Tag Archives: Kurt Angle

Wrestling Headlines: RIP Vader, Big Cass’ Release, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Leon White, known to fans as Vader, passes away at the age of 63. Very sad to hear of Vader’s passing this week after a battle with pneumonia.

I started following wrestling on a consistent basis in the summer of 1996, when the big man was feuding with Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. So many of my early fandom memories involve Vader.

But as many longtime fans know, the Vader we saw on WWF television was but a fraction of what Big Van Vader had been in Japan and WCW. This guy’s offense was so tough, so stiff, and so brutal, he truly earned his reputation as a monster. Watch some of the work he did with Cactus Jack in WCW. There’s also a famous match he had with Stan Hansen in Japan where his eye literally popped out of its socket. For better or worse, it was the stuff of legends.

White was fairly open about his recent health issues. In late 2016, he famously tweeted that a doctor had told him he had roughly two years left to live due to congestive heart failure. Given how much press that generated, it’s frustrating that WWE didn’t opt to put him in the Hall of Fame. Still, we can take some solace in the fact that he at least got to be up on that stage to induct Stan Hansen. I can only assume he’ll be inducted posthumously at some point.

Here’s to you, big man. Thanks for the memories.

Big Cass abruptly fired from WWE before Tuesday’s Smackdown. Yikes. We’d heard he had heat with management. But wow…

Supposedly it was a variety of things. Going against Vince McMahon’s direction in a segment a few weeks back, an incident on a tour bus, being intoxicated in public on a European tour. This is totally a guess on my part, but it sounds like the pressures of a singles push were getting to him. That, and maybe some maturity issues.

If Cass wants to continue wrestling, I have no doubt he can find stardom somewhere else. At the very least, he can reunite with Enzo and make some money on the indies. Whether he wants to be associated with Enzo and all that drama is another story.

Kurt Angle “suspends” Ronda Rousey from Raw for 30 days. Not really sure where they’re going with this. Supposedly, Ronda will still be making house show appearances. I assume that’s why they’re saying “suspended from Raw” as opposed to just suspended. Maybe they do a bunch of angles where she runs in from the crowd to try and get Alexa Bliss?

Rusev earns WWE Championship Match with AJ Styles at Extreme RulesI can’t say I expected this.  I won’t complain, though. Glad to see they’re listening to the people. Now the question is, do they buck their track record thus far, and actually let AJ Styles, their WWE Champion, main event a pay per view?

The answer, of course, is no. The multi-man match to decide Brock’s next opponent will go on last at Extreme Rules. But hey, it’s fun to think about, right?

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: Women’s Evolution

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I can never keep it straight. Apparently it’s the “Women’s Evolution” and not the “Women’s Revolution.” Either way, the women of WWE are as prominent a part of this year’s Wrestlemania as they’ve ever been. In addition to the battle royal on the pre-show, we’ve got both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles on the line, and a major attraction involving Stephanie McMahon and Ronda Rousey.

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

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

Alexa Bliss really should have dropped an F-bomb. She should have called Nia Jax fat. She’s not, of course. But you talk about a way to get heat in this ultra-PC age…

I’ve gradually become a Nia Jax fan over the last several months. I dig what she does for body positivity. I don’t know if you’d call her an unlikely babyface. But from a character standpoint, I’ve enjoyed her progression.

Obviously Nia is going to get the win and the title eventually. I’d actually like to see Alexa cheat to win here, and give Nia yet another humiliation to overcome. But given this story, I don’t know that they’re brave enough to have the hero not prevail at their big show. So congratulations will be in order for Nia Jax on this one.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

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

This match has the misfortune of being on the same card as AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan’s big return, and most likely John Cena and the Undertaker. Thus, it’s not necessarily getting all the attention it deserves. But make no mistake about it: This is a big one. Most likely red letter day in the careers of both women. Though in all honesty, I’m not sure what kind of match we’re going to get here.

Charlotte would be a fine choice as the one to break Asuka’s streak. But it’s not going to happen here. Asuka has only been on the main roster for about six months. Her shtick is just starting to catch on with mainstream audiences. Making such a big change would be a terrible mistake. Unfortunately for Charlotte, the streak must go on.

PREDICTION: Asuka

Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H

Do I even need to predict this one? It’s been pretty obvious from the get-go. Ronda makes Steph tap out, probably with an arm bar. The only potential variation on that is Hunter tapping to the arm bar.

I wouldn’t expect us to see a lot of Ronda in the ring. Not just because she’s so new to wrestling, but because Ronda’s fights were famously quick. Women’s revolution notwithstanding, I expect Kurt and Triple H do most of the actual wrestling, with Ronda getting the finish.

You know what I hope we see here? A taste of who Ronda was in the UFC. Bad ass Ronda Rousey. Death stare Ronda Rousey. Gladiator Ronda Rousey. It won’t be exactly the same, of course. But that’s what I want to see. That’s what everybody wants to see.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

More predictions to come!!!

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

Kurt Angle’s Acting Woes, Plus Ponderings From Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

You know who we really could use right about now? The Big Show.

Or at least someone like Big Show. People can say what they want about the pace he cuts in the ring. But that guy can take WWE’s scripted material and act the hell out of it. We’ve seen him break down and cry on live television. He can garner an amazing amount of sympathy for someone so big and powerful. Case in point, those segments from a few years ago when Stephanie McMahon would blackmail him into doing the Authority’s bidding.

Kurt Angle really needs some acting tips from the giant. Because they’re trying to cast him in a similar role heading into Wrestlemania. Coming off the contract signing at Elimination Chamber, it’s obvious Ronda Rousey’s first WWE match will see her team with Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Rousey has taken to sticking up for the Raw General Manager as he’s been condescended to, belittled, and as we saw on Raw this week, outright attacked by WWE’s power couple.

The trouble is that in trying to recite WWE’s scripted dialogue, Angle often comes off like a bumbling fool. A likable fool, perhaps. But still a fool. That undercuts the story they’re trying to tell. And one with pretty high stakes, considering all they’ve invested in Rousey. On paper, Angle is a fantastic choice to team with Rousey. But depending how they script this, he could wind up dragging her down.

There could be one saving grace, however. Remember when Triple H surprised Angle with a Pedigree at Survivor Series? The next night on Raw, Angle marched up to him and said if he ever did it again, “…you can take this job and shove it, because I’m comin’ for you!” We’re inevitably going to see that Kurt Angle again in the next few weeks. The Raw General Manager will go away, and the Olympic champion will return. That’s got the potential to be a hell of a moment, and Rousey’s presence will only accentuate it.

If they can’t make this thing work from a story perspective, then maybe they can pump in a little more of that big fight feel….

Other Ponderings From Raw:

Alexa Bliss and Mickie James open the show. Asuka emerges, but walks into a trap set by Bliss, James, and Nia Jax. Sasha Banks and Bayley join the fight, and a six-woman tag match is made. The babyfaces prevail, despite Bayley refusing to tag Banks out of a predicament. God damn. Alexa Bliss cuts a career promo for the second night in a row. This woman is money on the mic. I don’t know if it’s right to call her an overachiever or not. But she’s damn sure maximized her minutes.

Supposedly, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss had legit heat at one point. Supposedly Banks didn’t think she had legit passion for the business. Seeing how well they work together, I wonder if that’s still a thing…

Banks isn’t a full fledged heel yet. But she’s damn close, and she’s that much better for it.

Question: Why exactly did Mickie James turn heel? I missed that memo.

John Cena talks about his failure at Elimination Chamber, challenging the Undertaker, and earning a match at Wrestlemania by moving to Smackdown. The big news item coming out of this segment was Cena announcing he will not be wrestling the Undertaker in New Orleans. Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It just means he said it’s not happening. Time will tell.

Personally, I think ‘Taker shows up at Wrestlemania. The fan interest is obviously there, as illustrated by how the crowd popped when Cena said his name. But after what we saw from him last year, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he is fact done. If anyone has earned the right to stay retired, it’s him.

Bray Wyatt destroys Heath Slater and Rhyno, says the “great war” with Matt Hardy is far from over. STOP LAUGHING, you idiot. You lost a big match. On pay per view. Again. You’re on the road to becoming as much of a jobber as…well, Heath Slater and Rhyno.

After an impassioned promo from the Miz, the Intercontinental Champion loses a non-title match to Seth Rollins. Finn Balor comes out to upstage Rollins’ win. Miz is in a really special place right now. He was always a good mic guy. He became a great mic guy. But when he cuts promos like the one he did on this show, he proves he’s becoming one of the greatest promos of his generation. Not just the passion he spoke with, but some of the little entitled character bits he threw in there. And of course, he got to look in to the camera, which never hurts a damn bit. Homie was in the zone out there.

I wasn’t around last week to talk about it. But Seth Rollins’ stock is pretty damn high after last week. Probably as high as it’s been since he turned face. I’m well aware I’m not the first to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: Last week Rollins put on one of the best performances in Raw history. That being said, a lot of fans got swept up in the afterglow of the match, declaring Rollins could now feasibly be put against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Assuming Roman Reigns went down with an injury, of course.

No. Just, no.

I’ve never taken anything away from this guy’s talent or his drive. He’s one of the best in the world right now. But the Seth Rollins character isn’t ready for a big match like that. He took a big step in that direction week. But he still needs to give us a little more to latch on to. Calling him the “Kingslayer,” or worse “the Architect” does nothing for his identity.

It’s a shame, especially when you look at some of the stuff this guy does out there, i.e. that freakish Frog Splash across the ring.

Finn Balor def. The Miz. So are we looking at a Fatal Four-Way for Wrestlemania? Miz vs. Rollins vs. Balor vs. Strowman? Or is Strowman even in the IC Title hunt anymore? You’d think he would be after what we saw in the Chamber Match.

Roman Reigns: “Brock Lesnar is an entitled piece of crap who hides behind his contract.” They were smart to play this card. It’s similar to the one Cena played against the Rock several years ago. The loyalty card. The full-timer/part-timer card. The “I care and he doesn’t” card. It’s simple, but effective. Because it’s rooted in truth. Roman is there almost every week, Brock isn’t.

Between Alexa Bliss and the Miz, I’ve talked a lot about mic work this week. While I wouldn’t call Roman a great talker, he can deliver big when he’s got something to sink his teeth into. He showed us that here tonight.

I highly doubt it’ll get Roman cheered any more than he would have been otherwise. But it’s about as good a shot as they can take.

The Bar def. Titus O’Neil and Apollo in a 2/3 Falls Match to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles. The champs gloat on the mic. Sheamus and Cesaro have a point. Who have they got left to beat? Is it time to call up a team from NXT? This close to Wrestlemania, that seems doubtful.

Braun Strowman def. Elias via disqualification. This one really dragged. But both these guys are hot right now. I’ve actually been on quite the Elias kick lately. To the point that I actually looked forward to his song routine this week.

So are these two headed to Wrestlemania? Seems like that might be the case…

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The Elias/John Cena Connection, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I found myself on a podcast binge this past Sunday. Among my backlogged shows were two respective episodes of The Steve Austin Show and E and C’s Pod of Awesomeness. As if by fate, the both happened to feature the same guest: Elias.

I hadn’t realized just how into this guy I was. But I found myself listening pretty intently to what he had to say, and it occurred to me: If portrayed the right way, Elias could be huge. To an extent, he actually reminds me of John Cena. Not necessarily in terms of his personality or the way he works, but in the uniqueness of his persona.

When John Cena started using his hip hop inspired persona in 2003, it had a flair of originality to it. We’d seen wrestlers incorporate certain rap elements into their characters, but never seen anything quite like this. Once that character became more fully developed, Cena’s battle was half won. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t as polished a wrestler as most of his peers. People bought into him because was unique, and even real to an extent.

We’ve seen our share of guitar-playing wrestlers. The Honky Tonk Man comes to mind immediately, as does Jeff Jarrett. Outside the WWE umbrella you had names like Van Hammer and Maxx Payne. But Elias has an entirely different flavor. He’s got a more grounded, modern feel to him, sprinkled with a little Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, etc. It didn’t click with the more hardcore fans in NXT. But on the mainstream level shows like Raw and Smackdown, it works.

Elias has something that’s been missing in wrestling for a long time, but seems to slowly be creeping back in. The “cool factor.” That swagger,  that demeanor, that aura that makes the male audience in particular look at you and think, “I wish I could be like him.” Names like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, and Goldberg had it. Groups like DX and the nWo had it. John Cena had it at one point. Nowadays you can see it in guys who’ve been associated with the Bullet Club. Braun Strowman has it to a degree.

We’re now starting to see traces of it in Elias. He’s hearing more boos than cheers. But give it time. Once Wrestlemania comes and goes, it wouldn’t surprise me if fans around the world are ready to walk with Elias. And when that time comes, WWE needs to be ready to pounce.

Ponderings From Raw:

John Cena opens the show, and is interrupted by the Miz. Cena challenges Miz to a match with the stipulation that the loser enters the Elimination Chamber Match first. Cena wins with the Super AA. The best line of Cena’s promo? Wrestlemania can bring a legend back from the dead.” Foreshadowing, anyone?

To anyone who’s been a fan for more than a few years, the notion of Cena not having a match at Wrestlemania is downright laughable. But that’s obviously the story they want to tell with he and Undertaker. Cena has to get a match at Wrestlemania by goading the Dead Man out of retirement.

Incidentally, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard an “And the loser of this match is…” announcement.

The Revival def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Anybody else see Dash Wilder trip after he got tagged in to feed for Anderson? Whoops. Still, at least they won. A hell of an improvement over their loss to Anderson and Finn Balor last week.

Kurt Angle stands up for Jason Jordan, who will miss Wrestlemania with a neck injury. Seth Rollins emerges and asks to be inserted into the Second Chance Fatal Four-Way later that night. Angle grants his wish, making it a Fatal Five-Way. Oh good. Another Fatal Five-Way. Isn’t that just so…asymmetrical.

Rollins was presumably going to work with Jason Jordan at Wrestlemania. Obviously that’s not happening anymore, which leaves Rollins without a dance partner. So who do you put him with? Angle? I doesn’t seem like the highly speculated Triple H/Kurt Angle match is on the books anymore, and Rollins would likely give Angle a better match anyway. Finn Balor might work, as they obviously have some history. There’s also the Miz, though he’s rumored to be working with Strowman.

Bayley def. Sasha Banks. Nia Jax ambushes both women after the match. Hardly their best match, but still damn good.

While the turn isn’t official, Sasha was working heel here. It’s about damn time. I’ve been ready to boo the hell out of this woman for months. What’s more, working with a heel Sasha could do wonders for Bayley. The audience needs to be reminded why they liked her in the first place. Casting Sasha as a vicious, bratty heel could garner her some valuable sympathy.

Mandy Rose and Goldust were a team on WWE Mixed Match Challenge last week. While they lost, if you watch some of the online content WWE has put out with them, they make a hell of a duo. How about we drop the Absolution stuff and make them a next-gen Goldust and Marlena?

Braun Strowman gives his own take on one of Elias’ performances, smashes the Drifter with a cello. These WWE comedy segments crash and burn so much that you wonder if they’re even worth the effort. Then something like this comes along and it almost makes the bad ones all worthwhile. Even after accidentally breaking the strings, Strowman sold the bit and made it work. And seeing him smash Elias with the cello? Priceless.

How is this man not headlining Wrestlemania? Apparently Brock doesn’t want to work with him anymore after what happened at the Rumble. So what? Brock makes a hell of a lot of money working fewer dates than almost anyone. Suck it up, buttercup.

Roman Reigns def. Sheamus. This match brings back bad memories from late 2015. But then they wind up going at each other so hard that you wind up forgiving them.

The announcers actually brought up a valid point early on in this match. A pretty damn sad point, at that. Cole noted that Sheamus may be one of the most underrated stars in WWE history. They listed of all his singles accomplishments, and then added that they’re often forgotten because he’s now in a tag team with Cesaro. Think about that. On paper this guy has a Hall of Fame resume. WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, King of the Ring winner, Royal Rumble Match winner, Money in the Bank winner, US Champion. And yet all that gets glossed over.

I don’t doubt the history books will be kind to Sheamus. But I can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever get the respect he truly deserves. 

Ivory announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Ivory was always a favorite of mine. Ahead of her time, in that she could always do the sports entertainment stuff, but she was a wrestler’s wrestler. And a good chunk of her WWE career was spent with ladies who, with due respect, really had no business being in a wrestling ring. Thus, she had to stoop to performing in various slop matches, Evening Gown Matches, Bra and Panties Matches, and a various other things that really don’t age well. She a lot was classier than the material she was given. The real-life Lisa Moretti has earned her spot in the Hall of Fame as much as just about all of her peers. 

The “Second Chance” Fatal Five-Way Match ends in a tie between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Both earn a spot on the Elimination Chamber Match. We’ve never had seven guys in a Chamber Match before. I assume it’ll be three guys in the ring at the start, with the remaining four entering as usual. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Roman Reigns is winning.

It’s curious that they’d put Apollo Crews in this match. In terms of his spot on the card, he was clearly below everyone else in that match. The good news, however, is that he definitely held his own out there. I feel like I talk about how athletic this guy is every single week. This was a hell of a chance to show off, and I think he took full advantage of it. Also, Apollo has some personality buried in there somewhere. We just need to dig…

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Booker T/Corey Graves Heat? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Booker T isn’t happy. But we all should be.

Last week on his Houston-based radio show, the former WCW Heavyweight Champion made some bold statements about being replaced by Jonathan Coachman on the Raw announce team. Comments specifically directed at Corey Graves.

According to Booker, Graves is “the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now.” Booker claims he was removed because people in the company were worried about a physical confrontation between the two, based on how they were interacting on television.

He continued: “Me personally, everybody knows my reputation… I get mean, when you mess with my green. And right now, my green is being messed with, you know what I mean? So, me and Corey Graves… Wrestlemania coming up, right? There’s room for one more match. … I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight. Not a match. Not a pre-show posedown or anything like that. I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight.”

Graves’ only response was the following tweet…

Then on Raw, Graves randomly threw out the line: “You better be careful, Coach. You’ll be doing ESPN radio locally.” Yeesh…

This feels like a work, especially given what Booker said about Wrestlemania. But for a moment, let’s go with the notion that he was shooting. Let’s say Graves somehow got Booker moved back to pre-show duty.

He did us a favor, folks.

When Booker subbed in for David Otunga on the Raw announce team, I think most of us were relieved. Almost anyone is a better choice than Otunga. And for awhile, Booker was a breath of fresh air. But as the months went on, his work went off the deep end. It became a ongoing gag for Cole and Graves to make fun of him for saying nonsensical things. As a wrestler, Booker was a bona fide star. But as an announcer he was drowning. Given the choice between Booker T and Jonathan Coachman, they’d have been foolish not to go with Coach.

Booker T is a bona fide Hall of Famer, and he deserves our respect. But the time had come to bump him off Raw. At least for the time being.

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt to qualify for the Elimination Chamber. Woken Matt Hardy attacks Wyatt after the match. It doesn’t get much easier to call than this. Crowd was into it, though. Has it only been a year since Bray won the WWE Championship in a Chamber Match? Seems like a lot longer…

Loved those opening pre-tapes. What’s more, they were looking into the camera!

Finn Balor and Karl Anderson def the Revival. My ears perked up when Scott Dawson used the phrase “tag team specialists.” On a recent episode of Something to Wrestle, Bruce Prichard explained that phrase used to be applied to teams made up of smaller guys, i.e. the Midnight Rockers. The idea was they were relatively easy to beat as individuals, but as a team they were nearly unstoppable.

Then Dash and Dawson lost to Balor and Anderson, who teamed up on a whim. Whoops. Hey, at least Balor beat somebody.

Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali def. Drew Gulak and Tony Nese. New 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick (formerly Rockstar Spud) joins the announce team. I’m familiar with Rockstar Spud’s work from Impact Wrestling, though not extensively so. Here’s what I’ll will say: He did amazing out there on commentary. An absolute natural. That was his first time out there on Raw. I say we make this guy the new Austin Aries. Put him out there on commentary every week for the Cruiserweight matches to give them some unique flavor.

Alexander took a beating in this match. Not just the fall on the shoulder, but that landing after the somersault over the ropes. He looked like he landed on his tailbone.

I’m not a regular 205 Live viewer. But with Roderick Strong debuting against Hideo Itami, tonight’s show is appointment television.

Kurt Angle announces Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville will challenge Alexa Bliss in the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber Match. Bliss calls Angle out for not having Brock Lesnar defend the Universal Title in a Chamber Match. I was actually surprised to hear Alexa call Kurt a sexist. You’d think with everything being so ultra PC these days, they wouldn’t even want to suggest such  thing. It got a nice reaction, though.

Angle also announced Asuka vs. Nia Jax for Elimination Chamber. If Jax wins, she gets in on Asuka’s championship match at Wrestlemania, whoever she picks. I don’t see Nia beating Asuka. But this could help pave the way for her challenging Alexa at Wrestlemania.

Asuka def. Bayley. This was pretty good. Loved the reverse roll-through counter to the Asuka lock. That was almost an old Bret Hart spot. Probably Bayley’s best Raw match since the night she won the title from Charlotte. Now if only Bayley had gotten any kind of reaction when her music hit. If she keeps having matches like this, she’ll be on the comeback trail. But she’s not there yet.

The Miz def. Apollo Crews to quality for the Elimination Chamber Match. Crews has had a good couple of weeks. Now if only he could find some personality.

The Bar def. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles via DQ, with an accidental assist from Jason Jordan. Apparently Jordan has some neck and back issues, which is why we haven’t seen him wrestle in awhile. The timing couldn’t be worse, of course. But they’ve been creative in how they’ve kept him involved. Based on what we saw here tonight, the official heel turn should be coming sooner than later.

Nia Jax won an enhancement match. In her post-match promo, Nia announced to Asuka that she’s “the only one in that locker room you can’t beat.” Um, she did beat you. Less than a month ago. It was the best match you ever had…

Mickie James def. Sonya Deville. I’d love to know what Sonya Deville thinks about Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler both being under the WWE umbrella. I imagine it’s something to the effect of, “So much for my gimmick…”

Elias def. John Cena and Braun Strowman in a Triple-Threat Match to earn the right to enter last in the Elimination Chamber Match. There’s been a good amount of buzz about Strowman challenging Miz for the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania. But I think they’d do just as well to put Elias in that spot. The guy’s getting cheers.

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Is Paige’s Career Over? Plus, Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m sure Paige isn’t someone who would want to be pitied. But man, this girl has had a rough couple of years. And I thought my 20s were a mess…

Over the last severals days, various wrestling news outlets have reported that after sustaining an injury at a house show on December 28, WWE officials are opting not to clear the real-life Saraya-Jade Bevis to wrestle again. This news comes mere weeks after she made her return to the promotion after a lengthy absence.

WWE has confirmed Paige’s absence from the upcoming women’s Royal Rumble Match, but hasn’t gone any further than that. Perhaps they want to run some more tests? Or maybe they don’t want to announce a forced retirement as we head toward next week’s big Raw anniversary show. Maybe it’s a combination of both.

Despite how things look now, I wouldn’t get too broken up about this just yet. Until WWE or Paige officially say that she’s done, she’s not done. That might seem like denial, but stranger things have happened.

Furthermore, WWE refusing to clear Paige does not mean she’ll never wrestle again. I hesitate to compare the two, but the situation with Daniel Bryan comes to mind. He’s outright said he will wrestle again, whether it’s in WWE or not. If Paige wants to wrestle again, she will. It’s just a question of when.

But if this is indeed the end of Paige’s time in WWE as a wrestler, there’s still plenty she can do with them while she’s under contract. She’s obviously a good talker, and despite the so-called “Women’s Revolution,” there are still no women calling the action on a regular basis. With some practice, that’s a role Paige could easily fill. She could also use her verbal skills as a manager or valet, helping get a less experienced talent over. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville obviously come to mind.

Or quite frankly, she can opt to pursue something outside of wrestling. It’s so easy to forget how young this woman is. She’s 25. She started wrestling when she was 13. Bevis has accomplished so much in the wrestling industry. Perhaps it’s time to conquer another frontier. She’s made a name for herself with WWE, and has a devoted fan base that would likely follow her into another endeavor. It’s simply a question of what she wants to do.

When she’s performing in the ring, Paige loves to tell us: “This is my house!” But if it can’t be her house anymore, she can always look for another one. Perhaps in a completely different neighborhood…

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

After Braun Strowman opens Raw with a promo, Kurt Angle fires Strowman for last week’s attack on Brock Lesnar and Kane. Strowman goes on a rampage over the next hour. At some point during all of this, Michael Cole called the destruction caused  by Strowman “unprecedented.” I understand why the announcers say stuff like that. But considering how much they want us to buy the WWE Network, which literally has hours of footage of guys like Steve Austin laying waste to their surroundings, it’s just so stupid.

Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews def. Sheamus and Cesaro, aided by a distraction from Jason Jordan. I’m still getting used to Dana Brooke’s new duds. For whatever reason, seeing her portray a statistician in this segment made me wonder if she even has a college degree. So I looked it up. Turns out she has a BS in fashion, merchandising, and design, with a minor in business administration. I wouldn’t have guessed that…

Cedric Alexander def. Tony Nese. Nothing too interesting here, as the outcome was never a question. Nese took the Lumbar Check like a beast, though.

So they had Goldust out there with Alexander, and Enzo out with Nese. Goldust vs. Enzo is a match I never knew I wanted.

Angle re-hires Strowman after he overturns a semi truck and throws Michael Cole off the stage. As Cole went flying, he should have screamed: “This is unprecedented!!!!” Kudos to him for doing that, though. It looked staged as hell with all those “security guards” clumped together to catch him. But still.

Asuka def. Nia Jax via referee stoppage. I loved this match. No joke. This was the best thing either of these ladies have given us since their main roster debuts. It wasn’t wall-to-wall action, but the story an the intrigue were there. This is the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Nia Jax, and it was the unstoppable Asuka that took her to that point. Both ladies sold everything really well, and I’m actually anxious to see them in the ring together again. Well done.

The Revival win an enhancement match, then cut an impassioned promo. I don’t have a good feeling about Dash and Dawson knocking Austin, DX, and the nostalgia names that will be at next week’s anniversary show. Remember what happened to the Ascension? I’m having flashbacks to that segment with the nWo, the APA and the New Age Outlaws that essentially killed them dead.

Coincidentally, all those guys will be there next week…

Roman Reigns def. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in a Handicap Match. Again, not too much interest in this one because the outcome was so obvious. But at least it wasn’t another Miztourage/Finn Balor match.

Sonya Deville def. Sasha Banks. This was a surprise. Really nice moment for Sonya Deville, though. With Shayna Baszler making waves in NXT, most of the luster is off her MMA-inspired presentation. So the more she can do to stand out, the better.

Matt Hardy def. Heath Slater. This seems like as good a time as any to bring up Samoa Joe, who apparently hurt his foot during his match with Rhyno last week. Thus, he’s on the injured reserve list yet again, and will miss the Royal Rumble. Horrible break for Joe, who’s at risk for being labeled “injury prone.”

Digging Matt Hardy’s piano music. They should take the voiceovers out though. Just let the music speak for itself.

Bill Goldberg announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. This one isn’t a surprise. But it’s still very cool. He got to close his career on a great note last year, and this is great icing on that cake.

Seth Rollins def. Finn Balor. This match had the wrong winner. Balor has finally picked up speed again since reuniting with Gallows and Anderson. Rollins wouldn’t have been hurt by a loss to Balor, especially if it were accidentally caused by Jason Jordan.

Great to see the Curb Stomp back, though. That one’s been gone for a few years now. Let’s hope it sicks around.

Jinder Mahal def. Xavier Woods to advance to the finals of the United States Title tournament. Good story here. Xavier was the underdog from the get-go, as the announcers cast him as the “little brother” of the New Day. Despite the loss, this was a nice individual spotlight for Woods.

Bobby Roode def. Mojo Rawley to advance to the finals of the United States Title tournament. Roode challenges Mahal to have the finals later that night. Daniel Bryan makes the match. It was fairly obvious from the get-go that it would be Jinder vs. Roode in the finals. But this tournament was good to Mojo. He got to beat Ryder again, and he got to be really aggressive here. Despite the potential he had as a babyface, the heel stuff is working for him.

The Riott Squad def. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Naomi. I spent most of this match watching Liv Morgan. Her inexperience is somewhat obvious. But her demeanor, the way she carries herself out there, is fun to watch. I don’t know much about her from NXT, but there’s clearly something there with her.

Baron Corbin, Randy Orton, and Shinske Nakamura cut backstage promos for the Royal Rumble using handheld cameras. I liked this. Anytime wrestlers can cut solo promos for the Rumble Match, it feels old school. The handheld cameras were a nice touch as well. More of this, please.

The bit with Nakamura, though… Does he stand a chance of winning the Rumble, and actually being in a big Wrestlemania match? I go back and forth.

Bobby Roode def. Jinder Mahal to win the United States Title tournament. This surprised me. I thought for sure it was going to Mahal. I won’t complain, though. It’s a career moment for Roode. That stuff they say about people not thinking he’d make it to WWE? It’s a shoot. The longer he spent with TNA, the less likely it seemed he’d ever get to work for WWE. So him coming in and having the success that he’s had makes for a great story.

Not sure why they opted to crown the new champ on this show as opposed to the Royal Rumble. But it made for a good night, and it gave us a breather from seeing the main event guys in the ring every week.

Finn Balor and Sasha Banks def. Shinsuke Nakamura and Natalya in the first edition of WWE Mixed Match Challenge. Right off the bat, we’ve got too many announcers. They had Renee Young and Byron Saxton open the show on handheld mics, just to turn it over to Cole, Corey Graves, and Beth Phoenix.

You want to make this show different? Take a risk. Pull Cole and Saxton out. Have our announce team be Young, Graves, and Phoenix. Fans have wanted to see Renee Young take another crack at play-by-play for years. This is a great chance. It’s a short broadcast, and Graves will be there to help steer the ship if she needs it.

As far as Beth’s announcing is concerned, it was obvious she’d never done it before. She came off a little nervous. But there’s a lot of potential there. Between she and Paige, WWE has their share of options as it relates to female announcers.

The way Nattie and Nakamura played off each other was fun. The babyface/heel personality clashes we’re going to see of this show could be interesting. Big E and Carmella, Sami Zayn and Becky Lynch, etc. It’s tough to predict anything at this point. But Finn and Sasha are favorites, as are Miz and Asuka. I wouldn’t necessarily bet against Bobby Roode and Charlotte Flair, either.

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