Posted in Uncategorized, Wrestling

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As many of us know, each year Barbara Walters publishes a list of her “most fascinating people” from the previous 12 months. This year, her list included Miley Cyrus, the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, Pope Francis, and Hilary Clinton.

But you know what? None of those folks interest me at all. What can I say? Babs and I must have opposing tastes. I’m a man who loves his comic books, his movies, and of course, his pro wrestling. And for my money, the most fascinating pro wrestling fan be found on WWE television. And now, as I did last year, it’s time for me to put my own spin on Walters’ list.

Ladies, gentlemen, and “smarks,” Primary Ignition now presents: WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013!

Dolph Ziggler, Money in the Bank, cash in1. Dolph Ziggler
At this time last year, Dolph Ziggler seemed to be on the verge of true superstardom, and justifiably so. He’s ultra-athletic, has tremendous charisma, and at least half the time will give you the best match on the card. In many ways he’s comparable to Shawn Michaels, which I think is one of the highest compliments one can give to a wrestler. The night after Wrestlemania XXIX, Ziggler had the night of his career when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and won the World Heavyweight Championship as the fans chanted his name. But unfortunately, things went steeply downhill from there. An injury threw a big wrench into Ziggler’s title run, and the belt quickly went back to Alberto Del Rio. From there, Ziggler spent the majority of 2013 jobbing to guys like Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. His rapid descent down the card has been downright depressing and simply begs the question: Why? Why bury such an A+ talent? Rumors have surfaced Ziggler’s backstage attitude, and his perceived drawing power. Either way, Ziggler is in a much different place this year than he was last year. I’m hopeful, but also wary about where he’ll be at this time next year.

AJ Lee, 20132. AJ Lee

In 2013, AJ Lee finally rose to her rightful place at the head of WWE’s otherwise lackluster divas division, and while her caliber of opponents have left much to be desired, Lee herself continues to be interesting to watch. In addition to breaking WWE’s traditional Barbie doll/model mold for female wrestlers, she seems to have gotten much more confident on the mic this year. Case in point? Her “pipe bombshell” promo from August, in which she referred to the cast of Total Divas as “a bunch of ungrateful, stiff, plastic mannequins,” and alluded to how the Bella Twins sucked up to the right people. Moments like that, combined with her unique look, and apparently her sense of style, give AJ a special connection with both male and female fans. Plus, occasionally she’ll do something that will make me go: “Maybe she really does a little crazy in her.” Prior to this month, I had no idea who Michelle Beadle was. But apparently she and AJ had a heated moment when Beadle supposedly dissed CM Punk, Lee’s real-life boyfriend. Either way, AJ continues to be the most compelling female performer WWE, and perhaps mainstream wrestling itself, has seen in years.

Darren Young, WWE, 20133. Darren Young

This past August, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, became the first active WWE wrestler to publicly come out of the closet. This seemingly happened on a whim when TMZ interviewed him at an airport. WWE handled this in what I deem to be a fairly tasteful manner. WWE.com reported on it, and the company made a point to circulate supportive quotes from other wrestlers. Young also took to the talk show circuit, appearing with the likes of Matt Lauer and Ellen DeGeneres. Thus, the company’s certainly milked Rosser’s revelation for positive publicity. But in terms of his role on-screen as Darren Young, very little has changed. He and Titus O’Neil have turned babyface as the Prime Time Players. But that’s essentially it, and one could argue that was in the cards anyway. To my knowledge, WWE never actually spoke about Rosser’s revelation on Raw, Smackdown, or any other in-character platform. What’s more, as far as I can see, Darren Young hasn’t gotten any kind of hateful backlash from fans who aren’t necessarily on board with homosexuals, the gay agenda, etc. As a fan, I was proud of WWE for not using this aspect of Rosser’s personal life as part of a tasteless storyline, proud of the fans for being mostly respectful of who this man is, and proud of Rosser for not being brave enough to put himself out there despite the risks that may have been present. Now if only the Prime Time Players could get a decent push…

Zeb Colter, 20134. Zeb Colter
The initial appearance of Wayne Keown (or as he’s more commonly known, Dutch Mantel) the February 11 edition of Raw as Jack Swagger’s new manager Zeb Colter came as a pleasant surprise to me. If there’s ever been a wrestler who needs a mouthpiece, it’s Jack Swagger. And Colter proved to be the perfect addition to his presentation, with his tirades about true patriotism, protecting America’s borders from illegal immigrants, and what this country has been “reduced to.” He turned Swagger’s program with Alberto Del Rio into one worthy of Wrestlemania XXIX. The passion and believability he delivered his promos with is something we don’t see nearly enough of from today’s crop of wrestlers. To the WWE publicity machine’s delight, the character even caught the attention of conservative pundit Glenn Beck. When Swagger was subsequently arrested for marijuana possession, his role was downgraded we didn’t see quite as much of Zeb. But when Swagger was teamed with Antonio Cesaro to form the Real Americans, Zeb’s promos became a more regular fixture on WWE TV, and we’ve reached the point where the “smarks” are even chanting “We the People!” along with him. His work (as well Paul Heyman’s) serves as proof that a manager/mouthpiece can still be a vital part of a wrestling program in the 21st century.

The Bella Twins, 20135. The Bella Twins
The Bellas are indeed fascinating, though not necessarily for good reasons. Nikki and Brie returned to WWE this past March, just in time to film Total Divas, a reality show on the E! network which follows a handful of female wrestlers. Nikki and Brie were front and center, as for the first time, it was acknowledged on WWE programming that Nikki was dating John Cena, and Brie was dating Daniel Bryan. As such, much of the show revolved around those two relationships. Nikki dealt with Cena’s reluctance to get married and start a family, while on the flip side, Brie and Bryan ended up engaged by the season finale. Surprisingly, the things that played out on Total Divas didn’t necessarily impact WWE’s ongoing storylines very much. However, during Bryan’s WWE Title program with Randy Orton in the fall, Brie was brought in to play the worried girlfriend, and we all cringed at the twins’ continued lack of acting talent. While Brie’s in-ring skills have indeed improved this year, the Bellas remain an instant cue for me to hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. And yet, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be gone any time soon, given their involvement with Cena and Bryan, not to mention the fact that WWE seems convinced we all want to see sexy twins wrestle every week. Sadly, the bloom was off that rose a long time ago. Clearly, the Bellas have a long way to go in terms of earning the respect of a lot of the “smart” wrestling fans. With luck, they’ll make more headway in 2014. If they don’t, there’s always that fast-forward button.

CM Punk, 20136. CM Punk
When we kicked off 2013, CM Punk was still the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, and the hottest heel the company had seen in years. After feuding with The Rock in January and February, he moved into a controversial program with The Undertaker, which culminated in a Wrestlemania match. From there, Punk had arguably gone as far as he could go as a heel, and really had no choice but to turn babyface. It’s been really interesting to see Punk turn his self-entitled narcissistic villain persona into a rebellious loose cannon character. Thankfully, Punk spent half the year working with Paul Heyman, one of the all-time great heel managers in wrestling, and the man who helped him generate much of his heat during his WWE Title run. While their rivalry might have run out of steam toward the end, they had a fantastic hero/villain dynamic. He’s been able to maintain that hero persona through brief programs with The Wyatt Family and The Shield. At this point, the only wrestler as universally cheered as Punk is Daniel Bryan. Given that he appears to be moving into some sort of program with Triple H and the Authority, the smart bet may be him winning the Royal Rumble and going on to main event Wrestlemania XXX. Given the way he’s shattered WWE’s glass ceiling and essentially made himself a marquee star these past few years, I’d say nobody (with Daniel Bryan being the only possible argument) deserves a Wrestlemania main event spot in 2014 more than CM Punk.

Paul Heyman, 20137. Paul Heyman

Heyman had a hell of a 2012, but somehow his 2013 was even better. To an extent, he’s actually taken on the role of a modern-day Bobby Heenan. For Wrestlemania season, he played a part in both the Undertaker/CM Punk and Triple H/Brock Lesnar programs, and got to walk both Lesnar and Punk to the ring at the big event. He also got to verbally joust with the likes of Vince McMahon, The Rock, Triple H, and of course, he got plenty of mic time with CM Punk once the two started their lengthy feud. Heyman was also given the task of helping elevate Curtis Axel, and later Ryback. Sadly, as was often the case with Heenan, Heyman ultimately wound up overshadowing both those men, particularly Axel. But regardless, no matter who he was working with, Paul Heyman almost always made for compelling television in 2013. Whether he was singing the praises of “Barrrrrrrrrrrrrock Lesnar,” planting a painfully awkward kiss on the cheek of Ryback, or taking a beating from Punk atop Hell in a Cell, Heyman was one of WWE’s most entertaining and captivating performers this year. And we can undoubtedly look forward to more of the same upon his return.

Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman, 20138. Curtis Axel

Fans who’d been following the career of Joe Henning (or as WWE fans came to know him, Michael McGillicuty) always knew him to be a solid in-ring performer. As the grandson of Larry “the Axe” Henning, and the son of Curt Henning, a.k.a. Mr. Perfect, he certainly has the business in his blood. Heck, he’d even been voted the 2008 Rookie of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But despite his talents, he’d yet to really be given an opportunity at singles stardom. His hokey ring name certainly didn’t help matters, nor did what many might consider to be a lack of charisma and mic skills. But regardless, in 2013 Henning was repackaged as Curtis Axel, with the incomparable Paul Heyman as his new manager and mouthpiece. Less than a month later, WWE put the Intercontinental Championship on him, and seemed confident they had a new star on their hands. But as was the case with Dolph Ziggler, Axel’s 2013 sadly ended on a downer. Even with the Intercontinental Title, he wound up being more of a henchman for Heyman than anything else. At Night of Champions, Axel was teamed with Heyman in a 2-on-1 handicap match against CM Punk. The angle was booked so that Punk getting his hands on Heyman was a virtual certainty, as Axel had no chance of defeating Punk. Eventually, he dropped the IC Title to Big E. Langston, and was thrown into a tag team with Ryback. Joe Henning may have tremendous in-ring talent, but whatever potential star power he had may have ultimately been eclipsed by his manager’s rivalry with Punk.

Big E Langston, Intercontinental Champion, 20139. Big E. Langston
Clearly, the WWE brass has faith in Big E. Langston, but I’m not sure I share that faith at this point. Langston started his year as a bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. It looked like an HBK/Diesel-type babyface turn was in the cards for him. But then Ziggler broke off from the trio, and the AJ/Langston pairing eventually fizzled out. From there, Langston abruptly turned babyface, and before long he found himself Intercontinental Champion. It all seems too much, too fast for my taste. I’d have liked to have seen Langston get more time to cook as a babyface before they put him in the spotlight the way he is now. His mic skills clearly need work, as is evidenced by his bland, white-meat performance on commentary in recent weeks. Still, Langston definitely has a great look, and he’s solid in the ring. He also seems to have a certain charisma bubbling underneath the surface that I’m very interested to see more of. As Triple H has said in the past, the wrestler makes the championship important, and not vice versa. I’ve got the impression that WWE put the title on Langston to give him a boost. But now it’s up to him to make the most of this opportunity, and elevate himself to that next level. I’m very curious to see whether he can do that in the early part of 2014.

Daniel Bryan, WWE Night of Champions 201310. Daniel Bryan

Following Wrestlemania XXVIII, fans were unrelenting with their “Yes!” chants, letting WWE know, in no uncertain terms, who they’d chosen as WWE’s next marquee star. In 2013, Daniel Bryan became that marquee star. Case in point? Earlier this month, WWE held a “championship ascension ceremony,” which centered around John Cena and Randy Orton’s match to unify the Heavyweight Championships at TLC. They were joined in the ring by the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, CM Punk, among numerous other Hall of Fame caliber stars. But who were the fans chanting for? Daniel Bryan. It got to the point where Triple H and John Cena actually had to shift their performances to acknowledge the chants, as they were drowning out the mic work. Granted, they were in Bryan’s home state of Washington. But I think it’s safe to say the Washington fans spoke for the WWE audience at large that night. Daniel Bryan, the 5’10 vegan indie darling with the scraggly beard, has surpassed our wildest expectations. Most “smart” fans knew he had the talent, but whether WWE would run with him was another story. But between the deafening chants from the fans, and the awesome performances he gave this year alongside the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and even midcard guys like Antonio Cesaro, Bryan cannot be denied. I maintain what I said earlier about CM Punk being the smart  bet to main event Wrestlemania XXX. But it’s practically a guarantee that Bryan will be in a marquee match. The only question is, who will stand across the ring from Bryan on the grandest stage of ‘em all? Triple H, I’m looking at you…

Image 3 from thegrio.com. Image 4 from 411mania.com. Image 5 from wrestlenewz.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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