Randy Orton’s Refusal, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Emmalina, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

After Raw’s confusing Emmalina debut, details have started to emerge as to why we saw what we saw.

Pro Wrestling Sheet reports that the Emmalina character was supposed to be “throwback to characters like Sable and The Kat.” But the real-life Tenille Dashwood allegedly wasn’t impressing in rehearsals. She “wasn’t committing enough to the role.”

That’s…fair enough. If she couldn’t pull it off, then they did what they felt they had to do. But this whole thing seemed ill-conceived from the start. First and foremost, Dashwood was miscast in a character like this. The verbal aspect of pro wrestling has never been her strong suit. She should have been given more time to develop her mic skills before they went this way with her.

To that one might say that the verbal skills of someone like Sable were nothing to write home about. This is true. But Sable was also able to be sexual in a way that Emmalina would never get to be. Let’s be honest, Sable and the Kat were stars because they were hot and they showed a lot of skin. When you look at it that way, I’m not sure how you’d create a throwback to that era anyway. Lots of sexy photoshoots? I don’t get it.

Emma, WWEAs a performer, you are responsible for making your character work. The example I always think of when that comes up is Goldust. Dustin Runnels embodied that character and made it work in a way no one else could. But did a character like Bastion Booger ever have a chance? How about Mantaur? Or Beaver Cleavage?

Bottom line: Sometimes you’re the victim of a bad idea. I just hope Emma gets another shot. She’s talented enough, and she deserves it.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

WWE Champion Bray Wyatt opens the show. John Cena and AJ Styles interrupt. Daniel Bryan makes the main event a triple-threat for the WWE Championship. Somebody needed to remind these folks that Bray is supposed to be a heel. Those “You deserve it!” chants were pretty damn loud. I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a huge upside to Bray Wyatt becoming a babyface in the near future. Especially now that he’s the champion.

American Alpha def. The Ascension. The Usos challenge the champions. I wondered if they’d actually give the win to the Ascension here. They’ve been slightly re-emphasized these last few weeks. But of course, the Usos will make for a better match.

dean-ambrose-baron-corbin-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017Baron Corbin brawls with Dean Ambrose before his match with James Ellsworth. Ambrose gets layed out on production equipment. It occurred to me during this segment that a decade ago, the fans might have been chanting “Slut!” at Carmella. I’m split on whether that’s something I miss.

What we saw here, combined with what we got at Elimination Chamber, gives me high hopes for this Ambrose/Corbin program. Ambrose can do a lot to help build Corbin. But here’s my question: Does Corbin need the Intercontinental Title? Questionable mic skills notwithstanding, he seems like he’s on track to main event status without it.

Nikki Bella to face Natalya in a Falls Count Anywhere Match next week. While the match these two had at Elimination Chamber was largely a bore, it had its moments. I’ve enjoyed this program the most when they’ve had those knock-down, drag-out fights. So this should be good.

Mickie James def. Becky Lynch. Some nice mat work early on here. I’d go as far as to say that while Charlotte and Sasha Banks may be better all around performers, Becky Lynch is the best pure grappler of the “Four Horsewomen.” I imagine that comes with being the most experienced. She made her in-ring debut in 2002.

becky-lynch-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017I wasn’t a fan of James losing at Elimination Chamber. But I assume this win will lead to a rubber match with Becky in the near future. Perhaps they didn’t want her losing two straight matches? Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Renee Young interviews the new Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi. Alexa Bliss interrupts, announces she’ll invoke her rematch clause next week. Naomi mentioned it’s taken her eight years to get to where she is now. It’s hard to believe she’s been around that long. But she signed her development deal in 2009. She didn’t make it to Raw and Smackdown until 2012.

I wanted Alexa to be angrier here. She did just lose her title, after all. Next week’s match is a toss-up as far as I’m concerned. These Women’s Championships have been changing hands so frequently, it’s seemingly anybody’s ball game.

Bray Wyatt def. John Cena and AJ Styles in a No-Disqualificaiton Match to retain the WWE Championship. Luke Harper attacks Wyatt before the match. I’ll admit, I got a little nervous when Harper attacked. They might have used that attack to justify a title change.

You’ll notice they’ve already started talking about Cena breaking Ric Flair’s record. To their credit, Mauro Ranallo and JBL did a nice job of playing that up, and making this seem that much bigger. It’s going to happen, folks. Maybe not this year. But it’ll happen.

randy-orton-bray-wyatt-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017With all the near falls and false finishes, this felt like a mini-pay-per-view match. Happy to see Bray win clean here, just as he did in the Chamber Match on Sunday. It further cements him as the top guy on Smackdown right now.

Randy Orton refuses to challenge Bray Wyatt for the title at Wrestlemania. On Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan makes a battle royal for next week to determine the top contender for WrestlemaniaThis is a nice little twist in the road. I still fully expect Randy Orton to be in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania. But now we may end up with a three-way on our hands. At the very least, I imagine the winner of this battle royal will challenge for the title on an episode of Smackdown some time next month.

While AJ Styles still has no dance partner for Wrestlemania, and this spot could easily go to him, I think this is Luke Harper’s spot. He turned a lot of heads at Elimination Chamber, and they could bill this match as “The Wyatt Family Implodes,” or something like that.

Between this battle royal, the Women’s Title Match, and what I assume will be the Nikki vs. Natalya blow-off, they’ve stacked the card for next week’s show. I’ve got high hopes.

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Raw ’97: Muhammad Ali or Dennis Rodman?

Shawn Michaels, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The February 3 episode of Raw was, without any sort of hype or announcement, the first ever two-hour edition of the show. This was obviously an attempt to be more competitive with WCW Monday Nitro, and there were clear efforts made to make this feel like a bigger show than it was. They were in the Toronto SkyDome, though at one point you can see it’s way under capacity. And all hands are on deck here.

This show was hyped as “Royal Rumble Raw.” We’d been told the week before that the Rumble match would be shown in its entirety. That’s not what happened, as we merely got highlights. Maybe they decided to stick with fresh content? I guess the idea of airing pay per view footage that’s two weeks old is a little lame.

Vader def. Stone Cold Steve Austin via disqualification. Before the match, Bret Hart attacks Austin from behind. Well, they weren’t going to have one of these guys pin the other before Final Four, right? They want it to look like everybody’s on an even playing field.

Steve Austin, Vader, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Things are noticeably a little angrier on this show, presumably to hype up the drama. Before this match begins, the normally reserved yet heroic Bret Hart comes out and ambushes Austin. After the match, a commercial airs for Thursday Raw Thursday, where all the wrestlers are full of piss and vinegar. Again, even Bret, who yells: “Everybody better get out of my way!” They hadn’t quite found their famous “Attitude” yet. But they were looking for it.

Savio Vega def. Flash Funk. This is the television audience’s first exposure to heel Savio Vega, who turned heel off camera at a house show at Madison Square Garden. At this point, the only difference is a big leather jacket he wears to the ring.

Jim Ross interviews Sycho Sid. During some of these old promos with Sid, they keep his music playing at a lower volume. That’s a great effect. It keeps his mystique alive. Especially as he’s talking about evil. He’s not particularly articulate. But it sounds like he’s saying stuff that’s spooky and cool. So it works.

Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon def. The British Bulldog and Owen Hart in a WWF Tag Team Title Match via count-out. The titles do not change hands. Rediscovering Phil Lafon’s work has been a nice byproduct of this whole Raw ’97 experience. But I maintain what I’ve said before about these two: No personality. Very vanilla. So there’s not much to latch on to.

Owen Hart, British Bulldog, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Owen as he steps through the ropes: “I hate Canada! I’m the only thing good about Canada!”

Crush def. Goldust. Savio comes in with a spinning heel kick to Goldust to cost him the match. There’s heel Savio.

These matches drag. It’s very apparent they’re not fully prepared for the move to two hours yet.

Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart come face-to-face in the ring. Austin attacks Hart from behind. The best thing on the show by a mile. I’ve always remembered one particular moment from this segment. Shawn is talking about not being liked. He says: “Everybody hated Muhammad Ali while he was the world champion. Now everyone refers to him as the greatest of all time.”

Bret later responds with: “Muhammad Ali? I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman, maybe.”

WWF hypes the debut of Tiger Ali Singh. If you’ll recall, the highlight of Singh’s WWF career was getting audience members to lick toe jam and eat boogers. A true success story if there ever was one…

Triple H, Marc Mero, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Marc Mero after a shot with brass knocks. If you watch these shows back, you notice the announcers keep talking about Robin Hood, as they do during this match. It took me awhile to figure out exactly what the connection was.

On January 13, TNT began airing The New Adventures of Robin Hood after WCW Nitro. That night, a match between Hulk Hogan and the Giant began two minutes before Nitro went off the air, and continued during portions of the commercial breaks during Robin Hood. Unique, to be certain. But obvious fodder for jokes.

The Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson def. Farrow and Mankind in a No Holds Barred Match. We saw Ahmed make use of his beloved two-by-four in this match, chasing the Nation off and then hitting Faarooq in the back. We also saw Vader attack ‘Taker in this match before Mankind takes a Tombstone on a chair and loses the fall.

All in all, not a strong show. Even by modern standards. Though that will change next week, as we get to a pretty famous Raw moment involving HBK. Though perhaps infamous would be a better word to describe it…

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Raw ’97: The Rock Pulls Double Duty?

***Pro wrestling changed forever in 1997. From the rise of icons like the Rock and Bill Goldberg, to the Montreal Screwjob, to ECW’s pay per view debut, its impact would be felt for years to come. Personally, it’s always been my favorite year in wrestling. Here on Raw ’97, we’ll take a look back at what was happening on the WWF’s flagship show 20 years ago to the day. We’ll dig up hidden gems, and reexamine moments we’ll never forget.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

sycho-sid-wwf-raw-january-13-1997On January 13, 1997, Raw was still a one-hour show. Just north of 45 minutes, if you subtract commercials. In 2017, when we’re used to three-hour Raw broadcasts, that’s incredibly surreal.

In addition, because they taped multiple episodes in one night, this was an era where you didn’t see all the big stars wrestling every week. You might see them in backstage interview segments, or doing commentary. But not in the ring. In contrast, two weeks ago Raw featured Roman Reigns going against Kevin Owens. This past week? Reigns against Jericho. This coming week? Reigns vs. Owens and Jericho in a handicap match. There’s an obvious struggle to keep things fresh on a week to week basis, particularly with triple the air time.

Bottom line? Sometimes less is more.

Hunter Hearst Helmsly and Jerry “The King Lawler” def. Gloats and “Wildman” Marc Mero via disqualification. Lawler is such a great whiney, cowardly heel. There’s a moment in this match where he’s trying to tag Hunter, but Hunter doesn’t want to get in there with Goldust. So he just whines for his partner to come help. Great stuff.

Honky Tonk Man, WWF Raw, January 13, 2017Honky Tonk Man on commentary: [Hunter] will keep his cool just like OJ Simpson did just today on the witness stand.” Yeesh.

Sycho Sid speaks on location from the Alamo Dome in San Antonio. Sid more or less quotes Nietzsche in this promo. The actual quote is: ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…” Sid goes on to say that both he and Shawn will have to become monsters at the Royal Rumble. It’s a clever concept for a wrestling promo. But wow, Sid and Nietzsche. There’s a tag team for you.

Shawn Michaels cuts a promo from San Antonio. Not much to this one. Shawn essentially rebukes all of Sid’s stuff, and says he’s going to kick Sid’s teeth down his throat. I do like that shot of Shawn with the fans, though. I was surprised he didn’t name drop Bret Hart when talking about facing the winner of the Royal Rumble Match at Wrestlemania. But Vince made sure to connect the two mere seconds later, when Bret came out for commentary. His exact words: “… the man that Shawn Michaels took the WWF Championship from.”

owen-hart-bret-hart-wwf-raw-january-13-1997Rocky Miavia def. The British Bulldog via count-out. Owen Hart came out during this match and stood right in front of Bret, blocking his view of the match. That’s one of the really cool things about this Bret/Owen rivalry. It never really ended. These two had their famous program in late ’93 and most of ’94, and yet here we are in 1997.

They’d done an angle on the previous episode of Superstars where Steve Austin took out Bret’s knee. Continuing on that theme, Austin takes out Bulldog’s knee here. But Owen can’t see it because he’s watching Bret. Bret then goes after Austin. I remember Austin and Bulldog having some kind of bad blood around this time. They kept teasing a Bulldog babyface turn, and a feud against Owen. You can argue that never fully culminated because of what happened after Wrestlemania XIII. Though they did have an awesome match to crown the first ever European Champion, which we’ll cover later.

Hilariously, a few minutes after this match they went back to the footage of Shawn in San Antonio, and Rocky popped up. Vince simply said, “Hey, there’s Rocky!” They tried to cover it up in the next segment, with Honky chiding Vince about seeing Rocky in two places at once. But it’s clearly him.

nation-of-domination-wwf-raw-january-13-1997The Undertaker def. Crush via disqualification. Vader decimates Undertaker before their match at the Royal RumbleThis was back when the Nation of Domination had JC Ice and Wolfie D, a.k.a PG-13, accompany them to the ring. Those two didn’t last long. I missed them when they were gone.

This was also the era where they’d paint a black teardrop on the Undertaker’s face. The teardrop tattoo obviously has murderous implications, and is such a great little detail for the Undertaker character.

Honky Tonk Man on commentary: [Who wins this match] is a tough one for the Honky Tonk Man to call. There’s not a lot of tough things for me. But this is probably the toughest.” Really? This is the toughest thing to call?

Over on Nitro: Diamond Dallas Page famously refuses to join the nWo. Hulk Hogan faces the Giant in a non-title match.

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The Brock Lesnar Blunder, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a company as self conscious about their image as WWE.

You’ve got Brock Lesnar, who in addition to being a WWE star is one of the biggest attractions in MMA history, under contract. You allow him to have one more fight, and it becomes a huge mainstream news story. You find yourself with a huge opportunity to rub shoulders with an organization that has the mainstream attention and legitimacy you so desperately want. So what do you do?

If you’re WWE, you don’t even mention it on television. Not a promo, not a commercial, not a mention from the announcers. Not one word.

Then on top of that, Stephanie McMahon does an interview with Business Insider and says…

“We are not supporting the fight necessarily but…it’s not a competitor to us and the more that our superstars, that’s how we refer to our talent, the more they do outside of WWE, the more awareness it generates and the broader the audience can be that is then brought back into our properties. So we recognize the value of that.”

Stephanie McMahon, WWEDo you? Because you haven’t said a word about it on television. They’ve had weeks to figure something out. They couldn’t have slipped in a mention? Why even let Brock fight if you’re not going to use the extra exposure to your advantage? It’s downright bizarre.

By the way, Brock had the perfect response to Steph’s comment about “not supporting” the fight: “I don’t care what she thinks.”

Ponderings From Raw:

The show begins with a Fourth of July food fight. Honestly, to me the only thing interesting about this was that Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio were standing together when the segment started. Aren’t they still enemies?

Rusev def. Titus O’Neil to retain the United States Title. Did they have to dress Titus O’Neil like Uncle Sam? How hokey can you get…

“Go ahead, celebrate with your hamburgers and little weenies.” Great line. And the right result for this match. The dominant champion wins with his finisher.

Enzo & Cass interrupt the Social Outcasts, defeat Bo Dallos & Curtis Axel. The crowd didn’t react nearly as much as they should have to Enzo reciting all the presidents like that. Bob Backlund must be proud.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, CharlotteCharlotte and Sasha Banks come face to face once again. This was really good. Charlotte came off very natural, and every bit as conceited and self-centered as she needs to be. From a talking standpoint, Banks wasn’t as strong. But she still held her own. And of course, she came out on top in the end. They also didn’t stay out there too long. It took just the right amount of time. Lovely work from both ladies.

WWE Champion Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz. WWE should be careful about how they book Dean Ambrose while he has the title. He needs to look strong, and not like a fluke champion. Clearly, he’s not their first choice to be WWE Champion right now. But champion or not, Ambrose will be one of the top stars on Raw or Smackdown. Having him win the title was a great step toward establishing him not just as a player, but a major player. But they need to keep him strong. Putting him at the top of hour two isn’t the spot I’d have him. In a champion vs. champion match, no less.

Still, at least he won. I’m not a fan of champions getting pinned. But if somebody has to beat the Intercontinental Champion, the WWE Champion is the man to do it.

Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler. Steve Austin said on a podcast recently that one of the things wrong with Raw nowadays is there’s no continuing plot thread that holds the show together. They’re just throwing matches out there. That’s a great point, and one of the factors in the ratings plummeting for that third hour.

Seth Rollins vs. Dolph ZigglerThis match had backstory, at least. The idea was these guys may end up on different shows after the draft. So Ziggler wants to prove himself against Rollins just in case. Fair enough, but it would have been nice to see Dolph make that challenge. And of course he lost, because that’s what he does.

Also, Ziggler’s transformation into ’90s era Shawn Michaels is almost complete. He just needs to grow out his chest hair. Better get on that.

Vickie Guerrero returns, vies for Smackdown Chief Operating Officer job. You’ve got to give Vickie credit. Her mic skills weren’t rusty at all. She was never a great performer in the purist sense of the word. But she got more heat than most of the wrestlers she worked with.

So they’re not calling them general managers anymore. Instead, they’re chief operating officers. Isn’t that Triple H’s on-screen role? So what does he become now?

Golden Truth def. The Vaudevillians. Has anyone ever had that kind of “follow the bouncing ball” entrance before? Golden Truth might have made history tonight…

Hopefully The Vaudevillains will get a jumpstart when the roster splits. They may be getting TV time, but they’ve lost the cruel edge that set them apart. That’s not good news.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, AJ Styles, John CenaJohn Cena calls out The Club. Enzo & Cass come to his defense. A six-man tag is booked for BattlegroundStyles talked about Cena “burying” him again in this promo. At least tonight we got a bit of insight into what he means by that. He talked about the “powers that be” who didn’t want him in the company. The implication seems to be that Cena can get WWE to push Styles out of the title picture. I wish he’d just come out and say that already.

I wish The Club hadn’t done the whole mount and punch routine for so long during the beat down. The fact that Cena didn’t come up a bruised and bloody pulp crushes your suspense of disbelief like a bug.

So Enzo & Cass are aligned with Cena now. I’m not sure what that’ll do to them in the eyes of the Cena haters. But I’m interested to see how they match up with The Club.

Becky Lynch def. Summer Rae. Happy to see Becky and Natalya getting a pay per view match. They both absolutely deserve this time in the limelight. For that matter, so does Summer Rae. She’s been part of a few bad storylines. But she’s a good performer, and can be a solid asset to whatever show she’s on after the draft.

The Wyatt Family, WWE Raw, July 4, 2016The Wyatt Family invites The New Day to their compound. This has turned out to be the feud I never knew I wanted. The whole positivity vs. darkness story really works.

I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get a confrontation at the Wyatt Family compound. It seems like a no-brainer to me, and maybe an opportunity to learn more about who these guys are. This would be a cool selling point for Battleground.

The Big Show and Zack Ryder survive a “Team USA vs. The World” elimination tag match. An utterly skippable main event. Why not put this at the top of the first hour, instead of the damn WWE Champion? On the plus side, WWE seems to have embraced Zack Ryder as their new resident underdog. That’s not a bad spot to be in. I just wish we hadn’t had to sit through this match for his latest feel-good moment.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

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

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John Cena is Back, the WWE Brand Split, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE rosterBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve sat on the revelation of WWE’s new brand split for about a week now, because I wanted to collect my thoughts and talk rationally. I’ll be honest, my initial thoughts on the matter were not rational at all. There were a lot of four-letter words, and a lot of nerd rage. I generally try and talk calmly and rationally about this kind of stuff. But I was really disheartened and angry about this announcement at first.

Not because of Smackdown going live on Tuesdays, which is a great thing.

Not because of wrestlers being specific to both shows.

It’s because of the titles, and the prospect of having two world championships again.

Yeah, I know. Geek much? But the championship picture in WWE has a lot to do with how shows are structured, and what a wrestler’s motivation is. In theory, when a wrestler signs a WWE contract, their number one goal should be to win the WWE Championship. Right now Roman Reigns is, as he says, the guy in WWE. Why? Because he’s the champion. He’s got the prize everybody’s gunning for. If you take that prize and split it in two, it ruins the novelty of there being one man at the top of the mountain. If you go for the title and you lose, in theory you can just go for the other. We just cleaned up this mess when the two world titles were unified in 2013. Are we really going to go back to it?

Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIWhen WWE did their original brand split in 2002, the WWE Champion and the Women’s Champion could appear on both shows. If they put me in charge of all this, I’d put the Intercontinental Title on one show, the United States Title on the other, and have the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions given immunity to the whole thing. That way there’s added privilege to being the top dog of your particular title picture. Meanwhile, you still have the novelty of, say, John Cena only appearing on Smackdown or Roman Reigns only appearing on Raw.

That’s all I’ve got on the brand split for now. We’ve still got a little while before it comes to fruition. Lord knows there’ll be a lot to say between now and then. I just wish I had more faith in WWE creative to pull this off well.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

The New Day ask Shane and Stephanie questions about the brand split. Why do they always feel the need to say “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” at the start of the show? Isn’t that what the opening title sequence is for? To welcome us to the show?

Shane McMahon, The New Day, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016This seems like it was designed to get people excited about the brand split. Frankly, it was more frustrating than anything else. But it echoed the reports of what’s going on creatively. Nothing is in con crete yet. If that is the case, it seems weird. You’d think they’d have this kind of thing mapped out before they actually announced it.

The New Day def. The Vaudevillians via disqualification after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attack. Okay, so we’re probably getting The New Day against Gallows & Anderson at Money in the Bank. I don’t expect them to win the titles yet. . But their personalities contrast nicely with that of the champs.

The Big Show advises Apollo Crews on dealing with Sheamus. This is the first time we’ve seen Show on Raw in several weeks. I’m pleased he’s sticking to a supporting role for the time being. I imagine once the roster split comes around, we’ll be seeing him on a regular basis again. Show and Crews are both pretty natural on the mic. I just wish they weren’t being given such heavily scripted dialogue.

The Usos def. Tyler Breeze & Fandango with Golden Truth on commentary. The heels take a beating after the match. I was a little bummed The Usos took this one. Breeze & Fandango look good as a tag team. If you elevate them a bit, they might be able to challenge The New Day for the tag belts at some point. I don’t know if you give them the belts. But they can at least have a match, right?.

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, Seth RollinsRoman Reigns calls out Seth Rollins. Rollins teases the crowd. I happened to be listening to one of Vince Russo’s podcasts yesterday. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says. But on this show, Glen Gilbertti (formerly Disco Inferno in WCW) was talking about “the eye test,” i.e. having a casual viewer take you seriously as a wrestler based on your look. Make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns passes the eye test with flying colors. The problem is, what he’s saying rarely sounds genuine. That stuff about “The Man” being afraid to face “The Guy” was just cringeworthy. How’s that for an epic confrontation? The Man vs. The Guy.

So the idea here (I think) was for Rollins to continuously tease the audience with either a promo or a fight, and draw heat by never following through. Not a bad idea in theory. But in an era where a big portion of audience has DVR remotes, it’s probably not the best idea. This was basically a big waste of everyone’s time.

Goldberg appears in epic WWE 2K17 commercial. It’s amazing how these video game commercials are often better than anything on Raw. I still remember how awesome those commercials with The Ultimate Warrior and Sting. Why can’t WWE’s vignettes for new wrestlers ever be this cool?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, RusevRusev def. Zack Ryder. Titus O’Neil confronts him after the match. It’s great to see Rusev return to being a dominant United States Champion, and I’m happy they didn’t feed him to John Cena for a Memorial Day American hero story. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see Titus featured like this. And that punch he threw at him looked awesome!

But no one, and I mean no one, would ever say “Bulgarian Blowhard.” Again, a wrestler falls victim to overly scripted dialogue.

In a pre-tape, Stephanie dresses down Charlotte for how she treated Ric Flair. This segment made me mad for all the wrong reasons. Again Stephanie shouts down one of the wrestlers and gets over at the expense of the talent. And after they’d just aired a video package and shown us tweets about how everyone hated what Charlotte did. We got it. Charlotte did a horrible thing. How was this segment necessary? Also, isn’t Stephanie supposed to be a heel?

Enzo & Cass def. The Dudley Boyz. I was rolling my eyes at how much Enzo was brown-nosing the Green Bay crowd. But he won me over as he and Cass went on. This is the difference between over-scripting, and letting a wrestler get over himself. I was surprised they had the Dudleys lose clean. You’d think they’d have saved this for Money in the Bank. Maybe they put them together again in a Tables Match?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, John Cena, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Luke GallowsJohn Cena gets dropped by AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson. This was out of left field. Like a lot of folks, I thought for sure it was going to be Styles going against Gallows & Anderson. But low and behold, here they are together.

While I usually prefer babyface AJ to heel AJ, this isn’t a bad move, per se. We’ll get to see AJ’s personality come out a bit more, and working with John Cena definitely isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. Gallows and Anderson should benefit from this as well. But here’s my question: Can we call them the Bullet Club now? Or at least something other than The Club?

Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte) def. Natalya. Becky Lynch comes out to save Nattie from a beatdown. This duo of Charlotte and Dana Brooke is growing on me. And now it looks like they’ve got a team to face. Rumor has it WWE likes Brooke enough to make her the “female Roman Reigns.” I assume that means they want her to be the face of the women’s division. I say it’s too early to make a call like that. But you never know.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler by disqualification when Ziggler hits a blatant low blow. Corbin didn’t exactly look like a million bucks here. Ziggler simply punted him in the nuts. But Corbin’s a rookie, and Dolph is a veteran. So I guess it’s passable. The bait-and-switch was nice. Ziggler’s use of the headgear was fun.

Cesaro, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016Dean Ambrose, Cesaro & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio. So are there only six men in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year? If so, I’m fine with that. But WWE.com was hyping up another person possibly qualifying. Did they change their mind?

Moments after Del Rio hits an axe handle on Cesaro and then puts him in a rear chin lock, Jericho shouts “Tear his head off!” About a second later, Ambrose calls “C’mon Claudio!” As in Claudio Castagnoli, Cesaro’s real name. What a weird moment…

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big six-man tag fan. But they do this every year with the Money in the Bank participants. I can’t say this did much for me. But something occurred to me during this match. Chris Jericho is 45 years old, and this will be his fifth Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Not that 45 is ancient by any means, but how he still does this at that age is beyond me. That DDP Yoga stuff must truly work wonders.

In Other News:

Former announcer Tony Schiavone reveals he’s training to be a barista at Starbucks. So in addition to his duties as a sports announcer, writer, and producer, Schiavone wants to be a barista so he can fill most of his time working. I think that’s awesome. I don’t know how old Schiavone’s five children are. But if he wants to spend his extra time providing for them, who are any of us to judge him? Even if that’s not the case, what an amazing work ethic this guy has.

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

Ponderings From Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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The Bullet Club Reunites, AJ Styles Pays the Price, and Ponderings From Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Another day, another show without Roman Reigns being a heel. *sigh*

Still, Payback was largely a good show. We now have both Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon as our resident authority figures. That’s fair enough, I suppose. What’s more, the path to Summerslam seems pretty clear. Shane and Stephanie get fed up with each other, so Stephanie brings Triple H in to fight her brother for full control of Raw. That gives them a long time to tell this story, and it gives us a much-needed break from having Triple H on TV.

This is hardly the “new era” they’re playing it up as on TV, but lately Raw has been significantly better. We’ve got new faces, new programs, and the main events even feel more compelling. I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve been seeing on Raw lately, and this week was no exception…

Ponderings From Raw:

Kevin Owens, Cesaro, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016-Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro erupts into chaos as The Miz gets involved. Sami Zayn looks for revenge on Owens. Nice energetic opening match. But the most important element here? The emphasis on the Intercontinental Title. All four of these guys want it, and they’re all capable of having matches worthy of it. My guess is we get a fatal fourway at Extreme Rules.

Tyler Breeze def. Goldust. I’ve lost track of what’s happening in this Goldust/R-Truth story. First Goldust wanted to be Truth’s tag partner, then Truth wanted to be Goldust’s tag partner, now they’re bickering like exes. If any two guys in this segment should be a tag team, it’s Breeze and Fandango. Then they’d consistently have something to do.

The New Day, The Vaudevillains, and The Dudley Boyz share a ring before Colin Cassaday crashes things. An eight-man tag erupts between the babyfaces and the heels. First and foremost, that injury Enzo suffered at Payback was brutal. Every time I see the clip I cringe. It’s no wonder he got a concussion. On the upside, he’ll get a huge pop when he gets back.

Colin Cassaday, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016The Vaudvillains got off some good one-liners in the promo segment. “A real man would have gotten back up,” and then later we had “We made Enzo the realest guy in the emergency room.” I sometimes worry about how long Simon Gotch and Aiden English have before this gimmick degenerates into bad comedy. But they came off very cruel and callous here. That’s a very important ingredient in terms of them being taken seriously as a threat to the titles, and possibly as champions.

Big Cass did well in his first solo outing on the mic (on the main roster, that is). I can see that being really intimidating for someone who hasn’t’ been in front of a national audience that long. But he was playing off something very real, and the crowd was into him. He got a great hot tag too, and even got the pin!

Aside from Cass getting to shine on his own, the best part of this match was when Bubba got in the ring with Xavier Woods, and was actually teaching Gotch and English how to beat somebody up. I’m so anxious to see Bubba and Enzo go back and forth on the mic. They could really make some magic.

Emma vs. Becky Lynch, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016Emma def. Becky Lynch. I wish these two could have had a chance to wrestle at Payback, or at least on the pre-show. This was a really solid match. Not great, but solid. That being said, the thumb to the eye at the end was really weak looking. Emma really needs an acting coach.

Stephanie McMahon is a guest on The Ambrose Asylum, and reinstates Chris Jericho as host of The Highlight Reel. 

Rusev wins a battle royal royal to become the top contender to the US Title. Titus O’Neil returns to action. Kalisto should not have been out there on commentary. He came off nervous. He’d have been fine just sitting out there by the time keeper. No need to have him out there saying white meat babyface stuff.

Titus’ in-ring return was about what I expected it to be. Not really a big deal. They could have made a story out of it, but nope.

Rusev, Lana, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016I had Baron Corbin pegged to win this thing after losing to Dolph Ziggler at Payback. I was really surprised to see Ziggler win. But it was a pleasant surprise. Not every rookie needs to go on this big winning streak when they debut. I mean, logically they are rookies. It makes sense that they’d be bested at times by established main roster guys. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get over. I like the idea that a savvy veteran like Ziggler managed to pull out a win against the powerful rookie.

I’ll give Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, and Zack Ryder credit. In the final moments of that match, they had me believing that Ryder could win. They created some really nice tension. I’m pleased to see Rusev and Lana back together on television. They’re a good combo. So long as this doesn’t turn into a love triangle story with Kalisto, this should be decent at the very least.

Charlotte and Ric Flair interview referee Charles Robinson about the so-called “Chicago Screw Job.” Natalya takes out both father and daughter. Charlotte and Nattie to wrestle in a submission match at Extreme RulesIt’s interesting when and how WWE conveniently pays attention to continuity and logic. Shane McMahon is in control of Raw for weeks after Wrestlemania, and yet WWE remembers Charles Robinson’s “Little Naitch” stuff from WCW. By the way, was that Madusa in that clip from Slamboree 1999? I’d forgotten just how chiseled she was.

Natalya, Ric Flair, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016It was disappointing to see WWE once again rehash the Montreal Screwjob at Payback. But it’s worth it to have Natalya getting the spotlight like this. She and Charlotte should have a good match at Extreme Rules, though I still don’t see her taking the title.

AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows def. Roman Reigns & The Usos. Early in the show, JBL said something to the effect of “the club is back together!” It feels like everybody wants so badly to say “Bullet Club,” but they just won’t let them.

I expect Anderson and Gallows to turn on Styles at Extreme Rules. It looks like they wanted to further establish the friendship between the three before pulling the trigger. Styles came off looking like a great babyface when he refused to use the chair on Roman Reigns. As for the possibility of Reigns turning heel and siding with Anderson & Gallows, I’ve given up. It’s just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

By the way, how about AJ Styles being booked on Sports Center tomorrow? Who’d have thought we’d see the day?

Eric Young, NXT, 2016In Other News:

Eric Young debuts with NXT. I was surprised to see Young wrestling for NXT before Bobby Roode. But either way, it’s nice to see him get the opportunity. I’m not sure where exactly he fits in on the NXT roster, but Iwe’ll find out sooner than later.

I spotted a funny t-shirt from Heelbook.com the other day, which said: “NXTNA: Developmental Career Rehabilitation Center.” Ouch…

Images courtesy of WWE.

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