Carmella’s Controversy, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sometimes I think the so-called “smart” fans forget what real heat is. Wrestling is designed to make us angry, and play on some of our most basic human instincts. WWE did that with the finish to the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match on Sunday, and people were mad. The problem is they were mad for the wrong reason.

The finish of the match came when James Ellsworth climbed up the ladder, grabbed the briefcase, and dropped it down to Carmella. So the inaugural Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was essentially won by a man. I got a little miffed about this initially. I even retweeted a comment or two from fans that were upset. But the more I think about this finish, the more I absolutely love it.

I’m about a pretty progressive guy. I understand what’s gets people upset about a woman needing a man’s help to do something. But let’s lighten up and realize what this is. It’s a story that’s designed to get under people’s skin, and make them want to see Carmella and Ellsworth get their comeuppance. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do.

Hey, I’m a smart fan too. But let’s not outsmart ourselves by analyzing this stuff to the point that we can’t enjoy it anymore.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Carmella and James Ellsworth discuss the controversial ending to the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Carmella sounded pretty scripted here. But that’s not exactly uncommon on WWE TV these days. And she had some nice fire. So I was good with this. I’d also forgotten she was picked last in the draft last year. That was a nice touch.

Big E. def. Jimmy Usos. Nice win. Nobody ever talks about Big E. being a former Intercontinental Champion. Probably because it didn’t end up being that memorable. But it merits mentioning when he’s spotlighted by himself like this.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Dolph Ziggler.  This was fun. A little slow at first, but one of those matches where you find yourself watching for the little details. Nakamura doesn’t necessarily look like somebody who can work the mat, but he and Dolph looked good jockeying for position out there. They gave these guys a lot of time too, which a match like this deserves.

Kevin Owens def. Chad Gable in a US Open Challenge Match. Both Chad Gable and Jason Jordan have been ghosts these last several weeks. So to see Gable get a singles spotlight like this was really cool. Absolutely gorgeous moonsault, and the crowd was into that roll-through German Suplex. I’ve talked before about how Gable could conceivably do well as a cruiserweight on Raw. But I’m scared of what would happen to him, given how stale 205 Live has become.

Daniel Bryan takes the Money in the Bank briefcase from Carmella, announces a rematch for next week. Ahhhhh, so that’s what it was. Do a contested finish, then direct people to a big episode of Smackdown. It’s a smart move. Not just because ratings are down, but because it’s never been done on WWE TV before.

I’m hoping Carmella wins again. Put even more heat on her. On Talking Smack we found out Ellsworth is banned from ringside. But she can still find a way to win. Why not?

I haven’t heard anything about injuries sustained in the Ladder Match, other than Bryan having a throwaway line about Charlotte’s neck. That’s a hell of a bruise Tamina has on her arm. I did, however, notice Tamina’s got a hell of a bruise on her arm. I imagine that was pretty painful. Though not quite as painful as her attempt to diss Charlotte here.

So we’ve got all these women competing in yet another Ladder Match for an on-demand shot at the Women’s Title. Meanwhile, Naomi grants Lana yet another title match for doing nothing other than running her mouth. I’d be more angry at her than Carmella.

WWE Champion Jinder Mahal def. Luke Harper. Baron Corbin teases a Money in the Bank cash-in. Randy Orton brutalizes Mahal the match. Tonight was the first night I really took note of Jinder’s new entrance. It gives him a great superstar vibe. When you see that entrance, it feels like somebody special is walking out. Is Jinder backing that up in the ring? Not necessarily. But his presentation is coming together nicely.

Why aren’t the Singh Brothers wrestling on TV? They’re sort of in the same role that J&J Security was a few years ago. But they’re obviously capable of more. More importantly, Smackdown needs heel tag teams.

So we’re not done with Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton, huh? Damn. I was hoping both these guys were moving on. This likely means Jinder is going to beat Randy Orton at three consecutive pay per views: BacklashMoney in the Bank, and Battleground next month. Not a bad way to get your new champion over. And now that it’s apparent John Cena vs. Roman Reigns isn’t happening at Summerslam, my guess is Jinder’s opponent in August will be “Big Match John” himself.

Maria Kanellis returns to WWE at Money in the Bank, alongside her husband Mike Kanellis. The two appear again in a WWE.com exclusive. I’ve been a Maria Kanellis fan for a long time. So it’s great to see her back. I don’t know much about Mike Bennett, but having him take his wife’s maiden name is a stroke of genius. Again, you appeal to people’s most basic instincts. A lot of men roll their eyes at the notion of a man doing that. Then on top of that you see all of the PDA, and that talk about love. It’s positively nauseating. And that’s why these two could make for a great heel act on Smackdown.

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A Roman Reigns Heel Turn? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

How many years did we wait for a John Cena heel turn? Hell, some of us are still waiting. I was there at Wrestlemania XXII when he got booed out of the building during the main event. That was in 2006. So it’s been at least a decade.

The smart bet is that it’s never happening. At this point, why bother? It feels like the fans are finally starting to turn back around on Cena, and cheer him as Smackdown‘s resident legend. But there was a long period where so many of us were clamoring for Cena to snap back at those crowds that were booing him so hard.

Obviously we now have the same situation with Roman Reigns. For better or worse, he’s the company’s next chosen one. Like Cena, he comes out to a chorus of boos from most of the grown men in the audience. Children and women seem to enjoy him, but the fanboys hate him. And they’re not likely to stop booing him anytime soon, especially given this stuff with the Undertaker.

This week’s Raw segment with Roman struck a chord with me. Not just because Shawn Michaels was in there with him, but because he threatened to retire the Undertaker. As Undertaker is someone I’ve been watching since I was 11 years old, it almost felt personal.  I suspect that’s how a lot of people feel, and you’ve got to know WWE is counting on that.

I understand the generational, “passing the torch” element of WWE putting Reigns with the Undertaker. But I don’t think having Roman beat the Undertaker helps him as far as being a lead babyface. People generally don’t like seeing the Undertaker beaten in big matches. Wrestlemania XXX comes to mind.

If Roman is turning heel, however…

Keeping Roman strong is a top priority, and has been for years. In this company, you can’t look any stronger than when you beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Just ask Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. But Brock was also a heel when he did that. I don’t see how beating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania makes Roman anything less than a heel. Mind you, I’m assuming that’s the direction they’re going. But I don’t see them simply having Roman lose to Undertaker, unless the plan is for him to snap afterward and beat the hell out of him. Again, as a heel.

Perhaps it’s pie in the sky thinking, and this heat from the crowds is simply part of being WWE’s marquee man nowadays. But man, imagine the story of Roman beating the Undertaker, and officially becoming the most hated man in the company. Especially if he cheats to do it…

Ponderings From Smackdown:

AJ Styles cuts a promo on not having a match at Wrestlemania, promises to confront Shane McMahon. Hearing AJ trace his frustrations back to the Royal Rumble made this feel very reminiscent of Bret Hart in early 1997. He would always talk about being screwed out of the WWF Title. It all culminated in that famous moment on Raw when he shoved Vince McMahon, and cut that scathing, cuss-laden promo. Now all these years later, It’s AJ against Vince’s son. It somehow feels fitting.

Tom Phillips and JBL call the show without Mauro Ranallo and David Otunga. Ranallo was supposedly held up by bad weather, and Otunga is shooting a Tyler Perry movie. So for the first time in quite awhile, we had a two-man announce team on WWE television. Wouldn’t you know it, the world didn’t end. Just sayin’.

Becky Lynch def. Natalya via submission. Carmella attacks Becky after the match. Tremendous counter from the top turnbuckle into the Disarm-Her. I feel like the crowd chants for Becky Lynch every week. I’m legitimately rooting for her at Wrestlemania. She deserves a moment in the sun.

Noticed Carmella didn’t have her accent in the backstage promo that followed. Did they drop it? If so, that sucks. That was instant heat with me.

John Cena and Nikki Bella appear on Miz TV. Maryse accuses Nikki of keeping her off the first season of Total Divas. Daniel Bryan makes a mixed tag match between the two couples for WrestlemaniaFor months, the heels on this show have made it a point to talk about how Cena will never marry Nikki. Miz and Maryse did the same here, with a close-up of her wedding ring for good measure. So we’re getting a proposal at Wrestlemania, right? Seems pretty obvious to me. Hey, we’ve never seen one before. So maybe it’ll be cool.

Last week on Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan made a vague comment about possibly being able to wrestle again in a year and a half. I imagine that’s when his contract expires. Obviously, his health issues have been well documented. Please be careful, good sir…

Mickie James def. Alexa Bliss. My question last week about Mickie turning face has apparently been answered. That’s seemingly how she was positioned here. No complaints from me in that respect. Less experienced ladies on the heel side of things, like Alexa Bliss, could learn a lot from her. Phillips and JBL also told a nice story about Mickie potentially tying Trish Stratus’ record of seven Women’s Championships at Wrestlemania.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Alexa lose more matches in the coming weeks to advance how vulnerable she is in the multi-woman match at Wrestlemania.

Mojo Rawley def. Dolph Ziggler via count-out. You know what the interesting thing is about this story with Ziggler believing he deserves a bigger spotlight? He’s right! He’s legitimately more talented than everyone they’ve put him up against since his heel turn.

Randy Orton explains his actions against Bray Wyatt. One thing I would have added here: Having Orton talk about “relinquishing” his title shot at Wrestlemania, and how that was the final step in earning Bray’s full confidence. Makes sense to me.

The visual of Bray “baptizing” himself with Sister Abigail’s ashes was haunting, and I loved that he cut down on the laughing. His end of this was really good.

In a backstage promo, Baron Corbin says he’ll take Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title if he can make it to Wrestlemania. No Ambrose on TV this week, which is fine. He’s selling the injury, and it builds some anticipation to when we do see him again. Corbin gave his standard delivery here, which is to say it was strictly okay. But they gave him a good line: “They say Dean Ambrose can get up from anything. Well I’m the man that puts people down.”

The Usos def. American Alpha. I’m fine with these two teams working together again, especially now that the Usos seem to have found their heel groove. But when they’re done, who do they go to next? This Smackdown Tag Team Division is in desperate need of a shake-up. The Vaudevillians and the Ascension are dead teams. Breezango is a joke. Who else is there? Once Zack Ryder comes back, there’s a chance the Hype Bros can actually become something. But until then, these two teams are seemingly all that Smackdown has.

AJ Styles ambushes Shane McMahon in the parking garage, smashes his head through a car window. Daniel Bryan apparently fires Styles, but Shane later calls him out for Wrestlemania. And here it is. I think the brawl we saw was all the impetus we need for this to be a Street Fight.

I maintain this is a good spot for AJ to be in at Wrestlemania. It’s not going to be Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom. But AJ will get to shine here, and odds are he’ll win. He’s going to be just fine, folks.

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AJ Styles, Luke Harper, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

aj-styles-daniel-bryan-luke-harper-wwe-smackdown-february-21-2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s jump right into the good stuff, shall we?

Smackdown continued to pave a winding road to Wrestlemania this week, as a Number One Contender Battle Royal ended with the double elimination of both AJ Styles and Luke Harper. Ergo, we still don’t know who will challenge Bray Wyatt for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania. Styles and Harper will wrestle next week to finally give us a challenger.

This was good stuff. It came down to the two guys with no other apparent dance partners for Wrestlemania. They kept you guessing through the end of the show. They did a variation on the old Bret Hart/Lex Luger spot from the ’94 Royal Rumble, where both men’s feet are supposed to touch the floor at once. Not the smoothest execution I’ve ever seen. It looked to me like Styles did indeed hit first. But considering the size difference between the two, it worked out fine.

An eventual victory for Luke Harper seems like the best option here. Orton could then step up to defend Bray, making it a Triple-Threat Match in the process. They could throw Styles in there to make it a four-way. But that would taint the whole Wyatt Family theme for the match. That would leave Styles to wrestle Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania. It’s certainly not the ideal match for a guy like him. But I don’t think wrestling one of the McMahons that bada gig. If anybody can get a killer match out of Shane, it’s AJ.

Other Ponderings From Smackdown:

naomi-wwe-smackdown-2017Naomi surrenders Women’s Championship due to injury. So…what’s the deal here? I didn’t even talk about Naomi’s injury last week because everything seemed so vague. I actually wondered if it was an angle intended to inject some extra drama into the rematch. Apparently that’s not the case.

When Seth Rollins went down with his injury a few weeks ago, WWE was pretty straightforward with the information. Within 24 hours, we knew it was likely a torn MCL, and by Raw the following week. And obviously, we knew when it took place. With Naomi, we don’t have any of that information. In today’s WWE, it’s pretty standard that they at least tell us something. As such, this feels weird.

Still, at this point there’s no reason to doubt this is all legit. Awful break for the real-life Trinity Fatu, who was in the middle of the biggest break of her career. Here’s hoping she comes back better than ever.

alexa-bliss-becky-lynch-wwe-smackdown-february-21-2017Alexa Bliss def. Becky Lynch to win the Smackdown Women’s Title. This is a tiny, tiny nitpick. But I didn’t like the way this match was made. In storyline, Alexa came out spontaneously to talk to Bryan. Bryan then announces the match, seemingly on the spur of the moment. He calls for Alexa’s opponent, and Becky just happens to be ready. Logically, that makes no sense. To his credit, however, JBL brought that up on commentary during this match, spinning it into a conspiracy theory.

Nice match. Very surprised Mickie James didn’t somehow cost Becky the title, and instead came out afterward to rub it in. Granted, of course, Alexa won with a handful of tights (shown above). I didn’t think Elimination Chamber was the right time to take the belt off her anyway. So I’m pleased she got it back.

Participants in the Battle Royal cut promos on the possibility of main-eventing WrestlemaniaI loved these. Why? Because just like we saw from Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar on Raw, they let these guys look into the camera during their promos. Maybe Raw wasn’t just a coincidence. Maybe they’re finally changing, and letting the wrestlers have that extra bit of connection with the viewers at home.

the-usos-wwe-smackdown-february-21-2017American Alpha def. Breezango. The Usos taunt the Tag Team Champions. Yet another short affair between American Alpha and Breezango. They never let Fandango and Tyler Breeze get an inch.

The Usos had some great fire here. I’m guessing they had some time to regroup creatively. For awhile, they seemed to just be drifting by in different outfits.

Natalya def. Nikki Bella in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. I loved the line in Nattie’s pre-match promo about Nikki being “manufactured in a lab for instagram likes.” Props to whoever wrote that.

I’m not a Nikki Bella fan. I think I’ve been pretty clear about that. But I’ve come to respect her. This program with Natalya has done her a lot of good. It’s allowed her to be more aggressive, and up the intensity of her mic work. It’s been some of the best work of both their careers. And this was a good match. Easily the best of Nikki’s career, in my opinion. The fighting through the backstage area almost made it reminiscent of an Attitude Era style Hardcore Match. That Alabama Slam Nattie took on the table (shown left) looked rough, what with the whiplash effect.

nikki-bella-natalya-wwe-smackdown-february-21-2017Also, and forgive me for being a creep, but Nikki is always having to pull up the back of her tights during her matches. It might behoove her to invest in new ring gear, lest we see something we’re not supposed to.

The interference from Maryse obviously indicated things were a go for the mixed tag at Wrestlemania involving Miz and John Cena. A fact further cemented by Miz eliminating Cena from the Battle Royal later. Happy to see Nattie get the win here, as these ladies go their separate ways for the time being.

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Is Goldberg in Trouble? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week’s segment on Raw with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar brought back some interesting memories. Not of either of them, but of Bill Goldberg.

Goldberg was a superstar, make no mistake about it. He was a larger than life superhero. But so was Hulk Hogan. So is John Cena. So is Roman Reigns. As we’ve seen with all those men, sometimes wrestling fans get tired of the superhero shtick. Older fans in particular want someone more complex, someone with more gray area to them. As such, cheers can turn into boos.

Goldberg was no stranger to boos. WCW even tried an ill conceived Goldberg heel turn. But it simply was what it was. Some fans liked Goldberg, others didn’t.

These memories might have been lost to many of us as we basked in the honeymoon period of Goldberg’s return. But as we saw on Raw, the honeymoon may be over. They chanted for Brock despite Heyman’s obvious attempts to get them to chant for Goldberg. Eventually, we actually heard chants of “Goldberg sucks!” Reportedly, Vince McMahon became angry backstage and pulled the plug on the segment.

Granted, it was in Brock’s home state of Minnesota. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to try getting the crowd to chant his opponent’s name. But what happens when they put Goldberg out there in front of the famously opinionated Toronto crowd at Survivor Series? Remember, this was the crowd that famously turned on the Rock at Wrestlemania XVIII. It’s also the home country of Bret Hart, whose career Goldberg unintentionally ended with a brutal kick to the head.

Bill Goldberg vs. Brock LesnarHeel or babyface, Goldberg is a draw. What happened Monday doesn’t change that. But WWE needs to be ready for whatever these crowds decide to do in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series. Fans may have bought a lot of Goldberg DVDs in recent years, but that might not translate to an adoring audience…

Ponderings From Smackdown Live:

Bray Wyatt def. Kane in a no disqualification match, when Randy Orton abruptly hit the RKO on Kane. If they were going to go to the trouble of making this a no DQ match, they could have actually made it seem like the reigns were off a little. Outside of the interference by Orton and Luke Harper, what exactly made this match more dangerous than your average one-on-one match?

Later in the show, Orton simply said: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He took the world’s longest pregnant pause before he said it, but he got it out eventually.

Of course, Daniel Bryan used this same logic a few years ago when he joined the Wyatt Family. He got a hell of a moment out of it on Raw when he finally turned on Bray inside a steel cage. A normal person wouldn’t be stupid enough to fall for this again….

But because these are WWE writers penning this, we’re probably getting a week or two of Randy Orton in the Wyatt Family.

Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Alexa Bliss interrupts Becky Lynch’s return to Smackdown after an injury. There’s so much talk about the “four horsewomen” of NXT. But in terms of charisma, Alexa Bliss is up there. She’s obviously reciting written dialogue, but she’s so natural with it. It’s tough to believe she’s only been wrestling for about four years.

Pleased to see Becky back. When she couldn’t wrestle at No Mercy, I think we all had flashbacks to Sasha Banks having to drop the Raw Women’s Title. It should be fun to see her defend the belt in front of that Scotland crowd in two weeks.

The Hype Bros def. The Ascension, will represent Smackdown at Survivor SeriesSo this Survivor Series match with the tag teams will be 10-on-10, with five teams being represented in each match. So in order to win, do all 10 members of a team have to be eliminated? Or are both members of a team eliminated when one is pinned?

Either way, the Hype Bros qualify as expected. Much like Karl Anderson in a singles match, when the Ascension was announced, the outcome was never in question. These poor guys never get to win.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya to become the captain of the Smackdown women’s team at Survivor Series. Natalya is hereby left out of the match. Carmella ambushes Nikki afterward. Of course Nikki Bella is the captain. Why wouldn’t she be? I assume they’re waiting to announce the addition of the women’s champion until after the Becky/Alexa match in Scotland.

Nikki Bella, Natalya, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016With Nikki’s use of a modified STF to end this match, they continue to build up her relationship with John Cena. I imagine that’ll be part of a larger story down the road. It’s inevitable that one of Cena’s opponents will use Nikki to get to him.

Heath Slater & Rhyno def. The Spirit Squad to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Adding Slater and Rhyno to the mix is a decent way to pad the program with Miz and Ziggler for another month. But after Survivor Series it has to end. These guys need new dance partners. Unfortunately, the only heel challenger that immediately comes to mind for Ziggler is Baron Corbin. That program was done to death earlier this year.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose by disqualification. After they showed a replay of Ambrose doing a big dive to the outside, JBL said: “We need Rick Grimes out here.” Not only did that reference not land, but I can almost guarantee you he’s never seen The Walking Dead, and had no idea what he was saying. Bad form, sir. More accurately, bad form to whoever told him to say it.

Something about Mauro Renallo calling a Fujiwara arm bar made me smile. I can’t remember a WWE announcer saying that since Taz. Inevitably, one of the reasons Mauro gets compared to Jim Ross so much is because, like JR, he calls the moves. That’s the difference between being a wrestling announcer and a sports entertainment announcer.

James Ellsworth, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Ambrose and Styles always have good matches, and I’d been looking forward to seeing what they’d pull out of the hat here. As it turned out, one of their big tricks was James Ellsworth getting overzealous and attacking Styles, costing Ambrose the match. I liked this. It casts Ellsworth as not only a hopeless underdog, but a misfit and a screw up. He played it up even more on Talking Smack, looking like the saddest, most ashamed guy you’ll ever see. You’re not going to go to Madison Square Garden with James Ellsworth. But as a character, this guy is good. He’s an unconventional asset they can use to tell really interesting stories.

Also, No Chin Music is a hilarious name for a finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Conor McGregor Slams WWE Stars, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Conor McGregorBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Conor McGregor pisses people off. It’s just what he does. They should make that into one of those Geico commercials. I’m surprised it took McGregor this long to get under the skin of wrestling fans. They’re a lot that loves to be pissed off about one thing or another…

On a conference call for UFC 202, McGregor called WWE wrestlers “pussies,” and later tweeted the following:

I don’t know if McGregor means any of this or not. Some people think he and WWE are looking to do business together. If that’s the case, he could be a better heel than any they’ve got right now. It would obviously generate a lot of outside interest as well.

Work or shoot, the statement itself is ludicrous. Wrestlers and fans alike should be secure enough in what they love to let this McGregor thing slide off their backs.

WWE Raw, August 8, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin OwensPonderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho w/Kevin Owens def. Enzo Amore w/Colin Cassaday. Jericho and Owens are a great team, and they make great villains for Cass & Enzo. One of the newest, biggest heels in all of WWE may very well be Jericho’s goatee.

These four now have a tag match set for Summerslam, and I’d love to see it open the show. I can’t imagine the kind of pop Cass & Enzo will get in Brooklyn.

John Cena & AJ Styles appear during a commercial break. Apparently, after the Enzo/Jericho match, AJ Styles came out and said he was only there because prior to the brand extension, he was advertised to be at the show. From there, he and John Cena had a quick fight which ended in an AA from Cena. Nice little treat for the crowd. But hopefully they don’t make a habit of this sort of thing.

Braun Strowman won an enhancement match. I went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and when I got back the match was over. No surprise there. So here’s my question: Is this a Braun Strowman babyface turn?

Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil with a handful of tights. In terms of 50/50 booking, it doesn’t get more pure than this. Titus wins with a roll-up and a handful of tights last week, now Young wins with the same move. I’m pleased they had Backlund conveniently looking elsewhere when the pin happened. So now do we have Young keep cheating without Backlund noticing? For a character as off beat as his, that’s conceivable.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo on Finn Balor. Rollins lines about “slaying the beast,” having “crushed the face that runs the place,” and “conquered the Roman Empire,” were really good. I was also happy to see an uninterrupted in-ring promo. For the sake of changing things up, that’s nice to see.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. These guys always put on good matches. I just wish he hadn’t won with a damn roll-up. We see so many roll-up finishes on these shows. They can do better than this.

A retrospective airs on Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton’s history together. Well, here we go. They finally talked about it. Lesnar and Orton’s history together in Ohio Valley Wrestling, and their parallel journeys to WWE stardom. I have to say, I got a kick out of hearing that Jim Cornette soundbyte. I imagine Cornette never thought he’d hear his own voice on that show again.

There was some really good stuff here, most notably the idea of Orton being a star, and Lesnar being a megastar. The notion that Randy Orton is “just another guy” is the antithesis of what the WWE marketing machine has wanted us to believe for over a decade. It adds a whole new dimension to this program. This is one of the few times I’ve ever hoped for a live contract signing. I’d love to get Randy Orton in the ring with Lesnar and Heyman, and see who says what.

Neville & Sin Cara def. The Dudley Boyz. On the subject of being “just another guy,” the Dudleys seem like just another team on the roster. To say the least, that’s not how they should be portrayed. They certainly shouldn’t be beaten by two guys teaming together for the first time.

Bubba Ray Dudley, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016It was interesting that they focused on Bubba’s face after the loss. He looked pissed. Could this be the start to a Bubba Ray heel singles run? They don’t have much to lose at this point.

Neville had a mystery partner for this match, who turned out to be Sin Cara. Forgive me for not being enthralled. Did Sin Cara mean to jump through the ropes to the outside? It was awkward. But it didn’t look like a botch.

Roman Reigns interrupts Rusev & Lana’s wedding celebration. How ironic. WWE punished Rusev & Lana for leaking the news of their engagement online. Now they’re exploiting their wedding for TV.

This segment moved like molasses. It just went on…and on….and on. We get it. They’re in love. Roman comes out. Somebody goes in the cake. Next please.

On the  plus side, Roman get cheered when he came out. It wasn’t a great reaction, but at least he wasn’t drowned in boos. He also seemed a little more charismatic. He was due for some lighter material. The best part of the whole thing? Rusev throwing cake at Reigns as he walked up the ramp.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. Brooke is now banned from ringside at Summerslam. I would have been interested in Sasha having Bayley at ringside to counteract Dana Brooke. But this works too. I don’t expect Charlotte and Sasha to top what they did on Raw a few weeks ago. But it’ll be cool to see them try.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Via video package, Finn Balor gives Seth Rollins a lesson in Irish mythology and demons. This was important. The audience needs to know why Balor wears the body paint. This was a nice crash course. The piece was also very well produced. The way Balor was sitting, the smoke, the eye contact with the camera. All excellent.

Luke Gallows def. Kofi Kingston. I actually thought the “Ringpostitis” skit was funny. It’s got Vince McMahon’s fingerprints all over it, which usually spells doom for an attempt at comedy. But Anderson & Gallows had great delivery. As for the match, that’s a pretty big win for Gallows. How many singles titles has Kofi won? And Gallows pinned him in about two minutes.

After a brief segment with Daniel Bryan, Mick Foley makes a US Title Match between Rusev and Cesaro. Rusev retains after interference from Sheamus. Roman Reigns spears the champion. Since he’s been back, Bryan really looks like he’s having fun. Especially on the Cruiserweight Classic shows. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Rusev gains momentum with a big title defense. Cesaro deserves a big win, and the US Title. But with no build up, and the show going past its usual overrun, tonight wasn’t the time. Nor, for that matter, was it time for Rusev to drop the title. They’ve built him back up as a monster, and you can’t just slay the monster on any given night.

On the plus side, Sheamus’ feud with Cesaro now has a personal edge to it.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, August 2016Over on Smackdown:

Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler come face-to-face in the ring. This was the creative highlight of the show. Ambrose was really strong here. Ziggler fired off what we expected. The rant about being undervalued, stealing the show, etc. But Ambrose, surprisingly, no sold it. The closing line, the money line, was “You’re gonna find out you’re not as good as you think you are.”  As far as I’m concerned, that is now what their match is about. Is Dolph Ziggler as good as he thinks he is? Unfortunately, the smart bet is Ambrose is going over here. So what happens when Ambrose wins? A heel turn for Ziggler?

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