Tag Archives: Kevin Owens

A WWE Backlash Preview – The Forgotten Show

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Backlash gets overlooked a lot. That’s inevitable, as it always comes after a big show like Wrestlemania or Summerslam. But let’s not do it a disservice. The show has given us its share of classics. Austin vs. Rock in 1999. Rock vs. Triple H in 2000. Foley vs. Orton in 2004. We even got the infamous match where Shawn Michaels teamed with “God.”

Backlash can deliver. It’s just a question of whether it can this year. The fact that it’s coming a mere two weeks after the Greatest Royal Rumble doesn’t help matters. I don’t expect this one is going to blow us away. But you never know…

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Bryan takes this one, though it might be via disqualification. Either way, they’ll come back to it next month at Extreme Rules with some kind of gimmick match. I can see the story being that Cass can’t beat Bryan (yet), so he continues attacking him out of humiliation and spite.

Bryan is obviously being used to help get Cass over as a single. And if you want to be a heel, picking on Daniel Bryan is a hell of a way to get heat. So I like where their head is at there. Some fans were upset they didn’t jump right into Bryan vs. Styles, or Bryan vs. Nakamura. There’ll be time, folks. Let’s build those properly.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

You know the ironic thing about this match? There was a decent amount of speculation about Lashley being Strowman’s tag team partner at Wrestlemania. Instead they had Strowman win the tag belts with a child, and opted to save Lashley for Backlash. Wrestling is really weird…

Owens and Zayn eat the loss here. Because neither Strowman nor Lashley should be losing right now.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

These two had a tough gig at Wrestlemania. From a hype perspective, their match was easily drowned out by everything else vying for our attention. Then they wound up sandwiched between Daniel Bryan’s big return and AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. They’ve got plenty more wiggle room with this one, so hopefully they can give us something that stands out a little more.

I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to Alexa Bliss getting the belt back. But I don’t see it happening. It’s Nia’s time. I imagine she’ll move on to a new opponent after Backlash. As she’s got so much chemistry with Alexa, I’m curious as to how she’ll do with someone else. Ruby Riott comes to mind.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton

While it looks good on paper, I’m struggling to care about this one. Possibly because I’m struggling to care about Randy Orton in general. But if they can get a rhythm going, this could be the dark horse show-stealer.

My gut tells me Jeff takes the belt home in this one. He’s headed back into the main event scene on Smackdown, so it makes sense to give him a big win here.

PREDICTION: Jeff Hardy

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

I’ve become a big Carmella fan. So I’m thrilled she got to cash in successfully. She’s got charisma for days, and makes a great heel champion.

Carmella hasn’t had a lot of high profile singles matches. So I’m curious to see how she’ll match up against Charlotte. She’s definitely got her share of doubters. But I think she’s got the potential to surprise a lot of people.

PREDICTION: Carmella

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

To their credit, they’ve managed to keep the IC Title hot while transitioning it from Miz to Rollins. That doesn’t always happen. In fact, in the modern era it hardly ever happens…

Unless the opt to pull a wild move, there’s not a lot of suspense to this one. Rollins gets the win and keeps the belt on Raw. As he should. The Miz did wonders with it. Now let’s see what Rollins can do.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

This is being promoted as if it’s going to be the main event. That’s not how I see it. Now when you’ve got Styles and Nakamura wrestling for the title. No disrespect. I’m sure these two will tear the house down.

If it’s me running the show, Joe wins this one. But because it’s Vince’s show, Roman wins. Whether any of us like it or not, he’s getting another shot at Brock Lesnar and the Universal Title. So he needs to win. Actually, he doesn’t need to win, because this is a nonsensical world we live in. But he’s going to.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

So Nakamura got his shot at Wrestlemania, and he didn’t win. He got another shot at the Greatest Royal Rumble, and he didn’t win. So now he’s getting another shot. And because he’s not Roman Reigns, if he loses this one it might be difficult to justify him getting another one for awhile.

Thankfully, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think heel Nakamura, or “Nutcracker Nakamura” as some call him, gets the belt here. It’s amazing how much new life that turn breathed into him. Certainly enough that they can justify putting the championship on him.

It’s funny. So many “smart fans” were so devoted to Nakamura, and so defensive of Nakamura. Rightfully so, of course. Whether he’s a heel or a babyface, he’s obviously very special. But in hindsight, I think the Shinsuke Nakamura we had before Wrestlemania would have flopped with the title. The guy we have now, though? He might be a different story…

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

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WWE Superstar Shake-Up, Night One: From Smackdown to Raw

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Hmmm. Alright. I called some of this. Not a lot of it, though. But to be fair, it’s only half over. We’ll see who Smackdown gets tonight.

They didn’t do much to improve the presentation of the Superstar Shake-Up this year. We had Kurt Angle come out at the top of the show and tell us that the picks had already been made. That helped matters. But I still miss the draft aesthetic, and the reaction shots when a wrestler realizes they’ve been drafted. Plus, the word “draft” just sounds better than “Superstar Shake-Up.” The latter feels like a Vince-McMahonism.

Anyway, let’s see who we got here. With one exception (which is noted), all these names are moving from Smackdown to Raw

Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers

Jinder doesn’t necessarily gain much from moving to Raw. If anything, it pushes him further away from Heavyweight Title contention. They’ve already pulled him out of a major pay per view match with Brock Lesnar. But his chances don’t look good when he’s next to the likes of Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and Samoa Joe.

It should be noted that technically only Sunil was drafted to Raw. But obviously they’re not splitting them up. Jinder is clearly better with two lackeys as opposed to one.

The Riott Squad

I’m into this move. The biggest thing Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan had going against them was that they were unknowns. The majority of mainstream fans didn’t know who they were. So they looked weak compared to Absolution, who had Paige as their centerpiece. On Raw, the Riott Squad can not only play to a larger audience, but benefit from more camera time. Who are these girls, anyway? Let’s tell some stories here.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

While some are anxious to see Owens and Zayn go to separate shows, I’m dead set against splitting them up now. They make an amazing duo. So long as they don’t go against one another any time soon, this works just fine. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them go for the Raw Tag Team Titles against a babyface Sheamus and Cesaro. But of course, they could always find their way into the Universal Title picture. I wouldn’t even mind seeing Sami go against Braun Strowman again…

The Miz (to Smackdown)

I called this one. But to be fair, so did a lot of people. Fans were calling for Miz to go back to Smackdown for months now. Then Daniel Bryan was cleared, and the pot sweetened ten-fold. I’d love to see Bryan vs. Miz saved for a show like Summerslam or Wrestlemania. But I’m not sure they can wait that long. This match has been brewing for a long while. But if they take their time, they could have a hell of a draw on their hands.

Breezango

This is a lateral move for Fandango and Tyler Breeze. These guys have their role as comedic players, and as long as this act is together that’s likely all they’ll be.

Natalya

Welp, here’s Ronda Rousey’s first pay per view opponent. They even put them on camera together. And hey, Natalya is about the best choice they could have made. She can take care of Ronda out there, and a win over her will mean something. I imagine they can get a pay per view match out of her and Nia Jax as well. Nattie is going to be a solid utility player no matter where she goes. That’s going to pay off here, as she’s about to get one of the biggest matches of her career against Rousey.

Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre

I don’t think this is what anyone expected Drew McIntyre to do upon his return to the main roster. Frankly, I assumed he was Smackdown-bound. But this alliance with Dolph Ziggler isn’t the worst thing in the world. Ziggler is often tasked with helping introduce NXT call-ups to the main roster. That’s essentially what this is. Though I’m not sure McIntyre needed his help.

There was a lot of talk on Twitter about how the three members of 3MB, Drew MyIntyre, Jinder Mahal, and Heath Slater, are now all back on the same show. Pure coincidence, I assure you. But one I imagine they’ll take advantage of at least once. They’re certainly not getting back together, so we can rule that out.

Baron Corbin

Like Jinder, Corbin is done no favors by being placed in a larger pond. He seemed to be getting lost in the shuffle on Smackdown. Granted, a pair of embarrassing losses last summer did him no favors. But something is missing with Corbin. Here’s hoping they can find out what it is. Maybe all he needs is to work with the right opponent. In hindsight, his stuff with Dean Ambrose on Smackdown awhile back was actually pretty good.

Bobby Roode

Cue the heel turn. Roode is venturing dangerously close to white-meat babyface territory. He had a decent start on Smackdown, but now it’s time to get him back on track.

Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder

The former Hype Bros weren’t drafted together. But I find it interesting they both wound up on Raw. I had pitched sending Mojo to Raw specifically to get him away from Ryder. We need to start seeing him as something besides “the guy who turned on Zack Ryder.” Thus, separating them. I’m curious to see if this is just a coincidence, or if they actually plan to have them work together on screen again.

Chad Gable

Before he got injured, Jason Jordan had a pretty good thing going for him as a heel. When he comes back, they’ll need to re-establish him a little bit. Putting him back with Chad Gable would be an interesting way to do that. They can continue to tell that nepotism story with Kurt Angle, only this time apply it to American Alpha and the tag team division. This could, of course, lead to a split and feud between Jordan and Gable.

Gable gave an interview last night about starting a singles run, and I certainly don’t want to rule that out. Technically, Raw is still connected to 205 Live. So a run at the Cruiserweight Title could be in his future. But I truly think they brought him over to capitalize on his history with Jordan. Whatever that entails, it will be his job first and foremost.

The Ascension

Not sure why they bothered with this one. The ship has long since sailed for Konnor and Viktor. At least as the Ascension. Had they stayed on Smackdown, I actually would have been open to seeing them repackaged as the new Miztourage. Something to show us a new side of these guys, as it did for Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. But now? I don’t know. It feels like they just moved these guys so they could be squashed by the Authors of Pain.

Maria and Mike Kanellis

As it was with the Singh Brothers, technically Mike was the only one drafted. But they wouldn’t move him without Maria.

I’m guessing, however, that they’ll want to repackage him. Maria getting pregnant obviously threw a monkey wrench into their whole “power of love” gimmick on Smackdown. Which might have been for the better, actually. While I maintain it could have worked, it clearly wasn’t. So a repackaging is clearly in order. For now, just getting back on television would be a step in the right direction.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Wrestlemania Predictions: Daniel Bryan’s Return, Styles and Nakamura

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You talk about gettin’ a shot in the arm. Daniel Bryan, arguably the most popular star to grace a WWE ring since John Cena, is cleared to return. There was a time we thought we’d never see him wrestle again. And now, here he is.

I’m expecting genuine euphoria in New Orleans when he comes out. Mind you, this is the same arena he won the title in a few years ago. They couldn’t write a better story.

You’ve also got AJ Styles against Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship. If you’re a die-hard wrestling fan, that’s a dream match. WWE is even promoting it as a dream match. But have they maximized the storytelling potential between these two? For my money, the answer is no.

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, some of the title matches, and the matches involving the women.)

Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

And to think there were rumors of Owens and Zayn winding up in the battle royal.

This one started as get-them-on-the-card filler for Owens, Zayn, and Shane McMahon. But Bryan’s return has made it a tentpole attraction worthy of Wrestlemania. He’s obviously overshadowed everyone else in the match. But let’s not downplay the fact that Owens and Zayn deserve this spot. I shudder to think what Smackdown would have become without them these past several months.

Without Bryan in the ring, I’d have given this match to Owens and Zayn. But now he and Shane have to win. We’ve got to have the Yes Kicks, and the Yes Lock, and the Yes chants. All that stuff. It’s going to be a hell of a moment.

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

The history between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura is present in what they’ve given us. But you have to squint to see it. It’s in the subtext. Little allusions to Japan, the Tokyo Dome, “storied history,” etc. But they never gave us anything with any kind of depth. That’s what this has been missing. They didn’t have to talk about New Japan Pro Wrestling, or the Bullet Club, or any of that stuff. But it would have been nice to hear something like, “AJ beat Nakamura in Japan. Now Nakamura wants his win back, and the WWE Title along with it.” They haven’t even said that much about Nakamura coming to America, and how that journey has led him to a WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania.

I’m still on the fence about whether Nakamura is ready to hold the WWE Championship. Some of it is his fault, some of it has to do with his English, and some of it is WWE’s fault. It’s been a year, and they still don’t have a firm grip on how to present this guy. That being said, I think that’s where they’re going. They’re giving him the Wrestlemania journey storyline. He won the Rumble, and now he’s going to win the title. My only hope is that this match can live up to some of the hype surrounding it. Nakamura has given us some damn good matches. But he’s also turned in some duds. If there was ever a time for him to come through, it’s now.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Triple H and 205 Live, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Over the last few weeks, 205 Live seems to have gained something it’s desperately needed from the start: Buzz. And the one we have to thank for it is, of all people, Triple H.

Or rather, the real-life Paul Levesque. Levesque, who serves as WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, has become the new showrunner for 205 Live. As such, the name of the game seems to be reemphasizing the wrestling, and toning down some of the more cartoony elements in the show.

Case in point, this week’s episode. We had two lengthy matches, one between Akira Tozawa and Mark Andrews, and the other between Drew Gulak and Tony Nese. The presentation was very much akin to what we’d previously seen from the Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Championship tournament, and quite often from NXT. Very much sport-oriented, with the announcers largely focused on what’s happening in the ring as opposed to traditional Vince McMahon style “storytelling.”

Backstage segments with new GM Drake Maverick are being used as a reset button of sorts for various wrestlers. We saw one last week with Gulak and Nese, which led to what we got on this show. This week we got one with Jack Gallagher, who was told to start wearing standard ring attire again.

We’re also introducing names from the NXT and the UK rosters. We spent a good amount of time getting to know Wales native Mark Andrews. Former NXT Tag Champ Buddy Murphy was also profiled, with the story being about him reinventing himself and cutting weight to make the 205 Live roster.

This is good. This is a change. One that makes sense, given 205 Live airs on the WWE Network. They can skew a bit more toward the devoted wrestling fans who pay that money every month rather than casual viewers. We’ve got plenty of time for that on Raw and Smackdown. The time has come to make 205 Live what it should have been from the start: An offshoot of the Cruiserweight Classic. That’s where WWE fans were first introduced to most of these guys. Let’s see if we can get some of those folks back.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn ambush Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler before they can wrestle for a spot in the title match at Fastlane. Shane McMahon later makes Corbin vs. Owens and Ziggler vs. Zayn. If Corbin and Ziggler win their respective matches, they get added to the Fastlane match. So Ziggler is apparently a babyface now, for no apparent reason. That’s fine, as Ziggler has proven he can do well in either role. I just wish they’d come up with a coherent reason for him to be back after voluntarily relinquishing the US Title. Later in the show, he talked about wanting to main event Wrestlemania. That’s a fine reason, but he still looks like a dope for walking out.

I don’t know why I’m even complaining at this point. As far as the writing and booking for Ziggler are concerned, this kind of thing is par for the course. What’s more, he reportedly just signed a new two-year deal for $1.5 million annually. Hey, at least he’s well paid.

Charlotte Flair def. Sarah Logan. At this point, Logan stands out the least among the three Riott Squad members. So I had trouble getting invested in this match for that reason. They made a point to talk about how Charlotte has now beaten both Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, and is now targeting Ruby Riott. So what happens if she beats all three? Do they have to break up?

Baron Corbin def. Kevin Owens to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. The finish to this one was pretty obvious, and it dragged as a result. I was surprised to see Corbin get the clean win, though.

Randy Orton attempts to accept Bobby Roode’s open challenge for the United States Title, but Jinder Mahal interrupts. A fight breaks out, and Jinder is left standing tall. So Jinder was trying to goad a reaction out of Orton for only being number 9 on the Smackdown Top 10. But the story behind the list is that it’s decided by votes from fellow wrestlers, and is essentially a popularity contest. Why would a loner character like Orton care?

On the other hand, this could open the door for a Randy Orton heel turn. It wouldn’t be a big stretch. He could talk about being disrespected by both the wrestlers and the fans, and throw in that he apparently wasn’t even invited to Raw‘s 25th anniversary show. And if he really wants heat, he can retire the RKO.

The New Day def. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. This match spun out of a segment about pancakes. No, seriously.

How Gable was able to hit that roll-through German Suplex on Big E, I’ll never know. Absolutely sick strength.

Dolph Ziggler def. Sami Zayn to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. Like the Owens/Corbin match, my interest in this one was pretty low. They were starting to get me toward the end, though. Hell of an Exploder Suplex.

So now we’ve got a Fatal Five-Way for the title. I’d love to know why they’re so fixated on these five-man matches as opposed to four or six-man matches. Comparatively, it’s such an awkward number. The good news is that with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler in there, they’d have to try pretty hard to make this a bad match.

Conspicuous by his absence this week was Shinsuke Nakamura. Now that we’ve got five guys in the main event, and what appears to be a three-way between Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Jinder Mahal, who does that leave for Nakamura? Rusev, maybe? Could they feed him a lower midcard guy like Mojo Rawley?

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WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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Enzo Amore’s Release, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It was only a matter of time before the #MeToo movement touched pro wrestling. I can’t say I expected Enzo Amore to be the one effected. But here we are.

The real-life Eric Arndt was suspended and subsequently released by WWE this week after rape allegations against him emerged via Twitter. Supposedly Enzo was fired not because he was accused, but because he failed to alert WWE that he was being investigated.

Either way, it’s a rotten situation. If he did it, then he deserves everything that’s coming to him. If he didn’t, and simply failed to be transparent with WWE about it, then this whole thing was needless. Arndt certainly isn’t the best in the ring. But he’s still incredibly talented, and can go far. If he is innocent, then hopefully he’ll be back. Perhaps a little wiser for the experience.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Vince McMahon is honored by his children, Shane and Stephanie. Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupts, hitting the Stone Cold Stunner on Shane twice, and once on the chairman himself. This Raw 25 show as a disappointment for a variety of reasons. But we can’t say they didn’t start strong. At 72, Vince is every bit the showman he’s always been. And of course, it doesn’t get any hotter than Steve Austin.

Remember the days when Austin could hit the Stunner on Stephanie? Ahhh, good times…

Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James def. Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Asuka throws her teammates over the top rope afterward, in a preview of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Asuka is obviously a heavy favorite in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match this Sunday. But she’s also a little obvious. Who’s the dark horse candidate? Nia Jax? Becky Lynch, maybe?

The Undertaker returns to the Manhattan Center, says it’s time for those who’ve fallen to “rest in peace.” Lots of fans holding up smartphones during the Undertaker’s entrance. I’ll never understand that. Be in the moment, folks. Put your damn phones away.

Filming at both the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center was a complete waste. I feel for the fans at the Manhattan Center, who obviously felt cheated with what relatively little they got. Watching current stars on that throwback set is such a great visual. Why not just do the Manhattan Center? Just jack up the ticket prices. The die-hards will pay.

There was a ton of speculation about an angle being shot for Undertaker vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania. I’m not necessarily disappointed we didn’t get that. But we didn’t get much of anything from ‘Taker. He said some drawn out stuff about his old enemies, and then he left. Again, seeing him back in the Manhattan Center was cool. But in the end, this was a big disappointment.

The Miz def. Roman Reigns to win the Intercontinental Championship. Loved the finish to this one, with the exposed turnbuckle pad being a surprise. Miz cheats to win, and gets his belt back in a match that the crowd was pretty into. Take note future champions: For the Miz, that IC Title is every bit as important as the WWE Title. That’s how you lend prestige to a championship.

Christian hosts Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan on the Peep Show. Jason Jordan’s got heat. Bar babyface turn? Sheamus and Cesaro interrupt. A brawl ensues. and Rollins accidentally takes out Jordan. A babyface turn for Sheamus and Cesaro is probably inevitable. They’ve got that cool factor going for them. Especially when they’re up against someone like Jason Jordan, who’s definitely coming into his own as a heel. He’s gettin’ there. Slowly but surely…

Bray Wyatt def. Woken Matt Hardy. Another opportunity they missed with the Manhattan Center presentation? Howard Finkel. That had him announce Undertaker’s entrance, but they switched to Greg Hamilton for the remainder of the night. The never even showed Finkel on camera. Why? What’s their aversion to letting this guy be on TV?

On the plus side, it’s always great to hear Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on headset. Lawler alluded to us one day finding out who/what Sister Abigail is. I’d like to think that means the whole Bray in drag thing is being forgotten. More likely, they’re not as familiar with the recent product.

Chris Jericho appears in a backstage segment with Elias. Again, a total waste not having Jericho appear in front of the live crowd. Though at least for this one they have an excuse, what with the whole New Japan thing. He was even wearing his “Alpha Club” t-shirt. Did they just miss that?

Elias is interrupted by John Cena. A fight breaks out. Elias low blows Cena, and smashes him in the back with a guitar. Very cool to see Jimmy Fallon in the front row. Like him or not, he’s the host of The Tonight Show. That means something.

One thing I love about Cena? His love for spontaneity. He’ll go with the crowd. Even if he’s just pointing out the stupid beach balls. That lends an energy to things that’s been sorely lacking for a long time.

Mark Henry finds out the Godfather is “grown up,” and now a married man. Of course the Godfather can’t have hoes anymore. That was an edgy gimmick back in the ’90s. I’m almost surprised they even let him be on TV nowadays.

The Dudley Boyz interrupt a tag team match. Heath Slater takes the 3D through a table. Why exactly couldn’t we get that Bubba Ray heel run last year? Hell, why couldn’t the Dudleys even get a token tag team title run? This seems to be a recurring theme, but what a waste…

Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, and Scott Hall celebrate Raw’s 25th anniversary with the Balor Club. Gallows and Anderson defeat the Revival. The legends beat up Dash and Dawson. It tugged at my heartstrings to hear Hunter name-drop Chyna. It’s such a damn shame she never got to come back and take a bow. She absolutely deserved it.

Supposedly, this Revival stuff was supposed to have been done by Enzo. Dash and Dawson did just fine, of course. And somehow it wasn’t as bad as what the Ascension got from JBL and the gang a few years back.

The “Too Sweet” bit with the Balor Club felt like an unofficial passing of the torch moment. BNow if only Balor hadn’t lost to Seth Rollins last week.

A confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman ends with Strowman Powerslamming Lesnar through an announce table. They did this table spot at Summerslam, right? Still a good spot. Now if only Strowman were winning the title this Sunday.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn open Smackdown. AJ Styles agrees to face them in singles matches later in the show. They really want us to get behind the “Kami” nickname for Owens and Zayn. Coming from AJ, it almost feels like a dad joke. Good thing he’s the best in the damn world…

Chad Gable def. Jey Uso. Gable’s roll-through German Suplex somehow never gets old.  He’s so smooth in there. But at 5’8, his height could work against him in terms of a singles push. Granted, guys like Eddie Guerrero have been Heavyweight Champions at around that height. So it’s not unheard of.

Naomi def. Liv Morgan. The women’s locker room empties in anticipation of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Charlotte Flair wishes them good luck, “especially to the winner.” Saw someone on Twitter say that Liv Morgan looks like a Bratz doll. I’m not even sure what that means. But somehow I know it’s true.

We haven’t heard anything official about past stars coming in for the Women’s Rumble Match, which seems odd. I would imagine everyone they trotted out for that little hello on Raw is a candidate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Nikki Bella show up. I’m sure Jacqueline would be happy to get in there. Trish Stratus seems like a must. I’ve also heard Molly Holly’s name mentioned. You’d think at least a few names would have been announced. Especially with them in attendance like that.

Randy Orton interrupts a match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin. Hits the RKO on both. Baron Corbin’s entrance music may be the best thing he’s got going for him right now. True story.

Hell of an entrance by Orton. He friggin’ flew into frame with that first RKO. His wife went on a little Instagram rant about how he was left off Raw 25. At least he didn’t miss much…

Bobby Roode, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods def. Jinder Mahal, Rusev, and Aiden English. That “Keap of Faith” Kofi does over the top with his back turned is damn crazy. Talk about a trust fall…

AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens quickly after Owens seemingly injures his knee. After a pre-match beatdown, Sami Zayn pins the WWE Champion. The best part of all this? Zayn finally won a match with the Blue Thunder Bomb. It’s the best move he’s got, but he’s always used it as a set-up move.

The dead giveaway that Owens wasn’t really hurt? They kept showing him on camera during the match. Typically if somebody gets hurt, they don’t do that if they can help it.

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Women’s Royal Rumble Match, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been gone for a few weeks. As such, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about the upcoming women’s Royal Rumble Match.

Like almost everybody else, I’m cool with the match itself. I just wonder if this isn’t the beginning of WWE continuing to water down their big pay per view shows. Historically, there’s only been one Rumble Match each year. Now we’re getting a second. I imagine we’ll get the women’s Rumble at the top of the show, and the men’s Rumble as the main event. I’m very curious to see how that Philadelphia crowd reacts to two of these matches on one show. Does the novelty wear off for the second one?

I’m also curious to see how they fill those 30 slots. Almost every eligible woman on the main roster is now in the match. Factoring in Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox, who haven’t been announced yet, you’ve got 19 main roster names you can put in there. Thus, they have 11 spots they have to fill with either NXT talent or returning wrestlers. That’s a pretty big gap…

Obviously all of this is still very much in the experiment phase. Growing pains for the Women’s Division, which continues to grow. Much of what goes wrong (if anything) this year can be corrected in the years to come.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Jason Jordan interrupts Roman Reigns’ opening promo, talks about a three-man group between Reigns, Jordan, and Seth Rollins. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson interrupt. A six-man tag is made for the main event. This Shield reunion was apparently snake bit from the start. First Reigns has to bow out of their first main event together, and now Dean Ambrose goes down with an injury that’ll put him out for nine months. That’s a rotten break. But as these things sometimes are, it may be a blessing in disguise. Going away for awhile will hopefully freshen Ambrose up, and maybe even lead him back to heavyweight title contention.

Jason Jordan came off really well here from the standpoint of being a hokey, lame daddy’s boy trying to insert himself into the Shield. On the flip side, it’s great to see Balor teaming with Gallows and Anderson at long last. But the cool vibe they’ve got going for them gets undercut real quick when they have to recite that contrived WWE dialogue.

Sasha Banks and Bayley def. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. After a few weeks off, I still find Sasha Banks annoying. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.

On Wrestling Observer Radio last week, Dave Meltzer mentioned that WWE has given up on Bayley. I’m inclined to believe him. But they’ve got no one to blame but themselves for that one. They wrote Bayley into a hole that she still hasn’t been able to escape.

Matt Hardy def. Curt Hawkins, stares down Bray Wyatt. Memphis was pretty quiet for this one, unless Matt was prompting them to chant. Then they had that weird staredown. Not the best night for the Woken one…

The Miz returns on Miz TV, announces he’s coming for the Intercontinental Title. This was pretty by-the-book. Good to see Miz back, of course. Raw missed him.

So apparently Miz and Maryse are getting a reality show on the USA Network. That’s actually a pretty big deal. I’m not a Total Divas fan at all, but that show caters to an audience that Raw and Smackdown obviously don’t. Given Miz’s background as a reality TV star, not to mention the couple’s work on Total Divas, this could be an awesome thing for them.

Cedric Alexander def Enzo Amore via count-out. Enzo retains the Cruiserweight Title. Ouch. Kudos to Enzo for finishing the match after getting busted open by a kick. Also, he was either selling really well, or he legit hurt his ankle. Did they have to call an audible on the finish?

Got a chance to catch Enzo on Straight to the Source, Corey Graves’ interview show on the WWE Network. Enzo spouted off a lot of catchphrases, but he still did damn good with that platform. He also seemed to set up a feud with Big Cass when he returns.

Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews def. Seams and Cesaro. So Dana Brooke is obviously with Titus and Apollo now. That business casual look actually suits her. It’s sort of a throwback to Debra’s old look. I would never have pegged “statistician” as a good role for Dana Brooke. But for now it’s working.

Kane ambushes Brock Lesnar after a Paul Heyman promo. Braun Strowman surprises them both, and then brings a lighting rig down on his Royal Rumble opponents. Firstly, since I didn’t get to say it last week, Brock sitting up and laughing at Kane’s Chokeslam was awesome. A really nice nod to the Undertaker.

So…that lighting rig obviously didn’t touch either Lesnar or Kane. That was pretty clear even on television. But still a pretty cool stunt for Strowman. And I liked the juxtaposition of Kane pulling himself back up with Lesnar getting loaded into the ambulance. I just wish the match stood a chance of living up to this hype.

Samoa Joe def. Rhyno, announces he’s targeting John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Crowd was dead for this one too. But in all fairness Rhyno has essentially become an enhancement talent. The final ECW Heavyweight Champion, ladies and gentlemen.

Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson def. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Jason Jordan. The Miz and the Miztourage ambush Reigns after the match. Teaming with Gallows and Anderson is already producing results for Balor. He got to score the pin and beat a team that’s not the Miztourage!

AJ Styles is interviewed at the top of the show. A Handicap Match is made for the main event. AJ’s end of this promo was weird. For one thing, he actually said “smart booking” on WWE television, which feels like something he’s not supposed to say. He also seemed legit flustered at one point. That’s sort of where he was supposed to be coming from in the promo. But I’m not sure he’s that good an actor…

Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott. It was confusing that Charlotte and Naomi came out after Becky. Neither of them were in the match…

During this match I tweeted: “If Absolution is Coca Cola, then the Riott Squad is RC Cola.” That’s to say, Ruby and her crew seem like a cheap knock-off. That’s a shame, as Ruby’s look is so distinct. The big difference is Paige. Between Absolution and the Riott Squad, she’s the only established WWE name. We’re still getting to know everyone else.

Mojo Rawley def. Zack Ryder to advance to the semi-finals in the United States Championship tournament. This was hardly a shock. Ryder was always going to end up putting Rawley over. Though I still maintain a heel turn would have worked for Ryder.

There’s not much suspense in this tournament, as it’s obviously going to be Bobby Roode against Jinder Mahal in the finals at the Rumble. I’m assuming they’ll give it to Jinder as a way to rehab him after his WWE title run.

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable demand justice for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Daniel Bryan puts them in a Two-Out-of-Three Falls Match at the Royal Rumble. Gable and Benjamin were alright on the mic here. The big reason Benjamin was never able to reach that top echelon was he never had much of a personality. I think his opportunity to be a main-eventer has come and gone But if Gable can help bring a little more charisma out of him, he could still reap some big benefits down the road.

Breezango def. Rusev Day. Despite their loss here, Rusev and English should be tag champs before the year is through. For whatever reason, this Rusev Day thing is over.

AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a Handicap Match. Shane McMahon adds stipulations to the match when Owens and Zayn try to get counted out, and then disqualified. I’m never a fan of the babyfaces outnumbering the heels in Handicap Matches. It throws the psychology out of whack. You can make a legitimate case that Shane is the heel here. He’s essentially trapping Owens and Zayn in this match. But that seems to be what they’re going for. This Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan thing is all about shades of gray. It’s interesting, but confusing at times.

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