Best of WWE Extreme Rules: A Playlist Before This Year’s “Horror Show”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

“It’s the one night of the year where WWE goes extreme!!!!”

What does that mean? Eh, nothing really. It’s a line they used to tack on to this Extreme Rules pay per view. In reality, it’s a show where they throw in some gimmick matches for the sake of the title. Extreme Rules is the descendant of ECW One Night Stand. So if they really wanted to make this show special, they’d stick it in a smaller venue like the Hammerstein Ballroom (shown above) to make it look like an old ECW show. Or maybe even someplace like Full Sail University, and up the ticket price accordingly to compensate for the smaller capacity.

Of course, you can’t do that now. Damn Coronavirus.

But where there is creativity and performance, there is inevitably some greatness to be found. As we build to this year’s Extreme Rules: The Horror Show show on July 19, here’s a playlist representing the best of this event over the last 11 years. Despite being WWE’s sanitized version of “extreme,” you might be surprised at the quality of what you find…

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho
June 7, 2009
New Orleans, LA

It was on this night that Jericho won his ninth and (thus far) final Intercontinental Championship. That’s a record that stands to this day, and may in fact stand as long as the title exists.

But perhaps more importantly, this is one of the better IC Title matches of the so-called “PG Era.” We had a compelling yet simple story coming in about Jericho wanting to unmask Rey Mysterio Jr. Jim Ross and Todd Grisham were on commentary for this one, and the former did an excellent job playing up the importance of the mask to Rey. Not to mention its cultural significance. So in the end, when Jericho snatches Rey’s mask off during a 619 attempt and then rolls him up for the pin, it actually means something.

These two managed to cut a hell of a pace too. At certain points, you’d think they were still part of WCW’s renowned Cruiserweight Division. Moments before the finish, we get something we’d never see today: A chairshot to the head. Mind you, Rey “works” the shot to Jericho’s head fairly well. But a shot to the head is a shot to the head.

If this match proves anything, it’s that Jericho was and still is one of the true artists in the world of pro wrestling. Whoever elevates whomever he works with. Even if that person is already a legend like Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, or in this case, Rey Mysterio Jr.

LADDER MATCH:
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy
June 7, 2009
New Orleans, LA

I probably shouldn’t have, but I felt sorry for Edge, Jeff, and all those TLC guys for a long time.

Yes, I know those ladder matches and TLC Matches made stars out of the Hardys, the Dudleys, and Edge & Christian. But those matches would also follow all those guys around for the rest of their careers. They became synonymous with the Ladder Match to the point that so many of their big bouts had to be Ladder Matches. So when they started this program with one another, it was inevitable there’d be a Ladder Match at some point.

And this is how jaded we’d all become at that point: This match isn’t even that exciting. Yes, there are some brutal bumps. Edge takes a nasty bump between the rungs of a ladder. Later, he tries to recreate the famous mid-air spear spot from Wrestlemania. The results are mixed at best. The match is highlighted by that last visual of Edge being trapped between the ladder rungs, “crucified” as Todd Grisham puts it, as Hardy climbs up and takes the title.

This match earns its spot here because of the effort put forth by its participants. Hardly the most thrilling Ladder Match you’ll ever see. But you’ve got to take your hat off for what both these guys were willing to do to their bodies.

LADDER MATCH FOR VACANT WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
May 1, 2011
Tampa, FL

I don’t make a habit of going back and watching a lot of Alberto Del Rio matches. But in hindsight, he had a pretty good shtick with his personal ring announcer, the limo, the music, the big smile. If he weren’t such a sleaze bag in real life, I’d be inclined to say I miss him.

But of course, this match isn’t really about Del Rio. It’s all about Christian finally winning the big one. Would he lose it two days later at a Smackdown taping? Yes. But this is still a great moment that’s all the more relevant given how they just used him in the Edge/Randy Orton storyline.

CHICAGO STREET FIGHT:
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
April 29, 2012
Chicago, IL

We didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to see these two got overshadowed by the Rock and John Cena at Wrestlemania. We knew going in that it would happen. In the end, they’d once again be overshadowed at Extreme Rules by Cena and Brock Lesnar. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of the work they did. And this whole program, with a heel Chris Jericho getting personal with CM Punk about his father’s alcohol issues, was quality.

The fact that they were in Chicago did nothing but help them. This was less than a year after the famous Punk/Cena match at Money in the Bank. This crowd was every bit as pro-Punk as that one was. All these years later, I’d forgotten that Punk’s family was in the front row too. So when Jericho douses Punk in beer and beats the hell out of him with a kendo stick, it resonates that much more. The same can be said for when Punk finally pulls it out and retains the WWE Championship.

EXTREME RULES MATCH:
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena
April 29, 2012
Chicago, IL

Mere moments into this match, Lesnar had Cena’s blood on him.

This match wasn’t necessarily as exciting as I remembered it. But as Brock Lesnar’s first match in eight years, it was still bigger and more important than almost anything that happened at Wrestlemania the previous month. This match was “big fight feel” defined.

In hindsight, this was structured not unlike the classic Cena and Lesnar would have at Summerslam two years later. Which is to say it was all about Cena being brutalized  by this WWE Champion turned MMA fighter, and the question of whether he could survive. Particularly under the Extreme Rules stipulation.

This match may also have one of the most hotly debated finishes in company history. Certainly in the last decade. Common sense would indicate that Brock would prevail here. Thus, they’d tell the story of Cena suffering yet another devastating loss just a month after losing to the Rock, and setting Brock up as a near invincible and monster.

Of course, they didn’t do that. They had Cena win after punching Lesnar with his old Thuganomics lock and chain, followed by an A.A. on to the steel ring steps. They didn’t even do a contested finish, i.e. “You can’t pin somebody on the steps!” It was just, “Cena wins. LOL.”

Still, it’s definitely a match worth looking back on. Arguably the best WWE match of 2012 overall.

EXTREME RULES MATCH:
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
May 22, 2016
Newark, New Jersey

I’m not sure how politically correct this is to say, but AJ Styles became a made man in WWE by working with Roman Reigns.

Yes, he came in and worked with Chris Jericho. Yes, he’d go on to have some amazing matches with John Cena. But by putting Reigns over in back-to-back title matches at Payback and Extreme Rules in two great matches, Styles proved that not only was he an all-time great performer, but one that could succeed within the WWE system. These matches proved he was here to stay.

You can tell both these guys are really going for it here. Reigns had just won the WWE Championship from Triple H at Wrestlemania, and had a lot to prove to his critics. Meanwhile, I suspect Styles knew what a big opportunity this was for him, and set out to over-deliver. He succeeded, taking some downright scary bumps in the process. These included a very high backdrop off one announce table through another. Styles actually over-rotated, taking what looked like a painful landing on his butt. That’s how you crack your tailbone, right there.

In the end, what they turned in here was very much a WWE style brawl, complete with a fight through the crowd and outside antics from the Usos and Gallows & Anderson. In the end, Reigns countered a Phenomenal Forearm into a spear for the victory.

30-MINUTE IRON MAN MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
July 15, 2018
Pittsburgh, PA

This match was better than the Pittsburgh crowd gave it credit for. They spent a good portion of this match counting along with the clock, Royal Rumble Match style. Meanwhile, Rollins and Ziggler were putting on a clinic in there.

They gave us a little bit of everything in this one. We had the babyface Rollins gain an early lead. We had Ziggler’s heavy Drew McIntyre come in to interfere. Then we had the heel Ziggler even it out. Then we had the heel go up, forcing the babyface to fight from underneath. We go into sudden death, a la Wrestlemania XII. Then it was McIntyre once again playing a role to give Ziggler the win. So McIntyre gets over as a force to be reckoned with, and Rollins and Ziggler get over as two workhorses, with Ziggler getting the added rub of main-eventing his first pay per view.

Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that this was the first time the Intercontinental Title was defended in the main event of a pay per view since Bret and Bulldog at Summerslam in ’92. So we’re not only elevating our two wrestlers, but we’re once again elevating the Intercontinental Title.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Mick Foley Returns to Promoland? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, there’s a nasty rumor circulating that WWE threatened to fire Paige if she didn’t break off her relationship with Alberto Del Rio. There’s obviously some truth to it, as the two of them were drafted to separate shows. Now Del Rio seems to be done with the company, and we have no idea what the future holds for Paige after her recent violation of the wellness policy. Coincidentally, her violation was announced just a day before Del Rio got popped as well.

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t mess with people’s relationships. It’s bad karma. It also seems to be bad for business. Live and let live.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahonPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley goes back to “Promoland” for Raw‘s opening segment In one of his books, Mic referred to the headspace he got into for big wrestling interviews as Promoland. Though it may have been written for him, I’d like to think this segment represents a return to Promoland for everyone’s favorite Hardcore Legend.

I loved this. Stephanie played the alpha female role, as she always does. But Mick didn’t cower. He humanized her with a sweet story, prompting Stephanie to melt a little. Some of that harsh exterior melted. And that last line about Steph possibly being a “really good liar and a really bad person,” was awesome. There was no screaming, no threatening of violence, no menacing stare, or any of the stuff we saw in some of his classic promos. But this was truly some of the best Mick Foley verbiage we’ve seen in quite some time.

Seth Rollins interrupts Kevin Owens’ victory celebration. Rollins really shouldn’t have said “bull crap.” It made him sound like a grade schooler. Just saying “bull” might have actually been better.

Still, Rollins brought a nice intensity to this segment. He actually got up in Steph’s face and got pissed off for a change. And once again, Steph wasn’t exactly fighting back. She certainly wasn’t emasculating the male stars as she’s done in the past. It was a refreshing change of pace to say the least.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Stephanie McMahon, Mick FoleyAlso, why is it called Clash of Champions and not Clash of the Champions?

They followed this up with a backstage segment in which Chris Jericho called Owens the “longest reigning WWE Universal Champion in history.” That was a great line.

Bayley def. Charlotte in a non-title match. If you listen to The Steve Austin Show or The Ross Report, you hear a lot about the importance of selling. With that in mind, I paid extra attention when Bayley sold her left knee after the half Boston crab. Really nice work.

So what happens after Charlotte and Dana Brooke break up? That’s obviously where they’re going here. Do they turn her babyface? I don’t know if I buy her in the hero role quite yet. She’d likely be better off going back to NXT at this point.

Bo Dallas returns to Raw, winning a squash match. Apparently a recent arrest for intoxication hasn’t adversely effected Bo’s career. Hell, it seems to be helping! He might want to ditch the singlet that says “outcast,” though.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. Now that Rollins is transitioning into a babyface, it’s time for a new theme. CFO$ and Downstait seem to be on the case.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Rollins’ athleticism should never be taken for granted. That diving somersault off the top rope into a neck breaker? Awesome. That frog splash? Excellent. The sad thing is, those moves would likely all mean more if they’d just made him a babyface when he came back. The transition is indeed underway, but he’s in that awkward middle ground right now. It could have been so easily avoided.

Sheamus goes up 3-0 in the Best of Seven Series against Cesaro. As was the case in the Charlotte/Bayley match, I kept an eye on the selling of the injury. In this case, the focus was obviously Cesaro’s match. We had some really nice storytelling here, with Sheamus focusing much of his offense on the back. The five backbreakers in a row were a great sequence. I’d have been perfectly fine with the match ending there. The Brogue Kick was almost redundant at that point.

The announcers talked about the winner getting a championship opportunity. But which championship? Does it go without saying it’s the Universal Title? I wouldn’t mind seeing Cesaro challenge Owens.

The Shining Stars def. Enzo & Cass. Big Cass got a real nice shine from last week’s main event. He and Enzo are still an amazing package deal, and he’s still nowhere near ready for a singles push. But he’s little more ready than he was last week…

The Shining Stars, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Of course, a loss to Primo & Epico doesn’t exactly help his case. These two have absolutely nothing to talk about other than their Puerto Rico shtick, which is long since stale. Can’t we give them anything else to say?

Nia Jax won a squash match. They established here that the jobber was a friend of Alicia Fox, and it looks like they’re finally giving Nia a mini-program. One I suggested last week, no less. They had a little backstage segment later in the show where Nia jabbed Fox about Total Divas and reality TV. Fox actually said the line: “This isn’t reality.” Hm…how about Summer Rae? Didn’t I suggest her too?

Gallows & Anderson spoof The New Day. I actually enjoyed Gallows & Anderson’s “Ringpostitis” gag, as stupid as it was. But I’m ready for them to get down to business. These guys should be the ultimate killjoys, not stealing from Edge & Christian’s playbook. Actually, this whole thing felt like they were struggling to kill time.

Darren Young def. Jinder Mahal. So Jinder Mahal has had three matches since he’s come back, and he’s lost three times. Good on ya, man…

Titus O’Neil was on commentary for this match. Any time that happens, I can’t help but remember him cracking up Cole and Lawler a few years ago. Great stuff. But if they really wanted entertainment, they’d let Bob Backlund do commentary.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Braun Strowman, Sin CaraAlso, can we not act like Bob Backlund is this frail oxygenation? He’s probably stronger than a lot of the active wrestlers.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara via count-out. Whaddaya know? Like Nia Jax, Braun Strowman gets a break from squash matches! Strowman also got a nice little story here about ripping off the jobber’s mask last week. I was wondering if Sin Cara would lose his mask as well. Perhaps that’s still in the cards.

Sasha Banks returns, teases retirement, will face Charlotte for Raw Women’s Title at Clash of ChampionsSasha wearing less make up was a nice, subtle change. She wasn’t dressed as the Boss. She was just herself. As she talked about the progression “Women’s Revolution” in WWE, I absolutely adored her for the line: “No more stupid butterfly title.”

I’d love to think this wasn’t scripted for Sasha. She really opened up and let that passion come out. She really got us too, didn’t she? We’ve seen a few retirement speeches on Raw in the last several years, and this felt like one of them. But let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have had her tweet about “bad news” if she was really retiring. I, for one, am very pleased her final chapter hasn’t been written yet.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. I’m very encouraged that they haven’t forgotten about Zayn beating Owens at Battleground. That puts Zayn in the title picture. He’s by no means in the center of that picture. But at least he’s there. This one didn’t top the Battleground match, but it was a worthy main event. The right guy won, with the champ going over. Though Owens may not be so lucky next week…

Mick Foley announces Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for next week, giving Reigns a chance  to enter the main event at Clash of Champions. Charlotte got pinned this week, and now next week Owens is in a position to be beaten by Reigns. I don’t like that they’re starting to pin champions on TV again. Those belts need to mean something. It’s bad enough we’ve got so many of them again. But if the champions and the titles aren’t protected, what’s the point of any of it? Here’s hoping we see the reappearance of Rusev next week, costing Roman the match.

Then again, that means the US Title is once again in danger of leaving Rusev’s waist, which I’m not a fan of. But let’s take it one week at a time, folks.

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

John Cena, the Anti-Main Event, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t get to watch Smackdown as often as I’d like, so this was a rare treat for me. This show is often a lot easier to digest than Raw. In an era where there’s so much content, since the brand split this show has left a lot of fans wanting more.

That wasn’t the case with this show. We had a recycled vignette from Raw and John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio as the main event. Go figure. I picked an off week to tune in.

Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Smackdown, August 16, 2016Dolph Ziggler lands a super kick on Dean Ambrose when the two meet on Miz TV. “…kick your head right off your face!” It’s live, folks. What can I say?

Ambrose has come off consistently strong in these talking segments with Dolph. He almost seems dismissive. This was a good line: “You don’t want it bad enough. You’ve never wanted it bad enough. And you’re never going to get it.”

And of course, Ziggler responded with a surprise kick to the face. A page out of the book of (Who else?) Shawn Michaels. These two are the dark horse to steal the show at Summerslam. But I don’t see Ziggler winning. More likely he loses, then goes heel.

American Alpha, The Usos, & The Hype Bros def. The Vaudevillians, The Ascension, & Fandango & Tyler Breeze. A decent time killer. Of course, American Alpha is emphasized as the team to beat. But to their credit, the Hype Bros have an awesome finish.

Eva Marie’s Smackdown in-ring debut is “delayed due to traffic.” Damn. That’s a hell of an entrance for Naomi. Psychedelic. Not sure how much I dig that ring attire once the lights come back on, though.

On the subject of ring attire, I was hoping for another wardrobe malfunction for Eva Marie. What can I say? In the absence of talent, I’ll take pure smut.

Randy Orton, Heath Slater, WWE Smackdown, August 16, 2016A vignette airs for the return of Curt Hawkins. For his sake, I hope his comeback goes better than Jinder Mahal’s has thus far.

Heath Slater def. Randy Orton via disqualifiation, is nearly given a Smackdown contract. I really wish we’d gotten a contract signing between Lesnar and Orton. Let Randy talk, let Brock talk, let Heyman talk. They actually got some decent heat when they traded finishers. Now let them add to that instead of just talking about one another on different shows. I’m still confused as to why Lesnar and Orton were drafted to different shows in the first place.

Heath Slater is really on the map this week. I maintain that segment on Raw was the best thing he’s ever done. The authority figures are almost heels at this point for not giving him a contract. I imagine he’ll get quite a pop when he finally does get it. Solid storytelling.

Dean Ambrose def. Eric Rowan. Nice win for the WWE Champion heading into Summerslam. The symbolism of Bray Wyatt leaving that mask on his rocking chair after the match was nice. Is this the end of the Wyatt Family? It may as well be. It’s not looking like much of a family these days. And Bray has been ready for a babyface turn for years. Literally, years.

Becky Lynch & Carmella def. Natalya & Alexa Bliss. After an appearance by Eva Marie and Naomi, a six-woman tag is announced for SummerslamOf course. They were saving Eva Marie’s debut for Summerslam.

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton, Summerslam 2016The Brock Lesnar/Randy Orton video package that aired last week on Raw airs this week on Smackdown. Little things like this add to Smackdown‘s reputation as the B-show. If this had been a new vignette, that’d be one thing. But this was recycled material from Raw. It was good recycled material, but recycled nonetheless.

John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio. AJ Styles ambushes him with the Phenomenal Forearm. Xena returns the favor with an Attitude Adjustment on the announce table. This was like an anti-main event for yours truly. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from their WWE Title program a few years ago. From a personality standpoint, these two just don’t have a lot of chemistry. I take nothing away from their wrestling skills. But they’re usually very one-dimensional. So why would I be interested in seeing them fight?

I read awhile back that Del Rio is looking to leave WWE again. If he can find an out, he needs to take it. He got stuck with that bizarre Mex-America thing last year, then he moved into a dud stable, and now they’ve got nothing for him to do. To cap it all off, they drafted he and his girlfriend to different shows. It’s like he’s the real-life Heath Slater. Run, Del Rio! Run!

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WWE Draft Picks, and Other Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seth Rollins Strikes Gold? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

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

The Brock Lesnar Blunder, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a company as self conscious about their image as WWE.

You’ve got Brock Lesnar, who in addition to being a WWE star is one of the biggest attractions in MMA history, under contract. You allow him to have one more fight, and it becomes a huge mainstream news story. You find yourself with a huge opportunity to rub shoulders with an organization that has the mainstream attention and legitimacy you so desperately want. So what do you do?

If you’re WWE, you don’t even mention it on television. Not a promo, not a commercial, not a mention from the announcers. Not one word.

Then on top of that, Stephanie McMahon does an interview with Business Insider and says…

“We are not supporting the fight necessarily but…it’s not a competitor to us and the more that our superstars, that’s how we refer to our talent, the more they do outside of WWE, the more awareness it generates and the broader the audience can be that is then brought back into our properties. So we recognize the value of that.”

Stephanie McMahon, WWEDo you? Because you haven’t said a word about it on television. They’ve had weeks to figure something out. They couldn’t have slipped in a mention? Why even let Brock fight if you’re not going to use the extra exposure to your advantage? It’s downright bizarre.

By the way, Brock had the perfect response to Steph’s comment about “not supporting” the fight: “I don’t care what she thinks.”

Ponderings From Raw:

The show begins with a Fourth of July food fight. Honestly, to me the only thing interesting about this was that Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio were standing together when the segment started. Aren’t they still enemies?

Rusev def. Titus O’Neil to retain the United States Title. Did they have to dress Titus O’Neil like Uncle Sam? How hokey can you get…

“Go ahead, celebrate with your hamburgers and little weenies.” Great line. And the right result for this match. The dominant champion wins with his finisher.

Enzo & Cass interrupt the Social Outcasts, defeat Bo Dallos & Curtis Axel. The crowd didn’t react nearly as much as they should have to Enzo reciting all the presidents like that. Bob Backlund must be proud.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, CharlotteCharlotte and Sasha Banks come face to face once again. This was really good. Charlotte came off very natural, and every bit as conceited and self-centered as she needs to be. From a talking standpoint, Banks wasn’t as strong. But she still held her own. And of course, she came out on top in the end. They also didn’t stay out there too long. It took just the right amount of time. Lovely work from both ladies.

WWE Champion Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz. WWE should be careful about how they book Dean Ambrose while he has the title. He needs to look strong, and not like a fluke champion. Clearly, he’s not their first choice to be WWE Champion right now. But champion or not, Ambrose will be one of the top stars on Raw or Smackdown. Having him win the title was a great step toward establishing him not just as a player, but a major player. But they need to keep him strong. Putting him at the top of hour two isn’t the spot I’d have him. In a champion vs. champion match, no less.

Still, at least he won. I’m not a fan of champions getting pinned. But if somebody has to beat the Intercontinental Champion, the WWE Champion is the man to do it.

Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler. Steve Austin said on a podcast recently that one of the things wrong with Raw nowadays is there’s no continuing plot thread that holds the show together. They’re just throwing matches out there. That’s a great point, and one of the factors in the ratings plummeting for that third hour.

Seth Rollins vs. Dolph ZigglerThis match had backstory, at least. The idea was these guys may end up on different shows after the draft. So Ziggler wants to prove himself against Rollins just in case. Fair enough, but it would have been nice to see Dolph make that challenge. And of course he lost, because that’s what he does.

Also, Ziggler’s transformation into ’90s era Shawn Michaels is almost complete. He just needs to grow out his chest hair. Better get on that.

Vickie Guerrero returns, vies for Smackdown Chief Operating Officer job. You’ve got to give Vickie credit. Her mic skills weren’t rusty at all. She was never a great performer in the purist sense of the word. But she got more heat than most of the wrestlers she worked with.

So they’re not calling them general managers anymore. Instead, they’re chief operating officers. Isn’t that Triple H’s on-screen role? So what does he become now?

Golden Truth def. The Vaudevillians. Has anyone ever had that kind of “follow the bouncing ball” entrance before? Golden Truth might have made history tonight…

Hopefully The Vaudevillains will get a jumpstart when the roster splits. They may be getting TV time, but they’ve lost the cruel edge that set them apart. That’s not good news.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, AJ Styles, John CenaJohn Cena calls out The Club. Enzo & Cass come to his defense. A six-man tag is booked for BattlegroundStyles talked about Cena “burying” him again in this promo. At least tonight we got a bit of insight into what he means by that. He talked about the “powers that be” who didn’t want him in the company. The implication seems to be that Cena can get WWE to push Styles out of the title picture. I wish he’d just come out and say that already.

I wish The Club hadn’t done the whole mount and punch routine for so long during the beat down. The fact that Cena didn’t come up a bruised and bloody pulp crushes your suspense of disbelief like a bug.

So Enzo & Cass are aligned with Cena now. I’m not sure what that’ll do to them in the eyes of the Cena haters. But I’m interested to see how they match up with The Club.

Becky Lynch def. Summer Rae. Happy to see Becky and Natalya getting a pay per view match. They both absolutely deserve this time in the limelight. For that matter, so does Summer Rae. She’s been part of a few bad storylines. But she’s a good performer, and can be a solid asset to whatever show she’s on after the draft.

The Wyatt Family, WWE Raw, July 4, 2016The Wyatt Family invites The New Day to their compound. This has turned out to be the feud I never knew I wanted. The whole positivity vs. darkness story really works.

I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get a confrontation at the Wyatt Family compound. It seems like a no-brainer to me, and maybe an opportunity to learn more about who these guys are. This would be a cool selling point for Battleground.

The Big Show and Zack Ryder survive a “Team USA vs. The World” elimination tag match. An utterly skippable main event. Why not put this at the top of the first hour, instead of the damn WWE Champion? On the plus side, WWE seems to have embraced Zack Ryder as their new resident underdog. That’s not a bad spot to be in. I just wish we hadn’t had to sit through this match for his latest feel-good moment.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

For better or worse, we move onward…

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Natalya & Becky Lynch

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Rusev

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

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

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

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

WINNER: AJ Styles

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE. 

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

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE rosterBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

Not because of wrestlers being specific to both shows.

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

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