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.

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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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Conor McGregor Slams WWE Stars, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Conor McGregorBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Conor McGregor pisses people off. It’s just what he does. They should make that into one of those Geico commercials. I’m surprised it took McGregor this long to get under the skin of wrestling fans. They’re a lot that loves to be pissed off about one thing or another…

On a conference call for UFC 202, McGregor called WWE wrestlers “pussies,” and later tweeted the following:

I don’t know if McGregor means any of this or not. Some people think he and WWE are looking to do business together. If that’s the case, he could be a better heel than any they’ve got right now. It would obviously generate a lot of outside interest as well.

Work or shoot, the statement itself is ludicrous. Wrestlers and fans alike should be secure enough in what they love to let this McGregor thing slide off their backs.

WWE Raw, August 8, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin OwensPonderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho w/Kevin Owens def. Enzo Amore w/Colin Cassaday. Jericho and Owens are a great team, and they make great villains for Cass & Enzo. One of the newest, biggest heels in all of WWE may very well be Jericho’s goatee.

These four now have a tag match set for Summerslam, and I’d love to see it open the show. I can’t imagine the kind of pop Cass & Enzo will get in Brooklyn.

John Cena & AJ Styles appear during a commercial break. Apparently, after the Enzo/Jericho match, AJ Styles came out and said he was only there because prior to the brand extension, he was advertised to be at the show. From there, he and John Cena had a quick fight which ended in an AA from Cena. Nice little treat for the crowd. But hopefully they don’t make a habit of this sort of thing.

Braun Strowman won an enhancement match. I went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and when I got back the match was over. No surprise there. So here’s my question: Is this a Braun Strowman babyface turn?

Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil with a handful of tights. In terms of 50/50 booking, it doesn’t get more pure than this. Titus wins with a roll-up and a handful of tights last week, now Young wins with the same move. I’m pleased they had Backlund conveniently looking elsewhere when the pin happened. So now do we have Young keep cheating without Backlund noticing? For a character as off beat as his, that’s conceivable.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo on Finn Balor. Rollins lines about “slaying the beast,” having “crushed the face that runs the place,” and “conquered the Roman Empire,” were really good. I was also happy to see an uninterrupted in-ring promo. For the sake of changing things up, that’s nice to see.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. These guys always put on good matches. I just wish he hadn’t won with a damn roll-up. We see so many roll-up finishes on these shows. They can do better than this.

A retrospective airs on Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton’s history together. Well, here we go. They finally talked about it. Lesnar and Orton’s history together in Ohio Valley Wrestling, and their parallel journeys to WWE stardom. I have to say, I got a kick out of hearing that Jim Cornette soundbyte. I imagine Cornette never thought he’d hear his own voice on that show again.

There was some really good stuff here, most notably the idea of Orton being a star, and Lesnar being a megastar. The notion that Randy Orton is “just another guy” is the antithesis of what the WWE marketing machine has wanted us to believe for over a decade. It adds a whole new dimension to this program. This is one of the few times I’ve ever hoped for a live contract signing. I’d love to get Randy Orton in the ring with Lesnar and Heyman, and see who says what.

Neville & Sin Cara def. The Dudley Boyz. On the subject of being “just another guy,” the Dudleys seem like just another team on the roster. To say the least, that’s not how they should be portrayed. They certainly shouldn’t be beaten by two guys teaming together for the first time.

Bubba Ray Dudley, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016It was interesting that they focused on Bubba’s face after the loss. He looked pissed. Could this be the start to a Bubba Ray heel singles run? They don’t have much to lose at this point.

Neville had a mystery partner for this match, who turned out to be Sin Cara. Forgive me for not being enthralled. Did Sin Cara mean to jump through the ropes to the outside? It was awkward. But it didn’t look like a botch.

Roman Reigns interrupts Rusev & Lana’s wedding celebration. How ironic. WWE punished Rusev & Lana for leaking the news of their engagement online. Now they’re exploiting their wedding for TV.

This segment moved like molasses. It just went on…and on….and on. We get it. They’re in love. Roman comes out. Somebody goes in the cake. Next please.

On the  plus side, Roman get cheered when he came out. It wasn’t a great reaction, but at least he wasn’t drowned in boos. He also seemed a little more charismatic. He was due for some lighter material. The best part of the whole thing? Rusev throwing cake at Reigns as he walked up the ramp.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. Brooke is now banned from ringside at Summerslam. I would have been interested in Sasha having Bayley at ringside to counteract Dana Brooke. But this works too. I don’t expect Charlotte and Sasha to top what they did on Raw a few weeks ago. But it’ll be cool to see them try.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Via video package, Finn Balor gives Seth Rollins a lesson in Irish mythology and demons. This was important. The audience needs to know why Balor wears the body paint. This was a nice crash course. The piece was also very well produced. The way Balor was sitting, the smoke, the eye contact with the camera. All excellent.

Luke Gallows def. Kofi Kingston. I actually thought the “Ringpostitis” skit was funny. It’s got Vince McMahon’s fingerprints all over it, which usually spells doom for an attempt at comedy. But Anderson & Gallows had great delivery. As for the match, that’s a pretty big win for Gallows. How many singles titles has Kofi won? And Gallows pinned him in about two minutes.

After a brief segment with Daniel Bryan, Mick Foley makes a US Title Match between Rusev and Cesaro. Rusev retains after interference from Sheamus. Roman Reigns spears the champion. Since he’s been back, Bryan really looks like he’s having fun. Especially on the Cruiserweight Classic shows. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Rusev gains momentum with a big title defense. Cesaro deserves a big win, and the US Title. But with no build up, and the show going past its usual overrun, tonight wasn’t the time. Nor, for that matter, was it time for Rusev to drop the title. They’ve built him back up as a monster, and you can’t just slay the monster on any given night.

On the plus side, Sheamus’ feud with Cesaro now has a personal edge to it.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, August 2016Over on Smackdown:

Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler come face-to-face in the ring. This was the creative highlight of the show. Ambrose was really strong here. Ziggler fired off what we expected. The rant about being undervalued, stealing the show, etc. But Ambrose, surprisingly, no sold it. The closing line, the money line, was “You’re gonna find out you’re not as good as you think you are.”  As far as I’m concerned, that is now what their match is about. Is Dolph Ziggler as good as he thinks he is? Unfortunately, the smart bet is Ambrose is going over here. So what happens when Ambrose wins? A heel turn for Ziggler?

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WWE Draft Picks, and Other Ponderings From Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Dean Ambrose retains over Seth Rollins? Nice! Rollins has been emphasized heavily lately. So it’s cool that they evened the playing field a bit, and gave Rollins a win.

Aside from the title match, literally nothing mattered on this show except the WWE Draft picks. So let’s jump right into those, and see what the rosters look like…

Seth Rollins, WWE Draft 2016Raw‘s Draft Picks
1. Seth Rollins
2. Charlotte
3. Finn Balor
4. Roman Reigns
5. Brock Lesnar
6. The New Day
7. Sami Zayn
8. Sasha Banks
9. Chris Jericho
10. Rusev & Lana
11. Kevin Owens
12. Enzo & Cass
13. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
14. The Big Show
15. Nia Jax
16. Neville
17. Cesaro
18. Sheamus

Dean Ambrose, WWE Draft 2016Smackdown‘s Draft Picks
1. Dean Ambrose
2. AJ Styles
3. John Cena
4. Randy Orton
5. Bray Wyatt
6. Becky Lynch
7. The Miz & Maryse
8. Baron Corbin
9. American Alpha
10. Dolph Ziggler
11. Natalya
12. Alberto Del Rio

Let’s assume for now that the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions will travel to both shows. We haven’t been told otherwise, though I do believe it’s happening. That means Raw now has the United States Title and the future Cruiserweight Title, while the Intercontinental Title is on Smackdown.

John Cena, WWE Draft 2016John Cena being summoned to Smackdown was no surprise. If the idea is to make Smackdown relevant and to drive viewers up, having the face of the company on the show makes all the sense in the world. And as you want some built-in rivalries once the split takes effect, it’s easy to see why AJ Styles would got to Smackdown as well.

What’s surprising is Finn Balor going to Raw. Balor has a built-in history with AJ Styles from New Japan Pro Wrestling. One would think they’d want to capitalize on that, and put him on Smackdown. But The Solomonster made a great point on Twitter: At about 190 lbs, Balor could be WWE’s choice to head up the new Cruiserweight Division.

On the other hand, he has even more of a history with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, who will be on Raw with him. I’m disappointed we won’t get to see Styles and Balor clash in the near future. But at least there’s a chance for them to run with the history that exists between he and The Club.

Becky Lynch, WWE Draft 2016Becky Lynch should be happy. She’s the lead female babyface on Smackdown. You can argue this is a consolation prize, considering she’s in a smaller pond, and Charlotte and Sasha were picked first. But not being put next to those two will give her a chance to develop even more. This woman is a star, and now she has the chance to shine brighter than ever.

Kane should not be happy, at least from a story perspective. A proven commodity dating all the way back to the Attitude Era, and he wasn’t even in the top 30? They even had him chokeslam Zayn and Owens in front of the authority figures. They could easily do some sort of program with this. An aging demon? Hm…

Many of us expected to see American Alpha drafted. Nia Jax is a different story. I haven’t seen much of her work, but her look immediately sets her apart from every other woman in the company. It’s unfair to compare the two at this juncture, but I hope she becomes what Awesome Kong never became in WWE.

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The Bullet Club Reunites, AJ Styles Pays the Price, and Ponderings From Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Another day, another show without Roman Reigns being a heel. *sigh*

Still, Payback was largely a good show. We now have both Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon as our resident authority figures. That’s fair enough, I suppose. What’s more, the path to Summerslam seems pretty clear. Shane and Stephanie get fed up with each other, so Stephanie brings Triple H in to fight her brother for full control of Raw. That gives them a long time to tell this story, and it gives us a much-needed break from having Triple H on TV.

This is hardly the “new era” they’re playing it up as on TV, but lately Raw has been significantly better. We’ve got new faces, new programs, and the main events even feel more compelling. I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve been seeing on Raw lately, and this week was no exception…

Ponderings From Raw:

Kevin Owens, Cesaro, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016-Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro erupts into chaos as The Miz gets involved. Sami Zayn looks for revenge on Owens. Nice energetic opening match. But the most important element here? The emphasis on the Intercontinental Title. All four of these guys want it, and they’re all capable of having matches worthy of it. My guess is we get a fatal fourway at Extreme Rules.

Tyler Breeze def. Goldust. I’ve lost track of what’s happening in this Goldust/R-Truth story. First Goldust wanted to be Truth’s tag partner, then Truth wanted to be Goldust’s tag partner, now they’re bickering like exes. If any two guys in this segment should be a tag team, it’s Breeze and Fandango. Then they’d consistently have something to do.

The New Day, The Vaudevillains, and The Dudley Boyz share a ring before Colin Cassaday crashes things. An eight-man tag erupts between the babyfaces and the heels. First and foremost, that injury Enzo suffered at Payback was brutal. Every time I see the clip I cringe. It’s no wonder he got a concussion. On the upside, he’ll get a huge pop when he gets back.

Colin Cassaday, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016The Vaudvillains got off some good one-liners in the promo segment. “A real man would have gotten back up,” and then later we had “We made Enzo the realest guy in the emergency room.” I sometimes worry about how long Simon Gotch and Aiden English have before this gimmick degenerates into bad comedy. But they came off very cruel and callous here. That’s a very important ingredient in terms of them being taken seriously as a threat to the titles, and possibly as champions.

Big Cass did well in his first solo outing on the mic (on the main roster, that is). I can see that being really intimidating for someone who hasn’t’ been in front of a national audience that long. But he was playing off something very real, and the crowd was into him. He got a great hot tag too, and even got the pin!

Aside from Cass getting to shine on his own, the best part of this match was when Bubba got in the ring with Xavier Woods, and was actually teaching Gotch and English how to beat somebody up. I’m so anxious to see Bubba and Enzo go back and forth on the mic. They could really make some magic.

Emma vs. Becky Lynch, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016Emma def. Becky Lynch. I wish these two could have had a chance to wrestle at Payback, or at least on the pre-show. This was a really solid match. Not great, but solid. That being said, the thumb to the eye at the end was really weak looking. Emma really needs an acting coach.

Stephanie McMahon is a guest on The Ambrose Asylum, and reinstates Chris Jericho as host of The Highlight Reel. 

Rusev wins a battle royal royal to become the top contender to the US Title. Titus O’Neil returns to action. Kalisto should not have been out there on commentary. He came off nervous. He’d have been fine just sitting out there by the time keeper. No need to have him out there saying white meat babyface stuff.

Titus’ in-ring return was about what I expected it to be. Not really a big deal. They could have made a story out of it, but nope.

Rusev, Lana, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016I had Baron Corbin pegged to win this thing after losing to Dolph Ziggler at Payback. I was really surprised to see Ziggler win. But it was a pleasant surprise. Not every rookie needs to go on this big winning streak when they debut. I mean, logically they are rookies. It makes sense that they’d be bested at times by established main roster guys. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get over. I like the idea that a savvy veteran like Ziggler managed to pull out a win against the powerful rookie.

I’ll give Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, and Zack Ryder credit. In the final moments of that match, they had me believing that Ryder could win. They created some really nice tension. I’m pleased to see Rusev and Lana back together on television. They’re a good combo. So long as this doesn’t turn into a love triangle story with Kalisto, this should be decent at the very least.

Charlotte and Ric Flair interview referee Charles Robinson about the so-called “Chicago Screw Job.” Natalya takes out both father and daughter. Charlotte and Nattie to wrestle in a submission match at Extreme RulesIt’s interesting when and how WWE conveniently pays attention to continuity and logic. Shane McMahon is in control of Raw for weeks after Wrestlemania, and yet WWE remembers Charles Robinson’s “Little Naitch” stuff from WCW. By the way, was that Madusa in that clip from Slamboree 1999? I’d forgotten just how chiseled she was.

Natalya, Ric Flair, WWE Raw, May 2, 2016It was disappointing to see WWE once again rehash the Montreal Screwjob at Payback. But it’s worth it to have Natalya getting the spotlight like this. She and Charlotte should have a good match at Extreme Rules, though I still don’t see her taking the title.

AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows def. Roman Reigns & The Usos. Early in the show, JBL said something to the effect of “the club is back together!” It feels like everybody wants so badly to say “Bullet Club,” but they just won’t let them.

I expect Anderson and Gallows to turn on Styles at Extreme Rules. It looks like they wanted to further establish the friendship between the three before pulling the trigger. Styles came off looking like a great babyface when he refused to use the chair on Roman Reigns. As for the possibility of Reigns turning heel and siding with Anderson & Gallows, I’ve given up. It’s just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

By the way, how about AJ Styles being booked on Sports Center tomorrow? Who’d have thought we’d see the day?

Eric Young, NXT, 2016In Other News:

Eric Young debuts with NXT. I was surprised to see Young wrestling for NXT before Bobby Roode. But either way, it’s nice to see him get the opportunity. I’m not sure where exactly he fits in on the NXT roster, but Iwe’ll find out sooner than later.

I spotted a funny t-shirt from Heelbook.com the other day, which said: “NXTNA: Developmental Career Rehabilitation Center.” Ouch…

Images courtesy of WWE.

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Roman Reigns, AJ Styes, Lingering Questions, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Fully Loaded 1998By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been listening to Vince Russo’s podcast lately. For those who don’t know him, Russo was a writer for WWE during the “Attitude Era.” He also wrote for WCW during its final days, and TNA for much of its existence. I definitely don’t agree with everything his says, i.e. his pitch for Sami Zayn to be portrayed as a former cab driver. But he’s got a unique perspective on the industry.

Last week, he talked about the go-home Raw for WWF Fully Loaded in 1998. The main event for the pay per view was Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Undertaker against Kane & Mankind. The story was about whether Undertaker and Kane were secretly working together, and if Austin was walking into a trap. One of the things Russo mentioned was the questions that were thrown at viewers. Was The Undertaker aligned with Kane? If so, what would become of Austin? And what about Mankind? Would an alliance mean victory for Vince McMahon?

It had never occurred to me how important questions are in a big wrestling storyline. They invite the viewer in, and generate intrigue. Fittingly, we’ve got a lot of questions heading into the main event of Payback this weekend. Is AJ Styles working with Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows? If so, will they cost Roman Reigns the title? Will The Usos play a role at all?

If this is indeed a “new era” for Raw, WWE (the announcers in particular) needs to pose more questions to the audience. The Attitude Era wasn’t just about foul language and sex appeal. There were some great stories told. In the end, that’s really what we’re here for, isn’t it? They’d do well to remember that this Sunday.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Vince McMahon to decide who’s running Raw at PaybackHopefully this will strictly be between the McMahons, as I’m keen for Triple H to stay off TV for awhile longer. For that matter, I’m keen for Stephanie to do the same. This Authority have been doing the same thing for two and a half years. We need a break. I’m not sure how they’ll rationalize giving the show to Shane, considering he lost to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. But as we’ve seen, ration isn’t WWE’s strong point…

AJ Styles def. Sheamus. This one went on a hair too long for me. But it did what it was designed to do. They kept AJ strong heading into his title match at Payback, and they furthered the intrigue with Anderson & Gallows. I can’t complain.

The New Day, The Vaudevillians, and Enzo & Cass share a ring. I was glad to hear Aiden English say the line about The Vaudevillians representing a better, bygone era. He said it on Smackdown as well. Like many wrestlers on the main roster, they didn’t get a great introduction on television. At least not on Raw. So we needed to know why these guys are dressed in those costumes. My money is on them winning at Payback.

That pop Enzo & Cass got was great. The luster isn’t off these guys yet, and hopefully it won’t be for quite some time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows def. The Usos. Did anybody catch that line from Michael Cole about Anderson & Gallows being “part of a club” in Japan? I guess they’re not allowed to say Bullet Club, even though that’s what everybody’s thinking. The fans were even chanting “Bullet Club!” tonight.

It had been several years since I’d seen Gallows wrestle, and I’d never seen Anderson in the ring. Gallows’ agility and his striking came off well here, as did what we saw of Anderson’s leaping ability. Not a thrilling match, per se. But again, it did what it needed to do for the larger story.

It’ll be interesting to see if and how The Usos’ role evolves here. As unlikely as it is, If Reigns does indeed turn this Sunday, we could see an interesting role reversal. Think about a six-man tag featuring Roman Reigns, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows against AJ Styles and The Usos. I’m not enamored with six-man tags, but I’d watch it.

A Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens retrospective video airs. Zayn is attacked by Owens after a win over Rusev. I loved this. It should have been done weeks ago. This Zayn/Owens rivalry is something WWE can go back to a number of times in the years to come, because it has depth to it. And tonight we finally got to see some of that.

Rusev, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Lana was with Rusev on Raw for the first time in quite awhile. I can only assume they wanted to avoid fans chanting for her during segments with the League of Nations. But they’re a good combo, and it’s good to see them back together. Also, does Rusev look leaner to anyone else?

Apollo Crews def. Stardust. This match had a surprisingly good backstory. That stuff about Dusty Rhodes helping Apollo out in NXT could have been great material for a larger story with Stardust. He could have been Crews’ first pay per view opponent. The announcers said Crews dedicates every match to Dusty. If you were Cody Rhodes, how would you react to that?

Chris Jericho comes out on top after Dean Ambrose calls him out. One of the great things about Dean Ambrose is that he’s not just great on the mic, he’s different on the mic.  His rhythms, his cadence, and his whole demeanor are unlike anyone else in the industry. He may not have come out on top here, but he’s a hell of a player. I maintain he deserves a shot at that top babyface spot.

Natalya def. Emma. Was the crowd chanting “We want Lana!” during this match? If so, that really sucks. These ladies didn’t have a lot of time, but what they gave us was pretty good. Emma has definitely improved from a charisma standpoint. But there’s still room for improvement. I hope we see more of her on Raw. The more time she works on this heel persona, the better she’ll get.

Chyna memorial graphic, WWEWWE airs tribute to Joanie Laurer, a.k.a. Chyna. This was classy. It doesn’t make up for WWE more or less blacklisting Chyna after she left the company. But it was a nice video. Chyna’s autobiography was called If They Only Knew. But when you see how much love and respect Laurer had from her peers, what comes to mind is, if only she knew.

Dolph Ziggler ambushes Baron Corbin before his match. Whatever Ziggler and Corbin did was secondary. Because before the ambush took place, we got a few seconds of DAMIEN SANDOW on Raw. Last year he was one of the most over guys on the roster. Now? We’re lucky if we even see him on TV. And of course, he didn’t even get to wrestle. What a damn rib.

The Miz runs down the Cesaro Section, nearly goes for the big swing. Miz’s promo started off rocky. But once he started talking about the Intercontinental Title and the so-called nerds in the Cesaro section, he really got on a role. I’m almost sorry Cesaro had to interrupt. I’m a Cesaro fan, but his end of this segment came off heavily scripted. Still, practice makes perfect, I suppose…

Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio. Anderson & Gallows attack Reigns after the match. Reigns and AJ Styles trade blows. I’ve been meaning to say this for awhile: “The Phenomenal Forearm” is a dumb name for a finisher. Was that really the best they could do?

Okay, so it’s obviously not going to be Styles, Gallows, and Anderson teaming up at Payback. So if Roman isn’t turning heel, then what? Let’s ponder that, shall we? Been keeping up with NXT lately…?

Samoa Joe, NXT ChampionSamoa Joe wins the NXT Championship from Finn Balor at an NXT house show. This was a huge surprise, obviously. WWE hasn’t done something like this in years. Why do this on a house show rather than a Takeover special? No idea. Perhaps that will be revealed in time. This does open Balor up for a main roster spot, presumably to do something with his old Bullet Club buddies Anderson and Gallows. Personally, I think he’s got at least a little time left with NXT. But I expect to see him on the main roster sooner rather than later. If Reigns isn’t the third man in WWE’s version of the Bullet Club, the smart bet is on Balor.

WWE announces John Cena’s return for the Memorial Day edition of RawThis is definitely good news, especially with Bray Wyatt falling victim to the injury plague. Cena is the biggest star of his generation, and WWE is dying for some star power right now.

Image 1 from onlineworldofwrestling.com. Image 6 from whatculture.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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