Tag Archives: Roman Reigns

A WWE Crown Jewel Preview – A Saudi Curse?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Why did they use this name again? Crown Jewel, that is. There was so much bad press over last year’s Crown Jewel event, what with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that they still can’t even say “Saudi Arabia” on television. They have to dance around it to avoid reminding people that’s where this show is being held, even though everyone knows anyway.

Sadly, these Saudi shows have become synonymous with embarrassing matches. Whether you’re talking about Undertaker vs. Goldberg earlier this year, or the Brothers of Destruction against DX last year, we’re not exactly looking at a great track record. Hopefully this one won’t give us anything along those lines. But from where I’m sitting, the card looks pretty weak.

By and large, wrestling fans either don’t like or don’t care about athletes from other sports getting in the ring. So you’ve got to make them care. They haven’t done that with either Cain Velasquez or Tyson Fury. Which is a damn shame, especially in Velasquez’s case.

More on that later, though. For now, let’s dive in…

Cesaro vs. Mansoor
Don’t remember who Mansoor is? Don’t worry. After this match, you probably won’t see much of him until the next Saudi show.

You’ll recall that at Super Show-Down earlier this year, Mansoor won a 51-man battle royal. He’s been mostly absent from WWE television ever since. But because he’s from Saudi Arabia, they plucked him out of the toy box to get a few home-country hero pops. Cesaro, of course, is here to make sure the match doesn’t suck. Of course, Mansoor gets the feel-good win for the Saudi crowd.

PREDICTION: Mansoor

20-Man Battle Royal:
Winner wrestles AJ Styles for the US Title later in the night.

It’s tough to call this one, as I don’t think a single name has been announced for this thing. I would hope they’d all be names from the Raw roster that are otherwise unoccupied. Given what we’ve seen on Raw recently, Kevin Owens comes to mind right away. But if I’m not mistaken, he’s historically opted out of these Saudi shows. So who else do we have…?

Buddy Murphy would be a cool name to throw in there. Newer faces to Raw, like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander, have benefited a lot from sharing the ring with him. They made a point of putting him over on Monday. I’m not quite sure if he’s supposed to be a heel or a babyface. But what the hell? Let’s throw him a bone. Give him the battle royal, with Styles retaining later in the evening. Murphy won’t win the title, but the exhaustion factor will mean the loss doesn’t really hurt him.

BATTLE ROYAL PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy
TITLE MATCH PREDICTION:
 AJ Styles

TAG TEAM TURMOIL MATCH:
The Viking Raiders vs. The Revival vs. The New Day vs. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler vs. The OC vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder vs. Heavy Machinery vs. the Lucha House Party vs. The B-Team

Hmmmm. You know what they could do here? Put the Authors of Pain in here as surprise entrants, and have them demolish whatever teams are left at that point. You’ve got to believe a Viking Raiders vs. AOP program is in our future.

Expect the New Day to play a big role in the story here. With Xavier Woods now out with an injury, along with Kofi Kingston’s humiliating loss to Brock Lesnar, they’re really down on their luck. So there’ll be that much more pressure on them to win this thing. I expect them to lose in a heel team in a heartbreaker.

As for who wins…I’m going to say the Viking Raiders. The whole “World Cup” aspect of this thing seems better suited for a heel team. But I can’t see them giving it to the Revival, the OC, or Roode and Ziggler. So let the Raw tag champs bring it home. For whatever it’s worth.

PREDICTION: The Viking Raiders

TEAM HOGAN vs. TEAM FLAIR:
Roman Reigns, Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G, & Ali vs. Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, & Bobby Lashley

My goodness. What an…assortment of names we have here.

Ultimately, this match is just a meaningless attraction. An excuse to put Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair on the show in non-wrestling roles.

Has Flair ever beaten Hogan? Not just in the ring. But anywhere. At anything. I don’t think so. Why change that now? Give it to the babyfaces.

PREDICTION: Team Hogan

FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Obviously, the putrid finish to their Hell in a Cell match left a stink on both these guys. So they’re probably hoping to wash some of that off here. I’ll admit, out of everything on this card, this match has the best chance to steal the show.

This whole program was ill-conceived from the start. They just wanted an excuse to use Bray’s spooky gimmick on an October pay per view. So they rushed him into a title match, in the Cell no less, and have been paying for it ever since.

If they were going to put the Fiend character in this situation, given his momentum and popularity, you’d think they’ have him win the title. The best comparison I can think of right now is Brock Lesnar facing the Rock for the WWE Championship in 2002. That was a career defining night for Brock. But imagine if they’d not only had Brock lose, but lose in two consecutive pay per view title matches.

I can only assume that’s the fate that awaits Bray Wyatt here. Because it’s Falls Count Anywhere, they can obviously mess with the finish, i.e. have Rollins trap him under a forklift, or some pallets or something. Regardless, Rollins is leaving Saudi Arabia with that title, if for no other reason than Bray is a Smackdown guy now. And just like at Hell in a Cell, that’s not going to do Rollins any favors in terms of popularity. This guy is supposed to be Raw’s top babyface. But he keeps getting shot in the foot, whether it’s bad booking or bad tweets.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

Who the hell is Tyson Fury?

Okay, he’s a boxer. I get it. But why should I care? Tyson Fury in 2019 is not Mike Tyson in 1998, that’s for damn sure.

Either way, they didn’t bring him in to lose. So he’s either going to beat Strowman, or they’ll do some kind of no-contest finish. Someone could cost Strowman the match, but I’m not sure who that would be…

Either way, the smart bet is they give the win to their “celebrity” guest, as they always do.

PREDICTION: Tyson Fury

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

This could have been, and perhaps still will be, a Wrestlemania match.

There’s a great long-term story they could tell with these two. I don’t know much about Cain Velasquez. But unlike Tyson Fury, I at least know why I should care. Not only is this the guy Brock lost the UFC Championship to, but Velasquez legitimately put a scar on Lesnar’s face. Now he’s come to WWE to derail Brock again.

As I understand it, Velasquez has only had a match or two, wrestling for AAA in Mexico. He apparently impressed people. But he has yet to impress the WWE audience. His working punches alone have caused concern about how this match is going to turn out.

Despite having reportedly signed a multi-year deal with WWE, I would be shocked if they put the title on Velasquez so quickly. I don’t think you want either of these two gaining a decisive victory over the other at this point. I don’t think this needs to be anything more than a preview for a future, higher profile match. Sadly, that likely means this will end in a DQ or a no contest. This won’t be a great show in terms of definitive finishes.

Regardless, Brock will leave Saudi Arabia with the title. So for the sake of making a prediction, I’ll say Lesnar retains.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

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

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WWE Clash of Champions 2019 Predictions, Plus, The Fiend vs. The Undertaker?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So what’s the “proper” way to make use of icons like Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker?

I ask because WWE had them both on television this week. Austin on Raw, ‘Taker on Smackdown. In Madison Square Garden, no less. They both interacted with the current roster, which is what you’d hope they’d do. Austin was in there with Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, and the OC. Undertaker, on the other hand, had a nice little segment with Sami Zayn. There was one name, however, that got zero screen time with the Rattlesnake or the Dead Man. A name that many were hoping to see.

That would be Bray Wyatt. Specifically as “the Fiend.” Given his attacks on the likes of Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and Jerry Lawler, it seemed like a gift-wrapped opportunity to make Austin or Undertaker the next in line.

To their credit, they went out of their way to have Bray talk about Austin in a Firefly Funhouse segment on Raw. Wyatt said that his previous victims took something from him in the past, and “practically invoked the Fiend.” But Austin was “just an old rattlesnake.” I’m not sure I follow his logic there. Bray was on Raw while Angle was the GM, so you can assume he feels Angle wronged him in some way. But what did Foley and Lawler ever do to Bray Wyatt?

But hey, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. The sane can’t very well follow the thought process of the insane, can they? But you know who definitely took something from Bray Wyatt? The Undertaker. And he did it in front of the world, at Wrestlemania 31. Then he did it again at Survivor Series in November, when ‘Taker and Kane beat the Wyatt Family in a Handicap Match.

Did the Fiend need to attack Undertaker on Smackdown? No, of course not. Bray has as much momentum now as he ever has. More than anyone in the entire company, for that matter. But not everyone gets to put their hands on the Undertaker. And unlike with Austin, a confrontation between Bray Wyatt and the Undertaker can lead to a match at some point.

To me? What that adds up to is a missed opportunity.

Now, let’s look at Clash of Champions

Roman Reigns vs. Erick Rowan

This one’s not for a title. That’s how I justify putting it first. Come at me.

Unless a drastic swerve is in our future, this is obviously all leading to a big Reigns vs. Bryan match. Bryan and Rowan have been in on this together from the start, which we may learn during or after this match.

In terms of revealing Bryan as the mastermind behind the attacks on Roman, it really doesn’t matter who wins here. But despite the little push he’s gotten lately, I can’t see Roman Reigns losing a pay per view match to Erick Rowan. So I’m going with “the Big Dog” on this one.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Lince Dorado vs. Humberto Carrillo

I confess, I’m more or less flying blind on this one. I haven’t seen much of 205 Live lately. And with all due respect, I suspect I’m not in the minority there…

So I know there’s a personal issue between Gran Metalik and Humberto Carrillo. Carrillo seems to be the one they’re grooming as the babyface star of the Cruiserweight Division. Meanwhile, Gulak, while certainly a credible champion, is simply the one with the belt.

I imagine they’re going to want to change a few belts on this show simply based on its theme. So I’m going to pull a wild card here and pick Lince Dorado to win. In addition to the stuff with Carrillo, they can create an issue with the other members of Lucha House Party if Dorado starts acting more like a heel.

PREDICTION: Lince Dorado

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (c) vs. Fire and Desire

Given what Sasha Banks has said about the Women’s Tag Team Titles since she returned, it makes all the sense in the world for the winner of this match to wind up facing Sasha and Bayley down the road. Especially if this show goes the way I think it’s going to.

That being said, as Sasha and Bayley are heels, it seems unlikely that Mandy and Sonya would be the ones to face them. That leaves Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Apparently, by virtue of her association with Nikki, Alexa is now a babyface. But don’t expect that to last…

Here’s what I see happening: Bliss and Cross retain here. That leads to a title match against Sasha and Bayley, who seek to hold all the female championships in WWE. The outcome of that match can lead to a rift between Alexa and Nikki, and the inevitable feud between the two.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Big E. and Xavier Woods (c) vs. The Revival

Since the implementation of the “Wild Card Rule,” Raw wrestlers have been able to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. It has yet to be explained what happens if a wrestler from one show wins a title from the other. If we know this company at all, it’s because they haven’t thought that far ahead yet. But if I get my way, we’ll at least see the situation arise as a result of this match.

I like this Randy Orton/Revival alliance. It makes sense, in that Orton fits with Dash and Dawson’s “No Flips, Just Fists” mentality. I’d like to see them stay together. Winning the Smackdown Tag Titles could result in them being moved to that show permanently. But more importantly, the New Day have long since obtained “Been There, Done That” status regarding tag titles of any kind. What more could they possibly have to prove? They’re six-time tag champs, and are the longest reigning Raw Tag Team Champions of all time. This just feels like old hat at this point. So lets put the titles on the Revival and see how they do against, say…Heavy Machinery?

PREDICTION: The Revival

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. The Miz

Once again, a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown Title. Though this time, we don’t need to worry about a title change.

Yes, there’s a built-in story here with Miz wanting to set the record for most IC Title reigns. But I don’t see him taking it from Nakamura, who after being lost in the shuffle for far too long, may finally have a winning act with Sami Zayn as his mouthpiece. That’s not to say Zayn has to help Nakamura win. I think a clean win for the champion is perfectly fine here. The simple fact is, Miz has lost a lot of momentum since his program with Shane McMahon, and he has yet to fully recover. Going heel, which has always been the role he’s best in, might just be the way to turn things around for him.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Cedric Alexander

AJ Styles never did wind up dropping the US Title back to Ricochet. That’s a downer for yours truly, as I think Ricochet was a fine US Champ, albeit for the mere few weeks he had it. But of course, it’s hard to complain about Styles being a champion of any kind. And that brings us here, and to Cedric Alexander.

On paper, Ricochet and Alexander aren’t all that different. They’re both high-flying standouts from other shows now trying to establish credibility on the main roster. (I don’t consider 205 Live a main roster show. Just my opinion.) Ricochet would lose the belt to Styles, but ultimately come out of their encounters looking like a star capable of holding his own as a singles star on Raw. They’re now trying to paint Cedric with those same colors. But does that mean he has to beat AJ?

For my money, the answer is no. At least not yet. This, I think, is the match where they put on a great show, but ultimately Gallows and Anderson run in to either cause a DQ, or cost Cedric the match. While Cedric is an amazing athlete and wrestler, I’m still not sold on how much mainstream star power he actually has. Maybe some more mic time will help in that respect. Either way, Styles keeps the belt here.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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

Alright. They did it. They actually did it. They pulled the trigger on a Bayley heel turn. And a pretty good one, for my money. At least so far. The outcome of this match will be telling in that respect.

Charlotte Flair can win the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championship on any given night. While I don’t think the detractors who compare her to Roman Reigns are being fair, that is one that’s justified. Both have simply reached that status. But I think if they want to keep hammering this Bayley heel turn, which they should, she needs to win the match by cheating. Thus, Bayley becomes the moralistic, yet hypocritical champion. That’s a really interesting role for her, and I think a very natural segue from the “hugger” character she played before.

PREDICTION: Bayley

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

Great heroes aren’t truly great until they’ve beaten great villains. We hear some version of that all the time. Superman needs Lex Luthor and Brainiac. Batman needs the Joker and Two-Face. Stone Cold needed Mr. McMahon and the Rock. The problem that’s plagued Becky Lynch since Wrestlemania is that she hasn’t had any many (if any) great villains to work with. Yes, she and Charlotte were great together. But that was short-term. Lacey Evans wasn’t established enough to fit that bill. They tried hard with Natalya. But that didn’t work either.

But things were different once Sasha Banks came back. Now, for the first time since Wrestlemania, it feels like Becky has found a truly worthy opponent.

I’ve let my distaste for Sasha Banks be known for quite awhile now. She’s an amazing wrestler, but she’s always come off like an entitled brat. Part of the problem, I think, is that she’s been miscast as a babyface for so long. This woman is simply a natural heel. While she may idolize Eddie Guerrero, from a personality standpoint, she’s more akin to a Ric Flair or a Ted DiBiase. Or for a more modern example, an MJF or CM Punk. She’s simply better on the dark side. It’s amazing that she hasn’t had the chance to play one on the main roster until now.

Ultimately, I think she’s Becky’s next big rival. And that’s why the time has come for “the Man” to drop the title. By hook or by crook (preferably by crook), Sasha Banks walks out of Clash of Champions with the Raw Women’s Title. And with Bayley in possession of the Smackdown Title, the two can go after the Women’s Tag Titles and hold all the gold. The so-called Boss n Hug Connection could very well become the Boss n Hug Dynasty.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Randy Orton

The outcome of this match largely depends on whether they want to take this to Hell in a Cell next month. Given their decade-long history, I’d say Kofi and Orton are worthy of the cage. The only question is whether Kofi enters as champion.

I say we let Kofi keep the title. Have the Revival and the other New Day members mess around at ringside, leading to a questionable finish. Ergo, we go to the cage next month to keep all the interference out. They can even have Randy talk about all the horrible things he’s done to people inside the Cell, specifically Jeff Hardy last year.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman (c) vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

I like this story. You’ve got the Universal Champion and his challenger as the reluctant tag champs, having to defend both titles on the same night. And as far as I can remember, they’re correct to market it as something that has never been done before.

Supposedly, the reason it’s Roode and Ziggler challenging is because Paul Heyman, the legit Executive Director of Raw, is a fan of Roode’s. I’ve got no issue with that. Roode’s a hell of a talent. And Ziggler once again has the task of helping somebody get over.

There’s an argument to be made for letting Rollins and Strowman retain here. It keeps both strong for the Universal Title Match later on. But of course, it’s most likely an easy way to get the belts off them. Some sort of distraction or miscommunication causes Rollins to take the Glorious DDT from Roode, and get pinned. Not only does that put the belts on Roode and Ziggler, but that allows Roode to say he pinned the Universal Champion. Not a bad night for him at all…

PREDICTION: Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Braun Strowman

While I like the story being told here, the pairing of Rollins and Strowman is somewhat baffling. Because it likely means Braun Strowman has to lose a high profile title match yet again. And even if he wins, he likely drops it next month at Hell in a Cell anyway. So why put him with Rollins in the first place?

Unless they go with some kind of disputed finish here, or maybe a DQ, I can only assume Seth Rollins somehow wins. Perhaps the Fiend makes his presence felt during the match, which distracts his former Wyatt Family brother Braun, allowing Seth to get the victory? Either way, I don’t see Rollins leaving Clash without the belt.

Unfortunately, that takes him into the waiting arms of Bray Wyatt at Hell in a Cell next month…

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

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

WWE Extreme Rules Predictions – Peeking Back in

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a reason I haven’t written about wrestling in awhile. Simply put, the WWE product sucks right now. It’s largely sucked since Wrestlemania. I almost posted something awhile back entitled, “Lapsed WWE Fan Confessions: Why I Finally Tuned Out.” Because I had tuned out. I’d check the websites, and listen to a podcast or two. But as far as watching Raw and Smackdown every week? After more than two decades, I was done.

Why? Yeesh. How much time do you have? Among various other elements, we have…

– Uninspired writing, for characters that have become largely flat and boring, resulting in stories that are largely flat and boring.

– The continued over-scripting of promos and segments, resulting in something that, over time, bears less and less resemblance to the world we live in, and more like it’s own “WWE Universe.”

– The “Wild Card Rule,” which allows select wrestlers from Raw to appear on Smackdown each week, and vice versa. Raw wrestlers are allowed to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. Thus, everything is watered down, and the rules of engagement are blurred. What’s more, the two tag titles, two women’s titles, two world titles, etc, are even more redundant than they were before.

But the recent news that WWE has hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to serve as “Executive Directors” of Raw and Smackdown respectively, piqued my interest. While neither man supposedly has the level of control he will have (Bischoff apparently hasn’t even started yet), I was curious enough to get me to check things out again. While I can’t say I’m in love with what I see, my creative juices are flowing a little bit more.

So let’s take a look at what’s on tap for Extreme Rules this weekend…

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese

I was happy to see Tony Nese get the spotlight during Wrestlemania season. He’s obviously got the talent and the look, if not necessarily the charisma, of a champion. Still, Drew Gulak is just as deserving, if not a little more. He’s successfully transitioned from a comedic character doing powerpoint presentations to a credible and dangerous shooter champion. As he just won it at the last pay per view, I don’t see any reason to take the title off him now. Let’s let him have a little bit of a run and see what develops.

PREDICTION: Drew Gulak

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

I don’t know if you’ll find a better first opponent for Aleister Black (or anyone, for that matter) than Cesaro. So from a wrestling standpoint, I’m expecting great things here. But from a story perspective? This whole thing has been pretty hokey, with the whole “knocking on the door” thing. The split-screen segment between these two on Smackdown was almost cringe-worthy. Hopefully what they give us between the ropes can make us forget that.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Revival (c) vs. The Usos

When I last saw the Revival, they were losing the Raw tag belts to Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder on the Wrestlemania pre-show. Apparently, absolutely nothing was done with them as champions, so the belts simply went back to Dash and Dawson.

For all the talk there’s been about the Revival leaving WWE once their contracts expire, at least WWE has started showing them a little respect. They’re the champions again. So I say we just let them have the lengthy reign everybody seems to want them to have. Supposedly, the reason the Street Profits have been on Raw lately is because Heyman really likes their work. So in my little head, they’re the team that eventually get the rub from Dash and Dawson.

PREDICTION: The Revival

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. Big E. and Xavier Woods vs. Heavy Machinery

I’m really liking Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan (or rather, just Rowan) as tag champs. That’s one of the reasons I hate the Wild Card Rule so much. If both sets of tag champs can appear on either show, then what exactly are Bryan and Rowan the champions of?

The New Day have little to no use for tag team gold at this point, and it’s too soon to put the belts on Heavy Machinery. So Bryan and Rowan get the win by process of elimination. But also because they’re the best team for this spot right now.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan and Rowan

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

So here we have Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, two Raw wrestlers, wrestling for the Smackdown Women’s Title. So if they win…do they go to Smackdown? For that matter, if Nikki scores the fall, does that mean Alexa wins the title? How does this work?

In the end, I think we’re going to find out. I do indeed see this match ending with Nikki pinning Bayley. Whether she wins the title, or more likely, Alexa gets it, that advances their story enough to lead to a match between the two. Most likely at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley

Lashley needs Lio Rush. Seriously, he does. Rush was the perfect mouthpiece for him. Don’t send Rush to 205 Live, don’t send him back to NXT. Put him back with Lashley on Raw. That’s where he belongs.

I dug the whole set crash/explosion angle. But more importantly, I dug the way they followed it up. Both the wrestlers and the announcers took it seriously. And this is the kind of thing I don’t mind them mentioning across different “brands,” a la Smackdown and 205 Live.

As he’s meant to be a dominant giant, I’m of the mindset that Braun Strowman losses should be few and far between. That’s why he’s my pick to win. But because Strowman doesn’t have to be pinned to lose here, a Lashley victory wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’d be that much more effective with Lio Rush, backing him up, but still…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles

So here we have the rubber match. Ricochet defending against the now heel AJ Styles, who once again has Gallows and Anderson backing him up.

To give some credibility back to the Club, who apparently just signed new deals, I see them costing Ricochet the title. Naturally, that leads to a rematch of some kind at Summerslam, where Ricochet wins the title back. But for now, the belt leaves with AJ.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe

I love the good guy/bad guy dynamic between Kofi and Joe. So in that sense, this is a great pairing. What’s not so great is that we have yet another instance of a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown title. So again, what happens if Joe wins?

He won’t, though. As great as Joe is, and he is great, he’s always a groomsman and never a groom when it comes to these title matches. He’s the best pure heel WWE has right now, and maybe even the best promo. For whatever reason, it just never seems like the right time. Such is the case here as well. Granted, if they wanted to extend this thing until Summerslam, Joe might be able to take it there. But here? On this show? No. Kofi Kingston’s got the belt at least until Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

EXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL AND RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Seth Rollins (c) and Becky Lynch (c) vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans
Winners take all.

I actually like the winners-take-all stipulation for this match. Now that we’ve established Rollins and Lynch as an on-screen couple, it’s a nice tool for drama. Though I’m not sure it’s one they’ve been able to play up to it’s full potential. The audience is still getting used to this pairing. So to tease friction or tension between the two of them so early is awkward.

Like many others, I’d say it’s taking place about a month too late. Corbin and Evans have failed to win these titles individually on multiple occasions. So now we’re supposed to believe they can do it in a tag match?

Rollins and Lynch keep their belts here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a “Dusty finish” here, i.e. make it seem like Corbin and Lynch have won, but then re-start the match and have the champions retain. The ensuing Twitter explosion alone would be worth it.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre

You know what’s weird? They’ve hardly played up the Undertaker’s match with Roman at Wrestlemania 33. Granted, from a wrestling standpoint that’s a match ‘Taker probably wants us to forget. But it was the main event of a Wrestlemania, and Reigns has been calling WWE “my yard” ever since. From a storyline perspective, he took ‘Taker’s spot and temporarily retired him. You’re telling me there’s no tension between them? At all?

My hope is that this match finally puts an end to the Roman/Shane stuff, and potentially paves the way for the Undertaker to put Drew McIntyre over at Summerslam. With any luck, the bells and whistles in this match, and a decent performance next month can wash the foul taste of that Undertaker/Goldberg match out of everybody’s mouth.

I say Shane takes a Tombstone and the pinfall, prompting McIntyre to come out the next night and say ‘Taker never beat him. Ergo, the Summerslam match. As for Roman, next month seems like as good a time as any for a “brother vs. brother” match with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

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

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!”

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

Top 10 Raw Moments of 2018: Stone Cold, John Cena, Becky Lynch, and more!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Raw sucks. Not just from the fans, either. Last week, the McMahons themselves had to come out and, in so many words, admit their creative failures of late. For all this talk about “shaking up” the show, it seems like very little is actually going to change. Which is a damn shame, as the show desperately needs a revamp. Like, this sucker needs major renovations from the top down.

But as we’re taking time to look back on 2018, it’s only fair that we pay tribute to the things Raw got right. One of their buzzwords is “Raw moments,” i.e. moments or matches on the show that fans continue to look back on with fondness, awe, sadness, or whatever emotion it happened to evoke. Stone Cold and the beer truck, Eric Bischoff’s debut, that game-changing CM Punk promo, etc. The moments that made us love Raw in the first place, and are the reason we stick with it, despite all the frustrations and disappointments.

And so, with the disclaimer that these are all based on my personal opinion and viewing experiences, these are my top 10 Raw moments of 2018, in chronological order.

A few honorable mentions..
– January 29: Asuka vs. Sasha Banks.
– July 30: Brock Lesnar puts his hands on Paul Heyman.
– August 6: Ronda Rousey’s first match on Raw.

1. January 22: Austin’s got McMahon!
Raw 25 kicked off old school. Shane and Stephanie McMahon came to the ring to present a plaque to their father. What followed was classic Vince, as he proceeded to heel on the Brooklyn crowd, and then take all the credit for Raw‘s success. The crowd even broke out in an “Asshole!” chant, just like old times.

Then the glass shattered, and the crowd erupted as Stone Cold Steve Austin emerged. In a skit that included Vince throwing Shane to the wolves, Stone Cold Stunners to both McMahon men, and the throwing back of a few Steveweisers, suddenly Raw was great again. Just listen to that crowd. While I wish Austin would have gotten on the mic, in the end this segment was exactly what it needed to be: A quick nostalgia trip. It was also a reminder that even in his 70s, Vince can still deliver gold on the mic.

2. February 19: Seth Rollins steals the show in a Gauntlet Match.
This match featured all seven of the men who’d be involved in the Elimination Chamber Match to decide Brock Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent. We had John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, and Elias. Strowman would be the eventual winner. But the man everyone was talking about after this match was Seth Rollins.

Entering at the number two spot, Rollins wrestled for over an hour and five minutes, pinning both Roman Reigns and John Cena in the process. That’s a stellar accomplishment in and of itself, on par with Chris Jericho pinning Steve Austin and The Rock in one night back in 2001. By this point, Rollins had noticeably cooled off as a babyface. But this match was the catalyst for his reemergence as a contender for the top spot on Raw, if not the entire company.

Rollins didn’t get his shot at Lesnar in 2018, but this year might be a different story…

3. February 26: “Ladies and gentlemen, Braun Strowman!”
WWE loves to try their hand at comedy. Emphasis on the word “try.” While certain performers have natural comedic timing and abilities, most of WWE’s attempts at humor feel lame, forced and awkward.

But once in awhile, you get one out of left field that inexplicably works. The Vince McMahon “Are you ready for some wrestling?” skit, that first Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skit, and now this. Braun Strowman coming out and strumming a bass on stage to make fun of Elias. And to make matters worse/better, mere seconds in, the instrument breaks. So Braun has to go on without it. For what it’s worth, the big guy’s voice isn’t so bad.

To cap it all off, the ensuing beatdown ended with Strowman lifting the bass up by the neck, and smashing it over Elias’ back. For yours truly, this segment embodied almost everything there is to love about Braun Strowman. It gave us his charisma, along with the brute strength and violence that he allows us to live vicariously through. This is the guy who could have headlined Wrestlemania.

4. March 19: The Ultimate Deletion.
This was the moment we’d been waiting for since the Hardys returned to WWE. A lawsuit with Anthem, the parent company of Impact Wrestling, had prevented Matt Hardy from using his “Broken” persona for most of 2017. But late in the year, we were introduced to “Woken” Matt Hardy, i.e. Broken Matt with one letter swapped out. He feuded with Bray Wyatt, culminating in this match, the “Ultimate Deletion.”

Akin to the other “Deletion” matches we saw on Impact, the match had a more cinematic, campy presentation. Most of the trademarks of the Broken universe were there. It took place at the Hardy compound. Matt’s wife and son made appearances, as did his real-life father-in-law, “Senor Benjamin.” Jeff Hardy also made a cameo. Hardy would win by sending Wyatt into the “lake of reincarnation.” Wyatt would not emerge again until the Wrestlemania pre-show, where he helped Hardy win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

The Ultimate Deletion belongs on this list because, like the Broken/Woken universe itself, it dared to be different. It was also great validation for Matt. Not just because of the Anthem lawsuit, but because WWE once tried to do their own version of this match. You’ll recall the time the New Day visited the “Wyatt Family compound.” The results looked a lot like what the Hardys were doing on Impact at the time. We haven’t seen a match like this on Raw since, and we may never see one again. But it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

5. John Cena’s scathing promos on the Undertaker.
Undertaker no-showing the build-up to Wrestlemania 34 was extremely frustrating at the time. But in hindsight, it was the right way to go. Cena’s desperate, angry attempts to bring the Dead Man back made for great drama. The highlights of which included…

– “…stop hiding behind your lame excuses. You are not too old. You are not washed up. You are not broken down, ’cause if you was broken down, you wouldn’t be posting workout videos on your wife’s Instagram.”
– “You are not the god that [the fans] made you. You are the man you’ve allowed yourself to become. And that man, Undertaker, is a coward. The Undertaker is a coward.”
– “Hey Undertaker. It’s obvious that you left your hat in the ring. But it’s clear to everybody here that you left your balls at home.”

Then the match went two minutes, with Undertaker going over. I interpreted that as being because, in storyline, Undertaker surprised Cena. That’s why I think these two have unfinished business, and should go another round at Wrestlemania this year.

6. April 9: Paige announces her retirement.
Calling this one of Raw’s best moments feels a little weird. Obviously, if I had my way Paige would still be wrestling. But I have to tip my hat to the pure honesty, emotion, and bravery exhibited by Paige here.

Many of us were expecting this. The previous November, Paige had returned after a lengthy absence that included neck surgery. But just over a month after her return, Paige suffered another neck injury, forcing her to stay out of the ring. So the word “retirement” was being thrown around by fans online.

Still, it’s never easy to hear confirmation like this. Paige spoke very eloquently, and the crowd showered her with “Thank you Paige!” chants. But while retired, Paige wasn’t gone long at all. She showed up the very next night as the new general manager of Smackdown.

7. April 30: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Seth Rollins was Raw‘s resident artist this year. If you look at the best matches in this show in 2018, he’s the one constant in most of them. He turned in epic performances with Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, among others.

But in many ways, this was the best TV match Rollins turned in all year. It earned 4.25 stars from Dave Meltzer, was for the Intercontinental Title, and the two men had a loaded history together. They were, of course, wrestling to become the first Universal Champion when Rollins injured Balor, forcing him to give up his newly won title.

Champion and challenger gave us a combination endurance/chess match. It was a collection of counters, dodges, kicks, and kick-outs from big moves in a prolonged game of “Can you top this?” Rollins would ultimately pin Balor using the Curb Stomp. Both these men can easily slip back into the Universal Title picture in 2019, and this match is one of the many pieces of evidence we have.

8. October 22: Roman Reigns announces he has leukemia, Dean Ambrose turns on Seth Rollins.
We got two shockers on this show. One was a storyline. The other was very, very real.

I had no idea Roman Reigns had ever battled leukemia, or any kind of cancer. So when he walked out at the top of the show and announced he was relinquishing the Universal Title because his leukemia had returned, I was floored. I think we all were. To their credit, the fans in Providence, many of whom had been booing Reigns when he came out, immediately switched gears. On his way out, Roman got the support that some would say he’s deserved all along.

Naturally, emotions were running high when Roman’s Shield brothers, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, challenged for the Raw Tag Team Titles in the main event that night. Which made what happened next all the more explosive…

After winning the titles, Dean Ambrose made his long-awaited heel turn, nailing Rollins with the DDT. The fans watched in stunned silence as he continued to destroy his partner. Ambrose had unraveled, and the Shield was no more.

9. November 5: Drew McIntyre destroys Kurt Angle.
This was Angle’s first match on Raw in over a decade. To his credit, it was memorable. Just not for the reason we thought it would be.

In a battle to decide whether Angle would captain the Raw Men’s team at Survivor Series, the Olympic Gold Medalist and WWE Hall of Famer put up a fight, even catching McIntyre with the Angle Slam. But in the end, McIntyre was simply too much. The “Scottish Psychopath” would hit an Angle Slam of his own, and later end the match by tapping Angle out with his trademark Ankle Lock. The match will no doubt go down as one of the definitive performances of McIntyre’s current WWE run.

What makes this a little bit more special is that supposedly this was Kurt Angle’s idea, at least partially. The two had worked together in Impact, and Angle wanted to put McIntyre over for the WWE audience. It’d call the attempt successful, wouldn’t you?

10. November 12: Becky Lynch invades.
Yes, technically it was the entire Smackdown women’s roster that invaded. But the part everyone remembers is Becky, blood on her face, standing victorious in the crowd.

This is an angle that’s been done time and time again. Wrestlers from Smackdown invading Raw, or Raw invading Smackdown, or whatever it is. But a wild punch changed everything.

It started out strong, with the camera rushing into the locker room to find Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey in Becky Lynch’s Disarm-Her. Lynch would then go to the ring to confront the Raw Women’s Survivor Series team. Lynch’s Smackdown cohorts would then ambush from the crowd. In the ensuing battle, Nia Jax would punch Becky in the face, breaking her nose and concussing her. WWE would later simply call it a “broken face.”

But the then-Smackdown Women’s Champion would find victory even in injury. The ensuing footage of Becky fighting with blood on her face only rallied fans to her cause. She had to bow out of a match against Rousey at Survivor Series. But this angle may very well have opened the door for her to be one of the first women to headline Wrestlemania. So all in all, I’d say things worked out for her…

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

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What we have here is a bit of a tradition here at PI.

It started as a take-off of something Barbara Walters used to do. She’d choose and profile the 10 “most fascinating people” of the year. I’ve borrowed that concept several times over the years, and the lists can be found in our archives.

(For your convenience: 2012. 2013. 2015. 2016. 2017.)

So once again, we’re back. On this year’s list, we’ve got a UFC Hall of Famer turned WWE Champion, a heroic underdog turned monster heel, a new hot babyface taking the company by storm, among several others…

1. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey was always going to be a marquee player for WWE. That was blatantly obvious from the get-go. And why wouldn’t she be? But realistically, Ronda could have put in half the effort she does, and made less than half the appearances, and still gotten by. She could have coasted on her name, a few suplexes, and some armbars. She could have taken many would consider to be the Brock Lesnar path.

Instead, Rousey has consistently over-delivered. Whether it was her debut match at Wrestlemania, her match with Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series, or even her title bout with Nia Jax at TLC, this has unquestionably been the best-case scenario.

Rousey has her critics, who would have you believe she doesn’t deserve the spot she has. While so much of wrestling is relative based on one’s personal taste, many of those critics need to be reminded that much of the so-called “Women’s Evolution” can be attributed to Rousey’s success in the UFC. If she doesn’t become the box office draw that she does, WWE has no reason to revamp its own women’s division. Without Rousey, women like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Asuka wouldn’t have the chance to headline pay per views or steal the show at Wrestlemania.

What’s more, Rousey may be about to knock down yet another door. It’s looking more and more like she’ll be part of the first women’s match to headline the show of shows…

2. Daniel Bryan
This is Bryan’s third time on the list, and it’s not hard to see why. His performances spark a ton of emotion, and fans definitely ran the emotional gambit with him this year. In March, we were thrilled to hear he was cleared to return to the ring after more than two years in a WWE-imposed retirement. The move raises a number of questions regarding other wrestlers thought to be permanently retired due to injury. Among those names is Paige, who thanked Bryan in her retirement speech, adding “…you give me hope.”

Bryan made his emotional and genuinely inspirational return to the ring at Wrestlemania. For several months, Bryan was once again one of the company’s most popular acts. Then, less than a week before Survivor Series, Bryan shocked the world by winning back the WWE Championship, turning heel on AJ Styles in the process.

Since then, Bryan has condemned fans for their consumerism, and lack of regard for the environment. In one of the year’s most talked about promos, he promised to replace the leather strap on the WWE Title belt. He’s literally gone from one of the company’s top babyfaces, to perhaps its top heel. At this rate, it’s likely he’ll once again find himself back in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania this year.

3. Asuka
Asuka is also returning to this list, having made it last year. The “Empress of Tomorrow” started her 2018 at the highest of highs. Since arriving on Raw in October 2017, she’d kept her fabled undefeated streak alive. She would go on to win the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble Match, earning a title match at Wrestlemania. She would face Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a match that, for my money, stole the damn show.

But that’s where her luck began to change. Flair shocked the world when she ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. A strange move in hindsight, as she’d simply drop the title to Carmella. The same Carmella that would later defeat Asuka in back-to-back pay per views. Mere months beforehand, it had been unthinkable that Asuka could lose to anyone. She’d beaten the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. But suddenly, here she was losing title matches to Carmella, and subsequently being mired in mediocrity, forming an alliance with Naomi. The two would lose to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay at Super Show-Down.

And yet, Asuka’s popularity has endured. Apparently, that’s what prompted Vince McMahon to add her to the Smackdown Women’s Title Match at TLC. Now, Asuka can add Smackdown Women’s Champion, and winner of the first Women’s TLC Match to her resume. It’s like the last 10 months never even happened…

So at last, Asuka has made it to the top. It didn’t happen the way any of us thought it would. But she is there. Now it’s just a question of whether she can stay at the top, or she’ll be lost in the shuffle again. One way or another, we’ll get our answer in 2019.

4. Shawn Michaels
It’s tough to remember HBK coming out of retirement, isn’t it? As big a deal as it is, it was drowned out by all the controversy surrounding WWE Crown Jewel. Not to mention the announcement that Roman Reigns would be stepping away to fight leukemia.

But indeed, Degeneration X reunited in Saudi Arabia to face the Brothers of Destruction. While many cried that Triple H, the Undertaker, and Kane showed their age out there, even after eight years away Shawn still managed to look pretty damn good. And while Shawn himself indicated he’d be going right back into retirement, there’s been plenty of speculation about “Mr. Wrestlemania” making yet another appearance at the show of shows. Another Undertaker match seems like the obvious route. But Shawn has no shortage of other options. I myself floated six of them.

In hindsight, I still wish Shawn hadn’t done this match. I really wanted him to be the one guy that stayed true to his word. But what’s done is done.

5. Tegan Nox
This one hurt. Like, it really hurt. You just wanted to reach through the screen and comfort this poor woman. She’d already been through hell, and now she was going to have to do it all over again.

Tegan Nox, whose real name is Steffanie Newell, was supposed to be in the first Mae Young Classic. But a torn ACL kept her out of the ring. For this year’s tournament, they were telling that story with her. In fact, she was one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Then, mere seconds into her second-round match against Rhea Ripley, her other knee goes out. We later learned she’d torn that ACL as well. It was a legitimately heartbreaking moment for not only Newell, but everyone watching.

The only upside in all of this? We seem to be on the road to yet another redemption story for this character. In the aftermath of all this, Rhea Ripley, who has gone on to become the NXT UK Women’s Champion, started a war of words with Nox on Twitter. So assuming Nox will indeed be back in the ring, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her wearing that title in 2019.

So get well soon, Miss Newell. Great things are waiting for you.

6. Johnny Gargano
As cliche as it is, I’ve got to go with the classic Harvey Dent quote from The Dark Knight on this one: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Former tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have put on some of the best matches in all of wrestling this year. But the feud has transformed Gargano, arguably one of the last old school babyfaces in the business, into a man consumed with destroying Ciampa. So when Ciampa wrestled Aleister Black for the NXT Championship in July, Gargano attempted to interfere and cost him the match. It ended up backfiring, as Gargano hit Black with the belt, and essentially handed the title to Ciampa.

A Triple-Threat Match was made for the championship at NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV, but a mysterious attack took Black out of the match. Gargano failed to win the title, at it was later revealed the he was the one who attacked the former champion. Naturally, a feud ignited between the two, culminating in a steel cage match this past week on NXT, which Ciampa would help Gargano win. This has lead to rampant speculation that this blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa has ultimately led them to team up all over again.

This slow journey of Johnny Gargano’s, from victim, to heroic avenger, to fallen hero consumed by revenge, to villain, is a textbook example of pro wrestling done right. Deep, emotional stories, told through amazing in-ring action.

7. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose was absent for much of 2018, healing from a torn triceps. But when he returned in August, he was once again part of the Shield. But seeds of dissension were quickly planted by rivals Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. We all sensed a turn was coming. But there was no way we could have predicted what actually happened…

Mere hours after Roman Reigns announced he was stepping away from the ring to fight leukemia, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins successfully challenged McIntyre and Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Titles. With emotions still running high after the Reigns announcement, Ambrose shocked Rollins with a DDT, and then a brutal beatdown. While many would cry foul over the timing, for my money it was ultimately one of the best things WWE did all year. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do: It sucked us in. Got us invested in the characters and their stories. It sparked raw emotion in the audience.

However, WWE’s handling of Ambrose since the turn has been hit-or-miss. While I actually like the new Bane-inspired gas mask look, Vince McMahon’s influence on some of his promos has been quite evident. He’s talked about how the fans smell, how they’re all lazy and unmotivated, etc. Very little with any emotional weight to it.

Still, Ambrose is an awesome performer. Given the right material and the right opportunities, he’s as capable of delivering the goods as anyone. And they have a potentially hot storyline practically gift-wrapped for them, as Ambrose’s real-life wife Renee Young is sitting there on commentary every week. She might just be the ticket to him becoming the vile, despicable heel we all know he can be.

8. Drew McIntyre
Daniel Bryan may have had the comeback of the year, but Drew McIntyre had an epic comeback story of his own. McIntyre reinvented himself after being released by WWE in 2014. He found success in Impact Wrestling, Evolve, and PWG. When he returned to WWE via NXT in 2017, he was almost unrecognizable.

When McIntyre finally returned to the main roster this past April, he formed an unlikely alliance on Raw with Dolph Ziggler. The pair would ultimately up each other’s game, and be a dominant force on the show for most of the year. McIntyre would prove to be one of the show’s most consistent performers, both in the ring and on the mic.

Now a solo act again, the “Scottish Psychopath” will almost certainly challenge for the Universal Championship in 2019. McIntyre’s near five-year journey from the bottom of the wrestling may culminate with him standing at the very top. Frankly, it would be foolish to bet against him at this point.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is back on this list this year, but unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons. He and Asuka were very much on parallel journeys this year. They each won their respective Royal Rumble Matches, but failed to win gold at Wrestlemania. While Asuka failed to win the Smackdown Women’s Title from Carmella on two different occasions, Nakamura was unable to take the WWE Title from AJ Styles several times before finally dropping out of contention. He found a little bit of new life as a heel, and won the US Title from Jeff Hardy as a consolation prize. But his run has been fairly unremarkable, highlighted by a losing effort against Seth Rollins at Survivor Series. And while I won’t spoil this week’s Smackdown, the odds of Nakamura walking into 2019 with the belt are slim to none…

It would be easy to blame Nakamura’s failure as a main-eventer on WWE creative. The guy didn’t book himself to lose, after all. WWE also didn’t seem to know how to convey his unique persona, other than simply calling him “the Artist.” Losing multiple title matches to Jinder Mahal in 2017 didn’t help either.

But at the end of the day, Nakamura simply didn’t connect with mainstream American audiences well enough to justify the push he got. Yes, he’s a bona fide legend in Japan. Yes, he did very well in NXT. But on Raw and Smackdown you’re catering to the casuals and the average joes. And while we saw flashes of Nakamura’s greatness, over the long haul we never really got a good reason to invest in him emotionally, be it as a heel or a babyface. You can’t chalk all of that up to creative. Much of it, in fact, a majority of it, is about what happens in when the cameras are rolling.

Supposedly, Nakamura’s contract is up next month. If I’m in his shoes, I’m headed back to Japan. Because I’m at something of a loss as to how you build him back up at this point.

10. Becky Lynch
Up until recently, Becky Lynch was “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” While her talent, charisma, and likability have been apparent almost from the start, WWE always seemed reluctant to fully get behind her. She was the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT to never win the NXT Women’s Title. While she did indeed become the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only held the belt for two months. She more or less became a second-tier babyface afterward. This, despite fans clamoring to see her in a more prominent role.

We got our wish. Now, Becky Lynch may very well be the most popular wrestler in all of WWE.

Many of us, myself included, balked when Becky turned heel at Summerslam. But in hindsight, it gave her the creative freedom to become the defiant badass she is now. She’s often compared to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that’s not entirely unjustified. Fans feel she’s been overlooked, and now they’re rooting for her to conquer the system that’s held her back for so long. Even when she was injured by Nia Jax and pulled out of a match against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, the fans stood behind her, every bit as outraged as she was. Now, she may be in a position to make history by headlining Wrestlemania with Rousey.

For more than a decade now, we’ve been in the era of forced babyfaces. Wrestlers we’re told we should cheer for, rather than heroes who earn those cheers organically. John Cena and Roman Reigns are both extremely talented, and great at what they do. But for most of their careers they’ve been going against the grain in terms of fan reception.

Becky Lynch is the exact opposite. No one told us to cheer for her. If anything, it’s been the exact opposite. But like Daniel Bryan before her, she’s started an uprising from the audience. And such uprisings should never be ignored, lest the main event of Wrestlemania be drowned out by chants of “Becky! Becky! Becky!”

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

TLC is Over…Now Who’s Going to Win the Royal Rumble?!?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

With TLC in the books, it’s now officially time to look ahead to the Royal Rumble. Or in our case, the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.

Strictly speaking, a Royal Rumble Match victory isn’t what it used to be. Looking at the winners of the last 10 Royal Rumbles, only three have gone on to win a Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania.

Still, winning it is still a hell of an accomplishment. And as they love to say every year, the road to Wrestlemania does indeed begin at the Royal Rumble. So until that fateful night in Phoenix, the pressing question shall remain: Who’s walking away with that precious golden ticket to the show of shows?

On the men’s side of things, I’ve got five names running through my head. The smart bet is that the winner is on this list…

1. Seth Rollins
The obvious choice. Rollins has been verbally jabbing Brock Lesnar for awhile now, and there’s a pretty damn good chance Lesnar walks into Wrestlemania as the Universal Champion. Having dropped the Intercontinental Title at TLC, Rollins is now free to once again set his eyes on the big red belt. A belt he’s never won, by the way. He’s also never won a Rumble Match. So they’ve got a chance to brave a new frontier in the coming weeks. And if there’s one thing WWE desperately needs right now, it’s that aura of freshness. Perhaps what they need to do is look at the status quo…and burn it down.

See what I did there?

2. AJ Styles
With Daniel Bryan now firmly on the heel side of things, AJ Styles has a firm grip on Smackdown‘s top babyface spot. So it makes sense for him to be in this conversation. He’s now had his championship rematch with Bryan. So the Rumble Match may be his quickest way back to the title picture. Based on the match these two had at TLC, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again at a Wrestlemania level. But rumor has it Styles is looking to trim his schedule down in 2019. Chances are, that means he’s not getting the title. That doesn’t mean he can’t win the Rumble, of course. But having already been WWE Champion for a year, it might be time to move on to someone else.

But who?

3. The Miz
Obviously, Miz has been paired off with Shane McMahon lately. So the more likely path seems to be a Miz vs. Shane match at Wrestlemania. That’s not a bad spot to be in, all things considered. But early in the year, there was a good amount of buzz about Miz once again becoming WWE Champion. It wasn’t unjustified, either. Look at how much he’s upped his game in the last few years.

Miz does his best work as a heel. If nothing else, he’s proven that. If you need evidence, look to his ill-conceived babyface run a few years ago. But the fan respect factor has increased quite a bit since then. A Miz/Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania match seemed likely for several months. If WWE wanted to somehow use Shane to steer Miz’s character in a different direction, we might just get it after all.

4. Drew McIntyre
I was blown away when McIntyre lost to Finn Balor at TLC. It was odd enough that he lost to Dolph Ziggler a few weeks back. Now he’s losing a pay per view match to Balor? Very strange.

Still, McIntyre has been one of the few brights spots in a series of really, really dim and grim Raw broadcasts. His ascension to the top seems inevitable at this point, and the Royal Rumble is the perfect time to start. While it seems more likely that he would go on to challenge a newly crowned Braun Strowman for the title at Wrestlemania, let’s not rule out a possibly Brock vs. Drew match. In that scenario, I’d cast drew as the babyface. I don’t know that it would take much to get fans to cheer McIntyre. Especially if they put him against Brock.

5. The Rock
And now, a word from way out in left field.

This one requires you to buy into the rumor that up until recently, WWE was courting The Rock for a match with Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. Hypothetically, he’d have entered the Rumble Match, won it, and challenged Reigns for the Universal Title. Rock vs. Roman has been a dream match, at least in WWE’s eyes, for years now. But obviously, plans have changed.

But you know what else would be a dream match of sorts? Rock vs. Brock. It would have exponentially more drawing power than Brock vs. Rollins, or Brock against anyone on the current roster, for that matter. We’d also get to see Rock go back and forth with Paul Heyman on the mic, which is by no means a bad scenario.

Of course, you’d once again run into the issue of a part-timer being in the title picture. Though you really can’t even count Rock as a part-timer. He’s more of a celebrity guest star than anything else. Plugging Rock in would be a good short-term solution to draw up interest. But that does absolutely no favors for guys like Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman.

It was a long shot to begin with. But we’ve seen them pull wild moves on the way to Wrestlemania. Stranger things have happened.

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