Carmella’s Controversy, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sometimes I think the so-called “smart” fans forget what real heat is. Wrestling is designed to make us angry, and play on some of our most basic human instincts. WWE did that with the finish to the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match on Sunday, and people were mad. The problem is they were mad for the wrong reason.

The finish of the match came when James Ellsworth climbed up the ladder, grabbed the briefcase, and dropped it down to Carmella. So the inaugural Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was essentially won by a man. I got a little miffed about this initially. I even retweeted a comment or two from fans that were upset. But the more I think about this finish, the more I absolutely love it.

I’m about a pretty progressive guy. I understand what’s gets people upset about a woman needing a man’s help to do something. But let’s lighten up and realize what this is. It’s a story that’s designed to get under people’s skin, and make them want to see Carmella and Ellsworth get their comeuppance. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do.

Hey, I’m a smart fan too. But let’s not outsmart ourselves by analyzing this stuff to the point that we can’t enjoy it anymore.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Carmella and James Ellsworth discuss the controversial ending to the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Carmella sounded pretty scripted here. But that’s not exactly uncommon on WWE TV these days. And she had some nice fire. So I was good with this. I’d also forgotten she was picked last in the draft last year. That was a nice touch.

Big E. def. Jimmy Usos. Nice win. Nobody ever talks about Big E. being a former Intercontinental Champion. Probably because it didn’t end up being that memorable. But it merits mentioning when he’s spotlighted by himself like this.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Dolph Ziggler.  This was fun. A little slow at first, but one of those matches where you find yourself watching for the little details. Nakamura doesn’t necessarily look like somebody who can work the mat, but he and Dolph looked good jockeying for position out there. They gave these guys a lot of time too, which a match like this deserves.

Kevin Owens def. Chad Gable in a US Open Challenge Match. Both Chad Gable and Jason Jordan have been ghosts these last several weeks. So to see Gable get a singles spotlight like this was really cool. Absolutely gorgeous moonsault, and the crowd was into that roll-through German Suplex. I’ve talked before about how Gable could conceivably do well as a cruiserweight on Raw. But I’m scared of what would happen to him, given how stale 205 Live has become.

Daniel Bryan takes the Money in the Bank briefcase from Carmella, announces a rematch for next week. Ahhhhh, so that’s what it was. Do a contested finish, then direct people to a big episode of Smackdown. It’s a smart move. Not just because ratings are down, but because it’s never been done on WWE TV before.

I’m hoping Carmella wins again. Put even more heat on her. On Talking Smack we found out Ellsworth is banned from ringside. But she can still find a way to win. Why not?

I haven’t heard anything about injuries sustained in the Ladder Match, other than Bryan having a throwaway line about Charlotte’s neck. That’s a hell of a bruise Tamina has on her arm. I did, however, notice Tamina’s got a hell of a bruise on her arm. I imagine that was pretty painful. Though not quite as painful as her attempt to diss Charlotte here.

So we’ve got all these women competing in yet another Ladder Match for an on-demand shot at the Women’s Title. Meanwhile, Naomi grants Lana yet another title match for doing nothing other than running her mouth. I’d be more angry at her than Carmella.

WWE Champion Jinder Mahal def. Luke Harper. Baron Corbin teases a Money in the Bank cash-in. Randy Orton brutalizes Mahal the match. Tonight was the first night I really took note of Jinder’s new entrance. It gives him a great superstar vibe. When you see that entrance, it feels like somebody special is walking out. Is Jinder backing that up in the ring? Not necessarily. But his presentation is coming together nicely.

Why aren’t the Singh Brothers wrestling on TV? They’re sort of in the same role that J&J Security was a few years ago. But they’re obviously capable of more. More importantly, Smackdown needs heel tag teams.

So we’re not done with Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton, huh? Damn. I was hoping both these guys were moving on. This likely means Jinder is going to beat Randy Orton at three consecutive pay per views: BacklashMoney in the Bank, and Battleground next month. Not a bad way to get your new champion over. And now that it’s apparent John Cena vs. Roman Reigns isn’t happening at Summerslam, my guess is Jinder’s opponent in August will be “Big Match John” himself.

Maria Kanellis returns to WWE at Money in the Bank, alongside her husband Mike Kanellis. The two appear again in a WWE.com exclusive. I’ve been a Maria Kanellis fan for a long time. So it’s great to see her back. I don’t know much about Mike Bennett, but having him take his wife’s maiden name is a stroke of genius. Again, you appeal to people’s most basic instincts. A lot of men roll their eyes at the notion of a man doing that. Then on top of that you see all of the PDA, and that talk about love. It’s positively nauseating. And that’s why these two could make for a great heel act on Smackdown.

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John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, Plus WWE Money in the Bank Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What do you do after you beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania?

If you’re Brock Lesnar, you challenge for the WWE Championship. We saw that in 2014. But if you believe the rumors, that’s not in the cards for Roman Reigns until Wrestlemania XXXIV. So what exactly does this character have planned for Summerslam? WWE teased us with a Summerslam-related announcement from him next week. He’s got to be throwing down the challenge to somebody. But who?

It could be Braun Strowman. Those two have unfinished business. But we’ve seen them wrestle a few times already. And when we last saw Strowman, Reigns was giving him a pretty solid beatdown. So what’s his motivation to challenge Strowman again? We’re going to see that match again at some point. But it’s not the big summer blockbuster they want for one of their biggest shows of the year.

When you eliminate Strowman, and you presumably eliminate Brock, that really leaves only one viable name: John Cena.

Blasphemous as it may seem to many, John Cena vs. Roman Reigns is the closest thing they have to a modern-day Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior type match. The torchbearer taking on the one person that could conceivably take it from him. Like Hogan and Warrior at Wrestlemania VI, Cena and Reigns have never wrestled in a big pay per view match. So they can market it as their first meeting ever.

Some would say it’s a match that should be saved for Wrestlemania. But I’m reminded of the match Cena had with Batista at Summerslam all those years ago. Those two would later work a series of pay per view matches, including one at Wrestlemania XXVI. That Summerslam match gave them some extra history to go into a program with, and didn’t diminish anything at all. What’s more, WWE could really use some added viewership right now as Raw rating continue to dip. Putting Cena with Reigns could wind up being a really smart move.

But here’s the question: If you’re a fan, who do you root for? Particularly if you’re someone who jumps at the opportunity to boo either of these two…

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Naomi (c) vs. Lana

This one is an attraction because of sheer curiosity. What kind of performance is Lana going to turn in? How many matches has she even worked? I know she’s been doing NXT house shows. But she can’t have more than 100 matches under her belt yet. Hell, it might be less than 50.

You know what they could do? Put a bunch of heat on Lana, and have her win the title by screwing over Naomi. Have Rusev come out there and cause a distraction or something, and have Lana cheap shot her for the pin. The more I think about it, the more I like that finish. That way you’ve not only got a great heel in your Women’s Division, but you’ve found a way to reintroduce Rusev.

I’m going to play it safe here and say Naomi keeps the belt via count-out. Lana doesn’t like being roughed up, so she walks out. But I’m tellin’ ya, don’t be surprised to see Lana wearing that belt at some point down the road.

PREDICTION: Naomi

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day

You’ll notice they’ve made the New Day the focal point of the marketing for this show. That’s why you’ve got the Wizard of Oz type backgrounds for these images. The idea is they’re following the yellow brick road, or whatever. It’s good to have them back. Some have fussed over them being pushed right into a title match with the Usos. But they’re the New Day. They’re the longest-reigning tag champs in company history. That’s reason enough.

The New Day are going to get the belts at some point. I just hope they don’t rush the titles on to them here. Summerslam is right around the corner. Do it there. In the meantime, let’s let them do a little more mic work with the Usos. Also, let’s use the summer to build up another heel team for them to work with in the fall. Though for the life of me, I can’t think of who that would be…

PREDICTION: The Usos

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton

How far are we into the Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion experiment? Three weeks? It’s too soon to take the belt off him. What’s more, Jinder has done alright thus far. But I think he can do much, much better. He’s one of the few bad guys in WWE with any kind of genuine heat. They should do everything they can to nurture that. It’s sorely needed.

At some point, Jinder is going to find himself across the ring from John Cena. Given Cena’s status as the American hero, it’s inevitable. It’s just a question of when, and whether Jinder still has the title at the time.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Tamina Snuka

Here it is. Show us, ladies. Make us proud again.

The Money in the Bank briefcase typically works best as a heel’s tool. That way you can have your cunning villain cash in when the champion is at a disadvantage. Looking at everyone in this match, I’d say that scenario would work best for Carmella. Combine that with the fact that she’ll have James Ellsworth out there with her, and the rumor that management has been high on her lately, and she’s my pick. This win could elevate her to top villainess status on Smackdown. That is, as long as Charlotte is still being shoehorned into the babyface role.

PREDICTION: Carmella

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

This is a tough one to call. That’s what you want when you’ve got these big multi-man matches. I can see a scenario where almost any of these guys walk out with the briefcase.

So let’s do it this way: Who’s probably not winning this thing? The first name that jumps out is Dolph Ziggler. After everything that’s happened, I don’t see why they’d choose to give this to him now. So he’s out. Neither Kevin Owens nor AJ Styles need it. They’re pretty safe bets as far as staying at the top of the card on Smackdown. They don’t need it.

You can make an argument for Sami Zayn. They’ve done a pretty good job this year of casting him as the perennial underdog. You can give it to him and say that he’s finally got a shot at climbing to the top. I’m just not sure Sami is that big a priority for them right now. He’s the dark horse in this match.

There’s a pretty good chance they give it to Baron Corbin. The biggest thing working against him is his inexperience. Remember when they had Jack Swagger win the briefcase at Wrestlemania? They were trying to strap the rocket to him, much like they’ve done with Jinder Mahal now. But he didn’t quite have all the tools yet, so it ended up being a popcorn fart. I’m worried the same thing will happen to Corbin if they put the title on him too soon.

And then there’s Shinsuke Nakamura. WWE want you to see him as a big deal, and they’ve made mostly good decisions with him thus far. One might argue they’re marketing him a little too hard as “the Artist” or “the Rock Star.” But generally speaking, but he’s just about where they want him to be right now.

As I said, typically the Money in the Bank briefcase works best as a heel’s tool. But we’ve obviously seen babyfaces use it too. I’ve always thought the good guys should go the more honorable route more often, avoiding surprise cash-ins. Like the way Rob Van Dam did it in 2006.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and pick Nakamura to win here. Have him hold on to it until Wrestlemania season, and then you can have him challenge for the title at their biggest show of the year. And what if the champion just happens to be AJ Styles?

Book it.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

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Dolph Ziggler Leaving WWE? Plus, Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

YouTube vlogger Trisha Paytas says Dolph Ziggler is leaving wrestling soon. Who the hell is Trisha Paytas? How well does she know Ziggler? Does she have even the slightest amount of credibility? I can’t answer any of these questions. Though apparently he stood her up on a date.

Either way, I hope she’s right. At least as far as WWE is concerned. Not because I have anything against Ziggler, but because the real-life Nick Nemeth deserves better.

I’ve talked about this before, and I’m certainly not the only one. Dolph Ziggler is one of the few guys I’ve ever seen who can really do it all. In the ring, he’s about the closest thing we have to a modern day Shawn Michaels. His physique is ripped to shreds. From a personality standpoint, he can do whatever you need. He can be a good guy, a bad guy, dramatic, intense, funny, you name it. He’s got practically everything you could want in a WWE star, and he’s been scratched and clawed his way toward the top year after year after year. While he’s certainly had his share of accolades, including a short run with a Heavyweight Title, so many wrestling fans justifiably believe Dolph Ziggler could have been so much more than they’ve allowed him to become.

We’re long overdue for Dolph to step away from WWE, and go the route of guys like Cody Rhodes and Drew Galloway. If he wants to stay in wrestling, it’s time for him to reinvent himself outside of their umbrella. I don’t doubt for a second that Dolph Ziggler could make bank in New Japan Pro Wrestling. For my money, Nick Nemeth as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion isn’t the least bit far fetched. Ironically, he’d then likely find more opportunities in WWE if he were to come back.

Dolph Ziggler just needs to take that leap of faith, and prove he doesn’t need WWE to be a success in pro wrestling. There are entirely different crowds just waiting for him to show up and show off. The time is now.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Lana arrives on Smackdown, asks to be part of the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Lana in a Ladder Match? Good lord. Why even mention that? Are they trying to kill her?

Lana’s still got the Russian accent, which is fine. If they wanted her to drop it, now would have been the time. It’ll be interesting to see where she is in relation to Rusev when he finally gets back on TV. It also looks like she’s getting some of the packaging that the Emmalina character might have gotten.

Naomi came off really scripted here. But I’ll give her this: She’s got charisma.

Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina def. Naomi, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch. Lana interferes to cost Naomi the fall. Lana is later granted a championship match against at Money in the Bank. Not to pick on Naomi, but I really hate that spot she does with the rapid kicks. It looks so damn staged and fake.

I’m not sure how much better or worse Lana has gotten in the ring. Bad kicks or not, I wouldn’t want to be Naomi having to carry Lana through a match.

AJ Styles def. Dolph Ziggler. I was shocked as hell to see Ziggler get a clean win over Styles last week. But of course, Dolph can’t maintain any substantial momentum, can he? We had to have 50/50 booking this week.

I really shouldn’t complain though. These guys are about as smooth as it gets. Nice and fluid counter into the Styles Clash for the win.

WWE Champion Jinder Mahal def. Mojo Rawley. What have they done with Mojo that’s been of any kind of substance since he won that Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? Nothing, really. The missing piece of the puzzle for him at this point is Zack Ryder. Once Ryder comes back, their tag team will mean that much more than it did when he got hurt.

They’re playing up the fact that Money in the Bank is in St. Louis, Randy Orton’s hometown. Traditionally, that’s a dead giveaway that the hometown wrestler is walking away with a win. But lately it’s gone primarily in the opposite direction. Bayley lost the Raw Women’s Title to Alexa Bliss in her home town. Styles lost to Ziggler in his home state of Georgia last week. And those are just two examples. Chances are the Jinder experiment isn’t over yet.

The New Day def. The Colons. The Usos cut a promo after the match. Primo and Epico had that renewed push for about two weeks. Now they’re right back to where they were before.

The Usos will turn themselves back into babyfaces into this rate. They’ve got something WWE desperately needs right now: The cool factor.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens in a non-title match. Baron Corbin attacks Nakamura after the match. When you listen to him on commentary or on Talking Smack, it’s clear there’s a big difference between Baron Corbin talking, and Baron Corbin reciting lines. He sounded so natural here.

An okay showing for Nakamura and Owens here. There’s been a little bit of buzz about Nakamura winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Corbin walk out with the briefcase, though. While they haven’t given him any big wins lately, he’s a long-term project for WWE. And they’d have as much as a year to build him up as a title contender. Don’t be surprised if it happens, folks.

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Chris Jericho’s Run Ends, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I remember catching an episode of Smackdown with a buddy of mine about 10 years ago. Not a regular viewer, he was confused about the number of title belts he was seeing. He said to me, “I thought only the best wrestlers were supposed to have belts.”

Man, WWE was frustrating in the mid-2000s. Actually, it’s still pretty frustrating. But at least now the belts mean something.

For so many years, it seemed like WWE was just moving belts from wrestler to wrestler just for the sake of moving the belts. Almost as if it were an obligation. Not so much with the top titles. But the Intercontinental and United States Titles most certainly suffered. Only in recent years has the company tried to breathe some life back into those two belts, and play up their importance.

While some may not want to hear this, it really all started with John Cena. His run with the US Title reinvigorated it, and at times made it as important as the WWE Championship. That seemingly created the blueprint for other uppercard wrestlers to carry it, and that momentum also translated to the IC Title. Fast-forward to this week, and we’ve got guys like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho fighting for them in the main events of Raw and Smackdown. It’s such a far cry from the days when the belts would essentially just be props that certain wrestlers would hold. Now it feels like they actually represent something. Prestige. Honor. Glory. Status.

The WWE and Universal Heavyweight Championships should always be the crown jewels of their respective shows. If you win one of those, you’ve reached the top. But the Intercontinental and United States Titles should be no one’s consolation prize. They aren’t second-place trophies. They’re championships with rich legacies of their own. WWE should never again allow us to forget what an honor it is to hold them. Especially now that Brock Lesnar is the Universal Champion. If this week’s Raw is any indication, the Intercontinental Title may soon become a vital part of Raw every week. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Chris Jericho opens the show. AJ Styles and Kevin Owens each interrupt, before brawling with each other. Not much to this segment, really. It was essentially Jericho’s re-introduction to Smackdown. I’m curious if they’ll actually keep him on this show when he inevitably comes back.

Jericho’s US Title win at Payback was a big surprise. By no means did they have to give him the belt. But it was a nice win for him on his way out. Also, conspicuous by their absence on this show were Randy Orton and the “suspended” Baron Corbin. Assuming WWE knew they would be absent coming into this show, that would explain Jericho being used as a band-aid of sorts.

Jinder Mahal def. Sami Zayn. Decent match. Three weeks ago, there wouldn’t have been a doubt in anybody’s mind that Zayn would go over here. Not only did Jinder win, but he’s building momentum for a WWE Championship Match. What a world we live in.

I like this alliance between Jinder and the Singh Brothers (formerly the Bollywood Boyz). Has there ever been any sort of Indian faction in WWE? I’ve been a fan for over 20 years, and nothing comes to mind.

Tye Dillinger def. Aiden English. Nice intensity from Dillinger here, for a quick win. This was more or less a glorified enhancement match. But we can’t say they haven’t started him out strong.

Natalya and Carmella def. Naomi and Charlotte. Becky Lynch runs out to help the babyfaces afterward. They’ve essentially done a 180 with Charlotte these past two weeks, turning her babyface. That’s a little odd, as she’s turned out to be such a natural heel. My guess would be they wanted to even out the babyface/heel ratio amongst the women on Smackdown.

The obvious direction would now be a Six-Woman Tag Match at Backlash. I can’t say that thrills me. As Carmella pinned Naomi in this match, I’d almost prefer to see the two of them have a match for the championship.

Dolph Ziggler def. Sin Cara. Not a fan of Sin Cara’s new gear. Not that it matters much. He’s in the exact same role on Smackdown that he had on Raw. Then again, it only took one night for Jinder Mahal to become top contender for the WWE Championship…

Another vignette airs for Lana’s Smackdown debut. My wife and I were at another couple’s home this weekend, and they happened to have Total Divas on. It was the episode where Lana and Rusev got married in Bulgaria. I can honestly say Lana was the most obnoxious woman on that show. Considering how irritating I find the Bellas, that’s really saying something. Rumor has it she may be dropping her Russian accent, which is fine. It seems like she’s not going to be with Rusev anymore. So why risk further accent slippage on TV?

“The Fashion Files” airs, starring Breezango. Tyler Breeze and Fandango target the Usos and the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at BacklashThese two have deserved a more prominent role for some time now. This fashion police gimmick has essentially been comedy fodder. To their credit, they got a chuckle or two out of me in this segment. But they can be much more than that. I don’t expect them to get the belts at Backlash. But at least they’re in the title picture.

Kevin Owens def. Chris Jericho to win the WWE United States Title. Owens destroys Jericho after the match. I’m surprised we didn’t see AJ Styles again in the closing moments of the show. He and Owens mixed it up in the opening segment, after all.

Nice clean win for Owens, followed by an injury angle to send Jericho away for however long he’ll be gone. Perhaps the best testament to how good this run has been for Jericho is how sorry so many of us are to see him go. He’ll obviously be sorely missed.

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A Shield Reunion Coming Soon? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s not an accident that Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins are all on Raw after the Superstar Shake-Up. This is it, folks. This is what people have been waiting for. A Shield reunion is coming.

But don’t kid yourselves. It’s going to be all about Roman Reigns.

Despite being booed for minutes on end last week, and despite everyone who cheered when Braun Strowman destroyed him this week, WWE still wants us to cheer this guy. He is positioned as their top babyface, after all. And what was it that got us to cheer Roman in the first place? The Shield. They know it, too. After the break-up, Reigns kept most of his Shield packaging, while Ambrose and Rollins had their presentations tweaked. Again, that’s not an accident.

Now, after everything that’s happened, it seems like a Shield reunion is just about the only thing that could get Reigns cheered. Fans miss this group. While some maintain it ended too soon, I think it ended at the perfect time. Their break-up was one of the great Raw moments of the last several years. Their reunion will be too.

But the mission will remain the same: Get Roman over at all costs. The only real difference will be the old hit they’re playing while they go about it.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

United States Champion Kevin Owens comes to Smackdown. Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and AJ Styles emerge to challenge him. I can’t believe they drafted Owens and Zayn together. Those two needed to be kept far away from one another. They have great matches, but I’m almost tired of seeing them. This feud needed a break. Give them a year or two apart, and then give us more. It’s not like there’s a shortage of guys for them to work with.

I’m happy Styles stayed on Smackdown. He’d have been fine on Raw, but he’s been arguably the biggest reason to watch the show every week. For all the talk about so-called “brands,” AJ has had a lot to do with giving Smackdown a different, more wrestling-heavy vibe from Raw.

Corbin is lucky Owens didn’t eat him alive on the mic. Seriously. It could have been worse than him being attacked by an actual wolf.

How do we know JBL is on his best behavior? He shook Byron Saxton’s hand at the top of the show. On screen, those two had a pronounced bully/victim dynamic.

Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan via disqualification. I don’t like Rowan’s chances without Bray Wyatt at his side. But then again, so many of us (myself included) said the same thing about Braun Strowman when he went to Raw by himself. And he’s become one of the best things about that show. So you never know who’ll surprise you.

The Usos def. American Alpha to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. The Shining Stars attack the babyfaces afterward. Great offensive flurry from Chad Gable during this match. He does a lot of selling out there. But he can take the hot tag when called upon. Another really good match from these guys.

If Primo and Epico de-emphasize the awful travel agent gimmick, they might have yet another chance to reinvent themselves. Talent has never been the problem with these two. It’s always been a matter of packaging.

Mojo Rawley def. Jinder Mahal. Rob Gronkowski gets involved on Rawley’s behalf. The higher-ups definitely seem to have taken notice of Jinder Mahal’s physical changes. While still essentially an enhancement talent, he’s been part of some pretty prominent stuff recently. Most notably the stuff with Rob Gronkowski at the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That obviously continued here.

Mojo really needs to write Gronk a thank-you note. As in, thank you for getting me the biggest push of my career.

Shane McMahon announces the arrival of Charlotte Flair and Tamina to SmackdownThey didn’t do Tamina any favors by building it up as if Charlotte were about to come out. Though in all fairness, she hasn’t been on TV in quite some time. She’ll need to re-establish herself.

Then of course, Charlotte did come out. Surprised she didn’t cut a promo of some kind. If I expect her to move right into a program with Naomi. I’m surprised so many people though Sasha Banks was coming in with her. She’s obviously factored in heavily with Bayley on Raw.

Tye Dillinger def. Aides English. With Simon Gotch having been released, it looks like English is going back to the singing gimmick he used in NXT. Hopefully he gets a fair shot. He’s got a good look.

I like that they’re telling the story of how long it took Dillinger to make it to the main roster. Anytime you can weave that element of truth in there, it’s a good thing. The people are clearly into him. If they play this right, I imagine he could get a US Title run this summer.

Sin Cara, Rusev, Lana, and the New Day are traded to SmackdownThey seem to be repackaging Lana with a dancing gimmick. At least until Rusev comes back. Is she going to wrestle? She’s not that experienced yet, is she?

It seems like they’re waiting to put the New Day on Smackdown until Kofi Kingston heals up from surgery. Fair enough. That act could use a breather anyway.

Shinsuke Nakamura outshines Dolph Ziggler in a confrontation. It might not have been wise for them to write Ziggler a promo about the “shiny new toys” from the Superstar Shake-Up becoming less special over time. Just saying…

They let Nakamura talk this week. Less is more as far as that’s concerned. This segment was a little awkward, as they spent a lot of time just standing there. Yes, the crowd was chanting for Nakamura. But this almost started to drag.

As far as first dance partners go, they don’t get much better than Dolph Ziggler. For now, Nakamura’s in good hands.

AJ Styles def. Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin in a Triple-Threat Match to become top contender for the United States Title following PaybackStyles has seemingly been positioned as a babyface, which is very much overdue. Everything this guy does looks great. Everything. I came out of this match thinking about how good he and Zayn looked out there together, and how good AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens could be. He’s practically the linchpin holding the show together.

Question: If Styles is going to be working with Owens after Payback, who works with Randy Orton? Corbin?

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Charlotte and Sasha Banks Keep Going, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE TLC 2016, Dean Ambrose, AJ StylesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s briefly touch on a few things from TLC before we get into Raw.

The finish to the AJ Styles/Dean Ambrose match was obviously going to involve James Ellsworth. Literally everything those two have done these last several weeks has involved him. Why wouldn’t this? So they were setting this up by having Ellsworth get all those fluke wins over Styles. Now he thinks he can beat Styles for the title. So does this constitute a heel turn for Ellsworth? That’s an odd choice, isn’t it?

Surprised to see Alexa Bliss take the Smackdown Women’s Title. Personally, I wasn’t ready to see Becky Lynch give it up yet. But given the quality of her work lately, Alexa is perfectly deserving. Congrats to her.

Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton took the Smackdown Tag Titles, which I didn’t expect, but probably should have. This stuff with Wyatt, Orton, and Luke Harper has been a breath of fresh air these last few weeks. Maybe we’ve got something here…

Ponderings From Raw:

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, December 5, 2016, Seth RollinsSeth Rollins: “I want Triple H.” Nice to see Rollins make this little declaration. Now he officially has a goal that’s different than anyone else’s.

Dear God. You talk about contrived dialogue. Now, everyone has to call it Roadblock: End of the Line every single time. That’s like calling it Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens every time, as opposed to just The Force Awakens. It doesn’t get much more lame than that.

Seth Rollins def. Big Show by count-out. This was the first time we’d seen Big Show in a few months. He’s obviously a bit thinner now. Hopefully he’s not back on TV weekly. Rumor has it he’s facing, of all people, Shaquille O’Neal at Wrestlemania. Until it’s time to hype that match, I’m not interested in seeing Show on TV regularly. It wasn’t long ago he was one of the most overexposed guys in the company. Let’s go the opposite way.

Jack Gallagher def. Ariya Daivari. A decent outing for these guys here. But if you want a better one, check out last week’s 205 Live. Very happy we’re seeing Jack Gallagher on the main roster. I’m still getting acquainted with him. But he’s so damn smooth out there.

I’m not sure I’ve seen Daivari win a single match since he’s been in WWE. At least he got to show some personality after the match.

Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, December 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. Even when he’s on a losing streak, Kevin Owens can still beat Sami Zayn. Just like everybody else. Good match from these two as always, though.

Rich Swann def. TJ Perkins. The Austin rowd was sitting on their hands for most of this one. Really cool to see Swann is using that spin kick as his finish. Seeing Perkins jump into one from the top rope was sick.

Bayley def. Alicia Fox. Crazy Alicia Fox is the best Alicia Fox. That wild charisma can be a breath of fresh air. On the other hand, it can be grating. It just depends on the night.

Mark Henry beats Titus O’Neil in less than a minute. We’re in Lesnar/Goldberg territory on this one. And they didn’t even have to shell out the millions they’re paying those two.

Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho to retain the United States Title. A fine match here, with Owens accidentally costing Jericho the title. I can’t help but think this souring of the friendship between Owens and Jericho is off a step. Either they waited too long, or the impetus for the turn (which we saw last week) wasn’t strong enough. Maybe both?

Admiral Ackbar, it's a trapLana lures Enzo into a trap. For the second week in a row, they take the cameras outside the arena and break things up a bit. This was cool, though it was obviously a trap. Even WWE themselves tweeted the ol’ Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!” gif.

Kinda cool that Enzo was a babyface and backed off sleeping with Lana. He might be the most natural talker on the active roster. So he can pull off some of the contrived written dialogue in situations where most guys can’t. If there was anybody to put in this scenario, it’s him.

Some people are calling “not PG!” on this. But compared to some of the stuff they did with Mark Henry all those years ago, or Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie on Smackdown, this looked like Disney Junior.

After a double count-out finish, Gallows and Karl Anderson, as well as Cesaro and Sheamus will face the New Day in a triple-threat tag match next week. If the New Day wins, they break the all-time record set by Demolition. It seems like they’re setting it up for Cesaro and Sheamus to win the belts. But it could go either way. Not Gallows and Anderson, of course. But any other way.

Sasha Banks challenges Charlotte Flair to a 30 Minute Iron Man Match at Roadblock. Charlotte feigns an apology to Ric Flair, then smacks him, and beats up Sasha. Last week I compared this Charlotte/Sasha Banks program to the one John Cena and Randy Orton did in 2009. Fittingly enough, those two also followed up a Hell in a Cell Match with an Iron Man Match. Go figure.

Charlotte, Ric Flair, WWE, December 5, 2016On the subject of predictions, let’s go ahead and call this: Ric turns on Sasha at Roadblock, giving Charlotte the belt back. The Sasha/Charlotte pattern continues. On the plus side, Charlotte has become one of the most entertaining talkers they have. Pretty natural, too. Not quite on Enzo’s level. But at times she’s close.

One more time, ladies. Then its time to find new dance partners.

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

Sasha Banks Repeats History, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not sure if the ratings will reflect it, but this was a good show. Possibly the best since Finn Balor’s arrival. It wasn’t Earth shaking. But we had some good wrestling, some good mic work, and some attempts at comedy that actually landed. If that last one isn’t noteworthy, nothing is.

So let’s dive straight in!

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns and Lana open the show. Lana challenges Reigns on behalf of her husband. Reigns and Rusev to face again inside Hell in a Cell. This wasn’t bad. By no means great, but not bad. People on Twitter were on Lana’s case for accent slippage. But I didn’t think she was any worse than normal. Take that for what you will. Her “Go to hell!” line was a dead giveaway. And then she repeated it for emphasis.

Is this the first time the US Title is being decided in the cell? I can’t recall any other time that would have been done. That’s a nice little coup for that belt. I’m not expecting a classic by any means. But win or lose, being in a match like this will be good for Rusev’s name value. Especially if he wins, as he should. They’ll do some kind of screwball finish, of course. But he’ll still be able to say he beat Roman Reigns inside Hell in a Cell.

Brian Kendrick def. TJ Perkins via submission. I was under the impression this was for the title. So imagine my surprise when Perkins tapped out but didn’t lose the belt. I guess now they have something to do at the pay per view.

The crowd was into this one, which lends credence to the idea that the Cruiserweights are a solid bet to get the crowd excited at the top of the show. Granted, this match had a good story behind it, which always helps.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Michael Cole interviews Seth Rollins. They should do sit down interview segments like this more often. As we saw with Mick Foley in 1997, they can help add an entirely new dimension to a character. That’s not what we got here, but anything that breaks up the monotony and the sameness of this show is good.

After another squash match, Braun Strowman demands better competition. While repetitive as can be, these squash matches have done wonders to rehabilitate and build interest in Braun Strowman. Now it seems like it’s time to move on. But who do you put in there with Strowman? I have nothing to base this on, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be Big Show…

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho announce their intention to challenge for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The New Day responds. The big line in this segment was when Jericho said: “It’s not like I’m asking you for an opportunity at your championship.” As weirdly scripted as that line was, the crowd popped for it. We even got some nice “Y2J” chants. That’s a good omen.

It’s so interesting what manages to be funny on WWE TV. The “List of Jericho” is as stupid as any idea they’ve ever come up with. But Jericho’s charisma and delivery made it work. That damn clipboard is over! What’s more, that little exchange between Woods and Owens about “jumping the shark” got a laugh out of me. By God, actual humor! It can happen on Raw!

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Here’s the thing: These guys all remembered their lines. But they weren’t chained to them. They weren’t struggling to remember anything. They just went with the flow. And the crowd ate it up! Nice work, gentlemen.

Bill Goldberg to appear on the WWE segment of Sportscenter this week. They made a point to mention Goldberg more than once this week. It’s really just a matter of time before they announce Goldberg’s return match, isn’t it?

Sami Zayn def. Titus O’Neil. Titus absolutely murdered that in-ring promo a few weeks ago. But this guy is so articulate, and so damn charming. To me, it’s no wonder WWE keeps bringing him back to the forefront after mishaps like that. Hell, it wasn’t long ago he was suspended for grabbing Vince McMahon himself! But he keeps coming back, and I’m glad for it. Hell, I’m into the “Titus Brand” thing!

That being said, I’m not on board for having Titus upset Sami Zayn to get his brand over. That suplex Zayn gave him into the corner was really cool, considering Titus is 6’6 and about 270, while Sami is 6’1 and 205. Better luck next week, Titus.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Golden Truth. I like that the New Day are being talked about in multiple segments involving tag teams. Gallows and Anderson talked about them. Cesaro and Sheamus are talking about them. And of course, we had Owens and Jericho earlier. They’re playing up the importance of the tag titles. That’s a good thing.

Gallows and Anderson, WWE Raw, October 3, 2016Gallows and Anderson need some rehabbing. These guys have lost multiple pay per view matches to the New Day, and they need to rack up some wins. Tonight was a good start.

The New Day def. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho, with Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson on commentary. Here’s what I’ll say about Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson being on commentary: At least they weren’t micromanaged. The back-and-forth between Kutcher, Masterson, and Corey Graves felt very organic. To his credit, Kutcher seemed excited to be there. I’d have been alright if they brought them back out for the main event.

After costing Owens & Jericho their match Seth Rollins tells Stephanie he’ll “burn Raw to the ground” if he doesn’t get another Universal Title Match. After seeing Mick Foley become the latest talent to be eviscerated by Stephanie last week, it was nice to see somebody stand up to her. Not that she won’t eventually get to dress him down like everyone else. But it’s a nice change of pace.

Tony Nese def. Rich Swann. Swann is obviously talented, but his smiley dancing act continues to grate on me. On the other hand, Tony Nese is quickly becoming one of my favorites. He’s very much build like a heavyweight, but he moves as quickly and swiftly as any of his cruiserweight peers.

Emma, WWEA vignette airs for the return of Emma. It looks like they’re going in a sexier, more glamorous direction with Emma. Or as she’s now being called, “Emmalina.” I’m skeptical about that being the right direction for her, as charisma aspect of the job has never been her strong point. But best case scenario, this new gimmick allows her to grow as a performer. Hopefully they can also put her back with Dana Brooke.

Cesaro & Sheamus win another squash match. On the subject of charisma, it seems like that’s what they’re trying to pull out of Cesaro with this new pairing. As I said last week, Sheamus is better on the mic than he gets credit for. He and Cesaro are developing a chemistry. They’re not the next Rock n Sock Connection. But hopefully this makes for some okay television.

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte to win the Raw Women’s Title. These two had an epic match the last time they wrestled on Raw. But they also play a little too hard sometimes. We all remember those high spots at Summerslam. As we saw in this match, Sasha is still doing those scary suicide dives to the outside, and Charlotte is still doing flips off the top rope to the outside.

While not quite as epic as their match in July, this was still an excellent main event. Some of these spots may be tough to watch, but these two always deliver. And now we’re one step closer to a Sasha/Bayley title match on pay per view. A good ending to a good show. We don’t get to say that often enough these days.

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