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A WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview – Who’s Going to Wrestlemania?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Everybody comes back for the Rumble.

Well, maybe not everybody. But a lot of fans who are turned off by whatever crap WWE starts shoveling at us after Survivor Series, will inevitably check in for the Royal Rumble. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan, it’s ingrained in you. We’re trained to anticipate the Royal Rumble. Specifically, the Royal Rumble Match.

This show could be damn good, all things considered. It’ll be at Chase Field, which could potentially make for a magical vibe. We’ve also got a hot card, including what many consider to be a pair of dream matches. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor and Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks.

So let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

If it hadn’t been relegated to the pre-show, then this could easily have opened the Rumble. It’s got great car-crash potential. It also gives the challengers a well-deserved chance to shine on a big stage. Particularly Hideo Itami. The days of KENTA seem so very long ago…

Since Mustafa Ali is now getting a push on Smackdown, that throws a monkey wrench into my predictions for the Cruiserweight Title at Wrestlemania. Now it’s anybody’s ball game. A match like this presents a good opportunity to take the belt off Murphy without actually pinning him, which makes me think we’re getting a title switch.

With that in mind, I’ll go with Itami on this one. He seems like the best choice out of the three challengers. Also, I’d be curious to see when his current deal is up. With the big All Elite Wrestling announcement, he might be someone they want to keep happy if there’s a risk of losing him to a budding competitor.

PREDICTION: Hideo Itami

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Last year, Nakamura wins the Rumble Match. This year, he’s on the pre-show. If that’s not a statement for how his big push went, I don’t know what is.

That’s really all I’ve got for this one. While I can certainly appreciate two immigrants wrestling for the United States Title in these turbulent times, Nakamura essentially spun his wheels with that belt. Here’s hoping he can find his footing again this year. In the meantime, I see no reason why Rusev should drop it back to him.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz

Aw hell, why not? Put the belts on Shane and Miz. It beats putting the Bar against the Usos and the New Day over and over again. Plus, this is obviously a means to an end. They put the titles on Shane and Miz so they can lose them, break up, and have a Wrestlemania match.

Also, giving the titles to Shane and Miz gives a less established team a great opportunity to take them via a screwjob finish. Heavy Machinery, perhaps? Maybe even SAnitY?

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and The Miz

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

This is the match that threw a monkey wrench into a lot of Royal Rumble predictions, mine included. Common sense seemed to indicate that Becky Lynch would enter and win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and go on to challenge Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania, possibly with Charlotte Flair in there to make it a three-way. But then they went ahead and put Becky in this match. A match that, creatively speaking, it doesn’t make much sense for her to win. Unless they want to move Ronda over to Smackdown as Becky’s challenger. Come to think of it, that might be easier than somehow moving both Becky and Charlotte over to Raw

Granted, being in this match doesn’t mean she can’t compete in the Rumble later in the night. It’s certainly been done before on the men’s side of things. But this match has fans guessing, and all things considered, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It would be a shame to see Asuka lose here, as they just got her back on track. But assuming she is indeed about to headline Wrestlemania, Becky doesn’t need to eat a pinfall either. So I can only assume this match ends with some kind of screwball finish. Maybe Charlotte comes out with a kendo stick and starts beating on people. Either way, I’m thinking this one ends in a disqualification and Asuka goes home with the belt. Where that leaves her at Wrestlemania is anybody’s guess. But I imagine she’ll be walking in with the title.

PREDICTION: Asuka

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

This one could go either way. Ever since Bryan got that WWE Championship back, it feels like the Smackdown title picture for Wrestlemania has been anybody’s ball game. There’s no reason AJ Styles can’t win it back, and walk into New Jersey as champion.

But somehow, I just don’t see it. With this new character, it feels like Daniel Bryan’s time. There’s a certain poetic quality to the idea of Bryan walking in with the WWE Championship five years after his big moment at Wrestlemania XXX. So one way or another, I think Bryan keeps the title. It’s just a question of who he defends against…

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

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

It feels like Ronda Rousey is a lot bigger than Sasha Banks, doesn’t it? Physically, I mean. But she really isn’t. Ronda is 5’7, Sasha is 5’5. Ronda supposedly weighs 134, Sasha weighs 117. So while Ronda is indeed larger, I don’t necessarily expect her to chuck Sasha around like a rag doll.

That’s not to say Sasha won’t fly. I expect we’ll see her take more than a few wicked bumps in this match. For better or worse, they’ve become a trademark of hers. One way or another, she’ll pull out all the stops for this one. I don’t know if we should call this one of the biggest matches of her career. But it’s definitely the biggest one she’s had since all those wars with Charlotte.

My opinion about Ronda losing before Wrestlemania has not changed: It ain’t gonna happen. Mind you, it would be a lot of fun to see Sasha pull off a surprise win, possibly due to interference from Becky or Charlotte, and defend against Bayley at Wrestlemania. But in the end, I really think Ronda wins here.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor

They pulled a fast one on us here. For whatever reason, Braun Strowman is out and Finn Balor is in. Hell, I ain’t complainin’. This is a match people have wanted to see for a long time. And like Brock’s matches with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, I expect it will deliver.

But as it was with the Styles and Bryan matches, the outcome isn’t in doubt here. Brock wins. Still, this is a valuable opportunity for Balor. Since he came back after forfeiting the Universal Title, he’s been struggling to earn himself a full-time spot in that upper echelon of talent. He can use this match to take a giant step forward in that regard. This one should be good.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2019 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

Please, for the love of God, keep Stephanie McMahon off commentary this year. They actually put the Women’s Rumble Match from last year on YouTube, but I couldn’t force to sit through an hour of her piss poor attempt at announcing. Just put Michael Cole or Tom Phillips with Renee Young and Beth Phoenix.

I count 23 announced participants in this match so far. If you count Trish Stratus and Lita, who will likely be unannounced entries, that brings it to 25. I’m sure we’ll see a few women from NXT and NXT UK. Maybe an entry or two from the Mae Young Classic. And of course, let’s not forget about Becky Lynch. She’s a prime candidate for the number 30 spot.

One woman who deserves to win, but almost certainly won’t? Ember Moon. I wanted them to put her over in the Battle Royal at Evolution. But alas, her number simply hasn’t been called yet. But one day it will. And then she’ll show the world just how damn good she can be. Ruby Riott is in that same boat. With or without the Riott Squad, she’s capable of an amazing performance at a show like Wrestlemania.

As much as I think we’d all love to see Becky enter and win this match, in making my prediction I have to assume that’s not what’s going to happen.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

2019 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

One of the caveats going into this match is that John Cena may not be in it anymore. Something about an ankle injury. Maybe it’s a work, maybe it’s not. Kinda sucks, but it’s not like he was winning it anyway.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bray Wyatt pop up in this match. He’s been gone long enough that he’d qualify as a surprise entrant. Especially if he’s somehow the “new and improved” Bray Wyatt, with a freshened up look or something. Also, while he’s not listed as a participant, it would be a shame to leave EC3 out of this thing. A good performance in a Rumble Match would give him some nice momentum.

Interestingly enough, news broke this week that Abyss and Sonjay Dutt have left Impact Wrestling for WWE. While it doesn’t seem like he’s signing on to be a full-time wrestler, could the “Monster” of TNA wrestling wind up with a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble Match? Sure. Why not? If AJ Styles can do it, Abyss can.

About a month ago I speculated about the winner of this year’s Rumble, as people do. The names I gave were Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, the Miz, Drew McIntyre, and the Rock. Out of those five men, only Rollins and McIntyre are actually in the match. Granted, Styles and Miz could end up in it, just like Becky could on the women’s end. But Rollins and McIntyre are apropos, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were among the last four men in this match. Maybe the two of them, EC3, and…Rey Mysterio? Andrade? God forbid, Randy Orton?

In the end, Rollins is my pick. I would have loved for it to be Braun Strowman. But between the heel turn after Summerslam, and his frequent losses to Brock Lesnar, he’s simply not the guy right now. That doesn’t mean Strowman can’t wind up in the Rumble Match. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty likely he will be. But for my money, Lesnar vs. Rollins is the match.

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

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Strowman is Out, Balor is In, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Yeah, I had fun last week, so I’m back this week. Not a bad night for it either, as the Royal Rumble got a hell of a shake-up….

Braun Strowman opens the show, and announces he’s “all healed up.” Baron Corbin interrupts to taunt him. Strowman chases Corbin backstage, ripping apart Vince McMahon’s limo in the process. As punishment, McMahon cancels Strowman’s Universal Title Match at the Royal Rumble. When Vince and Braun had their scene next to the wrecked limo, I was literally saying out loud: “Braun, please don’t back down from the 73-year-old man who’s half your size.” Thankfully, he didn’t…much.

I’m wondering how much of this had to do with that horrible segment Braun and Brock had last week. Another Brock vs. Braun match wasn’t exactly red hot. But that segment practically put it on ice. IF there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Braun won’t have to lose to Brock again. At least not yet. Plus, it made this show that much more interesting.

Perhaps fittingly, Braun had yet another verbal flub here. He referenced “WWE World Cup” instead of WWE Crown Jewel. Although given all the nasty press that show got, maybe they actually scripted him that way.

Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax and Tamina. Rousey and Banks get into a verbal spat after the match. After last week, I couldn’t help but be nervous when Sasha went up for that ‘rana on Nia early on. That image of Sasha going splat on the floor is going to stay with me awhile.

They did pretty well with the post-match verbage. Sasha managed not to come off like an obnoxious brat, which is always a plus. Expectations are high for them once we get to Phoenix.

The Revival def. Lucha House Party. I had flashbacks of “Lucha House Rules” Matches when the Revival’s music hit. Frankly, I didn’t ever need to see these two teams wrestle again. But at least this time, the right team won. And at least Dash and Dawson have a story nowadays.

John Cena, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Finn Balor all pitch themselves as Brock’s new opponent at the Rumble. Vince McMahon makes a Fatal Four-Way Match later in the show to decide the new top contender. We got some pretty good mic work here. Cena played his veteran role to perfection, transitioning into McIntyre’s angry stuff. The stuff between Vince and Balor was interesting. They played right into the whole “Vince loves big guys” stereotype. Not bad at all.

Nikki Cross makes her Raw wrestling debut, teaming with Bayley, and Natalya to defeat The Riott Squad. So they’re letting this new crop of call-ups wrestle on both shows until they decide where to put them? That just tells me they still haven’t decided what to do with them yet. Some of them, at least. That’s somewhat understandable, given how abruptly they were apparently summoned. But they announced this a month ago. You’d think they’d have figured it out by now.

All that said, Nikki had a good outing here. Kudos to Ruby Riott for selling her ass off for her. And on a related note…

EC3, Lacey Evans, and Heavy Machinery have cameos during the broadcast. EC3 and Lacey both wrestled dark matches before Raw last week. At least this week they made TV.

I’m sure EC3 will be fine on the main roster. Though hopefully they don’t do what they did with Bobby Roode, and bring him in as a babyface when he’s such a natural heel. Heavy Machinery should do well too, so long as they don’t make Otis a comedy act. As for Lacey Evans, I’m curious to see how her persona plays on a national level. It could go either way.

Finn Balor def. Jinder Mahal to retain his spot in the Fatal Four-Way Match later in the night. When they made this match, the story for the four-way became pretty obvious. But it’s a good story, so I can’t fault them for it.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to take that double stomp off the top rope. Balor stuck that landing right in Jinder’s stomach. Ouch.

Bobby Lashley def. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in a Triple-Threat Match to win the Intercontinental Championship. Really good match. For my money, they could have had this as the main event and been perfectly fine. Great work by all four guys, Lio Rush included. And a great rub for Lashley.

I like this move. It’s got a bit of an old school WWF feel to it, with the big muscular champion and his mouthpiece. It’s a hell of an endorsement not just for Lashley, but for Rush, who literally helped turn the big man’s career around. Let’s face it: Lashley was floundering as a babyface. But they’ve slowly turned him into a commodity on that show.

On “A Moment of Bliss,” Alexa Bliss announces that at Elimination Chamber, six teams will compete to become the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Paul Heyman is interviewed. Otis Dozovic makes a bizarre interruption. They went a little Attitude Era with that guy walking in on Alexa changing. Not complaining. Just saying…

So the big news here is, of course, the Women’s Tag Team Titles. I can’t say I’m a fan of the Elimination Chamber being used to crown the champions. You’d think this would be the kind of thing they’d save for Wrestlemania. Nevertheless, here we are.

Now it’s just a question of who the six teams are. I’m going to guess Sasha Banks and Bayley, Nia Jax and Tamina, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, the Riott Squad, Naomi and Carmella as a throw-together team, and let’s say…the Bella Twins? If they were doing this at Wrestlemania, I’d have pitched doing something with Trish Stratus and Lita. But that seems unlikely here.

Finn Balor def. John Cena, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin to earn a Universal Title Match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Cena endorses Balor after the match. Mrs. Primary Ignition, like everyone else, was appalled by Cena’s hair. She actually called it upsetting. I mean, people used to make fun of Shawn Michaels’ bald spot. But Cena’s got him beat by a mile and a half.

I said this finish was obvious after the match with Jinder was made. But actually, it was probably when Balor and Vince had that back and forth. Either way, I’m glad we’re finally getting this match. Not that I think Balor’s going to win. If anything, I think this is confirmation that Lesnar is indeed going to Wrestlemania, where hopefully he’ll drop the title to Seth Rollins.

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

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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

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TNA’s Latest Resurrection, and Other Ponderings From Impact Wrestling

TNA Impact Wrestling, Pop TVBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

TNA has become a punchline. Sad, but true. The organization was once poised to be the one true American alternative to WWE. And now? They’re on their second network in two years, fighting to stay alive despite stars leaving in droves, and far more bad publicity than good. TNA, in the eyes of many, is damaged beyond repair.

But to their credit, they have survived. Despite all the blemishes on their record, there’s something to be said for that. And despite all the “fresh starts” TNA has had over the years, this week they got yet another chance.

Ideally, this show should have been formatted to cater to both TNA die-hards and those seeing the product for the first time. As it’s been quite awhile since I watched even a portion of Impact (I didn’t get Destination America), I essentially came in as the latter. TNA’s job this week was to impress me. So did they?

In all honesty, not really. But there were some definite bright spots on the show this week.

I’m going to do something I don’t normally do with my Raw reviews, which is go over the show in mostly chronological order. It lends itself to the tournament format…

Dixie Carter, TNA Impact, Pop TVPonderings From TNA’s POP TV Debut:

Dixie Carter opens the broadcast. Championship series participants make appearances. I would not have opened the show with Dixie. In a lot of ways, her management is what’s been wrong with TNA for so many years. Seeing the show open up with her in the ring, kissing the network’s ass, as the audience waves a bunch of obviously planted POP TV gimmicks was hokey beyond belief. Also, she can’t act.

All four guys really should have gotten a chance to speak. Neither EC3 or Matt Hardy cut great promos, but at least they were able to introduce themselves to the audience. EC3 definitely came off as the star of the show, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And Matt was introduced as the hero. As for the others, we got the sense that Eric Young was a bad guy and Bobby Lashley was a good guy. That’s about it. It’s a start, I suppose. But not necessarily an ideal one.

Josh Matthews and “Pope” D’Angelo Dinero are on commentary. I’ve listened to Josh Matthews call a lot of matches over the years. And here’s my question: Why is he lowering his register at times? His regular voice is fine. When your lead announcer sounds like he’s putting on a fake voice, that’s generally not a good sign.

Ethan Carter III, TNA ImpactEthan Carter III def. Bobby Lashley to advance to the finals of the championship series. So…why is Lashley wearing a head band? He’s built like a brick wall and has a truck-load of natural athleticism. That’s all you need. The headband is just distracting.

Carter was the obvious winner here, simply because you couldn’t not have your lead heel in the main event. As athletic and explosive as Lashley can be, what’s always held him back is that he’s never had much of a character. He’s fun to watch, but he lacks a certain depth. Nice to see EC3 cheat to win with the help of Tyrus.

Kurt Angle announces Drew Galloway as the first opponent for his “farewell tour.” Match to take place next week on Impact. Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake chime in. This is a good choice. It’s certainly a far cry from Galloway’s days in 3MB. From a tactical standpoint, I’m very pleased to see TNA giving us a reason to tune in next week. Unlike Raw, they’re not relying purely on their audiences viewing habits.

I don’t know much about Jessie Godderz or Eli Drake. Drake wasn’t a bad promo, but his line about Godderz being “a hit with the 13-year-old girls” was kinda creepy. I’m not sure how long Godderz has been doing the whole social media darling persona, but in this segment he came off like a poor man’s Tyler Breeze.

Jeff Hardy, TNAJeff Hardy appears in backstage segment with Jeremy Borash. Borash and Matthews need to switch roles. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard Borash call a match. But by this point in the show I knew I’d rather hear him than Josh.

It will be quite some time before we see Jeff Hardy wrestle again, which is a damn shame. Not just for him, but for TNA. He’s a star they could really use right now. Instead, he’s there in a supporting role for Matt, which doesn’t work. As good as Matt is, that’s the equivalent of having Batman in Robin’s corner.

Matt Hardy def. Eric Young to advance to the finals of the championship series. I didn’t get much out of this one. Again, the winner was pretty obvious. I like the idea of Eric Young playing an unhinged heel. But he still comes off goofy to me. Maybe I just need to see more of him…

James Storm returns to TNA to help Bobby Roode fend off Eric Young and the returning Bram. This was a big surprise, as James Storm has spent some time in NXT recently. I can only assume WWE wasn’t interested in signing him. Why else would we see him back in TNA? To be honest, it’s a little sad…

James Storm, NXTStill, as a TNA Original, James Storm will always be appreciated with this company. And evidently Beer Money is back together, which could be interesting. Seeing them go against The Wolves might make for a fun match.

Awesome Kong seemingly joins The Dollhouse after their loss to Gail Kim and The Beautiful People. I’m not familiar with Marti Bell, or the other two Dollhouse members. But I do remember that The Beautiful People was a heel group. And a pretty damn good one at that. So I’m guessing they’re back together for a nostalgia kick? Either way, it seems odd that they ended up teaming with Gail Kim.

Awesome Kong is a hell of an attraction, and an asset to whatever promotion she’s in. I’m not sure if, at this stage in her career, she’s got a lot of miles left on her. But in this role she might be able to give a nice rub to Marti Bell, or another new player in the Knockouts division, which is in need of some fresh blood.

“Miracle” Mike Bennett and Maria debut with TNA. No matter what you want to say about TNA, this is a good move for Bennett and Maria. They were with Ring of Honor for years, and it was time for a change in scenery. Husband and wife can now bring their act to a new promotion, and get in the mix with some new faces. It appears they even have an opponent ready for them in Matt Hardy. TNA really needs some new blood to liven things up, and if they’re lucky, Bennett is only the first of several new acquisitions.

Ethan Carter III, TNA ChampionEthan Carter III def. Matt Hardy to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. A solid match between these two, and without a doubt, the right man won. EC3 is without a doubt, this company’s brightest star. What’s more, he’s a star they created themselves. This is the guy they need to hitch their wagon to, and he’s the guy they need to use to make other new stars.

You can argue that much of this show was the same ol’ TNA we’ve seen for years now. But TNA is on a new network, with a young, talented, compelling performer leading the charge. They’re not nearly as good as they used to be. But they’ve certainly been in worse shape. And while that might not sound like the most optimistic take in the world, it’s definitely a realistic one.

Images 1, 2, and 3 courtesy of impactwrestling.com. Image 4 from bleacherreport.com. Image 5 from thewrestlereview.wordpress.com.

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Cena and Ziggler Steal the Show, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

On the whole, Raw was more watchable this week. In the absence of The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman, we got a video package hyping the main event of Hell in a Cell. I’m not sure if that’s what you want, considering this match is headlining the damn pay per view. There’s not nearly as much buzz about this match as there was about their Summerslam encounter. And this is supposed to be the blow-off!

But while there were plenty of negatives, the show did have one obvious bright spot.

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, John Cena, Dolph ZigglerPonderings From Raw:

John Cena faces Dolph Ziggler in his weekly US Open Challenge. So, um…I guess that was a legit marriage proposal that happened during the opening moments of this match. I’ll always give Cena credit for rolling with whatever the crowd gives him.

With Cena about to take some time off, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he picked Ziggler to drop the title to. Dolph has been as big a victim as any of the WWE “start and stop push.” But he keeps putting on matches like the one we saw with Cena tonight, and he refuses to be forgotten about. Does it even need to be said that this was the match of the night?

Was really interested to see Ziggler pay homage to Shawn Michaels with the stomps in the corner leading up to the superkick. If you look at how Ziggler has updated his gear as of late, with the long tights and the white boots combined with his overall look, he almost looks like he’s trying to morph himself into the HBK of the early ’90s.

WWE Raw, Roman Reigns, October 12, 2015Roman Reigns cuts a promo before beating Braun Strowman via count-out. Roman Reigns really needs to be a heel. Much like his “cousin” The Rock, he’s got a swagger and a personality that’s dying to get out. That “Y’all can’t hear me or somethin’?” line he gave in response to the “What?” chants was good. But he was playing nice because he’s supposed to be a babyface. This guy has had enough experience on the mic now that if you just let him say what’s on his mind, the fans would probably get behind him eventually.

But instead, he’s being forced into a babyface role. I cringed when I saw him next to John Cena in that Susan G. Komen segment last week. If you’re trying to build a guy up as your next top star, the one person you don’t want to put him next to is Cena.

I can appreciate what they’re doing with Braun Strowman. He’s cast very well as a seemingly invincible giant. If only The Big Show had been lucky enough to be cast in such a role. But as was the case with Rusev, and a lot of other once invincible talents, it becomes a question of what you do with the guy once they’ve been humanized. Once the giant has been slayed, what do you do with him?

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, Rusev, Summer RaeWWE plays off online revelation that Rusev and Lana are engaged, has Summer Rae turn on Rusev after a match. So Summer Rae does the logical thing and ends it with Rusev. But this match left Rusev looking like a heel. But the crowd might still be inclined to cheer for Lana. Where does that leave us…?

Sheamus & Wade Barrett def. Neville & Cesaro. Wasn’t tough to predict a winning team for this one. Cesaro, a recent victim of yet another start and stop push, teaming with Neville, the guy who lost in 30 seconds last week.

How is Neville’s huge loss last week not the entire basis of what they’re doing with he, Sheamus, and Barrett? These guys made Neville lose a match in less than a minute. They humiliated him. I’m not that big a Neville fan, but I”d sure as hell root for him to get his win back if they played it up.

In the main event, Kane def. Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match. This program with Rollins and Kane has fallen flat. It’s such a shame, as with the right story it could have been compelling. But this whole multiple personality thing with Kane killed it. Now they’ve reached the point where they have to actually give us the match to try and entice us to buy another match between the two at Hell in a Cell. As always, that strategy is lame.

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, The New DayThe New Day def. Randy Orton & Dean Ambrose. This match had the right finish. The New Day should stay dominant. They got to brag about beating up Cena, Ziggler, and the Dudleys, and now they’ve beaten Orton and Ambrose.

If Big E., Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods are going to remain heels, then what I’d like to see from them is more of a mean streak. It seems like they’re slowly moving in that direction, but I want more. I love that they’re entertaining, but we also want these guys to be villains. Especially if they’re going to be placed in such important spots on the show.

Nikki Bella def. Naomi, as the crowd (and Brie Bella) chanted for Sasha Banks. I get what they were going for with this one. The Bellas drive a wedge between Team BAD by playing up Sasha’s much-heralded match with Bayley at the latest NXT Takeover. In that respect, it worked.

But after such an awesome match between two women in the development system, what does it say that this match, on what’s supposed to be the promotion’s flagship show, was such a snoozefest? You’ve got arguably the best female wrestler in the world standing on the outside, and then you give us that match. Ugh.

Brie Bella pins Charlotte in a tag team match. I don’t even want to acknowledge this. Again, the only word I’m left with is: “Ugh.”

James Storm, NXTPonderings From Around the Wrestling World:

James Storm appears at NXT taping. Storm is a nice get for WWE, and ultimately a win-win for everybody. He’s been around for over 15 years now. So like Samoa Joe or Rhyno, Storm can work with newer wrestlers and help them up their game. Plus, no whether they ever call him up or not, time under the WWE umbrella makes will make Storm a more attractive prospect for other promotions when he leaves.

Matt Hardy vacates TNA Heavyweight Championship. Promotion holding tournament to crown undisputed champion. This was an eye-roller, following the feel-good moment TNA ended Bound For Glory with. My understanding is TNA is going to compile part of this tournament together with matches taped in July. That’s fine, I suppose. At this point it’s all about getting fresh content up, as they have no new Impact episodes taped. As for who wins, my money’s on Ethan Carter III. In many ways, he’s the crown jewel of TNA. What exactly that spot is worth these days is up for debate.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Roman Reigns/Bray Wyatt, Stephanie’s Balls, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sadly, this week’s Raw wasn’t much of an improvement from what we’ve been seeing lately. Indeed, the autumn slump is here in full force. But before we get into Raw, let’s talk a little TNA. Thankfully, the news is good.

Matt Hardy, TNA Bound For Glory 2015Matt Hardy wins TNA World Championship at Bound For Glory 2015. Sadly, TNA has been a punchline as of late. But a lot of the stuff I’ve been hearing about Bound For Glory is positive. Congratulations are indeed in order for Matt Hardy. People can debate about how much the TNA World Heavyweight Title means in 2015, but obviously it was a great moment for him. It’s big win, whether you’re a TNA fan or not.

Ethan Carter III also deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s done in TNA. Despite the grim circumstances TNA faces with it’s impending cancellation, the real-life Mike Hutter has been tremendous as their lead heel. He took the potential WWE ultimately squandered, and got over in another promotion. You’ve got to respect that.

Now let’s just hope TNA is still around for a Bound For Glory 2016.

Roman Reigns, Raw, September 5, 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, & Randy Orton def. The Wyatt Family. Reigns and Bray Wyatt look ahead to Hell in a Cell. I can honestly say I’ve grown bored with six-man tags on Raw. For the second week in a row we saw not one, but two six-person tags on this show. One with the guys, and one with the girls. They all feel tired and repetitive now, regardless of who’s in there. If they really want to change up TV, how about a “no six-man tags” rule for the next month or so?

As for Reigns and Wyatt’s upcoming Hell in a Cell Match, I can only say: Right place, right time, wrong main event. No matter how hard these guys work to get fans ready for their match, and it is a big match, they’re going to be eclipsed by Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. It’s unavoidable. I don’t fault WWE for trying to sell more network subscriptions with that match. But this was a great opportunity for WWE to show fans that Reigns and Wyatt are two big and compelling parts of their future. Having them main event Hell in a Cell, much like Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose did last year, would be a great spotlight for them. Especially Bray Wyatt, as this would be his first pay per view main event.

All isn’t lost, however. Wyatt and Reigns can still make a statement by out-performing Brock and ‘Taker. Still, the match has been watered down. That’s a damn shame.

Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar, September 5, 2015Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman open the show with a message for The Undertaker. “You are not Dead Man enough to get revenge on Brock Lesnar.” Yet another great Paul Heyman line.

Another great line? When Heyman referenced Lesnar’s upcoming appearance on Steve Austin’s podcast. Why he couldn’t have done that for this Undertaker match during the build up to the Madison Square Garden special, I have no idea. It only makes all the sense in the world…

The Big Show played his role just fine, as he took yet another F5. After being built up as an unstoppable giant for a few weeks, I can only assume he’ll go right back to jobbing on free TV now.

Big E. answers John Cena’s open challenge in the main event. While The New Day have come off like babyfaces lately, robbing us of a John Cena/ Dolph Ziggler main event was indeed a heel move. Still, it was nice to see Big E. get such a prominent spotlight, as The New Day are once again featured in the main event of Raw.

John Cena, Big E., Raw, September 5, 2015There’s been talk lately of John Cena taking time off in the near future. I can only assume this means he’ll be dropping the US Title. But to who? Common sense points to somebody like Cesaro. But the way the “Swiss Superman” has been booked lately, it looks like Heath Slater has a better chance.

Stephanie McMahon featured in segments with Seth Rollins, Kane, and The New Day. One of my favorite wrestling podcasters, Jason Solomon, tweeted something during Raw that caught my eye: “Stephanie has bigger balls than everyone on the roster.” The sad thing is, he’s right.

Look at how Stephanie talks to both the babyfaces and the heels on Raw. She condescends to all of them, and plays the “I’ll fire you” card constantly. Remember a few months ago when they had her berate John Cena in the middle of the ring, and then simply leave? If it happened every once in awhile, that’d be one thing. But this consistently happens with wrestlers across the board. What purpose does it serve the story when the boss is angry with everybody? I don’t get it.

Sheamus, Neville, Raw, September 5, 2015Sheamus def. Neville in less than a minute after a distraction from Wade Barrett. Ouch. That was pretty hard to watch. You’re telling me they couldn’t have chopped a minute or two off of yet another Rollins/Kane dialogue segment to let these guys wrestle? Adding to the confusion, they seemed to be trying to soften the blow before and after the match. They had Sheamus talk about how everybody loves Neville, and then Michael Cole seemed to throw Neville a bone when he said the match as “all Neville” until Barrett interfered. But the match lasted 30 seconds! Dramatic as it may sound, Neville hit a career low tonight.

Natalya def Paige via submission. The crowd was pretty dead for this match. I imagine part of that is because they’re not sure how to react to Paige. Still, they had a decent outing. I was definitely surprised to see Natalya get the win. She has always had a lot of star potential, and has been able to capitalize on some of it through Total Divas. But she belongs in the ring. I’d love for this to be the start of something bigger for her, but I don’t have my hopes up. One side note: Cinch up on that Sharpshooter, Nattie.

Image 1 from allwrestlingnews.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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