John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, Plus WWE Money in the Bank Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What do you do after you beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania?

If you’re Brock Lesnar, you challenge for the WWE Championship. We saw that in 2014. But if you believe the rumors, that’s not in the cards for Roman Reigns until Wrestlemania XXXIV. So what exactly does this character have planned for Summerslam? WWE teased us with a Summerslam-related announcement from him next week. He’s got to be throwing down the challenge to somebody. But who?

It could be Braun Strowman. Those two have unfinished business. But we’ve seen them wrestle a few times already. And when we last saw Strowman, Reigns was giving him a pretty solid beatdown. So what’s his motivation to challenge Strowman again? We’re going to see that match again at some point. But it’s not the big summer blockbuster they want for one of their biggest shows of the year.

When you eliminate Strowman, and you presumably eliminate Brock, that really leaves only one viable name: John Cena.

Blasphemous as it may seem to many, John Cena vs. Roman Reigns is the closest thing they have to a modern-day Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior type match. The torchbearer taking on the one person that could conceivably take it from him. Like Hogan and Warrior at Wrestlemania VI, Cena and Reigns have never wrestled in a big pay per view match. So they can market it as their first meeting ever.

Some would say it’s a match that should be saved for Wrestlemania. But I’m reminded of the match Cena had with Batista at Summerslam all those years ago. Those two would later work a series of pay per view matches, including one at Wrestlemania XXVI. That Summerslam match gave them some extra history to go into a program with, and didn’t diminish anything at all. What’s more, WWE could really use some added viewership right now as Raw rating continue to dip. Putting Cena with Reigns could wind up being a really smart move.

But here’s the question: If you’re a fan, who do you root for? Particularly if you’re someone who jumps at the opportunity to boo either of these two…

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Naomi (c) vs. Lana

This one is an attraction because of sheer curiosity. What kind of performance is Lana going to turn in? How many matches has she even worked? I know she’s been doing NXT house shows. But she can’t have more than 100 matches under her belt yet. Hell, it might be less than 50.

You know what they could do? Put a bunch of heat on Lana, and have her win the title by screwing over Naomi. Have Rusev come out there and cause a distraction or something, and have Lana cheap shot her for the pin. The more I think about it, the more I like that finish. That way you’ve not only got a great heel in your Women’s Division, but you’ve found a way to reintroduce Rusev.

I’m going to play it safe here and say Naomi keeps the belt via count-out. Lana doesn’t like being roughed up, so she walks out. But I’m tellin’ ya, don’t be surprised to see Lana wearing that belt at some point down the road.

PREDICTION: Naomi

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day

You’ll notice they’ve made the New Day the focal point of the marketing for this show. That’s why you’ve got the Wizard of Oz type backgrounds for these images. The idea is they’re following the yellow brick road, or whatever. It’s good to have them back. Some have fussed over them being pushed right into a title match with the Usos. But they’re the New Day. They’re the longest-reigning tag champs in company history. That’s reason enough.

The New Day are going to get the belts at some point. I just hope they don’t rush the titles on to them here. Summerslam is right around the corner. Do it there. In the meantime, let’s let them do a little more mic work with the Usos. Also, let’s use the summer to build up another heel team for them to work with in the fall. Though for the life of me, I can’t think of who that would be…

PREDICTION: The Usos

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton

How far are we into the Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion experiment? Three weeks? It’s too soon to take the belt off him. What’s more, Jinder has done alright thus far. But I think he can do much, much better. He’s one of the few bad guys in WWE with any kind of genuine heat. They should do everything they can to nurture that. It’s sorely needed.

At some point, Jinder is going to find himself across the ring from John Cena. Given Cena’s status as the American hero, it’s inevitable. It’s just a question of when, and whether Jinder still has the title at the time.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Tamina Snuka

Here it is. Show us, ladies. Make us proud again.

The Money in the Bank briefcase typically works best as a heel’s tool. That way you can have your cunning villain cash in when the champion is at a disadvantage. Looking at everyone in this match, I’d say that scenario would work best for Carmella. Combine that with the fact that she’ll have James Ellsworth out there with her, and the rumor that management has been high on her lately, and she’s my pick. This win could elevate her to top villainess status on Smackdown. That is, as long as Charlotte is still being shoehorned into the babyface role.

PREDICTION: Carmella

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

This is a tough one to call. That’s what you want when you’ve got these big multi-man matches. I can see a scenario where almost any of these guys walk out with the briefcase.

So let’s do it this way: Who’s probably not winning this thing? The first name that jumps out is Dolph Ziggler. After everything that’s happened, I don’t see why they’d choose to give this to him now. So he’s out. Neither Kevin Owens nor AJ Styles need it. They’re pretty safe bets as far as staying at the top of the card on Smackdown. They don’t need it.

You can make an argument for Sami Zayn. They’ve done a pretty good job this year of casting him as the perennial underdog. You can give it to him and say that he’s finally got a shot at climbing to the top. I’m just not sure Sami is that big a priority for them right now. He’s the dark horse in this match.

There’s a pretty good chance they give it to Baron Corbin. The biggest thing working against him is his inexperience. Remember when they had Jack Swagger win the briefcase at Wrestlemania? They were trying to strap the rocket to him, much like they’ve done with Jinder Mahal now. But he didn’t quite have all the tools yet, so it ended up being a popcorn fart. I’m worried the same thing will happen to Corbin if they put the title on him too soon.

And then there’s Shinsuke Nakamura. WWE want you to see him as a big deal, and they’ve made mostly good decisions with him thus far. One might argue they’re marketing him a little too hard as “the Artist” or “the Rock Star.” But generally speaking, but he’s just about where they want him to be right now.

As I said, typically the Money in the Bank briefcase works best as a heel’s tool. But we’ve obviously seen babyfaces use it too. I’ve always thought the good guys should go the more honorable route more often, avoiding surprise cash-ins. Like the way Rob Van Dam did it in 2006.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and pick Nakamura to win here. Have him hold on to it until Wrestlemania season, and then you can have him challenge for the title at their biggest show of the year. And what if the champion just happens to be AJ Styles?

Book it.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

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A Shield Reunion Coming Soon? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s not an accident that Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins are all on Raw after the Superstar Shake-Up. This is it, folks. This is what people have been waiting for. A Shield reunion is coming.

But don’t kid yourselves. It’s going to be all about Roman Reigns.

Despite being booed for minutes on end last week, and despite everyone who cheered when Braun Strowman destroyed him this week, WWE still wants us to cheer this guy. He is positioned as their top babyface, after all. And what was it that got us to cheer Roman in the first place? The Shield. They know it, too. After the break-up, Reigns kept most of his Shield packaging, while Ambrose and Rollins had their presentations tweaked. Again, that’s not an accident.

Now, after everything that’s happened, it seems like a Shield reunion is just about the only thing that could get Reigns cheered. Fans miss this group. While some maintain it ended too soon, I think it ended at the perfect time. Their break-up was one of the great Raw moments of the last several years. Their reunion will be too.

But the mission will remain the same: Get Roman over at all costs. The only real difference will be the old hit they’re playing while they go about it.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

United States Champion Kevin Owens comes to Smackdown. Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and AJ Styles emerge to challenge him. I can’t believe they drafted Owens and Zayn together. Those two needed to be kept far away from one another. They have great matches, but I’m almost tired of seeing them. This feud needed a break. Give them a year or two apart, and then give us more. It’s not like there’s a shortage of guys for them to work with.

I’m happy Styles stayed on Smackdown. He’d have been fine on Raw, but he’s been arguably the biggest reason to watch the show every week. For all the talk about so-called “brands,” AJ has had a lot to do with giving Smackdown a different, more wrestling-heavy vibe from Raw.

Corbin is lucky Owens didn’t eat him alive on the mic. Seriously. It could have been worse than him being attacked by an actual wolf.

How do we know JBL is on his best behavior? He shook Byron Saxton’s hand at the top of the show. On screen, those two had a pronounced bully/victim dynamic.

Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan via disqualification. I don’t like Rowan’s chances without Bray Wyatt at his side. But then again, so many of us (myself included) said the same thing about Braun Strowman when he went to Raw by himself. And he’s become one of the best things about that show. So you never know who’ll surprise you.

The Usos def. American Alpha to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. The Shining Stars attack the babyfaces afterward. Great offensive flurry from Chad Gable during this match. He does a lot of selling out there. But he can take the hot tag when called upon. Another really good match from these guys.

If Primo and Epico de-emphasize the awful travel agent gimmick, they might have yet another chance to reinvent themselves. Talent has never been the problem with these two. It’s always been a matter of packaging.

Mojo Rawley def. Jinder Mahal. Rob Gronkowski gets involved on Rawley’s behalf. The higher-ups definitely seem to have taken notice of Jinder Mahal’s physical changes. While still essentially an enhancement talent, he’s been part of some pretty prominent stuff recently. Most notably the stuff with Rob Gronkowski at the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That obviously continued here.

Mojo really needs to write Gronk a thank-you note. As in, thank you for getting me the biggest push of my career.

Shane McMahon announces the arrival of Charlotte Flair and Tamina to SmackdownThey didn’t do Tamina any favors by building it up as if Charlotte were about to come out. Though in all fairness, she hasn’t been on TV in quite some time. She’ll need to re-establish herself.

Then of course, Charlotte did come out. Surprised she didn’t cut a promo of some kind. If I expect her to move right into a program with Naomi. I’m surprised so many people though Sasha Banks was coming in with her. She’s obviously factored in heavily with Bayley on Raw.

Tye Dillinger def. Aides English. With Simon Gotch having been released, it looks like English is going back to the singing gimmick he used in NXT. Hopefully he gets a fair shot. He’s got a good look.

I like that they’re telling the story of how long it took Dillinger to make it to the main roster. Anytime you can weave that element of truth in there, it’s a good thing. The people are clearly into him. If they play this right, I imagine he could get a US Title run this summer.

Sin Cara, Rusev, Lana, and the New Day are traded to SmackdownThey seem to be repackaging Lana with a dancing gimmick. At least until Rusev comes back. Is she going to wrestle? She’s not that experienced yet, is she?

It seems like they’re waiting to put the New Day on Smackdown until Kofi Kingston heals up from surgery. Fair enough. That act could use a breather anyway.

Shinsuke Nakamura outshines Dolph Ziggler in a confrontation. It might not have been wise for them to write Ziggler a promo about the “shiny new toys” from the Superstar Shake-Up becoming less special over time. Just saying…

They let Nakamura talk this week. Less is more as far as that’s concerned. This segment was a little awkward, as they spent a lot of time just standing there. Yes, the crowd was chanting for Nakamura. But this almost started to drag.

As far as first dance partners go, they don’t get much better than Dolph Ziggler. For now, Nakamura’s in good hands.

AJ Styles def. Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin in a Triple-Threat Match to become top contender for the United States Title following PaybackStyles has seemingly been positioned as a babyface, which is very much overdue. Everything this guy does looks great. Everything. I came out of this match thinking about how good he and Zayn looked out there together, and how good AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens could be. He’s practically the linchpin holding the show together.

Question: If Styles is going to be working with Owens after Payback, who works with Randy Orton? Corbin?

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Kurt Angle’s HOF Shocker, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Jimmy SnukaBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’ll get to Kurt Angle in a bit. But first, a more somber note…

A matter of days after being cleared of murder charges, Jimmy Snuka passed away on Sunday at 73 years old. He’d been battling stomach cancer for quite some time.

It seems like how you remember Jimmy Snuka largely depends on when you became a wrestling fan. If you were a fan in the ’80s, you probably remember him as one of the first true WWF superstars. He obviously had a very distinct look, and his Superfly Splash from the top rope is one of the most fondly remembered finishes in history. He actually came into the company as a heel, managed by Captain Lou Albano. In a precursor to what we’d see generations later with guys like Steve Austin, he won fans over to the point that they had to turn him babyface. He’d go on to have a very famous Steel Cage Match with Don Muraco in Madison Square Garden that people talk about to this day.

But then there’s the other side of Snuka’s legacy, and the Nancy Argentino story. I invite you to check the story out for yourself. (Here’s Dave Meltzer and Jim Cornette discussing it in detail on Cornette’s podcast.) But to make a long story short, in 1983 Argentino, Snuka’s girlfriend at the time, died of traumatic brain injuries. There were suspicions against Snuka at the time, but he was never charged. When the case was re-examined in 2013, it was revealed that the coroner report detailed Nancy had injuries that were consistent with an abusive relationship. Snuka was later indicted on charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. But on January 3 of this year, the charges were dismissed, as Snuka was deemed unfit to stand trial. That’s a controversial topic in and of itself. Over the years, he also reportedly told several stories as to how Argentino allegedly died.

jimmy-snuka-2010s

Whether or not you believe Snuka was responsible, there’s a large number of people out there that essentially see him as the OJ Simpson of professional wrestling.

Mick Foley, who was famously inspired by Snuka’s leap off the cage in Madison Square Garden, wrote a lengthy message on Snuka this week. He said he was finding comfort in the words of Bruce Springsteen: “Trust the art, not the artist.” I’m not sure how much I buy that notion. But the fact is, Snuka’s art and his legacy will stand the test of time. He inspired and opened doors for a great many. Whether he deserves all of he adulation he’s getting right now is a matter far bigger than any pro wrestling show.

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar vie for dominance before Wrestlemania. Sami Zayn ambushes Strowman. Roman says he isn’t complaining about losing the US Title. Why not? You lost your belt, man! Get pissed off! That’s a page out of the John Cena playbook.

This was a nice kick-off to the show, with Lesnar adding some extra oomph. Didn’t expect to see Zayn out there. He was a nice touch.

Big Cass, WWE Raw, January 16, 2017Enzo and Cass def. Rusev and Jinder Mahal. Happy to see Enzo back in the ring. But I wasn’t any more interested in this match than I was the Cass/Jinder match from last week. I zipped through this one.

Lita is highlighted in an “extreme moment” sponsored by XXX: The Return of Xander CageUmmm…didn’t they just fire Lita?

Ariya Daivari def. Lince Dorado. Jack Gallagher joins the announce position. Dorado hits a damn good springboard stunner. Puts Cena’s old attempts at it to shame. Though I suppose it’s an unfair comparison. Cena’s a lot bulkier.

They seem to really be embracing Gallagher. I enjoyed him on commentary here. He could stand to speak up a little. But I expect that will come with time.

Footage is shown of Sasha Banks being ambushed earlier in the day by Nia Jax. I liked this. Something a little different. My only complaint is that Nia was in her ring gear. I’d rather she have been in street clothes or Tap Out gear. Something to make it look a little more spontaneous.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, WWE Raw, January 16, 2017Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. Sheamus and Cesaro via disqualification in a Raw Tag Team Titles. The titles do not change hands. So Sheamus knocks the ref out on accident, another ref comes down and counts three for Anderson and Gallows, then the first ref reverses the decision and makes it a DQ. I believe this is a “Dusty finish” (as in Dusty Rhodes), where they reverse the decision after a wrestler has already been declared the winner.

Gallows and Anderson have needed rehabbing for awhile. In theory, they’re the top heel team on Raw. But they’ve been beaten so much they haven’t looked like much of a threat to Sheamus and Cesaro. This was a step in the right direction. But I still don’t see them taking the belts.

Neville attacks Rich Swann before a match. Neville has quickly become the most interesting guy in the Cruiserweight Division. It certainly helps that, unlike most of the wrestlers in that division, he was around beforehand. Decent promo afterward.

WWE Raw, January 16, 2017, Big E., Titus O'NeilBig E. def. Titus O’Neil, retaining his spot in the Royal Rumble Match. In the pre-match skit, Big E actually said to Titus: “No more showing up at our porch with fake mustache and a pizza box with a hole at the bottom.” Holy crap. If he got heat for cracking a joke about all of Charlotte’s title wins, I can’t imagine what he’s going to get for that.

Charlotte digs up Bayley’s old photos and poems. I liked this segment a lot. I feel like we got to know Bayley more here than at any point since her main roster debut. When they brought her up, hey seemed to take for granted that a lot of viewers already knew who she was. They can’t afford to do that. We made up for some lost time here.

Cedric Alexander def. Brian Kendrick. Alicia Fox comes to ringside for the match. What did Graves call that move where Kendrick’s knees went right into Kendrick’s head? A springboard slingshot moonsault? Either way, it looked like it hurt like hell. So Cedric and Alicia are broken up now, which mean she’ll likely end up with Noam Dar at some point. I’m mildly curious to see how they match up as a pair.

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn. They’re really struggling with this Raw main event scene right now. There’s this awful, boring, sameness to everything week after week. All I could think of during this match was, who cares? There were no stakes or consequences. It was just another match.

Perhaps this needs to be a rule: Having main event level guys in a match it doesn’t make it a main event.

Kurt Angle, WWEKurt Angle announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2017. This one came way out of left field. There’d been some buzz about Angle coming in this year. But I think most of us assumed it would be for a big match. But this was a genuine surprise. Kudos to WWE for keeping a lid on it.

While the announcement itself is a shock, Kurt Angle going into the Hall of Fame has been an inevitability for over a decade now. It was just a matter of when. Angle was one of the greatest mat wrestlers the company ever saw. But Michael Cole really nailed it when he called him “one of the great entertainers” in WWE history. I remember watching Kurt’s first nationally televised match at Survivor Series in 1999. He was entertaining from the start. It was plain as day that he had that undefinable “it” factor that you need to be a WWE star. I would estimate he succeeded beyond anyone’s imagination.

Angle had so many great matches in WWE. But off the top of my head, these are a few essentials to check out…

– Summerslam 2001 against Steve Austin.
Wrestlemania XXI against Shawn Michaels (my personal favorite).
– Royal Rumble 2003 against Chris Benoit.
No Way Out 2006 against the Undertaker.

Congratulations, Mr. Angle. It’s an honor you truly deserve.

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Undertaker to Rumble Again, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Wrestle Kingdom 11, main eventBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t watch a lot of Japanese wrestling. Not because I don’t like it or I don’t care. It’s just there are only so many hours in a week, and habitually I’ve always watched American stuff. Obviously the emphasis has been on WWE stuff. But the buzz about the Kenny Omega/Kazuchika Okada match from this past week’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 has been so phenomenal that I couldn’t resist.

Wow. From a presentation standpoint, what a breath of fresh air. The respect shown to the actual wrestling was such a contrast to what we see on Raw and Smackdown. I’ve never been of the mindset that WWE should be presented the way MMA is, with the entertainment element nixed. But people also know that they’re watching a wrestling show. So why downplay the wrestling? Why not dive into the wrestling element? Tremendous work by Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino at the announce booth.

The match itself was supremely athletic. They beat the crap out of each other for about 45 minutes. In particular, that back drop Omega took out of the ring through the table was brutal. He looked like he landed right on his tailbone. And that suplex Okada took off the top toward the end? He landed right on his damn head. How either of these guys are still walking, Okada in particular, is beyond me. And of course, you had Omega’s constantly going for the One-Winged Angel but never getting it. Great stuff.

Okada, Wrestle Kingdom 11Some fans have said this was the greatest match they’ve ever seen. Dave Meltzer gave it six stars, saying Okada and Omega may have put on “the greatest match in pro wrestling history.” I can’t say I agree with that. But it was a hell of a match, a hell of a story, and a hell of a spectacle in front of all those Tokyo Dome fans.

If you’ve never seen a NJPW show, I’d highly recommend Wrestle Kingdom 11, this match in particular. It sets the bar pretty high. But this is what pro wrestling should be about.

Ponderings From Raw:

An attempt to start the US Title Match featuring Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho escalates into a brawl with Braun Strowman. Seth Rollins saves Reigns. Stephanie McMahon makes Rollins vs. Strowman. The highlight of this segment? Rollins busting out a Van Daminator on Strowman. Happy to see the big guy pissed off after the double spear last week.

Seth Rollins vs. Braun Strowman goes to a double count-out. Like Sami Zayn, Rollins was able to use his experience and relatively smaller size to make Strowman look good. To his credit, Rollins looked more credible against the giant than Zayn did. He’s so damn explosive and athletic. But like everyone else, he looked like he was running into a brick wall when put against Strowman.

That drop Rollins took from the top rope to the ringside barricade did not look like fun…

Drew Gulak, Jack Gallagher, WWE Raw, January 9, 2017Jack Gallagher def. Drew Gulak. Loved the sound of that clothesline Gulak gave Gallagher from the second rope. Ouch.

Gallagher is emerging as one of the stand-out personalities in the Cruiserweight Division. Key word: Personality. (For my money, the others would be Neville and Rich Swann.) I’m not sure if the crowds are quite with him yet, and that particular post-match promo wasn’t the greatest. But he’s got something.

Shawn Michaels gets interrupted by Rusev, Lana, and Jinder Mahal. Enzo and Cass come to his aid. I can’t help but smile when Shawn’s music hits. Call me a mark, but he’s such a damn star.

Not the smoothest segment they’ve ever done. But Shawn, Rusev, and Enzo are all very natural out there. So it still came off fairly well. And it was fun to see them ad lib.

Big Cass def. Jinder Mahal. This whole match was about one thing: The super kick. We spent the whole match waiting for it. It must have been really cool for Rusev to take that.

There was some buzz during the fall that Shawn was going to come out of retirement to face AJ Styles at the Rumble. As much as I love Shawn, I don’t ever need to see him in the ring again. Let the impetus be on the current stars to match what he created.

Neville, Lince Dorado, WWE Raw, January 9, 2017Neville def. Lince Dorado. Rich Swann saves Dorado from a beatdown. Really good showing from Lince Dorado early on here. This guy has been around since the division restarted, but I still don’t have much of an impression of him. Despite the loss, this was a good night for him.

Swann showed some great fire out there. He and Neville have an nice hero/villain dynamic. I’m looking forward to the inevitable title match.

Sheamus def. Luke Gallows. I turned the volume down when I saw Cesaro was joining the announce position. Not because I wasn’t interested in hearing him, but because we already had Karl Anderson joining our usual three talking heads. You can argue three guys are already too much. Four is ridiculous. And five? I’m out.

Gallows may have lost tonight, but I’m still not over the novelty of Anderson getting a singles win last week. Over Cesaro, no less.

The Undertaker announces his entrance into the Royal Rumble Match. Listen to the crowd during this segment. They all chanted his name in unison. Why the hell wasn’t this the main event?

So he says “No one controls the Undertaker,” then he walks over to Stephanie and says: “No one.” I assume that was scripted. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun to imagine it wasn’t.

The Undertaker, Mick Foley, January 17, 2017They seemingly tipped their hand by showing us Braun Strowman backstage during this promo. There was a buzz about Strowman facing Undertaker at Wrestlemania last year. Is that back in the cards this year?

Charlotte and Nia Jax def. Bayley and Sasha Banks. Yet another example of why Raw needs more women. These are essentially the only four active female wrestlers the show has. Lately, they’ve got Alicia Fox mixed up in a love triangle. Speaking of which…

Alicia Fox surprises Noam Dar with a kiss backstage, remarks that he “can’t handle a real woman.” The “real woman” line seemed lost in the shock of the kiss. She obviously insulted him, but it definitely seems like she’s playing Dar and Cedric Alexander against each other.

Kofi Kingston def. Titus O’Neil. Before the match, the New Day had Titus try and carry a keg around the ring in less than 12 seconds because…he fell down when he tried to do it in 2010? No thanks.

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho def. Roman Reigns in a handicap match for the United States Title. Jericho is declared champion. This probably would have had more of a punch if they’d done it earlier. But whatever. At least they finally made a change instead of essentially giving us the same US Title Match over and over.

Now watch them have Roman exercise his rematch clause against Jericho next week.

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Ronda Rousey’s UFC 207 Loss, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Ronda Rousey, UFC 207By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I find it somewhat odd that I’m commenting on yet another UFC fight, as I’m a pro wrestling guy through and through.

Then again, maybe it’s not so odd. Ronda Rousey changed the world. She’s a bonafide superstar that opened doors for women not just in MMA, but athletics at large. Her impact has been felt more in pro wrestling than most sports. The “women’s revolution” we’ve seen in the last few years didn’t happen because WWE suddenly changed their minds about how to portray their female talent. The popularity of Ronda Rousey opened the door for Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, etc.

Given all this, it was very jarring to see Rousey sustain yet another quick loss at UFC 207. I’ll never claim to be a UFC aficionado. But you don’t have to be one to see she’s looked like a different fighter in there.

Twitter trolls were pretty hard on Ronda that night. There was a lot of talk about Rousey retiring, and even trading in her fighting gloves for pro wrestling tights. There’s been some debate about how much of an attraction she would be now that she’s lost twice. My response to that: Brock Lesnar had sustained losses in the UFC prior to his WWE return. Now he’s arguably the biggest attraction they have. And even after CM Punk’s UFC loss, I don’t doubt they’d kill to have him back. Rest assured, Rousey would do just fine in WWE.

But frankly, I’m hoping Rousey doesn’t retire just yet. Her career has meant too much for her to pack it in after a couple of rough losses. If MMA is something she’s still passionate about, she’s earned the right to stay in the octagon. And I know there are plenty of people who’d still pay money to see her.

Don’t listen to the haters, Ronda. Go out on your own terms.

WWE Raw, January 2, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon announces Chris Jericho will challenge Roman Reigns for the United States Title in the main event. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins is made, with the loser being banned from ringside in the main event. Toward the end of this segment, Steph mentioned how Smackdown beat Raw in the ratings last week, and that Raw has a ratings war to win. I wouldn’t exactly call more Owens/Reigns/Rollins/Jericho a winning strategy. It feels like we’ve been watching the same matches for months. In fact, this same title match took place on Raw a month ago.

Meanwhile, Mick Foley had yet another verbal gaff during this match. Oh Mick…

Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens via disqualification. Owens is banned from the main event. It’s a shame Rollins does’t have more momentum as a babyface. He’s so damn athletic. What a horrible missed opportunity it was to not bring him back as a babyface last year.

Karl Anderson def. Cesaro. As soon as Gallows and Anderson’s music hit, I figured they were dropping the fall here. When they announced Anderson was in the match, it was virtually a guarantee. And then low and behold, Karl Anderson pins Cesaro. Imagine my shock. Great looking neckbreaker off the top rope. But spoiler alert: Gallows and Anderson ain’t gettin’ the tag belts.

Braun Strowman, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Braun Strowman def. Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match. I wish they’d saved this for the main event, or at least the top of the third hour. You could have built the entire show around this match. It’s a great David vs. Goliath story. Loved the backstage brawling. It’s been refreshing to see them get back to that in recent weeks.

I wish we’d seen a match like this earlier in Zayn’s main roster run. It would have done wonders to establish his character.

WWE hypes the premiere of Bring It to the TableThis actually looks pretty good. One of the questions they hyped for it was about whether Hulk Hogan would ever return to WWE. The fact that they even said that on television means he’s coming back, most likely around Wrestlemania.

Titus O’Neil auditions to be a member of the New Day, loses to Xavier Woods. I liked this audition segment. Titus got to be entertaining and show off his personality. He took his share of criticism in 2016. But he’s better than a lot of people give him credit for.

Stephanie McMahon tells Bayley she never wanted her on RawI don’t say this about Steph’s segments very often, but I loved this. It fit her character perfectly. And you can potentially pay it off down the road with a Bayley/Stephanie match. I’d love to see more.

Drew Gulak, Cedric Alexander, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander. There wasn’t much to this one. I can only assume Alicia Fox will eventually turn on Cedric and go with Noam Dar.

Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho to retain the United States Championship. I couldn’t help but tune out of this one a bit. That’s no reflection on the talent these two have. But we’ve seen them wrestle so many times that the novelty has just worn off. Still, seeing Reigns smack the ring post on that attempted Drive By was cool.

Interesting that Jericho did that Eddie Guerrero spot with the implied strike with the title belt. He’s obviously supposed to be a heel. But longtime fans have happy memories of Eddie doing that.

TJ Perkins def. Brian Kendrick. I was legit surprised Perkins won. I feel like it’s been months since he got a win on television. I guess statistically it had to happen.

Rusev and Jinder Mahal def. Big Cass in a Handicap Match. It’s nice to see Jinder has something to do as Rusev’s run-in buddy. Dude’s looking jacked these days, to the point where people were making wellness policy jokes. I won’t go that far. Innocent until proven guilty, folks.

Nia Jax, Bayley, WWE Raw, January 2, 2016Bayley def. Nia Jax to earn a Raw Women’s Title Match at the Royal Rumble. What is Nia Jax’s bodysuit made out of? Is it actual leather? Is that a stupid question?

@TheMarkySmark on Twitter posted something funny when Sasha Banks came out to post Nia the match: “Watch out Nia Jaxx, a 90lb woman is coming after you!” (sic) She makes a good point.

The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels announced for Raw next week. I got goosebumps when they announced ‘Taker would be appearing in New Orleans for the first time since the Streak ended at Wrestlemania XXX. This feels like a big announcement. Could it even be the announcement that Wrestlemania XXXIII will be his last go-around? I hate to even put that out there, considering we’ve been speculating about that for 17 years. But it gets more likely every year…

Bill Goldberg appears on the inaugural edition of the Kevin Owens Show. Goldberg and Roman Reigns hit a double-spear on Braun Strowman. Chris Jericho threw his name in the hat for the Royal Rumble Match. Given the likelihood of an Owens/Jericho match at Wrestlemania, does he actually have a shot at winning?

Braun Strowman should have a strong presence in the Rumble Match. I’m curious to see where he goes as we get closer to Wrestlemania.

Roman Reigns, Goldberg, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Nice to see Goldberg and Kevin Owens share a ring. The presence Owens has out there matches well with Goldberg’s superhero aura. Seeing Goldberg and Jericho out there together also bring back interesting memories. I doubt we’ll see Reigns and Goldberg wrestle, but there’s obvious intrigue there.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Chris Jericho’s Date with a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE United Kingdom ChampionshipBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With the announcement of the crowning of a United Kingdom Champion on the WWE Network next year, there’s naturally been a lot of buzz. The idea, reportedly, is for the network to have weekly UK show similar to what 205 Live is for the Cruiserweights. So there’ve been questions about the continued oversaturation of content, WWE potentially trying to create its own territorial system, what this means for other promotions across the world, etc. All valid questions.

Quite frankly, I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to see any of this UK content. There are only so many hours in a week. But for now, I’m taking an optimistic approach. This tournament has a big upside. The UK is in the midst of its own wrestling boom right now, and I’ve been able to see very little of what’s going on over there. All these guys now have a chance to wrestle in front of a whole new audience, and educate a lot of American fans about British wrestling.

One of WWE’s big drawbacks in the last several years has been its inability to create new stars. Using the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, they’ve been able to bring guys like Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, and Cedric Alexander to the main roster. Whether they’ll become big stars remains to be seen. But they’re commodities. They’re fresh faces. As somebody who watches Raw and Smackdown every week, it’s tough to complain about a potential new source of fresh faces.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Mick Foley announces Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble, with Chris Jericho suspended from the ceiling in a shark cage. Poor Mick. He tries so hard. And he’s still got some of his trademark charm despite being forced to recite scripted dialogue. But then he makes an embarrassing mistake like he did here, saying they were in Pittsburgh instead of Columbus. I love Mick Foley, I really do. But I’m glad he’s reportedly got a couple weeks off. He needs a break.

Some guys who need a break from each other? Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Chris Jericho. It feels like they’ve been working together nonstop since September. The Jericho stipulation notwithstanding, the Universal Title Match announcement was a disappointment. If I’m Roman Reigns, I’m expecting a dome full of boos at the Rumble, justified or not.

Rusev def. Big Cass via disqualification. Enzo later attends sensitivity training. Shorter is probably better with Rusev and Cass right now, so I won’t complain about what we saw here. I’ll credit Cass with one thing: He looked legit pissed at Rusev.

One of the stories on this show involved Enzo being sent to sensitivity training after being “naked” on the show a few weeks back. This didn’t do much for me. It seemed like they were trying to mimic the success they had with the Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skits a few years ago. But once again, I credit them for doing something different, breaking up the monotony, and extending a plot thread through much of the show.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Sasha BanksNia Jax interrupts Sasha Banks. Firstly, mad respect for Sasha for her performance at Roadblock. She doesn’t have to take the risks she does. Often they’re unnecessary. But you can’t doubt her passion. That always shines through.

That being said, I turned the volume down when she started talking. This might be unpopular, but her promos now officially annoy me. It’s not entirely her fault. She’s just written as a white meat babyface right now. I will credit her with looking into the hard camera, though. Eye contact = connection. She can also put on a great boo-hoo face (shown above).

Champion or not, it wasn’t hard to figure out Nia Jax and Sasha were going to be partnered after Roadblock. Again, lack of roster depth. Given their obvious size difference, I’m intrigued. I liked Nia calling Charlotte a “little girl.” This program will be good for her.

Austin Aries makes his Raw debut at the announce desk. Cedric Alexander def. Noam Dar. I’ve got high hopes for Cedric Alexander in 2017. He’s so damn explosive, and that Lumbar Check is awesome. I also think this is the first time we’ve seen Cedric and Alicia come out together on Raw.

After the match, Noam Dar got on the mic and essentially said he wanted Alica. I’m certainly not Shakespeare, but here’s a writing tip: When another man says, on national television mind you, that he wants to get with your girlfriend, you kick his ass. You don’t just stand there and get angry. It makes you look like a chump.

Noam Dar, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016If I’m not mistaken, this was Austin Aries’ Raw debut. A little understated, considering what his status was in other promotions. But at least he’s there. He’s not a good announcer yet. But I like that they’re having him tag in for Cruiserweight matches. It’s a little bit like what Mike Tenay used to do on Nitro.

Sheamus, Cesaro, and the New Day def. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and the Shining Stars. I never hated the “penny” tag belts the way some fans did. The tag titles they used on Raw during the first brand split looked so generic that I was just grateful for something different. That being said, the red belts Sheamus and Cesaro got on this show look better.

The pre-match dialogue with New Day, Sheamus, and Cesaro was actually pretty good. Then Gallows and Anderson came out and spoiled it. Then the Shining Stars came out and killed it dead. No interest in the eight-man tag. I assume the New Day will get a tag title rematch soon.

Also, Big E’s little ad lib about Charlotte becoming a 16-time champ by next month was on point. I tip my hat to you, sir.

A commercial airs for John Cena’s return to Smackdown next week. I don’t normally comment on these things, but this spot for Cena’s return was really well done. It was like a super-condensed career retrospective, and played up Cena as the elder statesmen and legend they want him to be.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, TJ Perkins, Rich SwannAfter turning on Rich Swann at Roadblock, Neville cuts his first heel promo on Raw. He and Brian Kendrick lay out Swann and TJ Perkins. Neville’s delivery was pretty good here. I don’t really see him as a big promo guy, but he surprised me. I was really skeptical about him turning heel. But if he switches up his in-ring game a little bit, this heel turn just might work for him.

Lately TJ Perkins has become the Dolph Ziggler of the Cruiserweight Division. Lately all he does is lose to Swann and Kendrick. Plus, he ran out there to save Swann, and immediately ate a kick from Neville. Thanks for coming, idiot. He needs to write a sternly worded letter to creative.

After Foley refuses to give him another shot at Sami Zayn, Braun Strowman decimates Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil. There was something very cathartic about seeing Braun Strowman rip apart that hokey Raw Christmas set. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.

I really dug that lingering shot of Mick Foley standing there looking over the body of Sin Cara, observing Braun’s damage and pondering the consequences of his actions.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Bayley, Charlotte FlairCharlotte Flair gloats after her Roadblock victory. Bayley interrupts. Bayley pins Charlotte in controversial fashion. Corey Graves called Charlotte the “Iron Queen” as she came out. I like that. That’s different. As with Sasha, I give Charlotte a world of credit for the effort she put into that Iron Man Match. She’s the best female talent they have right now, and arguably the best overall heel in the company.

Good line: “Well, you are dressed like a fifth grader. So let’s go to school!”

Bad line: “Every month … you subscribe to the WWE Network thinking this is going to be the month that Charlotte loses, and every month I disappoint all of you.” Um, Charlotte has lost the title to Sasha three times now. I don’t need to buy the network hoping to see her lose. I can see it for free. Hell, I saw it this week! I get what she was going for, what with the pay per view winning streak. But there’s something to be said for clarity.

Based on what we saw here, I’m optimistic about what we’ll get from Charlotte and Bayley. This could lead to Bayley’s best in-ring performances since her main roster debut.

Braun Strowman interrupts the main event, attacking Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. This might not be a popular opinion, given WWE’s obsession with three-man announce teams these days. But the Michael Cole/Byron Saxton/Corey Graves dynamic is growing on me. Specifically with the role Saxton is playing as the cheesy, aw-shucks babyface announcer that Graves hates. They had a little sarcastic exchange about Graves getting Saxton the night off next week, with Cole adding that Saxton should spend time with his family. Saxton’s reply: “You guys are my family!” I won’t lie, I laughed.

Brain Strowman, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016After sitting through yet another Raw main event with Owens, Jericho, Reigns, and Rollins (or some combination of said four), I was really pleased to see Strowman out there. Not only does it do him good to rub shoulders with the main eventers, but it did Sami Zayn a bit of good to have the announcers mention his role in all this during a main event segment.

I honestly never through I’d see the day Braun Strowman would be the best part of a Raw main event. But here we are.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

WWE Roadblock 2016 Predictions, Plus Ponderings on Dolph’s Big Win

Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, December 13, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here we go again. It’s almost fitting that Dolph Ziggler has modeled much of his look after Shawn Michaels. He may very well be the new Heartbreak Kid. Only Dolph will break your heart for entirely different reasons.

Tuesday night, Dolph Ziggler became the top contender for AJ Styles’ WWE Championship, winning a fatal fourway match. He will now face Styles on the December 27 edition of Smackdown. Sound familiar? It should. Ziggler won a similar match to earn his WWE Title shot at Summerslam. The one he lost clean. He would then go on to lose match after match to the Miz. He finally pulled out a win when his career was on the line, only to eventually drop the title right back to Miz. Now, in one match, he’s back in the WWE Title hunt.

Don’t fall for it, folks. This is a rerun. Not only is Dolph Ziggler not winning the title, he’s not being elevated back to main event status. He’s in this spot because WWE ran out of babyfaces to challenge Styles for the belt. They’ve put him with Dean Ambrose a million times. He’s worked with John Cena quite a bit, and may again come Wrestlemania. Who else is there?

Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, August 2016

From a performance standpoint, I love Dolph Ziggler. He’s stellar in the ring and solid on the mic. The problem is, I just don’t see him as a credible threat to Styles. Remember, AJ has spent the last several months picking up some of the biggest wins of his career. Ziggler has gone in the exact opposite direction.

Moreover, as a viewer I’ve lost faith in Ziggler. Why is he the new Heartbreak Kid? Because watching him continue to bust his ass yet still be denied the spot he deserves is downright heartbreaking. They just keep dangling that carrot in front of him, and he just keeps reaching.

Having an underdog character is one thing. But the audience can only take so much heartbreak. Eventually, they lose faith in you. This is why I think Ziggler should have lost to Miz at No Mercy. He could have gone away and come back revitalized. But of course, they can’t do that with him because they need bodies on that Smackdown roster. He deserves to be in this spot because of his talent and athleticism. But in the end, what it boils down to is attrition.

Moving over to Raw territory, let’s talk Roadblock

WWE Roadblock 2016, Big Cass, RusevPRE-SHOW MATCH:
Rusev vs. Big Cass

Rumor has it Vince McMahon likes Big Cass. And why not? Hell, I like Big Cass. He’s seven feet tall, and apparently you can’t teach that. Is Cass ready to be a singles star? Nope. Not at all. His mic skills need to be sharpened. He doesn’t have to be what Enzo is, but I need to believe him when he talks. Right now, that’s not the case.

Still, the guy has potential down the road. So it would behoove WWE to protect him. I don’t know if he’s going to pin Rusev clean, but Cass definitely isn’t taking the fall. My guess is Enzo comes in for some kind of screwball finish.

PREDICTION: Big Cass

WWE Roadblock 2016, Rich Swann, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsWWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Rich Swann (c) vs. Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins

I’m not expecting anything special here. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? The cruiserweights had so much buzz after the Cruiserweight Classic. Nowadays, there’s very little to distinguish them from the rest of the roster outside of the purple ropes and title belt. They’re just…there.

I don’t see Rich Swann dropping the belt here. He’s proven to be the charismatic babyface you’d want at the top of your division. So I’d keep the belt on him for awhile, at least until a worthy new heel emerges.

You know who’s in an odd spot these days? TJ Perkins. He was the inaugural Cruiserweight Champ, then lost the belt to Kendrick fairly quickly. Now Swann has taken his spot as the division’s lead babyface, and he’s recently lost singles matches to both Swann and Kendrick. On a recent episode of 205 Live, Austin Aries flat out asked him: “Can you beat these guys at anything besides video games?” I’d say it might be time for a heel turn, but I don’t see WWE dropping his kid-friendly image in the near future.

PREDICTION: Rich Swann

WWE Roadblock 2016, Sami Zayn, Braun StrowmanSTIPULATION MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Sami Zayn
Match has a 10-minute time limit.

I like this match. The time limit plays up how dangerous Braun is supposed to be, while also masking his relative inexperience. It also plays perfectly into Sami Zayn’s underdog character.

Braun has to be the victor here, one way or the other. Maybe he’ll pin Sami, maybe we’ll see the match stopped. Either way, he’s not getting pinned. Zayn’s best hope here is a disqualification or count-out victory. That’s how it should be. Strowman has been one of WWE’s success stories this year. Why slow him down now?

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE Roadblock 2016, Seth Rollins, Chris JerichoSeth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho

This should be a good match. But from a story perspective, it doesn’t do much for me. I will, however, give them credit. At least they’ve laid out a reason for this match to occur. Rollins wants to be Universal Champion again, so that he can force a confrontation with Triple H. For that to happen, he needs to isolate Kevin Owens. For that to happen, he needs to get rid of Chris Jericho.

But I don’t see that happening. The “best friends” duo of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho seems to be all but officially dissolved. This would seemingly indicate a match between the two is imminent, possibly at the Royal Rumble. Jericho doesn’t need to win this match to propel him toward a Universal Title Match. But it couldn’t hurt. Plus, with Rollins calling out Triple H the way he is, they have the perfect excuse to pull shenanigans and cost him the match. So why not?

PREDICTION: Chris Jericho

WWE Roadblock 2016, Kevin Owens, Roman ReignsWWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns

For better or worse, Roman Reigns is still “the guy” in WWE. Ergo, he can become the Universal Champion (or the World Heavyweight Champion for that matter) at any time. I’d like to think that’s not what we’re going to see here. Owens hasn’t set the world on fire with that belt. But of the two he’s more intriguing, not to mention more entertaining.

I’m inclined to say Owens on this one. But it could go either way. Aside from Seth Rollins vs. Triple H and Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Wrestlemania still looks wide open. It would piss off many a smart mark, but they could give the belt to Reigns to set him up for a big title defense. The question is, against who? If you leave the belt on Owens, you keep the door open for not only a big match with Chris Jericho, but a confrontation with Finn Balor, who is eyeing Wrestlemania for his return. It seems like Owens is the one to go with. But if he doesn’t win this one, don’t expect Reigns to be too far from the title picture as we move forward.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

WWE Roadblock 2016, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair30-MINUTE IRON MAN MATCH FOR WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte

Two questions on this one…

1. What Women’s Title Match do we want to do at Wrestlemania?

2. Just how important is Charlotte’s pay per view winning streak?

The likely candidate to challenge for the title is Bayley. She’s been kept fairly strong, and she’s got a history with Sasha that would lend itself to a big match like that. On the other hand, Charlotte is objectively the best all-around female performer WWE has right now. She needs to do something at Wrestlemania, and a Women’s Title Match seems like the most natural spot for her. Plus, they’ve built this pay per view streak up quite a bit. If they want to break it, Wrestlemania seems like the right place.

You also have the Ric Flair factor. I sincerely doubt he’s there strictly as the garnish. Odds are he plays some sort of role in the outcome. The obvious route would be to have him swerve Sasha, and have the belt once again go back to Charlotte. Again, with Wrestlemania still wide open, this one could go either way. That’s especially true when you consider the back and forth nature of this program. It’s all been very pattern-based. Sasha wins it on Raw, Charlotte wins it on pay per view.

But let’s go out on a limb. Let’s say this is where they finally break the cycle. Sasha wins, feuds with Nia Jax between now and Wrestlemania, and then gets to Bayley at Wrestlemania. As for who that leaves for Charlotte…um…Nikki Bella? That’s a tough one. There’s no way she doesn’t get on Wrestlemania, though. One way or another, Charlotte will return to wrestling’s grandest stage.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks