Posted in Wrestling

Let’s Make Raw Talk Part of Raw

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So I pulled up YouTube this morning, and quickly found this little gem in my cue: Sheamus on Raw Talk after winning last night’s big gauntlet match.

Pay attention to how natural he sounds. Notice how it comes off more like an athlete being interviewed on the sidelines of a game than a scripted, heavily produced WWE promo…

This comes mere days after Cesaro cut the promo of his life (Which is to say, not a great promo. But a very good one.) on the Smackdown equivalent, Talking Smack. Shortly after the first of the year, Mustafa Ali also made some headlines on the Raw Talk by mouthing off about “Legends Night” (shown below).

The best mic work on WWE television is happening on the Raw and Smackdown post-shows, rather than on the shows themselves. What kind of backwards crap is that?

For almost a decade now, WWE has continuously struggled with finding ways to keep Raw interesting for three hours. Or at least break up the monotony of things.

Here’s my pitch: Nobody watches these post-shows anyway. They’re catching these promos online after the fact. So let’s give them a bigger audience.

WWE loves their talk show segments. “Miz TV,” “the VIP Lounge,” etc. So let’s give Charly Caruso and R-Truth a weekly segment at roughly the halfway point of Raw. Call it “Raw Talk.” Call it “Chattin’ With Charly.” Call it whatever you want. But make it the equivalent of the NFL halftime report for Monday Night Raw.

And most importantly? Every week, pick a wrestler you want to spotlight, and give them a few minutes of unscripted mic time. Nothing too extensive. Just a few minutes to let their hair down and speak freely. The result? Interesting television, as we’re allowed to get to know these individuals and their characters on a different level.

Am I wasting my keystrokes? Of course. WWE has been content to revel in their own mediocrity for years now.

But as ratings continue to plummet, ask yourself: What’s the drawback to an idea like this? What do they have to lose?

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Who exactly are the “10 Most Fascinating People” in a given year? Every year when I do this list, I typically let the word fascinating speak for itself. But for 2020, a year like no other, let’s go ahead and expand on it.

Every week, these performers compete for our attention. Not just with opposing programming, but with each other. Everyone wants to be part of the story that’s the most dramatic, emotional, intriguing, inspiring, etc.

The list of WWE’s most fascinating people is a list of WWE wrestlers and personalities who, in my opinion, had the most interesting stories in a given year. They can be the culmination of a lifelong journey, as Drew McIntyre achieved this year. They can spark pressing questions, such as whether this is really the end for the Undertaker. One can even wind up on this list for the wrong reason, like Otis did with the Money in the Bank briefcase.

To put it simply: These are WWE’s most fascinating people of 2020, and these are their stories.

1. Drew McIntyre
In 2020, Drew McIntyre lived up to his old nickname and became WWE’s “chosen one,” winning the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar.

Unfortunately, it happened at just about the worst possible time.

The COVID-19 pandemic was in its early days when Wrestlemania XXXVI took place, and the world was still coming to grips with the new rules we were (and still are) all living under. WWE was holding its televised events, including Wrestlemania, inside the Performance Center in Orlando with no fans in attendance. Thus, Drew essentially had his crowning moment in a vacuum. One might even call him “the Pandemic Champion.”

But to his credit, he forged ahead. He played the stalwart babyface we all needed to see during such trying times. He was an optimistic, hopeful babyface champion hungry to prove himself against all challengers. Mere moments after beating Lesnar, McIntyre would beat back a challenge from the Big Show. He would go on to successfully defend against Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler, and Bobby Roode. He also retained twice over Randy Orton before dropping the belt to him at Hell in a Cell. Then on November 16, McIntyre would make Orton’s reign a short one, taking back the title in the main event of Raw.

Whether or not McIntyre is remembered as the champion of the “pandemic era” remains to be seen. But either way, one thing is certain: He’s been a champion we can be proud of.

2. Otis
Even if you see him strictly as a comedic character, it’s tough to deny Otis had a career year. Even if it didn’t necessarily end the way he’d have hoped.

Coming into 2020, Otis’ affection for Mandy Rose made him the lovable everyman in one of, if not the most interesting story on WWE television. The tale culminated at Wrestlemania, as Otis defeated Dolph Ziggler and got to kiss the girl. It would have been a tremendous Wrestlemania moment if there’d been fans in the building…

The subsequent decision to give Otis the Money in the Bank briefcase was puzzling. He was hot coming out of Wrestlemania. But a Heavyweight Title contender? Hardly. As such, the briefcase served to weigh Otis down more than elevate him, as fans were more interested in how WWE was going to get the briefcase off of him, as opposed to how and when he’d cash in.

It all came crashing down for Otis at Hell in a Cell. He lost the briefcase to the Miz in a match where his longtime tag partner Tucker turned on him. Adding insult to injury, both Tucker and Mandy were drafted to Raw, leaving Otis on Smackdown without his arch rival or his girlfriend.

Ouch.

3. MVP
Montel Vontavius Porter was a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match. Despite being eliminated in a matter of seconds, he stuck around and became an unlikely staple of Raw.

He quickly aligned himself with Bobby Lashley, guiding him in a brief quest for Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship. While Lashley would come up short, the duo would find new allies in Shelton Benjamin, and eventually Cedric Alexander. Together, they’ve formed the hottest, and certainly the most sharply dressed, faction WWE has seen in quite some time: The Hurt Business.

MVP’s staying power is lies almost entirely with the charisma and energy he brings to promos. But he’s also remained semi-active in the ring.

4. Dominik Mysterio
To say the very least, Dominik has come a long way since we saw him as the eight-year-old subject of a child custory storyline between his father Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.

Now in his early 20s, Dominik began making appearances with his father last year, one of which saw him brutalized by Brock Lesnar. But in 2020 he established himself as a wrestler and television character by inserting himself into the feud between Rey and Seth Rollins. As a result, he was given the extremely unenviable task of having his first televised WWE match at Summerslam against Rollins. To Dominik’s eternal credit, I thought he and Rollins stole the show that night. Yes, their match had its fair share of “gaga,” including involvement by both Rey and Dominik’s mother Angie. And yes, Dominik was in good hands with Rollins. But in the end, that match told the best story that night. Much of that can be attributed to how good Dominik has become at such a young age.

Rey and Dominik were drafted to Smackdown in October, where the emphasis has been largely on Rey’s daughter Aliyah and her storyline with Murphy. Frankly, I don’t think it would hurt Dominik to spend some time apart from his father, perhaps in NXT. Though knowing how pro wrestling works, a father/son feud certainly isn’t out of the question. Especially as we move closer to Wrestlemania.

5. The Undertaker
This was the year the real-life Mark Calaway finally came out of the casket.

After his Boneyard Match with AJ Styles proved to be the unlikely show-stealer at Wrestlemania, the Undertaker went on an unprecedented media tour to promote Undertaker: The Last Ride, a documentary miniseries on the WWE Network. In the process, he pulled back the curtain on himself and the character in a way many have wanted for the better part of three decades. No one exploited the Dead Man’s new chatty demeanor more than WWE themselves, who produced numerous Undertaker-centric specials and interviews for the network. This included two lengthy interviews with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

It all culminated in a “final farewell” at Survivor Series, which marked the 30th anniversary of the character’s debut. His farewell address was short but sweet: “My time has come to let the Undertaker rest in peace.”

But as always, whether this truly is the end of the line for the Undertaker remains to be seen…

6. Roman Reigns
“The Big Dog” was absent for much of 2020 thanks to COVID-19. But when he made his return at Summerslam, he changed the entire landscape of Smackdown with both a new attitude and a new manager.

This year saw WWE give Roman Reigns the one thing they never gave to their last poster boy John Cena: A heel run. What’s more, a damn good heel run. At least thus far. Now a full-fledged Paul Heyman guy, and calling himself the “Tribal Chief,” Reigns quickly won the Universal Championship from Bray Wyatt. He went on to have two quality pay per view title matches with, of all people, Jey Uso. At Survivor Series, he once again stole the show in a champion vs. champion match with Drew McIntyre. He capped it off at TLC, retaining his title over Kevin Owens.

All the while, Reigns has been doing the best character work of his career. He projects a quiet and intimidating menace that has made him the most interest part of Smackdown for months now. Had we gotten this guy five years ago, Vince McMahon could very well have had the new mega-babyface he obviously wanted Reigns to be so badly.

7. Lana
The way things look now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Lana challenging for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania.

That may be blasphemous to some. But we all know WWE loves a good unlikely underdog story. And in trying to become a wrestler, the real-life CJ Perry is in fact an underdog. By her own admission, she’s not the most talented on the roster. While athletic, wrestling doesn’t come naturally to her. She’s also been the center of a few cringe-worthy storylines, not the least of which was her recent marriage storyline with Bobby Lashley. Did we mention her real-life husband, who now goes by Miro in AEW, was let go by WWE in April?

I invite those who would question Lana’s presence on this list to watch her episode of WWE Chronicle on the network. It’s a very revealing look into CJ Perry’s past, her mindset, and how hard she’s working to become a success in professional wrestling.

8. Randy Orton
This year, Randy Orton got back to doing what Randy Orton does best: Being a merciless, despicable heel. He does it better than just about anyone in the business today. So it’s not necessarily a surprise that in doing so, he became one of the centerpieces of Raw in 2020.

Much of it was familiar. He attacked legends like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, delivering his signature punt to the head. There were plenty of RKOs out of nowhere. And indeed, Orton claimed yet another WWE Championship, defeating Drew McIntyre in a Hell in a Cell Match in October.

But what once again made Orton one of the most compelling villains in WWE was what he did with Edge early in the year. The night after Edge made one of the more emotional returns in recent memory, Orton met him in the ring and proposed they reform Rated RKO. It was all a trap, of course. Orton would beat down his former friend, capping it off with a brutal chair attack (What Edge used to call a one-man “Con-Chair-To.”) This sparked a feud that went into the spring, and included Orton hitting an RKO on Edge’s wife Beth Phoenix. They had a Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania, and followed it up with a match dubiously titled “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” in June. Edge would win the former, Orton the latter. A rubber match is almost undoubtedly in the works. No doubt when it does, Orton will be as formidable and dangerous as he’s ever been…

9. Bayley
In 2020, the Smackdown Women’s Division was all about Bayley, Sasha Banks, and when their inevitable implosion would happen. The powder keg finally blew in September when Bayley ambushed Banks in the ring.

So why put Bayley on the list and not Sasha? A few reasons…

Coming into 2020, the experiment of turning Bayley heel was still fairly new. What’s more, compared to Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch or NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley, she had by far the least buzz or momentum. Both Bayley and her championship were cold.

The alliance, and eventual feud, between Bayley and Banks revitalized the Bayley character as a villain, and thus revitalized the championship around her waist. Also a factor was the sheer length of Bayley’s run with the title. At 379 days, she’s the longest reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion of all time, and one of the longest of the modern era as well.

10. Edge
There was just something about seeing him come out at the Royal Rumble.

Edge had hit a spear during the Summerslam pre-show in 2019, which caused a little buzz about a return to the ring. That buzz increased tenfold when the wrestling news sites started reporting he’d be an entrant in the 2020 Royal Rumble Match. So it’s not like we had no clue he was coming…

But when his music hit that night, it had all the magic and grandeur it deserved. The “Rated R Superstar” had defied medical science and returned to the ring after nine years. And he wasn’t stopping with the Rumble.

The following night, Edge started a program with his former tag team partner Randy Orton that would extend into the summer. The two had a Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania, which would receive mixed reviews at best. They followed it up with a much better match, dubiously advertised as  “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash. Sadly, Edge would suffer a torn triceps in that match that would leave him on the shelf for the rest of the year. But the smart bet is he and Orton will go one more round at this year’s Wrestlemania.

Assuming he can stay healthy, the best of Edge’s return has yet to come. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has largely robbed him of the chance to wrestle in front of live audiences again. He, and WWE at large, may fare better in 2021. Either way, he’s got a laundry list of big match opponents. From AJ Styles to Roman Reigns to Seth Rollins and beyond. With luck, Edge’s comeback tour has only just begun.

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

Posted in Wrestling

A WWE Survivor Series 2020 Preview: Survivor Series Swap-Out

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Once is incidental. Twice is coincidence. Three times is a pattern. Or perhaps in this case, a tradition.

Call it the annual <i>Survivor Series</i> swap-out. When the WWE Championship abruptly changes hands during the build-up to Survivor Series to make the big champion vs. champion match more appealing.

In 2017, we were staring down the barrel of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar against WWE Champion Jinder Mahal. Because there was so little interest in the match, WWE had Mahal drop his title to AJ Styles a few weeks before the event.

In 2018, history repeated itself when the newly villainous Daniel Bryan took the title off AJ Styles. In both cases, Styles and Bryan went on to have show-stealing matches with Brock Lesnar.

This past Monday, history once again repeated when Drew McIntyre beat Randy Orton for the championship with less than a week to go until Survivor Series. And while we don’t have Brock on the show this year, there’s a good chance McIntyre and Roman Reigns will steal the show nonetheless.

The Survivor Series swap-out. It’s a thing, people.

Here are some more things…

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

Most of these matches are pretty cold, as most of our opposing champions haven’t been able to interact in television by virtue of being on different shows. But this one? This is the coldest. Two heel champions, cut from very different cloth, squaring off in a match that, like most of these other matches, means little to nothing. The fact that the Intercontinental Title is now ugly as hell doesn’t help either.

Because of how hot the Hurt Business is on Raw, and the fact that dominance is kind of his thing, I’m picking Lashley to come out on top here. A loss won’t hurt Sami. Come to think of it, none of the losers on this show will be hurt that bad. That’s what happens when your pay per view matches are so inconsequential.

PREDICTION: Bobby Lashley

CHAMPIONS VS. CHAMPIONS:
The New Day vs. The Street Profits

I like this match.  I hated the way they swapped the Raw and Smackdown Tag Team Titles a few weeks back. But this match? All good. 

My pick for this match comes down to, of all things, commercials. Recently, the Street Profits have been featured in ads for both Skittles and Head & Shoulders. That tells me the WWE promotional machine is firmly behind Dawkins and Ford. A win here might serve them well in that sense.

Mind you, the WWE promotional machine has been firmly behind the New Day for years. But hey, I’ve got a 50/50 chance here, right?

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks

These two tend to deliver in big-match situations. So I’ve got high hopes for them here.

My logic on this one is pretty simple: When these two wrestled at Summerslam, Asuka won. So this time Sasha will win. Normally I’m against that kind of 50/50 booking. But because they’re both champions, it works out. The fact that we’re fresh off Sasha’s appearance on The Mandalorian doesn’t hurt her case either.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WOMEN’S SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Team Raw: Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Lana, Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce
vs.
Team Smackdown: Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, ? & ?

This match has been a mess. We’re still missing two wrestlers on the Smackdown side of things. Then, for whatever reason, on Monday they swapped out Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke for Lacey Evans and Peyton Royce. In terms of who’s winning this match, I doubt WWE even knows at this juncture.

First thing’s first: Who do you plug in on the Smackdown team? Peyton Royce’s presence on the Raw side makes Billie Kay an obvious choice. There’s also Bayley, who doesn’t have anything to do on this show yet. If all else fails, Natalya is also waiting in the wing.

The only big story coming into this match is the one between Nia Jax and Lana. The whole “Lana goes through a table every week” thing was an eye-roller at first. But it’s actually starting to grow on me. I’m thinking Team Raw picks up the win here, with Lana potentially being our sole survivor. Then, of course, Nia Jax will put her through a table.

Don’t discount the possibility of Jax and Lana facing off for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania. There’s enough time to make that happen…

PREDICTION: Team Raw

MEN’S SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Team Raw: AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Sheamus, Keith Lee & Riddle
vs.
Team Smackdown: Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, King Corbin, Jey Uso, & ?

These Smackdown teams seem to be an afterthought. If they’re not even finished the week of the show, then it must not be that important who’s on them.

Depending on what happens in his match with Murphy this Friday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Seth Rollins winds up not being in this match. His real-life wife Becky Lynch is about to have her baby. So it obviously behooves him to be at home with her right now. His obvious replacement? Murphy.

It wouldn’t shock me to see Big E fill in that final spot on Team Smackdown. There’s also Apollo Crews, or even Rey Mysterio. They could even throw us a curveball and put Lars Sullivan in there.

This match is a toss-up. If Big E or Lars wind up in this match, it would make sense to put them over. But in the end, as more time and effort have gone into Team Raw, I think they’re a solid bet to win. I expect to see Keith Lee and/or Riddle standing tall by the end.

PREDICTION: Team Raw

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Drew McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns

Now this is a main event. Hell, this is a Wrestlemania main event. So much so that I’m actually surprised they’re doing it here.

Roman has been doing some of his best work on Smackdown these past few months, and Drew will have been the WWE Champion for less than a week when this match takes place. So a loss isn’t ideal for either man. A double-disqualification, or some kind of non-finish in this match certainly isn’t out of the question. But if you held a gun to my head, I’d pick Roman to win over Drew. He’s the best villain WWE has right now. Going into Wrestlemania, it’s to their advantage to keep him as strong as possible.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

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

Posted in Wrestling

A WWE Summerslam 2020 Preview – Enter the ThunderDome

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So that’s the “ThunderDome”, eh? Alright sure. What the hell? Let’s give it a whirl.

There are so few upsides to this pandemic. But one of the few is that these drastic circumstances have led to forced creativity and innovation. Not just in wrestling, but all walks of life. We just wrapped up the first ever all-virtual Democratic National Convention. Now, we’re about to get the first ever all-virtual pro wrestling crowd.

One thing’s for sure: Brawling into the crowd is going to be a lot different.

I’m as anxious to get back to normal as anybody else. But this kind of inventive mindset should be encouraged. Even if we only get one good idea for every 10 bad ones. Case in point, at Wrestlemania, the Last Man Standing Match and the Firefly Funhouse Match weren’t really my cup of tea. But the Boneyard Match was awesome!

Let’s see how Summerslam looks…

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP

Here’s my question: Why MVP and not Bobby Lashley? Even if you ignore the fact that Lashley pinned Crews in that gauntlet match on Monday, Lashley would be the next logical person in line after MVP lost in his title match a few weeks back. So why go with MVP again? Is it because we’re still rehabbing Lashley from all that crap with Lana and Rusev?

Actually, that’s not a bad reason…

I’m inclined to think they wouldn’t be going with MVP again unless they were going to put the belt on him. They may have even been planning to do it at Extreme Rules. Now MVP can be the cowardly heel, using Lashley and Shelton Benjamin to hold on to the championship while Crews chases. I’m not sure I expect his run to be a long one, but it’ll still be pretty cool to see him hold it again after so many years.

PREDICTION: MVP

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade & Angel Garza

I’ve gone back and forth on this one. The titles would be good with this Andrade/Garza/Zelina package. I definitely like the idea of giving Garza a more prominent spotlight. But on the other hand, Dawkins and Ford have grown on me as the tag champs. In an era where WWE needs new stars as badly as they ever have, putting some more shine on the Street Profits wouldn’t be a bad thing.

In the end, I think that’s exactly what they do. Dawkins and Ford go over early on the card. And for their next challengers? How about Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin? I’d be curious to see what kind of chemistry they have.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

HAIR VS. HAIR MATCH:
Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville

I love this match. Not just because of the Hair vs. Hair stipulation. Although I do believe it’s the first female Hair vs. Hair Match since Victoria vs. Molly Holly all those years ago.

I love this because Mandy and Sonya are getting an opportunity to shine on what, in theory, is the second biggest pay per view of the year. This is the kind of match that would have gotten bumped if you had the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Undertaker, or other part-timers on the card. If we really are trying to make new stars, this is a wise move. And frankly, it’s well deserved. Mandy and Sonya have both stepped their game up this year. I’ve got high hopes that these two will deliver a great Summerslam moment.

As for who wins, I’ve got to go with Mandy. Sonya will rock a buzz cut for a few weeks, then nail some kind of short hairdo.

PREDICTION: Mandy Rose

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

The elevation of Asuka has been a really pleasant surprise this year. For so long, it seemed like she had become an afterthought. And she’s just too good to relegate to the back of the line. Now she’s doing something that I don’t think anyone’s ever done at Summerslam before: Challenge two different singles champions for two different titles.

Based on what we’ve seen in recent history, I’m guessing they’ll do these matches back-to-back. On Raw, they established that Bayley is defending her title first. I don’t see why Sasha Banks wouldn’t be at ringside for this, as they’ll need her in short order. So I’m thinking Sasha does something underhanded to cost Asuka the Smackdown title. It’s just as well. The fact that they’re borrowing someone from Raw for the second-biggest show of the year doesn’t speak well to the status of that division.

PREDICTION: Bayley

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

Having just lost to Bayley, Asuka will seem like easy pickings for Sasha. Thus, Sasha can underestimate her and get rolled up for the shock title change. They can do it clean, or have some kind of mishap involving Bayley. I’m good either way.

I don’t think Sasha has defended the title since she won it last month. Thus, her streak of winning the Raw Women’s Title and then quickly losing it on her first defense remains intact. You’ve got to wonder if they’re doing that on purpose at this point. Are they even that clever?

PREDICTION: Asuka

STREET FIGHT:
Seth Rollins vs. Dominik Mysterio

Look for all sorts of shenanigans in this match, with both Rey Mysterio and Murphy getting involved from ringside. This should be fun. Dominik is in good hands with Rollins.

Dominik has no business beating Seth Rollins. And yet, I expect that’s exactly what will happen here. It’s time for the heel to get his comeuppance. As sick as I am of all the eye stuff, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rollins get “hit” in the eye with a kendo stick or something. Then we can get eyepatch-wearing, pirate-looking Seth Rollins.

PREDICTION: Dominik Mysterio

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Involving Alexa Bliss in this program was a smart move. Not only did it freshen things up and add a new layer to the feud as we head into Summerslam, but it pays off something from as far back as that first Mixed Match Challenge. Braun and Alexa have a really cool on-screen chemistry that I’m happy to see again.

Clearly, Bliss is going to factor into the finish somehow. The question is whether it benefits Braun or Bray…

At the end of the day, I think it’s time to correct the mistake that was made before Wrestlemania when Bray lost the title to Goldberg. It’s time to put the title back on the Fiend. As for Alexa, it’s time for her to return to her villainous roots. Babyface Alexa Bliss isn’t nearly as fun as heel Alexa Bliss. So let’s bring her back, and maybe feud her against Nikki Cross.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton

Getting back to his legend-killing, punt-kicking ways has done wonders for Randy Orton. He’s once again one of the hottest heels in the business. He’s just what the doctor ordered in terms of giving Drew McIntyre a great villain to face.

But as hot as he’s been, Randy Orton does not need to be WWE Champion for a 14th time. At least not now. I’m sure falling ratings have scared WWE. But now isn’t the time to fall back on old habits. They need to stay the course with McIntyre, and focus on telling good stories with him as the hero. If this were a relatively normal year and we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, it might be a different story. If John Cena or Brock Lesnar were challenging, it might be a different story. But not Randy Orton. Not here and not now.

They need to stick it out with Drew until Wrestlemania at the very least. Let him be that stalwart champion that gets us through the so-called “pandemic era.” Then we can think about changing things up.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

Posted in Wrestling

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Wrestling

A WWE Extreme Rules 2020 Preview – Prelude to a “Horror Show”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As much as they’ve been shoving the whole “Horror Show” thing down our throats, I really don’t mind the name itself. It suggests they’re taking a bit of a step outside the box creatively.

But here’s my question: What is it about this year’s Extreme Rules that makes it a horror show, per se? Is it the way they’re going to shoot the matches? Is it that we’re going to see a spooky “Swamp Fight” between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt? Is it that they’re advertising someone’s eye being gouged out? A combination of all that, perhaps?

I just hope they have some kind of idea. I hope it’s something. One of the few upsides to this COVID-19 situation is that it’s forced them to flex a few more creative muscles. So c’mon, WWE. Give us a damn horror show!

Now, let’s dive in…

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP

Part of me really wants MVP to win the title here. He’s more a manager now than anything else. Thus, he hasn’t been positioned as a threat to Crews, or anyone for that matter. But he’s so good on the mic, and it would be such an interesting story to see him win the title back after all these years.

Still, the ones you want to push in this equation are Crews and Bobby Lashley. I suspect that’s the match we’re getting at Summerslam. If that is indeed where we’re going, Crews should win here.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Nikki Cross

After that fire we saw from Nikki Cross in her brief verbal exchange with the IIconics several weeks ago, I was excited to see her get this shot. She’s not winning, of course. But I’m excited to see her featured on a pay per view.

So it doesn’t look like Bayley vs. Sasha Banks is the match for Summerslam. I can only assume then that they’re saving it for Wrestlemania XXXVII. Let’s hope they actually get to have that match in front of a crowd…

PREDICTION: Bayley

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

Ultimately, the destination for Sasha Banks is going to be (or at least should be) Bayley and the Smackdown Women’s Title. Granted, that’s not to say she couldn’t take a little detour with the Raw belt. But I don’t see it happening. One way or another, Asuka is the star of the Raw Women’s Division, and she’ll stay that way for at least a little while longer.

The upside? The last time these two had a high profile match together, they tore the house down. Hopefully they have an opportunity to do the same here.

PREDICTION: Asuka

EYE-FOR-AN-EYE MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins

I don’t like this Eye-For-An-Eye stipulation at all. The idea is that you lose when one of your eyes gets extracted from its socket.

Yuck. In more ways than one.

I liken this to those Inferno Matches that Kane used to have, most notably with the Undertaker. It’s a compelling idea on paper. But in practice, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you look at it from an in-story perspective, booking this stip looks needlessly brutal and cruel. But from a showbiz standpoint, it almost exposes wrestling. Because you know nobody’s actually getting their damn eye taken out. And in case it needs to be said, that’s a good thing…

I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this. I assume there’ll be a bunch of shenanigans involved with Rey’s son Dominic, Murphy, Austin Theory, etc. In the end, I think Rey gets the win. Not just because the good guy should win in this scenario, but the image of Rollins with an eye patch is mildly amusing.

PREDICTION: Rey Mysterio

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

Regardless of what the stipulation ends up being, this match is designed to do the same thing as McIntyre’s bouts with Rollins and Lashley: Build Drew up as a credible champion. Dolph is the guy WWE always turns to when it’s time to shine someone up. While I don’t think Drew needs Dolph’s help in that respect, he certainly couldn’t have a better dance partner to meet that end.

Drew wins. No big surprise there. To me it’s more a question of who they put him with at Summerslam. He needs to be up there with a big marquee name. That means it’s got to be either Brock Lesnar again, or Randy Orton. As Orton is hot right now, I’m putting him with “the Viper,” and saving Lesnar for further down the road. Dare I say, Hell in a Cell?

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

SWAMP FIGHT:
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

I’m not sure what their plans are as far as “cinematic” matches on this show. But obviously this one would lend itself best to that treatment. I’m picturing something shot like the Boneyard Match, with some of the spooky tricks used in the Firefly Funhouse Match.

My understanding is the Universal Title is not on the line in this match. Thus, Bray Wyatt can win and justify a match between Strowman and the Fiend at Summerslam. Bray should win anyway. The swamp is, in theory, his home turf after all.

So is this going to be a “Three Faces of Foley” type thing with Bray Wyatt? We already see him swap back and forth between his smiling, sweater-wearing persona and the sinister Fiend. Is the only swamp-dwelling, “Follow the Buzzards” Bray Wyatt a personality he can switch into as well? I’m not necessarily opposed to that. But that Bray Wyatt had a tendency to choke in big-match situations. Just ask John Cena…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE Backlash Preview – The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever? Oh Jeez…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This whole “Great Wrestling Match Ever” thing has Paul Heyman written all over it.

Remember, the current executive director of Raw isn’t just a former promoter and booker. He’s an advertiser. I’m not sure if he still does, but at one point he co-ran the Looking 4 Larry Agency out of New York City. He used to be heavily involved with the promotion of all the WWE 2K games.

I don’t believe for a second that Paul Heyman believes Edge and Randy Orton will have any kind of greatest match this Sunday. Hell, they might not even have the greatest match of the night. That’s an impossible build-up for anybody. In truth, it sounded stupid from the moment they had Charly Caruso say it for the first time.

But that’s not really the point, is it? The idea is to get us talking about Edge vs. Randy Orton. To make what would otherwise be a fairly bland pay per view main event stick out in our minds. In that sense, the tagline worked.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want to be Edge and Orton with that line hanging over my head. But it still worked.

Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus
Many a smark was up in arms over the storyline about Jeff Hardy’s allegedly driving under the influence. They even mentioned it on WWE Backstage, on which CM Punk, of all people, weighed in. He made a great point about the fragility of someone’s sobriety, and essentially said a wrestling storyline isn’t worth endangering that. I admit I’d never thought of that. But on the other hand, the outcome was never in doubt. It was obvious Jeff had been framed. That’s wrestling storytelling 101, isn’t it?

As we’ll see in a bit, Smackdown needs contenders for the Universal Title. Sheamus has mostly been a dominant force since he’s been back. He lost to Hardy in the Intercontinental Title tournament. I don’t see him losing to Jeff a second time. Especially if they decide they want him to challenge for the title before Summerslam. Or perhaps even after.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade

These secondary championships, meaning the United States and Intercontinental Titles, go through ebbs and flows of renewed importance. It’s like WWE forgets about them for awhile, and then remembers, “Oh yeah! These thing are supposed to be prestigious, aren’t they?”

PREDICTION: Andrade

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLES:
Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. The IIconics vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
I can’t say I’m say I’m sad Banks and Bayley have the Women’s Tag Belts again. Their run as the inaugural champs was almost non-existent. So this could be a second chance for them.

While I think the “they just won the championship” logic is used a bit too often, I think it does apply here. I’m guessing their plans for Sasha and Bayley have only just begun.

PREDICTION: Bayley & Sasha Banks

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
You’ve got to believe this was originally supposed to be Nia Jax challenging Becky Lynch for the title. But of course, Becky getting pregnant changed everything. As pregnancies tend to do.

If that had been the case, I can see an argument for Jax taking the title. She and Lynch have enough of a history to make it an interesting story. But now that Asuka is champion? I don’t see it. It certainly doesn’t help that Jax continues to have clumsy accidents with her opponents. Poor Kairi Sane can tell you all about that.

PREDICTION: Asuka

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison
Here’s how you can tell they’ve run out of Heavyweight Title contenders on Smackdown. They’re really hurting without Roman Reigns. Still, at least Miz is a former WWE Champ. That offers he and Morrison a little credibility.

This will be a nice win for Strowman. But we’re really just killing time until the next Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt match, this time with Wyatt as the Fiend. That’ll be the first time we’ve really seen either the WWE or Universal Championship in serious jeopardy since Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE WORLD HEAYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
I like MVP in this player/coach role. He makes a good charismatic foil for Drew McIntyre. More charismatic than Lashley, that’s for damn sure. I’m hoping these two can recapture some of the magic that was lost when they split up Lashley and Lio Rush.

There’s absolutely no way they take the title off McIntyre to put it on Lashley. Especially with the stink of the storyline with Lana still on him. They’ve made a point to do backstage segments with Lana and MVP these past several weeks. So I say Lana comes out to help Lashley, winds up costing him the match, and the two of them split. That way we continue rehabbing Lashley into a main eventer, while giving Drew another notch under his belt.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

Edge vs. Randy Orton
They did something similar to this several years ago with Randy Orton and John Cena. They’d just come off a Hell in the Cell Match between the two, and for whatever reason opted to downgrade to a straight wrestling match at the following Royal Rumble. Obviously we’re in a similar situation here, having just had a Last Man Standing Match between these two at Wrestlemania. Though at least Cena and Orton weren’t trying to have the best match ever.

The direction they’re going seems fairly obvious to me. Orton wins this one, most likely with a quick RKO. Then we go to a rubber match at Summerslam. The only question is, what do you do with that one? Is Edge primed to do another Ladder Match so quickly after his return? Or do they do Two-Out-of-Three-Falls or something?

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE Money in the Bank 2020 Preview, Plus the Drake Maverick “Controversy”

By Rob Siebert

Why is everyone so up in arms over this Drake Maverick thing?

I’m the last person that wants to see anyone lose their job. I’ve been down that road. I have all the sympathy and compassion in the world for the real-life James Curtin and everyone else WWE has had to let go in recent weeks.

But if you’re going to get fired from the largest pro wrestling company in the world, I think this is how you do it. Because right now the world is talking about Drake Maverick. Was that the case beforehand? Nope. Will the world ever be talking about him like this again? Who knows? Either way, he was able to do what so many of the characters on WWE television do: Take adversity and turn it into opportunity. He got to be part of a great story. He didn’t get a happy ending. But that just means the fans would theoretically welcome him back with open arms.

And do you honestly think WWE would have played this up the way they did if Curtin wasn’t on board with it? It’s not his ideal scenario, of course. But he got to make make the absolute most of it. How many people under the WWE umbrella have gotten to say that?

Now let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison vs. The Forgotten Sons vs. Lucha House Party

I just had to look up the names of all three Forgotten Sons. Fittingly, I’d forgotten them. Incidentally, they’re Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, and Jaxson Ryker. These are your next Smackdown Tag Team Champions, ladies and germs.

Yeah, I hate it when this happens. A new team fresh off developmental wins the titles. Ironically, John Morrison (as Johnny Nitro) and Joey Mercury got that same push when they got called up all those years ago. But the New Day and the Usos have monopolized the Smackdown Tag Team Division for so long, and it’s dying for new blood. The Forgotten Sons are literally new to Smackdown. Miz and Morrison were a nice change of pace, but I get the sense they’re not getting back on that mountaintop. Heavy Machinery is obviously occupied elsewhere at the moment. Blake, Cutler, and Ryker might be the best option. Plus, they’ve got that whole three person Freebird Rule thing going for them.

PREDICTION: The Forgotten Sons

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

At over 200 days, Bayley is the longest reigning Women’s Champion in Smackdown history. I wasn’t aware of that until recently. The longer Bayley holds that title, the better her story becomes. If she can walk out there every week and say she’s the longest reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion of all time, she’s somebody important. She becomes somebody worth beating. Ergo all her title matches become special. To an extent, at least.

Mind you, this match is against Tamina. So how special can it really be? But it’s another successful defense for Bayley. Another log to throw on the fire that Sasha Banks will one day put out. At least, that’s how this should go. Lord knows they’ve gone nowhere with these two in the past…

PREDICTION: Bayley

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Baron Corbin vs. Aleister Black vs. Otis Dozovic

I give them a lot of credit for thinking outside the box on these Money in the Bank Matches, and having them be set inside Titan Tower. I love the “climb the corporate ladder” idea.

Whether it works in practice is another story. Apparently they’re going the “cinematic” route with this match, a la the Boneyard Match and the Firefly Funhouse Matches from Wrestlemania. I don’t know that you need that here. I think their regular style is fine for this one. Think back on all the Hardcore Matches we saw in the ’90s and early ’00s where wrestlers would leave the arena. What about the Hollywood Backlot Brawl from Wrestlemania XII? Why can’t they do that here? Apparently the men and women will be competing simultaneously, so it doesn’t have the same potential to be boring the way Edge and Randy Orton’s Last Man Standing Match was.

Speaking of “cinematic” matches, how do you come back from being buried alive? Winning a gauntlet match is nice. Winning Money in the Bank is better. That’s exactly what AJ Styles is going to do Sunday.

Could they give it to Aleister Black? Sure. Is Otis a dark horse? Yep. I’m probably the only person who wouldn’t mind if they gave it to Baron Corbin. But that briefcase is AJ’s to take. This is how he re-establishes himself as a contender for the WWE Championship. Ultimately, when that time is right he’ll take that too.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Carmella vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Nia Jax vs. Asuka vs. Dana Brooke vs. Lacey Evans

It might be Shayna Baszler. But that seems a little obvious, don’t you think?

You can make an argument for Asuka. Clearly Uncle Vinny is high on her lately. Specifically, her ability to be really loud on the mic.

None of the ladies from Smackdown leave me particularly inspired this year. Dana Brooke? She’s improved. But no. Carmella? Been there, done that. Lacey Evans? Nah. So who does that leave?

Sorry kids. It’s Nia Jax.

Yes, they’ve been pushing her really hard on TV lately. So she has the same sort of “too obvious” argument against her as Shayna. But think of it in terms of stories that haven’t been told yet. Nia Jax was the one who gave Becky Lynch a “broken face” prior to Survivor Series 2018. The combination of outrage at Nia and support for Becky helped propel the latter into the main event of Wrestlemana. Nia can argue Becky would never have gotten there if not for her.

Is Nia Jax legitimately dangerous in the ring? Yes. Keep in mind she wasn’t supposed to hurt Becky. We also saw that scary bump Kairi Sane took from her a few weeks back. But her in-ring skills, or lack thereof, have never stopped them from pushing her before. Remember, she won the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania the same year she broke Becky’s face. Would she be my pick to win? No. But is she going to win? Probably.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt’s alter ego “The Fiend” should be virtually unbeatable. Even for Goldberg. (Rrrgh.) But plain ol’ Bray is a different story. Strowman should defeat Wyatt here, leading to an eventual match with the masked man.

Under normal circumstances, Strowman vs. The Fiend is a match I’d have saved for Summerslam. It certainly has a story worthy of such a big show. But with things the way they are now, they may not be able to wait until August. So do we get some kind of gimmick match at Extreme Rules in July? Another Firefly Funhouse Match, perhaps? I dunno if I’m ready for that just yet…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins

This is random as hell. But that’s a fine lookin’ jacket Seth Rollins is sportin’ these days. I’m sure it’d look great with the WWE Championship draped across it.

Oh well.

Unless they’re pulling some kind of wild move here, there’s no reason Drew McIntyre should be dropping the title. For all intents and purposes, he’s the star of Monday Night Raw right now. A victory over Rollins is a great credibility-builder as he moves forward. I’m sure Rollins will give him a hell of a match too. I’m not sure if this quite feels like a match worthy of main-eventing a pay per view. But in execution, it certainly should be.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

Posted in Wrestling

Raw Needs Austin: How Stone Cold Can Help Salvage the Show

By Rob Siebert
Has never stomped a mudhole.
Nor walked it dry.

Let’s get one thing straight: WWE itself does not need salvaging. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s ludicrously been deemed an “essential business” in the state of Florida. During this Coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to run three weekly shows, albeit with no fans in attendance, and a bare bones cast and crew.

Granted, these shows have been great for the likes of Aleister Black, Zelina Vega and her new faction, and even Apollo Crews. Promos in general have been awesome too. But on this week’s show, we also got such stellar matches as:

– NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair defeating Kayden Carter (an NXT star who is a bigger deal on that show, but has done nothing but lose on Raw.)
– Shayna Baszler squashing Indi Hartwell (an NXT wrestler who’s not even listed on their “Superstars” page.
– Bianca Belair beating Santana Garrett. (Ditto).

Mind you, I have nothing against enhancement matches, or any of the women who played the “enhancement” role on Monday. But c’mon. This is supposed to be the flagship show! Yes, these are obviously very unique circumstances. And to their credit, WWE has been thinking outside the box to compensate for that. But there has to be something they can do to spice up Raw a little more…

*cue the glass shattering*

I’ve very much enjoyed The Broken Skull Sessions on the WWE Network. Largely because Steve Austin has become an amazing interviewer. Seriously. He’s got a no B.S. style that’s better than a lot of the so-called journalists we see on television today.

My only real issue is that so far it’s mostly been “usual suspects,” i.e. guys Austin has interviews a bunch of times already. Legends like the Big Show, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart. I imagine Shawn Michaels is coming up soon. Mick Foley too. Maybe Kurt Angle.

But what if The Broken Skull Sessions wasn’t just another interview show with the legends? What if it was more timely? What if it featured the stars of today, in addition to the stars of yesterday? What if they talked about current events? Like say, the friggin’ global pandemic we’re in the middle of, and how it’s devastated WWE? How about WWE being named an “essential business” by the state of Florida? What about the current product? Not just how everyone’s been effected by the pandemic, but how it works when things are running on all cylinders.

Most importantly: What if they put it on Raw?

Honestly, why the hell not? COVID-19 has forced them to come up with new ways of doing things. Who says they can’t fill at least one hour, maybe 90 minutes of Raw with Steve Austin, one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen and a proven ratings commodity, and The Broken Skull Sessions? Let him talk to not only the legends, but today’s top stars. Let him help get some of these people over in the process!

Supposedly these interviews are shot in Los Angeles. So have WWE send a production crew, and then every week a new talent can travel down there to be interviewed. If the talent doesn’t want to travel? Have them Skype in. There’s no harm in that. Austin could talk to his damn walls and make it entertaining!

Who would he talk to? I’m glad you asked…

1. Vince McMahon
Vince has to be first. Because of the risks involved with traveling, it’s got to be the “Vince doesn’t ask people to do things he wouldn’t do” principle.

You could very well fill all three hours of Raw with this one, given the topics at hand. What Vince thought as he realized how serious COVID-19 was getting, his decision to go ahead with Wrestlemania, the choice to keep shooting new TV, Florida deeming WWE an “essential business.” And of course, they can talk about the current product.

If Austin is allowed to be himself and ask whatever he wants, this could be the most compelling episode of Raw in years.

2. The Rock
As far as I know, Austin has never interviewed the Rock. What better time than now? Based on his social media, he seems to be at home with his young daughter (as he should be). But he’s been active, and taking fan questions. He even had a chat with California Governor Gavin Newsom.

So if some jabroni named Gavin can get the Great One’s time, you’d better believe Stone Cold should be able to.

Again, they could fill all three hours with this if they wanted to. They can’t get a bigger name than Dwayne Johnson. They can talk about their matches, Rock’s transition into movies, his comeback against John Cena and what he thinks about the current stars, that cute little hand-washing video he made with his daughter. They could even talk about….*gasp*…AEW.

3. Seth Rollins
When I originally thought of this idea, Seth Rollins was the first name that came to mind. Because while he’s no Shawn Michaels, the man’s become fairly controversial over the last year. From how he was booked as Universal Champion, to his new Monday Night Messiah character, to competing in an empty arena at Wrestlemania. Rollins has also been one of WWE’s biggest flag-wavers lately. And one can argue he’s paid the price for that. This is all great fodder for an interview.

Notable Omission: Braun Strowman
Strowman won the Universal Title in a match that stunk up the PC at Wrestlemania. He also made some really tone-deaf comments recently about indie wrestlers making a living during the pandemic. He doesn’t need another chance to put that giant foot in his mouth right now.

4. Becky Lynch
From the “Man’s Man” to the Man herself. Becky’s been the Raw Women’s Champion for over a year now. As she once told Bayley, she’s THE Women’s Champion in WWE right now. What’s more, she’s risen to become one of the faces of the company.

Lynch was one of the guests on Austin’s USA Network show Straight Up Steve Austin. But I’d like to see the Rattlesnake get down to brass taxes. From her early life including her training as a circus performer, to her unlikely rise to the top, to Ronda Rousey’s recent inflammatory comments (that were obviously worked).

5. Triple H
Like anyone in the McMahon family, Triple H is almost always going to be topical in terms of an interview. Many of the same questions posed to Vince can be posed to Hunter. Particularly about the Coronavirus stuff.

But as WWE has been more than happy to point out lately, this month marks Triple H’s 25-year anniversary with WWE. He spent a sizable portion of those two and a half decades working with Stone Cold. So they can run down their history together. And of course, there’s always NXT.

6. Charlotte Flair
Whether people believe it or not, one day WWE is going to call Charlotte Flair “the greatest of all time.”  She’ll be to the women what John Cena is to the men. As least in terms of PR speak.

Except in Charlotte’s case, they might actually be right. If you don’t count what the Undertaker and AJ Styles did as pro wrestling, then Charlotte and Rhea Ripley had the best match at this year’s Wrestlemania. And for my money, she’d already done it twice before. As Dr. Venkman might say, she’s a legitimate phenomenon in that ring. She displays knowledge and ring prowess well beyond her years.

Between her Wrestlemania matches, being one of the first women to main event Wrestlemania, Rousey’s comments, her 12 championship reigns (if you count the NXT and Diva’s Titles), and the mounting pressure of not only living up to her father’s legacy, but the one she’s made for herself, there’s plenty of ground for Austin to cover.

Notable Omission: Drew McIntyre
He’s the WWE Champion, and essentially the star of Raw right now. Best not to overexpose him and have the fans turn on him even quicker than they did Rollins.

7. Edge
Obviously Edge’s comeback would take up the lion’s share of this interview. But he and Austin are both Attitude Era guys, so I’m sure there’ll be more than one trip down memory lane.

Edge also didn’t seem to take too kindly to fans who didn’t like his Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania. So I’d definitely like to see Austin press him on that. Furthermore, what’s next for him? Does he come back at Summerslam? Or does he wait until the Coronavirus craziness goes away?

8. Paul Heyman
Heyman is an awesome interview no matter who he’s with. He’s great with Austin in particular. We’ve heard them talk about ECW. We’ve heard them talk about Brock Lesnar. They can do that again, of course.

But what I really want to hear about is Heyman being Executive Director of Raw.

I suppose the actual content of the interview depends on how shoot-oriented they’d want to do this on TV, as opposed to the network. But Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon have famously butted heads in the past. But what’s their working relationship now? What’s it like running Raw on a week-to-week basis? What’s his schedule like these days? How difficult is it to be creative under Vince? The questions practically ask themselves.

9. John Cena
Other than the Rock, and maybe Vince, this is the biggest get they could…well, get. Austin and Cena. Two generations. Two icons.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Ruthless Aggression era lately. I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue in a setting like this. Cena made his now famous debut on Smackdown mere weeks after Austin walked out on the company. They just missed each other. That’s a hell of a place to start. From there, they can segue into Hollywood, Cena’s thoughts on the future of WWE, and all that jazz.

But above all else, Austin needs to ask what the hell was up with the Firefly Funhouse Match.

Notable Omission: Bray Wyatt
Again, it depends on how shoot-oriented they’d want these to be. But I have no desire to see Bray Wyatt out of character right now. And if it’s going to be in character, then it’s got to break down and end with Austin in the Mandible Claw.

10. The Street Profits and Bianca Belair
Wait, what? The Street Profits and Bianca Belair? Yup. Austin should talk to talk to all three.

Angelo Dawkins, and especially Montez Ford, have charisma coming out their pores. But when they were called up to the main roster, they were inexplicably put in weird hype segments for other segments on the show. This was before they’d made their in-ring debut mind you. Afterward, the hokey dialogue would continue. Yes, they eventually became the Raw Tag Team Champions. And in recent weeks, they’ve been joined by NXT call-up Bianca Belair.

But in NXT Dawkins and Ford had a certain charm about them that they’ve largely been missing since their move to Raw. They’ve had plenty of mic time, but it feels like they’ve been stuck behind a script. And who knows the power of being unhindered on the mic than Stone Cold Steve Austin. When he would be on headset during the formative days of his character, he reportedly asked Vince McMahon to not overly edit his work, as it was (and still is) largely what sets him apart from everyone else.

So lets have Austin sit down with Dawkins, Ford, and Belair. They can dive into Ford and Belair’s real-life marriage if they want to. But that’s by no means a must. They talk about coming up in a very different type of wrestling business than Steve did. They can dish on NXT, coming over to Raw, their characters, their favorite matches, etc.

Plus, seeing Austin drink beer out of a red solo cup would be kinda neat.

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

Posted in Wrestling

The Silent Wrestlemania Recap – Undertaker and AJ Steal the Show!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Well, alright then. Wrestlemania XXXVI (or as I call it, “The Silent Wrestlemania” happened.

Was it weird? Definitely. Awkward at times? Oh  yeah. But was it bad? No. Not even remotely.

I tweeted this yesterday, and I’ll reiterate it here: I think the world needs Wrestlemania now more than ever. So as long as it was done on a volunteer basis, Vince McMahon was right to carry on with the show in whatever form it took.

So thank you to all the wrestlers, producers, crew members, and everyone that made these shows possible.

Night One

Cesaro def. Drew Gulak.
Admittedly, I didn’t see this one. Was busy during the pre-show. But hey, technically Cesaro got a singles match at Wrestlemania. A win at that.

Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.
Was surprised they kicked off the main card with this one. Not sure if they’d have gone that route if there was a crowd. But they put on a good match.

As far as I know, Asuka and Kairi Sane were the first wrestlers of the evening to play to a crowd that wasn’t there. Since Asuka did commentary on Raw that night, it seems like these two have been asked to be louder and more obnoxious. If that’s the case, they were successful.

Elias def. King Corbin.
True story: I fell asleep during this match. No disrespect to either man. It had been a long day. I went back and watched it though. Went a little long. At least Elias actually had a match at Wrestlemania, as opposed to in-ring skits. Then again, both those skits were with John Cena. Maybe he was better off before…

Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler to retain the WWE Raw Women’s Title.
Good match. Wrong finish.

The psychology was right in this one. It felt like a fight. Loved the spot where Shayna whipped her head-first into the announce table. But ultimately, Shayna lost to a version of the Bret Hart “pin yourself by not releasing the hold” spot. It’s a good spot. It’s just a shame Baszler has already lost a big match to that same pinning combo. Yup, Kairi Sane beat Shayna for the NXT Women’s Title almost the exact same way at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV.

Between this loss, the way she lost (though that’s minor in the grand scheme of things), and the fact that an alleged killer like her couldn’t win the Women’s Royal Rumble at the number 30 spot, Shayna does not look good coming out of this.

The upside? Becky continues to dominate. Plus, my guess is these two aren’t done. And there’s plenty of room for Shayna to get even more vicious.

Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Intercontinental Title.
These two were the first to really take advantage of the fact that we could actually hear the wrestlers talking to one another. That played to Sami’s strengths as an annoying heel. In the end, the right guy won. There’s still a lot Sami can do as the Intercontinental Champion.

You’ve got to wonder what Shinsuke Nakamura was thinking. It wasn’t long ago that he was challenging for the WWE Heavyweight Championship at this show…

John Morrison def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles.
I give these three a hell of a lot of credit for doing a spot-fest like this without any fans in the arena. It just wasn’t the same without the crowd reactions. Although those ladder shots did sound that much more painful.

Creative finish with John Morrison plummeting to his doom, albeit with the titles in hand. Fitting for the weirdest tag team title match in Wrestlemania history.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins in a No Disqualification Match.
You can argue this was the best match of night one. (More on that in a moment.) It made Owens look like a million bucks. As Raw continues to be in need of top babyfaces, that’s the best outcome they could have hoped for.

Braun Strowman def. Bill Goldberg to win the WWE Universal Title.
Yeah, this sucked.

I’m pretty sure we saw a total of two moves in this entire match. The Spear from Goldberg, and the Powerslam from Strowman. I understand Goldberg is somewhat limited in what he can do, and that this match came together on short notice. But c’mon. This was the best they could put together?

In hindsight, it was silly for me to predict a Goldberg victory no matter who he was wrestling. He does short term deals. That’s his thing.

Alright. So here we have it. Braun Strowman is the Universal Champion. I’d argue it’s about two years too late. But it happened. Now it’s all about the follow up.

The Undertaker def. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match.
Damn. He did it again. The son of a bitch did it again. The Undertaker stole the show at Wrestlemania.

He didn’t do it alone, of course. I’ve said that we’ve reached the point where they need to use smoke and mirrors to give us a quality Undertaker match. In this case, he not only had one of the best workers in the world in AJ Styles, but the entire WWE production juggernaut backing him up.

But even so, he did it again.

Before I go any further, WWE really needs to send Matt Hardy a thank you note for this one. They deny him his ability to work creatively, prompting his departure from the company. But then Undertaker and AJ Styles have a Wrestlemania match that captures the world’s imagination using the cinematic style he essentially pioneered.

I suppose whether you call this the show-stealer depends on your definition of what a wrestling match is. Jim Cornette, for instance, would not call this a wrestling match. The cinematic presentation, the music, the special effects. It was more like a short film. I saw someone on Twitter last night ponder if this is the future of the wrestling business. I hope not. I say you can only get away with something like this once a year, if that. But if you can do it, and it works…

Not only did this give us back the dominant, tough-as-nails Undertaker that we’ve missed, it told a great story. My favorite part isn’t a particular spot or stunt. Rather, it’s when Undertaker has Styles, and he’s taunting him with things like, “What’s my wife’s name?” and “You wanna talk about how old I am?”

I don’t think you could have done this in an arena. In that sense, the current circumstances worked in their favor. But one way or another the Undertaker, along with AJ Styles, has stolen the show at Wrestlemania. In 2020. Who’da thunk it?

Night Two

Liv Morgan def. Natalya.
Nice moment for Liv, I suppose. Though I doubt anything comes of it.

Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Title.
If you don’t count Undertaker vs. AJ Styles as an actual wrestling match, then this was the best match of the weekend. It should come as a surprise to no one that Charlotte Flair is involved. For my money, her matches 2016 and 2018 were both show stealers.

What made this match stand out to me was the tension in the air. This Charlotte/Rhea thing hasn’t been going on that long. But if you came into this cold, you’d think they’d hated each other’s guts for years. There was just this nasty, hateful, vicious vibe in the ring. I loved it.

Does it suck that Rhea Ripley lost? Of course it does. But if you’ve been paying attention, you knew it was coming. Charlotte Flair is the poster girl for their “Women’s Revolution.” She was the inaugural Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania 32. She broke Asuka’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 34. She was shoehorned into the main event of Wrestlemania 35. Notice a pattern?

However, as I speculated, these two were able to have an amazing match. And that benefits Rhea much more than winning a standard one does. Her star is still on the rise. So have no fear.

Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley.
What does it say about this match that the only thing I could focus on for awhile was the fact that Lashley was wearing pants instead of trunks.

Loved the closing spot here, the attempted Spear from Lashley into the Black Mass Kick for the win. As Lana was the one who called for the Spear, does that mean we’re headed for a Lashley/Lana split?

Otis def. Dolph Ziggler.
This match pulled off a rarity. It had the right ending but the wrong winner. Otis needed to get the girl in the end, and he did. I can only imagine the pop that kiss would have gotten in front of a crowd.

The problem I had with this one is that Dolph is one of the most decorated wrestlers WWE has had in the last two decades. Otis on the other hand, is a tag team wrestler who’s only recently made it to the main roster. Ziggler should have won. Perhaps by cheating. So Dolph wins the battle, but not the war.

Incidentally, why was Mandy dressed to wrestle? Was it just one of those “always bring your gear” kind of things?

Edge def. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match.
I give both these guys a lot of credit for this one. They beat the absolute piss out of each other in front of ZERO fans. Lots of creativity on display here. In terms of fighting all over the performance center, this was exactly what you wanted it to be. I can’t say I disliked much of what I saw.

Having said that, I couldn’t believe they let Orton choke Edge with the gym equipment. It’s been a long time, but that absolutely screams Benoit. Especially because those Dark Side of the Ring episodes aired so recently.

That being said, we need to talk about something I’ll call the Lesnar/Goldberg principle. They might have had the best built match going into Wrestlemania 33. And it lived up to the hype. But they only needed about five minutes to deliver on that. It was quick, high impact, and about as concise as you could ask for. They stole the show that year.

My point is, just because a match has such an amazing build doesn’t mean it needs to go 30 to 45 minutes. Whether a match is good or not usually has nothing to do with it’s length. Triple H’s big matches tend to have a problem with this.

The Lesnar/Goldberg principle. One to live by.

The Street Profits def. Angel Garza & Austin Theory to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.

The story here ended up being Bianca Belair, who saved Ford and Dawkins from a post-match beatdown. I assume will be with the Street Profits on Raw from here on out. Works for me. She’s earned her main roster spot. Becky Lynch is also going to need new challengers in the near future.

Bayley def. Sasha Banks, Naomi, Tamina, and Lacey Evans to retain the WWE Smackdown Women’s Title.
This is another one where hindsight is 20/20. I predicted it would come down to Bayley and Sasha. But for whatever reason, WWE avoids that match like the plague. Or in this case, Coronavirus.

I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of time they gave this match. The Smackdown Women’s Division may be cold right now. But they gave these ladies a decent-sized canvas to create on.

Also…no, Michael Cole. Team B.A.D. was not a huge part of the Women’s Revolution. Just like Team P.C.B. wasn’t. And Team Bella damn sure wasn’t.

“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. John Cena in a Firefly Funhouse Match.
Coming into this match, I was expecting something akin to the Boneyard Match, only it would take place in some sort of demented funhouse setting.

That’s not what we got. In fact, in over two decades watching this stuff, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like what we got. It was more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a wrestling match. It’s like they got together and said, “Bray Wyatt is crazy. So let’s just go nuts. Let’s throw shit against the wall.”

I’ll give you this much, I enjoyed its devotion to continuity. They really dove into history for this one, picking apart both characters.

I can’t say I enjoyed the Boneyard Match then turn around and say I didn’t like this one. For all intents and purposes they played by the same rules. But whereas I’d be game for seeing something like the Boneyard Match once a year, this is the kind of thing you can only do once maybe every five to 10 years.

Drew McIntyre def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title.
To my dismay, this match basically followed the same formula as the Goldberg/Strowman one. Hit the finishers a bunch, then have the challenger go over. In both matches it’s like they just wanted to get it over with.

Still, this one had the right outcome. Drew got his moment, unconventional though it was. One of the highlights of night two was him reaching out to the camera and saying, “Thank you.”

Congratulations, good sir. Your moment doesn’t look like anyone else’s, but it’s yours. So be proud. You earned it. You deserve it.

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