WWE Clash at the Castle – A Few Quick Thoughts…

WWE Clash at the Castle 2022 posterBy Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I don’t watch Raw or Smackdown regularly anymore. Not only do my job(s) not really allow it, but the quality of WWE programming has been on a steady decline for more than 10 years now. A couple years ago, I simply tagged out and haven’t come back…

I do, however, usually follow along with what’s happening via social media. And I’ll tune in a few times a year to the big pay per view events. (Actually, I guess they’re called “premium live events” now.) Last night was one such night, as for the first time in 30 years, WWE presented a major show from the United Kingdom. The crowd promised to be hot. The card looked decent. And with all the positive changes we’ve seen recently now that Triple H is the…*double-checks his new job title*…chief content officer of WWE, things looked promising.

So I tuned in. Here are a few quick musings from WWE Clash at the Castle

Very classy for them to pay tribute to Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart the way they did. They certainly didn’t have to. But that was a nice way to earn some points with the long-time fans. Those two had one of the all-time great pay per view main events at Summerslam ’92 all those years ago.

I had only seen a few of the renowned matches Gunther (then known as WALTER) had in NXT UK. But even so, his match with Sheamus was probably the match I was looking forward to the most. You knew these guys were going to go in there and beat the crap out of one another, and they definitely didn’t disappoint in that respect. This is one of those instances where I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to a rematch or two.

At a time when WWE is trying to reestablish the Intercontinental Title (as well as the U.S. Title) as a coveted prize, there may be no one better equipped to give us a new catalog of great Intercontinental Title matches than Gunther. With luck, this is just the beginning of what he’ll do for that belt.

Sheamus, Gunther, WWE Clash at the Castle 2022

On the subject of the belt itself, now that we’re in this new era, can we please get the classic IC Title back? You’re never going to get a better looking belt design than that one.

Can Shayna Baszler’s main roster run be salvaged at this point? Under Vince McMahon’s direction, WWE has spent these last few years absolutely murdering her credibility. No disrespect, but during her days as a dominant killer on NXT, could you even conceive of her losing a match to Liv Morgan? Much less a pay per view championship match? At this point, her best bet might be to go away and come back in a a few years for a fresh start.

Go back and look at Edge’s face when Dominik Mysterio kicks him below the belt. Great expression. That might have been my favorite part of the entire night.

Seth Rollins and Matt Riddle definitely delivered. You could argue it was the match of the night. And yet, what I’m thinking about today is what Rollins wore during his entrance. That’s one of those things Mrs. Primary Ignition wouldn’t have been able to get over, had she been watching with me. “But why is he wearing that?!?”

The crowd was hot the entire night. You love to see it. I’m sure WWE is hesitant to do more big overseas shows like this because of the time difference. But if we can get crowds like this on a more regular basis, I think it’d be worth it. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it.

Sucks to be Drew McIntyre. That was all I could think about when this show was over. The guy was one of only a few remaining credible opponents for Roman Reigns. He came into the match a hero, perfectly teed up to be the guy to finally end Roman’s tyrannical run at the top.

Roman Reigns, WWE Clash at the Castle 2022

And then he lost. Ouch.

I mean, it was due to outside interference. And I’m sure he got a really nice payday out of it, regardless. But still…ouch.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Undertaker vs. Braun Strowman? Five Alternatives For Taker’s Wrestlemania Rival

Braun Strowmann, WWE RawBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Braun Strowman. That‘s their plan for The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXXII? It’s supposed to be the highest attended Wrestlemania of all time, in ‘Taker’s home state no less, and they’re putting him with Braun Strowman. He (allegedly) went from being pencilled in with Brock Lesnar, to John Cena…to Braun Strowman?

This is wrong for a variety of reasons. While he’s been put over as a monster since his debut, Braun Strowman is still relatively green, and not ready, or qualified to be in a match of this magnitude. Also, given time and experience, Strowman could indeed be a money opponent for ‘Taker. They’d be shooting their wad too soon by putting them together here. Hell, they need to build up not only Strowman, but The Wyatt Family in general.

Also, Brock Lesnar is apparently facing Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania. With Braun Strowman, they’d essentially be giving Undertaker one of Bray’s henchmen, while Brock takes on the big dog.

But mores than anything else, even with so many marquee stars on the injured list right now (Cena, Randy Orton, Sting, Seth Rollins), there are so many wrestlers better suited to face The Undertaker than Braun Strowman. Cast in point, the five names I’ve assembled.

Obviously, none of these men have the marquee value of a Brock Lesnar or a John Cena. But let’s go into this under the assumption that the allure of this match is seeing The Undertaker in action at Wrestlemania, and we’re simply trying to give the fans a match worth their money. I don’t think Braun Strowman can do that. But these five can.

Luke Harper, WWE1. Luke Harper

Assuming we must go to The Wyatt Family for an Undertaker opponent, we need to pick a different Wyatt. Luke Harper has over a decade of experience under his belt. Yes, we still have the issue of ‘Taker facing one of Bray Wyatt’s henchmen. But it was Harper who was pinned by Undertaker in the tag match at Survivor Series. Who’s to say Harper, looking to bring glory to The Wyatt Family, doesn’t strike out on his own in the hope of ending The Undertaker’s legacy once and or all. WWE has tried to break Harper out as a singles star before. As it turned out, they jumped the gun, and ultimately ended up putting The Wyatt Family back together. I’m certainly not advocating breaking the Wyatts up again, but a program like this could help Harper establish a persona of his own. Thus, if/when he does break out on his own again, it could mean more. Plus, he’d give ‘Taker a solid match.

Samoa Joe, NXT2. Samoa Joe

Samoa Joe is easily NXT’s best heel right now. And WWE desperately needs good heels. They had to play the Mr. McMahon card to get the fans to cheer Roman Reigns. But in 2016, Vince McMahon is hardly an ideal ongoing bad guy for television. Samoa Joe on the other hand…

Joe’s in-ring skills speak for themselves. This would simply be a matter of getting him on television and ready for The Undertaker. The Royal Rumble would have been a great opportunity, but that ship has sailed. If this is the direction they’re inclined to go in, I say bring up up at Fastlane, and simply say he’s come to take out the best WWE has to offer (or something like that). Bing bang boom, instant Undertaker match It’s not the most convenient option from a storytelling standpoint, but it would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania match, and add a strong heel to the main roster.

Chris Jericho, Raw, January 4, 20163. Chris Jericho

Jericho’s heel run in 2008 was the stuff of legends, and in a company currently devoid of hot heels, an evil Chris Jericho could reap more benefits than ever for WWE. And who better to put him with at Wrestlemania XXXII in Texas than The Undertaker?

For a heel Chris Jericho, a program with The Undertaker would be all about ego. Jericho has never had a Wrestlemania match with the Dead Man. Ergo, in his mind, The Undertaker has been disrespecting him for years by never standing across from him at Wrestlemania. A challenge is laid down, and ‘Taker accepts. From there, it’s all about the promos. And in terms of the match, Jericho could potentially help ‘Taker give a performance league with his bouts with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and CM Punk.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Sheamus4. Sheamus

Despite winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, and the WWE Championship, Sheamus didn’t have a great 2015. He was a lame duck heel, and as such a lame duck champion. Fans were desperate to see somebody take the belt off of him, which is one of the reasons Roman’s title win on Raw was so well received. People just don’t like Sheamus…

So what do they have to lose by having The Undertaker kick the crap out of him at Wrestlemania? He might even establish some credibility along the way. Sheamus was an annoying braggart during his brief run with the title last year. He’d be able to draw plenty of ire by challenging The Undertaker in an attempt to redeem himself after his failure as champion. And if we needed them, the League of Nations could be involved at ringside. Supposedly, Sheamus is currently sidelined with tendonitis in his arm. But I’d wager we’d be able to get him back for at least one big match. And it doesn’t get any bigger than The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

AJ Styles, Royal Rumble 20165. AJ Styles

The Phenom vs. The Phenomenal One. AJ might not have been our first choice for The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania opponent. But he might be the one we need right now.

To their credit, WWE is making a big deal out of AJ Styles. They played him up on their website before he showed up at the Rumble, reacted appropriately when he made his debut, and then let him show off in a match with Chris Jericho the following night on Raw. WWE needs new stars, and they seem to recognize one in the making. And what better way to indicate that AJ Styles is a must-see superstar than putting him in the ring with another must-see superstar at the biggest event of the year?

The story more or less writes itself. AJ wants to take full advantage of signing with WWE by doing something he can only do in WWE: Facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He’s certainly got momentum on his side, and he may only get hotter as we go through Fastlane. And Styles, like Jericho, is one of the few wrestlers in that company capable of giving ‘Taker one more Wrestlemania show-stealer.

The Undertaker, 2015So come on, WWE. We just celebrated The Undertaker’s 25th anniversary. So how about we give the guy somebody he doesn’t have to carry through a Wrestlemania match? In 2017, maybe Undertaker/Braun Strowman will be a viable Wrestlemania match (assuming ‘Taker can still go at that point). But this year? To paraphrase Bray Wyatt: “Anyone but you Strowman.”

Images courtesy of wwe.com.

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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015

Barbara Walters, Caitlyn JennerBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s time once again for us to rip off Barbara Walters.

Each year, the iconic journalist does her list of the “Most Fascinating People” of the year. This year, this list was topped by none other than Olympian turned reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. She was joined by the likes of Bradley Cooper, Amy Schumer, Ronda Rousey, as well as American presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Those are all great choices…they’re just not in my wheelhouse, per se.

At the risk of going with a cliche, WWE has had more than its share of ups and downs this year. WWE’s chosen one, Roman Reigns, spent most of the year being rejected by the fans. But even so, Wrestlemania XXXI was the best one the company has put on in several years, and we got a brand new main event star out of the deal: Seth Rollins. With The Authority watching his back, Rollins defended the title most of the year against the likes of Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Sting, among others. But when Rollins went down with an injury in the fall, Reigns would finally rebound and take the title…only to have it stolen from him by Sheamus. But as we saw last week, Reigns won out in the end.

That’s a highly abbreviated version of the year though. For a more in-depth analysis, let’s once again check out WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015.

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, Roman Reigns1. Roman Reigns

There’s no denying “the Big Dog” had a tough year. For quite some time, he’s been groomed to be WWE’s next top star. But in the modern era, when WWE fans feel someone or something is being force-fed to them, it goes straight into the “reject” pile. For the second year in a row, fans hijacked the Royal Rumble match because Daniel Bryan wasn’t the focal point, and Reigns took the brunt of the abuse. Still, the company stayed the course. Reigns told a hell of a story with Brock Lesnar in the main event of Wrestlemania before Seth Rollins cashed in and swiped the title. Reigns spent much of the year having his every mood scrutinized by the fans. To be fair, much of it was justified. Instead of being allowed to be himself and develop organically, Reigns was heavily produced, and often forced to deliver cringeworthy dialogue. Perhaps that’s why, when he finally won the title, Reigns was cheered by the same Philadelphia fans that booed him out of the building at the Royal Rumble. Vince McMahon and WWE had tried to force a square peg into a round hole all year. And while the struggle isn’t over by any means, seeing Reigns finally get a career win after all he’d been through made for a feel-good moment.

But now the question is: Now that he’s accomplished his goal, where does Roman Reigns go from here? Back to the main event of Wrestlemania, perhaps?

Seth Rollins, Raw, August 31, 20152. Seth Rollins

From an in-story perspective, Seth Rollins was the man in 2015. He left Wrestlemania XXXII as the company’s top heel, and since he went down with a knee injury, no one has been able to fill his shoes. Despite being forced to cut long, drawn out promos to fill time on all those three-hour Raw episodes, his smarmy, whiney persona was ideal for a lead villain role. In addition, Rollins was more than capable of delivering great matches against big names like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton. Those two factors combined drew many a comparison between Rollins and the Shawn Michaels of late ’97 and early ’98. The continuation of Rollins’ on-screen rivalry with Jon Stewart was also one of the company’s biggest publicity grabs of the year.

Like him or not, Seth Rollins became a big money ball player in 2015. The smart bet is that when he returns, he’ll be hearing cheers.

Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, WWE Beast in the East, July 4, 20153. Kevin Owens

The Slammy Award for “Break Out Star of the Year” may have gone to Neville, Kevin Owens was unquestionably the best NXT call up of the year.

Less than a year after the real-life Kevin Steen signed with WWE, he made his main roster debut (as the NXT Champion no less), and immediately began a program with John Cena. Owens went on to beat Cena in his first WWE pay per view match. While he would lose the two rematches to follow, his dry and condescending demeanor combined with his obvious in-ring prowess proved he was more than worthy of a main roster spot. In September, Owens defeated Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship. While Owens has had his share of critics, primarily due to his body type, his success has been undeniable. Roughly a year and a half after signing with WWE, he rose to the top of NXT, won the NXT Championship, was promoted to the main roster for a program with the company’s flag bearer, won the Intercontinental Championship, and has spent the last few months working with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose. Barring some unforeseen and unfortunate turn of events, it’s looking like Kevin Owens is here to stay. And WWE fans are better off for that.

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 20154. Charlotte

Long before the “Divas Revolution” on Raw, there was a women’s wrestling revolution on NXT. One of the names at the heart of that revolution was Charlotte, daughter of Ric Flair. The real-life Ashley Fliehr wowed audience with her natural athleticism, and knack for wrestling. Both fans and insiders knew it was only a matter of time before she made it to the main roster.

On July 13, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch all showed up on Raw to begin what became known as the Divas Revolution. While fans could come to debate just how revolutionary the whole thing was, Charlotte’s talent was undeniable. To a large extent, she became the face of the Divas Revolution. She became the first of the new female talents to strike gold at Night of Champions, besting Nikki Bella to win the Divas Title. Now, fans are starting to see a new side of Charlotte. It seems the Nature Boy’s daughter may be taking after him in terms of cheating to win. This will undoubtedly put her at odds with her cohort Becky Lynch, and lead to more than a few intriguing match ups in the near future. Charlotte is right where WWE wants her to be right now. At this point, it’s simply a matter of growth and maturation.

And while we’re on the subject of women’s wrestling in WWE…

Sasha Banks, WWE TLC 20155. Sasha Banks

Sadly, Sasha Banks comes into this list under that Dolph Ziggler-type banner of talents who should be doing awesome, but aren’t.

There’s an argument to be made that Sasha Banks is the best female wrestler in North America right now, if not the world. As she was winding down in NXT, she had two amazing matches with Bayley for the Women’s Championship, the latter being a classic 30-minute Iron Man Match. Thus, when she arrived on Raw with Charlotte and Becky Lynch on July 15, Sasha had perhaps more buzz surrounding her than any of her peers. And yet she was lumped in with Tamina and Naomi as part of Team BAD, and has stayed there ever since. To be fair, she’s very much the star of the group. But fans have been anxiously anticipating the moment when she breaks away as a singles star. There’s been some buzz lately that Sasha may end up wrestling Charlotte for the title at Wrestlemania, which might just make the wait worthwhile. But until then, we’re left to simply wait and hope…

Sting, Raw, September 14 ,20156. Sting

This was the year wresting fans had waited so long for. At long last, Sting was wrestling for WWE. His first, and perhaps only match for WWE would be at Wrestlemania XXXI against Triple H. It wasn’t necessarily the dream match people were hoping for, but it was epic enough to satisfy their appetite for Sting to have at least one big moment under the WWE umbrella…and then he lost.

On his DVD, Sting said he was fine with losing, as he wanted to go out on his back, per that “time honored tradition” we’ve heard about before. But the fans weren’t looking for that here. The hope was that Sting would win and get his moment in the sun. But alas, it wasn’t to be. He didn’t get his win when he challenged Seth Rollins for the WWE Title at Night of Champions either. Instead, he not only lost, but he injured his neck after taking two buckle bombs. So now, not only has Sting not gotten his moment in the sun, but he may never wrestle again.

At this point, the pertinent question seems to be: Was it even worth it?

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, The New Day7. The New Day

The Philadelphia fans turning around on Roman Reigns was a big deal. But for my money, it doesn’t hold a candle to the turnaround The New Day has experienced.

When 2015 kicked off, Kofi Kingston, Big E., and Xavier Woods were a lame white-meat babyface group, which the fans were crapping on every week. And justifiably so. The New Day concept had little substance to it. It was essentially just three enthusiastic, smiley guys. It’s still unclear to me whether the eventual heel turn was planned or not. But when that turn came, a whole new life was breathed into this group. As heels, nothing was off the table. They were allowed to be as goofy and flamboyant as they wanted, and that resulted in them becoming a genuinely entertaining team. Ironically, they’ve hearing been hearung cheers for months now. One can argue they’re not even heels anymore. I can only imagine an official babyface turn is forthcoming. The cool thing about that is they don’t even have to change their act. As long as they keep having fun, they should have a place on TV for the foreseeable future.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Sheamus8. Sheamus

Sheamus did not have the year that any of us were hoping he’d have. The sad thing is, it’s really not his fault. It has more to do with creative.

Wrestling fans let out a collective groan when Sheamus won this year’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I think the consensus as far as Sheamus being WWE Champion was, “Been there, done that.” I’m not sure there was an ideal choice in that ladder match, but Sheamus wasn’t the guy to build that kind of intrigue around. Especially when after Money in the Bank, he went on to have a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton. It seems like fans spent most of the year wondering how WWE was going to get themselves out of the Sheamus situation, as opposed to whether he was going to win the belt.

Still, they went ahead and pulled the trigger on Sheamus at Survivor Series, only to take the belt off of him about a month later. I suppose we can give them credit for trying. But hindsight being 20/20, Sheamus wasn’t the guy to go with heading into Wrestlemania XXXII. That’s not to say he can’t ever be that caliber a star. But he wasn’t particularly hot when he with the briefcase, and he was even less so when he won the title. So I’m not sure what they expected was going to happen…

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Cesaro, Sheamus9. Cesaro

An optimist might say Cesaro was on the verge of finally starting to break out as a big singles star when he got hurt in November. A realist, on the other hand, would say it was simply another start-and-stop push. As far as Cesaro is concerned, I’m a realist.

The fans were ready for Cesaro to break out last year at Wrestlemania XXX. But a series of bad decisions put the kibosh on that. This year, he gained some traction after Vince McMahon said on a Stone Cold Podcast that Cesaro wasn’t connecting with the fans, and a backlash ensued. “The Swiss Superman” won the tag team titles with Tyson Kidd, but the team abruptly ended when Kidd was injured. Cesar segued into another singles run, where he gained and lost momentum depending on what week it was. Cesar would be a different kind of attraction, that’s for certain. But if and when WWE decides to pull the trigger on this guy, they’ll have something. Though frankly, the more time goes by, the less likely a Cesaro push becomes.

The Undertaker, 201510. The Undertaker

The Undertaker making this list in 2015? Yup. That’s a thing. But to his credit, he earned it.

Coming into 2015, we weren’t quite sure what was going on with The Undertaker. He hadn’t been seen since Brock Lesnar broke his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania XXX. One theory was that he was done. Given the injuries he sustained in that match with Lesnar, the safer option might have been to hang it up. But ‘Taker did deserve a swan song…

But that’s not what we got in 2015. The Dead Man came back at Wrestemania XXXI to vanquish Bray Wyatt, and then reappeared at Breaking Ground to cost Brock Lesnar the WWE Championship. They followed that up by main eventing Summerslam, and then stepping back inside Hell in a Cell. While ‘Taker ultimately lost his war with Lesnar, he did have a nice night at Survivor Series, celebrating his 25th anniversary with WWE by teaming with Kane to defeat Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Wrestlemania XXXII will feature The Undertaker’s last match. With the event being in ‘Taker’s home state of Texas, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad time. But if this year showed us anything, it’s that at 50 plus years of age, The Undertaker can still go. So if he’s still got as much passion for the business and a desire to perform, who are we to tell him to go? As far as I’m concerned, The Undertaker can stick around as long as he wants. I certainly won’t complain.

Image 1 from theinsidekorea.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Raw Ratings Decline, Buff Bagwell, and Other Wrestling-Related Ponderings

Stone Cold Steve Austin, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’re a little bit further from Raw this week. So we’re broadening our horizons a little bit…

Steve Austin talks WWE being “very constricted.” Stone Cold Steve Austin, perhaps the biggest star in wrestling history, recently told FOX Sports that he feels for the talent in the WWE system right now, because of how constricted it is. While he said he didn’t mean to bash the current product, he commented that it’s a “very rigid system and it’s very political.”

Hey man, you don’t have to tell us. It’s pretty damn obvious if you watch the product. It’s also pretty damn obvious if you look at the ratings, which sank to yet another all-time low this week.

There isn’t one specific thing that’s causing the ratings drop. You can blame it on the annual autumn slump, the three-hour format, scripted promos, the wrestlers’ inability to connect with the audience due to some of those constrictions Austin mentioned. But if I had to pick one specific thing to point to, it would be WWE trying to fight with their audience yet again.

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIIt’s not just about Roman Reigns, and WWE’s struggle to get fans to accept him as a top guy. That’s a major part of it, but it goes beyond that. It’s WWE’s refusal to adapt to things that happen organically in an attempt to give viewers what they want. Case in point: The Daniel Bryan situations that have developed during the past two Wrestlemania seasons. Fans were clamoring to see Bryan in a top spot. But WWE needed to have it’s proverbial arm twisted to make it happen at Wrestlemania XXX, and last year they simply dug their feet in and said no.

Whether intentional or not, the message WWE has been sending fans for the past several years is: “We decide who the stars are, not you.” And that takes a lot of the fun out of wrestling. While we’re clamoring for guys like Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, and Damien Sandow to get a fair shake, WWE is digging their feet in with the likes of Roman Reigns, The Bella Twins, and even long-established stars like The Big Show and Kane. I’m not taking anything away from the talent those individuals have. But isn’t listening to your audience an integral part of being any kind of entertainment company? We demand, you supply. But for the past several years, most of our demands seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The WWE machine may have gotten behind Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena, but it was the fans that made them stars to begin with. If you take that element of democracy and audience satisfaction away, then what’s the point of tuning in to begin with?

Based on how ratings have looked lately, it seems I’m not the first person that has occurred to.

Buff BagwellBuff Bagwell: “Jim Ross ruined my career.” On the subject of Austin, he spoke to Marcus Bagwell, a.k.a. Buff Bagwell, on last week’s episode of The Steve Austin Show Unleashed. Among the highlights was Bagwell blaming Jim Ross for ruining his career, spreading a story about his mother calling off some live events for him, and refusing to rehire him after he was released from WWE in 2001.

Bagwell seemed to be in pretty good spirits during the interview, which is nice. But I think it’s rare that one person is entirely responsible for ruining someone else’s career. Plenty has been said about Bagwell’s backstage demeanor at both WWE and WCW. While I’m sure not all of it is true, that much smoke means there’s usually fire of some kind. And I’m sure that disastrous WCW main event between Bagwell and Booker T didn’t help matters.

By the time this comes out, I’m sure JR will have responded via his own podcast. But in the end, what good did it do Bagwell to throw a beloved wrestling announcer under the bus like that?

Ponderings From Raw:

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns officially announced for Survivor Series. Happy to hear this is taking place at Survivor Series, as opposed to TLC. I imagine we will indeed see these two in a TLC match in December, but it’ll be a Survivor Series rematch. I don’t see any reason why Rollins shouldn’t carry the belt to Wrestlemania at this point. Why not? Last year Rollins stole the title in the main event, so this year let’s have Reigns or Brock Lesnar get revenge.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 2, 2015Bray Wyatt claims to have “harvested the souls” of The Undertaker and Kane. The Wyatt Family look stronger than ever. When you look at Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman standing behind Bray Wyatt on TV, it’s believable that these guys could run roughshod over the entire roster.

But here’s the bad news. This promo about “harvesting souls” or whatever, really didn’t mean anything. So Bray has inherited ‘Taker and Kane’s magic pyro powers? What a load of crap. And the thing is, Bray’s delivery was still solid. So had he actually been talking about something that connected, this would have been a great promo.

The Usos return to action, join Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Ryback to defeat Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and The New Day in the main event. There’s your tag team title match for Survivor Series, right there. If WWE is smart (which is debatable), they’ll extend a program between The Usos and The New Day through the end of the year. But much like Rollins, I don’t see any reason to take the gold off The New Day before Wrestlemania.

Sin Cara, Sheamus, Raw, October 2, 2015The Lucha Dragons def. Sheamus & Wade Barrett. Putting Sheamus and Wade Barrett together as a tag team was a smart idea. Both of them were floundering as singles, but together they make a pretty formidable addition to the tag team division.

I’m pleased to see The Lucha Dragons being re-emphasized. For my money, if WWE wanted to look for new Hispanic stars, they didn’t need to throw a bunch of money at Alberto Del Rio. If Sin Cara and Kalisto were pushed in the right way, they could easily have appealed to that demographic until WWE found a new singles star. Hell, they may not have had to look far. Kalisto fits that Rey Mysterio mold. And he can do things in the ring that Rey hasn’t been able to do in years.

Paige def. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Brie Bella to become the top contender for Charlotte’s Divas Championship. This match was more about the journey than the destination. The story surrounding the Divas Title is obviously about Charlotte and Paige right now. I was pleased to see Sasha and Becky get some mic time here. Becky in particular, as she’s largely been overshadowed by Charlotte. Some time on her own would do her good.

Also, a memo to Brie Bella: Please refrain from shouting “Brie Mode!” during your matches. Brie Mode is not a thing. It never will be. Thank you.

Image 1 from theslanted.com. Image 2 from flairultra.tumblr.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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The New WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From Wrestlemania XXXI and WWE Raw

Wrestlemania XXXI, Seth Rollins, ChampionSeth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank during the main event of Wrestlemania, pins Roman Reigns to become champion. Brock Lesnar assaults Rollins on Raw, gives an F5 to Michael Cole. Stephane McMahon suspends Lesnar indefinitely.

Well, that’s one way to book yourself out of a corner.

Actually, it must be said that the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match was not bad at all. It was the match of the night, in my opinion. They built up a lot of sympathy for Reigns (at least in my mind), and established that he is indeed a Samoan Bad Ass. But at the end of the day, Brock Lesnar was the crowd favorite. WWE clearly knew that going in, and booked accordingly. They told a similar story to the one they did with Lesnar and John Cena at Summerslam, but then threw the twist with Rollins in.

Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Wrestlemania XXXITruth be told, if there’s one guy on the roster that deserved that crowning moment, it was Seth Rollins. He’s turned in consistently good, often great work since his heel turn last year. And whether you’re a Roman Reigns fan or not, this loss at Wrestlemania does two very important things for him. First, it gives him more big match experience. Second, it gives him a little more time to cook before they put the title on him.

There was no way they were going to have Brock wrestle on Raw. I knew that thing was a sham from the get-go. What I didn’t see coming was what happened to Michael Cole. If Brock wasn’t a babyface before, he certainly is now. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Cole took that F5 like a man. I’ve got to wonder who pitched THAT to him…

One thing I will say in critique of that Raw segment…JBL and Booker T. couldn’t have been that hurt by an overturned table, could they?

Triple H vs. Sting, Wrestlemania XXXITriple H def. Sting. This one shocked me. After 14 years, Sting finally makes his WWE debut…just to lose to Triple H? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Still, one would hope that’s not the last time we’ll see Sting in a WWE ring.

The general direction this match took also surprised me. Instead of it boiling down to Sting and Hunter they turned it into an nWo vs. DX thing. It all became a giant Attitude Era throwback. It was fun, I guess. But I thought this was supposed to be about Sting coming to WWE to face the tyrannical leader of The Authority? It seemed like an odd choice to me. But it was Wrestlemania-worthy, to be sure.

By the way, that Triple H/Terminator entrance? Really stupid.

The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker looked as good as he ever has at Wrestlemania. But it seemed like he was definitely feeling it physically. Then again, maybe he was just selling really well. But after the match, he did indeed look up to the rafters and mouth “Thank you.” My instincts tell me he’s got maybe one or two left in him. But then again, people have been saying that for years. Only The Undertaker can tell us for sure. One thing’s for sure, seeing him for the first time in a year was a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Rock and Ronda Rousey wind up in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania. This seemed like a set up for one hell of a mixed tag match. Summerslam, maybe?

John Cena def. Rusev at Wrestlemania for the United States Championship, defeats Dean Ambrose in title defense on Raw. Not exactly a surprise that Rusev lost to John Cena. Though as I’d said previously, I’d have loved to have seen Rusev’s streak continue.

Dean Ambrose deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the 48 hours he had between Wrestlemania and Raw. Between the bumps he took in the ladder match, and the match he had with Cena on Raw, he deserves as much respect as anybody on that roster. There’s so much money on this guy, and he’s so unique. I just hope WWE knows what they’ve got with him…

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIDaniel Bryan wins Intercontinental Championship in multi-man Wrestlemania Ladder Match. Bryan wins a title match against Dolph Ziggler on Raw. After all the complaining the internet wrestling community did (myself included) about Daniel Bryan’s demotion on the Wrestlemania card, it’s tough to deny they put him over pretty well. It would have been easy for him to simply get lost in the shuffle in terms of that ladder match. But he came out on top, and had another great Wrestlemania moment. Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t as good as the one he got last year. But it was still pretty good.

In terms of the ladder match itself…meh. I hate to seem so jaded, especially considering some of the bumps those guys took. But we’ve just seen this match so many times over the last decade. At the end of the day, there are only so many things you can do with a ladder. So I left this match feeling a bit less satisfied than perhaps I should have been. The ending with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler butting heads over and over again was pretty ridiculous too.

As for the match Bryan and Ziggler had on Raw, it’s tough to not enjoy these guys going one-on-one. They make a point to show you things you don’t see in other matches, and it’s a real treat.

Sheamus, Raw, March 31, 2015Sheamus returns after Bryan/Ziggler match to fend off Bad News Barrett, ends up heeling on Bryan. I like Sheamus’ tweaked image, although apparently the crowd didn’t agree (“You look stupid!”). I most certainly like his new direction. A Sheamus heel turn has is long overdue. If I had my way, we’d see Bryan vs. Barrett for the title at Extreme Rules, and Sheamus vs. Ziggler, with the winner getting a title shot.

Adrian Neville (as billed as just “Neville”) and The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) make their Raw debut. So the rumor flying around was that WWE was going to give NXT star Adrian Neville a Mighty Mouse-type persona. It looks like they kinda/sorta went that direction, but thankfully left out the inherent cheeseball elements. We’ve definitely seen wrestlers wear worse things out there than a cape. Great exhibition from Neville. Let’s see where he goes from here.

In that same vein, we saw a hell of a showing from Sin Cara, and especially Kalisto. He had that crowd in the palm of his hand. I want to see more, that’s for damn sure. And hey! Who knew you could have a colorful, marketable Hispanic tag team without turning them into a couple of damn cartoon characters! Does this mean we can finally drop the Los Matadores gimmick?

The Big Show, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Wrestlemania pre-show. I’m guessing this match got bumped to the pre-show so we could have the Rock/Ronda Rousey segment. I’m wondering, had it been on the actual show, if Big Show would have won. This match seemed like the perfect opportunity for Damien Sandow to have his big moment. And indeed, he did have a big moment when he eliminated Miz. But for that to be followed by his elimination by Big Show almost waters the whole thing down. Once it was decided the match would be on the pre-show, I wonder if they just said: “Meh. If Sandow can’t win it at Wrestlemania, let’s just give it to Show.”

And what does The Big Show actually gain from winning the Andre battle royal? Nothing really. At least Cesaro got a push (albeit a failed one) out of the deal. Show’s already a top guy, and he’s aligned with the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. So they basically spun their wheels with this one.

Images from WWE.com.

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