Tag Archives: Drew Gulak

WWE Clash of Champions 2019 Predictions, Plus, The Fiend vs. The Undertaker?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So what’s the “proper” way to make use of icons like Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker?

I ask because WWE had them both on television this week. Austin on Raw, ‘Taker on Smackdown. In Madison Square Garden, no less. They both interacted with the current roster, which is what you’d hope they’d do. Austin was in there with Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, and the OC. Undertaker, on the other hand, had a nice little segment with Sami Zayn. There was one name, however, that got zero screen time with the Rattlesnake or the Dead Man. A name that many were hoping to see.

That would be Bray Wyatt. Specifically as “the Fiend.” Given his attacks on the likes of Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and Jerry Lawler, it seemed like a gift-wrapped opportunity to make Austin or Undertaker the next in line.

To their credit, they went out of their way to have Bray talk about Austin in a Firefly Funhouse segment on Raw. Wyatt said that his previous victims took something from him in the past, and “practically invoked the Fiend.” But Austin was “just an old rattlesnake.” I’m not sure I follow his logic there. Bray was on Raw while Angle was the GM, so you can assume he feels Angle wronged him in some way. But what did Foley and Lawler ever do to Bray Wyatt?

But hey, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. The sane can’t very well follow the thought process of the insane, can they? But you know who definitely took something from Bray Wyatt? The Undertaker. And he did it in front of the world, at Wrestlemania 31. Then he did it again at Survivor Series in November, when ‘Taker and Kane beat the Wyatt Family in a Handicap Match.

Did the Fiend need to attack undertaker on Smackdown? No, of course not. Bray has as much momentum now as he ever has. More than anyone in the entire company, for that matter. But not everyone gets to put their hands on the Undertaker. And unlike with Austin, a confrontation between Bray Wyatt and the Undertaker can lead to a match at some point.

To me? What that adds up to is a missed opportunity.

Now, let’s look at Clash of Champions

Roman Reigns vs. Erick Rowan

This one’s not for a title. That’s how I justify putting it first. Come at me.

Unless a drastic swerve is in our future, this is obviously all leading to a big Reigns vs. Bryan match. Bryan and Rowan have been in on this together from the start, which we may learn during or after this match.

In terms of revealing Bryan as the mastermind behind the attacks on Roman, it really doesn’t matter who wins here. But despite the little push he’s gotten lately, I can’t see Roman Reigns losing a pay per view match to Erick Rowan. So I’m going with “the Big Dog” on this one.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Lince Dorado vs. Humberto Carrillo

I confess, I’m more or less flying blind on this one. I haven’t seen much of 205 Live lately. And with all due respect, I suspect I’m not in the minority there…

So I know there’s a personal issue between Gran Metalik and Humberto Carrillo. Carrillo seems to be the one they’re grooming as the babyface star of the Cruiserweight Division. Meanwhile, Gulak, while certainly a credible champion, is simply the one with the belt.

I imagine they’re going to want to change a few belts on this show simply based on its theme. So I’m going to pull a wild card here and pick Lince Dorado to win. In addition to the stuff with Carrillo, they can create an issue with the other members of Lucha House Party if Dorado starts acting more like a heel.

PREDICTION: Lince Dorado

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (c) vs. Fire and Desire

Given what Sasha Banks has said about the Women’s Tag Team Titles since she returned, it makes all the sense in the world for the winner of this match to wind up facing Sasha and Bayley down the road. Especially if this show goes the way I think it’s going to.

That being said, as Sasha and Bayley are heels, it seems unlikely that Mandy and Sonya would be the ones to face them. That leaves Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Apparently, by virtue of her association with Nikki, Alexa is now a babyface. But don’t expect that to last…

Here’s what I see happening: Bliss and Cross retain here. That leads to a title match against Sasha and Bayley, who seek to hold all the female championships in WWE. The outcome of that match can lead to a rift between Alexa and Nikki, and the inevitable feud between the two.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Big E. and Xavier Woods (c) vs. The Revival

Since the implementation of the “Wild Card Rule,” Raw wrestlers have been able to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. It has yet to be explained what happens if a wrestler from one show wins a title from the other. If we know this company at all, it’s because they haven’t thought that far ahead yet. But if I get my way, we’ll at least see the situation arise as a result of this match.

I like this Randy Orton/Revival alliance. It makes sense, in that Orton fits with Dash and Dawson’s “No Flips, Just Fists” mentality. I’d like to see them stay together. Winning the Smackdown Tag Titles could result in them being moved to that show permanently. But more importantly, the New Day have long since obtained “Been There, Done That” status regarding tag titles of any kind. What more could they possibly have to prove? They’re six-time tag champs, and are the longest reigning Raw Tag Team Champions of all time. This just feels like old hat at this point. So lets put the titles on the Revival and see how they do against, say…Heavy Machinery?

PREDICTION: The Revival

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. The Miz

Once again, a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown Title. Though this time, we don’t need to worry about a title change.

Yes, there’s a built-in story here with Miz wanting to set the record for most IC Title reigns. But I don’t see him taking it from Nakamura, who after being lost in the shuffle for far too long, may finally have a winning act with Sami Zayn as his mouthpiece. That’s not to say Zayn has to help Nakamura win. I think a clean win for the champion is perfectly fine here. The simple fact is, Miz has lost a lot of momentum since his program with Shane McMahon, and he has yet to fully recover. Going heel, which has always been the role he’s best in, might just be the way to turn things around for him.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Cedric Alexander

AJ Styles never did wind up dropping the US Title back to Ricochet. That’s a downer for yours truly, as I think Ricochet was a fine US Champ, albeit for the mere few weeks he had it. But of course, it’s hard to complain about Styles being a champion of any kind. And that brings us here, and to Cedric Alexander.

On paper, Ricochet and Alexander aren’t all that different. They’re both high-flying standouts from other shows now trying to establish credibility on the main roster. (I don’t consider 205 Live a main roster show. Just my opinion.) Ricochet would lose the belt to Styles, but ultimately come out of their encounters looking like a star capable of holding his own as a singles star on Raw. They’re now trying to paint Cedric with those same colors. But does that mean he has to beat AJ?

For my money, the answer is no. At least not yet. This, I think, is the match where they put on a great show, but ultimately Gallows and Anderson run in to either cause a DQ, or cost Cedric the match. While Cedric is an amazing athlete and wrestler, I’m still not sold on how much mainstream star power he actually has. Maybe some more mic time will help in that respect. Either way, Styles keeps the belt here.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Alright. They did it. They actually did it. They pulled the trigger on a Bayley heel turn. And a pretty good one, for my money. At least so far. The outcome of this match will be telling in that respect.

Charlotte Flair can win the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championship on any given night. While I don’t think the detractors who compare her to Roman Reigns are being fair, that is one that’s justified. Both have simply reached that status. But I think if they want to keep hammering this Bayley heel turn, which they should, she needs to win the match by cheating. Thus, Bayley becomes the moralistic, yet hypocritical champion. That’s a really interesting role for her, and I think a very natural segue from the “hugger” character she played before.

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Sasha Banks

Great heroes aren’t truly great until they’ve beaten great villains. We hear some version of that all the time. Superman needs Lex Luthor and Brainiac. Batman needs the Joker and Two-Face. Stone Cold needed Mr. McMahon and the Rock. The problem that’s plagued Becky Lynch since Wrestlemania is that she hasn’t had any many (if any) great villains to work with. Yes, she and Charlotte were great together. But that was short-term. Lacey Evans wasn’t established enough to fit that bill. They tried hard with Natalya. But that didn’t work either.

But things were different once Sasha Banks came back. Now, for the first time since Wrestlemania, it feels like Becky has found a truly worthy opponent.

I’ve let my distaste for Sasha Banks be known for quite awhile now. She’s an amazing wrestler, but she’s always come off like an entitled brat. Part of the problem, I think, is that she’s been miscast as a babyface for so long. This woman is simply a natural heel. While she may idolize Eddie Guerrero, from a personality standpoint, she’s more akin to a Ric Flair or a Ted DiBiase. Or for a more modern example, an MJF or CM Punk. She’s simply better on the dark side. It’s amazing that she hasn’t had the chance to play one on the main roster until now.

Ultimately, I think she’s Becky’s next big rival. And that’s why the time has come for “the Man” to drop the title. By hook or by crook (preferably by crook), Sasha Banks walks out of Clash of Champions with the Raw Women’s Title. And with Bayley in possession of the Smackdown Title, the two can go after the Women’s Tag Titles and hold all the gold. The so-called Boss n Hug Connection could very well become the Boss n Hug Dynasty.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Randy Orton

The outcome of this match largely depends on whether they want to take this to Hell in a Cell next month. Given their decade-long history, I’d say Kofi and Orton are worthy of the cage. The only question is whether Kofi enters as champion.

I say we let Kofi keep the title. Have the Revival and the other New Day members mess around at ringside, leading to a questionable finish. Ergo, we go to the cage next month to keep all the interference out. They can even have Randy talk about all the horrible things he’s done to people inside the Cell, specifically Jeff Hardy last year.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman (c) vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

I like this story. You’ve got the Universal Champion and his challenger as the reluctant tag champs, having to defend both titles on the same night. And as far as I can remember, they’re correct to market it as something that has never been done before.

Supposedly, the reason it’s Roode and Ziggler challenging is because Paul Heyman, the legit Executive Director of Raw, is a fan of Roode’s. I’ve got no issue with that. Roode’s a hell of a talent. And Ziggler once again has the task of helping somebody get over.

There’s an argument to be made for letting Rollins and Strowman retain here. It keeps both strong for the Universal Title Match later on. But of course, it’s most likely an easy way to get the belts off them. Some sort of distraction or miscommunication causes Rollins to take the Glorious DDT from Roode, and get pinned. Not only does that put the belts on Roode and Ziggler, but that allows Roode to say he pinned the Universal Champion. Not a bad night for him at all…

PREDICTION: Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Braun Strowman

While I like the story being told here, the pairing of Rollins and Strowman is somewhat baffling. Because it likely means Braun Strowman has to lose a high profile title match yet again. And even if he wins, he likely drops it next month at Hell in a Cell anyway. So why put him with Rollins in the first place?

Unless they go with some kind of disputed finish here, or maybe a DQ, I can only assume Seth Rollins somehow wins. Perhaps the Fiend makes his presence felt during the match, which distracts his former Wyatt Family brother Braun, allowing Seth to get the victory? Either way, I don’t see Rollins leaving Clash without the belt.

Unfortunately, that takes him into the waiting arms of Bray Wyatt at Hell in a Cell next month…

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

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

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WWE Extreme Rules Predictions – Peeking Back in

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a reason I haven’t written about wrestling in awhile. Simply put, the WWE product sucks right now. It’s largely sucked since Wrestlemania. I almost posted something awhile back entitled, “Lapsed WWE Fan Confessions: Why I Finally Tuned Out.” Because I had tuned out. I’d check the websites, and listen to a podcast or two. But as far as watching Raw and Smackdown every week? After more than two decades, I was done.

Why? Yeesh. How much time do you have? Among various other elements, we have…

– Uninspired writing, for characters that have become largely flat and boring, resulting in stories that are largely flat and boring.

– The continued over-scripting of promos and segments, resulting in something that, over time, bears less and less resemblance to the world we live in, and more like it’s own “WWE Universe.”

– The “Wild Card Rule,” which allows select wrestlers from Raw to appear on Smackdown each week, and vice versa. Raw wrestlers are allowed to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. Thus, everything is watered down, and the rules of engagement are blurred. What’s more, the two tag titles, two women’s titles, two world titles, etc, are even more redundant than they were before.

But the recent news that WWE has hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to serve as “Executive Directors” of Raw and Smackdown respectively, piqued my interest. While neither man supposedly has the level of control he will have (Bischoff apparently hasn’t even started yet), I was curious enough to get me to check things out again. While I can’t say I’m in love with what I see, my creative juices are flowing a little bit more.

So let’s take a look at what’s on tap for Extreme Rules this weekend…

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese

I was happy to see Tony Nese get the spotlight during Wrestlemania season. He’s obviously got the talent and the look, if not necessarily the charisma, of a champion. Still, Drew Gulak is just as deserving, if not a little more. He’s successfully transitioned from a comedic character doing powerpoint presentations to a credible and dangerous shooter champion. As he just won it at the last pay per view, I don’t see any reason to take the title off him now. Let’s let him have a little bit of a run and see what develops.

PREDICTION: Drew Gulak

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

I don’t know if you’ll find a better first opponent for Aleister Black (or anyone, for that matter) than Cesaro. So from a wrestling standpoint, I’m expecting great things here. But from a story perspective? This whole thing has been pretty hokey, with the whole “knocking on the door” thing. The split-screen segment between these two on Smackdown was almost cringe-worthy. Hopefully what they give us between the ropes can make us forget that.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Revival (c) vs. The Usos

When I last saw the Revival, they were losing the Raw tag belts to Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder on the Wrestlemania pre-show. Apparently, absolutely nothing was done with them as champions, so the belts simply went back to Dash and Dawson.

For all the talk there’s been about the Revival leaving WWE once their contracts expire, at least WWE has started showing them a little respect. They’re the champions again. So I say we just let them have the lengthy reign everybody seems to want them to have. Supposedly, the reason the Street Profits have been on Raw lately is because Heyman really likes their work. So in my little head, they’re the team that eventually get the rub from Dash and Dawson.

PREDICTION: The Revival

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. Big E. and Xavier Woods vs. Heavy Machinery

I’m really liking Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan (or rather, just Rowan) as tag champs. That’s one of the reasons I hate the Wild Card Rule so much. If both sets of tag champs can appear on either show, then what exactly are Bryan and Rowan the champions of?

The New Day have little to no use for tag team gold at this point, and it’s too soon to put the belts on Heavy Machinery. So Bryan and Rowan get the win by process of elimination. But also because they’re the best team for this spot right now.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan and Rowan

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

So here we have Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, two Raw wrestlers, wrestling for the Smackdown Women’s Title. So if they win…do they go to Smackdown? For that matter, if Nikki scores the fall, does that mean Alexa wins the title? How does this work?

In the end, I think we’re going to find out. I do indeed see this match ending with Nikki pinning Bayley. Whether she wins the title, or more likely, Alexa gets it, that advances their story enough to lead to a match between the two. Most likely at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley

Lashley needs Lio Rush. Seriously, he does. Rush was the perfect mouthpiece for him. Don’t send Rush to 205 Live, don’t send him back to NXT. Put him back with Lashley on Raw. That’s where he belongs.

I dug the whole set crash/explosion angle. But more importantly, I dug the way they followed it up. Both the wrestlers and the announcers took it seriously. And this is the kind of thing I don’t mind them mentioning across different “brands,” a la Smackdown and 205 Live.

As he’s meant to be a dominant giant, I’m of the mindset that Braun Strowman losses should be few and far between. That’s why he’s my pick to win. But because Strowman doesn’t have to be pinned to lose here, a Lashley victory wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’d be that much more effective with Lio Rush, backing him up, but still…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles

So here we have the rubber match. Ricochet defending against the now heel AJ Styles, who once again has Gallows and Anderson backing him up.

To give some credibility back to the Club, who apparently just signed new deals, I see them costing Ricochet the title. Naturally, that leads to a rematch of some kind at Summerslam, where Ricochet wins the title back. But for now, the belt leaves with AJ.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe

I love the good guy/bad guy dynamic between Kofi and Joe. So in that sense, this is a great pairing. What’s not so great is that we have yet another instance of a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown title. So again, what happens if Joe wins?

He won’t, though. As great as Joe is, and he is great, he’s always a groomsman and never a groom when it comes to these title matches. He’s the best pure heel WWE has right now, and maybe even the best promo. For whatever reason, it just never seems like the right time. Such is the case here as well. Granted, if they wanted to extend this thing until Summerslam, Joe might be able to take it there. But here? On this show? No. Kofi Kingston’s got the belt at least until Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

EXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL AND RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Seth Rollins (c) and Becky Lynch (c) vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans
Winners take all.

I actually like the winners-take-all stipulation for this match. Now that we’ve established Rollins and Lynch as an on-screen couple, it’s a nice tool for drama. Though I’m not sure it’s one they’ve been able to play up to it’s full potential. The audience is still getting used to this pairing. So to tease friction or tension between the two of them so early is awkward.

Like many others, I’d say it’s taking place about a month too late. Corbin and Evans have failed to win these titles individually on multiple occasions. So now we’re supposed to believe they can do it in a tag match?

Rollins and Lynch keep their belts here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a “Dusty finish” here, i.e. make it seem like Corbin and Lynch have won, but then re-start the match and have the champions retain. The ensuing Twitter explosion alone would be worth it.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre

You know what’s weird? They’ve hardly played up the Undertaker’s match with Roman at Wrestlemania 33. Granted, from a wrestling standpoint that’s a match ‘Taker probably wants us to forget. But it was the main event of a Wrestlemania, and Reigns has been calling WWE “my yard” ever since. From a storyline perspective, he took ‘Taker’s spot and temporarily retired him. You’re telling me there’s no tension between them? At all?

My hope is that this match finally puts an end to the Roman/Shane stuff, and potentially paves the way for the Undertaker to put Drew McIntyre over at Summerslam. With any luck, the bells and whistles in this match, and a decent performance next month can wash the foul taste of that Undertaker/Goldberg match out of everybody’s mouth.

I say Shane takes a Tombstone and the pinfall, prompting McIntyre to come out the next night and say ‘Taker never beat him. Ergo, the Summerslam match. As for Roman, next month seems like as good a time as any for a “brother vs. brother” match with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

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

Summerslam Predictions: Pre-Show Matches

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As we did with Wrestlemania earlier this year, we’re going to break down our Summerslam predictions into several days. There’s certainly no shortage of things to cover. First up, the pre-show match, and the Cruiserweight Title Match!

MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH:
Rusev and Lana vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega

There’s no way Rusev and Lana get the win here. Not just because Almas and Vega are still establishing themselves on Smackdown, but because we’ve got this whole Aiden English story playing out with Rusev. My guess is English somehow costs them the match.

But…do Rusev and English have to break up? They’re so great together!

PREDICTION: Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Drew Gulak

I’ll be amazed if this one doesn’t get bumped to the pre-show. Amazed. Not because these two don’t deserve it. But that’s usually where these cruiserweight matches end up.

I’ve been watching a little more 205 Live lately. I’ve been into the show, but not necessarily Cedric as champion. They’re working hard to get him over, but he’s a pretty bland babyface. I’m ready for them to give Mustafa Ali a try. But for now, Cedric retains.

PREDICTION: Cedric Alexander

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Triple H and 205 Live, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Over the last few weeks, 205 Live seems to have gained something it’s desperately needed from the start: Buzz. And the one we have to thank for it is, of all people, Triple H.

Or rather, the real-life Paul Levesque. Levesque, who serves as WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, has become the new showrunner for 205 Live. As such, the name of the game seems to be reemphasizing the wrestling, and toning down some of the more cartoony elements in the show.

Case in point, this week’s episode. We had two lengthy matches, one between Akira Tozawa and Mark Andrews, and the other between Drew Gulak and Tony Nese. The presentation was very much akin to what we’d previously seen from the Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Championship tournament, and quite often from NXT. Very much sport-oriented, with the announcers largely focused on what’s happening in the ring as opposed to traditional Vince McMahon style “storytelling.”

Backstage segments with new GM Drake Maverick are being used as a reset button of sorts for various wrestlers. We saw one last week with Gulak and Nese, which led to what we got on this show. This week we got one with Jack Gallagher, who was told to start wearing standard ring attire again.

We’re also introducing names from the NXT and the UK rosters. We spent a good amount of time getting to know Wales native Mark Andrews. Former NXT Tag Champ Buddy Murphy was also profiled, with the story being about him reinventing himself and cutting weight to make the 205 Live roster.

This is good. This is a change. One that makes sense, given 205 Live airs on the WWE Network. They can skew a bit more toward the devoted wrestling fans who pay that money every month rather than casual viewers. We’ve got plenty of time for that on Raw and Smackdown. The time has come to make 205 Live what it should have been from the start: An offshoot of the Cruiserweight Classic. That’s where WWE fans were first introduced to most of these guys. Let’s see if we can get some of those folks back.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn ambush Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler before they can wrestle for a spot in the title match at Fastlane. Shane McMahon later makes Corbin vs. Owens and Ziggler vs. Zayn. If Corbin and Ziggler win their respective matches, they get added to the Fastlane match. So Ziggler is apparently a babyface now, for no apparent reason. That’s fine, as Ziggler has proven he can do well in either role. I just wish they’d come up with a coherent reason for him to be back after voluntarily relinquishing the US Title. Later in the show, he talked about wanting to main event Wrestlemania. That’s a fine reason, but he still looks like a dope for walking out.

I don’t know why I’m even complaining at this point. As far as the writing and booking for Ziggler are concerned, this kind of thing is par for the course. What’s more, he reportedly just signed a new two-year deal for $1.5 million annually. Hey, at least he’s well paid.

Charlotte Flair def. Sarah Logan. At this point, Logan stands out the least among the three Riott Squad members. So I had trouble getting invested in this match for that reason. They made a point to talk about how Charlotte has now beaten both Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, and is now targeting Ruby Riott. So what happens if she beats all three? Do they have to break up?

Baron Corbin def. Kevin Owens to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. The finish to this one was pretty obvious, and it dragged as a result. I was surprised to see Corbin get the clean win, though.

Randy Orton attempts to accept Bobby Roode’s open challenge for the United States Title, but Jinder Mahal interrupts. A fight breaks out, and Jinder is left standing tall. So Jinder was trying to goad a reaction out of Orton for only being number 9 on the Smackdown Top 10. But the story behind the list is that it’s decided by votes from fellow wrestlers, and is essentially a popularity contest. Why would a loner character like Orton care?

On the other hand, this could open the door for a Randy Orton heel turn. It wouldn’t be a big stretch. He could talk about being disrespected by both the wrestlers and the fans, and throw in that he apparently wasn’t even invited to Raw‘s 25th anniversary show. And if he really wants heat, he can retire the RKO.

The New Day def. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. This match spun out of a segment about pancakes. No, seriously.

How Gable was able to hit that roll-through German Suplex on Big E, I’ll never know. Absolutely sick strength.

Dolph Ziggler def. Sami Zayn to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. Like the Owens/Corbin match, my interest in this one was pretty low. They were starting to get me toward the end, though. Hell of an Exploder Suplex.

So now we’ve got a Fatal Five-Way for the title. I’d love to know why they’re so fixated on these five-man matches as opposed to four or six-man matches. Comparatively, it’s such an awkward number. The good news is that with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler in there, they’d have to try pretty hard to make this a bad match.

Conspicuous by his absence this week was Shinsuke Nakamura. Now that we’ve got five guys in the main event, and what appears to be a three-way between Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Jinder Mahal, who does that leave for Nakamura? Rusev, maybe? Could they feed him a lower midcard guy like Mojo Rawley?

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Booker T/Corey Graves Heat? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Booker T isn’t happy. But we all should be.

Last week on his Houston-based radio show, the former WCW Heavyweight Champion made some bold statements about being replaced by Jonathan Coachman on the Raw announce team. Comments specifically directed at Corey Graves.

According to Booker, Graves is “the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now.” Booker claims he was removed because people in the company were worried about a physical confrontation between the two, based on how they were interacting on television.

He continued: “Me personally, everybody knows my reputation… I get mean, when you mess with my green. And right now, my green is being messed with, you know what I mean? So, me and Corey Graves… Wrestlemania coming up, right? There’s room for one more match. … I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight. Not a match. Not a pre-show posedown or anything like that. I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight.”

Graves’ only response was the following tweet…

Then on Raw, Graves randomly threw out the line: “You better be careful, Coach. You’ll be doing ESPN radio locally.” Yeesh…

This feels like a work, especially given what Booker said about Wrestlemania. But for a moment, let’s go with the notion that he was shooting. Let’s say Graves somehow got Booker moved back to pre-show duty.

He did us a favor, folks.

When Booker subbed in for David Otunga on the Raw announce team, I think most of us were relieved. Almost anyone is a better choice than Otunga. And for awhile, Booker was a breath of fresh air. But as the months went on, his work went off the deep end. It became a ongoing gag for Cole and Graves to make fun of him for saying nonsensical things. As a wrestler, Booker was a bona fide star. But as an announcer he was drowning. Given the choice between Booker T and Jonathan Coachman, they’d have been foolish not to go with Coach.

Booker T is a bona fide Hall of Famer, and he deserves our respect. But the time had come to bump him off Raw. At least for the time being.

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. Woken Matt Hardy attacks Wyatt after the match. It doesn’t get much easier to call than this. Crowd was into it, though. Has it only been a year since Bray won the WWE Championship in a Chamber Match? Seems like a lot longer…

Loved those opening pre-tapes. What’s more, they were looking into the camera!

Finn Balor and Karl Anderson def the Revival. My ears perked up when Scott Dawson used the phrase “tag team specialists.” On a recent episode of Something to Wrestle, Bruce Prichard explained that phrase used to be applied to teams made up of smaller guys, i.e. the Midnight Rockers. The idea was they were relatively easy to beat as individuals, but as a team they were nearly unstoppable.

Then Dash and Dawson lost to Balor and Anderson, who teamed up on a whim. Whoops. Hey, at least Balor beat somebody.

Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali def. Drew Gulak and Tony Nese. New 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick (formerly Rockstar Spud) joins the announce team. I’m familiar with Rockstar Spud’s work from Impact Wrestling, though not extensively so. Here’s what I’ll will say: He did amazing out there on commentary. An absolute natural. That was his first time out there on Raw. I say we make this guy the new Austin Aries. Put him out there on commentary every week for the Cruiserweight matches to give them some unique flavor.

Alexander took a beating in this match. Not just the fall on the shoulder, but that landing after the somersault over the ropes. He looked like he landed on his tailbone.

I’m not a regular 205 Live viewer. But with Roderick Strong debuting against Hideo Itami, tonight’s show is appointment television.

Kurt Angle announces Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville will challenge Alexa Bliss in the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber Match. Bliss calls Angle out for not having Brock Lesnar defend the Universal Title in a Chamber Match. I was actually surprised to hear Alexa call Kurt a sexist. You’d think with everything being so ultra PC these days, they wouldn’t even want to suggest such  thing. It got a nice reaction, though.

Angle also announced Asuka vs. Nia Jax for Elimination Chamber. If Jax wins, she gets in on Asuka’s championship match at Wrestlemania, whoever she picks. I don’t see Nia beating Asuka. But this could help pave the way for her challenging Alexa at Wrestlemania.

Asuka def. Bayley. This was pretty good. Loved the reverse roll-through counter to the Asuka lock. That was almost an old Bret Hart spot. Probably Bayley’s best Raw match since the night she won the title from Charlotte. Now if only Bayley had gotten any kind of reaction when her music hit. If she keeps having matches like this, she’ll be on the comeback trail. But she’s not there yet.

The Miz def. Apollo Crews to quality for the Elimination Chamber Match. Crews has had a good couple of weeks. Now if only he could find some personality.

The Bar def. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles via DQ, with an accidental assist from Jason Jordan. Apparently Jordan has some neck and back issues, which is why we haven’t seen him wrestle in awhile. The timing couldn’t be worse, of course. But they’ve been creative in how they’ve kept him involved. Based on what we saw here tonight, the official heel turn should be coming sooner than later.

Nia Jax won an enhancement match. In her post-match promo, Nia announced to Asuka that she’s “the only one in that locker room you can’t beat.” Um, she did beat you. Less than a month ago. It was the best match you ever had…

Mickie James def. Sonya Deville. I’d love to know what Sonya Deville thinks about Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler both being under the WWE umbrella. I imagine it’s something to the effect of, “So much for my gimmick…”

Elias def. John Cena and Braun Strowman in a Triple-Threat Match to earn the right to enter last in the Elimination Chamber Match. There’s been a good amount of buzz about Strowman challenging Miz for the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania. But I think they’d do just as well to put Elias in that spot. The guy’s getting cheers.

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Woken Matt Hardy, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

News leaked last week that longtime WWE composer Jim Johnston had been released after more than three decades with the company. That’s a hell of a downer.

Not surprising, mind you. If you look at Most the music WWE has produced in the last several years has been with CFO$, who have essentially become their in-house band. But Johnston was still working for WWE in some capacity. His most recent, and apparently final, theme song for the company was “I Bring the Darkness,” which Baron Corbin uses.

Consider how vital music is to the overall WWE experience. We literally can’t have matches without it, as wrestlers all have their own distinct entrance themes. This isn’t just the case in 2017. What would the Ultimate Warrior have been without the adrenaline-pumping guitar riffs as he sprinted to the ring? What is the Undertaker without the awe-inspiring orchestra that backs his entrance? How much did “Voices” change the tone of Randy Orton’s entire act?

The list goes on and on. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dusty Rhodes, Degeneration X, Ted DiBiase, the Rock, the Big Bossman, Triple H, Goldust…

Johnston didn’t do it all himself, obviously. But he was the backbone of all things music-related in WWE for so long. He helped shape not only the product itself, but the careers of generations of wrestlers.

Johnston produced much of the soundtrack our childhoods. So thank you, sir. For so many years, and so many great songs.

Ponderings From Raw:

Both Jason Jordan and Samoa Joe attempt to answer Roman Reigns’ open challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. Jason Jordan gets the match, which Reigns wins. Joe attempts to attack Reigns after the match, but Jordan stops him with a suplex. Reigns repays him with a Superman Punch. Jason Jordan may have won me over in this segment. He was whiny and annoying as he clearly played the father/son card. But at the same time, they’ve tried to make this heel turn organic by giving a certain amount of legitimacy to his gripes. He’s a legit bad ass who can hang. When Jordan’s turn becomes official, they may actually have something with him.

Paige def. Sasha Banks. Absolution once again destroys Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. The announcers have consistently remembered to bring up the fact that Sasha Banks has never successfully defended the Raw Women’s Title. They’re saving that little factoid for down the road. Hopefully it’s the Sasha heel turn we’ve been waiting on for months.

As annoying as I’ve come to find Sasha, when it comes to big bumps she goes all in. That Sunset Flip she took off the top rope was nasty.

Both this one and the opener went pretty long. In the first hour and a half of Raw, we only got two matches. Commercials notwithstanding, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Nia Jax flirts with Enzo backstage. Alright, sure. This could be decent. Just don’t let her wrestle him for the title…

Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, and Tony Nese. WWE announced this week that 205 Live is going to start running live events, starting with three on January 19, 20, and 21. This happens to be the weekend before the Royal Rumble. Supposedly, they’re looking for smaller venues for future events.

Considering a lot of the crowds for Smackdown have been half-empty lately, this seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Mind you, this comes on the heels of WWE sending out a fan survey asking why people aren’t watching the show. But I do like the idea of the cruiserweights performing in smaller venues. I’d be in favor of WWE moving 205 Live to a different night (Thursday?), so they could move it somewhere about the size of the facility NXT takes place in. Moving it out from the shadow of Smackdown could be a good thing. And smaller crowds could help recreate the intimate setting of the Cruiserweight Classic. Whether Enzo and that crew can sell tickets? That could be another story entirely. 

Damn, I wish Cedric Alexander could talk. His big dive over the rope, the standing Spanish Fly with Ali, and of course the Lumbar Check. He’s so damn good. But verbiage is the missing element for him.

The crowd was actually awake for this one. That’s a nice change of pace.

Braun Strowman dominates Elias before Kane interrupts via the tron to announce a match with Strowman next week. So does Kane go away after next week? Or does he stick around a little longer? Finn Balor could certainly use some retribution.

Strowman has been part of some really good Raw main events this year. He and Kane have a high bar to rise to. I’m not exactly optimistic, but I’m not dreading it either.

Asuka def. Alicia Fox. Absolution has another staredown with Asuka before annihilating Fox. I said this last week: I’m not a fan of Asuka backing out of the ring Paige, Deville, and Rose surround her. They’re having her smile, so you know she’s not cowering away. But it’s awkward, and doesn’t make a lot of sense. She clearly wants a fight, and could very well kick the hell out of them. Whether it’s ill-advised or not, why not just stand there and wait for them to make a move?

Finn Balor def. Bo Dallas. So Balor isn’t getting a match with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, and he just can’t seem to solve the Kane conundrum. But he can beat Bo Dallas! So that’s something…right?

“Woken” Matt Hardy makes his WWE television debut via pre-taped promo intercut with one of Bray Wyatt’s usual tron promos. Hardy sentences Wyatt to deletion. This little segment has been a long time coming. Some of us have been waiting on this since the Hardys came back at Wrestlemania. It’s been almost a year. But Broken Matt is finally here, albeit under a different name.

I was fine with this character’s first exposure to WWE audiences coming via pre-tape. As cool as it can be, it’s undeniably goofy. This lets the fans in on the joke before we inevitably get the bells and whistles the die-hards want to see.

Sheamus and Cesaro def. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. Samoa Joe interferes in the match, costing the Shield the titles. It’s the feud that just won’t die. I’ve seen these four wrestle so much I nearly snoozed right through this one. Considering how good all these guys are, that tells you something. Can this please be the end? Please?

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Paige’s Comeback, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

How’s this for a feel-good story? After more than a year, Paige is back in a WWE ring. Why is this such a feel-good story? Because for awhile, things weren’t looking so good for the real-life Saraya-Jade Bevis.

Look at everything Bevis has been through since we last saw her. Tensions were high between she and WWE over two failed wellness tests, and a neck surgery that WWE reportedly didn’t want her to have. All the while, she was in what appeared to be a volatile relationship with the controversial Jose Rodriguez, also known as Alberto Del Rio. At one point Jose Rodriguez was under investigation for domestic violence, and there was talk of alcohol abuse and the use of cocaine. The relationship has apparently ended as of a few months ago.

Then there was the X-rated footage leak, which included footage of Bevis with the NXT Women’s Title. Make no mistake about it, she was the victim of a sex crime. But considering all the bad press, it would have been very easy for WWE to simply cut bait. It would have been even easier for her to become another wrestling tragedy.

I think a lot of us forget how young Bevis is. She’s been wrestling since she was 13. She wasn’t even 20 when she was signed by WWE, and she started appearing on national television at 21. Most of us are fortunate enough not to have their dirty laundry aired all over the internet. I don’t doubt that some of that will follow Bevis for a long time.

The silver lining? She’s back, seemingly better than ever, and I would guess stronger and wiser for what she’s gone through. I wouldn’t want to get on this woman’s bad side, or stand in her way going forward. Because the question isn’t what she’ll do next. But after everything she’s seen in her young life, what can’t she do?

Welcome back, Paige. We’ve missed you.

Ponderings From Raw:

Triple H gets confronted by Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan, and Braun Strowman. Stephanie McMahon makes Strowman vs. Jordan for later in the evening. This was one of the few times since his return that Kurt Angle actually looked like the bad ass wrestling machine we know he can be. After last night, it looks like that’s the direction we’re headed in for Wrestlemania. My interest is piqued…

Adding Triple H to anything involving a younger star can be risky. He can easily outshine or outperform his opponent, making them look weak by comparison. In hindsight, his program with Seth Rollins didn’t exactly work wonders for the so-called “Kingslayer.”

But to his credit, Hunter looked genuinely afraid of Strowman at Survivor Series. Less so in this segment. But we still got “You’re a coward!” chants, which were cool. As Triple H has been wrestling more frequently as of late, a match between he and Strowman is hardly far-fetched. But the right move in that scenario would be a Strowman victory, most likely after interference from Angle. Do they have the guts to pull the trigger on that?

So Strowman storms out there looking like he’s going to kill somebody, marches up to Hunter, and then…stands there. What? Triple H couldn’t have bailed? If a freight train is barreling toward you, you move. So move, damn it! Move!

Samoa Joe def. Finn Balor. These two always look like they’re beating the crap out of each other. Probably because they are, to an extent. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see a guy the size of Joe coming at you with a suicide dive…

Asuka def. Dana Brooke. I was legitimately afraid for Dana Brooke during this match. Asuka hits hard, and Brooke isn’t exactly smooth in there. But Brooke sold well for her.

What do they call that butt thump move Asuka does? The announcers never seem to call it. Does it have a name?

The Shield appears on Miz TV. Roman Reigns challenges the Miz to an Intercontinental Title Match. The crowd was having fun during this one. That’s more than you can say for a lot of Raw crowds these days.

Dean Ambrose def. Sheamus. Sheamus is damn good. When he gets a chance to be a single again, I really hope they get put the pieces together with him. He’s more valuable than a lot of people realize.

On that topic, hell of a performance by Sheamus, Cesaro, and the Usos at Survivor Series. Had Brock and AJ not been wrestling, they might have stolen the show altogether.

Paige returns, interrupting a top contender’s match between Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Bayley, and Alicia Fox. Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville clear the ring. Afterward, the trio beat up Alexa Bliss backstage. Outside of being Tough Enough alums, I know next to nothing about Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. But I’ve said more than once that this Raw Women’s Division needs more bodies. We can’t just have Sasha, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and Nia Jax out there every week. So I’m glad they’re here.

Kane interrupts Braun Strowman’s match with Jason Jordan. Kane devastates Strowman’s throat with a chair. December’s pay per view, Clash of Champions, is a Smackdown show. I’m guessing they’re not going to keep this going until the Royal Rumble. So it looks like Kane is Strowman’s TV program until Wrestlemania season.

Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Mustafa Ali, and Akira Tozawa def. Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, and Noam Dar. You know what doesn’t help the 205 Live crew? The fact that the babyfaces travel in packs. The “Zo Train” is one thing. They’re a heel group. But Cedric, Rich and the others? Nobody stands out when they all come out at once. It’s just Cruiserweight oatmeal.

Matt Hardy attacks Elias. Is Elias spinning his wheels? These feuds with Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy don’t seem to be doing anything for him. But the crowds are usually into his schtick. It’s time for a step up.

Meanwhile, Matt cut a promo on WWE.com about his “breaking point.”

Get it? Broken Matt? Breaking point? Yeah, right…

Roman Reigns def. The Miz to win the Intercontinental Championship. Roman doesn’t need the Intercontinental Title any more than he needed the United States Title. This is a confusing move. Why not give it to Balor or Joe? Hell, they could even have given it to Elias. Maybe they want to put the tag belts back on Rollins and Ambrose, so all three of them have belts? But again, needless…

Awesome counter to the Superman Punch by Miz. Has that been done before?

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