “super” characters in the DCU. The idea was to restore his status as the Last Son of Krypton. Now, more than 30 years later, DC is using this same version of Superman to do the exact opposite. With this character comes a new Superboy, and a new Superwoman. Now that’s what you call, ironic.

The Superman we met when the New 52 launched is dead, having succumbed to Kryptonite poisoning. As the world mourns the loss of the Man of Steel, one man is certain he will return: Clark Kent. That is, the Clark Kent of another Earth, who has hid out on this world along with his wife and son. But Lana Lang isn’t convinced. She also has no idea there’s another Superman on her world. Thus when the two meet, emotions run high.

I’d love to hear someone try to explain the new Superman status quo to a newbie. It’s putting up X-Men numbers in terms of how convoluted it is. That being said, I’m very pleased to see the old Superman back. Why he’s not allowed to have red boots in this new “Rebirth” era is beyond me. But having him back has shaken things up nicely.

doug mahnke, death of supermanIn this issue, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke acknowledge the elephant in the room in the aftermath of the New 52 Superman’s death. They take us back to The Death of Superman, and we get Mahnke’s take on some of those iconic moments from the fight with Doomsday. Considering how many big event comics Mahnke’s fingerprints have been on in the last decade, there’s something fitting about him getting a crack at this one. Later, we see Clark’s resurrection, and he and Lana even search for a New 52verse version of the regeneration matrix. As a longtime fan, it’s gratifying to see them go back and look at this stuff from a new perspective. I never understood why DC omitted this story from the New 52 continuity. It crossed over into pop culture, and kids who grew up in the early ’90s typically remember it. So why eliminate it?

Clark has an odd line during this issue, when he tells Lana: “…two Clark Kents on two different worlds were very lucky to have Lana Langs in our lives.” They need to be careful with this kind of thing, especially now that we have an infinite multiverse again. The idea that you’ve got an infinite number of Clark Kents on different worlds, some of which might be interchangeable, seems like the kind of thing that could lead to apathy from the audience. What do we care if our main character dies, if we can simply replace him with one from another world?

Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Superman Rebirth #1, 2016Mahnke’s versatility is on display here. On one hand, the flashbacks to the fight with Doomsday are very intense and high-octane. In contrast, we have a scene with Clark at the memorial that’s very somber. We also have scenes with Clark and Lana that, while they have a certain tension, are fairly quiet. But Mahnke manages to stay consistently strong throughout.

With this relaunch, DC has managed to make the Superman books more interesting than they’ve been in years. At face value, at least. How ironic that death winds up being the element that freshens the Man of Steel up a little bit. But who knows? Maybe a little family time is exactly what Superman needs.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from bleedingcool.com.  

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John Cena is Back, the WWE Brand Split, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE rosterBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve sat on the revelation of WWE’s new brand split for about a week now, because I wanted to collect my thoughts and talk rationally. I’ll be honest, my initial thoughts on the matter were not rational at all. There were a lot of four-letter words, and a lot of nerd rage. I generally try and talk calmly and rationally about this kind of stuff. But I was really disheartened and angry about this announcement at first.

Not because of Smackdown going live on Tuesdays, which is a great thing.

Not because of wrestlers being specific to both shows.

It’s because of the titles, and the prospect of having two world championships again.

Yeah, I know. Geek much? But the championship picture in WWE has a lot to do with how shows are structured, and what a wrestler’s motivation is. In theory, when a wrestler signs a WWE contract, their number one goal should be to win the WWE Championship. Right now Roman Reigns is, as he says, the guy in WWE. Why? Because he’s the champion. He’s got the prize everybody’s gunning for. If you take that prize and split it in two, it ruins the novelty of there being one man at the top of the mountain. If you go for the title and you lose, in theory you can just go for the other. We just cleaned up this mess when the two world titles were unified in 2013. Are we really going to go back to it?

Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIWhen WWE did their original brand split in 2002, the WWE Champion and the Women’s Champion could appear on both shows. If they put me in charge of all this, I’d put the Intercontinental Title on one show, the United States Title on the other, and have the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions given immunity to the whole thing. That way there’s added privilege to being the top dog of your particular title picture. Meanwhile, you still have the novelty of, say, John Cena only appearing on Smackdown or Roman Reigns only appearing on Raw.

That’s all I’ve got on the brand split for now. We’ve still got a little while before it comes to fruition. Lord knows there’ll be a lot to say between now and then. I just wish I had more faith in WWE creative to pull this off well.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

The New Day ask Shane and Stephanie questions about the brand split. Why do they always feel the need to say “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” at the start of the show? Isn’t that what the opening title sequence is for? To welcome us to the show?

Shane McMahon, The New Day, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016This seems like it was designed to get people excited about the brand split. Frankly, it was more frustrating than anything else. But it echoed the reports of what’s going on creatively. Nothing is in con crete yet. If that is the case, it seems weird. You’d think they’d have this kind of thing mapped out before they actually announced it.

The New Day def. The Vaudevillians via disqualification after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attack. Okay, so we’re probably getting The New Day against Gallows & Anderson at Money in the Bank. I don’t expect them to win the titles yet. . But their personalities contrast nicely with that of the champs.

The Big Show advises Apollo Crews on dealing with Sheamus. This is the first time we’ve seen Show on Raw in several weeks. I’m pleased he’s sticking to a supporting role for the time being. I imagine once the roster split comes around, we’ll be seeing him on a regular basis again. Show and Crews are both pretty natural on the mic. I just wish they weren’t being given such heavily scripted dialogue.

The Usos def. Tyler Breeze & Fandango with Golden Truth on commentary. The heels take a beating after the match. I was a little bummed The Usos took this one. Breeze & Fandango look good as a tag team. If you elevate them a bit, they might be able to challenge The New Day for the tag belts at some point. I don’t know if you give them the belts. But they can at least have a match, right?.

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, Seth RollinsRoman Reigns calls out Seth Rollins. Rollins teases the crowd. I happened to be listening to one of Vince Russo’s podcasts yesterday. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says. But on this show, Glen Gilbertti (formerly Disco Inferno in WCW) was talking about “the eye test,” i.e. having a casual viewer take you seriously as a wrestler based on your look. Make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns passes the eye test with flying colors. The problem is, what he’s saying rarely sounds genuine. That stuff about “The Man” being afraid to face “The Guy” was just cringeworthy. How’s that for an epic confrontation? The Man vs. The Guy.

So the idea here (I think) was for Rollins to continuously tease the audience with either a promo or a fight, and draw heat by never following through. Not a bad idea in theory. But in an era where a big portion of audience has DVR remotes, it’s probably not the best idea. This was basically a big waste of everyone’s time.

Goldberg appears in epic WWE 2K17 commercial. It’s amazing how these video game commercials are often better than anything on Raw. I still remember how awesome those commercials with The Ultimate Warrior and Sting. Why can’t WWE’s vignettes for new wrestlers ever be this cool?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, RusevRusev def. Zack Ryder. Titus O’Neil confronts him after the match. It’s great to see Rusev return to being a dominant United States Champion, and I’m happy they didn’t feed him to John Cena for a Memorial Day American hero story. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see Titus featured like this. And that punch he threw at him looked awesome!

But no one, and I mean no one, would ever say “Bulgarian Blowhard.” Again, a wrestler falls victim to overly scripted dialogue.

In a pre-tape, Stephanie dresses down Charlotte for how she treated Ric Flair. This segment made me mad for all the wrong reasons. Again Stephanie shouts down one of the wrestlers and gets over at the expense of the talent. And after they’d just aired a video package and shown us tweets about how everyone hated what Charlotte did. We got it. Charlotte did a horrible thing. How was this segment necessary? Also, isn’t Stephanie supposed to be a heel?

Enzo & Cass def. The Dudley Boyz. I was rolling my eyes at how much Enzo was brown-nosing the Green Bay crowd. But he won me over as he and Cass went on. This is the difference between over-scripting, and letting a wrestler get over himself. I was surprised they had the Dudleys lose clean. You’d think they’d have saved this for Money in the Bank. Maybe they put them together again in a Tables Match?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, John Cena, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Luke GallowsJohn Cena gets dropped by AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson. This was out of left field. Like a lot of folks, I thought for sure it was going to be Styles going against Gallows & Anderson. But low and behold, here they are together.

While I usually prefer babyface AJ to heel AJ, this isn’t a bad move, per se. We’ll get to see AJ’s personality come out a bit more, and working with John Cena definitely isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. Gallows and Anderson should benefit from this as well. But here’s my question: Can we call them the Bullet Club now? Or at least something other than The Club?

Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte) def. Natalya. Becky Lynch comes out to save Nattie from a beatdown. This duo of Charlotte and Dana Brooke is growing on me. And now it looks like they’ve got a team to face. Rumor has it WWE likes Brooke enough to make her the “female Roman Reigns.” I assume that means they want her to be the face of the women’s division. I say it’s too early to make a call like that. But you never know.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler by disqualification when Ziggler hits a blatant low blow. Corbin didn’t exactly look like a million bucks here. Ziggler simply punted him in the nuts. But Corbin’s a rookie, and Dolph is a veteran. So I guess it’s passable. The bait-and-switch was nice. Ziggler’s use of the headgear was fun.

Cesaro, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016Dean Ambrose, Cesaro & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio. So are there only six men in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year? If so, I’m fine with that. But WWE.com was hyping up another person possibly qualifying. Did they change their mind?

Moments after Del Rio hits an axe handle on Cesaro and then puts him in a rear chin lock, Jericho shouts “Tear his head off!” About a second later, Ambrose calls “C’mon Claudio!” As in Claudio Castagnoli, Cesaro’s real name. What a weird moment…

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big six-man tag fan. But they do this every year with the Money in the Bank participants. I can’t say this did much for me. But something occurred to me during this match. Chris Jericho is 45 years old, and this will be his fifth Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Not that 45 is ancient by any means, but how he still does this at that age is beyond me. That DDP Yoga stuff must truly work wonders.

In Other News:

Former announcer Tony Schiavone reveals he’s training to be a barista at Starbucks. So in addition to his duties as a sports announcer, writer, and producer, Schiavone wants to be a barista so he can fill most of his time working. I think that’s awesome. I don’t know how old Schiavone’s five children are. But if he wants to spend his extra time providing for them, who are any of us to judge him? Even if that’s not the case, what an amazing work ethic this guy has.

Image 1 from goliath.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

Seth Rollins Returns, Cody Rhodes Departs, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Cody Rhodes, WWE Intercontinental ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, let’s talk about Cody Rhodes, who requested and was granted his WWE release over the weekend.

This is becoming something of a trend, isn’t it? Wade Barrett opted not to sign a new contract with WWE. Ryback went home due to a contract dispute, as well as creative frustrations. And now Cody Rhodes/Stardust is gone, partially due to creative frustrations. He has apparently wanted to ditch the Stardust character for awhile now. But WWE apparently didn’t see that as being in the cards for him. So he made what many would consider to be a bold move, and asked to be let go. And to WWE’s credit, they didn’t keep him against his will.

I’m not sure if Rhodes was ever going to be a top guy for them. But he certainly had the potential to be more than he was. I keep thinking back to those years he spent in the Intercontinental Title picture. Not just bringing back the classic IC Belt, but feuding with the likes of Rey Mysterio Jr. and The Big Show at Wrestlemania. And my God, the number of personas he had over the years. First he was the upstart rookie, then he was with Legacy, then he was “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, then there was “disfigured” Cody Rhodes, and then he had the mustache, and then he was Stardust. He was so versatile in the ways he connected with the audience. I, for one, will miss him.

WWE, StardustI keep thinking back to an article I spotted awhile back on RingsideNews.com entitled “The Lost Generation of WWE.” It spotlights a lot of different guys who might have been stars, perhaps even main eventers, if WWE had given them an honest chance. Rhodes is among them. It’s definitely worth a look.

Getting back to this being a trend, when you look at Barrett and Rhodes calling it quits, Ryback going home, and all the talents who have vented creative frustrations via social media (Zack Ryder, Damien Sandow, Naomi, Cameron, Alex Riley, etc.), the glass ceiling in WWE becomes that much easier to see. That’s obviously some pretty tough glass to break through, folks. And the one guy who can open a door and let you through? Vince McMahon. Once you sign that contract, to an extent you only go as far as Vince McMahon allows you to go.

Is that fair? Nope. Is it a good thing? I’m not so sure anymore…

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Seth Rollins attacks Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules. Title match to take place at Money in the BankWe didn’t get Finn Balor, as I thought we might. But Rollins was just as pleasant a surprise. I’m happy to see he’s staying heel. I’m not sure what a babyface Seth Rollins would look like at this point. Also, before he left, Rollins was one of the few really good heels WWE had. I don’t doubt he can play that role again.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Roman Reigns was good in this segment. Granted, it did’t require much. All he had to do was walk down there and look menacing. Silent but menacing Roman Reigns is the one I want to see. And when he does speak, I want it short, concise, and to the point.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Sheamus attacks Apollo Crews afterward. No complaints here. Glad they learned their lesson and kept Sheamus away from the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year. Putting him with Apollo Crews is pretty harmless. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind Sheamus in the ring. But creatively, he’s been stale for the longest time. Even when he was champion, he didn’t have much going for. They need to find something to shake Sheamus up. Otherwise, I’m not sure where he goes from here.

Cesaro def. The Miz to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Considering how good Miz has been since Wrestlemania, and how he won that awesome Fatal Fourway Match at Extreme Rules, I wasn’t a big fan of him losing. But in the long run, I really think it’s more important to give Cesaro more momentum. of course.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016, Chris Jericho, Apollo CrewsChris Jericho def. Apollo Crews to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I loved Jericho’s expression on the way down to the ring. Like a pouty little kid. And those whiney screams when Crews would attack those oversized bandages on his back were great. Just like silent Reigns is the best Reigns, heel Jericho is the best Jericho. I was surprised they beat Crews clean. One would think they’d have Sheamus at least be out there for the distraction. But there’s certainly no shame in losing to Jericho.

Bob Backlund scolds Darren Young for saying “damn” in latest vignette. Is there a reason Backlund and Young aren’t in the same place for these segments? At times there’s a weird disconnect between them. That was especially the case here. If you put them in a room together, they’d be able to play off each other, and there’d be so much more energy. Hopefully we see them try this out in a match soon.

Dolph Ziggler challenges Baron Corbin to another match. Hearing Corbin recite that scripted dialogue was painful. Simply put, the guy needs acting lessons. What’s more, he seemed to have trouble knowing whether to look into the camera or away from it. To his credit, he had the right idea. Wrestlers have been looking into the camera to cut promos for generations now. Why they make these guys look off into the distance is a mystery to me. On the plus side, apparently you can say the word “wrestling” on WWE TV now.

Enzo & Cass, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Enzo Amore returns after a concussion, is in Big Cass’ corner as he beats Bubba Ray Dudley. It’s great to see Enzo, obviously. But I’m curious as to why they didn’t mention The Vaudevillians. They were in the ring with Cass & Enzo when the injury happened. You’d think they’d want to go back to that, or at least mention it. Cass continues to be solid in singles matches. He just needs some more experience, and hopefully the other pieces will fall into place.

Charlotte (with Dana Brooke at her side) cuts ties with Ric Flair. Being with Charlotte obviously isn’t a bad spot for Dana Brooke. Though Charlotte has become a pretty good mic worker, Brooke has a natural charisma that will hopefully add to her presentation.

Charlotte may have acknowledged the crowd a little too much in this segment. I give her a lot of credit for being able to ad lib. But it drew focus away from the stuff with Flair, which was obviously what this segment was about. But she cranked up the intensity really nicely when it was time for her to get heat.

Once again, they’re pulling some pretty personal strings with Charlotte and her family. I always thought they should have tried something like this with David Flair when he was in WCW. That way, they could have built to a match between father and son. That’s not something they can do with Charlotte and Ric. But despite a few flubs in her delivery, I think Charlotte played the heartless villain really well. I’m curious to see if Flair leaves this regular TV gig with Charlotte, or if they do a feud of sorts.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Ambrose is on a nice little role, with back-to-back pay per view wins over Chris Jericho. Would I complain about him winning Money in the Bank? Hell no. But do I expect it? Nope.

AJ Styles breaks away from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Styles loses a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match to Kevin Owens. Remember that night Styles and Owens stole the show in the first hour of Raw? This is the spot a match between these two deserve to be in. They proved that tonight. A strong main event, in a period where WWE really needs to try to  build to that third hour. Now that Owens is in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, I expect the feud between he and Sami Zayn to be incorporated into things, which will hopefully add further depth to the match.

I can appreciate the fact that this story with Styles, Anderson, and Gallows is being drawn out. If WWE wants to create their own version of The Bullet Club, it deserves to be a long term, detailed story. Still, it would have been damn cool to see Finn Balor show up at Extreme Rules.

Images courtesy of WWE.

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A WWE Extreme Rules 2016 Preview – Bullet Club or Balor Club?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Life seems pretty good for AJ Styles these days, doesn’t it? He’s been on the main roster for less than five months, and he’s main eventing his second pay per view. For the WWE Championship, no less.

Not that he’ll be winning it. These past few months it’s looked a lot like The Bullet Club is coming to WWE. Or is it The Balor Club? Extreme Rules may be the night we finally find out. Either way, I don’t suspect the answer will be good for AJ Styles. He may be in “The Club” now, but chances are his membership is getting revoked sooner, rather than later…

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Dolph Ziggler, Baron CorbinNO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Oye. Look at that picture. Baron Corbin is decent int he ring, but he REALLY needs acting lessons. It’s like Ziggler found a deer in the headlights and decided to snap a pic.

Still, that deer is going to beat him. I’d have thought this would have been over and done with by now, with Corbin having solidly beaten Ziggler at Payback. I was pleasantly surprised Ziggler got a pay per view win out of this deal, but it’s time to end it. I’m not sure who Corbin goes with after Ziggler. Maybe a smaller undercard guy like Kalisto or Zack Ryder to play up the bully factor? It’s clear Corbin still has a lot of learning to do. Hopefully he was able to make the most out of his time with Ziggler.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Kalisto, Rusev, WWE Extreme Rules 2016WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Rusev

As of last Monday’s Raw, I’ve officially soured on Kalisto as US Champion. Not because of anything he did, but because the booking just hasn’t done anything for me. For some reason his latest loss to Alberto Del Rio that night made me finally throw my hands up. How many losses does that make to Del Rio this year? I understand he’s a smaller guy and has to get beat up, maybe even pinned by bigger guys once in awhile. But I really think Kalisto had (and still has) it in him to be something special in the vein of a Rey Mysterio Jr. JBL even made that comparison on Monday. But they’ve tucked this poor guy away on the pre-show for months now, and he’s just flat. There’s no buzz. It’s time to cut losses on Kalisto’s run with the US Title. At least for now.

Is Rusev the guy I would have picked? Eh, maybe. Taking the belt back might put some shine back on Rusev, and God knows he needs it after being stuck in the League of Nations. But I’m worried his act with Lana is a bit too similar to what The Miz and Maryse are doing. Miz, of course, is the Intercontinental Champion. But I think the pros of putting the belt on Rusev out-weigh the cons. So I’m going with The Bulgarian Brute becoming a two-time champ. Better luck next time, Kalisto.

PREDICTION: Rusev

The Usos, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, WWE Extreme Rules 2016TEXAS TORNADO MATCH:
The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

When was the last time we saw a Texas Tornado Match in WWE? I can’t remember one offhand. I imagine it’s been quite awhile.

So I’m just going to float this. If Gallows and Anderson were to beat The Usos, that might serve as a partial motivation for Roman to turn on them and side with “The Club.” Yeah, I know. If only…

I see Gallows and Anderson winning regardless. They’re still establishing themselves in WWE, and a win here would definitely help in that regard. Let alone the idea that we may see a WWE version of the Bullet Club emerging…

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, The New Day, The VaudevilliansWWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day vs. The Vaudevillians

As I’ve said previously, I like that The Vaudvillains have been able to come off as cruel, sadistic heels. They put Enzo Amore out of action, they leave The New Day laying, and they revel in it. That’s actually the kind of thing I expected the Dudleys to do when they went heel. But The Vaudvillains need that mean streak more. It balances out their silly, cartoony persona and allows them to be taken at least a little bit serious.

That being said, I don’t think there’s any reason to take the belts away from The New Day. They’ve got a great thing going, and they’re over. It’s been such a long time since a tag team that doesn’t consist of main eventers (i.e. DX, Rated RKO, etc.) has been over like this. They’re special. And I just don’t see it as the right time for them to take a big loss. Plus, Simon Gotch and Aiden English have unfinished business with Enzo & Cass. Let them tend to that while The New Day face their next challengers.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Kevin Owens, The Miz, Cesaro, Sami ZaynFATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
The Miz (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

There’s a pretty good chance this match will steal the show. Consider what all these guys have to offer individually, and it’s hard not to look at this match as such.

As talented as Owens, Cesaro, and Zayn are, I still don’t think it’s the right time to take the belt off Miz. He and Maryse have a good thing going, and I think he’s got at least another month as champion in him. I do see the belt eventually going to Sami Zayn, possibly midsummer. I can see Zayn vs. Owens in an Intercontinental Title Match at Summerslam. Of course, it’s possible all these men may be involved in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match next month. So perhaps the best time to switch the title to Zayn would be in a singles match in July. Either way, Miz comes out on top here.

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Dean Ambrose, Chris JerichoASYLUM MATCH:
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

At one point, I was not okay with Dean Ambrose’s character being associated with a straightjacket. I didn’t want him going the route of a Mankind or a Kane. His character has a certain cool factor that those don’t. But now that he’s had some time to flesh out who he is, this should be fine. And the straightjacket is definitely the most intriguing weapon we saw hanging from that cage Monday. I suspect at some point we’ll see Jericho in that straightjacket. At this stage in their careers, Jericho obviously has very little to lose, and Ambrose has quite a bit to gain. Take that into consideration, along with the fact that this is Ambrose’s match, should add up to a win for “The Lunatic Fringe.”

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

Charlotte, Natalya, WWE Extreme Rules 2016SUBMISSION MATCH FOR WWE WOMEN’S TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
If Ric Flair appears at ringside, Charlotte loses the title. 

From a creative standpoint, this program with Charlotte and Natalya hasn’t been mind-blowing. Hell, they rehashed the Montreal Screwjob. What does that say? But this is probably the highest profile program Nattie has ever been involved in. And she deserves it.

I don’t see Charlotte losing the belt here. So how do you get out of this match? They did the crooked ref thing last month, so that’s out. You’ve got to figure Flair gets involved somehow. Maybe he shows up on the tron? Maybe they dress him up like a camera guy? Either way, hopefully they won’t make this a clean win for Charlotte. Granted, Nattie will still have to tap out. But a few underhanded tactics will soften the blow for her.

A rumor popped up recently that Paige would indeed be Charlotte’s next opponent. The idea is that they’d be feuding over Alberto Del Rio to coincide with the photos that recently leaked of he and Paige together. I call BS on the storyline, but I do expect Paige to get a title shot. She did pin the champ, after all. Then again, Paige just lost to Dana Brooke on Smackdown. So who knows?

PREDICTION: Charlotte

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Roman Reigns, AJ StylesEXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles

An Extreme Rules Match means no disqualifications and no count-outs, right? But given the Texas Tornado Match earlier in the evening, The Usos, Anderson, and Gallows might not be a factor here. Or at least they won’t have a major impact. One person who might? Finn Balor. With “The Club” out of the picture, Styles would never see him coming. And given their history with The Bullet Club, it would make sense. I’m not sure what that would do in terms of the fans booing Reigns. But they’re the ones who wouldn’t turn him heel…

Reigns and Styles did really well last month. There’s no reason they shouldn’t do well this month. Either way, Reigns walks out with the title. The good news is, if Finn Balor is the plan here, Styles has a built-in program going into Money in the Bank next month. Of course, there’s always the chance Styles could win the Money in the Bank Briefcase, which opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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