Mick Foley Returns to Promoland? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, there’s a nasty rumor circulating that WWE threatened to fire Paige if she didn’t break off her relationship with Alberto Del Rio. There’s obviously some truth to it, as the two of them were drafted to separate shows. Now Del Rio seems to be done with the company, and we have no idea what the future holds for Paige after her recent violation of the wellness policy. Coincidentally, her violation was announced just a day before Del Rio got popped as well.

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t mess with people’s relationships. It’s bad karma. It also seems to be bad for business. Live and let live.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahonPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley goes back to “Promoland” for Raw‘s opening segment In one of his books, Mic referred to the headspace he got into for big wrestling interviews as Promoland. Though it may have been written for him, I’d like to think this segment represents a return to Promoland for everyone’s favorite Hardcore Legend.

I loved this. Stephanie played the alpha female role, as she always does. But Mick didn’t cower. He humanized her with a sweet story, prompting Stephanie to melt a little. Some of that harsh exterior melted. And that last line about Steph possibly being a “really good liar and a really bad person,” was awesome. There was no screaming, no threatening of violence, no menacing stare, or any of the stuff we saw in some of his classic promos. But this was truly some of the best Mick Foley verbiage we’ve seen in quite some time.

Seth Rollins interrupts Kevin Owens’ victory celebration. Rollins really shouldn’t have said “bull crap.” It made him sound like a grade schooler. Just saying “bull” might have actually been better.

Still, Rollins brought a nice intensity to this segment. He actually got up in Steph’s face and got pissed off for a change. And once again, Steph wasn’t exactly fighting back. She certainly wasn’t emasculating the male stars as she’s done in the past. It was a refreshing change of pace to say the least.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Stephanie McMahon, Mick FoleyAlso, why is it called Clash of Champions and not Clash of the Champions?

They followed this up with a backstage segment in which Chris Jericho called Owens the “longest reigning WWE Universal Champion in history.” That was a great line.

Bayley def. Charlotte in a non-title match. If you listen to The Steve Austin Show or The Ross Report, you hear a lot about the importance of selling. With that in mind, I paid extra attention when Bayley sold her left knee after the half Boston crab. Really nice work.

So what happens after Charlotte and Dana Brooke break up? That’s obviously where they’re going here. Do they turn her babyface? I don’t know if I buy her in the hero role quite yet. She’d likely be better off going back to NXT at this point.

Bo Dallas returns to Raw, winning a squash match. Apparently a recent arrest for intoxication hasn’t adversely effected Bo’s career. Hell, it seems to be helping! He might want to ditch the singlet that says “outcast,” though.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. Now that Rollins is transitioning into a babyface, it’s time for a new theme. CFO$ and Downstait seem to be on the case.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Rollins’ athleticism should never be taken for granted. That diving somersault off the top rope into a neck breaker? Awesome. That frog splash? Excellent. The sad thing is, those moves would likely all mean more if they’d just made him a babyface when he came back. The transition is indeed underway, but he’s in that awkward middle ground right now. It could have been so easily avoided.

Sheamus goes up 3-0 in the Best of Seven Series against Cesaro. As was the case in the Charlotte/Bayley match, I kept an eye on the selling of the injury. In this case, the focus was obviously Cesaro’s match. We had some really nice storytelling here, with Sheamus focusing much of his offense on the back. The five backbreakers in a row were a great sequence. I’d have been perfectly fine with the match ending there. The Brogue Kick was almost redundant at that point.

The announcers talked about the winner getting a championship opportunity. But which championship? Does it go without saying it’s the Universal Title? I wouldn’t mind seeing Cesaro challenge Owens.

The Shining Stars def. Enzo & Cass. Big Cass got a real nice shine from last week’s main event. He and Enzo are still an amazing package deal, and he’s still nowhere near ready for a singles push. But he’s little more ready than he was last week…

The Shining Stars, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Of course, a loss to Primo & Epico doesn’t exactly help his case. These two have absolutely nothing to talk about other than their Puerto Rico shtick, which is long since stale. Can’t we give them anything else to say?

Nia Jax won a squash match. They established here that the jobber was a friend of Alicia Fox, and it looks like they’re finally giving Nia a mini-program. One I suggested last week, no less. They had a little backstage segment later in the show where Nia jabbed Fox about Total Divas and reality TV. Fox actually said the line: “This isn’t reality.” Hm…how about Summer Rae? Didn’t I suggest her too?

Gallows & Anderson spoof The New Day. I actually enjoyed Gallows & Anderson’s “Ringpostitis” gag, as stupid as it was. But I’m ready for them to get down to business. These guys should be the ultimate killjoys, not stealing from Edge & Christian’s playbook. Actually, this whole thing felt like they were struggling to kill time.

Darren Young def. Jinder Mahal. So Jinder Mahal has had three matches since he’s come back, and he’s lost three times. Good on ya, man…

Titus O’Neil was on commentary for this match. Any time that happens, I can’t help but remember him cracking up Cole and Lawler a few years ago. Great stuff. But if they really wanted entertainment, they’d let Bob Backlund do commentary.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Braun Strowman, Sin CaraAlso, can we not act like Bob Backlund is this frail oxygenation? He’s probably stronger than a lot of the active wrestlers.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara via count-out. Whaddaya know? Like Nia Jax, Braun Strowman gets a break from squash matches! Strowman also got a nice little story here about ripping off the jobber’s mask last week. I was wondering if Sin Cara would lose his mask as well. Perhaps that’s still in the cards.

Sasha Banks returns, teases retirement, will face Charlotte for Raw Women’s Title at Clash of ChampionsSasha wearing less make up was a nice, subtle change. She wasn’t dressed as the Boss. She was just herself. As she talked about the progression “Women’s Revolution” in WWE, I absolutely adored her for the line: “No more stupid butterfly title.”

I’d love to think this wasn’t scripted for Sasha. She really opened up and let that passion come out. She really got us too, didn’t she? We’ve seen a few retirement speeches on Raw in the last several years, and this felt like one of them. But let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have had her tweet about “bad news” if she was really retiring. I, for one, am very pleased her final chapter hasn’t been written yet.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. I’m very encouraged that they haven’t forgotten about Zayn beating Owens at Battleground. That puts Zayn in the title picture. He’s by no means in the center of that picture. But at least he’s there. This one didn’t top the Battleground match, but it was a worthy main event. The right guy won, with the champ going over. Though Owens may not be so lucky next week…

Mick Foley announces Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for next week, giving Reigns a chance  to enter the main event at Clash of Champions. Charlotte got pinned this week, and now next week Owens is in a position to be beaten by Reigns. I don’t like that they’re starting to pin champions on TV again. Those belts need to mean something. It’s bad enough we’ve got so many of them again. But if the champions and the titles aren’t protected, what’s the point of any of it? Here’s hoping we see the reappearance of Rusev next week, costing Roman the match.

Then again, that means the US Title is once again in danger of leaving Rusev’s waist, which I’m not a fan of. But let’s take it one week at a time, folks.

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Dean Ambrose: WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWEBy Rob Siebert

Well, what do you know about that.

I didn’t even think Dean Ambrose was winning the briefcase, much less getting the belt, much less on the same show!

This is overdue by at least a few months. I’d have gone with Ambrose at Wrestlemania over Roman Reigns, and I know I’m not the only one. I don’t think this represents a changing of priorities on WWE’s part. Roman is still “the guy.” But it never hurts to have another guy around, does it? Or in Ambrose’s case, “the dude.”

So congrats, dude. You earned it. I don’t know how long this is going to last. But I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you do too.

Ponderings From Raw:

Dean Ambrose arrives as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vie to be top contender. The best part of this segment? Roman responding to those “You can’t wrestle!” chants. “Calm down, take a sip of your beer and shut up.” Not the best line I’ve ever heard. But at least he got to throw one back.

WWE Raw, June 20, 2016, Seth Rollins, Roman ReignsAs Jim Ross tweeted during Money in the Bank, Reigns “has a natural, heel-like demeanor that’s difficult to teach.” I’d be blown away if Reigns goes heel. But it bears repeating.

Meanwhile, Rollins continues to come off like a babyface. He beat Reigns clean at the pay per view, then got jumped from behind when Ambrose cashed in. He’s not exactly wrong when he talks about having a claim to the title.

Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens. Zayn and Owens always hit each other with those same punches at the start of every match or fight. Left hand behind the other guy’s head, while the right hand is throwing the blows. Seriously, guys. I love you both. But change it up.

That being said, this was a fun match. We don’t see guys go into the crowd nearly as much as we used to. I’m hoping this paves way for a street fight between the two at Battleground.

John Laurinaitis, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016John Laurinaitis returns to Raw, schmoozes for Smackdown General Manager job. I don’t know how WWE ever justified giving this guy a regular role on television. People give Roman Reigns a hard time about his mic skills. But honest to God, this guy cannot speak in public.

Enzo & Cass def. The Vaudevillains. Nothing of any consequence here. The Vaudvillains didn’t end up eating the pin at Money in the Bank the way I thought they would. But I expect them to now be out of the title picture. At least for the next few months.

Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows apologize to AJ Styles and John Cena for interfering in their match at Money in the Bank. The Club beats Cena down after he defeats Anderson in a match. The in-ring segment was decent. About what I expected, I suppose. We may be building to a cage match between Cena and Styles. 

Karl Anderson didn’t exactly get a great shake in that match with Cena. But I suppose it makes sense. Anderson hasn’t been there very long, and he’s strictly a tag team guy. Wouldn’t be the most logical thing to have him dominate Cena, would it?

Baron Corbin, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016Baron Corbin def. Zack Ryder. I’m now convinced WWE didn’t have anything resembling a worthwhile plan for Corbin. He’s been floating, trading wins back and forth with Dolph Ziggler. But what happens now? How does he make himself stand out? All else fails, I suppose he can always go back to NXT.

Charlotte def. Paige to retain the WWE Women’s Championship. Sasha Banks shows up to assert herself. There were rumors that Paige had been arrested after Money in the Bank. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though she was put in handcuffs. But if it were something serious, she wouldn’t have been on television.

I can’t remember the last time Sasha Banks was on Raw. But this seemingly confirms all the rumors about her facing Charlotte at Summerslam. As for what happens at Battleground…another tag match? This time with Sasha and Paige? I admit that’s pretty lame. But last long as we get to Summerslam, that’s what matters.

The Wyatt Family returns, is interrupted by The New Day. Earlier in the show, they aired a vignette for Bray’s return. Then they cut to the announcers, and Cole says they’re returning “later tonight.”

Bray Wyatt, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016Uh…what?

Many of us in the internet wrestling community have read about the last-minute re-writes to shows over the years. Based on some of the things Bray Wyatt has tweeted in recent weeks, it seems like this has been in the works since late May, but they’ve been putting it off. If I had to guess, I’d say they didn’t know this was going to be on the show until Monday, so they didn’t have time to promote it they way they should have. A Wyatt Family return is something they could have promoted for weeks. But instead we go an hour’s notice. Pitiful.

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns goes to a double disqualification. Ambrose volunteers to defend against both in a triple threat match at BattlegroundThis Shield triple threat is something they could have done at Summerslam. Or better yet, Wrestlemania. For my money, this announcement can only mean these three are being separated in the draft. So as I said, let’s enjoy the united roster while we still can.

Tuesday Morning Talk Point: Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion.

Jerry LawlerIn Other News:

Jerry Lawler and fiancee arrested and jailed after alleged domestic abuse incident. Lawler is indefinitely suspended by WWE. It’s always sad when this kind of thing happens. The frustrating thing is, it’s Lawler’s word against his fiancee’s So who really knows what happened? I’m certainly not taking one person’s side over the other. But if Lawler is at fault here, then he deserved what he got. If he isn’t, then let’s just hope things get resolved quietly.

Image 1 from cagesideseats.com. Image 6 from variety.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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John Cena’s Ultimatum, The Shield (Briefly) Reunites, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s disheartening that despite all the hours of WWE content we get these days, less and less seems to be happening on these shows.

I’ve been listening to the occasional Vince Russo podcast over at PodcastOne.com. A few weeks ago, he and Glenn Gilbertti (the former Disco Inferno in WCW) were talking about what one would theoretically be missing without tuning into Raw every week. So often, these shows seem inconsequential. If you’d missed the episode entirely, you really wouldn’t have missed anything at all. For the “longest running weekly episodic show in TV history,” that’s odd, isn’t it? Where are the moments we’re supposed to be talking about on Tuesday morning? What do we remember, then bring up at school or work?

For the foreseeable future, I want to highlight those moments, or the lack thereof. At the bottom of each “Ponderings,” there’ll be a spot for “Tuesday Morning Talk Points.” Those will  be the moments that make Raw worth watching each week. And if there aren’t any talk points to speak of, that’s an indictment on what WWE puts on their flagship show.

The New Day, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

The New Day open the show with Enzo & Cass. They spent a solid minute talking about Kofi Kingston’s shoes. See, because they were the weird Steph Curry shoes. Because people are talking about those. And WWE is obviously hip to what we’re all talking about. Unless it’s Roman Reigns. They can’t seem to hear all the boos directed at Roman Reigns.

Then they started talking about Xavier Woods’ trumpet. I was mildly surprised to hear them go into Enzo having his hands and lips all over her, and what not. Despite being obviously scripted, that’s not nearly as sanitized as typical WWE dialogue. It was still stupid, and nothing like what I expected an encounter between the two teams to be like. Better luck, next time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & The Vaudevillians def. The New Day, Enzo & Cass. I really wish they’d just call him Enzo, as opposed to referring to him as Amore. It’s needlessly awkward.

Right now, my money is still on Gallows & Anderson to walk out of Money in the Bank with the belts. I don’t see any other motivation for putting four teams in this match other than to create a scenario that softens the loss for New Day. I can easily see The Vaudevillians eating the pin. But you never know.

McMahons, Kane, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Corporate Kane lobbies for the job of Smackdown General Manager. Has Kane been on Raw since Wrestlemania? If so, I forgot all about it. I only wish he’d returned in the mask, as opposed to a suit. I can only assume he’ll be a regular on TV again once the roster splits.

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose reunite in The Ambrose Asylum. Why wasn’t this in the main event spot? Because the third hour loses viewers? That’s a valid reason, I suppose…

This was fine. The crowd was definitely having fun. And once they started cranking up the heat, it got interesting. Rollins definitely shined here. All those long Authority promos might not have been great for us. But they definitely sharpened up his mic skills. He’s so much more comfortable in front of those big crowds nowadays.

It was important that Ambrose bring up the Money in the Bank contract and threaten to cash in at the pay per view. He deserves to be viewed in the same light as these two. Especially if they want to play up how important The Shield was, and one day build to these three reuniting for another run. But for now, I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in a triple-threat as we head toward Summerslam

WWE Raw, June 13 ,2016, Paige, CharlottePaige def. Charlotte. Remember when Paige beat Charlotte last month? And now she’s beaten her again. What does this girl have to do to get a title shot?

So Charlotte gets pinned when Dana Brooke throws her back in the ring, and now we’re teasing tension between those two. These two just got together, and now it looks like they’re already breaking up. Seems like a waste to me.

Sami Zayn def. Cesaro. After Cesaro’s win over Chris Jericho last week, I was disappointed to see him lose here. Especially after Alberto Del Rio’s emphatic win over Zayn last week. Come to think of it, they might have put Cesaro with Del Rio this week. Either way, this one got hot toward the end. I’d love to see these two go at it on a pay per view someday.

AJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for Money in the Bank. This was a good segment. Cena’s ultimatum for Styles, to allow or forbid Gallows and Anderson from being at ringside, made this better than your usual WWE contract signing. Also, Cena put AJ over really well when this segment began. He even name-dropped PWG. That made some of the Twitter marks happy. He also seems to like making little inside references to the Bullet Club, though.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016What I really wanted from this segment was for Styles to elaborate on the “Guys like you bury guys like me” comment from last week. That didn’t happen. But we did get some really nice tension. And I’m not sure how scripted this was, either. That’s to say, it felt like they were really talking to each other, not reciting memorized dialogue. Also, much like the story with Styles and Reigns, there was a nice simplicity to it. Both guys think they’re better, they’ve never had a chance to fight before. So now they’re going to settle the score in a big match. It’s tough to go wrong there.

Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio def. The Lucha Dragons. The stipulation here was that if The Lucha Dragons won, they’d get Owens and Del Rio’s spots in the ladder match. Because, you know, that could happen…

Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho. In theory, Raw should build to that final segment right? But Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose is a feud that just ended, and they had this Shield reunion thing built up for a week. Why not air those little Shield retrospectives throughout the show, and have the Ambrose Asylum segment go on last? We didn’t know what was going to happen in that Shield segment. We all knew what would happen here. A big brawl to close the show. They may as well have advertised that.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Dean Ambrose threatening to win the briefcase and cash in on Reigns and Rollins at Money in the Bank. John Cena and AJ Styles’ contract signing.

Images courtesy of WWE. 

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A WWE Extreme Rules 2016 Preview – Bullet Club or Balor Club?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Life seems pretty good for AJ Styles these days, doesn’t it? He’s been on the main roster for less than five months, and he’s main eventing his second pay per view. For the WWE Championship, no less.

Not that he’ll be winning it. These past few months it’s looked a lot like The Bullet Club is coming to WWE. Or is it The Balor Club? Extreme Rules may be the night we finally find out. Either way, I don’t suspect the answer will be good for AJ Styles. He may be in “The Club” now, but chances are his membership is getting revoked sooner, rather than later…

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Dolph Ziggler, Baron CorbinNO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Oye. Look at that picture. Baron Corbin is decent int he ring, but he REALLY needs acting lessons. It’s like Ziggler found a deer in the headlights and decided to snap a pic.

Still, that deer is going to beat him. I’d have thought this would have been over and done with by now, with Corbin having solidly beaten Ziggler at Payback. I was pleasantly surprised Ziggler got a pay per view win out of this deal, but it’s time to end it. I’m not sure who Corbin goes with after Ziggler. Maybe a smaller undercard guy like Kalisto or Zack Ryder to play up the bully factor? It’s clear Corbin still has a lot of learning to do. Hopefully he was able to make the most out of his time with Ziggler.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Kalisto, Rusev, WWE Extreme Rules 2016WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Rusev

As of last Monday’s Raw, I’ve officially soured on Kalisto as US Champion. Not because of anything he did, but because the booking just hasn’t done anything for me. For some reason his latest loss to Alberto Del Rio that night made me finally throw my hands up. How many losses does that make to Del Rio this year? I understand he’s a smaller guy and has to get beat up, maybe even pinned by bigger guys once in awhile. But I really think Kalisto had (and still has) it in him to be something special in the vein of a Rey Mysterio Jr. JBL even made that comparison on Monday. But they’ve tucked this poor guy away on the pre-show for months now, and he’s just flat. There’s no buzz. It’s time to cut losses on Kalisto’s run with the US Title. At least for now.

Is Rusev the guy I would have picked? Eh, maybe. Taking the belt back might put some shine back on Rusev, and God knows he needs it after being stuck in the League of Nations. But I’m worried his act with Lana is a bit too similar to what The Miz and Maryse are doing. Miz, of course, is the Intercontinental Champion. But I think the pros of putting the belt on Rusev out-weigh the cons. So I’m going with The Bulgarian Brute becoming a two-time champ. Better luck next time, Kalisto.

PREDICTION: Rusev

The Usos, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, WWE Extreme Rules 2016TEXAS TORNADO MATCH:
The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

When was the last time we saw a Texas Tornado Match in WWE? I can’t remember one offhand. I imagine it’s been quite awhile.

So I’m just going to float this. If Gallows and Anderson were to beat The Usos, that might serve as a partial motivation for Roman to turn on them and side with “The Club.” Yeah, I know. If only…

I see Gallows and Anderson winning regardless. They’re still establishing themselves in WWE, and a win here would definitely help in that regard. Let alone the idea that we may see a WWE version of the Bullet Club emerging…

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, The New Day, The VaudevilliansWWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day vs. The Vaudevillians

As I’ve said previously, I like that The Vaudvillains have been able to come off as cruel, sadistic heels. They put Enzo Amore out of action, they leave The New Day laying, and they revel in it. That’s actually the kind of thing I expected the Dudleys to do when they went heel. But The Vaudvillains need that mean streak more. It balances out their silly, cartoony persona and allows them to be taken at least a little bit serious.

That being said, I don’t think there’s any reason to take the belts away from The New Day. They’ve got a great thing going, and they’re over. It’s been such a long time since a tag team that doesn’t consist of main eventers (i.e. DX, Rated RKO, etc.) has been over like this. They’re special. And I just don’t see it as the right time for them to take a big loss. Plus, Simon Gotch and Aiden English have unfinished business with Enzo & Cass. Let them tend to that while The New Day face their next challengers.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Kevin Owens, The Miz, Cesaro, Sami ZaynFATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
The Miz (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

There’s a pretty good chance this match will steal the show. Consider what all these guys have to offer individually, and it’s hard not to look at this match as such.

As talented as Owens, Cesaro, and Zayn are, I still don’t think it’s the right time to take the belt off Miz. He and Maryse have a good thing going, and I think he’s got at least another month as champion in him. I do see the belt eventually going to Sami Zayn, possibly midsummer. I can see Zayn vs. Owens in an Intercontinental Title Match at Summerslam. Of course, it’s possible all these men may be involved in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match next month. So perhaps the best time to switch the title to Zayn would be in a singles match in July. Either way, Miz comes out on top here.

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Dean Ambrose, Chris JerichoASYLUM MATCH:
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

At one point, I was not okay with Dean Ambrose’s character being associated with a straightjacket. I didn’t want him going the route of a Mankind or a Kane. His character has a certain cool factor that those don’t. But now that he’s had some time to flesh out who he is, this should be fine. And the straightjacket is definitely the most intriguing weapon we saw hanging from that cage Monday. I suspect at some point we’ll see Jericho in that straightjacket. At this stage in their careers, Jericho obviously has very little to lose, and Ambrose has quite a bit to gain. Take that into consideration, along with the fact that this is Ambrose’s match, should add up to a win for “The Lunatic Fringe.”

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

Charlotte, Natalya, WWE Extreme Rules 2016SUBMISSION MATCH FOR WWE WOMEN’S TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
If Ric Flair appears at ringside, Charlotte loses the title. 

From a creative standpoint, this program with Charlotte and Natalya hasn’t been mind-blowing. Hell, they rehashed the Montreal Screwjob. What does that say? But this is probably the highest profile program Nattie has ever been involved in. And she deserves it.

I don’t see Charlotte losing the belt here. So how do you get out of this match? They did the crooked ref thing last month, so that’s out. You’ve got to figure Flair gets involved somehow. Maybe he shows up on the tron? Maybe they dress him up like a camera guy? Either way, hopefully they won’t make this a clean win for Charlotte. Granted, Nattie will still have to tap out. But a few underhanded tactics will soften the blow for her.

A rumor popped up recently that Paige would indeed be Charlotte’s next opponent. The idea is that they’d be feuding over Alberto Del Rio to coincide with the photos that recently leaked of he and Paige together. I call BS on the storyline, but I do expect Paige to get a title shot. She did pin the champ, after all. Then again, Paige just lost to Dana Brooke on Smackdown. So who knows?

PREDICTION: Charlotte

WWE Extreme Rules 2016, Roman Reigns, AJ StylesEXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles

An Extreme Rules Match means no disqualifications and no count-outs, right? But given the Texas Tornado Match earlier in the evening, The Usos, Anderson, and Gallows might not be a factor here. Or at least they won’t have a major impact. One person who might? Finn Balor. With “The Club” out of the picture, Styles would never see him coming. And given their history with The Bullet Club, it would make sense. I’m not sure what that would do in terms of the fans booing Reigns. But they’re the ones who wouldn’t turn him heel…

Reigns and Styles did really well last month. There’s no reason they shouldn’t do well this month. Either way, Reigns walks out with the title. The good news is, if Finn Balor is the plan here, Styles has a built-in program going into Money in the Bank next month. Of course, there’s always the chance Styles could win the Money in the Bank Briefcase, which opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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A Wrestlemania 32 Preview – Pushing For Overachievement

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is not what WWE wanted to do for Wrestlemania.

John Cena. Randy Orton. Seth Rollins. Sting. Bray Wyatt (allegedly). Cesaro. Luke Harper. Neville. They’re all out with injuries, leaving a series of gaping holes in the roster at a time when WWE was hoping to put on the biggest Wrestlemania of all time.

What’s more, creative has been a mess. Fans refuse to accept Roman Reigns as the lead babyface, and have been booing him week after week. Considering he’s wrestling for the WWE Championship on this show, that’s a huge problem. To make matters worse, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, two of the biggest stars in the history of the industry, are going to be on this show. But we have no idea what they’re doing.

Simply put, the bar has been set low this year. We’ve been left with a Wrestlemania that we can only hope exceeds our low expectations. Thankfully, considering the quality of the product as of late, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full disclosure: I’ve lost track of what is and isn’t on the pre-show. Considering we never know what could be taken off or put on the pre-show, we’ll simply proceed from the bottom of the card…

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 2016ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

We may as well pick a name out of a hat in this one. In the last two Andre Battle Royals, there’s been an obvious up and coming talent to give the win to. In 2014 it was Cesaro. It 2015 it was Damien Sandow. Granted, Sandow didn’t get it. But who would benefit from winning this year? There are 20 men in this thing, and we know 16 of them. I can only assume two of those free spots will be filled by Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman. Assuming they don’t pull a fast one and have somebody from NXT take it (which I’d be in favor of), I say we go with a pitch The Solomonster gave months ago, and have Mark Henry take it. This will likely be one of his last go-arounds, and it’d make for a feel good moment worthy of Wrestlemania. So given the amount of information we have, I’ve got to go with Henry.

PREDICTION: Mark Henry

Divas Tag Team Match, Wrestlemania XXXIILana, Summer Rae, Naomi, Tamina, & Emma vs. Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox & Eva Marie 

More or less a filler match for the ladies, which is a shame considering we have potentially the best women’s match Wrestlemania has seen in years later on the card. Who wins? It really doesn’t matter. But considering Brie Bella is allegedly retiring sooner than expected, I imagine her team will pick up the win here.

PREDICTION: Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Dudley Boyz, The UsosThe Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

This program has been good for the Usos. The Dudleys, Bubba in particular, or such vile and nasty heels that Jimmy and Jey have needed to crank up the intensity to match them. The best comparison I can think of is when Shawn Michaels worked with Mankind in September 1996. Hopefully these four get a bigger spotlight once there’s more room on Raw after Wrestlemania. As for this match, I see Bubba and D-Von picking up the win. It’s the Dudleys’ first Wrestlemania since their return, and they deserve it. Plus, the Usos will look good on the comeback trail. That is, assuming they stay babyface… (More on that later.)

PREDICTION: The Dudley Boyz

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Ryback, KalistoWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

Frankly, I’d have preferred to see the US Title get the multi-man match, while Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn went at it for the Intercontinental Title. But here we are. While I wouldn’t expect this one to go long, being in a singles match for a title is unquestionably a big moment in the careers of both Kalisto and Ryback. As for who wins, WWE clearly sees potential in Ryback. Perhaps not as much as they used to, but they obviously like him. So I’m putting my money on “The Big Guy” getting a big win. Hopefully Kalisto remains a contender, though. I maintain he can be a big international star in the same vein as Rey Mysterio Jr.

PREDICTION: Ryback

The New Day vs. The League of Nations, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIThe New Day vs. The League of Nations

The cool thing about this match is the Dallas crowd should be firmly in The New Day’s corner. On a night where we’ve got two big babyface vs. babyface matches, and a main event where the hero isn’t going to be cheered, that’s a big plus. I don’t see why Kofi, Big E., and Xavier shouldn’t retain here. Crowds love them, and they’ve just starting their babyface turn. While WWE may want you to think they’ve got a hot rivalry going with the League of Nations, in reality it’s just something for the League to do on the card. Hopefully this is one of their last go-arounds as a group. After this match, we shouldn’t have anything to be sour about.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, StardustLADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:

Another year, another ladder match for the IC Title. As I’ve said before, from a booking standpoint matches like this are often devoid of any creativity. They simply threw seven guys into a ladder match. Hell, Zack Ryder allegedly replaced Neville in this match, and it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference from a story perspective. I rest my case. I’m sure it’ll be a fun match to watch. But man, what a waste…

For my money, this match comes down to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Everybody else is just there to fill space. The Owens/Zayn rivalry is seriously lacking depth right now, but that’s an easy problem to fix. They can simply slap a video package together the way they did with The Undertaker and Shane McMahon last week. And just like that, they up the intrigue. I see Owens retaining here, somehow screwing Zayn over in the end. After that, they can get at least another two months out of rematches.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIChris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

This is the fourth time we’ll have seen these two wrestle since January, so the pressure is on them to pull something fresh out of the hat. On the upside, you’ll rarely find two men more qualified to do that. To Jericho’s credit, he’s dedicated most of his 2016 run to making AJ Styles a star in WWE. How Styles will fare without Jericho helping him remains to be seen (no disrespect). But for now, things are looking up for Styles, as he’s all but guaranteed to get a victory at his first Wrestlemania. And the smart bet is that his won’t suffer the same fate as Fandango after his ‘Mania bout with Jericho.

I’d love to see Jericho stick around a little while as we head into Spring, especially now that he’s a heel again. One would be hard pressed to find a wrestler who wouldn’t benefit from some ring time with him.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky LynchTRIPLE THREAT MATCH FOR WWE DIVAS TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

I’m conflicted on this one. Becky Lynch has really taken off as a babyface since January. For yours truly, she’s a sentimental favorite in this match, and a title win would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

On the other hand, Sasha Banks is looked at by many as the woman who could truly stamp this as a new era for women’s wrestling. I’ve even seen reports WWE is rebranding the Divas Title in favor of the Women’s Title after Wrestlemania, with Sasha holding the belt. So in the bigger picture, a win for Sasha may be more important.

But…couldn’t Becky bring back the Women’s Title just as easily? From a character standpoint, I think she’s actually more developed than Sasha is. And for the record, I’m a Sasha Banks fan.

But in truth, regardless of who wins here, the fans are winners. That’s a cliche, but it’s true. We’re getting three quality female wrestlers competing for a championship at the biggest show of the year. In the end, I think Sasha will end up with the belt. But it could truly end up being any of these talented ladies.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Dean Ambrose, Brock LesnarSTREET FIGHT:
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

I know they’re hyping this as a “No Holds Barred Street Fight.” But isn’t a street fight by it’s very nature no holds barred? Who even uses wrestling holds in a street fight?

To my recollection, Brock Lesnar hasn’t been pinned since Triple H beat him at Wrestlemania XXIX. That was three years ago. If Brock loses here, it’s not the end of the world. What’s more, they can have him loses in a way that barely hurts him at all. WWE has had Ambrose ponder the use of a barbed wire baseball bat and a chainsaw against this guy. How much more of a monster can you build him up as?

What’s more, Ambrose is the right guy to win this match. He is ascending, and truly on his way to becoming a top guy. Paul Heyman even said it in his promo on Monday. A win over a mega attraction like Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania could truly catapult him to the next level. At a time where they desperately need new stars, the time is now to give a huge win to someone that the fans favor organically. Dean Ambrose is that guy.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Undertaker, Shane McMahonSTIPULATION HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
If Shane wins, he gets control of Raw, and Undertaker can never compete at Wrestlemania again.

Talk about coming WAY out of left field. They slapped this one together pretty hastily, but what choice did they have? WWE hasn’t been bit by the injury bug, it’s been infected with an injury plague. But as far as thrown together Wrestlemania attractions are concerned, this one is pretty damn good. But the question is, can it live up to the hype? And there’s certainly no shortage of hype between Shane’s return, the possibility of a much needed shake up on Raw, and The Undertaker competing in a Hell in a Cell Match at Wrestlemania.

I expect no shortage of craziness here. Vince and Stephanie will likely be at ringside. Shane is probably taking a crazy bump of some kind. We may see action outside the cage, and perhaps even on top. Maybe this is where Steve Austin fits into things. Perhaps a run-in and a Stone Cold Stunner to lead into the finish?

Regardless of what’s on the line in this match, I truly have no desire to see The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania again. I understand his winning streak has been broken, and that beating him wouldn’t have nearly the amount of impact it did two years ago. But he’s still The Undertaker, and this is still Wrestlemania. Changing things on Raw doesn’t necessitate Shane being in the picture, though I admit that would certainly be a plus. Furthermore, who’s to say Shane can’t end up being in charge of Raw anyway? He supposedly has a big secret over Vince’s head, right? What if that secret comes out the night after Wrestlemania, and Triple H and Stephanie resign in its wake, leaving Vince with no choice but to make Shane the new General Manager of Raw?

Either way, there’s a strong possibility that this match steals the show. Or at the very least, proves to be a worthwhile substitute for the presence of all the stars on the injured list…

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Triple H, Roman ReignsWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

We’ve had some lame duck Wrestlemania main events in the past. But it’s tough to point to any headline match that’s been as in over it’s head as this one. This match represents a year’s worth of effort by WWE to turn Roman Reigns into the company’s top babyface. Simply put? It didn’t work. Now they’ve got him against Triple H, WWE’s tyrannical on-screen authority figure/WWE Champion, and the fans have been cheering for the tyrant.

Ouch.

Simply put, you can’t force-feed a hero to to your audience. Even if you’re Vince McMahon. They really have nobody to blame but themselves for all those boos Roman is going to hear in Dallas. I honestly feel for the guy. It’s not his fault. He’s got his marching orders. What’s he supposed to do? Say no to a Wrestlemania main event, and the top spot in the company?

It’s been said time and time again, but it bears repeating now more than ever: Roman needs to turn heel. They’ve been ducking and dodging it for months now. But unless they’re comfortable with their alleged top babyface being booed out of arenas across the country, the fans need to be allowed to hate him Roman Reigns. And like any heel who is good at what he does, eventually he’ll be cheered.

Roman Reigns, The RockThis needs to be a double turn. Vince McMahon sides with Roman Reigns and costs Triple H the match. This leads to Roman becoming our new heel champion, possibly with The Usos as his run-in buddies. From there, he can feud with the likes of Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, or whichever babyfaces they want to put him with. WWE is desperate for strong heels right now, and nobody is getting more heat than Reigns. The time has come to stop going against the grain.

I can only assume The Rock will play some kind of role in this match. One sure fire way to get heat? Turn on the People’s Champion. I’m just sayin’.

In any event, whether he’s a heel or a babyface, I don’t see any way Reigns doesn’t leave Dallas with the title. Let’s just hope it’s under the right circumstances.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Shane-O-Mac Strikes Back, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With this Raw now in the books, I think we can officially say that from a creative standpoint, this has been the most lackluster Wrestlemania build-up in recent history. I take no joy in saying that. At the end of the day, I really just want to see a good show when I tune in to Raw every week. And while there are always bright spots, lately I’ve been feeling more frustrated than anything.

Let me tell you what I mean…

Ponderings From WWE Raw

Shane McMahon, The Undertaker, WWE Raw, March 28, 2016A physical altercation between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker culminates in a Shane-O-Mac elbow drop through a table. While the story leading up to this match hasn’t been up to snuff, I don’t think there’s ever been a doubt that these two will give everything they have physically at Wrestlemania. This segment gave us a nice sampler in that respect.

I’ll say this much for Shane, he looks like a million bucks. People can talk about him being 46 all they want. But I bet Shane is as capable as ever this Sunday, if not more.

Zack Ryder def. Chris Jericho with help from AJ Styles. Jericho accepts Styles’ challenge for WrestlemaniaAs a Zack Ryder fan, this was cool to see. Granted, it’s about four years too late, and Ryder’s win wasn’t exactly the focal point of the segment. Not to mention Ryder has no chance of winning that ladder match. But it’s still neat.

Styles and Jericho definitely have a challenge ahead of them at Wrestlemania. They’ve already wrestled three times, and now the pressure is on to deliver something different. If anybody can do it, it’s them. But what exactly can they pull out of the hat that’ll set this match apart from its predecessors?

Charlotte, Becky Lynch, WWE Raw, March 28, 2016Charlotte def. Becky Lynch. While I’m not willing to officially predict it yet, I think there’s a decent chance Becky walks out of Wrestlemania with the belt. She’s got some great fire, and the fans were chanting for her out there. So why not let her get a big win? I guarantee it won’t hurt Charlotte or Sasha in the long run. On the other hand, given the announcement we got about Snoop Dogg tonight (more on that later), I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him at ringside to help his cousin Sasha win.

An in-ring brawl served as a preview of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. We got a nice glimpse here of who will be in this match aside from Big Show, Kane, and the Social Outcasts. Tyler Breeze, Goldust, Fandango, The Ascension, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, R-Truth, Darren Young, Mark Henry. By my count that’s 16 out of a playing field of 20. As Mark Henry is allegedly retiring in the near future, it’d be nice to see him get a win in his home state at Wrestlemania. It’s not like this match means a hell of a lot anyway. It’s already been relegated to the pre-show.

A fight erupts between Triple H and Roman Reigns. Two additional confrontations occur during the show. This program with Triple H being both the COO and the WWE Champion has underperformed, largely because of the lackluster storyline Hunter’s been put in. Often times a heel is only as good as the babyface he’s working with. And Hunter’s barely even working with a babyface. That’s why a lot of the fans were cheering him during what was supposed to be a heel promo. And there was a damn chorus of boos directed at Reigns when he came out there to attack Hunter, followed by “Roman sucks” chants.

Triple H, WWE Raw, March 28, 2016What do they even do at this point? They’ve got to have some kind of plan for Wrestlemania. They seemingly don’t have a choice anymore.

Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio. Jonathan Coachman pops up after the match. JBL compared The League of Nations to The Four Hoursemen during this match, which is somehow simultaneously hilarious and nauseating.

On the plus side, the crowds seem to be taking to The New Day as babyfaces. Granted, they haven’t exactly changed much, have they? And it was nice to see a cameo from Jonathan Coachman. I can’t say I was a huge fan of his announcing. But as a character, he could be fun to watch.

Kalisto def. Konnor of The Ascension. A fine little enhancement match for Kalisto. I’m not trying to pick on JBL, but he had another weird call here. Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol on Konnor, and he said, seemingly confused: “Did he get him?” Well…yeah John, he did. You’re watching the same match we are. Didn’t you see it?

After a Paul Heyman promo, Dean Ambrose gathers his weapons for WrestlemaniaOne of the fun things about these promos where Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar are out there together, is those little smiles that come to Lesnar’s face when Heyman makes a brash statement, or does his over the top “BARRRROCK LESNAR!” thing. He’s enjoying himself, so it makes it easy for us to enjoy ourselves too.

Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, March 28, 2016This was a nice little teaser for Wrestlemania. There’s been a little buzz about this match possibly going on last. I don’t see it happening, but stranger things have certainly happened. Hell, they were brave enough to put Roman Reigns in the Wrestlemania main event. Anything really can happen these days!

Emma def. Paige. Eva Marie revealed as mystery fifth member of babyface Wrestlemania team. I don’t get to watch NXT as much as I’d like to. But I know enough to appreciate the history between Emma and Paige. This was also a great opportunity for Emma to show off her heel character on Raw. There’s a lot to like about this more sinister, aggressive Emma.

So Eva Marie is a member of the babyface team in this ladies tag match? Well that’s…something. This girl has more heat than anyone in the company. The idea obviously is that the team, which consists of Total Divas cast members, may not get along. I’m alright with this addition, so long as the match ends with Natalya, Paige, and the other girls teaming up to beat Eva Marie down. That sounds like a moment worth of Wrestlemania doesn’t it?

Snoop Dogg to be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame. Joan Lunden to receive the Warrior Award. Both of these are obvious publicity grabs. But sure, why not? In Lunden’s case, it’s tough not to be supportive of someone fighting against breast cancer. So let her be honored for it.

Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, March 28, 2016Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, & Sin Cara def. Kevin Owens, The Miz, & Stardust. Anybody notice the fans chanting “Cody!” during this match? This guy still has the chance to stand out from the crowd if they just give him a chance…

Despite the short time he’s spent on the main roster, and how poorly he was introduced to the mainstream audience, there’s a good chance Sami Zayn walks out of Wrestlemania with the Intercontinental Title. That’s not to say Zayn isn’t deserving. I just think fans could stand to get to know him a bit so his win means more.

Another Authority promo, and another Triple H/Roman Reigns brawl closes the show. It’s not like these segments with Roman and Hunter have been badly produced. It’s just that Roman Reigns has been miscast, which rips the heart out of everything. Triple H can be a great heel. But he can’t carry things on his heat alone, and it seems like that’s what they’re trying to do here.

Good luck at Wrestlemania, boys. You’ll need it.

Incidentally, still no word on what The Rock, Steve Austin, or Shawn Michaels might be doing at the biggest show of the year. Anyone? Anyone???

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Wrestlemania Seeds, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s not a lot to be excited about on WWE TV lately, and unfortunately, the crowds are starting to reflect that. It’s now noticeable on TV. When Vince announced Roman Reigns’ number in the Royal Rumble match, the crowd went “meh.” When the Wyatts, the Dudleys, and Ryback were out there, the crowd went “meh.” Even when Chris Jericho is out there nowadays, the crowds tend to go “meh.” It’s certainly a far cry from the crowds of the ’90s and early 2000s.

I think the bottom line is, things add up. Not just the injuries to top stars, but the inability to create new stars, overly scripted promos, 50/50 booking (ask Kalisto about that one), etc.

Sadly, there’s no quick fix. But it’s not all bleak…

The Wyatt Family, Raw, January 18, 2016Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Wyatt Family interrupt Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, laying out Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. This seems to confirm rumors that Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt are working a program heading into Wrestlemania. I’m not necessarily a fan of them facing off at ‘Mania. This seems like more of a Fastlane match, as a double main event with Roman Reigns and Triple H. Then you have the two winners headline in Dallas. At this point, I think the money is in a Reigns/Lesnar rematch. After all, we never got a clear cut winner last year.

The show opens with a Roman Reigns/Chris Jericho in-ring segment, which becomes a match between Reigns and Rusev, with Jericho as the guest referee. Nothing to write home about here. Reigns was the obvious winner, as they weren’t going to let Rusev beat the top guy in the opening match. It’s a shame Rusev has been relegated to just another guy on the roster. He’s clearly got his character down pat, and is able to inject some nice wit on occasion. Incidentally, where has Lana been since the League of Nations formed?

WWE Raw, January 18, 2016, Chris Jericho, Roman ReignsI was pleased they followed this up with a backstage segment addressing how Jericho was able to spontaneously make a Raw match. That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy him as a matchmaker, though. God knows they need to get Triple H and Stephanie off TV on a regular basis.

Roman Reigns gets the number 1 spot in the Royal Rumble Match. I can’t decide how I feel about this. I get it, and it’s not really a surprise. And of course, we know Roman always has to REALLY strong… But really? Let’s not venture into ridiculous territory, here.

And yes, in this segment Vince McMahon, the chairman of a multimillion dollar corporation, was having trouble popping open various plastic balls. No wonder this show has been in so much damn trouble lately.

The New Day mourn the loss of “Francesca the Trombone.” This little pre-tape was funny. We need to get us a new heel tag team, and fast. The New Day are a lot of things, but they’re not heels.

Becky Lynch, WWE Monday Night Raw, January 18, 2016Becky Lynch gets a shot at Charlotte’s Divas Title at the Royal RumbleFor the second week in a row, Becky steals the show with a passionate, emotionally charged promo. I think we can say she’s officially broken out of the pack, and established her own identity. This exchange between Becky, Charlotte, and Rick Flair was the only damn thing that felt real on this show tonight. I’d love to know how much of that was ad libbed. Particularly the part about her “wheelin’ dealin’, title match stealin’, catch phrase spewin’, obnoxiously wooin’, scenery chewin’, hasn’t a clue-in’, father. That was amazing.

Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio def. Dean Ambrose & Kalisto. I’m beyond disappointed that Kalisto lost the US Title back to Del Rio on Smackdown. Why? Why even give Kalisto the title in the first place? It’s like they somehow realized they had a chance to do something exciting and special with this guy, so they made sure to squash it the very next night. Unbelievable.

On the plus side, Kevin Owens was great on commentary during this match. Most guys are just background noise when they join the announcers. But Owens actually used his mic time to make himself look like more of a prick. His Last Man Standing Match with Ambrose should be a hell of a semi-main event for the Rumble.

The Dudley Boyz, Ryback, WWE Monday Night Raw, January 18, 2016The Wyatt Family def. The Dudley Boyz & Ryback. I’m not sure why the Wyatts and the Dudleys are still being booked against each other. Isn’t there anybody else we could put with the Wyatts to build them up a bit more? Ryback isn’t exactly a new frontier for them, but at least he’s somebody different. The Wyatts beat the Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer, & Rhyno pretty handily. It feels like they’re beating a dead horse here.

Natalya def. Brie Bella. I swear, when those first two notes of Brie’s song hit, my skin always crawls. But hey, at least Nattie got to win.

In the spirit of promoting Total Divas, what this entire match was designed to do, they put Paige in Natalya’s corner. Even though Paige beat up Nattie backstage a few months ago, and may or may not be a heel. Perhaps she’s slipped into Team Bella land, i.e. they flip her back between hero and villain depending on what week it is. And on that topic…

The Big Show punches out all The Social Outcasts. Yep. Smilin’ Big Show is back. And he made absolutely sure this new Social Outcasts group is the reincarnation of 3MB by knocking them all out. No wonder the fans resent this guy so much…

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A WWE TLC 2015 Preview – Vanilla Violence

Roman Reigns, Raw, September 5, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

These December pay per views can be weird. Some years they give us amazing stuff, other years they just…exist. They’re the obligatory stop between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. And I can honestly say this show is as blase as any TLC pay per view I’ve ever seen. WWE has indeed put together the best card they can considering the creative choices they made last month at Survivor Series, but that’s not saying much.

The sad thing is, there’s very little to be excited about on Raw or Smackdown these days. Sheamus is fighting an uphill battle to get over as a heel champion. Roman Reigns is fighting uphill to get over as the top babyface. Dean Ambrose has been cast as a supporting player. Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Randy Orton are all out with injuries. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman aren’t there right now. The only thing we really have to look forward to in the near future is the return of John Cena. And to a lot of fans that’s an even worse prospect than Reigns being shoved down their throats.

Nevertheless, they’re doing a show. There’s not much to invest in, and there are only a precious few things that feel special. But yeah…here’s a pay per view, I guess.

Alberto Del Rio, Jack SwaggerCHAIRS MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger

Ugh. What year is this?

Yeah, I get it. Swagger used to be with Zeb Colter, so now he and Del Rio have to fight. But dear God, put them at the top of an hour on Raw or something. It couldn’t be worse than what we’ve been getting on TV lately. Is there even any doubt about who wins this one? Del Rio retains, then Swagger goes back to Superstars, or wherever he’s been since the Real Americans broke up.

PREDICTION: Alberto Del Rio

Charlotte, Ric Flair, Paige, WWE TLC 2015WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige

So the idea here is that Charlotte is picking up some of her father’s “Dirtiest Player in the Game” tendencies, which should lead to a Charlotte heel turn. I like that idea. Charlotte’s a good person to hold that Divas Title right now, and of course she’s an awesome athlete. But it might be interesting to see her cut loose and be a little more creative as a villain. I suspect Ric will help her pull of some sort of screwjob finish and pick up the win. I can only assume continued cheating will put her in Becky Lynch’s path, which will be a good thing.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

The Wyatt Family, The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, RhynoEIGHT-MAN ELIMINATION TABLES MATCH:
The Wyatt Family vs. The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer & Rhyno

Gee, you know when a good time to do an eight-man elimination match would have been? Survivor Series. Fail, WWE. Big fail.

The Wyatts need to win this one. Bray spent much of the year losing to Roman Reigns, and then Bray and Luke Harper lost a big match to The Undertaker and Kane last month. They need to win something to prove they’re still a threat. I like the dynamic the Wyatts have with the Dudleys, though. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them keep the program going with Harper and Rowan going forward. Those two should really be The Wyatt Family’s contribution to the tag team division, with Bray being the singles star and Strowman being the bodyguard. The Dudleys can beat Harper and Rowan if they must. But on this night, the Wyatts, Bray in particular, need to win.

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

The New Day, The Usos, The Lucha Dragons, WWE TLC 2015TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons

This match obviously in line with the tradition of tag team ladder matches. I expect we’ll see at least one big Kofi Kingston spot in here, as well as a big Kalisto spot. Frankly, I’d like to see The Lucha Dragons win this one. But The New Day are on such a roll lately that I don’t see a good reason for them to lose here. They’re practically the only consistently entertaining element on Raw these days, and it seems like WWE knows that. They’re pretty much babyfaces at this point anyway. So if WWE wants to take the titles off of them, they’d might be better off losing them to Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. Or even a throw-together team of Wade Barret & Rusev to get this League of Nations some more heat. But I don’t see much benefit in them losing the belts at TLC.

PREDICTION: The New Day

Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, WWE TLC 2015WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

These guys are a big breath of fresh air. This is the most interesting match on the show, for my money. And ironically, it doesn’t even have any stipulations or weapons in it.

I don’t see any reason for them to put the title on Ambrose at this point. I don’t doubt he’d be fine with it, but he doesn’t stand to benefit much from it. I’d also argue Kevin Owens is a pretty pretty credible heel right now, which WWE desperately needs. It’s to the point where there were rumblings of him going against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. So it’s not necessarily in their best interest to get the belt off of him here. I’m holding out hope that Owens get to defend that title against Sami Zayn at some point. There’s a built-in match they can cash in on at any point.

Prediction: Kevin Owens

WWE TLC 2015, Roman Reigns, SheamusTLC MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Sheamus (c) vs. Roman Reigns

So we’ve got a champion that the audience isn’t really invested in, against a challenger they’re being force-fed. What’s more, WWE had Reigns put Sheamus through a table this week on Raw, so a lot of the bloom is already off this rose.

Still, I suppose the upside is we don’t know who the winner will be here. WWE could easily just switch the belt to Reigns at this point. But my gut tells me they’ll keep it on Sheamus, at least for the time being. As they aren’t booked elsewhere on the show, I imagine we’ll see Wade Barrett and Rusev in this match, and probably Del Rio as well. This will likely lead to Ambrose and the Usos coming out, with chaos to follow. I’m hopeful that the match will at least be entertaining, even if the story isn’t.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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The Paige/Charlotte Fall Out, Sheamus as Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Reid FlairBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: You’re going to get a lot of complaining from me this week.

WWE got a lot of negative buzz last week after they had Paige say a fairly tasteless line about Charlotte’s deceased brother Reid during their segment. The main event segment, no less. I wrote that what Paige said wasn’t necessarily reprehensible, but some things have come to light since then that shed some new light on the situation.

Firstly, neither Ric Flair nor Charlotte and Reid’s mother knew about the angle. You’d think common sense and decency would dictate that they at least let the parents know about something like that, let alone give them veto power.

Secondly, after WWE got all the heat, they released this statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 2015Essentially they implicated Charlotte, which is pretty sleazy.

I don’t doubt that Charlotte said she was okay with it all. But as we’ve heard from various former WWE stars, the company has a tendency to punish wrestlers who say no to storyline suggestions. It’s not the same thing at all, but Trish Stratus went on record that she once refused to kiss Torrie Wilson on television, and lost the Women’s Title very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, WWE is trying to sweep this situation under the rug. Given how image conscious his company has become, you’d think Vince McMahon, who ultimately has the last word on creative, would have been mindful of the backlash this angle would cause. Particularly when Reid’s parents didn’t know, nor approve.

Sheamus, WWE Survivor Series 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Sheamus cashes in on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, walks out of Survivor Series with the title. A TLC Match for the Championship is made for December. The smart fans weren’t happy about this one, which I get. There was a lot of backlash when Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase to begin with. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least we’ve got a heel champion the fans legitimately dislike.

But you can’t convince me Sheamus is hot as a heel. He was in a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton for months, and then aligned himself with Wade Barrett, who’s been a perennial loser. And the company’s top babyface usually gets booed as much, if not more than he does. That’s why I don’t think there’s any money in Sheamus and Reigns at TLC. We’ve got a cold heel against a babyface that WWE is trying to tell us we should like, instead of letting us choose our own heroes.

Still, the Sheamus era has begun. Hopefully it’s short…

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Roman Reigns, RusevRoman Reigns faces the returning Rusev in the main event. I’m glad Rusev is back, as WWE needs all the depth they can get. But Rusev is yet another cold heel. The last time we saw him he got pinned clean, and took a verbal beat-down from Summer Rae. Whatever happened to the Bulgarian Brute’s balls?

It seems like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev are a group now, which appeared to be the way things were going before Rusev went on the shelf. I wonder if three cold heels can somehow equate to one hot one…?

The Undertaker & Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series. The Wyatts rebound with a win over The Dudley Boyz on Raw. Remember the build-up to Bray Wyatt’s match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania? The buzz was that WWE wanted to keep Bray looking strong so he’d seem like a formidable opponent for ‘Taker. They need to start doing that again, not just with Bray himself, but this entire group. Wyatt spent much of this year losing to The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. We need to reverse that trend and make him look like a winner again. Bray Wyatt is a star. Now he just needs to be booked like one.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 23, 2015I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a tables match with The Dudley Boyz at TLC. The sad thing is, Bubba and Devon have lost most of their big matches since they came back. So after TLC, one of these teams is going to wind up even colder than they are now.

Cesaro reportedly out of action with a shoulder injury. This sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Just when you think Cesaro might finally move up the card a little bit, he gets hurt. It’s bad enough that so many main event level guys off TV right now. But now we’ve got arguably one of the hottest talents in the industry on the shelf too.

The Solomonster pointed out that given the projected four to six month time period Cesaro will be gone for, this might mean he’ll return around the same time as Tyson Kidd. That’s the only upside to this as far as I’m concerned.

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Alberto Del Rio, Zeb ColterJack Swagger confronts Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. This was obviously where they were going before Seth Rollins got hurt, and they had to do the tournament. I understand that Del Rio and Swagger was a built-in match when they started this whole “Mex-America” thing. But Swagger is as much a dead duck as any character they have on that show. Having Del Rio beat him doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s hardly worth more than a one-off match on free TV.

Neville def. Mark Henry. Fresh off of being the only guy pinned on his team at Survivor Series, Neville beats the once dominant Mark Henry on Raw. Makes sense, right?

Henry likely doesn’t mind doing the honors for younger talents. But if they want to do a Mark Henry retirement match someday, they’re going to have a tough time making it mean anything if all he does is lose.

The New Day, WWE Raw, November 23, 2015The New Day celebrate their one-year anniversary on Raw. Damn. These guys died a slow death out there. Much like at Survivor Series, the crowd was absolutely dead for much of this show. You can’t really blame them, given the content of the show they’re watching. But these three have arguably been the most consistently entertaining part of Raw over the last few months, and they just couldn’t get a rise out of the fans. It was downright sad.

In Other News…

TNA lands new network in POP TV. It just goes to show you how many TV networks are out there these days that both TNA and Ring of Honor landed on networks no one has apparently ever heard of.

Still, give TNA credit where credit is due. People continue to write them off, but they keep surviving somehow. Like a lot of fans, I want TNA to do well. They just need to get their feet under them again.

Image 1 from hachland.wordpress.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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