Top 10 Raw Moments of 2018: Stone Cold, John Cena, Becky Lynch, and more!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Raw sucks. Not just from the fans, either. Last week, the McMahons themselves had to come out and, in so many words, admit their creative failures of late. For all this talk about “shaking up” the show, it seems like very little is actually going to change. Which is a damn shame, as the show desperately needs a revamp. Like, this sucker needs major renovations from the top down.

But as we’re taking time to look back on 2018, it’s only fair that we pay tribute to the things Raw got right. One of their buzzwords is “Raw moments,” i.e. moments or matches on the show that fans continue to look back on with fondness, awe, sadness, or whatever emotion it happened to evoke. Stone Cold and the beer truck, Eric Bischoff’s debut, that game-changing CM Punk promo, etc. The moments that made us love Raw in the first place, and are the reason we stick with it, despite all the frustrations and disappointments.

And so, with the disclaimer that these are all based on my personal opinion and viewing experiences, these are my top 10 Raw moments of 2018, in chronological order.

A few honorable mentions..
– January 29: Asuka vs. Sasha Banks.
– July 30: Brock Lesnar puts his hands on Paul Heyman.
– August 6: Ronda Rousey’s first match on Raw.

1. January 22: Austin’s got McMahon!
Raw 25 kicked off old school. Shane and Stephanie McMahon came to the ring to present a plaque to their father. What followed was classic Vince, as he proceeded to heel on the Brooklyn crowd, and then take all the credit for Raw‘s success. The crowd even broke out in an “Asshole!” chant, just like old times.

Then the glass shattered, and the crowd erupted as Stone Cold Steve Austin emerged. In a skit that included Vince throwing Shane to the wolves, Stone Cold Stunners to both McMahon men, and the throwing back of a few Steveweisers, suddenly Raw was great again. Just listen to that crowd. While I wish Austin would have gotten on the mic, in the end this segment was exactly what it needed to be: A quick nostalgia trip. It was also a reminder that even in his 70s, Vince can still deliver gold on the mic.

2. February 19: Seth Rollins steals the show in a Gauntlet Match.
This match featured all seven of the men who’d be involved in the Elimination Chamber Match to decide Brock Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent. We had John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, and Elias. Strowman would be the eventual winner. But the man everyone was talking about after this match was Seth Rollins.

Entering at the number two spot, Rollins wrestled for over an hour and five minutes, pinning both Roman Reigns and John Cena in the process. That’s a stellar accomplishment in and of itself, on par with Chris Jericho pinning Steve Austin and The Rock in one night back in 2001. By this point, Rollins had noticeably cooled off as a babyface. But this match was the catalyst for his reemergence as a contender for the top spot on Raw, if not the entire company.

Rollins didn’t get his shot at Lesnar in 2018, but this year might be a different story…

3. February 26: “Ladies and gentlemen, Braun Strowman!”
WWE loves to try their hand at comedy. Emphasis on the word “try.” While certain performers have natural comedic timing and abilities, most of WWE’s attempts at humor feel lame, forced and awkward.

But once in awhile, you get one out of left field that inexplicably works. The Vince McMahon “Are you ready for some wrestling?” skit, that first Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skit, and now this. Braun Strowman coming out and strumming a bass on stage to make fun of Elias. And to make matters worse/better, mere seconds in, the instrument breaks. So Braun has to go on without it. For what it’s worth, the big guy’s voice isn’t so bad.

To cap it all off, the ensuing beatdown ended with Strowman lifting the bass up by the neck, and smashing it over Elias’ back. For yours truly, this segment embodied almost everything there is to love about Braun Strowman. It gave us his charisma, along with the brute strength and violence that he allows us to live vicariously through. This is the guy who could have headlined Wrestlemania.

4. March 19: The Ultimate Deletion.
This was the moment we’d been waiting for since the Hardys returned to WWE. A lawsuit with Anthem, the parent company of Impact Wrestling, had prevented Matt Hardy from using his “Broken” persona for most of 2017. But late in the year, we were introduced to “Woken” Matt Hardy, i.e. Broken Matt with one letter swapped out. He feuded with Bray Wyatt, culminating in this match, the “Ultimate Deletion.”

Akin to the other “Deletion” matches we saw on Impact, the match had a more cinematic, campy presentation. Most of the trademarks of the Broken universe were there. It took place at the Hardy compound. Matt’s wife and son made appearances, as did his real-life father-in-law, “Senor Benjamin.” Jeff Hardy also made a cameo. Hardy would win by sending Wyatt into the “lake of reincarnation.” Wyatt would not emerge again until the Wrestlemania pre-show, where he helped Hardy win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

The Ultimate Deletion belongs on this list because, like the Broken/Woken universe itself, it dared to be different. It was also great validation for Matt. Not just because of the Anthem lawsuit, but because WWE once tried to do their own version of this match. You’ll recall the time the New Day visited the “Wyatt Family compound.” The results looked a lot like what the Hardys were doing on Impact at the time. We haven’t seen a match like this on Raw since, and we may never see one again. But it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

5. John Cena’s scathing promos on the Undertaker.
Undertaker no-showing the build-up to Wrestlemania 34 was extremely frustrating at the time. But in hindsight, it was the right way to go. Cena’s desperate, angry attempts to bring the Dead Man back made for great drama. The highlights of which included…

– “…stop hiding behind your lame excuses. You are not too old. You are not washed up. You are not broken down, ’cause if you was broken down, you wouldn’t be posting workout videos on your wife’s Instagram.”
– “You are not the god that [the fans] made you. You are the man you’ve allowed yourself to become. And that man, Undertaker, is a coward. The Undertaker is a coward.”
– “Hey Undertaker. It’s obvious that you left your hat in the ring. But it’s clear to everybody here that you left your balls at home.”

Then the match went two minutes, with Undertaker going over. I interpreted that as being because, in storyline, Undertaker surprised Cena. That’s why I think these two have unfinished business, and should go another round at Wrestlemania this year.

6. April 9: Paige announces her retirement.
Calling this one of Raw’s best moments feels a little weird. Obviously, if I had my way Paige would still be wrestling. But I have to tip my hat to the pure honesty, emotion, and bravery exhibited by Paige here.

Many of us were expecting this. The previous November, Paige had returned after a lengthy absence that included neck surgery. But just over a month after her return, Paige suffered another neck injury, forcing her to stay out of the ring. So the word “retirement” was being thrown around by fans online.

Still, it’s never easy to hear confirmation like this. Paige spoke very eloquently, and the crowd showered her with “Thank you Paige!” chants. But while retired, Paige wasn’t gone long at all. She showed up the very next night as the new general manager of Smackdown.

7. April 30: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Seth Rollins was Raw‘s resident artist this year. If you look at the best matches in this show in 2018, he’s the one constant in most of them. He turned in epic performances with Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, among others.

But in many ways, this was the best TV match Rollins turned in all year. It earned 4.25 stars from Dave Meltzer, was for the Intercontinental Title, and the two men had a loaded history together. They were, of course, wrestling to become the first Universal Champion when Rollins injured Balor, forcing him to give up his newly won title.

Champion and challenger gave us a combination endurance/chess match. It was a collection of counters, dodges, kicks, and kick-outs from big moves in a prolonged game of “Can you top this?” Rollins would ultimately pin Balor using the Curb Stomp. Both these men can easily slip back into the Universal Title picture in 2019, and this match is one of the many pieces of evidence we have.

8. October 22: Roman Reigns announces he has leukemia, Dean Ambrose turns on Seth Rollins.
We got two shockers on this show. One was a storyline. The other was very, very real.

I had no idea Roman Reigns had ever battled leukemia, or any kind of cancer. So when he walked out at the top of the show and announced he was relinquishing the Universal Title because his leukemia had returned, I was floored. I think we all were. To their credit, the fans in Providence, many of whom had been booing Reigns when he came out, immediately switched gears. On his way out, Roman got the support that some would say he’s deserved all along.

Naturally, emotions were running high when Roman’s Shield brothers, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, challenged for the Raw Tag Team Titles in the main event that night. Which made what happened next all the more explosive…

After winning the titles, Dean Ambrose made his long-awaited heel turn, nailing Rollins with the DDT. The fans watched in stunned silence as he continued to destroy his partner. Ambrose had unraveled, and the Shield was no more.

9. November 5: Drew McIntyre destroys Kurt Angle.
This was Angle’s first match on Raw in over a decade. To his credit, it was memorable. Just not for the reason we thought it would be.

In a battle to decide whether Angle would captain the Raw Men’s team at Survivor Series, the Olympic Gold Medalist and WWE Hall of Famer put up a fight, even catching McIntyre with the Angle Slam. But in the end, McIntyre was simply too much. The “Scottish Psychopath” would hit an Angle Slam of his own, and later end the match by tapping Angle out with his trademark Ankle Lock. The match will no doubt go down as one of the definitive performances of McIntyre’s current WWE run.

What makes this a little bit more special is that supposedly this was Kurt Angle’s idea, at least partially. The two had worked together in Impact, and Angle wanted to put McIntyre over for the WWE audience. It’d call the attempt successful, wouldn’t you?

10. November 12: Becky Lynch invades.
Yes, technically it was the entire Smackdown women’s roster that invaded. But the part everyone remembers is Becky, blood on her face, standing victorious in the crowd.

This is an angle that’s been done time and time again. Wrestlers from Smackdown invading Raw, or Raw invading Smackdown, or whatever it is. But a wild punch changed everything.

It started out strong, with the camera rushing into the locker room to find Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey in Becky Lynch’s Disarm-Her. Lynch would then go to the ring to confront the Raw Women’s Survivor Series team. Lynch’s Smackdown cohorts would then ambush from the crowd. In the ensuing battle, Nia Jax would punch Becky in the face, breaking her nose and concussing her. WWE would later simply call it a “broken face.”

But the then-Smackdown Women’s Champion would find victory even in injury. The ensuing footage of Becky fighting with blood on her face only rallied fans to her cause. She had to bow out of a match against Rousey at Survivor Series. But this angle may very well have opened the door for her to be one of the first women to headline Wrestlemania. So all in all, I’d say things worked out for her…

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Money in the Bank Takes Shape, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There was a little bit of buzz Monday night about WWE changing a match graphic midway through Raw. I’m amazed people notice this stuff, honestly.

In advertising the Matt Hardy/Sheamus match, WWE initially showed the above image. Later in the show it was changed to show us a more even tempered Matt. Rumor has it this was done to avoid drama over the “Broken” intellectual property, which is owned by Anthem Sports and Impact Wrestling. That’s obviously much to the chagrin of wrestling fans who want to see Broken Matt and Brother Nero in WWE. ProWrestlingSheet.com has the full story, for those interested.

I don’t know that I agree with what Anthem has done here. As an artistic type, I’m usually inclined to favor creator ownership, and the Broken stuff always seemed like it was coming straight from Matt and Jeff. But I can appreciate the situation Anthem finds themselves in. The Broken characters generated interest the likes of which they haven’t seen in years, and certainly haven’t seen since. They want that stuff associated with the Impact brand. It’s good business.

But what’s not good business? Damaging your rep with wrestling fans even further. Now as much as ever, people love the Hardys. Fans are going to be on their side, especially when it comes to these Broken characters. In keeping that IP locked up, Anthem is denying us one of the hottest acts in all of wrestling. That has already created a backlash resulting in a lot of bad press. And if there’s one thing Impact doesn’t need more of, it’s bad press.

So yes, Anthem’s retention of the Broken Hardys IP is good business…for now. But how much money are they shooing away in the long run by leaving a bad taste in the mouths of potential viewers? I shudder to think.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Shane McMahon announces the participants for the 2017 Money in the Bank Ladder Match: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kevin Owens. Pretty good line up. Nakamura and Styles in the same Ladder Match? That may be worth the price of admission alone.

I got curious when Ziggler came out, so I looked it up: This will be his seventh Money in the Bank Ladder Match. One more and he’ll have appeared in more of these than anyone else. Of course, they put him in these things because they know how good he is at them. Can’t be easy on his body, though.

Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch def. Natalya and Carmella. And so the Charlotte babyface turn continues. I was waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Later on, they made a Fatal Five-Way for next week to decide the top contender for the Women’s Title. What is their obsession with Fatal Five-Way Matches lately? It’s like a shiny new toy they just can’t put down. Rumor has it Carmella is in line to hold the belt next, so there’s a decent chance she’ll walk away with it.

Sami Zayn def. Baron Corbin with a quick roll-up. Corbin destroys Zayn after the match. Damn. Corbin can’t seem to buy a win these days. That’s…okay, the more I think about it. Not everybody should be an unstoppable giant. It’s also pretty obvious that Corbin lacks the experience that guys like Zayn and Orton do. Plus, win or lose, he beat the hell out of Zayn in the end.

Jinder Mahal holds a Punjabi celebration after winning the WWE Title at Backlash. Randy Orton to invoke his rematch clause at Money in the BankSurprised as hell that Orton didn’t come out and trash this thing. That’s usually what the babyface does. I’m assuming they wanted to hammer home this Jinder Mahal thing that much harder.

From a character perspective, Randy Orton should be embarrassed and mad as hell. The guy that comes back from this shouldn’t be the calm and reserved dude. We need to see Randy our for revenge. Hell, maybe he’ll burn Jinder’s house down too

Tyler Breeze def. Jey Uso with a distraction roll-up in a quick match. Fandango then does the same to Jimmy Uso. Factoring in the Corbin/Zayn match, that’s three roll-up finishes in the same broadcast. I get that they were going for comedy, and I like Breezango more and more as the weeks go by. But that’s too much.

The Usos def. Breezango to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. At least it didn’t end with a roll-up. I imagine they’re gearing the Usos up to face the New Day soon. But WWE would do well to keep Breezango on television. They’ve become a really fun act.

Side note: Where is American Alpha? Are they just giving them a little break?

AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler. Both the announcers and the fans made a big deal out of Styles and Nakamura teaming together for the first time. Rightfully so, given their history in New Japan.

I enjoyed seeing Styles work with Ziggler here. Typically when they’re building to a multi-man match like this, they have everybody wrestle each other in singles matches during the build-up. So we could see our first Styles/Ziggler match as early as next week.

They kept calling Nakamura a rock star, as if that’s his new nickname. Meh. There’s worse things to be called, I suppose.

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Bray Wyatt’s House of Horrors, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Aw c’mon. You guys can do better than that.

That was the one thing that went through my mind as I watched WWE’s first ever House of Horrors Match at Payback. As many expected, it was literally inside a house. They put a bunch of horror-type gimmicks inside, played with the lighting, and gave us some spooky music and sound effects. Later, they ended up back in the ring, a la the Boiler Room Brawl that Undertaker and Mankind had all those years ago.

This was fine. Worthy of a second one, if they decide to go that route. But they could have done so much more. The most twisted thing they did in this match was hanging a bunch of deformed baby dolls from the ceiling. Considering the presentation was so cinematic, it feels like they wasted an opportunity by playing it fairly safe.

For instance, WWE.com has played up the fact that this month marks Orton’s 15-year anniversary with the company. Why not have a little fun with that? Have Bray put some old photos of Orton on the wall and deface them to his liking. You can even play with old footage. If the story was that Bray has prepared this house to fight Orton in, they could have made this House of Horrors Match every bit as psychological as it is physical.

One person who should be very happy about how this match was presented? Matt Hardy. The House of Horrors Match was clearly influenced by the “Final Deletion,” “Delete or Decay,” and a lot of the Broken stuff they did in Impact Wrestling. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, I suppose. And this isn’t the first time WWE has used Bray Wyatt to imitate what Matt and Jeff Hardy did in Impact. Broken Matt’s arrival in WWE seems inevitable at this point. So a match like this between Matt and Bray would undoubtedly make for interesting television.

They also went with the right finish, which saw Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers (formerly the Bollywood Boyz) come in and cost Orton the match. Hey Jinder? Next time be a little more convincing with that belt shot to the back of the head. Looked more like a shot to the shoulder…

Ponderings From Raw

Alexa Bliss holds a coronation ceremony for herself. In a subsequent match, Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma, and Alicia Fox defeat Bayley, Sasha Banks Mickie James, and Dana Brooke. “The Queen is dead.” That was an interesting little line, obviously directed at Charlotte Flair. Last night at Payback, Alexa Bliss became the first woman to have held both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles. That’s a distinction that many, myself included, thought Charlotte Flair would achieve first. For all intents and purposes, she’s been the face of the so-called women’s revolution. So it’s nice to see someone else get a landmark win.

The match didn’t do much for me. But I did love Bayley’s facial expressions during the coronation segment. Don’t be fooled, folks. The long term story here is still about Bayley and Sasha.

Luke Gallows def. Enzo Amore. We were at about the 40 minute mark here, and it became obvious that this show was missing something. Normally by this point we’ve seen Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, or somebody involved in the top storyline on the show. This week, that would have been either Reigns or Braun Strowman. As we hadn’t seen them yet, things felt oddly cold.

In all fairness, Enzo and Gallows had a decent match. Has Gallows lost some weight?

Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vie for a Universal Title shot. Dean Ambrose says the Intercontinental Title is now the hottest title on Raw. Rollins vs. Balor vs. the Miz made to decide top contender for the IC Title. Rollins was really lame at the top of this segment. Trying to rile up the crowd, and then all that stuff about sticking it out when times are tough. He came off like a white meat babyface. Balor was a little bit better. He seems to have improved on the mic a little bit since he’s been gone.

I have no problem with the Intercontinental Title being elevated. I just wish they’d had Ambrose and Miz sell us on it a little more. Maybe have Ambrose stick it to Brock a little more. Drive home the point that he’s the top guy on Raw, because he’s the Intercontinental Champion. He defends it all the time, Brock rarely shows up, etc. We got that here, but it wasn’t emphasized enough.

Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann, and Akira Tozawa def. Brian Kendrick, Tony Nese, and Noam Dar. Cold match. Came off just like any other six-man you’d see on Raw. Tozawa could be something, but he’s stuck in purgatory on 205 Live.

Cesaro and Sheamus address the fans after ambushing the Hardys at PaybackI didn’t expect a heel turn for these two. But in retrospect it seems rather obvious. I expected them to up the aggression, but still stay in babyface territory. I actually found their little bromance endearing.

But it’s something new for them to do. They were always going to be the number two babyface team now that the Hardys are back. Maybe number three, factoring in Enzo and Cass. So now they have a chance to be the top heel team. It’s not like it’s tough to dislike Sheamus.

Apollo Crews def. Heath Slater. The fans were chanting “He’s got kids!” for Slater at one point. I’m not sure where the ceiling is for him, but it’s higher than where he’s at now.

Kurt Angle announces Braun Strowman has a torn rotator cuff. Bray Wyatt introduces himself to the Raw General Manager. I panicked when Angle said the line about Strowman’s torn rotator cuff. Him going down now would be every bit as bad as when Finn Balor got hurt at Summerslam. But it’s reportedly just part of the storyline. Thank god.

Austin Aries def. TJP. Apparently TJ Perkins is just TJP now. Um…why?

The crowd was dying off at this point. Granted, it doesn’t help that some nights it feels like the Cruiserweight Division is dying off. This was definitely one such night.

Almost everything felt a little bit too long on this show. Almost as if they re-wrote or cut something, and had to compensate for it.

The Miz def. Seth Rollins and Finn Balor to become top contender for the Intercontinental Title. Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe interfere. Good match. Loved Miz bowing out and after the bell and trying to avoid a beating. Great heel move. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him get the IC belt again.

I held out a little bit of hope that Balor was going to do something with Gallows and Anderson. Obviously he is indeed going with Bray. No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot of talk about demons in the coming weeks.

I’m actually starting to worry about Balor during his matches. He and Rollins had that scary cross body block landing. The last thing this guy needs is another bad head shot. The people are into him. But he obviously needs to stay healthy to maintain his momentum.

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Undertaker’s Last Ride, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We all thought this might be it. That didn’t make it any less emotional, though.

On Sunday at Wrestlemania XXXIII, the Undertaker apparently had his last match. After losing to Roman Reigns, the Dead Man left his trademark hat, coat, and gloves in the ring, symbolizing the end had finally come. Then, like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels at previous Wrestlemania events, he took that long walk up the aisle.

I became a wrestling fan in 1996. The Monday Night Wars were still in full effect, and at the time the Undertaker was building to a Buried Alive Match with Mankind. On Raw, we’d see video packages of him standing in a graveyard, talking about what was coming. It wasn’t unlike the packages that aired last week, as he dug a grave for Roman Reigns.

I was 11 at the time. I’m 32 now. I have a wife, a career, and plans to have a kid of my own. As someone who’s learned the value of a day’s work, and how far a dollar goes in this world, I have so much respect for all this extraordinary person has given us for so many years. All the sacrifices he’s made, all the pain he’s endured, and all the moments he’s given us. He’s been with us for so long. It’s going to be incredibly odd not having him here anymore. But if anyone’s earned the right to go out on his own terms, it’s Mark Calaway. He was a class act at Wrestlemania XXXIII, putting over the company’s top guy (for better or worse) on his way out.

In an industry where so many performers want to transcend and connect with the “mainstream,” the Undertaker was one of wrestling’s most recognizable figures for over two decades.

Cast in point, when I was in seventh grade, the Attitude Era was in full swing. Somebody in one of my classes had just gone to a WWF show, and my teacher happened to be talking to him about it. She seemed half-interested. He mentioned Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. Mankind, and a few others. No reaction.

Then he said the name, “Undertaker.”

“Oh, I know him!”

Even if you weren’t a wrestling fan, you knew the Undertaker. If you were, you knew just how important and how special he was.

And he still is.

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns: “This is my yard now.” Probably the most impactful five-word promo you’ll ever see. Just minute after minute of boos and more boos. It doesn’t have to be this way. But whether it’s John Cena or Roman Reigns, apparently this is just what it means to be the top guy in WWE these days.

I’m going to sprinkle in a few Wrestlemania thoughts between my usual Raw and Smackdown reviews. Truth be told, I haven’t seen the entire show yet. I refused to let the sheer length of the show piss my off like it did last year. And I had a prior commitment on Sunday anyway. One thing I did make sure to see, however, was the tag team Ladder Match…

The Hardy Boyz def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. As some speculated, the Hardys did indeed return to a massive pop. Are they the first team to hold tag team gold in Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and WWE in the same calendar year?

It looks like Matt and Jeff are more or less back in their old WWE characters, with Matt throwing in bits and pieces of the Broken stuff from Impact. Until the law suit with Anthem Sports is settled, I imagine that’ll be the extent of it.

Speaking of Anthem, “F*ck that owl” wins chant of the night.

Neville def. Mustafa Ali. The beach ball was back this year. It pretty much had to be after the company put it over on that WWE 24 special last week. That’s almost a shame. These guys were pretty good about that. The Spanish Fly off the top was amazing. If only more wrestlers were as over as that damn beach ball…

Vince McMahon names Kurt Angle the new General Manager of RawMany of us have seen this coming for months now. That doesn’t make it any less cool, though. And based on the backstage stuff we saw with Enzo, Cass, and Sami Zayn, we’ll be seeing stuff reminiscent of early 2000s Kurt Angle. That could be a real breath of nostalgic fresh air. Especially considering Stephanie isn’t there to lord over him.

The Revival make their main roster debut, defeating the New Day. Considering how these post-Raw crowds can be, I’m surprised they didn’t get a “Big E’s dick” chant when he talked about the blood flowing from his head down to his…

Wasn’t expecting to see the Revival on Raw. They always struck me as a Smackdown team. But considering we’ve got this “shake-up” coming next week, the respective vibes for the shows may end up shifting. Still, here’s hoping these guys are as successful on the main roster as they were in NXT.

Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Dana Brooke def. Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, and Emma. Nia and Charlotte turn on each other after the match. Not expecting a lot of emphasis on Emma going forward. It’s not like they’ve made her a priority for the last several months. Why would things change now?

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman address the crowd. Braun Strowman confronts him. They went ahead and planted the seed for Reigns vs. Lesnar in this segment, as the battle of the two men who beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. “The two in 23-2.” Loved the line: “If Roman Reigns is the big dog, then Brock Lesnar is animal cruelty.”

Rumor has it they want to do Reigns and Lesnar again at Wrestlemania next year. From a story perspective, I can’t say that thrills me. But those two had a damn good match a few years ago. Perhaps this could be another situation where the match surpasses the hype.

Sheamus and Cesaro def. Enzo and Cass to become top contenders for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The Hardys essentially came in and stole Cass and Enzo’s big moment at Wrestlemania. But Matt and Jeff may have done them a favor. Now they can challenge for the belts in their home state at Summerslam.

Finn Balor returns to Raw, teams with Seth Rollins to defeat US Champion Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. Tremendous way to close the show, with Balor finally returning. Plus, as the announcers pointed out, these four all have a bit of a shared history. For my money, Balor could be the man in WWE if given the right opportunities. He caught a really awful break last year. If he can say healthy, there could be truly amazing things in his future.

On the subject of staying healthy, I couldn’t believe Rollins did that somersault to the outside. His knee must be in better shape than they’re letting on. At least I’d hope that’s the case…

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Broken Matt Hardy in WWE? Plus Ponderings From Smackdown

Broken Matt Hardy, Jeff HardyBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As he revealed on his Twitter this week, Matt Hardy is gone from TNA. Reports say Jeff is on his way out as well.

Long story short, their contracts were set to expire and TNA reportedly bungled negotiations. We’ve heard similar stories in the past about the company’s dealings with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, among others. Mind you, Matt announced his departure just one day after TNA Grand Champion Drew Galloway also announced his. Ouch.

Matt’s departure is undoubtedly a huge blow for TNA. The whole Broken Matt/Brother Nero thing was the only thing in that company with any life to it. But from a fan perspective, it conceivably opens a huge door: Broken Matt Hardy’s arrival in WWE.

There’s been talk of Matt doing this bizarre character in WWE almost since he started it. Could it ever happen? Would WWE have any interest in it? If so, how much creative control would he have? Would he be forced to recite the awful dialogue we hear so often on Raw and Smackdown?

Broken Matt Hardy, TNAWWE is in an interesting spot with the Hardys. Obviously, they’d be fools not to at least explore the possibility of bringing Matt and Jeff back. They were immensely popular, and could headline a Hall of Fame class someday. But if they simply try to bring them back in their old characters, a giant portion of the audience will inevitably clamor for Broken Matt and Brother Nero. I can practically hear the “Delete!” chants now.

While they’ve obviously toned down their attempts to “re-brand” talent from other promotions, all this Broken Matt stuff originated on TNA television. I can see Vince McMahon rejecting it simply because it’s not a WWE creation. It’s the same reason we’ve never gotten a War Games Match on WWE TV. And that’s to say nothing of the outright silliness of the whole thing. Imagine the 70-year-old McMahon’s reaction to things like Senior Benjamin, Vanguard 1, and King Maxel.

I think what this all really comes down to is Matt’s priorities. Jim Ross has talked about the two Cs, cash and creative, being the primary reasons a talent departs a promotion. Matt has a young son, and another child on the way. One more WWE run could put his kids through college someday, and get him back in the loop with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. But money isn’t everything. Matt has a good thing going with this character. It doesn’t necessitate him jumping off ladders every month. He can do it for another year, he can do it for another 10 years. If he’s found something that makes he and his family happy, I say stick with it.

wwe-smackdown-february-28-2017-john-cena-the-mizPonderings From Smackdown:

John Cena and the Miz get personal on Miz TV. Nikki Bella comes to Cena’s aid, the two share a kiss in the ring for the first time. They tried to do way too much with Miz here. He seemed to be stumbling trying to cover all the bases. From a story perspective, this renewed animosity between Cena and Miz seemed to come about spontaneously in the Battle Royal last week. But in this promo they tried to justify a deep-seated hatred of Cena by the Miz. They threw so much out there about Cena’s wrestling skills, his alleged politicking, and his latest attempts to balance WWE and Hollywood. But they don’t need all of that. They just needed to pick one motivation for Miz and stick with it. What we got here was all over the place.

Cena’s stuff about the Undertaker was really interesting. I highly doubt that was ad-libbed. But I’d like to think it was…

Inevitably, the John Cena/Nikki Bella relationship has come to Smackdown. In a way, this reminds me of when Randy Orton hit Stephanie McMahon with the DDT on Raw several years ago, and an enraged Triple H emerged from the back. Everyone knew they were together, but now it was “TV official.” It’s the same case here.

becky-lynch-wwe-smackdown-february-28-2017Becky Lynch def. Mickie James in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match. Alexa Bliss unintentionally costs James the third fall. Good match. These two are fun to watch in the ring, and they compliment one another very well. This program has been exactly what I imagined it would be, and that’s a good thing.

Was Becky screaming “Becky Balboa!” after she won?

Apparently Alexa Bliss’ nickname amongst the NXT crew was “Baby Trish,” as in Trish Stratus. Listening to her promos, I can absolutely see why. Intentional or not, I can see a lot of of heel Trish Stratus in her. Considering the great success Trish had, there’s no one better for Alexa to emulate.

AJ Styles def. Luke Harper to earn a WWE Championship Match at Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon takes an accidental kick from Harper. This one surprised me. I thought for sure we were getting a three-way between Wyatt, Orton, and Harper. Now it looks like we may get Wyatt, Orton, and Styles.

I wouldn’t count out the match between Styles and Shane, though. They a point to put those two out there together a few times, including what we saw on Talking Smack. This is a nice way to keep AJ in the title hunt in the months leading up to Wrestlemania, but I don’t know if I see him in wrestling for it this year.

dean-ambrose-february-28-2017Dean Ambrose calls out Baron Corbin. Not Corbin’s best mic work by a long shot. Often times he’s very hit or miss in that respect. I’m buying into this stuff with he and Ambrose, though.

Dolph Zigger def. Apollo Crews in a Chairs Match. It’s funny. I hate Chairs Matches on the TLC pay per view. But this one didn’t bother me. I guess they’re fine on free TV,  but not if you have to pay for them?

Are they building this up to Crews finally rising to the occasion and getting a singles win over Ziggler? Otherwise, he’s looked like a jobber. An athletic jobber, but a jobber nonetheless.

Randy Orton turns on Bray Wyatt, burning down the Wyatt Family compound. I wasn’t crazy about Randy’s dialogue in this segment. But that’s the only thing I can really nitpick here. This was a great piece of business, using a setting that’s long been a part of the Wyatt Family lore. They even explained why that place is so precious to Bray, what with Sister Abigail being buried there.

Have we ever seen a vengeful, enraged Bray Wyatt before? I don’t know that we have. Certainly not like this. Certainly not like he’s bound to be now. An angry Bray Wyatt against an angry Randy Orton? That could be some interesting television…

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Heath Slater Steals the Show (Seriously), and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got some extra TNA talk after Raw this week. So let’s jump right in…

Roman Reigns, Mick Foley, Rusev, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Ponderings From Raw

Rusev & Lana hijack the show. A non-title match between Rusev and Roman Reigns is made for later in the show. I don’t like when they do this. Put the pay per view matches on pay per view. Don’t give them away a week before. I understand the stakes are different. But this waters the Summerslam title match down.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus after a distraction by Cesaro. Mick Foley books Cesaro and Sheamus in a Best of Seven Series that starts at SummerslamI liked the start to this match. Corey Graves called it “scrappy.” Made things feel a bit more real. They put Cesaro on commentary for most of this. It doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be a great talker. But he’s improved. It’s interesting how Finn Balor is presented, in contrast to Cesaro. The two are on equal ground in terms of mic work. But while Balor has shot to the top of the card after only a month on TV, Cesaro can’t seem to gain any real traction.

A Best of Seven Series, eh? Alright, sure. We haven’t had one of those in awhile, and it’s something for these guys to do. But here’s my question, what does the winner get?

The New Day def. The Dudley Boyz. Watch D-Von shortly after the pin. Bubba slides in the ring and gives him the same kind of stare as last week. They didn’t get a shot of it, but it looks like this is indeed a story. But does it end with the Dudleys winning the tag belts, or splitting up? Notice it’s D-Von that’s eaten the pin two weeks in a row…

Heath Slater, Brock Lesnar, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Heath Slater goes to Suplex City after interrupting Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. This segment was the best thing Heath Slater has ever done in WWE. No, seriously.

I believed every word he said when he talked about having to support his kids. Then Lesnar had that great line: “I don’t give a sh*t about your kids.” We added a new dimension to Slater, and Brock stayed true to his character. I’m not sure if Slater was supposed to be heel or babyface before this segment. But now he’s a babyface in my book.

It’s not often you hear me looking for less Paul Heyman mic time. But we really didn’t need him to say so much after the Slater stuff. Specifically, the stuff about Brock and MMA. I’m not sure if he was going for shock value there, what with Brock’s drug test failure. But all we really needed was “That’s what’s going to happen to Randy Orton at Summerslam.”

Big Cass def. Kevin Owens via disqualification. During their pre-match promos, sometimes it looks like Cass is just watching Enzo in awe like the rest of us. The tag match at Summerslam should be fun.

The Shining Stars def. Darren Young & Titus O’Neil. That bit of the Prime Time Players and Bob Backlund doing the “Millions of Dollars” dance was all I needed from this match. Apparently even that was more than the crowd in Corpus Christi needed. This match was pretty flat.

Finn Balor, Demon King, WWE Raw, August 15, 2016Neville def. Jinder Mahal. Yep. Good to have you back, Jinder Mahal. Your check is in the mail.

Finn Balor arrives in his “Demon King” persona. Not sure we needed to see Seth Rollins wandering around all night looking for the Demon King. If he was just going to call Balor out later, why wander around searching for him? Also, the emergence of this Demon King persona means we really need to drop the “Demon Kane” moniker. It’s not often one would confuse Finn Balor with Kane. But it applies here.

Some idiot got into the ring during Rollins’ promo. Way to go, security. Granted, it was a boring promo. But come on. There’s no need for that…

I wish they’d saved the Demon King for Summerslam. Because let’s be honest, what is the Demon King really but a cool entrance? What does the Demon do that Finn Balor doesn’t? Yes, it looks cool. But this, combined with the Reigns/Rusev match, makes it seem like they just didn’t have any ideas for this week’s show.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. The Golden Truth. The New Day attack after the match. I still think the “ringpostitis” skits are funny. Something about the visual of these guys in lab coats. On the other hand, the idea of Anderson getting hit the balls with a trombone is pretty funny too.

Charlotte, Alicia Fox, August 15, 2016Charlotte def. Alicia Fox. I can’t even remember when the last time was that I saw Alicia Fox in the ring. The last time I have her tagged in a post was around Wrestlemania. I don’t expect her profile to get any higher. At least as long as she’s on Raw with the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax.

I’m assuming Dana Brooke is still with Charlotte after this segment. Dana still has a lot to learn, but I maintain that they make a good team.

Roman Reigns def. Rusev. I still don’t like this match, but it’s nice to see Rusev main eventing Raw for the second week in a row. If they book him well, I truly believe he can be a main event player. One note, though: Don’t break out the diving headbutt again. How many did he do in this match? Three? Between what it seemingly did to Chris Benoit and Daniel Bryan, we don’t need it around anymore. It’s not worth it.

This is Rusev’s first singles loss in awhile, isn’t it? The cool thing about this is it means he may not have to drop the title at Summerslam. A DQ finish, perhaps? As long as they establish Roman as having the upper hand, that may satisfy whatever desire they have for this program.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

Over in TNA:

Dixie Carter, Billy Corgan, TNABilly Corgan named President of IMPACT Ventures, will manage day-to-day TNA operations. Dixie Carter promoted to Chairman. TNA, IMPACT Ventures, or whatever the company is called, has very little to lose at this point. If promoting Corgan shakes up their TV product and brings new eyes, that’s fantastic. The time had long since come for Dixie Carter to be removed from the actual running of the business.

WWE’s Damien Sandow becomes TNA’s Aron Rex. This was a feel-good moment. For whatever reason, the real-life Aaron Stevens was held back and ultimately laid off by WWE. As they’ve done many times before, TNA has picked up the ball in hopes of gaining some new eyes, and riding that momentum. I wish Stevens all the luck in the world, but I hope he hasn’t jumped on to a sinking ship…

Bobby Lashley holds TNA Heavyweight Title, King of the Mountain Title, and X Division Title. When I read about this, I immediately thought of Rhyno holding the ECW Heavyweight and Television Titles in the final weeks of the promotion’s existence. I remember reading something to the effect of: “Unified champions. Another sign of a dying promotion.” I can only hope that’s not the case.

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Brock Lesnar’s Victory, The Final Deletion, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFC 200By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Very happy to see Brock Lesnar get the win over Mark Hunt. The doubters weren’t totally justified in questioning Lesnar’s chances. The guy hadn’t had a fight in years. But he was obviously ready. I don’t know if he regrets re-signing with WWE, but it’s clear his heart is still in MMA. I expect we’ll see him back in the octagon soon.

Lesnar will now carry the momentum from this fight into Summerslam, where we now know he’ll wrestle the returning Randy Orton. The announcement of Lesnar’s opponent happened on Smackdown, actually prompting me to watch the show for once. We heard Corey Graves bring up the fact that these two came up together in the WWE developmental system. I expect that will be a large part of the story they tell as we move toward August. I’m a bit concerned about Orton staying healthy in there with Brock. He’s just come off shoulder surgery, after all. But then again, I had those same concerns about The Undertaker, and as far as I know he came out of it fine.

WWE is going to need as many stars as they can fine once this brand split starts. Make no mistake about it, Randy Orton is one of their biggest commodities.

I also loved how they finally acknowledged the damn fight on television this week. Only after Brock had won, of course…

Bob Backlund, Darren Young, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Darren Young wins a battle royal to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at BattlegroundThe obvious choice to win this match seemed to be Apollo Crews, for no other reason than he was the only participant to get a TV entrance, and they played his music through Miz’s pre-match promo. But Darren Young was a pleasant surprise. And they were chanting his name! Imagine that.

However, I’m curious about the way he won. Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated themselves. Young won by accident. So what does that say about him going into Battleground? Either way, any excuse to get Bob Backlund on live TV works for me.

I’ve come to enjoy Miz’s commentary. He does a nice job putting other talents over. He seemed to be getting instructions to put Corbin over. That’s fair enough. I suspect Corbin will receive much more attention once the brand split takes effect. He still comes off really green. But the best solution for that is experience.

Sheamus def. Zack Ryder. I was blown away when I saw Ryder get a clean win over Sheamus on Smackdown. That, combined with his win last week on Raw, leads one to a stunning conclusion: Zack Ryder is getting a push. Four years after he took the wrestling world by storm with his YouTube show, WWE finally seems to be taking him seriously. I’m really proud that he’s persevered after all this time. The only wrestling t-shirt I’ve purchased in the last decade was Ryder’s Broski v-neck. That’s how much of a fan I was, and still am. A United States Title Match with Rusev seems imminent. Will he win? Probably not. But at least he’s in the conversation.

Kalisto, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Tyler Breeze & Fandango def. The Lucha Dragons. During this match the announcers brought up the idea that tag teams could be split up during the draft. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen very much. Remember when they split the Dudleys up in 2002 for no real reason? And then they put them back together a matter of months later? Yeah, let’s not do that again.

Seth Rollins airs mock interview with Roman Reigns using old interview footage. Dean Ambrose comes out to confront him. A WWE Title Match is made for next week’s RawKurt Angle did something like this to The Rock at the tail end of the Attitude Era. It’s an okay little gag. No harm done, even though they are talking about a legitimate drug test violation.

Seth Rollins came off like a million bucks in this segment. He said that Reigns should be taken out of the title match at Battleground, and the fans cheered. He talked about Ambrose sneaking up on him and taking the belt, which did happen. He was also right that Ambrose couldn’t beat him for the belt last year. Rollins has a legitimate argument to being the uncrowned WWE Champion, and being better than both Ambrose and Reigns.

In Ambrose’s response, however, he came off more threatening than he has in weeks. Jokey Dean Ambrose is fine sometimes. But as the champion, we need to see more of the crazy and dangerous Dean Ambrose. When he’s on, Ambrose is as good as anybody in the company. Rollins, to his credit, played off of that intensity very well. He looked intimidated, as his character should be. As for next week’s title match, I don’t expect the belt to change hands. Battleground, however, is a different story.

WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Kevin Owen gets Sami Zayn ejected from the commentary table before his victory over Cesaro. Zayn attacks Owens afterward. I wish they’d just make this some kind of stipulation match that allows Zayn and Owens to fight all over the arena. I just wish they’d stop doing that lock-up/punches thing they do. It takes me right out of whatever scene they’re in.

The New Day journey to the Wyatt Family “compound.” So…was this WWE’s attempt to outdo the “Final Deletion” that TNA did on Impact last week? If so, they failed.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the Final Deletion. It was a match Matt and Jeff Hardy shot on location, which served as the blow-off for the bizarre program they’ve had in TNA this year. Produced by Jeremy Borash, it was a truly ridiculous spectacle. There was a weird vignette with drones and a hologram, spots with fireworks, and the lunacy fans have come to expect from Matt’s crazy character. It was far from your traditional main event, but that was the point. A lot of fans enjoyed it, and it got TNA some much-needed positive buzz.

All I can say about this, is that it’s good to see people talking about TNA again. What that brand desperately needs is some buzz, and they got it.

Fast-forward six days, and we get this. It looked like WWE’s take on a found footage flick, a la The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. But the shaky camera was just awful. There were traces of the Final Deletion. We had the music, the stuff in the water, Bray using an axe, the car crash, etc. The ironic thing is, had they shot this in a more traditional manner, it would have been a lot more interesting. We’d have been able to follow the action more closely. Also, that didn’t look much like a compound to me. More like an open field.

TNA, The Final Deletion, Matt and Jeff HardyOn the plus side, the image of Braun Strowman rising from the water and roaring was awesome. Literally the best thing he’s ever done. And that final image of the lanterns in the forest was cool. But all in all, this was very derivative. WWE drawing inspiration from something TNA did? In 2016? Who’d have thought?

Enzo & Cass def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification. John Cena makes the save afterward. Of course Cena was there. C’mon, now.

Decent match. I’ve got high hopes the match at Battleground will be one of the better six-man bouts we’ve seen on pay per view in recent years. I doubt it’ll top The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. But you never know. This all obviously leads to another match between AJ Styles and John Cena at Summerslam, and possibly a tag title shot for Enzo & Cass.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. I was really curious to see how Banks and Brooke would match up. All things considered, they did pretty well. Absolutely the best match I’ve seen from Dana Brooke since she got called up. They also gave this match a good amount of time, which I credit them for. We wanted Sasha, and they gave us Sasha. They took their damn time, but better late than never.

Vince McMahon names Shane McMahon Commissioner of Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon named Commissioner of Raw. General Managers to be named next week. First off, Vince’s impression of “sweet” Stephanie was awesome. The funniest thing on this show in weeks.

McMahon Family, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016What happened here isn’t surprising. This looked like where they were going. The heel Stephanie on one show, the babyface Shane on the other. The General Manager thing is a bit odd. Traditionally, you have one authority figure that makes matches, stipulations, etc. So does the GM now fill that role, with Shane or Steph coming in as necessary? It all seems redundant. But maybe it’ll make sense when we see it in action. By the way, isn’t Kurt Angle available these days?

I do, however, think Vince gave us a clue about how things are really going to go once this split takes effect. He made a point to call Raw the “three-hour flagship” of WWE. In the end, Raw is like Vince’s favorite child. Even with the added emphasis on Smackdown, eventually it all comes back to Raw.

 Image 1 from rt.com. Image 5 from denofgeek.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Paige/Charlotte Fall Out, Sheamus as Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Reid FlairBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: You’re going to get a lot of complaining from me this week.

WWE got a lot of negative buzz last week after they had Paige say a fairly tasteless line about Charlotte’s deceased brother Reid during their segment. The main event segment, no less. I wrote that what Paige said wasn’t necessarily reprehensible, but some things have come to light since then that shed some new light on the situation.

Firstly, neither Ric Flair nor Charlotte and Reid’s mother knew about the angle. You’d think common sense and decency would dictate that they at least let the parents know about something like that, let alone give them veto power.

Secondly, after WWE got all the heat, they released this statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 2015Essentially they implicated Charlotte, which is pretty sleazy.

I don’t doubt that Charlotte said she was okay with it all. But as we’ve heard from various former WWE stars, the company has a tendency to punish wrestlers who say no to storyline suggestions. It’s not the same thing at all, but Trish Stratus went on record that she once refused to kiss Torrie Wilson on television, and lost the Women’s Title very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, WWE is trying to sweep this situation under the rug. Given how image conscious his company has become, you’d think Vince McMahon, who ultimately has the last word on creative, would have been mindful of the backlash this angle would cause. Particularly when Reid’s parents didn’t know, nor approve.

Sheamus, WWE Survivor Series 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Sheamus cashes in on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, walks out of Survivor Series with the title. A TLC Match for the Championship is made for December. The smart fans weren’t happy about this one, which I get. There was a lot of backlash when Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase to begin with. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least we’ve got a heel champion the fans legitimately dislike.

But you can’t convince me Sheamus is hot as a heel. He was in a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton for months, and then aligned himself with Wade Barrett, who’s been a perennial loser. And the company’s top babyface usually gets booed as much, if not more than he does. That’s why I don’t think there’s any money in Sheamus and Reigns at TLC. We’ve got a cold heel against a babyface that WWE is trying to tell us we should like, instead of letting us choose our own heroes.

Still, the Sheamus era has begun. Hopefully it’s short…

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Roman Reigns, RusevRoman Reigns faces the returning Rusev in the main event. I’m glad Rusev is back, as WWE needs all the depth they can get. But Rusev is yet another cold heel. The last time we saw him he got pinned clean, and took a verbal beat-down from Summer Rae. Whatever happened to the Bulgarian Brute’s balls?

It seems like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev are a group now, which appeared to be the way things were going before Rusev went on the shelf. I wonder if three cold heels can somehow equate to one hot one…?

The Undertaker & Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series. The Wyatts rebound with a win over The Dudley Boyz on Raw. Remember the build-up to Bray Wyatt’s match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania? The buzz was that WWE wanted to keep Bray looking strong so he’d seem like a formidable opponent for ‘Taker. They need to start doing that again, not just with Bray himself, but this entire group. Wyatt spent much of this year losing to The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. We need to reverse that trend and make him look like a winner again. Bray Wyatt is a star. Now he just needs to be booked like one.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 23, 2015I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a tables match with The Dudley Boyz at TLC. The sad thing is, Bubba and Devon have lost most of their big matches since they came back. So after TLC, one of these teams is going to wind up even colder than they are now.

Cesaro reportedly out of action with a shoulder injury. This sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Just when you think Cesaro might finally move up the card a little bit, he gets hurt. It’s bad enough that so many main event level guys off TV right now. But now we’ve got arguably one of the hottest talents in the industry on the shelf too.

The Solomonster pointed out that given the projected four to six month time period Cesaro will be gone for, this might mean he’ll return around the same time as Tyson Kidd. That’s the only upside to this as far as I’m concerned.

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Alberto Del Rio, Zeb ColterJack Swagger confronts Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. This was obviously where they were going before Seth Rollins got hurt, and they had to do the tournament. I understand that Del Rio and Swagger was a built-in match when they started this whole “Mex-America” thing. But Swagger is as much a dead duck as any character they have on that show. Having Del Rio beat him doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s hardly worth more than a one-off match on free TV.

Neville def. Mark Henry. Fresh off of being the only guy pinned on his team at Survivor Series, Neville beats the once dominant Mark Henry on Raw. Makes sense, right?

Henry likely doesn’t mind doing the honors for younger talents. But if they want to do a Mark Henry retirement match someday, they’re going to have a tough time making it mean anything if all he does is lose.

The New Day, WWE Raw, November 23, 2015The New Day celebrate their one-year anniversary on Raw. Damn. These guys died a slow death out there. Much like at Survivor Series, the crowd was absolutely dead for much of this show. You can’t really blame them, given the content of the show they’re watching. But these three have arguably been the most consistently entertaining part of Raw over the last few months, and they just couldn’t get a rise out of the fans. It was downright sad.

In Other News…

TNA lands new network in POP TV. It just goes to show you how many TV networks are out there these days that both TNA and Ring of Honor landed on networks no one has apparently ever heard of.

Still, give TNA credit where credit is due. People continue to write them off, but they keep surviving somehow. Like a lot of fans, I want TNA to do well. They just need to get their feet under them again.

Image 1 from hachland.wordpress.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Paige, the Limits of Good Taste, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We got a really good show this week that was heavy on in-ring action. That’s not a coincidence, folks. Better wrestling equals a better product. In a season where ratings have been on a downhill slide, WWE might want to make note of that.

What’s more, we got the girls in the main event segment for the first time in what must have been over a decade. That’s fantastic. But it might have come with a certain price…

Paige, Charlotte, Raw, November 16, 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Charlotte and Paige main event the show with a contract signing. The death of Reid Fleihr is incorporated into the storyline. In terms of everything leading up to the Reid thing, the segment came off very scripted, especially on Charlotte’s part. I don’t doubt that the tears she shed out there were real. But the dialogue didn’t seem genuine. There were also a few uncomfortable silences, during which I wasn’t sure if Charlotte couldn’t remember her lines, or if she was pausing for effect.

Then Paige said the line about Reid “not having much fight in him.”

Quick history lesson: Reid Fleihr, son of the real life Richard Fleihr (Ric Flair) and brother of Ashley Fleihr (Charlotte), was a prospective wrestler who died of a drug overdose in March of 2013. Poor Ric actually found his son’s body.

Paige, Charlotte, fight, Raw, November 16, 2015Needless to say, this is a sensitive subject. Fans are already crying foul over this. It certainly skirted the limits of good taste. Personally, I don’t think what Paige said was reprehensible. From a story perspective, it gives us very personal connection to Charlotte. We’re now much more invested in this story.

But did they need to play the Reid card? No, of course not. You never need to exploit a real person’s death for a pro wrestling storyline. But they did it. They can’t undo it. So now let’s just hope they don’t stir it up any more.

The Undertaker & Kane to face two members of The Wyatt Family at Survivor Series. More mind games are played on Raw. I can understand why they’d want ‘Taker and Kane by themselves at Survivor Series, but that doesn’t make this decision any less disappointing. The idea of The Undertaker captaining his own four-man Survivor Series team at the 25th anniversary of his WWE debut made for an intriguing selling point. But a straight-up tag match? That’s a downgrade any way you slice it.

Undertaker druids, Raw, November 16, 2015As for Raw, the moment with the moment with the druids and the sheep masks was cool. Most of the mic work was nothing special. I did, however, like Bray Wyatt’s line about a new army of darkness rising at Survivor Series. I don’t know how big a “money match” this is, but that was a money line right there.

Roman Reigns def. Cesaro to advance in the WWE Title Tournament. The crowd seemed really split during this match. It was almost like something you’d expect from a John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan kind of encounter. The older, “smart” fans were rooting for Cesaro, but the kids were cheering for Reigns.

The winner of this match was obvious from the get-go. It was always going to be Reigns going to the finals, and potentially winning the whole damn thing. So that took a bit of the edge off what could easily have been the main event for this week’s show. But it was still a good performance, as Cesaro once again shows us just how damn special he is. I take nothing away from Reigns, as it obviously takes two to tango. But c’mon now…

The idea behind the Reigns promo, and the amount of punishment he took in that match, was to build sympathy for him as an underdog of sorts who hung in there against a machine like Cesaro. However, here’s my question: Does that story work when half the crowd is rooting for the Cesaro to crush the so-called underdog?

Neville, Kevin Owens, Raw, November 16, 2015Kevin Owens def. Neville to advance in the WWE Title Tournament. I’d argue this was one of the best, if not the best outing for both Kevin Owens and Neville on television. Neville’s athleticism was highlighted wonderfully. That reverse headscissors spot was obviously great, as was the turnbuckle bump into the snap German suplex. But I also enjoyed Neville doing something as simple as slowly sliding down the ropes and off the apron when he took that super kick from Owens.

On that subject, WWE really needs to tell their guys to lighten up on the super kicks. Now that Shawn Michaels has been retired for awhile, it’s apparently open season on that move. And it’s not even being used as a finisher.

Kalisto pins Ryback on Smackdown to advance in WWE Title Tournament, loses to Alberto Del Rio on Raw. This is funny, because to me this Kalisto thing is what WWE should have done to begin with if they wanted a new Hispanic star. They didn’t need to shill out a bunch of money to get Del Rio back. Especially given that Del Rio wasn’t exactly hot when he left. I can’t say I’m any more interested in Raw because Del Rio is back. And this whole Mex-America thing seems like it was hastily thrown together.

Still, I don’t think Kalisto loses much by giving up a win to Del Rio. If WWE is smart they’ll start capitalizing on this dynamic talent. At the very least, can we give the Lucha Dragons a tag title shot?

In Other News:

Jay Lethal, Ring of HonorRing of Honor leaving Destination America, will air on COMET in December. ROH must have a better deal with COMET than they had with Destination America. COMET can’t be that much easier to find than DA. Still, kudos to ROH for making more waves (even if they’re small ones) in the television market. Frankly, I’m glad they’re off Destination America. I got a shady vibe from that whole crew after what happened with TNA. Speaking of which, how does this effect TNA, if at all?

Image 5 from rollingstone.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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