Tag Archives: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE Money in the Bank Predictions – Get Ready for Ronda!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know, I was going to write a little bit about CM Punk here. But looking at the Money in the Bank card, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

So let’s not waste any time. We’ve got some good ol’ fashioned speculatin’ to do…

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

All we can hope here is that our destination is better than our journey. WWE has done Bobby Lashley no favors with this creative. There’s a difference between being soft-spoken and being a chump. From a personality standpoint, Lashley has indeed come off like a chump in this program with Sami Zayn. We need to see that this guy has another gear. We need to see that he can get angry. When Zayn mades that “Did you really serve in the military?” comment, Lashley should have rushed after him. Because he should have been pissed. Instead, this all feels wishy washy because there’s so little emotion involved.

Either way, Lashley beats Zayn here. They seem to really want Lashley to be a headline guy. But as was the case the first time around, for whatever reason they just can’t get him there.

PREDICTION: Bobby Lashley

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

There’s been a decent amount of speculation lately about where the Authors of Pain have been, and why they disappeared from Raw so quickly after their debut. Supposedly WWE didn’t have any plans for them. I’m wondering if they’ve decided to move them to Smackdown so they can challenge the Bludgeon Brothers for the tag belts at some point. Right now, the only other team I can see beating them is the Bar. But I’m not exactly sold on that. You might be thinking SAnitY, but they’ve been MIA as well.

Either way, it’s not going to be Gallows and Anderson. Sorry, brothers.

PREDICTION: The Bludgeon Brothers

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Thus far, Cass’ singles push has gone strictly okay. That’s not to say there isn’t potential there. But it’s very obvious that he’s new at this. Still, as I’ve said before, he’s in good hands out there with Bryan. The right guy won when these two wrestled at Backlash. Despite the size difference, Bryan is much more experienced and a much better pure wrestler. Now I think it’s time for Cass to get a victory. Not necessarily a clean one. But something to justify a third match at Extreme Rules next month. Because that’s probably where this is going.

PREDICTION: Big Cass

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal

Watch them make this the main event…

They might actually give this one to Jinder. Like Bryan and Cass, I can see them going to Extreme Rules with this one. (Let’s just hope they don’t make it another Punjabi Prison Match.) Roman can beat him there, and then go on to face Brock for the title yet again at Summerslam. Because yes, I guarantee you that’s where they go with this. Best case scenario, it winds up being a Triple Threat Match with somebody like Seth Rollins in there too.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Elias

I haven’t been into Raw very much lately. But this Seth Rollins/Elias stuff has been a notable exception. Rollins is a hot Intercontinental Champion, and Elias would make a hell of an IC Champ in his own right. The stuff with the guitar has been simple but effective.

I don’t see them taking the title off Rollins just yet. But Extreme Rules (Notice a theme developing here?) might be another story. Elias can win the belt in some kind of gimmick match. Then, God willing, Rollins can work in the main event of Summerslam. His resurgence in popularity after that Gauntlet Match on Raw has been really cool to see. Let’s hope he can ride that wave all the way back to the top of the card.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

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

I have no desire to see Asuka lose another match. She’s teetering dangerously close to being just another woman on the roster. That’s the opposite of what she should be. Especially after they pushed her to the moon.

But I’m not ready to see Carmella drop the title either. She’s been a lot of fun on TV these past few months. So I’m thinking this is one of those rare instances where a disqualification or count-out finish is necessary in a pay per view match. Fans balked when she pinned Charlotte at Backlash. So let’s not do that again. Have her weasel her way out, and then go to a three-way title match with Asuka and Charlotte down the road. Summerslam, maybe?

PREDICTION: Carmella

WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
Charlotte Flair vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Ember Moon vs. Lana

Lana in a Ladder Match, huh? That seems needlessly risky…

In predicting these Money in the Bank matches, for me it’s always process of elimination. I always look at who either doesn’t need the briefcase or isn’t ready for it yet. Two names we can knock out immediately are Charlotte and Lana. You can seemingly give Charlotte a title shot any time, as she’s that good. Lana, on the other hand, might not even deserve to be in this match. I’m legit worried for her.

Alexa Bliss and Naomi…meh. Kind of a waste of the briefcase. I’m sure a program between Bliss and Ronda Rousey is on the horizon anyway, and it might actually be time to give Naomi a fresh coat of paint. The whole “feel the glow” thing is has gotten old. Sasha Banks doesn’t necessarily need it either, though I admit she’d at least be interesting.

Becky Lynch is always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Does she deserve to win? Yes. Will she? No. For now, that’s just her lot in life.

So it comes down to either Ember Moon or Natalya. The former is a fresh NXT call-up who’s turning a lot of heads, and could gain a lot with a big win here. On the other hand, Natalya is obviously about to work a big program with Ronda Rousey. That’s a story they have a lot of money invested in via Ronda. The briefcase would obviously be a great dramatic tool in that regard. When you look at it that way, it almost seems obvious.

PREDICTION: Natalya

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

At the risk of pissing off smart fans, this whole program has been a disappointment. Simply put, these guys were victims of their own hype. Not to mention bad creative. This could have been an epic back-and-forth between two of the industry’s best and brightest. Instead, it became about low blows and ball shots.

What’s more, for all the good the heel turn has done him, I don’t think Nakamura gets the belt here. I still don’t think he’s ready for it. At this point, I think we’d be better served doing Styles vs. Samoa Joe, or even Styles vs. Daniel Bryan. For now, Nakamura has missed his window. After the awesome moment he had at the Royal Rumble this year, that’s a damn shame. But like Lashley and Zayn, I think the best we can hope for here is for them to stick the landing.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:
The Miz vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe vs. Bobby Roode vs. Braun Strowman vs. Rusev vs. [New Day Member]

Despite the buzz about Big E, the New Day member that joins this match is probably going to be Kofi Kingston. Given his proficiency with high spots, and how experienced he is in these matches, that seems pretty obvious. It’s almost a moot point anyway, as the New Day isn’t getting the briefcase.

Braun Strowman isn’t either, as he clearly doesn’t need it. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe wouldn’t disappoint with it, but I don’t think they need it either.

Rusev is the Becky Lynch of this match, in that he probably should get it, but won’t. Finn Balor is almost in that same spot. It seems like he’s one or two big wins away from getting his momentum back, much like Seth Rollins did. But while I’d love to be wrong, I don’t see this for him right now.

I’d be okay with Bobby Roode winning this match if it meant they were going to tweak his character. This guy was okay as a babyface when he first came in. But these days he’s drowning. WWE seems to know that, and since he’s come to Raw it feels like they’ve been slowly inching him in that direction. If a Money in the Bank win can further that story, I’m all for it.

But in the end, I think Miz becomes the second man to win a Money in the Bank Ladder Match more than once. I’d argue he falls into the same “doesn’t need it” camp as Owens and Joe. But he’s been on such a roll lately that something extra like this could be the boost he needs to really take off into the stratosphere. The fact that he and Maryse are about to get their own reality show on USA Network doesn’t hurt his case either.

Don’t kid yourself, folks. Miz can be the centerpiece of Smackdown. In fact, I think it’s only a matter of time.

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Nia Jax (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

They really couldn’t contain themselves, could they? And yes, I think they’re going to do it. Ronda Rousey wins the Raw Women’s Championship in her first singles match.

For a moment, set aside the fact that Rousey is about to be the first female inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame, and WWE being able to leech even more publicity off of that by giving her the belt. Ronda winning the title in her first pay per view match tells a interesting story. It gets people talking. It opens some interesting doors too. Obviously, every other woman on the roster will be able to point at Ronda and say, “She doesn’t deserve that! She didn’t earn it!” Thus, Ronda has to prove she deserves it by beating them one by one on pay per view. It’s an easy segue into matches with women like Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and of course Natalya. Naturally, Nia Jax will get a rematch as well.

And for the record, as fans, let’s not get a stick up our ass about Ronda being champion. This whole Diva’s Revolution/Women’s Evolution thing would never have happened without her becoming a star in the UFC. That’s not to take anything away from what Charlotte, Sasha, Becky, or anyone else did to make it happen. But if Ronda Rousey doesn’t become the mega-attraction that she does, what incentive does WWE have to put them in main events? Or give them ample time at shows like Wrestlemania? Or market them the way they do now? Would it have happened eventually anyway? Maybe. But it didn’t happen until Ronda kicked that door down for everybody.

This could all be much ado about nothing, of course. Natalya, or somebody else from the Raw side, could easily cash in during this match and steal the belt before Ronda can win it. That’s another a good story possibility. But I think it happens here.

Go get ’em, Ronda.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

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A WWE Backlash Preview – The Forgotten Show

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Backlash gets overlooked a lot. That’s inevitable, as it always comes after a big show like Wrestlemania or Summerslam. But let’s not do it a disservice. The show has given us its share of classics. Austin vs. Rock in 1999. Rock vs. Triple H in 2000. Foley vs. Orton in 2004. We even got the infamous match where Shawn Michaels teamed with “God.”

Backlash can deliver. It’s just a question of whether it can this year. The fact that it’s coming a mere two weeks after the Greatest Royal Rumble doesn’t help matters. I don’t expect this one is going to blow us away. But you never know…

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Bryan takes this one, though it might be via disqualification. Either way, they’ll come back to it next month at Extreme Rules with some kind of gimmick match. I can see the story being that Cass can’t beat Bryan (yet), so he continues attacking him out of humiliation and spite.

Bryan is obviously being used to help get Cass over as a single. And if you want to be a heel, picking on Daniel Bryan is a hell of a way to get heat. So I like where their head is at there. Some fans were upset they didn’t jump right into Bryan vs. Styles, or Bryan vs. Nakamura. There’ll be time, folks. Let’s build those properly.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

You know the ironic thing about this match? There was a decent amount of speculation about Lashley being Strowman’s tag team partner at Wrestlemania. Instead they had Strowman win the tag belts with a child, and opted to save Lashley for Backlash. Wrestling is really weird…

Owens and Zayn eat the loss here. Because neither Strowman nor Lashley should be losing right now.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

These two had a tough gig at Wrestlemania. From a hype perspective, their match was easily drowned out by everything else vying for our attention. Then they wound up sandwiched between Daniel Bryan’s big return and AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. They’ve got plenty more wiggle room with this one, so hopefully they can give us something that stands out a little more.

I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to Alexa Bliss getting the belt back. But I don’t see it happening. It’s Nia’s time. I imagine she’ll move on to a new opponent after Backlash. As she’s got so much chemistry with Alexa, I’m curious as to how she’ll do with someone else. Ruby Riott comes to mind.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton

While it looks good on paper, I’m struggling to care about this one. Possibly because I’m struggling to care about Randy Orton in general. But if they can get a rhythm going, this could be the dark horse show-stealer.

My gut tells me Jeff takes the belt home in this one. He’s headed back into the main event scene on Smackdown, so it makes sense to give him a big win here.

PREDICTION: Jeff Hardy

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

I’ve become a big Carmella fan. So I’m thrilled she got to cash in successfully. She’s got charisma for days, and makes a great heel champion.

Carmella hasn’t had a lot of high profile singles matches. So I’m curious to see how she’ll match up against Charlotte. She’s definitely got her share of doubters. But I think she’s got the potential to surprise a lot of people.

PREDICTION: Carmella

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

To their credit, they’ve managed to keep the IC Title hot while transitioning it from Miz to Rollins. That doesn’t always happen. In fact, in the modern era it hardly ever happens…

Unless the opt to pull a wild move, there’s not a lot of suspense to this one. Rollins gets the win and keeps the belt on Raw. As he should. The Miz did wonders with it. Now let’s see what Rollins can do.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

This is being promoted as if it’s going to be the main event. That’s not how I see it. Now when you’ve got Styles and Nakamura wrestling for the title. No disrespect. I’m sure these two will tear the house down.

If it’s me running the show, Joe wins this one. But because it’s Vince’s show, Roman wins. Whether any of us like it or not, he’s getting another shot at Brock Lesnar and the Universal Title. So he needs to win. Actually, he doesn’t need to win, because this is a nonsensical world we live in. But he’s going to.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

So Nakamura got his shot at Wrestlemania, and he didn’t win. He got another shot at the Greatest Royal Rumble, and he didn’t win. So now he’s getting another shot. And because he’s not Roman Reigns, if he loses this one it might be difficult to justify him getting another one for awhile.

Thankfully, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think heel Nakamura, or “Nutcracker Nakamura” as some call him, gets the belt here. It’s amazing how much new life that turn breathed into him. Certainly enough that they can justify putting the championship on him.

It’s funny. So many “smart fans” were so devoted to Nakamura, and so defensive of Nakamura. Rightfully so, of course. Whether he’s a heel or a babyface, he’s obviously very special. But in hindsight, I think the Shinsuke Nakamura we had before Wrestlemania would have flopped with the title. The guy we have now, though? He might be a different story…

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Greatest Royal Rumble Preview – Expectations Defied

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So uh…yeah. This is happening.

I think we all initially thought this Greatest Royal Rumble show Saudia Arabia was essentially going to be like the show in India last December. Newsworthy, but nothing too wild. Just some nice international PR for WWE.

Low and behold, we’ve got the biggest Royal Rumble Match ever, matches to decide the placement of secondary titles, an AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura rematch, and what could very well be Brock Lesnar’s last WWE outing for a very long time. Consider my expectations defied.

So let’s dive in, here. There’s no shortage of meat to this thing.

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The Usos

Harper and Rowan just reached the top of the mountain at Wrestlemania. It seems unlikely that they’d lose the belts so soon after winning them. So I’m going with the Bludgeon Brothers here.

Kind of interesting the way Naomi got factored into the angle with these four on Smackdown. Makes me wonder if the Bludgeon Brothers might get an honorary Bludgeon Sister at some point.

PREDICTION: The Bludgeon Brothers

MATCH FOR VACANT WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Bar vs. Deleter of Worlds

“Deleter of Worlds.” That’s going to take some time to get used to.

Word surfaced this week that WWE is regrets moving Sheamus and Cesaro to Smackdown, and having them win the belts here could serve as an excuse to get them back on Raw. I don’t know that I buy that. I think that’s something somebody leaked to cast some doubt over what seems like an obvious finish: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt getting the belts. But I think you go with that finish regardless of where Sheamus and Cesaro are. Bray has needed to be freshened up for quite awhile now. This Woken stuff hasn’t necessarily revitalized him. But it’s a nice change of pace. So why not further the story? If Bray is indeed going to turn on Matt later, throwing the belts in adds another dimension to things.

PREDICTION: Deleter of Worlds

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

They supposedly changed the ending to Wrestlemania to accommodate this big Saudi Arabia show. Based on the card in front of us, I’m thinking they changed the US and Intercontinental Title pictures for the same reason.

Jeff Hardy doesn’t need the United States Title. But I’m thinking they gave it to him on the way to Smackdown to raise the stakes for this match. Now you’ve got both Raw and Smackdown guys wrestling for secondary championships on this show, so there’s reasonable doubt over who’s walking out with gold.

Based on how Jinder has been booked since moving to Raw, I’m thinking he gets the belt back. Then they can have he and Kurt Angle do the heel champion vs. babyface general manager story. It seems like Vince is still pretty high on Jinder. So I don’t imagine he’ll fall from prominence any time soon.

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

LADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe

So if the US Title is going back to Raw, then the Intercontinental Title has to go to Smackdown. That means either Miz or Samoa Joe have to come out on top here.

And if those are your choices, then you may as well have it be Miz. I had originally wanted him to go to Smackdown to get away from the IC Title. But given the situation they’re in, and the fact that he’s so closely associated with it anyway, it makes sense to give it back to him. It gives him something to gloat about.

PREDICTION: The Miz

Triple H vs. John Cena

While this is a cool attraction for the fans in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t really matter who wins this one. It could easily go either way. I’ll call it for Cena, as it’s likely we’ll see him in the ring again before Triple H.

PREDICTION: John Cena

CASKET MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Rusev

There was a decent amount of hoopla over Rusev getting pulled from this match, only to be put back in later. While he’ll end up losing regardless, I can understand it. We don’t know how many matches the Undertaker has left in him. So getting this spot means something.

Undertaker didn’t have to do much against John Cena at Wrestlemania, and I can’t imagine they’d ask him to do much more here. I’m hoping he goes a little longer this time, though. I’d be happy with five minutes.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

In hindsight, we should be grateful they didn’t go with Styles and Nakamura in the main event of Wrestlemania. I won’t discount the performance they put in, but the crowd just wasn’t invested. And given the length of the show, and everything they’d already seen at that point, it’s tough to blame them. On the upside, Nakamura’s heel turn was a pleasant surprise. He’s looking good as a villain so far.

I don’t see them putting the title on him yet, though. Too early in his heel run. My big hope here is that they improve on their Wrestlemania performance.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

STEEL CAGE MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

The general belief is the change to the Lesnar/Reigns Wrestlemania match was made that day. They swerved us then. They could very well swerve us again here. I don’t see it, though. I think Roman walks out of this one with the belt. The fans in Saudi Arabia are indeed more likely to give him a positive reaction when he wins. Plus, it’s a cage match. Lesnar doesn’t necessarily have to be pinned to lose the title. Thus, if they end up using Brock again in the near future, that can be a gripe.

A decent number of fans are anxious to see the belt come off Brock Lesnar because of his limited schedule. I’m not one of them. I think they’ve got a great thing with him. While I don’t doubt he’ll be back someday, I’ll be sad if this is his last match for awhile.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

50-MAN ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

I’m curious to see how this match turns out. They had 40 guys in the 2011 Royal Rumble Match, and that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Now we’ve got even more, and there’s really nothing on the line. Just a trophy and some bragging rights.

Still, you’ve got to believe the person who wins this match will get something. A title match at Backlash, perhaps?

They made sure to stack the deck for this sucker. Rey Mysterio Jr is back again, as is Chris Jericho. Kurt Angle is also putting the boots back on. If I’m not mistaken, this will be the Big Show’s first in-ring outing since the cage match with Braun Strowman. Shane McMahon got pulled into this too. Plus, I’m sure they’ve got a few surprises up for us. Kofi Kingston will inevitably have to come up with yet another Rumble Match spot.

I see a babyface taking this one home and ending the show on a positive note. So who has the most to gain from winning this thing? I almost feel like they should just give it to Daniel Bryan to make up for Rumbles past. It’s not like he’s gotten less popular in the years since. But I’m guessing he gets tossed out by Big Cass. If Mysterio is indeed coming back, a win for him would make sense. But would his ownership stake in this new Aro Lucha promotion dissuade them from doing that?

To me, the name that makes the most sense is Braun Strowman. The guy is about as hot as anybody they have right now, and this would only help him in that respect. I can picture him coming in late and just tossing bodies over the top rope, and eliminating a big heel to finally win it. Or maybe have him dump Big Show. That ending has been done to death, but it would get a reaction.

Either way, somebody in Saudi Arabia is gonna to get those hands…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Wrestlemania Predictions: Daniel Bryan’s Return, Styles and Nakamura

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You talk about gettin’ a shot in the arm. Daniel Bryan, arguably the most popular star to grace a WWE ring since John Cena, is cleared to return. There was a time we thought we’d never see him wrestle again. And now, here he is.

I’m expecting genuine euphoria in New Orleans when he comes out. Mind you, this is the same arena he won the title in a few years ago. They couldn’t write a better story.

You’ve also got AJ Styles against Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship. If you’re a die-hard wrestling fan, that’s a dream match. WWE is even promoting it as a dream match. But have they maximized the storytelling potential between these two? For my money, the answer is no.

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, some of the title matches, and the matches involving the women.)

Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

And to think there were rumors of Owens and Zayn winding up in the battle royal.

This one started as get-them-on-the-card filler for Owens, Zayn, and Shane McMahon. But Bryan’s return has made it a tentpole attraction worthy of Wrestlemania. He’s obviously overshadowed everyone else in the match. But let’s not downplay the fact that Owens and Zayn deserve this spot. I shudder to think what Smackdown would have become without them these past several months.

Without Bryan in the ring, I’d have given this match to Owens and Zayn. But now he and Shane have to win. We’ve got to have the Yes Kicks, and the Yes Lock, and the Yes chants. All that stuff. It’s going to be a hell of a moment.

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

The history between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura is present in what they’ve given us. But you have to squint to see it. It’s in the subtext. Little allusions to Japan, the Tokyo Dome, “storied history,” etc. But they never gave us anything with any kind of depth. That’s what this has been missing. They didn’t have to talk about New Japan Pro Wrestling, or the Bullet Club, or any of that stuff. But it would have been nice to hear something like, “AJ beat Nakamura in Japan. Now Nakamura wants his win back, and the WWE Title along with it.” They haven’t even said that much about Nakamura coming to America, and how that journey has led him to a WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania.

I’m still on the fence about whether Nakamura is ready to hold the WWE Championship. Some of it is his fault, some of it has to do with his English, and some of it is WWE’s fault. It’s been a year, and they still don’t have a firm grip on how to present this guy. That being said, I think that’s where they’re going. They’re giving him the Wrestlemania journey storyline. He won the Rumble, and now he’s going to win the title. My only hope is that this match can live up to some of the hype surrounding it. Nakamura has given us some damn good matches. But he’s also turned in some duds. If there was ever a time for him to come through, it’s now.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Triple H and 205 Live, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Over the last few weeks, 205 Live seems to have gained something it’s desperately needed from the start: Buzz. And the one we have to thank for it is, of all people, Triple H.

Or rather, the real-life Paul Levesque. Levesque, who serves as WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, has become the new showrunner for 205 Live. As such, the name of the game seems to be reemphasizing the wrestling, and toning down some of the more cartoony elements in the show.

Case in point, this week’s episode. We had two lengthy matches, one between Akira Tozawa and Mark Andrews, and the other between Drew Gulak and Tony Nese. The presentation was very much akin to what we’d previously seen from the Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Championship tournament, and quite often from NXT. Very much sport-oriented, with the announcers largely focused on what’s happening in the ring as opposed to traditional Vince McMahon style “storytelling.”

Backstage segments with new GM Drake Maverick are being used as a reset button of sorts for various wrestlers. We saw one last week with Gulak and Nese, which led to what we got on this show. This week we got one with Jack Gallagher, who was told to start wearing standard ring attire again.

We’re also introducing names from the NXT and the UK rosters. We spent a good amount of time getting to know Wales native Mark Andrews. Former NXT Tag Champ Buddy Murphy was also profiled, with the story being about him reinventing himself and cutting weight to make the 205 Live roster.

This is good. This is a change. One that makes sense, given 205 Live airs on the WWE Network. They can skew a bit more toward the devoted wrestling fans who pay that money every month rather than casual viewers. We’ve got plenty of time for that on Raw and Smackdown. The time has come to make 205 Live what it should have been from the start: An offshoot of the Cruiserweight Classic. That’s where WWE fans were first introduced to most of these guys. Let’s see if we can get some of those folks back.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn ambush Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler before they can wrestle for a spot in the title match at Fastlane. Shane McMahon later makes Corbin vs. Owens and Ziggler vs. Zayn. If Corbin and Ziggler win their respective matches, they get added to the Fastlane match. So Ziggler is apparently a babyface now, for no apparent reason. That’s fine, as Ziggler has proven he can do well in either role. I just wish they’d come up with a coherent reason for him to be back after voluntarily relinquishing the US Title. Later in the show, he talked about wanting to main event Wrestlemania. That’s a fine reason, but he still looks like a dope for walking out.

I don’t know why I’m even complaining at this point. As far as the writing and booking for Ziggler are concerned, this kind of thing is par for the course. What’s more, he reportedly just signed a new two-year deal for $1.5 million annually. Hey, at least he’s well paid.

Charlotte Flair def. Sarah Logan. At this point, Logan stands out the least among the three Riott Squad members. So I had trouble getting invested in this match for that reason. They made a point to talk about how Charlotte has now beaten both Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, and is now targeting Ruby Riott. So what happens if she beats all three? Do they have to break up?

Baron Corbin def. Kevin Owens to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. The finish to this one was pretty obvious, and it dragged as a result. I was surprised to see Corbin get the clean win, though.

Randy Orton attempts to accept Bobby Roode’s open challenge for the United States Title, but Jinder Mahal interrupts. A fight breaks out, and Jinder is left standing tall. So Jinder was trying to goad a reaction out of Orton for only being number 9 on the Smackdown Top 10. But the story behind the list is that it’s decided by votes from fellow wrestlers, and is essentially a popularity contest. Why would a loner character like Orton care?

On the other hand, this could open the door for a Randy Orton heel turn. It wouldn’t be a big stretch. He could talk about being disrespected by both the wrestlers and the fans, and throw in that he apparently wasn’t even invited to Raw‘s 25th anniversary show. And if he really wants heat, he can retire the RKO.

The New Day def. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. This match spun out of a segment about pancakes. No, seriously.

How Gable was able to hit that roll-through German Suplex on Big E, I’ll never know. Absolutely sick strength.

Dolph Ziggler def. Sami Zayn to earn a spot in the WWE Title Match at Fastlane. Like the Owens/Corbin match, my interest in this one was pretty low. They were starting to get me toward the end, though. Hell of an Exploder Suplex.

So now we’ve got a Fatal Five-Way for the title. I’d love to know why they’re so fixated on these five-man matches as opposed to four or six-man matches. Comparatively, it’s such an awkward number. The good news is that with AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler in there, they’d have to try pretty hard to make this a bad match.

Conspicuous by his absence this week was Shinsuke Nakamura. Now that we’ve got five guys in the main event, and what appears to be a three-way between Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Jinder Mahal, who does that leave for Nakamura? Rusev, maybe? Could they feed him a lower midcard guy like Mojo Rawley?

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

Ronda Rousey’s WWE Debut, Plus Ponderings From the Royal Rumble and Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“The landscape has changed.” That’s one of their go-to lines, isn’t it? Whenever something supposedly big happens, somebody has to say: “The landscape has changed.” It doesn’t really make sense, does it?

But last night the landscape did change, didn’t it? At least as far as women’s wrestling is concerned. Ronda Rousey is apparently now a full-time performer with WWE. What exactly “full-time” means for her has yet to be determined. Somehow I doubt she’ll be making all the house shows. She may end up being the female equivalent to Brock Lesnar. But one way or another, this is happening. Ronda Rousey is a professional wrestler.

People can say what they want about how Rousey last few fights went. But this woman is a legit superstar, and a true trailblazer in the world of women’s sports. Would the so-called “women’s revolution” in WWE have even occurred if not for what Rousey did in the world of MMA? The answer is no. What’s more, she’s a legit wrestling fan. This is apparently a legit passion project for her. Look no further than what she was wearing when she showed up after the Women’s Royal Rumble Match last night. A clear homage to Rowdy Roddy Piper, whose nickname she adopted in the UFC as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. That leather jacket legitimately belonged to Piper.

I always hesitate to use words like “legitimacy” or “credibility” when it comes to pro wrestling. This stuff is worked. It’s not the same as what Rousey did in the UFC, and it never will be. But a superstar like Rousey choosing to devote the next chapter of her career to WWE lends the business an amazing level of credibility. It’s a message to the world at large about what wrestling is and what it means to our popular culture. It’s also a hell of a shot in the arm for women’s wrestling overall.

We may be in the midst of a women’s revolution. But Ronda Rousey is about to start a revolution of her own.

Ponderings From Raw (with some added from the Royal Rumble):

Shinsuke Nakamura wins the 2018 Royal Rumble Match, challenges AJ Styles for Wrestlemania. Simply put, this was the best Royal Rumble Match in years. And not just because the right guy won. The Philadelphia crowd was hot, and they milked the drama so perfectly during those last several minutes. It’s been a long time since a wrestling match has actually made me nervous. But when we were down to Nakamura, Reigns, Cena, and Balor, my heart was in my throat.

What’s more, they’re giving us a match truly worthy of Wrestlemania: Shinsuke Nakamura against AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Depending on how much time they have, these two could make magic. This was the career moment Nakamura needed, and the smart bet is he’ll have yet another one at Wrestlemania.

Rey Mysterio Jr. returns to WWE as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match.  As I type this, the YouTube clip of Ronda Rousey’s appearance has almost two million views. The clip of Rey’s return? Almost five million. That should tell WWE all they need to know about whether to bring him back. Supposedly they want him to work a full-time schedule and he’s not up for it. I can’t say I blame him. The last time we saw him in WWE he looked tired and beat up. He’s earned the right to some breathing room.

Stephanie McMahon brings out Women’s Royal Rumble winner Asuka at the top of the show. An Elimination Chamber Match for the Raw Women’s Title is made for the upcoming pay per view. Sasha Banks challenges Asuka to a match, which is made for later in the night. When Asuka started speaking in Japanese, I wondered if they needed to give her a translator. But I’d say she got her message across just fine…

The Women’s Royal Rumble Match itself worked out fairly well. The right woman won, obviously. And despite my general distaste for Sasha Banks, I give her a world of credit for being out there as long as she was. Ditto for Becky Lynch.

However, the match did suffer for featuring several women who were either relatively inexperienced, hadn’t wrestled in a long time, or weren’t necessarily qualified to be wrestlers in the first place. While former stars like Trish Stratus and Beth Phoenix looked outstanding, I could have easily done without Vickie Guerrero, Kelly Kelly, and Torrie Wilson (despite the pop she got). The biggest problem this match had was its need for bodies. They were filling space for the sake of filling space. It’s forgivable this year. But next year they need to do better.

Jonathan Coachman rejoins the Raw announce team full-time. Given Coach’s experience with ESPN, this was a nice get for WWE. I appreciate that he’s in an analyst role, as opposed a lead announcer. He’ll certainly do better than Booker T, whose commentary had long since gone off the deep end.

At least it’s not David Otunga.

Braun Strowman overturns part of the Raw stage on to Kane during a Last Man Standing Match to earn a spot in the upcoming Elimination Chamber Match. At this point, Braun is essentially WWE’s answer to the Hulk. Every week he performs some kind of superhuman feat of strength, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. That’s not a bad role to have. People love the Hulk, don’t they?

Gotta love Kurt Angle yelling at Braun about the whole thing. Um, Kurt? You booked it…

Elias def. Woken Matt Hardy, with an assist from Bray Wyatt, to advance to the Elimination Chamber. It’s been several weeks since we first saw Woken Matt on Raw, and my interest is tapering off. It doesn’t help that he’s been losing more than winning. The whole reason for Matt’s awakening in the first place was that he couldn’t win a match. So where does that leave him now?

The Miz def. Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Intercontinental Title. Why would Miz try to chop him? Roman Reigns wears a damn vest. Think, you idiot! Think!

Good match, though. These two have better chemistry than you would think, given how different their backgrounds are.

The Revival def. Heath Slater and Rhyno. You know what I wouldn’t mind seeing? The Revival against a babyface Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Titles. Sounds like a Wrestlemania match to me.

The Dudley Boyz announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. I still say it’s a shame Bubba and D-Von never got to hold the tag belts again after they came back. Even so, this is obviously well-deserved. They’d never tell you this on Raw, but the Dudleys are the only team to have won championships in WWE, ECW, TNA, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. They’re one of the most widely popular tag teams in wrestling history. This has long since been an inevitability. Congrats, gentlemen.

Asuka def. Sasha Banks. I expected to see Bayley during this match after Sasha tossed her out of the Rumble last night. That’s the kind of thing that’d make you think a Bayley heel turn is coming. Personally, I’d rather they do babyface Bayley right.

Loving all the talk about Asuka’s streak potentially ending. We need more of that. The streak is on the line every time Asuka steps in the ring, and with each victory it grows.

Between the Rumble and this match with Asuka, Sasha’s had a hell of a weekend. It looks like they’re finally working toward a heel turn for her. Works for me. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m done with her as a babyface. As a heel, though…

Whether hero or villain, she needs to stop those damn dives. This wasn’t the first nasty fall she’s taken with one of those. She’s tough as hell for getting up and continuing the match, and it was obviously a hell of an effort from both ladies. But enough is enough.

The Miz, Finn Balor, and John Cena cut backstage promos using handheld devices. I ADORE this. Scripted or not, it comes off so much more naturally. And by God, they’re looking into the camera! Glory, glory, hallelujah!

The Bar def. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. Corey Graves said something during this match about Dana Brooke being the missing ingredient for O’Neil and Crews. As unlikely as it is on paper, that seems to be the case.

Crews was a stud out there this week. Eve after taking that nasty Power Bomb from Sheamus. He’s so explosive. Like a damn human super ball.

John Cena def. Finn Balor to advance to the Elimination Chamber. There’s no shame in losing to John Cena. Cena certainly puts enough people over in his own right. I just wish they’d let Balor pick up some steam. He’s one of the coolest acts on the roster, and he puts on great matches consistently. But he just keeps losing. This guy can headline Wrestlemania this year if they wanted him to. But he just can’t seem to bust through the glass ceiling. What gives?

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WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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