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A WWE Crown Jewel Preview – A Saudi Curse?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Why did they use this name again? Crown Jewel, that is. There was so much bad press over last year’s Crown Jewel event, what with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that they still can’t even say “Saudi Arabia” on television. They have to dance around it to avoid reminding people that’s where this show is being held, even though everyone knows anyway.

Sadly, these Saudi shows have become synonymous with embarrassing matches. Whether you’re talking about Undertaker vs. Goldberg earlier this year, or the Brothers of Destruction against DX last year, we’re not exactly looking at a great track record. Hopefully this one won’t give us anything along those lines. But from where I’m sitting, the card looks pretty weak.

By and large, wrestling fans either don’t like or don’t care about athletes from other sports getting in the ring. So you’ve got to make them care. They haven’t done that with either Cain Velasquez or Tyson Fury. Which is a damn shame, especially in Velasquez’s case.

More on that later, though. For now, let’s dive in…

Cesaro vs. Mansoor
Don’t remember who Mansoor is? Don’t worry. After this match, you probably won’t see much of him until the next Saudi show.

You’ll recall that at Super Show-Down earlier this year, Mansoor won a 51-man battle royal. He’s been mostly absent from WWE television ever since. But because he’s from Saudi Arabia, they plucked him out of the toy box to get a few home-country hero pops. Cesaro, of course, is here to make sure the match doesn’t suck. Of course, Mansoor gets the feel-good win for the Saudi crowd.

PREDICTION: Mansoor

20-Man Battle Royal:
Winner wrestles AJ Styles for the US Title later in the night.

It’s tough to call this one, as I don’t think a single name has been announced for this thing. I would hope they’d all be names from the Raw roster that are otherwise unoccupied. Given what we’ve seen on Raw recently, Kevin Owens comes to mind right away. But if I’m not mistaken, he’s historically opted out of these Saudi shows. So who else do we have…?

Buddy Murphy would be a cool name to throw in there. Newer faces to Raw, like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander, have benefited a lot from sharing the ring with him. They made a point of putting him over on Monday. I’m not quite sure if he’s supposed to be a heel or a babyface. But what the hell? Let’s throw him a bone. Give him the battle royal, with Styles retaining later in the evening. Murphy won’t win the title, but the exhaustion factor will mean the loss doesn’t really hurt him.

BATTLE ROYAL PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy
TITLE MATCH PREDICTION:
 AJ Styles

TAG TEAM TURMOIL MATCH:
The Viking Raiders vs. The Revival vs. The New Day vs. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler vs. The OC vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder vs. Heavy Machinery vs. the Lucha House Party vs. The B-Team

Hmmmm. You know what they could do here? Put the Authors of Pain in here as surprise entrants, and have them demolish whatever teams are left at that point. You’ve got to believe a Viking Raiders vs. AOP program is in our future.

Expect the New Day to play a big role in the story here. With Xavier Woods now out with an injury, along with Kofi Kingston’s humiliating loss to Brock Lesnar, they’re really down on their luck. So there’ll be that much more pressure on them to win this thing. I expect them to lose in a heel team in a heartbreaker.

As for who wins…I’m going to say the Viking Raiders. The whole “World Cup” aspect of this thing seems better suited for a heel team. But I can’t see them giving it to the Revival, the OC, or Roode and Ziggler. So let the Raw tag champs bring it home. For whatever it’s worth.

PREDICTION: The Viking Raiders

TEAM HOGAN vs. TEAM FLAIR:
Roman Reigns, Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G, & Ali vs. Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, & Bobby Lashley

My goodness. What an…assortment of names we have here.

Ultimately, this match is just a meaningless attraction. An excuse to put Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair on the show in non-wrestling roles.

Has Flair ever beaten Hogan? Not just in the ring. But anywhere. At anything. I don’t think so. Why change that now? Give it to the babyfaces.

PREDICTION: Team Hogan

FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Obviously, the putrid finish to their Hell in a Cell match left a stink on both these guys. So they’re probably hoping to wash some of that off here. I’ll admit, out of everything on this card, this match has the best chance to steal the show.

This whole program was ill-conceived from the start. They just wanted an excuse to use Bray’s spooky gimmick on an October pay per view. So they rushed him into a title match, in the Cell no less, and have been paying for it ever since.

If they were going to put the Fiend character in this situation, given his momentum and popularity, you’d think they’ have him win the title. The best comparison I can think of right now is Brock Lesnar facing the Rock for the WWE Championship in 2002. That was a career defining night for Brock. But imagine if they’d not only had Brock lose, but lose in two consecutive pay per view title matches.

I can only assume that’s the fate that awaits Bray Wyatt here. Because it’s Falls Count Anywhere, they can obviously mess with the finish, i.e. have Rollins trap him under a forklift, or some pallets or something. Regardless, Rollins is leaving Saudi Arabia with that title, if for no other reason than Bray is a Smackdown guy now. And just like at Hell in a Cell, that’s not going to do Rollins any favors in terms of popularity. This guy is supposed to be Raw’s top babyface. But he keeps getting shot in the foot, whether it’s bad booking or bad tweets.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

Who the hell is Tyson Fury?

Okay, he’s a boxer. I get it. But why should I care? Tyson Fury in 2019 is not Mike Tyson in 1998, that’s for damn sure.

Either way, they didn’t bring him in to lose. So he’s either going to beat Strowman, or they’ll do some kind of no-contest finish. Someone could cost Strowman the match, but I’m not sure who that would be…

Either way, the smart bet is they give the win to their “celebrity” guest, as they always do.

PREDICTION: Tyson Fury

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Velasquez

This could have been, and perhaps still will be, a Wrestlemania match.

There’s a great long-term story they could tell with these two. I don’t know much about Cain Velasquez. But unlike Tyson Fury, I at least know why I should care. Not only is this the guy Brock lost the UFC Championship to, but Velasquez legitimately put a scar on Lesnar’s face. Now he’s come to WWE to derail Brock again.

As I understand it, Velasquez has only had a match or two, wrestling for AAA in Mexico. He apparently impressed people. But he has yet to impress the WWE audience. His working punches alone have caused concern about how this match is going to turn out.

Despite having reportedly signed a multi-year deal with WWE, I would be shocked if they put the title on Velasquez so quickly. I don’t think you want either of these two gaining a decisive victory over the other at this point. I don’t think this needs to be anything more than a preview for a future, higher profile match. Sadly, that likely means this will end in a DQ or a no contest. This won’t be a great show in terms of definitive finishes.

Regardless, Brock will leave Saudi Arabia with the title. So for the sake of making a prediction, I’ll say Lesnar retains.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

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

WWE Extreme Rules Predictions – Peeking Back in

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Drew Gulak

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

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

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

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

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

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

PREDICTION: The Revival

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan and Rowan

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

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

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

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

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

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

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.