Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Who exactly are the “10 Most Fascinating People” in a given year? Every year when I do this list, I typically let the word fascinating speak for itself. But for 2020, a year like no other, let’s go ahead and expand on it.

Every week, these performers compete for our attention. Not just with opposing programming, but with each other. Everyone wants to be part of the story that’s the most dramatic, emotional, intriguing, inspiring, etc.

The list of WWE’s most fascinating people is a list of WWE wrestlers and personalities who, in my opinion, had the most interesting stories in a given year. They can be the culmination of a lifelong journey, as Drew McIntyre achieved this year. They can spark pressing questions, such as whether this is really the end for the Undertaker. One can even wind up on this list for the wrong reason, like Otis did with the Money in the Bank briefcase.

To put it simply: These are WWE’s most fascinating people of 2020, and these are their stories.

1. Drew McIntyre
In 2020, Drew McIntyre lived up to his old nickname and became WWE’s “chosen one,” winning the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar.

Unfortunately, it happened at just about the worst possible time.

The COVID-19 pandemic was in its early days when Wrestlemania XXXVI took place, and the world was still coming to grips with the new rules we were (and still are) all living under. WWE was holding its televised events, including Wrestlemania, inside the Performance Center in Orlando with no fans in attendance. Thus, Drew essentially had his crowning moment in a vacuum. One might even call him “the Pandemic Champion.”

But to his credit, he forged ahead. He played the stalwart babyface we all needed to see during such trying times. He was an optimistic, hopeful babyface champion hungry to prove himself against all challengers. Mere moments after beating Lesnar, McIntyre would beat back a challenge from the Big Show. He would go on to successfully defend against Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler, and Bobby Roode. He also retained twice over Randy Orton before dropping the belt to him at Hell in a Cell. Then on November 16, McIntyre would make Orton’s reign a short one, taking back the title in the main event of Raw.

Whether or not McIntyre is remembered as the champion of the “pandemic era” remains to be seen. But either way, one thing is certain: He’s been a champion we can be proud of.

2. Otis
Even if you see him strictly as a comedic character, it’s tough to deny Otis had a career year. Even if it didn’t necessarily end the way he’d have hoped.

Coming into 2020, Otis’ affection for Mandy Rose made him the lovable everyman in one of, if not the most interesting story on WWE television. The tale culminated at Wrestlemania, as Otis defeated Dolph Ziggler and got to kiss the girl. It would have been a tremendous Wrestlemania moment if there’d been fans in the building…

The subsequent decision to give Otis the Money in the Bank briefcase was puzzling. He was hot coming out of Wrestlemania. But a Heavyweight Title contender? Hardly. As such, the briefcase served to weigh Otis down more than elevate him, as fans were more interested in how WWE was going to get the briefcase off of him, as opposed to how and when he’d cash in.

It all came crashing down for Otis at Hell in a Cell. He lost the briefcase to the Miz in a match where his longtime tag partner Tucker turned on him. Adding insult to injury, both Tucker and Mandy were drafted to Raw, leaving Otis on Smackdown without his arch rival or his girlfriend.

Ouch.

3. MVP
Montel Vontavius Porter was a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match. Despite being eliminated in a matter of seconds, he stuck around and became an unlikely staple of Raw.

He quickly aligned himself with Bobby Lashley, guiding him in a brief quest for Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship. While Lashley would come up short, the duo would find new allies in Shelton Benjamin, and eventually Cedric Alexander. Together, they’ve formed the hottest, and certainly the most sharply dressed, faction WWE has seen in quite some time: The Hurt Business.

MVP’s staying power is lies almost entirely with the charisma and energy he brings to promos. But he’s also remained semi-active in the ring.

4. Dominik Mysterio
To say the very least, Dominik has come a long way since we saw him as the eight-year-old subject of a child custory storyline between his father Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.

Now in his early 20s, Dominik began making appearances with his father last year, one of which saw him brutalized by Brock Lesnar. But in 2020 he established himself as a wrestler and television character by inserting himself into the feud between Rey and Seth Rollins. As a result, he was given the extremely unenviable task of having his first televised WWE match at Summerslam against Rollins. To Dominik’s eternal credit, I thought he and Rollins stole the show that night. Yes, their match had its fair share of “gaga,” including involvement by both Rey and Dominik’s mother Angie. And yes, Dominik was in good hands with Rollins. But in the end, that match told the best story that night. Much of that can be attributed to how good Dominik has become at such a young age.

Rey and Dominik were drafted to Smackdown in October, where the emphasis has been largely on Rey’s daughter Aliyah and her storyline with Murphy. Frankly, I don’t think it would hurt Dominik to spend some time apart from his father, perhaps in NXT. Though knowing how pro wrestling works, a father/son feud certainly isn’t out of the question. Especially as we move closer to Wrestlemania.

5. The Undertaker
This was the year the real-life Mark Calaway finally came out of the casket.

After his Boneyard Match with AJ Styles proved to be the unlikely show-stealer at Wrestlemania, the Undertaker went on an unprecedented media tour to promote Undertaker: The Last Ride, a documentary miniseries on the WWE Network. In the process, he pulled back the curtain on himself and the character in a way many have wanted for the better part of three decades. No one exploited the Dead Man’s new chatty demeanor more than WWE themselves, who produced numerous Undertaker-centric specials and interviews for the network. This included two lengthy interviews with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

It all culminated in a “final farewell” at Survivor Series, which marked the 30th anniversary of the character’s debut. His farewell address was short but sweet: “My time has come to let the Undertaker rest in peace.”

But as always, whether this truly is the end of the line for the Undertaker remains to be seen…

6. Roman Reigns
“The Big Dog” was absent for much of 2020 thanks to COVID-19. But when he made his return at Summerslam, he changed the entire landscape of Smackdown with both a new attitude and a new manager.

This year saw WWE give Roman Reigns the one thing they never gave to their last poster boy John Cena: A heel run. What’s more, a damn good heel run. At least thus far. Now a full-fledged Paul Heyman guy, and calling himself the “Tribal Chief,” Reigns quickly won the Universal Championship from Bray Wyatt. He went on to have two quality pay per view title matches with, of all people, Jey Uso. At Survivor Series, he once again stole the show in a champion vs. champion match with Drew McIntyre. He capped it off at TLC, retaining his title over Kevin Owens.

All the while, Reigns has been doing the best character work of his career. He projects a quiet and intimidating menace that has made him the most interest part of Smackdown for months now. Had we gotten this guy five years ago, Vince McMahon could very well have had the new mega-babyface he obviously wanted Reigns to be so badly.

7. Lana
The way things look now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Lana challenging for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania.

That may be blasphemous to some. But we all know WWE loves a good unlikely underdog story. And in trying to become a wrestler, the real-life CJ Perry is in fact an underdog. By her own admission, she’s not the most talented on the roster. While athletic, wrestling doesn’t come naturally to her. She’s also been the center of a few cringe-worthy storylines, not the least of which was her recent marriage storyline with Bobby Lashley. Did we mention her real-life husband, who now goes by Miro in AEW, was let go by WWE in April?

I invite those who would question Lana’s presence on this list to watch her episode of WWE Chronicle on the network. It’s a very revealing look into CJ Perry’s past, her mindset, and how hard she’s working to become a success in professional wrestling.

8. Randy Orton
This year, Randy Orton got back to doing what Randy Orton does best: Being a merciless, despicable heel. He does it better than just about anyone in the business today. So it’s not necessarily a surprise that in doing so, he became one of the centerpieces of Raw in 2020.

Much of it was familiar. He attacked legends like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, delivering his signature punt to the head. There were plenty of RKOs out of nowhere. And indeed, Orton claimed yet another WWE Championship, defeating Drew McIntyre in a Hell in a Cell Match in October.

But what once again made Orton one of the most compelling villains in WWE was what he did with Edge early in the year. The night after Edge made one of the more emotional returns in recent memory, Orton met him in the ring and proposed they reform Rated RKO. It was all a trap, of course. Orton would beat down his former friend, capping it off with a brutal chair attack (What Edge used to call a one-man “Con-Chair-To.”) This sparked a feud that went into the spring, and included Orton hitting an RKO on Edge’s wife Beth Phoenix. They had a Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania, and followed it up with a match dubiously titled “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” in June. Edge would win the former, Orton the latter. A rubber match is almost undoubtedly in the works. No doubt when it does, Orton will be as formidable and dangerous as he’s ever been…

9. Bayley
In 2020, the Smackdown Women’s Division was all about Bayley, Sasha Banks, and when their inevitable implosion would happen. The powder keg finally blew in September when Bayley ambushed Banks in the ring.

So why put Bayley on the list and not Sasha? A few reasons…

Coming into 2020, the experiment of turning Bayley heel was still fairly new. What’s more, compared to Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch or NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley, she had by far the least buzz or momentum. Both Bayley and her championship were cold.

The alliance, and eventual feud, between Bayley and Banks revitalized the Bayley character as a villain, and thus revitalized the championship around her waist. Also a factor was the sheer length of Bayley’s run with the title. At 379 days, she’s the longest reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion of all time, and one of the longest of the modern era as well.

10. Edge
There was just something about seeing him come out at the Royal Rumble.

Edge had hit a spear during the Summerslam pre-show in 2019, which caused a little buzz about a return to the ring. That buzz increased tenfold when the wrestling news sites started reporting he’d be an entrant in the 2020 Royal Rumble Match. So it’s not like we had no clue he was coming…

But when his music hit that night, it had all the magic and grandeur it deserved. The “Rated R Superstar” had defied medical science and returned to the ring after nine years. And he wasn’t stopping with the Rumble.

The following night, Edge started a program with his former tag team partner Randy Orton that would extend into the summer. The two had a Last Man Standing Match at Wrestlemania, which would receive mixed reviews at best. They followed it up with a much better match, dubiously advertised as  “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash. Sadly, Edge would suffer a torn triceps in that match that would leave him on the shelf for the rest of the year. But the smart bet is he and Orton will go one more round at this year’s Wrestlemania.

Assuming he can stay healthy, the best of Edge’s return has yet to come. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has largely robbed him of the chance to wrestle in front of live audiences again. He, and WWE at large, may fare better in 2021. Either way, he’s got a laundry list of big match opponents. From AJ Styles to Roman Reigns to Seth Rollins and beyond. With luck, Edge’s comeback tour has only just begun.

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

Posted in Wrestling

A WWE Summerslam 2020 Preview – Enter the ThunderDome

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So that’s the “ThunderDome”, eh? Alright sure. What the hell? Let’s give it a whirl.

There are so few upsides to this pandemic. But one of the few is that these drastic circumstances have led to forced creativity and innovation. Not just in wrestling, but all walks of life. We just wrapped up the first ever all-virtual Democratic National Convention. Now, we’re about to get the first ever all-virtual pro wrestling crowd.

One thing’s for sure: Brawling into the crowd is going to be a lot different.

I’m as anxious to get back to normal as anybody else. But this kind of inventive mindset should be encouraged. Even if we only get one good idea for every 10 bad ones. Case in point, at Wrestlemania, the Last Man Standing Match and the Firefly Funhouse Match weren’t really my cup of tea. But the Boneyard Match was awesome!

Let’s see how Summerslam looks…

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

Here’s my question: Why MVP and not Bobby Lashley? Even if you ignore the fact that Lashley pinned Crews in that gauntlet match on Monday, Lashley would be the next logical person in line after MVP lost in his title match a few weeks back. So why go with MVP again? Is it because we’re still rehabbing Lashley from all that crap with Lana and Rusev?

Actually, that’s not a bad reason…

I’m inclined to think they wouldn’t be going with MVP again unless they were going to put the belt on him. They may have even been planning to do it at Extreme Rules. Now MVP can be the cowardly heel, using Lashley and Shelton Benjamin to hold on to the championship while Crews chases. I’m not sure I expect his run to be a long one, but it’ll still be pretty cool to see him hold it again after so many years.

PREDICTION: MVP

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade & Angel Garza

I’ve gone back and forth on this one. The titles would be good with this Andrade/Garza/Zelina package. I definitely like the idea of giving Garza a more prominent spotlight. But on the other hand, Dawkins and Ford have grown on me as the tag champs. In an era where WWE needs new stars as badly as they ever have, putting some more shine on the Street Profits wouldn’t be a bad thing.

In the end, I think that’s exactly what they do. Dawkins and Ford go over early on the card. And for their next challengers? How about Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin? I’d be curious to see what kind of chemistry they have.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

HAIR VS. HAIR MATCH:
Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville

I love this match. Not just because of the Hair vs. Hair stipulation. Although I do believe it’s the first female Hair vs. Hair Match since Victoria vs. Molly Holly all those years ago.

I love this because Mandy and Sonya are getting an opportunity to shine on what, in theory, is the second biggest pay per view of the year. This is the kind of match that would have gotten bumped if you had the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Undertaker, or other part-timers on the card. If we really are trying to make new stars, this is a wise move. And frankly, it’s well deserved. Mandy and Sonya have both stepped their game up this year. I’ve got high hopes that these two will deliver a great Summerslam moment.

As for who wins, I’ve got to go with Mandy. Sonya will rock a buzz cut for a few weeks, then nail some kind of short hairdo.

PREDICTION: Mandy Rose

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

The elevation of Asuka has been a really pleasant surprise this year. For so long, it seemed like she had become an afterthought. And she’s just too good to relegate to the back of the line. Now she’s doing something that I don’t think anyone’s ever done at Summerslam before: Challenge two different singles champions for two different titles.

Based on what we’ve seen in recent history, I’m guessing they’ll do these matches back-to-back. On Raw, they established that Bayley is defending her title first. I don’t see why Sasha Banks wouldn’t be at ringside for this, as they’ll need her in short order. So I’m thinking Sasha does something underhanded to cost Asuka the Smackdown title. It’s just as well. The fact that they’re borrowing someone from Raw for the second-biggest show of the year doesn’t speak well to the status of that division.

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Asuka

Having just lost to Bayley, Asuka will seem like easy pickings for Sasha. Thus, Sasha can underestimate her and get rolled up for the shock title change. They can do it clean, or have some kind of mishap involving Bayley. I’m good either way.

I don’t think Sasha has defended the title since she won it last month. Thus, her streak of winning the Raw Women’s Title and then quickly losing it on her first defense remains intact. You’ve got to wonder if they’re doing that on purpose at this point. Are they even that clever?

PREDICTION: Asuka

STREET FIGHT:
Seth Rollins vs. Dominik Mysterio

Look for all sorts of shenanigans in this match, with both Rey Mysterio and Murphy getting involved from ringside. This should be fun. Dominik is in good hands with Rollins.

Dominik has no business beating Seth Rollins. And yet, I expect that’s exactly what will happen here. It’s time for the heel to get his comeuppance. As sick as I am of all the eye stuff, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rollins get “hit” in the eye with a kendo stick or something. Then we can get eyepatch-wearing, pirate-looking Seth Rollins.

PREDICTION: Dominik Mysterio

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Involving Alexa Bliss in this program was a smart move. Not only did it freshen things up and add a new layer to the feud as we head into Summerslam, but it pays off something from as far back as that first Mixed Match Challenge. Braun and Alexa have a really cool on-screen chemistry that I’m happy to see again.

Clearly, Bliss is going to factor into the finish somehow. The question is whether it benefits Braun or Bray…

At the end of the day, I think it’s time to correct the mistake that was made before Wrestlemania when Bray lost the title to Goldberg. It’s time to put the title back on the Fiend. As for Alexa, it’s time for her to return to her villainous roots. Babyface Alexa Bliss isn’t nearly as fun as heel Alexa Bliss. So let’s bring her back, and maybe feud her against Nikki Cross.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton

Getting back to his legend-killing, punt-kicking ways has done wonders for Randy Orton. He’s once again one of the hottest heels in the business. He’s just what the doctor ordered in terms of giving Drew McIntyre a great villain to face.

But as hot as he’s been, Randy Orton does not need to be WWE Champion for a 14th time. At least not now. I’m sure falling ratings have scared WWE. But now isn’t the time to fall back on old habits. They need to stay the course with McIntyre, and focus on telling good stories with him as the hero. If this were a relatively normal year and we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, it might be a different story. If John Cena or Brock Lesnar were challenging, it might be a different story. But not Randy Orton. Not here and not now.

They need to stick it out with Drew until Wrestlemania at the very least. Let him be that stalwart champion that gets us through the so-called “pandemic era.” Then we can think about changing things up.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

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

Posted in Wrestling

Best of WWE Extreme Rules: A Playlist Before This Year’s “Horror Show”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

“It’s the one night of the year where WWE goes extreme!!!!”

What does that mean? Eh, nothing really. It’s a line they used to tack on to this Extreme Rules pay per view. In reality, it’s a show where they throw in some gimmick matches for the sake of the title. Extreme Rules is the descendant of ECW One Night Stand. So if they really wanted to make this show special, they’d stick it in a smaller venue like the Hammerstein Ballroom (shown above) to make it look like an old ECW show. Or maybe even someplace like Full Sail University, and up the ticket price accordingly to compensate for the smaller capacity.

Of course, you can’t do that now. Damn Coronavirus.

But where there is creativity and performance, there is inevitably some greatness to be found. As we build to this year’s Extreme Rules: The Horror Show show on July 19, here’s a playlist representing the best of this event over the last 11 years. Despite being WWE’s sanitized version of “extreme,” you might be surprised at the quality of what you find…

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho
June 7, 2009
New Orleans, LA

It was on this night that Jericho won his ninth and (thus far) final Intercontinental Championship. That’s a record that stands to this day, and may in fact stand as long as the title exists.

But perhaps more importantly, this is one of the better IC Title matches of the so-called “PG Era.” We had a compelling yet simple story coming in about Jericho wanting to unmask Rey Mysterio Jr. Jim Ross and Todd Grisham were on commentary for this one, and the former did an excellent job playing up the importance of the mask to Rey. Not to mention its cultural significance. So in the end, when Jericho snatches Rey’s mask off during a 619 attempt and then rolls him up for the pin, it actually means something.

These two managed to cut a hell of a pace too. At certain points, you’d think they were still part of WCW’s renowned Cruiserweight Division. Moments before the finish, we get something we’d never see today: A chairshot to the head. Mind you, Rey “works” the shot to Jericho’s head fairly well. But a shot to the head is a shot to the head.

If this match proves anything, it’s that Jericho was and still is one of the true artists in the world of pro wrestling. Whoever elevates whomever he works with. Even if that person is already a legend like Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, or in this case, Rey Mysterio Jr.

LADDER MATCH:
Edge vs. Jeff Hardy
June 7, 2009
New Orleans, LA

I probably shouldn’t have, but I felt sorry for Edge, Jeff, and all those TLC guys for a long time.

Yes, I know those ladder matches and TLC Matches made stars out of the Hardys, the Dudleys, and Edge & Christian. But those matches would also follow all those guys around for the rest of their careers. They became synonymous with the Ladder Match to the point that so many of their big bouts had to be Ladder Matches. So when they started this program with one another, it was inevitable there’d be a Ladder Match at some point.

And this is how jaded we’d all become at that point: This match isn’t even that exciting. Yes, there are some brutal bumps. Edge takes a nasty bump between the rungs of a ladder. Later, he tries to recreate the famous mid-air spear spot from Wrestlemania. The results are mixed at best. The match is highlighted by that last visual of Edge being trapped between the ladder rungs, “crucified” as Todd Grisham puts it, as Hardy climbs up and takes the title.

This match earns its spot here because of the effort put forth by its participants. Hardly the most thrilling Ladder Match you’ll ever see. But you’ve got to take your hat off for what both these guys were willing to do to their bodies.

LADDER MATCH FOR VACANT WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian
May 1, 2011
Tampa, FL

I don’t make a habit of going back and watching a lot of Alberto Del Rio matches. But in hindsight, he had a pretty good shtick with his personal ring announcer, the limo, the music, the big smile. If he weren’t such a sleaze bag in real life, I’d be inclined to say I miss him.

But of course, this match isn’t really about Del Rio. It’s all about Christian finally winning the big one. Would he lose it two days later at a Smackdown taping? Yes. But this is still a great moment that’s all the more relevant given how they just used him in the Edge/Randy Orton storyline.

CHICAGO STREET FIGHT:
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
April 29, 2012
Chicago, IL

We didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to see these two got overshadowed by the Rock and John Cena at Wrestlemania. We knew going in that it would happen. In the end, they’d once again be overshadowed at Extreme Rules by Cena and Brock Lesnar. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of the work they did. And this whole program, with a heel Chris Jericho getting personal with CM Punk about his father’s alcohol issues, was quality.

The fact that they were in Chicago did nothing but help them. This was less than a year after the famous Punk/Cena match at Money in the Bank. This crowd was every bit as pro-Punk as that one was. All these years later, I’d forgotten that Punk’s family was in the front row too. So when Jericho douses Punk in beer and beats the hell out of him with a kendo stick, it resonates that much more. The same can be said for when Punk finally pulls it out and retains the WWE Championship.

EXTREME RULES MATCH:
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena
April 29, 2012
Chicago, IL

Mere moments into this match, Lesnar had Cena’s blood on him.

This match wasn’t necessarily as exciting as I remembered it. But as Brock Lesnar’s first match in eight years, it was still bigger and more important than almost anything that happened at Wrestlemania the previous month. This match was “big fight feel” defined.

In hindsight, this was structured not unlike the classic Cena and Lesnar would have at Summerslam two years later. Which is to say it was all about Cena being brutalized  by this WWE Champion turned MMA fighter, and the question of whether he could survive. Particularly under the Extreme Rules stipulation.

This match may also have one of the most hotly debated finishes in company history. Certainly in the last decade. Common sense would indicate that Brock would prevail here. Thus, they’d tell the story of Cena suffering yet another devastating loss just a month after losing to the Rock, and setting Brock up as a near invincible and monster.

Of course, they didn’t do that. They had Cena win after punching Lesnar with his old Thuganomics lock and chain, followed by an A.A. on to the steel ring steps. They didn’t even do a contested finish, i.e. “You can’t pin somebody on the steps!” It was just, “Cena wins. LOL.”

Still, it’s definitely a match worth looking back on. Arguably the best WWE match of 2012 overall.

EXTREME RULES MATCH:
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
May 22, 2016
Newark, New Jersey

I’m not sure how politically correct this is to say, but AJ Styles became a made man in WWE by working with Roman Reigns.

Yes, he came in and worked with Chris Jericho. Yes, he’d go on to have some amazing matches with John Cena. But by putting Reigns over in back-to-back title matches at Payback and Extreme Rules in two great matches, Styles proved that not only was he an all-time great performer, but one that could succeed within the WWE system. These matches proved he was here to stay.

You can tell both these guys are really going for it here. Reigns had just won the WWE Championship from Triple H at Wrestlemania, and had a lot to prove to his critics. Meanwhile, I suspect Styles knew what a big opportunity this was for him, and set out to over-deliver. He succeeded, taking some downright scary bumps in the process. These included a very high backdrop off one announce table through another. Styles actually over-rotated, taking what looked like a painful landing on his butt. That’s how you crack your tailbone, right there.

In the end, what they turned in here was very much a WWE style brawl, complete with a fight through the crowd and outside antics from the Usos and Gallows & Anderson. In the end, Reigns countered a Phenomenal Forearm into a spear for the victory.

30-MINUTE IRON MAN MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
July 15, 2018
Pittsburgh, PA

This match was better than the Pittsburgh crowd gave it credit for. They spent a good portion of this match counting along with the clock, Royal Rumble Match style. Meanwhile, Rollins and Ziggler were putting on a clinic in there.

They gave us a little bit of everything in this one. We had the babyface Rollins gain an early lead. We had Ziggler’s heavy Drew McIntyre come in to interfere. Then we had the heel Ziggler even it out. Then we had the heel go up, forcing the babyface to fight from underneath. We go into sudden death, a la Wrestlemania XII. Then it was McIntyre once again playing a role to give Ziggler the win. So McIntyre gets over as a force to be reckoned with, and Rollins and Ziggler get over as two workhorses, with Ziggler getting the added rub of main-eventing his first pay per view.

Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that this was the first time the Intercontinental Title was defended in the main event of a pay per view since Bret and Bulldog at Summerslam in ’92. So we’re not only elevating our two wrestlers, but we’re once again elevating the Intercontinental Title.

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

Posted in Wrestling

A WWE Extreme Rules 2020 Preview – Prelude to a “Horror Show”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As much as they’ve been shoving the whole “Horror Show” thing down our throats, I really don’t mind the name itself. It suggests they’re taking a bit of a step outside the box creatively.

But here’s my question: What is it about this year’s Extreme Rules that makes it a horror show, per se? Is it the way they’re going to shoot the matches? Is it that we’re going to see a spooky “Swamp Fight” between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt? Is it that they’re advertising someone’s eye being gouged out? A combination of all that, perhaps?

I just hope they have some kind of idea. I hope it’s something. One of the few upsides to this COVID-19 situation is that it’s forced them to flex a few more creative muscles. So c’mon, WWE. Give us a damn horror show!

Now, let’s dive in…

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

Part of me really wants MVP to win the title here. He’s more a manager now than anything else. Thus, he hasn’t been positioned as a threat to Crews, or anyone for that matter. But he’s so good on the mic, and it would be such an interesting story to see him win the title back after all these years.

Still, the ones you want to push in this equation are Crews and Bobby Lashley. I suspect that’s the match we’re getting at Summerslam. If that is indeed where we’re going, Crews should win here.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

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

After that fire we saw from Nikki Cross in her brief verbal exchange with the IIconics several weeks ago, I was excited to see her get this shot. She’s not winning, of course. But I’m excited to see her featured on a pay per view.

So it doesn’t look like Bayley vs. Sasha Banks is the match for Summerslam. I can only assume then that they’re saving it for Wrestlemania XXXVII. Let’s hope they actually get to have that match in front of a crowd…

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka (c) vs. Sasha Banks

Ultimately, the destination for Sasha Banks is going to be (or at least should be) Bayley and the Smackdown Women’s Title. Granted, that’s not to say she couldn’t take a little detour with the Raw belt. But I don’t see it happening. One way or another, Asuka is the star of the Raw Women’s Division, and she’ll stay that way for at least a little while longer.

The upside? The last time these two had a high profile match together, they tore the house down. Hopefully they have an opportunity to do the same here.

PREDICTION: Asuka

EYE-FOR-AN-EYE MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins

I don’t like this Eye-For-An-Eye stipulation at all. The idea is that you lose when one of your eyes gets extracted from its socket.

Yuck. In more ways than one.

I liken this to those Inferno Matches that Kane used to have, most notably with the Undertaker. It’s a compelling idea on paper. But in practice, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you look at it from an in-story perspective, booking this stip looks needlessly brutal and cruel. But from a showbiz standpoint, it almost exposes wrestling. Because you know nobody’s actually getting their damn eye taken out. And in case it needs to be said, that’s a good thing…

I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this. I assume there’ll be a bunch of shenanigans involved with Rey’s son Dominic, Murphy, Austin Theory, etc. In the end, I think Rey gets the win. Not just because the good guy should win in this scenario, but the image of Rollins with an eye patch is mildly amusing.

PREDICTION: Rey Mysterio

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

Regardless of what the stipulation ends up being, this match is designed to do the same thing as McIntyre’s bouts with Rollins and Lashley: Build Drew up as a credible champion. Dolph is the guy WWE always turns to when it’s time to shine someone up. While I don’t think Drew needs Dolph’s help in that respect, he certainly couldn’t have a better dance partner to meet that end.

Drew wins. No big surprise there. To me it’s more a question of who they put him with at Summerslam. He needs to be up there with a big marquee name. That means it’s got to be either Brock Lesnar again, or Randy Orton. As Orton is hot right now, I’m putting him with “the Viper,” and saving Lesnar for further down the road. Dare I say, Hell in a Cell?

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

SWAMP FIGHT:
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

I’m not sure what their plans are as far as “cinematic” matches on this show. But obviously this one would lend itself best to that treatment. I’m picturing something shot like the Boneyard Match, with some of the spooky tricks used in the Firefly Funhouse Match.

My understanding is the Universal Title is not on the line in this match. Thus, Bray Wyatt can win and justify a match between Strowman and the Fiend at Summerslam. Bray should win anyway. The swamp is, in theory, his home turf after all.

So is this going to be a “Three Faces of Foley” type thing with Bray Wyatt? We already see him swap back and forth between his smiling, sweater-wearing persona and the sinister Fiend. Is the only swamp-dwelling, “Follow the Buzzards” Bray Wyatt a personality he can switch into as well? I’m not necessarily opposed to that. But that Bray Wyatt had a tendency to choke in big-match situations. Just ask John Cena…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

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

Posted in Wrestling

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.

Posted in Wrestling

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.

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2019: Becky Lynch, CM Punk, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So I think I’m just going to claim this “Most Fascinating People” thing as my own. Barbara Walters doesn’t do it anymore. And I’ve been doing it on WWE personalities for years now…

Speaking of which, we’ve got some repeaters this year, as we always do. One of which I never thought we’d see again. (You’ll know him when you see him.) I’m sure a lot of them are obvious choices when you think about it. But I’d say two or three of them aren’t.

So once again, let’s get fascinating!

No? Not a good catch phrase? Just trying it on…

1. CM Punk
So yeah, this is happening.

After years of bad blood between Punk and WWE, including a lawsuit filed by WWE doctor Christopher Amann (Punk won), the old adage of “Everyone comes back eventually” was once again proven true. Well, kinda…

After weeks of speculation, on November 21 Punk did indeed become a part of WWE Backstage on FS1, serving as a frequent guest analyst. However, Punk’s deal is with Fox, not WWE. Ergo, he finds himself in the unique position of being able to critique the product as he sees fit, with seemingly no repercussions from the company. He’s already managed to stir things up with Seth Rollins. There’s no telling whose feathers he may ruffle next. Which is, of course, the point of bringing him on in the first place.

Naturally, this opened the floodgates for fans to make assumptions about an in-ring return. Truth be told, there is an aura of inevitability about it. It’s all guesswork as to when it could or would happen, but a Wrestlemania seems like an obvious choice. I wouldn’t expect “clobberin’ time” to come in 2020, though.

Punk is in a position to do things on his terms. That’s not a dynamic WWE is used to in 2019. But if there’s one person who’s been able to make this company squirm in recent years, it’s CM Punk. Seeing him do it again, even if it’s only in a storyline, would make for interesting TV.

This is CM Punk’s third appearance on the list, having been on it in 2012 and 2013.

2. Dean Ambrose
Before Jon Moxley became one of AEW’s hottest acquisitions, Dean Ambrose had perhaps the most amicable departure in WWE history.

In January, WWE put out a press release announcing that the real-life Jonathan Good would not be renewing his contract when it expired in April. The release continued: “We are grateful and appreciative of all that Dean has given to WWE and our fans. We wish him well and hope that one day Dean will return to WWE.”

This was, in many ways, unprecedented. WWE barely, if ever, calls attention to one of their top guys leaving the company. But there it was, right out in the limelight. Ambrose reportedly turned down a significant offer from WWE, citing all the “hokey” material he’d been given as of late. If you go back and watch some of what he was doing at that time, it’s not hard to see what he means…

The announcers usually danced around it on Raw. But most fans knew it was happening. To the further surprise of many, Ambrose wasn’t buried or jobbed out during his remaining months with the company. Yes, he was left off the Wrestlemania card. But he was also given a proper send-off via one more Shield reunion with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. WWE even made a network special out of his last night, calling it The Shield’s Final Chapter.

When you get right down to it, that’s got to be why they were so nice to Ambrose on his way out. Despite being open about his frustrations with the WWE creative process (including a scathing appearance on Talk is Jericho), the Shield has become one of their most bankable commodities of the last decade. They want to keep that door wide open for Ambrose to come back someday However, as Moxley has signed a multi-year deal with AEW, don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

This is Dean Ambrose’s second appearance on the list. He appeared on it last year.

3. Shayna Baszler
This year, Shayna Baszler became one of the key components in elevating NXT to cable television, and thus the same level as Raw and Smackdown. But before that happened, she dominated the entire NXT Women’s Roster. With the exception of a brief hiccup last year, Baszler has been the most dominant NXT Women’s Champion since Asuka.

We recently heard her run down the list of names herself. But this year alone she beat back Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Mia Yim, and Candice LeRae. But her true crowning moment came at Survivor Series, when she defeated Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley in a Triple-Threat Match. And although she just recently lost her NXT Title to Rhea Ripley, Baszler has a legit claim to being the top female wrestler in all of WWE.

Furthermore, there’s no shortage of bad blood between Baszler and Lynch. While it may trace back to Lynch toppling her friend Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania, Baszler has been adamant that she’s not Rousey. She has her own legacy to create. My guess? That legacy continues with a victory in the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and a title match against Lynch at Wrestlemania this spring.

4. Baron Corbin
Simply the name “Baron Corbin” is enough to make some people’s skin crawl. People hate this guy. Some fans think he’s boring. Others say he can’t wrestle. While some just see him as the smug prick he’s trying to come off as.

Either way, he may very well be one of the only true heels in all of wrestling. In an era where everybody wants to be a cool heel, a la Bray Wyatt or Adam Cole, Corbin isn’t afraid to draw legit heat from a crowd. And one of the oldest rules in the book is that if you can get people to hate you, they’ll pay to see you get beat up. That’s why they had him beat Kurt Angle in his final match. That’s why they had him win the King of the Ring. That’s why he’s feuded with the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns this year. They see him as a commodity. Or at least a commodity in the making.

Granted, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Corbin in 2019. The program with Rollins didn’t exactly leave us wanting more. Quite the opposite, in fact. And older fans have balked at some of the more childish antics he’s employed against Reigns. But mark my words, folks: At this rate, Corbin will be a Heavyweight Champion down the road. Possibly even this year.

5. Rey Mysterio
It’s no coincidence that Rey has been featured much more prominently since Paul Heyman became Raw‘s executive director. He brought Rey into ECW in the mid ’90s. Years later, when Heyman was writing Smackdown, he gave Rey a key role. So this is clearly a winning combination, and it was no different in 2019.

Rey obviously wants to set up some kind of “passing the torch” moment with his son Dominic, who is currently in training at the Performance Center. Father and son would share a sentimental moment backstage, when Dominic convinced Rey not to retire after a disheartening losing streak.

But there was nothing sentimental about the beating they’d both take from Brock Lesnar. After a brief detour involving Cain Velasquez, we got the obvious match: Brock vs. Rey for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. Like so many before him, Rey failed to defeat Lesnar. But regardless, Rey Mysterio was once again in a marquee match at a major WWE pay per view. And to his credit, he did some damn good mic work along the way. The promo where he’s looking into the camera and has the pipe in his hand was simply awesome.

6. Rhea Ripley
Ripley has created her share of headlines. She was part of the infamous Mae Young Classic match where Tegan Nox’s knee exploded, and then famously mocked her on Twitter. She would go on to become the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion, and ultimately stay tucked away on that show for more than half the year.

Then in August, she made a surprise return to Full Sail, confronting then-NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. It was a moment that created instant buzz and speculation about Ripley challenging, and possibly becoming the one to finally dethrone Baszler.

In November, Ripley would lead her team to victory in the first-ever women’s War Games Match, defeating a team led by Baszler. Ripley would close out the year by doing what many expected, and defeating Baszler for the NXT Women’s Title on December 18.

Over the years, a select few have not only held that title, but in essence become the face of the NXT Women’s Division. Bayley played that role, as did Asuka. And for about two years now, Baszler has been the face of the division. Now, Rhea Ripley has an opportunity to make her mark on the ever-growing legacy of the NXT Women’s Title. I’ve got a feeling she won’t disappoint.

7. Bray Wyatt
This could have gone really, really wrong. Thankfully, it all worked out. Mostly…

C’mon, this is WWE we’re talking about. They could easily have fumbled the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona Bray took on when he finally returned to television with his “Firefly Funhouse” segments. Wyatt would take on a Mr. Rogers-like demeanor, complete with a red sweater and puppets. But there were obvious sinister overtones, which would lead to the debut of Bray’s new alter ego, “the Fiend.” Sporting a mask designed by famed horror and special effects guru Tom Savini, the character quickly became a hit, despite still playing a heel. After years of repetitive promos, and being virtually booked into oblivion, Bray Wyatt was experiencing a full fledged career resurrection.

WWE’s first major misstep with the character came when they rushed him into a title match with then-Universal Champion Seth Rollins. A Hell in a Cell Match, no less. To make matters worse, the match inexplicably ended via ref stoppage, resulting in a massive uproar among fans. WWE attempted to correct the misstep by putting the title on the Fiend at Crown Jewel. But the match would leave a stink on both Rollins and Wyatt for weeks.

Bray continues to reign as Universal Champion, as both he and the title have been moved to Smackdown. He’s once again embroiled in a feud with Daniel Bryan, which fans seem to be into. I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll come face to face with a certain Big Dog come Wrestlemania season. But in any event, Bray Wyatt has become what so many of us knew that he, with this character, could be: A top guy. He’s the Heavyweight Champion on a show that airs weekly on Fox. Now that’s a comeback story.

8. Kofi Kingston
Kofi had a comeback story of his own in 2019. One that, ultimately, would end in disaster.

Kofi Kingston was not supposed to be challenging for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania. My guess is he and the New Day would have been involved in some sort of multi-team tag match on the undercard. But fate stepped in when Mustafa Ali was injured in February, and Kofi replaced him in the Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship. The fans fell in love with him all over again as he came within an eyelash of finally winning the big one after 11 years in WWE. He became an instant underdog sensation, as “KofiMania” was born. To WWE’s credit, they altered their storyline plans, and at Wrestlemania 35 in New Jersey, Kofi would steal the show with WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. The match culminated in an emotional victory celebration in the ring.

Kofi would keep the championship longer than many anticipated, retaining it against the likes of Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Dolph Ziggler, and even his old rival Randy Orton.

Then, along came Brock Lesnar. On October 4, in the main event of Smackdown’s debut broadcast on Fox, Lesnar would squash Kingston in less than 10 seconds to win the title. He hasn’t even sniffed a Heavyweight Title since then, having returned to tag team competition.

It’s debatable whether Kingston could  have played that top guy role longer. In the end, the real injustice here is that he’s seemingly been swept under the rug. Could Kofimania rise again? Perhaps. But it doesn’t seem likely, does it?

9. Seth Rollins
This was supposed to be Seth Rollins’ year. And in a lot of ways, it was. He won the Royal Rumble, and went on to defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania. Shockingly, he’d beat Lesnar a second time at Summerslam. As if that weren’t enough, he got engaged to Becky Lynch, and the two would become an item both on and off screen.

But oh, the power of social media. Of all things, it was a series of ill-conceived tweets that started to turn the fans against Rollins. Throw in a post-Wrestlemania feud with Baron Corbin that went far too long, and the finish to his Hell in a Cell Match with Bray Wyatt, and he was dead in the water as a babyface. What’s more, I don’t think the pairing with Lynch did either of them any favors. The closest thing I can think to equate it to would be when they put The Undertaker’s wife Sara with him on television. It just wasn’t a side of him that people wanted to see. Ditto for both Rollins and Lynch here.

WWE would, once again, do the right thing by changing their plans and turning Rollins heel. Now aligned with AOP, he finds himself jockeying for the top heel spot on Raw against AJ Styles, and ironically enough, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

This is Seth Rollins’ second time on the list, having made it in 2015.

6. Becky Lynch
As far as I’m concerned, Becky Lynch was the face of WWE in 2019. And there isn’t even a close second.

Lynch rode a wave of momentum into the Royal Rumble, where she would tap out to Asuka, but then win the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. After an injury forced her to miss out on her chance to wrestle Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, fans desperately wanted to see those two collide. To their credit, both ladies made it feel like there was legit bad blood between the two. It was a match worthy of the Wrestlemania main event. To the dismay of many, Charlotte Flair was added to the match, and it became a three-way for both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. Becky would pin Ronda (albeit clumsily) to win both titles, victorious in the first women’s match to headline a Wrestlemania.

In the months that followed, we learned just how much a great hero needs a great villain. With Ronda gone, and the Charlotte feud played out, Lynch was put with Lacey Evans. With respect to Lacey, the matches were about as thrilling as they sound. Thankfully, the freshly heel-turned Sasha Banks would come to Becky’s rescue. Their program would culminate in an excellent Hell in a Cell match in October.

At Survivor Series, Becky wrestled Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler in a Triple-Threat Match. During the build-up, we saw some really nice tension between Lynch and Baszler that was reminiscent of what Lynch had with Rousey. Baszler was adamant that she is not Ronda Rousey, and I suspect she’ll be in a position to prove that to Becky in the near future. But for now, Baszler is licking her wounds after losing her title to Rhea Rhipley, and Becky wants to avenge her loss to Asuka at last year’s Royal Rumble.

Becky was always extremely likable. A natural babyface. Ironically, it was when they tried to turn her heel last year that the fans truly rallied behind her. Becky got angry, and they got angry with her. From a storytelling perspective, there were a lot of comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rise to the top. That’s not entirely unjustified. But I think the similarities are superficial at best. I think one of the reasons fans got behind Becky so much is because she showed us something most modern babyfaces don’t: Legitimate passion and fire. So many wrestlers are struggling to memorize lines, and make the schlock written for them into passable television. All Lynch really had to do was go out there and be herself.

In the end, I think that’s something almost everyone has to do if they want to get over to any large extent. You show people who you are, albeit with the volume turned up and certain things exaggerated, and either they like you or they don’t. It’s not nearly as complicated as it seems, or as WWE makes it.

That’s something to keep in mind as we head into 2020…

This is Becky Lynch’s second time on the list. She was on it last year as well.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE Survivor Series Predictions: A Massive Mess in the Making?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This show could be, in large part, an absolute mess. Triple-Threat tag team matches are a jumble already. How the hell they’re going to use that concept with a Survivor Series Match is beyond me. That’s 15 wrestlers to keep track of. And how does it even work? Do you have two in the ring at once? Three? I just don’t have a good feeling about this. Looping NXT into the normal Raw vs. Smackdown dynamic is a good idea, given the show’s move to USA Network. I just hope that if they do this again next year, they don’t make the entire damn show into three-way matches.

As NXT is the new kid in town in terms of national television, I expect them to come out of this show looking strong. I don’t expect them to sweep the show, but I think they’re the show that will get the most wins.

NXT also has a built-in excuse if they don’t win. Something I’ll call the “War Games Factor.” NXT Takeover: War Games is tonight, and they’ve got all these high-stakes matches at Survivor Series less than 24 hours later. I assume that’s why we don’t know who’ll represent the show in the two respective Survivor Series matches.

Still, the show isn’t without bright spots. Particularly when it comes to the main event. So let’s go ahead and dive in…

NXT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:
Adam Cole (c) vs. ?

At War Games, it’ll be Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dane vs. Damian Priest to decide who gets to challenge Cole. Another Triple-Threat Match. Because that’s what this weekend needed.

I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be Pete Dunne challenging Cole here. Of the three guys in that match, he’s the babyface. Cole vs. Dunne would also make for the best match. But either way, Cole has been on a roll as of late with that NXT Title. War Games or not, he’s not losing it here.

PREDICTION: Adam Cole

TRIPLE-THREAT TAG TEAM MATCH:
The Viking Raiders vs. The New Day vs. The Undisputed ERA

I’m well aware I’m not the first person to talk about this, but man oh man, they’ve just dropped Kofi’s push, haven’t they? It’s only been a month and change since he was utterly humiliated by Brock Lesnar on Smackdown‘s big Fox debut. And in response, he’s done nothing. It’s basically back to business as usual with the New Day. If you’d been out of the loop for awhile, you’d never known the whole “Kofimania” thing ever happened. What’s worse, now that Brock is on Raw, a continuation of any Brock/Kofi storyline seems pretty unlikely.

I’m going to go with the Viking Raiders on this one. Though apparently I want them to be the big dominant wrecking crew of the tag team division more than WWE does. But a big win like this would do them good. Plus, it’s logical. The War Games factor cancels out Fish and O’Reilly. And honestly, what else do the New Day have to gain at this point? Let Erik and Ivar have this one.

PREDICTION: The Viking Raiders

TRIPLE-THREAT SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Charlotte Flair, Natalya,the Kabuki Warriors, & Sarah Logan

vs.
Sasha Banks, Carmella, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, & Dana Brooke
vs.
Team NXT

Based on how the Raw and Smackdown teams stack up against each other, it’s seems obvious Charlotte’s team has the edge. It’s hard to bet against her, the Kabuki Warriors, and Natalya. The only weak link would seem to be Sarah Logan. But we haven’t seen her on a regular basis in so long that even that’s hard to tell. Frankly,the presence of not just Logan, but Dana Brooke, is an indication of how much recent injuries have effected the depth of the women’s division on both shows. Consider who’s out right now: Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Ruby Riott…is Liv Morgan injured? Where the hell has she been?

Either way, keeping in mind the War Games factor, I’m going with Team Raw.

PREDICTION: Team Raw

TRIPLE-THREAT SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre & Richochet
vs.
Roman Reigns, Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, Mustafa Ali, & Shorty G
vs. Team NXT

So he’s back to being Mustafa Ali now, I guess? Well, if Ali can get his first name back, can Shorty G go back to being Chad Gable? Please? Pretty please….?

I’ve got a gut feeling about Team NXT on this one, despite not knowing who’ll be on it. Looking at the War Games card, it wouldn’t shock me to see Matt Riddle out there, as he’s not in the cage anymore. Finn Balor is a possibility, though less likely given his “NXT has gone down the toilet” attitude. We might also look for the two men who aren’t challenging for the NXT Title. Given who I’ve predicted, that would leave us with Killian Dane and Damian Priest. Say, how’s Velveteen Dream feeling these days…?

All else fails, I suppose they could just throw Triple H in there. They did that a couple years ago.

PREDICTION: Team NXT

AJ Styles vs. Roderick Strong vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Now we’re talking, ladies and gentlemen. Given enough time and freedom, these three could easily steal the show. It might even help erase some of the bad memories from the Styles vs. Nakamura feud.

They could easily give this one to Styles or Strong. But I’m picking Nakamura, for no other reason than Smackdown needs a win on this show. It’s been a year, and I still can’t believe they got swept by Raw last year, and that there was no follow-up whatsoever. Plus, it’s a nice notch under Nakamura’s belt, especially as the Intercontinental Champion.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

This struck me as more or less a throw-together match to give Bray someone to wrestle. Not the worst choice, though. These two have some meaty history WWE can dip into if they want to get creative…which knowing these people, means we won’t hear about it at all.

The Fiend wins here. Because he must. Hopefully we get an interesting match, though. My only request? And I ain’t the only one saying it: No more red light. We didn’t need it at Summerslam. We don’t need it now.

Oddly enough, originally it was apparently it was originally supposed to be Miz challenging Bray, but the wrestlers getting stuck in Saudi Arabia after Crown Jewel meant they couldn’t shoot the appropriate angle. Could have worked, I suppose. But I think the general consensus is we’re better off with Bryan.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Bayley

Becky had a great line Wednesday about Bayley’s “old lady haircut.” For the record, I think it’s more of a soccer mom haircut. I think she went to the same stylist AJ Styles goes to.

Sadly, Bayley’s job in this match is to take the fall, most likely via tap-out. Becky vs. Shayna is a money match. Possibly even for Wrestlemania. So we get a little appetizer here before they eventually go one-on-one.

I say give Shayna the victory here. That way, there’s no doubt that she’s on the same level as the Raw and Smackdown champions. She can even start calling herself the “champion of champions,” or something like that, just to stick it to Becky.

This could, and should, be a career-defining moment for Shayna Baszler. Let’s see it!

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Rey Mysterio

I like this main event. Quite a bit, actually.

It doesn’t even need the title, really. The personal issue between Brock and Rey is enough. Brock beat up Rey’s son. Rey is here to avenge him. Simple. Easy to understand and relate to.

And that’s before you get into the size difference between the two. Rey proved he can knock Lesnar down to size when he’s got an equalizer in his hand. So this no-holds-barred stip is to his advantage, at least in theory. But then again, this is Brock Lesnar we’re talking about. The last thing you want to give him is more ways to maim you…

It’s no secret: Brock has better matches with smaller guys. AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, etc. Between that, and the tension between these two men, this could wind up being really good. Still, I think Brock wins in the end. That doesn’t mean Rey can’t get a rematch as soon as next month’s TLC pay per view. But Survivor Series belongs to Brock.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE Draft 2019 – Fox vs. USA Network…vs. TNT?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As we all know, WWE is holding a draft on Smackdown tomorrow night, for which I suspect the sole purpose is to beef up the star power on Team Blue. That network TV spotlight demands marquee talent, which I have no doubt WWE will provide.

I like the Fox vs. USA Network angle they’ve taken with this. While it’s obviously just hype, it makes the whole thing feel a little more real. This, as opposed to all the Raw vs. Smackdown “brand supremacy” talk we usually get.

Conspicuous by its absence among all the draft talk is NXT. That’s odd, considering there’s an actual battle for viewers happening between NXT on USA and All Elite Wrestling on TNT. Even if they’re not official draft picks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few main roster names pop up on Wednesday nights. I think NXT has a sufficient amount of star power. But if nothing else, a few moves would beef up the roster.

Presented below are my mock draft picks. Seven for each show. Some are rather obvious, and some aren’t. But let’s start with the most obvious one of all…

Brock Lesnar to Smackdown.
Brock is, of course, the new WWE Champion. If WWE really wants to draw eyes to Smackdown, they need their biggest marquee player on that show. Even on a part-time schedule, Brock Lesnar brings a lot of value to Smackdown. Even if they only have him wrestle on television a few times a year.

So who do you match Brock up with under the spotlight of network television? Cringeworthy as it seems, Roman Reigns is an obvious choice. There’s also a redemption story they can tell with Kofi Kingston. I’ve got a couple other ideas you’ll hear about as we move forward…

Shayna Baszler to Raw.
One thing I don’t see changing any time soon is Becky Lynch’s status as one of Raw‘s top stars. But since Wrestlemania, she’s been lacking strong villains to face. She found one in Sasha Banks. She can find another one in the ultra-dominant Shayna Baszler. Especially if they have even half the chemistry Becky had with Shayna’s pal Ronda Rousey.

There’s an obvious conflict here: Baszler is the NXT Women’s Champion. There are two ways they can handle that. She can compete on Raw with the belt, much like Kevin Owens did with the NXT Heavyweight Title. Hell, if they want to jump right into things, they can have her face Becky in a Raw vs. NXT match at Survivor Series. On the other hand, they can go the Asuka route, and have her surrender the championship unbeaten.

Dolph Ziggler to NXT.
Over the last few years, it’s been Dolph’s job to help NXT talents transition to either Raw or Smackdown. Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, and even his current tag partner Bobby Roode all started with Dolph in some form. It makes sense, as he can have a damn good match with practically anyone. But now that we’ve entered the “Wednesday Night Wars” era, it may be advantageous to have some of those matches on the black and gold brand. Ziggler vs. Johnny Gargano? Adam Cole? Matt Riddle? My interest is piqued. 

Sasha Banks to Smackdown.
Banks is undeniably one of the big trailblazers in the so-called “women’s evolution.” Thus, in introducing the product to a new audience, it’s to WWE’s advantage to move her front and center. It opens her up for feuds with her fellow NXT “Horsewomen” Charlotte Flair and Bayley, as well as less established names like Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose.

Asuka and Kairi Sane to Raw.
I don’t mind the Kabuki Warriors tag team as much as some people do. But it’s no secret that Asuka has been largely lost in the shuffle on Smackdown. And as she holds a tap-out victory over Becky Lynch, that’d be an easy  pairing. Not to mention a quality one. Also, main roster fans barely know Kairi Sane at all. So this could be a nice fresh start for her.

EC3 to NXT.
If you wanted to rank the various NXT personalities that have been wasted since their main roster call-ups, EC3 is near the top of that list. He never even got past the starting gate on Raw. So let him go back to NXT, get some actual TV time, then maybe consider moving him to Raw or Smackdown next year. Maybe.

The Revival to Smackdown.
Smackdown Tag Titles aside, the Revival’s alliance with Randy Orton has come off surprisingly natural. I’d opt to keep them together. Plus, on Raw Dash and Dawson essentially play the same roles as Gallows and Anderson: The no thrills, no BS bruiser team. Let them go to Smackdown and be the new centerpiece of the show’s tag team division.

Daniel Bryan to Raw.
I don’t know that Bryan necessarily needs to jump to Raw. It’s more a case of Raw needing him, what with so much marquee talent jumping to Smackdown. And whether he’s a heel or a babyface, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of seeing Bryan against the likes of Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Ricochet, and even Braun Strowman.

Natalya to NXT.
No matter what show Nattie goes to, she essentially always fills the same role. She’s the resident veteran. The “elder statesman,” even. She’s worked with just about everyone there is to work with on the main roster. She’s not likely to meet a lot of new dance partners, until they get called up from NXT.

So instead of waiting for the likes of Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair to come to her, why not go to them? As the AEW women’s division continues to take shape over on TNT, Natalya can be a valuable asset, not to mention a mentor, to the ladies of NXT.

Rey Mysterio to Smackdown.
Cain Velasquez notwithstanding, Brock Lesnar brutalized Rey Mysterio’s son on national television, and made him watch. There’s no way Rey can let that go unanswered. So as Smackdown ascends to it’s largest stage yet, I say
give us the ultimate David vs. Goliath match, as Rey challenges Brock for the WWE Championship. Want to add more fuel to the fire? Put Rey’s career on the line. That’s a Wrestlemania-caliber match right there.

Shinsuke Nakamura to Raw.
This move not only gets Nakamura on the same show as his new mouthpiece Sami Zayn, it gives him a new sandbox to play in. Nakamura has been on Smackdown since he was called up in 2017. Since we’re using Zayn to freshen up his presentation, let’s keep that trend going by giving the “Artist” a new canvas to work on.

Yes, Nakamura is the Intercontinental Champion. But that’s an easy thing to work around. Either have him take the IC Title to Raw and switch the US Title to someone on Smackdown, or have Nakamura drop the title while he’s still on Team Blue. Ali is an obvious candidate.

Apollo Crews to NXT.
Either they had no clue what they were doing with Apollo when they called him up several years back, or he simply wasn’t ready for the main roster, or both. Either way, they’ve tried various times to push this guy, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. The most success he found was in a tag team with Titus O’Neil. He recently went back to NXT for one night to wrestle Kushida. I say we send him back there full time, and see if we can find him a personality. Winning smile aside, I think it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned heel turn.

The Miz to Smackdown.
Miz is one of those guys that’s been there so long, there’s a spot for him no matter what show he wrestles on. But given how savvy he is with media appearances and what not, I figure WWE wants him on Fox. At least for a little while. 

But make no mistake about it, Miz needs another facelift. Something akin to Maryse joining him a few years ago. And if the rumors are true, he might just find one alongside an old friend… (Keep reading for more.)

Aleister Black to Raw.
It’s fitting that Aleister Black’s entrance makes him appear to rise from the dead, as he’s basically been a ghost these last several weeks. He’s done some great work since being called up, most notably an awesome match with Cesaro at Extreme Rules. But I get the sense they’re struggling with him creatively. So let’s get him over to Raw, where that extra hour of TV time will allow him more opportunities to be on television. I get the sense he’ll do better on a Paul Heyman-directed show.

The Ascension to NXT.
Honestly? What do Konnor and Victor have to lose at this point? It’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t simply cannon fodder for new teams on the main roster. But at one point, they were the most dominant tag team in NXT. Then they got called up and buried for…what? Getting too much heat? I never understood that. Either way, let them return to where they once thrived and see if they can get their mojo back. Like Tyler Breeze, their presence can harken back to the show’s early days, and educate fans about its history.

John Morrison to Smackdown.
Here’s one out of left field. Apparently John Morrison, a.k.a. Johnny Mundo, a.k.a. Johnny Impact, among other names I’m probably missing, has once again signed with WWE. And who can offer an easy bridge back in for him? His old tag team partner the Miz. I say we re-unite Miz and Morrison, if only for a little while, and let them challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Miz can help reintroduce the WWE audience to Morrison, as he wows fans with his unique in-ring style.

Elias to Raw.
Elias has a higher ceiling than a lot of us realize. Going to Smackdown was essentially a lateral move for him. But I don’t like that he’s been playing Shane McMahon’s lackey lately. His in-ring guitar segments are better suited Raw‘s three-hour format anyway. And by the way? Let him go babyface again. They cut that too short for my taste. 

Dana Brooke to NXT.
I’ve been calling for this move for years. Dana Brooke was called up way too soon, and that was in 2016. Since losing her role as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick, she’s been mostly lost in the mix. But there is something there with her. She’s got a great look, she can work the mic, and she’s improved in the ring. But, and note this is a recurring theme amongst NXT draft picks, she desperately needs a clean slate to re-establish herself, and gain some credibility. She’s not going to draw any viewers away from AEW. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be a viable player on the show. 

Cesaro to Smackdown.
If it’s true that Fox wants more of an athletic, sports-like presentation for Smackdown, you’re not going to find a better fit than Cesaro. It goes without saying that he’s one of the best pure athletes in the entire industry. If he has a few more classic matches with big name stars, he may finally be in a position to be a big name himself.

Buddy Murphy to Raw.
After toiling in obscurity for awhile, Buddy Murphy has finally started to establish himself on Smackdown. He’s had awesome matches with the likes of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Ali. But with this move to Fox, he’s going to be fighting for TV time with much bigger stars. Like Aleister Black, a move to Raw would mean a better chance of getting screen time.

Plus, Murphy got a plethora of intriguing opponents to work with on Monday nights. AJ Styles alone might be worth the jump. Consider the performances Styles has put on with guys like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. He can easily do the same with Murphy.

Bo Dallas to NXT.
One last “NXT OG” move. Because honestly, does Bo have anything better to do? Like so many others, he was called up to the main roster with seemingly no plan for him. Thus, he floundered. He stumbled on to tag team success with Curtis Axel. But at this point, B-Team act is dead and buried. So send him back to NXT and see if he can make us Bo-lieve again. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Bo once held the the same NXT Championship that’s synonymous with names like Adam Cole, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. It seems unlikely he’ll reach that pinnacle again. But stranger things have happened…

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

Posted in Wrestling

Wrestlemania Ponderings: The Man Comes Around…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what? This one actually turned out to be pretty good. Probably the best since Wrestlemania 31. As always, the show was too long. Once we got into the last few hours, I really started to feel it. Mind you, I didn’t even watch the pre-show. I went straight into the main card. But the show dragged a lot less than it usually does. They seemed to be trying to move things along fairly quickly. So at the very least, we can call that an improvement.

Let’s dive into the matches…

Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Universal Championship. These “impromptu” matches usually feel pretty forced to me. Especially when they have all the graphics and the music cued up. But if you put that aside, this was a really hot start. Certainly not what anyone expected to open the show. And it was consistent with most of Brock’s best matches in recent years: Hard hitting, quick, and to the point.

AJ Styles def. Randy Orton. This match definitely benefitted from the hot opener with Lesnar and Rollins. The crowd was still up and buzzing, especially in the early going.

That superplex from Orton to Styles was insane. They got half the rotation before they even started falling backward. A thing of beauty.

Not the finish I expected. Assuming Kofi would be winning the WWE Championship later in the evening, Orton would have made a great challenger for him straight out of the gate. Can’t say I’m offended, though. Even years later, I’m still amazed at just how much stock WWE has put into AJ Styles. He’s been a top guy almost from the start.

The Usos def. The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev, and Ricochet & Aleister Black to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.

Aleister Black’s entrance looked amazing in a Wrestlemania atmosphere. He came off like the biggest star in the match.

The announcers mentioned that Black and Richochet are the first team to have challenged for the Raw, NXT, and Smackdown Tag Team Titles in the span of a week. Mind you, that stat means a little less when you realize they didn’t win any of them…

Shane McMahon def. The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. So the idea here was that Shane attacking George Mizanin brought out this violent side of the Miz that we’ve never seen before. The problem I have with that is that from a story perspective is that, despite all the punishment Miz dished out, Shane kicked out of all of it. And yes, Miz hit a big move on Shane for the finale. But in the end he screwed it up, because it ultimately handed Shane the victory. So he doesn’t exactly come out looking awesome here. But maybe that’s part of the story going forward, with Miz feeling like he let his dad down…

The IIconics def. Sasha Banks & Bayley, Nia Jax & Tamina, and Beth Phoenix & Natalya to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. Never in a million years did I expect the IIconics to win here. Sasha and Bayley? Yes. Beth and Natalya? Sure. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay? Hell no. That’s not to say they don’t deserve it. But I was just happy to see them have a spot in this match. They’ve been so underutilized since coming up from NXT. They deserved this moment.

I’m a huge Hart family mark. But I’ve never bought the “Double Sharpshooter” spot. Even Bret never tried that.

Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Definitely the most emotionally charged match of the night. At least up to this point. That crowd desperately wanted Kofi to win the belt. Because they recognize that it’s real. It’s genuine. And what a moment for Kofi, his family, and the New Day.

My hat’s off to Daniel Bryan for helping make this happen. AMAZING counter to the double-stomp into the Boston Crab by Daniel Bryan, Never seen that before.

Samoa Joe def. Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE United States Championship. The buzz going into this match was that Rey had an ankle injury. So this was probably the best match he was capable of turning in. The upside? Hell of a dominant victory for Samoa Joe.

Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre. Crowd wise, this was a little bit of a dead match. The story was fine, and McIntyre is an amazing villain. But for whatever reason, this one just didn’t connect.

John Cena interrupts Elias with a “Thuganomics” throwback. Kinda cool to see retro John Cena out there. Throwin’ out some inside references to boot. As for Elias, working with Cena two years in a row ain’t the worse gig in the world.

Triple H def. Batista. It wasn’t until Hunter had the chain around Batista’s face that I noticed his nose ring was still in. And inevitably, you think, “Wouldn’t you try and rip that thing out?” Low and behold he whips out a pair of pliers. And that’s after he almost took a page out of Pete Dunne’s playbook with the fingers. Cool psychology from these two.

I don’t think anyone actually thought Batista was winning this one. Especially after the career-ending stipulation was added. Still, all things considered this turned out to be pretty damn good. Slow? Yes. Long? Yes. But still good, in the big picture. Batista looked great, considering he hasn’t wrestled in almost five years. I’d be open to seeing more from the big man, if he decides this isn’t his last match after all.

Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle. This match was about as good as it could be. Lots of people griped about Angle’s final opponent not being someone like John Cena or Samoa Joe. But this was never going to be a mat classic. I can’t say Corbin would have been my first choice either. But to me, this was more story-driven than wrestling-driven. In that sense, Corbin was a fine choice, and the right guy won.

Now, after getting a big victory like this, the big question is whether WWE can turn Corbin into a main event heel. It’s ironic that JBL was the one out there calling the match. Because Corbin has a lot of real heat that’s reminiscent of when JBL was WWE Champion in the early 2000s. At the time, people absolutely hated him. But in hindsight, he was one of the best heels they’ve created in the last 20 years. It’s just a question of whether Corbin has that in him.

Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was more or less what I thought it would be. A buffer match where the Demon gets a quick win. It’s actually kind of like what Balor did with Corbin at Summerslam.

Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to win the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. So…either they botched that finish, or they very carefully choreographed that so Ronda would come out of this match as strong as possible. Either way, it puts a bit of a damper on what otherwise would have been the match of the night. These three beat the hell out of each other. In line with what I said earlier, this was the best Wrestlemania main event since Lesnar and Reigns at 31.

NASTY fall off the ropes for Ronda after that dropkick from Becky. A little scary, actually.

I ain’t a mixed martial arts expert by any means. But to me a Double-Arm-Bar makes as little sense as a Double Sharpshooter.

Ronda with the line of the night: “Tables are for bitches!”

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