Braun Strowman Breaks the Ring! Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Wrestling’s newest dominant monster, Braun Strowman, was all over Raw on Monday. After last week, it’s not hard to see why. His big attack on Roman Reigns was one of the best angles they’ve done in a long time. For certain Reigns fans it was downright horrifying. But for some of us it seemed downright cathartic. WWE seems to know that, and are actually playing into it. They seem to be using the fans’ hatred of Reigns, the so-called babyface, to get them to cheer Strowman, the supposed heel. By traditional wrestling logic, it’s about as backwards as you can get. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun to watch Strowman beat on people.

In the broad sense, there isn’t much about Strowman that makes him villainous. He’s a big, tough bastard who wants to fight everyone. In the context of a wrestling show that’s a pretty admirable quality. Yes, he absolutely destroyed Roman Reigns. But think about the stuff we used to see Steve Austin do to Vince McMahon and a lot of the other heels. One of the more famous moments in Raw history involves Austin abducting McMahon and holding him hostage with what we think is a gun (later revealed to be a toy). He only let him go after McMahon wet his pants in the middle of the ring.

It’s amazing what you can get away with doing to someone the fans hate. We’re being reminded of that with now with Strowman.

Ponderings From Raw:

After Kurt Angle tells Strowman he has a match with Roman Reigns at Payback, Strowman attacks numerous wrestlers in the locker room. The best of these backstage segments involved Strowman beating up Kalisto and then dropping him a dumpster. This poor guy has become WWE’s resident whipping boy. On Smackdown it was basically his job to get beat up by Dolph Ziggler. Now in his first week on Raw, he’s getting thrown in the trash by Strowman. He desperately needs to hide on 205 Live for awhile.

Booker T steps in for David Otunga at the announce table. Otunga’s start on Raw has been delayed, as he’s off shooting a movie. Can’t we just make Booker the full-time announcer? He’s got more personality than Otunga ever will, and he’s got decades of experience to draw from. He’s already doing the pre-shows, isn’t he? Why not just shift him on to the main broadcast?

Samoa Joe vs. Chris Jericho via submission. Rollins was on commentary for this match. So often, the babyfaces are so vanilla when they sit at the announce desk. I usually find myself wishing they’d be a little more charismatic, and make us actually like hearing them. Instead, this felt like the usual fluff. Nice post-match promo by Joe, though.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. Enzo and Cass. No interest in this one from me. We’ve seen these teams wrestle a thousand times. I zipped right through it.

Dean Ambrose appears on Miz TV. It feels like we’re beating a dead horse here. Miz and Ambrose just feuded on Smackdown a few months ago. They did fine, but it’s not like we’re dying to see them go again.

They made a point to have Miz call Ambrose lazy and complacent in this segment. This is at least the second time they’ve done that since Steve Austin called him out last year for allegedly resting on his laurels. Why go there again? Can’t they come up with anything better for Miz to say? Hell, I’d have brought up his marriage to Renee Young before I went this route. They talked about it on their web site. Why not here?

TJ Perkins def. Jack Gallagher. Now that he’s a heel, Perkins needs a new entrance. That video game stuff is strictly babyface material. He seems to be having fun being a bad guy, though. It’s funny how much heat he got just from dabbing.

Alexa Bliss def. Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Nia Jax to become the top contender for the Raw Women’s Title at Payback. Sasha did another one of her dives through the ropes during this match. I always hold my breath when she does that. It looked like she caught her leg on the rope, and went back-first into Mickie and Nia.

Saw a decent amount of buzz about Sasha vs. Alexa during this match. Not sure what would be so awesome about that program in particular. But I’m down for it.

Last week, Nia Jax caught heat online for dropping Charlotte Flair on her head during their match. Thus, she’s going to be scrutinized even more. To an extent it’s unfair to her, as she was thrust into the spotlight despite her inexperience. What’s she supposed to do? Turn down a prominent spot on Raw? But on the other hand, she’s in a spot that so many more seasoned wrestlers would kill for. So she’s got to take her lumps when she makes a mistake like that.

Finn Balor accepts an open challenge from Curt Hawkins, wins a quick match. Happy to see Balor in the ring this week. Rumors said he was concussed during his match with Jinder Mahal last week. Apparently he was healthy enough to do a short match this week, which is good news. The last thing he needed was another serious injury.

Dash Wilder sustains a broken jaw at NXT live event, will be out of action until summer. Terrible break for the Revival. Between Wilder, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Kofi Kingston’s ankle surgery, the injury bug is definitely going around.

A promo package airs featuring Bray Wyatt talking about the House of Horrors Match at Payback. This was the best parts of the entire show. Great horror imagery, combined with a promo without much of Bray’s trademark laughter. That’s a winning formula. Now if only they’d tell us what a House of  Horrors Match is.

Incidentally, Michael Cole called Payback a “Raw exclusive pay per view.” But it’s got matches for the WWE Title and the United States Title, both of which are on Smackdown. It’s an odd line-up, isn’t it?

Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro. Definitely the wrestling highlight of the show. Any time they put Cesaro in a prominent TV match, he delivers. Now if only Vince McMahon saw the same kind of star power in him that we all do.

Prior to the match, the Hardys did a backstage interview where Matt slipped a bit of his “Broken” accent in there. He’s clearly chomping at the bit to do that character on WWE TV. I can’t say I blame him.

Braun Strowman and the Big Show go to a No-Contest after they break the ring with a Superplex. Cole, Booker, and Corey Graves didn’t sell the ring break nearly enough. I understand we’ve seen this spot with Big Show before. But c’mon, guys! The damn ring imploded!

I continue to have mixed feelings about Braun Strowman leaving his feet during matches. In this match we saw him do dropkicks, kip-ups, and even Arm Drags. But if he’s going to do it, better he do it in a match with another giant. It obviously sets him apart quite a bit.

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Chris Jericho’s Date with a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE United Kingdom ChampionshipBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With the announcement of the crowning of a United Kingdom Champion on the WWE Network next year, there’s naturally been a lot of buzz. The idea, reportedly, is for the network to have weekly UK show similar to what 205 Live is for the Cruiserweights. So there’ve been questions about the continued oversaturation of content, WWE potentially trying to create its own territorial system, what this means for other promotions across the world, etc. All valid questions.

Quite frankly, I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to see any of this UK content. There are only so many hours in a week. But for now, I’m taking an optimistic approach. This tournament has a big upside. The UK is in the midst of its own wrestling boom right now, and I’ve been able to see very little of what’s going on over there. All these guys now have a chance to wrestle in front of a whole new audience, and educate a lot of American fans about British wrestling.

One of WWE’s big drawbacks in the last several years has been its inability to create new stars. Using the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, they’ve been able to bring guys like Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, and Cedric Alexander to the main roster. Whether they’ll become big stars remains to be seen. But they’re commodities. They’re fresh faces. As somebody who watches Raw and Smackdown every week, it’s tough to complain about a potential new source of fresh faces.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Mick Foley announces Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble, with Chris Jericho suspended from the ceiling in a shark cage. Poor Mick. He tries so hard. And he’s still got some of his trademark charm despite being forced to recite scripted dialogue. But then he makes an embarrassing mistake like he did here, saying they were in Pittsburgh instead of Columbus. I love Mick Foley, I really do. But I’m glad he’s reportedly got a couple weeks off. He needs a break.

Some guys who need a break from each other? Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Chris Jericho. It feels like they’ve been working together nonstop since September. The Jericho stipulation notwithstanding, the Universal Title Match announcement was a disappointment. If I’m Roman Reigns, I’m expecting a dome full of boos at the Rumble, justified or not.

Rusev def. Big Cass via disqualification. Enzo later attends sensitivity training. Shorter is probably better with Rusev and Cass right now, so I won’t complain about what we saw here. I’ll credit Cass with one thing: He looked legit pissed at Rusev.

One of the stories on this show involved Enzo being sent to sensitivity training after being “naked” on the show a few weeks back. This didn’t do much for me. It seemed like they were trying to mimic the success they had with the Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skits a few years ago. But once again, I credit them for doing something different, breaking up the monotony, and extending a plot thread through much of the show.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Sasha BanksNia Jax interrupts Sasha Banks. Firstly, mad respect for Sasha for her performance at Roadblock. She doesn’t have to take the risks she does. Often they’re unnecessary. But you can’t doubt her passion. That always shines through.

That being said, I turned the volume down when she started talking. This might be unpopular, but her promos now officially annoy me. It’s not entirely her fault. She’s just written as a white meat babyface right now. I will credit her with looking into the hard camera, though. Eye contact = connection. She can also put on a great boo-hoo face (shown above).

Champion or not, it wasn’t hard to figure out Nia Jax and Sasha were going to be partnered after Roadblock. Again, lack of roster depth. Given their obvious size difference, I’m intrigued. I liked Nia calling Charlotte a “little girl.” This program will be good for her.

Austin Aries makes his Raw debut at the announce desk. Cedric Alexander def. Noam Dar. I’ve got high hopes for Cedric Alexander in 2017. He’s so damn explosive, and that Lumbar Check is awesome. I also think this is the first time we’ve seen Cedric and Alicia come out together on Raw.

After the match, Noam Dar got on the mic and essentially said he wanted Alica. I’m certainly not Shakespeare, but here’s a writing tip: When another man says, on national television mind you, that he wants to get with your girlfriend, you kick his ass. You don’t just stand there and get angry. It makes you look like a chump.

Noam Dar, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016If I’m not mistaken, this was Austin Aries’ Raw debut. A little understated, considering what his status was in other promotions. But at least he’s there. He’s not a good announcer yet. But I like that they’re having him tag in for Cruiserweight matches. It’s a little bit like what Mike Tenay used to do on Nitro.

Sheamus, Cesaro, and the New Day def. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and the Shining Stars. I never hated the “penny” tag belts the way some fans did. The tag titles they used on Raw during the first brand split looked so generic that I was just grateful for something different. That being said, the red belts Sheamus and Cesaro got on this show look better.

The pre-match dialogue with New Day, Sheamus, and Cesaro was actually pretty good. Then Gallows and Anderson came out and spoiled it. Then the Shining Stars came out and killed it dead. No interest in the eight-man tag. I assume the New Day will get a tag title rematch soon.

Also, Big E’s little ad lib about Charlotte becoming a 16-time champ by next month was on point. I tip my hat to you, sir.

A commercial airs for John Cena’s return to Smackdown next week. I don’t normally comment on these things, but this spot for Cena’s return was really well done. It was like a super-condensed career retrospective, and played up Cena as the elder statesmen and legend they want him to be.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, TJ Perkins, Rich SwannAfter turning on Rich Swann at Roadblock, Neville cuts his first heel promo on Raw. He and Brian Kendrick lay out Swann and TJ Perkins. Neville’s delivery was pretty good here. I don’t really see him as a big promo guy, but he surprised me. I was really skeptical about him turning heel. But if he switches up his in-ring game a little bit, this heel turn just might work for him.

Lately TJ Perkins has become the Dolph Ziggler of the Cruiserweight Division. Lately all he does is lose to Swann and Kendrick. Plus, he ran out there to save Swann, and immediately ate a kick from Neville. Thanks for coming, idiot. He needs to write a sternly worded letter to creative.

After Foley refuses to give him another shot at Sami Zayn, Braun Strowman decimates Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil. There was something very cathartic about seeing Braun Strowman rip apart that hokey Raw Christmas set. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.

I really dug that lingering shot of Mick Foley standing there looking over the body of Sin Cara, observing Braun’s damage and pondering the consequences of his actions.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Bayley, Charlotte FlairCharlotte Flair gloats after her Roadblock victory. Bayley interrupts. Bayley pins Charlotte in controversial fashion. Corey Graves called Charlotte the “Iron Queen” as she came out. I like that. That’s different. As with Sasha, I give Charlotte a world of credit for the effort she put into that Iron Man Match. She’s the best female talent they have right now, and arguably the best overall heel in the company.

Good line: “Well, you are dressed like a fifth grader. So let’s go to school!”

Bad line: “Every month … you subscribe to the WWE Network thinking this is going to be the month that Charlotte loses, and every month I disappoint all of you.” Um, Charlotte has lost the title to Sasha three times now. I don’t need to buy the network hoping to see her lose. I can see it for free. Hell, I saw it this week! I get what she was going for, what with the pay per view winning streak. But there’s something to be said for clarity.

Based on what we saw here, I’m optimistic about what we’ll get from Charlotte and Bayley. This could lead to Bayley’s best in-ring performances since her main roster debut.

Braun Strowman interrupts the main event, attacking Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. This might not be a popular opinion, given WWE’s obsession with three-man announce teams these days. But the Michael Cole/Byron Saxton/Corey Graves dynamic is growing on me. Specifically with the role Saxton is playing as the cheesy, aw-shucks babyface announcer that Graves hates. They had a little sarcastic exchange about Graves getting Saxton the night off next week, with Cole adding that Saxton should spend time with his family. Saxton’s reply: “You guys are my family!” I won’t lie, I laughed.

Brain Strowman, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016After sitting through yet another Raw main event with Owens, Jericho, Reigns, and Rollins (or some combination of said four), I was really pleased to see Strowman out there. Not only does it do him good to rub shoulders with the main eventers, but it did Sami Zayn a bit of good to have the announcers mention his role in all this during a main event segment.

I honestly never through I’d see the day Braun Strowman would be the best part of a Raw main event. But here we are.

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Kevin Owens Stands Tall, More Cruiserweights, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Lince DoradoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Question: How much content is too much? Is there such a thing?

Last week, we got the announcement of WWE 205 Live, a WWE Network exclusive show featuring the cruiserweights. The show will air after Smackdown on Tuesdays. Mauro Renallo and Corey Graves will call matches featuring the likes of Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, etc. Talking Smack will now move to 11 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Obviously, WWE’s number one priority right now is the network. From a business standpoint, there are few things more important than getting those subscription numbers up. Obviously the network appeals primarily to die-hard wrestling fans. So what better way to entice them than with more wrestling? Called by Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves, no less.

But even the geekiest of pro wrestling geeks have lives, don’t they? Is WWE going to burn out their dedicated core audience by giving them too much? Factoring in RawSmackdownNXT, and now this 205 Live show, that’s seven hours of fresh content a week. And that’s not counting supplementary shows like Main Event and Superstars. That’s also not accounting for pay per views, of which there are now 19. I don’t care how big a fan you are, that’s a lot of wrestling.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsPerhaps its a matter of variety. For years we’ve heard talk about the Raw brand, the Smackdown brand, etc. But in reality, it’s pretty much all been the same stuff. In a lot of ways, NXT changed that. NXT isn’t simply about different talent. There’s a different look and vibe to the entire product. It’s an alternative, and you can only get that alternative by forking out 10 bucks a month for the network. Is 205 Live going to be it’s own unique alternative? What can we see on that show that we can’t see on Raw?

I understand the on-demand nature of the WWE Network, and that you can essentially take in this content at your own pace. But with all this content coming out from WWE, at what point to we stop being surprised that Raw ratings are going down? It’s not rocket science, folks. The more content you give, the less urgent it is to see it. When all we had were two hours of Raw every Monday, we couldn’t wait to take it in. Now there are weeks where we simply can’t take it anymore.

At the very least this show will give the guys who aren’t on Raw every week, i.e Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, and Jack Gallagher another stage to perform on. I just wonder if and how the audience will divide as WWE continues to expand and diversify its offerings.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016After a volatile start to the show, a fatal five-way match is made between Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and the newest member of Team Raw, Seth Rollins. I hate these fatal five-way matches. It’s an awkward number. Somehow four wrestlers work, and six wrestlers work, but five is don’t.

A pretty standard segment for a “Can these teammates get along?” story. I wish we’d had more definitive consequences. Stephanie told them to fight like their jobs depend on it, “Because they do.” Does that even mean anything? They also missed an opportunity to make the winner the captain of the team.

Rich Swann & Sin Cara def. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar. Assuming these rumors of a fight with Chris Jericho are true, it’ll be interesting to see if Sin Cara remains on television. It’s not like they don’t have plenty of cruiserweights. Though he earned mad respect for me after that senton to the outside on Noam Dar.

This was my first exposure to Noam Dar. We didn’t get to see much of him. But a nice little introduction. Brian Kendrick deserves a lot of credit for helping establish some of these guys in front of the mainstream audience. I expect he’ll face Rich Swann for the title at Survivor Series.

Bill GoldbergA retrospective vignette on Goldberg airs. I was hoping they’d do something like this, as they usually do for Brock Lesnar’s matches. These are always good.

Since Goldberg has resurfaced, WWE has made a point to market him as a WCW star, WCW legend, WCW Champion, etc. That’s fair enough. He’s as much a WCW guy as anything else. But he wasn’t just a WCW guy. He was a champion in WWE as well. They’ve almost glossed over that. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering how forgettable most of Goldberg’s WWE run was.

The New Day rally Team Raw for their match at Survivor Series. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson knock off the champions in a non-title match. The crowd really pulled this segment out of the ground. When you’ve got so many guys out there, I understand having to script the dialogue. But this was the same canned verbiage we always get, and it seemed like it went on forever. At least the Scotland fans were having fun.

Imagine my shock to see Anderson and Gallows get the win here. So do they now fight Cesaro and Sheamus to see who gets the next title shot?

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBrock Lesnar talks Goldberg via video package. This one was even better than Goldberg’s, considering how politically incorrect Brock always is. “At Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden, I didn’t give two sh*ts about wrestling.” HA!

This was another awesome line: “I don’t give a damn what his 10-year-old son is gonna think. I’m not gonna show any f@#kin’ mercy on Bill Goldberg.”

Finally, someone on this show has some balls. No wonder Brock is so over. Look at how he talks, compared to how everyone in that New Day segment talked. There are no chains on Brock. He’s allowed to be himself.

The Shining Stars def. Golden Truth to get their spot in the tag team elimination match at Survivor SeriesI zipped right through this one on the DVR. Here’s what I will say: At least they kept the Shining Stars out of the third hour.

Not sure why they did this. To even the babyface-heel ratio on Team Raw? Why? What’s the difference either way? I’d much rather see Goldust and R-Truth in a pay per view match than Primo and Epico. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I don’t know if an act has ever had as much channel-changing heat with me.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016Michael Cole interviews Raw‘s female team. Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox are revealed as the remaining two members. The Scotland fans serenade Bayley.  The crowd didn’t exactly make it easy on them, did they? The girls couldn’t even get their lines out. As off-putting as it may have been, it’s always great to see a crowd that enthusiastic. Especially for the women’s division. Bayley might have been the one person more over in Scotland than Noam Dar.

The Alicia Fox portion of this segment was painful. Not because of Alicia, but because of that Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie reference. They really shoehorned that line in there.

Bayley, Sasha Banks, & Alicia Fox def. Charlotte, Nia Jax, & Dana Brooke. My favorite part of this match was when Bayley and Nia were in the ring together. They have to do some kind of program between them soon.

I’m not thrilled that Charlotte took the fall on this one. After Gallows & Anderson beat the New Day, that means two champions were beaten on this show.

WWE Raw, November 7, 2016, Sami Zayn, RusevSami Zayn def. Rusev to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at Survivor Series. I breathed a sigh of relief on this one. After all the love triangle stuff last year, I’ve had my fill of Rusev/Dolph Ziggler stuff for awhile. Ziggler and Zayn should also have a hell of a pay per view match.

Rusev hasn’t had a great couple of weeks. He lost to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell, he got punched out by Goldberg last week, and now he loses to Sami Zayn. I’m hopeful we can get Rusev back on track as a monster soon.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman in a fatal five-way match. The right person won this one, especially on a show where the New Day and Charlotte were pinned. And he pinned Jericho, which was a nice touch.

To WWE’s credit, they’ve done an excellent job making protecting Braun Strowman since the roster split. I once cringed at the thought of him challenging the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It’s still not a match I’m dying to see, but at least now Strowman is a commodity. Until now he’s just been large.

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Survivor Series Teams Come Together, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WCW Halloween Havoc setBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve never understood WWE’s aversion to reviving some of the themed shows WCW used to do. Especially since the advent of the WWE Network. They would essentially double as commercials for all that archived WCW content. War Games is an obvious example. And of course, every October we miss Halloween Havoc.

I get that the concept of Halloween Havoc is a little hokey. But not more so than the “Trick or Street Fight” we saw between Enzo and Luke Gallows. And some of those old sets were a lot of fun. What’s the harm in at least trying it once?

What’s more, using Halloween Havoc would mean we wouldn’t have to put up with these contrived Hell in a Cell matches every year. Imagine that.

Ponderings From Raw:

Bill Goldberg opens the show, gives the jackhammer to Rusev, and a spear to Paul Heyman. After last week’s rough segment with Brock and Heyman in Minneapolis, it was a relief to see how well this crowd reacted to Goldberg. How he’ll do in Toronto with Brock in the building is another story.

Bill Goldberg, October 31, 2016, WWE RawAfter last week’s rough segment with Brock and Heyman in Minneapolis, it was a relief to see how well this crowd reacted to Goldberg. How he’ll do in Toronto with Brock in the building is another story.

From a physicality standpoint, this wasn’t the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen. But Goldberg hasn’t wrestled in 12 years. Better he stumble on this show than at Survivor Series. Also, if Goldberg does stick around for a second match, he now has a built in opponent in Rusev.

I can’t imagine what must have been going through Paul Heyman’s mind out there, knowing that spear was coming. Goldberg may have been gone for 12 years, but he’s still an athlete. Heyman isn’t.

I really wish that shortly after seeing Goldberg hit a spear for the first time in over a decade, we hadn’t transitioned to a shot of Byron Saxton in duckie pajamas, and Corey Graves in a gaudy Halloween suit. That’ll take the luster off any big moment.

Enzo Amore def. Luke Gallows in a Halloween “Trick or Street Fight.” Graves redeemed himself with that line about poisoning the water hole. Nice Toy Story reference.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsThe sequence with Karl Anderson getting hit with the pie and then taking the kick through the table was well timed. Nicely done.

TJ Perkins def. Brian Kendrick via count out. That landing Perkins took during the head scissor spot was brutal. He’s lucky he didn’t end up worse off.

So does this mean Rich Swann is next in line for a title shot? He did beat Kendrick last week, after all.

Braun Strowman wins a battle royal to earn a spot on Team Raw at Survivor Series, joining Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns. I was expecting Rusev to be in this spot on the team, so Strowman is a surprise. It seemed like he was set for a little program with Sami Zayn. But this works for me. And if they don’t want him to win at Survivor Seroies, they can simply have him get disqualified or counted out.

It’s tough to tell if Strowman has improved since coming to Raw, as he’s mostly been in squash matches. This Survivor Series match might just be indicator.

Rich Swann, Lince Dorado, & Cedric Alexander def. Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, & Ariya Daivari. I was encouraged to hear Graves mention Swann’s victory over Kendrick last week. It appears he is indeed being positioned as Kendrick’s next challenger. Swann’s enthusiasm can be a bit too much for me at times. But I’ll never deny his athleticism and his explosiveness. Here’s hoping we get something good.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, October 31, 2016Charlotte calls out Bayley. Demands she prove she’s not the weakest link on their Survivor Series team. Awhile back, Brian Masque of Forbes.com wrote that Charlotte is already the greatest female WWE star of all time. It’s getting tougher and tougher to argue against that as time goes on. She simply keeps getting better. I didn’t expect her to walk out of Hell in a Cell with the title. But I won’t argue against it.

Just so we’re clear, Bayley is the only character on this show that can get away with calling someone “the biggest jerk.”

Nia Jax def. Bayley. This is what I wanted to see coming out of Hell in a Cell. I don’t know if I wanted to see it the very next night. But it’s nice to see these two together. I’d previously speculated that they might have a great bully/victim chemistry. With this match they proved that is indeed the case.

Cesaro & Sheamus def. The Shining Stars. With their DQ victory over the New Day at Hell in a Cell, Cesaro & Sheamus remain viable challengers for the titles. It looks like this long form story will indeed end with them being the team to finally dethrone the champions. I’d have gone with Enzo & Cass. But I guess this works too.

New rule: If we have to have the Shining Stars on TV, they can’t be in the third hour. After two hours of Raw, I’ve got no patience for this act.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho via disqualification. Seth Rollins makes the save afterward. A strong main event, which for my money had a big fight feel to it. Both the die-hards and the kids had someone to cheer in this one. They were all pretty tired at this point. But it worked in theory.

Rollins will obviously take that last spot on Team Raw. Aside from Strowman, it was pretty easy to call. I see the Smackdown team taking it home at Survivor Series, which finally leads to the big implosion between Owens and Jericho. Unless they stretch it out even further, which I would be okay with at this point. Whatever keeps Jericho on television.

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Bill Goldberg, Survivor Series, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE Survivor Series 2016, general managersBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I realized something while watching this show. WWE is doing something they haven’t done in years. They’re thinking ahead in terms of pay per view promotion.

For obvious reasons, we always hear about Wrestlemania. We spend a good portion of the year thinking about it. Where is it going to be? What’s attendance going to be like? What are the big matches? Who’ve they got for Undertaker and John Cena? Things like that. But Wrestlemania is a staple of the WWE brand. They’re always hammering it in as the show to top all shows.

But what about, say…Survivor Series?

For the longest time, Survivor Series has been the red-headed stepchild of the classic WWE pay per views. Never as big as Summerslam or the Royal Rumble, and never even in the same conversation as Wrestlemania. It was always simply the November pay per view that happened to have some gimmick tag team matches on it.

Try this: Off the top of your head, what’s the most recent big Survivor Series match you can think of without Googling? For me, it was The Rock’s return to the ring in 2011, teaming with John Cena against The Miz and R-Truth. A few minutes later, I was able to trace things back to Roman Reigns against Dean Ambrose from last year.

WWE Survivor Series 2011, The RockThis year, however, they’re upping their game. On this week’s show, not only were they talking about Hell in a Cell in two weeks, but they’re already setting the table for Survivor Series. We’ve got Goldberg coming back for that show, and they’re establishing the Raw vs. Smackdown stuff. In addition, they’re already talking about the Royal Rumble coming back to the Alamo Dome in January.

I’m sure it’s not paying dividends yet, but folks, this is how you get people interested. You give people reasons to care by building things up in advance, and not taking things on a month by month basis. I can’t even tell you when the last time Survivor Series had this much buzz around it, much less when they were talking about the Royal Rumble as early as October.

More of this, please. We have more pay per views than ever, but we can still make the big ones mean something.

Ponderings From Raw:

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho open the show. Seth Rollins challenges Jericho to a rematch from last week, which he wins. I was surprised at how hot the Denver crowd was for what was essentially your standard opening promo. It’s a testament to just how good Owens and Jericho are as a duo. Had they put, say, Roman Reigns, Rusev, and Lana in this spot, it would have been business as usual. They even got that “sparkle crotch” line over.

Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 17, 2016Given the segment we’d see later with Stephanie McMahon, it looks like they’re saving Owens vs. Jericho for Roadblock in December. The crowd is going to pop huge when Jericho tells Owens he’s made the list.

Lita conducts one-on-one interviews with Charlotte and Sasha Banks. I always like when they do this kind of thing. They did it with Seth Rollins a few weeks ago, and it went even better this week. Great intensity from Charlotte. It made me wonder if she was about to cut a promo on Lita. I wouldn’t mind seeing that…

As for Sasha, we all love her. But they need to give her some new talking points. We get it. You wanted this as a little girl. You’re making history. You were with these girls in NXT. You said this stuff every other week. Please move forward.

Golden Truth & Mark Henry def. Titus O’Neil & the Shining Stars. I really wish I didn’t have channel changing heat with the Shining Stars. But whaddaya gonna do?

Oh…hi Mark Henry…?

Big E. def. Sheamus. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how strong these guys are. Big E. literally caught Sheamus in a powerbomb position before slamming him. That should have been the win right there, as opposed to the roll-up spot they went with. Still, now Big E. can say he beat a former four time heavyweight champion in Sheamus.

Bo Dallas, WWE Raw, October 17, 2016Want to get drunk real fast? Take a shot every time someone said Facebook Live during this segment.

Bo Dallas def. Neville, turns on Curtis Axel. I’m still not into those little poems he recites. But by and large, I’m into crazy Bo Dallas. This begs the question: Why didn’t they do this sooner? Crazy Bo sure as hell beats Social Outcasts Bo.

Dana Brooke def. Bayley. This one was a dud, made worse by a botched finish. Dana Brooke was obviously supposed to get her foot on the bottom rope for added leverage, thus cheating to beat Bayley. But the way it came off she looked like she beat her clean. Sorry ladies.

Paul Heyman addresses Bill Goldberg via satellite. The best part of this promo? Heyman putting that condescending emphasis on the name Bill. “It’s a game, Bill. It’s a fantasy, Bill. Not Goldberg. Bill. That got a laugh out of me.

After winning a three on one squash match, Braun Strowman is challenged by Sami Zayn. Oh Sami, no. I’m so sorry, buddy…

Roman Reigns, Rusev, and Lana have an in-ring segment. Yeah, I won’t lie…I DVRed through this one. Sorry folks, I just didn’t have the stomach for more awkward Roman and Lana dialogue this week. By the time I hit the play button, Roman and Rusev were fighting, and Rusev won. Fair enough.

Big Cass, Karl Anderson, WWE Monday Night Raw, October 17, 2016Big Cass def. Karl Anderson. Corey Graves: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised. Big Cass dispatching of Karl Anderson in relatively short order.”

I understand wanting to maintain the illusion that a six foot tall, 240 lb man can beat up a seven foot tall, 275 lb man. But c’mon, Corey. Don’t say stuff like that. It hurts your credibility, and you’re one of the more credible announcers they have right now.

When I saw Enzo in that pink….whatever that was, it became clear the show was falling off the rails. It’s third hour syndrome, folks.

Brian Kendrick, Tony Nese, & Drew Gulak def. TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, & Rich Swann. I like the Brian Kendrick story. But here’s an observation: They keep saying this might be his last chance. But he was given a spot on Raw after losing in the Cruiserweight Classic, and he’s now getting his second opportunity at the Cruiserweight Title. Just saying.

I was looking at Tony Nese and Cedric Alexander in this match. They’re the budding stars of this division as far as I’m concerned. On the flip side, I’m really trying to like Rich Swann. That leaping hurricarana from the mat to the top turnbuckle was amazing, and of course he loves his somersaults. But his on-air personality grates on me. I have no use for the dancing gimmick.

cvbmqubumaa1v3r-jpg-largeBill Goldberg returns to Raw, accepts Brock Lesnar’s challenge for a match. As always, Goldberg got a really cool entrance. Nice touch having him walk past some of the current guys. And I’ve got to give it up for that Denver crowd again. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a crowd chant “Goldberg!” louder.

One of my favorite wrestling podcasters, the Solomonster, talked about this on his show this week: I’m not sure people remember just how big a deal Goldberg was during the Monday Night War. He was a franchise player for WCW. Was he as big a star as Steve Austin or the Rock? Probably not. But everybody knew who he was. And having him back is a big deal for WWE. Against Brock Lesnar, no less.

They made no mention of Survivor Series being the venue for this match, but it’s been widely reported that’ll be where it happens. I’ll reiterate that I’m very interested to see how Goldberg looks compared to Brock.

Goldberg’s proclamation of, “You’re last!” was interesting. That seems to indicate they’re marketing this as Goldberg’s last match. That’s fair enough. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to squeeze just one more out of him for Wrestlemania. Even if it’s just a spear and a jackhammer.

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

Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens in a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Rusev, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016It’s that time of year, folks. School is back in session. The leaves will soon be changing colors. The Halloween shops have started opening. Monday Night Football is back on the air. Autumn is here. Which for WWE fans means the “autumn slump.”

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to call it that, but I’m not the first talk about it. The autumn slump refers to the downturn in TV quality we tend to see between September and December. In the past few years, the autumn slump has brought us a Big Show/Randy Orton program for the WWE Championship, Sheamus winning the WWE Championship at a time when his career was lukewarm at best, and what may have been the 100th John Cena/Randy Orton feud.

And so once again, WWE must try to avoid the autumn slump, and persevere through competition from Monday Night Football.

They’re not off to a good start…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Mick Foley, and Stephanie McMahon open the show. Coming off the finals of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament last week, I was hoping they’d open with the cruiserweights. Instead, we got yet another long-winded talking segment. A fairly cold start to things, which led to a cold match between Seth Rollins and Rusev. Even Kevin Owens, who’s usually very natural, came off highly scripted here.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016Meanwhile, we still have no idea why Triple H interfered in the Universal Title Match a few weeks ago. Even Reigns brought up Hunter’s absence. Steph did “guess” at his motivations later in the show. But we still don’t have any answers from Triple H. Perhaps those answers will come at Clash of Champions.

Seth Rollins vs. Rusev goes to a double count-out. As good as both these guys are, I’ll admit I had this match on mute most of the time. What was at stake? And in the end, they had a non-finish. Again, such a cold, cold start.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara. Not the match they needed to go with at this stage of the show. Both guys were perfectly serviceable. But again, not much to latch on to between these two. I found myself utterly bored.

Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Charlotte & Dana Brooke. It took them almost an hour to give us a match that actually had something going on in it. Though were hardly perfect here. I can only assume they’re still trying to turn Dana Brooke into a babyface. To what end I’m not sure. Not only is she a natural heel, but she’s on a roster with two widely popular female wrestlers like Sasha and Bayley.

Dana Brooke, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016So…does Dana cost Charlotte the title at Clash of Champions? They made a point to put the title on Sasha several weeks ago. I assume the reason Charlotte won it back was because they didn’t know how long Sasha would be out with her back problems. Perhaps now they simply go back to their original plan with her.

Bo Dallas wins another squash match. Just when you thought the show was about to pick up… Ugh.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. Their Best of Seven series is now tied at 3-3. I must have rewound my DVR and watched that finish four or five times. Not because it was so spectacular, but because for a moment I thought Sheamus flung himself into an uppercut in the balls. Winning with your feet on the ropes is one thing. An uppercut to the balls? That’s something else.

The New Day, Enzo & Cass, & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & the Shining Stars. The in-ring segment at the top of the hour wasn’t so bad until the Shining Stars came out. As talented as they are, Primo & Epico are about as appealing as a wet fart. After that, everything went downhill. Did Big E. actually say the New Day came out because they had nothing better to do? From the minds of creative geniuses, ladies and gentlemen…

WWE Raw, September 19, 2016, Cedric Alexander, Rich SwannLike most of what we saw tonight, they were just killing time with this stuff. Nothing of consequence at all.

Brian Kendrick def. Cedric Alexander, Gran Metallic  and Rich Swann to earn a Cruiserweight Title Match at Clash of Champions. Once these guys started working, it became painfully obvious they should have opened the show. While the majority of what we saw on this show still would have sucked, we wouldn’t have started with a bad taste in our mouths. The entire vibe of the show could have improved.

A few weeks ago we saw Titus O’Neil absolutely murder a pre-match scripted promo on live television. While Foley’s time out there wasn’t as bad, like Titus you could see him struggling to remember his lines. Yet another illustration of how over-scripting hinders what we see on Raw every week.

The obvious favorite to win the Cruiserweight Classic was Kota Ibushi. But Ibushi opted not to sign with WWE, so he was eliminated by TJ Perkins in the semifinals. Still, the announcers made a point to mention him more than once. So I imagine the door is still open for him.

Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016The only part of this match I didn’t like was Rich Swann flipping around the ring for no reason. They tend to call that “showboating.” Neville does the same thing in his matches. It’s overkill.

Frankly, I’d have had Cedric Alexander go over in this one. But the story they’re telling with Kendrick is a good one. And for what it’s worth, Kendrick has experience in WWE pay per view matches. All in all, a very good start to the Cruiserweight element on Raw.

Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens in a steel cage match. At least Reigns won by escape. He didn’t pin the champion. That’s not to say it won’t happen. The way things are going, it’ll probably happen next week…

Corey Graves named the Owens/Zayn simultaneous punching spot during this match. “Hockey fight.” Is that what it’s supposed to be? It still looks awful…

Kevin Owens had the quote of the night, telling Rusev to “Machka something!”

By wrestling standards, I suppose that dive by Rollins off the top of the cage wasn’t incredibly risky. He had both Owens and Rusev to catch him. But after all the injuries we’ve seen this year, and what just happened with Finn Balor, it’s especially unwise to tempt fate these days.

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

Kevin Owens: Universal Champion! Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Tonight was obviously a big night for Kevin Owens. We’ll get to him, believe me.

But first, let’s talk about the Miz. For the first time in years, the Miz is the talk of the wrestling world. Or at the very least, WWE. It all happened on Talking Smack, the WWE Network’s post-Smackdown broadcast…

I don’t doubt this little outburst was planned with the intent to get people to watch Talking Smack. But as a byproduct, people are also talking about the Miz cutting his best promo in years. It’s no accident that it happened during a show WWE doesn’t script word for word. Miz was allowed to use his own words, and get the point across on his own. He certainly wasn’t struggling to remember his lines, a la poor Titus O’Neil last week.

This is the kind of compelling television they need to be doing on Raw and Smackdown. In just a few minutes, Miz made himself relevant again. If they let him, there’s a real chance Miz could do for the Intercontinental Title what John Cena did for the US Title last year. It’s not all about having great matches. It’s also about character. Between his naturally grating on-screen persona, his gorgeous wife, and his Intercontinental Title, Miz certainly has the character thing down pat. But like with most things, it’s all about the follow-up. They need to give us something this week on Smackdown to capitalize.

Who knew a Miz vs. Daniel Bryan renewal could get so hot in 2016?

Ponderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho vs. Neville, WWE Raw, August 29, 2016Chris Jericho def. Neville. This match didn’t do much for me, largely because Neville doesn’t do much for me. The guy’s an amazing athlete. But to me he’s all flips and no personality. Give me a reason to care, I’m begging you.

As for Jericho, I suspect they’ll want to keep him strong. My guess is he’ll be challenging for the Universal Title on pay per view sooner than later.

Nia Jax and Braun Strowman both win a squash matches. Between Nia Jax and Braun Strowman, I’m starting to get a little bored of all the squash matches. I’d like to see a more definitive story for one of these two. At the very least, that might help make their paths a bit less parallel. Can we possibly have Nia work a mini-program with someone who’s not in the title picture? What’s Alicia Fox doing these days?

Via pre-tape, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson joke about sending the Dudley Boyz into retirement. Apparently, last week’s farewell segment for the Dudleys was legit, at least for now. Reportedly, WWE opted not to sign them to a new deal, which is perplexing. They were obviously building for a Bubba vs. D-Von feud. Or at least Bubba turning on D-Von and going heel. I don’t know if he was ever going to be a lead villain, but Bubba could have been a major part of Raw each week in a heel role.

WWE Raw, August 29, 2016, Sami ZaynThey seem to be leaving the door open for them to come back down the road. But I’m still shocked they let them go in the first place. When you get right down to it, what did they do with the Dudleys in the last year? Not much at all. Such a waste.

Sami Zayn def. Jinder Mahal. Yeah, they brought Jinder Mahal back to be a warm body on the roster, but we can’t have the Dudley Boyz. What a world.

On the subject of guys they’re not doing anything with, how about Sami Zayn? The guy’s obviously got a nice underdog babyface thing going, and he just came off an awesome match with Kevin Owens at Battleground. Now that Finn Balor is out, there’s no better time to place further emphasis on a guy like Zayn.

Bayley & the New Day def. Dana Brooke, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. Bayley is definitely a breath of fresh air, and while Sasha Banks is out, she’s a fine contender for Charlotte’s title. But WWE needs to keep in mind that the majority of the Raw audience still doesn’t know who she is. They need to do a little more character building with her. A video package seems like a good idea. After that, maybe a Four Horsewomen retrospective?

She also needs someone to wrestle besides Dana Brooke. Summer Rae comes to mind. And hey, what is Alicia Fox doing these days?

Sheamus, WWE August 29, 2016Sheamus def. Cesaro in Match 2 of the Best of Seven Series. Sheamus now leads by two. Sheamus had a nice little promo before this match. It’s amazing how much it helps when someone actually has something to talk about…

They ended up telling a story about Sheamus hurting Cesaro’s back. Which plays into an idea I pitched about Cesaro fighting from underneath with an injury. It makes this series about more than a bunch of matches. Have we established what the winner of this thing gets? It should really be a Universal Title shot. Sheamus is a multiple time heavyweight champion, and if they build him up, Cesaro can be a worthy challenger.

Paul Heyman apologizes to Stephanie McMahon for Brock Lesnar’s actions at SummerslamThere’s always a certain tension when these two are together. A perfect example of real-life heat being used for interesting television.

By the way, did she say they were moments away from crowning the “very first ever” Universal Champion? Yeesh, Balor’s only been gone a week, and already he’s forgotten?

Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil. That looked like a nasty fall Young took over the ropes and into a photographer. Nice to see him get a win here, though apparently it’s not over. Are we building toward a Titus O’Neil/Bob Backlund match?

Triple H, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, August 29, 2016Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Big Cass to become the new WWE Universal Champion. There’s a lot to cover here. Not the least of which is what seems to be an overdue babyface turn for Seth Rollins, and a well deserved title win for Kevin Owens.

I don’t have a lot of complaints about this match. The biggest one is that Triple H played too big a role. I’d have had Owens and Rollins team up to pin Reigns, afterward Triple H comes into cost Rollins the title. What we got here felt like the clouds parting, and God stepping into choose his new favorite disciple. But in the end, they were going for shock. And shock is what they achieved.

This definitely had a big match feel to it, which makes it all the more interesting that Big Cass came out last. He’s got a lot of growing to do. But they’re positioning him for a big spot. No pun intended. That big boot he gave Reigns over the top rope looked like a damn freight train.

“The WWE Championship is only about the world. This is about the universe, Cole. This is bigger.” Corey Graves actually said that. I really wish he hadn’t.

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, August 29, 2016Reigns was in top form here, but he overdid the Superman punch. It felt like he used it 10 times and never beat anybody. Time to get some new set-up moves.

I’m flabbergasted it took this long to turn Seth Rollins babyface. He had that comeback story they always love, and the fans seemed ready to get behind him. But whether it was to try and get Roman over as the babyface, or to establish Finn Balor in the top hero role, Rollins stayed on the dark side. Now with no one left to fill that role, it seems they’re forced to put him in that spot. I’m interested to see how fans respond to him next week.

A few years ago, WWE likely wouldn’t have looked twice at the real-life Kevin Steen. Now he’s the champion on their flagship broadcast. And he deserves it. He has excelled since coming to the main roster, both in the ring and on the mic. Hopefully this is a chance for him to ascend to the next level. In a main event spotlight, Owens can be an opponent for The Undertaker or Brock Lesnar. He’s a man people will pay to see.

This may not be the “new era” they intended to usher in, but it’s a new era nonetheless. At least it seems that way for now.

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