Tag Archives: Ryback

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman Return, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Last week’s Raw was one of the best show’s they’ve had in recent memory. This one, on the other hand, felt more like business as usual. I’m wondering if the reason doesn’t have something to do with a continuous thread throughout the show. A sort of self-contained “spine” story that holds the show together, but also feeds a larger story.

For instance, last week it was all about who would face Rollins at Summerslam. It was decided in three matches spread out over the course of the show. And they made a new star in the process. They weren’t just throwing matches out there.

They did this during the Attitude Era, and it made for great TV. They keep calling this the “new era,” but that doesn’t mean we have to throw all the rules out…

Sasha Banks, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Sasha Banks kicks off the show, is featured in an in-ring segment with Charlotte, Chris Jericho, and Enzo. Charlotte & Jericho win a mixed tag. As cool as it was to have Sasha open the show, the opening skit fell flat. No disrespect to any of these performers. But unless you’ve got really compelling circumstances, i.e. a big return or something, 20 minutes of talking is too long. As such, the match fell a little flat as well.

Couldn’t help but wonder where Big Cass was. My first instinct was that he must have gotten in trouble for something. But he came out for the save afterward. So apparently they just opted to send Enzo out there without him. Enzo was fine on his own, of course.

Kevin Owens was out on commentary in this match for some reason. I’ll never complain about that. He’s got great confidence on commentary, which so many wrestlers lack.

Braun Strowman wins another enhancement match. When was the last time they regularly featured enhancement guys? I’m inclined to say it was with Ryback. In time, those enhancement matches got him over as a juggernaut. How Strowman will do once he’s back in competitive matches is another matter. But for now, this works for me.

The Shining Stars def. The Golden Truth. R-Truth misses a hot tag because he’s playing Pokemon Go. That’s almost like humor.

WWE Raw, August 1, 2016, Seth Rollins, Finn BalorSeth Rollins confronts Finn Balor. Let’s face facts: Balor isn’t a strong promo. He can talk, but he’s not exactly compelling to listen to by himself. That’s why it was interesting to see Michael Cole out there with him when the segment began. Years ago, they’d have Vince McMahon or Jim Ross do in-ring interviews on Raw. I’d be game for Cole doing something similar every week, the same way they’ve started to put Byron Saxton out there for post-match comments from wrestlers.

Of course, Rollins ended up coming out and dismissing Cole. Not much to note here, except that I’m impressed with how Balor has been portrayed. He’s a big deal. As he should be.

Rusev def. Mark Henry to retain the United States Championship. Rusev badmouths Americans in the Olympics, which draws out Roman Reigns. Poor Rusev. He keeps getting on these big rolls, only to run into run into a golden boy that kills his momentum. Awhile back it was John Cena. Now it’s Roman Reigns. Mind you, they could have a screw job finish that allows Rusev to keep the title. But smart bet is Reigns leaves Summerslam with the belt.

They seem to be presenting the idea that Mark Henry is being put out to pasture. Supposedly Henry is looking to retire. So if they want to make a story out of it, that’s fantastic. He does well with high emotion. So it might make for some good TV.

Titus O'Neil, Bob Backlund, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil. Titus wins with a handful of tights. The slogan goes: “Make Darren  Young Great Again.” This match was based on Titus asking Darren a question we’ve all been wondering: “When were you ever great?”

Not happy to see Titus hold the tights for a pin. But at least they acknowledged it. As recently as a few months ago, the announcers would have ignored that. I don’t see the upside of having Titus be a heel. He’s very likable. On the plus side, his little shouting match with Bob Backlund backstage was fun. If all this gets the Young/Backlund team over, maybe it’ll be worth it.

Nia Jax wins an enhancement match. So Nia Jax and Braun Strowman are basically doing the same thing. They need to be careful about not doing the exact same thing with these two. I understand the objective is the same, and I’m fine with squash matches. But let’s change up the presentation between the two. Give me different textures and tones.

Kofi Kingston & Big E. def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. On the subject of different tones and textures, you can’t get much more different than these two. The New Day is joyful, and there’s nothing joyful about Gallows & Anderson. They’re natural opponents.

Cesaro vs. Sheamus, WWE Raw, August 1, 2016Cesaro def. Sheamus. I don’t know if that promo Cesaro cut on the network was a “worked shoot” or a legit shoot. Either way, it’s nice to see them tapping into what I assume are Cesaro’s real emotions. Even if they’re not, it taps into some of the fans’ frustrations at Cesaro not getting the push he deserves.

So what do you do with Sheamus at this point? He feels so flat, so cold…

Jinder Mahal def. Heath Slater to earn a Raw contract. WWE is bringing back some old names to flesh out the dual rosters and put new talent over. Shelton Benjamin and Rhyno are on Smackdown, and now we’ve got Jinder Mahal on Raw. But what’s confusing about that is Mahal doesn’t have a lot of name value. Outside of his work with 3MB, I have no memory of what Jinder Mahal in his WWE run. Something with the Great Khali maybe? Either way, I’m glad for him. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a better shot this time around.

Seth Rollins def. Sami Zayn. I appreciated Rollins and Zayn building to the Pedigree. By my count, Rollins went for it three times before he finally got it on the fourth. And on the subject of finishers, why isn’t Zayn beating people with the Blue Thunder Bomb? It’s a great move. But he never wins with it.

Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman return to Raw. Randy Orton makes a surprise appearance to hit an RKO on Lesnar. Well, that didn’t take long. Our first attack across brand lines. There’s an element of frustration seeing this, plus Heath Slater showing up on both shows. This doesn’t exactly set a good prescedent. Why even draft Orton and Lesnar to separate shows?

Brock Lesnar, August 1, 2016Still, that shot of Orton hitting the RKO on Brock was great. I didn’t even hear the crowd make any noise. They need to interact somehow. I suspect Lesnar and Heyman will invade  Smackdown as early as this week, with a contract signing to follow.

Rumor had it Heyman’s contract with WWE had expired, and he just signed a new deal this week. After this promo, we should all be very thankful for that. A Paul Heyman promo was the main event of Raw, and for good reason.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE

Over on Smackdown:

Dolph Ziggler wins a six-pack challenge to earn a WWE Title shot at SummerslamAs if Finn Balor earning a shot at the Universal Title wasn’t enough, Ziggler pulled this win out of nowhere. Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose wrestling for the WWE Championship at a major pay per view. Sure, why not? They’ve got some rehabbing to do with Dolph. But it’s a feel good moment. Ziggler works so hard, and deserves to much better than to just be another guy on the roster. He’s not getting the belt. Not now at least. But this is a great chance for him to shine on a big stage.

Randy Orton def. The Miz. I hated this. Not because Orton won, but because Miz lost clean. They just had to put Orton out there with the Intercontinental Champion? There was nobody else on that roster he could have wrestled?

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Seth Rollins Returns, Cody Rhodes Departs, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Cody Rhodes, WWE Intercontinental ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, let’s talk about Cody Rhodes, who requested and was granted his WWE release over the weekend.

This is becoming something of a trend, isn’t it? Wade Barrett opted not to sign a new contract with WWE. Ryback went home due to a contract dispute, as well as creative frustrations. And now Cody Rhodes/Stardust is gone, partially due to creative frustrations. He has apparently wanted to ditch the Stardust character for awhile now. But WWE apparently didn’t see that as being in the cards for him. So he made what many would consider to be a bold move, and asked to be let go. And to WWE’s credit, they didn’t keep him against his will.

I’m not sure if Rhodes was ever going to be a top guy for them. But he certainly had the potential to be more than he was. I keep thinking back to those years he spent in the Intercontinental Title picture. Not just bringing back the classic IC Belt, but feuding with the likes of Rey Mysterio Jr. and The Big Show at Wrestlemania. And my God, the number of personas he had over the years. First he was the upstart rookie, then he was with Legacy, then he was “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, then there was “disfigured” Cody Rhodes, and then he had the mustache, and then he was Stardust. He was so versatile in the ways he connected with the audience. I, for one, will miss him.

WWE, StardustI keep thinking back to an article I spotted awhile back on RingsideNews.com entitled “The Lost Generation of WWE.” It spotlights a lot of different guys who might have been stars, perhaps even main eventers, if WWE had given them an honest chance. Rhodes is among them. It’s definitely worth a look.

Getting back to this being a trend, when you look at Barrett and Rhodes calling it quits, Ryback going home, and all the talents who have vented creative frustrations via social media (Zack Ryder, Damien Sandow, Naomi, Cameron, Alex Riley, etc.), the glass ceiling in WWE becomes that much easier to see. That’s obviously some pretty tough glass to break through, folks. And the one guy who can open a door and let you through? Vince McMahon. Once you sign that contract, to an extent you only go as far as Vince McMahon allows you to go.

Is that fair? Nope. Is it a good thing? I’m not so sure anymore…

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Seth Rollins attacks Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules. Title match to take place at Money in the BankWe didn’t get Finn Balor, as I thought we might. But Rollins was just as pleasant a surprise. I’m happy to see he’s staying heel. I’m not sure what a babyface Seth Rollins would look like at this point. Also, before he left, Rollins was one of the few really good heels WWE had. I don’t doubt he can play that role again.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Roman Reigns was good in this segment. Granted, it did’t require much. All he had to do was walk down there and look menacing. Silent but menacing Roman Reigns is the one I want to see. And when he does speak, I want it short, concise, and to the point.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Sheamus attacks Apollo Crews afterward. No complaints here. Glad they learned their lesson and kept Sheamus away from the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year. Putting him with Apollo Crews is pretty harmless. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind Sheamus in the ring. But creatively, he’s been stale for the longest time. Even when he was champion, he didn’t have much going for. They need to find something to shake Sheamus up. Otherwise, I’m not sure where he goes from here.

Cesaro def. The Miz to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Considering how good Miz has been since Wrestlemania, and how he won that awesome Fatal Fourway Match at Extreme Rules, I wasn’t a big fan of him losing. But in the long run, I really think it’s more important to give Cesaro more momentum. of course.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016, Chris Jericho, Apollo CrewsChris Jericho def. Apollo Crews to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I loved Jericho’s expression on the way down to the ring. Like a pouty little kid. And those whiney screams when Crews would attack those oversized bandages on his back were great. Just like silent Reigns is the best Reigns, heel Jericho is the best Jericho. I was surprised they beat Crews clean. One would think they’d have Sheamus at least be out there for the distraction. But there’s certainly no shame in losing to Jericho.

Bob Backlund scolds Darren Young for saying “damn” in latest vignette. Is there a reason Backlund and Young aren’t in the same place for these segments? At times there’s a weird disconnect between them. That was especially the case here. If you put them in a room together, they’d be able to play off each other, and there’d be so much more energy. Hopefully we see them try this out in a match soon.

Dolph Ziggler challenges Baron Corbin to another match. Hearing Corbin recite that scripted dialogue was painful. Simply put, the guy needs acting lessons. What’s more, he seemed to have trouble knowing whether to look into the camera or away from it. To his credit, he had the right idea. Wrestlers have been looking into the camera to cut promos for generations now. Why they make these guys look off into the distance is a mystery to me. On the plus side, apparently you can say the word “wrestling” on WWE TV now.

Enzo & Cass, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Enzo Amore returns after a concussion, is in Big Cass’ corner as he beats Bubba Ray Dudley. It’s great to see Enzo, obviously. But I’m curious as to why they didn’t mention The Vaudevillians. They were in the ring with Cass & Enzo when the injury happened. You’d think they’d want to go back to that, or at least mention it. Cass continues to be solid in singles matches. He just needs some more experience, and hopefully the other pieces will fall into place.

Charlotte (with Dana Brooke at her side) cuts ties with Ric Flair. Being with Charlotte obviously isn’t a bad spot for Dana Brooke. Though Charlotte has become a pretty good mic worker, Brooke has a natural charisma that will hopefully add to her presentation.

Charlotte may have acknowledged the crowd a little too much in this segment. I give her a lot of credit for being able to ad lib. But it drew focus away from the stuff with Flair, which was obviously what this segment was about. But she cranked up the intensity really nicely when it was time for her to get heat.

Once again, they’re pulling some pretty personal strings with Charlotte and her family. I always thought they should have tried something like this with David Flair when he was in WCW. That way, they could have built to a match between father and son. That’s not something they can do with Charlotte and Ric. But despite a few flubs in her delivery, I think Charlotte played the heartless villain really well. I’m curious to see if Flair leaves this regular TV gig with Charlotte, or if they do a feud of sorts.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Ambrose is on a nice little role, with back-to-back pay per view wins over Chris Jericho. Would I complain about him winning Money in the Bank? Hell no. But do I expect it? Nope.

AJ Styles breaks away from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Styles loses a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match to Kevin Owens. Remember that night Styles and Owens stole the show in the first hour of Raw? This is the spot a match between these two deserve to be in. They proved that tonight. A strong main event, in a period where WWE really needs to try to  build to that third hour. Now that Owens is in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, I expect the feud between he and Sami Zayn to be incorporated into things, which will hopefully add further depth to the match.

I can appreciate the fact that this story with Styles, Anderson, and Gallows is being drawn out. If WWE wants to create their own version of The Bullet Club, it deserves to be a long term, detailed story. Still, it would have been damn cool to see Finn Balor show up at Extreme Rules.

Images courtesy of WWE.

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Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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A WWE Payback 2016 Preview – The Rise of the Bullet Club?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Chances are that once Payback is over, many of our questions regarding the WWE equivalent of the Bullet Club will have been answered.

Ever since word hit that WWE was in talks with AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, speculation ran rampant about a Bullet Club invasion (though perhaps not with that name). Now that all three are on WWE TV, it looks like the time is near. Except the smart bet is that Anderson and Gallows will turn out to be against Styles.

So the question is, who do you put in that third spot? A heel Roman Reigns? The recently de-throned NXT Champion and former Bullet Club member Finn Balor? Or does there even need to be a third member? Could Anderson and Gallows stand on there own?

So many questions. And as I’ve said before, lingering questions are a good thing…

WWE Payback 2016, Ryback, KalistoPRE-SHOW MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

The only reason I can think of to put t these two together again would be to have Ryback win the title. Unless they’re punishing him for what he said in the media about not being happy with his spot on the Wrestlemania card. But if that’s the case then why put Ryback in a title match at all? I maintain Kalisto could do great things with the United States Title. But we haven’t seen much of him on Raw recently. His most recent appearance consisted of him being kayfabe injured in a match with The Dudley Boyz. He’s not a lost cause, but signs seem to indicate Kalisto’s time with the title is done with. Kind of a shame, but not a big loss in the grand scheme of things.

PREDICTION: Ryback

WWE Payback 2016, Dolph Ziggler, Baron CorbinDolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

This one is pretty obvious. Ziggler loses to Corbin, in the process giving him a match that’s decent at the very least. I’ve said this from the start: Corbin is in great hands with Dolph. It’ll be interesting to see how he does when he works with wrestlers who don’t bump and sell like their lives depend on it. But for now, Corbin is in a good spot.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Enzo & Cass vs. The VaudvillainsTAG TEAM TOURNAMENT FINAL:
Enzo & Cass vs. The Vaudvillains

Enzo & Cass didn’t barely scratched the surface of what they could have done with The Dudley Boyz. That’s why I see Bubba and D-Von running in on this one to cost them the match. That’ll give us more matches between those two teams, and at least one outing between The Vaudevillians and The New Day for the tag belts. Granted, they could have Cass & Enzo win, and then do the angle with the Dudleys during a title match. But given how over both those teams are as babyfaces, that seems like the kind of match you’d save for Summerslam. Plus, a win for The Vaudevillians gives them a chance to shine. If they lose, they’re left with nothing to do. Their cartoony villain personas will mesh well with The New Day.

PREDICTION: The Vaudevillians

The Miz, Cesaro, WWE Payback 2016WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Cesaro

I see Miz weaseling his way out of this one somehow, likely with Maryse’s help. Having his wife with him has largely reinvigorated Miz’s career. If they give these two a nice long run, at least until Summerslam, they really have the chance to create something memorable. Of course, that means Cesaro has to lose this match. But if he loses the right way, it doesn’t have to be a setback. In any event, Cesaro doesn’t need the Intercontinental Title to get to the next level. If he keeps doing his thing and stealing the show on Raw, they won’t be able to ignore him.

PREDICTION: Cesaro

Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, WWE Payback 2016Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose

Dean Ambrose could really use a big win. This guy was so close to winning the Royal Rumble, but came up short. Then he got pinned in the triple threat match at Fastlane. Then Triple H beat him in a title match at Roadblock. Then Brock pinned him in an underwhelming street fight at Wrestlemania. Can somebody throw this guy a bone? And by somebody, I mean Chris Jericho. Have Ambrose get the win, and then they can do a crazy gimmick match at Extreme Rules next month. Hopefully they can make that match mean a little more than this one does. I’m sure these two will have a good match, but this story could stand to have a little more meat to it.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, WWE Payback 2016Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

The cool thing about this program is that the rivalry between these two is so personal, we can learn more about the Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens characters by how they interact with each other. Or at least, the potential is there for something like that.

I’m hoping they let these two feud for awhile. Not just because these two have such a personal history, but because Zayn is such a great traditional babyface (which is rare these days), and Owens is such a good heel. Obviously, there’s potential for great television there. As for this match, I say we give Zayn the first win. That way, Owens has extra impetus to cheat to win the rematch, most likely at Extreme Rules. This one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn

Charlotte, Natalya, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, WWE Payback 2016WWE WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) w/Ric Flair vs. Natalya w/Bret Hart

Much like Sami Zayn, Natalya is a great traditional babyface. She’s naturally very likable. This new era in the WWE women’ division is right up her alley. Anyone in the Hart family is bound to thrive when wrestling and match quality are emphasized.

Unfortunately, this isn’t her time. There’s no reason to take the title off Charlotte now. And while some feel otherwise, I think she and her dad make a nice combo. While he could have easily stolen her thunder, Flair is adding to her presentation rather than taking away. I’m not sure who you put her with after Nattie (Paige? Becky Lynch again?), but I get the feeling Charlotte will hold on to that title until she runs into Sasha Banks again.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, WWE Payback 2016WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles

Well, here we are. Yet another opportunity for WWE to turn Roman Reigns heel. Will it happen? Probably not. But he’s in there with AJ Styles. In Chicago, of all places. WWE knows full well Reigns is walking in there to a chorus of boos. Hell, he walks into every arena to a chorus of boos. If they were going to turn him, now is as good a time as any.

Whatever happens with Anderson and Gallows, there’s no way Reigns drops the title here. Styles is hot right now, but he’s not that hot. The story also lends itself to AJ’s former friends turning on him. As WWE has spent the better part of a year stubbornly digging their feet in as far as Reigns being a babyface, I say if there is a third man to help cost Styles this match, it’s Finn Balor. WWE even ran a video on their web site about Balor possibly showing up on the main roster. He’s been ready for awhile now, and a program with AJ Styles will give him a hell of a start on the national stage.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A Wrestlemania 32 Preview – Pushing For Overachievement

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is not what WWE wanted to do for Wrestlemania.

John Cena. Randy Orton. Seth Rollins. Sting. Bray Wyatt (allegedly). Cesaro. Luke Harper. Neville. They’re all out with injuries, leaving a series of gaping holes in the roster at a time when WWE was hoping to put on the biggest Wrestlemania of all time.

What’s more, creative has been a mess. Fans refuse to accept Roman Reigns as the lead babyface, and have been booing him week after week. Considering he’s wrestling for the WWE Championship on this show, that’s a huge problem. To make matters worse, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, two of the biggest stars in the history of the industry, are going to be on this show. But we have no idea what they’re doing.

Simply put, the bar has been set low this year. We’ve been left with a Wrestlemania that we can only hope exceeds our low expectations. Thankfully, considering the quality of the product as of late, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full disclosure: I’ve lost track of what is and isn’t on the pre-show. Considering we never know what could be taken off or put on the pre-show, we’ll simply proceed from the bottom of the card…

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 2016ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

We may as well pick a name out of a hat in this one. In the last two Andre Battle Royals, there’s been an obvious up and coming talent to give the win to. In 2014 it was Cesaro. It 2015 it was Damien Sandow. Granted, Sandow didn’t get it. But who would benefit from winning this year? There are 20 men in this thing, and we know 16 of them. I can only assume two of those free spots will be filled by Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman. Assuming they don’t pull a fast one and have somebody from NXT take it (which I’d be in favor of), I say we go with a pitch The Solomonster gave months ago, and have Mark Henry take it. This will likely be one of his last go-arounds, and it’d make for a feel good moment worthy of Wrestlemania. So given the amount of information we have, I’ve got to go with Henry.

PREDICTION: Mark Henry

Divas Tag Team Match, Wrestlemania XXXIILana, Summer Rae, Naomi, Tamina, & Emma vs. Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox & Eva Marie 

More or less a filler match for the ladies, which is a shame considering we have potentially the best women’s match Wrestlemania has seen in years later on the card. Who wins? It really doesn’t matter. But considering Brie Bella is allegedly retiring sooner than expected, I imagine her team will pick up the win here.

PREDICTION: Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Dudley Boyz, The UsosThe Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

This program has been good for the Usos. The Dudleys, Bubba in particular, or such vile and nasty heels that Jimmy and Jey have needed to crank up the intensity to match them. The best comparison I can think of is when Shawn Michaels worked with Mankind in September 1996. Hopefully these four get a bigger spotlight once there’s more room on Raw after Wrestlemania. As for this match, I see Bubba and D-Von picking up the win. It’s the Dudleys’ first Wrestlemania since their return, and they deserve it. Plus, the Usos will look good on the comeback trail. That is, assuming they stay babyface… (More on that later.)

PREDICTION: The Dudley Boyz

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Ryback, KalistoWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

Frankly, I’d have preferred to see the US Title get the multi-man match, while Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn went at it for the Intercontinental Title. But here we are. While I wouldn’t expect this one to go long, being in a singles match for a title is unquestionably a big moment in the careers of both Kalisto and Ryback. As for who wins, WWE clearly sees potential in Ryback. Perhaps not as much as they used to, but they obviously like him. So I’m putting my money on “The Big Guy” getting a big win. Hopefully Kalisto remains a contender, though. I maintain he can be a big international star in the same vein as Rey Mysterio Jr.

PREDICTION: Ryback

The New Day vs. The League of Nations, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIThe New Day vs. The League of Nations

The cool thing about this match is the Dallas crowd should be firmly in The New Day’s corner. On a night where we’ve got two big babyface vs. babyface matches, and a main event where the hero isn’t going to be cheered, that’s a big plus. I don’t see why Kofi, Big E., and Xavier shouldn’t retain here. Crowds love them, and they’ve just starting their babyface turn. While WWE may want you to think they’ve got a hot rivalry going with the League of Nations, in reality it’s just something for the League to do on the card. Hopefully this is one of their last go-arounds as a group. After this match, we shouldn’t have anything to be sour about.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, StardustLADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:

Another year, another ladder match for the IC Title. As I’ve said before, from a booking standpoint matches like this are often devoid of any creativity. They simply threw seven guys into a ladder match. Hell, Zack Ryder allegedly replaced Neville in this match, and it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference from a story perspective. I rest my case. I’m sure it’ll be a fun match to watch. But man, what a waste…

For my money, this match comes down to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Everybody else is just there to fill space. The Owens/Zayn rivalry is seriously lacking depth right now, but that’s an easy problem to fix. They can simply slap a video package together the way they did with The Undertaker and Shane McMahon last week. And just like that, they up the intrigue. I see Owens retaining here, somehow screwing Zayn over in the end. After that, they can get at least another two months out of rematches.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIChris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

This is the fourth time we’ll have seen these two wrestle since January, so the pressure is on them to pull something fresh out of the hat. On the upside, you’ll rarely find two men more qualified to do that. To Jericho’s credit, he’s dedicated most of his 2016 run to making AJ Styles a star in WWE. How Styles will fare without Jericho helping him remains to be seen (no disrespect). But for now, things are looking up for Styles, as he’s all but guaranteed to get a victory at his first Wrestlemania. And the smart bet is that his won’t suffer the same fate as Fandango after his ‘Mania bout with Jericho.

I’d love to see Jericho stick around a little while as we head into Spring, especially now that he’s a heel again. One would be hard pressed to find a wrestler who wouldn’t benefit from some ring time with him.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky LynchTRIPLE THREAT MATCH FOR WWE DIVAS TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

I’m conflicted on this one. Becky Lynch has really taken off as a babyface since January. For yours truly, she’s a sentimental favorite in this match, and a title win would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

On the other hand, Sasha Banks is looked at by many as the woman who could truly stamp this as a new era for women’s wrestling. I’ve even seen reports WWE is rebranding the Divas Title in favor of the Women’s Title after Wrestlemania, with Sasha holding the belt. So in the bigger picture, a win for Sasha may be more important.

But…couldn’t Becky bring back the Women’s Title just as easily? From a character standpoint, I think she’s actually more developed than Sasha is. And for the record, I’m a Sasha Banks fan.

But in truth, regardless of who wins here, the fans are winners. That’s a cliche, but it’s true. We’re getting three quality female wrestlers competing for a championship at the biggest show of the year. In the end, I think Sasha will end up with the belt. But it could truly end up being any of these talented ladies.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Dean Ambrose, Brock LesnarSTREET FIGHT:
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

I know they’re hyping this as a “No Holds Barred Street Fight.” But isn’t a street fight by it’s very nature no holds barred? Who even uses wrestling holds in a street fight?

To my recollection, Brock Lesnar hasn’t been pinned since Triple H beat him at Wrestlemania XXIX. That was three years ago. If Brock loses here, it’s not the end of the world. What’s more, they can have him loses in a way that barely hurts him at all. WWE has had Ambrose ponder the use of a barbed wire baseball bat and a chainsaw against this guy. How much more of a monster can you build him up as?

What’s more, Ambrose is the right guy to win this match. He is ascending, and truly on his way to becoming a top guy. Paul Heyman even said it in his promo on Monday. A win over a mega attraction like Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania could truly catapult him to the next level. At a time where they desperately need new stars, the time is now to give a huge win to someone that the fans favor organically. Dean Ambrose is that guy.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Undertaker, Shane McMahonSTIPULATION HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
If Shane wins, he gets control of Raw, and Undertaker can never compete at Wrestlemania again.

Talk about coming WAY out of left field. They slapped this one together pretty hastily, but what choice did they have? WWE hasn’t been bit by the injury bug, it’s been infected with an injury plague. But as far as thrown together Wrestlemania attractions are concerned, this one is pretty damn good. But the question is, can it live up to the hype? And there’s certainly no shortage of hype between Shane’s return, the possibility of a much needed shake up on Raw, and The Undertaker competing in a Hell in a Cell Match at Wrestlemania.

I expect no shortage of craziness here. Vince and Stephanie will likely be at ringside. Shane is probably taking a crazy bump of some kind. We may see action outside the cage, and perhaps even on top. Maybe this is where Steve Austin fits into things. Perhaps a run-in and a Stone Cold Stunner to lead into the finish?

Regardless of what’s on the line in this match, I truly have no desire to see The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania again. I understand his winning streak has been broken, and that beating him wouldn’t have nearly the amount of impact it did two years ago. But he’s still The Undertaker, and this is still Wrestlemania. Changing things on Raw doesn’t necessitate Shane being in the picture, though I admit that would certainly be a plus. Furthermore, who’s to say Shane can’t end up being in charge of Raw anyway? He supposedly has a big secret over Vince’s head, right? What if that secret comes out the night after Wrestlemania, and Triple H and Stephanie resign in its wake, leaving Vince with no choice but to make Shane the new General Manager of Raw?

Either way, there’s a strong possibility that this match steals the show. Or at the very least, proves to be a worthwhile substitute for the presence of all the stars on the injured list…

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Triple H, Roman ReignsWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

We’ve had some lame duck Wrestlemania main events in the past. But it’s tough to point to any headline match that’s been as in over it’s head as this one. This match represents a year’s worth of effort by WWE to turn Roman Reigns into the company’s top babyface. Simply put? It didn’t work. Now they’ve got him against Triple H, WWE’s tyrannical on-screen authority figure/WWE Champion, and the fans have been cheering for the tyrant.

Ouch.

Simply put, you can’t force-feed a hero to to your audience. Even if you’re Vince McMahon. They really have nobody to blame but themselves for all those boos Roman is going to hear in Dallas. I honestly feel for the guy. It’s not his fault. He’s got his marching orders. What’s he supposed to do? Say no to a Wrestlemania main event, and the top spot in the company?

It’s been said time and time again, but it bears repeating now more than ever: Roman needs to turn heel. They’ve been ducking and dodging it for months now. But unless they’re comfortable with their alleged top babyface being booed out of arenas across the country, the fans need to be allowed to hate him Roman Reigns. And like any heel who is good at what he does, eventually he’ll be cheered.

Roman Reigns, The RockThis needs to be a double turn. Vince McMahon sides with Roman Reigns and costs Triple H the match. This leads to Roman becoming our new heel champion, possibly with The Usos as his run-in buddies. From there, he can feud with the likes of Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, or whichever babyfaces they want to put him with. WWE is desperate for strong heels right now, and nobody is getting more heat than Reigns. The time has come to stop going against the grain.

I can only assume The Rock will play some kind of role in this match. One sure fire way to get heat? Turn on the People’s Champion. I’m just sayin’.

In any event, whether he’s a heel or a babyface, I don’t see any way Reigns doesn’t leave Dallas with the title. Let’s just hope it’s under the right circumstances.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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The Undertaker’s Motivation, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I take no pleasure in saying this, but the build-up for this year’s Wrestlemania has been the most creatively bereft I’ve ever seen.

I understand this wasn’t the card they wanted. Cena is out, Rollins is out, Orton is out, etc. But it goes beyond that. The storytelling is immensely flawed. In Roman Reigns, we have a lead babyface who isn’t getting cheered. The Undertaker is an executioner with no motivation to execute. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock are supposedly going to be on the show. But the show is getting closer and they have no roles yet.

I won’t deny the card looks interesting on paper. But the stories are all so messy. And this is supposed to be the biggest Wrestlemania of all time?

in any event, let’s look at the good and the bad…

The New Day, March 14, 2016Pondering From Raw:

The New Day def. Alberto Del Rio & Rusev to retain the Tag Team Titles. I loved the kick-off this week. Why? The show always picks up when The New Day are out there. But more than that, it was different. It wasn’t another 15 minute segment with The Authority. It was a breath of fresh air.

The match itself was fine, but we had some problems at the end. Firstly, Xavier Woods had a handful of tights when he rolled up Rusev for the win. As it looks like The New Day are babyfaces now, that’s a no-no in my book. Also, the post-match beat-down went on forever. Somebody in The League of Nations would hit their finish, and they’d pose. They they’d hit another finish, and they’d pose. This process kept repeating, and by the time it was over, roughly five minutes had gone by. I think we got the point after the first 30 seconds: The New Day got beat up. From an in-story perspective, the match was over. Where were the officials to break it up?

I know, I know. Logic is too much to expect from WWE these days…or perhaps any day.

Dean Ambrose, WWE Raw, March 14, 2016Dean Ambrose taunts Brock Lesnar. Loved the “Let’s go Ambrose” chants. This guy is obviously the people’s choice right now. Ambrose against a heel Roman Reigns? Now that would be a main event…

I liked the visual of Ambrose holding the crowbar. Sadly, the crowd didn’t get much of a chance to pop for it, as I think they were watching Brock approach the ring when he pulled it out. I imagine that served as a bit of foreshadowing as to what this match will be like. Ambrose and Lesnar have a legit chance to steal the show at Wrestlemania. And for those of us hoping Ambrose to get the lead babyface spot currently occupied (in theory) by Roman Reigns, that’s a great thing.

Ryback def. Sin Cara. “That’s what happens when a good big guy meets a good little guy. Size matters.” I imagine that was a Vince McMahon line. It’s certainly from his playbook, isn’t it?

So much for Ryback facing Goldberg at Wrestlemania, huh? Still, this isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. He’s got a title match at the biggest show of the year. His Smackdown match with Kalisto wasn’t bad at all. So hopefully these two will put on a decent match.

WWE Raw, Dolph Ziggler, March 14, 2016Dolph Ziggler interrupts an Authority promo. After last week’s Raw, Dolph cut an awesome promo that aired on WWE.com. I’d like to think somebody writing TV saw that video, and put this segment together.

I liked this segment for the most part. I wish Ziggler had come out there to actually challenge Triple H. But to me this was more about the novelty of seeing him out there with a mic in his hand, talking to Hunter and Stephanie. I was amazed he got to call Steph “idiotic” on television. Granted, she slapped him like she does all the babyfaces on this show. But he showed some great fire out there. And what’s more, he got to wrestle Triple H in his first Raw match in a long time. Win or lose, it was a big night for Ziggler.

Is this an indication of bigger things for him down the road? Probably not. But it’s fun to hope, right?

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Raw gets around three million viewers each week, right? And the WWE Network has about one million subscribers. So why are they assuming we all know Zayn and Kevin Owens are old rivals? At least that’s how it seems. I like Sami Zayn, but he was on Raw once last year, and then he showed up again in the Royal Rumble Match. So if you’ve strictly been watching the main roster stuff, you’ve only seen Zayn twice. It’d sure be nice for them to formally tell us a little bit about this guy.

Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, March 14, 2016It’s looking like they’re building to a multi-man match for the Intercontinental Title involving Owens, Zayn, Neville, and likely a few others. (Miz? Ziggler?) That’s all well and good, I suppose. It’s disappointing from a traditionalist’s standpoint, but I don’t think we’ve had enough time to let this Owens/Zayn rivalry blossom.

Naomi & Tamina def. Brie Bella & Alicia Fox. Rumor has it they’re building to a multi-woman tag team match at Wrestlemania, and this show seemed to confirm that. At the very least, it looks like we’ll get Brie, Alicia, and Paige against Lana, Naomi, and Tamina. This match won’t win any awards, but it’s cool to have two women’s matches on the show. Has that ever happened before?

The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos to take place at WrestlemaniaThat match with the Social Outcasts doesn’t bear much mention. This on the other hand? This is nice. I’m hoping we see some nice, hard-hitting stuff from these guys. In time, this program could be really good if it’s done the right way.

Triple H, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Raw, March 14, 2016Mick Foley pops up on Raw to give Dean Ambrose a gift. I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see Mick in front of the live crowd. Nevertheless, the gift of “Barbie” was a nice moment, and again a nice foreshadowing for the match with Brock.

Triple H def. Dolph Ziggler, Roman Reigns attacks. I really wish they’d advertised this, even if it was only that afternoon. I know I’d have been anxious to see Hunter in the ring on free TV.

It was pretty obvious they weren’t going to beat Triple H right before Wrestlemania. So that took some of the steam out of this one. But I imagine these two had fun being in the ring together. And it’s a big deal for Dolph to be in the ring with Hunter.

As for Roman Reigns, he wasn’t universally booed. But there were definitely more boos than cheers. Though that’s not to say Reigns lacked intensity. It seemed like they were trying to get him some cheers by putting him in a big brawl, and even busting Hunter open. It was nice to see The Usos come in to break it up, as that plays up the family connection they have with Reigns. But what the hell were Mark Henry and Jack Swagger in there for? That was random as hell…

It was a good fight, but it’s obviously too little, too late.

WWE Raw, March 14, 2016, AJ Styles, Chris JerichoNeville def. Chris Jericho via disqualification, gets a beating from AJ Styles. I’m hoping these two do a rematch next week. I was disappointed to see this one was more about sizzle than substance. I’m growing concerned that they haven’t announced Styles vs. Jericho for Wrestlemania. It’ll be a colossal waste if they put this guys in a multi-man match for the Intercontinental Title.

The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, and Shane McMahon share a ring to close the show. For better or worse, this is the big draw at Wrestlemania. It’s got problems, but one can’t deny the attraction of seeing Shane return to the ring, inside Hell in a Cell no less.

The big problem in this match continues to be The Undertaker’s motivation, which Shane called him out on here. What does The Undertaker have against Shane McMahon? Why should he go so quietly with Vince’s plan? I can buy that Vince has the power to force ‘Taker into a match. But why wouldn’t he have objections? Shane called him a puppet, and that’s what he is here. That’s the main ingredient we’re missing. Are they not telling us because they have something planned? Or does this story simply lack that kind of depth? Sadly, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Shane McMahon, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Shane McMahon, WWE Raw, March 7, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This WWE Roadblock special they have coming up this Saturday is an interesting beast, particularly considering Roman Reigns is MIA right now.

I suppose I’m grasping at straws. But the crowd seems really into Dean Ambrose. Could they really change up Wrestlemania so close to the event?

More on that in a bit…

Pondering From Raw:

Shane McMahon opens the show, is confronted by his father. It’s interesting how what Shane has said in his promos seems very shoot based, and in touch with what a lot of the die-hards are saying about Vince. Tonight we heard him say Vince has lost touch with his business and his fanbase. Very strong words. I’m wondering how much of Shane’s stuff (if any) is being given to him by the writers.

Shane McMahon, fight, WWE Raw, March 7, 2016That shattered family picture was a nice visual heading into Wrestlemania. We got a nice peek into Shane’s offense with the security guys. I’m still left wanting more from this story in terms of The Undertaker. I don’t like the idea of him being content to be used as a pawn for Vince. They really need to have him to at least acknowledge that before we get to Dallas.

Sami Zayn returns to Raw, attacking Kevin Owens. While I’m happy to see Sami Zayn back, his return is seemingly an indicator of just how on-the-fly WWE creative is these days. On the surface, it seems like they’ve been building to this since the Royal Rumble Match when Zayn eliminated Owens. But if that’s the case, then why didn’t they, you know, build to it?

We’re always hearing about how WWE wants to appeal to the more casual viewers. But those casual viewers have no idea who Sami Zayn really is. To them, he’s just a guy who had a hell of a match with John Cena awhile back, and then randomly showed up to eliminate Kevin Owens. If they want this to be a match worthy of Wrestlemania, they should have invested the time in telling us about Zayn and his connection to Owens. But I suspect they didn’t know they were even doing this match in Dallas until sometime last week. It’ll be a good match, but imagine how much more it could have meant.

Lana, Brie Bella, WWE Raw, March 7, 2016Lana attacks Brie Bella. I didn’t even bother covering the little backstage segment with these two last week, because it didn’t seem worth mentioning. Frankly, this doesn’t seem worth mentioning either, aside from me hoping these two don’t end up in a match at Wrestlemania. Supposedly Lana had a lot of heat on her posting a photo of her engagement ring on Instagram, effectively ruining the angle between her, Rusev, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae (who coincidentally was out there wrestling Brie). It seems like they’ve come around, at least for the time being.

Dean Ambrose: “I’m hijacking Wrestlemania.” If any Wrestlemania ever needed to be hijacked, it’s this one. And by God, look at how the crowd reacted to Ambrose. He’s not getting Austin reactions, but they’re cheering him. That’s more than they can say for Roman Reigns. Incidentally, where is Roman these days? It seems weird that the challenger for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania is absent during the build up. But Ambrose is there. And he’s cutting great promos to boot. He and Triple H even have some chemistry. Why isn’t this the Wrestlemania main event?

Rusev, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Raw, March 7, 2016The League of Nations def. Dolph Ziggler in a 3-on-1 Elimination Handicap Match. I’m assuming this was done to make the League of Nations look ruthless as they head into Wrestlemania, presumably for a tag title match against The New Day. As for Ziggler, wasn’t he doing something with The Miz?

Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch def. Naomi & Tamina. Both get beat down by Charlotte afterward. The triple threat match between Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky at Wrestlemania was made official on Smackdown. I’m thrilled these ladies are getting a chance to shine, and hopefully they set the bar high for Wrestlemania. As for this segment, it didn’t do much for me until Charlotte got involved. I’m wondering at what point we’ll be done with Sasha and Becky tagging together. Let’s give them some time to develop their individual credentials.

Chris Jericho turns on AJ Styles. Very pleased to see this. It was an obvious development. But with creative as bad as its been lately, you never quite know. I’d just as soon have skipped all this “Y2AJ” stuff. But they had to extend it Wrestlemania somehow. Though I think it was a little sleazy for them to make Y2AJ t-shirts, presumably knowing this was going to happen.

Kalisto, Tyler Breeze, WWE Raw, March 7, 2016Kalisto def. Tyler Breeze, is confronted by Ryback backstage. Nice little showing for Kalisto. Michael Cole spews a lot of BS, as that’s part of his job. But he was right about one thing. It’s a lot of fun to watch Kalisto in there.

So maybe we’re looking at a Kalisto vs. Ryback match at Wrestlemania? That’s fair enough, I suppose. But I’m assuming they don’t want us to remember Kalisto pinned Ryback on Smackdown a few months ago…

After a DQ victory over Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose catches Triple H by surprise, and hits Dirty Deeds. The sight of Ambrose standing with the WWE Championship is so great. But it’s also so weird, considering it’s Reigns with the shot at Wrestlemania

On the subject of Bray Wyatt, I’m at a loss in terms of what they could do with him at Wrestlemania. They were moving toward he and Brock, obviously. But plans have changed. So what do you do with him so late?

In Other News:

Rhyno, NXTTerrence Gerin, a.k.a. Rhyno, announces run for Michigan’s House of Representatives. Good for Rhyno, I suppose. He may find some trouble if those old ECW clips of him working with Lori Fullington make it into his opponent’s hands. Still, nothing but luck to the last (real) ECW Champion.

Image 6 from kayfabenews.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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