Tag Archives: Mustafa Ali

A WWE TLC 2018 Preview – Looking Ahead to 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: I’m going to complain a lot in this one. Of course, that doesn’t make me unique. Wrestling fans essentially do two things: Watch wrestling, and complain about wrestling on Twitter.

But to be fair, it’s not like there hasn’t been anything to complain about lately. Hell, they had Seth Rollins come out on TV Monday and verbally castrate Baron Corbin, the on-screen authority figure. He said things like…

– “Under your leadership, Monday Night Raw has sucked, and it has sucked because of you.”
– “That roster, that locker room back there, that is some of the most talented men and women that Monday Night Raw has ever seen. And you’ve got no idea what to do with it.”
– “…talent support, morale from backstage, the fan support, and the TV ratings, are all at an all-time low, and it is all because of you.”

It’s like he was reading Tweets directed at Vince McMahon.

To be fair, at least there’s an aura of honesty about this segment. But every year they go through some version of this creative drought. I call it the “autumn slump.” It usually hits some time between September and December, and ends around Royal Rumble season.

If you believe the online buzz, much of this latest slump has to do with Vince himself re-writing the shows shortly before they go on the air. It’s always boggled my mind. WWE has only gotten bigger and bigger as the decades have gone by. And yet the creative for this three-hour flagship show can still be run like a little mom and pop operation.

You know what I’m really interested to see? Not so much what happens to Raw, as it’s staying on USA Network for the next five years. But rather, what happens with Smackdown. WWE just got more than $2 billion to bring Smackdown to Fox next year. As such, there are going to be more new eyes on the product than there’ve been in a long, long time. So what happens when they get to Fox, and these new viewers are subjected to all this contrived, scripted dialogue? This awful, childish bathroom humor? These rushed, and not thought out segments? It really makes you wonder…

That being said, let’s get to TLC

MIXED MATCH CHALLENGE FINALS:
Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox vs. R-Truth and Carmella

Between wrestler injuries, having to be consistent with storylines, and the needless change to a round-robin format, the MMC has been an absolute mess this year. I still dig the concept, though. But they need to go back to single-elimination rules next year. More importantly, establish a rule that if a team member can’t compete on a given night, that team forfeits their match. This swapping and replacing of wrestlers can’t be a thing again. The team of Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss morphing into Ember Moon and Curt Hawkins is pure stupidity.

So we have these two…ehem…legendary tag teams, facing off to decide the season two victors. If these are the only two choices we have, I say we give it to R-Truth and Carmella. The people are into their dancing act. So throw ’em a bone.

PREDICTION: R-Truth and Carmella

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Cedric Alexander

Not making this a Ladder Match feels like a missed opportunity. There’s already a decent chance these two might have the best match of the night. But in a Ladder Match, they could really give us one for the ages.

That’s assuming they’re not on pre-show duty, of course.

My opinion has not changed on where the Cruiserweight Division should go heading into Wrestlemania. All roads should lead to Mustafa Ali winning the belt. It could realistically be either one of these two dropping it to him. But I’m going to go with Murphy here, as he and Ali would give us a more compelling story. If I’m Cedric, I’m looking to get away from 205 Live altogether. He’s climbed that mountain already. Find a tag team partner and go to Raw or Smackdown.

PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Bar (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day

All three of these teams are great. But you won’t find a better illustration of just how bad Smackdown needs new tag teams. It feels like we’re rinsing and repeating, rinsing and repeating, rinsing and repeating. If I’m Jimmy and Jey Uso, I’m pushing to go to Raw next year, just for a change of scenery. Hell, I wanted them to go to Raw this year!

I’ll say the Bar retain here. Because…why not? They’ve got just as much right to to be champs as the other two teams do.

PREDICTION: The Bar

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

As much as I hate the way Finn Balor has become a whipping boy for larger opponents like Kane and Bobby Lashley, he’s got no business winning this one. Drew is on a major ascent. And with any luck, they’ve learned an important lesson from Braun Strowman: Nothing cools a hot commodity like big losses. McIntyre already ate a pin from Dolph Ziggler last week. He doesn’t need to be losing to Balor in what is essentially a throwaway match.

Balor is another guy I wanted to switch shows this year. Hopefully he’ll find himself on Smackdown in 2018.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

TABLES MATCH:
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott

People shouldn’t be upset about this Jim Neidhart storyline because it’s tasteless. They should be upset about it because it’s been so damn silly. I’m a big Ruby Riott fan, and I’m thrilled she’s getting a pay per view spotlight like this. But what has she really done to disrespect the Anvil’s memory? Break a pair of plastic sunglasses and put his picture on a table? Gimme a break…

There’s definitely such a thing as going too far. WWE has crossed that line more than a few times over the years. But in this ultra-sensitive era we live in, people forget that pro wrestling is meant to stir up emotion. To get you to hate the villain and cheer the hero. That’s all they’re doing here.

Still, the sad truth is Jim Neidhart is gone. This whole story is designed to give Nattie a feel-good win to pay tribute to her dad. So let’s give her a nice win and move on.

PREDICTION: Natalya

LADDER MATCH:
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley

I’ve enjoyed what Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush have been doing lately. And of course, Elias has a great act. One that might even deserve to be featured more prominently. But I have to ask: Why does this match deserve the ladder stipulation?

Not AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan. Not Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. Not the Cruiserweights. Not even the three-way tag match, where you could spread the big bumps out between six or seven guys. But this match. I don’t get it.

As I assume Rush will be ringside here, it would be easy to justify giving Lashley the win due to interference. But an Elias win is the right move here. The crowds are eating out of his hand, and he’s got a cool factor to him that so few have nowadays. Plus, he doesn’t have to pin Lashley to get the win here. It’s practically gift-wrapped for him.

PREDICTION: Elias

CHAIRS MATCH:
Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio

Thank God! A Chairs Match! I was worried we wouldn’t get one this year! Who could ever forget all those classic Chairs Matches from years past! Ones like…er…um…John Cena and Wade Barrett had one, didn’t they?

As the Smackdown title picture is essentially anybody’s ball game right now, there’s a decent chance one of these guys will be going for the WWE Championship come Wrestlemania. AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton? What aboutDaniel Bryan vs. Rey Mysterio? Don’t rule it out, folks. It’s more likely than you think.

I went back and forth in picking a winner for this one. But in the end, Randy Orton has a good thing going with his current heel run. While I have no desire to see him wrestling for the title at Wrestlemania again, it makes sense to keep him a credible threat to the babyfaces.

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

STIPULATION TLC MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
If Corbin wins, he becomes the permanent General Manager of Raw.
If Strowman wins, he gets a Universal Title Match.

Don’t let ’em fool ya, kids. This is not the main event. I don’t understand why this match is still being advertised. I assume Strowman will be at TLC in some capacity, or they wouldn’t still be promoting him. So either they’re going to do a quick squash and get this overwith quickly, or they’re going to put him in an extremely dangerous match mere weeks after elbow surgery.

What’s more, it’s not like this match was going to wow us either way. Frankly, on paper Strowman vs. Corbin kinda sucks. Even with the TLC stipulation. So why not just do another multi-man TLC brawl like they’ve done in years past? Book Strowman, Balor, and Elias against Corbin, McIntyre, and Lashley. And if they want to keep Strowman out of the ring, plug Dolph Ziggler in there as his replacement. Or better yet, what about Kurt Angle? He’s got built-in heat with both Corbin and McIntyre.

As for who wins, I was originally inclined to say Corbin. But I just can’t justify having Strowman lose another pay per view match. Realistically, this guy should have been challenging for the Universal Title at Wrestlemania this year. Now, it looks like he may finally be in a position to be in that title picture. So for crying out loud, lets not have him lose this one. Lets oust Corbin from power, and shake Raw up a little bit. While this year’s autumn slump can’t be attributed to Corbin alone, hopefully removing him will be a nice palette cleanser for everybody so we can all move on

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nia Jax

I can’t say I had a particular desire to see this match again. But at least now that Nia has all that heat for punching out Becky, this match has some heat to it. People will cheer like hell when Ronda taps her out to the arm bar. And yes, that’s exactly what needs to happen here. May as well do it quick, too. I hate to pile on, but God forbid Nia throws another stiff punch and hurts Ronda.

For Ronda, it seems like all roads lead to the main event of Wrestlemania. The question is, against who? Becky Lynch? (Yes.) Charlotte Flair? (No.) Becky and Charlotte in a three-way? (If you must.)

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

You know what? I like Dean Ambrose’s Bane look. (Bane Ambrose?) It’s different. At least he doesn’t have the silly accent, right?

Along the same lines as the Ruby Riott/Natalya thing, Ambrose doesn’t deserve to be crucified for making thinly veiled comments about Roman Reigns these past several weeks. Is it in poor taste? Yes. Was it over the line? I personally don’t think so. I did, however, think it was rather stupid on Monday when Charly Caruso basically asked him: “What would Roman think if he knew this was happening?” If Roman knew? What, does he not have a TV? Or a smartphone? Or,  you know…these guys’ phone numbers?

If Seth Rollins’ comments this week about Brock Lesnar are any indicator, they are indeed moving forward with Lesnar vs. Rollins at Wrestlemania. Assuming Lesnar is keeping the Universal Title until then, that means they’re probably going to have to get the IC Title off of Rollins. Ambrose is as good a person for him to lose it to as anyone.

By the way, don’t write off Renee Young’s on-screen involvement in her husband’s storyline. They’re already having Corey Graves address their real-life marriage. So it’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

Well, whaddaya know? It’s the Daniel Bryan heel turn we never knew we wanted.

A return to the title picture seemed like a natural direction for Bryan to go in as we headed toward Wrestlemania. So his heel turn came way out of left field. It’s been a very pleasant surprise, though. As much as fans like myself love to armchair quarterback this stuff, this was a good decision. It gives Bryan so much more creative freedom. I’m sure that feels great after so much time on the sidelines.

Styles vs. Bryan in a pay per view environment has been a dream match for years. Now they finally have a chance to do it. But these dream match scenarios have not been kind to AJ this year. Case in point, his Wrestlemania match against Shinsuke Nakamura. Still, these two are bona fide in-ring artists. So naturally, there’s a lot of intrigue going into this match.

Bryan’s heel turn has left me at a complete loss for what the WWE Title picture will look like as we get closer to Wrestlemania. So I’m somewhat at a loss in terms of predicting this one. I’m going to go with the whole “they wouldn’t give him the belt just to take it off him” approach, and say Bryan wins. But there’s still time for AJ to once again walk into Wrestlemania with the title.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

TRIPLE-THREAT TLC MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka

Supposedly, Asuka was added to this match because WWE was pleasantly surprised by her sustained popularity. I can’t say I disagree, given all the nothing they’ve done with her since Wrestlemania. But hey, she’s back in the title picture, and working with two of the company’s hottest stars. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Not that I think she’s winning. My assumption is this match turned out the way it did so they could get the title off Becky Lynch without pinning her. Throwing a third person in there, no matter who it is, muddies those waters a little bit more.

Plus, I think they’re kinda throwing us a bone on this one. How Asuka has not won either the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championships by now is a mystery the likes of which I can’t even begin to solve. And yet, here we are. I’d love to see her get another title shot at Wrestlemania this year. Perhaps this is a good sign in that respect.

Either way, one thing we know for sure is they want Charlotte kept strong. That’s why I see her taking the belt here. That will give her momentum heading into Wrestlemania season. And again, it’s simply a question of how they want to proceed with her, Ronda, and Becky. Maybe Charlotte winds up in a completely different match. Against maybe…a certain Empress of Tomorrow? Charlotte broke Asuka’s streak, and she hasn’t been the same since. If there was ever a reason to seek revenge…

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

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WWE Survivor Series 2018 Preview – What One Punch Can Change…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s pretty damn rare that you see an entire pay per view turned on its ear with less than a week out. But low and behold, that’s where we find ourselves with this year’s Survivor Series. It’s amazing just how much one punch can change…

Even having already covered the women’s matches, we’ve got a lot to get to. So let’s dive in!

SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, the B-Team, the Revival, Lucha House Party, & the Ascension,
Vs.
The Usos, the New Day, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, SAnitY, & the Colons

Ugh. I hate these matches. I really do. Way too many people. It’s a cluster.

What’s more, there’s a built-in way for them to clean this thing up. Both the New Day and Lucha House Party are three-man groups. So just have it be The Usos and the New Day against Lucha House Party, Bobby Roode, and Chad Gable. See? We just trimmed all the fat.

Not that it matters. This match was thrown together because they felt like they had to do something with the tag teams. It’s a complete and utter toss-up as far as who wins. I’m going to say Team Smackdown because….they have the Usos and the New Day?

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Mustafa Ali

At some point, Mustafa Ali is winning the Cruiserweight Championship. It’s just a question of when. Survivor Series wouldn’t be too soon. Heck, Wrestlemania wouldn’t have been too soon. But I get the sense they’re not done with Murphy yet. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s earned this spot. So we’ll let him keep it for now.

PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Back in July, I said that Shinsuke Nakamura needed a big win to help him rebound from all those losses to AJ Styles. He got that win, and the United States Championship. But all these months later we’re back in the same spot, even though Nakamura still has the title.

I think we’ve officially reached the point where we can call Nakamura an underachiever on the main roster. I take no joy in saying that, as he’s obviously got no shortage of talent or charisma. And I don’t think there’s any one thing to point to as far as why. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t connected with mainstream audiences in the way we all hoped he would.

But I’m grateful they haven’t given up on him. And in fact, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get a big win over Rollins here. The IC Champ has a perfect out, as he’s still feuding with Dean Ambrose. So they can just have Ambrose come in and cost him the match.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

CHAMPIONS VS. CHAMPIONS:
AOP vs. The Bar

I almost would have rather seen them keep the titles on Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for this match. They could have had Rollins face Shinsuke Nakamura earlier in the evening, then go into this match with Ambrose having deserted him. He’d have lost both times, but looked like a bad ass in the process. That story is a lot more interesting than the one we have here. I’d say the most interesting thing we have to look forward to here is some kind of spot between the Big Show and Drake Maverick.

WWE has just started to book AOP like the unstoppable force they should have been from the start. So if we must have this match, they should be the ones to walk out victorious. However, this is one of the few times I’d be okay with a non-finish for a pay per view match.

PREDICTION: AOP

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan

Supposedly, AJ Styles dropped the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan because Vince McMahon didn’t want him losing to Brock Lesnar two years in a row. I find that logic somewhat confusing. Roman Reigns, who until recently was the company’s top creative priority, took two consecutive pay per view losses to Brock. Still, at least Vince is trying to take care of AJ.

Adding Bryan to this match, as a heel no less, obviously adds an element of intrigue that wasn’t there with Styles. I’m very interested to see what these two do together. It’s been well documented over the last several days that Bryan has wanted this match for years. Regardless, whether it’s Styles or Bryan, I still don’t see Brock losing on this show. Nor should he, quite frankly. Hopefully Bryan can come away with an artistic victory, if not a literal one.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, & Bobby Lashley
vs.
The Miz, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, & Jeff Hardy

One of the stories going into this match is that if Team Raw wins, Braun Strowman gets a Universal Title Match down the road, as well as a big match with Baron Corbin. With Roman Reigns now on the shelf indefinitely, the course of action going forward should be rather obvious: Build Raw around Braun. What’s the best way to do that? Give him the Universal Championship at Wrestlemamia. Mind you, it doesn’t have to be another singles match against Brock. They can do a Triple-Threat that also includes Drew McIntyre. Or if you want to go way into left field, a Fatal Four-Way with somebody like Dolph Ziggler or Seth Rollins. Either way, Braun should walk out of Wrestlemania with the big red belt.

But if you want to give him the title in April, then there’s no logic in giving him a title shot now. That’s why I think Team Smackdown wins here.

I see Braun somehow getting counted out or disqualified, most likely because of something Corbin does. But have him eliminate a couple of Smackdown guys (Shane and Jeff?) on his way out, just so he still looks strong. Then you do some kind of finish where Miz survives in the end. He’s the only one I really feel strong about surviving here.

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Wrestlemania Predictions: Kick-Off Show Matches

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re going to try something a little different this year. Instead of cramming all my Wrestlemania predictions into one big post, I’m going to break them up over the next few days. If there was ever a show to do that with, it’s this one. As I type this, 13 matches have been announced. That’s not counting whatever is happening with Cena and Undertaker, and the segment that Elias is reportedly doing.

Up first is the Kick-Off Show, which was the subject of controversy last year when the matches weren’t included on the Wrestlemania 33 DVD. Thus, the talents didn’t see any royalties. Plus, there’s always been that pre-show stigma. You don’t break into the business hoping to get on the Wrestlemania Kick-Off Show.

Still, you’ve got a good amount of star power here. And a championship will be decided. So let’s take a look…

2018 ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL:

Bray Wyatt probably needs to be in this match. We haven’t seen him since the Ultimate Deletion, when he was thrown into the “Lake of Reincarnation.” Wrestlemania is about as fitting a place as any for a reincarnated Bray to emerge. Even if it’s in a battle royal. On the pre-show…

Bray isn’t even officially announced for this match. But the more I look at the guys who are (Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, Tye Dillinger…), the more it seems like a win for Bray makes the most sense. If anyone has ever needed a repackaging and a big win, it’s him. It’s really hard to believe that he walked into last year’s Wrestlemania as the WWE Champion. Plus, Matt Hardy is in this match. So it can come down to those two.

But of course, this match is notoriously hard to predict. Last year I thought it would be Braun Strowman, and it wound up being Mojo Rawley. So as always, this one’s a toss-up.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WRESTLEMANIA WOMEN’S BATTLE ROYAL:

Obviously it sucks that Sasha Banks and Bayley don’t have a match on the main show. But they’ve got the big story coming into this battle royal. That’s hardly ideal, of course. But it’s something.

According to WWE.com, we’ll be seeing some NXT names in this match as well. I expect Kairi Sane to be in there. Depending on what happens in the NXT Women’s Title Match at Takeover, we might see Shayna Baszler and/or Ember Moon. I’d throw Bille Kay and Peyton Royce in there too.

I’d love for it to be Becky Lynch. It won’t be, of course. She’s the personification of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” And that’s such a damn shame, because she’s so damn great.

That being said, you know who I’d like to see win this one? Mandy Rose. Absolution’s shelf life has been up for quite awhile now. Particularly since Paige got injured. And as a heel, Rose has a lot of potential for single’s stardom. She’s obviously not as polished as she could be. But that’s a matter of experience. While this one is every bit the toss-up the men’s battle royal is, I don’t see Mandy as a bad choice at all.

WWE likes to talk about how the Andre Battle Royal has meant so much to the various winners over the years. But has it? Not really. Mojo Rawley is in more or less the same spot he was last year at this time. But that doesn’t mean it can‘t be that launching pad for a newer name. The men’s match has essentially been established as filler. But this is a valuable opportunity for WWE to  start this tradition for the women on a different note.

Just be careful who you name the match after…

MATCH FOR VACANT WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

Yeah…we knew this would end up on the pre-show, didn’t we? It’s a crappy thing to do, given how well the 205 Live revamp has gone. But I get it. There’s only so much you can fit on that main show. Look at it this way: At least they have a featured match. That’s more than you can say for the likes of Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Sasha Banks, or Bayley…

If I’ve got the book, I put the title on Mustafa Ali. They’ve been trying to push Cedric as a babyface for several months now. And as amazing and talented as Cedric is, it’s not working. He’s missing something in the charisma department. So how do you fix that? you have him come up short in his big quest for the championship. He can go heel in response, and win the title from Ali down the line.

All that being said, I think they’re going with Cedric. They clearly see him as a star, and they’re not wrong in that assessment. I just think there’s a different path for him.

PREDICTION: Cedric Alexander

More predictions to come!!!

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

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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Woken Matt Hardy, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

News leaked last week that longtime WWE composer Jim Johnston had been released after more than three decades with the company. That’s a hell of a downer.

Not surprising, mind you. If you look at Most the music WWE has produced in the last several years has been with CFO$, who have essentially become their in-house band. But Johnston was still working for WWE in some capacity. His most recent, and apparently final, theme song for the company was “I Bring the Darkness,” which Baron Corbin uses.

Consider how vital music is to the overall WWE experience. We literally can’t have matches without it, as wrestlers all have their own distinct entrance themes. This isn’t just the case in 2017. What would the Ultimate Warrior have been without the adrenaline-pumping guitar riffs as he sprinted to the ring? What is the Undertaker without the awe-inspiring orchestra that backs his entrance? How much did “Voices” change the tone of Randy Orton’s entire act?

The list goes on and on. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dusty Rhodes, Degeneration X, Ted DiBiase, the Rock, the Big Bossman, Triple H, Goldust…

Johnston didn’t do it all himself, obviously. But he was the backbone of all things music-related in WWE for so long. He helped shape not only the product itself, but the careers of generations of wrestlers.

Johnston produced much of the soundtrack our childhoods. So thank you, sir. For so many years, and so many great songs.

Ponderings From Raw:

Both Jason Jordan and Samoa Joe attempt to answer Roman Reigns’ open challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. Jason Jordan gets the match, which Reigns wins. Joe attempts to attack Reigns after the match, but Jordan stops him with a suplex. Reigns repays him with a Superman Punch. Jason Jordan may have won me over in this segment. He was whiny and annoying as he clearly played the father/son card. But at the same time, they’ve tried to make this heel turn organic by giving a certain amount of legitimacy to his gripes. He’s a legit bad ass who can hang. When Jordan’s turn becomes official, they may actually have something with him.

Paige def. Sasha Banks. Absolution once again destroys Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. The announcers have consistently remembered to bring up the fact that Sasha Banks has never successfully defended the Raw Women’s Title. They’re saving that little factoid for down the road. Hopefully it’s the Sasha heel turn we’ve been waiting on for months.

As annoying as I’ve come to find Sasha, when it comes to big bumps she goes all in. That Sunset Flip she took off the top rope was nasty.

Both this one and the opener went pretty long. In the first hour and a half of Raw, we only got two matches. Commercials notwithstanding, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Nia Jax flirts with Enzo backstage. Alright, sure. This could be decent. Just don’t let her wrestle him for the title…

Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, and Tony Nese. WWE announced this week that 205 Live is going to start running live events, starting with three on January 19, 20, and 21. This happens to be the weekend before the Royal Rumble. Supposedly, they’re looking for smaller venues for future events.

Considering a lot of the crowds for Smackdown have been half-empty lately, this seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Mind you, this comes on the heels of WWE sending out a fan survey asking why people aren’t watching the show. But I do like the idea of the cruiserweights performing in smaller venues. I’d be in favor of WWE moving 205 Live to a different night (Thursday?), so they could move it somewhere about the size of the facility NXT takes place in. Moving it out from the shadow of Smackdown could be a good thing. And smaller crowds could help recreate the intimate setting of the Cruiserweight Classic. Whether Enzo and that crew can sell tickets? That could be another story entirely. 

Damn, I wish Cedric Alexander could talk. His big dive over the rope, the standing Spanish Fly with Ali, and of course the Lumbar Check. He’s so damn good. But verbiage is the missing element for him.

The crowd was actually awake for this one. That’s a nice change of pace.

Braun Strowman dominates Elias before Kane interrupts via the tron to announce a match with Strowman next week. So does Kane go away after next week? Or does he stick around a little longer? Finn Balor could certainly use some retribution.

Strowman has been part of some really good Raw main events this year. He and Kane have a high bar to rise to. I’m not exactly optimistic, but I’m not dreading it either.

Asuka def. Alicia Fox. Absolution has another staredown with Asuka before annihilating Fox. I said this last week: I’m not a fan of Asuka backing out of the ring Paige, Deville, and Rose surround her. They’re having her smile, so you know she’s not cowering away. But it’s awkward, and doesn’t make a lot of sense. She clearly wants a fight, and could very well kick the hell out of them. Whether it’s ill-advised or not, why not just stand there and wait for them to make a move?

Finn Balor def. Bo Dallas. So Balor isn’t getting a match with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, and he just can’t seem to solve the Kane conundrum. But he can beat Bo Dallas! So that’s something…right?

“Woken” Matt Hardy makes his WWE television debut via pre-taped promo intercut with one of Bray Wyatt’s usual tron promos. Hardy sentences Wyatt to deletion. This little segment has been a long time coming. Some of us have been waiting on this since the Hardys came back at Wrestlemania. It’s been almost a year. But Broken Matt is finally here, albeit under a different name.

I was fine with this character’s first exposure to WWE audiences coming via pre-tape. As cool as it can be, it’s undeniably goofy. This lets the fans in on the joke before we inevitably get the bells and whistles the die-hards want to see.

Sheamus and Cesaro def. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. Samoa Joe interferes in the match, costing the Shield the titles. It’s the feud that just won’t die. I’ve seen these four wrestle so much I nearly snoozed right through this one. Considering how good all these guys are, that tells you something. Can this please be the end? Please?

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Paige’s Comeback, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

How’s this for a feel-good story? After more than a year, Paige is back in a WWE ring. Why is this such a feel-good story? Because for awhile, things weren’t looking so good for the real-life Saraya-Jade Bevis.

Look at everything Bevis has been through since we last saw her. Tensions were high between she and WWE over two failed wellness tests, and a neck surgery that WWE reportedly didn’t want her to have. All the while, she was in what appeared to be a volatile relationship with the controversial Jose Rodriguez, also known as Alberto Del Rio. At one point Jose Rodriguez was under investigation for domestic violence, and there was talk of alcohol abuse and the use of cocaine. The relationship has apparently ended as of a few months ago.

Then there was the X-rated footage leak, which included footage of Bevis with the NXT Women’s Title. Make no mistake about it, she was the victim of a sex crime. But considering all the bad press, it would have been very easy for WWE to simply cut bait. It would have been even easier for her to become another wrestling tragedy.

I think a lot of us forget how young Bevis is. She’s been wrestling since she was 13. She wasn’t even 20 when she was signed by WWE, and she started appearing on national television at 21. Most of us are fortunate enough not to have their dirty laundry aired all over the internet. I don’t doubt that some of that will follow Bevis for a long time.

The silver lining? She’s back, seemingly better than ever, and I would guess stronger and wiser for what she’s gone through. I wouldn’t want to get on this woman’s bad side, or stand in her way going forward. Because the question isn’t what she’ll do next. But after everything she’s seen in her young life, what can’t she do?

Welcome back, Paige. We’ve missed you.

Ponderings From Raw:

Triple H gets confronted by Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan, and Braun Strowman. Stephanie McMahon makes Strowman vs. Jordan for later in the evening. This was one of the few times since his return that Kurt Angle actually looked like the bad ass wrestling machine we know he can be. After last night, it looks like that’s the direction we’re headed in for Wrestlemania. My interest is piqued…

Adding Triple H to anything involving a younger star can be risky. He can easily outshine or outperform his opponent, making them look weak by comparison. In hindsight, his program with Seth Rollins didn’t exactly work wonders for the so-called “Kingslayer.”

But to his credit, Hunter looked genuinely afraid of Strowman at Survivor Series. Less so in this segment. But we still got “You’re a coward!” chants, which were cool. As Triple H has been wrestling more frequently as of late, a match between he and Strowman is hardly far-fetched. But the right move in that scenario would be a Strowman victory, most likely after interference from Angle. Do they have the guts to pull the trigger on that?

So Strowman storms out there looking like he’s going to kill somebody, marches up to Hunter, and then…stands there. What? Triple H couldn’t have bailed? If a freight train is barreling toward you, you move. So move, damn it! Move!

Samoa Joe def. Finn Balor. These two always look like they’re beating the crap out of each other. Probably because they are, to an extent. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see a guy the size of Joe coming at you with a suicide dive…

Asuka def. Dana Brooke. I was legitimately afraid for Dana Brooke during this match. Asuka hits hard, and Brooke isn’t exactly smooth in there. But Brooke sold well for her.

What do they call that butt thump move Asuka does? The announcers never seem to call it. Does it have a name?

The Shield appears on Miz TV. Roman Reigns challenges the Miz to an Intercontinental Title Match. The crowd was having fun during this one. That’s more than you can say for a lot of Raw crowds these days.

Dean Ambrose def. Sheamus. Sheamus is damn good. When he gets a chance to be a single again, I really hope they get put the pieces together with him. He’s more valuable than a lot of people realize.

On that topic, hell of a performance by Sheamus, Cesaro, and the Usos at Survivor Series. Had Brock and AJ not been wrestling, they might have stolen the show altogether.

Paige returns, interrupting a top contender’s match between Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Bayley, and Alicia Fox. Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville clear the ring. Afterward, the trio beat up Alexa Bliss backstage. Outside of being Tough Enough alums, I know next to nothing about Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. But I’ve said more than once that this Raw Women’s Division needs more bodies. We can’t just have Sasha, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and Nia Jax out there every week. So I’m glad they’re here.

Kane interrupts Braun Strowman’s match with Jason Jordan. Kane devastates Strowman’s throat with a chair. December’s pay per view, Clash of Champions, is a Smackdown show. I’m guessing they’re not going to keep this going until the Royal Rumble. So it looks like Kane is Strowman’s TV program until Wrestlemania season.

Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Mustafa Ali, and Akira Tozawa def. Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, and Noam Dar. You know what doesn’t help the 205 Live crew? The fact that the babyfaces travel in packs. The “Zo Train” is one thing. They’re a heel group. But Cedric, Rich and the others? Nobody stands out when they all come out at once. It’s just Cruiserweight oatmeal.

Matt Hardy attacks Elias. Is Elias spinning his wheels? These feuds with Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy don’t seem to be doing anything for him. But the crowds are usually into his schtick. It’s time for a step up.

Meanwhile, Matt cut a promo on WWE.com about his “breaking point.”

Get it? Broken Matt? Breaking point? Yeah, right…

Roman Reigns def. The Miz to win the Intercontinental Championship. Roman doesn’t need the Intercontinental Title any more than he needed the United States Title. This is a confusing move. Why not give it to Balor or Joe? Hell, they could even have given it to Elias. Maybe they want to put the tag belts back on Rollins and Ambrose, so all three of them have belts? But again, needless…

Awesome counter to the Superman Punch by Miz. Has that been done before?

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Kane Shocks Roman Reigns, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Rumor has it the planned main event for Survivor Series next month is Universal Champion Brock Lesnar against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jinder Mahal.

Oh dear. Dear oh dear. That’s…that’s quite a choice, isn’t it?

In theory, this should be one of the biggest matches WWE can put on. The champion of Raw against the champion of Smackdown, on one of the biggest shows the company puts on all year. It beats the hell out ofwhen they’d putting the big champion vs. champion match on Raw with little to no build-up. And not even in the main event!

But Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal isn’t exactly Clash of the Titans. Yes, they’ve strapped the rocket to Jinder. But his big matches against Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura haven’t delivered, and his racially charged promos haven’t exactly inspired confidence.

Having grown up a wrestling fan in the ’90s, I present you with this analogy. Imagine if they put the WWE Championship on Bob Holly in 1997, and then tried to market a major pay per view match pitting him against the Undertaker.

The buzz is that it’s going to be a non-title match. So without the hook of a title possibly changing hands, what’s the draw here? I imagine it’s seeing Brock Lesnar beat the crap out of Jinder and the Singh Brothers. There’s also Paul Heyman’s promos in the build-up. If anyone can put Jinder over as a legitimate threat to Brock Lesnar, it’s Heyman.

Whenever they do these Raw vs. Smackdown matches, people always talk about how it could reflect badly on the loser’s brand. In this case, if Brock kills Jinder, how does that make Smackdown look compared to Raw? This kind of stuff gets overthought quite a bit. But given the perception of Smackdown as the B-show (even inside the walls of WWE, reportedly), some concern is merited.

Could they have Brock take Jinder to Suplex City and beat him? Yes. But I don’t see that happening. Remember, Jinder is a Vince McMahon project. They’ve spent most of the year trying to get this guy over as their big Indian star. They’re making a big fuss out of him being the champion when they go to India in December. So it’s in their best interest to keep him looking relatively strong through the end of the year. Frankly, I don’t see why you’d book this match if not to benefit Jinder in some way.

This match has “outside interference” and “screwjob finish” written all over it. You’ll have the Singh Brothers out there, you’ll have Heyman doing something. And Jinder’s next opponent (AJ Styles?) or Brock’s next opponent (Finn Balor?) could easily play a role in the finish somehow. It almost has to. That’s how you get out of this thing without Brock throwing Jinder around and making Smackdown look like the bush leagues.

So who wins? Give it to Jinder by disqualification or count-out. That way Brock gets away without being pinned, and Jinder can technically say he beat the mighty Brock Lesnar.

Then again, don’t put anything past this company. Remember, at this same show last year Brock lost to Bill Goldberg in less than two minutes…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins call out their opponents at TLCGood to see the guys back in their black gear, doing the old Shield entrance. Not sure why we couldn’t have done that for the big reunion last week…

Jason Jordan, Apollo Crews, and Titus O’Neil def. Elias, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson. For some reason, that opening shot of Elias sitting with Gallows and Anderson was really funny. And a tribute to the Honky Tonk Man, of all people. Does that make Honky a good brother?

Cedric Alexander def. Jack Gallagher. Solid match. I’m still getting used to heel Jack Gallagher. He definitely needs new music.

There was a faint “We want Neville!” chant during this match…

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing Alexander hit the Lumbar Check. I can’t imagine what it’s like to take that.

Braun Strowman appears on Miz TV. A stipulation is added to the Reigns/Stroman Steel Cage Match later in the night. So if Strowman wins, his team gets another partner at TLC. If Reigns wins, it goes back to three-on-three. A nice added hook for an already big match.

All this team stuff has me in the mood for Survivor Series. So do you put the Shield on a traditional five-person team? Or do you give them their own match? Maybe a six-man elimination match?

Sasha Banks def. Alicia Fox. Fox ambushes Banks afterward. Crazy Alicia Fox is entertaining. Campy, but entertaining nonetheless.

A brawl breaks out after Kalisto interrupts an Enzo Amore promo. Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak lay out Kalisto and Mustafa Ali. I cringed when Kalisto’s music hit. Any time this guy takes a mic, it’s bad. And he didn’t disappoint in that respect. He told Enzo he’d walk out of TLC the “new Cruiserweight Champion.”

I don’t know that it’s coincidence that WWE keeps bringing up Rey Mysterio Jr. They’ve mentioned him as one of Kalisto’s influences, they posted a brief video on Rey’s response to last week’s title win, and then they name dropped him again this week. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear they’re trying to court him for a return. Perhaps not a full time return. But they’d be foolish not to at least try for him.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins def. Cesaro and Sheamus to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. With Ambrose and Rollins back in the Shield gear, there was a little extra sizzle on this one.  But as gifted as these guys are, it’s still the same match we’ve seen a hundred times. It’s a good match. But the law of diminishing returns was in full effect here.

Not a surprising finish here. Having the Shield take a big loss right before their big pay per view comeback wouldn’t make sense right now.

Finn Balor announces the Demon is coming to meet Sister Abigail at TLCAnother week, another promo from Finn Balor. Worse yet, that awful Sister Abigail promo from last week apparently rubbed off on him, as they reached into their special effects bag again. Though at least the Demon character is somewhat cool. That Sister Abigail thing is another story entirely.

Bayley and Mickie James def. Alexa Bliss and Emma. Mickie has been nicely rejuvenated. Of course, the big story is Asuka’s debut this Sunday. To their credit, WWE has playied her up as the big deal that she should be. Now all we can do is wait and see how it goes…

Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Match, with help from the returning Kane. Kane will now join Miz’s team against the Shield at TLCThis was a legit surprise. I didn’t think we’d see Kane back until his real-life run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee was over. But his inclusion makes a certain amount of sense, as Reigns did supposedly retire his brother at Wrestlemania. Now watch them completely ignore that…

They were teasing Curtis Axel as the fifth man for most of the show. So to prove himself, Axel gets goaded into picking a fight with Roman before the Cage Match. So instead of finding him alone, or maybe jumping him as he’s going to the ring, we see him walk up to all three members of the Shield backstage. Axel’s a good wrestler, but he might just be the dumbest henchman in television history.

Then again, when Miz found him hanging upside down, one of the first things he asked was: “Who did this???” So is one of them rubbing off on the other?

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