Mick Foley Returns to Promoland? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, there’s a nasty rumor circulating that WWE threatened to fire Paige if she didn’t break off her relationship with Alberto Del Rio. There’s obviously some truth to it, as the two of them were drafted to separate shows. Now Del Rio seems to be done with the company, and we have no idea what the future holds for Paige after her recent violation of the wellness policy. Coincidentally, her violation was announced just a day before Del Rio got popped as well.

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t mess with people’s relationships. It’s bad karma. It also seems to be bad for business. Live and let live.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahonPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley goes back to “Promoland” for Raw‘s opening segment In one of his books, Mic referred to the headspace he got into for big wrestling interviews as Promoland. Though it may have been written for him, I’d like to think this segment represents a return to Promoland for everyone’s favorite Hardcore Legend.

I loved this. Stephanie played the alpha female role, as she always does. But Mick didn’t cower. He humanized her with a sweet story, prompting Stephanie to melt a little. Some of that harsh exterior melted. And that last line about Steph possibly being a “really good liar and a really bad person,” was awesome. There was no screaming, no threatening of violence, no menacing stare, or any of the stuff we saw in some of his classic promos. But this was truly some of the best Mick Foley verbiage we’ve seen in quite some time.

Seth Rollins interrupts Kevin Owens’ victory celebration. Rollins really shouldn’t have said “bull crap.” It made him sound like a grade schooler. Just saying “bull” might have actually been better.

Still, Rollins brought a nice intensity to this segment. He actually got up in Steph’s face and got pissed off for a change. And once again, Steph wasn’t exactly fighting back. She certainly wasn’t emasculating the male stars as she’s done in the past. It was a refreshing change of pace to say the least.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Stephanie McMahon, Mick FoleyAlso, why is it called Clash of Champions and not Clash of the Champions?

They followed this up with a backstage segment in which Chris Jericho called Owens the “longest reigning WWE Universal Champion in history.” That was a great line.

Bayley def. Charlotte in a non-title match. If you listen to The Steve Austin Show or The Ross Report, you hear a lot about the importance of selling. With that in mind, I paid extra attention when Bayley sold her left knee after the half Boston crab. Really nice work.

So what happens after Charlotte and Dana Brooke break up? That’s obviously where they’re going here. Do they turn her babyface? I don’t know if I buy her in the hero role quite yet. She’d likely be better off going back to NXT at this point.

Bo Dallas returns to Raw, winning a squash match. Apparently a recent arrest for intoxication hasn’t adversely effected Bo’s career. Hell, it seems to be helping! He might want to ditch the singlet that says “outcast,” though.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. Now that Rollins is transitioning into a babyface, it’s time for a new theme. CFO$ and Downstait seem to be on the case.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Rollins’ athleticism should never be taken for granted. That diving somersault off the top rope into a neck breaker? Awesome. That frog splash? Excellent. The sad thing is, those moves would likely all mean more if they’d just made him a babyface when he came back. The transition is indeed underway, but he’s in that awkward middle ground right now. It could have been so easily avoided.

Sheamus goes up 3-0 in the Best of Seven Series against Cesaro. As was the case in the Charlotte/Bayley match, I kept an eye on the selling of the injury. In this case, the focus was obviously Cesaro’s match. We had some really nice storytelling here, with Sheamus focusing much of his offense on the back. The five backbreakers in a row were a great sequence. I’d have been perfectly fine with the match ending there. The Brogue Kick was almost redundant at that point.

The announcers talked about the winner getting a championship opportunity. But which championship? Does it go without saying it’s the Universal Title? I wouldn’t mind seeing Cesaro challenge Owens.

The Shining Stars def. Enzo & Cass. Big Cass got a real nice shine from last week’s main event. He and Enzo are still an amazing package deal, and he’s still nowhere near ready for a singles push. But he’s little more ready than he was last week…

The Shining Stars, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Of course, a loss to Primo & Epico doesn’t exactly help his case. These two have absolutely nothing to talk about other than their Puerto Rico shtick, which is long since stale. Can’t we give them anything else to say?

Nia Jax won a squash match. They established here that the jobber was a friend of Alicia Fox, and it looks like they’re finally giving Nia a mini-program. One I suggested last week, no less. They had a little backstage segment later in the show where Nia jabbed Fox about Total Divas and reality TV. Fox actually said the line: “This isn’t reality.” Hm…how about Summer Rae? Didn’t I suggest her too?

Gallows & Anderson spoof The New Day. I actually enjoyed Gallows & Anderson’s “Ringpostitis” gag, as stupid as it was. But I’m ready for them to get down to business. These guys should be the ultimate killjoys, not stealing from Edge & Christian’s playbook. Actually, this whole thing felt like they were struggling to kill time.

Darren Young def. Jinder Mahal. So Jinder Mahal has had three matches since he’s come back, and he’s lost three times. Good on ya, man…

Titus O’Neil was on commentary for this match. Any time that happens, I can’t help but remember him cracking up Cole and Lawler a few years ago. Great stuff. But if they really wanted entertainment, they’d let Bob Backlund do commentary.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Braun Strowman, Sin CaraAlso, can we not act like Bob Backlund is this frail oxygenation? He’s probably stronger than a lot of the active wrestlers.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara via count-out. Whaddaya know? Like Nia Jax, Braun Strowman gets a break from squash matches! Strowman also got a nice little story here about ripping off the jobber’s mask last week. I was wondering if Sin Cara would lose his mask as well. Perhaps that’s still in the cards.

Sasha Banks returns, teases retirement, will face Charlotte for Raw Women’s Title at Clash of ChampionsSasha wearing less make up was a nice, subtle change. She wasn’t dressed as the Boss. She was just herself. As she talked about the progression “Women’s Revolution” in WWE, I absolutely adored her for the line: “No more stupid butterfly title.”

I’d love to think this wasn’t scripted for Sasha. She really opened up and let that passion come out. She really got us too, didn’t she? We’ve seen a few retirement speeches on Raw in the last several years, and this felt like one of them. But let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have had her tweet about “bad news” if she was really retiring. I, for one, am very pleased her final chapter hasn’t been written yet.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. I’m very encouraged that they haven’t forgotten about Zayn beating Owens at Battleground. That puts Zayn in the title picture. He’s by no means in the center of that picture. But at least he’s there. This one didn’t top the Battleground match, but it was a worthy main event. The right guy won, with the champ going over. Though Owens may not be so lucky next week…

Mick Foley announces Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for next week, giving Reigns a chance  to enter the main event at Clash of Champions. Charlotte got pinned this week, and now next week Owens is in a position to be beaten by Reigns. I don’t like that they’re starting to pin champions on TV again. Those belts need to mean something. It’s bad enough we’ve got so many of them again. But if the champions and the titles aren’t protected, what’s the point of any of it? Here’s hoping we see the reappearance of Rusev next week, costing Roman the match.

Then again, that means the US Title is once again in danger of leaving Rusev’s waist, which I’m not a fan of. But let’s take it one week at a time, folks.

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.

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

Heath Slater Steals the Show (Seriously), and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got some extra TNA talk after Raw this week. So let’s jump right in…

Roman Reigns, Mick Foley, Rusev, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Ponderings From Raw

Rusev & Lana hijack the show. A non-title match between Rusev and Roman Reigns is made for later in the show. I don’t like when they do this. Put the pay per view matches on pay per view. Don’t give them away a week before. I understand the stakes are different. But this waters the Summerslam title match down.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus after a distraction by Cesaro. Mick Foley books Cesaro and Sheamus in a Best of Seven Series that starts at SummerslamI liked the start to this match. Corey Graves called it “scrappy.” Made things feel a bit more real. They put Cesaro on commentary for most of this. It doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be a great talker. But he’s improved. It’s interesting how Finn Balor is presented, in contrast to Cesaro. The two are on equal ground in terms of mic work. But while Balor has shot to the top of the card after only a month on TV, Cesaro can’t seem to gain any real traction.

A Best of Seven Series, eh? Alright, sure. We haven’t had one of those in awhile, and it’s something for these guys to do. But here’s my question, what does the winner get?

The New Day def. The Dudley Boyz. Watch D-Von shortly after the pin. Bubba slides in the ring and gives him the same kind of stare as last week. They didn’t get a shot of it, but it looks like this is indeed a story. But does it end with the Dudleys winning the tag belts, or splitting up? Notice it’s D-Von that’s eaten the pin two weeks in a row…

Heath Slater, Brock Lesnar, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Heath Slater goes to Suplex City after interrupting Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. This segment was the best thing Heath Slater has ever done in WWE. No, seriously.

I believed every word he said when he talked about having to support his kids. Then Lesnar had that great line: “I don’t give a sh*t about your kids.” We added a new dimension to Slater, and Brock stayed true to his character. I’m not sure if Slater was supposed to be heel or babyface before this segment. But now he’s a babyface in my book.

It’s not often you hear me looking for less Paul Heyman mic time. But we really didn’t need him to say so much after the Slater stuff. Specifically, the stuff about Brock and MMA. I’m not sure if he was going for shock value there, what with Brock’s drug test failure. But all we really needed was “That’s what’s going to happen to Randy Orton at Summerslam.”

Big Cass def. Kevin Owens via disqualification. During their pre-match promos, sometimes it looks like Cass is just watching Enzo in awe like the rest of us. The tag match at Summerslam should be fun.

The Shining Stars def. Darren Young & Titus O’Neil. That bit of the Prime Time Players and Bob Backlund doing the “Millions of Dollars” dance was all I needed from this match. Apparently even that was more than the crowd in Corpus Christi needed. This match was pretty flat.

Finn Balor, Demon King, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Neville def. Jinder Mahal. Yep. Good to have you back, Jinder Mahal. Your check is in the mail.

Finn Balor arrives in his “Demon King” persona. Not sure we needed to see Seth Rollins wandering around all night looking for the Demon King. If he was just going to call Balor out later, why wander around searching for him? Also, the emergence of this Demon King persona means we really need to drop the “Demon Kane” moniker. It’s not often one would confuse Finn Balor with Kane. But it applies here.

Some idiot got into the ring during Rollins’ promo. Way to go, security. Granted, it was a boring promo. But come on. There’s no need for that…

I wish they’d saved the Demon King for Summerslam. Because let’s be honest, what is the Demon King really but a cool entrance? What does the Demon do that Finn Balor doesn’t? Yes, it looks cool. But this, combined with the Reigns/Rusev match, makes it seem like they just didn’t have any ideas for this week’s show.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. The Golden Truth. The New Day attack after the match. I still think the “ringpostitis” skits are funny. Something about the visual of these guys in lab coats. On the other hand, the idea of Anderson getting hit the balls with a trombone is pretty funny too.

Charlotte, Alicia Fox, August 15, 2016Charlotte def. Alicia Fox. I can’t even remember when the last time was that I saw Alicia Fox in the ring. The last time I have her tagged in a post was around Wrestlemania. I don’t expect her profile to get any higher. At least as long as she’s on Raw with the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax.

I’m assuming Dana Brooke is still with Charlotte after this segment. Dana still has a lot to learn, but I maintain that they make a good team.

Roman Reigns def. Rusev. I still don’t like this match, but it’s nice to see Rusev main eventing Raw for the second week in a row. If they book him well, I truly believe he can be a main event player. One note, though: Don’t break out the diving headbutt again. How many did he do in this match? Three? Between what it seemingly did to Chris Benoit and Daniel Bryan, we don’t need it around anymore. It’s not worth it.

This is Rusev’s first singles loss in awhile, isn’t it? The cool thing about this is it means he may not have to drop the title at Summerslam. A DQ finish, perhaps? As long as they establish Roman as having the upper hand, that may satisfy whatever desire they have for this program.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

Over in TNA:

Dixie Carter, Billy Corgan, TNABilly Corgan named President of IMPACT Ventures, will manage day-to-day TNA operations. Dixie Carter promoted to Chairman. TNA, IMPACT Ventures, or whatever the company is called, has very little to lose at this point. If promoting Corgan shakes up their TV product and brings new eyes, that’s fantastic. The time had long since come for Dixie Carter to be removed from the actual running of the business.

WWE’s Damien Sandow becomes TNA’s Aron Rex. This was a feel-good moment. For whatever reason, the real-life Aaron Stevens was held back and ultimately laid off by WWE. As they’ve done many times before, TNA has picked up the ball in hopes of gaining some new eyes, and riding that momentum. I wish Stevens all the luck in the world, but I hope he hasn’t jumped on to a sinking ship…

Bobby Lashley holds TNA Heavyweight Title, King of the Mountain Title, and X Division Title. When I read about this, I immediately thought of Rhyno holding the ECW Heavyweight and Television Titles in the final weeks of the promotion’s existence. I remember reading something to the effect of: “Unified champions. Another sign of a dying promotion.” I can only hope that’s not the case.

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

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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Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman Return, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Last week’s Raw was one of the best show’s they’ve had in recent memory. This one, on the other hand, felt more like business as usual. I’m wondering if the reason doesn’t have something to do with a continuous thread throughout the show. A sort of self-contained “spine” story that holds the show together, but also feeds a larger story.

For instance, last week it was all about who would face Rollins at Summerslam. It was decided in three matches spread out over the course of the show. And they made a new star in the process. They weren’t just throwing matches out there.

They did this during the Attitude Era, and it made for great TV. They keep calling this the “new era,” but that doesn’t mean we have to throw all the rules out…

Sasha Banks, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Sasha Banks kicks off the show, is featured in an in-ring segment with Charlotte, Chris Jericho, and Enzo. Charlotte & Jericho win a mixed tag. As cool as it was to have Sasha open the show, the opening skit fell flat. No disrespect to any of these performers. But unless you’ve got really compelling circumstances, i.e. a big return or something, 20 minutes of talking is too long. As such, the match fell a little flat as well.

Couldn’t help but wonder where Big Cass was. My first instinct was that he must have gotten in trouble for something. But he came out for the save afterward. So apparently they just opted to send Enzo out there without him. Enzo was fine on his own, of course.

Kevin Owens was out on commentary in this match for some reason. I’ll never complain about that. He’s got great confidence on commentary, which so many wrestlers lack.

Braun Strowman wins another enhancement match. When was the last time they regularly featured enhancement guys? I’m inclined to say it was with Ryback. In time, those enhancement matches got him over as a juggernaut. How Strowman will do once he’s back in competitive matches is another matter. But for now, this works for me.

The Shining Stars def. The Golden Truth. R-Truth misses a hot tag because he’s playing Pokemon Go. That’s almost like humor.

WWE Raw, August 1, 2016, Seth Rollins, Finn BalorSeth Rollins confronts Finn Balor. Let’s face facts: Balor isn’t a strong promo. He can talk, but he’s not exactly compelling to listen to by himself. That’s why it was interesting to see Michael Cole out there with him when the segment began. Years ago, they’d have Vince McMahon or Jim Ross do in-ring interviews on Raw. I’d be game for Cole doing something similar every week, the same way they’ve started to put Byron Saxton out there for post-match comments from wrestlers.

Of course, Rollins ended up coming out and dismissing Cole. Not much to note here, except that I’m impressed with how Balor has been portrayed. He’s a big deal. As he should be.

Rusev def. Mark Henry to retain the United States Championship. Rusev badmouths Americans in the Olympics, which draws out Roman Reigns. Poor Rusev. He keeps getting on these big rolls, only to run into run into a golden boy that kills his momentum. Awhile back it was John Cena. Now it’s Roman Reigns. Mind you, they could have a screw job finish that allows Rusev to keep the title. But smart bet is Reigns leaves Summerslam with the belt.

They seem to be presenting the idea that Mark Henry is being put out to pasture. Supposedly Henry is looking to retire. So if they want to make a story out of it, that’s fantastic. He does well with high emotion. So it might make for some good TV.

Titus O'Neil, Bob Backlund, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil. Titus wins with a handful of tights. The slogan goes: “Make Darren  Young Great Again.” This match was based on Titus asking Darren a question we’ve all been wondering: “When were you ever great?”

Not happy to see Titus hold the tights for a pin. But at least they acknowledged it. As recently as a few months ago, the announcers would have ignored that. I don’t see the upside of having Titus be a heel. He’s very likable. On the plus side, his little shouting match with Bob Backlund backstage was fun. If all this gets the Young/Backlund team over, maybe it’ll be worth it.

Nia Jax wins an enhancement match. So Nia Jax and Braun Strowman are basically doing the same thing. They need to be careful about not doing the exact same thing with these two. I understand the objective is the same, and I’m fine with squash matches. But let’s change up the presentation between the two. Give me different textures and tones.

Kofi Kingston & Big E. def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. On the subject of different tones and textures, you can’t get much more different than these two. The New Day is joyful, and there’s nothing joyful about Gallows & Anderson. They’re natural opponents.

Cesaro vs. Sheamus, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Cesaro def. Sheamus. I don’t know if that promo Cesaro cut on the network was a “worked shoot” or a legit shoot. Either way, it’s nice to see them tapping into what I assume are Cesaro’s real emotions. Even if they’re not, it taps into some of the fans’ frustrations at Cesaro not getting the push he deserves.

So what do you do with Sheamus at this point? He feels so flat, so cold…

Jinder Mahal def. Heath Slater to earn a Raw contract. WWE is bringing back some old names to flesh out the dual rosters and put new talent over. Shelton Benjamin and Rhyno are on Smackdown, and now we’ve got Jinder Mahal on Raw. But what’s confusing about that is Mahal doesn’t have a lot of name value. Outside of his work with 3MB, I have no memory of what Jinder Mahal in his WWE run. Something with the Great Khali maybe? Either way, I’m glad for him. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a better shot this time around.

Seth Rollins def. Sami Zayn. I appreciated Rollins and Zayn building to the Pedigree. By my count, Rollins went for it three times before he finally got it on the fourth. And on the subject of finishers, why isn’t Zayn beating people with the Blue Thunder Bomb? It’s a great move. But he never wins with it.

Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman return to Raw. Randy Orton makes a surprise appearance to hit an RKO on Lesnar. Well, that didn’t take long. Our first attack across brand lines. There’s an element of frustration seeing this, plus Heath Slater showing up on both shows. This doesn’t exactly set a good prescedent. Why even draft Orton and Lesnar to separate shows?

Brock Lesnar, August 1, 2016Still, that shot of Orton hitting the RKO on Brock was great. I didn’t even hear the crowd make any noise. They need to interact somehow. I suspect Lesnar and Heyman will invade  Smackdown as early as this week, with a contract signing to follow.

Rumor had it Heyman’s contract with WWE had expired, and he just signed a new deal this week. After this promo, we should all be very thankful for that. A Paul Heyman promo was the main event of Raw, and for good reason.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE

Over on Smackdown:

Dolph Ziggler wins a six-pack challenge to earn a WWE Title shot at SummerslamAs if Finn Balor earning a shot at the Universal Title wasn’t enough, Ziggler pulled this win out of nowhere. Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose wrestling for the WWE Championship at a major pay per view. Sure, why not? They’ve got some rehabbing to do with Dolph. But it’s a feel good moment. Ziggler works so hard, and deserves to much better than to just be another guy on the roster. He’s not getting the belt. Not now at least. But this is a great chance for him to shine on a big stage.

Randy Orton def. The Miz. I hated this. Not because Orton won, but because Miz lost clean. They just had to put Orton out there with the Intercontinental Champion? There was nobody else on that roster he could have wrestled?

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Seth Rollins Strikes Gold? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 18, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s do things a little different this week, and jump right to the main event. We had our WWE Championship Match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, which ended in a double pin. Stephanie McMahon, the Commissioner of Raw, announced Rollins as the winner. But Shane, the Commissioner of Smackdown, was clearly on Ambrose’s side.

After Raw went off the air, Ambrose was confirmed to still be the WWE Champion. Frankly, that’s a surprise, considering they continued to play up Rollins’ comeback story. They even made a point to mention a web site (Bleacher Report?) making him the number one pick in a fantasy draft. Signs seemed to point to him. Either way, I expect him to win the match at Battleground.

So here we go. This opens the door for both become the champions of their respective brands. Tomorrow night in the draft, Stephanie picks Rollins as her top draft choice, and Shane picks Ambrose for Smackdown.

Like a lot of purists, I’m not a fan of there being two world champions. In the end, every other singles title ends up watered down. Plus, the Raw title inevitably ends up being the important one anyway. And isn’t it convenient that this disputed finish just happens to occur on the show before the draft?

Still, dumb ending aside this turned out to be a pretty good show, with two returns to punctuate things…

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Daniel BryanPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley named General Manager of Raw. Daniel Bryan named General Manager of SmackdownFoley is a surprise pick. I can only assume this choice has to do with the soon to be released Holy Foley reality show on the WWE Network. Either way, Mick is one of the best mic guys that company has ever had, and hopefully he’ll create some magic on Monday nights.

The love that the fans still have for Daniel Bryan blows me away sometimes. And it all happened so organically. He’s like the anti-Roman Reigns in that sense. Bryan’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Cruiserweight Division to launch on RawHere you go. This is where a lot of those guys from the Cruiserweight Classic will go. Here’s hoping they don’t lose interest in it after a few years. The WWE’s incarnation of the cruiserweight division was a joke for the last few years of its existence. It was a mercy killing when it finally ended.

Sami Zayn & Cesaro def. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens. On the subject of mercy killings, one of the upsides to this Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens rivalry likely ending is we won’t have to see that awful punching spot they do. I really enjoy them both, but they do it every week and it looks just as awful now as it did the first time.

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Darren Young, Bob BacklundDarren Young def. Alberto Del Rio. So the story with Young is that he wins by accident. I can see Young possibly getting a similar win, and the title, at Battleground. Miz can contest to extend the program, with Young ultimately getting a legit win in the end. Of course, they could just be playing this up for comedy.

Sometimes I wonder how Del Rio feels about the way things have gone for him since he came back. He’s a multiple time champion, and was one of the hottest free agents in the business when they re-signed him. Now he’s just another guy on the roster. Though I suppose having Paige on your arm must help matters.

The Club & The Wyatt Family def. John Cena, Enzo, Big Cass, & The New Day. The in-ring segment before this match was a lot of fun. Lots of different energies and personalities in there, and the crowd ate it up. For the most part, Enzo was on fire. The fun they had in the skit definitely carried into the match.

Somehow I hadn’t connected the dots about there being two six-man tags at Battleground. Does that hurt the show? Maybe. One way they could differentiate them a bit is to have The New Day put the tag belts on the line. I don’t expect them to break Big E, Kofi, and Xavier up. They’ve got a really good thing going with those three, and there’s gas left in the tank. I don’t mean to compare the two groups, but they broke The Shield up too soon, and they don’t want to make the same mistake with The New Day. The Wyatts, on the other hand…

Seth Rollins, WWE Monday Night Raw, July 18, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo in the empty arena before the show. Dean Ambrose does a Shield-style promo with a handheld camera. Any time they do something different like this, it’s a good thing. They could easily have put Rollins backstage with Renee Young and had him looking off-camera, reciting his lines. Ditto for Ambrose. But they opted to do something unique. Well done, WWE.

Baron Corbin def. Sin Cara. Apparently The Lucha Dragons aren’t a tag team anymore. Why they opted not to break them up via the draft doesn’t make sense to me. They always play up how teams could be broken up by being drafted to different shows. So why not break them up that way? You also had Kalisto come out to save Sin Cara from a post-match beatdown.

With the cruiserweight division announced for Raw, I imagine we’ll see Kalisto on that show. Corbin will likely be there as well. As he’s no longer teaming with Kalisto, this likely means Sin Cara is Smackdown bound.

Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch def Charlotte & Dana Brooke via disqualification after an attack by Natalya. My guess is they’re setting up this Natalya/Becky Lynch program for one show, and the Charlotte/Sasha one for the other. I was hoping they’d have one Women’s Champion to appear on both Raw and Smackdown. But in light of this situation with the WWE Title, that seems unlikely. The whole division is likely to suffer as a result. Damn…

WWE Battleground 2016, Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Sasha BanksSasha has a mystery partner against Charlotte and Dana at Battleground. Assuming they don’t opt to have Sasha go it alone, this seems like the perfect opportunity to bring Bayley up. She’s likely being drafted anyway, and this is her opening. We’d better get ready for some wacky arm flailing inflatable tube men!

Rusev & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Zack Ryder. I still can’t get over this push Zack Ryder is getting. In a match that included two former world champions and a monster heel, Ryder came out last. I don’t expect him to win the belt at Battleground, but you never know.

In Other News:

Brock Lesnar flagged for potential anti-doping policy violation prior to UFC 200I’m betting this turns out to be a false alarm. Lesnar reportedly passed multiple drug tests before the fight. Guilty or not, in the wake of Roman Reigns’ Wellness Policy violation, this is a headache WWE doesn’t need. Here’s hoping this is resolved quickly, and we can focus on Lesnar vs. Randy Orton at Summerslam.

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Brock Lesnar’s Victory, The Final Deletion, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFC 200By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Very happy to see Brock Lesnar get the win over Mark Hunt. The doubters weren’t totally justified in questioning Lesnar’s chances. The guy hadn’t had a fight in years. But he was obviously ready. I don’t know if he regrets re-signing with WWE, but it’s clear his heart is still in MMA. I expect we’ll see him back in the octagon soon.

Lesnar will now carry the momentum from this fight into Summerslam, where we now know he’ll wrestle the returning Randy Orton. The announcement of Lesnar’s opponent happened on Smackdown, actually prompting me to watch the show for once. We heard Corey Graves bring up the fact that these two came up together in the WWE developmental system. I expect that will be a large part of the story they tell as we move toward August. I’m a bit concerned about Orton staying healthy in there with Brock. He’s just come off shoulder surgery, after all. But then again, I had those same concerns about The Undertaker, and as far as I know he came out of it fine.

WWE is going to need as many stars as they can fine once this brand split starts. Make no mistake about it, Randy Orton is one of their biggest commodities.

I also loved how they finally acknowledged the damn fight on television this week. Only after Brock had won, of course…

Bob Backlund, Darren Young, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Darren Young wins a battle royal to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at BattlegroundThe obvious choice to win this match seemed to be Apollo Crews, for no other reason than he was the only participant to get a TV entrance, and they played his music through Miz’s pre-match promo. But Darren Young was a pleasant surprise. And they were chanting his name! Imagine that.

However, I’m curious about the way he won. Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated themselves. Young won by accident. So what does that say about him going into Battleground? Either way, any excuse to get Bob Backlund on live TV works for me.

I’ve come to enjoy Miz’s commentary. He does a nice job putting other talents over. He seemed to be getting instructions to put Corbin over. That’s fair enough. I suspect Corbin will receive much more attention once the brand split takes effect. He still comes off really green. But the best solution for that is experience.

Sheamus def. Zack Ryder. I was blown away when I saw Ryder get a clean win over Sheamus on Smackdown. That, combined with his win last week on Raw, leads one to a stunning conclusion: Zack Ryder is getting a push. Four years after he took the wrestling world by storm with his YouTube show, WWE finally seems to be taking him seriously. I’m really proud that he’s persevered after all this time. The only wrestling t-shirt I’ve purchased in the last decade was Ryder’s Broski v-neck. That’s how much of a fan I was, and still am. A United States Title Match with Rusev seems imminent. Will he win? Probably not. But at least he’s in the conversation.

Kalisto, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Tyler Breeze & Fandango def. The Lucha Dragons. During this match the announcers brought up the idea that tag teams could be split up during the draft. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen very much. Remember when they split the Dudleys up in 2002 for no real reason? And then they put them back together a matter of months later? Yeah, let’s not do that again.

Seth Rollins airs mock interview with Roman Reigns using old interview footage. Dean Ambrose comes out to confront him. A WWE Title Match is made for next week’s RawKurt Angle did something like this to The Rock at the tail end of the Attitude Era. It’s an okay little gag. No harm done, even though they are talking about a legitimate drug test violation.

Seth Rollins came off like a million bucks in this segment. He said that Reigns should be taken out of the title match at Battleground, and the fans cheered. He talked about Ambrose sneaking up on him and taking the belt, which did happen. He was also right that Ambrose couldn’t beat him for the belt last year. Rollins has a legitimate argument to being the uncrowned WWE Champion, and being better than both Ambrose and Reigns.

In Ambrose’s response, however, he came off more threatening than he has in weeks. Jokey Dean Ambrose is fine sometimes. But as the champion, we need to see more of the crazy and dangerous Dean Ambrose. When he’s on, Ambrose is as good as anybody in the company. Rollins, to his credit, played off of that intensity very well. He looked intimidated, as his character should be. As for next week’s title match, I don’t expect the belt to change hands. Battleground, however, is a different story.

WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Kevin Owen gets Sami Zayn ejected from the commentary table before his victory over Cesaro. Zayn attacks Owens afterward. I wish they’d just make this some kind of stipulation match that allows Zayn and Owens to fight all over the arena. I just wish they’d stop doing that lock-up/punches thing they do. It takes me right out of whatever scene they’re in.

The New Day journey to the Wyatt Family “compound.” So…was this WWE’s attempt to outdo the “Final Deletion” that TNA did on Impact last week? If so, they failed.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the Final Deletion. It was a match Matt and Jeff Hardy shot on location, which served as the blow-off for the bizarre program they’ve had in TNA this year. Produced by Jeremy Borash, it was a truly ridiculous spectacle. There was a weird vignette with drones and a hologram, spots with fireworks, and the lunacy fans have come to expect from Matt’s crazy character. It was far from your traditional main event, but that was the point. A lot of fans enjoyed it, and it got TNA some much-needed positive buzz.

All I can say about this, is that it’s good to see people talking about TNA again. What that brand desperately needs is some buzz, and they got it.

Fast-forward six days, and we get this. It looked like WWE’s take on a found footage flick, a la The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. But the shaky camera was just awful. There were traces of the Final Deletion. We had the music, the stuff in the water, Bray using an axe, the car crash, etc. The ironic thing is, had they shot this in a more traditional manner, it would have been a lot more interesting. We’d have been able to follow the action more closely. Also, that didn’t look much like a compound to me. More like an open field.

TNA, The Final Deletion, Matt and Jeff HardyOn the plus side, the image of Braun Strowman rising from the water and roaring was awesome. Literally the best thing he’s ever done. And that final image of the lanterns in the forest was cool. But all in all, this was very derivative. WWE drawing inspiration from something TNA did? In 2016? Who’d have thought?

Enzo & Cass def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification. John Cena makes the save afterward. Of course Cena was there. C’mon, now.

Decent match. I’ve got high hopes the match at Battleground will be one of the better six-man bouts we’ve seen on pay per view in recent years. I doubt it’ll top The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. But you never know. This all obviously leads to another match between AJ Styles and John Cena at Summerslam, and possibly a tag title shot for Enzo & Cass.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. I was really curious to see how Banks and Brooke would match up. All things considered, they did pretty well. Absolutely the best match I’ve seen from Dana Brooke since she got called up. They also gave this match a good amount of time, which I credit them for. We wanted Sasha, and they gave us Sasha. They took their damn time, but better late than never.

Vince McMahon names Shane McMahon Commissioner of Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon named Commissioner of Raw. General Managers to be named next week. First off, Vince’s impression of “sweet” Stephanie was awesome. The funniest thing on this show in weeks.

McMahon Family, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016What happened here isn’t surprising. This looked like where they were going. The heel Stephanie on one show, the babyface Shane on the other. The General Manager thing is a bit odd. Traditionally, you have one authority figure that makes matches, stipulations, etc. So does the GM now fill that role, with Shane or Steph coming in as necessary? It all seems redundant. But maybe it’ll make sense when we see it in action. By the way, isn’t Kurt Angle available these days?

I do, however, think Vince gave us a clue about how things are really going to go once this split takes effect. He made a point to call Raw the “three-hour flagship” of WWE. In the end, Raw is like Vince’s favorite child. Even with the added emphasis on Smackdown, eventually it all comes back to Raw.

 Image 1 from rt.com. Image 5 from denofgeek.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.

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Seth Rollins Returns, Cody Rhodes Departs, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Cody Rhodes, WWE Intercontinental ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, let’s talk about Cody Rhodes, who requested and was granted his WWE release over the weekend.

This is becoming something of a trend, isn’t it? Wade Barrett opted not to sign a new contract with WWE. Ryback went home due to a contract dispute, as well as creative frustrations. And now Cody Rhodes/Stardust is gone, partially due to creative frustrations. He has apparently wanted to ditch the Stardust character for awhile now. But WWE apparently didn’t see that as being in the cards for him. So he made what many would consider to be a bold move, and asked to be let go. And to WWE’s credit, they didn’t keep him against his will.

I’m not sure if Rhodes was ever going to be a top guy for them. But he certainly had the potential to be more than he was. I keep thinking back to those years he spent in the Intercontinental Title picture. Not just bringing back the classic IC Belt, but feuding with the likes of Rey Mysterio Jr. and The Big Show at Wrestlemania. And my God, the number of personas he had over the years. First he was the upstart rookie, then he was with Legacy, then he was “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, then there was “disfigured” Cody Rhodes, and then he had the mustache, and then he was Stardust. He was so versatile in the ways he connected with the audience. I, for one, will miss him.

WWE, StardustI keep thinking back to an article I spotted awhile back on RingsideNews.com entitled “The Lost Generation of WWE.” It spotlights a lot of different guys who might have been stars, perhaps even main eventers, if WWE had given them an honest chance. Rhodes is among them. It’s definitely worth a look.

Getting back to this being a trend, when you look at Barrett and Rhodes calling it quits, Ryback going home, and all the talents who have vented creative frustrations via social media (Zack Ryder, Damien Sandow, Naomi, Cameron, Alex Riley, etc.), the glass ceiling in WWE becomes that much easier to see. That’s obviously some pretty tough glass to break through, folks. And the one guy who can open a door and let you through? Vince McMahon. Once you sign that contract, to an extent you only go as far as Vince McMahon allows you to go.

Is that fair? Nope. Is it a good thing? I’m not so sure anymore…

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Seth Rollins attacks Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules. Title match to take place at Money in the BankWe didn’t get Finn Balor, as I thought we might. But Rollins was just as pleasant a surprise. I’m happy to see he’s staying heel. I’m not sure what a babyface Seth Rollins would look like at this point. Also, before he left, Rollins was one of the few really good heels WWE had. I don’t doubt he can play that role again.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Roman Reigns was good in this segment. Granted, it did’t require much. All he had to do was walk down there and look menacing. Silent but menacing Roman Reigns is the one I want to see. And when he does speak, I want it short, concise, and to the point.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Sheamus attacks Apollo Crews afterward. No complaints here. Glad they learned their lesson and kept Sheamus away from the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year. Putting him with Apollo Crews is pretty harmless. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind Sheamus in the ring. But creatively, he’s been stale for the longest time. Even when he was champion, he didn’t have much going for. They need to find something to shake Sheamus up. Otherwise, I’m not sure where he goes from here.

Cesaro def. The Miz to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Considering how good Miz has been since Wrestlemania, and how he won that awesome Fatal Fourway Match at Extreme Rules, I wasn’t a big fan of him losing. But in the long run, I really think it’s more important to give Cesaro more momentum. of course.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016, Chris Jericho, Apollo CrewsChris Jericho def. Apollo Crews to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I loved Jericho’s expression on the way down to the ring. Like a pouty little kid. And those whiney screams when Crews would attack those oversized bandages on his back were great. Just like silent Reigns is the best Reigns, heel Jericho is the best Jericho. I was surprised they beat Crews clean. One would think they’d have Sheamus at least be out there for the distraction. But there’s certainly no shame in losing to Jericho.

Bob Backlund scolds Darren Young for saying “damn” in latest vignette. Is there a reason Backlund and Young aren’t in the same place for these segments? At times there’s a weird disconnect between them. That was especially the case here. If you put them in a room together, they’d be able to play off each other, and there’d be so much more energy. Hopefully we see them try this out in a match soon.

Dolph Ziggler challenges Baron Corbin to another match. Hearing Corbin recite that scripted dialogue was painful. Simply put, the guy needs acting lessons. What’s more, he seemed to have trouble knowing whether to look into the camera or away from it. To his credit, he had the right idea. Wrestlers have been looking into the camera to cut promos for generations now. Why they make these guys look off into the distance is a mystery to me. On the plus side, apparently you can say the word “wrestling” on WWE TV now.

Enzo & Cass, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Enzo Amore returns after a concussion, is in Big Cass’ corner as he beats Bubba Ray Dudley. It’s great to see Enzo, obviously. But I’m curious as to why they didn’t mention The Vaudevillians. They were in the ring with Cass & Enzo when the injury happened. You’d think they’d want to go back to that, or at least mention it. Cass continues to be solid in singles matches. He just needs some more experience, and hopefully the other pieces will fall into place.

Charlotte (with Dana Brooke at her side) cuts ties with Ric Flair. Being with Charlotte obviously isn’t a bad spot for Dana Brooke. Though Charlotte has become a pretty good mic worker, Brooke has a natural charisma that will hopefully add to her presentation.

Charlotte may have acknowledged the crowd a little too much in this segment. I give her a lot of credit for being able to ad lib. But it drew focus away from the stuff with Flair, which was obviously what this segment was about. But she cranked up the intensity really nicely when it was time for her to get heat.

Once again, they’re pulling some pretty personal strings with Charlotte and her family. I always thought they should have tried something like this with David Flair when he was in WCW. That way, they could have built to a match between father and son. That’s not something they can do with Charlotte and Ric. But despite a few flubs in her delivery, I think Charlotte played the heartless villain really well. I’m curious to see if Flair leaves this regular TV gig with Charlotte, or if they do a feud of sorts.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Ambrose is on a nice little role, with back-to-back pay per view wins over Chris Jericho. Would I complain about him winning Money in the Bank? Hell no. But do I expect it? Nope.

AJ Styles breaks away from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Styles loses a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match to Kevin Owens. Remember that night Styles and Owens stole the show in the first hour of Raw? This is the spot a match between these two deserve to be in. They proved that tonight. A strong main event, in a period where WWE really needs to try to  build to that third hour. Now that Owens is in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, I expect the feud between he and Sami Zayn to be incorporated into things, which will hopefully add further depth to the match.

I can appreciate the fact that this story with Styles, Anderson, and Gallows is being drawn out. If WWE wants to create their own version of The Bullet Club, it deserves to be a long term, detailed story. Still, it would have been damn cool to see Finn Balor show up at Extreme Rules.

Images courtesy of WWE.

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Roman Reigns, “What an Ovation!”, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This wasn’t the show I was hoping to end the road to Extreme Rules with. Even with all the intrigue that comes with this Roman Reigns/AJ Styles program, it seems like they’ve run out of plays to call for these guys. So they slapped The Usos together with Gallows and Anderson, and we limp into a pay per view that will hopefully leave all parties better than when they walked in.

*sigh* They just won’t turn Roman. No matter how much he’s booed, they just won’t let him go heel. Speaking of those boos…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, WWE Raw, May 16, 2016AJ Styles and Roman Reigns face off at the top of the show. JBL is hardly the world’s most credibly announcer, is he? Roman’s music hit, he was showered in boos, and JBL goes: “What an ovation!” Gimme a damn break.

Still, this program is hot. Not super hot, but hot nonetheless. I’ll take this over a 20-minute Authority promo any day. AJ Styles isn’t an amazing talker, but he’s definitely serviceable. He more than held his own here. The same can be said for Reigns. He definitely didn’t endear himself to the Greensboro crowd, who apparently were chanting for Seth Rollins. They must have muted them, which always sucks.

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn def. The Miz & Cesaro. I was sad to see the Zayn vs. Cesaro match broken up. Those two had a classic in NXT awhile back, and a rematch would have been cool. And Owens on commentary? Even better. But it was cool to see Cesaro hit Miz with his own finish.

What I paid attention to during this match were the interactions between Owens and Zayn. I really want this rivalry to live up to the enormous potential it has. What can I say? I’m short on patience. They definitely make for good television. For now, that’s enough.

Primo & Epico, WWE Raw, May 16, 2016Primo & Epico return as The Shining Stars. I’ve never had a problem with Primo & Epico in the ring. But I haven’t been enamored with their latest repackaging. Neither was the crowd, apparently. The Shining Stars? That’s pretty damn generic. Oh, and their finisher? The Shining Star, of course. But they are getting a chance to talk, which could work to their advantage. The problem is they’re not saying much of substance. “Come to Puerto Rico!” It’s a little grating, but not enough to base an act on. They need to add another dimension to this, and fast.

Dean Ambrose calls out Chris Jericho. The first ever Asylum Match is made for Extreme Rules. You know who could really use the rub from Chris Jericho? Roman Reigns. They’re not going to get the crowd to cheer Reigns simply by putting him with Jericho. But Jericho might be able to bring something out in Reigns that either we haven’t seen before, or could endear him to fans a bit more. That said, this Asylum Match is likely going to end with an Ambrose victory. Which would mean that next week on Raw our old friend 50/50 booking would have to rear it’s ugly head, with Jericho somehow becoming the new top contender.

Dana Brooke def. Becky Lynch. Dana caught a really bad break this week, as her partner Emma is now sidelined with a ruptured disc in her back. As such, Brooke is obviously on her own. But I thought she did well enough out there with Becky. She’s by no means sunk.

Dana Brooke, BEcky Lynch, WWE Raw, May 16, 2016We got a “We want Sasha!” chant during this match. That’s a little discouraging, especially considering how great Becky is as a babyface. I’m not sure why they’re keeping Sasha off TV, as apparently she’s still working a full time schedule. I can only assume she’s in line to challenge Charlotte down the road.

A “Life Lessons from Coach Backlund” vignette airs. Not bad. But I’ve got one note: Backlund needs to crank up the intensity at certain points. We know he’s got it in him. Now we need to see it in his new role with Darren Young.

Tyler Breeze & Fandango def. Golden Truth. I get what they were going for with that video package, and we did need to know why Goldust and R-Truth are suddenly a tag team. But that pre-match video package was way too long. In a way it’s fitting, as this damn bromance story feels like it’s gone on forever. But they do have comedic chemistry, so it’s nice to see them finally together. And it looks like Tyler Breeze and Fandango have gotten something out of this. I’m not sure how seriously they’ll be taken. But if they stay together, they could be a really good team. But that “Breeze-ango” name has to go.

The New Day return to “a bygone era.” This was the kind of thing I had in mind when it became apparent The New Day and The Vaudevillians would cross paths. I can’t say it was as good as I hoped it would be. But Kofi had a nice little moment when he went back to 2007 for a moment. As for Simon Gotcha and Aiden English, as long as they’re allowed to be mean, they’re still in the game. If they lose that edge, they’re dead in the water.

WWE Raw, May 16, 2016, AJ Styles, Roman ReignsThe Usos def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. AJ Styles finally gets to use a steel chair on Roman Reigns. I’ve given up hope that WWE is actually going to turn Reigns heel. But given how WWE has set up the teams here, with Reigns going with The Usos and Styles going with “The Club,” how cool would it be to see Reigns go heel and recruit Gallows and Anderson? That would shake up the whole dynamic. What if this attack from Styles shook his confidence, and he found a cheap way to win? It’s not going to happen. But it’d be damn cool.

Extreme Rules would be as good a time as any for Finn Balor to show up and cost Styles the match. He’s got an NXT Championship Match with Samoa Joe at the NXT Takeover special in June. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be on the main roster by then.

Alberto Del Rio def. Kalisto. Rusev brutalizes both Lucha Dragons. Ugh. Just take the belt off Kalisto already. I like the guy. But between all the pre-show title matches, the back and forth wins with Del Rio, not to mention the awful commentary, I’m over him as US Champion. They could certainly choose somebody worse for him to drop it to than Rusev. Hell, he could end up dropping it to Del Rio again.

Stephanie McMahon, Ric Flair, WWE Raw, May 16, 2016A contract signing between Charlotte and Natalya main events the show. Charlotte winds up in the Sharpshooter again. It’s always cool to see the women get a main event spot like this. As I recall, the last time we had a contract signing with the ladies in the main event spot, we got the whole Reid Fleihr controversy. This obviously doesn’t erase that. But it’s nice to see they’re still willing to give the girls this spot. Granted, this had more to do with them being in North Carolina, and Ric Flair being there. But hey, who would have thought Natalya would be main eventing Raw? And of course, Stephanie slapped Flair. Because she slaps everybody…

This is the second week in a row they’ve opted not to give the main event spot to Roman Reigns and AJ Styles, despite them having far and away the most interesting storyline in the company. I wonder why that is. Do they not want him getting booed at the end of the show for some reason? It sure as hell didn’t stop them at Wrestlemania

In Other News:

Regan Arts to publish Stephanie McMahon memoir. I groaned when I read this. Not because I don’t think Stephanie has an interesting story, but because everything she does from a professional standpoint is about growing the WWE brand. As it should be. But the only time I ever see her is when she’s on TV, reciting overly scripted dialogue. As such, my impression of her is that everything she says goes through about five different strictly PG public relations filters. As such, I get the feeling this will be the equivalent of reading a book about a sanitary napkin growing up in WWE.

You know, I’m curious. Stephanie must have signed a contract for this book, right? Well, after the documents were signed…did she slap somebody at Regan? She must have. That’s just how she rolls.

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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