Triple H Annihilates Seth Rollins, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

WWE announced Monday that Jack Swagger has been granted his release. The real-life Jake Hager had apparently been looking to get out for awhile, even bringing it up on Chael Sonnen’s podcast earlier this month.

Hager was signed to a WWE development deal in 2006. So he spent about a decade with WWE. He had a run that a lot of guys would be jealous of. The company clearly saw a lot of potential in him, perhaps as someone in the Kurt Angle mold. They did their best over the years to establish him as a top guy. Had the dice fallen differently, it might have worked. But fate just didn’t seem to be on Hager’s side in that respect.

Hager is a very good wrestler. But when it was time to talk, he was in trouble. He has a little bit of a lisp, and it was noticeable whenever he got on the mic. It undercut the wrestling stud vibe they were going for with him, and it became tough to take him seriously. They had him win Money in the Bank, and later made him World Heavyweight Champion on Smackdown. But it just didn’t click.

They seemingly found an answer in 2013, when Dutch Mantel came in to manage Swagger. As the character Zeb Colter, he essentially became what Paul Heyman is to Brock Lesnar. Dutch cut tremendous promos, weaving in contemporary political elements, most notably immigration. They even got a touch of mainstream buzz over the character. Swagger was put against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XXIX, and seemed primed to win it…

And then he got arrested for DUI and drug possession (marijuana). He and Mantel remained together, but it was essentially over as far as Hager being a top guy.

But Hager’s career doesn’t have to end here. Like Drew Galloway, Cody Rhodes, and so many others who’ve left the WWE umbrella, he can thrive on the independent scene. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him show up in TNA in a few months, as his old pal Dutch is now back on the creative team there.

Brighter days are ahead for Jake Hager, and I commend him for having the guts to step outside the safety of the WWE bubble.

Ponderings From Raw:

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar address Bill Goldberg. Herman’s prediction: “Down goes Goldberg!” That “down goes Goldberg” line is something they’ll be returning to in the weeks to come. It’s something Corey Graves, as the heel announcer, can come back to at the event itself. It’s a great line.

Note that Heyman also put Goldberg over, referring to his latest run as “the greatest championship comeback in sports entertainment history.”

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. After taking abuse from Charlotte post-match, Dana attacks her. Dana has gotten a lot of bad press these past few weeks for her in-ring skills. Looking at this match, I can’t say it’s unfounded. But the real-life Ashley Sebera has only been wrestling since 2014. She’s still trying to learn. But she’s doing it on national television. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that. Having said that, she could really use another run on NXT. She can re-establish herself there, and come back later for a fresh start. Perhaps that’s where this turn is headed. I doubt it, but one can always hope.

Brian Kendrick and Tony Nese def. Akira Tozawa and TJ Perkins. TJ Perkins had a good match with Shinsuke Nakamura on NXT last week, and he was tremendous in this match. But this guy needs a heel turn. He’s looked like a loser for months, and he’s officially grating. I wouldn’t mind seeing he and Tozawa in a program.

Kevin Owens vows to take Chris Jericho’s US Title at Wrestlemania, and leave nothing left but the “Tears of Jericho.” Owens and Samoa Joe get themselves disqualified in a match with Jericho and Sami Zayn. Another really good promo from Owens. In classic heel fashion he justified his actions, believing himself to be right. He accused Jericho of wanting to get close to him just to get close to the Universal Championship. I love when bad guys do that. No one really believes they’re evil. We all usually believe we’re doing what’s right.

This Owens/Joe team-up did nothing to dispel the rumors of them forming a faction alongside Triple H. I’m not sure you need Triple H on TV every week in a group. But the prospect of Owens and Joe together consistently remains ntriguing.

I wouldn’t have had Owens and Jericho touch here. At the very least, I’d have limited their contact to that super kick Owens gave him. But then again, Owens obviously beat the hell out of him at the now infamous Festival of Friendship. So I guess we’ve been there and done that.

Big Show to compete in Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. They did a “New Day Talks” segment, which was supposed to be their take on a talk show segment. It ended up with Titus O’Neil being mad at Big Show because he wasn’t in the WWE/Jetsons movie that comes out this week. Wow. What compelling TV…

But what I got out of this segment was the line about Show getting the opportunity to be a two-time winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Ouch. I guess that makes it official: Shaq is out of Wrestlemania. That’s a rotten break for Show. He supposedly spent months preparing for that match, getting himself in the best shape of his career, only to be stuck in the Battle Royal again this year.

Cass had some really nice fire in that pre-match promo. He still had some that deer-in-the-headlights look going on. But he made me believe.

Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Enzo and Cass goes to a no-contest after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson interfere. Not much suspense to this match. Earlier in the show, Anderson and Gallows cut that promo about taking the spotlight for themselves. The finish to this one was pretty obvious at that point.

As if it wasn’t already pretty clear what the match is going to be at Wrestlemania. And of course a short time later it was made official: a Triple-Threat Tag Team Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles.

The Undertaker’s trademark gong goes off during Roman Reigns’ match with Jinder Mahal. Reigns calls the Undertaker out. Shawn Michaels surprises him. Reigns: The Undertaker retired you, and I’m the guy that’s gonna retire him.” Well, they went there. Let the speculation about the Undertaker’s retirement continue. This is already so damn emotional. Damn…this could really be it…

If this does turn out to be Undertaker’s retirement match, how fitting is it that it’s Shawn Michaels who planted that seed in Roman’s mind. Nice continuity there.

Austin Aries def. Ariya Daivari. Austin Aries wrestling on Raw. By God, what a time to be alive.

Bayley def. Nia Jax via DQ. Couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for this one. We’ve seen this one so much. I dig the larger story they’re telling here, though. The idea is that Bayley can’t win big matches without Sasha’s help, so all these women are worthy of title shots. I expect Nia to be added to Wrestlemania in short order.

Mick Foley refuses to fire someone by order of Stephanie McMahon. Triple H comes out to belittle him. Seth Rollins makes the save, but the Game destroys the would-be “King Slayer.” I loved this segment. I really did. Everybody was perfectly in character, and it made perfect sense. This was great drama.

Seeing Mick and Triple H in the ring together was a nice nostalgia trip. They’ve always had a great lovable hero meets cunning villain chemistry. Foley was good on the mic here, too. He stumbled a bit, but he was in the zone. He hasn’t had an easy time in this role. But I was proud of him tonight.

Didn’t expect Rollins to be on the losing end of that confrontation with Hunter. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. Seth’s knee has a big question mark over it. So now we’re left guessing.

Those CM Punk chants aren’t going away, are they? They’re following Steph, in particular. Considering the adverse effect that character has had on this show in recent years, I’m not complaining. I’m a Punk fan, after all.

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

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James Ellsworth Kills Time, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

AJ Styles, James Ellsworth, WWE Smackdown, October 18, 2016 By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, Raw brought us the return of Bill Goldberg after 12 years. And over on Smackdown we’ve got…James Ellsworth challenging for the WWE Championship. In a way, that makes perfect sense.

Let’s be honest, Smackdown is basically just killing time until they really start to build toward Survivor Series. That’s why we’ve had our champion messing around with James Ellsworth for two weeks. Yes, Dean Ambrose is in those segments very prominently. But we’re not exactly clamoring for another Ambrose vs. Styles match, are we? Ambrose vs. Cena, on the other hand…

On the subject of Cena, rumor has it he’ll be wrestling at Survivor Series. This means Smackdown‘s team will likely consist of Styles, Ambrose, Cena, Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt. That’s a damn good team. And hopefully they can use that match to transition into different programs, i.e. Ambrose vs. Cena and Styles vs. Orton.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Bray Wyatt, WWE Raw, October 18, 2016During a match between Randy Orton and Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt comes to the ring in a casket. Wyatt is later surprised when Kane emerges from the casket to attack him. This was not a good promo night for Randy Orton. When he’s fierce and fired up, he can be really good on the mic. But tonight he sounded monotone and uninterested. Almost bored. Never a good way to start a show.

In WWE, caskets are Undertaker imagery. Bray even had his own spin on ‘Taker’s druids. So it was no surprise to see the Dead Man’s baby brother dust off the old surprise casket appearance trick. But here’s my question: Why is Kane even involved in this program anymore? The story is about Orton and Wyatt, and Orton doesn’t need a run-in buddy, Give Kane something else to do.

Alexa Bliss def. Naomi. Naomi is really coming together as a single. It’s not just her entrance, but she’s so athletic out there. That being said, the right woman won this match. Alexa has a title match coming up, and now she looks that much more threatening.

After taking a punch, Curt Hawkins opts not to face Apollo Crews. When I realized who was supposed to be wrestling, I balked. As de-emphasized as Apollo has been lately, there was no way they were going to let him lose to Curt Hawkins. Especially when Hawkins is playing a pretty silly character. A character who’s going the Eva Marie route, with all these premature exits.

WWE Smackdown, October 18, 2016, Nikki Bella, CarmellaCarmella calls Nikki Bella out for her relationship with John Cena. I’m never happy when Nikki gets a microphone. I get memories of, “I wish you died in the womb!” Carmella also seemed to have trouble sticking to her accent. But from a substance perspective, this was a good segment. They even let Carmella have the last word, talking about how Nikki had used both her looks and Cena to get to the top.  While this likely means we’ve got more talking segments from Nikki in our future, this could go someplace interesting.

The Miz & the Spirit Squad def. Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater & Rhyno. Mauro happened to mention Ken Doane played college football after leaving WWE. I’d forgotten he was only 19 when he made it to the main roster in 2006. That’s really something, considering some of the stuff he got to do during that run,

I’m still not used to Heath Slater getting the hot tag. It works. But I’m not used to it. Of course, he lost to a roll-up, as at least one person has to do on every WWE broadcast.

Natalya vies to be the first entrant in the women’s match at Survivor SeriesSo when Nattie came into Bryan’s office and pitched herself for the match, Daniel Bryan went “Why you?” Excuse me? This woman was one of your first female draft picks. She’s a former champion and a Hart. So why the hell not her?

Baron Corbin, WWE Smackdown Live, October 20, 2016Baron Corbin def. Jack Swagger. One of the better Corbin outings I’ve seen on national TV, specifically the spot with the forearms on the barricade. This guy still has miles to do, but he’s making progress.

James Ellsworth def. AJ Styles via disqualification, with Dean Ambrose as the guest ring announcer. For the second time this week, I was pleasantly surprised at how into things the crowd was. Ellsworth is more over than guys a lot bigger than him, who probably make a lot more than him. So he deserved this chance to shine, and AJ even sold his “no chin music” super kick like a champ. We’ve even got a James Ellsworth t-shirt. I can’t imagine what this guy’s worth must be like these days.

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

Ric Flair/Halle Berry Creepiness, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Ric Flair, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Looks like Uncle Ric is in trouble again.

A recent episode of The Ric Flair Show over at MLWRadio.com has drawn some heat for ol’ Naitch. Flair made a comment about sleeping with Halle Berry in 1997, shortly after her divorce from baseball star David Justice.

TMZ reports Berry is quite offended by what Flair said. They got a quote from a Berry rep that, for my money, says it all: “A man doesn’t get to sexualize and lie about a woman he’s never met to better himself or his name. It’s offensive, demeaning and beyond misogynistic.”

Having heard the clip from the podcast, I get the sense Flair was partially in wrestling promo mode when he said this. That’s one of the sad things about Flair. He always seems to be in promo mode, because he’s still trapped in that character. It’s not entirely his fault. We all have fond memories of that playboy persona, and even at 67 years old, that’s who a lot of fans still want Flair to be. That doesn’t make what he said acceptable or less creepy. But it’s worth noting where his mind likely was at the time.

Ric Flair deserves respect and admiration for his in-ring accomplishments. But these embarrassing slip-ups are making it painfully obvious that times have passed him by. I guess it’s not easy being an aging ’80s playboy in a world as politically correct and issue-sensitive as ours has become.

Ric Flair, Charlotte, Raw, November 30, 2015Case in point: This past spring, Ric was involved in the program between Charlotte and Natalya, and accidentally told Nattie to kill herself during a promo on Smackdown. While the show was taped and WWE was able to clip that line, you can find it on YouTube.

All this Halle Berry drama comes at a really interesting time, as lately his name has been brought up on Smackdown quite a bit. John Cena may be about to tie his record or 16 Heavyweight Titles. WWE obviously didn’t feel the need to avoid Flair’s name, and I expect we’ll see him on TV to talk about this at some point.

Bottom line, Flair got attention for his remark. But it wasn’t kind of attention he wanted. Just a sad situation overall.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kane def. Bray Wyatt via count-out. I maintain this Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton program would have been better off had they let Bray beat Kane at Backlash. Now the poor guy can’t even beat him on free TV. By the law of averages alone, Bray does have to beat someone at some point, right?

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016That shot of an upside down Bray suddenly noticing Orton on the tron was cool. Good acting by Bray. It lent credence to the idea that Orton is inside his head.

It looked like they were going to simply reverse the story they told last week, with Bray hunting Randy this time. Instead Randy trapped Bray in a storage container, and we got some nice grainy footage of Bray in there with the rocking chair. Very found footage. Randy also had a good line: “Lord have mercy…or not.”

Nikki Bella def. Alexa Bliss via disqualification after Carmella interferes. Bliss & Carmella win a subsequent tag match against Bella & Becky Lynch. Carmella was out there on commentary, and was doing an exaggerated New York accent. That only reinforces the whole Real Housewives vibe I’m getting from her. She’s also got a really grating voice when she’s screeching at opponents in the ring. All this translates to big heat with me. The good kind of heat, not Shining Stars channel changing heat. That accent’s not going to be easy to maintain all the time, though. Just ask Lana.

I did, however, get a kick out of Carmella calling Nikki a Kardashian wannabe. Also, nobody compared Alexa to Harley Quinn, and that Twisted Bliss moonsault is still gorgeous. So a good week for the women of Smackdown.

The Spirit Squad, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016The Spirit Squad returns during Miz TV, as Miz pays “tribute” to Dolph Ziggler’s career. One of the highlights of this segment was Ziggler cutting Miz off with: “I’m not gone yet, ass face. Say that again, I’ll knock the hell outta you.” Would it have killed them to just let him say asshole? That’s what he, and everyone in the audience is thinking. You’re on prime time TV, guys. Just let him say it.

Dolph went a little John Cena on us here, talking about kids looking up to him, doing Make a Wish stuff, etc. A bold move, considering Cena’s been doing that promo for years now, and probably busts it out before Thanksgiving dinner.

Hearing him talk about cashing in Money in the Bank the night after Wrestlemania really rang true. That’s the one moment in Ziggler’s career that everybody remembers. Unfortunately, it’s become a testament to this guy’s wasted potential.

On the subject of wasted potential, the big surprise here was the return of Ken Doane and Mike Mondo in their Spirit Squad gear. In an era where WWE is looking to pad their roster a little bit, I’m hopeful these guys can come back and deliver on some of that potential. WWE is actually advertising the return of Curt Hawkins for No Mercy, as if he wasn’t strictly an enhancement guy when he left. Wrestlers who didn’t leave on a great note are getting second chances.

Jason Jordan, Jey Uso, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016Jason Jordan def. Jey Uso. This one wrapped up quickly. A bit of a let down, actually. I’m always anxious to see Jordan suplex the hell out of somebody. Though it’s not like we won’t see him in there with the Usos again. The smart bet is Jimmy and Jey take the belts on Sunday, and we officially transition into a tag title feud with American Alpha.

Jack Swagger def. Baron Corbin by “submission.” Interesting finish, here. Corbin repeatedly reaches for the ropes in rapid succession, his wrist hitting the mat repeatedly, so the ref calls it a tap out victory for Swagger. Not sure if we’ve seen that before…

You know what Baron Corbin needs? A mouthpiece. Ironically, he’s in the same position Swagger was in before Zeb Colter came along. Yes, Corbin is the “Lone Wolf.” But he’s a lone wolf that’s getting eaten alive every time he opens his mouth.

AJ Styles, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose share a ring before their title match at No MercyBoth Styles and Ambrose jumped on Cena when this segment started. It made sense, given who Cena is and how good his mic work was on Talking Smack last week. But did it also made them look insecure? I can’t decide…

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016When it was his turn to talk, Ambrose went the backstage politics route. The line about “the guy who plays John Cena on TV” was good. There’s been some buzz about both these guys taking time away from Smackdown after No Mercy. Cena’s got his TV show, and Ambrose is allegedly shooting a movie. If that’s true, we lose the most compelling thing on this show, which is the stuff between the two of them. I’ll say it again: They need to work a singles program after No Mercy.

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Dean Ambrose Goes Heel? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Bray Wyatt, WWE Backlash 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can somebody get Bray Wyatt a rabbit’s foot or something?

In light of Randy Orton not being medially cleared to return to face Wyatt at Backlash, the “Eater of Worlds” was instead put against Kane in a no holds barred match. Wyatt wound up getting pinned after Orton ran in for an RKO.

There should really be nothing wrong with losing to Kane, considering all he’s done over the years. But imagine all that Bray Wyatt could do here and now. His promos can get a little nonsensical at times, and maybe he is a little injury prone. But what a character. What a presence he has about him. As a babyface, he could be a bonafide superstar.

And yet, he’s been continually mismanaged creatively. This guy has been dying for a big win, and yet at Backlash they had him lose to someone in the twilight of his career. That’s not a slight against Kane. But of the two, Wyatt is the one who can offer the company more in years to come. I understand they were put in a bad spot when Orton wasn’t cleared. They obviously wanted to continue the program. But how about Wyatt gets the win, and then Orton runs in for the RKO? That at least allows Bray to brag a little bit about beating Kane. It also would have helped him build some sorely needed momentum. Instead, here we are. Another big show, another loss for Bray Wyatt.

By the way, if Orton wasn’t cleared to wrestle at Backlash, how did they justify letting him run in and to an RKO? That is, as I recall, a wrestling move.

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

John Cena and Dean Ambrose vye to be the top contender for AJ Styles’ WWE Championship. Shane McMahon makes a triple-threat match for the belt at No Mercy next month. Don’t adjust your TV sets, folks. AJ Styles is the WWE Champion. And for but a brief while, all seems to be right with the world. I’d be surprised if Styles stays heel for long. People inherently want to cheer him, and he’s got such a great story.

There was some great manufactured drama between Cena and Ambrose here. Cena brings up Steve Austin’s comments about Ambrose supposedly resting on his laurels, and Ambrose calls Cena a “lazy part-timer.” Some really nice worked shoot material.

I’m surprised they’re already putting Styles back with Cena. But having Cena on the No Mercy will no doubt give it a bigger feel than Backlash had. I also don’t doubt these three can have an awesome triple-threat match.

The Usos def. The Hype Bros. What the hell were the Usos wearing? C’mon, guys. You can’t wrestle American Alpha dressed like that.

The Miz, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016Dolph Ziggler interrupts The Miz. Miz tells Daniel Bryan he’s competing again until his contract is renegotiated. I got a huge kick out of Ziggler telling Miz that the fans will never see him as a top guy. Pot to kettle, buddy.

So if you’ve got the book, who do you have challenge Miz next? I have no interest in seeing Ziggler face him again. Apollo Crews isn’t ready. So who? One of the only people who comes to mind is Kane. But you don’t want to put the IC Title on him. We might want to get comfortable seeing that belt on Miz’s shoulder…

Jack Swagger moves from Raw to Smackdown. Don’t listen to him, folks. Remember everything you know about Jack Swagger. He’s a good wrestler, but has little to no star power. He’s another guy who could potentially challenge Miz. But there’s no sense in putting the Intercontinental Title on Jack friggin’ Swagger. Something tells me he’s just here to get demolished by Baron Corbin.

Alexa Bliss wins a Fatal Fiveway Match to become top contender for the Smackdown Women’s Title. I was overjoyed to see Becky Lynch win the belt at Backlash. I can’t say it has quite the luster of being WWE’s sole women’s champion, which was an accolade she deserved. But it was still a great moment for her.

Alexa Bliss, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016I’m not a fan of Alexa’s Harley Quinn-inspired look. But then again, certain wrestlers have done well impersonating comic book characters. Just ask Sting. Alexa is about to get some precious solo time in the spotlight. Here’s hoping she makes the most of it.

Heath Slater signs a Smackdown contract, successfully defends the Smackdown Tag Team Titles with Rhyno against The Ascension. I didn’t expect Slater & Rhyno to strike gold at Backlash either. But again, a pleasant surprise. Its amazing what can happen when a wrestler gets himself over, and WWE doesn’t fight the crowd. Heath Slater really ran with this whole “free agent” thing, and they seem to have stumbled on to some nice chemistry between he and Rhyno.

Also, that “I Got Kids” shirt he was wearing is actually for sale. Imagine that. Heath Slater has a t-shirt.

Randy Orton calls out Bray Wyatt. Erick Rowan ambushes Orton, gets an RKO. I love the line, “Do not sleep.” That’s a great Bray Wyatt line. Now if only he actually had some steam.

So I guess Erick Rowan is still with Bray? And I guess Orton is cleared for physicality now? I’m confused.

Dean Ambrose, John Cena, WWE Smackdown, September 13, 2016John Cena & Dean Ambrose def. AJ Styles & The Miz. Ambrose turns on Cena afterward. Very cool to see James Ellsworth make another WWE appearance as Styles’ would-be tag partner before Miz took him out. There’s a spot for someone like him in that company. It was a nice touch that they also managed to further the Miz/Bryan storyline.

I think we can officially say the fans are ready for a Dean Ambrose heel turn. I’m not sure if what we saw here constitutes a heel turn. But listen to the boos after he hits Cena with that DDT. A few months ago, Ambrose would heard mostly cheers.

So Kevin Steen is the champion of Raw, AJ Styles is the champion of Smackdown, and John Cena is hearing mostly cheers?

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

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CM Punk’s UFC 203 Loss, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Mickey Gall, CM Punk, UFC 203, September 10, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I had no desire to see CM Punk lose at UFC 203. But my hopes weren’t high that he’d win. The smart bet was we’d get exactly what we got: A Mickey Gall victory in the first round. Specifically, by submission at two minutes and 14 seconds.

That didn’t make it any easier to watch, though…

Full disclosure: I’m a big CM Punk fan. Many wrestling fans have turned their backs on him since he walked out of WWE. Ironically, I came to love him even more for that. Despite generous pay, the real-life Phil Brooks was feeling disrespected and misused by WWE, and was suffering from what turned out to be a severe staph infection. So he made his health and sanity his top priority, and he walked away to pursue other interests. Stories like that strike a chord with me, given some of the bosses I’ve had over the years. When I had the chance to meet Punk at a comic book convention in Chicago awhile back, I was really proud to tell him: “Thank you for setting a good example and standing up for yourself.”

For yours truly, Punk personifies what Joseph Campbell called “following your bliss.” You don’t listen to what your friends, your peers, your culture, or even your loved ones want you to do, and you simply follow your heart and passion. You live with your heart as much, if not more than your head.

I’m guessing this marks the end of Punk’s UFC career, at least for now. But if MMA is where he finds his bliss, then he should continue to pursue it. He’s undoubtedly having a rough few days. But his wrestling career was built in part on defying expectations and proving people wrong. I see no reason why his MMA career shouldn’t be the same way.

Ponderings From Raw:

wwe-raw-september-12-2016-bayleyMick Foley, Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Sasha Banks, and Bayley open the show. After too much disrespect, Dana slaps Charlotte across the face. Sasha vs. Bayley vs. Dana is made to decide the top contender for the Raw Women’s Title.  Right after Sasha came out and said she was going to take the belt back at Clash of Champions, there was a long, awkward silence. Nobody said anything. Charlotte didn’t respond to Sasha’s threat, Sasha didn’t follow up with anything, Mick didn’t interject. They just stood there. And why? Because Bayley’s cue got messed up somehow. So they all stood there like high school kids in a play.

This is why I wish they didn’t overly script these segments. Granted, it sucked that Bayley’s entrance was late, and it was a bad position for anyone to be in. But if you’re performers, and you’re in the moment, you can compensate for that.

The audience definitely popped when Dana slapped Charlotte. But imagine if Dana hadn’t been playing such a bratty heel the whole time. Imagine if she actually had some sympathy. Imagine how much more impactful it would have been…

On a more positive note, I Iiked shy Bayley. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that side of her character. Very endearing.

sasha-banks-wwe-raw-september-12-2016Sasha Banks def. Bayley and Dana Brooke to earn a Raw Women’s Title Match at Clash of Champions. I loved how the TV audience barely saw Sasha and Bayley wrestle in this match. Dana Brooke was constantly between them. That’s how it should be. The novelty of seeing them wrestle for the first time on the main roster should be protected as much as possible.

Of course, Sasha did end up sneaking in to catch a quick pin on Bayley. My question is, were they both supposed to have their shoulders on the mat? Was that supposed to be a double pin that the ref didn’t see? If so, that’s a nice way to protect Bayley until they eventually meet.

In a pre-tape, Enzo challenges Epico to a match. The only one of Enzo’s catchphrases I’ve soured on is the one about “a cuppa haters.” He overuses it.

So Primo & Epico are literally Puerto Rican travel agents at this point?

Bo Dallas wins a squash match. I’ll give them this much: I’m interested to see what happens when Bo stops squashing jobbers. I’m not hopeful he’ll get very far reciting poems like Heidenreich used to to. But you never know.

Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, September 12, 2016Sami Zayn is a guest on Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. Zayn bringing up “the old Chris Jericho” is likely a foreshadowing of what we’ll see from the inevitable Jericho vs. Owens feud. Owens obviously can’t play the babyface. So it looks like we’ll be getting the return of the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n Rolla. In the meantime, Jericho vs. Zayn seems imminent.

Cesaro def. Sheamus in match five of their Best of Seven series. The current score is Sheamus: 3, Cesaro: 2. Cesaro cheats to win, like true babyfaces always do. Ugh. They’ve timed this so the last match can take place at Clash of Champions. This “championship opportunity” the winner gets is pretty vague. I suppose it’s too much to ask that Cesaro earn a Universal Title Match at Hell in a Cell in October. More likely they go with Seth Rollins again.

Nia Jax def. Alicia Fox. Very effective outing for Nia. The size difference between these two ladies was almost unsettling. I can’t recall ever seeing someone hurled into the barricade by their hair. Also, have we ever seen one of the girls do e a spear through the barricade? I can’t think of one offhand.

I got a chuckle at Cole referring to Fox as “one of the most accomplished competitors here in the WWE women’s division for years.” I get what he was trying to do. But c’mon, Cole. Accomplished? When was the last time she even won a match?

WWE September 12, 2016, Gallows & AndersonLuke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. The New Day. I find it funny that in the pre-match promo, Kofi talked about how Gallows & Anderson’s “Old Day” segment from last week wasted five minutes of everyone’s time. Why would I want to watch this show when the performers themselves are telling me it’s wasting my time? Still, at least WWE has a sense of humor about how bad that damn skit was. Also, Anderson & Gallows were back to being serious ass kickers this week.

This was another instance of WWE basically giving us the pay per view match early to…wait for it…promote the pay per view match. Because that always works so well.

Jinder Mahal def. Jack Swagger. Wow. They gave us this match during the third hour, and expect to hold the casual fan’s interest? This is basically a Superstars match.

After the match they had Tom Phillips mention Swagger’s Raw contract expiring soon. I guess that might be interesting. Jack Swagger has basically been Dolph Ziggler’s constant reminder that things could always be worse…

Epico def. Enzo Amore. So they gave us Jinder Mahal, Jack Swagger, and Epico in the third hour. Even with him winning, I’d call that a tactical mistake, wouldn’t you?

Rusev, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, September 12, 2016Kevin Owens def. Roman Reigns thanks to a distraction by Rusev. So now we’ve got Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins at Clash of Champions, and chances are we’ll get Roman vs. Rusev as well. No doubt a lot of people are happy about Reigns being kept out of the Universal Title picture. I can’t say it breaks my heart.

So what’s the deal with this Seth Rollins/Mick Foley stuff? Where does that go? Not in a match, we know that much. Will they find themselves at odds over where Stephanie’s loyalties lay? Come to think of it, we still don’t know why Triple H helped Owens win the title. Hopefully they can answer that one sooner than later…

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The Brock Lesnar Blunder, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

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

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Brock Lesnar’s UFC Return, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s a development that probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, but was anyway. Brock Lesnar is returning to the octagon.

WWE’s “Beast Incarnate” will fight Mark Hunt July 9 at UFC 200. Lesnar has reportedly been granted a one-off by WWE. Just over a month later, Lesnar will compete at Summerslam.

So UFC gets one of their biggest attractions back for a night, and will presumably make a ton of money on pay per view buys. On the other hand, WWE gets a big chunk of change for Lesnar, has its name out there in a major mainstream sports story, and gets a lot of added press for Summerslam. It’s that last one that really intrigues me. How many UFC fans will follow Brock back to WWE after July? If WWE puts Brock with a strong opponent, how much does Summerslam stand to benefit?

Call me a cynic, but I’ve never been a big believer in pro wrestling’s ability to appeal to MMA fans. At least not in this era, when interest in wrestling is fairly low. It just seems like most MMA fans don’t see wrestling as a viable alternative. Especially if you expose them to all the stupid comedy we’re so often subjected to. But if Brock has proven anything, it’s his uniqueness. If he fares well against Mark Hunt, WWE may have the chance to ride that wave of momentum and get some fresh eyes on the product.

WWE Raw, August 3, 2015, Brock Lesnar, Paul HeymanBut what happens if he loses? How does that effect the average joe’s perception of WWE, and the so-called legitimacy of its athletes?

Either way, the buzz surrounding this fight is exactly what both parties are looking for. Personally, I can’t wait for the Paul Heyman promos. Perhaps this paves the way for more one-offs between UFC and WWE. We know Ronda Rousey is a big WWE fan, after all…

Ponderings From Raw:

The show opens with the Money in the Bank Ladder Match participants all on ladders in the ring. Teddy Long makes a bizarre appearance. This came off pretty scripted. But the ad-libbing was pretty cool. Loved the crowd chanting “stupid idiot.”

So they trotted Teddy Long out there to hype Smackdown going live…even though Teddy hasn’t been on Smackdown in years. But whatever. At least the crowd was happy to see him. But I reached for the remote as soon as Stephanie came out there to talk to him. Between Teddy botching his lines (bless his heart), and my ill will left over from Steph’s promo on Charlotte last week, it was time to tag out.

Cesaro, Chris Jericho, WWE, June 6, 2016Cesaro def. Chris Jericho. Great win for Cesaro. The big swing into the Sharpshooter was tremendous. I don’t expect Cesaro to win the ladder match. But a victory over Chris Jericho is a nice consolation prize.

WWE airs a video package on Seth Rollins’ quest to be the best, and his rivalry with Roman Reigns. Firstly, I’m very happy they’re starting to do more of these video packages. These are usually pretty damn good.

This one was going fine until they got to Seth’s injury last November. They turned his story from that of an underhanded and selfish villain into a feel-good comeback story. Rollins had the title taken from him, he suffered a terrible injury, and he missed Wrestlemania. And as I understand it, that’s not what they’re trying to do with Rollins. They want him to be a heel, don’t they? They’re sending us mixed messages.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger via count-out. Zipped right through this one on the DVR. Jack Swagger has been cast as a loser. So why should I care about any match he’s in? It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he loses, even if it’s only by count-out.

John Cena, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016John Cena and The Club meet again. Did he say “the pull-it club?”

I was disappointed to see them go with the standard “Cena can’t wrestle” approach with AJ. But he upped the intrigue by using the B-word. “Guys like you bury guys like me.” We in the die-hard audience know what that means. But the casual fans don’t. It would have been nice to hear him elaborate on that point. What exactly does he mean by bury? Is he implying Cena is using politics to hold back the better wrestlers? If so, he needs to say that.

After this segment, Styles has to win at Money in the Bank. It rang true when he talked about Styles losing to Reigns and being desperate. I understand Styles is a villain now, and things like that can be said without necessarily hurting him. But he needs a big win to get some of his credibility back.

The Vaudevillians def. Enzo & Cass via disqualification. This is the match they should have been building up since Enzo got hurt. The Vaudevillians hurt his partner, so Cass wants revenge. It’s nice and simple. But Cass really should have cranked up the intensity when he was beating up Gotch and English. He’s supposed to be enraged right? So act enraged, dude!

Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016Alberto Del Rio def. Sami Zayn. Del Rio desperately needs a repackaging. In the ring he’s great, but from a character standpoint he’s a boring caricature. He can be a player again if they just put some energy into freshening him up.

Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens. I appreciated the announcers playing up how close Dean Ambrose has been to the WWE Championship before. It’s happened multiple times in the last year. We saw multiple clips of him in The Shield on this show, and if they want his star to keep growing, they need to work to establish that he’s in the same league as Rollins and Reigns. A Money in the Bank contract certainly wouldn’t hurt in that regard.

Natalya and Becky Lynch confronted Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Yeah, I zipped through this one too. I normally don’t DVR through so much of the show. But I’d had enough obviously scripted dialogue for one night. And I was damn scared of Stephanie coming back out there and eviscerating Charlotte again. The end result was Charlotte and Dana beating down the babyfaces. It looks like we might get a tag match out of this at Money in the Bank. Fair enough.

Fatal Fourrway Tag Team Title Match announced for Money in the BankThis strikes me as a way to get the titles off of The New Day and onto Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows without having them pin The New Day. If that’s the plan, then do you put them with The New Day at Summerslam, or do you go with Cass & Enzo?

John Cena, Luke Gallows, WWE Raw, June 6, 2016The Club def. Kofi Kingston & Big E. in a three-on-one handicap match after Xavier Woods gets taken out. Cena comes out to stop a post-match beat-down. Poor Xavier Woods. He’s always the low man on the totem pole for some reason.

This was another instance of WWE saving Cena for the rescue spot, and making him look like a douche in the process. The New Day saved him earlier in the show. When Xavier went down, why wouldn’t he come down and take his spot in the match? Is it because they want to save Cena’s in-ring return for Money in the Bank? If so, that’s fine. But then why write the segment this way? Why not have Woods go down during the match, so The Club can get the win and Cena doesn’t look an asshole by waiting all that time?

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

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