Tag Archives: 50/50 Booking

Dolph Ziggler Leaving WWE? Plus, Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

YouTube vlogger Trisha Paytas says Dolph Ziggler is leaving wrestling soon. Who the hell is Trisha Paytas? How well does she know Ziggler? Does she have even the slightest amount of credibility? I can’t answer any of these questions. Though apparently he stood her up on a date.

Either way, I hope she’s right. At least as far as WWE is concerned. Not because I have anything against Ziggler, but because the real-life Nick Nemeth deserves better.

I’ve talked about this before, and I’m certainly not the only one. Dolph Ziggler is one of the few guys I’ve ever seen who can really do it all. In the ring, he’s about the closest thing we have to a modern day Shawn Michaels. His physique is ripped to shreds. From a personality standpoint, he can do whatever you need. He can be a good guy, a bad guy, dramatic, intense, funny, you name it. He’s got practically everything you could want in a WWE star, and he’s been scratched and clawed his way toward the top year after year after year. While he’s certainly had his share of accolades, including a short run with a Heavyweight Title, so many wrestling fans justifiably believe Dolph Ziggler could have been so much more than they’ve allowed him to become.

We’re long overdue for Dolph to step away from WWE, and go the route of guys like Cody Rhodes and Drew Galloway. If he wants to stay in wrestling, it’s time for him to reinvent himself outside of their umbrella. I don’t doubt for a second that Dolph Ziggler could make bank in New Japan Pro Wrestling. For my money, Nick Nemeth as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion isn’t the least bit far fetched. Ironically, he’d then likely find more opportunities in WWE if he were to come back.

Dolph Ziggler just needs to take that leap of faith, and prove he doesn’t need WWE to be a success in pro wrestling. There are entirely different crowds just waiting for him to show up and show off. The time is now.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Lana arrives on Smackdown, asks to be part of the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Lana in a Ladder Match? Good lord. Why even mention that? Are they trying to kill her?

Lana’s still got the Russian accent, which is fine. If they wanted her to drop it, now would have been the time. It’ll be interesting to see where she is in relation to Rusev when he finally gets back on TV. It also looks like she’s getting some of the packaging that the Emmalina character might have gotten.

Naomi came off really scripted here. But I’ll give her this: She’s got charisma.

Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina def. Naomi, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch. Lana interferes to cost Naomi the fall. Lana is later granted a championship match against at Money in the Bank. Not to pick on Naomi, but I really hate that spot she does with the rapid kicks. It looks so damn staged and fake.

I’m not sure how much better or worse Lana has gotten in the ring. Bad kicks or not, I wouldn’t want to be Naomi having to carry Lana through a match.

AJ Styles def. Dolph Ziggler. I was shocked as hell to see Ziggler get a clean win over Styles last week. But of course, Dolph can’t maintain any substantial momentum, can he? We had to have 50/50 booking this week.

I really shouldn’t complain though. These guys are about as smooth as it gets. Nice and fluid counter into the Styles Clash for the win.

WWE Champion Jinder Mahal def. Mojo Rawley. What have they done with Mojo that’s been of any kind of substance since he won that Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? Nothing, really. The missing piece of the puzzle for him at this point is Zack Ryder. Once Ryder comes back, their tag team will mean that much more than it did when he got hurt.

They’re playing up the fact that Money in the Bank is in St. Louis, Randy Orton’s hometown. Traditionally, that’s a dead giveaway that the hometown wrestler is walking away with a win. But lately it’s gone primarily in the opposite direction. Bayley lost the Raw Women’s Title to Alexa Bliss in her home town. Styles lost to Ziggler in his home state of Georgia last week. And those are just two examples. Chances are the Jinder experiment isn’t over yet.

The New Day def. The Colons. The Usos cut a promo after the match. Primo and Epico had that renewed push for about two weeks. Now they’re right back to where they were before.

The Usos will turn themselves back into babyfaces into this rate. They’ve got something WWE desperately needs right now: The cool factor.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens in a non-title match. Baron Corbin attacks Nakamura after the match. When you listen to him on commentary or on Talking Smack, it’s clear there’s a big difference between Baron Corbin talking, and Baron Corbin reciting lines. He sounded so natural here.

An okay showing for Nakamura and Owens here. There’s been a little bit of buzz about Nakamura winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Corbin walk out with the briefcase, though. While they haven’t given him any big wins lately, he’s a long-term project for WWE. And they’d have as much as a year to build him up as a title contender. Don’t be surprised if it happens, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrestling ain’t easy, folks.

Rusev, September 26, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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Dean Ambrose and False Hope, Plus Pondering From WWE Raw

Bret Hart, WWE ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get to Raw, let’s touch on a couple of stories. The first one just broke yesterday, and it’s a bit of unfortunate news regarding an all-time great…

Bret Hart announces he’s battling prostate cancer. Bret himself made this announcement on his Facebook. He seems optimistic about it, which is good news. Bret is a hero to many, and he’s in the hearts of a great many this week. Good luck, Bret. We’ll be thinking of you.

Vince McMahon allegedly angered by The Rock going off-script on last week’s RawI, like a lot of fans, really enjoyed that moment last week when The Rock went “off the script” and talked to those cosplayers at ringside. They were having fun, and the crowd was having fun, so The Rock decided to have fun. But low and behold, Vince allegedly didn’t like it.

Considering how WWE has been booked over the last few years, that sounds about right.

I loved The Rock’s response to said heat on Twitter: “…at @WWE events, going “off script” is what I live for. So much fun for the fans. Nightmare for Vince.”

Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, January 1, 2016Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Dean Ambrose confronts Brock Lesnar at the top of the show, Lesnar attacks Ambrose to close the show. Well how about this? For once, it wasn’t all about Roman Reigns. They let Ambrose have the headline story this week.

I’d love to think WWE might surprise us at Fastlane, and give Ambrose the main event with Triple H. It’d damn sure be something different. The fans are into Ambrose, and the suspense when he and Hunter were the last ones in the Rumble Match was amazing. And it could create some interesting tension between Ambrose and Reigns! It won’t happen, of course. WWE has been bound and determined to make Reigns their guy for over a year, and they’re not about to stop now. But it’s fun to think about.

Still, it’s clear WWE has faith in Dean Ambrose. They trusted him to hold his own in there with Lesnar, and he did just that. Ambrose can be such a huge star for WWE. I just hope they realize what they have with him.

Stephanie McMahon, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Michael Cole hypes Stephanie McMahon’s appearance on Good Morning America, as part of a series on women making a difference and serving as positive role models. That bit of copy Michael Cole read during Dolph Ziggler’s entrance is a perfect example of the disconnect that exists between WWE and its fans, and it’s one of the many reasons why fans just don’t get into WWE like they used to.

Every week on television, Stephanie McMahon plays a tyrannical heel authority figure. But because WWE is so image conscious, they make a point of hyping up her humanitarianism, her involvement with charities, etc. There’s nothing wrong with her doing any of that, but when they go out of their way to mention that on TV, they contradict the stories they’re trying to tell. They’re breaking the illusion they’ve created in their fictional universe. Yes, we know Stephanie isn’t really an evil person. But can you let us suspend our disbelief when we watch your damn show?

Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Dolph Ziggler def. Kevin Owens. Really good match. I loved the way Ziggler attacked that turnbuckle when Owens Irish-whipped him into the corner. Shades of Bret Hart, there.  The fact that Ziggler isn’t consistently main eventing Raw is a crime, and yet another indictment of just how screwed up creative is right now.

“Even Steven Booking” strikes again on this one. Owens beat Ziggler last week, Ziggler beats Owens this week. The sad thing is that Owens is one of the few good heels WWE has right now. If WWE wanted to build him up as a potential Undertaker opponent for Wrestlemania, they could easily have a really good program. I originally thought Owens and Sami Zayn were going to wrestle on that show, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Alas, Owens is left spinning his wheels for no good reason.

Brie Bella def. Charlotte. OH HELL NO…

Brie Bella, Charlotte, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016What the hell happened here? We were doing so well. Charlotte was in a compelling storyline with Becky Lynch that allowed both of them to shine. Then at the Royal Rumble we introduced Sasha Banks into the title picture. And now…Charlotte gets beaten by Brie? (Her right shoulder may not have even been down, as you can see on the right.)  Seriously, what the hell? I suspect this is will lead to a title match at Fastlane, which I suppose I can tolerate as long as Sasha gets the Wrestlemania match. But what a disappointing direction to take things in.

Naomi & Tamina turn on Sasha Banks during her match with Becky Lynch. I love how they slipped that little Kanye/Wiz Khalifa reference into the talking segment. “We’re hip! Really, we are!”

Happy to see Sasha is officially separated from Naomi and Tamina. She’s destined to be a star on her own. And if/when she becomes champion this year, they can easily come back to one or both of those two for a title defense. Neither of them would have given Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels a run for their money, but they’re both decent hands in their own right.

AJ Styles, The Miz, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016AJ Styles appears on Miz TV. Not at all what I was hoping to see Styles do on Raw this week, but at least they’re investing time in him. Granted, the fact that Miz talked for 90 percent of the segment doesn’t say much for their faith in his mic skills. But there are worse guys for him to spend TV time with than The Miz.

The Big Show def. Erick Rowan before getting decimated by The Wyatt Family. I’m still disappointed that babyface Big Show is back. He’s so much better as a heel. But the upside is, at the rate his turns have been going, he’ll be a heel again in no time.

They’re obviously building toward a Big Show/Braun Strowman match at Fastlane. Goody goody gumdrops. I will say that it’s good to see The Wyatts looking strong again. But as wrote last week, an Undertaker/Strowman match, if that is indeed what they’re building for, is a terrible idea. Especially when there are so many superior opponents available for the Dead Man.

The Usos, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Lilian Garcia botches The Usos’ introduction, refers to them as “Grammy Award winning tag team of the year.” Okay, so Lilian botched an intro. With all due respect, it wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last. And of course they made fun of her, because they’re bullies like that. But they actually took the time to replay it when they came back from a commercial break. Well, that’s one way to kill time on a three-hour broadcast. Hey, at least Vince was having fun on the headset…

On the plus side, we’ve apparently gotten The Usos away from The New Day. That’s definitely a good thing.

Kalisto def. Rusev via count-out, will defend US Title against Alberto Del Rio at FastlaneUgh. I was hoping they’d get the Del Rio rematch out of the way on television so Kalisto could move on to someone else. This gives WWE the opportunity to change their minds about Kalisto, and switch the belt back to Del Rio. Make no mistake about it, Del Rio does not need the US Title. But it can help build Kalisto into something they desperately need: A new star.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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John Cena Returns, Rock at Wrestlemania, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Rock, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, we’ve got some Wrestlemania news to discuss…

The Rock announced for Wrestlemania XXXIIObviously, this is a big deal. It’s not necessarily a surprise, though. I think we all assumed Rock, would play some sort of role at Wrestlemania. What would be a surprise is if he ended up wrestling. But supposedly that’s not in the cards. While we’re at it, we can file Stone Cold Steve Austin under this same category. Austin recently said on his podcast that he expects to be there in some capacity. Hell, there’s a decent chance they might end up in a talking segment akin to what they did at Wrestlemania XXX.

WWE allegedly courting Bill Goldberg for WrestlemaniaI’m not surprised WWE is looking to bring Goldberg in. The real question is whether Goldberg is up for it. But even if he is, who do you put him with? They don’t have a strong heel to match him up against. A stakes are high.

strong heel that would need to lose, no less. Bray Wyatt has lost enough high profile matches, so he’s out. I can’t say I have any interest in seeing him face Triple H, The Big Show, or a name from the Attitude Era. The only viable possibility that comes to mind is Sheamus, and that’s hardly a dream match. Still, Wrestlemania XXXII desperately needs star power. Goldberg’s involvement could potentially draw some older fans back to the product. But if I were Goldberg, I’d look at how WWE used Sting this year before I made any big decisions.

Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, December 28, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Vince McMahon gets arrested in opening segment, comes back in final segment. Announces Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus for the title next week, with himself as the referee. These days, wrestling fans have as much of a love/hate relationship with Vince as they ever have. But in terms of an on-screen villain, you’re never going to find anybody better. So in that sense, putting Roman Reigns with Vince is a smart creative move. Admittedly, we’re hearing a lot of the same notes we heard during his feud with Austin. Vince gets hit during a title match, Vince goes to jail, Vince makes himself guest referee, etc. They’ll want to be careful with that, considering how much they market the Attitude Era. But a little bit of borrowing is fine.

Of course, they could avoid that risk by simply making Stephanie McMahon the evil boss against Reigns. But for that to work there needs to be a back and forth one-upsmanship dynamic between the two, and that’s not what WWE does with Steph’s character these days. In the last couple of years, they’ve written Stephanie as so evil and domineering that she practically castrates the babyfaces when they’re in talking segments with her. It’s happened to Reigns, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and even Seth Rollins. Nobody ever gets one over on Steph. Hell, one of the best parts of this show was when the guy playing a cop threatened to arrest her. It got a great pop. I’d be game for a Reigns/Stephanie rivalry if it’s booked right.

John Cena, Raw, December 28, 2015As for the Reigns/Sheamus match next week…meh. Sheamus is the closest thing they’ve got to a top heel right now, which is a pretty sad indictment on how they’ve booked various things lately. But at least the

John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio via disqualification. Between Cena and Vince, Raw got a nice boost in star power tonight. Predictably, it looks like Cena is going to be up against the League of Nations as we head toward Wrestlemania. But look at who we’ve got in this group. Wade Barrett, Rusev, Del Rio, and Sheamus. They may as well be called the League of Disgruntled Cena Rivals.

Still, it’s good to have Cena back. I’m not sure absence made our hearts grow fonder. But at least having him back shakes things up a little bit.

Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch. In theory, this should have worked beautifully. They gave these girls lots of time, and to their credit they gave us some great wrestling. I particularly liked when Sasha took that suplex near the corner, and her legs hit the ropes.

But sadly, the match fell a little flat. There were a few timing issues, and the crowd seemed to be in and out of the match. Plus, there wasn’t much of a story between Sasha and Becky. We’ve seen them put together a lot lately, seemingly out of attrition. Either Becky would need a heel to work against, or Sasha would need a babyface. This match could have been really great if it hadn’t been cold. That doesn’t always work. Charlotte and Nikki Bella had a really good match for the Divas Title on Raw a few months ago, and it wasn’t nearly as well executed as this one. But we had the story of Nikki Bella’s record-breaking title reign, so we cared more.

Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Raw, December 28, 2015Also, the announcers missed a big opportunity here. When Sasha finally pinned Becky, she had a handful of tights. That’s cheating, of course. But you’d never know it, as the announcers never acknowledged it. That would have been a nice chance for Sasha, not to mention the match itself, to gain a little intrigue.

Still, a solid effort by both ladies. Better luck next time.

The Big Show returns to Raw, announces he will enter the Royal Rumble Match at number 1. We haven’t seen Show in awhile, and frankly that’s a good thing. Like so many, he’s been overexposed this year. Fans are actually resentful of him. So a step back was necessary for him.

Putting Show in the Rumble at number 1 is an interesting move. You really have to suspend your disbelief in terms of him not easily winning the whole thing. But when you make him the first one in, you can factor in things like cardio and cumulative punishment. If they do go through with him being the first entrant, I’m curious to see how long he lasts. As we’ve all learned by now, a little Show goes a long way.

Neville def. Kevin Owens in less than a minute. I partially see this as justice for Neville’s super quick loss to Sheamus awhile back. I’m not necessarily a fan of Owens taking a quick loss like that, but at least he knew how to play it off like a heel. I loved what he said when he was about to powerbomb Neville on the floor: “I’m gonna break your damn back!”

Incidentally, that fall Neville took off the top rope could have been really nasty. He’s lucky he didn’t hurt himself. And on the subject of guys getting hurt…

Sin Cara, Raw, December 28, 2015Kalisto def. Kofi Kingston, Big E. def. Sin Cara. There’s something to be said about 50/50 booking here. But the real story deals with Sin Cara’s dislocated shoulder. Alas, it seems the Sin Cara injury curse doesn’t care who plays the role…

Frankly, I was amazed Sin Cara not only continued the match, but was able to pull off some of the things he did. That corkscrew cross-body, and then that rolling senton! I mean, what the hell? Major props to him, and here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Obviously this isn’t good news for The Lucha Dragons as a tag team. But it may end up being fortuitous for Kalisto. He had a good match with Kofi Kingston that included some wild martial arts kicks, and yet another big victory for the luchador. In a company where so few guys are on a roll, he’s got a little bit of one going for him. Breaking him out as a unique singles star would be a great way to turn this negative into a positive.

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Roman Reigns Wins the WWE Championship, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, Raw, December 14, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much point in wasting time, is there? Let’s jump right into the big news from Raw

Roman Reigns wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after the match is made by Vince McMahon himself. A title change via a match made that same night, as Vince McMahon looks on in horror and disbelief. That’s some classic Attitude Era booking right there. Still, you can’t say it didn’t work. And how ironic that it happened in Philadelphia, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building at the Royal Rumble. A city that, by the way, was behind him tonight.

Aside from being derivative of the Attitude Era, down to Corporation style run-ins against the babyface that Vince despises, I can’t bring myself to complain much about how this was done. How odd was it that this match tonight had more anticipation built for it than last night’s TLC main event?

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015, Stephanie McMahon, Roman ReignsFrom a creative standpoint, this seemed like an attempt to jumpstart Raw following the ratings downslide, and all the ill will built up from the fans. This obviously doesn’t fix all of WWE’s problems. But this was a good show. Most definitely a breath of fresh air.

On the downside (because we’ve got to cover the good and the bad), WWE has developed a pretty consistent pattern of not allowing anyone to show up Stephanie McMahon, particularly men. That trend continued in the opening segment as Reigns took a barrage of slaps from the “Billion Dollar Princess.” He didn’t even put his hands up to defend himself! I understand the ultra-image conscious WWE not wanting to show images of men being physical against women, but can’t Reigns reach out and grab Steph’s arm to stop her? Imagine someone doing that to Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or The Rock. And to top that, he even got kicked in the balls by 70-year-old Vince McMahon later in the evening.

Sheamus: “You think I look stupid? All of you paid to see me tonight, so what does that make you?” Don’t tempt us, pal…

Sheamus, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015In a lot of ways, Sheamus got a raw deal this year, no pun intended. There was very little thrill or intrigue in his Money in the Bank win, and his brief run with the title was hardly worth it. It might have been better just to have him cash in and lose.

Still, I maintain that Sheamus is a talented wrestler, and can still do great things.

Dean Ambrose wins Intercontinental Championship at TLC, defeats Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Kevin Owens seeks revenge. I was surprised to see WWE give Ambrose the IC Title. He doesn’t exactly need it. But having him in the picture doesn’t hurt anything either. As one would expect, he and Ziggler turned in a good match.

Having Kevin Owens chase Ambrose for the title might bring out the best in Owens as a heel. He showed some nice bitterness out there tonight. I’m curious to see what Owens does in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.

Jojo, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015Correct me if I’m wrong, but it would have been really nice to have Owens looking into the camera for that promo segment with Jojo. How much better was that promo with the ECW guys because Bubba and the others were looking into our eyes? I just don’t understand WWE’s hesitance toward that sort of thing.

The Wyatt Family def. Team ECW in an Extreme Rules Match. The right team won here. During the match I tweeted: “The Wyatts need to win this match. No more 50/50 booking.” Very happy the Wyatts got the victory, and actually came off looking like a dominant group. I’ve said it before, the Wyatts can be the dominant faction in WWE if they’re put in that position. Even if it’s just Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper getting the big wins, that’s not an out-of-reach proposition.

That being said, if they want this to continue, I wouldn’t mind seeing Bray Wyatt and Bubba Ray Dudley go at it one-on-one…

WWE TLC 2015, Ric Flair, CharlotteCharlotte retains over Paige at TLC, teams with Becky Lynch for a win on Raw. Ric Flair assists both times. So it appears we are indeed moving toward a Charlotte heel turn, and seemingly a program with Becky Lynch. This opens the door for development on the part of both ladies, so no complaints from me. I also like how they made a point to have Sasha Banks out there, to illustrate that she’s waiting in the wing.

I’m very curious to see who they put Charlotte with at Wrestlemania. It should be a one-on-one match, as opposed to a triple threat, or a fatal fourway. I’d love to see it be Sasha Banks. But Becky would be good in that spot as well.

Alberto Del Rio & Rusev def. Ryback and Jack Swagger. Didn’t even need to watch this one. Jack Swagger is a loser, and Ryback has become a loser. But that’s actually a good thing. Again, they didn’t 50/50 book it. These programs have winners and losers. That’s the way it should be.

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015The Miz “directs” Neville during his match with Tyler Breeze, which he wins. I don’t necessarily mind Miz being with Neville. It did wonders for Damian Sandow…until the story was over. Hell, this Miz/Neville program might even get Damian a little bit of TV time.

In Other News…

WWE hires veteran MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo for Smackdown. Will start when the show moves to USA Network on January 7. This is a really nice get for WWE. Ranallo brings a special credibility of sorts to the announce position. But here’s the thing: If WWE’s product remains as stale as it’s been lately, it won’t matter who the announcers are. Because no one will be watching.

Sting reveals he needs neck surgery following Night of Champions match. Ugh. This sucks. With so many guys on the injured reserve list, WWE could use Sting now more than ever. Furthering the sucktitude is the fact that Sting’s WWE run, which fans waited so many years for, has been such a disappointment. “The Icon” is hopeful for one more match. Count me among the wrestling fans who hope Sting finally gets a truly great WWE match. Or at the very least, a victory.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Vince McMahon is Not a Genius. Plus, Ponderings From WWE Raw

Vince McMahon, ForbesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Over the years, WWE has had a grand old time trying to convince people that Vince McMahon is a genius. He’s the genius that took his company global and changed an industry forever. He’s the genius that created pop cultural icons like Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. He’s the genius at the helm of a company that entertains millions. Stuff like that.

But if these last several years have proven anything, it’s that Vince McMahon is not a genius. He’s an intelligent, tireless, ballsy, charismatic promoter. But that doesn’t make him a genius. Albert Einstein was a genius. Thomas Edison was a genius. Vince McMahon? Not so much.

A genius would understand that “legitimacy” by way of sponsorships with companies like Toys R Us and Kay Jewelers doesn’t mean much when the product they’re sponsoring has become so cookie-cutter and stale.

A genius would know that micromanagement from the top only stifles creativity, and leads to anxiety amongst employees.

A genius doesn’t fight with his audience, whether they’re die-hards or casual fans. Ultimately, the fans invest in the performers they want to see, not the ones you want them to want to see.

But hey, what do I know? Clearly I’m no genius…

The League of Nations, Raw, November 30, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Sheamus forms new faction, the League of Nations, with Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett, and Rusev. There’s potential here. A faction like this can allow for Sheamus to be portrayed as a champion that can’t beat challengers on his own, and needs help from his buddies. If I’m the booker, I’ve got Sheamus in the upper card, Del Rio taking the midcard, and Barrett and Rusev as a tag team. There’s also the potential for Del Rio to get sick of Sheamus and turn babyface, which would give him another shot at being WWE’s marquee Hispanic star.

You know who I was thinking about this week? Jack Tunney. Tunney was WWE’s on-screen president from 1984 to 1995. We never saw much of him. He’d show up when they needed to announce a big match, or settle some controversy. We didn’t need to see Jack Tunney on television every week. We certainly didn’t need a Jack Tunney heel turn.

The establishment of this League of Nations group fills what WWE seems to see as a need for tyrannical heels at the top of the card. Now would be a good opportunity to phase Triple H and Stephanie out of their weekly TV roles, and scale them back to as-needed, big moment roles. Obviously the exception would be when they need Triple H to wrestle. But generally speaking, that’d be a good rule of thumb.

Will it happen? Probably not. But we can dream.

Ric Flair, Charlotte, Raw, November 30, 2015Ric Flair prompts Charlotte to feign an injury to defeat Becky Lynch. This was weird. Charlotte pulls a heel move to win a match with Becky, then talks about “tough love.” This prompts Paige to come in and play mind games, perhaps teasing a Becky heel turn.

So were we supposed to forgive Charlotte when she gave the tough love excuse? In all honesty, I initially thought they were turning Charlotte heel, which makes no sense. The one we left this segment sympathizing with was Becky, because her friend dicked her over. I’m confused.

I can only assume this means Ric and WWE have smoothed over whatever problems they had with the Reid controversy a few weeks ago. I can’t help but think of what Flair said on his podcast about not wanting to hurt Charlotte’s career by speaking ill of WWE. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was quick to cooperate with them for his daughter’s sake. Granted, I obviously have nothing to base that on.

Tommy Dreamer returns to WWE to help The Dudley Boyz against The Wyatt Family.  I’ve got no complaints about seeing Tommy, especially during a period where the roster is so thin. I’m guessing leads to a six-man tables match at TLC.

Tommy Dreamer, Raw, November 30, 2015It was cool to see Bubba get the mic, but the initial monologue came off really scripted. I’ll say it again: Micromanagement stifles creativity. Also, with all that talk about “family,” did anybody else think Spike Dudley was coming out?

Another question: Why put Bray through a table on this show? With only two weeks to go before the pay per view, you’d think they’d do that spot with Harper or Rowan this week, then Strowman next week. This felt like an early climax (*ehem*).

Dolph Ziggler def. Tyler Breeze. Decent showing here. Yet another instance of 50/50 booking. Breeze beats Dolph at Survivor Series, Dolph beats Breeze here. Nobody really gets over.

When JBL brought up what a big moment it was when Breeze beat Ziggler, a former World Champion, what immediately came to mind was Fandango beating Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania. By God, what a historic win that was. And as we all know, Fandango went on to bigger and better things…right?

Lana returns to Raw alongside Rusev during “Miz TV.” Rumors of nuclear heat notwithstanding, Lana was back. I’m pleased they took the time to actually explain why she and Rusev are back together, as opposed to pretending nothing happened. And I’ll credit Rusev for rolling with those “We want Lana” chants.

Rusev, Lana, Raw, November 30, 2015I’m not sure what Rusev’s subsequent loss to Ryback was supposed to accomplish, though. Common sense would dictate that you have the reinvigorated Rusev beat Ryback to re-assert his dominance. That one was a head scratcher.

Also, how pathetic was it that they had to mention three times that TMZ that leaked the news of their engagement. Yes WWE, we get it. TMZ knows you exist.

Adam Rose debuts “Rosebush” gossip segment. As I understand, Rose did something like this on WWE.com awhile back. Can’t say I caught that. But if I’m Adam Rose, I’m ecstatic about this. WWE may actually be giving him something to do on a weekly basis. Sure, it’s a pre-tape. But at least he gets to talk.

Sasha Banks def. Brie Bella. So…was Brie supposed to be the babyface here? Even though she was a heel just a few weeks ago? Ugh. Either way, Sasha won. So it’s a victory for our side either way.

In Other News:

Raw, June 1, 2015, Kevin OwensKevin Owens wants to face Brock Lesnar. There’s a built-in match between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at Wrestlemania XXXII if WWE wants to go that route. But recent reports indicate Owens wants to face Brock Lesnar (not to mention The Undertaker) at some point. But at this point, WWE may want to seriously consider putting Owens with Brock. Owens, I think, has a good understanding of what being a true heel is about, and can really make the fans want to see Brock beat the piss out of him at Wrestlemania. Are there better options than Owens? Maybe. But there aren’t many better options…

WWE fires Brad Maddox for using the phrase “cocky pricks” before a dark match. WWE did the real-life Tyler Kluttz a favor with this one. When they put you in a turkey suit to take a Tombstone from The Undertaker in front of millions of people on The Tonight Show, you’ve got a pretty good indication of how much they value you.

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

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