A Wrestlemania 33 Preview – “Showing Too Much Sh*t Hurts Your Product.”

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I have really bad memories of last year’s Wrestlemania. It was the first time I actually left the show angry. As much as I love pro wrestling and WWE, the company actually had go-away heat with me for several days.

The main event was simply horrible. Not because Triple H and Roman Reigns didn’t work hard, but because it simply wasn’t what fans wanted to see. But more importantly, the show was just too damn long.

The show isn’t any shorter this year. As of this writing there are 13 matches booked, assuming you count the pre-show. You’ll also have musical performances, and whatever the New Day ends up doing as the hosts. What’s more, Wrestlemania is obviously broadcast on the WWE Network. When you run your own distribution channel, it doesn’t matter if you go long, does it? As I recall, last year the show went over by almost a half hour. I don’t see why this year would be any different.

Earlier this week I mentioned something Tony Schiavone said on his podcast this week, and I’ll go back to it here: “Showing too much sh*t hurts your product.” Is there any better example of that than a six-hour long wrestling show? Whatever happened to leaving fans wanting more? Is there any worse time to leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans than at your biggest show of the year?

Regardless, we’ve got a lot to cover here. So let’s get to it. It should be noted that these first three matches are on the pre-show. That being said, it’s all on the network. So can it even be classified as a pre-show anymore?

ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

I don’t see how Braun Strowman doesn’t win this one. After dropping his first major loss to Roman Reigns at Fastlane, he could really use this to rebound. What better way to do that than to have him mow through an entire ring full of guys? Many have called it an injustice that Strowman didn’t get a featured match at Wrestlemania. But this makes a fine consolation prize.

Sadly, that’s not the case for the Big Show. The poor guy’s been on Battle Royal duty at Wrestlemania for the last four years. What’s more, the thought he was getting a high profile match with Shaquille O’Neal until Shaq supposedly bailed. The buzz was that Shaq would be Show’s final Wrestlemania opponent. But now that this has happened, I don’t see the big man going out this way. He’s got his critics, but after all these years he deserves better than that.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries

Under the right circumstances, this match could steal the show. Sadly, on a show that’s this crowded I doubt they’ll get the time or the opportunity to do that.

But let’s not take away from what this match signifies for both men. They’re both journeymen, and have been pros for over a decade. Aries was famously rejected from Tough Enough in 2011, but has persevered. Neville also missed last year’s Wrestlemania due to a broken ankle. There’s an understated story of redemption here.

I say give the belt to Aries. He’s got a lot of momentum right now, and a big win like this would do wonders to further it. Plus, the prospect of more Aries/Neville matches doesn’t exactly scare me away.

PREDICTION: Austin Aries

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella vs. Naomi

I imagine this must be really cool for Alexa Bliss. It’s her first Wrestlemania, and she’s the centerpiece to this big championship match. Now if only we knew how many women were in the match, not to mention what kind of match it actually is.

The addition of Naomi to this match changed my prediction. I originally had Alexa pegged to win. But Naomi coming back to win the title in her home town seems like too good a story to pass up. I’m going with her.

PREDICTION: Naomi

TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLES:
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (c) vs. Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Enzo and Cass

This match suddenly has some fresh appeal now that it’s a Ladder Match. Because you must have a Ladder Match at Wrestlemania. Apparently not having one would be downright blasphemy. Here’s hoping everybody stays safe.

The belts should go to Enzo and Cass. It’s been a year since their main roster debut, so it’s a nice story. As for Gallows and Anderson, they could really use a fresh start. Ideally on Smackdown. 

PREDICTION: Enzo and Cass

FATAL FOUR-WAY ELIMINATION MATCH FOR WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax

Last year, Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky Lynch stole the show at Wrestlemania. No doubt these four ladies are looking to make it two for two. The elimination stipulation helps in that regard. There’s some potential for great drama here.

I say you have it some down to Bayley and Sasha. They have a great history, and the story about Sasha protecting and helping her friend is a good one. I say we have Bayley win clean here, and then have Sasha be as a bitter heel challenger going forward.

Good luck, ladies. Make us proud all over again.

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin

Dean Ambrose’s match with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXXII should have been a highlight of the show. For one reason or another, it wasn’t. I’d like to think he’ll get a chance for redemption this year. But my hopes aren’t high. This match should really be a Street Fight, or something to tie into all brawls these two have had in recent weeks. Instead it’s just a regular match. Here’s hoping these two can overachieve.

Baron Corbin doesn’t need the Intercontinental Title. But this is where he landed, so we may as well give him a big win at Wrestlemania. I imagine these two will work each other again on pay per view in some sort of gimmick match. They can always make Corbin’s run brief, and give it back to Ambrose. It’s not like Corbin hasn’t been pinned before.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

This should be a fun little match. But I imagine this will be more about what happens afterward. Cena’s “refusal” to marry Nikki has been a big part of this whole story. So a post-match marriage proposal seems likely. That’s never happened at Wrestlemania, so I’m interested to se how the crowd reacts. Who knows? We may end up with a Randy Savage/Elizabeth style wedding at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: John Cena and Nikki Bella

Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles

Smart fans have griped about this match for weeks now. But when you look at it in the context of the show at large, it’s fairly intriguing. I imagine the reason Ambrose and Corbin aren’t getting a Street Fight is because these two are going to do a lot of that stuff. I’m not looking at this as a potential show-stealer. But you never know. This is AJ Styles, after all.

Styles deserves a win here. I don’t think you get nearly as much out of putting Shane over as you do AJ. And why the hell not? The fans are into him. Despite being a heel, he’s probably the most popular guy on Smackdown. He’s earned his moment. Let him have it.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE UNITED STATES TITLES MATCH:
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens

Despite this being as high as the United States Title has ever been on a Wrestlemania card, the belt is essentially an afterthought here. They used it as an excuse to have this match. But Owens and Jericho didn’t need an excuse, did they? We’ve been waiting for this one since the fall. Intentional or not, this is the best built match on the card. That’s a testament to the talents of both men.

Rumor has it Jericho is taking a break after Wrestlemania. I’m not sure how much I buy that, as he’s kept us guessing in the past. But considering how long he’s stuck around thus far, I’m more inclined to believe the rumors. Obviously, that means KO is taking this one home. As he should. Owens didn’t have a stellar run as Universal Champion. But he’s still an incredible asset to WWE, and Raw is going to need all the star power it can get after this show comes and goes. Lesnar, Goldberg, Undertaker, and apparently Jericho are going to be gone. So Owens needs to be in a strong position coming out of Wrestlemania. Coming out on top after everything these two have done together will be a career moment for him.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

NON-SANCTIONED MATCH:
Triple H vs. Seth Rollins

This has been a long time coming. Supposedly it was in the works for last year’s Wrestlemania, until Rollins hurt his knee. It almost didn’t happen at this year’s show either, for the same reason.

The condition of Rollins’ knee likely throws a big monkey wrench into their plans for the physicality here. I’m expecting a lot of “gaga.” Stephanie and Samoa Joe will likely make appearances. Sami Zayn could easily come out and be on Rollins’ side. While I pitched a program between the two last week, Finn Balor could run in on Seth’s behalf as well. In some ways, I imagine this will be similar to what Hunter and Sting did with DX and the nWo at Wrestlemania XXXI.

It seems like this entire program has been geared toward giving Rollins a hero’s victory over the tyrannical Triple H. I can’t imagine that’s changed. Rollins hasn’t been the hottest babyface in the world, but perhaps a big come-from-behind victory over Hunter will help in that regard.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns

This is the most emotional match on the card, to be sure. I imagine the longer you’ve been a fan, the more this match means to you. I’ve got about 20 years invested in this one.

I can’t bring myself to speculate about the Undertaker’s retirement anymore. Until I hear about it from either WWE or the man himself, the Dead Man hasn’t wrestled his last match. At 52 years old, I certainly couldn’t blame him for wanting to ride off into the sunset. But as far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome as long as he wants to be here.

I’d like to think WWE knows better than to have Roman simply beat the Undertaker clean. But who am I kidding? Chances are that’s exactly what they’ll do. To the dismay of many, Roman Reigns is the company’s top priority at the moment. They’re going to do anything they think will help his cause, no matter how much it hurts him in reality. In a perfect world, Roman would leave Wrestlemania XXXIII a heel.

But life isn’t perfect, and neither is pro wrestling. I can practically hear the boos now…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton

Damn, folks. It’s Wrestlemania and Bray Wyatt is the WWE Champion. That’s pretty sweet.

My head tells me Randy Orton is taking the title home, but somehow my gut is pointing me toward Bray Wyatt. This guy has been on the cusp of superstardom for years. He finally get the belt…only to lose it less than two months later? That doesn’t smell right. They’ve certainly done stupid stuff like that in the past. But this would be a really bad time to beat Bray. So with a tinge of uncertainty, I’m going with the champ on this one.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

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

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are back at Wrestlemania. In 2017. In the main event, no less. Pro wrestling may not be fair, but it can also be really cool.

Yeah, I’m into the Goldberg stuff. People can knock him all they want, talk about how he can’t wrestle, etc. But here’s the bottom line: Goldberg is over. He’s an attraction. People chant his name. As we’ve come to find out, there’s still value with him. If people are still willing to pay to see Goldberg, then why not take advantage of that?

Lots of people, myself included, complained about the finish to the Lesnar/Goldberg match at Survivor Series. But in hindsight, it’s hard to deny that it worked. That match ignited this long program that got us to the main event of Wrestlemania. And yes, this match is the main event. The simple intrigue over what these guys are going to do and how long they’re going to go makes it one of the most interesting bouts on the card. It’s not going to be a classic, by any means. But as Jim Ross said on The Ross Report this week, the match these two have will be different from what everyone else does. As such, it’s well-suited to follow what everyone else does.

The finish seems pretty obvious. Lesnar gets his win back, as well as the Universal Title. Then again, I thought the Survivor Series finish was obvious, too. You never know…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

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Triple H Annihilates Seth Rollins, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

WWE announced Monday that Jack Swagger has been granted his release. The real-life Jake Hager had apparently been looking to get out for awhile, even bringing it up on Chael Sonnen’s podcast earlier this month.

Hager was signed to a WWE development deal in 2006. So he spent about a decade with WWE. He had a run that a lot of guys would be jealous of. The company clearly saw a lot of potential in him, perhaps as someone in the Kurt Angle mold. They did their best over the years to establish him as a top guy. Had the dice fallen differently, it might have worked. But fate just didn’t seem to be on Hager’s side in that respect.

Hager is a very good wrestler. But when it was time to talk, he was in trouble. He has a little bit of a lisp, and it was noticeable whenever he got on the mic. It undercut the wrestling stud vibe they were going for with him, and it became tough to take him seriously. They had him win Money in the Bank, and later made him World Heavyweight Champion on Smackdown. But it just didn’t click.

They seemingly found an answer in 2013, when Dutch Mantel came in to manage Swagger. As the character Zeb Colter, he essentially became what Paul Heyman is to Brock Lesnar. Dutch cut tremendous promos, weaving in contemporary political elements, most notably immigration. They even got a touch of mainstream buzz over the character. Swagger was put against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XXIX, and seemed primed to win it…

And then he got arrested for DUI and drug possession (marijuana). He and Mantel remained together, but it was essentially over as far as Hager being a top guy.

But Hager’s career doesn’t have to end here. Like Drew Galloway, Cody Rhodes, and so many others who’ve left the WWE umbrella, he can thrive on the independent scene. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him show up in TNA in a few months, as his old pal Dutch is now back on the creative team there.

Brighter days are ahead for Jake Hager, and I commend him for having the guts to step outside the safety of the WWE bubble.

Ponderings From Raw:

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar address Bill Goldberg. Herman’s prediction: “Down goes Goldberg!” That “down goes Goldberg” line is something they’ll be returning to in the weeks to come. It’s something Corey Graves, as the heel announcer, can come back to at the event itself. It’s a great line.

Note that Heyman also put Goldberg over, referring to his latest run as “the greatest championship comeback in sports entertainment history.”

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. After taking abuse from Charlotte post-match, Dana attacks her. Dana has gotten a lot of bad press these past few weeks for her in-ring skills. Looking at this match, I can’t say it’s unfounded. But the real-life Ashley Sebera has only been wrestling since 2014. She’s still trying to learn. But she’s doing it on national television. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that. Having said that, she could really use another run on NXT. She can re-establish herself there, and come back later for a fresh start. Perhaps that’s where this turn is headed. I doubt it, but one can always hope.

Brian Kendrick and Tony Nese def. Akira Tozawa and TJ Perkins. TJ Perkins had a good match with Shinsuke Nakamura on NXT last week, and he was tremendous in this match. But this guy needs a heel turn. He’s looked like a loser for months, and he’s officially grating. I wouldn’t mind seeing he and Tozawa in a program.

Kevin Owens vows to take Chris Jericho’s US Title at Wrestlemania, and leave nothing left but the “Tears of Jericho.” Owens and Samoa Joe get themselves disqualified in a match with Jericho and Sami Zayn. Another really good promo from Owens. In classic heel fashion he justified his actions, believing himself to be right. He accused Jericho of wanting to get close to him just to get close to the Universal Championship. I love when bad guys do that. No one really believes they’re evil. We all usually believe we’re doing what’s right.

This Owens/Joe team-up did nothing to dispel the rumors of them forming a faction alongside Triple H. I’m not sure you need Triple H on TV every week in a group. But the prospect of Owens and Joe together consistently remains ntriguing.

I wouldn’t have had Owens and Jericho touch here. At the very least, I’d have limited their contact to that super kick Owens gave him. But then again, Owens obviously beat the hell out of him at the now infamous Festival of Friendship. So I guess we’ve been there and done that.

Big Show to compete in Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. They did a “New Day Talks” segment, which was supposed to be their take on a talk show segment. It ended up with Titus O’Neil being mad at Big Show because he wasn’t in the WWE/Jetsons movie that comes out this week. Wow. What compelling TV…

But what I got out of this segment was the line about Show getting the opportunity to be a two-time winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Ouch. I guess that makes it official: Shaq is out of Wrestlemania. That’s a rotten break for Show. He supposedly spent months preparing for that match, getting himself in the best shape of his career, only to be stuck in the Battle Royal again this year.

Cass had some really nice fire in that pre-match promo. He still had some that deer-in-the-headlights look going on. But he made me believe.

Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Enzo and Cass goes to a no-contest after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson interfere. Not much suspense to this match. Earlier in the show, Anderson and Gallows cut that promo about taking the spotlight for themselves. The finish to this one was pretty obvious at that point.

As if it wasn’t already pretty clear what the match is going to be at Wrestlemania. And of course a short time later it was made official: a Triple-Threat Tag Team Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles.

The Undertaker’s trademark gong goes off during Roman Reigns’ match with Jinder Mahal. Reigns calls the Undertaker out. Shawn Michaels surprises him. Reigns: The Undertaker retired you, and I’m the guy that’s gonna retire him.” Well, they went there. Let the speculation about the Undertaker’s retirement continue. This is already so damn emotional. Damn…this could really be it…

If this does turn out to be Undertaker’s retirement match, how fitting is it that it’s Shawn Michaels who planted that seed in Roman’s mind. Nice continuity there.

Austin Aries def. Ariya Daivari. Austin Aries wrestling on Raw. By God, what a time to be alive.

Bayley def. Nia Jax via DQ. Couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for this one. We’ve seen this one so much. I dig the larger story they’re telling here, though. The idea is that Bayley can’t win big matches without Sasha’s help, so all these women are worthy of title shots. I expect Nia to be added to Wrestlemania in short order.

Mick Foley refuses to fire someone by order of Stephanie McMahon. Triple H comes out to belittle him. Seth Rollins makes the save, but the Game destroys the would-be “King Slayer.” I loved this segment. I really did. Everybody was perfectly in character, and it made perfect sense. This was great drama.

Seeing Mick and Triple H in the ring together was a nice nostalgia trip. They’ve always had a great lovable hero meets cunning villain chemistry. Foley was good on the mic here, too. He stumbled a bit, but he was in the zone. He hasn’t had an easy time in this role. But I was proud of him tonight.

Didn’t expect Rollins to be on the losing end of that confrontation with Hunter. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. Seth’s knee has a big question mark over it. So now we’re left guessing.

Those CM Punk chants aren’t going away, are they? They’re following Steph, in particular. Considering the adverse effect that character has had on this show in recent years, I’m not complaining. I’m a Punk fan, after all.

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The Undertaker Returns, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Bayley, WWE Fastlane 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

WWE Fastlane wasn’t a great show. But it gave us a couple of surprises, both positive and negative.

The biggest one, for my money, was Bayley retaining the Raw Women’s Title and ending Charlotte’s pay per view undefeated streak. I’ve said before that I wouldn’t have given the belt to Bayley when they did. But as that die had already been cast, I think they made the right move here.  After all he back and forth switches they did with Charlotte and Sasha, it seemed pretty obvious history was going to repeat itself. But they defied expectations, and added even more fuel for what seems like the inevitable Sasha Banks heel turn. Now you can once again call one of Bayley’s wins over Charlotte into question because of Sasha. What’s more, Bayley has done what Sasha could never do: Beat Charlotte on pay per view. This has turned out to be some really good storytelling. Bravo, WWE.

Less pleasant a surprise was the decision to have Roman Reigns beat Braun Strowman clean. Granted, it was the “chosen one” who beat him, and they did put on a really good match. But this all felt very anticlimactic. The establishment of Strowman as this unstoppable monster has become one of the better parts of Raw. I understand keeping Roman strong for Wrestlemania. But at the expense of Strowman? It seems like a waste. Mind you, Strowman won’t be killed by one loss. But this was needless. The big man could have gone undefeated for several more months.

Goldberg, WWE Fastlane 2017Then there’s Goldberg. The 50-year-old former WCW star won his first Heavyweight Title in over a decade, beating Kevin Owens in about two minutes. It was fine for what it was. We knew these two weren’t having a long match. Loved Owens “taking a powder” before the bell even rang. He milked it wonderfully. And how ironic is it that Goldberg’s old rival Chris Jericho is the one to come out, cause the distraction, and allow him to score the pin.

I saw many a fan on Twitter whining about Kevin Owens having to drop the belt. To that I say boo hoo. He lost the belt to one of the biggest stars the business has ever seen. If a squash like that is good enough for Brock Lesnar, it’s good enough for Kevin Owens. The guy will be fine, kids. Calm down.

Ponderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho calls out Kevin Owens. US Title Match between the two announced for Wrestlemania. Owens and Samoa Joe attack Jericho. Sami Zayn makes the save. Owens beat Zayn in an impromptu match. This Owens/Jericho match fell nicely into place, didn’t it? No wasted time here.

This seems to be the start of an alliance between Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, with Triple H being the common factor. They’d make an interesting tag team for sure.

Also, remember what Owens said about getting a rematch whenever he wants one. That’s a good continuity note for the future…

Neville def. Rich Swann to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Title. Austin Aries decks Neville after the champion disrespects him. Gorgeous attempt at a Phoenix Splash by Rich Swann. One of the best athletes on the entire roster.

Neville vs. Austin Aries. Now there’s a Wrestlemania match. I wouldn’t rule out a multi-man title match though. We all know how they love to shove everybody on the Wrestlemania card.

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman interrupt Goldberg’s return to Raw as champion. Lesnar hits an F5 on Goldberg. I don’t have as much of an issue with those CM Punk chants as some people do. Especially in Chicago. But at certain points it’s cringeworthy. As much as I love Punk, had I been at this show I would not have been chanting his name at Goldberg. Not the time for that.

It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but Lesnar vs. Goldberg feels like a solid Wrestlemania main event to me. They’ve told a good story. Now it’s just a matter of how Goldberg will do in a match that’s longer than a minute…

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. Enzo and Cass via disqualification in a WWE Raw Tag Team Title Match when Sheamus and Cesaro interfere. Looks like we’ve got a Triple-Threat Tag Team Match coming our way. Not necessarily the recipe for a classic. But we got a pretty good one between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, Edge and Rey Mysterio, and Los Guerreros all those years ago.

Ravishing Rick Rude announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Ricky Steamboat to induct. This one is long overdue. The real-life Richard Rood was a big star in both the WWF and WCW. Rude is probably most widely remembered for the program he worked with Jake Roberts in the late ’80s, making public advances toward Jake’s then-wife. But he also got some great matches out of the Ultimate Warrior, and was the centerpiece of Paul Heyman’s Dangerous Alliance in WCW. Fans have been calling for this for years, and I don’t doubt it’ll make for a wonderful moment in Orlando.

Akira Tozawa def. Ariya Daivari. After what happened with Neville, they wisely kept Austin Aries off commentary for this match. But they also left Byron Saxton off. So for one segment we just had Cole and Graves. A pleasant return to the two-man announce booth, of only for a short time.

The New Day def. the Shining Stars. The New Day are still doing the ice cream thing. That was enough to get me to hit the fast-forward button. Thank God, otherwise I’d have seen the Shining Stars. *shudders*

Sasha Banks def. Bayley to make it a Triple-Threat Match for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania, also involving Charlotte. Slightly disappointed that we may be getting another three-way this year. It feels like they’ve simply tagged Bayley in for Becky Lynch. What’s more, Bayley and Sasha have such great chemistry in the ring, as we saw here. But it is what it is. What’s more, it’s certainly not too late for Nia Jax to be added, making it a four-way.

Triple H once again threatens to end Seth Rollins’ WWE career if he shows up at Wrestlemaniastill can’t get over how awesome Hunter’s return promo was a few weeks ago. It’s was the best he’s done in years. I think we took his mic work for granted when he was out there with guys like the Rock and Steve Austin, because they had such big personalities. But he was great then, and he’s great now.

A vignette airs for he return of Emma. See you in 17 weeks!

Samoa Joe def. Chris Jericho via count-out. How many years has this one been in the making? Hardly the ending I imagined, but I doubt this is the last time we’ll see these two in the ring together.

Braun Strowman calls out Roman Reigns, gets the Undertaker instead. Reigns comes out to face the Dead Man and gets a Chokeslam. Not a good couple of days for Strowman. First he loses his first match to Reigns. Then he flat out backs down from the Undertaker. Yuck.

As the Chicago crowd reminded us, putting Roman in there with the Undertaker is no way to get him cheered. But let’s not kid ourselves: It’s a good story. The old guard vs. the new guard. It also doesn’t hurt that Reigns has superficial similarities to a young Undertaker. The long hair, the goatee, the tattoos, etc. I have no idea what we’ll get once the bell rings. But the build-up should be really, really good.

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Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, December 5, 2016, Seth RollinsBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was really hoping this was a work. I can’t even tell you how down I was when I learned that wasn’t the case.

During the finale of last week’s Raw, Seth Rollins re-injured his right knee. A torn MCL, to be exact. Supposedly his recovery time is around eight weeks, which would allow him to make his Wrestlemania match with Triple H by the skin of his teeth. But would you want to cut it that close for a big match like this? If they changed it, they’d obviously have to do some reshuffling creatively. But they may not even have a choice in the matter. The hope was that we’d get a better idea about Seth’s status on this week’s show. But it seems like things are still up in the air.

Simply put, this sucks. Especially when you consider how long they’ve dragged this Rollins/Triple H story out already. Not to mention the fact that Rollins missed last year’s Wrestlemania as well. As much as I hate to say it, if his recovery time really is eight weeks, then it seems like the responsible thing would be to pull him, and plug somebody else in. There’s been a bit of preemptive buzz about Shane McMahon taking Seth’s spot. If that’s the case, they could always have Rollins cost Hunter the match, and build to it at another big pay per view, a la Money in the Bank or Summerslam.

As frustrating as it is, we really have no answers right now. But what an awful, awful break for Rollins. He deserves to be back under those bright lights at Wrestlemania.

samoa-joe-february-6-2017-wwe-rawPonderings From Raw:

Samoa Joe signs his Raw contract. Roman Reigns lays down a challenge. Mick Foley makes Joe vs. Reigns for later in the show. Last week I mentioned how surreal it was to hear Michael Cole say Samoa Joe’s name. This week I got that same feeling hearing Stephanie McMahon call him the “Samoan Submission Machine.” They obviously called him that for years in TNA. So hearing one of the McMahons say it is, well, different.

I liked this segment. They didn’t waste a lot of time. There were no long, drawn out monologues. Everything was fairly concise, and we had our main event. Two big, tough bastards looking for a fight. What’s not to like?

Nia Jax def. Bayley after a distraction from Charlotte Flair. I like the stories they’re telling with Nia these days. She’s getting cocky after dominating Sasha Banks the way she did, and she had a similar performance here. Bayley taking that header into the second turnbuckle had a great looking whiplash effect.

They’ve got Charlotte defending against Bayley again next week. I expect the same result we got at the Rumble. Rumor has it we’ll be getting a Fatal Four-Way Match for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania. That doesn’t surprise me, considering the Charlotte/Bayley stuff is already crossing over with the Sasha/Nia stuff quite a bit.

braun-strowman-wwe-raw-february-6-2017Braun Strowman wins a 4-on-1 Handicap Match. Foley grants Strowman a match with Roman Reigns at FastlaneNice little exhibition, leading us into what we pretty much knew we were getting for Fastlane. Strowman needs to stay protected. So I’m very curious to see what they do with him in that match.

Akira Tozawa def. Drew Gulak. This was my first exposure to Tozawa. Not the most thrilling debut I’ve ever seen. But as Cesaro said in that introductory vignette, Tozawa’s a tremendous striker. He’s already got some tremendous credibility that most of the other wrestlers in the Cruiserweight Division don’t have. Plus, the crowd seemed to be into him. I say put him in there with Neville and let the magic happen.

Chris Jericho pitches a Title vs. Title match for Wrestlemania between himself and Kevin Owens. Goldberg interrupts to accept Brock Lesnar’s Wrestlemania challenge, and to challenge Owens to a Universal Title Match at Fastlane. Jericho accepts on the champion’s behalf. Bill Goldberg and Chris Jericho sharing a ring. Now that brings back some memories. Goldberg putting himself on the list was a fun moment. I briefly thought the Fastlane match was going to be Goldberg against both Owens and Jericho. But of course, it makes more sense this way.

goldberg-wwe-raw-february-6-2017So here it is. Former indy darling Kevin Steen and ’90s WCW icon Bill Goldberg. Wrestling on a pay per view. For a Heavyweight Title. This isn’t even fantasy warfare. It’s like we’re in a time warp. I wouldn’t expect this one to go long, though. I’d be surprised if it goes much longer than the Goldberg/Brock match at Survivor Series. And indeed, it will happen. It’s 2017, and Bill Goldberg will be a champion in WWE. Again…time warp.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. Cesaro and Sheamus via disqualification in a Raw Tag Team Title Match. Enzo and Cass being out there and causing the DQ is a good sign. For one thing, it means the program with Rusev and Lana is done. Secondly, it indicates they’re likely in the Raw Tag Title picture at Wrestlemania. These two have earned a big win at the big show as far as I’m concerned.

The New Day def. The Shining Stars. We hadn’t seen the Shining Stars on Raw in quite some time. And I liked it that way. Zipped right through this one on the DVR.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express to be part of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017.  This one was a long time coming. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were one of the most charismatic, athletic, and influential tag teams of all time. If you’ve a younger fan, you owe it to yourself to check them out on the network. Congrats to both men!

chris-jericho-wwe-raw-february-6-2017Chris Jericho def. Sami Zayn to retain the WWE United States Title. Not quite as good as what they turned in last week. But still a fine match. I expect we’ll see these two lock up at Fastlane, though I’m struggling with whether or not Zayn should get the belt. I suppose Jericho and Owens don’t need to compete for at title at Wrestlemania. But then again, Goldberg and Lesnar didn’t either.

TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, and Jack Gallagher def. Neville, Noam Dar, and Tony Nese. Not much to write home about here. Our story was that Perkins, Alexander, Gallagher, Dar, and Nese will compete to become the top contender to Neville’s title on 205 Live. I’d love to see Alexander or Gallagher get the match. But I have a sinking feeling they might give it to Perkins. No offense to the guy, but that doesn’t do it for me.

Samoa Joe def. Roman Reigns after a distraction from Braun Strowman. Strowman attacks Reigns after the match, driving him through the ringside barricade. A win over Roman is a hell of a way to start your main roster run. Just ask Finn Balor. More importantly, Joe looked like a ruthless heel. He hit hard, and Reigns hit him hard back. I’d love to see a more long form version of this match on a pay per view some day. One of the most compelling Raw main events we’ve gotten in several months.

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

Sasha Banks Repeats History, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not sure if the ratings will reflect it, but this was a good show. Possibly the best since Finn Balor’s arrival. It wasn’t Earth shaking. But we had some good wrestling, some good mic work, and some attempts at comedy that actually landed. If that last one isn’t noteworthy, nothing is.

So let’s dive straight in!

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns and Lana open the show. Lana challenges Reigns on behalf of her husband. Reigns and Rusev to face again inside Hell in a Cell. This wasn’t bad. By no means great, but not bad. People on Twitter were on Lana’s case for accent slippage. But I didn’t think she was any worse than normal. Take that for what you will. Her “Go to hell!” line was a dead giveaway. And then she repeated it for emphasis.

Is this the first time the US Title is being decided in the cell? I can’t recall any other time that would have been done. That’s a nice little coup for that belt. I’m not expecting a classic by any means. But win or lose, being in a match like this will be good for Rusev’s name value. Especially if he wins, as he should. They’ll do some kind of screwball finish, of course. But he’ll still be able to say he beat Roman Reigns inside Hell in a Cell.

Brian Kendrick def. TJ Perkins via submission. I was under the impression this was for the title. So imagine my surprise when Perkins tapped out but didn’t lose the belt. I guess now they have something to do at the pay per view.

The crowd was into this one, which lends credence to the idea that the Cruiserweights are a solid bet to get the crowd excited at the top of the show. Granted, this match had a good story behind it, which always helps.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Michael Cole interviews Seth Rollins. They should do sit down interview segments like this more often. As we saw with Mick Foley in 1997, they can help add an entirely new dimension to a character. That’s not what we got here, but anything that breaks up the monotony and the sameness of this show is good.

After another squash match, Braun Strowman demands better competition. While repetitive as can be, these squash matches have done wonders to rehabilitate and build interest in Braun Strowman. Now it seems like it’s time to move on. But who do you put in there with Strowman? I have nothing to base this on, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be Big Show…

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho announce their intention to challenge for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The New Day responds. The big line in this segment was when Jericho said: “It’s not like I’m asking you for an opportunity at your championship.” As weirdly scripted as that line was, the crowd popped for it. We even got some nice “Y2J” chants. That’s a good omen.

It’s so interesting what manages to be funny on WWE TV. The “List of Jericho” is as stupid as any idea they’ve ever come up with. But Jericho’s charisma and delivery made it work. That damn clipboard is over! What’s more, that little exchange between Woods and Owens about “jumping the shark” got a laugh out of me. By God, actual humor! It can happen on Raw!

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Here’s the thing: These guys all remembered their lines. But they weren’t chained to them. They weren’t struggling to remember anything. They just went with the flow. And the crowd ate it up! Nice work, gentlemen.

Bill Goldberg to appear on the WWE segment of Sportscenter this week. They made a point to mention Goldberg more than once this week. It’s really just a matter of time before they announce Goldberg’s return match, isn’t it?

Sami Zayn def. Titus O’Neil. Titus absolutely murdered that in-ring promo a few weeks ago. But this guy is so articulate, and so damn charming. To me, it’s no wonder WWE keeps bringing him back to the forefront after mishaps like that. Hell, it wasn’t long ago he was suspended for grabbing Vince McMahon himself! But he keeps coming back, and I’m glad for it. Hell, I’m into the “Titus Brand” thing!

That being said, I’m not on board for having Titus upset Sami Zayn to get his brand over. That suplex Zayn gave him into the corner was really cool, considering Titus is 6’6 and about 270, while Sami is 6’1 and 205. Better luck next week, Titus.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Golden Truth. I like that the New Day are being talked about in multiple segments involving tag teams. Gallows and Anderson talked about them. Cesaro and Sheamus are talking about them. And of course, we had Owens and Jericho earlier. They’re playing up the importance of the tag titles. That’s a good thing.

Gallows and Anderson, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Gallows and Anderson need some rehabbing. These guys have lost multiple pay per view matches to the New Day, and they need to rack up some wins. Tonight was a good start.

The New Day def. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho, with Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson on commentary. Here’s what I’ll say about Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson being on commentary: At least they weren’t micromanaged. The back-and-forth between Kutcher, Masterson, and Corey Graves felt very organic. To his credit, Kutcher seemed excited to be there. I’d have been alright if they brought them back out for the main event.

After costing Owens & Jericho their match Seth Rollins tells Stephanie he’ll “burn Raw to the ground” if he doesn’t get another Universal Title Match. After seeing Mick Foley become the latest talent to be eviscerated by Stephanie last week, it was nice to see somebody stand up to her. Not that she won’t eventually get to dress him down like everyone else. But it’s a nice change of pace.

Tony Nese def. Rich Swann. Swann is obviously talented, but his smiley dancing act continues to grate on me. On the other hand, Tony Nese is quickly becoming one of my favorites. He’s very much build like a heavyweight, but he moves as quickly and swiftly as any of his cruiserweight peers.

Emma, WWEA vignette airs for the return of Emma. It looks like they’re going in a sexier, more glamorous direction with Emma. Or as she’s now being called, “Emmalina.” I’m skeptical about that being the right direction for her, as charisma aspect of the job has never been her strong point. But best case scenario, this new gimmick allows her to grow as a performer. Hopefully they can also put her back with Dana Brooke.

Cesaro & Sheamus win another squash match. On the subject of charisma, it seems like that’s what they’re trying to pull out of Cesaro with this new pairing. As I said last week, Sheamus is better on the mic than he gets credit for. He and Cesaro are developing a chemistry. They’re not the next Rock n Sock Connection. But hopefully this makes for some okay television.

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte to win the Raw Women’s Title. These two had an epic match the last time they wrestled on Raw. But they also play a little too hard sometimes. We all remember those high spots at Summerslam. As we saw in this match, Sasha is still doing those scary suicide dives to the outside, and Charlotte is still doing flips off the top rope to the outside.

While not quite as epic as their match in July, this was still an excellent main event. Some of these spots may be tough to watch, but these two always deliver. And now we’re one step closer to a Sasha/Bayley title match on pay per view. A good ending to a good show. We don’t get to say that often enough these days.

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

Dean Ambrose to Play the Game, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Despite not having Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns, or Brock Lesnar to contribute to their respective stories, Raw was better than usual this week. As the ever popular Dean Ambrose took center stage this week, perhaps that’s not a coincidence. I’unno, he sure looks like a lead babyface to me.

We’re trying a chronological format this week. Unlike Vince McMahon with Wrestlemania, I’m willing to try different things once in awhile.

Pondering From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016, Triple H, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose interrupts Triple H at the top of the show, challenges him to a title match. There’s really no comparison between the reactions Roman Reigns gets, and ones like this crowd gave Dean. What’s more, Triple H/Dean Ambrose is a program we haven’t seen before. While they didn’t have a match, we’ve seen The Authority feuding with Reigns for months now. The fact that Roman wasn’t even on the show this week didn’t do him any favors, either.

It’s really not rocket science, is it? The fans want Dean. But Vince McMahon wants Roman. He may not like it, but that Wrestlemania crowd is going to let him know that loud and clear.

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch ends in a double pin. Awesome match. Probably the most physical women’s match we’ve seen on Raw in years, and certainly the best encounter Sasha and Becky have had on the national stage. And the crowd was really into it, which made things that much hotter. The only flaw, for my money, was that I didn’t buy Sasha simply going limp after that sunset flip from the top rope. Still, they’re obviously shooting for Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky at Wrestemania. That works just fine for me. All three of these ladies have earned the right to be there.

The Miz, WWE Raw, February 29, 2016The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler. The announcers tried to play up the idea that these two have “long-standing animosity.” But a few weeks ago, we saw them riding together on a commercial for WWE Ride Along. Yes, I know kayfabe is dead. But sometimes little things like this matter.

In any event, Miz becomes the latest guy to beat Dolph Ziggler. His descent continues.

Stephanie McMahon cuts a promo on Shane McMahon and the WWE fans. This came off extremely rehearsed. But by scripted promo standards, this was pretty good. It was very personal, which is how this McMahon family stuff should be. When you give Steph something to be passionate and angry about, she can be really great out there. While I wouldn’t call this great, it was certainly better than your standard Authority promo.

Sheamus & Rusev def. The Lucha Dragons. So Rusev pins Kalisto, the United States Champion, to help build momentum for what I assume is going to be a tag title match against The New Day at Wrestlemania. Here’s my question: They had to beat The Lucha Dragons? They couldn’t have beaten say, Mark Henry & Jack Swagger? Hell, what about The Usos? Or if you do have to go against the Dragons, why not pin Sin Cara? I understand Kalisto has a history with the League of Nations. But why pin him when you don’t have to?

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016, Ryback Ryback def. Adam Rose. Like The Big Show and Kane, the Social Outcasts switch between heel and babyface based on who they have to job to. This week, Adam Rose was seemingly a babyface by virtue of being against Ryback. “The Big Guy” is once again being pushed as a monster heel. That, combined with his new ring attire, makes me wonder if WWE has somehow gotten Bill Goldberg to come out of retirement…

Nah. They’ll probably wind up putting him with Kane.

Chris Jericho & AJ Styles def. Big E. & Kofi Kingston. The question of whether we’re supposed to be cheering or booing The New Day is more confounding than ever right now. They’ve got something going with the League of Nations, who are definitive heels. And they’re most certainly entertaining, which indicates they’re babyfaces. But then tonight, they acted like heels against Jericho and Styles. Either way, I suspect an official babyface turn is coming.

Also coming? A Chris Jericho heel turn, most likely next week during this tag title match against The New Day. They’re doing Jericho and Styles at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of how they get there. My guess? Chris Jericho’s sudden but inevitable betrayal.

The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, February 29, 2016The Undertaker has a very brief confrontation with Vince McMahon. This segment was a huge disappointment. We got nothing in terms of The Undertaker’s motivation heading into this match. That was the one missing piece to this whole story. What motivation does The Undertaker have to be Vince’s “instrument of destruction?” Why should he care if Shane takes over Raw? There’s a lack of depth here that leaves much to be desired. If this were anybody but Undertaker, going against Shane would turn them into an instant heel. I doubt we’ll see a majority of fans booing ‘Taker at a Wrestlemania. But why exactly should they be cheering him here? He’s Vince’s pawn! This was a major missed opportunity by WWE to up the intrigue for Wrestemania.

Bubba Ray Dudley def. Jey Uso. This program with the Dudleys has been good for Jimmy and Jey so far. It gives them a chance to show their toughness, and shake off a little of that white meat babyface vibe. I’m not sure if these four are going to Wrestlemania, but they’ve got a good thing going thus far.

The Big Show def. Kevin Owens via count-out. There was some buzz leading up to Wrestlemania season about Kevin Owens possibly facing The Undertaker, or maybe even his old rival Sami Zayn. Looks like he’s getting The Big Show instead…ouch.

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016Dean Ambrose gets a beat-down from Triple H and the League of Nations, but is granted his WWE Title shot. This is most likely our main event for the WWE Network special later this month. That’s a shame, as it should really be the main event of Wrestlemania. In theory, they could switch the title to Ambrose and have him wrestle Brock for the title. That wouldn’t be the worst main event in the world. But I don’t see it happening. Roman Reigns vs. Triple  H seems to be inevitable. Those guys won’t be in a fun position, though. They’ll have to follow Shane and Undertaker, Dean and Brock, and whatever else WWE throws at us that night. And that’s not even taking the likely unforgiving Dallas crowd into account…

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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