Tag Archives: Even Steven Booking

Seth Rollins Stands In, More 50/50 Booking, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, September 26, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As people talk about Raw‘s decline in viewership and quality over the years, we often hear about a lack of competition, i.e. WCW. Nitro isn’t there to put the heat on Raw anymore, and force them to up their game.

When called on that, Vince McMahon has said WWE competes with everything on television. While it’s obviously a different ball game than going head-to-head with Nitro, there’s something to be said for that. These days, Raw competes with not only Monday Night Football, but major prime time shows like The Big Bang TheoryDancing with the Stars, and The Voice. This week, they had a new player on the field: The first presidential debate. The pressure was on WWE to deliver something big to keep eyes on Raw.

What we got was a respectable effort. Raw is still feeling the effects of Finn Balor’s injury. Seth Rollins is standing in as the lead babyface right now, but he was playing the dastardly heel almost a month ago. His turn is very much a work in progress. As such, there’s no one in that Steve Austin/Rock/John Cena type role.

With football season in full swing and the threat of the “autumn slump” looming, Raw needs to be firing on all cylinders. While the show can have plenty of bright spots, it’s not quite where it needs to be. They need to be calculated yet careful in how they proceed in the next few weeks. We need definitive reasons to watch Raw instead of Monday Night Football, but the best stuff still needs to be saved for the pay per views.

Wrestling ain’t easy, folks.

Rusev, September 26, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns and Rusev go to a double count-out. In theory, Raw started strong. One of their biggest stars in a title match against a monster heel. They gave them plenty of time, too. It sure as hell beats a 20-minute promo segment.

But as the minutes ticked by, this started to drag. The lame count-out finish didn’t help things either. Good try, I suppose. But it didn’t do it for me.

I’m not thrilled Rusev got pinned at Clash of Champions. But being the US Champion isn’t a bad spot for Reigns to be in right now. Let’s be honest: He’ll be in the Universal Title picture sooner than later. So having him work in a lower slot on the card takes some heat off him for the time being. It’ll come right back, of course. But the change is refreshing.

Mick Foley announces Sheamus and Cesaro will compete for the Raw Tag Team Titles. This segment made me realize something: Sheamus doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is on the mic. I don’t doubt this was mostly scripted. But Sheamus came off very natural and very passionate here, even ad-libbing a bit. To his credit, Cesaro rolled with it, and got fired up right along with him. This didn’t feel like an average segment where two or three guys simply take turns talking. This was good, and should be a model for future segments like it.

Cesaro, Mick Foley, Sheamus, September 26, 2016That being said, this Best of Seven series ending in a draw was, for my money, absolute garbage. 50/50 Booking at its worst. But I get the story they’re trying to tell. These two fought their hearts out and couldn’t settle on who the more dominant wrestler was, so they end up being dominant together. To his credit, in that backstage vignette later in the show, Foley really sold it. Those Cactus Jack style promos really come in handy when put in the right spots.

I don’t have a problem with these two being a team. I just don’t like how they got there. This seems like yet another squandered opportunity to elevate Cesaro.

The New Day def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. When word surfaced about this being the New Day’s 400th day as tag champs, I figured they’d beat Anderson & Gallows at Clash of Champions, then drop the belts to them on this show. That way the announcers can still play up how these guys were tag champs for exactly 400 days. Maybe they’re saving that big win for Sheamus & Cesaro? Or better yet, Enzo & Cass? Either way, time to put a bullet in Gallows & Anderson’s title ambitions.

It’s interesting that they kept talking about Demolition being the longest reigning tag champs in WWE history, considering those guys are currently part of a big class action lawsuit against WWE regarding concussions. I imagine that’s a testament to how far WWE thinks that lawsuit will go.

WWE Raw, September 26, 2016, Kofi Kingston, Xavier WoodsYou’d think after that scary dive Cesaro took at the pay per view, Big E. would forego his usual dive through the ropes tonight. But not only did he dive, he brought Anderson with him on that spear. You’re tempting fate, big guy…

This match had some nice drama to it. Kofi even got some accidental color. They might have been better off going with this as the show opener.

Bayley def. Anna Fields. Anna Fields’ real name is apparently Hannah Hartkopf. I know absolutely nothing about her, but she really came in handy. Bayley needed to be in there with somebody besides Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Dana Brooke. This was good for her, and Hartkopf gave her a solid match.

I half expected Nia Jax to ambush Bayley after the match. Those two can have a great “bullying” storyline in a David vs. Goliath sort of way. Something to look forward to.

Cedric Alexander & Rich Swann def. Drew Gulak & Lince Dorado. The association of purple with the Cruiserweights is interesting. Now someone flipping through channels can instantly tell when they’re seeing a Cruiserweight match. Are they really switching out the ropes between matches, though? Seems like that would be a hassle.

Drew Gulak, WWE Raw, September 26, 2016This is my first exposure to Lince Dorado. He’s got a great look, and can obviously bring the thrills. The soon-to-be star of this division is Cedric Alexander, but he’s got potential beyond it. He’s got personality, and looks very credible. That Lumbar Check is scary as hell, and was a DVR moment.

Charlotte grants Sasha Banks a title match next week. Somebody on Twitter alerted me to the fact that Charlotte is 12-0 on pay per view. A happy accident to be sure. But they should play it up.

It looked like Charlotte turned her head at the wrong time, and caught that slap right on the nose. Yeah, um…ouch.

TJ Perkins def. Tony Nese. Better late than never for Perkins’ debut on Raw. Fans on Twitter got a kick out of Perkins’ entrance music during Clash of Champions. It’s different. Different is usually good.

I came away from this match with more of an appreciation for Nese. In his first match on the national stage, he succeeded in setting himself apart from the pack with his strength. Again, different is good.

Tony Nese, WWE Raw, September 26, 2016Brian Kendrick will once again challenge Perkins for the title next week. I still don’t see Kendrick walking out with the belt. I’m curious to see what that character does after a second loss to Perkins.

Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho def. Enzo & Cass. Wow. Owens went there, didn’t he? In his promo during the Highlight Reel, Kevin Owens brought up the shoot injuries sustained by John Cena, Sting, and Finn Balor during matches with Seth Rollins. He actually called him the most dangerous man in WWE. I credit them for acknowledging that. I’m not one of these people that thinks Rollins is dangerous in the ring. But whenever you can weave that thread of truth into a promo, it tends to pay off.

An anti-climactic end to our main event. It looks like we’re moving toward Owens vs. Rollins vs. Jericho at Hell in a Cell. My hope was that we’d take a more definitive step toward that. They’ve still got to shoehorn the cell into that equation. With this pay per view, that’s sadly the equation more often than not. But the show isn’t until October 30, so they’ve got time.

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dean Ambrose and False Hope, Plus Pondering From WWE Raw

Bret Hart, WWE ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get to Raw, let’s touch on a couple of stories. The first one just broke yesterday, and it’s a bit of unfortunate news regarding an all-time great…

Bret Hart announces he’s battling prostate cancer. Bret himself made this announcement on his Facebook. He seems optimistic about it, which is good news. Bret is a hero to many, and he’s in the hearts of a great many this week. Good luck, Bret. We’ll be thinking of you.

Vince McMahon allegedly angered by The Rock going off-script on last week’s RawI, like a lot of fans, really enjoyed that moment last week when The Rock went “off the script” and talked to those cosplayers at ringside. They were having fun, and the crowd was having fun, so The Rock decided to have fun. But low and behold, Vince allegedly didn’t like it.

Considering how WWE has been booked over the last few years, that sounds about right.

I loved The Rock’s response to said heat on Twitter: “…at @WWE events, going “off script” is what I live for. So much fun for the fans. Nightmare for Vince.”

Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, January 1, 2016Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Dean Ambrose confronts Brock Lesnar at the top of the show, Lesnar attacks Ambrose to close the show. Well how about this? For once, it wasn’t all about Roman Reigns. They let Ambrose have the headline story this week.

I’d love to think WWE might surprise us at Fastlane, and give Ambrose the main event with Triple H. It’d damn sure be something different. The fans are into Ambrose, and the suspense when he and Hunter were the last ones in the Rumble Match was amazing. And it could create some interesting tension between Ambrose and Reigns! It won’t happen, of course. WWE has been bound and determined to make Reigns their guy for over a year, and they’re not about to stop now. But it’s fun to think about.

Still, it’s clear WWE has faith in Dean Ambrose. They trusted him to hold his own in there with Lesnar, and he did just that. Ambrose can be such a huge star for WWE. I just hope they realize what they have with him.

Stephanie McMahon, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Michael Cole hypes Stephanie McMahon’s appearance on Good Morning America, as part of a series on women making a difference and serving as positive role models. That bit of copy Michael Cole read during Dolph Ziggler’s entrance is a perfect example of the disconnect that exists between WWE and its fans, and it’s one of the many reasons why fans just don’t get into WWE like they used to.

Every week on television, Stephanie McMahon plays a tyrannical heel authority figure. But because WWE is so image conscious, they make a point of hyping up her humanitarianism, her involvement with charities, etc. There’s nothing wrong with her doing any of that, but when they go out of their way to mention that on TV, they contradict the stories they’re trying to tell. They’re breaking the illusion they’ve created in their fictional universe. Yes, we know Stephanie isn’t really an evil person. But can you let us suspend our disbelief when we watch your damn show?

Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Dolph Ziggler def. Kevin Owens. Really good match. I loved the way Ziggler attacked that turnbuckle when Owens Irish-whipped him into the corner. Shades of Bret Hart, there.  The fact that Ziggler isn’t consistently main eventing Raw is a crime, and yet another indictment of just how screwed up creative is right now.

“Even Steven Booking” strikes again on this one. Owens beat Ziggler last week, Ziggler beats Owens this week. The sad thing is that Owens is one of the few good heels WWE has right now. If WWE wanted to build him up as a potential Undertaker opponent for Wrestlemania, they could easily have a really good program. I originally thought Owens and Sami Zayn were going to wrestle on that show, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Alas, Owens is left spinning his wheels for no good reason.

Brie Bella def. Charlotte. OH HELL NO…

Brie Bella, Charlotte, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016What the hell happened here? We were doing so well. Charlotte was in a compelling storyline with Becky Lynch that allowed both of them to shine. Then at the Royal Rumble we introduced Sasha Banks into the title picture. And now…Charlotte gets beaten by Brie? (Her right shoulder may not have even been down, as you can see on the right.)  Seriously, what the hell? I suspect this is will lead to a title match at Fastlane, which I suppose I can tolerate as long as Sasha gets the Wrestlemania match. But what a disappointing direction to take things in.

Naomi & Tamina turn on Sasha Banks during her match with Becky Lynch. I love how they slipped that little Kanye/Wiz Khalifa reference into the talking segment. “We’re hip! Really, we are!”

Happy to see Sasha is officially separated from Naomi and Tamina. She’s destined to be a star on her own. And if/when she becomes champion this year, they can easily come back to one or both of those two for a title defense. Neither of them would have given Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels a run for their money, but they’re both decent hands in their own right.

AJ Styles, The Miz, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016AJ Styles appears on Miz TV. Not at all what I was hoping to see Styles do on Raw this week, but at least they’re investing time in him. Granted, the fact that Miz talked for 90 percent of the segment doesn’t say much for their faith in his mic skills. But there are worse guys for him to spend TV time with than The Miz.

The Big Show def. Erick Rowan before getting decimated by The Wyatt Family. I’m still disappointed that babyface Big Show is back. He’s so much better as a heel. But the upside is, at the rate his turns have been going, he’ll be a heel again in no time.

They’re obviously building toward a Big Show/Braun Strowman match at Fastlane. Goody goody gumdrops. I will say that it’s good to see The Wyatts looking strong again. But as wrote last week, an Undertaker/Strowman match, if that is indeed what they’re building for, is a terrible idea. Especially when there are so many superior opponents available for the Dead Man.

The Usos, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016Lilian Garcia botches The Usos’ introduction, refers to them as “Grammy Award winning tag team of the year.” Okay, so Lilian botched an intro. With all due respect, it wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last. And of course they made fun of her, because they’re bullies like that. But they actually took the time to replay it when they came back from a commercial break. Well, that’s one way to kill time on a three-hour broadcast. Hey, at least Vince was having fun on the headset…

On the plus side, we’ve apparently gotten The Usos away from The New Day. That’s definitely a good thing.

Kalisto def. Rusev via count-out, will defend US Title against Alberto Del Rio at FastlaneUgh. I was hoping they’d get the Del Rio rematch out of the way on television so Kalisto could move on to someone else. This gives WWE the opportunity to change their minds about Kalisto, and switch the belt back to Del Rio. Make no mistake about it, Del Rio does not need the US Title. But it can help build Kalisto into something they desperately need: A new star.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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