Tag Archives: Royal Rumble match

A WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview – Who’s Going to Wrestlemania?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Everybody comes back for the Rumble.

Well, maybe not everybody. But a lot of fans who are turned off by whatever crap WWE starts shoveling at us after Survivor Series, will inevitably check in for the Royal Rumble. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan, it’s ingrained in you. We’re trained to anticipate the Royal Rumble. Specifically, the Royal Rumble Match.

This show could be damn good, all things considered. It’ll be at Chase Field, which could potentially make for a magical vibe. We’ve also got a hot card, including what many consider to be a pair of dream matches. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor and Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks.

So let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

If it hadn’t been relegated to the pre-show, then this could easily have opened the Rumble. It’s got great car-crash potential. It also gives the challengers a well-deserved chance to shine on a big stage. Particularly Hideo Itami. The days of KENTA seem so very long ago…

Since Mustafa Ali is now getting a push on Smackdown, that throws a monkey wrench into my predictions for the Cruiserweight Title at Wrestlemania. Now it’s anybody’s ball game. A match like this presents a good opportunity to take the belt off Murphy without actually pinning him, which makes me think we’re getting a title switch.

With that in mind, I’ll go with Itami on this one. He seems like the best choice out of the three challengers. Also, I’d be curious to see when his current deal is up. With the big All Elite Wrestling announcement, he might be someone they want to keep happy if there’s a risk of losing him to a budding competitor.

PREDICTION: Hideo Itami

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Last year, Nakamura wins the Rumble Match. This year, he’s on the pre-show. If that’s not a statement for how his big push went, I don’t know what is.

That’s really all I’ve got for this one. While I can certainly appreciate two immigrants wrestling for the United States Title in these turbulent times, Nakamura essentially spun his wheels with that belt. Here’s hoping he can find his footing again this year. In the meantime, I see no reason why Rusev should drop it back to him.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz

Aw hell, why not? Put the belts on Shane and Miz. It beats putting the Bar against the Usos and the New Day over and over again. Plus, this is obviously a means to an end. They put the titles on Shane and Miz so they can lose them, break up, and have a Wrestlemania match.

Also, giving the titles to Shane and Miz gives a less established team a great opportunity to take them via a screwjob finish. Heavy Machinery, perhaps? Maybe even SAnitY?

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and The Miz

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

This is the match that threw a monkey wrench into a lot of Royal Rumble predictions, mine included. Common sense seemed to indicate that Becky Lynch would enter and win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and go on to challenge Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania, possibly with Charlotte Flair in there to make it a three-way. But then they went ahead and put Becky in this match. A match that, creatively speaking, it doesn’t make much sense for her to win. Unless they want to move Ronda over to Smackdown as Becky’s challenger. Come to think of it, that might be easier than somehow moving both Becky and Charlotte over to Raw

Granted, being in this match doesn’t mean she can’t compete in the Rumble later in the night. It’s certainly been done before on the men’s side of things. But this match has fans guessing, and all things considered, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It would be a shame to see Asuka lose here, as they just got her back on track. But assuming she is indeed about to headline Wrestlemania, Becky doesn’t need to eat a pinfall either. So I can only assume this match ends with some kind of screwball finish. Maybe Charlotte comes out with a kendo stick and starts beating on people. Either way, I’m thinking this one ends in a disqualification and Asuka goes home with the belt. Where that leaves her at Wrestlemania is anybody’s guess. But I imagine she’ll be walking in with the title.

PREDICTION: Asuka

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

This one could go either way. Ever since Bryan got that WWE Championship back, it feels like the Smackdown title picture for Wrestlemania has been anybody’s ball game. There’s no reason AJ Styles can’t win it back, and walk into New Jersey as champion.

But somehow, I just don’t see it. With this new character, it feels like Daniel Bryan’s time. There’s a certain poetic quality to the idea of Bryan walking in with the WWE Championship five years after his big moment at Wrestlemania XXX. So one way or another, I think Bryan keeps the title. It’s just a question of who he defends against…

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

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

It feels like Ronda Rousey is a lot bigger than Sasha Banks, doesn’t it? Physically, I mean. But she really isn’t. Ronda is 5’7, Sasha is 5’5. Ronda supposedly weighs 134, Sasha weighs 117. So while Ronda is indeed larger, I don’t necessarily expect her to chuck Sasha around like a rag doll.

That’s not to say Sasha won’t fly. I expect we’ll see her take more than a few wicked bumps in this match. For better or worse, they’ve become a trademark of hers. One way or another, she’ll pull out all the stops for this one. I don’t know if we should call this one of the biggest matches of her career. But it’s definitely the biggest one she’s had since all those wars with Charlotte.

My opinion about Ronda losing before Wrestlemania has not changed: It ain’t gonna happen. Mind you, it would be a lot of fun to see Sasha pull off a surprise win, possibly due to interference from Becky or Charlotte, and defend against Bayley at Wrestlemania. But in the end, I really think Ronda wins here.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor

They pulled a fast one on us here. For whatever reason, Braun Strowman is out and Finn Balor is in. Hell, I ain’t complainin’. This is a match people have wanted to see for a long time. And like Brock’s matches with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, I expect it will deliver.

But as it was with the Styles and Bryan matches, the outcome isn’t in doubt here. Brock wins. Still, this is a valuable opportunity for Balor. Since he came back after forfeiting the Universal Title, he’s been struggling to earn himself a full-time spot in that upper echelon of talent. He can use this match to take a giant step forward in that regard. This one should be good.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2019 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

Please, for the love of God, keep Stephanie McMahon off commentary this year. They actually put the Women’s Rumble Match from last year on YouTube, but I couldn’t force to sit through an hour of her piss poor attempt at announcing. Just put Michael Cole or Tom Phillips with Renee Young and Beth Phoenix.

I count 23 announced participants in this match so far. If you count Trish Stratus and Lita, who will likely be unannounced entries, that brings it to 25. I’m sure we’ll see a few women from NXT and NXT UK. Maybe an entry or two from the Mae Young Classic. And of course, let’s not forget about Becky Lynch. She’s a prime candidate for the number 30 spot.

One woman who deserves to win, but almost certainly won’t? Ember Moon. I wanted them to put her over in the Battle Royal at Evolution. But alas, her number simply hasn’t been called yet. But one day it will. And then she’ll show the world just how damn good she can be. Ruby Riott is in that same boat. With or without the Riott Squad, she’s capable of an amazing performance at a show like Wrestlemania.

As much as I think we’d all love to see Becky enter and win this match, in making my prediction I have to assume that’s not what’s going to happen.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

2019 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

One of the caveats going into this match is that John Cena may not be in it anymore. Something about an ankle injury. Maybe it’s a work, maybe it’s not. Kinda sucks, but it’s not like he was winning it anyway.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bray Wyatt pop up in this match. He’s been gone long enough that he’d qualify as a surprise entrant. Especially if he’s somehow the “new and improved” Bray Wyatt, with a freshened up look or something. Also, while he’s not listed as a participant, it would be a shame to leave EC3 out of this thing. A good performance in a Rumble Match would give him some nice momentum.

Interestingly enough, news broke this week that Abyss and Sonjay Dutt have left Impact Wrestling for WWE. While it doesn’t seem like he’s signing on to be a full-time wrestler, could the “Monster” of TNA wrestling wind up with a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble Match? Sure. Why not? If AJ Styles can do it, Abyss can.

About a month ago I speculated about the winner of this year’s Rumble, as people do. The names I gave were Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, the Miz, Drew McIntyre, and the Rock. Out of those five men, only Rollins and McIntyre are actually in the match. Granted, Styles and Miz could end up in it, just like Becky could on the women’s end. But Rollins and McIntyre are apropos, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were among the last four men in this match. Maybe the two of them, EC3, and…Rey Mysterio? Andrade? God forbid, Randy Orton?

In the end, Rollins is my pick. I would have loved for it to be Braun Strowman. But between the heel turn after Summerslam, and his frequent losses to Brock Lesnar, he’s simply not the guy right now. That doesn’t mean Strowman can’t wind up in the Rumble Match. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty likely he will be. But for my money, Lesnar vs. Rollins is the match.

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.

Wrestling Headlines: CM Punk in Court, Enzo’s “Consensual Penis,” and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I actually thought this was going to be a slow news week. Turns out, not so much.

The Dr. Chris Amann/CM Punk/Colt Cabana case goes to trial. Like so many others who heard it, I was enthralled by the now infamous CM Punk/Colt Cabana podcast on Punk’s departure from WWE. So all these years later, it’s fascinating to see the fallout involving WWE’s Dr. Chris Amann. I’ve been following the coverage on WrestleZone.

Amann was treating Punk in the months prior to his WWE departure, and is suing for defamation. The real-life Phil Brooks said Amann misdiagnosed a staph infection, which lead to months of suffering. Amann refutes the accusation, and is seeking $1 million in damages.

WWE officials and personalities such as Kane, referee John Cone, and WWE’s Senior Director of Talent Relations Mark Carrano all testified via recording about Punk’s participation in the 2014 Royal Rumble Match the night before he walked out. It’s incredibly surreal to read their recollections, as they use all this pro wrestling jargon in a legal setting. Kane mentioned eliminating Punk from the Rumble “illegally.” Carrano described Punk after the Rumble as “one angry superstar.” It’s so weird…

In a bit of bizarre hilarity, the jury actually had to watch footage of Punk being eliminate by Kane in the 2014 Royal Rumble, which took place the night before his famous walk-out. When the judge said he didn’t know who Kane was, someone reportedly told him: “The big guy without a shirt on.”

Also, it’s now on record that the “CM” in CM Punk stands for “Chick Magnet.” So that’s a thing now, I guess…

Meanwhile, Punk’s next UFC fight is on June 9. It should be interesting to say the least.

The former Enzo Amore releases a rap video, calling himself Real1. Enzo isn’t exactly Jay-Z, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of what I’m seeing here. But this video does have over a million views. So he’s got that going for him…

Silly imagery aside, he’s rapping about a very real situation. Earlier this year the real-life Eric Arndt was the subject of a rape investigation, and ultimately fired by WWE for not cluing them in on it. The investigation was ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence.

I hope to God I’m never in the position this guy was in. But if I am, I probably wont release any kind of public statement, rap or otherwise, that talks about “gripping my consensual penis.” It’s also probably not a good idea to alienate wrestling fans, many of whom were chanting “We want Enzo!” at Big Cass not long ago.

But hey, that’s just me.

John Cena says the Velveteen Dream might be “something special.” Cena was at MegaCon in Orlando this week, and someone asked him a question about facing wrestlers from NXT. While he also mentioned EC3 by name, the one he really put over was the Velveteen Dream.

“You know how in the Star Wars movies the old Jedis can look at the rookie Jedis and be like, ‘I think that’s the one,’” Cena said. “I kinda have a weird, odd Midichlorian feeling about Velveteen Dream. I think there’s something special there.”

That’s a hell of an endorsement for the real-life Patrick Clark Jr. But if you’ve seen the guy, you know it’s not exactly unfounded. I highly recommend his match with Aleister Black from NXT TakeOver: War Games.

Sasha Banks wins Women’s Gauntlet Match to take final spot in Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. This match didn’t do much for me, mostly because the quick eliminations of Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand wanting to give the women a spotlight like this. But if you’ve got younger ones on the roster that can’t hang in a match like this, keep them out! Morgan and Logan could have stayed on the outside and helped Ruby Riott beat Bayley, Mickie James, and Dana Brooke, only to have Sasha overcome the odds at the end.

Ruby ended up being the star here. She’s obviously a good hand in the ring. But she also has such a unique look, and can cut a decent promo. They obviously thought enough of her to give her a group named after her. I’ve got high hopes.

Samoa Joe def. Daniel Bryan and Big Cass to take the last spot in the Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. So Cass wasn’t really hurt? Or at least he’s well enough to keep wrestling? Good. In terms of being a singles star, he doesn’t quite have it yet. But he might get there. Working with guys like Bryan and Joe certainly won’t hurt him.

Cedric Alexander def. Buddy Murphy to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. I haven’t had a chance to watch a lot of 205 Live lately. But I heard some good buzz about this Cedric Alexander/Buddy Murphy match. Damn, I forgot how good 205 Live has become. Not being on Raw every week has also done Cedric a lot of good. He still comes off pretty bland. But he’s athletic as hell. And the development of Buddy Murphy as a character has been a pleasant surprise. This one’s worth checking out, folks.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Greatest Royal Rumble Preview – Expectations Defied

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So uh…yeah. This is happening.

I think we all initially thought this Greatest Royal Rumble show Saudia Arabia was essentially going to be like the show in India last December. Newsworthy, but nothing too wild. Just some nice international PR for WWE.

Low and behold, we’ve got the biggest Royal Rumble Match ever, matches to decide the placement of secondary titles, an AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura rematch, and what could very well be Brock Lesnar’s last WWE outing for a very long time. Consider my expectations defied.

So let’s dive in, here. There’s no shortage of meat to this thing.

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The Usos

Harper and Rowan just reached the top of the mountain at Wrestlemania. It seems unlikely that they’d lose the belts so soon after winning them. So I’m going with the Bludgeon Brothers here.

Kind of interesting the way Naomi got factored into the angle with these four on Smackdown. Makes me wonder if the Bludgeon Brothers might get an honorary Bludgeon Sister at some point.

PREDICTION: The Bludgeon Brothers

MATCH FOR VACANT WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Bar vs. Deleter of Worlds

“Deleter of Worlds.” That’s going to take some time to get used to.

Word surfaced this week that WWE is regrets moving Sheamus and Cesaro to Smackdown, and having them win the belts here could serve as an excuse to get them back on Raw. I don’t know that I buy that. I think that’s something somebody leaked to cast some doubt over what seems like an obvious finish: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt getting the belts. But I think you go with that finish regardless of where Sheamus and Cesaro are. Bray has needed to be freshened up for quite awhile now. This Woken stuff hasn’t necessarily revitalized him. But it’s a nice change of pace. So why not further the story? If Bray is indeed going to turn on Matt later, throwing the belts in adds another dimension to things.

PREDICTION: Deleter of Worlds

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

They supposedly changed the ending to Wrestlemania to accommodate this big Saudi Arabia show. Based on the card in front of us, I’m thinking they changed the US and Intercontinental Title pictures for the same reason.

Jeff Hardy doesn’t need the United States Title. But I’m thinking they gave it to him on the way to Smackdown to raise the stakes for this match. Now you’ve got both Raw and Smackdown guys wrestling for secondary championships on this show, so there’s reasonable doubt over who’s walking out with gold.

Based on how Jinder has been booked since moving to Raw, I’m thinking he gets the belt back. Then they can have he and Kurt Angle do the heel champion vs. babyface general manager story. It seems like Vince is still pretty high on Jinder. So I don’t imagine he’ll fall from prominence any time soon.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

LADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe

So if the US Title is going back to Raw, then the Intercontinental Title has to go to Smackdown. That means either Miz or Samoa Joe have to come out on top here.

And if those are your choices, then you may as well have it be Miz. I had originally wanted him to go to Smackdown to get away from the IC Title. But given the situation they’re in, and the fact that he’s so closely associated with it anyway, it makes sense to give it back to him. It gives him something to gloat about.

PREDICTION: The Miz

Triple H vs. John Cena

While this is a cool attraction for the fans in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t really matter who wins this one. It could easily go either way. I’ll call it for Cena, as it’s likely we’ll see him in the ring again before Triple H.

PREDICTION: John Cena

CASKET MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Rusev

There was a decent amount of hoopla over Rusev getting pulled from this match, only to be put back in later. While he’ll end up losing regardless, I can understand it. We don’t know how many matches the Undertaker has left in him. So getting this spot means something.

Undertaker didn’t have to do much against John Cena at Wrestlemania, and I can’t imagine they’d ask him to do much more here. I’m hoping he goes a little longer this time, though. I’d be happy with five minutes.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

In hindsight, we should be grateful they didn’t go with Styles and Nakamura in the main event of Wrestlemania. I won’t discount the performance they put in, but the crowd just wasn’t invested. And given the length of the show, and everything they’d already seen at that point, it’s tough to blame them. On the upside, Nakamura’s heel turn was a pleasant surprise. He’s looking good as a villain so far.

I don’t see them putting the title on him yet, though. Too early in his heel run. My big hope here is that they improve on their Wrestlemania performance.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

STEEL CAGE MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

The general belief is the change to the Lesnar/Reigns Wrestlemania match was made that day. They swerved us then. They could very well swerve us again here. I don’t see it, though. I think Roman walks out of this one with the belt. The fans in Saudi Arabia are indeed more likely to give him a positive reaction when he wins. Plus, it’s a cage match. Lesnar doesn’t necessarily have to be pinned to lose the title. Thus, if they end up using Brock again in the near future, that can be a gripe.

A decent number of fans are anxious to see the belt come off Brock Lesnar because of his limited schedule. I’m not one of them. I think they’ve got a great thing with him. While I don’t doubt he’ll be back someday, I’ll be sad if this is his last match for awhile.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

50-MAN ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

I’m curious to see how this match turns out. They had 40 guys in the 2011 Royal Rumble Match, and that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Now we’ve got even more, and there’s really nothing on the line. Just a trophy and some bragging rights.

Still, you’ve got to believe the person who wins this match will get something. A title match at Backlash, perhaps?

They made sure to stack the deck for this sucker. Rey Mysterio Jr is back again, as is Chris Jericho. Kurt Angle is also putting the boots back on. If I’m not mistaken, this will be the Big Show’s first in-ring outing since the cage match with Braun Strowman. Shane McMahon got pulled into this too. Plus, I’m sure they’ve got a few surprises up for us. Kofi Kingston will inevitably have to come up with yet another Rumble Match spot.

I see a babyface taking this one home and ending the show on a positive note. So who has the most to gain from winning this thing? I almost feel like they should just give it to Daniel Bryan to make up for Rumbles past. It’s not like he’s gotten less popular in the years since. But I’m guessing he gets tossed out by Big Cass. If Mysterio is indeed coming back, a win for him would make sense. But would his ownership stake in this new Aro Lucha promotion dissuade them from doing that?

To me, the name that makes the most sense is Braun Strowman. The guy is about as hot as anybody they have right now, and this would only help him in that respect. I can picture him coming in late and just tossing bodies over the top rope, and eliminating a big heel to finally win it. Or maybe have him dump Big Show. That ending has been done to death, but it would get a reaction.

Either way, somebody in Saudi Arabia is gonna to get those hands…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Ronda Rousey’s WWE Debut, Plus Ponderings From the Royal Rumble and Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“The landscape has changed.” That’s one of their go-to lines, isn’t it? Whenever something supposedly big happens, somebody has to say: “The landscape has changed.” It doesn’t really make sense, does it?

But last night the landscape did change, didn’t it? At least as far as women’s wrestling is concerned. Ronda Rousey is apparently now a full-time performer with WWE. What exactly “full-time” means for her has yet to be determined. Somehow I doubt she’ll be making all the house shows. She may end up being the female equivalent to Brock Lesnar. But one way or another, this is happening. Ronda Rousey is a professional wrestler.

People can say what they want about how Rousey last few fights went. But this woman is a legit superstar, and a true trailblazer in the world of women’s sports. Would the so-called “women’s revolution” in WWE have even occurred if not for what Rousey did in the world of MMA? The answer is no. What’s more, she’s a legit wrestling fan. This is apparently a legit passion project for her. Look no further than what she was wearing when she showed up after the Women’s Royal Rumble Match last night. A clear homage to Rowdy Roddy Piper, whose nickname she adopted in the UFC as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. That leather jacket legitimately belonged to Piper.

I always hesitate to use words like “legitimacy” or “credibility” when it comes to pro wrestling. This stuff is worked. It’s not the same as what Rousey did in the UFC, and it never will be. But a superstar like Rousey choosing to devote the next chapter of her career to WWE lends the business an amazing level of credibility. It’s a message to the world at large about what wrestling is and what it means to our popular culture. It’s also a hell of a shot in the arm for women’s wrestling overall.

We may be in the midst of a women’s revolution. But Ronda Rousey is about to start a revolution of her own.

Ponderings From Raw (with some added from the Royal Rumble):

Shinsuke Nakamura wins the 2018 Royal Rumble Match, challenges AJ Styles for Wrestlemania. Simply put, this was the best Royal Rumble Match in years. And not just because the right guy won. The Philadelphia crowd was hot, and they milked the drama so perfectly during those last several minutes. It’s been a long time since a wrestling match has actually made me nervous. But when we were down to Nakamura, Reigns, Cena, and Balor, my heart was in my throat.

What’s more, they’re giving us a match truly worthy of Wrestlemania: Shinsuke Nakamura against AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Depending on how much time they have, these two could make magic. This was the career moment Nakamura needed, and the smart bet is he’ll have yet another one at Wrestlemania.

Rey Mysterio Jr. returns to WWE as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match.  As I type this, the YouTube clip of Ronda Rousey’s appearance has almost two million views. The clip of Rey’s return? Almost five million. That should tell WWE all they need to know about whether to bring him back. Supposedly they want him to work a full-time schedule and he’s not up for it. I can’t say I blame him. The last time we saw him in WWE he looked tired and beat up. He’s earned the right to some breathing room.

Stephanie McMahon brings out Women’s Royal Rumble winner Asuka at the top of the show. An Elimination Chamber Match for the Raw Women’s Title is made for the upcoming pay per view. Sasha Banks challenges Asuka to a match, which is made for later in the night. When Asuka started speaking in Japanese, I wondered if they needed to give her a translator. But I’d say she got her message across just fine…

The Women’s Royal Rumble Match itself worked out fairly well. The right woman won, obviously. And despite my general distaste for Sasha Banks, I give her a world of credit for being out there as long as she was. Ditto for Becky Lynch.

However, the match did suffer for featuring several women who were either relatively inexperienced, hadn’t wrestled in a long time, or weren’t necessarily qualified to be wrestlers in the first place. While former stars like Trish Stratus and Beth Phoenix looked outstanding, I could have easily done without Vickie Guerrero, Kelly Kelly, and Torrie Wilson (despite the pop she got). The biggest problem this match had was its need for bodies. They were filling space for the sake of filling space. It’s forgivable this year. But next year they need to do better.

Jonathan Coachman rejoins the Raw announce team full-time. Given Coach’s experience with ESPN, this was a nice get for WWE. I appreciate that he’s in an analyst role, as opposed a lead announcer. He’ll certainly do better than Booker T, whose commentary had long since gone off the deep end.

At least it’s not David Otunga.

Braun Strowman overturns part of the Raw stage on to Kane during a Last Man Standing Match to earn a spot in the upcoming Elimination Chamber Match. At this point, Braun is essentially WWE’s answer to the Hulk. Every week he performs some kind of superhuman feat of strength, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. That’s not a bad role to have. People love the Hulk, don’t they?

Gotta love Kurt Angle yelling at Braun about the whole thing. Um, Kurt? You booked it…

Elias def. Woken Matt Hardy, with an assist from Bray Wyatt, to advance to the Elimination Chamber. It’s been several weeks since we first saw Woken Matt on Raw, and my interest is tapering off. It doesn’t help that he’s been losing more than winning. The whole reason for Matt’s awakening in the first place was that he couldn’t win a match. So where does that leave him now?

The Miz def. Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Intercontinental Title. Why would Miz try to chop him? Roman Reigns wears a damn vest. Think, you idiot! Think!

Good match, though. These two have better chemistry than you would think, given how different their backgrounds are.

The Revival def. Heath Slater and Rhyno. You know what I wouldn’t mind seeing? The Revival against a babyface Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Titles. Sounds like a Wrestlemania match to me.

The Dudley Boyz announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. I still say it’s a shame Bubba and D-Von never got to hold the tag belts again after they came back. Even so, this is obviously well-deserved. They’d never tell you this on Raw, but the Dudleys are the only team to have won championships in WWE, ECW, TNA, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. They’re one of the most widely popular tag teams in wrestling history. This has long since been an inevitability. Congrats, gentlemen.

Asuka def. Sasha Banks. I expected to see Bayley during this match after Sasha tossed her out of the Rumble last night. That’s the kind of thing that’d make you think a Bayley heel turn is coming. Personally, I’d rather they do babyface Bayley right.

Loving all the talk about Asuka’s streak potentially ending. We need more of that. The streak is on the line every time Asuka steps in the ring, and with each victory it grows.

Between the Rumble and this match with Asuka, Sasha’s had a hell of a weekend. It looks like they’re finally working toward a heel turn for her. Works for me. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m done with her as a babyface. As a heel, though…

Whether hero or villain, she needs to stop those damn dives. This wasn’t the first nasty fall she’s taken with one of those. She’s tough as hell for getting up and continuing the match, and it was obviously a hell of an effort from both ladies. But enough is enough.

The Miz, Finn Balor, and John Cena cut backstage promos using handheld devices. I ADORE this. Scripted or not, it comes off so much more naturally. And by God, they’re looking into the camera! Glory, glory, hallelujah!

The Bar def. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. Corey Graves said something during this match about Dana Brooke being the missing ingredient for O’Neil and Crews. As unlikely as it is on paper, that seems to be the case.

Crews was a stud out there this week. Eve after taking that nasty Power Bomb from Sheamus. He’s so explosive. Like a damn human super ball.

John Cena def. Finn Balor to advance to the Elimination Chamber. There’s no shame in losing to John Cena. Cena certainly puts enough people over in his own right. I just wish they’d let Balor pick up some steam. He’s one of the coolest acts on the roster, and he puts on great matches consistently. But he just keeps losing. This guy can headline Wrestlemania this year if they wanted him to. But he just can’t seem to bust through the glass ceiling. What gives?

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WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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Enzo Amore’s Release, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It was only a matter of time before the #MeToo movement touched pro wrestling. I can’t say I expected Enzo Amore to be the one effected. But here we are.

The real-life Eric Arndt was suspended and subsequently released by WWE this week after rape allegations against him emerged via Twitter. Supposedly Enzo was fired not because he was accused, but because he failed to alert WWE that he was being investigated.

Either way, it’s a rotten situation. If he did it, then he deserves everything that’s coming to him. If he didn’t, and simply failed to be transparent with WWE about it, then this whole thing was needless. Arndt certainly isn’t the best in the ring. But he’s still incredibly talented, and can go far. If he is innocent, then hopefully he’ll be back. Perhaps a little wiser for the experience.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Vince McMahon is honored by his children, Shane and Stephanie. Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupts, hitting the Stone Cold Stunner on Shane twice, and once on the chairman himself. This Raw 25 show as a disappointment for a variety of reasons. But we can’t say they didn’t start strong. At 72, Vince is every bit the showman he’s always been. And of course, it doesn’t get any hotter than Steve Austin.

Remember the days when Austin could hit the Stunner on Stephanie? Ahhh, good times…

Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James def. Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Asuka throws her teammates over the top rope afterward, in a preview of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Asuka is obviously a heavy favorite in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match this Sunday. But she’s also a little obvious. Who’s the dark horse candidate? Nia Jax? Becky Lynch, maybe?

The Undertaker returns to the Manhattan Center, says it’s time for those who’ve fallen to “rest in peace.” Lots of fans holding up smartphones during the Undertaker’s entrance. I’ll never understand that. Be in the moment, folks. Put your damn phones away.

Filming at both the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center was a complete waste. I feel for the fans at the Manhattan Center, who obviously felt cheated with what relatively little they got. Watching current stars on that throwback set is such a great visual. Why not just do the Manhattan Center? Just jack up the ticket prices. The die-hards will pay.

There was a ton of speculation about an angle being shot for Undertaker vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania. I’m not necessarily disappointed we didn’t get that. But we didn’t get much of anything from ‘Taker. He said some drawn out stuff about his old enemies, and then he left. Again, seeing him back in the Manhattan Center was cool. But in the end, this was a big disappointment.

The Miz def. Roman Reigns to win the Intercontinental Championship. Loved the finish to this one, with the exposed turnbuckle pad being a surprise. Miz cheats to win, and gets his belt back in a match that the crowd was pretty into. Take note future champions: For the Miz, that IC Title is every bit as important as the WWE Title. That’s how you lend prestige to a championship.

Christian hosts Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan on the Peep Show. Jason Jordan’s got heat. Bar babyface turn? Sheamus and Cesaro interrupt. A brawl ensues. and Rollins accidentally takes out Jordan. A babyface turn for Sheamus and Cesaro is probably inevitable. They’ve got that cool factor going for them. Especially when they’re up against someone like Jason Jordan, who’s definitely coming into his own as a heel. He’s gettin’ there. Slowly but surely…

Bray Wyatt def. Woken Matt Hardy. Another opportunity they missed with the Manhattan Center presentation? Howard Finkel. That had him announce Undertaker’s entrance, but they switched to Greg Hamilton for the remainder of the night. The never even showed Finkel on camera. Why? What’s their aversion to letting this guy be on TV?

On the plus side, it’s always great to hear Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on headset. Lawler alluded to us one day finding out who/what Sister Abigail is. I’d like to think that means the whole Bray in drag thing is being forgotten. More likely, they’re not as familiar with the recent product.

Chris Jericho appears in a backstage segment with Elias. Again, a total waste not having Jericho appear in front of the live crowd. Though at least for this one they have an excuse, what with the whole New Japan thing. He was even wearing his “Alpha Club” t-shirt. Did they just miss that?

Elias is interrupted by John Cena. A fight breaks out. Elias low blows Cena, and smashes him in the back with a guitar. Very cool to see Jimmy Fallon in the front row. Like him or not, he’s the host of The Tonight Show. That means something.

One thing I love about Cena? His love for spontaneity. He’ll go with the crowd. Even if he’s just pointing out the stupid beach balls. That lends an energy to things that’s been sorely lacking for a long time.

Mark Henry finds out the Godfather is “grown up,” and now a married man. Of course the Godfather can’t have hoes anymore. That was an edgy gimmick back in the ’90s. I’m almost surprised they even let him be on TV nowadays.

The Dudley Boyz interrupt a tag team match. Heath Slater takes the 3D through a table. Why exactly couldn’t we get that Bubba Ray heel run last year? Hell, why couldn’t the Dudleys even get a token tag team title run? This seems to be a recurring theme, but what a waste…

Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, and Scott Hall celebrate Raw’s 25th anniversary with the Balor Club. Gallows and Anderson defeat the Revival. The legends beat up Dash and Dawson. It tugged at my heartstrings to hear Hunter name-drop Chyna. It’s such a damn shame she never got to come back and take a bow. She absolutely deserved it.

Supposedly, this Revival stuff was supposed to have been done by Enzo. Dash and Dawson did just fine, of course. And somehow it wasn’t as bad as what the Ascension got from JBL and the gang a few years back.

The “Too Sweet” bit with the Balor Club felt like an unofficial passing of the torch moment. BNow if only Balor hadn’t lost to Seth Rollins last week.

A confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman ends with Strowman Powerslamming Lesnar through an announce table. They did this table spot at Summerslam, right? Still a good spot. Now if only Strowman were winning the title this Sunday.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn open Smackdown. AJ Styles agrees to face them in singles matches later in the show. They really want us to get behind the “Kami” nickname for Owens and Zayn. Coming from AJ, it almost feels like a dad joke. Good thing he’s the best in the damn world…

Chad Gable def. Jey Uso. Gable’s roll-through German Suplex somehow never gets old.  He’s so smooth in there. But at 5’8, his height could work against him in terms of a singles push. Granted, guys like Eddie Guerrero have been Heavyweight Champions at around that height. So it’s not unheard of.

Naomi def. Liv Morgan. The women’s locker room empties in anticipation of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Charlotte Flair wishes them good luck, “especially to the winner.” Saw someone on Twitter say that Liv Morgan looks like a Bratz doll. I’m not even sure what that means. But somehow I know it’s true.

We haven’t heard anything official about past stars coming in for the Women’s Rumble Match, which seems odd. I would imagine everyone they trotted out for that little hello on Raw is a candidate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Nikki Bella show up. I’m sure Jacqueline would be happy to get in there. Trish Stratus seems like a must. I’ve also heard Molly Holly’s name mentioned. You’d think at least a few names would have been announced. Especially with them in attendance like that.

Randy Orton interrupts a match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin. Hits the RKO on both. Baron Corbin’s entrance music may be the best thing he’s got going for him right now. True story.

Hell of an entrance by Orton. He friggin’ flew into frame with that first RKO. His wife went on a little Instagram rant about how he was left off Raw 25. At least he didn’t miss much…

Bobby Roode, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods def. Jinder Mahal, Rusev, and Aiden English. That “Keap of Faith” Kofi does over the top with his back turned is damn crazy. Talk about a trust fall…

AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens quickly after Owens seemingly injures his knee. After a pre-match beatdown, Sami Zayn pins the WWE Champion. The best part of all this? Zayn finally won a match with the Blue Thunder Bomb. It’s the best move he’s got, but he’s always used it as a set-up move.

The dead giveaway that Owens wasn’t really hurt? They kept showing him on camera during the match. Typically if somebody gets hurt, they don’t do that if they can help it.

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