Posted in Wrestling

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Howard Finkel’s Greatest Ring Announcements

By Rob Siebert
A NEEEEEEEWWWWW Father

So I’ve had a week to process the death of Howard Finkel. A man who, let’s be honest, was the single greatest ring announcer of all time. This might be an apples to oranges comparison. But to yours truly and many fans who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s as I did, Howard Finkel is to ring announcing what Jim Ross was/is to play-by-play. He was that good.

Over the last several days, WWE has compiled some of Finkel’s greatest moments and pushed them out to YouTube. Let’s take a look…

First of all, there’s no “arguably” about it. “The Fink” was the absolute greatest.

Secondly, the “Dean of WWE Ring Announcing.” I kinda like that…

This next clip is one of my favorites, and quite possibly Finkel’s last truly great announcing moment. If only Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler hadn’t ruined it for the audience at home by being so damn disrespectful. But for the fans in Madison Square Garden that night? It must have been magic…

Frankly, I think that tweet we saw from Vince McMahon said it all…

Rest in peace, Howard, and know that you were loved by a great many.

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

Posted in Wrestling

Undertaker’s Best Promos: The Dead Speak!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

For my money, on Monday the Undertaker cut one of his best promos in years. If you haven’t seen it, you should see it.

So watch it.

In recent years a lot of fans have been clamoring for him to return to his American Bad Ass/Big Evil persona. That’s the closest we’ve gotten to it in a long time. In the right context, this Undertaker is every bit as menacing and intimidating as the Dead Man persona.

Like fine wine, the Undertaker improved with age. Critics, podcasters and “pundits” have talked about his matches with Kurt Angle, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, among others. Mind you, the first of those matches took place in February 2006. The real-life Mark Calaway had been wrestling for almost 20 years, and played the Undertaker for about 16 of them.

But what about the Undertaker’s mic work? His “character work,” so to speak. At the start of his run he was given a mouthpiece: Paul Bearer. The formula for an Undertaker/Paul Bearer promo was pretty simple. Paul would do most of the talking in that unsettling high pitched voice, and ‘Taker would chime in with something spooky at the end. But at that point he was playing the character like a zombie, or Frankenstein’s monster.

Below is a perfect example, and actually one of my favorite times we heard the Dead Man speak…

But after years at Paul Bearer’s side, and six years of growing and evolving the character, he clearly became more comfortable on the mic and began to take a more commanding presence in his promos. At times it was almost to the point where Bearer would simply speak to compliment what Undertaker would say.

Case in point, this little gem where he talks about a match on Valentine’s Day…

In 1996, the Undertaker/Paul Bearer tandem was split up. The Dead Man was left to fend for himself on the mic. Some nights were better than others. But on certain shows, he could make absolute magic. Especially when he had the production team behind him. These promos for the Buried Alive pay per view that fall are the stuff of legend.

Holy crap.

The changes continued into 1997 and 1998. The introduction of the Kane character, and the revelation of the Undertaker’s storyline family history would humanize the Dead Man in ways we’d never seen. In rare occasions he’d be in street clothes, albeit still black. As they built to an Undertaker/Kane match at Wrestlemania XIV, he would have to talk about his parents, his childhood, etc. The emotional needs of the story required a kind of acting that would prove challenging for anyone not trained traditional theater.

In the scene below, we see him talking to his deceased parents at their grave site. Y’know, that standard wrestling promo you’ve seen a thousand times…

But pre-produced Undertaker was not the same as arena Undertaker. That’s not to say he was bad. But a spooky, undead character obviously lends itself to more quiet settings. When you’re among screaming fans, it’s obviously very different.

Here we have a fairly famous “worked shoot” promo from 1998. He’s dressed in plain clothes, but allegedly that’s because his gear was lost in transit. It’s not the most polished mic work you’ll ever see. But the substance of it is great. I love the “slayer of dragons” line.

I’m not in love with this next one. But certain elements of it are very strong. Most notably Undertaker not looking into the camera as he’s threatening Vince McMahon. Mind you this is 1999. Years before WWE wrestlers were told not to look into the camera. This was done for effect. Then you’ve got the music, the lighting, the hood. It’s just a great looking piece of television.

Then came the American Bad Ass. In 2000, all the talk about taking souls and eternal damnation was over. After 10 years, the Undertaker was simply a tough-as-nails biker, looking like he might kill somebody at a moment’s notice. We’d seen a humanized Undertaker before. But I’d argue this was the first time we heard the Undertaker talk like Mark Calaway.

Even the Rock wasn’t safe.

The American Bad Ass would morph into Big Evil. The difference? As Bruce Prichard once said, “Semantics.” Although I suppose you could argue the American Bad Ass was a babyface, and Big Evil a heel.

By the time Wrestlemania XIX rolled around, ‘Taker wanted a match with Ric Flair. And he was going to get it. By any means necessary…

In hindsight, the really bone-chilling thing about this segment is that he references not only the future Charlotte Flair, but the late Reid Fliehr.

This next one from April of 2002 was special. Not just because of its delivery, but because they put the Undertaker with the recently-returned Hulk Hogan, and they let him talk about the elephant in the room. They let him talk about his first WWF Championship win in 1991 and say, “I beat you.” For so long, it had been taboo to reference Hogan unless it was some kind of joke or parody. But now he was back. And as you’ll see, he was fair game.

Big Evil was around until the end of 2003. By Wrestlemania the following year, the Dead Man was back. And yes, he would wear gold again. Specifically, the World Heavyweight Championship, a.k.a. the “Big Gold Belt.” He wore it three times between 2007 and 2009.

Here he is on Smackdown in 2009 after taking it CM Punk in a Hell in a Cell Match the previous Sunday. My favorite part of this promo is that he puts the belt over, and explains why he wanted it so badly. He even calls it “the Holy Grail of everyone who steps foot in this ring.”

At this point, what we were getting was a Dead Man/Big Evil hybrid. Lots of talk about souls, graves, etc. But at times, we’d see flashes of Big Evil.

Earlier that year, Wrestlemania XXV had taken place. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had that classic match, and started what would ultimately be a four-year saga that in time would include Triple H.

Once Triple H got involved in 2011, we started to see in-ring segments between all three. What resulted were some of the best, if not the best back-and-forth promos of all their iconic careers. There’s a tension in the air that you can’t script. It has to come from the performers and their chemistry.

I present to you, Exhibit A.

A year later, Triple H and the Undertaker would face off again. This time inside Hell in a Cell, with HBK as the guest referee. But initially, Hunter refused to face the Dead Man again.

What’s interesting about this segment is that it’s one of the rare times we see Undertaker come from a place of vulnerability. He’s been waiting a year for this opportunity, and he needs Triple H to say yes.

You wanna talk tension? That line about Shawn being better isn’t remotely as effective out of context. But with these characters and this dynamic, it’s huge.

Fast-forward to 2015, and we’ve got the Undertaker coming for Brock Lesnar after the Streak was broken at Wrestlemania XXX. I was so dissatisfied with that initial promo ‘Taker cut on Brock. It made him look like a sore loser. If they’d simply done something like the promo below, and included something about revenge and ‘Taker having nothing left to lose, it would have been perfect.

This next segment contains, in my opinion, the Undertaker’s last really good promo. Until last Monday, of course.

There’s not much to it, really. It’s ‘Taker declaring himself for the Royal Rumble Match. But it’s always stood out to me for two reasons. First, I love the “29 holes for 29 souls” line. Secondly, and more importantly, look at how he acts toward Stephanie McMahon. At this point (and perhaps to this day), nobody stood up to Stephanie like that.

But what could she do? He’s the Undertaker.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2019: Becky Lynch, CM Punk, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So I think I’m just going to claim this “Most Fascinating People” thing as my own. Barbara Walters doesn’t do it anymore. And I’ve been doing it on WWE personalities for years now…

Speaking of which, we’ve got some repeaters this year, as we always do. One of which I never thought we’d see again. (You’ll know him when you see him.) I’m sure a lot of them are obvious choices when you think about it. But I’d say two or three of them aren’t.

So once again, let’s get fascinating!

No? Not a good catch phrase? Just trying it on…

1. CM Punk
So yeah, this is happening.

After years of bad blood between Punk and WWE, including a lawsuit filed by WWE doctor Christopher Amann (Punk won), the old adage of “Everyone comes back eventually” was once again proven true. Well, kinda…

After weeks of speculation, on November 21 Punk did indeed become a part of WWE Backstage on FS1, serving as a frequent guest analyst. However, Punk’s deal is with Fox, not WWE. Ergo, he finds himself in the unique position of being able to critique the product as he sees fit, with seemingly no repercussions from the company. He’s already managed to stir things up with Seth Rollins. There’s no telling whose feathers he may ruffle next. Which is, of course, the point of bringing him on in the first place.

Naturally, this opened the floodgates for fans to make assumptions about an in-ring return. Truth be told, there is an aura of inevitability about it. It’s all guesswork as to when it could or would happen, but a Wrestlemania seems like an obvious choice. I wouldn’t expect “clobberin’ time” to come in 2020, though.

Punk is in a position to do things on his terms. That’s not a dynamic WWE is used to in 2019. But if there’s one person who’s been able to make this company squirm in recent years, it’s CM Punk. Seeing him do it again, even if it’s only in a storyline, would make for interesting TV.

This is CM Punk’s third appearance on the list, having been on it in 2012 and 2013.

2. Dean Ambrose
Before Jon Moxley became one of AEW’s hottest acquisitions, Dean Ambrose had perhaps the most amicable departure in WWE history.

In January, WWE put out a press release announcing that the real-life Jonathan Good would not be renewing his contract when it expired in April. The release continued: “We are grateful and appreciative of all that Dean has given to WWE and our fans. We wish him well and hope that one day Dean will return to WWE.”

This was, in many ways, unprecedented. WWE barely, if ever, calls attention to one of their top guys leaving the company. But there it was, right out in the limelight. Ambrose reportedly turned down a significant offer from WWE, citing all the “hokey” material he’d been given as of late. If you go back and watch some of what he was doing at that time, it’s not hard to see what he means…

The announcers usually danced around it on Raw. But most fans knew it was happening. To the further surprise of many, Ambrose wasn’t buried or jobbed out during his remaining months with the company. Yes, he was left off the Wrestlemania card. But he was also given a proper send-off via one more Shield reunion with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. WWE even made a network special out of his last night, calling it The Shield’s Final Chapter.

When you get right down to it, that’s got to be why they were so nice to Ambrose on his way out. Despite being open about his frustrations with the WWE creative process (including a scathing appearance on Talk is Jericho), the Shield has become one of their most bankable commodities of the last decade. They want to keep that door wide open for Ambrose to come back someday However, as Moxley has signed a multi-year deal with AEW, don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

This is Dean Ambrose’s second appearance on the list. He appeared on it last year.

3. Shayna Baszler
This year, Shayna Baszler became one of the key components in elevating NXT to cable television, and thus the same level as Raw and Smackdown. But before that happened, she dominated the entire NXT Women’s Roster. With the exception of a brief hiccup last year, Baszler has been the most dominant NXT Women’s Champion since Asuka.

We recently heard her run down the list of names herself. But this year alone she beat back Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Mia Yim, and Candice LeRae. But her true crowning moment came at Survivor Series, when she defeated Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley in a Triple-Threat Match. And although she just recently lost her NXT Title to Rhea Ripley, Baszler has a legit claim to being the top female wrestler in all of WWE.

Furthermore, there’s no shortage of bad blood between Baszler and Lynch. While it may trace back to Lynch toppling her friend Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania, Baszler has been adamant that she’s not Rousey. She has her own legacy to create. My guess? That legacy continues with a victory in the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and a title match against Lynch at Wrestlemania this spring.

4. Baron Corbin
Simply the name “Baron Corbin” is enough to make some people’s skin crawl. People hate this guy. Some fans think he’s boring. Others say he can’t wrestle. While some just see him as the smug prick he’s trying to come off as.

Either way, he may very well be one of the only true heels in all of wrestling. In an era where everybody wants to be a cool heel, a la Bray Wyatt or Adam Cole, Corbin isn’t afraid to draw legit heat from a crowd. And one of the oldest rules in the book is that if you can get people to hate you, they’ll pay to see you get beat up. That’s why they had him beat Kurt Angle in his final match. That’s why they had him win the King of the Ring. That’s why he’s feuded with the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns this year. They see him as a commodity. Or at least a commodity in the making.

Granted, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Corbin in 2019. The program with Rollins didn’t exactly leave us wanting more. Quite the opposite, in fact. And older fans have balked at some of the more childish antics he’s employed against Reigns. But mark my words, folks: At this rate, Corbin will be a Heavyweight Champion down the road. Possibly even this year.

5. Rey Mysterio
It’s no coincidence that Rey has been featured much more prominently since Paul Heyman became Raw‘s executive director. He brought Rey into ECW in the mid ’90s. Years later, when Heyman was writing Smackdown, he gave Rey a key role. So this is clearly a winning combination, and it was no different in 2019.

Rey obviously wants to set up some kind of “passing the torch” moment with his son Dominic, who is currently in training at the Performance Center. Father and son would share a sentimental moment backstage, when Dominic convinced Rey not to retire after a disheartening losing streak.

But there was nothing sentimental about the beating they’d both take from Brock Lesnar. After a brief detour involving Cain Velasquez, we got the obvious match: Brock vs. Rey for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. Like so many before him, Rey failed to defeat Lesnar. But regardless, Rey Mysterio was once again in a marquee match at a major WWE pay per view. And to his credit, he did some damn good mic work along the way. The promo where he’s looking into the camera and has the pipe in his hand was simply awesome.

6. Rhea Ripley
Ripley has created her share of headlines. She was part of the infamous Mae Young Classic match where Tegan Nox’s knee exploded, and then famously mocked her on Twitter. She would go on to become the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion, and ultimately stay tucked away on that show for more than half the year.

Then in August, she made a surprise return to Full Sail, confronting then-NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. It was a moment that created instant buzz and speculation about Ripley challenging, and possibly becoming the one to finally dethrone Baszler.

In November, Ripley would lead her team to victory in the first-ever women’s War Games Match, defeating a team led by Baszler. Ripley would close out the year by doing what many expected, and defeating Baszler for the NXT Women’s Title on December 18.

Over the years, a select few have not only held that title, but in essence become the face of the NXT Women’s Division. Bayley played that role, as did Asuka. And for about two years now, Baszler has been the face of the division. Now, Rhea Ripley has an opportunity to make her mark on the ever-growing legacy of the NXT Women’s Title. I’ve got a feeling she won’t disappoint.

7. Bray Wyatt
This could have gone really, really wrong. Thankfully, it all worked out. Mostly…

C’mon, this is WWE we’re talking about. They could easily have fumbled the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona Bray took on when he finally returned to television with his “Firefly Funhouse” segments. Wyatt would take on a Mr. Rogers-like demeanor, complete with a red sweater and puppets. But there were obvious sinister overtones, which would lead to the debut of Bray’s new alter ego, “the Fiend.” Sporting a mask designed by famed horror and special effects guru Tom Savini, the character quickly became a hit, despite still playing a heel. After years of repetitive promos, and being virtually booked into oblivion, Bray Wyatt was experiencing a full fledged career resurrection.

WWE’s first major misstep with the character came when they rushed him into a title match with then-Universal Champion Seth Rollins. A Hell in a Cell Match, no less. To make matters worse, the match inexplicably ended via ref stoppage, resulting in a massive uproar among fans. WWE attempted to correct the misstep by putting the title on the Fiend at Crown Jewel. But the match would leave a stink on both Rollins and Wyatt for weeks.

Bray continues to reign as Universal Champion, as both he and the title have been moved to Smackdown. He’s once again embroiled in a feud with Daniel Bryan, which fans seem to be into. I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll come face to face with a certain Big Dog come Wrestlemania season. But in any event, Bray Wyatt has become what so many of us knew that he, with this character, could be: A top guy. He’s the Heavyweight Champion on a show that airs weekly on Fox. Now that’s a comeback story.

8. Kofi Kingston
Kofi had a comeback story of his own in 2019. One that, ultimately, would end in disaster.

Kofi Kingston was not supposed to be challenging for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania. My guess is he and the New Day would have been involved in some sort of multi-team tag match on the undercard. But fate stepped in when Mustafa Ali was injured in February, and Kofi replaced him in the Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship. The fans fell in love with him all over again as he came within an eyelash of finally winning the big one after 11 years in WWE. He became an instant underdog sensation, as “KofiMania” was born. To WWE’s credit, they altered their storyline plans, and at Wrestlemania 35 in New Jersey, Kofi would steal the show with WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. The match culminated in an emotional victory celebration in the ring.

Kofi would keep the championship longer than many anticipated, retaining it against the likes of Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Dolph Ziggler, and even his old rival Randy Orton.

Then, along came Brock Lesnar. On October 4, in the main event of Smackdown’s debut broadcast on Fox, Lesnar would squash Kingston in less than 10 seconds to win the title. He hasn’t even sniffed a Heavyweight Title since then, having returned to tag team competition.

It’s debatable whether Kingston could  have played that top guy role longer. In the end, the real injustice here is that he’s seemingly been swept under the rug. Could Kofimania rise again? Perhaps. But it doesn’t seem likely, does it?

9. Seth Rollins
This was supposed to be Seth Rollins’ year. And in a lot of ways, it was. He won the Royal Rumble, and went on to defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania. Shockingly, he’d beat Lesnar a second time at Summerslam. As if that weren’t enough, he got engaged to Becky Lynch, and the two would become an item both on and off screen.

But oh, the power of social media. Of all things, it was a series of ill-conceived tweets that started to turn the fans against Rollins. Throw in a post-Wrestlemania feud with Baron Corbin that went far too long, and the finish to his Hell in a Cell Match with Bray Wyatt, and he was dead in the water as a babyface. What’s more, I don’t think the pairing with Lynch did either of them any favors. The closest thing I can think to equate it to would be when they put The Undertaker’s wife Sara with him on television. It just wasn’t a side of him that people wanted to see. Ditto for both Rollins and Lynch here.

WWE would, once again, do the right thing by changing their plans and turning Rollins heel. Now aligned with AOP, he finds himself jockeying for the top heel spot on Raw against AJ Styles, and ironically enough, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

This is Seth Rollins’ second time on the list, having made it in 2015.

6. Becky Lynch
As far as I’m concerned, Becky Lynch was the face of WWE in 2019. And there isn’t even a close second.

Lynch rode a wave of momentum into the Royal Rumble, where she would tap out to Asuka, but then win the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. After an injury forced her to miss out on her chance to wrestle Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, fans desperately wanted to see those two collide. To their credit, both ladies made it feel like there was legit bad blood between the two. It was a match worthy of the Wrestlemania main event. To the dismay of many, Charlotte Flair was added to the match, and it became a three-way for both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. Becky would pin Ronda (albeit clumsily) to win both titles, victorious in the first women’s match to headline a Wrestlemania.

In the months that followed, we learned just how much a great hero needs a great villain. With Ronda gone, and the Charlotte feud played out, Lynch was put with Lacey Evans. With respect to Lacey, the matches were about as thrilling as they sound. Thankfully, the freshly heel-turned Sasha Banks would come to Becky’s rescue. Their program would culminate in an excellent Hell in a Cell match in October.

At Survivor Series, Becky wrestled Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler in a Triple-Threat Match. During the build-up, we saw some really nice tension between Lynch and Baszler that was reminiscent of what Lynch had with Rousey. Baszler was adamant that she is not Ronda Rousey, and I suspect she’ll be in a position to prove that to Becky in the near future. But for now, Baszler is licking her wounds after losing her title to Rhea Rhipley, and Becky wants to avenge her loss to Asuka at last year’s Royal Rumble.

Becky was always extremely likable. A natural babyface. Ironically, it was when they tried to turn her heel last year that the fans truly rallied behind her. Becky got angry, and they got angry with her. From a storytelling perspective, there were a lot of comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rise to the top. That’s not entirely unjustified. But I think the similarities are superficial at best. I think one of the reasons fans got behind Becky so much is because she showed us something most modern babyfaces don’t: Legitimate passion and fire. So many wrestlers are struggling to memorize lines, and make the schlock written for them into passable television. All Lynch really had to do was go out there and be herself.

In the end, I think that’s something almost everyone has to do if they want to get over to any large extent. You show people who you are, albeit with the volume turned up and certain things exaggerated, and either they like you or they don’t. It’s not nearly as complicated as it seems, or as WWE makes it.

That’s something to keep in mind as we head into 2020…

This is Becky Lynch’s second time on the list. She was on it last year as well.

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

Posted in Wrestling

The Paige Situation, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Human beings are so weird.

That was the first thing that came to mind when I read that Saraya-Jade Bevis, known to WWE fans as Paige, was one of the victims of yet another mass celebrity photo/video hacking. Sadly, Austin Watson (Xavier Woods) and Tyler Kluttz (formerly Brad Maddox) can also be seen in the…content. I haven’t seen it. But there’s reportedly quite a bit. We see this kind of thing so often nowadays. I don’t even want to imagine what it must be like. My heart goes out to all three. Particularly Bevis, who was clearly the target.

Something like this tends to bring out the worst in people. Certain wrestling fans can already be a crass, immature group at times. I’ve lost count of all the “Up Up Down Down” jokes I’ve seen on Twitter. I think back to what happened with Lita, Edge, and Matt Hardy all those years ago, and how tough things ended up being for Lita in particular. And this time there’s friggin’ video footage…

People are so quick to judge. But the fact is, Bevis, Watson, and Kluttz are three consenting adults who did nothing wrong. Though you can argue it was foolish of them to tape this. This looks like it’s a few years old. But sex tape leaks and cloud hacks are nothing new. You’d think that as public figures, they’d have been a little more conscious of that. Along those lines, there’s allegedly some footage of the NXT Women’s Title being, shall we say, defaced. They put that on film, for crying out loud. But in the…*ehem*…heat of the moment, your judgment can undoubtedly be impaired.

The reality of it is, Bevis already had one foot out of WWE. She’s already been popped twice for Wellness Policy violations, and she’s engaged to Alberto El Patron (formerly Alberto Del Rio), who happens to be the World Champion over at Impact Wrestling right now. This obviously complicates things further. While neither she nor Watson deserve to be fired over this, if she still has any desire to wrestle for WWE, she might be better off going her own way for awhile. To say the least, being a full-time wrestler for WWE is a demanding job. Until this blows over it’s just going to make it more difficult. If her heart’s not in it, she shouldn’t be doing it.

Again, my own heart goes out to all three of the victims here. I hope whoever leaked this stuff gets what they deserved.

Ponderings From Raw

After a public “apology,” Mick Foley gets fired by Stephanie McMahon. Sami Zayn comes out to defend him, gets put in a match with Samoa Joe. This was a nice spot for Zayn to be in. Definitely a big character moment for him. Hopefully he continues to establish himself as an anti-establishment underdog after Wrestlemania comes and goes. At this rate, I imagine he’ll just be in the Andre Battle Royal.

And so it seems Mick Foley’s time as the general manager of Raw has come to an end. This run from Foley obviously had it’s share of problems, the biggest of which was him having to recite WWE’s heavily scripted dialogue. Foley was, and is, a performer that can incite a heavily emotional response from audiences. Doing that using someone else’s words is difficult. Most of the time, that stuff comes from your gut and from your heart. Nobody wrote those ECW promos for Cactus Jack all those years ago. That’s not to say he can’t shoulder some of the blame. But in many ways, Mick was out of his element here.

I think Foley is often put in these authority figure roles in the hopes of re-creating the magic of his time as WWF Commissioner in 2000. Foley has often said he wishes he’d stayed in that position longer. But frankly, I think it ended at just the right time. He left us wanting more, and clearly it’s left a lasting impact.

Regardless of what anyone thought of Foley’s time as general manager, he remains one of my favorite pro wrestlers of all time. To me, he has always been passion personified.

Samoa Joe def. Sami Zayn via submission. Joe with that damn dive through the ropes to the outside. Not sure why they felt the need to have him do that. We so many of those dives, at this rate the Big Show will be doing one next.

Charlotte Flair def. Dana Brooke. They could easily have put Dana Brooke into the Women’s Title Match at Wrestlemania by having her beat Charlotte here. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Wrong place, wrong time for Dana. I’m interested to see how she does on her own from here on out. But I don’t have high hopes.

Chris Jericho exposes the “real” Kevin Owens on the Highlight Reel. Owens ambushes him, rips up the List of Jericho. Damn. He ripped up the list. That clipboard is more over than most of their roster…

As was the case when Owens slammed Jericho’s head into that sign a few weeks ago, there were shades of Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels here. Only this time, we have to go all the way back to Wrestlemania XIX, when they did that story about Jericho idolizing Michaels as a youngster. This struck a similar chord.

Incidentally, notice that Darren Drozdov figure in the photo of 16-year-old KO? I still have that. Why I have that one as opposed to certain others, I have no idea. But it’s somewhere in my home right now.

Brian Kendrick def. TJ Perkins. Afterward, Kendrick reveals he’s stolen Akira Tozawa’s passport. Not much of a match here. Though he focal point was obviously the furthering of the Kendrick/Tozawa story.

They did another episode of Bring It to the Table after Raw last week, on which JBL and Corey Graves both expressed that 205 Live isn’t the show if should be right now. The emphasis, they said, should be more on action and less on the gaga and entertainment aspects. I can’t say I disagree. I was just surprise to hear them say it.

Nia Jax def. Bayley in a No Disqualification Match to earn a spot on the Raw Women’s Title Match at WrestlemaniaNo surprise here. A Fatal Four-Way between Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax has been rumored for weeks now. All I can say is I hope Nia doesn’t win it. If I had to pick now, I’d say Bayley retains. But it seems like it’s up in the air.

Triple H: Seth Rollins can compete at Wrestlemania  if he signs on for a Non-Sanctioned Match. So there it is. Seth Rollins is going to get physical at Wrestlemania. It’s been somewhat evident for awhile now, especially after last week. But it’s nice to see this officially put on the table. As unfortunate as Seth’s injury was, it gave them a cool story to tell. It put him in a hell of a babyface spot.

The CM Punk chants were out in full force again this week, during both Hunter and Stephanie’s segments. @ProWrestlingMag on Twitter, who I tend to disagree with half the time, made a valid point during the Stephanie/Zayn stuff: “Maybe chant for SAMI instead of CM PUNK. Idiots.” Fair point…

Cesaro and Sheamus def. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Enzo and Cass in a handicap match to retain their spot in the Raw Tag Team Title Match at WrestlemaniaHappy to hear the announcers point out how seemingly illogical it was that Gallows and Anderson attacked their partners at the top of the match. The idea was if Sheamus and Cesaro lost, they’d lose their spot at Wrestlemania. I understand “emotions running high,” or whatever. But the champs looked downright stupid here.

Austin Aries def. Tony Nese. Neville confronts Aries after the match. In a very short time, Aries has established himself as Neville’s most credible challenger yet. If they give these two enough time, they could be a dark horse candidate to steal the whole show.

The Undertaker interrupts the main event between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. The Dead Man chokeslams Strowman, but eats a spear from Reigns. Undertaker took some flack for looking old after hitting Strowman with the chokeslam. Hey assholes, Strowman’s got to weigh over 350 lbs. Undertaker had hip surgery less than a year ago. Do the math. I’m actually surprised they did that spot.

They didn’t follow up on Reigns’ retirement comment from last week. I half expected the Wrestlemania bout to become a Retirement Match. You’d think if ‘Taker’s career were truly about to end, they’d promote the hell out of it. This week was the absolute latest you’d want to pull the trigger on that…right? Let the speculation continue, I suppose.

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

Posted in Wrestling

Mick Foley and Charlotte Sell the Cell, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Lets talk about that segment with Mick Foley, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, shall we?

Having Foley in this general manager role has been a double-edged sword. There are weeks he seemingly struggles to recite written dialogue. We saw a little bit of that early in this segment, as he seemed to skip a line, and jump to “Right here in Minneapolis.” We had an awkward silence, much like we had a few weeks ago. When Sasha and Charlotte realized what had happened, they jumped in and said their lines.

Then Mick went into Cactus Jack mode, admonishing the ladies about the dangers of the cell. Nobody knows it better than him, after all. The intense stuff was split into portions. The first half lacked a certain personal touch, that unique perspective that only Foley can bring when talking about this match. Instead, it felt like Hell in a Cell dialogue they’d write for just about anybody.

But when the second half came, and he talked about not having a hip socket, bone grinding on bone, and his personal connection to both ladies, that was the good stuff. He fumbled over his words, and you could tell he was struggling to elevate the segment. But he got it there. The fans bought into it. They always buy into him, because he makes it so believable. I swear to God, if they’d just take the shackles off of guys like Mick, they’d get where they wanted to go, and then some.

Sasha Banks, Mick Foley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016Meanwhile, Charlotte sold her stuff like a million bucks. I believed her. She had that great line about the belt only meaning anything because of her. And then she brought up Sasha’s injuries, which added a nice layer of truth to things. She was, bar none, the best part of this segment.

As good as she is in the ring, Sasha isn’t on Charlotte’s level in terms of mic skills. And she’s certainly not on Foley’s level. She did her part, but she was outshined here.

On another note, last week they were referring to Charlotte as “Charlotte Flair.” Then tonight, Mick Foley announced her as such. Apparently she now has a last name. Works for me. I’m rarely a fan of wrestlers, particularly female wrestlers, going by first names only. It almost devalues them. Jacqueline, Tori, Melina, even Bayley. Can we at least mention their last names occasionally?

Also ladies, stop calling each other “sweetheart.” They used it at least three times in this segment. Pick another word.

Ponderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho opens the show, searching for the person who stole the List of Jericho. @WWECreative_ish on Twitter joked that the List of Jericho “may be more prestigious than the Universal Title at this point.” The sad thing is, that’s kind of true. This entire segment revolved around the theft of a running gag. But you know what? It’s a great running gag. So it actually works. The crowd actually chanted “Where’s the list?” These live Raw crowds have been better these last few weeks.

Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016

By the way, Stephanie said more than once during this show that it was her job to run Raw. Um…isn’t that technically Mick Foley’s job? I’m confused.

After Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson cut their mics off, Enzo and Cass turn to the crowd to recite their catchphrases. Enzo beats Anderson in a match. Hearing the crowd recite the usual Enzo and Cass dialogue was pretty cool. As for the match, once they said Karl Anderson’s name the outcome was never in doubt. They simply will not let him win a singles match. Come to think of it, they barely let these guys win in tags. Why should tonight have been any different?

Rusev and Roman Reigns cut pre-taped promos on each other. “Roman has done despicable things to me. He has done despicable things to my wife.” That line might have needed another round of editing. Still, I liked the execution on both of these.

Cesaro & Sheamus def. The New Day. Yet another instance of WWE giving us the pay per view match a week before the actual pay per view. Oh. Yay.

This whole program is a jerk off anyway. Cole said it on commentary: The New Day is  50 days away from tying Demolition’s tag title record. They’re not losing the belts at Hell in a Cell. Talk to me around the Royal Rumble. Or more likely, Wrestlemania.

Cesaro, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016Kofi and Cesaro looked good out there. We had the guillotine reversal into a suplex, and then the uppercut into an S.O.S. And then you had that dive over the top straight into an uppercut. Good stuff.

Am I the only one who remembers Big E. pinning Sheamus, a multi-time Heavyweight Champion? Just wondering…

Dana Brooke def. Bayley in an arm wrestling match. I checked out the moment I heard “arm wrestling match.” I like Bayley, and unlike a lot of people I actually like Dana Brooke. But no thanks.

Bo Dallas def. Curtis Axel. Some really nice passion from Curtis Axel before the match, even though it was basically cheap pops. This match had a nice start too, with Axel attacking Bo as if it were an actual fight. And then Bo had to kick out of the Perfectplex, and of course he beat Axel. But this was probably the most memorable match either man has had in a long time.

Golden Truth w/Mark Henry def. The Shining Stars w/Titus O’Neil. So the finish here involved Mark Henry pushing Titus on to the ring apron, thus knocking Primo off the top turnbuckle and costing the Shining Stars the match. Or at least that’s what it seemed like it was supposed to be. Henry basically tapped Titus on the chest, and he jumped backward on to the apron. I never thought I’d have to say this about Mark Henry, but he needed to put a little more muscle into it. An ugly end to a match with no intrigue.

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016WWE begins promoting Hell in a Cell as having a triple main event. This was the spot in the show where they put the Foley/Charlotte/Sasha segment. And with that in mind, I’ll address this triple main event thing: Nope. Sorry.

It’s like CM Punk said on the now famous Colt Cabana podcast: “I’m not f&$*ing stupid. The main event is the last match. … There’s one main event. There’s always been one main event.”

It’s pretty easy as far as I’m concerned. Just give the main event to Sasha Banks and Charlotte. This is the one time this Hell in a Cell show has something we’ve never seen before. How can you not go with that as your main event?

In the end, WWE can keep their sleazy marketing gimmicks. But what’s right is right. Give these ladies what they deserve.

Rich Swann def. Brian Kendrick. As much as I dislike Rich Swann’s dancing gimmick, having him win was cool from a story perspective. Kendrick now has even more doubt in his mind. They also made great use of archive footage of Kendrick. They really should have done it weeks ago. But better late than never.

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016As we saw last week, none of these Cruiserweight guys are winning Emmys any time soon. But I liked Kendrick’s acting in that backstage segment with Perkins. Asking Perkins to let him win on Sunday was a big character moment for him.

Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn went to a no contest. I cringe whenever someone gets flung into the barricade like Sami was. It’s a convincing spot. I’m assuming this leads to another match at the pay per view.

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman appear before an opinionated Minneapolis crowd. Is it fair to call this segment a flop? The Minneapolis crowd eventually became the story. It certainly raises questions about how the Toronto crowd will react to Goldberg at Survivor Series. Those “Goldberg sucks” brought back some memories…

Question: Is it too much to ask Brock to look like he cares? Just a little? When Heyman said that Brock was getting pissed off at the chants, he looked like he was thinking about getting back to catering. Just look mean, Brock. That’s all we ask in these segments.

Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in a triple threat match, pinning them both simultaneously. Quote of the match, from Owens: “You don’t pedigree him! Get this idiot!”

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016This match felt like a real main event. Wasn’t this supposed to be on Hell in a Cell at some point? Heck, it should be on the pay per view. It would beat having three cage matches, that’s for sure. Loved the shot on the left of Owens and Jericho looking shocked, and we got a strong ending with the powerbomb on the apron.

When you look at the show as a whole, they did something they haven’t done for awhile, if ever: They built to the third hour. They put the big stuff, Brock and the triple threat, in the third hour. As such, the show struggled early on, but it made it more watchable as a whole. Just sayin’, something to keep in mind for the future…

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Undertaker’s Legacy Inside the Cell: What Awaits Shane at Wrestlemania?

Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

To their credit, WWE pulled a fast one on us by bringing in Shane McMahon as The Undertaker’s opponent at Wrestlemania XXXII. With control of WWE on the line, Vince booked his son against the Dead Man in a Hell in a Cell Match. In response, The Undertaker told Vince: “You know what I do. The blood of your son is on your hands.”

So what does he mean by that?

Since the match’s creation in 1997, The Undertaker has been in 12 Hell in a Cell Matches. His resume includes four WWE Hall of Famers, and 12 former heavyweight champions. He’s spilled blood, sent opponents sailing off the cage, and even sent one poor sap to the fiery depths. This is what awaits Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania. No wonder he’s training so hard.

So let’s look back at ‘Taker’s Hell in a Cell record. If I were Shane, I know I would be…

WWF Bad Blood 1997, Undertaker, Kane, Shawn MichaelsShawn Michaels
WWF Bad Blood, October 5, 1997.

Leave it to these two to set the bar impossibly high right off the bat.

This match has a special place in the hearts of fans for a variety of reasons. It was the very first Hell in a Cell Match, obviously. The finish famously saw the debut of Kane. But as far as the body of the match is concerned, Undertaker and Shawn had great chemistry, as they seemingly always have. They played that cat and mouse game in the cage really well. This match also marked the first time ‘Taker would throw someone over his shoulder and ram them head-first into the cage, as he’s done in various cell matches since. He also hit Shawn right in the head with one of the hardest, loudest chair shots I’ve ever seen. And of course, you have Shawn’s famous fall through the announce table while hanging off the cage. One can argue this match set the bar too high for these cell matches, considering what Mick Foley would do less than a year later. But you can’t deny the entertainment value of this confrontation. Shawn and ‘Taker took what started off as an experimental take on a cage match, and turned it into an instant box office attraction. As most of us know, ‘Taker lost after Kane’s interference. But needless to say, he’d get plenty of chances to redeem himself in that cage.

RECORD: 0-1

Mick Foley, Hell in a Cell 1998Mankind
WWF King of the Ring, June 28, 1998.

It’s the stuff of legends. While it’s one of the scariest matches WWE has ever put on, it’s also the match that has become synonymous with Hell in a Cell. In many ways, it defined Mick Foley’s career.

Most of us know it by now: A fall off the cage, a fall through the cage, two bumps into thumbtacks, and a Tombstone Piledriver. It’s the kind of match you’d never see today, and quite frankly that’s a good thing. No one should have to put themselves through this sort of thing for the sake of entertainment.

Still, the match has an undeniable magic about it. While you can’t overlook the sheer violence of it, it told an amazing story about a man’s refusal to surrender. For better or worse, Mick Foley made himself into a legend with this match.

RECORD: 1-1

The Undertaker, the Big Bossman, Wrestlemania XVThe Big Bossman
Wrestlemania XV, March 28, 1999.

This one’s better off forgotten, quite frankly. There was no way these two were going to live up to ‘Taker’s matches with Shawn or Foley. I’d have gone with something different.

Both ‘Taker and Bossman were heels. But they were doing a story where ‘Taker was trying to play mind games with Vince McMahon, and Bossman was sent in as his enforcer. It was an odd story to tell, considering Vince was still the company’s top heel at the time.

Two moments have always come to mind when I remember this match. The first is one of the low points of Michael Cole’s career. When talking about the dangers of the cell, he said: “You can get a finger caught in there!” Jerry Lawler rebutted: “After what we saw Mick Foley go through, you’re worried about getting a finger caught in there?”

The second is the post-match image of a defeated Bossman being hung from the raised cell. Considering the real-life Ray Traylor is no longer with us, it’s uncomfortable to see.

RECORD: 2-1

The Undertaker, Rikishi, WWE Armagaddon 2000SIX-MAN CELL MATCH:
WWF Armageddon. December 10, 2000.

Now this is how you end a year. Toss most of your top stars in a cage and let ’em fight for the title! One can argue this match was a precursor to the Elimination Chamber. Though no chamber match has ever been as good as this.

The match featured Kurt Angle defending the title against The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Rikishi. Angle eventually pinned The Rock to win. But the moment everyone remembers from this match once again involves ‘Taker once again sending someone for a great fall off the cage. This time, Rikishi was the victim. Prior to the match, Vince McMahon had attempted to stop the proceedings by driving a demolition truck into the arena. The bed of the truck would later be used as a landing site for Rikishi, when Undertaker pushed him off the top of the cage. It was choreographed to look like a chokeslam, but he pushed him. The sight of a 400 lb man falling from that height certainly sticks in your mind.

RECORD: 2-2

The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, WWE No Mercy 2002Brock Lesnar
WWE No Mercy. October 20, 2002.

One can make a solid argument for this being ‘Taker and Brock’s toughest, nastiest battle. It was certainly their bloodiest. WhatCulture.com recently called this match one of WWE’s bloodiest of all time.

This was during the era when Paul Heyman was writing Smackdown, so it’s not surprising that this story had a lot going on. What’s more, Heyman was still managing Brock at this point. ‘Taker’s then-pregnant wife Sara had been used to put heat on Brock and Paul, and make things personal. What’s more, Brock had (kayfabe) broken Undertaker’s hand, which weakened the Dead Man during the match. But on the flip side, ‘Taker was allowed to use the cast as a weapon.

With its sheer violence and bloodshed, this match was one of the earliest to illustrate that Hell in a Cell Matches didn’t have to be about stunts on top of the cage. With the right wrestlers, the really twisted stuff happens inside those walls. While ‘Taker put up as valiant an effort as ever, Brock emerged victorious. Bloody, but victorious.

RECORD: 2-3

The Undertaker vs .Randy Orton, Armageddon 2005Randy Orton
WWE Armageddon. December 18, 2005.

This was a culmination of a year-long program between The Undertaker and Randy Orton. On paper it’s a tremendous main event. But this was the first cell match I can remember seeing and simply going: “Meh.” It was by no means a bad match. But it lacked a certain special something that we’d come to expect from Undertaker’s matches inside the cell.

Still, it had its share of good imagery. Orton was bloodied early on, and there were some nice shots of him getting raked against the cage, and crawling on the mat outside the ring. While it’s not always a thrilling match, it is a nice reminder of just how good Orton was in the early stages of his career. We also had “Cowboy” Bob Orton out there with his son, which added a little garnish to things. A good match, which Undertaker won with the Tombstone. But it lacks a certain something to be called one of his best in the cage.

RECORD: 3-3

Undertaker, Batista, Hell in a Cell, Survivor Series 2007Batista
WWE Survivor Series. November 18, 2007.

As was the case with Orton, Undertaker had been working with Batista on and off since Wrestlemania. But Batista had better chemistry with ‘Taker than I think anyone expected. They were able to being out the best in each other. They stole the show at Wrestlemania XXIII in Detroit, and had been having consistently good matches since. This was essentially their blow-off.

‘Taker put a new spin on an old trick out in this match, placing the thin end of a chair against Batista’s throat and then ramming it into the ring post. Batista later had a nice counter, turning “Old School” into one of his trademark spinebusters. He got a major coup toward the end, hitting his Batista Bomb on The Undertaker through a table. ‘Taker would regain the advantage hitting a Tombstone, and then a second one on the steel ring steps. It had been a battle worthy of their rivalry, until Edge emerged to cost Fittingly, Edge and Undertaker would go on to main event Wrestlemania XXIV, and then find themselves back in the cell almost a year later…

RECORD: 3-4

The Undertaker, Edge, Summerslam 2008Edge
WWE Summerslam. August 17, 2008. 

Undertaker and Edge had done quite a bit leading up to this one. They’d main evented Wrestlemania, they’d had a TLC Match, and now they were trying to cap it off inside the cell. And to their credit, they did just that.

In terms of WWE-style brawls, this match had almost everything. They wasted little time getting to the weapons and chaos. We had steel ring steps, we had a table, we had a chair, and eventually two ladders were introduced. This was almost a hybrid Hell in a Cell/TLC Match. And we saw that vicious heel side to Edge that had emerged since he’d started his now legendary heel run. He even speared Undertaker through the cage wall, and the action spilled on to the outside. Years later, Edge would reveal on Talk is Jericho that he’d wanted to take a Tombstone on top of the cage.

They went for sheer brutality mixed with iconic imagery for the finish to this match. After brutalizing Edge with a chokeslam through two tables, a shot with a TV camera, and “Con-Chair-To,” the Dead Man hit the Tombstone and got the pin. But for the grand finale, ‘Taker would chokeslam Edge from a ladder, through the mat. Moments later, the ring interior would erupt in flames. To cap off a match truly worthy of both The Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell legacy, and the spectacle of Summerslam, the Dead Man had sent his rival straight to hell…

THE RECORD: 4-4

CM Punk, The Undertaker, WWE Hell in a Cell 2009CM Punk
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 4, 2009. 

The first Hell in a Cell pay per view featured an eye-rolling three cell matches. Undertaker and Punk were up first, in what wound up being one of the shorter cell matches ‘Taker has ever been in.

Considering what they’d go on to do at Wrestlemania XXXIX, one has to wonder what ‘Taker and Punk could have done here had they been given more time. But considering what ‘Taker had done in these matches in the past, this was pretty standard by comparison. Granted, they had two more of these matches to go that evening. But come on, it’s The Undertaker…

Still, ‘Taker wound up winning the World Heavyweight Title from Punk that night after a Tombstone. So for Undertaker fans, the result wasn’t something to gripe about.

RECORD: 5-4

The Undertaker, Kane, Paul Bearer, WWE Hell in a Cell 2010Kane
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 3, 2010.

This is another one of those matches that on paper is fantastic, especially if you’re an Undertaker fan. You’ve got Kane defending the World Heavyweight Title against his brother, who has Paul Bearer back in his corner. They’re in a match The Undertaker made famous, and Kane made his debut. They’re free to do just about anything to each other. The pieces are in place for an epic confrontation.

There was nothing epic about this match.

I take no joy in saying that. But this match is a big part of the reason people aren’t clamoring for one last Undertaker/Kane match. These guys were slower than molasses, and in the end just…sad. I’ll give them credit for one thing, though. The finish saw Paul Bearer turn on The Undertaker for what he did to him several years prior in a “Con Crete Crypt Match.” WWE pays attention to continuity when they want to, and in this instance it paid off. It’s just too bad the match didn’t deliver.

RECORD: 5-5

Wrestlemania XXVIII, Undertaker, Triple HTriple H (Guest Referee Shawn Michaels)
Wrestlemania XXVIII. April 1, 2012.

This match was billed as “The End of an Era.” But they could just as easily have called it the Hell in a Cell All-Star Game. The only person who might be considered as synonymous with the cell as The Undertaker is Triple H. Now they were facing off in the cage, with the other pioneer of the cell, Shawn Michaels, as the guest referee. These three simply being in the ring together had an epic quality to it. What’s more, this was ‘Taker’s 20th appearance at Wrestlemania, and the finale of a story they’d been telling at the previous three Wrestlemania events with these iconic stars.

To their credit, they made us believe Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak was truly in jeopardy. Triple H used the steel ring steps, a chair, and his trademark sledgehammer on the Dead Man. But the one spot that really sticks out in this match is the one where Shawn superkicks ‘Taker, sending him straight into a Pedigree from Triple H. When ‘Taker kicks out, Shawn looks absolutely terrified, as if he’s just witnessed something supernatural. He’s one of the best actors the business has ever seen.

And of course, after ‘Taker’s win, the three of them walked up the ramp together, bringing tears to the eyes of many a fan who grew up watching them perform. What a match, and what a moment in Wrestlemania history.

RECORD: 6-5

Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015Brock Lesnar
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 25, 2015. 

Over 18 years after his first cell match, I’m amazed ‘Taker is still having these matches, much less against somebody like Brock Lesnar. But low and behold, there he was. And they even surprised us by getting some color.

More than anything, I remember just how snug these guys were in this match. Lesnar in particular was just beating the crap out of ‘Taker. And early in the match he hits him with a chair shot that’s pretty stiff.

Midway through the match, Brock rips up the canvas and padding on the ring, exposing the wood underneath. That’s something we hardly ever see, and it’s a unique sight to be certain. They played it up, as ‘Taker gave Brock a chokeslam and a Tombstone on it. But in the end, they tied this story up nicely with a bow, as Brock gave ‘Taker a dose of his own medicine. The Dead Man had been gaining unfair advantages over Brock for months by hitting low blows. But on this night, Brock hit ‘Taker below the belt, got an F5 on the exposed wood, and the pin. Not the best Hell in a Cell Match by any means, but it gets points for being hard-hitting.

RECORD: 6-6

Images 1 and 3 from ringthedamnbell.blogspot.com. Image 2 from prowrestling.wikia.com. Image 4 from natureinyourhand.blogspot.com. Images 5, 6, 11 and 12 from wwe.com. Image 7 from pwpnation.com. Image 8 from mediaspo0rt.com. Images 9 and 10 from bleacherreport.com. 

Posted in Uncategorized

A Drax #1 Review – “I Guess I’ll Go Kill Thanos.”

Drax #1 (2015), coverTITLE: Drax #1
AUTHORS: CM Punk/Phil Brooks, Cullen Bunn
PENCILLER: Scott Hepburn
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 4, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m really curious to see how Drax #1 does from a sales perspective. That’s not usually something I concern myself with. But I admit, I wouldn’t have picked this issue up if not for CM Punk’s involvement. I missed Thor Annual #1, which the real-life Phil Brooks co-authored. This issue is my first exposure to his writing. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but here’s the bottom line: He’s not too bad at all.

Granted, he’s got a seasoned vet like Cullen Bunn backing him up. But reportedly, Punk is very much bringing his own creative energy to Drax, and it’s not simply a matter of Bunn walking him through things. With this in mind, Drax becomes that much more interesting.

This book sees Drax strike out on his own to finally kill Thanos, the ultra-powerful being responsible for the death of Drax’s family (Long story). With an assist from Rocket Raccoon, Drax sets out on a search to finally get the revenge he’s longed for.

Drax #1, 2015, Scott HepburnReaders who came into Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie may be a bit confused, as there is no Peter Quill or Gamora. In addition to Drax, Rocket, and Groot, the team now has Kitty Pryde, Venom, and The Thing. It’s never explained why they’re there, but as this is a book about Drax, it’s not a major issue. As Punk used to scream “It’s clobberin’ time!” before many of his wrestling matches, Punk and Bunn take advantage of The Thing’s involvement for a little fan service in the very first panel.

Punk and Bunn (What a cute name for a tag team!) also have a great handle on the Guardians brand of humor. For instance, Drax’s motivation for this story is seemingly decided on a whim. With nothing else to occupy his time, he simply shrugs and says: “I guess I’ll go kill Thanos.” The simplicity of this moment makes it arguably the most memorable part of the issue.

One can argue this issue doesn’t have a lot of meat to it, particularly after we’re done with the rest of the Guardians. There’s a sequence with Drax and the spaceship, and then he takes a long stroll to get to our cliffhanger moment at the end. While there is some funny dialogue during all this, it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of substance to it. In the end, that’s fine. This is, after all, only the first issue. Plus, they keep the tone consistent throughout. So they get a pass from me.

Drax #1, Scott HepburnScott Hepburn is very much in his element here. Even on a book where humor and exaggerated expressions are so prominent, he makes you believe in Drax as a musclebound, murderous monster who somehow still has a heart. This guy’s got a lot of rage, and we see that here. But Hepburn is also able to lend a lot of charm to the almost child-like emotional extremes Drax goes to in this issue. And of course, his action sequences are every bit as dynamic as the book needs them to be.

Drax is in good hands for the time being. Seeing this team’s take on a Drax/Thanos confrontation intrigues me, as does watching CM Punk’s progression as a writer. At the very least, Drax is worth a look.

Images from author’s collection.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

AJ Lee, 20132. AJ Lee

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

Darren Young, WWE, 20133. Darren Young

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

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

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

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

Paul Heyman, 20137. Paul Heyman

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

Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman, 20138. Curtis Axel

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

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

Daniel Bryan, WWE Night of Champions 201310. Daniel Bryan

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

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

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2012

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

CM Punk, 20121. CM Punk

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

Paul Heyman, 20122. Paul Heyman

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

Titus O'Neil, 20123. Titus O’Neil

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

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

Daniel Bryan, 20125. Daniel Bryan

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

AJ Lee, WWE, 20126. AJ Lee

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

Chris Jericho, WWE, 20127. Chris Jericho

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

Heath Slater, WWE, 20128. Heath Slater

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

Dolph Ziggler, WWE, 20129. Dolph Ziggler

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

Ryback, 201210. Ryback

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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