John Cena vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania? Plus Ponderings From Smackdown

The Undertaker, WWE Raw, January 9, 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As we heard this week on Raw, the Undertaker is in the Royal Rumble Match. And as we know, the Rumble will also feature John Cena a WWE Championship Match.

This could be it, folks. Cena and the Undertaker.

It’s not a dream match, per se. But it’s still a match that’s been talked about for years. These two haven’t had a pay per view match in over a decade. They rarely even cross paths. There’s a good reason for that. They’re two titans of WWE, and the industry at large. When they’re in the same ring, it should be special.

There’s so often speculation about the Undertaker’s retirement. Will he or won’t he? And who will his final opponent be? John Cena’s name comes up often in that discussion. Who better for ‘Taker to ride off into the sunset with than the company’s biggest name? And there’s arguably no bigger match WWE can put on than Cena vs. Undertaker.

I’ve always tried not to overthink Undertaker’s retirement. I vividly remember people talking about this stuff as far back as 2000. So it obviously bears little fruit. Among so many other things, Undertaker has earned the right to step down when he’s ready. And of course, there was that cutaway we saw to Braun Strowman during his promo on Monday. They could easily be gearing those two up for a Wrestlemania match.

But is it just me, or does something about all this feel…different?

The Miz, Maryse, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, January 10, 2017Ponderings From Smackdown:

During the Ambrose Asylum, Dean Ambrose and the Miz announce their participation in the Royal Rumble Match. It seems like everybody has a talk show segment. Miz TV. The Ambrose Asylum. The Rollins Report. The Kevin Owens Show. Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. At this rate it’s a matter of time before Roman Reigns gets a talk show segment. New Rule: One talk show segment per roster. My advice? Do Miz TV on Smackdown and the Highlight Reel on Raw.

JBL: “So many people believe that Nikki Bella is the one that started the Divas Revolution.” Who? Who thinks that? Point them out to me. I want to see them.

Nikki Bella vs Natalya turned into a brawl. I’ll give Nikki credit, though. She came out there full of piss and vinegar, and put on a really convincing catfight with Nattie. At certain points they were really pounding the crap out of each other. I’ve been a Nikki Bella critic for sure. But she deserves credit for what she did out there. And that visual of Nikki in the Sharpshooter on the outside was tremendous.

Question: How much do you think these two are trying to compete with what Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks did on Raw?

Dolph Ziggler, Kalisto, WWE Smackdown, January 10, 2017Kalisto def. Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler lays out both Kalisto and Apollo Crews with a chair. Damn. Even as a heel, Dolph can’t win. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Nice little temper tantrum after the match. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ziggler and Kalisto hook up again. I imagine they can do some really cool stuff together.

Really liked Chad Gable’s selling during this match. And as always, they were both explosive as hell. They’re suplex machines. Even in defeat, Wyatt and Orton were able to come off like the more experienced, main event level talents they obviously are.

Next week: Alexa Bliss defends the Smackdown Women’s Title against Becky Lynch in a Steel Cage Match. I love it. The last time I remember the women getting a steel cage match (not to be confused with Hell in a Cell) was when Lita and Victoria had one on Raw in 2004. This should be good.

John Cena def. Baron Corbin. Cena cut a really good promo earlier in the show. And why was it so good? Because he looked into the camera. Why we don’t see more of that is beyond me. To his credit, Corbin would later cut a pretty good one too. His stock is clearly on the rise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as one of the final four guys in the Royal Rumble Match.

John Cena, Baron Corbin, WWE Smackdown, January 10, 2017That’s why it was a surprise to see Cena pin him clean with the Attitude Adjustment. I suppose it makes sense to have Cena stay strong as we get closer to the Rumble. But remember, this is John Cena. Strong has been his status quo for about a decade now. It seems odd they’d do this with Corbin.

But it’s just one match. It’s not like Corbin hasn’t been pinned before. What’s more, he looked pretty good in there with Cena. He’s slowly making me a believer. Slowly.

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Roman Reigns and the US Title, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Roman Reigns, United State ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s going to be some talk about the Miz and the Intercontinental Title this week. So as long as we’re on the subject of secondary titles, let’s talk about the US Championship. And with it, everyone’s favorite person: Roman Reigns.

I’m not sure exactly why the decision was made to put the US Title on Reigns. I can only assume it had something to do with keeping him out of the main event scene following his suspension. You also had the added bonus of elevating the title by putting it on a top guy. They did the exact same thing with John Cena and the US Championship in 2015. Cena, of course had great matches as part of his “US Open” challenge segments.

I’m not a big Roman Reigns fan. And at this point, I could take or leave him as US Champion. I was all for putting the belt on Chris Jericho this week. But I also think it’s unfair to compare the attempt to elevate the title with Reigns to what was done with Cena. The stuff with Reigns started as an attempt to turn a pretty big lemon into lemonade. They were making the best of a bad situation. With Cena it seemed like a more concentrated attempt to not just elevate the title, but give him something new to do each week. With Cena, the belt was a priority. With Reigns, it’s a byproduct.

I do, however, think Reigns has run his course as US Champ. The question is, who do you put the belt on now? Putting it on Jericho would be fine, but that’s almost a lateral move. He doesn’t need the belt any more than Reigns does. They could always give it back to Rusev, I suppose.

Hey, is Sami Zayn done with Braun Strowman now? It seems like he might need something to do…

The Miz, Maryse, WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

The Miz demands an apology from Renee Young, gets Dean Ambrose instead. Maryse slaps Ambrose. I haven’t had a chance to talk about this Miz/Renee Young stuff yet. Simply put: I love it. They’re blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, as the best wrestling angles often do. Plus, Young is so easy to like, and Miz is so easy to hate. It’s made for some really interesting television. I loved the line about how she “sacrificed her journalistic integrity for dirty deeds with Dean Ambrose.”

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. Kalisto saves Ziggler from further punishment, but Ziggler surprises him with a superkick. While he may still lack sufficient mic skills, this is the second consecutive week Corbin has been in a really good match. You obviously can’t discount the skills of Dolph Ziggler, who was in there with him both times. But credit where credit is due.

It looks like Dolph is finally turning heel. Long overdue. I’m excited for what we’ll see from him in the next few weeks.

Becky Lynch def. La Luchadora. During the match, Alexa Bliss pulls a switcheroo, entering the ring in a La Luchadora costume. Rumor has it Mickie James will be the one under the La Luchadora mask. Reportedly it’s NXT talent Deonna Purrazzo that’s actually been under the mask these past few weeks. I’m not sure they need to go that route to bring Mickie back. Clearly a lot of fans remember her. But it’s a fine pay off.

WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2017, AJ Styles, John CenaAJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for their WWE Title Match at the Royal Rumble. Baron Corbin comes out to announce he’s in the Royal Rumble Match. This was another one of those segments where somebody comes at Cena hard, blurring a bit of truth into what they say, and then Cena comes back with a big rah-rah speech. It’s always a fine segment. But it’s nothing too special. As we’ve seen, Cena and Styles do their best talking from bell to bell.

 Carmella def. Aliyah. So the story with Carmella and James Ellsworth will obviously end with her turning on him and breaking his heart. From a character standpoint, that’s fine. But Ellsworth is not good at the acting side of things. Nothing with depth to it, at least. Best case scenario is this gives him a chance to sharpen up.

American Alpha def. Breezango. A tag title rematch with the Wyatt Family is announced for next week.  I was blown away to see Jason Jordan and Chad Gable win the Smackdown tag belts last week. These guys were always going to be tag champs. I just expected they’d wait a little longer. Zack Ryder’s knee injury obviously sped things up. They even got to pin Randy Orton with their finish! I don’t expect the Wyatts to regain the belts next week either.

Nikki Bella and Natalya trade insults in the ring. I keep coming back to the notion of blurred lines between fantasy and reality. In this segment Nattie said things that a lot of fans have said for years about Nikki getting opportunities because of her looks. Nikki fired back with some intriguing stuff about Nattie using her family’s legacy to get ahead. They ended it with a corny line about dying alone. But this was good stuff.

Natalya, Nikki Bella, WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2017I’ve harped on quite a bit about scripted promos lately. I’m not sure how scripted this was. But there’s always something to be said for good writing, and the writing on this show has stepped up significantly.

Dean Ambrose def. the Miz to win the Intercontinental Title. Miz snaps on Talking SmackThere are two schools of thought here. I’ll give you both…

Initially, I felt the same way about this that I felt about Dolph Ziggler beating Miz for the belt at No Mercy. Miz and Marise’s presentation is better with that Intercontinental Title, and chances are they’ll give it right back to Miz anyway. So why bother beating him for it?

On the other hand, look at what they did on Talking Smack, with Miz talking about Ambrose getting the title match because of Daniel Bryan’s friendship with Renee Young. Miz got a little bit silly at the end. But you can see how that character believes he’s right. He’s not the best wrestler, but in so many ways Miz is the most interesting character on Smackdown right now. Maybe in WWE altogether.

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A WWE Survivor Series 2016 Preview – A Battle With No Consequences

Team Raw, WWE Raw, November 14, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m still a little grumpy at WWE after this week’s Raw. Because all my questions still apply. At Survivor Series, what happens to the winning show? What happens to the losing show?  And why should I care?

Assuming they continue with this brand split stuff, the Raw vs. Smackdown format is a good hook for Survivor Series. But this show needs consequences. If Raw beats Smackdown, do they get to pluck a couple of guys from their roster? Do they get the first pick in the next draft? Do they get exclusive rights to a previously shared show, like Money in the Bank? Do they get a gaudy trophy? What’s at stake? We’ve gotten vague threats from Stephanie McMahon, and even the Undertaker. But nothing specific.

In previous years, this is where they’ve run into problems with the Raw vs. Smackdown stuff. There is no real competition between the two shows. That “ratings war” they occasionally bring up is all pretend. Viewers aren’t going to flock to one show over the other depending on who wins at Survivor Series. This isn’t like the World Series, where teams battle through elimination all year. We need a prize to fight for. Otherwise, what does it even matter?

Let’s get to predictions…

Brian Kendrick, Kalisto, WWE Survivor Series 2016STIPULATION MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Brian Kendrick (c) vs. Kalisto
If Kalisto wins, the cruiserweight division goes to Smackdown.

One would think the Cruiserweight Division would be better on Smackdown, what with Mauro Ranallo being there to call the action. But Raw needs the cruiserweights to help fill three hours every week. If anything, it should be Kalisto going to Raw. Taking the belt off Kendrick wouldn’t be a big shock. But it seems like it would be a big misstep.

PREDICTION: Brian Kendrick

The Miz, Sami Zayn, WWE Survivor Series 2016WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Sami Zayn

Like the cruiserweight situation, moving the Intercontinental Title to Raw would be a big misstep. Unless they somehow move the US Title to Smackdown. But why bother? No need to fix something that isn’t broken.

Having Dolph Ziggler in this match would have made it a more thrilling watch. But it’s still a nice way to break up all the multi-man matches.

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler

WWE Survivor Series 2016, Women's MatchSURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, & Alicia Fox
Vs.
Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, & Carmella

Nikki Bella being the captain of the Smackdown team stands out like a sore thumb. Becky Lynch is standing right behind her with the title. It’s just weird.

With Nia Jax on the red team, I’d wager they come out of this with the win. They could always remove Nia via count-out or DQ, but I imagine they’ll do that with Braun Strowman later. My gut says our survivors are Nia and Charlotte. I imagine Charlotte continues her feud with Bayley next month, and we get a little something with Sasha and Nia. Though I maintain some sort of bullying story between Nia and Bayley would be great.

PREDICTION: Team Raw

WWE Survivor Series 2016, Tag Team MatchSURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
The New DayGallows & Anderson, Enzo & Cass, Cesaro & Sheamus, & the Shining Stars
Vs.
Heath Slater & Rhyno, American Alpha, the Usos, the  Hype Bros, & Breezango. 

Sixteen guys? What a mess…

So if one member of a team gets pinned, both guys are out. Thus, I imagine we’ll see some eliminations rather quickly just to thin out the herd. Breezango and the Shining Stars? Thanks for coming.

With Raw winning the women’s match, Smackdown should take this one to make the next match the tie-breaker. So I’d wager a disagreement between New Day and Sheamus & Cesaro cost Raw the match. As for which Smackdown guys survive, it’s hard to bet against American Alpha. Those guys are a long-term investment that should be protected.

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

WWE Survivor Series 2016, Main Event MatchSURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, & Braun Strowman
Vs.
AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, & Shane McMahon

This should be a good one. There’s been no shortage of build to this match, as a lot of their big-money ball players are in it. It feels like there should be more riding on it. In reality, it’s just another match.

Keep in mind, we’ve got two pay per view main events announced for next month: Owens against Reigns, and Styles against Ambrose. So they’ll want to throw in some friction between those guys. I imagine we’ll also have some kind of Shield moment between Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins. There also seems to be a little bit of interest in Braun and Bray, so perhaps those two will end up brawling on the outside, and that’s how we get out count-out.

To me, the finish of this match hinges on how WWE has booked Kevin Owens. He’s beatable champion, which makes sense given how he won the belt. AJ Styles, on the other hand, is Mr. Smackdown. A heel champion? Yes. But he’s also the guy who beat John Cena clean at Summerslam. So if you have to beat one of these guys, Kevin Owens is the one to go with.

So keeping in mind that we’ve got Owens vs. Reigns to build to at Roadblock, while also slow burning this Owens/Jericho program, I say something happens between the three of them to cost Team Raw the match. This will then allow heel commissioner Stephanie McMahon to do her heel authority figure shtick and punish everybody.

As for the Smackdown side of things, my guess is Ambrose comes out looking strong. We’ve seen Styles and Ambrose multiple times already, so at the very least they have to make us believe he can beat AJ at TLC next month. Who he goes with at the Rumble in January is a toss up. Randy Orton? Is it too far-fetched to suggest the Undertaker? They’ve got a big dome to fill up, after all.

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

WWE Survivor Series 2016, Bill Goldberg, Brock LesnarBill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar

The clock will be an interesting factor in this match. Goldberg wasn’t exactly known for giving us lengthy Ric Flair style classics. After all these years away from the ring, it would behoove them to keep that in mind.

I don’t see how Brock doesn’t win this one. He’s still in the position to make WWE a lot of money as the invincible monster that ended the Undertaker’s undefeated streak and victimized John Cena. The reaction to Goldberg has been great (with one exception), but they’re nostalgia pops. Brock is the guy to go with here.

This is why I’m banking on Goldberg coming back one more time at Wrestlemania against somebody like Rusev. They’ve built him up as this heroic family man who’s coming back one more time so his son can see him wrestle, all so he can lose to Brock? I don’t buy it. These next few months are likely Goldberg’s last hurrah, so they need to send him out on a high note. In essence, they need to do the opposite of what they did with Sting.

Just be careful, guys.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

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Will WWE Acquire TNA? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

TNA Impact logoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s about that time, isn’t it? Crunch time for TNA.

Reports have surfaced that the financial well is running dry at TNA again. This time, WWE is reportedly in talks with Dixie Carter to buy the company, acquire the tape library, and cease operations. On the other hand, Billy Corgan is at the table. TNA may end up in his hands, as many have speculated. Either way, TNA’s future will reportedly be decided in a matter of days.

I’ve never felt good about the idea of WWE buying TNA. The purchase of WCW, while great for WWE, was not a good thing for wrestling at large. That competition brought out the best in both companies, and in the end the fans were the true winners. Without WCW, WWE lost a certain drive they’ve never gotten back. While you can certainly argue WWE competes with everything else on television,more major wrestling organizations obviously mean a healthier industry at large.

But to that point, the industry is in a different place today than it was when WCW went under in 2001. For starters, TNA is not WCW. They wanted you to believe they were competition for WWE. But despite involvement from a lot of the same people, and major marquee talent like Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley and the Hardys, that was never the case. That’s why TNA’s attempt to go head-to-head with Raw failed. Both WCW and TNA had big financial backers that enabled them to grow leaps and bounds. But what may have hurt TNA more than anything is that both wrestling personalities and wrestling fans saw it for what they wanted it to be: WCW reborn.

Dixie Carter, Billy Corgan, TNAAlso, while the market for wrestling may be smaller than it was in 2001, the advancement of the internet means wrestling fans get to see more promotions than ever before. Lucha Underground is a distinct alternative, as are Ring of Honor are New Japan Pro Wrestling. We also have smaller promotions like EVOLVE, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, etc. None of these smaller alternatives existed when WCW went down.

I’ve never rooted for TNA to die. But if the time has come to let it go, then so be it. It’s such a tarnished brand at this point, the best choice might be for it to live on through the WWE Network. Consider all the TNA alumni WWE has right now: Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Eric Young, and the damn WWE Champion AJ Styles. You’ve also got content for Hall of Famers like Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T., etc.

Still, I’m not ready to start writing TNA’s obituary yet. Lord knows it’s survived by the skin of its teeth before. One guy who’s probably not rooting for WWE to step in? Cody Rhodes. He was set to make his debut at Bound for Glory on Sunday.

Who knows? Maybe he still will.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Randy Orton hunts for Bray Wyatt. This episode of Smackdown had something Raw frequently lacks: An ongoing story to tie the show together. Wyatt challenged Orton to find him, which lead to a rising action and a climax. By God, actual storytelling!

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016But while things were structurally intact, the opening segment was a dud. Orton’s part of it was fine. But once again, Bray was too cryptic. At certain points, there’s something to be said for coming out and saying exactly what you’re going to do. Bray needs to do more of that, and speak less in metaphor and hyperbole. The gist of it was: Come find me. Is that so hard to say?

The backstage segments of Randy searching for Bray felt slightly reminiscent of the boiler room brawl from Summerslam ’96. There was a creepy vibe with the machinery running, and the announcers staying quiet for the most part. Of course, this felt a bit more like a high school haunted house than a horror flick. That stuff written on the doors (“Predator or Prey?” “I am a god.”) felt very generic. And then you had Erick Rowan getting locked down there. Was that supposed to be funny?

I like the idea of Orton somehow sneaking up behind Bray in that little room he’s always in. But they could have done so much more with that. They just had Bray turn around and take some punches. At the very least, they could have given Orton a cool line. Something to make it memorable, that’s all I ask.

The Usos & The Ascension def. Heath Slater, Rhyno, & American Alpha. Chad Gable has, by and large, had one job these last few weeks: Sell that leg. It’s a tried and true formula. Gable sells, Jason Jordan gets the hot tag. But at this rate, the guy may want to dip that damn thing in cement. It’s the only way it’ll be safe!

WWE Smackdown, September 26, 2016The Usos look good these days, having ditched the face paint for a more “urban” look. I’m hoping they get some mic time before No Mercy. I want to see them as the aggressive antagonists out to kill the high Heath Slater has been on lately.

Carmella & Natalya def. Nikki Bella & Naomi. Carmella is starting to come into her own as a heel. She’s got a Real Housewives of New Jersey kind of vibe on that works in her favor. I don’t have high hopes for the match she and Nikki will eventually turn in. But progress is progress.

Dolph Ziggler agrees to put up his career for one more shot at the Miz’s Intercontinental Title at No MercyThe stars really aligned for this one. Miz and Ziggler in their home state, both sets of parents in the front row, a good story, and a dramatic plot twist. Miz even got a really good video package out of the deal.

I assume this is a course they plotted for Ziggler when he started feuding with Ambrose during the summer. I admit, I thought they’d simply made him a whipping boy for Ambrose, AJ Styles, and Miz. But if this was the plan all along, good for them.

Ziggler can sometimes up the intensity in his promos too quickly. When you crank up the emotion, you often need to take the audience up that figurative roller coaster. When he got to the part about giving so much but getting nothing back, he went a little fast. But he still hit his mark. It rang very true to what die-hard wrestling fans have seen this guy go through for years. And at the end, when he made that offer for just one more shot, you believed him. He may have had tears in his eyes. To his credit, Miz played his part perfectly. The heartless heel preying on the defeated babyface.

The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016This needs to be Dolph’s ticket off TV for awhile. I’m not sure if he’s legitimately going anywhere, but that character needs a break. The problem then becomes finding someone to put in that upper mid card babyface position. There are names they can build up for that spot. Apollo Crews, Kalisto, God forbid Jack Swagger, or even Curt Hawkins. But right now, the only person who might be primed to fill in for Ziggler is Kane. Anybody clamoring for a Miz/Kane Intercontinental Title program? I didn’t think so.

Alexa Bliss attacks Becky Lynch before her match. Like Carmella, Alexa Bliss is still coming into her own on the national stage. But what we’ve seen so far is promising. I just hope once we’ve got a little more distance from Suicide Squad, she can drop the Harley Quinn look.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose to retain the WWE Championship. Guest commentator John Cena lays both men out afterward. This match did its job wonderfully. It got me hyped for the triple threat at No Mercy. All three of these guys are big match wrestlers, and we’re still riding the wave from the Cena/Styles match at Summerslam. Expectations will be high for this one.

Cena and Ambrose really need to work a singles program. The heat between them feels very personal, and not forced. Ambrose has cut a couple of really good promos this year about how WWE is “his” company, as he’s the one main eventing shows night after night, putting all the effort in. To contrast, John Cena is apparently off house shows now. There could be some really good stuff there if they want to mine that for TV.

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Dean Ambrose pins John Cena, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m still not over how abysmal Raw was this week. I’m not someone who basks in negativity, either. I simply call it how I see it. It was a really bad show. If you buy into the manufactured Raw vs. Smackdown stuff, Smackdown had it easy this week.

What it often comes down to with Smackdown is the very simple philosophy of “Less is more.” That’s a refreshing approach. In 2016, WWE’s approach is almost always, “More is never enough.” We’ve got more than three hours of Raw each week, and pay per views that tend to go on even longer. Not to mention supplementary content on the network.

WWE television used to leave you wanting more. You simply couldn’t wait to tune in next week to find out what happens next. Nowadays, the opposite is often true. We turn off shows feeling exhausted or frustrated. Wrestle mania XXXII went so long I actually considered turning in my fan card for awhile.

In entertainment, there’s always something to be said for conciseness and restraint. Smackdown almost feels like a throwback to an era where there wasn’t a push for so much content, and each minute of WWE TV seemed to matter just a little more.

Alexa Bliss, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

Daniel Bryan hosts a contract signing between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss. Bryan’s a damn charmer. He had that line about keeping things civil, the audience gives him some friendly boos, and he goes: “Don’t boo that.”

Both these ladies are very natural in their roles. They had to recite lines that were obviously scripted. But Becky’s fire was great. Alexa has the snobby high school cheerleader act down pat, and she’s very expressive. I just wish they’d quit comparing her to Harley Quinn. Because here’s the thing: She’s not Harley Quinn. She’s Alexa Bliss, and she’s still coming into her own as a national TV character. The Harley Quinn thing almost sends mixed messages to the audience.

The Usos def. American Alpha to earn a Smackdown Tag Title shot at No MercyRed and black is definitely a better fit for the Usos than red and white. They actually look tough.

Both Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are absolute suplex machines. They’re both so explosive, which is part of what makes them so fun to watch. On the flip side, the Usos need another move in their arsenal besides the superkick. They do know that’s the move Shawn Michaels used to retire Ric Flair, right? And here they are practically beating it into the ground.

Apollo Crews, September 20, 2016During this segment, David Otunga mentioned something about filming a movie with Adam Sandler. That’s not exactly something to brag about in 2016, is it?

Baron Corbin def. Apollo Crews. On the subject of Otunga’s commentary, he said here that this was the first time he’d seen Crews not smiling. That’s a good thing. As athletically gifted as he is, a white meat babyface label can drag your career into the gutter. That’s largely what’s happened to Crews lately.

We also got Jack Swagger on headset during this match. Not sure what we did to deserve that.

The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler to retain the Intercontinental Title. I don’t mean to keep harping on Otunga. But during this match he said “most people never win a title during their time here.” Um, yes they do, good sir. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot more likely now that we’ve got so many belts. In January 2016 we had five titles. Now we have nine. And that’s not counting NXT. It’s a nice idea, and I understand them wanting to make the IC belt seem as prestigious as possible. But statements like that hurt an announcer’s credibility, and Otunga had so little to begin with.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Miz mimic Daniel Bryan’s old move set. It’s a creative little dig. These two may not be able to have a match, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryan gets Miz in the Yes Lock at some point.

WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016, Dolph Ziggler, The MizI’ve heard some buzz about a Miz vs. Ziggler steel cage match at No Mercy. Instead of doing that, why not just have Ziggler wrestle in goggles? It’d protect him from getting sprayed in the eyes over and over, and it would save us from having to watch Ziggler lose yet another match to Miz.

Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan. Bray Wyatt cuts a promo, saying “a god can never die.” That promo was pure fluff. Bray said he and Orton are locked in “the unholiest of matrimonies.” What does that even mean? That line about never dying doesn’t mean anything either. When people talk about Bray’s promos being nonsensical, this is what they’re talking about.

Orion’s got a rematch with Brock Lesnar this Saturday at a house show in Chicago. While we’re out getting Ziggler goggles, we might want to get Orton a helmet.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya via disqualification. So Nikki gets the DQ win after Carmella interferes in a short match. I don’t mind this little program at all. It keeps Nikki away from the title picture for a little while, and allows Carmella to grow a little. It’s a win-win.

Dean Ambrose def. John Cena. Ambrose earns WWE Championship Match next week. AJ Styles had a great line in before this match: “The only way this title gets taken from me, is if I don’t have to get pinned to lose it.”

Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, September 20, 2016Very surprised to see Ambrose pin Cena clean. But from a story perspective, it lends credence to what Ambrose said last week about Cena not being able to cut it in the ring anymore. Things feel nice and personal between them. I’m hoping we see them in a big pay per view match down the road.

So Cena accidentally costs Ambrose the title next week, and we take this to No Mercy.

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

A WWE Summerslam 2016 Preview – Are You There, Goldberg? It’s Us…

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The publicity train is really rolling this weekend, and Bill Goldberg may as well be the engineer.

Fans have been speculating about the return of Goldberg since the WWE 2K17 trailer hit, with the image of the former WWE star looking at a “Suplex City” sign. Now, both Goldberg and Brock have been having some fun at the press events for both WWE 2K17 and Summerslam.

Goldberg calls out BrockBrock talks about Goldberg going to Suplex CityGoldberg calls out Seth Rollins. Yeesh. Slow down! I’m trying to keep up.

This all but confirms that Brock Lesnar/Bill Goldberg II is taking place at some point. I’d bet on it for Wrestlemania XXXIII. The only match that might be bigger than that would be Brock against the Rock. And I don’t doubt we’ll get that at some point as well.

But will all this jaw-jacking going on, who’s set to fire the first shot? And where?

Well, Brock just happens to be in the main event of WWE’s second-biggest show of the year. Seems like that might be a good time…

Moving on to predictions, in the wake of Eva Marie’s suspension (more on those when I review Raw), I’m leaving out the women’s tag team match that was booked on Smackdown, because I assume it’s going to change. I assume they’ll either fill her spot with someone else, or make it to a traditional two-on-two match.

WWE Summerslam 2016, big tag team matchPRE-SHOW MATCH:
American Alpha, The Usos & The Hype Bros vs. Fandango & Tyler Breeze, The Vaudevillians, & The Ascension.

Apparently WWE wants to remind us that Smackdown has a tag team division, likely in preparation for the show getting its own set of tag belts. They had this exact same match on Smackdown this week, and the babyfaces won. I’ll give it to them again, for no other reason than American Alpha is on that team, and they’re being built up right now. As they should be.

PREDICTION: American Alpha, The Usos, & The Hype Bros

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sami Zayn, Neville, The Dudley BoyzThe Dudley Boyz vs. Sami Zayn & Neville

The Dudleys are breaking up. At lest that’s my assumption. Bubba’s been giving D-Von frustrated stares after their losses on Raw these past few weeks. They haven’t been doing anything with the Dudleys these last few months, so it makes sense. This match keeps the angle going by having Zayn and Neville, another throw-together team, beat them. Simple as that.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn & Neville

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sheamus vs. CesaroPRE-SHOW MATCH:
BEST OF SEVEN SERIES, MATCH ONE:
Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro

What we have here is an obvious attempt to create the kind of magic Chris Benoit and Booker T had when they did this in WCW. I don’t have high hopes, but I won’t put it past them either.

My question is, what’s at stake here? What does the winner of this series get? A shot at the Universal Title seems like a good answer.

We’ve established on Raw these last few weeks that Cesaro has Sheamus’ number. I say we keep that trend alive here with a Cesaro win. Then, if I had the book, I’d have Sheamus find some way to injure Cesaro in the second match, allowing him to pick up a bunch of consecutive victories. Thus, our Swiss Superman can fight from underneath and hopefully be victorious in the end.

If this is done well, it could really benefit two guys who could really use some extra shine right now. Best of luck, gentlemen.

PREDICTION: Cesaro

Enzo & Cass vs. Jericho & Owens, WWE Summerslam 2016Enzo & Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens. 

This match really needs to go on first. Enzo & Cass in front of a Brooklyn crowd? That‘s the kind of pop you open Summerslam with.

I don’t see why the hometown boys shouldn’t win here. As great as Jericho and Owens are together, a win for them would hurt Enzo & Cass more than anything else. Plus, my guess is they were just thrown together to give Enzo & Cass a pair of great heels to go against.

I had originally pegged Summerslam as the night for Enzo & Cass to win the tag titles. But it looks like they’re playing the long game. Nothing wrong with that at all. These guys both cut their teeth in Orlando, which happens to be where Wrestlemania is next year…

PREDICTION: Enzo & Cass

WWE Summerslam 2016, The Miz, Apollo CrewsWWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Apollo Crews

Simply put: I don’t think Apollo Crews deserves the Intercontinental Title yet. Yes, he’s incredibly explosive and dynamic in the ring, and you can argue the IC Title doesn’t mean much nowadays anyway. But as a character, I don’t think he’s ready. Plus, while I may be in the minority here, I like the Intercontinental Title on Miz. Maryse has breathed a whole new life into his career. He’s worthy of the title. I’d like to see him weasel his way out of at least one more title defense. Crews can afford to chase for another month.

PREDICTION: The Miz

New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson, WWE Summerslam 2016WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

It’s time. The New Day won the belts at Summerslam last year, now they drop them at Summerslam this year. It’s a nice circle. Plus, Gallows and Anderson have been ready for a couple of months now.

I can only assume Big E. will be back for this match. You never know just how much a guy brings to an act until he’s not there. His energy is sorely missed, as are his dance moves.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

WWE Summerslam 2016, Rusev, Roman ReignsWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Prior to Monday, I’d have given this match to Roman. But they had him pin Rusev in the main event that night. Why go ahead and do that unless Rusev were somehow walking out of Summerslam with the belt? Then again, that’s logical thinking. Logic isn’t always WWE’s strong point…

But why even do that match as the Raw main event? Because they didn’t have any better ideas? Maybe. But from a booking standpoint, what does pinning Rusev do? It keeps Roman looking strong. We all know how much they love that. So even if Rusev somehow gets out with the title via a disqualification, as I think he will, he still doesn’t pin Roman. That way Roman can move on to bigger things without losing any face, and Rusev gets a little but of a rub from having worked a pay per view match with Roman. Everybody wins…kinda.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns via disqualification

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sasha Banks vs. CharlotteWWE WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte

I told somebody on Twitter recently that I don’t see this match topping what Sasha and Charlotte did on Raw last month. I can’t imagine they’ll have as much time on this show. Plus, they really had lightning in a bottle that night, and we had the thrill of Sasha winning the belt for the first time. In a way, this match feels like an afterthought.

But it never pays to underestimate any of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT (the others being Becky Lynch and Bayley). So I’ll be interested to see what they pull out of the hat. Either way, I see Sasha continuing on as champ, and Charlotte moving on to other things.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE, Summerslam 2016, John Cena, AJ StylesJohn Cena vs. AJ Styles

I’m surprised a one-on-one rematch took this long. These two wrestled at Money in the Bank, so it’s been about two months. I’m amazed WWE waited this long to do it. Not a bad thing, just a surprise.

This one’s a toss-up, really. It’s more about the performance than who wins. Cena has very little to gain by beating Styles at this point. But I can see WWE wanting him to get a win at one of their biggest shows of the year. So how much does Styles have to lose? Well, he lost to Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania, and he lost both of his matches to Roman Reigns in the spring. And yet, here he is. Whether they go back for a third match or not, both men are winners here.

PREDICTION: John Cena

Dean Ambrose, WWE Summerslam, 2016, Dolph ZigglerWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

I smell a heel turn.

So you’re Dolph Ziggler. You finally get a shot at the WWE Title after years of toiling in the midcard, and you lose. You blew it. Dean Ambrose was right. You’re not as good as you say you are. So what do you do as your reality comes crashing down around you? You snap. You throw the rules out the window and you attack the champion with no mercy (which happens to be the name of an upcoming pay per view). What was a feud about professional pride has become very, very personal.

WWE is in need of strong heels right now. And Ziggler’s been a babyface for a long time now. Just saying.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, WWE Summerslam 2016MATCH TO CROWN FIRST WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION:
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Well that didn’t take long, did it? Finn Balor has been on the main roster about a month, and he’s already in the semi-main event of Summerslam. In a heavyweight title match, no less.

There’s a good chance these guys steal the show, much like Rollins did with John Cena last year. As for who wins, I say we go for it. Put the belt on Balor. With the roster now split, this company needs more stars. Finn Balor hasn’t been a product of start and stop pushes, or 50/50 booking, or anything that’s plagued guys like Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, the Miz, Rusev, and so many others. He’s a fresh face. A fresh face who can wrestle like the dickens, and has this “Demon King” persona that’s sports entertainment personified. So I say let’s go for it. Place him in a role of significance from the start, so people know he’s a big deal. Raw has needed a shake-up for a long time. And this could be the start of a big shake-up. Let’s do this.

PREDICTION: Finn Balor

WWE Summerslam 2016, Brock Lesnar, Randy OrtonBrock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

Of course this is the main event. Why wouldn’t it be? Brock Lesnar is one of two genuine megastars they have on that roster, and he only wrestles a few times a year. Plus, Brock is in the news right now for the doping scandal. I’m really intrigued as to how the New York crowd will react to him. The build for this match has been underwhelming. But hopefully the end product will be worth it.

Brock said it himself: “Randy Orton isn’t the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.” Orton is a star, and this is very much a marquee match. But Brock hasn’t been pinned or made to submit since Wrestlemania XXIX. (Last year’s Summerslam finish doesn’t count. He passed out.) The man who broke The Undertaker’s streak has a little streak of his own going. Randy Orton isn’t ending that streak.

On the subject of streaks, does Bill Goldberg have any big plans next spring? Just curious.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WWE Draft Picks, and Other Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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