The Owen Hart Chronicles: May 6, 1996 – The Utility Player (feat. the Undertaker)

***Everyone has seen Owen Hart’s matches with his brother Bret. But Owen had the talent, charisma, and ability to hang with anybody. That’s what we’re here to illustrate. These are “The Owen Hart Chronicles.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Why don’t we talk more about Owen Hart’s matches? Why is he primarily remembered for the work he did with his brother Bret in the early ’90s, and less the work he did with other wrestlers?

I think much of that has to do with how the WWF higher-ups viewed Owen. Obviously he worked great as a villain for Bret, and then later as Bret’s “lovable brother” in the Hart Foundation. But when he wasn’t in Bret’s orbit, I just don’t think they saw him as a top star, whether a heel or babyface. As evidence, I would cite them not going further with him in 1998, despite the Hart family being very much in the spotlight.

It seems like the WWF saw Owen as a midcard utility player. Need to plug somebody in against your champion on a go-home show for a pay per view? Owen will give ’em a good match. Need a midcard heel tag team? Put somebody with Owen. Or in this case, does one of your top babyfaces just need a solid exhibition? Owen can do that too.

Case in point, this match between Owen and the Undertaker from the May 6, 1996 edition of Raw. This may have been the only televised singles match these two ever had. You’ll see several tag matches where they’re both involved. But they rarely had a reason to wrestle one-on-one. The Dead Man was usually busy slaying giants like Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy, Mabel, etc. But I think these two could have made magic together.

The story of this match was definitively about Undertaker and Goldust, and their upcoming Casket Match at In Your House: Beware of Dog. Goldust (accompanied by Marlena) is on headset, and actually learns it’s going to be a Casket Match on the air. To his eternal credit, the real-life Dustin Runnels does some amazing character work here. They were still playing the gay card pretty heavily with the character at this time. It doesn’t necessarily age well by modern standards. Though it’s objectively hilarious when Goldust comes on to Paul Bearer.

Owen is sort of the Larry Fine of this match. Your attention is focused on Moe and Curly, i.e. Undertaker and Goldust. But if you take a moment to focus on Owen, his subtle reactions are great. Watch him when the bell rings. He slinks around the ringside area, too apprehensive to get in there with ‘Taker. Then you’ve got his selling of the “supernatural” stuff. The zombie no-sell, the big choke, etc.

Once the match really gets going, Owen works the knee. But he also takes a couple of big moves from Undertaker, including a shove over the top to the outside. The finish comes when the Dead Man reaches over the ropes to grab Owen, who’s been distracted by Goldust. In one smooth motion, Undertaker pulled ups him up and over the ropes, and into position for a Tombstone Piledriver. Owen actually gets the so-called “Super Tombstone, where ‘Taker jumps into the air and lands on his knees, as opposed to simply dropping down. I can’t imagine putting that much trust in someone. That move looks scary as hell.

Whether you’re looking at Owen, Undertaker, Goldust, or even Paul Bearer, there’s greatness to be found in this match. You have to look a little harder to see some of it. But it’s definitely there.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

WWE Backlash Preview – The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever? Oh Jeez…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This whole “Great Wrestling Match Ever” thing has Paul Heyman written all over it.

Remember, the current executive director of Raw isn’t just a former promoter and booker. He’s an advertiser. I’m not sure if he still does, but at one point he co-ran the Looking 4 Larry Agency out of New York City. He used to be heavily involved with the promotion of all the WWE 2K games.

I don’t believe for a second that Paul Heyman believes Edge and Randy Orton will have any kind of greatest match this Sunday. Hell, they might not even have the greatest match of the night. That’s an impossible build-up for anybody. In truth, it sounded stupid from the moment they had Charly Caruso say it for the first time.

But that’s not really the point, is it? The idea is to get us talking about Edge vs. Randy Orton. To make what would otherwise be a fairly bland pay per view main event stick out in our minds. In that sense, the tagline worked.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want to be Edge and Orton with that line hanging over my head. But it still worked.

Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus
Many a smark was up in arms over the storyline about Jeff Hardy’s allegedly driving under the influence. They even mentioned it on WWE Backstage, on which CM Punk, of all people, weighed in. He made a great point about the fragility of someone’s sobriety, and essentially said a wrestling storyline isn’t worth endangering that. I admit I’d never thought of that. But on the other hand, the outcome was never in doubt. It was obvious Jeff had been framed. That’s wrestling storytelling 101, isn’t it?

As we’ll see in a bit, Smackdown needs contenders for the Universal Title. Sheamus has mostly been a dominant force since he’s been back. He lost to Hardy in the Intercontinental Title tournament. I don’t see him losing to Jeff a second time. Especially if they decide they want him to challenge for the title before Summerslam. Or perhaps even after.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade

These secondary championships, meaning the United States and Intercontinental Titles, go through ebbs and flows of renewed importance. It’s like WWE forgets about them for awhile, and then remembers, “Oh yeah! These thing are supposed to be prestigious, aren’t they?”

PREDICTION: Andrade

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLES:
Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. The IIconics vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
I can’t say I’m say I’m sad Banks and Bayley have the Women’s Tag Belts again. Their run as the inaugural champs was almost non-existent. So this could be a second chance for them.

While I think the “they just won the championship” logic is used a bit too often, I think it does apply here. I’m guessing their plans for Sasha and Bayley have only just begun.

PREDICTION: Bayley & Sasha Banks

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
You’ve got to believe this was originally supposed to be Nia Jax challenging Becky Lynch for the title. But of course, Becky getting pregnant changed everything. As pregnancies tend to do.

If that had been the case, I can see an argument for Jax taking the title. She and Lynch have enough of a history to make it an interesting story. But now that Asuka is champion? I don’t see it. It certainly doesn’t help that Jax continues to have clumsy accidents with her opponents. Poor Kairi Sane can tell you all about that.

PREDICTION: Asuka

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison
Here’s how you can tell they’ve run out of Heavyweight Title contenders on Smackdown. They’re really hurting without Roman Reigns. Still, at least Miz is a former WWE Champ. That offers he and Morrison a little credibility.

This will be a nice win for Strowman. But we’re really just killing time until the next Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt match, this time with Wyatt as the Fiend. That’ll be the first time we’ve really seen either the WWE or Universal Championship in serious jeopardy since Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE WORLD HEAYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
I like MVP in this player/coach role. He makes a good charismatic foil for Drew McIntyre. More charismatic than Lashley, that’s for damn sure. I’m hoping these two can recapture some of the magic that was lost when they split up Lashley and Lio Rush.

There’s absolutely no way they take the title off McIntyre to put it on Lashley. Especially with the stink of the storyline with Lana still on him. They’ve made a point to do backstage segments with Lana and MVP these past several weeks. So I say Lana comes out to help Lashley, winds up costing him the match, and the two of them split. That way we continue rehabbing Lashley into a main eventer, while giving Drew another notch under his belt.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

Edge vs. Randy Orton
They did something similar to this several years ago with Randy Orton and John Cena. They’d just come off a Hell in the Cell Match between the two, and for whatever reason opted to downgrade to a straight wrestling match at the following Royal Rumble. Obviously we’re in a similar situation here, having just had a Last Man Standing Match between these two at Wrestlemania. Though at least Cena and Orton weren’t trying to have the best match ever.

The direction they’re going seems fairly obvious to me. Orton wins this one, most likely with a quick RKO. Then we go to a rubber match at Summerslam. The only question is, what do you do with that one? Is Edge primed to do another Ladder Match so quickly after his return? Or do they do Two-Out-of-Three-Falls or something?

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

il Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Owen Hart Chronicles: Shawn Michaels, August 12, 1996

***Everyone has seen Owen Hart’s matches with his brother Bret. But Owen had the talent, charisma, and ability to hang with anybody. That’s what we’re here to illustrate. These are “The Owen Hart Chronicles.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Out of all the matches Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels had, this might be the least remembered. Yes, it was a Raw main event. It was really just a way to get Shawn and Vader in the ring together before a big pay per view main event the following Sunday.

But for yours truly, this match has always been special. In August 1996 my interest in wrestling was really ramping up. So at my younger brother’s behest, I tuned into watch my first live (or live-to-tape in this case) Raw match, featuring two men that at that point I’d only seen either on video cassette or in Super Nintendo games. Shawn Michaels, and the man who was quickly becoming my favorite wrestler of all, Owen Hart.

THE BUILD-UP: We were a week out from Summerslam 1996. Shawn Michaels, the WWF Champion, was booked to defend the title against Vader in the main event. At that time, Jim Cornette managed not only Vader, but Owen Hart and the British Bulldog. Obviously, such a scenario begs for the heels to set a trap for the babyface. Thus, announcers Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler told a story of Shawn putting himself in jeopardy mere days before his big match.

BELL TO BELL: What struck me about this match more than anything was how quick and smooth it was. These guys were both in their athletic prime here, and it shows.

Case in point, Shawn and Owen trade the famous twirl-and-nip-up-out-of-an-attempted-hammerlock spot (patent pending, and each end it with a takedown via hair pull takedown. Obviously choreographed? In hindsight, yes. But smooth as silk.

Shawn also hits Owen with a martial-arts style back leg sweep. He might have seen that in a movie and decided to try it, as I can’t recall him making that part of his repertoire.

This was during the “cast phase” of Owen Hart’s career. Much like Bob Orton Jr. a decade earlier, Owen was feigning a broken arm. But would use the cast as a weapon in his matches. If you’re looking for a hint of Owen Hart’s brand of comedy in this match, watch him as he sells an arm bar from Michaels. He doesn’t overdo it. But he’s not exactly subtle either.

This match was hardly Shawn and Owen’s best encounter. Not the least of which because they had a Botchamania moment on the finish. Shawn catches Owen in the chest with the superkick, rather than the face. Thankfully they recovered, and the champ hit another one for the three-count.

THE AFTERMATH: Predictably, Vader comes out toward the end of the match to try and cost HBK the win. They have a cute little standoff afterward with Vader holding a chair and Shawn clutching Owen’s cast. But in the end our hero does indeed fall victim to not one, but two Vader Bombs.

Vader would go on to lose to Shawn at Summerslam in what would, for better or worse, be the pinnacle of his WWF run. The match is perhaps best remembered for a botched elbow drop spot after which a frustrated Shawn yelled “Move!” at him.

Owen, meanwhile, would defeat Savio Vega in the opening match

Years later, Shawn would write in his book, Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story: “Working with Owen Hart was fantastic … by far the most talented of all the Harts. With Owen you could call things on the fly, change things up, experiment, and basically do anything you wanted to do. He was a pure joy to work with.”

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Lost on Planet Earth, Justice League, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Lost on Planet…Wait…This is Earth, Right?

A special thanks goes out to Superfan Promotions this week for an advance review copy of Lost on Planet Earth #2.

If you’re an independent creator who’d like to have their work spotlighted in “Weekly Comic 100s,” please feel free to reach out to yours truly at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com. I’m (almost) always happy to lend a helping hand!

TITLE: Lost on Planet Earth #2
AUTHOR:
Magdalene Visaggio
ARTISTS:
Claudia Aguirre, Zakk Saam (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

When you take away all the space age dressings, Lost on Planet Earth is about a quarter-life crisis. The concept that translates surprisingly well into this medium. But this book still needs to earn its sci-fi elements. In other words, convince me why this story needed to happen in a space environment. Because thus far it seems rather needless.

On the plus side, despite a touch of overacting, Claudia Aguirre delivers the goods artistically. Lost on Planet Earth is a fun read, despite being a bit of an underachiever thus far.

TITLE: Justice League #44
AUTHOR:
Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Francis Manapul.
RELEASED: May 12, 2020

I haven’t looked at Justice League in quite awhile. I tagged out early in Scott Snyder’s run. Don’t @ me.

Venditti’s doing some great work on Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and this issue is very much in the same vein. Things are written and drawn very simply and are easy to digest.

As our team faces mythological beasts released from Tartarus, I was surprised to see John Stewart is now the team leader. I like that. It reminds me of when Brad Meltzer made Black Canary the leader back in the day.

TITLE: Lois Lane #10
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED:
May 12, 2020

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder got snuck into this issue. Look at the first two-page spread where Montoya talks about the multiverse. They’re near the top. Perkins gives Lois some great facials in this issue as well.

Maybe it’s just been too long since issue #9, but I got lost when they brought the multiverse into things. To the point that I got a little frustrated. I’m waiting to see how Rucka starts to tie things together. But despite my love for him, my enthusiasm is waning.

TITLE: Bruno Sammartino #1
AUTHOR: John E. Crowther
ARTISTS:
Rich Perotta, Vito Potenza (Colorist). Cover by Nathan Smith.
RELEASED:
May 13, 2020

This Patreon-sponsored biography of Bruno Sammartino from Squared Circle Press looks very much like an indie comic. But as a wrestling fan who appreciates was Sammartino meant to the business, I can very much appreciate where this issue’s heart is.

We start during Bruno’s childhood in (*stops to count the syllables*) Pizzoferrato, Italy. I can only assume the book will take us up to his death in 2018.

The amateuer-ish look of this issue would normally be enough to get me to drop it. But the subject matter is strong enough to bring me back for another issue.

TITLE: X-Men #3
AUTHOR:
Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho & Rain Beredo (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

This series has a habit of slapping in big text pages filled with exposition. It’s unorthodox and a little off-putting. But I, for one, am just happy the exposition is there to begin with.

Emma Frost has a fantastic issue here. First a really fun little exchange between Jean Grey, then an encounter with a villain who’s more than a little honest about her costume. The art by Yu and the team compliments that moment brilliantly.

The villainous Hordeculture group returns for this issue. They’re botanists and terrorists. God, I love comics.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

WWE Money in the Bank 2020 Preview, Plus the Drake Maverick “Controversy”

By Rob Siebert

Why is everyone so up in arms over this Drake Maverick thing?

I’m the last person that wants to see anyone lose their job. I’ve been down that road. I have all the sympathy and compassion in the world for the real-life James Curtin and everyone else WWE has had to let go in recent weeks.

But if you’re going to get fired from the largest pro wrestling company in the world, I think this is how you do it. Because right now the world is talking about Drake Maverick. Was that the case beforehand? Nope. Will the world ever be talking about him like this again? Who knows? Either way, he was able to do what so many of the characters on WWE television do: Take adversity and turn it into opportunity. He got to be part of a great story. He didn’t get a happy ending. But that just means the fans would theoretically welcome him back with open arms.

And do you honestly think WWE would have played this up the way they did if Curtin wasn’t on board with it? It’s not his ideal scenario, of course. But he got to make make the absolute most of it. How many people under the WWE umbrella have gotten to say that?

Now let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison vs. The Forgotten Sons vs. Lucha House Party

I just had to look up the names of all three Forgotten Sons. Fittingly, I’d forgotten them. Incidentally, they’re Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, and Jaxson Ryker. These are your next Smackdown Tag Team Champions, ladies and germs.

Yeah, I hate it when this happens. A new team fresh off developmental wins the titles. Ironically, John Morrison (as Johnny Nitro) and Joey Mercury got that same push when they got called up all those years ago. But the New Day and the Usos have monopolized the Smackdown Tag Team Division for so long, and it’s dying for new blood. The Forgotten Sons are literally new to Smackdown. Miz and Morrison were a nice change of pace, but I get the sense they’re not getting back on that mountaintop. Heavy Machinery is obviously occupied elsewhere at the moment. Blake, Cutler, and Ryker might be the best option. Plus, they’ve got that whole three person Freebird Rule thing going for them.

PREDICTION: The Forgotten Sons

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Tamina

At over 200 days, Bayley is the longest reigning Women’s Champion in Smackdown history. I wasn’t aware of that until recently. The longer Bayley holds that title, the better her story becomes. If she can walk out there every week and say she’s the longest reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion of all time, she’s somebody important. She becomes somebody worth beating. Ergo all her title matches become special. To an extent, at least.

Mind you, this match is against Tamina. So how special can it really be? But it’s another successful defense for Bayley. Another log to throw on the fire that Sasha Banks will one day put out. At least, that’s how this should go. Lord knows they’ve gone nowhere with these two in the past…

PREDICTION: Bayley

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Baron Corbin vs. Aleister Black vs. Otis Dozovic

I give them a lot of credit for thinking outside the box on these Money in the Bank Matches, and having them be set inside Titan Tower. I love the “climb the corporate ladder” idea.

Whether it works in practice is another story. Apparently they’re going the “cinematic” route with this match, a la the Boneyard Match and the Firefly Funhouse Matches from Wrestlemania. I don’t know that you need that here. I think their regular style is fine for this one. Think back on all the Hardcore Matches we saw in the ’90s and early ’00s where wrestlers would leave the arena. What about the Hollywood Backlot Brawl from Wrestlemania XII? Why can’t they do that here? Apparently the men and women will be competing simultaneously, so it doesn’t have the same potential to be boring the way Edge and Randy Orton’s Last Man Standing Match was.

Speaking of “cinematic” matches, how do you come back from being buried alive? Winning a gauntlet match is nice. Winning Money in the Bank is better. That’s exactly what AJ Styles is going to do Sunday.

Could they give it to Aleister Black? Sure. Is Otis a dark horse? Yep. I’m probably the only person who wouldn’t mind if they gave it to Baron Corbin. But that briefcase is AJ’s to take. This is how he re-establishes himself as a contender for the WWE Championship. Ultimately, when that time is right he’ll take that too.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Carmella vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Nia Jax vs. Asuka vs. Dana Brooke vs. Lacey Evans

It might be Shayna Baszler. But that seems a little obvious, don’t you think?

You can make an argument for Asuka. Clearly Uncle Vinny is high on her lately. Specifically, her ability to be really loud on the mic.

None of the ladies from Smackdown leave me particularly inspired this year. Dana Brooke? She’s improved. But no. Carmella? Been there, done that. Lacey Evans? Nah. So who does that leave?

Sorry kids. It’s Nia Jax.

Yes, they’ve been pushing her really hard on TV lately. So she has the same sort of “too obvious” argument against her as Shayna. But think of it in terms of stories that haven’t been told yet. Nia Jax was the one who gave Becky Lynch a “broken face” prior to Survivor Series 2018. The combination of outrage at Nia and support for Becky helped propel the latter into the main event of Wrestlemana. Nia can argue Becky would never have gotten there if not for her.

Is Nia Jax legitimately dangerous in the ring? Yes. Keep in mind she wasn’t supposed to hurt Becky. We also saw that scary bump Kairi Sane took from her a few weeks back. But her in-ring skills, or lack thereof, have never stopped them from pushing her before. Remember, she won the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania the same year she broke Becky’s face. Would she be my pick to win? No. But is she going to win? Probably.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt’s alter ego “The Fiend” should be virtually unbeatable. Even for Goldberg. (Rrrgh.) But plain ol’ Bray is a different story. Strowman should defeat Wyatt here, leading to an eventual match with the masked man.

Under normal circumstances, Strowman vs. The Fiend is a match I’d have saved for Summerslam. It certainly has a story worthy of such a big show. But with things the way they are now, they may not be able to wait until August. So do we get some kind of gimmick match at Extreme Rules in July? Another Firefly Funhouse Match, perhaps? I dunno if I’m ready for that just yet…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins

This is random as hell. But that’s a fine lookin’ jacket Seth Rollins is sportin’ these days. I’m sure it’d look great with the WWE Championship draped across it.

Oh well.

Unless they’re pulling some kind of wild move here, there’s no reason Drew McIntyre should be dropping the title. For all intents and purposes, he’s the star of Monday Night Raw right now. A victory over Rollins is a great credibility-builder as he moves forward. I’m sure Rollins will give him a hell of a match too. I’m not sure if this quite feels like a match worthy of main-eventing a pay per view. But in execution, it certainly should be.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Raw Needs Austin: How Stone Cold Can Help Salvage the Show

By Rob Siebert
Has never stomped a mudhole.
Nor walked it dry.

Let’s get one thing straight: WWE itself does not need salvaging. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s ludicrously been deemed an “essential business” in the state of Florida. During this Coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to run three weekly shows, albeit with no fans in attendance, and a bare bones cast and crew.

Granted, these shows have been great for the likes of Aleister Black, Zelina Vega and her new faction, and even Apollo Crews. Promos in general have been awesome too. But on this week’s show, we also got such stellar matches as:

– NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair defeating Kayden Carter (an NXT star who is a bigger deal on that show, but has done nothing but lose on Raw.)
– Shayna Baszler squashing Indi Hartwell (an NXT wrestler who’s not even listed on their “Superstars” page.
– Bianca Belair beating Santana Garrett. (Ditto).

Mind you, I have nothing against enhancement matches, or any of the women who played the “enhancement” role on Monday. But c’mon. This is supposed to be the flagship show! Yes, these are obviously very unique circumstances. And to their credit, WWE has been thinking outside the box to compensate for that. But there has to be something they can do to spice up Raw a little more…

*cue the glass shattering*

I’ve very much enjoyed The Broken Skull Sessions on the WWE Network. Largely because Steve Austin has become an amazing interviewer. Seriously. He’s got a no B.S. style that’s better than a lot of the so-called journalists we see on television today.

My only real issue is that so far it’s mostly been “usual suspects,” i.e. guys Austin has interviews a bunch of times already. Legends like the Big Show, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart. I imagine Shawn Michaels is coming up soon. Mick Foley too. Maybe Kurt Angle.

But what if The Broken Skull Sessions wasn’t just another interview show with the legends? What if it was more timely? What if it featured the stars of today, in addition to the stars of yesterday? What if they talked about current events? Like say, the friggin’ global pandemic we’re in the middle of, and how it’s devastated WWE? How about WWE being named an “essential business” by the state of Florida? What about the current product? Not just how everyone’s been effected by the pandemic, but how it works when things are running on all cylinders.

Most importantly: What if they put it on Raw?

Honestly, why the hell not? COVID-19 has forced them to come up with new ways of doing things. Who says they can’t fill at least one hour, maybe 90 minutes of Raw with Steve Austin, one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen and a proven ratings commodity, and The Broken Skull Sessions? Let him talk to not only the legends, but today’s top stars. Let him help get some of these people over in the process!

Supposedly these interviews are shot in Los Angeles. So have WWE send a production crew, and then every week a new talent can travel down there to be interviewed. If the talent doesn’t want to travel? Have them Skype in. There’s no harm in that. Austin could talk to his damn walls and make it entertaining!

Who would he talk to? I’m glad you asked…

1. Vince McMahon
Vince has to be first. Because of the risks involved with traveling, it’s got to be the “Vince doesn’t ask people to do things he wouldn’t do” principle.

You could very well fill all three hours of Raw with this one, given the topics at hand. What Vince thought as he realized how serious COVID-19 was getting, his decision to go ahead with Wrestlemania, the choice to keep shooting new TV, Florida deeming WWE an “essential business.” And of course, they can talk about the current product.

If Austin is allowed to be himself and ask whatever he wants, this could be the most compelling episode of Raw in years.

2. The Rock
As far as I know, Austin has never interviewed the Rock. What better time than now? Based on his social media, he seems to be at home with his young daughter (as he should be). But he’s been active, and taking fan questions. He even had a chat with California Governor Gavin Newsom.

So if some jabroni named Gavin can get the Great One’s time, you’d better believe Stone Cold should be able to.

Again, they could fill all three hours with this if they wanted to. They can’t get a bigger name than Dwayne Johnson. They can talk about their matches, Rock’s transition into movies, his comeback against John Cena and what he thinks about the current stars, that cute little hand-washing video he made with his daughter. They could even talk about….*gasp*…AEW.

3. Seth Rollins
When I originally thought of this idea, Seth Rollins was the first name that came to mind. Because while he’s no Shawn Michaels, the man’s become fairly controversial over the last year. From how he was booked as Universal Champion, to his new Monday Night Messiah character, to competing in an empty arena at Wrestlemania. Rollins has also been one of WWE’s biggest flag-wavers lately. And one can argue he’s paid the price for that. This is all great fodder for an interview.

Notable Omission: Braun Strowman
Strowman won the Universal Title in a match that stunk up the PC at Wrestlemania. He also made some really tone-deaf comments recently about indie wrestlers making a living during the pandemic. He doesn’t need another chance to put that giant foot in his mouth right now.

4. Becky Lynch
From the “Man’s Man” to the Man herself. Becky’s been the Raw Women’s Champion for over a year now. As she once told Bayley, she’s THE Women’s Champion in WWE right now. What’s more, she’s risen to become one of the faces of the company.

Lynch was one of the guests on Austin’s USA Network show Straight Up Steve Austin. But I’d like to see the Rattlesnake get down to brass taxes. From her early life including her training as a circus performer, to her unlikely rise to the top, to Ronda Rousey’s recent inflammatory comments (that were obviously worked).

5. Triple H
Like anyone in the McMahon family, Triple H is almost always going to be topical in terms of an interview. Many of the same questions posed to Vince can be posed to Hunter. Particularly about the Coronavirus stuff.

But as WWE has been more than happy to point out lately, this month marks Triple H’s 25-year anniversary with WWE. He spent a sizable portion of those two and a half decades working with Stone Cold. So they can run down their history together. And of course, there’s always NXT.

6. Charlotte Flair
Whether people believe it or not, one day WWE is going to call Charlotte Flair “the greatest of all time.”  She’ll be to the women what John Cena is to the men. As least in terms of PR speak.

Except in Charlotte’s case, they might actually be right. If you don’t count what the Undertaker and AJ Styles did as pro wrestling, then Charlotte and Rhea Ripley had the best match at this year’s Wrestlemania. And for my money, she’d already done it twice before. As Dr. Venkman might say, she’s a legitimate phenomenon in that ring. She displays knowledge and ring prowess well beyond her years.

Between her Wrestlemania matches, being one of the first women to main event Wrestlemania, Rousey’s comments, her 12 championship reigns (if you count the NXT and Diva’s Titles), and the mounting pressure of not only living up to her father’s legacy, but the one she’s made for herself, there’s plenty of ground for Austin to cover.

Notable Omission: Drew McIntyre
He’s the WWE Champion, and essentially the star of Raw right now. Best not to overexpose him and have the fans turn on him even quicker than they did Rollins.

7. Edge
Obviously Edge’s comeback would take up the lion’s share of this interview. But he and Austin are both Attitude Era guys, so I’m sure there’ll be more than one trip down memory lane.

Edge also didn’t seem to take too kindly to fans who didn’t like his Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania. So I’d definitely like to see Austin press him on that. Furthermore, what’s next for him? Does he come back at Summerslam? Or does he wait until the Coronavirus craziness goes away?

8. Paul Heyman
Heyman is an awesome interview no matter who he’s with. He’s great with Austin in particular. We’ve heard them talk about ECW. We’ve heard them talk about Brock Lesnar. They can do that again, of course.

But what I really want to hear about is Heyman being Executive Director of Raw.

I suppose the actual content of the interview depends on how shoot-oriented they’d want to do this on TV, as opposed to the network. But Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon have famously butted heads in the past. But what’s their working relationship now? What’s it like running Raw on a week-to-week basis? What’s his schedule like these days? How difficult is it to be creative under Vince? The questions practically ask themselves.

9. John Cena
Other than the Rock, and maybe Vince, this is the biggest get they could…well, get. Austin and Cena. Two generations. Two icons.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Ruthless Aggression era lately. I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue in a setting like this. Cena made his now famous debut on Smackdown mere weeks after Austin walked out on the company. They just missed each other. That’s a hell of a place to start. From there, they can segue into Hollywood, Cena’s thoughts on the future of WWE, and all that jazz.

But above all else, Austin needs to ask what the hell was up with the Firefly Funhouse Match.

Notable Omission: Bray Wyatt
Again, it depends on how shoot-oriented they’d want these to be. But I have no desire to see Bray Wyatt out of character right now. And if it’s going to be in character, then it’s got to break down and end with Austin in the Mandible Claw.

10. The Street Profits and Bianca Belair
Wait, what? The Street Profits and Bianca Belair? Yup. Austin should talk to talk to all three.

Angelo Dawkins, and especially Montez Ford, have charisma coming out their pores. But when they were called up to the main roster, they were inexplicably put in weird hype segments for other segments on the show. This was before they’d made their in-ring debut mind you. Afterward, the hokey dialogue would continue. Yes, they eventually became the Raw Tag Team Champions. And in recent weeks, they’ve been joined by NXT call-up Bianca Belair.

But in NXT Dawkins and Ford had a certain charm about them that they’ve largely been missing since their move to Raw. They’ve had plenty of mic time, but it feels like they’ve been stuck behind a script. And who knows the power of being unhindered on the mic than Stone Cold Steve Austin. When he would be on headset during the formative days of his character, he reportedly asked Vince McMahon to not overly edit his work, as it was (and still is) largely what sets him apart from everyone else.

So lets have Austin sit down with Dawkins, Ford, and Belair. They can dive into Ford and Belair’s real-life marriage if they want to. But that’s by no means a must. They talk about coming up in a very different type of wrestling business than Steve did. They can dish on NXT, coming over to Raw, their characters, their favorite matches, etc.

Plus, seeing Austin drink beer out of a red solo cup would be kinda neat.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Undertaker’s Best Promos: The Dead Speak!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

For my money, on Monday the Undertaker cut one of his best promos in years. If you haven’t seen it, you should see it.

So watch it.

In recent years a lot of fans have been clamoring for him to return to his American Bad Ass/Big Evil persona. That’s the closest we’ve gotten to it in a long time. In the right context, this Undertaker is every bit as menacing and intimidating as the Dead Man persona.

Like fine wine, the Undertaker improved with age. Critics, podcasters and “pundits” have talked about his matches with Kurt Angle, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, among others. Mind you, the first of those matches took place in February 2006. The real-life Mark Calaway had been wrestling for almost 20 years, and played the Undertaker for about 16 of them.

But what about the Undertaker’s mic work? His “character work,” so to speak. At the start of his run he was given a mouthpiece: Paul Bearer. The formula for an Undertaker/Paul Bearer promo was pretty simple. Paul would do most of the talking in that unsettling high pitched voice, and ‘Taker would chime in with something spooky at the end. But at that point he was playing the character like a zombie, or Frankenstein’s monster.

Below is a perfect example, and actually one of my favorite times we heard the Dead Man speak…

But after years at Paul Bearer’s side, and six years of growing and evolving the character, he clearly became more comfortable on the mic and began to take a more commanding presence in his promos. At times it was almost to the point where Bearer would simply speak to compliment what Undertaker would say.

Case in point, this little gem where he talks about a match on Valentine’s Day…

In 1996, the Undertaker/Paul Bearer tandem was split up. The Dead Man was left to fend for himself on the mic. Some nights were better than others. But on certain shows, he could make absolute magic. Especially when he had the production team behind him. These promos for the Buried Alive pay per view that fall are the stuff of legend.

Holy crap.

The changes continued into 1997 and 1998. The introduction of the Kane character, and the revelation of the Undertaker’s storyline family history would humanize the Dead Man in ways we’d never seen. In rare occasions he’d be in street clothes, albeit still black. As they built to an Undertaker/Kane match at Wrestlemania XIV, he would have to talk about his parents, his childhood, etc. The emotional needs of the story required a kind of acting that would prove challenging for anyone not trained traditional theater.

In the scene below, we see him talking to his deceased parents at their grave site. Y’know, that standard wrestling promo you’ve seen a thousand times…

But pre-produced Undertaker was not the same as arena Undertaker. That’s not to say he was bad. But a spooky, undead character obviously lends itself to more quiet settings. When you’re among screaming fans, it’s obviously very different.

Here we have a fairly famous “worked shoot” promo from 1998. He’s dressed in plain clothes, but allegedly that’s because his gear was lost in transit. It’s not the most polished mic work you’ll ever see. But the substance of it is great. I love the “slayer of dragons” line.

I’m not in love with this next one. But certain elements of it are very strong. Most notably Undertaker not looking into the camera as he’s threatening Vince McMahon. Mind you this is 1999. Years before WWE wrestlers were told not to look into the camera. This was done for effect. Then you’ve got the music, the lighting, the hood. It’s just a great looking piece of television.

Then came the American Bad Ass. In 2000, all the talk about taking souls and eternal damnation was over. After 10 years, the Undertaker was simply a tough-as-nails biker, looking like he might kill somebody at a moment’s notice. We’d seen a humanized Undertaker before. But I’d argue this was the first time we heard the Undertaker talk like Mark Calaway.

Even the Rock wasn’t safe.

The American Bad Ass would morph into Big Evil. The difference? As Bruce Prichard once said, “Semantics.” Although I suppose you could argue the American Bad Ass was a babyface, and Big Evil a heel.

By the time Wrestlemania XIX rolled around, ‘Taker wanted a match with Ric Flair. And he was going to get it. By any means necessary…

In hindsight, the really bone-chilling thing about this segment is that he references not only the future Charlotte Flair, but the late Reid Fliehr.

This next one from April of 2002 was special. Not just because of its delivery, but because they put the Undertaker with the recently-returned Hulk Hogan, and they let him talk about the elephant in the room. They let him talk about his first WWF Championship win in 1991 and say, “I beat you.” For so long, it had been taboo to reference Hogan unless it was some kind of joke or parody. But now he was back. And as you’ll see, he was fair game.

Big Evil was around until the end of 2003. By Wrestlemania the following year, the Dead Man was back. And yes, he would wear gold again. Specifically, the World Heavyweight Championship, a.k.a. the “Big Gold Belt.” He wore it three times between 2007 and 2009.

Here he is on Smackdown in 2009 after taking it CM Punk in a Hell in a Cell Match the previous Sunday. My favorite part of this promo is that he puts the belt over, and explains why he wanted it so badly. He even calls it “the Holy Grail of everyone who steps foot in this ring.”

At this point, what we were getting was a Dead Man/Big Evil hybrid. Lots of talk about souls, graves, etc. But at times, we’d see flashes of Big Evil.

Earlier that year, Wrestlemania XXV had taken place. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had that classic match, and started what would ultimately be a four-year saga that in time would include Triple H.

Once Triple H got involved in 2011, we started to see in-ring segments between all three. What resulted were some of the best, if not the best back-and-forth promos of all their iconic careers. There’s a tension in the air that you can’t script. It has to come from the performers and their chemistry.

I present to you, Exhibit A.

A year later, Triple H and the Undertaker would face off again. This time inside Hell in a Cell, with HBK as the guest referee. But initially, Hunter refused to face the Dead Man again.

What’s interesting about this segment is that it’s one of the rare times we see Undertaker come from a place of vulnerability. He’s been waiting a year for this opportunity, and he needs Triple H to say yes.

You wanna talk tension? That line about Shawn being better isn’t remotely as effective out of context. But with these characters and this dynamic, it’s huge.

Fast-forward to 2015, and we’ve got the Undertaker coming for Brock Lesnar after the Streak was broken at Wrestlemania XXX. I was so dissatisfied with that initial promo ‘Taker cut on Brock. It made him look like a sore loser. If they’d simply done something like the promo below, and included something about revenge and ‘Taker having nothing left to lose, it would have been perfect.

This next segment contains, in my opinion, the Undertaker’s last really good promo. Until last Monday, of course.

There’s not much to it, really. It’s ‘Taker declaring himself for the Royal Rumble Match. But it’s always stood out to me for two reasons. First, I love the “29 holes for 29 souls” line. Secondly, and more importantly, look at how he acts toward Stephanie McMahon. At this point (and perhaps to this day), nobody stood up to Stephanie like that.

But what could she do? He’s the Undertaker.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Silent Wrestlemania – Previews and Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This sucks.

It’s not WWE’s fault, of course. But boy this really sucks.

Wrestlemania at the Performance Center. Wrestlemania with no fans. Wrestlemania with “social distancing.” All because of this damn Coronavirus.

Still, despite some awkwardness, I’ll credit WWE with making the best of an awful situation. They’ve gimmicked up some of the marquee matches, presumably to make them look different. They’ve split the show into two nights, which some would argue should have been done years ago.

The promos overall have been much better. Edge and Randy Orton, for instance, did some of the best mic work of their careers. Even the Undertaker got in on that action this past Monday.

But of course, problems persist. Several wrestlers, most notably Roman Reigns, have either opted out or been forced off the show due to complications related to the Coronavirus. So some of the matches I’m laying out here may not be the ones we end up getting. It should be noted that, as far as we know, this entire show has already been taped. So these matches have already occurred.

That being said, let’s take a look at what I call the “Silent Wrestlemania.” We’ll start with the matches that have biggest question marks hanging over them. Beginning with a match that might have main-evented the show…

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bill Goldberg (c) vs. ?

As he’s immunocompromised due to his history with Leukemia, Roman Reigns has opted out of this match. Can’t say I blame the guy. Plus, let’s face it: It’s not like he’ll never get another title match at a Wrestlemania again…

So now the pressing question becomes, who do you plug in to replace him? Who’s worthy of challenging Goldberg in a marquee Wrestlemania match for the Universal Title?

There’s been a lot of buzz about Braun Strowman taking that spot. He’s certainly the biggest star they’ve got who isn’t already booked for a match. But I don’t know that he’s ready for that big a match. WWE is still trying to rebuild him after all those months of bad booking.

Bray Wyatt is another popular theory. As the show takes place over two nights this year, they can have him wrestle Cena one night, and Goldberg on the other. If that’s the match, the Fiend should definitely get the belt back.

One name I haven’t heard very much is Sheamus. He was mowing down opponents before everything was shut down, and getting babyface reactions in the process. He’s a dark horse candidate. But one that might give Goldberg an interesting match.

In the end, unless they decided to make Bray Wyatt the challenger, I think you give Goldberg the victory here. Let him retain so he and Roman can have their “Spear vs. Spear” match whenever things get back to normal. Plus, Goldberg’s mystique revolves around him winning, and winning decisively. This would be a nice little notch to add to his belt.

PREDICTION: Bill Goldberg

TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison vs. The New Day vs. The Usos

Yeah, this one’s not happening either. At least not as advertised.

Apparently the Miz showed up to a taping sick, which was one of the things that prompted Reigns to bow out. So obviously, Miz is now out too.

What they do here largely depends on who they had at the building when this was taped. They could have plugged an NXT guy in there to be Miz’s replacement. Matt Riddle comes to mind. He one half of the NXT Tag Champs, but his partner Pete Dunne is stuck overseas due to flight restrictions.

But I would think the more likely solution is to simply have John Morrison defend the titles by himself. The New Day and the Usos are no stranger to big matches like this. So let them do their thing, and then Morrison can sneak in the back door and swipe the belts.

PREDICTION: The Miz & John Morrison

Elias vs. King Corbin

Because they’re splitting the show into two nights, they obviously need to pad the card out a little. Which is ironic, because there’s usually such a struggle to get everybody and their mother on to the Wrestlemania card.

In any event, that’s how Elias vs. King Corbin winds up on Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon is high on Corbin. Plus, he just knocked Elias off a balcony on Smackdown. So barring a surprise appearance by someone like Jeff Hardy, Corbin takes this one home.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

I’m not sure this was the kind of big Wrestlemania match Bobby Lashley had in mind when he came back. But hey, it could have been worse. He could still be stuck with Rusev.

Allegedly, had they not gone with Drew McIntyre as this year’s Royal Rumble winner, Aleister Black was on deck. That should tell you all you need to know about who’s winning this match.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

Dolph Ziggler vs. Otis Dozovic

Ziggler sent out a really depressing tweet on Monday: “15 years in the making & I am less than 1 week away from having as many singles matches at #WrestleMania as Michael Cole”.

Oh, what might have been…

There are bound to be shenanigans in this match. Mandy will obviously be out there. You’ve got to believe Tucker will be in Otis’ corner. Bobby Roode and Sonya Deville could be in the picture as well.

Dolph Ziggler should win this match. Despite never having had a singles match at Wrestlemania, he’s won all kinds of singles titles. Otis, on the other hand, is still relatively new to the main roster,and has spent most of his career in a tag team.

But here’s the rub: Dolph should win the match, but Otis should get the girl. Whoever is pulling the wool over Mandy’s eyes should be discovered, and she should leave Wrestlemania with Otis. Now if only there were fans in the building to give that moment the epic pop it deserves.

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Kairi Sane has been highly conspicuous by her absence these last few weeks. Heck, this year in general. So Asuka has had to do virtually all the heavy lifting on the Kabuki Warriors’ side of the build-up to this match. Reportedly, she’s been at home with her husband in Japan, having recently been married. She will however, be part of this match. Hopefully to take the pinfall.

Yes, when they’ve both been around, the Kabuki Warriors have proven to be a nice shot in the arm for WWE’s otherwise pitiful Women’s Tag Team Division. But it’s time to switch the titles. I say give them back to Alexa and Nikki, and then have them actually jump across brands to defend them. Rematch the Kabuki Warriors on Raw, then go against Sasha and Bayley on Smackdown. Clearly they’re looking to put stars on NXT. And now that everything is at the Performance Center, there’s no better time to defend the belts on that show. You’ve got some of the best talent in the world. Use it!

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

FATAL FIVE-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina

Originally, this was announced as a Six-Pack Challenge. But this match was another victim of Coronavirus paranoia. Carmella would have been a natural participant, but apparently opted out of the show altogether. Dana Brooke was to have been in it, but she wound up in quarantine. Ergo, we have a Fatal Five-Way.

This is yet another instance where they should have simply let Bayley and Sasha wrestle. My guess is it comes down to those two anyway. And what the heck? Let’s put the belt on Sasha and see if she can hold on to a main roster championship for once. That naturally leads into a feud with Bayley, which it feels  like we’ve been waiting on for decades.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

Austin Theory. Y’know, the guy who lost to Tyler Breeze last week? Yeah, he’s got a tag title shot now.

Not that it makes much of a difference. They’re working to establish the Street Profits as Raw‘s top tag team. No reason to have them drop the belts here, even if it were Andrade with Garza.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Well I’ll be damned. Sami Zayn is the Intercontinental Champion. I didn’t expect it. But I won’t complain about it. It does suck, however, that Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro have to essentially serve as his henchmen.

There’s no reason for them to put that hideous looking new IC Title on Bryan. His M.O. these days is obviously to help get other talents over, a la Drew Gulak. So he’ll give Zayn the biggest win of his career, and then I’m guessing he goes away for a little while. He’s about to welcome a second child into his family, after all.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens

It feels like these two were put together out of attrition. Neither had an organic opponent, so they were put together.

Still, there’s been some decent mic work leading up to this one. Particularly Rollins’ promo about being responsible for the Performance Center, NXT, etc.

The fact that Rollins brought up Owens’ Wrestlemania record makes me think they’re giving Owens the win. Raw needs top babyfaces right now. Drew McIntyre is obviously being groomed for the top spot. Aleister Black seems like a natural pick for that role. Owens is too. So let him get a big moment here.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

NXT WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Keep in mind, they wanted Charlotte to be the one to finally beat Ronda Rousey at last year’s Wrestlemania. Becky was not supposed to be in that match. So despite how backward it seems, Charlotte Flair is walking out of Wrestlemania with the NXT Women’s Title.

Still, all is not lost for Rhea Ripley. For my money, Charlotte been in two show-stealing matches at Wrestlemania. The first against Sasha and Becky, the second against Asuka. If she and Rhea give us that caliber a performance, it almost won’t matter who wins. Especially if Charlotte cheats to win, or Rhea hangs in there with her and just comes up short.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

BONEYARD MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

“Graveyard Match.” That’s what they’re trying to say here. I think AJ even said something to that effect recently.

This is a match I’ve been asking for since Styles first came in. Who could possibly be better equipped to give Undertaker a good match? Granted, I was expecting the match to take place in a ring. In a big arena. In front of people…

I stand by what I’ve said previously. There’s no reason for the Undertaker to lose at Wrestlemania ever again. Yes, the Streak is long dead. But an Undertaker victory is a feel-good moment. Almost a rite of passage. So let him have it.

One thing we’ve definitely learned this year? If you want a Wrestlemania match with a WWE legend, just attack their wife. Apparently it works really well.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

I know a lot of people didn’t like the biting angle they did with Shayna. But I loved it. I thought it made Shayna look like a vicious predator willing to do things Becky hasn’t seen before.

There was some buzz recently about Vince McMahon supposedly not thinking Shayna Baszler is worthy of this spot. First of all, she most certainly is. Secondly, who else could they have put with Becky? Rhea Ripley, I suppose. But that ship has obviously sailed. No one else was ready for her. And frankly, if Shayna doesn’t win the belt here, I’m not sure who they put with Becky next. It’s Baszler’s time. Plain and simple.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

FIREFLY FUNHOUSE MATCH:
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena

Without the crowd, it almost feels like a waste to even have Cena this year. Could he have given us an IOU for Wrestlemania next year?

I’m sure this will be something akin to the House of Horrors Match Bray had with Randy Orton a few years ago. Again, I like that they’re mixing the card up so not everything takes place in an empty building.

The outcome here should be pretty simple. Cena won at Wrestlemania XXX. The fans all knew it at the time. And as Bray has never really been the same since, I’d say we’ve been vindicated. So let’s correct that mistake and put him over here.

Now if only we could correct the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar match from that night as well…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Edge vs. Randy Orton

Edge may actually be right about making Randy Orton better. This is undoubtedly the hottest Wrestlemania match he’s been in since the main event against Batista and Daniel Bryan.

In terms of having the best build-up, this match wins and it’s not even close. It sucks that Edge’s first Wrestlemania back has to be in an empty Performance Center. But all that quiet has allowed him to cut two of the best promos of his career. Hell, Orton even had one of his best. This has been a great story. The veteran star comes back and gets betrayed by his former partner.

While Undertaker vs. AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena are taking place in constructed sets (at least that’s my assumption), I’d wager this match is the one that goes all around the Performance Center. Something like the brawl Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa had on NXT a few weeks ago. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Beth Phoenix cameo in here somewhere.

As for the winner, is there any doubt?

PREDICTION: Edge

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

In a way, Roman Reigns pulling out of the show is a blessing in disguise. There was some early buzz about Reigns and Goldberg supposedly getting the main event spot. Nothing against either guy. But that would have been really, really wrong. Roman headlined four Wrestlemania cards in a row. Let someone else have a turn.

Whether it’s in a jam-packed venue in Tampa, or an empty performance center, it’s important for Drew McIntyre to main event this show. Even though the show is way too long nowadays and the fans are usually tired and cranky by the end, the main event of Wrestlemania still means something. If WWE is serious about wanting to make Drew McIntyre a star, there’s no better way to anoint him as such than having him headline this show. In theory, anyway. Roman Reigns never quite got that big coronation, did he?

Barring Vince McMahon changing his mind as he’s famous for, and opting to give Brock another surprise Wrestlemania win, I don’t see any reason why McIntyre shouldn’t win this match. I don’t care who’s in the building. This is his night, and it’s his time.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

WWE Elimination Chamber Preview – You Call THAT a Main Event?!?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Last year, the events of Elimination Chamber wound up changing the course of Smackdown for most of 2019. Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan put on a performance inside the Chamber so captivating, the audience demanded more. And thus Kofi was suddenly thrust into a WWE Championship Match at Wrestlemania, where he ended up taking the belt home and having yet another match-of-the-night performance in the process.

The kicker? Kofi wasn’t even supposed to be in the Chamber Match to begin with. He got tagged in when Mustafa Ali got hurt. That whole “Kofimania” story developed organically. And it all started at this show.

If you’re expecting something like that to happen on this year’s show, I’d temper your expectations. Like, a lot. While anything can happen come showtime, in 10 years of doing this Elimination Chamber pay per view, this is easily the weakest card they’ve ever assembled. None of the marquee Wrestlemania matches are represented here. No Brock Lesnar or Drew McIntyre. No Goldberg or Roman Reigns. John Cena and Bray Wyatt? Nada. Randy Orton and Edge? Nope. But I mean, Drew Gulak is on the show. That counts for something right?

If I had put my hard-earned money down for tickets to this show, I’d be pretty pissed off right about now…

Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

I kid Drew Gulak. He’s a fine wrestler, and had a nice run as 205 Live‘s shooter champion before being sent to Smackdown. I can only assume Bryan asked to work with him, much like he did with Mustafa Ali.

Keep an eye on this one. On paper it doesn’t look like much. But these are two ring generals. I expect they’ll surprise us with what they turn in. As for who wins, I’m sure Bryan wants to put Gulak over at some point. It could very well happen here. But my gut tells me Bryan wins this round.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo

While I can’t take anything away from his in-ring talent, personality-wise Humberto Carillo does absolutely nothing for me. Which is why I don’t necessarily take pleasure in predicting he’ll walk out of Elimination Chamber with the US Title.

While there’s never a good time to get popped for a wellness violation, Andrade didn’t do himself any favors by racking one up about a month into his first title run on the main roster. Despite still holding the belt, he seems to be in the doghouse. We’ve seen these two wrestle a million times on Raw, with and without the title on the line. So why do it again here if not to switch it to Carillo?

The real question, however, is what happens to Andrade after Elimination Chamber?

PREDICTION: Humberto Carillo

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, & Sami Zayn

I haven’t had a chance to say it yet, so allow me to get this off my chest: That new belt is trash. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the classic IC Title design. It was probably the best looking belt they had. Why they felt the need to once again fix something that wasn’t broken is anybody’s guess.

I’m assuming the way this works is, hypothetically, the person that scores the fall on Strowman would be champion. Isn’t that usually how this kinda thing goes?

Either way it’s a moot point. Strowman’s whole character was built on him bulldozing multiple guys in a single match. Granted, those were job guys. I wouldn’t have made any of these guys cannon fodder. But here we are. While I don’t think it’ll be a squash by any means, Strowman retains and moves on to somebody new at Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Murphy

I said it before Super Showdown: Rollins and Murphy were put together to give Murphy a rub, and weren’t in it for the long haul. So there’s no reason to put the titles back on them here. I’m fairly certain this match is only here to do two things: Kill time on what has essentially become a pointless filler show, and to give Kevin Owens a chance interfere and then challenge Rollins to a Wrestlemania match. With the latter, at least it moves a story forward.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black

If that tag match exists so Kevin Owens can interfere, this match exists so the Undertaker can interfere. It’s really just a question of whether Black gets to beat Styles. I’m assuming he does.

I was pitching an Undertaker/AJ Styles Wrestlemania match as far back as 2016. I hate to say it, but we’ve long since reached the point where we need smoke and mirrors to produce a good Undertaker match. AJ is perfect for that. If anybody can give ‘Taker one more quality Wrestlemania match, it’s him.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos vs. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party

There’s an argument to be made for putting the belts on Ziggler and Roode here. They can use this match to further the Otis/Mandy Rose storyline by having Ziggler and Roode screw Heavy Machinery out of another big win. Then Otis and Tucker beat them for the titles at Wrestlemania. From a storytelling perspective, I’d actually prefer that direction.

But then why give the belts to Miz and Morrison at Super Showdown? Why not just let the New Day keep them another few weeks?

With that in mind, I can only assume Miz and Morrison retain here. I can’t complain about that, as I like them as a team. But the Heavy Machinery idea just seems more…efficient?

PREDICTION: The Miz and John Morrison

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH TO DETERMINE CHALLENGER FOR RAW WOMEN’S TITLE AT WRESTLEMANIA:
Natalya vs. Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Ruby Riott vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan

So this is the main event, right? It almost has to be. It’s got a Wrestlemania title match attached to it.

Wow. So Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan will be able to say they main-evented a pay per view.

I assume the story of the Riott Squad all being against each other now is the reason Morgan and Logan are in this match, but Kairi Sane isn’t. Unfortunately, the Riott Squad thing doesn’t work. They were villains. We weren’t invested in them enough to care about them in a high stakes match like this. What’s more, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have put them back together when Ruby returned. Liv is done with the whole Lana storyline, and Sarah Logan has done a whole lot of nothing since they broke up. So why not?

I find it interesting that they supposedly called off the Chamber Match that Roman Reigns was supposed to win because it was too predictable, and yet they’re still giving us this match. Shayna Baszler is the only one of these six who should even be sniffing the Raw Women’s Title. In fact, I’d have her be the last one out with no eliminations up to that point, just so she could lay waste to the entire field. Have her tap out four opponents, narrowing it down to her and, say, Asuka. Then we get two ultra-dominant former NXT Women’s Champions fighting for the right to face the Raw Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania.

In the end Shayna wins, of course. Ideally, she would have won the Women’s Royal Rumble. But what’s done is done.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

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

WWE Super Showdown Preview – Goldberg vs. Wyatt (and Maybe Corbin?)

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Haven’t written much about wrestling lately. But it’s not like there’s a shortage of happenings. We’ve got AEW in the mix on Wednesday nights, NWA Powerr on YouTube, and of course WWE doing WWE things. Including traveling to Saudi Arabia for a pay per view this Thursday.

Or, as CM Punk might call it, “sucking blood-money covered dicks.”

Regardless of how you feel about WWE and the Saudis, the matches on these shows seem to be growing in importance. Case in point, at Crown Jewel in October, Bray Wyatt beat Seth Rollins to win the Universal Championship. Now we’ve got rumors swirling about whether Bray will still be champion coming out of this show. That isn’t the only title that seems to be on shaky ground going into the show.

So let’s get sucking. (Ew…)

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins & Murphy (c) vs. The Street Profits

As Rollins and Murphy won the titles so recently, normally I’d be inclined to say there’s no way they’re losing them so soon. But in this case, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dawkins and Ford fly back to the states with the belts. This Rollins/Murphy tandem has a limited shelf life. It seems like they’re primarily together to elevate Murphy’s status, which is fine by me. But the titles are coming off them sooner rather than later. While the Street Profits aren’t necessarily ready from a character perspective, stranger things have happened. Plus, putting the titles on them would set up for the obvious feud with AOP, who could then become the dominant monster champions.

Having said all that, I think it’s too soon. So by hook or crook, Rollins and Murphy retain.

PREDICTIONS: Seth Rollins & Murphy

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison

I think I can finally say it: I’m over the New Day. Kofi Kingston had a good thing going as a main event guy, and people have been waiting for Big E. to break out on his own for years now. I’m hardly the first person to suggest this, but how about we have Big E. turn on Kofi? You want a Wrestlemania match? Put those two against each other with Xavier Woods as the guest referee.

So yeah, I’m going with Miz and Morrison on this one. A nice little comeback for a team that’s already very well-decorated. I’ve said previously that Miz needs Morrison more than Morrison needs Miz. But having watched Morrison’s return, I’m not so sure anymore. He needs someone to either talk for him or someone to talk alongside. Who better than Miz? This win will be a nice feather in Morrison’s cap as he continues to reestablish himself in front of the WWE audience.

PREDICTION: The Miz and John Morrison

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

Poor Bayley.

You’ve got Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler in a blood feud (literally) over the Raw Women’s Title. Then you’ve got the story of Rhea Ripley calling out Charlotte Flair for the NXT Women’s Title. And then Bayley is just…there. That title? It just exists. That’s all.

It’s not her fault, though. That Smackdown Women’s Division is about as tepid as day-old coffee. I mean, who have they got for her on that show? Lacey Evans? Just did it. Carmella? Love her, but no thanks. Ember Moon? Injured. Sasha Banks? MIA. Alexa Bliss? Been there, done that, never want to go back. Though maybe if they threw Nikki Cross in there for a three-way…

Naomi has got the shot because we’re still in the honeymoon period of her return. While I’m glad to have her back, I don’t see any reason to give her the belt here. They can build a compelling women’s division around a heel Bayley. It’s just that the storytelling hasn’t been there. A Wrestlemania title match against Sasha Banks might be a necessary kick in the pants. But that’d presumably be the end of Sasha’s heel run. That gets a hard no from me.

Maybe new blood is the answer. We’ve heard a lot of talk about Bianca Belair potentially jumping to Raw. But Smackdown could really use someone like her right about now.

TUWAIQ TROPHY GAUNTLET MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles vs. Andrade vs. Bobby Lashley vs. R-Truth vs. Erick Rowan

They sure do love to throw around meaningless titles and trophies at these shows. The Best in the World Trophy, the Best Tag Team in the World, that WWE World Cup tournament. Now this. A “Tuwaiq Trophy.” Alright then.

I can only assume AJ Styles is winning here. Supposedly he’s working with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. This match may exist for the sole purpose of giving him a big victory to set him up for the Dead Man. Incidentally, Undertaker is rumored to be among the talent headed to Saudi Arabia. So if all the talk about that match is true, it may come to fruition as early as after the bell here.

So who’s the enduring, underdog babyface you build around for this match? In recent years we’ve seen them do that with guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Kofi Kingston. Who’s going to go the distance, only to fall just short of the victory? We haven’t got a lot of options here. It’s either Rey Mysterio or R-Truth. As Truth is a comedy act, it’s got to be Rey. He goes in there and slips past most (if not all) the other heels, only to be flattened by AJ at the end.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

STEEL CAGE MATCH:
Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin

I certainly hope Corbin has been learning from Roman Reigns through all this. That way, at least something good has come of it. I haven’t been as inclined as others to simply hate on the whole thing. But by God, just let it end. Like Matt Hardy, it simply will not die.

Roman wins. Because why wouldn’t he?

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Ricochet

In all likelihood, this match will be in the main event spot. But because so many have written it off, we’ll put it second from the top.

It’s kind of a shame. This is the biggest match of Ricochet’s career, and he’s essentially being laughed out of the arena before it even begins. Although win or lose, simply being in a title match with Brock is a great thing to have on his resume. It might even be an awesome match. We all know how well Lesnar works with the smaller guys.

But yes, Richochet has to lose here. As talented and worthy of the spotlight as he is, he’s only in this match because of the part he played in Brock’s elimination from the Royal Rumble Match.

Speaking of which, I wouldn’t count out a Drew McIntyre appearance after this match. But we certainly don’t need it. He’s not scheduled to wrestle, and I don’t see the point in flying him across the world just to have a staredown with Brock. And given the trouble they had flying home from Crown Jewel, it’s probably best he stays behind anyway.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Goldberg

The Fiend returns to the site of his title win, and Goldberg returns to the site of his humiliation.

I kid Goldberg. But man, these Saudi shows aren’t to kind to him. First he and Undertaker stink up the joint, and now he’s losing to the Fiend.

What’s that? Goldberg might win? He could once again walk into Wrestlemania with the Universal Title? Maybe rematch against Bray? Or even face Roman Reigns?

No. Just stop.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. But I’d be blown away if they put the belt back on Goldberg. From a storytelling perspective, what’s the logic there? They’ve resurrected Bray Wyatt’s career, making him one of the biggest and best characters in the business. He’s been champion for months now. Why have him hold it this long, just to drop it so close to Wrestlemania? And to Goldberg, of all people. Yes, this match has really nice marquee appeal. But look at Goldberg’s last few matches. He lost to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Then he lost to the Undertaker. He followed that up with a win over Dolph Ziggler at Summerslam. And now he’s (presumably) about to lose to Bray.

The attraction that is Goldberg revolves around him destroying his opponents and winning. Naturally, at this stage in his career you want him to put people over. But is he continues to lose so many consecutive matches, don’t you diminish his value? Ironically, Bray used to have this problem. He’d go on TV, cut these spooky promos, and then lose again and again and again.

Ill-advised or not, I’ve got to go with Bray Wyatt on this one. If they really want to do Goldberg and the Fiend at Wrestlemania, they aught to do a DQ or a count-out finish here. If he has to lose again, at least do it at the biggest show of the year.

But if they really want to use Goldberg at Wrestlemania, and stay with me on this one, what about Baron Corbin? We’re all dying to get Corbin away from Roman Reigns. And so many people went out of their tiny minds last year when he beat Kurt Angle in his retirement match. So put Corbin with Goldberg and add the stipulation that if Goldberg loses he can never wrestle again. Because of what happened with Angle, there’ll be reason to believe they’ll do something similar here.

But in the end it’s a spear, a jackhammer, and a Goldberg victory. See? Doesn’t that feel better?

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

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