WWE Money in the Bank 2020 Preview, Plus the Drake Maverick “Controversy”

By Rob Siebert

Why is everyone so up in arms over this Drake Maverick thing?

I’m the last person that wants to see anyone lose their job. I’ve been down that road. I have all the sympathy and compassion in the world for the real-life James Curtin and everyone else WWE has had to let go in recent weeks.

But if you’re going to get fired from the largest pro wrestling company in the world, I think this is how you do it. Because right now the world is talking about Drake Maverick. Was that the case beforehand? Nope. Will the world ever be talking about him like this again? Who knows? Either way, he was able to do what so many of the characters on WWE television do: Take adversity and turn it into opportunity. He got to be part of a great story. He didn’t get a happy ending. But that just means the fans would theoretically welcome him back with open arms.

And do you honestly think WWE would have played this up the way they did if Curtin wasn’t on board with it? It’s not his ideal scenario, of course. But he got to make make the absolute most of it. How many people under the WWE umbrella have gotten to say that?

Now let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison vs. The Forgotten Sons vs. Lucha House Party

I just had to look up the names of all three Forgotten Sons. Fittingly, I’d forgotten them. Incidentally, they’re Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, and Jaxson Ryker. These are your next Smackdown Tag Team Champions, ladies and germs.

Yeah, I hate it when this happens. A new team fresh off developmental wins the titles. Ironically, John Morrison (as Johnny Nitro) and Joey Mercury got that same push when they got called up all those years ago. But the New Day and the Usos have monopolized the Smackdown Tag Team Division for so long, and it’s dying for new blood. The Forgotten Sons are literally new to Smackdown. Miz and Morrison were a nice change of pace, but I get the sense they’re not getting back on that mountaintop. Heavy Machinery is obviously occupied elsewhere at the moment. Blake, Cutler, and Ryker might be the best option. Plus, they’ve got that whole three person Freebird Rule thing going for them.

PREDICTION: The Forgotten Sons

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Tamina

At over 200 days, Bayley is the longest reigning Women’s Champion in Smackdown history. I wasn’t aware of that until recently. The longer Bayley holds that title, the better her story becomes. If she can walk out there every week and say she’s the longest reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion of all time, she’s somebody important. She becomes somebody worth beating. Ergo all her title matches become special. To an extent, at least.

Mind you, this match is against Tamina. So how special can it really be? But it’s another successful defense for Bayley. Another log to throw on the fire that Sasha Banks will one day put out. At least, that’s how this should go. Lord knows they’ve gone nowhere with these two in the past…

PREDICTION: Bayley

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Baron Corbin vs. Aleister Black vs. Otis Dozovic

I give them a lot of credit for thinking outside the box on these Money in the Bank Matches, and having them be set inside Titan Tower. I love the “climb the corporate ladder” idea.

Whether it works in practice is another story. Apparently they’re going the “cinematic” route with this match, a la the Boneyard Match and the Firefly Funhouse Matches from Wrestlemania. I don’t know that you need that here. I think their regular style is fine for this one. Think back on all the Hardcore Matches we saw in the ’90s and early ’00s where wrestlers would leave the arena. What about the Hollywood Backlot Brawl from Wrestlemania XII? Why can’t they do that here? Apparently the men and women will be competing simultaneously, so it doesn’t have the same potential to be boring the way Edge and Randy Orton’s Last Man Standing Match was.

Speaking of “cinematic” matches, how do you come back from being buried alive? Winning a gauntlet match is nice. Winning Money in the Bank is better. That’s exactly what AJ Styles is going to do Sunday.

Could they give it to Aleister Black? Sure. Is Otis a dark horse? Yep. I’m probably the only person who wouldn’t mind if they gave it to Baron Corbin. But that briefcase is AJ’s to take. This is how he re-establishes himself as a contender for the WWE Championship. Ultimately, when that time is right he’ll take that too.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Carmella vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Nia Jax vs. Asuka vs. Dana Brooke vs. Lacey Evans

It might be Shayna Baszler. But that seems a little obvious, don’t you think?

You can make an argument for Asuka. Clearly Uncle Vinny is high on her lately. Specifically, her ability to be really loud on the mic.

None of the ladies from Smackdown leave me particularly inspired this year. Dana Brooke? She’s improved. But no. Carmella? Been there, done that. Lacey Evans? Nah. So who does that leave?

Sorry kids. It’s Nia Jax.

Yes, they’ve been pushing her really hard on TV lately. So she has the same sort of “too obvious” argument against her as Shayna. But think of it in terms of stories that haven’t been told yet. Nia Jax was the one who gave Becky Lynch a “broken face” prior to Survivor Series 2018. The combination of outrage at Nia and support for Becky helped propel the latter into the main event of Wrestlemana. Nia can argue Becky would never have gotten there if not for her.

Is Nia Jax legitimately dangerous in the ring? Yes. Keep in mind she wasn’t supposed to hurt Becky. We also saw that scary bump Kairi Sane took from her a few weeks back. But her in-ring skills, or lack thereof, have never stopped them from pushing her before. Remember, she won the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania the same year she broke Becky’s face. Would she be my pick to win? No. But is she going to win? Probably.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt’s alter ego “The Fiend” should be virtually unbeatable. Even for Goldberg. (Rrrgh.) But plain ol’ Bray is a different story. Strowman should defeat Wyatt here, leading to an eventual match with the masked man.

Under normal circumstances, Strowman vs. The Fiend is a match I’d have saved for Summerslam. It certainly has a story worthy of such a big show. But with things the way they are now, they may not be able to wait until August. So do we get some kind of gimmick match at Extreme Rules in July? Another Firefly Funhouse Match, perhaps? I dunno if I’m ready for that just yet…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins

This is random as hell. But that’s a fine lookin’ jacket Seth Rollins is sportin’ these days. I’m sure it’d look great with the WWE Championship draped across it.

Oh well.

Unless they’re pulling some kind of wild move here, there’s no reason Drew McIntyre should be dropping the title. For all intents and purposes, he’s the star of Monday Night Raw right now. A victory over Rollins is a great credibility-builder as he moves forward. I’m sure Rollins will give him a hell of a match too. I’m not sure if this quite feels like a match worthy of main-eventing a pay per view. But in execution, it certainly should be.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

The Silent Wrestlemania Recap – Undertaker and AJ Steal the Show!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Well, alright then. Wrestlemania XXXVI (or as I call it, “The Silent Wrestlemania” happened.

Was it weird? Definitely. Awkward at times? Oh  yeah. But was it bad? No. Not even remotely.

I tweeted this yesterday, and I’ll reiterate it here: I think the world needs Wrestlemania now more than ever. So as long as it was done on a volunteer basis, Vince McMahon was right to carry on with the show in whatever form it took.

So thank you to all the wrestlers, producers, crew members, and everyone that made these shows possible.

Night One

Cesaro def. Drew Gulak.
Admittedly, I didn’t see this one. Was busy during the pre-show. But hey, technically Cesaro got a singles match at Wrestlemania. A win at that.

Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.
Was surprised they kicked off the main card with this one. Not sure if they’d have gone that route if there was a crowd. But they put on a good match.

As far as I know, Asuka and Kairi Sane were the first wrestlers of the evening to play to a crowd that wasn’t there. Since Asuka did commentary on Raw that night, it seems like these two have been asked to be louder and more obnoxious. If that’s the case, they were successful.

Elias def. King Corbin.
True story: I fell asleep during this match. No disrespect to either man. It had been a long day. I went back and watched it though. Went a little long. At least Elias actually had a match at Wrestlemania, as opposed to in-ring skits. Then again, both those skits were with John Cena. Maybe he was better off before…

Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler to retain the WWE Raw Women’s Title.
Good match. Wrong finish.

The psychology was right in this one. It felt like a fight. Loved the spot where Shayna whipped her head-first into the announce table. But ultimately, Shayna lost to a version of the Bret Hart “pin yourself by not releasing the hold” spot. It’s a good spot. It’s just a shame Baszler has already lost a big match to that same pinning combo. Yup, Kairi Sane beat Shayna for the NXT Women’s Title almost the exact same way at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV.

Between this loss, the way she lost (though that’s minor in the grand scheme of things), and the fact that an alleged killer like her couldn’t win the Women’s Royal Rumble at the number 30 spot, Shayna does not look good coming out of this.

The upside? Becky continues to dominate. Plus, my guess is these two aren’t done. And there’s plenty of room for Shayna to get even more vicious.

Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Intercontinental Title.
These two were the first to really take advantage of the fact that we could actually hear the wrestlers talking to one another. That played to Sami’s strengths as an annoying heel. In the end, the right guy won. There’s still a lot Sami can do as the Intercontinental Champion.

You’ve got to wonder what Shinsuke Nakamura was thinking. It wasn’t long ago that he was challenging for the WWE Heavyweight Championship at this show…

John Morrison def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles.
I give these three a hell of a lot of credit for doing a spot-fest like this without any fans in the arena. It just wasn’t the same without the crowd reactions. Although those ladder shots did sound that much more painful.

Creative finish with John Morrison plummeting to his doom, albeit with the titles in hand. Fitting for the weirdest tag team title match in Wrestlemania history.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins in a No Disqualification Match.
You can argue this was the best match of night one. (More on that in a moment.) It made Owens look like a million bucks. As Raw continues to be in need of top babyfaces, that’s the best outcome they could have hoped for.

Braun Strowman def. Bill Goldberg to win the WWE Universal Title.
Yeah, this sucked.

I’m pretty sure we saw a total of two moves in this entire match. The Spear from Goldberg, and the Powerslam from Strowman. I understand Goldberg is somewhat limited in what he can do, and that this match came together on short notice. But c’mon. This was the best they could put together?

In hindsight, it was silly for me to predict a Goldberg victory no matter who he was wrestling. He does short term deals. That’s his thing.

Alright. So here we have it. Braun Strowman is the Universal Champion. I’d argue it’s about two years too late. But it happened. Now it’s all about the follow up.

The Undertaker def. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match.
Damn. He did it again. The son of a bitch did it again. The Undertaker stole the show at Wrestlemania.

He didn’t do it alone, of course. I’ve said that we’ve reached the point where they need to use smoke and mirrors to give us a quality Undertaker match. In this case, he not only had one of the best workers in the world in AJ Styles, but the entire WWE production juggernaut backing him up.

But even so, he did it again.

Before I go any further, WWE really needs to send Matt Hardy a thank you note for this one. They deny him his ability to work creatively, prompting his departure from the company. But then Undertaker and AJ Styles have a Wrestlemania match that captures the world’s imagination using the cinematic style he essentially pioneered.

I suppose whether you call this the show-stealer depends on your definition of what a wrestling match is. Jim Cornette, for instance, would not call this a wrestling match. The cinematic presentation, the music, the special effects. It was more like a short film. I saw someone on Twitter last night ponder if this is the future of the wrestling business. I hope not. I say you can only get away with something like this once a year, if that. But if you can do it, and it works…

Not only did this give us back the dominant, tough-as-nails Undertaker that we’ve missed, it told a great story. My favorite part isn’t a particular spot or stunt. Rather, it’s when Undertaker has Styles, and he’s taunting him with things like, “What’s my wife’s name?” and “You wanna talk about how old I am?”

I don’t think you could have done this in an arena. In that sense, the current circumstances worked in their favor. But one way or another the Undertaker, along with AJ Styles, has stolen the show at Wrestlemania. In 2020. Who’da thunk it?

Night Two

Liv Morgan def. Natalya.
Nice moment for Liv, I suppose. Though I doubt anything comes of it.

Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Title.
If you don’t count Undertaker vs. AJ Styles as an actual wrestling match, then this was the best match of the weekend. It should come as a surprise to no one that Charlotte Flair is involved. For my money, her matches 2016 and 2018 were both show stealers.

What made this match stand out to me was the tension in the air. This Charlotte/Rhea thing hasn’t been going on that long. But if you came into this cold, you’d think they’d hated each other’s guts for years. There was just this nasty, hateful, vicious vibe in the ring. I loved it.

Does it suck that Rhea Ripley lost? Of course it does. But if you’ve been paying attention, you knew it was coming. Charlotte Flair is the poster girl for their “Women’s Revolution.” She was the inaugural Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania 32. She broke Asuka’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 34. She was shoehorned into the main event of Wrestlemania 35. Notice a pattern?

However, as I speculated, these two were able to have an amazing match. And that benefits Rhea much more than winning a standard one does. Her star is still on the rise. So have no fear.

Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley.
What does it say about this match that the only thing I could focus on for awhile was the fact that Lashley was wearing pants instead of trunks.

Loved the closing spot here, the attempted Spear from Lashley into the Black Mass Kick for the win. As Lana was the one who called for the Spear, does that mean we’re headed for a Lashley/Lana split?

Otis def. Dolph Ziggler.
This match pulled off a rarity. It had the right ending but the wrong winner. Otis needed to get the girl in the end, and he did. I can only imagine the pop that kiss would have gotten in front of a crowd.

The problem I had with this one is that Dolph is one of the most decorated wrestlers WWE has had in the last two decades. Otis on the other hand, is a tag team wrestler who’s only recently made it to the main roster. Ziggler should have won. Perhaps by cheating. So Dolph wins the battle, but not the war.

Incidentally, why was Mandy dressed to wrestle? Was it just one of those “always bring your gear” kind of things?

Edge def. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match.
I give both these guys a lot of credit for this one. They beat the absolute piss out of each other in front of ZERO fans. Lots of creativity on display here. In terms of fighting all over the performance center, this was exactly what you wanted it to be. I can’t say I disliked much of what I saw.

Having said that, I couldn’t believe they let Orton choke Edge with the gym equipment. It’s been a long time, but that absolutely screams Benoit. Especially because those Dark Side of the Ring episodes aired so recently.

That being said, we need to talk about something I’ll call the Lesnar/Goldberg principle. They might have had the best built match going into Wrestlemania 33. And it lived up to the hype. But they only needed about five minutes to deliver on that. It was quick, high impact, and about as concise as you could ask for. They stole the show that year.

My point is, just because a match has such an amazing build doesn’t mean it needs to go 30 to 45 minutes. Whether a match is good or not usually has nothing to do with it’s length. Triple H’s big matches tend to have a problem with this.

The Lesnar/Goldberg principle. One to live by.

The Street Profits def. Angel Garza & Austin Theory to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.

The story here ended up being Bianca Belair, who saved Ford and Dawkins from a post-match beatdown. I assume will be with the Street Profits on Raw from here on out. Works for me. She’s earned her main roster spot. Becky Lynch is also going to need new challengers in the near future.

Bayley def. Sasha Banks, Naomi, Tamina, and Lacey Evans to retain the WWE Smackdown Women’s Title.
This is another one where hindsight is 20/20. I predicted it would come down to Bayley and Sasha. But for whatever reason, WWE avoids that match like the plague. Or in this case, Coronavirus.

I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of time they gave this match. The Smackdown Women’s Division may be cold right now. But they gave these ladies a decent-sized canvas to create on.

Also…no, Michael Cole. Team B.A.D. was not a huge part of the Women’s Revolution. Just like Team P.C.B. wasn’t. And Team Bella damn sure wasn’t.

“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. John Cena in a Firefly Funhouse Match.
Coming into this match, I was expecting something akin to the Boneyard Match, only it would take place in some sort of demented funhouse setting.

That’s not what we got. In fact, in over two decades watching this stuff, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like what we got. It was more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a wrestling match. It’s like they got together and said, “Bray Wyatt is crazy. So let’s just go nuts. Let’s throw shit against the wall.”

I’ll give you this much, I enjoyed its devotion to continuity. They really dove into history for this one, picking apart both characters.

I can’t say I enjoyed the Boneyard Match then turn around and say I didn’t like this one. For all intents and purposes they played by the same rules. But whereas I’d be game for seeing something like the Boneyard Match once a year, this is the kind of thing you can only do once maybe every five to 10 years.

Drew McIntyre def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title.
To my dismay, this match basically followed the same formula as the Goldberg/Strowman one. Hit the finishers a bunch, then have the challenger go over. In both matches it’s like they just wanted to get it over with.

Still, this one had the right outcome. Drew got his moment, unconventional though it was. One of the highlights of night two was him reaching out to the camera and saying, “Thank you.”

Congratulations, good sir. Your moment doesn’t look like anyone else’s, but it’s yours. So be proud. You earned it. You deserve it.

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

The Silent Wrestlemania – Previews and Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This sucks.

It’s not WWE’s fault, of course. But boy this really sucks.

Wrestlemania at the Performance Center. Wrestlemania with no fans. Wrestlemania with “social distancing.” All because of this damn Coronavirus.

Still, despite some awkwardness, I’ll credit WWE with making the best of an awful situation. They’ve gimmicked up some of the marquee matches, presumably to make them look different. They’ve split the show into two nights, which some would argue should have been done years ago.

The promos overall have been much better. Edge and Randy Orton, for instance, did some of the best mic work of their careers. Even the Undertaker got in on that action this past Monday.

But of course, problems persist. Several wrestlers, most notably Roman Reigns, have either opted out or been forced off the show due to complications related to the Coronavirus. So some of the matches I’m laying out here may not be the ones we end up getting. It should be noted that, as far as we know, this entire show has already been taped. So these matches have already occurred.

That being said, let’s take a look at what I call the “Silent Wrestlemania.” We’ll start with the matches that have biggest question marks hanging over them. Beginning with a match that might have main-evented the show…

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bill Goldberg (c) vs. ?

As he’s immunocompromised due to his history with Leukemia, Roman Reigns has opted out of this match. Can’t say I blame the guy. Plus, let’s face it: It’s not like he’ll never get another title match at a Wrestlemania again…

So now the pressing question becomes, who do you plug in to replace him? Who’s worthy of challenging Goldberg in a marquee Wrestlemania match for the Universal Title?

There’s been a lot of buzz about Braun Strowman taking that spot. He’s certainly the biggest star they’ve got who isn’t already booked for a match. But I don’t know that he’s ready for that big a match. WWE is still trying to rebuild him after all those months of bad booking.

Bray Wyatt is another popular theory. As the show takes place over two nights this year, they can have him wrestle Cena one night, and Goldberg on the other. If that’s the match, the Fiend should definitely get the belt back.

One name I haven’t heard very much is Sheamus. He was mowing down opponents before everything was shut down, and getting babyface reactions in the process. He’s a dark horse candidate. But one that might give Goldberg an interesting match.

In the end, unless they decided to make Bray Wyatt the challenger, I think you give Goldberg the victory here. Let him retain so he and Roman can have their “Spear vs. Spear” match whenever things get back to normal. Plus, Goldberg’s mystique revolves around him winning, and winning decisively. This would be a nice little notch to add to his belt.

PREDICTION: Bill Goldberg

TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison vs. The New Day vs. The Usos

Yeah, this one’s not happening either. At least not as advertised.

Apparently the Miz showed up to a taping sick, which was one of the things that prompted Reigns to bow out. So obviously, Miz is now out too.

What they do here largely depends on who they had at the building when this was taped. They could have plugged an NXT guy in there to be Miz’s replacement. Matt Riddle comes to mind. He one half of the NXT Tag Champs, but his partner Pete Dunne is stuck overseas due to flight restrictions.

But I would think the more likely solution is to simply have John Morrison defend the titles by himself. The New Day and the Usos are no stranger to big matches like this. So let them do their thing, and then Morrison can sneak in the back door and swipe the belts.

PREDICTION: The Miz & John Morrison

Elias vs. King Corbin

Because they’re splitting the show into two nights, they obviously need to pad the card out a little. Which is ironic, because there’s usually such a struggle to get everybody and their mother on to the Wrestlemania card.

In any event, that’s how Elias vs. King Corbin winds up on Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon is high on Corbin. Plus, he just knocked Elias off a balcony on Smackdown. So barring a surprise appearance by someone like Jeff Hardy, Corbin takes this one home.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

I’m not sure this was the kind of big Wrestlemania match Bobby Lashley had in mind when he came back. But hey, it could have been worse. He could still be stuck with Rusev.

Allegedly, had they not gone with Drew McIntyre as this year’s Royal Rumble winner, Aleister Black was on deck. That should tell you all you need to know about who’s winning this match.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

Dolph Ziggler vs. Otis Dozovic

Ziggler sent out a really depressing tweet on Monday: “15 years in the making & I am less than 1 week away from having as many singles matches at #WrestleMania as Michael Cole”.

Oh, what might have been…

There are bound to be shenanigans in this match. Mandy will obviously be out there. You’ve got to believe Tucker will be in Otis’ corner. Bobby Roode and Sonya Deville could be in the picture as well.

Dolph Ziggler should win this match. Despite never having had a singles match at Wrestlemania, he’s won all kinds of singles titles. Otis, on the other hand, is still relatively new to the main roster,and has spent most of his career in a tag team.

But here’s the rub: Dolph should win the match, but Otis should get the girl. Whoever is pulling the wool over Mandy’s eyes should be discovered, and she should leave Wrestlemania with Otis. Now if only there were fans in the building to give that moment the epic pop it deserves.

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Kairi Sane has been highly conspicuous by her absence these last few weeks. Heck, this year in general. So Asuka has had to do virtually all the heavy lifting on the Kabuki Warriors’ side of the build-up to this match. Reportedly, she’s been at home with her husband in Japan, having recently been married. She will however, be part of this match. Hopefully to take the pinfall.

Yes, when they’ve both been around, the Kabuki Warriors have proven to be a nice shot in the arm for WWE’s otherwise pitiful Women’s Tag Team Division. But it’s time to switch the titles. I say give them back to Alexa and Nikki, and then have them actually jump across brands to defend them. Rematch the Kabuki Warriors on Raw, then go against Sasha and Bayley on Smackdown. Clearly they’re looking to put stars on NXT. And now that everything is at the Performance Center, there’s no better time to defend the belts on that show. You’ve got some of the best talent in the world. Use it!

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

FATAL FIVE-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina

Originally, this was announced as a Six-Pack Challenge. But this match was another victim of Coronavirus paranoia. Carmella would have been a natural participant, but apparently opted out of the show altogether. Dana Brooke was to have been in it, but she wound up in quarantine. Ergo, we have a Fatal Five-Way.

This is yet another instance where they should have simply let Bayley and Sasha wrestle. My guess is it comes down to those two anyway. And what the heck? Let’s put the belt on Sasha and see if she can hold on to a main roster championship for once. That naturally leads into a feud with Bayley, which it feels  like we’ve been waiting on for decades.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

Austin Theory. Y’know, the guy who lost to Tyler Breeze last week? Yeah, he’s got a tag title shot now.

Not that it makes much of a difference. They’re working to establish the Street Profits as Raw‘s top tag team. No reason to have them drop the belts here, even if it were Andrade with Garza.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Well I’ll be damned. Sami Zayn is the Intercontinental Champion. I didn’t expect it. But I won’t complain about it. It does suck, however, that Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro have to essentially serve as his henchmen.

There’s no reason for them to put that hideous looking new IC Title on Bryan. His M.O. these days is obviously to help get other talents over, a la Drew Gulak. So he’ll give Zayn the biggest win of his career, and then I’m guessing he goes away for a little while. He’s about to welcome a second child into his family, after all.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens

It feels like these two were put together out of attrition. Neither had an organic opponent, so they were put together.

Still, there’s been some decent mic work leading up to this one. Particularly Rollins’ promo about being responsible for the Performance Center, NXT, etc.

The fact that Rollins brought up Owens’ Wrestlemania record makes me think they’re giving Owens the win. Raw needs top babyfaces right now. Drew McIntyre is obviously being groomed for the top spot. Aleister Black seems like a natural pick for that role. Owens is too. So let him get a big moment here.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

NXT WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Keep in mind, they wanted Charlotte to be the one to finally beat Ronda Rousey at last year’s Wrestlemania. Becky was not supposed to be in that match. So despite how backward it seems, Charlotte Flair is walking out of Wrestlemania with the NXT Women’s Title.

Still, all is not lost for Rhea Ripley. For my money, Charlotte been in two show-stealing matches at Wrestlemania. The first against Sasha and Becky, the second against Asuka. If she and Rhea give us that caliber a performance, it almost won’t matter who wins. Especially if Charlotte cheats to win, or Rhea hangs in there with her and just comes up short.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

BONEYARD MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

“Graveyard Match.” That’s what they’re trying to say here. I think AJ even said something to that effect recently.

This is a match I’ve been asking for since Styles first came in. Who could possibly be better equipped to give Undertaker a good match? Granted, I was expecting the match to take place in a ring. In a big arena. In front of people…

I stand by what I’ve said previously. There’s no reason for the Undertaker to lose at Wrestlemania ever again. Yes, the Streak is long dead. But an Undertaker victory is a feel-good moment. Almost a rite of passage. So let him have it.

One thing we’ve definitely learned this year? If you want a Wrestlemania match with a WWE legend, just attack their wife. Apparently it works really well.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

I know a lot of people didn’t like the biting angle they did with Shayna. But I loved it. I thought it made Shayna look like a vicious predator willing to do things Becky hasn’t seen before.

There was some buzz recently about Vince McMahon supposedly not thinking Shayna Baszler is worthy of this spot. First of all, she most certainly is. Secondly, who else could they have put with Becky? Rhea Ripley, I suppose. But that ship has obviously sailed. No one else was ready for her. And frankly, if Shayna doesn’t win the belt here, I’m not sure who they put with Becky next. It’s Baszler’s time. Plain and simple.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

FIREFLY FUNHOUSE MATCH:
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena

Without the crowd, it almost feels like a waste to even have Cena this year. Could he have given us an IOU for Wrestlemania next year?

I’m sure this will be something akin to the House of Horrors Match Bray had with Randy Orton a few years ago. Again, I like that they’re mixing the card up so not everything takes place in an empty building.

The outcome here should be pretty simple. Cena won at Wrestlemania XXX. The fans all knew it at the time. And as Bray has never really been the same since, I’d say we’ve been vindicated. So let’s correct that mistake and put him over here.

Now if only we could correct the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar match from that night as well…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Edge vs. Randy Orton

Edge may actually be right about making Randy Orton better. This is undoubtedly the hottest Wrestlemania match he’s been in since the main event against Batista and Daniel Bryan.

In terms of having the best build-up, this match wins and it’s not even close. It sucks that Edge’s first Wrestlemania back has to be in an empty Performance Center. But all that quiet has allowed him to cut two of the best promos of his career. Hell, Orton even had one of his best. This has been a great story. The veteran star comes back and gets betrayed by his former partner.

While Undertaker vs. AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena are taking place in constructed sets (at least that’s my assumption), I’d wager this match is the one that goes all around the Performance Center. Something like the brawl Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa had on NXT a few weeks ago. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Beth Phoenix cameo in here somewhere.

As for the winner, is there any doubt?

PREDICTION: Edge

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

In a way, Roman Reigns pulling out of the show is a blessing in disguise. There was some early buzz about Reigns and Goldberg supposedly getting the main event spot. Nothing against either guy. But that would have been really, really wrong. Roman headlined four Wrestlemania cards in a row. Let someone else have a turn.

Whether it’s in a jam-packed venue in Tampa, or an empty performance center, it’s important for Drew McIntyre to main event this show. Even though the show is way too long nowadays and the fans are usually tired and cranky by the end, the main event of Wrestlemania still means something. If WWE is serious about wanting to make Drew McIntyre a star, there’s no better way to anoint him as such than having him headline this show. In theory, anyway. Roman Reigns never quite got that big coronation, did he?

Barring Vince McMahon changing his mind as he’s famous for, and opting to give Brock another surprise Wrestlemania win, I don’t see any reason why McIntyre shouldn’t win this match. I don’t care who’s in the building. This is his night, and it’s his time.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

WWE Elimination Chamber Preview – You Call THAT a Main Event?!?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Last year, the events of Elimination Chamber wound up changing the course of Smackdown for most of 2019. Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan put on a performance inside the Chamber so captivating, the audience demanded more. And thus Kofi was suddenly thrust into a WWE Championship Match at Wrestlemania, where he ended up taking the belt home and having yet another match-of-the-night performance in the process.

The kicker? Kofi wasn’t even supposed to be in the Chamber Match to begin with. He got tagged in when Mustafa Ali got hurt. That whole “Kofimania” story developed organically. And it all started at this show.

If you’re expecting something like that to happen on this year’s show, I’d temper your expectations. Like, a lot. While anything can happen come showtime, in 10 years of doing this Elimination Chamber pay per view, this is easily the weakest card they’ve ever assembled. None of the marquee Wrestlemania matches are represented here. No Brock Lesnar or Drew McIntyre. No Goldberg or Roman Reigns. John Cena and Bray Wyatt? Nada. Randy Orton and Edge? Nope. But I mean, Drew Gulak is on the show. That counts for something right?

If I had put my hard-earned money down for tickets to this show, I’d be pretty pissed off right about now…

Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

I kid Drew Gulak. He’s a fine wrestler, and had a nice run as 205 Live‘s shooter champion before being sent to Smackdown. I can only assume Bryan asked to work with him, much like he did with Mustafa Ali.

Keep an eye on this one. On paper it doesn’t look like much. But these are two ring generals. I expect they’ll surprise us with what they turn in. As for who wins, I’m sure Bryan wants to put Gulak over at some point. It could very well happen here. But my gut tells me Bryan wins this round.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo

While I can’t take anything away from his in-ring talent, personality-wise Humberto Carillo does absolutely nothing for me. Which is why I don’t necessarily take pleasure in predicting he’ll walk out of Elimination Chamber with the US Title.

While there’s never a good time to get popped for a wellness violation, Andrade didn’t do himself any favors by racking one up about a month into his first title run on the main roster. Despite still holding the belt, he seems to be in the doghouse. We’ve seen these two wrestle a million times on Raw, with and without the title on the line. So why do it again here if not to switch it to Carillo?

The real question, however, is what happens to Andrade after Elimination Chamber?

PREDICTION: Humberto Carillo

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, & Sami Zayn

I haven’t had a chance to say it yet, so allow me to get this off my chest: That new belt is trash. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the classic IC Title design. It was probably the best looking belt they had. Why they felt the need to once again fix something that wasn’t broken is anybody’s guess.

I’m assuming the way this works is, hypothetically, the person that scores the fall on Strowman would be champion. Isn’t that usually how this kinda thing goes?

Either way it’s a moot point. Strowman’s whole character was built on him bulldozing multiple guys in a single match. Granted, those were job guys. I wouldn’t have made any of these guys cannon fodder. But here we are. While I don’t think it’ll be a squash by any means, Strowman retains and moves on to somebody new at Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Murphy

I said it before Super Showdown: Rollins and Murphy were put together to give Murphy a rub, and weren’t in it for the long haul. So there’s no reason to put the titles back on them here. I’m fairly certain this match is only here to do two things: Kill time on what has essentially become a pointless filler show, and to give Kevin Owens a chance interfere and then challenge Rollins to a Wrestlemania match. With the latter, at least it moves a story forward.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black

If that tag match exists so Kevin Owens can interfere, this match exists so the Undertaker can interfere. It’s really just a question of whether Black gets to beat Styles. I’m assuming he does.

I was pitching an Undertaker/AJ Styles Wrestlemania match as far back as 2016. I hate to say it, but we’ve long since reached the point where we need smoke and mirrors to produce a good Undertaker match. AJ is perfect for that. If anybody can give ‘Taker one more quality Wrestlemania match, it’s him.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos vs. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party

There’s an argument to be made for putting the belts on Ziggler and Roode here. They can use this match to further the Otis/Mandy Rose storyline by having Ziggler and Roode screw Heavy Machinery out of another big win. Then Otis and Tucker beat them for the titles at Wrestlemania. From a storytelling perspective, I’d actually prefer that direction.

But then why give the belts to Miz and Morrison at Super Showdown? Why not just let the New Day keep them another few weeks?

With that in mind, I can only assume Miz and Morrison retain here. I can’t complain about that, as I like them as a team. But the Heavy Machinery idea just seems more…efficient?

PREDICTION: The Miz and John Morrison

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH TO DETERMINE CHALLENGER FOR RAW WOMEN’S TITLE AT WRESTLEMANIA:
Natalya vs. Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Ruby Riott vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan

So this is the main event, right? It almost has to be. It’s got a Wrestlemania title match attached to it.

Wow. So Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan will be able to say they main-evented a pay per view.

I assume the story of the Riott Squad all being against each other now is the reason Morgan and Logan are in this match, but Kairi Sane isn’t. Unfortunately, the Riott Squad thing doesn’t work. They were villains. We weren’t invested in them enough to care about them in a high stakes match like this. What’s more, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have put them back together when Ruby returned. Liv is done with the whole Lana storyline, and Sarah Logan has done a whole lot of nothing since they broke up. So why not?

I find it interesting that they supposedly called off the Chamber Match that Roman Reigns was supposed to win because it was too predictable, and yet they’re still giving us this match. Shayna Baszler is the only one of these six who should even be sniffing the Raw Women’s Title. In fact, I’d have her be the last one out with no eliminations up to that point, just so she could lay waste to the entire field. Have her tap out four opponents, narrowing it down to her and, say, Asuka. Then we get two ultra-dominant former NXT Women’s Champions fighting for the right to face the Raw Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania.

In the end Shayna wins, of course. Ideally, she would have won the Women’s Royal Rumble. But what’s done is done.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Draft 2019 – Fox vs. USA Network…vs. TNT?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As we all know, WWE is holding a draft on Smackdown tomorrow night, for which I suspect the sole purpose is to beef up the star power on Team Blue. That network TV spotlight demands marquee talent, which I have no doubt WWE will provide.

I like the Fox vs. USA Network angle they’ve taken with this. While it’s obviously just hype, it makes the whole thing feel a little more real. This, as opposed to all the Raw vs. Smackdown “brand supremacy” talk we usually get.

Conspicuous by its absence among all the draft talk is NXT. That’s odd, considering there’s an actual battle for viewers happening between NXT on USA and All Elite Wrestling on TNT. Even if they’re not official draft picks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few main roster names pop up on Wednesday nights. I think NXT has a sufficient amount of star power. But if nothing else, a few moves would beef up the roster.

Presented below are my mock draft picks. Seven for each show. Some are rather obvious, and some aren’t. But let’s start with the most obvious one of all…

Brock Lesnar to Smackdown.
Brock is, of course, the new WWE Champion. If WWE really wants to draw eyes to Smackdown, they need their biggest marquee player on that show. Even on a part-time schedule, Brock Lesnar brings a lot of value to Smackdown. Even if they only have him wrestle on television a few times a year.

So who do you match Brock up with under the spotlight of network television? Cringeworthy as it seems, Roman Reigns is an obvious choice. There’s also a redemption story they can tell with Kofi Kingston. I’ve got a couple other ideas you’ll hear about as we move forward…

Shayna Baszler to Raw.
One thing I don’t see changing any time soon is Becky Lynch’s status as one of Raw‘s top stars. But since Wrestlemania, she’s been lacking strong villains to face. She found one in Sasha Banks. She can find another one in the ultra-dominant Shayna Baszler. Especially if they have even half the chemistry Becky had with Shayna’s pal Ronda Rousey.

There’s an obvious conflict here: Baszler is the NXT Women’s Champion. There are two ways they can handle that. She can compete on Raw with the belt, much like Kevin Owens did with the NXT Heavyweight Title. Hell, if they want to jump right into things, they can have her face Becky in a Raw vs. NXT match at Survivor Series. On the other hand, they can go the Asuka route, and have her surrender the championship unbeaten.

Dolph Ziggler to NXT.
Over the last few years, it’s been Dolph’s job to help NXT talents transition to either Raw or Smackdown. Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, and even his current tag partner Bobby Roode all started with Dolph in some form. It makes sense, as he can have a damn good match with practically anyone. But now that we’ve entered the “Wednesday Night Wars” era, it may be advantageous to have some of those matches on the black and gold brand. Ziggler vs. Johnny Gargano? Adam Cole? Matt Riddle? My interest is piqued. 

Sasha Banks to Smackdown.
Banks is undeniably one of the big trailblazers in the so-called “women’s evolution.” Thus, in introducing the product to a new audience, it’s to WWE’s advantage to move her front and center. It opens her up for feuds with her fellow NXT “Horsewomen” Charlotte Flair and Bayley, as well as less established names like Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose.

Asuka and Kairi Sane to Raw.
I don’t mind the Kabuki Warriors tag team as much as some people do. But it’s no secret that Asuka has been largely lost in the shuffle on Smackdown. And as she holds a tap-out victory over Becky Lynch, that’d be an easy  pairing. Not to mention a quality one. Also, main roster fans barely know Kairi Sane at all. So this could be a nice fresh start for her.

EC3 to NXT.
If you wanted to rank the various NXT personalities that have been wasted since their main roster call-ups, EC3 is near the top of that list. He never even got past the starting gate on Raw. So let him go back to NXT, get some actual TV time, then maybe consider moving him to Raw or Smackdown next year. Maybe.

The Revival to Smackdown.
Smackdown Tag Titles aside, the Revival’s alliance with Randy Orton has come off surprisingly natural. I’d opt to keep them together. Plus, on Raw Dash and Dawson essentially play the same roles as Gallows and Anderson: The no thrills, no BS bruiser team. Let them go to Smackdown and be the new centerpiece of the show’s tag team division.

Daniel Bryan to Raw.
I don’t know that Bryan necessarily needs to jump to Raw. It’s more a case of Raw needing him, what with so much marquee talent jumping to Smackdown. And whether he’s a heel or a babyface, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of seeing Bryan against the likes of Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Ricochet, and even Braun Strowman.

Natalya to NXT.
No matter what show Nattie goes to, she essentially always fills the same role. She’s the resident veteran. The “elder statesman,” even. She’s worked with just about everyone there is to work with on the main roster. She’s not likely to meet a lot of new dance partners, until they get called up from NXT.

So instead of waiting for the likes of Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair to come to her, why not go to them? As the AEW women’s division continues to take shape over on TNT, Natalya can be a valuable asset, not to mention a mentor, to the ladies of NXT.

Rey Mysterio to Smackdown.
Cain Velasquez notwithstanding, Brock Lesnar brutalized Rey Mysterio’s son on national television, and made him watch. There’s no way Rey can let that go unanswered. So as Smackdown ascends to it’s largest stage yet, I say
give us the ultimate David vs. Goliath match, as Rey challenges Brock for the WWE Championship. Want to add more fuel to the fire? Put Rey’s career on the line. That’s a Wrestlemania-caliber match right there.

Shinsuke Nakamura to Raw.
This move not only gets Nakamura on the same show as his new mouthpiece Sami Zayn, it gives him a new sandbox to play in. Nakamura has been on Smackdown since he was called up in 2017. Since we’re using Zayn to freshen up his presentation, let’s keep that trend going by giving the “Artist” a new canvas to work on.

Yes, Nakamura is the Intercontinental Champion. But that’s an easy thing to work around. Either have him take the IC Title to Raw and switch the US Title to someone on Smackdown, or have Nakamura drop the title while he’s still on Team Blue. Ali is an obvious candidate.

Apollo Crews to NXT.
Either they had no clue what they were doing with Apollo when they called him up several years back, or he simply wasn’t ready for the main roster, or both. Either way, they’ve tried various times to push this guy, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. The most success he found was in a tag team with Titus O’Neil. He recently went back to NXT for one night to wrestle Kushida. I say we send him back there full time, and see if we can find him a personality. Winning smile aside, I think it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned heel turn.

The Miz to Smackdown.
Miz is one of those guys that’s been there so long, there’s a spot for him no matter what show he wrestles on. But given how savvy he is with media appearances and what not, I figure WWE wants him on Fox. At least for a little while. 

But make no mistake about it, Miz needs another facelift. Something akin to Maryse joining him a few years ago. And if the rumors are true, he might just find one alongside an old friend… (Keep reading for more.)

Aleister Black to Raw.
It’s fitting that Aleister Black’s entrance makes him appear to rise from the dead, as he’s basically been a ghost these last several weeks. He’s done some great work since being called up, most notably an awesome match with Cesaro at Extreme Rules. But I get the sense they’re struggling with him creatively. So let’s get him over to Raw, where that extra hour of TV time will allow him more opportunities to be on television. I get the sense he’ll do better on a Paul Heyman-directed show.

The Ascension to NXT.
Honestly? What do Konnor and Victor have to lose at this point? It’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t simply cannon fodder for new teams on the main roster. But at one point, they were the most dominant tag team in NXT. Then they got called up and buried for…what? Getting too much heat? I never understood that. Either way, let them return to where they once thrived and see if they can get their mojo back. Like Tyler Breeze, their presence can harken back to the show’s early days, and educate fans about its history.

John Morrison to Smackdown.
Here’s one out of left field. Apparently John Morrison, a.k.a. Johnny Mundo, a.k.a. Johnny Impact, among other names I’m probably missing, has once again signed with WWE. And who can offer an easy bridge back in for him? His old tag team partner the Miz. I say we re-unite Miz and Morrison, if only for a little while, and let them challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Miz can help reintroduce the WWE audience to Morrison, as he wows fans with his unique in-ring style.

Elias to Raw.
Elias has a higher ceiling than a lot of us realize. Going to Smackdown was essentially a lateral move for him. But I don’t like that he’s been playing Shane McMahon’s lackey lately. His in-ring guitar segments are better suited Raw‘s three-hour format anyway. And by the way? Let him go babyface again. They cut that too short for my taste. 

Dana Brooke to NXT.
I’ve been calling for this move for years. Dana Brooke was called up way too soon, and that was in 2016. Since losing her role as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick, she’s been mostly lost in the mix. But there is something there with her. She’s got a great look, she can work the mic, and she’s improved in the ring. But, and note this is a recurring theme amongst NXT draft picks, she desperately needs a clean slate to re-establish herself, and gain some credibility. She’s not going to draw any viewers away from AEW. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be a viable player on the show. 

Cesaro to Smackdown.
If it’s true that Fox wants more of an athletic, sports-like presentation for Smackdown, you’re not going to find a better fit than Cesaro. It goes without saying that he’s one of the best pure athletes in the entire industry. If he has a few more classic matches with big name stars, he may finally be in a position to be a big name himself.

Buddy Murphy to Raw.
After toiling in obscurity for awhile, Buddy Murphy has finally started to establish himself on Smackdown. He’s had awesome matches with the likes of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Ali. But with this move to Fox, he’s going to be fighting for TV time with much bigger stars. Like Aleister Black, a move to Raw would mean a better chance of getting screen time.

Plus, Murphy got a plethora of intriguing opponents to work with on Monday nights. AJ Styles alone might be worth the jump. Consider the performances Styles has put on with guys like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. He can easily do the same with Murphy.

Bo Dallas to NXT.
One last “NXT OG” move. Because honestly, does Bo have anything better to do? Like so many others, he was called up to the main roster with seemingly no plan for him. Thus, he floundered. He stumbled on to tag team success with Curtis Axel. But at this point, B-Team act is dead and buried. So send him back to NXT and see if he can make us Bo-lieve again. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Bo once held the the same NXT Championship that’s synonymous with names like Adam Cole, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. It seems unlikely he’ll reach that pinnacle again. But stranger things have happened…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Extreme Rules Predictions – Peeking Back in

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a reason I haven’t written about wrestling in awhile. Simply put, the WWE product sucks right now. It’s largely sucked since Wrestlemania. I almost posted something awhile back entitled, “Lapsed WWE Fan Confessions: Why I Finally Tuned Out.” Because I had tuned out. I’d check the websites, and listen to a podcast or two. But as far as watching Raw and Smackdown every week? After more than two decades, I was done.

Why? Yeesh. How much time do you have? Among various other elements, we have…

– Uninspired writing, for characters that have become largely flat and boring, resulting in stories that are largely flat and boring.

– The continued over-scripting of promos and segments, resulting in something that, over time, bears less and less resemblance to the world we live in, and more like it’s own “WWE Universe.”

– The “Wild Card Rule,” which allows select wrestlers from Raw to appear on Smackdown each week, and vice versa. Raw wrestlers are allowed to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. Thus, everything is watered down, and the rules of engagement are blurred. What’s more, the two tag titles, two women’s titles, two world titles, etc, are even more redundant than they were before.

But the recent news that WWE has hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to serve as “Executive Directors” of Raw and Smackdown respectively, piqued my interest. While neither man supposedly has the level of control he will have (Bischoff apparently hasn’t even started yet), I was curious enough to get me to check things out again. While I can’t say I’m in love with what I see, my creative juices are flowing a little bit more.

So let’s take a look at what’s on tap for Extreme Rules this weekend…

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese

I was happy to see Tony Nese get the spotlight during Wrestlemania season. He’s obviously got the talent and the look, if not necessarily the charisma, of a champion. Still, Drew Gulak is just as deserving, if not a little more. He’s successfully transitioned from a comedic character doing powerpoint presentations to a credible and dangerous shooter champion. As he just won it at the last pay per view, I don’t see any reason to take the title off him now. Let’s let him have a little bit of a run and see what develops.

PREDICTION: Drew Gulak

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

I don’t know if you’ll find a better first opponent for Aleister Black (or anyone, for that matter) than Cesaro. So from a wrestling standpoint, I’m expecting great things here. But from a story perspective? This whole thing has been pretty hokey, with the whole “knocking on the door” thing. The split-screen segment between these two on Smackdown was almost cringe-worthy. Hopefully what they give us between the ropes can make us forget that.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Revival (c) vs. The Usos

When I last saw the Revival, they were losing the Raw tag belts to Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder on the Wrestlemania pre-show. Apparently, absolutely nothing was done with them as champions, so the belts simply went back to Dash and Dawson.

For all the talk there’s been about the Revival leaving WWE once their contracts expire, at least WWE has started showing them a little respect. They’re the champions again. So I say we just let them have the lengthy reign everybody seems to want them to have. Supposedly, the reason the Street Profits have been on Raw lately is because Heyman really likes their work. So in my little head, they’re the team that eventually get the rub from Dash and Dawson.

PREDICTION: The Revival

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. Big E. and Xavier Woods vs. Heavy Machinery

I’m really liking Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan (or rather, just Rowan) as tag champs. That’s one of the reasons I hate the Wild Card Rule so much. If both sets of tag champs can appear on either show, then what exactly are Bryan and Rowan the champions of?

The New Day have little to no use for tag team gold at this point, and it’s too soon to put the belts on Heavy Machinery. So Bryan and Rowan get the win by process of elimination. But also because they’re the best team for this spot right now.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan and Rowan

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

So here we have Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, two Raw wrestlers, wrestling for the Smackdown Women’s Title. So if they win…do they go to Smackdown? For that matter, if Nikki scores the fall, does that mean Alexa wins the title? How does this work?

In the end, I think we’re going to find out. I do indeed see this match ending with Nikki pinning Bayley. Whether she wins the title, or more likely, Alexa gets it, that advances their story enough to lead to a match between the two. Most likely at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley

Lashley needs Lio Rush. Seriously, he does. Rush was the perfect mouthpiece for him. Don’t send Rush to 205 Live, don’t send him back to NXT. Put him back with Lashley on Raw. That’s where he belongs.

I dug the whole set crash/explosion angle. But more importantly, I dug the way they followed it up. Both the wrestlers and the announcers took it seriously. And this is the kind of thing I don’t mind them mentioning across different “brands,” a la Smackdown and 205 Live.

As he’s meant to be a dominant giant, I’m of the mindset that Braun Strowman losses should be few and far between. That’s why he’s my pick to win. But because Strowman doesn’t have to be pinned to lose here, a Lashley victory wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’d be that much more effective with Lio Rush, backing him up, but still…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles

So here we have the rubber match. Ricochet defending against the now heel AJ Styles, who once again has Gallows and Anderson backing him up.

To give some credibility back to the Club, who apparently just signed new deals, I see them costing Ricochet the title. Naturally, that leads to a rematch of some kind at Summerslam, where Ricochet wins the title back. But for now, the belt leaves with AJ.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe

I love the good guy/bad guy dynamic between Kofi and Joe. So in that sense, this is a great pairing. What’s not so great is that we have yet another instance of a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown title. So again, what happens if Joe wins?

He won’t, though. As great as Joe is, and he is great, he’s always a groomsman and never a groom when it comes to these title matches. He’s the best pure heel WWE has right now, and maybe even the best promo. For whatever reason, it just never seems like the right time. Such is the case here as well. Granted, if they wanted to extend this thing until Summerslam, Joe might be able to take it there. But here? On this show? No. Kofi Kingston’s got the belt at least until Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

EXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL AND RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Seth Rollins (c) and Becky Lynch (c) vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans
Winners take all.

I actually like the winners-take-all stipulation for this match. Now that we’ve established Rollins and Lynch as an on-screen couple, it’s a nice tool for drama. Though I’m not sure it’s one they’ve been able to play up to it’s full potential. The audience is still getting used to this pairing. So to tease friction or tension between the two of them so early is awkward.

Like many others, I’d say it’s taking place about a month too late. Corbin and Evans have failed to win these titles individually on multiple occasions. So now we’re supposed to believe they can do it in a tag match?

Rollins and Lynch keep their belts here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a “Dusty finish” here, i.e. make it seem like Corbin and Lynch have won, but then re-start the match and have the champions retain. The ensuing Twitter explosion alone would be worth it.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre

You know what’s weird? They’ve hardly played up the Undertaker’s match with Roman at Wrestlemania 33. Granted, from a wrestling standpoint that’s a match ‘Taker probably wants us to forget. But it was the main event of a Wrestlemania, and Reigns has been calling WWE “my yard” ever since. From a storyline perspective, he took ‘Taker’s spot and temporarily retired him. You’re telling me there’s no tension between them? At all?

My hope is that this match finally puts an end to the Roman/Shane stuff, and potentially paves the way for the Undertaker to put Drew McIntyre over at Summerslam. With any luck, the bells and whistles in this match, and a decent performance next month can wash the foul taste of that Undertaker/Goldberg match out of everybody’s mouth.

I say Shane takes a Tombstone and the pinfall, prompting McIntyre to come out the next night and say ‘Taker never beat him. Ergo, the Summerslam match. As for Roman, next month seems like as good a time as any for a “brother vs. brother” match with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Wrestlemania Ponderings: The Man Comes Around…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what? This one actually turned out to be pretty good. Probably the best since Wrestlemania 31. As always, the show was too long. Once we got into the last few hours, I really started to feel it. Mind you, I didn’t even watch the pre-show. I went straight into the main card. But the show dragged a lot less than it usually does. They seemed to be trying to move things along fairly quickly. So at the very least, we can call that an improvement.

Let’s dive into the matches…

Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Universal Championship. These “impromptu” matches usually feel pretty forced to me. Especially when they have all the graphics and the music cued up. But if you put that aside, this was a really hot start. Certainly not what anyone expected to open the show. And it was consistent with most of Brock’s best matches in recent years: Hard hitting, quick, and to the point.

AJ Styles def. Randy Orton. This match definitely benefitted from the hot opener with Lesnar and Rollins. The crowd was still up and buzzing, especially in the early going.

That superplex from Orton to Styles was insane. They got half the rotation before they even started falling backward. A thing of beauty.

Not the finish I expected. Assuming Kofi would be winning the WWE Championship later in the evening, Orton would have made a great challenger for him straight out of the gate. Can’t say I’m offended, though. Even years later, I’m still amazed at just how much stock WWE has put into AJ Styles. He’s been a top guy almost from the start.

The Usos def. The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev, and Ricochet & Aleister Black to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.

Aleister Black’s entrance looked amazing in a Wrestlemania atmosphere. He came off like the biggest star in the match.

The announcers mentioned that Black and Richochet are the first team to have challenged for the Raw, NXT, and Smackdown Tag Team Titles in the span of a week. Mind you, that stat means a little less when you realize they didn’t win any of them…

Shane McMahon def. The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. So the idea here was that Shane attacking George Mizanin brought out this violent side of the Miz that we’ve never seen before. The problem I have with that is that from a story perspective is that, despite all the punishment Miz dished out, Shane kicked out of all of it. And yes, Miz hit a big move on Shane for the finale. But in the end he screwed it up, because it ultimately handed Shane the victory. So he doesn’t exactly come out looking awesome here. But maybe that’s part of the story going forward, with Miz feeling like he let his dad down…

The IIconics def. Sasha Banks & Bayley, Nia Jax & Tamina, and Beth Phoenix & Natalya to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. Never in a million years did I expect the IIconics to win here. Sasha and Bayley? Yes. Beth and Natalya? Sure. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay? Hell no. That’s not to say they don’t deserve it. But I was just happy to see them have a spot in this match. They’ve been so underutilized since coming up from NXT. They deserved this moment.

I’m a huge Hart family mark. But I’ve never bought the “Double Sharpshooter” spot. Even Bret never tried that.

Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Definitely the most emotionally charged match of the night. At least up to this point. That crowd desperately wanted Kofi to win the belt. Because they recognize that it’s real. It’s genuine. And what a moment for Kofi, his family, and the New Day.

My hat’s off to Daniel Bryan for helping make this happen. AMAZING counter to the double-stomp into the Boston Crab by Daniel Bryan, Never seen that before.

Samoa Joe def. Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE United States Championship. The buzz going into this match was that Rey had an ankle injury. So this was probably the best match he was capable of turning in. The upside? Hell of a dominant victory for Samoa Joe.

Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre. Crowd wise, this was a little bit of a dead match. The story was fine, and McIntyre is an amazing villain. But for whatever reason, this one just didn’t connect.

John Cena interrupts Elias with a “Thuganomics” throwback. Kinda cool to see retro John Cena out there. Throwin’ out some inside references to boot. As for Elias, working with Cena two years in a row ain’t the worse gig in the world.

Triple H def. Batista. It wasn’t until Hunter had the chain around Batista’s face that I noticed his nose ring was still in. And inevitably, you think, “Wouldn’t you try and rip that thing out?” Low and behold he whips out a pair of pliers. And that’s after he almost took a page out of Pete Dunne’s playbook with the fingers. Cool psychology from these two.

I don’t think anyone actually thought Batista was winning this one. Especially after the career-ending stipulation was added. Still, all things considered this turned out to be pretty damn good. Slow? Yes. Long? Yes. But still good, in the big picture. Batista looked great, considering he hasn’t wrestled in almost five years. I’d be open to seeing more from the big man, if he decides this isn’t his last match after all.

Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle. This match was about as good as it could be. Lots of people griped about Angle’s final opponent not being someone like John Cena or Samoa Joe. But this was never going to be a mat classic. I can’t say Corbin would have been my first choice either. But to me, this was more story-driven than wrestling-driven. In that sense, Corbin was a fine choice, and the right guy won.

Now, after getting a big victory like this, the big question is whether WWE can turn Corbin into a main event heel. It’s ironic that JBL was the one out there calling the match. Because Corbin has a lot of real heat that’s reminiscent of when JBL was WWE Champion in the early 2000s. At the time, people absolutely hated him. But in hindsight, he was one of the best heels they’ve created in the last 20 years. It’s just a question of whether Corbin has that in him.

Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was more or less what I thought it would be. A buffer match where the Demon gets a quick win. It’s actually kind of like what Balor did with Corbin at Summerslam.

Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to win the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. So…either they botched that finish, or they very carefully choreographed that so Ronda would come out of this match as strong as possible. Either way, it puts a bit of a damper on what otherwise would have been the match of the night. These three beat the hell out of each other. In line with what I said earlier, this was the best Wrestlemania main event since Lesnar and Reigns at 31.

NASTY fall off the ropes for Ronda after that dropkick from Becky. A little scary, actually.

I ain’t a mixed martial arts expert by any means. But to me a Double-Arm-Bar makes as little sense as a Double Sharpshooter.

Ronda with the line of the night: “Tables are for bitches!”

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Royal Rumble 2019 Results and Ponderings

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got a lot to get to. Like, a lot. Like most WWE pay per views these days, this thing went way too long. So let’s just get right into it.

Royal Rumble 2019. Let’s go!

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. Scott Dawson and Rezar. I was in and out during this match. I know Akam is out healing from an injury. But why was Rezar teaming with Dawson?

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev to win the WWE United States Championship. I only caught the finish to this one. Can’t say I saw this coming at all. Nakamura may have been relegated to the pre-show a year after his big Rumble Match win. But at least he can say he won a title.

Buddy Murphy def. Hideo Itami, Akira Tozawa, and Kalisto to retain the Cruiserweight Championship. I got this one wrong too. I called Itami. Nothing wrong with keeping it on Murphy, though.

I had the audio of this match on in my car. And I just kept hearing those kicks. I know they’re worked, but those smacking sounds are enough to make your skin crawl.

Asuka def. Becky Lynch to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Really good start to the show, which included a nasty fall to the outside. Mrs. Primary Ignition actually came in to check on me, as I let out an “ooo” when that happened.

Nice suspenseful sequence to the finish. Counter after counter, hold after hold. Did not expect Becky to tap out at all. Great win for Asuka. But they kept the camera on Becky after the match. Her story was obviously not over…

Shane McMahon and The Miz def. The Bar to win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Shane really went all out in this one. That leap from the top on to Sheamus, then going straight into the uppercut from Cesaro. The Coast to Coast into the Cesaro Swing. Then finally, the Shooting Star Press for the win.

Really happy that they brought Miz’s dad in, and that he’s part of this story. I’m enjoying this Miz/Shane thing for what it is.

Ronda Rousey def. Sasha Banks to retain the Raw Women’s Championship. I’ve totally lost track of where ___ the human being begins and the character of Sasha Banks takes over. But either way, regardless of my personal critiques of her attitude, Sasha showed us why she’s one of the best in the world. Not just because of her wrestling, but her character work. She and Ronda brought a great personal intensity to the match. Her facial expressions, the bending of the fingers, a la Pete Dunne. Plus, her borderline sore loser mentality after the match. I wanted her to pull a Jericho/Nakamura style heel turn.

Becky Lynch won the 2019 Women’s Royal Rumble Match.

– I wouldn’t call this a thrilling Rumble Match. But the ending was exactly what it needed to be. Becky as the big underdog winning in the end. And what a feel-good moment it was. For as long as she’s been left on the backburner, she deserves it. If you look closely after the match, she looked out into the crowd and said, “We did it. It’s happening.”

– Nice spot for Lacey Evans. It allowed her to do some introductory character work, at least for the mainstream audience.

– Very few eliminations early on. Do they feel like they need to have more women in there to maintain the audience’s attention? I think this match needed more stories. More rivalries. It felt like we were longing for something to sink our teeth into. Case in point, after the Mandy Rose/Naomi stuff, we went straight into Maria Kanellis and Alicia Fox fighting over a hat.

– I’m not nearly as familiar with names like Nikki Cross or Rhea Ripley as I should be. But I’m becoming a huge fan of both really quickly. Each has such presence and energy.

– Good use of the Riott Squad after Ruby’s entrance. Has that ever been done before? The faction picking people off from the outside? Really made the group look formidable.

Daniel Bryan def. AJ Styles to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after interference by Erick Rowan. You know who I really love? Angry Daniel Bryan. He’s incredible. Needs new music, though.

It’s not always the most thrilling thing in the world to see two guys work a body part like Bryan and Styles did here. But between Bryan’s viciousness, and the way Styles sold it, they made it work. I can’t say I was ever bored. That being said, the placement of this match didn’t do it any favors. After an hour-long Rumble Match and Becky’s big win, we were all coming down. It’s what smarks often call the “death spot” on a card.

So Erick Rowan is Daniel Bryan’s muscle, eh? Can’t say I expected that. But he’s got the big beard. So he at least looks the part. Let’s see how they pair together.

Brock Lesnar def. Finn Balor to retain the WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship. Really good match. Maybe the match of the night. The formula was what you expected it to be. Balor defies the odds to make us believe he can beat Brock, only to have Brock pull it out in the end. But they really went all the way with it here. Balor had the majority of the offense in this match, with that corner-of-the-table spot adding that precious element of believably. They made it look like Balor spooked Brock. Thus, even in losing, Balor comes out better than he was going in.

2019 Men’s Royal Rumble:

– The Rumble Match kicked off at about the point the show should have ended. Mind you, I was still excited for it. But it’s been said a million times, and it needs to be said again here: These shows are too damn long.

– Really cool moment for Jeff Jarrett, coming out at number two. Nice little nostalgia moment. I was actually hoping they’d do the duet. They’ve never done that to kick off a Rumble before! Elias didn’t exactly endear himself to old school fans here. But Jarrett put him over. At the end of the day, it was the right thing to do.

– Didn’t expect Kurt Angle to be in and out so quickly. And he went out with such a whimper. Great to see him. I just wish we could have seen more.

– While Johnny Gargano and Pete Dunne were more than suitable NXT entrants in this match, this big one for my money was Aleister Black. Out of those three, I expect Black will be on the main roster the soonest. Eliminating Dean Ambrose certainly didn’t hurt his case in that regard.

– While he was a dark horse pick at best, I wouldn’t have minded seeing Mustafa Ali take this match. He’s got all the talent in the world, and nobody would have seen it coming. His elimination of Samoa Joe was a nice moment.

– Ugh. That was an ugly botched elimination by Lashley. He didn’t exactly look almighty there…

– Surprising to see Dolph Ziggler in this thing. Much less as the guy to eliminate Drew McIntyre. Rumor has it he’s got one foot out the door. Maybe they want him to put McIntyre over one more time before he goes.

– For a few minutes, that Nia Jax stuff was downright spooky. Don’t for a second put it past WWE to put her over in a spot like this. It turned out to be pretty harmless, and even a little fun. But oh, what might have been…

– This match wasn’t as suspenseful as last year’s. But as with the women’s match, the right person won. Congrats to Seth Rollins!

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What we have here is a bit of a tradition here at PI.

It started as a take-off of something Barbara Walters used to do. She’d choose and profile the 10 “most fascinating people” of the year. I’ve borrowed that concept several times over the years, and the lists can be found in our archives.

(For your convenience: 2012. 2013. 2015. 2016. 2017.)

So once again, we’re back. On this year’s list, we’ve got a UFC Hall of Famer turned WWE Champion, a heroic underdog turned monster heel, a new hot babyface taking the company by storm, among several others…

1. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey was always going to be a marquee player for WWE. That was blatantly obvious from the get-go. And why wouldn’t she be? But realistically, Ronda could have put in half the effort she does, and made less than half the appearances, and still gotten by. She could have coasted on her name, a few suplexes, and some armbars. She could have taken many would consider to be the Brock Lesnar path.

Instead, Rousey has consistently over-delivered. Whether it was her debut match at Wrestlemania, her match with Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series, or even her title bout with Nia Jax at TLC, this has unquestionably been the best-case scenario.

Rousey has her critics, who would have you believe she doesn’t deserve the spot she has. While so much of wrestling is relative based on one’s personal taste, many of those critics need to be reminded that much of the so-called “Women’s Evolution” can be attributed to Rousey’s success in the UFC. If she doesn’t become the box office draw that she does, WWE has no reason to revamp its own women’s division. Without Rousey, women like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Asuka wouldn’t have the chance to headline pay per views or steal the show at Wrestlemania.

What’s more, Rousey may be about to knock down yet another door. It’s looking more and more like she’ll be part of the first women’s match to headline the show of shows…

2. Daniel Bryan
This is Bryan’s third time on the list, and it’s not hard to see why. His performances spark a ton of emotion, and fans definitely ran the emotional gambit with him this year. In March, we were thrilled to hear he was cleared to return to the ring after more than two years in a WWE-imposed retirement. The move raises a number of questions regarding other wrestlers thought to be permanently retired due to injury. Among those names is Paige, who thanked Bryan in her retirement speech, adding “…you give me hope.”

Bryan made his emotional and genuinely inspirational return to the ring at Wrestlemania. For several months, Bryan was once again one of the company’s most popular acts. Then, less than a week before Survivor Series, Bryan shocked the world by winning back the WWE Championship, turning heel on AJ Styles in the process.

Since then, Bryan has condemned fans for their consumerism, and lack of regard for the environment. In one of the year’s most talked about promos, he promised to replace the leather strap on the WWE Title belt. He’s literally gone from one of the company’s top babyfaces, to perhaps its top heel. At this rate, it’s likely he’ll once again find himself back in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania this year.

3. Asuka
Asuka is also returning to this list, having made it last year. The “Empress of Tomorrow” started her 2018 at the highest of highs. Since arriving on Raw in October 2017, she’d kept her fabled undefeated streak alive. She would go on to win the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble Match, earning a title match at Wrestlemania. She would face Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a match that, for my money, stole the damn show.

But that’s where her luck began to change. Flair shocked the world when she ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. A strange move in hindsight, as she’d simply drop the title to Carmella. The same Carmella that would later defeat Asuka in back-to-back pay per views. Mere months beforehand, it had been unthinkable that Asuka could lose to anyone. She’d beaten the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. But suddenly, here she was losing title matches to Carmella, and subsequently being mired in mediocrity, forming an alliance with Naomi. The two would lose to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay at Super Show-Down.

And yet, Asuka’s popularity has endured. Apparently, that’s what prompted Vince McMahon to add her to the Smackdown Women’s Title Match at TLC. Now, Asuka can add Smackdown Women’s Champion, and winner of the first Women’s TLC Match to her resume. It’s like the last 10 months never even happened…

So at last, Asuka has made it to the top. It didn’t happen the way any of us thought it would. But she is there. Now it’s just a question of whether she can stay at the top, or she’ll be lost in the shuffle again. One way or another, we’ll get our answer in 2019.

4. Shawn Michaels
It’s tough to remember HBK coming out of retirement, isn’t it? As big a deal as it is, it was drowned out by all the controversy surrounding WWE Crown Jewel. Not to mention the announcement that Roman Reigns would be stepping away to fight leukemia.

But indeed, Degeneration X reunited in Saudi Arabia to face the Brothers of Destruction. While many cried that Triple H, the Undertaker, and Kane showed their age out there, even after eight years away Shawn still managed to look pretty damn good. And while Shawn himself indicated he’d be going right back into retirement, there’s been plenty of speculation about “Mr. Wrestlemania” making yet another appearance at the show of shows. Another Undertaker match seems like the obvious route. But Shawn has no shortage of other options. I myself floated six of them.

In hindsight, I still wish Shawn hadn’t done this match. I really wanted him to be the one guy that stayed true to his word. But what’s done is done.

5. Tegan Nox
This one hurt. Like, it really hurt. You just wanted to reach through the screen and comfort this poor woman. She’d already been through hell, and now she was going to have to do it all over again.

Tegan Nox, whose real name is Steffanie Newell, was supposed to be in the first Mae Young Classic. But a torn ACL kept her out of the ring. For this year’s tournament, they were telling that story with her. In fact, she was one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Then, mere seconds into her second-round match against Rhea Ripley, her other knee goes out. We later learned she’d torn that ACL as well. It was a legitimately heartbreaking moment for not only Newell, but everyone watching.

The only upside in all of this? We seem to be on the road to yet another redemption story for this character. In the aftermath of all this, Rhea Ripley, who has gone on to become the NXT UK Women’s Champion, started a war of words with Nox on Twitter. So assuming Nox will indeed be back in the ring, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her wearing that title in 2019.

So get well soon, Miss Newell. Great things are waiting for you.

6. Johnny Gargano
As cliche as it is, I’ve got to go with the classic Harvey Dent quote from The Dark Knight on this one: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Former tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have put on some of the best matches in all of wrestling this year. But the feud has transformed Gargano, arguably one of the last old school babyfaces in the business, into a man consumed with destroying Ciampa. So when Ciampa wrestled Aleister Black for the NXT Championship in July, Gargano attempted to interfere and cost him the match. It ended up backfiring, as Gargano hit Black with the belt, and essentially handed the title to Ciampa.

A Triple-Threat Match was made for the championship at NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV, but a mysterious attack took Black out of the match. Gargano failed to win the title, at it was later revealed the he was the one who attacked the former champion. Naturally, a feud ignited between the two, culminating in a steel cage match this past week on NXT, which Ciampa would help Gargano win. This has lead to rampant speculation that this blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa has ultimately led them to team up all over again.

This slow journey of Johnny Gargano’s, from victim, to heroic avenger, to fallen hero consumed by revenge, to villain, is a textbook example of pro wrestling done right. Deep, emotional stories, told through amazing in-ring action.

7. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose was absent for much of 2018, healing from a torn triceps. But when he returned in August, he was once again part of the Shield. But seeds of dissension were quickly planted by rivals Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. We all sensed a turn was coming. But there was no way we could have predicted what actually happened…

Mere hours after Roman Reigns announced he was stepping away from the ring to fight leukemia, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins successfully challenged McIntyre and Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Titles. With emotions still running high after the Reigns announcement, Ambrose shocked Rollins with a DDT, and then a brutal beatdown. While many would cry foul over the timing, for my money it was ultimately one of the best things WWE did all year. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do: It sucked us in. Got us invested in the characters and their stories. It sparked raw emotion in the audience.

However, WWE’s handling of Ambrose since the turn has been hit-or-miss. While I actually like the new Bane-inspired gas mask look, Vince McMahon’s influence on some of his promos has been quite evident. He’s talked about how the fans smell, how they’re all lazy and unmotivated, etc. Very little with any emotional weight to it.

Still, Ambrose is an awesome performer. Given the right material and the right opportunities, he’s as capable of delivering the goods as anyone. And they have a potentially hot storyline practically gift-wrapped for them, as Ambrose’s real-life wife Renee Young is sitting there on commentary every week. She might just be the ticket to him becoming the vile, despicable heel we all know he can be.

8. Drew McIntyre
Daniel Bryan may have had the comeback of the year, but Drew McIntyre had an epic comeback story of his own. McIntyre reinvented himself after being released by WWE in 2014. He found success in Impact Wrestling, Evolve, and PWG. When he returned to WWE via NXT in 2017, he was almost unrecognizable.

When McIntyre finally returned to the main roster this past April, he formed an unlikely alliance on Raw with Dolph Ziggler. The pair would ultimately up each other’s game, and be a dominant force on the show for most of the year. McIntyre would prove to be one of the show’s most consistent performers, both in the ring and on the mic.

Now a solo act again, the “Scottish Psychopath” will almost certainly challenge for the Universal Championship in 2019. McIntyre’s near five-year journey from the bottom of the wrestling may culminate with him standing at the very top. Frankly, it would be foolish to bet against him at this point.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is back on this list this year, but unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons. He and Asuka were very much on parallel journeys this year. They each won their respective Royal Rumble Matches, but failed to win gold at Wrestlemania. While Asuka failed to win the Smackdown Women’s Title from Carmella on two different occasions, Nakamura was unable to take the WWE Title from AJ Styles several times before finally dropping out of contention. He found a little bit of new life as a heel, and won the US Title from Jeff Hardy as a consolation prize. But his run has been fairly unremarkable, highlighted by a losing effort against Seth Rollins at Survivor Series. And while I won’t spoil this week’s Smackdown, the odds of Nakamura walking into 2019 with the belt are slim to none…

It would be easy to blame Nakamura’s failure as a main-eventer on WWE creative. The guy didn’t book himself to lose, after all. WWE also didn’t seem to know how to convey his unique persona, other than simply calling him “the Artist.” Losing multiple title matches to Jinder Mahal in 2017 didn’t help either.

But at the end of the day, Nakamura simply didn’t connect with mainstream American audiences well enough to justify the push he got. Yes, he’s a bona fide legend in Japan. Yes, he did very well in NXT. But on Raw and Smackdown you’re catering to the casuals and the average joes. And while we saw flashes of Nakamura’s greatness, over the long haul we never really got a good reason to invest in him emotionally, be it as a heel or a babyface. You can’t chalk all of that up to creative. Much of it, in fact, a majority of it, is about what happens in when the cameras are rolling.

Supposedly, Nakamura’s contract is up next month. If I’m in his shoes, I’m headed back to Japan. Because I’m at something of a loss as to how you build him back up at this point.

10. Becky Lynch
Up until recently, Becky Lynch was “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” While her talent, charisma, and likability have been apparent almost from the start, WWE always seemed reluctant to fully get behind her. She was the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT to never win the NXT Women’s Title. While she did indeed become the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only held the belt for two months. She more or less became a second-tier babyface afterward. This, despite fans clamoring to see her in a more prominent role.

We got our wish. Now, Becky Lynch may very well be the most popular wrestler in all of WWE.

Many of us, myself included, balked when Becky turned heel at Summerslam. But in hindsight, it gave her the creative freedom to become the defiant badass she is now. She’s often compared to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that’s not entirely unjustified. Fans feel she’s been overlooked, and now they’re rooting for her to conquer the system that’s held her back for so long. Even when she was injured by Nia Jax and pulled out of a match against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, the fans stood behind her, every bit as outraged as she was. Now, she may be in a position to make history by headlining Wrestlemania with Rousey.

For more than a decade now, we’ve been in the era of forced babyfaces. Wrestlers we’re told we should cheer for, rather than heroes who earn those cheers organically. John Cena and Roman Reigns are both extremely talented, and great at what they do. But for most of their careers they’ve been going against the grain in terms of fan reception.

Becky Lynch is the exact opposite. No one told us to cheer for her. If anything, it’s been the exact opposite. But like Daniel Bryan before her, she’s started an uprising from the audience. And such uprisings should never be ignored, lest the main event of Wrestlemania be drowned out by chants of “Becky! Becky! Becky!”

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE World Cup Tournament: What It Should Be…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Sadly, this WWE World Cup Tournament has officially fallen under the category of “Things that Could Have Been Awesome.” Come to think of it, the whole Crown Jewel show might just be under there as well…

On paper, I love the idea. Especially now that the roster is as large and diverse as it is. You’ve literally got athletes from across the globe. In one big tournament, they can represent their respective countries to determine the “best in the world.”

But that’s not quite how it’s turning out, is it? Thus far, four men have qualified: John Cena, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, and Dolph Ziggler. That’s right, folks. Six Americans. And thus, the World Cup tournament is revealed for what it really is: Something they’re using to cram as much star power into the show as possible.

But what if it wasn’t? What if they took this idea and actually got creative with it? What if they took 16 guys from all corners of WWE, each representing a different country. You start the tournament on free TV, narrowing the field down to eight for the pay per view. Then you just do it King of the Ring style. The winner gets an actual World Cup trophy, much like Braun Strowman got that green belt for winning the Greatest Royal Rumble, and maybe a future shot at either the WWE or Universal Championship?

But who would you put in such a tournament? What countries would be represented? I’m glad you asked. Here are my 16 picks for what should have been WWE’s World Cup Tournament. And for the heck of it, I’ll even give you my pick to win…

1. John Cena (USA)
No disrespect to Kurt Angle, but Cena is the guy to represent America in a scenario like this. Not only that, but he should make it all the way to the finals. I wouldn’t give him the win. But beating Cena would be a hell of an exclamation point for the winner to seal the deal. Cena is not only a a 16-time Heavyweight Champion, but many still consider him the face of the company.

2. Rey Mysterio (Mexico)
They’re about to put Rey Mysterio  in this tournament on Smackdown 1000 tomorrow night. That works for me. Rey  belongs in a tournament like this, representing Mexico. While Rey is heavily identified with California, and was indeed born on the west coast, he’s the man most casual fans identify with the Lucha Libre style. He’s got roots below the border as well, via his uncle, they original Rey Misterio (Yes, it’s spelled with an i.) Something tells me Mexican fans wouldn’t complain about Rey being their flag-waver.

3. Pete Dunne (United Kingdom)
With a new UK-branded show coming to the WWE Network in the near future, there isn’t a better time to feature the UK Champion, Pete Dunne. We’ve seen next to no trace of Dunne on the main roster, which is a shame, as he’s the kind of wrestler most casual fans haven’t seen much of. Going against a Cena or Mysterio would do wonders for him in terms of exposure.

4. Alexander Wolfe (Germany)
Forgot about Alexander Wolfe? Yeah, so has almost everyone else. It’s not necessarily his fault, as they’ve done virtually nothing with SAnitY since calling them up to Smackdown. Plucking Wolfe from obscurity would likely mean a first-round loss. But at least he’d get a match on television. That’s more than he’s gotten lately, isn’t it?

5. Rusev (Bulgaria)
Rusev has literally been a Bulgarian flag-waver for much of his WWE run. So having him in a tournament like this is pretty much a lay-up. It’s not necessarily the best timing in the world, as he’s in the middle of a bitter feud with Aiden English. I can see Rusev losing a first-round match due to interference from English, giving an upset win to an underdog. Like, maybe…

6. Kofi Kingston (Republic of Ghana)
It’s been a long time since WWE played up Kofi’s Ghanan roots. That’s been for the best, obviously. But it would be an excuse they could use to involve the New Day in a tournament like this. Not to mention shine a singles spotlight on Kofi again. Let us not forget, there was a time when he was a legit WWE Title contender.

7. Jinder Mahal (India)
This is another one where you have to suspend your disbelief, as Jinder is actually Canadian. But they spent all that time hyping up his Indian descent. So it’s an easy sell. Jinder wouldn’t get anywhere near the World Cup. But it’d be nice if he got a first-round win, just to throw him a bone. He’s fallen all the way back down the card since losing the WWE Championship.

8. Bobby Roode (Canada)
Do they even acknowledge Roode as being from Canada? It’s not listed on his WWE.com bio. Still, he’s legitimately Canadian. And while things haven’t exactly been glorious for him since he came to Raw, this would be a nice way to spotlight him. So long as they didn’t find a way to shoehorn Chad Gable and the Ascension into it…

9. Aleister Black (Holland)
Here we go. Now we’re talkin’.

The former NXT Champion, and WWE’s resident evil Dutchman. Black still has unfinished business in NXT (presumably with Tommaso Ciampa), but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a few main roster appearances like his predecessors did. Hell, they could even do a first-round match on NXT. Either way, this could have been a great way to introduce Black to a larger audience. An audience he’ll soon be spending plenty of time in front of, one way or another.

10. The Colons (Puerto Rico)
You want somebody for Aleister Black to beat? Here’s your sacrificial lamb, right here. Does it even matter which one? Legitimate talent notwithstanding, these guys have been enhancement match fodder for years now. Sorry, Puerto Rico. You folks got the short end of the stick on this one.

11. Cesaro (Switzerland)
The Swiss, on the other hand? They did alright for themselves.

Regardless of what some might consider to be a lack of charisma, Cesaro has proven time and again that he can turn in absolutely epic matches against top guys. Roman Reigns, John Cena, Seth Rollins, the list goes on. There’s no reason not to allow him to do the same in this setting. While I wouldn’t have him win it, he might very well turn in the match that steals the entire tournament.

12. Shinsuke Nakamura (Japan)
Rey Mysterio is about to earn his spot in the actual tournament by beating Nakamura. But in our fantasy scenario, Nakamura’s first-round opponent would be John Cena. The reigning United States Champion faces a man who some say embodies the spirit of America itself. Not a bad premise, eh? Now just don’t drop the big movie star on his head again…

13. Buddy Murphy (Australia)
The reigning Cruiserweight Champion would be 205 Live‘s contribution to the World Cup tournament. And a pretty damn good one, too. Murphy’s been an overachiever since joining the Cruiserweight Division, turning in stellar matches with the likes of Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander. I’d be very curious to see what he and Rey Mysterio could do in the ring together.

14. No Way Jose (Dominican Republic)
Yet another sacrificial lamb, I’m afraid. I can’t speak much for how this gimmick got over in NXT. But it has absolutely died on the main roster. These days, it seems like Jose’s purpose is to dance through backstage sketches. Still, I’d give him a chance to bring his own brand of international flavor to the World Cup tournament.

15. Finn Balor (Ireland)
If anybody on the main roster needs a big win these days, it’s Finn Balor. Not a win over Jinder Mahal on Raw. I’m talking a big, pay per view quality, resume-building win. I’d like to say I’d give it to him here. But I wouldn’t. I’d let him go to the semi-finals, though. Have him lose to either John Cena, or the man I’d actually have take the whole thing home…

16. Drew McIntyre (Scotland)
Here’s your guy, right here. This would be a hell of a crowning moment for a man who got released from WWE, reinvented himself around the world, got back in, won the NXT Championship, and then started stealing the show on Raw week after week.

Drew McIntyre may not have been the “chosen one” in 2009. But in 2019, he just might be. And if they wanted to make this World Cup actually mean something, they’d give it to one of the guys that’s poised to help carry the WWE brand into the next decade.

But alas, that’s just fantasy booking.

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