Tag Archives: Rusev

Wrestling Headlines: RIP Vader, Big Cass’ Release, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Leon White, known to fans as Vader, passes away at the age of 63. Very sad to hear of Vader’s passing this week after a battle with pneumonia.

I started following wrestling on a consistent basis in the summer of 1996, when the big man was feuding with Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. So many of my early fandom memories involve Vader.

But as many longtime fans know, the Vader we saw on WWF television was but a fraction of what Big Van Vader had been in Japan and WCW. This guy’s offense was so tough, so stiff, and so brutal, he truly earned his reputation as a monster. Watch some of the work he did with Cactus Jack in WCW. There’s also a famous match he had with Stan Hansen in Japan where his eye literally popped out of its socket. For better or worse, it was the stuff of legends.

White was fairly open about his recent health issues. In late 2016, he famously tweeted that a doctor had told him he had roughly two years left to live due to congestive heart failure. Given how much press that generated, it’s frustrating that WWE didn’t opt to put him in the Hall of Fame. Still, we can take some solace in the fact that he at least got to be up on that stage to induct Stan Hansen. I can only assume he’ll be inducted posthumously at some point.

Here’s to you, big man. Thanks for the memories.

Big Cass abruptly fired from WWE before Tuesday’s Smackdown. Yikes. We’d heard he had heat with management. But wow…

Supposedly it was a variety of things. Going against Vince McMahon’s direction in a segment a few weeks back, an incident on a tour bus, being intoxicated in public on a European tour. This is totally a guess on my part, but it sounds like the pressures of a singles push were getting to him. That, and maybe some maturity issues.

If Cass wants to continue wrestling, I have no doubt he can find stardom somewhere else. At the very least, he can reunite with Enzo and make some money on the indies. Whether he wants to be associated with Enzo and all that drama is another story.

Kurt Angle “suspends” Ronda Rousey from Raw for 30 days. Not really sure where they’re going with this. Supposedly, Ronda will still be making house show appearances. I assume that’s why they’re saying “suspended from Raw” as opposed to just suspended. Maybe they do a bunch of angles where she runs in from the crowd to try and get Alexa Bliss?

Rusev earns WWE Championship Match with AJ Styles at Extreme RulesI can’t say I expected this.  I won’t complain, though. Glad to see they’re listening to the people. Now the question is, do they buck their track record thus far, and actually let AJ Styles, their WWE Champion, main event a pay per view?

The answer, of course, is no. The multi-man match to decide Brock’s next opponent will go on last at Extreme Rules. But hey, it’s fun to think about, right?

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

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WWE Money in the Bank Predictions – Get Ready for Ronda!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know, I was going to write a little bit about CM Punk here. But looking at the Money in the Bank card, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

So let’s not waste any time. We’ve got some good ol’ fashioned speculatin’ to do…

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

All we can hope here is that our destination is better than our journey. WWE has done Bobby Lashley no favors with this creative. There’s a difference between being soft-spoken and being a chump. From a personality standpoint, Lashley has indeed come off like a chump in this program with Sami Zayn. We need to see that this guy has another gear. We need to see that he can get angry. When Zayn mades that “Did you really serve in the military?” comment, Lashley should have rushed after him. Because he should have been pissed. Instead, this all feels wishy washy because there’s so little emotion involved.

Either way, Lashley beats Zayn here. They seem to really want Lashley to be a headline guy. But as was the case the first time around, for whatever reason they just can’t get him there.

PREDICTION: Bobby Lashley

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

There’s been a decent amount of speculation lately about where the Authors of Pain have been, and why they disappeared from Raw so quickly after their debut. Supposedly WWE didn’t have any plans for them. I’m wondering if they’ve decided to move them to Smackdown so they can challenge the Bludgeon Brothers for the tag belts at some point. Right now, the only other team I can see beating them is the Bar. But I’m not exactly sold on that. You might be thinking SAnitY, but they’ve been MIA as well.

Either way, it’s not going to be Gallows and Anderson. Sorry, brothers.

PREDICTION: The Bludgeon Brothers

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Thus far, Cass’ singles push has gone strictly okay. That’s not to say there isn’t potential there. But it’s very obvious that he’s new at this. Still, as I’ve said before, he’s in good hands out there with Bryan. The right guy won when these two wrestled at Backlash. Despite the size difference, Bryan is much more experienced and a much better pure wrestler. Now I think it’s time for Cass to get a victory. Not necessarily a clean one. But something to justify a third match at Extreme Rules next month. Because that’s probably where this is going.

PREDICTION: Big Cass

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal

Watch them make this the main event…

They might actually give this one to Jinder. Like Bryan and Cass, I can see them going to Extreme Rules with this one. (Let’s just hope they don’t make it another Punjabi Prison Match.) Roman can beat him there, and then go on to face Brock for the title yet again at Summerslam. Because yes, I guarantee you that’s where they go with this. Best case scenario, it winds up being a Triple Threat Match with somebody like Seth Rollins in there too.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Elias

I haven’t been into Raw very much lately. But this Seth Rollins/Elias stuff has been a notable exception. Rollins is a hot Intercontinental Champion, and Elias would make a hell of an IC Champ in his own right. The stuff with the guitar has been simple but effective.

I don’t see them taking the title off Rollins just yet. But Extreme Rules (Notice a theme developing here?) might be another story. Elias can win the belt in some kind of gimmick match. Then, God willing, Rollins can work in the main event of Summerslam. His resurgence in popularity after that Gauntlet Match on Raw has been really cool to see. Let’s hope he can ride that wave all the way back to the top of the card.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

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

I have no desire to see Asuka lose another match. She’s teetering dangerously close to being just another woman on the roster. That’s the opposite of what she should be. Especially after they pushed her to the moon.

But I’m not ready to see Carmella drop the title either. She’s been a lot of fun on TV these past few months. So I’m thinking this is one of those rare instances where a disqualification or count-out finish is necessary in a pay per view match. Fans balked when she pinned Charlotte at Backlash. So let’s not do that again. Have her weasel her way out, and then go to a three-way title match with Asuka and Charlotte down the road. Summerslam, maybe?

PREDICTION: Carmella

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Charlotte Flair vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Ember Moon vs. Lana

Lana in a Ladder Match, huh? That seems needlessly risky…

In predicting these Money in the Bank matches, for me it’s always process of elimination. I always look at who either doesn’t need the briefcase or isn’t ready for it yet. Two names we can knock out immediately are Charlotte and Lana. You can seemingly give Charlotte a title shot any time, as she’s that good. Lana, on the other hand, might not even deserve to be in this match. I’m legit worried for her.

Alexa Bliss and Naomi…meh. Kind of a waste of the briefcase. I’m sure a program between Bliss and Ronda Rousey is on the horizon anyway, and it might actually be time to give Naomi a fresh coat of paint. The whole “feel the glow” thing is has gotten old. Sasha Banks doesn’t necessarily need it either, though I admit she’d at least be interesting.

Becky Lynch is always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Does she deserve to win? Yes. Will she? No. For now, that’s just her lot in life.

So it comes down to either Ember Moon or Natalya. The former is a fresh NXT call-up who’s turning a lot of heads, and could gain a lot with a big win here. On the other hand, Natalya is obviously about to work a big program with Ronda Rousey. That’s a story they have a lot of money invested in via Ronda. The briefcase would obviously be a great dramatic tool in that regard. When you look at it that way, it almost seems obvious.

PREDICTION: Natalya

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

At the risk of pissing off smart fans, this whole program has been a disappointment. Simply put, these guys were victims of their own hype. Not to mention bad creative. This could have been an epic back-and-forth between two of the industry’s best and brightest. Instead, it became about low blows and ball shots.

What’s more, for all the good the heel turn has done him, I don’t think Nakamura gets the belt here. I still don’t think he’s ready for it. At this point, I think we’d be better served doing Styles vs. Samoa Joe, or even Styles vs. Daniel Bryan. For now, Nakamura has missed his window. After the awesome moment he had at the Royal Rumble this year, that’s a damn shame. But like Lashley and Zayn, I think the best we can hope for here is for them to stick the landing.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe vs. Bobby Roode vs. Braun Strowman vs. Rusev vs. [New Day Member]

Despite the buzz about Big E, the New Day member that joins this match is probably going to be Kofi Kingston. Given his proficiency with high spots, and how experienced he is in these matches, that seems pretty obvious. It’s almost a moot point anyway, as the New Day isn’t getting the briefcase.

Braun Strowman isn’t either, as he clearly doesn’t need it. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe wouldn’t disappoint with it, but I don’t think they need it either.

Rusev is the Becky Lynch of this match, in that he probably should get it, but won’t. Finn Balor is almost in that same spot. It seems like he’s one or two big wins away from getting his momentum back, much like Seth Rollins did. But while I’d love to be wrong, I don’t see this for him right now.

I’d be okay with Bobby Roode winning this match if it meant they were going to tweak his character. This guy was okay as a babyface when he first came in. But these days he’s drowning. WWE seems to know that, and since he’s come to Raw it feels like they’ve been slowly inching him in that direction. If a Money in the Bank win can further that story, I’m all for it.

But in the end, I think Miz becomes the second man to win a Money in the Bank Ladder Match more than once. I’d argue he falls into the same “doesn’t need it” camp as Owens and Joe. But he’s been on such a roll lately that something extra like this could be the boost he needs to really take off into the stratosphere. The fact that he and Maryse are about to get their own reality show on USA Network doesn’t hurt his case either.

Don’t kid yourself, folks. Miz can be the centerpiece of Smackdown. In fact, I think it’s only a matter of time.

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Nia Jax (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

They really couldn’t contain themselves, could they? And yes, I think they’re going to do it. Ronda Rousey wins the Raw Women’s Championship in her first singles match.

For a moment, set aside the fact that Rousey is about to be the first female inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame, and WWE being able to leech even more publicity off of that by giving her the belt. Ronda winning the title in her first pay per view match tells a interesting story. It gets people talking. It opens some interesting doors too. Obviously, every other woman on the roster will be able to point at Ronda and say, “She doesn’t deserve that! She didn’t earn it!” Thus, Ronda has to prove she deserves it by beating them one by one on pay per view. It’s an easy segue into matches with women like Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and of course Natalya. Naturally, Nia Jax will get a rematch as well.

And for the record, as fans, let’s not get a stick up our ass about Ronda being champion. This whole Diva’s Revolution/Women’s Evolution thing would never have happened without her becoming a star in the UFC. That’s not to take anything away from what Charlotte, Sasha, Becky, or anyone else did to make it happen. But if Ronda Rousey doesn’t become the mega-attraction that she does, what incentive does WWE have to put them in main events? Or give them ample time at shows like Wrestlemania? Or market them the way they do now? Would it have happened eventually anyway? Maybe. But it didn’t happen until Ronda kicked that door down for everybody.

This could all be much ado about nothing, of course. Natalya, or somebody else from the Raw side, could easily cash in during this match and steal the belt before Ronda can win it. That’s another a good story possibility. But I think it happens here.

Go get ’em, Ronda.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

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.

Wrestlemania Predictions: IC, US, and Tag Titles

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re back, this time with some title matches. Before you dive in here, I invite you to check out the Kick-Off Show predictions. You’ll notice WWE’s love affair with muti-man matches is still very much a thing. Though that’s been the case at Wrestlemania for almost two decades now. Multiple teams competing for a set of tag belts, multi-man matches for the Intercontinental Title, and that’s not even getting into all the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches.

Though oddly enough, they may buck that tradition this year by having one man compete for the Raw Tag Team Titles by himself…

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

Much is made about what match opens Wrestlemania. You can make a strong case for this one being the opener this year. That New Day entrance alone would be a great way to start the show. But then you take into account how the Usos and the New Day have consistently torn the house down in the last several months. I don’t see how you can lose with this one.

Despite having been in WWE for about a decade now, this will be Jimmy and Jey Uso’s first match on the main Wrestlemania card. So what the hell, give ’em a win. They deserve it after the year they’ve had. So let one of the Usos pin one of the New Day guys, and give the Bludgeon Brothers a gripe about never being beaten.

PREDICTION: The Usos

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev

Rusev reportedly asked for his release not long ago, and WWE placated him by adding him to this match. I’ve got mixed feelings on that. If they’re not treating him properly, or not trying to maximize the potential of this “Rusev Day” stuff, then they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. On the other hand, Rusev has hit on something great here. It might be foolish for him to step away. In any event, they obviously want to keep him around. As they clearly should.

I’m thinking this is Jinder’s match to win. Randy Orton only has the title because they need something for him to do on this show, and Bobby Roode desperately needs a heel turn. In theory, they could give it to Rusev. But I see them finding a screwy way to put it on Jinder (Maybe the other Singh Brother comes back?), leading to a program with Rusev.

Incidentally, can we give him his wife back, already? Lana isn’t doing much on her own, and everybody knows they’re married anyway…

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Given the skills these three guys have, this match has high expectations from a quality standpoint. That’s fair, assuming they have enough time to really deliver. I don’t think it needs to be reiterated just how big this card is.

You really can’t go wrong in this one. Miz has obviously been an amazing IC Champ, and both Rollins and Balor would be worthy titleholders.

But in the end, Miz should take this one home. Emphasis on should. The guy is on the roll of his career. If they needed him to, he could be a Heavyweight Champion right now. I’m very much in favor of keeping that momentum going. After all, we’re probably going to need heel challengers for the Universal Title in the near future. Just saying…

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and ?

This isn’t the spot on the card that a lot of us wanted for Braun. He could easily have been the one facing Brock for the title. But this is still pretty good. And to their credit, they’ve managed to get some decent television out of it. The “Brains” Strowman bit on Monday was hokey, but it got a chuckle out of me.

They can get away with having Strowman win the belts by himself. It doesn’t do much for Sheamus and Cesaro. But Braun has the whole superhuman monster thing going for him. It makes sense.

But let’s say you have to put somebody with him? Who do you go with? Elias would work. There’s been some buzz about the Big Show, now that he’s signed a new contract. Rey Mysterio’s name has been mentioned. Oddly enough, it would also be a good spot for the recently released James Ellsworth.

Regardless, after Wrestlemania we’ll either have some sort of oddball tag team, or Braun defending the tag titles on his own. Both ways work.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

More predictions to come!!!

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

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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Women’s Royal Rumble Match, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been gone for a few weeks. As such, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about the upcoming women’s Royal Rumble Match.

Like almost everybody else, I’m cool with the match itself. I just wonder if this isn’t the beginning of WWE continuing to water down their big pay per view shows. Historically, there’s only been one Rumble Match each year. Now we’re getting a second. I imagine we’ll get the women’s Rumble at the top of the show, and the men’s Rumble as the main event. I’m very curious to see how that Philadelphia crowd reacts to two of these matches on one show. Does the novelty wear off for the second one?

I’m also curious to see how they fill those 30 slots. Almost every eligible woman on the main roster is now in the match. Factoring in Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox, who haven’t been announced yet, you’ve got 19 main roster names you can put in there. Thus, they have 11 spots they have to fill with either NXT talent or returning wrestlers. That’s a pretty big gap…

Obviously all of this is still very much in the experiment phase. Growing pains for the Women’s Division, which continues to grow. Much of what goes wrong (if anything) this year can be corrected in the years to come.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Jason Jordan interrupts Roman Reigns’ opening promo, talks about a three-man group between Reigns, Jordan, and Seth Rollins. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson interrupt. A six-man tag is made for the main event. This Shield reunion was apparently snake bit from the start. First Reigns has to bow out of their first main event together, and now Dean Ambrose goes down with an injury that’ll put him out for nine months. That’s a rotten break. But as these things sometimes are, it may be a blessing in disguise. Going away for awhile will hopefully freshen Ambrose up, and maybe even lead him back to heavyweight title contention.

Jason Jordan came off really well here from the standpoint of being a hokey, lame daddy’s boy trying to insert himself into the Shield. On the flip side, it’s great to see Balor teaming with Gallows and Anderson at long last. But the cool vibe they’ve got going for them gets undercut real quick when they have to recite that contrived WWE dialogue.

Sasha Banks and Bayley def. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. After a few weeks off, I still find Sasha Banks annoying. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.

On Wrestling Observer Radio last week, Dave Meltzer mentioned that WWE has given up on Bayley. I’m inclined to believe him. But they’ve got no one to blame but themselves for that one. They wrote Bayley into a hole that she still hasn’t been able to escape.

Matt Hardy def. Curt Hawkins, stares down Bray Wyatt. Memphis was pretty quiet for this one, unless Matt was prompting them to chant. Then they had that weird staredown. Not the best night for the Woken one…

The Miz returns on Miz TV, announces he’s coming for the Intercontinental Title. This was pretty by-the-book. Good to see Miz back, of course. Raw missed him.

So apparently Miz and Maryse are getting a reality show on the USA Network. That’s actually a pretty big deal. I’m not a Total Divas fan at all, but that show caters to an audience that Raw and Smackdown obviously don’t. Given Miz’s background as a reality TV star, not to mention the couple’s work on Total Divas, this could be an awesome thing for them.

Cedric Alexander def Enzo Amore via count-out. Enzo retains the Cruiserweight Title. Ouch. Kudos to Enzo for finishing the match after getting busted open by a kick. Also, he was either selling really well, or he legit hurt his ankle. Did they have to call an audible on the finish?

Got a chance to catch Enzo on Straight to the Source, Corey Graves’ interview show on the WWE Network. Enzo spouted off a lot of catchphrases, but he still did damn good with that platform. He also seemed to set up a feud with Big Cass when he returns.

Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews def. Seams and Cesaro. So Dana Brooke is obviously with Titus and Apollo now. That business casual look actually suits her. It’s sort of a throwback to Debra’s old look. I would never have pegged “statistician” as a good role for Dana Brooke. But for now it’s working.

Kane ambushes Brock Lesnar after a Paul Heyman promo. Braun Strowman surprises them both, and then brings a lighting rig down on his Royal Rumble opponents. Firstly, since I didn’t get to say it last week, Brock sitting up and laughing at Kane’s Chokeslam was awesome. A really nice nod to the Undertaker.

So…that lighting rig obviously didn’t touch either Lesnar or Kane. That was pretty clear even on television. But still a pretty cool stunt for Strowman. And I liked the juxtaposition of Kane pulling himself back up with Lesnar getting loaded into the ambulance. I just wish the match stood a chance of living up to this hype.

Samoa Joe def. Rhyno, announces he’s targeting John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Crowd was dead for this one too. But in all fairness Rhyno has essentially become an enhancement talent. The final ECW Heavyweight Champion, ladies and gentlemen.

Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson def. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Jason Jordan. The Miz and the Miztourage ambush Reigns after the match. Teaming with Gallows and Anderson is already producing results for Balor. He got to score the pin and beat a team that’s not the Miztourage!

AJ Styles is interviewed at the top of the show. A Handicap Match is made for the main event. AJ’s end of this promo was weird. For one thing, he actually said “smart booking” on WWE television, which feels like something he’s not supposed to say. He also seemed legit flustered at one point. That’s sort of where he was supposed to be coming from in the promo. But I’m not sure he’s that good an actor…

Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott. It was confusing that Charlotte and Naomi came out after Becky. Neither of them were in the match…

During this match I tweeted: “If Absolution is Coca Cola, then the Riott Squad is RC Cola.” That’s to say, Ruby and her crew seem like a cheap knock-off. That’s a shame, as Ruby’s look is so distinct. The big difference is Paige. Between Absolution and the Riott Squad, she’s the only established WWE name. We’re still getting to know everyone else.

Mojo Rawley def. Zack Ryder to advance to the semi-finals in the United States Championship tournament. This was hardly a shock. Ryder was always going to end up putting Rawley over. Though I still maintain a heel turn would have worked for Ryder.

There’s not much suspense in this tournament, as it’s obviously going to be Bobby Roode against Jinder Mahal in the finals at the Rumble. I’m assuming they’ll give it to Jinder as a way to rehab him after his WWE title run.

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable demand justice for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Daniel Bryan puts them in a Two-Out-of-Three Falls Match at the Royal Rumble. Gable and Benjamin were alright on the mic here. The big reason Benjamin was never able to reach that top echelon was he never had much of a personality. I think his opportunity to be a main-eventer has come and gone But if Gable can help bring a little more charisma out of him, he could still reap some big benefits down the road.

Breezango def. Rusev Day. Despite their loss here, Rusev and English should be tag champs before the year is through. For whatever reason, this Rusev Day thing is over.

AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a Handicap Match. Shane McMahon adds stipulations to the match when Owens and Zayn try to get counted out, and then disqualified. I’m never a fan of the babyfaces outnumbering the heels in Handicap Matches. It throws the psychology out of whack. You can make a legitimate case that Shane is the heel here. He’s essentially trapping Owens and Zayn in this match. But that seems to be what they’re going for. This Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan thing is all about shades of gray. It’s interesting, but confusing at times.

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Paige and…PMS??? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So there’s a rumor going around that Vince McMahon originally wanted to refer to Paige’s faction with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville as “PMS.”

Get it? Paige, Mandy, and Sonya? I don’t know if I buy it, considering how ridiculously sanitized everything on WWE television is today. But on paper, that’s about as much a Vince McMahon idea as you’ll ever find. Remember, this is the same guy who brought us the infamous Dr. Heiney sketch. Supposedly the idea was nixed once Stephanie McMahon caught wind of it.

And yes, I remember Terri Runnels and Jacqueline being called PMS in the late ’90s. I’m trying to forget that one, actually…

Though to be honest, I might have preferred the name PMS to what we got. Absolution? That’s got no kick to it. No zest, no flavor. What exactly is Paige being absolved for? The leaked footage? The Del Rio stuff? Probably not. WWE might brush across that on a network special, but I don’t imagine they’d go near it on a national level. So what gives?

Ponderings From Smackdown

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn open the show. Randy Orton surprises Owens with an RKO. Shane McMahon announces Zayn vs Orton in the main event, with Owens handcuffed to a ring rope. Over the years, I’ve seen so many of these opening promo segments where the authority figure winds out coming out and making a match. They’re paint by numbers at this point. But I loved this one. Heel Sami Zayn is a damn riot. He’s beautifully smug and irritating. “You only boo ’cause you know it’s true.” Classic.

Owens and Zayn had a decent script here too. We got some good stuff about Randy Orton doing dirty work for the McMahons over the years, and getting more opportunities than anyone else. If you didn’t know better, you’d think Owens and Zayn were the babyfaces in all of this.

On top of everything else, that surprise RKO was timed beautifully.

Rusev and Aiden English def. The New Day to earn a spot in the Tag Team Title Match at Clash of Champions. So is Rusev Day the actual name of the Rusev/English team? Because I’m okay with that. These two match up better than I ever expected.

The Bludgeon Brothers win an enhancement match. If we’ve learned nothing else since they split the rosters again, it’s about the power of the enhancement match. They did wonders for Braun Strowman and Nia Jax, and they’re using them now to try and rehab Asuka a little bit. So it’s good to give Harper and Rowan a mix of jobbers and established names.

Bobby Roode def. Baron Corbin via disqualification after Dolph Ziggler hits him with the Zig Zag. Ziggler follows it up with a Zig Zag to Corbin. Ziggler was sporting a camouflage hat and a five o’clock shadow here. As if he needed to resemble Shawn Michaels anymore…

Ziggler is obviously in the Triple-Threat Match at the pay per view to take the losing fall. It’s just a question of whether they give it to Roode or Corbin. I’m all for getting that title on Roode as soon as possible. Corbin’s not doing it for me.

Charlotte Flair def. Tamina Snuka. Charlotte to defend the Women’s Title in a Lumberjack Match against Natalya at Clash of ChampionsSupposedly Charlotte was supposed to feud with Tamina before they brought the Riott Squad in. Like this match, that would have been a snooze-fest. So let’s take a moment to be thankful for Ruby and the gang in that respect.

What I’m less thankful for is the dialogue they gave these girls. What Owens and Zayn got at the top of the show? This was at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Extremely generic, cookie-cutter BS. I know next to nothing about Sarah Logan. And after that line she had about long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs, I’m not sure I want to.

Randy Orton def. Sami Zayn, despite Kevin Owens escaping from the handcuffs.  Nakamura comes out to make the save. Owens and Zayn to face Orton and Nakamura at Clash of Champions, with Shane McMahon as the guest referee. If Owens and Zayn lose, they’re fired from WWE. I get the sense Orton really enjoys throwing Zayn around out there. Make of that what you will.

The next big step in Bryan’s apparent heel turn is obviously going to come at the pay per view, when he somehow grants Owens and Zayn the win. Though I guess it’s up for debate whether it’s an actual heel turn. There’s more gray area here than we typically see.

So do Owens and Zayn get anything if they win? A shot at the tag titles, perhaps?

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