Tag Archives: AJ Lee

Undertaker/Lesnar Bombshell, Paige’s Weird Promo, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE Hell in a Cell 2015, The Undertaker, Brock LesnarBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Round 3 of Undertaker/Brock Lesnar to take place inside Hell in a Cell next month. Well, so much for Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns getting the main event…

Needless to say, this is huge. Not just because of the match itself, but because it once again places a shroud of mystery around ‘Taker’s Wrestlemania XXXII opponent. After Summerslam, many of us assumed the rubber match would take place in Dallas this Spring. But with this match on the Hell in a Cell card, ‘Taker and Lesnar will have already wrestled (at least) three times by that point. With that in mind, WWE may want to put ‘Taker against a fresh opponent whose box office appeal is as big as Lesnar’s. The only name that comes to mind under those parameters is John Cena. In theory, you could do Sting. But after his loss to Seth Rollins at Night of Champions, Sting looks more like a has-been than ever (and an injured one at that). Cena seems like the most sure-fire option at this point…

Another lingering question: Why didn’t the announcers talk about it on Raw? This is probably the last chapter in what’s become the biggest rivalry of the year. So…maybe mention it? A little bit?

Paige, WWE Night of Champions 2015Charlotte def. Nikki Bella to win Divas Title at Night of Champions, Paige goes heel on Raw. Very happy for Charlotte. Needless to say, this is an honor she deserves.

Paige’s rant on Raw was weird. She seemed to be trying to do what AJ Lee did with her so-called “pipe bombshell” promo awhile back. But instead of putting the heat on a rivalry between she and Charlotte, she just took pot shots at the other girls. Obviously some of that is expected. But why bring in Lana, Summer Rae, who have nothing to do with her? Yes, she came off like a brat, but she seemed to be criticizing the creative team more than her fellow wrestlers. I understand where they were going, and I think they got there. But they overcomplicated it.

Still, I’m very happy to see Natalya get involved in all this. You can’t have much of a “Divas Revolution” without her, in my book.

Sting loses second WWE pay per view outing to Seth Rollins, moments after Rollins loses US Title to John Cena. Ugh. Yeah, we knew this was probably going to happen. But that didn’t make it any easier to see. So now we’ve established that Sting can’t beat Seth Rollins, even when Rollins has already wrestled (and lost to) John Cena, and is in pretty bad shape at the start of the match. From an in-story standpoint, why should anyone in WWE now fear Sting? Some “Icon” Sting has turned out to be, at least as far as WWE is concerned.

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Seth Rollins, StingStill, there were two bright spots here as far as Sting is concerned. For one thing, he didn’t wrestle in the damn t-shirt. I imagine the only thing worse than losing cleanly to an already-battered Seth Rollins, is losing to him in a t-shirt. Secondly, Rollins made Sting look strong, as we knew he would. And never in my life did i expect Sting to do a cross-body to the outside like he did. So I can’t even knock the match from a performance standpoint. It’s just that the booking sucks on this one. I understand WWE wanted to try and grab extra buyrates by bringing Sting back. But having him lose again isn’t going to help anybody in the long run. What’s more, the poor guy apparently hurt his neck during the match.

But hey, at least Sting will always have respect for Triple H

After returning after Rollins’ title matches at Night of Champions, Kane attacks the champion for the second night in a row on Raw. I’m happy to see they’re finally following up on all that Rollins/Kane stuff from earlier this year. Is it as hot as it would have been before? Maybe not. But it’s nice to see it wasn’t completely forgotten about. And Kane putting the mask back on is a nice way to rejuvenate him for a little while. What’s more, I actually found his cheese ball skits on Raw as Corporate Kane entertaining.

WWE Raw, September 21, 2015, The Big Show, CesaroThe Big Show def. Cesaro, cuts a promo on Brock Lesnar. Yep, he beat Cesaro. Because…of course he did. But to his credit, Show made Cesaro look good in the process.

It’s interesting that Show brought up Survivor Series 2002, and him being the first guy to beat Brock. Makes you wonder if Heyman will bring up last year’s Royal Rumble, when Brock literally destroyed Show with a chair. As we all know, WWE history is weird with omissions like that.

Kevin Owens wins Intercontinental Title at Night of Champions, rematch with Ryback on the horizon. I was pleasantly surprised to see Owens take the title. The way he matches up with Ryback is interesting, because they obviously have such different physiques. Having Owens cheat to win the title was a good move, and while I’m game for a rematch, I think it’s got to end there. Let’s get Owens over to Cesaro, and let them work for a championship.

Sheamus def. Mark Henry on Raw. Mark Henry seems content to put people over these days. But watching him wrestle Sheamus, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would be different if he were the one with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Getting him up that ladder would have been a tough task, but a monster heel Mark Henry with a guaranteed WWE Championship match would have been worth it in my book.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A Wrestlemania XXXI Preview – The Gang’s All Here

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is it, folks. Wrestlemania is here. Sting is here. The Undertaker is here. Brock Lesnar is here. Still, all things considered, this isn’t the strongest ‘Mania card there’s ever been. We’ve got three squeeze matches, and a main event with a babyface that isn’t exactly a babyface, and a heel that isn’t exactly a heel…

Let’s dive in.

20150320_LIGHT_WM31_kickoffmatch_hpPRE-SHOW MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores

Neither The New Day or Los Matadores feel worthy of this match. With due respect to the talents of those four men, they should have been stuffed into the battle royal.

I’d be okay with either Kidd & Cesaro or The Usos taking this one. But I’m making my prediction based on an unlikely source: WWE just came out with a t-shirt for Kidd & Cesaro. That leads me to believe they’re going to be in the forefront of things for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking the titles will stay with them.

PREDICTION: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_divastag-1The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee & Paige

The Bella Twins are going to take this one. Why? Because WWE loves them for some odd reason. Personally, I respect the fact that they’ve put the effort they have into wrestling. But I just can’t stand listening to them. AJ hit the nail on the head on Smackdown: They’re like the Kardashians. And if there’s one thing wrestling doesn’t need, it’s Kardashians.

Still, at least AJ and Paige got to be featured in a match at Wrestlemania, and they weren’t stuffed into some “lumberjill” match. Then again, plans can always change, I suppose.

PREDICTION: The Bella Twins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_Andre_HPAndre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

You know who should be pissed about this match? The Big Show. He’s been relegated to this match for the second year in a row, but will almost certainly not win. He’s been compared to Andre the Giant his whole career, and how he’s been stuck in a match dedicated to him, but can’t win!

This should be the match where we finally get our Miz/Damien Sandow pay off. If I’m booking this sucker, our last four guys in the ring are The Big Show, Ryback, The Miz, and Sandow. Ryback dumps out Big Show, then Miz gets the jump on Ryback and tosses him out. Then we get our confrontation between “star” and “stunt double,” resulting in Sandow finally standing up to Miz, and tossing him out of the match for the win. This should be a huge Wrestlemania moment for Sandow. The question is, how do they follow up on it? That part sure as hell didn’t work out for Cesaro.

PREDICTION: Damien Sandow

20150309_LIGHT_WM31_Match_BadNewsLadder_HP2LADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper

I know this match will probably be entertaining. But the purist in me doesn’t like it. I’m also not thrilled with the fact that Daniel Bryan got relegated to a squeeze match a year after winning the main event at Wrestlemania. But that’s WWE booking for you…

I’ve read reports that Daniel Bryan will win this one, but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like a Bad News Barrett win to me. WWE likes him, as evidenced by the way they put the belt on him right when he got back. And then they had all these guys take his title away from him, and then he finally got it back, only to have it taken from him again. This all feels like a build up for him to take it back once and for all at Wrestlemania, and then perhaps turn babyface. The fans like this character, and the heel status still seems forced to me. I’m really spinning the wheel on this one, but I’m going with Barrett.

PREDICTION: Bad News Barrett

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_cenarusevWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

In all honesty, I don’t want to see Rusev’s winning streak end. Originally, I was not a fan of his, simply because he was so cold and expressionless out there. But he’s improved substantially, and is one of the company’s best villains right now. That being said, if you have to lose to someone, a loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania isn’t a bad deal. And given the beating Cena just took from Rusev on Raw, it seems like he’s due for a win. And hey, Cena winning the US Title might just restore some of it’s prestige. Lord knows those secondary titles could use a little more shine on them these days.

PREDICTION: John Cena

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HP_OrtonRollinsRandy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

From a pure performance standpoint, this match could steal the show. Randy Orton’s previous Wrestlemania dance partners haven’t always lent themselves to great matches. But with the right ones, he can deliver. His match with CM Punk in 2011 comes to mind, as does his work with Daniel Bryan and Batista at last year’s show. With a guy like Seth Rollins, the potential is obviously there.

The build-up with Randy Orton pretending to join The Authority was decent. Not great, but decent. Hopefully the match makes it all worthwhile. I see Rollins going over here. He’s unquestionably WWE’s most hated villain right now. What better way to keep his momentum going than a cheap victory over Randy Orton? Mind you, he’ll probably take an RKO somewhere in there. But it’ll be his victory nonetheless.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_takerbrayThe Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

For yours truly, this is the biggest match on the card. I’ve been a fan for almost two decades. So seeing The Undertaker in the ring again is worth the price of admission by itself. He could be wrestling Barry Horowitz (look him up, kids) and I’d still pay to see it.

To his credit, Bray has made the majority of this program work with his verbal skills alone. The only input we’ve had from The Undertaker has been in the form of props and video clips. But Bray made it work. This program, as one-sided as it’s been, has elevated his game significantly.

Obviously, “The Streak” is no longer on the table. We can debate the pros and cons of that at a later date. But either way, The Undertaker could, in fact, lose this match. But I don’t think he will. After last year, the fans deserve to have their faith in this legend rewarded. The Undertaker losing last year left a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth. So now it’s time for him to win again. Will it hurt Bray? Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s career has ever been truly harmed by losing to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Bray will be no exception.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2Triple H vs. Sting

If what we heard on Raw this week is any indicator, I don’t think there’s any risk of the WWE fans not reacting favorably to Sting. They were really into him on Monday, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.

I expect we’ll see classic Triple H here, not to mention classic Stephanie McMahon. They’ll use underhanded tactics, and probably that sledgehammer, to get the upper hand. Then Sting will have his big babyface comeback, and of course, get the win. There’s no way they brought Sting to Wrestlemania just to have him lose. And as I said this week, I’m hoping this isn’t a one shot deal. A guy like Sting could really help elevate and up-and-comer. But either way, this night belongs to the Stinger.

PREDICTION: Sting

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_LesnarReigns_HPWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

This match is “car wreck interesting.” In other words, I’m intrigued to see whether the whole thing just breaks down into a mess. What it really comes down to is the crowd. That’s the big drawing factor. What kind of reaction is Roman Reigns going to get? As Brock Lesnar just resigned with WWE this week, the die-hards and the smart fans don’t have much of a reason to boo him. And as Wrestlemania is a show that the die-hards come from all over the world to see, things don’t exactly look good for

I expect the crowd to be the main story in this one. I don’t see either Reigns or Lesnar as “ring generals,” so to speak. So I’m not expecting a classic. In terms of it’s outcome, while this match could end up going in a lot of directions, I still see Roman Reigns getting his hand raised at the end. One of WWE’s major priorities these days (thankfully) is making new stars. Whether we like him or not, Roman Reigns is one of those stars. So this moment belongs to him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Paul Heyman plays into this. He’s more than pulled his share of the weight in all of this. But now that we know Lesnar has re-signed, I’m curious to see if their relationship evolves at all. Will Heyman still be at Lesnar’s side once Wrestlemania XXXI is in the books? Or will he find himself a new conqueror in Roman Reigns? Has all of this been leading up to a Roman Reigns heel turn? Now that would shake things up…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Images from WWE.com.

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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As many of us know, each year Barbara Walters publishes a list of her “most fascinating people” from the previous 12 months. This year, her list included Miley Cyrus, the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, Pope Francis, and Hilary Clinton.

But you know what? None of those folks interest me at all. What can I say? Babs and I must have opposing tastes. I’m a man who loves his comic books, his movies, and of course, his pro wrestling. And for my money, the most fascinating pro wrestling fan be found on WWE television. And now, as I did last year, it’s time for me to put my own spin on Walters’ list.

Ladies, gentlemen, and “smarks,” Primary Ignition now presents: WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013!

Dolph Ziggler, Money in the Bank, cash in1. Dolph Ziggler
At this time last year, Dolph Ziggler seemed to be on the verge of true superstardom, and justifiably so. He’s ultra-athletic, has tremendous charisma, and at least half the time will give you the best match on the card. In many ways he’s comparable to Shawn Michaels, which I think is one of the highest compliments one can give to a wrestler. The night after Wrestlemania XXIX, Ziggler had the night of his career when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and won the World Heavyweight Championship as the fans chanted his name. But unfortunately, things went steeply downhill from there. An injury threw a big wrench into Ziggler’s title run, and the belt quickly went back to Alberto Del Rio. From there, Ziggler spent the majority of 2013 jobbing to guys like Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. His rapid descent down the card has been downright depressing and simply begs the question: Why? Why bury such an A+ talent? Rumors have surfaced Ziggler’s backstage attitude, and his perceived drawing power. Either way, Ziggler is in a much different place this year than he was last year. I’m hopeful, but also wary about where he’ll be at this time next year.

AJ Lee, 20132. AJ Lee

In 2013, AJ Lee finally rose to her rightful place at the head of WWE’s otherwise lackluster divas division, and while her caliber of opponents have left much to be desired, Lee herself continues to be interesting to watch. In addition to breaking WWE’s traditional Barbie doll/model mold for female wrestlers, she seems to have gotten much more confident on the mic this year. Case in point? Her “pipe bombshell” promo from August, in which she referred to the cast of Total Divas as “a bunch of ungrateful, stiff, plastic mannequins,” and alluded to how the Bella Twins sucked up to the right people. Moments like that, combined with her unique look, and apparently her sense of style, give AJ a special connection with both male and female fans. Plus, occasionally she’ll do something that will make me go: “Maybe she really does a little crazy in her.” Prior to this month, I had no idea who Michelle Beadle was. But apparently she and AJ had a heated moment when Beadle supposedly dissed CM Punk, Lee’s real-life boyfriend. Either way, AJ continues to be the most compelling female performer WWE, and perhaps mainstream wrestling itself, has seen in years.

Darren Young, WWE, 20133. Darren Young

This past August, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, became the first active WWE wrestler to publicly come out of the closet. This seemingly happened on a whim when TMZ interviewed him at an airport. WWE handled this in what I deem to be a fairly tasteful manner. WWE.com reported on it, and the company made a point to circulate supportive quotes from other wrestlers. Young also took to the talk show circuit, appearing with the likes of Matt Lauer and Ellen DeGeneres. Thus, the company’s certainly milked Rosser’s revelation for positive publicity. But in terms of his role on-screen as Darren Young, very little has changed. He and Titus O’Neil have turned babyface as the Prime Time Players. But that’s essentially it, and one could argue that was in the cards anyway. To my knowledge, WWE never actually spoke about Rosser’s revelation on Raw, Smackdown, or any other in-character platform. What’s more, as far as I can see, Darren Young hasn’t gotten any kind of hateful backlash from fans who aren’t necessarily on board with homosexuals, the gay agenda, etc. As a fan, I was proud of WWE for not using this aspect of Rosser’s personal life as part of a tasteless storyline, proud of the fans for being mostly respectful of who this man is, and proud of Rosser for not being brave enough to put himself out there despite the risks that may have been present. Now if only the Prime Time Players could get a decent push…

Zeb Colter, 20134. Zeb Colter
The initial appearance of Wayne Keown (or as he’s more commonly known, Dutch Mantel) the February 11 edition of Raw as Jack Swagger’s new manager Zeb Colter came as a pleasant surprise to me. If there’s ever been a wrestler who needs a mouthpiece, it’s Jack Swagger. And Colter proved to be the perfect addition to his presentation, with his tirades about true patriotism, protecting America’s borders from illegal immigrants, and what this country has been “reduced to.” He turned Swagger’s program with Alberto Del Rio into one worthy of Wrestlemania XXIX. The passion and believability he delivered his promos with is something we don’t see nearly enough of from today’s crop of wrestlers. To the WWE publicity machine’s delight, the character even caught the attention of conservative pundit Glenn Beck. When Swagger was subsequently arrested for marijuana possession, his role was downgraded we didn’t see quite as much of Zeb. But when Swagger was teamed with Antonio Cesaro to form the Real Americans, Zeb’s promos became a more regular fixture on WWE TV, and we’ve reached the point where the “smarks” are even chanting “We the People!” along with him. His work (as well Paul Heyman’s) serves as proof that a manager/mouthpiece can still be a vital part of a wrestling program in the 21st century.

The Bella Twins, 20135. The Bella Twins
The Bellas are indeed fascinating, though not necessarily for good reasons. Nikki and Brie returned to WWE this past March, just in time to film Total Divas, a reality show on the E! network which follows a handful of female wrestlers. Nikki and Brie were front and center, as for the first time, it was acknowledged on WWE programming that Nikki was dating John Cena, and Brie was dating Daniel Bryan. As such, much of the show revolved around those two relationships. Nikki dealt with Cena’s reluctance to get married and start a family, while on the flip side, Brie and Bryan ended up engaged by the season finale. Surprisingly, the things that played out on Total Divas didn’t necessarily impact WWE’s ongoing storylines very much. However, during Bryan’s WWE Title program with Randy Orton in the fall, Brie was brought in to play the worried girlfriend, and we all cringed at the twins’ continued lack of acting talent. While Brie’s in-ring skills have indeed improved this year, the Bellas remain an instant cue for me to hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. And yet, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be gone any time soon, given their involvement with Cena and Bryan, not to mention the fact that WWE seems convinced we all want to see sexy twins wrestle every week. Sadly, the bloom was off that rose a long time ago. Clearly, the Bellas have a long way to go in terms of earning the respect of a lot of the “smart” wrestling fans. With luck, they’ll make more headway in 2014. If they don’t, there’s always that fast-forward button.

CM Punk, 20136. CM Punk
When we kicked off 2013, CM Punk was still the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, and the hottest heel the company had seen in years. After feuding with The Rock in January and February, he moved into a controversial program with The Undertaker, which culminated in a Wrestlemania match. From there, Punk had arguably gone as far as he could go as a heel, and really had no choice but to turn babyface. It’s been really interesting to see Punk turn his self-entitled narcissistic villain persona into a rebellious loose cannon character. Thankfully, Punk spent half the year working with Paul Heyman, one of the all-time great heel managers in wrestling, and the man who helped him generate much of his heat during his WWE Title run. While their rivalry might have run out of steam toward the end, they had a fantastic hero/villain dynamic. He’s been able to maintain that hero persona through brief programs with The Wyatt Family and The Shield. At this point, the only wrestler as universally cheered as Punk is Daniel Bryan. Given that he appears to be moving into some sort of program with Triple H and the Authority, the smart bet may be him winning the Royal Rumble and going on to main event Wrestlemania XXX. Given the way he’s shattered WWE’s glass ceiling and essentially made himself a marquee star these past few years, I’d say nobody (with Daniel Bryan being the only possible argument) deserves a Wrestlemania main event spot in 2014 more than CM Punk.

Paul Heyman, 20137. Paul Heyman

Heyman had a hell of a 2012, but somehow his 2013 was even better. To an extent, he’s actually taken on the role of a modern-day Bobby Heenan. For Wrestlemania season, he played a part in both the Undertaker/CM Punk and Triple H/Brock Lesnar programs, and got to walk both Lesnar and Punk to the ring at the big event. He also got to verbally joust with the likes of Vince McMahon, The Rock, Triple H, and of course, he got plenty of mic time with CM Punk once the two started their lengthy feud. Heyman was also given the task of helping elevate Curtis Axel, and later Ryback. Sadly, as was often the case with Heenan, Heyman ultimately wound up overshadowing both those men, particularly Axel. But regardless, no matter who he was working with, Paul Heyman almost always made for compelling television in 2013. Whether he was singing the praises of “Barrrrrrrrrrrrrock Lesnar,” planting a painfully awkward kiss on the cheek of Ryback, or taking a beating from Punk atop Hell in a Cell, Heyman was one of WWE’s most entertaining and captivating performers this year. And we can undoubtedly look forward to more of the same upon his return.

Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman, 20138. Curtis Axel

Fans who’d been following the career of Joe Henning (or as WWE fans came to know him, Michael McGillicuty) always knew him to be a solid in-ring performer. As the grandson of Larry “the Axe” Henning, and the son of Curt Henning, a.k.a. Mr. Perfect, he certainly has the business in his blood. Heck, he’d even been voted the 2008 Rookie of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But despite his talents, he’d yet to really be given an opportunity at singles stardom. His hokey ring name certainly didn’t help matters, nor did what many might consider to be a lack of charisma and mic skills. But regardless, in 2013 Henning was repackaged as Curtis Axel, with the incomparable Paul Heyman as his new manager and mouthpiece. Less than a month later, WWE put the Intercontinental Championship on him, and seemed confident they had a new star on their hands. But as was the case with Dolph Ziggler, Axel’s 2013 sadly ended on a downer. Even with the Intercontinental Title, he wound up being more of a henchman for Heyman than anything else. At Night of Champions, Axel was teamed with Heyman in a 2-on-1 handicap match against CM Punk. The angle was booked so that Punk getting his hands on Heyman was a virtual certainty, as Axel had no chance of defeating Punk. Eventually, he dropped the IC Title to Big E. Langston, and was thrown into a tag team with Ryback. Joe Henning may have tremendous in-ring talent, but whatever potential star power he had may have ultimately been eclipsed by his manager’s rivalry with Punk.

Big E Langston, Intercontinental Champion, 20139. Big E. Langston
Clearly, the WWE brass has faith in Big E. Langston, but I’m not sure I share that faith at this point. Langston started his year as a bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. It looked like an HBK/Diesel-type babyface turn was in the cards for him. But then Ziggler broke off from the trio, and the AJ/Langston pairing eventually fizzled out. From there, Langston abruptly turned babyface, and before long he found himself Intercontinental Champion. It all seems too much, too fast for my taste. I’d have liked to have seen Langston get more time to cook as a babyface before they put him in the spotlight the way he is now. His mic skills clearly need work, as is evidenced by his bland, white-meat performance on commentary in recent weeks. Still, Langston definitely has a great look, and he’s solid in the ring. He also seems to have a certain charisma bubbling underneath the surface that I’m very interested to see more of. As Triple H has said in the past, the wrestler makes the championship important, and not vice versa. I’ve got the impression that WWE put the title on Langston to give him a boost. But now it’s up to him to make the most of this opportunity, and elevate himself to that next level. I’m very curious to see whether he can do that in the early part of 2014.

Daniel Bryan, WWE Night of Champions 201310. Daniel Bryan

Following Wrestlemania XXVIII, fans were unrelenting with their “Yes!” chants, letting WWE know, in no uncertain terms, who they’d chosen as WWE’s next marquee star. In 2013, Daniel Bryan became that marquee star. Case in point? Earlier this month, WWE held a “championship ascension ceremony,” which centered around John Cena and Randy Orton’s match to unify the Heavyweight Championships at TLC. They were joined in the ring by the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, CM Punk, among numerous other Hall of Fame caliber stars. But who were the fans chanting for? Daniel Bryan. It got to the point where Triple H and John Cena actually had to shift their performances to acknowledge the chants, as they were drowning out the mic work. Granted, they were in Bryan’s home state of Washington. But I think it’s safe to say the Washington fans spoke for the WWE audience at large that night. Daniel Bryan, the 5’10 vegan indie darling with the scraggly beard, has surpassed our wildest expectations. Most “smart” fans knew he had the talent, but whether WWE would run with him was another story. But between the deafening chants from the fans, and the awesome performances he gave this year alongside the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and even midcard guys like Antonio Cesaro, Bryan cannot be denied. I maintain what I said earlier about CM Punk being the smart  bet to main event Wrestlemania XXX. But it’s practically a guarantee that Bryan will be in a marquee match. The only question is, who will stand across the ring from Bryan on the grandest stage of ‘em all? Triple H, I’m looking at you…

Image 3 from thegrio.com. Image 4 from 411mania.com. Image 5 from wrestlenewz.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2012

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Every year, Barbara Walters gives the public her picks for the 10 most fascinating people of the year. She had a few good names on the list this year: General David Petraus, Ben Affleck and Hilary Clinton. But we also had One Direction, the chick who wrote 50 Shades of Grey, and friggin’ Honey Boo Boo. What the hell is that about?

I can give you 10 people off the top of my head who are all more fascinating than most of the names on that list. And they’re pretty easy to find. You can see them every week on Monday Night Raw. We now present WWE’s most fascinating people of 2012!

CM Punk, 20121. CM Punk

We kick things off with a no brainer. While John Cena is still WWE’s poster boy, for the better part of 2012 the star of Monday Night Raw has been CM Punk. Turning him heel turned out to be the best decision they could have made. From a creative standpoint, he’s been the lifeblood of every broadcast he’s appeared on. His promos are consistently stellar, his in-ring skills speak for themselves, and his infamous temper always has us waiting for the next “pipe bomb.” What’s more, by keeping the WWE Championship on him for over a year, the title now means something again. As so many challengers have tried and failed to take it, it’s now the prized possession it should be, as opposed to a prop that the wrestlers hand back and forth to one another. When he cut his unforgettable promo in Las Vegas in June of last year, Punk was looking for change in the WWE. One way or another, he’s found it.

Paul Heyman, 20122. Paul Heyman

Several months ago, you’d have thought Brock Lesnar would be a shoe-in for this list. But Lesnar’s dates are so limited that it’s been hard not to be disappointed by his comeback, at least on some level. How ironic that the man chosen to represent Lesnar on the mic, Paul Heyman, would turn out to be the more interesting of the two. Heyman’s return to the wrestling industry overjoyed many a longtime fan, as he continues to be one of the best talkers and the most creative minds the business has ever seen. He has a love for the industry that Brock Lesnar is obviously lacking, and as such his partnership with CM Punk is by far the more enjoyable of the two. Heyman obviously doesn’t have to carry Punk on the mic, so it’s been interesting to see just how well he maintains that supporting role without overstepping his bounds. Heyman and Punk are fun to watch together, because it’s obvious they’re enjoying their jobs.

Titus O'Neil, 20123. Titus O’Neil

I’ve become a huge fan of the Prime Time Players, and much of that is because of what Titus O’Neil brings to the table. No disrespect to Darren Young, but O’Neil has a very natural charisma which commands the spotlight every time he and Young get a chance to talk. At no point has this been more obvious than when the Players joined Cole and King for commentary several weeks ago. He was so funny that Cole and Lawler were cracking up, and it actually started to draw attention away from the match. Obviously that’s not what you want per se, but it left me wanting more. Titus didn’t crack under pressure, he rolled with whatever the announcers threw at him, and he made it entertaining. It made me want to see the Prime Time Players again, so that we could hear Titus O’Neil again. I wouldn’t say Titus is ready for a singles run quite yet, but there’s definitely something there with him. And it’s something worth watching in 2013.

Kane, WWE, 20124. Kane
You wouldn’t think it’d be so easy for a guy like Kane to fade into the background, but it is. At various points in his career, Kane’s job has been that of a placeholder, using his name recognition to make him relevant as a third-string babyface or heel, depending on where he was needed at the time. Kane is one of the few wrestlers I’ve ever seen transition from bad to good, and vice versa, for no apparent reason. I imagine his character sometimes makes it difficult to come up with things for him that aren’t too corny or over the top. Heck, half the stuff they do with him is already corny and over the top. But this year, WWE used a tool they rarely use with Kane: Humor. In doing so, Kane has once again become a vital part of WWE programming. He’s not just a nostalgia act they bring out in the middle of the card. As part of Team Hell No (still a stupid name) with Daniel Bryan, Kane has played a vital role in reinvigorating the tag team division, and giving us some of the most genuinely funny stuff we’ve seen on Raw in years. As a fan, it was gratifying to watch this veteran’s career reignite, no pun intended. And speaking of Team Hell No…

Daniel Bryan, 20125. Daniel Bryan

This was the year that indy superstar Bryan Danielson officially became a sports entertainer. And what’s more? He’s a great one. Who’da thunk it? Bryan’s rise to the top of WWE likely wasn’t the one his fans from Ring of Honor were hoping for. But let’s look at the facts, shall we? The night after Wrestlemania, fans were chanting for Bryan. In 2012, Byran headlined several pay per views with CM Punk, wrestling for the WWE Championship. And now he’s evolved into one of the most entertaining performers the company has. Any doubt as to whether Bryan could be a success in WWE was erased this year, as he fully adapted to wrestling’s biggest stage, and took advantage of every opportunity. With any luck, we’re not even halfway through Bryan’s WWE run. Yes! Yes! Yes!

AJ Lee, WWE, 20126. AJ Lee

Last year at this time, WWE fans were just starting to get to know AJ. We knew her face, but she hadn’t really had an chance to shine as a performer yet. Fast forward a year, and everybody knows who she is. What’s more, this little 100 lb Puerto Rican girl is on the fast track to becoming WWE’s next marquee female talent. She’s not quite there yet, but she’s close. While the material she’s given is sometimes corny (remember when she proposed to CM Punk?), her delivery is always interesting to watch. Her character seems vulnerable, but there’s a madness lurking underneath the surface that she’s playing with very well. The right people are obviously noticing her, as she’s been in stories with names like CM Punk, John Cena, Kane and Daniel Bryan all year. Life is good for AJ right now. And she’s not exactly becoming less relevant, is she?

Chris Jericho, WWE, 20127. Chris Jericho

At this stage in his career, and with as many outside interests as he has, Chris Jericho is wise to come and go as he does. Fans are always excited to see him after he’s been gone for awhile, and what he brings to the table really can’t be duplicated. His “trolling” on WWE fans, i.e. not speaking, during the first few weeks of his comeback was interesting. But things didn’t really kick into high gear until he started his program with CM Punk, cutting a series of intense promos on Punk’s family life. To a extent, that angle was ill timed, as it had so much to compete with between the Rock/Cena story, and what The Undertaker and Triple H were doing. But the quality of Jericho’s work can’t be denied either way. What’s great about him is that he’s not content to do the same thing year after year. He’s constantly reinventing himself, and expanding his creative scope. This begs the question: What kind of Chris Jericho will we see next?

Heath Slater, WWE, 20128. Heath Slater

Slater’s inclusion here might be a surprise to some, especially when you consider how much time he spent looking up at the lights in 2012. But in terms of establishing a character for himself, and letting WWE fans get to know him a little bit better, Slater had a great year. He had a weekly spotlight placed on him when he worked with the various legends leading up to Raw 1000. That spotlight grew a bit brighter when he formed 3MB with Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal. The downside there is that, even with these three hour Raw broadcasts, the group has lately been relegated to the third string shows. But seeing Slater expand his annoying, southern rocker character has been entertaining. How 3MB will fare now that another three-man faction, the Shield, has entered the picture, remains to be seen. But Slater is doing a nice job running with the ball in the meantime.

Dolph Ziggler, WWE, 20129. Dolph Ziggler

At this point, is there doubt in anyone’s mind that Ziggler is ready? In truth, he’s probably been ready for about a year now. But patience proved to be a wise choice on WWE’s part. We’ve seen what happens when they pull the trigger on someone too early. WWE has done well continuing to put Ziggler in high profile situations that usually don’t involve either of the Heavyweight Titles. He’s been consistently awesome in matches with John Cena, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, and others. He could cash that Money in the Bank briefcase in anytime now, but we still needn’t be in a hurry. Considering everything that’s about to happen between now and Wrestlemania, it might even be best to hold off on making Ziggler a Heavyweight Champion until the spring. He’s still got plenty of time…

Ryback, 201210. Ryback

Well what do you know? It actually worked. Fans are chanting “Feed Me More!” Ryback is getting pops that are up there with the likes of Sheamus or Randy Orton. We still have to get past some of the “Goldberg” chants, but for my money, Ryback may be on his way to doing something many might have thought impossible: Taking John Cena’s spot. Is it going to happen tomorrow? No. But Cena can’t carry the company on his shoulders forever. Eventually, someone is going to have to step up and take the torch from him. For years, Randy Orton seemed to be the likely torchbearer, but his two wellness policy strikes have landed him the doghouse. Sheamus isn’t quite there, though he’s still chugging away. Punk was a hit with the older fans, but he makes a much better villain than a hero. But Ryback, with his Herculean physique and his giant feats of strength, may have a shot. WWE has struggled these past few months, however, as Ryback has had to lose on three consecutive pay per views. With any luck, Ryback can start racking up some major victories, and continue to take steps closer to becoming WWE’s new franchise player.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A Red Hood: The Lost Days Review – Aw, It’s a Rerun…

Red Hood: The Lost DaysTITLE: Red Hood: The Lost Days
AUTHOR: Judd Winick
PENCILLER: Pablo Raimondi, Jeremy Haun. Cover by Billy Tucci.
COLLECTS: Red Hood: The Lost Days #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like a good title for this book would have been I Know Who Killed Me. But instead they gave that title to a Lindsay Lohan movie. Cheeky bastards…

The Lost Days is a prequel to Judd Winick’s Under The Hood story, in which he brought Jason Todd back to life as an anti-hero, determined to rid Gotham City of crime the “right” way with guns, killing, and capital punishment in general. This book serves as the bridge between Jason’s resurrection and his return to Gotham in the Hush storyline. He gets some fresh combat training and becomes skilled with explosives before he’s finally ready to take on the man who killed him…The Joker. But can he bring himself to do it?

It doesn’t matter, since both characters have to make it to Under The Hood. But it’s the thought that counts!

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason ToddThis book isn’t perfect by any means, but it has its moments. What really sucks is that Winick has to devote an entire issue to exposition for people who didn’t read Under The Hood. I put down the first issue thinking: “I read all of that already!”

I’ve talked before about how great Winick is with raw emotion. There’s a scene in the second issue where Jason learns Batman hasn’t killed The Joker that’s very well done. To a degree, the reader understands Jason’s outrage, frustration and pain. His surrogate father didn’t love him enough (at least that’s how Jason sees it) to break his rule about killing. We can’t relate to Jason’s situation, but we can understand that rage.

Oddly enough, one thing we don’t learn in this book is why Jason chose the Red Hood moniker. From a creator’s perspective, it’s obviously meant to connect him to The Joker (before he became a killer clown, Joker called him self The Red Hood), but from a character standpoint, we don’t know why Jason did it. You’d think that would have been one of the first things Winick would want in the story.

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason Todd ,Talia al GhulAlso, don’t be fooled by Billy Tucci’s wonderful issue covers. While they do display Jason in that awesome red helmet (at least I think it’s awesome) and combat gear, he doesn’t put that stuff on until the last page of the last issue. With some of these issues, the covers were more exciting than the story could hope to be.

Jason spends two issues foiling Russian mobsters, which is okay I guess. It works to establish the fact that he’s not just a heartless killer, and he still believes in justice.We see a lot of Talia al Ghul in this story, as she helps Jason obtain the resources he needs. There’s a bizarre sexual element to their partnership that doesn’t make much sense. In the first issue, Ra’s al Ghul flat out tells Talia that helping Jason won’t make Bruce Wayne love her. So then she not only helps him, but goes that way with him? Yeah, THAT made a lot of sense.

All in all, The Lost Days really doesn’t give us any information that wasn’t implied before, save for the Talia/Jason awkwardness that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but I get the impression the only reason this was all brought up again was to coincide with the DVD release of Batman: Under The Red Hood, which conveniently, Winick worked on. This book was never going to be a 10, but it certainly could have been better.

RATING: 4.5/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from cornflakepizza.tumblr.com.

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