A Shield Reunion Coming Soon? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Smackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roman Reigns to Rumble, Chris Jericho Returns (Again), and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, January 4, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Roman Reigns def. Sheamus. Vince McMahon announces Reigns will defend WWE Championship in Royal Rumble Match. On paper, this Royal Rumble thing is awesome. It changes the chemistry of the Rumble Match completely. This is bound to draw comparisons to the 1992 Rumble Match, when Flair won the title. But now we actually have an active champion defending his title in the Rumble, which has never been done before. And if WWE does want to take the title off of Reigns, this allows them to do it without him losing much face.

They can also pack the Rumble with a lot of big names, and dangle the very real possibility of a title change. We know Big Show is in the match, though apparently not number one, as he seemed to indicate last week. I can only assume Brock Lesnar’s return next week will involve him announcing his entrance into the match. I can only assume John Cena will participate. They can even throw The Undertaker in there…

Roman Reigns,  January 4, 2016My question is, what if we get to the Rumble and the fans aren’t behind Reigns? If Brock is in there, they’re bound to side with him. God help them if fans hijack the Rumble for the third year in a row. And whatever they do, they’d better not mention Daniel Bryan’s name. At all. Like, for the entire month.

Also, it must be said that Jason Solomon over at The Solomonster Sounds Off pitched this weeks ago. One of my favorite podcasts, by far.

As far as the match went, it was classic Stone Cold/Attitude Era storytelling. The lead babyface against the ref who won’t count. But in the end, the babyface gets the win. Reigns doesn’t act like Stone Cold, but he’s benefitting from a lot of the same stories Austin did. And of course, the crowd wasn’t even half as hot as the crowds in those days.

Chris Jericho returns to Raw, interrupting The New Day. It’s always nice to see Chris Jericho. But my God, what was the deal with that vest? It made him look like he had a gut. And Chris Jericho does not have a gut. He does DDP Yoga!

Chris Jericho, Raw, January 4, 2016The point of this segment was to announce Jericho’s involvement in the Royal Rumble Match. Now that the title is on the line in the match, the more big name stars they can throw into that match, the more credence it has as perhaps the most must-see Rumble in years. It would be nice for Jericho to stick around until Wrestlemania. But even if he doesn’t, he serves a valuable purpose.

Becky Lynch grabs the tights to get a win over Charlotte. So wait…last week Sasha Banks, a heel, beats Becky with a handful of tights, but the announcers can’t be bothered to mention it. Now this week, Becky beats Charlotte with a handful of tights, and they do acknowledge it. I get what they were doing here with the whole “fighting fire with fire” thing. And if they’re trying to correct last week’s mistake, then good for them. I doubt that’s the case, though. Simply put, it’s backwards to point out when a babyface cheats, but totally ignore it when a heel cheats.

WWE Raw, January 4, 2016, Becky Lynch, CharlotteI’m on the fence about Ric Flair being at ringside with his daughter every week. He’s one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen. He’s always going to overshadow her on some level. I get that they’re going for a “Daddy’s Girl” type character with Charlotte now. But we understand that Charlotte is Flair’s daughter without him having to physically be there with her every week. Wouldn’t it be more effective for Ric to be with her strictly on special occasions?

Kevin Owens def. Neville, gets elbow dropped through a table by Dean Ambrose. Ambrose came off surprisingly white meat on commentary for this one. It was nice that he put over Neville as well as he did, though.

Kevin Owens continues to be the best heel WWE has. I’ll give Michael Cole and the announcers some credit here, as they told the story about Owens being bitter about losing the title to Ambrose, and beating up Neville as a result. They also gave us a nice image with Ambrose next to Owens on the crushed table. This isn’t a hot feud, necessarily. But the talent of the players involved makes it very intriguing.

WWE Raw, January 4, 2016Titus O’Neil def. Stardust. Obviously, they’re aiming to push Titus as a single star again. But this time they seem to have the right idea, pushing him as a babyface, as opposed to a heel. Titus is extremely likable and charismatic. This feels much more organic.

Heath Slater def. Dolph Ziggler with help from Curtis Axel, Adam Rose, and Bo Dallas. I’m happy for Heath Slater, and for the contingent of fans that have wanted this for him for quite some time. But damn…Dolph Ziggler. This guy is still one of the most dynamic, charismatic performers they have. And he just lost to Heath Slater, and his newest group of jobbers. Terrible. Just terrible.

So we’ve got this new group, the Social Outcasts. We’ve also got the League of Nations and The New Day. That’s a lot of heel factions, and it seems like one of them’s got to go. My vote is for the League of Nations.

In Other News:

AJ StylesWWE reportedly signs AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson away from New Japan Pro Wrestling to compete on NXT. For hardcore fans, this is huge news. Especially in the case of AJ Styles, who is arguably the best wrestler in the world right now, and the biggest name in wrestling never to sign with WWE.  Long time WWE fans will also remember Doc Gallows from his previous run as Festus/Luke Gallows. I hate to admit that I’m pretty ignorant about Nakamura and Anderson, though I’ve heard wonderful things about the former.

This will undoubtedly be a huge shot in the arm for NXT, and hopefully allow names like Finn Balor and Samoa Joe to move up to the main roster in the near future.

Image 6 from pwpix.net. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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