Tag Archives: Shinsuke Nakamura

A WWE Crown Jewel Preview – A Saudi Curse?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Why did they use this name again? Crown Jewel, that is. There was so much bad press over last year’s Crown Jewel event, what with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that they still can’t even say “Saudi Arabia” on television. They have to dance around it to avoid reminding people that’s where this show is being held, even though everyone knows anyway.

Sadly, these Saudi shows have become synonymous with embarrassing matches. Whether you’re talking about Undertaker vs. Goldberg earlier this year, or the Brothers of Destruction against DX last year, we’re not exactly looking at a great track record. Hopefully this one won’t give us anything along those lines. But from where I’m sitting, the card looks pretty weak.

By and large, wrestling fans either don’t like or don’t care about athletes from other sports getting in the ring. So you’ve got to make them care. They haven’t done that with either Cain Velasquez or Tyson Fury. Which is a damn shame, especially in Velasquez’s case.

More on that later, though. For now, let’s dive in…

Cesaro vs. Mansoor
Don’t remember who Mansoor is? Don’t worry. After this match, you probably won’t see much of him until the next Saudi show.

You’ll recall that at Super Show-Down earlier this year, Mansoor won a 51-man battle royal. He’s been mostly absent from WWE television ever since. But because he’s from Saudi Arabia, they plucked him out of the toy box to get a few home-country hero pops. Cesaro, of course, is here to make sure the match doesn’t suck. Of course, Mansoor gets the feel-good win for the Saudi crowd.

PREDICTION: Mansoor

20-Man Battle Royal:
Winner wrestles AJ Styles for the US Title later in the night.

It’s tough to call this one, as I don’t think a single name has been announced for this thing. I would hope they’d all be names from the Raw roster that are otherwise unoccupied. Given what we’ve seen on Raw recently, Kevin Owens comes to mind right away. But if I’m not mistaken, he’s historically opted out of these Saudi shows. So who else do we have…?

Buddy Murphy would be a cool name to throw in there. Newer faces to Raw, like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander, have benefited a lot from sharing the ring with him. They made a point of putting him over on Monday. I’m not quite sure if he’s supposed to be a heel or a babyface. But what the hell? Let’s throw him a bone. Give him the battle royal, with Styles retaining later in the evening. Murphy won’t win the title, but the exhaustion factor will mean the loss doesn’t really hurt him.

BATTLE ROYAL PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy
TITLE MATCH PREDICTION:
 AJ Styles

TAG TEAM TURMOIL MATCH:
The Viking Raiders vs. The Revival vs. The New Day vs. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler vs. The OC vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder vs. Heavy Machinery vs. the Lucha House Party vs. The B-Team

Hmmmm. You know what they could do here? Put the Authors of Pain in here as surprise entrants, and have them demolish whatever teams are left at that point. You’ve got to believe a Viking Raiders vs. AOP program is in our future.

Expect the New Day to play a big role in the story here. With Xavier Woods now out with an injury, along with Kofi Kingston’s humiliating loss to Brock Lesnar, they’re really down on their luck. So there’ll be that much more pressure on them to win this thing. I expect them to lose in a heel team in a heartbreaker.

As for who wins…I’m going to say the Viking Raiders. The whole “World Cup” aspect of this thing seems better suited for a heel team. But I can’t see them giving it to the Revival, the OC, or Roode and Ziggler. So let the Raw tag champs bring it home. For whatever it’s worth.

PREDICTION: The Viking Raiders

TEAM HOGAN vs. TEAM FLAIR:
Roman Reigns, Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G, & Ali vs. Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, & Bobby Lashley

My goodness. What an…assortment of names we have here.

Ultimately, this match is just a meaningless attraction. An excuse to put Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair on the show in non-wrestling roles.

Has Flair ever beaten Hogan? Not just in the ring. But anywhere. At anything. I don’t think so. Why change that now? Give it to the babyfaces.

PREDICTION: Team Hogan

FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Bray Wyatt

Obviously, the putrid finish to their Hell in a Cell match left a stink on both these guys. So they’re probably hoping to wash some of that off here. I’ll admit, out of everything on this card, this match has the best chance to steal the show.

This whole program was ill-conceived from the start. They just wanted an excuse to use Bray’s spooky gimmick on an October pay per view. So they rushed him into a title match, in the Cell no less, and have been paying for it ever since.

If they were going to put the Fiend character in this situation, given his momentum and popularity, you’d think they’ have him win the title. The best comparison I can think of right now is Brock Lesnar facing the Rock for the WWE Championship in 2002. That was a career defining night for Brock. But imagine if they’d not only had Brock lose, but lose in two consecutive pay per view title matches.

I can only assume that’s the fate that awaits Bray Wyatt here. Because it’s Falls Count Anywhere, they can obviously mess with the finish, i.e. have Rollins trap him under a forklift, or some pallets or something. Regardless, Rollins is leaving Saudi Arabia with that title, if for no other reason than Bray is a Smackdown guy now. And just like at Hell in a Cell, that’s not going to do Rollins any favors in terms of popularity. This guy is supposed to be Raw’s top babyface. But he keeps getting shot in the foot, whether it’s bad booking or bad tweets.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

Who the hell is Tyson Fury?

Okay, he’s a boxer. I get it. But why should I care? Tyson Fury in 2019 is not Mike Tyson in 1998, that’s for damn sure.

Either way, they didn’t bring him in to lose. So he’s either going to beat Strowman, or they’ll do some kind of no-contest finish. Someone could cost Strowman the match, but I’m not sure who that would be…

Either way, the smart bet is they give the win to their “celebrity” guest, as they always do.

PREDICTION: Tyson Fury

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Cain Velasquez

This could have been, and perhaps still will be, a Wrestlemania match.

There’s a great long-term story they could tell with these two. I don’t know much about Cain Velasquez. But unlike Tyson Fury, I at least know why I should care. Not only is this the guy Brock lost the UFC Championship to, but Velasquez legitimately put a scar on Lesnar’s face. Now he’s come to WWE to derail Brock again.

As I understand it, Velasquez has only had a match or two, wrestling for AAA in Mexico. He apparently impressed people. But he has yet to impress the WWE audience. His working punches alone have caused concern about how this match is going to turn out.

Despite having reportedly signed a multi-year deal with WWE, I would be shocked if they put the title on Velasquez so quickly. I don’t think you want either of these two gaining a decisive victory over the other at this point. I don’t think this needs to be anything more than a preview for a future, higher profile match. Sadly, that likely means this will end in a DQ or a no contest. This won’t be a great show in terms of definitive finishes.

Regardless, Brock will leave Saudi Arabia with the title. So for the sake of making a prediction, I’ll say Lesnar retains.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

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WWE Draft 2019 – Fox vs. USA Network…vs. TNT?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As we all know, WWE is holding a draft on Smackdown tomorrow night, for which I suspect the sole purpose is to beef up the star power on Team Blue. That network TV spotlight demands marquee talent, which I have no doubt WWE will provide.

I like the Fox vs. USA Network angle they’ve taken with this. While it’s obviously just hype, it makes the whole thing feel a little more real. This, as opposed to all the Raw vs. Smackdown “brand supremacy” talk we usually get.

Conspicuous by its absence among all the draft talk is NXT. That’s odd, considering there’s an actual battle for viewers happening between NXT on USA and All Elite Wrestling on TNT. Even if they’re not official draft picks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few main roster names pop up on Wednesday nights. I think NXT has a sufficient amount of star power. But if nothing else, a few moves would beef up the roster.

Presented below are my mock draft picks. Seven for each show. Some are rather obvious, and some aren’t. But let’s start with the most obvious one of all…

Brock Lesnar to Smackdown.
Brock is, of course, the new WWE Champion. If WWE really wants to draw eyes to Smackdown, they need their biggest marquee player on that show. Even on a part-time schedule, Brock Lesnar brings a lot of value to Smackdown. Even if they only have him wrestle on television a few times a year.

So who do you match Brock up with under the spotlight of network television? Cringeworthy as it seems, Roman Reigns is an obvious choice. There’s also a redemption story they can tell with Kofi Kingston. I’ve got a couple other ideas you’ll hear about as we move forward…

Shayna Baszler to Raw.
One thing I don’t see changing any time soon is Becky Lynch’s status as one of Raw‘s top stars. But since Wrestlemania, she’s been lacking strong villains to face. She found one in Sasha Banks. She can find another one in the ultra-dominant Shayna Baszler. Especially if they have even half the chemistry Becky had with Shayna’s pal Ronda Rousey.

There’s an obvious conflict here: Baszler is the NXT Women’s Champion. There are two ways they can handle that. She can compete on Raw with the belt, much like Kevin Owens did with the NXT Heavyweight Title. Hell, if they want to jump right into things, they can have her face Becky in a Raw vs. NXT match at Survivor Series. On the other hand, they can go the Asuka route, and have her surrender the championship unbeaten.

Dolph Ziggler to NXT.
Over the last few years, it’s been Dolph’s job to help NXT talents transition to either Raw or Smackdown. Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, and even his current tag partner Bobby Roode all started with Dolph in some form. It makes sense, as he can have a damn good match with practically anyone. But now that we’ve entered the “Wednesday Night Wars” era, it may be advantageous to have some of those matches on the black and gold brand. Ziggler vs. Johnny Gargano? Adam Cole? Matt Riddle? My interest is piqued. 

Sasha Banks to Smackdown.
Banks is undeniably one of the big trailblazers in the so-called “women’s evolution.” Thus, in introducing the product to a new audience, it’s to WWE’s advantage to move her front and center. It opens her up for feuds with her fellow NXT “Horsewomen” Charlotte Flair and Bayley, as well as less established names like Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose.

Asuka and Kairi Sane to Raw.
I don’t mind the Kabuki Warriors tag team as much as some people do. But it’s no secret that Asuka has been largely lost in the shuffle on Smackdown. And as she holds a tap-out victory over Becky Lynch, that’d be an easy  pairing. Not to mention a quality one. Also, main roster fans barely know Kairi Sane at all. So this could be a nice fresh start for her.

EC3 to NXT.
If you wanted to rank the various NXT personalities that have been wasted since their main roster call-ups, EC3 is near the top of that list. He never even got past the starting gate on Raw. So let him go back to NXT, get some actual TV time, then maybe consider moving him to Raw or Smackdown next year. Maybe.

The Revival to Smackdown.
Smackdown Tag Titles aside, the Revival’s alliance with Randy Orton has come off surprisingly natural. I’d opt to keep them together. Plus, on Raw Dash and Dawson essentially play the same roles as Gallows and Anderson: The no thrills, no BS bruiser team. Let them go to Smackdown and be the new centerpiece of the show’s tag team division.

Daniel Bryan to Raw.
I don’t know that Bryan necessarily needs to jump to Raw. It’s more a case of Raw needing him, what with so much marquee talent jumping to Smackdown. And whether he’s a heel or a babyface, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of seeing Bryan against the likes of Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Ricochet, and even Braun Strowman.

Natalya to NXT.
No matter what show Nattie goes to, she essentially always fills the same role. She’s the resident veteran. The “elder statesman,” even. She’s worked with just about everyone there is to work with on the main roster. She’s not likely to meet a lot of new dance partners, until they get called up from NXT.

So instead of waiting for the likes of Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair to come to her, why not go to them? As the AEW women’s division continues to take shape over on TNT, Natalya can be a valuable asset, not to mention a mentor, to the ladies of NXT.

Rey Mysterio to Smackdown.
Cain Velasquez notwithstanding, Brock Lesnar brutalized Rey Mysterio’s son on national television, and made him watch. There’s no way Rey can let that go unanswered. So as Smackdown ascends to it’s largest stage yet, I say
give us the ultimate David vs. Goliath match, as Rey challenges Brock for the WWE Championship. Want to add more fuel to the fire? Put Rey’s career on the line. That’s a Wrestlemania-caliber match right there.

Shinsuke Nakamura to Raw.
This move not only gets Nakamura on the same show as his new mouthpiece Sami Zayn, it gives him a new sandbox to play in. Nakamura has been on Smackdown since he was called up in 2017. Since we’re using Zayn to freshen up his presentation, let’s keep that trend going by giving the “Artist” a new canvas to work on.

Yes, Nakamura is the Intercontinental Champion. But that’s an easy thing to work around. Either have him take the IC Title to Raw and switch the US Title to someone on Smackdown, or have Nakamura drop the title while he’s still on Team Blue. Ali is an obvious candidate.

Apollo Crews to NXT.
Either they had no clue what they were doing with Apollo when they called him up several years back, or he simply wasn’t ready for the main roster, or both. Either way, they’ve tried various times to push this guy, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. The most success he found was in a tag team with Titus O’Neil. He recently went back to NXT for one night to wrestle Kushida. I say we send him back there full time, and see if we can find him a personality. Winning smile aside, I think it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned heel turn.

The Miz to Smackdown.
Miz is one of those guys that’s been there so long, there’s a spot for him no matter what show he wrestles on. But given how savvy he is with media appearances and what not, I figure WWE wants him on Fox. At least for a little while. 

But make no mistake about it, Miz needs another facelift. Something akin to Maryse joining him a few years ago. And if the rumors are true, he might just find one alongside an old friend… (Keep reading for more.)

Aleister Black to Raw.
It’s fitting that Aleister Black’s entrance makes him appear to rise from the dead, as he’s basically been a ghost these last several weeks. He’s done some great work since being called up, most notably an awesome match with Cesaro at Extreme Rules. But I get the sense they’re struggling with him creatively. So let’s get him over to Raw, where that extra hour of TV time will allow him more opportunities to be on television. I get the sense he’ll do better on a Paul Heyman-directed show.

The Ascension to NXT.
Honestly? What do Konnor and Victor have to lose at this point? It’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t simply cannon fodder for new teams on the main roster. But at one point, they were the most dominant tag team in NXT. Then they got called up and buried for…what? Getting too much heat? I never understood that. Either way, let them return to where they once thrived and see if they can get their mojo back. Like Tyler Breeze, their presence can harken back to the show’s early days, and educate fans about its history.

John Morrison to Smackdown.
Here’s one out of left field. Apparently John Morrison, a.k.a. Johnny Mundo, a.k.a. Johnny Impact, among other names I’m probably missing, has once again signed with WWE. And who can offer an easy bridge back in for him? His old tag team partner the Miz. I say we re-unite Miz and Morrison, if only for a little while, and let them challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Miz can help reintroduce the WWE audience to Morrison, as he wows fans with his unique in-ring style.

Elias to Raw.
Elias has a higher ceiling than a lot of us realize. Going to Smackdown was essentially a lateral move for him. But I don’t like that he’s been playing Shane McMahon’s lackey lately. His in-ring guitar segments are better suited Raw‘s three-hour format anyway. And by the way? Let him go babyface again. They cut that too short for my taste. 

Dana Brooke to NXT.
I’ve been calling for this move for years. Dana Brooke was called up way too soon, and that was in 2016. Since losing her role as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick, she’s been mostly lost in the mix. But there is something there with her. She’s got a great look, she can work the mic, and she’s improved in the ring. But, and note this is a recurring theme amongst NXT draft picks, she desperately needs a clean slate to re-establish herself, and gain some credibility. She’s not going to draw any viewers away from AEW. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be a viable player on the show. 

Cesaro to Smackdown.
If it’s true that Fox wants more of an athletic, sports-like presentation for Smackdown, you’re not going to find a better fit than Cesaro. It goes without saying that he’s one of the best pure athletes in the entire industry. If he has a few more classic matches with big name stars, he may finally be in a position to be a big name himself.

Buddy Murphy to Raw.
After toiling in obscurity for awhile, Buddy Murphy has finally started to establish himself on Smackdown. He’s had awesome matches with the likes of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Ali. But with this move to Fox, he’s going to be fighting for TV time with much bigger stars. Like Aleister Black, a move to Raw would mean a better chance of getting screen time.

Plus, Murphy got a plethora of intriguing opponents to work with on Monday nights. AJ Styles alone might be worth the jump. Consider the performances Styles has put on with guys like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. He can easily do the same with Murphy.

Bo Dallas to NXT.
One last “NXT OG” move. Because honestly, does Bo have anything better to do? Like so many others, he was called up to the main roster with seemingly no plan for him. Thus, he floundered. He stumbled on to tag team success with Curtis Axel. But at this point, B-Team act is dead and buried. So send him back to NXT and see if he can make us Bo-lieve again. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Bo once held the the same NXT Championship that’s synonymous with names like Adam Cole, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. It seems unlikely he’ll reach that pinnacle again. But stranger things have happened…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Clash of Champions 2019 Predictions, Plus, The Fiend vs. The Undertaker?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So what’s the “proper” way to make use of icons like Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker?

I ask because WWE had them both on television this week. Austin on Raw, ‘Taker on Smackdown. In Madison Square Garden, no less. They both interacted with the current roster, which is what you’d hope they’d do. Austin was in there with Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, and the OC. Undertaker, on the other hand, had a nice little segment with Sami Zayn. There was one name, however, that got zero screen time with the Rattlesnake or the Dead Man. A name that many were hoping to see.

That would be Bray Wyatt. Specifically as “the Fiend.” Given his attacks on the likes of Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and Jerry Lawler, it seemed like a gift-wrapped opportunity to make Austin or Undertaker the next in line.

To their credit, they went out of their way to have Bray talk about Austin in a Firefly Funhouse segment on Raw. Wyatt said that his previous victims took something from him in the past, and “practically invoked the Fiend.” But Austin was “just an old rattlesnake.” I’m not sure I follow his logic there. Bray was on Raw while Angle was the GM, so you can assume he feels Angle wronged him in some way. But what did Foley and Lawler ever do to Bray Wyatt?

But hey, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. The sane can’t very well follow the thought process of the insane, can they? But you know who definitely took something from Bray Wyatt? The Undertaker. And he did it in front of the world, at Wrestlemania 31. Then he did it again at Survivor Series in November, when ‘Taker and Kane beat the Wyatt Family in a Handicap Match.

Did the Fiend need to attack Undertaker on Smackdown? No, of course not. Bray has as much momentum now as he ever has. More than anyone in the entire company, for that matter. But not everyone gets to put their hands on the Undertaker. And unlike with Austin, a confrontation between Bray Wyatt and the Undertaker can lead to a match at some point.

To me? What that adds up to is a missed opportunity.

Now, let’s look at Clash of Champions

Roman Reigns vs. Erick Rowan

This one’s not for a title. That’s how I justify putting it first. Come at me.

Unless a drastic swerve is in our future, this is obviously all leading to a big Reigns vs. Bryan match. Bryan and Rowan have been in on this together from the start, which we may learn during or after this match.

In terms of revealing Bryan as the mastermind behind the attacks on Roman, it really doesn’t matter who wins here. But despite the little push he’s gotten lately, I can’t see Roman Reigns losing a pay per view match to Erick Rowan. So I’m going with “the Big Dog” on this one.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Lince Dorado vs. Humberto Carrillo

I confess, I’m more or less flying blind on this one. I haven’t seen much of 205 Live lately. And with all due respect, I suspect I’m not in the minority there…

So I know there’s a personal issue between Gran Metalik and Humberto Carrillo. Carrillo seems to be the one they’re grooming as the babyface star of the Cruiserweight Division. Meanwhile, Gulak, while certainly a credible champion, is simply the one with the belt.

I imagine they’re going to want to change a few belts on this show simply based on its theme. So I’m going to pull a wild card here and pick Lince Dorado to win. In addition to the stuff with Carrillo, they can create an issue with the other members of Lucha House Party if Dorado starts acting more like a heel.

PREDICTION: Lince Dorado

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (c) vs. Fire and Desire

Given what Sasha Banks has said about the Women’s Tag Team Titles since she returned, it makes all the sense in the world for the winner of this match to wind up facing Sasha and Bayley down the road. Especially if this show goes the way I think it’s going to.

That being said, as Sasha and Bayley are heels, it seems unlikely that Mandy and Sonya would be the ones to face them. That leaves Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Apparently, by virtue of her association with Nikki, Alexa is now a babyface. But don’t expect that to last…

Here’s what I see happening: Bliss and Cross retain here. That leads to a title match against Sasha and Bayley, who seek to hold all the female championships in WWE. The outcome of that match can lead to a rift between Alexa and Nikki, and the inevitable feud between the two.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Big E. and Xavier Woods (c) vs. The Revival

Since the implementation of the “Wild Card Rule,” Raw wrestlers have been able to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. It has yet to be explained what happens if a wrestler from one show wins a title from the other. If we know this company at all, it’s because they haven’t thought that far ahead yet. But if I get my way, we’ll at least see the situation arise as a result of this match.

I like this Randy Orton/Revival alliance. It makes sense, in that Orton fits with Dash and Dawson’s “No Flips, Just Fists” mentality. I’d like to see them stay together. Winning the Smackdown Tag Titles could result in them being moved to that show permanently. But more importantly, the New Day have long since obtained “Been There, Done That” status regarding tag titles of any kind. What more could they possibly have to prove? They’re six-time tag champs, and are the longest reigning Raw Tag Team Champions of all time. This just feels like old hat at this point. So lets put the titles on the Revival and see how they do against, say…Heavy Machinery?

PREDICTION: The Revival

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. The Miz

Once again, a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown Title. Though this time, we don’t need to worry about a title change.

Yes, there’s a built-in story here with Miz wanting to set the record for most IC Title reigns. But I don’t see him taking it from Nakamura, who after being lost in the shuffle for far too long, may finally have a winning act with Sami Zayn as his mouthpiece. That’s not to say Zayn has to help Nakamura win. I think a clean win for the champion is perfectly fine here. The simple fact is, Miz has lost a lot of momentum since his program with Shane McMahon, and he has yet to fully recover. Going heel, which has always been the role he’s best in, might just be the way to turn things around for him.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Cedric Alexander

AJ Styles never did wind up dropping the US Title back to Ricochet. That’s a downer for yours truly, as I think Ricochet was a fine US Champ, albeit for the mere few weeks he had it. But of course, it’s hard to complain about Styles being a champion of any kind. And that brings us here, and to Cedric Alexander.

On paper, Ricochet and Alexander aren’t all that different. They’re both high-flying standouts from other shows now trying to establish credibility on the main roster. (I don’t consider 205 Live a main roster show. Just my opinion.) Ricochet would lose the belt to Styles, but ultimately come out of their encounters looking like a star capable of holding his own as a singles star on Raw. They’re now trying to paint Cedric with those same colors. But does that mean he has to beat AJ?

For my money, the answer is no. At least not yet. This, I think, is the match where they put on a great show, but ultimately Gallows and Anderson run in to either cause a DQ, or cost Cedric the match. While Cedric is an amazing athlete and wrestler, I’m still not sold on how much mainstream star power he actually has. Maybe some more mic time will help in that respect. Either way, Styles keeps the belt here.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Alright. They did it. They actually did it. They pulled the trigger on a Bayley heel turn. And a pretty good one, for my money. At least so far. The outcome of this match will be telling in that respect.

Charlotte Flair can win the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championship on any given night. While I don’t think the detractors who compare her to Roman Reigns are being fair, that is one that’s justified. Both have simply reached that status. But I think if they want to keep hammering this Bayley heel turn, which they should, she needs to win the match by cheating. Thus, Bayley becomes the moralistic, yet hypocritical champion. That’s a really interesting role for her, and I think a very natural segue from the “hugger” character she played before.

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Sasha Banks

Great heroes aren’t truly great until they’ve beaten great villains. We hear some version of that all the time. Superman needs Lex Luthor and Brainiac. Batman needs the Joker and Two-Face. Stone Cold needed Mr. McMahon and the Rock. The problem that’s plagued Becky Lynch since Wrestlemania is that she hasn’t had any many (if any) great villains to work with. Yes, she and Charlotte were great together. But that was short-term. Lacey Evans wasn’t established enough to fit that bill. They tried hard with Natalya. But that didn’t work either.

But things were different once Sasha Banks came back. Now, for the first time since Wrestlemania, it feels like Becky has found a truly worthy opponent.

I’ve let my distaste for Sasha Banks be known for quite awhile now. She’s an amazing wrestler, but she’s always come off like an entitled brat. Part of the problem, I think, is that she’s been miscast as a babyface for so long. This woman is simply a natural heel. While she may idolize Eddie Guerrero, from a personality standpoint, she’s more akin to a Ric Flair or a Ted DiBiase. Or for a more modern example, an MJF or CM Punk. She’s simply better on the dark side. It’s amazing that she hasn’t had the chance to play one on the main roster until now.

Ultimately, I think she’s Becky’s next big rival. And that’s why the time has come for “the Man” to drop the title. By hook or by crook (preferably by crook), Sasha Banks walks out of Clash of Champions with the Raw Women’s Title. And with Bayley in possession of the Smackdown Title, the two can go after the Women’s Tag Titles and hold all the gold. The so-called Boss n Hug Connection could very well become the Boss n Hug Dynasty.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Randy Orton

The outcome of this match largely depends on whether they want to take this to Hell in a Cell next month. Given their decade-long history, I’d say Kofi and Orton are worthy of the cage. The only question is whether Kofi enters as champion.

I say we let Kofi keep the title. Have the Revival and the other New Day members mess around at ringside, leading to a questionable finish. Ergo, we go to the cage next month to keep all the interference out. They can even have Randy talk about all the horrible things he’s done to people inside the Cell, specifically Jeff Hardy last year.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman (c) vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

I like this story. You’ve got the Universal Champion and his challenger as the reluctant tag champs, having to defend both titles on the same night. And as far as I can remember, they’re correct to market it as something that has never been done before.

Supposedly, the reason it’s Roode and Ziggler challenging is because Paul Heyman, the legit Executive Director of Raw, is a fan of Roode’s. I’ve got no issue with that. Roode’s a hell of a talent. And Ziggler once again has the task of helping somebody get over.

There’s an argument to be made for letting Rollins and Strowman retain here. It keeps both strong for the Universal Title Match later on. But of course, it’s most likely an easy way to get the belts off them. Some sort of distraction or miscommunication causes Rollins to take the Glorious DDT from Roode, and get pinned. Not only does that put the belts on Roode and Ziggler, but that allows Roode to say he pinned the Universal Champion. Not a bad night for him at all…

PREDICTION: Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Braun Strowman

While I like the story being told here, the pairing of Rollins and Strowman is somewhat baffling. Because it likely means Braun Strowman has to lose a high profile title match yet again. And even if he wins, he likely drops it next month at Hell in a Cell anyway. So why put him with Rollins in the first place?

Unless they go with some kind of disputed finish here, or maybe a DQ, I can only assume Seth Rollins somehow wins. Perhaps the Fiend makes his presence felt during the match, which distracts his former Wyatt Family brother Braun, allowing Seth to get the victory? Either way, I don’t see Rollins leaving Clash without the belt.

Unfortunately, that takes him into the waiting arms of Bray Wyatt at Hell in a Cell next month…

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Wrestlemania Ponderings: The Man Comes Around…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what? This one actually turned out to be pretty good. Probably the best since Wrestlemania 31. As always, the show was too long. Once we got into the last few hours, I really started to feel it. Mind you, I didn’t even watch the pre-show. I went straight into the main card. But the show dragged a lot less than it usually does. They seemed to be trying to move things along fairly quickly. So at the very least, we can call that an improvement.

Let’s dive into the matches…

Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Universal Championship. These “impromptu” matches usually feel pretty forced to me. Especially when they have all the graphics and the music cued up. But if you put that aside, this was a really hot start. Certainly not what anyone expected to open the show. And it was consistent with most of Brock’s best matches in recent years: Hard hitting, quick, and to the point.

AJ Styles def. Randy Orton. This match definitely benefitted from the hot opener with Lesnar and Rollins. The crowd was still up and buzzing, especially in the early going.

That superplex from Orton to Styles was insane. They got half the rotation before they even started falling backward. A thing of beauty.

Not the finish I expected. Assuming Kofi would be winning the WWE Championship later in the evening, Orton would have made a great challenger for him straight out of the gate. Can’t say I’m offended, though. Even years later, I’m still amazed at just how much stock WWE has put into AJ Styles. He’s been a top guy almost from the start.

The Usos def. The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev, and Ricochet & Aleister Black to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.

Aleister Black’s entrance looked amazing in a Wrestlemania atmosphere. He came off like the biggest star in the match.

The announcers mentioned that Black and Richochet are the first team to have challenged for the Raw, NXT, and Smackdown Tag Team Titles in the span of a week. Mind you, that stat means a little less when you realize they didn’t win any of them…

Shane McMahon def. The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. So the idea here was that Shane attacking George Mizanin brought out this violent side of the Miz that we’ve never seen before. The problem I have with that is that from a story perspective is that, despite all the punishment Miz dished out, Shane kicked out of all of it. And yes, Miz hit a big move on Shane for the finale. But in the end he screwed it up, because it ultimately handed Shane the victory. So he doesn’t exactly come out looking awesome here. But maybe that’s part of the story going forward, with Miz feeling like he let his dad down…

The IIconics def. Sasha Banks & Bayley, Nia Jax & Tamina, and Beth Phoenix & Natalya to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. Never in a million years did I expect the IIconics to win here. Sasha and Bayley? Yes. Beth and Natalya? Sure. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay? Hell no. That’s not to say they don’t deserve it. But I was just happy to see them have a spot in this match. They’ve been so underutilized since coming up from NXT. They deserved this moment.

I’m a huge Hart family mark. But I’ve never bought the “Double Sharpshooter” spot. Even Bret never tried that.

Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Definitely the most emotionally charged match of the night. At least up to this point. That crowd desperately wanted Kofi to win the belt. Because they recognize that it’s real. It’s genuine. And what a moment for Kofi, his family, and the New Day.

My hat’s off to Daniel Bryan for helping make this happen. AMAZING counter to the double-stomp into the Boston Crab by Daniel Bryan, Never seen that before.

Samoa Joe def. Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE United States Championship. The buzz going into this match was that Rey had an ankle injury. So this was probably the best match he was capable of turning in. The upside? Hell of a dominant victory for Samoa Joe.

Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre. Crowd wise, this was a little bit of a dead match. The story was fine, and McIntyre is an amazing villain. But for whatever reason, this one just didn’t connect.

John Cena interrupts Elias with a “Thuganomics” throwback. Kinda cool to see retro John Cena out there. Throwin’ out some inside references to boot. As for Elias, working with Cena two years in a row ain’t the worse gig in the world.

Triple H def. Batista. It wasn’t until Hunter had the chain around Batista’s face that I noticed his nose ring was still in. And inevitably, you think, “Wouldn’t you try and rip that thing out?” Low and behold he whips out a pair of pliers. And that’s after he almost took a page out of Pete Dunne’s playbook with the fingers. Cool psychology from these two.

I don’t think anyone actually thought Batista was winning this one. Especially after the career-ending stipulation was added. Still, all things considered this turned out to be pretty damn good. Slow? Yes. Long? Yes. But still good, in the big picture. Batista looked great, considering he hasn’t wrestled in almost five years. I’d be open to seeing more from the big man, if he decides this isn’t his last match after all.

Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle. This match was about as good as it could be. Lots of people griped about Angle’s final opponent not being someone like John Cena or Samoa Joe. But this was never going to be a mat classic. I can’t say Corbin would have been my first choice either. But to me, this was more story-driven than wrestling-driven. In that sense, Corbin was a fine choice, and the right guy won.

Now, after getting a big victory like this, the big question is whether WWE can turn Corbin into a main event heel. It’s ironic that JBL was the one out there calling the match. Because Corbin has a lot of real heat that’s reminiscent of when JBL was WWE Champion in the early 2000s. At the time, people absolutely hated him. But in hindsight, he was one of the best heels they’ve created in the last 20 years. It’s just a question of whether Corbin has that in him.

Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was more or less what I thought it would be. A buffer match where the Demon gets a quick win. It’s actually kind of like what Balor did with Corbin at Summerslam.

Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to win the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. So…either they botched that finish, or they very carefully choreographed that so Ronda would come out of this match as strong as possible. Either way, it puts a bit of a damper on what otherwise would have been the match of the night. These three beat the hell out of each other. In line with what I said earlier, this was the best Wrestlemania main event since Lesnar and Reigns at 31.

NASTY fall off the ropes for Ronda after that dropkick from Becky. A little scary, actually.

I ain’t a mixed martial arts expert by any means. But to me a Double-Arm-Bar makes as little sense as a Double Sharpshooter.

Ronda with the line of the night: “Tables are for bitches!”

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Royal Rumble 2019 Results and Ponderings

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got a lot to get to. Like, a lot. Like most WWE pay per views these days, this thing went way too long. So let’s just get right into it.

Royal Rumble 2019. Let’s go!

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. Scott Dawson and Rezar. I was in and out during this match. I know Akam is out healing from an injury. But why was Rezar teaming with Dawson?

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev to win the WWE United States Championship. I only caught the finish to this one. Can’t say I saw this coming at all. Nakamura may have been relegated to the pre-show a year after his big Rumble Match win. But at least he can say he won a title.

Buddy Murphy def. Hideo Itami, Akira Tozawa, and Kalisto to retain the Cruiserweight Championship. I got this one wrong too. I called Itami. Nothing wrong with keeping it on Murphy, though.

I had the audio of this match on in my car. And I just kept hearing those kicks. I know they’re worked, but those smacking sounds are enough to make your skin crawl.

Asuka def. Becky Lynch to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Really good start to the show, which included a nasty fall to the outside. Mrs. Primary Ignition actually came in to check on me, as I let out an “ooo” when that happened.

Nice suspenseful sequence to the finish. Counter after counter, hold after hold. Did not expect Becky to tap out at all. Great win for Asuka. But they kept the camera on Becky after the match. Her story was obviously not over…

Shane McMahon and The Miz def. The Bar to win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Shane really went all out in this one. That leap from the top on to Sheamus, then going straight into the uppercut from Cesaro. The Coast to Coast into the Cesaro Swing. Then finally, the Shooting Star Press for the win.

Really happy that they brought Miz’s dad in, and that he’s part of this story. I’m enjoying this Miz/Shane thing for what it is.

Ronda Rousey def. Sasha Banks to retain the Raw Women’s Championship. I’ve totally lost track of where ___ the human being begins and the character of Sasha Banks takes over. But either way, regardless of my personal critiques of her attitude, Sasha showed us why she’s one of the best in the world. Not just because of her wrestling, but her character work. She and Ronda brought a great personal intensity to the match. Her facial expressions, the bending of the fingers, a la Pete Dunne. Plus, her borderline sore loser mentality after the match. I wanted her to pull a Jericho/Nakamura style heel turn.

Becky Lynch won the 2019 Women’s Royal Rumble Match.

– I wouldn’t call this a thrilling Rumble Match. But the ending was exactly what it needed to be. Becky as the big underdog winning in the end. And what a feel-good moment it was. For as long as she’s been left on the backburner, she deserves it. If you look closely after the match, she looked out into the crowd and said, “We did it. It’s happening.”

– Nice spot for Lacey Evans. It allowed her to do some introductory character work, at least for the mainstream audience.

– Very few eliminations early on. Do they feel like they need to have more women in there to maintain the audience’s attention? I think this match needed more stories. More rivalries. It felt like we were longing for something to sink our teeth into. Case in point, after the Mandy Rose/Naomi stuff, we went straight into Maria Kanellis and Alicia Fox fighting over a hat.

– I’m not nearly as familiar with names like Nikki Cross or Rhea Ripley as I should be. But I’m becoming a huge fan of both really quickly. Each has such presence and energy.

– Good use of the Riott Squad after Ruby’s entrance. Has that ever been done before? The faction picking people off from the outside? Really made the group look formidable.

Daniel Bryan def. AJ Styles to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after interference by Erick Rowan. You know who I really love? Angry Daniel Bryan. He’s incredible. Needs new music, though.

It’s not always the most thrilling thing in the world to see two guys work a body part like Bryan and Styles did here. But between Bryan’s viciousness, and the way Styles sold it, they made it work. I can’t say I was ever bored. That being said, the placement of this match didn’t do it any favors. After an hour-long Rumble Match and Becky’s big win, we were all coming down. It’s what smarks often call the “death spot” on a card.

So Erick Rowan is Daniel Bryan’s muscle, eh? Can’t say I expected that. But he’s got the big beard. So he at least looks the part. Let’s see how they pair together.

Brock Lesnar def. Finn Balor to retain the WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship. Really good match. Maybe the match of the night. The formula was what you expected it to be. Balor defies the odds to make us believe he can beat Brock, only to have Brock pull it out in the end. But they really went all the way with it here. Balor had the majority of the offense in this match, with that corner-of-the-table spot adding that precious element of believably. They made it look like Balor spooked Brock. Thus, even in losing, Balor comes out better than he was going in.

2019 Men’s Royal Rumble:

– The Rumble Match kicked off at about the point the show should have ended. Mind you, I was still excited for it. But it’s been said a million times, and it needs to be said again here: These shows are too damn long.

– Really cool moment for Jeff Jarrett, coming out at number two. Nice little nostalgia moment. I was actually hoping they’d do the duet. They’ve never done that to kick off a Rumble before! Elias didn’t exactly endear himself to old school fans here. But Jarrett put him over. At the end of the day, it was the right thing to do.

– Didn’t expect Kurt Angle to be in and out so quickly. And he went out with such a whimper. Great to see him. I just wish we could have seen more.

– While Johnny Gargano and Pete Dunne were more than suitable NXT entrants in this match, this big one for my money was Aleister Black. Out of those three, I expect Black will be on the main roster the soonest. Eliminating Dean Ambrose certainly didn’t hurt his case in that regard.

– While he was a dark horse pick at best, I wouldn’t have minded seeing Mustafa Ali take this match. He’s got all the talent in the world, and nobody would have seen it coming. His elimination of Samoa Joe was a nice moment.

– Ugh. That was an ugly botched elimination by Lashley. He didn’t exactly look almighty there…

– Surprising to see Dolph Ziggler in this thing. Much less as the guy to eliminate Drew McIntyre. Rumor has it he’s got one foot out the door. Maybe they want him to put McIntyre over one more time before he goes.

– For a few minutes, that Nia Jax stuff was downright spooky. Don’t for a second put it past WWE to put her over in a spot like this. It turned out to be pretty harmless, and even a little fun. But oh, what might have been…

– This match wasn’t as suspenseful as last year’s. But as with the women’s match, the right person won. Congrats to Seth Rollins!

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview – Who’s Going to Wrestlemania?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Everybody comes back for the Rumble.

Well, maybe not everybody. But a lot of fans who are turned off by whatever crap WWE starts shoveling at us after Survivor Series, will inevitably check in for the Royal Rumble. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan, it’s ingrained in you. We’re trained to anticipate the Royal Rumble. Specifically, the Royal Rumble Match.

This show could be damn good, all things considered. It’ll be at Chase Field, which could potentially make for a magical vibe. We’ve also got a hot card, including what many consider to be a pair of dream matches. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor and Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks.

So let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

If it hadn’t been relegated to the pre-show, then this could easily have opened the Rumble. It’s got great car-crash potential. It also gives the challengers a well-deserved chance to shine on a big stage. Particularly Hideo Itami. The days of KENTA seem so very long ago…

Since Mustafa Ali is now getting a push on Smackdown, that throws a monkey wrench into my predictions for the Cruiserweight Title at Wrestlemania. Now it’s anybody’s ball game. A match like this presents a good opportunity to take the belt off Murphy without actually pinning him, which makes me think we’re getting a title switch.

With that in mind, I’ll go with Itami on this one. He seems like the best choice out of the three challengers. Also, I’d be curious to see when his current deal is up. With the big All Elite Wrestling announcement, he might be someone they want to keep happy if there’s a risk of losing him to a budding competitor.

PREDICTION: Hideo Itami

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Last year, Nakamura wins the Rumble Match. This year, he’s on the pre-show. If that’s not a statement for how his big push went, I don’t know what is.

That’s really all I’ve got for this one. While I can certainly appreciate two immigrants wrestling for the United States Title in these turbulent times, Nakamura essentially spun his wheels with that belt. Here’s hoping he can find his footing again this year. In the meantime, I see no reason why Rusev should drop it back to him.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz

Aw hell, why not? Put the belts on Shane and Miz. It beats putting the Bar against the Usos and the New Day over and over again. Plus, this is obviously a means to an end. They put the titles on Shane and Miz so they can lose them, break up, and have a Wrestlemania match.

Also, giving the titles to Shane and Miz gives a less established team a great opportunity to take them via a screwjob finish. Heavy Machinery, perhaps? Maybe even SAnitY?

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and The Miz

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

This is the match that threw a monkey wrench into a lot of Royal Rumble predictions, mine included. Common sense seemed to indicate that Becky Lynch would enter and win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and go on to challenge Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania, possibly with Charlotte Flair in there to make it a three-way. But then they went ahead and put Becky in this match. A match that, creatively speaking, it doesn’t make much sense for her to win. Unless they want to move Ronda over to Smackdown as Becky’s challenger. Come to think of it, that might be easier than somehow moving both Becky and Charlotte over to Raw

Granted, being in this match doesn’t mean she can’t compete in the Rumble later in the night. It’s certainly been done before on the men’s side of things. But this match has fans guessing, and all things considered, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It would be a shame to see Asuka lose here, as they just got her back on track. But assuming she is indeed about to headline Wrestlemania, Becky doesn’t need to eat a pinfall either. So I can only assume this match ends with some kind of screwball finish. Maybe Charlotte comes out with a kendo stick and starts beating on people. Either way, I’m thinking this one ends in a disqualification and Asuka goes home with the belt. Where that leaves her at Wrestlemania is anybody’s guess. But I imagine she’ll be walking in with the title.

PREDICTION: Asuka

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

This one could go either way. Ever since Bryan got that WWE Championship back, it feels like the Smackdown title picture for Wrestlemania has been anybody’s ball game. There’s no reason AJ Styles can’t win it back, and walk into New Jersey as champion.

But somehow, I just don’t see it. With this new character, it feels like Daniel Bryan’s time. There’s a certain poetic quality to the idea of Bryan walking in with the WWE Championship five years after his big moment at Wrestlemania XXX. So one way or another, I think Bryan keeps the title. It’s just a question of who he defends against…

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks

It feels like Ronda Rousey is a lot bigger than Sasha Banks, doesn’t it? Physically, I mean. But she really isn’t. Ronda is 5’7, Sasha is 5’5. Ronda supposedly weighs 134, Sasha weighs 117. So while Ronda is indeed larger, I don’t necessarily expect her to chuck Sasha around like a rag doll.

That’s not to say Sasha won’t fly. I expect we’ll see her take more than a few wicked bumps in this match. For better or worse, they’ve become a trademark of hers. One way or another, she’ll pull out all the stops for this one. I don’t know if we should call this one of the biggest matches of her career. But it’s definitely the biggest one she’s had since all those wars with Charlotte.

My opinion about Ronda losing before Wrestlemania has not changed: It ain’t gonna happen. Mind you, it would be a lot of fun to see Sasha pull off a surprise win, possibly due to interference from Becky or Charlotte, and defend against Bayley at Wrestlemania. But in the end, I really think Ronda wins here.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor

They pulled a fast one on us here. For whatever reason, Braun Strowman is out and Finn Balor is in. Hell, I ain’t complainin’. This is a match people have wanted to see for a long time. And like Brock’s matches with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, I expect it will deliver.

But as it was with the Styles and Bryan matches, the outcome isn’t in doubt here. Brock wins. Still, this is a valuable opportunity for Balor. Since he came back after forfeiting the Universal Title, he’s been struggling to earn himself a full-time spot in that upper echelon of talent. He can use this match to take a giant step forward in that regard. This one should be good.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2019 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

Please, for the love of God, keep Stephanie McMahon off commentary this year. They actually put the Women’s Rumble Match from last year on YouTube, but I couldn’t force to sit through an hour of her piss poor attempt at announcing. Just put Michael Cole or Tom Phillips with Renee Young and Beth Phoenix.

I count 23 announced participants in this match so far. If you count Trish Stratus and Lita, who will likely be unannounced entries, that brings it to 25. I’m sure we’ll see a few women from NXT and NXT UK. Maybe an entry or two from the Mae Young Classic. And of course, let’s not forget about Becky Lynch. She’s a prime candidate for the number 30 spot.

One woman who deserves to win, but almost certainly won’t? Ember Moon. I wanted them to put her over in the Battle Royal at Evolution. But alas, her number simply hasn’t been called yet. But one day it will. And then she’ll show the world just how damn good she can be. Ruby Riott is in that same boat. With or without the Riott Squad, she’s capable of an amazing performance at a show like Wrestlemania.

As much as I think we’d all love to see Becky enter and win this match, in making my prediction I have to assume that’s not what’s going to happen.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

2019 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

One of the caveats going into this match is that John Cena may not be in it anymore. Something about an ankle injury. Maybe it’s a work, maybe it’s not. Kinda sucks, but it’s not like he was winning it anyway.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bray Wyatt pop up in this match. He’s been gone long enough that he’d qualify as a surprise entrant. Especially if he’s somehow the “new and improved” Bray Wyatt, with a freshened up look or something. Also, while he’s not listed as a participant, it would be a shame to leave EC3 out of this thing. A good performance in a Rumble Match would give him some nice momentum.

Interestingly enough, news broke this week that Abyss and Sonjay Dutt have left Impact Wrestling for WWE. While it doesn’t seem like he’s signing on to be a full-time wrestler, could the “Monster” of TNA wrestling wind up with a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble Match? Sure. Why not? If AJ Styles can do it, Abyss can.

About a month ago I speculated about the winner of this year’s Rumble, as people do. The names I gave were Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, the Miz, Drew McIntyre, and the Rock. Out of those five men, only Rollins and McIntyre are actually in the match. Granted, Styles and Miz could end up in it, just like Becky could on the women’s end. But Rollins and McIntyre are apropos, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were among the last four men in this match. Maybe the two of them, EC3, and…Rey Mysterio? Andrade? God forbid, Randy Orton?

In the end, Rollins is my pick. I would have loved for it to be Braun Strowman. But between the heel turn after Summerslam, and his frequent losses to Brock Lesnar, he’s simply not the guy right now. That doesn’t mean Strowman can’t wind up in the Rumble Match. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty likely he will be. But for my money, Lesnar vs. Rollins is the match.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What we have here is a bit of a tradition here at PI.

It started as a take-off of something Barbara Walters used to do. She’d choose and profile the 10 “most fascinating people” of the year. I’ve borrowed that concept several times over the years, and the lists can be found in our archives.

(For your convenience: 2012. 2013. 2015. 2016. 2017.)

So once again, we’re back. On this year’s list, we’ve got a UFC Hall of Famer turned WWE Champion, a heroic underdog turned monster heel, a new hot babyface taking the company by storm, among several others…

1. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey was always going to be a marquee player for WWE. That was blatantly obvious from the get-go. And why wouldn’t she be? But realistically, Ronda could have put in half the effort she does, and made less than half the appearances, and still gotten by. She could have coasted on her name, a few suplexes, and some armbars. She could have taken many would consider to be the Brock Lesnar path.

Instead, Rousey has consistently over-delivered. Whether it was her debut match at Wrestlemania, her match with Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series, or even her title bout with Nia Jax at TLC, this has unquestionably been the best-case scenario.

Rousey has her critics, who would have you believe she doesn’t deserve the spot she has. While so much of wrestling is relative based on one’s personal taste, many of those critics need to be reminded that much of the so-called “Women’s Evolution” can be attributed to Rousey’s success in the UFC. If she doesn’t become the box office draw that she does, WWE has no reason to revamp its own women’s division. Without Rousey, women like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Asuka wouldn’t have the chance to headline pay per views or steal the show at Wrestlemania.

What’s more, Rousey may be about to knock down yet another door. It’s looking more and more like she’ll be part of the first women’s match to headline the show of shows…

2. Daniel Bryan
This is Bryan’s third time on the list, and it’s not hard to see why. His performances spark a ton of emotion, and fans definitely ran the emotional gambit with him this year. In March, we were thrilled to hear he was cleared to return to the ring after more than two years in a WWE-imposed retirement. The move raises a number of questions regarding other wrestlers thought to be permanently retired due to injury. Among those names is Paige, who thanked Bryan in her retirement speech, adding “…you give me hope.”

Bryan made his emotional and genuinely inspirational return to the ring at Wrestlemania. For several months, Bryan was once again one of the company’s most popular acts. Then, less than a week before Survivor Series, Bryan shocked the world by winning back the WWE Championship, turning heel on AJ Styles in the process.

Since then, Bryan has condemned fans for their consumerism, and lack of regard for the environment. In one of the year’s most talked about promos, he promised to replace the leather strap on the WWE Title belt. He’s literally gone from one of the company’s top babyfaces, to perhaps its top heel. At this rate, it’s likely he’ll once again find himself back in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania this year.

3. Asuka
Asuka is also returning to this list, having made it last year. The “Empress of Tomorrow” started her 2018 at the highest of highs. Since arriving on Raw in October 2017, she’d kept her fabled undefeated streak alive. She would go on to win the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble Match, earning a title match at Wrestlemania. She would face Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a match that, for my money, stole the damn show.

But that’s where her luck began to change. Flair shocked the world when she ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. A strange move in hindsight, as she’d simply drop the title to Carmella. The same Carmella that would later defeat Asuka in back-to-back pay per views. Mere months beforehand, it had been unthinkable that Asuka could lose to anyone. She’d beaten the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. But suddenly, here she was losing title matches to Carmella, and subsequently being mired in mediocrity, forming an alliance with Naomi. The two would lose to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay at Super Show-Down.

And yet, Asuka’s popularity has endured. Apparently, that’s what prompted Vince McMahon to add her to the Smackdown Women’s Title Match at TLC. Now, Asuka can add Smackdown Women’s Champion, and winner of the first Women’s TLC Match to her resume. It’s like the last 10 months never even happened…

So at last, Asuka has made it to the top. It didn’t happen the way any of us thought it would. But she is there. Now it’s just a question of whether she can stay at the top, or she’ll be lost in the shuffle again. One way or another, we’ll get our answer in 2019.

4. Shawn Michaels
It’s tough to remember HBK coming out of retirement, isn’t it? As big a deal as it is, it was drowned out by all the controversy surrounding WWE Crown Jewel. Not to mention the announcement that Roman Reigns would be stepping away to fight leukemia.

But indeed, Degeneration X reunited in Saudi Arabia to face the Brothers of Destruction. While many cried that Triple H, the Undertaker, and Kane showed their age out there, even after eight years away Shawn still managed to look pretty damn good. And while Shawn himself indicated he’d be going right back into retirement, there’s been plenty of speculation about “Mr. Wrestlemania” making yet another appearance at the show of shows. Another Undertaker match seems like the obvious route. But Shawn has no shortage of other options. I myself floated six of them.

In hindsight, I still wish Shawn hadn’t done this match. I really wanted him to be the one guy that stayed true to his word. But what’s done is done.

5. Tegan Nox
This one hurt. Like, it really hurt. You just wanted to reach through the screen and comfort this poor woman. She’d already been through hell, and now she was going to have to do it all over again.

Tegan Nox, whose real name is Steffanie Newell, was supposed to be in the first Mae Young Classic. But a torn ACL kept her out of the ring. For this year’s tournament, they were telling that story with her. In fact, she was one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Then, mere seconds into her second-round match against Rhea Ripley, her other knee goes out. We later learned she’d torn that ACL as well. It was a legitimately heartbreaking moment for not only Newell, but everyone watching.

The only upside in all of this? We seem to be on the road to yet another redemption story for this character. In the aftermath of all this, Rhea Ripley, who has gone on to become the NXT UK Women’s Champion, started a war of words with Nox on Twitter. So assuming Nox will indeed be back in the ring, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her wearing that title in 2019.

So get well soon, Miss Newell. Great things are waiting for you.

6. Johnny Gargano
As cliche as it is, I’ve got to go with the classic Harvey Dent quote from The Dark Knight on this one: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Former tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have put on some of the best matches in all of wrestling this year. But the feud has transformed Gargano, arguably one of the last old school babyfaces in the business, into a man consumed with destroying Ciampa. So when Ciampa wrestled Aleister Black for the NXT Championship in July, Gargano attempted to interfere and cost him the match. It ended up backfiring, as Gargano hit Black with the belt, and essentially handed the title to Ciampa.

A Triple-Threat Match was made for the championship at NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV, but a mysterious attack took Black out of the match. Gargano failed to win the title, at it was later revealed the he was the one who attacked the former champion. Naturally, a feud ignited between the two, culminating in a steel cage match this past week on NXT, which Ciampa would help Gargano win. This has lead to rampant speculation that this blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa has ultimately led them to team up all over again.

This slow journey of Johnny Gargano’s, from victim, to heroic avenger, to fallen hero consumed by revenge, to villain, is a textbook example of pro wrestling done right. Deep, emotional stories, told through amazing in-ring action.

7. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose was absent for much of 2018, healing from a torn triceps. But when he returned in August, he was once again part of the Shield. But seeds of dissension were quickly planted by rivals Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. We all sensed a turn was coming. But there was no way we could have predicted what actually happened…

Mere hours after Roman Reigns announced he was stepping away from the ring to fight leukemia, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins successfully challenged McIntyre and Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Titles. With emotions still running high after the Reigns announcement, Ambrose shocked Rollins with a DDT, and then a brutal beatdown. While many would cry foul over the timing, for my money it was ultimately one of the best things WWE did all year. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do: It sucked us in. Got us invested in the characters and their stories. It sparked raw emotion in the audience.

However, WWE’s handling of Ambrose since the turn has been hit-or-miss. While I actually like the new Bane-inspired gas mask look, Vince McMahon’s influence on some of his promos has been quite evident. He’s talked about how the fans smell, how they’re all lazy and unmotivated, etc. Very little with any emotional weight to it.

Still, Ambrose is an awesome performer. Given the right material and the right opportunities, he’s as capable of delivering the goods as anyone. And they have a potentially hot storyline practically gift-wrapped for them, as Ambrose’s real-life wife Renee Young is sitting there on commentary every week. She might just be the ticket to him becoming the vile, despicable heel we all know he can be.

8. Drew McIntyre
Daniel Bryan may have had the comeback of the year, but Drew McIntyre had an epic comeback story of his own. McIntyre reinvented himself after being released by WWE in 2014. He found success in Impact Wrestling, Evolve, and PWG. When he returned to WWE via NXT in 2017, he was almost unrecognizable.

When McIntyre finally returned to the main roster this past April, he formed an unlikely alliance on Raw with Dolph Ziggler. The pair would ultimately up each other’s game, and be a dominant force on the show for most of the year. McIntyre would prove to be one of the show’s most consistent performers, both in the ring and on the mic.

Now a solo act again, the “Scottish Psychopath” will almost certainly challenge for the Universal Championship in 2019. McIntyre’s near five-year journey from the bottom of the wrestling may culminate with him standing at the very top. Frankly, it would be foolish to bet against him at this point.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is back on this list this year, but unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons. He and Asuka were very much on parallel journeys this year. They each won their respective Royal Rumble Matches, but failed to win gold at Wrestlemania. While Asuka failed to win the Smackdown Women’s Title from Carmella on two different occasions, Nakamura was unable to take the WWE Title from AJ Styles several times before finally dropping out of contention. He found a little bit of new life as a heel, and won the US Title from Jeff Hardy as a consolation prize. But his run has been fairly unremarkable, highlighted by a losing effort against Seth Rollins at Survivor Series. And while I won’t spoil this week’s Smackdown, the odds of Nakamura walking into 2019 with the belt are slim to none…

It would be easy to blame Nakamura’s failure as a main-eventer on WWE creative. The guy didn’t book himself to lose, after all. WWE also didn’t seem to know how to convey his unique persona, other than simply calling him “the Artist.” Losing multiple title matches to Jinder Mahal in 2017 didn’t help either.

But at the end of the day, Nakamura simply didn’t connect with mainstream American audiences well enough to justify the push he got. Yes, he’s a bona fide legend in Japan. Yes, he did very well in NXT. But on Raw and Smackdown you’re catering to the casuals and the average joes. And while we saw flashes of Nakamura’s greatness, over the long haul we never really got a good reason to invest in him emotionally, be it as a heel or a babyface. You can’t chalk all of that up to creative. Much of it, in fact, a majority of it, is about what happens in when the cameras are rolling.

Supposedly, Nakamura’s contract is up next month. If I’m in his shoes, I’m headed back to Japan. Because I’m at something of a loss as to how you build him back up at this point.

10. Becky Lynch
Up until recently, Becky Lynch was “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” While her talent, charisma, and likability have been apparent almost from the start, WWE always seemed reluctant to fully get behind her. She was the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT to never win the NXT Women’s Title. While she did indeed become the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only held the belt for two months. She more or less became a second-tier babyface afterward. This, despite fans clamoring to see her in a more prominent role.

We got our wish. Now, Becky Lynch may very well be the most popular wrestler in all of WWE.

Many of us, myself included, balked when Becky turned heel at Summerslam. But in hindsight, it gave her the creative freedom to become the defiant badass she is now. She’s often compared to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that’s not entirely unjustified. Fans feel she’s been overlooked, and now they’re rooting for her to conquer the system that’s held her back for so long. Even when she was injured by Nia Jax and pulled out of a match against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, the fans stood behind her, every bit as outraged as she was. Now, she may be in a position to make history by headlining Wrestlemania with Rousey.

For more than a decade now, we’ve been in the era of forced babyfaces. Wrestlers we’re told we should cheer for, rather than heroes who earn those cheers organically. John Cena and Roman Reigns are both extremely talented, and great at what they do. But for most of their careers they’ve been going against the grain in terms of fan reception.

Becky Lynch is the exact opposite. No one told us to cheer for her. If anything, it’s been the exact opposite. But like Daniel Bryan before her, she’s started an uprising from the audience. And such uprisings should never be ignored, lest the main event of Wrestlemania be drowned out by chants of “Becky! Becky! Becky!”

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.