Summerslam on the Horizon, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Doing something different this week. Let’s rapid fire a few news stories…

Rey Mysterio Jr. reportedly not returning to WWE. The company reportedly passed on Rey because they weren’t interested in working with Konan, who is part of Rey’s representation. It’s no big loss or gain either way, as far as I’m concerned. No disrespect to Rey. But at the end of his WWE run he simply wasn’t the same caliber a performer. That’s what age and injury will do to you.

I understand the impulse to use a big name like Rey to appeal to the Latin market. But they don’t need him to do that, do they? I’ve always wondered why they didn’t plug Kalisto into that spot. Granted, Kalisto’s not much of a talker. But Rey never was either.

Becky Lynch and Cris Cyborg create Summerslam buzz. UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg has been sparring with Becky Lynch on Twitter, supposedly to create buzz for a Summerslam match.

Uh huh. Sure. They’re going to book a match with a big name UFC star this close to the event. And that’s assuming she’d even get clearance from UFC to do anything physical.

Would I like to see it? Sure. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

Global Force Wrestling Women’s Champion Sienna calls Charlotte Flair out on Twitter for copying her look and pinky finger mannerism. Again with the Twitter drama. I had never heard of this woman until I caught wind of this. I’m sure she’s talented and everything. But…is she for real with this?

Sienna incorporates the Peacock into her look, as does Charlotte. But what apparently prompted the jab from her was the pinky gesture Charlotte uses with Becky Lynch. It’s a jokey thing they do that means “tea time.”

I’m sure Sienna is an awesome wrestler. I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never seen her. And with all due respect, I’m pretty sure Charlotte hasn’t either. So let’s cool our jets and not go to war over coincidences.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

John Cena opens the show. Baron Corbin interrupts. Daniel Bryan makes a match between the two at SummerslamTom Phillips gave this match a nice little tagline: “The Future vs The Franchise.”

In an era where so much of what we see is scripted, Cena’s ad-libbing is usually really refreshing. Now fans get the pleasure of chanting “Dumpster Fire” at Baron Corbin. (They should have chanted it at that Punjabi Prison Match.) Imagine how many cool moments like that we’ve missed over the years because of over-scripting.

The Usos def. Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger. The New Day return to beat down their Summerslam challengers. Fun to see the New Day show a little more of an edge as they attacked the Usos. Now if only the rubber match at Summerslam was a Street Fight or something, and not just another match.

Charlotte Flair def. Lana. The story of this match was supposed to be about Charlotte outdoing Lana at every turn. And yes, hey gave us that. But it ultimately became about Charlotte’s wardrobe malfunction. Yep. Her tights got pulled down a bit. That happened.

It’s funny what catches on. All these years after the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl scandal, we’re still using the term “wardrobe malfunction.” The world is so random…

Shane McMahon brings AJ Styles and Kevin Owens to the ring to set the record straight regarding Summerslam. Shane accidentally takes a Pele Kick from Styles. I’d love to know what percentage of my brain is made up of useless pro wrestling trivia. When Kevin Owens referenced Shane having refereed before, my mind immediately jumped to the moment from Survivor Series ’98 that they ended up showing. I can’t decide whether that’s quirky or sad.

Carmella def. Naomi in a non-title match with help from James Ellsworth. Natalya is the one challenging for the belt at Summerslam. But between Carmella having the Money in the Bank briefcase, the alliance between Lana and Tamina, and the ever-present Charlotte and Becky Lynch, Nattie is almost an afterthought. I’m a Natalya fan, but this almost feels like a pre-show match.

Also, can we get Ellsworth an acting coach or something? He was awful in that backstage segment with Nattie and Carmella.

Shinsuke Nakamura talks to Renee Young about his WWE Title Match at Summerslam. Not to overstate my point on the whole scripting thing, but one of the biggest drawbacks of not letting the wrestlers speak for themselves is that they all end up saying the same things. That stuff Nakamura said about Cena being the measuring stick of WWE and being a 16-time champion was all fine in theory. But the actual structuring of his verbiage made it come off phony. Something about him using that measuring stick expression just didn’t feel right.

On the upside, his English was fine as a whole. I didn’t have any trouble understanding him. Doing this in a pre-tape was smart. Nakamura might be like Brock Lesnar, in that when he has to talk, it’s better not to put him out in front of the crowd.

Randy Orton def. Jinder Mahal in a non-title match. Rusev jumps Orton afterward. I’d forgotten Jinder is Canadian. That Toronto crowd reminded me real quick. What else would you expect from the city that booed Bayley?

Very surprised to see Jinder lose clean here. I assume this was done to make him look beatable for Nakamura at Summerslam. I just hope they don’t use this match as an excuse to give us more Orton/Mahal matches. The fairly quality of their pay per view encounters notwithstanding,  Orton did what he was supposed to do and put the new star over strong. Now onward.

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The JBL/Jinder Mahal Connection, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Jinder Mahal is the new top contender for Randy Orton’s WWE Championship. He’ll face him at Backlash.

This was…surprising. Especially when you consider how few TV matches Jinder has won since his return. Last week he lost to Finn Balor on Raw, and then Mojo Rawley the next night on Smackdown. He was essentially brought back to put over the newer guys. But now, seemingly out of nowhere, he’s got a WWE Championship Match on pay per view.

Though when you look at the big picture, t’s fairly obvious why they did this. Smackdown needed another big heel, so they strapped the rocket to Jinder. He’s a pretty easy guy to boo, fitting well into the classic foreign heel category. It seems he’ll even be getting some back-up from the Bollywood Boyz. It could work out really well.

Oddly enough, this all reminds me of what WWE did with JBL back in 2004. Brock Lesnar had just left the company, and Smackdown needed a new top heel. They found one in Bradshaw, who’d found his greatest success teaming with Ron Simmons as the APA. He was repackaged as John Bradshaw Layfield, pushed to the moon, and became WWE Champion a few months later. At the time, a lot of the “smart fans” crapped on it. Mayfield had never been an established singles star. But in retrospect, no matter what you think of him personally, JBL made an awesome heel champion. He’s obviously still very easy to dislike in 2017.

When you look at it that way, Jinder Mahal may be getting a “JBL push.” I never, ever expected him to be competing for the WWE Title. But stranger things have happened…

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Charlotte Flair demands a match for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Naomi answers her, and gets physical. Charlotte later pins the champion to earn a title match next week. Naomi came off really well on this show. The “I ain’t never scared” line could be a new catch phrase for her.

This wasn’t the match I was hoping for. The crowd was sitting on their hands for most of it. At one point, Naomi tried one of her trademark spots, going for a flurry of kicks. Somehow, it just looked laughable this week. Some of it had to do with how Charlotte sold it. But we’ve obviously we’ve got more coming from these two. They’re both so damn athletic. They can do better than this.

Primo and Epico def. American Alpha. Ouch. Jordan and Gable get beat by the Shining Stars. That’s got to hurt…

Though apparently they’re not the Shining Stars anymore. They’re calling them the Colons,  which is their legit family name and are playing up their lineage. That sure as hell works for me. No more travel brochures, no more matador costumes. Just straight up wrestlers. That suits these guys.  At least for now. The in-ring element has always been their strong suit. That was evident here. They had decent chemistry with Jordan and Gable. But again, the crowd was pretty dead for this. Like Jinder, Primo and Epico spent most of their time on Raw losing. It could take awhile for them to build up any sort of steam.

Kevin Owens quickly defeats an enhancement talent in his “Face of America” Open Challenge. I love how they projected Owens’ face on to the entrance ramp. Very in-character for Owens.

They’re definitely letting Owens put his spin on the US Title, John Cena’s US Open Challenge concept, and the whole anti-America thing. If they’re going to have Jinder do something similar, then they need to be careful the two characters don’t bleed into one another. If they do, the most charismatic Owens will easily overshadow the less established Jinder.

AJ Styles def. Baron Corbin via count-out. A fairly anti-climactic main event, with an even more anti-climactic finish. They can’t all be barn burners, I suppose. Still, no one moves like AJ Styles.

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Roman Reigns and the US Title, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Roman Reigns, United State ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s going to be some talk about the Miz and the Intercontinental Title this week. So as long as we’re on the subject of secondary titles, let’s talk about the US Championship. And with it, everyone’s favorite person: Roman Reigns.

I’m not sure exactly why the decision was made to put the US Title on Reigns. I can only assume it had something to do with keeping him out of the main event scene following his suspension. You also had the added bonus of elevating the title by putting it on a top guy. They did the exact same thing with John Cena and the US Championship in 2015. Cena, of course had great matches as part of his “US Open” challenge segments.

I’m not a big Roman Reigns fan. And at this point, I could take or leave him as US Champion. I was all for putting the belt on Chris Jericho this week. But I also think it’s unfair to compare the attempt to elevate the title with Reigns to what was done with Cena. The stuff with Reigns started as an attempt to turn a pretty big lemon into lemonade. They were making the best of a bad situation. With Cena it seemed like a more concentrated attempt to not just elevate the title, but give him something new to do each week. With Cena, the belt was a priority. With Reigns, it’s a byproduct.

I do, however, think Reigns has run his course as US Champ. The question is, who do you put the belt on now? Putting it on Jericho would be fine, but that’s almost a lateral move. He doesn’t need the belt any more than Reigns does. They could always give it back to Rusev, I suppose.

Hey, is Sami Zayn done with Braun Strowman now? It seems like he might need something to do…

The Miz, Maryse, WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2016Ponderings From Smackdown:

The Miz demands an apology from Renee Young, gets Dean Ambrose instead. Maryse slaps Ambrose. I haven’t had a chance to talk about this Miz/Renee Young stuff yet. Simply put: I love it. They’re blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, as the best wrestling angles often do. Plus, Young is so easy to like, and Miz is so easy to hate. It’s made for some really interesting television. I loved the line about how she “sacrificed her journalistic integrity for dirty deeds with Dean Ambrose.”

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. Kalisto saves Ziggler from further punishment, but Ziggler surprises him with a superkick. While he may still lack sufficient mic skills, this is the second consecutive week Corbin has been in a really good match. You obviously can’t discount the skills of Dolph Ziggler, who was in there with him both times. But credit where credit is due.

It looks like Dolph is finally turning heel. Long overdue. I’m excited for what we’ll see from him in the next few weeks.

Becky Lynch def. La Luchadora. During the match, Alexa Bliss pulls a switcheroo, entering the ring in a La Luchadora costume. Rumor has it Mickie James will be the one under the La Luchadora mask. Reportedly it’s NXT talent Deonna Purrazzo that’s actually been under the mask these past few weeks. I’m not sure they need to go that route to bring Mickie back. Clearly a lot of fans remember her. But it’s a fine pay off.

WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2017, AJ Styles, John CenaAJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for their WWE Title Match at the Royal Rumble. Baron Corbin comes out to announce he’s in the Royal Rumble Match. This was another one of those segments where somebody comes at Cena hard, blurring a bit of truth into what they say, and then Cena comes back with a big rah-rah speech. It’s always a fine segment. But it’s nothing too special. As we’ve seen, Cena and Styles do their best talking from bell to bell.

 Carmella def. Aliyah. So the story with Carmella and James Ellsworth will obviously end with her turning on him and breaking his heart. From a character standpoint, that’s fine. But Ellsworth is not good at the acting side of things. Nothing with depth to it, at least. Best case scenario is this gives him a chance to sharpen up.

American Alpha def. Breezango. A tag title rematch with the Wyatt Family is announced for next week.  I was blown away to see Jason Jordan and Chad Gable win the Smackdown tag belts last week. These guys were always going to be tag champs. I just expected they’d wait a little longer. Zack Ryder’s knee injury obviously sped things up. They even got to pin Randy Orton with their finish! I don’t expect the Wyatts to regain the belts next week either.

Nikki Bella and Natalya trade insults in the ring. I keep coming back to the notion of blurred lines between fantasy and reality. In this segment Nattie said things that a lot of fans have said for years about Nikki getting opportunities because of her looks. Nikki fired back with some intriguing stuff about Nattie using her family’s legacy to get ahead. They ended it with a corny line about dying alone. But this was good stuff.

Natalya, Nikki Bella, WWE Smackdown, January 3, 2017I’ve harped on quite a bit about scripted promos lately. I’m not sure how scripted this was. But there’s always something to be said for good writing, and the writing on this show has stepped up significantly.

Dean Ambrose def. the Miz to win the Intercontinental Title. Miz snaps on Talking SmackThere are two schools of thought here. I’ll give you both…

Initially, I felt the same way about this that I felt about Dolph Ziggler beating Miz for the belt at No Mercy. Miz and Marise’s presentation is better with that Intercontinental Title, and chances are they’ll give it right back to Miz anyway. So why bother beating him for it?

On the other hand, look at what they did on Talking Smack, with Miz talking about Ambrose getting the title match because of Daniel Bryan’s friendship with Renee Young. Miz got a little bit silly at the end. But you can see how that character believes he’s right. He’s not the best wrestler, but in so many ways Miz is the most interesting character on Smackdown right now. Maybe in WWE altogether.

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

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

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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