Finn Balor and the Cursed Title, Plus Ponderings From WWE Summerslam Week

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Between NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IISummerslamRaw, and Smackdown, we’ve got a lot to cover. There’s too much to go match by match. But lets tackle some of the big stuff. We might jump around a bit in the process, so bear with me…

WWE Raw, August 22, 2016Finn Balor wins WWE Universal Championship at Summerslam, relinquishes title the following night due to injury. Damn. I mean, just…damn.

One night after becoming the first ever WWE Universal Champion, Finn Balor has to vacate the title due to injury. An injury suffered by Seth Rollins powerbombing him into the ringside barricade, much like the career-ending bucklebomb he gave to Sting almost a year ago.

This hurts. For a lot of reasons. Finn Balor relinquishes the Universal title less than 24 hours after he won it. It’s a title that, after being unveiled, received a collective groan and chants of “That belt sucks!” Mind you, they were already being mocked for the Universal Title name.

All this for a belt that waters things down by bringing us back to an era where there are two heavyweight champions.

Good lord…the belt is cursed! What other explanation could there be??

In all seriousness, I’m sorry Finn. Come back healthy. Be the star that we all know you are.

WWE Universal Title unveilingUniversal Title design booed by many in attendance at Summerslam. Chants of “That belt sucks!” are heard. Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Yes, it looks a little like an accessory for Eva Marie. But we just came out of an era that gave us the spinner belt and the butterfly belt. If you’d swapped either of those out with the Universal Title, I’d have jumped for joy.

Rollins also took to Twitter to gripe about how the Brooklyn crowd “really let me down” with the chants. His frustration is understandable. But those fans paid money to sit in those seats and cheer/boo/chant whatever they want. Look on the bright side. At least nobody jumped the barricade like an idiot…

Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, and Big Cass advance to a fatal fourway match on next week’s Raw to crown a new Universal Champion. Without Balor, Raw will likely now revert back to Roman Reigns being the top babyface. So much for the “new era,” I guess.

Big Cass is an interesting addition to this match. It’s fairly obvious they’re eyeing him as a singles star down the road. But with due respect, he’s not even close to ready. As good as he and Enzo are together, Cass doesn’t exactly look good when you compare them. Yes, he’s a big boy. But as we’ve seen countless times, one can’t make a career on size alone.

AJ Styles, John Cena, WWE Summerslam 2016AJ Styles def. John Cena in a show-stealer at Summerslam, earns title shot against Dean Ambrose at Backlash next month. Truly, this was AJ’s week. You can make the argument that the match with Cena wasn’t much of a creative effort, as they spent much of it kicking out of finishes. But the crowd reaction spoke for itself. They lit that place on fire. And to WWE’s credit, they made the right move putting Styles over. I’m not sure what’s going on with Cena’s reduced schedule. Either way, AJ’s star has never burned brighter.

Putting Styles with Ambrose next month was really the only choice. Who else could they have gone with? Ziggler again? Not after his clean loss to Ambrose. I’m really hoping this is the start of a heel turn for him. Otherwise, his last chance to be taken seriously as a main venter has been dashed.

Charlotte def. Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Title. Banks to take a brief respite from the ring. There were a couple of really scary moments in this match. Sasha took that nasty fall on the ropes, and then you had that really risky crucifix powerbomb spot. It’s no wonder Sasha’s got back problems. The title change was a shock. But if Sasha needs to heal up, it’s obviously the right move.

WWE Raw, August 22, 2016, BayleyBayley makes her main roster debut on Raw after losing to Asuka at TakeoverPeople have been waiting for this for a long time. Truly, Bayley has the potential to be a one of the biggest stars in all of WWE. Bigger than most, if not all of the men. Bayley’s connection with her fans is truly special. It’s just a question of how they use her.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Samoa Joe for NXT Championship. I don’t for a second doubt Nakamura’s talent or his star power. But I’m concerned that his English will be an obstacle once he makes it to the main roster. NXT is Triple H’s sandbox. But WWE at large is Vince McMahon’s. This is a huge week for him. But he’s got a great many trials ahead of him.

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Samoa Joe’s Debut, TNA’s Troubles, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A few things to get to before we talk about Raw

Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, NXT TakeoverSamoa Joe appears at NXT Takeover. Samoa Joe in a WWE ring. I honestly never thought I’d see the day. Not because Joe doesn’t have the talent, but because he clearly doesn’t fit the traditional WWE musclehead mold. The fact that he was signed speaks volumes about the way WWE recruits talent now as opposed to, say, five years ago. He even got to keep his name! He wasn’t renamed or repackaged, which probably has something to do with the nature of the deal he signed. Joe still has some indy dates booked, so perhaps he’ll be repackaged if/when he becomes exclusive to WWE.

If Joe does indeed have a run with NXT, I don’t doubt he’ll be successful. Judging by how quickly Kevin Owens became NXT Champion, it’s not at all unreasonable to imagine similar success for Joe. My question is, how successful would Joe be on the main roster, with Vince McMahon micromanaging his every move? His matches would be good, of course. But would Vince brush him off because of his body type? Actually, I imagine the same question could be posed about Kevin Owens.

Either way, Joe’s arrival in NXT was a huge moment. So many fans, myself included, thought it simply wasn’t in the cards. Congratulations, Joe. You deserve it.

TNA, Destination AmericaDave Meltzer reports that Destination America is planning to cancel all TNA programming affective this September. Lots of controversy over this one, and rightfully so. Supposedly, TNA hasn’t delivered ratings high enough to justify the production costs, and most of Destination America’s advertisers want nothing to do with TNA.

Neither TNA President Dixie Carter, nor Destination America have made any sort of statements regarding potential cancellations, most likely because things haven’t been finalized. Thus, theoretically, TNA could stay on the network if plans change.

This story is just sad. After all that drama last year about TNA finding a new network, this happens. One might even argue that being on Destination America was a detriment to TNA from the start. So many fans simply don’t have access to it. I’m one of those fans, and as such I haven’t seen a new episode of Impact since they left Spike. And just when they’d finally cut ties with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, and the show was becoming watchable again.

Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, TNAIncidentally, Eric Bischoff, Jason Hervey, and Garrett Bischoff suing TNA for unpaid wages certainly isn’t going to help matters.

I want to have hope for TNA. I really do. But things just keep piling on…

Hulk Hogan says he may play a villain in The Expendables 4. I don’t buy it. Not as the main villain, anyway. His contributions to wrestling notwithstanding, Hogan is a notorious liar and BS’er. I’ll believe it when I hear it from someone other than him.

Thoughts From Raw:

Zack Ryder accepts John Cena’s open challenge in his hometown of Long Island. This almost felt like justice for Zack Ryder. This poor guy got buried by the system simply because he got himself over. But at least he got to have a career moment tonight with John Cena. Not that it will matter in the long run, of course. Much like Stardust did, he’ll go right back to jobbing next week. But kudos to Ryder, Cena, and WWE for giving Long Island something special.

As for the cast of  Entourage…meh, whatever. I find it funny that they made a tron video that specifically said “The Cast of Entourage.” I’m just happy we didn’t have to see Jeremy Piven on Raw again. I admired his enthusiasm when he was a guest host. But I still cringe when I think of that “Summerfest” flub.

Dean Ambrose, Raw, May 26, 2015The Authority, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns open and close the show. I fast-forwarded through the first 13 minutes of Raw, simply because I’ve seen this promo time after time, week after week. I pressed play when Dean Ambrose came out, but fast-forwarded again when he didn’t say anything interesting. Ditto for the lead-in to the tag match. I’m begging them to change up the format here.

Ambrose being arrested, taken to jail, and then returning in a police van (I’m not calling it a paddy wagon…) was pretty Stone Cold-esque. But oddly enough, having Ambrose actually wear the police hat and jacket put a pretty cool spin on it. It made it amusing in a way that’s very synonymous with the “Lunatic Fringe” character.

Roman Reigns was a decent supporting player here, but it’s curious that he isn’t involved in Elimination Chamber at all. Isn’t he supposed to be one of their big stars on the rise? I don’t get it.

Lana, Rusev, Raw, May 25, 2015Rusev calls Lana to the ring for an attempt at reconciliation. Jeez, this was a long segment. Rusev’s acting skills have improved immensely since we first saw him, and I suppose he did alright here. But it was ill advised to have him carry an entire talking segment based on things like love, emotional manipulation, etc. I’m wondering if they’ll wind up putting them back together at Elimination Chamber, pulling the ol’ swerve on Dolph Ziggler. Lana and Rusev’s involvement in Ziggler’s match with Sheamus did nothing to dissuade that.

Neville def. Stardust, will face Bo Dallas at Elimination Chamber. This match with Neville is a huge opportunity for Dallas to prove he can be a relevant commodity on the WWE roster. Because let’s be honest: Right now he’s not.

On the subject of relevance, I’m happy he got to interact with Stephen Amell at ringside, as that at least gave him something to do. But he’s worth so much more. The crowds still chant “Cody!” at him, so clearly he’s still over. This seems like another case of WWE not knowing what to do with a character, so a talent goes to waste.

The New Day, Raw, May 25, 2015The New Day compete in a 10-on-3 handicap match. So the idea of a match like this is to make the audience happy that The New Day are getting beat up. I understand that. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. As a fan, it makes me feel sympathy for the guys I’m supposed to dislike. Yes, they walked away with the win. But at least they walked away! They were essentially booked in a mugging! I expect they’ll walk out of Elimination Chamber with the belts as well.

Tamina Snuka def. Paige. It would have been nice to have heard the commentary for this match. But as always, the Bellas at the announce table means instant mute button.

Images 1, 4, 5, and 6 from WWE.com. Image 2 from impactwrestling.com. Image 3 from prowrestling24.com.

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Kevin Owens, Lana, and Other Ponderings From WWE Payback and Raw

Kevin Owens, John Cena 2, Raw, 05182015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Kevin Owens makes his first WWE TV appearance, accepting John Cena’s open challenge. Owens will face Cena at Elimination Chamber. Yet again, the John Cena open challenge segment steals the show. That’s an emphatic statement, not only about the talent Cena’s in the ring with, but Cena himself.

Obviously this segment served two purposes. It was a great promo for NXT Takeover this Wednesday, and it introduced mainstream audiences to Kevin Owens. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen as much of the real-life Kevin Steen’s work as I’d like. But his prize-fighter presentation is great, and he’s obviously got the brash attitude thing down pat. He’s also got a hell of a wit on him. Was he supposed to say he’s been wrestling longer than Cena? If that was off the cuff, then I commend him for his guts.

Kevin Owens, John Cena, Raw, 05182015The really cool thing about that final image of Owens standing on the US Title, and hoisting the NXT Title in the air, is that it meant something. Symbolically, they got what they were looking for. Had that been, say, Kofi Kingston in there during one of his runs with the belt, the image would have fallen flat, and actually hurt the credibility of the US Title. But now that Cena has been having these great matches with it week after week, what Owens did had actual heat to it. It was great build up to what is apparently going to be a match at Elimination Chamber.

It’s surreal that these two are having a match so quickly. But I can’t deny that it’s a must-see, and a great draw for those on the fence about the WWE Network. I’m hoping for a fight, and I’m guissing I won’t be disappointed.

Rusev banishes Lana from his side after she surrenders for him at Payback, later aligns herself with Dolph Ziggler. Rusev has now lost to John Cena on three straight pay per views. But creative seemed to be trying to protect him. They had him render Cena unconscious, which would have given him a win in a traditional submission match.

Lana, Rusev, WWE Raw, 05182015But nevertheless, Rusev is no longer the unstoppable brute he was when 2015 began. And now, they’ve taken away his mouthpiece. I’m still not convinced breaking them up is the right move. In the long run, WWE may have hurt Rusev.

As for what happened between Lana and Dolph Ziggler, I’m curious about what their intentions are. Are they trying to push Ziggler to greater heights by pairing him with the very popular Lana? Or was he put with her because they know he can have great matches with Rusev, and perhaps re-establish him as a monster?

There is, of course, the chance that Lana could end up heeling on Ziggler, and going back to Rusev. I’d be okay with that, but what does that do for Doph? Out of the three parties involved here, I’m most concerned about Dolph, and what this means for his immediate future.

Dean Ambrose granted a WWE Championship match against Seth Rollins at Elimination Chamber. Awesome. Any time these guys get in the ring, it’s magic. Let them main event another pay per view, and let Ambrose continue to prove his worth as a main event-level star.

Tyson Kidd, Raw, 05182015Participants announced for Intercontinental Title and Tag Team Title Elimination Chamber matches. I’m thinking Cesaro & Tyson Kidd will take the tag straps back here. However, I’d love to see the Prime Time Players win it. You’d think from a sheer marketing standpoint, having Titus O’Neil wear gold after winning his Celebrity Dad of the Year award would be a good move. But when you boil it all down, I just find O’Neil and Darren Young really entertaining, and would love to see them get larger roles on television.

As for the Intercontinental Title, Sheamus is the smart bet, whether he looks stupid or not.

Ryback impresses against Bray Wyatt and Sheamus. I was pleasantly surprised with the Ryback/Bray Wyatt match at Payback. Wyatt using his weight against the midsection of the much larger, more muscled Ryback was a good story to tell, and was ultimately a convincing way for him to go over. Ryback also sold it really well, which makes me think he’s been listening to The Steve Austin Show and The Ross Report. Austin and JR have stressed the importance of selling time and time again recent weeks.

Ryback, Sheamus, Raw, 05/18/2015“The Big Guy” also had a strong outing on Raw. I was surprised he cut Stephanie McMahon off on the mic. I’d be curious to know whether that was scripted or not. He then got to show off his strength against Sheamus, catching him with a powerbomb, and gorilla pressing him on to the announce table. Despite losing in both outings, he definitely came out looking like a winner. I don’t expect him to come out of Elimination Chamber with the IC Title. But for my money, his stock is rising.

Neville does an in-ring interview with Renee Young, and gets interrupted and attacked by Bo Dallas. Not bad. Pretty standard babyface stuff. Incidentally, was Renee Young still supposed to be in the ring when Neville asked her about his NXT Championship reign? That was the only problem I had with that portion of the show.

 I like that they’re actually doing something with Bo Dallas. In all honesty, the only things I can remember about his WWE run thus far are his first loss to R-Truth, and when he got beat up by Sting. He’s got a decent character. It just seems like they can’t come up with anything solid for him to do. Putting him with Neville, an opponent he’s fairly familiar with from NXT, is a good way to at least get him some screen time.

Roman Reigns is kept off Raw, advertised for Smackdown. I liked this. Reigns wasn’t shoehorned into anything, and it gave them something worthwhile to put on Smackdown. I’m still wondering when we’re going to get a one-on-one match between Reigns and Seth Rollins on pay per view.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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