Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We learned last week that Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are coming back to Smackdown, a tag team once again. This time they’ll be called the Bludgeon Brothers.

On one hand this is a shame, especially for Harper. This guy can go. His match with Randy Orton at Elimination Chamber was awesome. But any time he gets some momentum as a single, it fizzles out. So they put him back with Rowan, as that’s worked in the past. Plus, it’s not like Rowan was doing much anyway.

No matter what these guys do, they’ve been painfully stuck in the shadow of the Wyatt Family. This is no different. Their vignettes are shot in a wooded area, which is synonymous with the old Wyatt Family vignettes. Rowan still has the sheep mask. And what their saying is in very much the same tone as their promos with Bray. They’ve shifted the focus, but essentially they’re the same characters.

So at this point, is there any harm in just putting them back with Bray? The poor guy is dying a miserable death on Raw right now. I’ve talked about how he needs a new coat of paint or something. While the Wyatt Family is hardly new, at least it worked. Why not trade Harper and Rowan to Raw, and bring two guys of equal value over to Smackdown. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews come to mind.

Or better yet, why not just move Bray back to Smackdown? On Team Red, he’s become a punch line. On Team Blue, he was WWE Champion. Can somebody throw this poor guy a lifeline? Throw all three of them a lifeline!

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Daniel Bryan opens the show in his home state of Washington. A confrontation with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens ensues. This opening segment made me realize how much I miss Bryan as a wrestler. Clearly I’m not the only one. He’s more over than any of today’s full-time guys.

It’s almost a waste for heels to prod Bryan about not being able to wrestle anymore. It’s not going anywhere, but it makes people want to see it that much more.

Heel Sami Zayn is a lot of fun. Or at least he was this week. He needs new music, though.

Michael Cole fills in for Tom Phillips, who is “on assignment.” First we get Corey Graves on both shows, now we’ve got a few weeks of Cole on both shows. Do we just want to have Saxton pull double duty and get it over with?

Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Naomi def. Natalya, Tamina, and Lana. Carmella was on commentary for this match. At one point, Graves asks her who she’d like to be champion when she cashes in her Money in the Bank contract. She said something about it not mattering. What she meant was, “Lana. She can’t wrestle. She also doesn’t know how to sell the Figure 8.”

Sin Cara def. Baron Corbin via count-out. Sin Cara isn’t becoming the United States Champion. Not now, anyway. He’s good enough for a larger role, though. He’s damn sure got the talent for it.

Jinder Mahal challenges Brock Lesnar to a match at Survivor Series. AJ Styles interrupts and attacks the WWE Champion. Well, they went and did it. It’s Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal at Survivor Series. The silver lining in all this?  I’m very curious to see how Paul Heyman puts Jinder over as a credible opponent.

Styles took exception to Mahal saying he’d beaten everyone worth beating on Smackdown, since “you haven’t beaten AJ Styles.” For the record, Jinder beat AJ in May, during the build-up to the Backlash match where he won the title. In their defense, I wouldn’t want to highlight that in building to a match between them.

Dolph Ziggler def. Bobby Roode. 50/50 booking rears its ugly head again. Not exactly a stellar match, either. On the upside, they didn’t have Roode lose on pay per view.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn def. Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. Really good match. Particularly for Nakamura, who’s had a rough couple of months. He and Jinder had ZERO chemistry, and their matches suffered for it. So for Nakamura to be in there with Sami Zayn, who he had an amazing match with in his NXT debut, was a huge breath of fresh air.

Also, Corey Graves called Nakamura a “combat artist.” Has he done that before? I like that. It works a lot better than simply calling him, “the Artist.”

Zayn and Randy Orton were awesome together. How about a program with them, and then one between Nakamura and Owens as a palette cleanser from Summerslam and Hell in a Cell?

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Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Since he turned heel a few weeks back, a question has nagged me: Can Goldust be a main eventer for WWE in 2017? It’s not as much of a long shot as you might think.

The operative word in that question is 2017. The real-life Dustin Runnels is unquestionably a main event caliber talent, and has been in that role before. He wasn’t headlining pay per views, mind you. But in 1995 and 1996, he was main-eventing Raw broadcasts and house shows with the likes of Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Early on, his…ehem…”androgynous” character was one of the industry’s hottest topics. He’s had his share of big-money ball games. But can he do it again today?

For my money, the answer is an absolute, unequivocal yes.

I’m not sure how often you want to have him wrestle, given he’s 48 years old. But watch how he moves out there. He damn sure doesn’t look 48. And as we’ve seen with his recent pre-taped promos, his mic work is as strong as ever.

After the mostly abysmal show we got last week, it’s clear Raw is in need of something fresh. They seem to have found something with the reintroduction of Goldust, a character that many a lapsed wrestling fan will remember, and possibly tune back in to see in a prominent role. They obviously can’t go the sexual route they did in the ’90s. But this character can work as as a bizarre, movie-fanatical, almost comic-bookish villain.

Do I think Goldust should be challenging Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title? No. Not in the near future, at least. But a heel Goldust against Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, or Dean Ambrose? Why the hell not? Raw could use another strong heel. Goldust can fill that role as well, if not better than anyone we see on TV these days.

Do they really have anything to lose?

Ponderings From Raw:

Samoa Joe to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title on July 9 at Great Balls of FireThis one came out of left field. I can’t bring myself to complain about it, though. This is a match that’s been talked about since Joe signed.

The choice to put Joe with Brock is interesting, given how little time he’s spent on the main roster. It hasn’t even been six months yet. It says a lot about WWE’s faith in him. In terms of credible and believable opponents for Brock, he’s one of the best choices they could have made. Joe isn’t an MMA fighter, strictly speaking. But his style is certainly MMA-inspired. This could be really compelling if they play that up.

I’m curious why they opted not to go with Finn Balor. They had a ready-made story with him, as he never lost the Universal Title. They even did the segment with Balor and Heyman a couple of weeks back…

Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt. As if there was any doubt Roman Reigns was the successor to John Cena, we got dueling “Let’s go Roman!”/”Roman Sucks!” chants.

They promoted this match as the show opener. I usually like when they do that, but this one didn’t do much for me. We’ve seen these two wrestle so many times, and they didn’t do much to make this one seem special at all.

Yet another loss for Bray Wyatt…

Dean Ambrose interrupts a song from Elias Samson, challenges Miz. Miz says there will be a championship celebration for him later in the evening. It sounded like Michael Cole was laughing during the Drifter’s little ditty. Can’t say I blame him. The guy could use a little more rehearsal time.

Samoa Joe chokes Paul Heyman out with the Coquina Clutch. It was during this segment that I realized they’re just simply calling it Great Balls of Fire. It has to be “the Great Balls of Fire pay per view event,” or whatever. Oh joy…

Can we even call Brock a heel or a babyface anymore? He seems to morph based on who he’s in there with. Or maybe he’s just beyond that at this point. he simply is what he is.

This was pretty good. I liked Joe’s jealousy of Brock, wanting everything he has, and what not. Heyman’s “worst case scenario” stuff was cool. Then they have Joe get so close to Heyman it’s borderline homoerotic, and tell him what’s about to happen to him in the Coquina Clutch. Really grim stuff. Joe is a really underrated promo. If they keep playing it this way, this match could have a great big-fight feel to it.

The follow-up backstage with Joe and Kurt Angle made for a nice moment too. The crowd seemed into it. Assuming Kurt gets cleared to wrestle, that match is just sitting there waiting to happen.

Sheamus and Cesaro def. Heath Slater and Rhyno. Remember when Slater and Rhyno had credibility? Seems like a really long time ago, doesn’t it?

I didn’t expect to see Sheamus and Cesaro walk away with the belts at Extreme Rules. But like Samoa Joe’s win, this was a pleasant surprise. They deserve to be in this spot. These two have turned out to be damn good for each other. Sheamus in particular has a whole new life to him.

TJP def. Mustafa Ali. Neville attacks TJP afterward. A title match is made between the two for 205 LivePerkins is looking to cash in on that title shot that Neville promised him, but Neville turns on him. Perkins looks stupid for not seeing that coming, but oh well. Does this mean he’s a babyface again? I was enjoying cocky, smarmy TJP. It did him a lot of good to show a little more personality out there.

Kalisto def. Titus O’Neil. Notice they gave Sin Cara’s entrance with the big jump over the ropes to Kalisto. They gave him some cool new music too. I’ll give them credit. They’re trying to make him into something.

The Miz holds a celebration to kick off his “Intercontinental Championship Comeback Tour.” Miz expects an attack from Ambrose, and gets one when he least expects it. On this very show, they had Kurt Angle call last week’s “This is Your Life” segment with Alexa Bliss and Bayley one of the worst in Raw history. So if I’m the Miz, I’m pretty damn unnerved to see something like this in the script this week. But he came off pretty well, despite having to attack a giant cardboard box with a chair.

I liked that they toyed with our expectations as far as an Ambrose attack was concerned. We all knew it was coming. It was just a question of when. Hell, I was expecting him to be in the bear suit. So well done.

Big Cass is found backstage, having been attacked by a mystery assailant. Later, Enzo Amore and the Big Show def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. So Enzo gets attacked two weeks in a row, now Cass gets it. I like that they’re starting to incorporate some mystery elements intp the show again. We’ve got this, plus the whole Kurt Angle/Corey Graves thing. Now it’s just the question of the pay-offs.

They’re really teasing an Enzo and Cass break-up. Having Show go out there and do Cass’ bit struck some of the same chords they just played on NXT with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. Cass being “replaced” and all that. I’m tellin’ ya, don’t break ’em up. Not a good plan…

Alexa Bliss def. Nia Jax via disqualification to retain the Raw Women’s Title. Mickie James and Dana Brooke both looked like idiots here. They come out to watch the bully Alexa Bliss get her comeuppance, and in the process come off like bullies themselves. What’s more, when Bliss attacks them they hit her back, resulting in the DQ finish. They cost themselves the chance to see Alexa lose the title! Really, really dumb.

They were wise to give the Bayley character a rest this week. Creative hasn’t exactly done her any favors lately. First she loses the title in her home town at Payback. Then she’s part of “This is Your Life” last week. And at Extreme Rules she not only fails to get the belt back, but the script it so she’s too kind to use the kendo stick on Alexa and “get extreme.” Fans are starting to turn on her. She and Alexa likely aren’t done. But for now, give her some room to breathe.

Samoa Joe def. Seth Rollins. Good match. Served as a nice showcase for Joe as he prepares for Brock. They did the Bray Wyatt effect on screen, which distracted Rollins and allowed Joe to lock in the Coquina Clutch for the win. So it looks like they’re now going with Bray Wyatt against Seth Rollins, as opposed to Bray Wyatt against Finn Balor. The latter has been teased for quite some time. I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see it, though. So this direction is fine by me.

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Chris Jericho’s Run Ends, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I remember catching an episode of Smackdown with a buddy of mine about 10 years ago. Not a regular viewer, he was confused about the number of title belts he was seeing. He said to me, “I thought only the best wrestlers were supposed to have belts.”

Man, WWE was frustrating in the mid-2000s. Actually, it’s still pretty frustrating. But at least now the belts mean something.

For so many years, it seemed like WWE was just moving belts from wrestler to wrestler just for the sake of moving the belts. Almost as if it were an obligation. Not so much with the top titles. But the Intercontinental and United States Titles most certainly suffered. Only in recent years has the company tried to breathe some life back into those two belts, and play up their importance.

While some may not want to hear this, it really all started with John Cena. His run with the US Title reinvigorated it, and at times made it as important as the WWE Championship. That seemingly created the blueprint for other uppercard wrestlers to carry it, and that momentum also translated to the IC Title. Fast-forward to this week, and we’ve got guys like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho fighting for them in the main events of Raw and Smackdown. It’s such a far cry from the days when the belts would essentially just be props that certain wrestlers would hold. Now it feels like they actually represent something. Prestige. Honor. Glory. Status.

The WWE and Universal Heavyweight Championships should always be the crown jewels of their respective shows. If you win one of those, you’ve reached the top. But the Intercontinental and United States Titles should be no one’s consolation prize. They aren’t second-place trophies. They’re championships with rich legacies of their own. WWE should never again allow us to forget what an honor it is to hold them. Especially now that Brock Lesnar is the Universal Champion. If this week’s Raw is any indication, the Intercontinental Title may soon become a vital part of Raw every week. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Chris Jericho opens the show. AJ Styles and Kevin Owens each interrupt, before brawling with each other. Not much to this segment, really. It was essentially Jericho’s re-introduction to Smackdown. I’m curious if they’ll actually keep him on this show when he inevitably comes back.

Jericho’s US Title win at Payback was a big surprise. By no means did they have to give him the belt. But it was a nice win for him on his way out. Also, conspicuous by their absence on this show were Randy Orton and the “suspended” Baron Corbin. Assuming WWE knew they would be absent coming into this show, that would explain Jericho being used as a band-aid of sorts.

Jinder Mahal def. Sami Zayn. Decent match. Three weeks ago, there wouldn’t have been a doubt in anybody’s mind that Zayn would go over here. Not only did Jinder win, but he’s building momentum for a WWE Championship Match. What a world we live in.

I like this alliance between Jinder and the Singh Brothers (formerly the Bollywood Boyz). Has there ever been any sort of Indian faction in WWE? I’ve been a fan for over 20 years, and nothing comes to mind.

Tye Dillinger def. Aiden English. Nice intensity from Dillinger here, for a quick win. This was more or less a glorified enhancement match. But we can’t say they haven’t started him out strong.

Natalya and Carmella def. Naomi and Charlotte. Becky Lynch runs out to help the babyfaces afterward. They’ve essentially done a 180 with Charlotte these past two weeks, turning her babyface. That’s a little odd, as she’s turned out to be such a natural heel. My guess would be they wanted to even out the babyface/heel ratio amongst the women on Smackdown.

The obvious direction would now be a Six-Woman Tag Match at Backlash. I can’t say that thrills me. As Carmella pinned Naomi in this match, I’d almost prefer to see the two of them have a match for the championship.

Dolph Ziggler def. Sin Cara. Not a fan of Sin Cara’s new gear. Not that it matters much. He’s in the exact same role on Smackdown that he had on Raw. Then again, it only took one night for Jinder Mahal to become top contender for the WWE Championship…

Another vignette airs for Lana’s Smackdown debut. My wife and I were at another couple’s home this weekend, and they happened to have Total Divas on. It was the episode where Lana and Rusev got married in Bulgaria. I can honestly say Lana was the most obnoxious woman on that show. Considering how irritating I find the Bellas, that’s really saying something. Rumor has it she may be dropping her Russian accent, which is fine. It seems like she’s not going to be with Rusev anymore. So why risk further accent slippage on TV?

“The Fashion Files” airs, starring Breezango. Tyler Breeze and Fandango target the Usos and the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at BacklashThese two have deserved a more prominent role for some time now. This fashion police gimmick has essentially been comedy fodder. To their credit, they got a chuckle or two out of me in this segment. But they can be much more than that. I don’t expect them to get the belts at Backlash. But at least they’re in the title picture.

Kevin Owens def. Chris Jericho to win the WWE United States Title. Owens destroys Jericho after the match. I’m surprised we didn’t see AJ Styles again in the closing moments of the show. He and Owens mixed it up in the opening segment, after all.

Nice clean win for Owens, followed by an injury angle to send Jericho away for however long he’ll be gone. Perhaps the best testament to how good this run has been for Jericho is how sorry so many of us are to see him go. He’ll obviously be sorely missed.

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A Shield Reunion Coming Soon? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Smackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kevin Owens Stands Tall, More Cruiserweights, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Lince DoradoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Question: How much content is too much? Is there such a thing?

Last week, we got the announcement of WWE 205 Live, a WWE Network exclusive show featuring the cruiserweights. The show will air after Smackdown on Tuesdays. Mauro Renallo and Corey Graves will call matches featuring the likes of Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, etc. Talking Smack will now move to 11 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Obviously, WWE’s number one priority right now is the network. From a business standpoint, there are few things more important than getting those subscription numbers up. Obviously the network appeals primarily to die-hard wrestling fans. So what better way to entice them than with more wrestling? Called by Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves, no less.

But even the geekiest of pro wrestling geeks have lives, don’t they? Is WWE going to burn out their dedicated core audience by giving them too much? Factoring in RawSmackdownNXT, and now this 205 Live show, that’s seven hours of fresh content a week. And that’s not counting supplementary shows like Main Event and Superstars. That’s also not accounting for pay per views, of which there are now 19. I don’t care how big a fan you are, that’s a lot of wrestling.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsPerhaps its a matter of variety. For years we’ve heard talk about the Raw brand, the Smackdown brand, etc. But in reality, it’s pretty much all been the same stuff. In a lot of ways, NXT changed that. NXT isn’t simply about different talent. There’s a different look and vibe to the entire product. It’s an alternative, and you can only get that alternative by forking out 10 bucks a month for the network. Is 205 Live going to be it’s own unique alternative? What can we see on that show that we can’t see on Raw?

I understand the on-demand nature of the WWE Network, and that you can essentially take in this content at your own pace. But with all this content coming out from WWE, at what point to we stop being surprised that Raw ratings are going down? It’s not rocket science, folks. The more content you give, the less urgent it is to see it. When all we had were two hours of Raw every Monday, we couldn’t wait to take it in. Now there are weeks where we simply can’t take it anymore.

At the very least this show will give the guys who aren’t on Raw every week, i.e Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, and Jack Gallagher another stage to perform on. I just wonder if and how the audience will divide as WWE continues to expand and diversify its offerings.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016After a volatile start to the show, a fatal five-way match is made between Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and the newest member of Team Raw, Seth Rollins. I hate these fatal five-way matches. It’s an awkward number. Somehow four wrestlers work, and six wrestlers work, but five is don’t.

A pretty standard segment for a “Can these teammates get along?” story. I wish we’d had more definitive consequences. Stephanie told them to fight like their jobs depend on it, “Because they do.” Does that even mean anything? They also missed an opportunity to make the winner the captain of the team.

Rich Swann & Sin Cara def. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar. Assuming these rumors of a fight with Chris Jericho are true, it’ll be interesting to see if Sin Cara remains on television. It’s not like they don’t have plenty of cruiserweights. Though he earned mad respect for me after that senton to the outside on Noam Dar.

This was my first exposure to Noam Dar. We didn’t get to see much of him. But a nice little introduction. Brian Kendrick deserves a lot of credit for helping establish some of these guys in front of the mainstream audience. I expect he’ll face Rich Swann for the title at Survivor Series.

Bill GoldbergA retrospective vignette on Goldberg airs. I was hoping they’d do something like this, as they usually do for Brock Lesnar’s matches. These are always good.

Since Goldberg has resurfaced, WWE has made a point to market him as a WCW star, WCW legend, WCW Champion, etc. That’s fair enough. He’s as much a WCW guy as anything else. But he wasn’t just a WCW guy. He was a champion in WWE as well. They’ve almost glossed over that. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering how forgettable most of Goldberg’s WWE run was.

The New Day rally Team Raw for their match at Survivor Series. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson knock off the champions in a non-title match. The crowd really pulled this segment out of the ground. When you’ve got so many guys out there, I understand having to script the dialogue. But this was the same canned verbiage we always get, and it seemed like it went on forever. At least the Scotland fans were having fun.

Imagine my shock to see Anderson and Gallows get the win here. So do they now fight Cesaro and Sheamus to see who gets the next title shot?

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBrock Lesnar talks Goldberg via video package. This one was even better than Goldberg’s, considering how politically incorrect Brock always is. “At Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden, I didn’t give two sh*ts about wrestling.” HA!

This was another awesome line: “I don’t give a damn what his 10-year-old son is gonna think. I’m not gonna show any f@#kin’ mercy on Bill Goldberg.”

Finally, someone on this show has some balls. No wonder Brock is so over. Look at how he talks, compared to how everyone in that New Day segment talked. There are no chains on Brock. He’s allowed to be himself.

The Shining Stars def. Golden Truth to get their spot in the tag team elimination match at Survivor SeriesI zipped right through this one on the DVR. Here’s what I will say: At least they kept the Shining Stars out of the third hour.

Not sure why they did this. To even the babyface-heel ratio on Team Raw? Why? What’s the difference either way? I’d much rather see Goldust and R-Truth in a pay per view match than Primo and Epico. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I don’t know if an act has ever had as much channel-changing heat with me.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016Michael Cole interviews Raw‘s female team. Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox are revealed as the remaining two members. The Scotland fans serenade Bayley.  The crowd didn’t exactly make it easy on them, did they? The girls couldn’t even get their lines out. As off-putting as it may have been, it’s always great to see a crowd that enthusiastic. Especially for the women’s division. Bayley might have been the one person more over in Scotland than Noam Dar.

The Alicia Fox portion of this segment was painful. Not because of Alicia, but because of that Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie reference. They really shoehorned that line in there.

Bayley, Sasha Banks, & Alicia Fox def. Charlotte, Nia Jax, & Dana Brooke. My favorite part of this match was when Bayley and Nia were in the ring together. They have to do some kind of program between them soon.

I’m not thrilled that Charlotte took the fall on this one. After Gallows & Anderson beat the New Day, that means two champions were beaten on this show.

WWE Raw, November 7, 2016, Sami Zayn, RusevSami Zayn def. Rusev to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at Survivor Series. I breathed a sigh of relief on this one. After all the love triangle stuff last year, I’ve had my fill of Rusev/Dolph Ziggler stuff for awhile. Ziggler and Zayn should also have a hell of a pay per view match.

Rusev hasn’t had a great couple of weeks. He lost to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell, he got punched out by Goldberg last week, and now he loses to Sami Zayn. I’m hopeful we can get Rusev back on track as a monster soon.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman in a fatal five-way match. The right person won this one, especially on a show where the New Day and Charlotte were pinned. And he pinned Jericho, which was a nice touch.

To WWE’s credit, they’ve done an excellent job making protecting Braun Strowman since the roster split. I once cringed at the thought of him challenging the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It’s still not a match I’m dying to see, but at least now Strowman is a commodity. Until now he’s just been large.

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A WWE Hell in a Cell 2016 Preview – 30 Years in the Making?

Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like I gripe about this every year.

More than one Hell in a Cell match on a show is too much. Hell in a Cell was a perfectly viable brand before it was a yearly pay per view. And up to that point, it was unheard of to have more than one of these on a show. It used to be something they’d break out when a story warranted it. Now it’s a yearly obligation. Every October they bust out the cell for no real reason.

This year, we’ve got a whopping three cell matches. That’s something they haven’t done since 2009. They opened with The Undertaker and CM Punk, put John Cena and Randy Orton on in the middle of the show, and closed with DX against Legacy. I suspect they’ll do something similar here. It certainly doesn’t behoove them to put three consecutive cell matches on. Though at this rate, that may be where we’re headed someday.

I say you open with Roman and Rusev, put Owens and Rollins in the middle, and close with Sasha and Charlotte. The women are the only ones with a feud that actually feels worthy of the cell. So in a perfect world, they’d have the only cell match on this show. It should be an honor to be put in that one cage match.

But more on that later…

WWE Hell in a Cell 2016, Cedric Alexander, Sin Cara, Tony Nese, PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, & Sin Cara vs. Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, & Ariya Daivari

Really good way to kick things off. Expecting lots of flips and flying here, as it’s not like most of these guys have much of an identity to the mainstream WWE audience yet. I’ll be watching Alexander and Nese during this match, as they’re the division’s stand outs as far as I’m concerned. I’m including TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick in that statement.

It doesn’t really matter who wins this one, but my gut says it’s the babyfaces. More on this when we get to the Cruiserweight Title Match.

PREDICTION: Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado & Sin Cara

WWE Hell in a Cell 2016, Gallows & Anderson, Enzo & CassLuke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass

This is another one where the outcome could go either way. I’m going to go against my better judgment and say Gallows and Anderson take this one. They’re supposed to be the buzzkills of the Raw tag team division. But it seems like the only team they can beat is Golden Truth. They’ve spent the last few months losing to the New Day. Let’s let them have a win and get a touch of credibility back. Enzo and Cass have big things ahead of them, so it’s not like they won’t get their win back. Let’s just let Gallows and Anderson take this one.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Bayley, Dana Brooke, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016Bayley vs. Dana Brooke

My big hope for this match is that we don’t have another botch like we had awhile back.

I’d be very surprised if Bayley wasn’t involved in the Women’s Title match at Wrestlemania. So they need to keep building her up now. A pay per view win over Dana Brooke is a nice step. But what will really be a notch on her belt is a victory over whoever doesn’t walk out of Hell in a Cell with the Women’s Title. I suspect we’ll see that in either December or January. Dana Brooke will be fine. She still has a lot of learning to do. But she’s got a lot of charisma, and they need her in the spot she’s in right now. If she keeps improving, her day will come.

PREDICTION: Bayley

The New Day, Sheamus, Cesaro, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. Cesaro & Sheamus

As I’ve said multiple times, they’re not taking the titles off of New Day for at least another couple of months. They may as well hold them until Wrestlemania at this point. So I’m not sure what Sheamus and Cesaro will do after their loss here. Something with Gallows and Anderson, maybe? God forbid they put them with the Shining Stars. Either way, the power of positivity prevails again.

PREDICTION: The New Day

TJ Perkins, Brian Kendrick, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
TJ Perkins (c) vs. Brian Kendrick

That backstage segment from Raw where Kendrick asked Perkins to let him win was a clue as to how this match will end. The story here is that these guys used to be friends. So in classic heel fashion, Kendrick will take advantage of a moment of compassion on Perkins’ part, and surprise him for the victory. This doesn’t hurt Perkins, and it makes Kendrick look like a slimy heel. It’s a great finish, and the one they should go for.

PREDICTION: Brian Kendrick

WWE Hell in a Cell 2016, Roman Reigns, RusevHELL IN A CELL MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Rusev

I’m happy for Rusev. It wasn’t long ago he’d become just another guy on the roster. Now he’s in pay per view matches with WWE’s next poster boy. Win or lose, that’s a good thing.

In this case, however, it’s going to be lose. Now that we’re coming out of the shadow of Roman’s wellness policy violation, the marching orders now seem to be back to making Roman look strong at all costs. So unless there’s some sort of shenanigans that let someone else into the cage (more on that in a moment), I don’t see Roman losing. Rusev may very well get the title back at a later date. But it won’t be here.

PREDITION: Roman Reigns

WWE Hell in a Cell 2016, Seth Rollins, Kevin OwensHELL IN A CELL MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Seth Rollins

I originally thought this match would see Triple H break into the cell to cost Rollins the title again. But now that all this Goldberg stuff has happened, I imagine the X factor for this match will be Chris Jericho. Whether he breaks into the cell with bolt cutters, hides under the ring, or Stephanie lets him in somehow, Jericho is giving this match to Kevin Owens.

I wouldn’t be at all shocked if this Owens/Jericho tension comes to a head at Survivor Series, costing Team Raw their match. From there, they’ll probably blow it off in December.

This match, as well as the Reigns/Rusev match, will likely have no shortage of stunts, brutality, and what not. As we’ve seen in recent years, they’ve gone back to letting some of these matches be more edgy. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins had a memorable one in 2014. Undertaker and Brock Lesnar got to rip up the ring last year, and even got a little color. Then they let Shane McMahon jump off the damn thing at Wrestlemania. So I’ll be interested to see how much creative freedom they let these guys have.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016HELL IN A CELL MATCH FOR WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Whether they put it on last or not, this is the main event. For a variety of reasons.

Part of it is the intrigue of seeing the women inside the cell. I can only recall seeing one traditional cage match between women (Trish and Victoria on an episode of Raw), much less a Hell in a Cell match. So there’s a lot of curiosity about what they’ll let these girls do in there.

There’s also the fact that in the 30 years WWE has been doing these big pay per view shows, they’ve never put a women’s match in the main event. Ever. This isn’t just a big deal for Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, but for the real-life Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado and Ashley Flier. They could potentially break some real ground here, and lend some true credence to the whole “Women’s Revolution” thing.

But it’s not just the fact that they’re women. Sasha and Charlotte are performers who, both together and separately, have put on matches that have changed the perception of women’s wrestling. We know they’ll put on a hell of a show, even it if involves taking risks that are a little too dangerous for comfort. They’re a great sell for the show.

Sasha Banks, Mick Foley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, October 24, 2016As for the match itself, it’s Sasha’s time. It’a also in her home town. And letting her break Charlotte’s 12 consecutive pay per view win streak is something she can brag about for awhile. If these two are going to pull out a big stunt for this match, I suspect it might be one similar to what Ambrose and Rollins did in 2014. They’ll be climbing the cell, and then take the big fall through a table. I just hope they come out of this in one piece. Sasha in particular.

Go get ’em, ladies. Make some history.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

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Bill Goldberg’s Return, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much sense leading with anything but Goldberg, is there?

The big news this week is Paul Heyman’s challenge to Bill Goldberg, which was promptly accepted via Twitter. Next week, Goldberg returns to Raw after over a decade away from the ring. Rumor has it the now inevitable Goldberg vs. Lesnar II match will take place not at Wrestlemania, not at the Royal Rumble, but at Survivor Series. That’s a fine choice, though a bit odd. It leads one to believe plans are already in place for Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent (The Rock? Roman Reigns?).

If this Survivor Series rumor is true, then the best case scenario is we get two or three matches out of Goldberg. One in November, then one at Wrestlemania, with perhaps one in between at the Royal Rumble. An appearance in the Royal Rumble match itself wouldn’t be a bad move. I’m curious to see how Goldberg’s physique looks come bell time. How long has he had to get himself back in ring shape?

Either way, the finish of Goldberg/Lesnar II is rather obvious. Brock hasn’t gone unpinned for three years just to lose to Goldberg. They’re playing this up as Brock avenging his loss at Wrestlemania XX in 2004, and avenge that loss he will.

Someone they might consider bringing to Raw to hype this up is Steve Austin. He was the referee for the 2004 match, and as Dean Ambrose will tell you, Austin’s always got something interesting to say.

Moving on, I’m going to be a little more selective in what I talk about this week, as we’re covering both Raw and Smackdown. But there’s no shortage of material to touch on…

Sasha Banks, Charlotte, WWE Hell in a Cell 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Sasha Banks to face Charlotte inside Hell in a Cell. Normally I can’t stand when WWE puts more than one cell match on a show, as it waters everything down (more on that later). But if they must do more than one cell match, this is the way to do it. It’s different from what we typically see on the Hell in a Cell show. If this Sasha/Charlotte match will be one thing for certain, it’s different.

There’s been some buzz about WWE possibly giving Sasha and Charlotte the cell. I’m thrilled for them. They’ve earned this opportunity by giving us something I’d argue is worthy of the match. More so than Reigns vs. Rusev, to be certain. But I’m also very nervous for them. These two take a lot of risks when they work together. Now they’re in a an extremely dangerous match, and the pressure will be on them to deliver. Please be careful, ladies. Make us proud, but come home in one piece.

Kofi Kingston def. Cesaro. Every week when the New Day are out there, Michael Cole mentions that Demolition record. It’s 478 days. So they’re either going to break it, or come close to breaking it. That means Sheamus and Cesaro aren’t winning the belts at Hell in a Cell. So what happens after that? Do they break up? Do they work with another team? I’m curious to see what the endgame is here.

After a victory, Bayley gets attacked by Dana Brooke. Happy to see Dana acting like a heel again. They were inexplicably trying to shoehorn her into a babyface role. That’s clearly not her specialty, and the squeaky clean Bayley will be a good opponent for her.

Sin Cara, WWE Monday Night Raw, October 10, 2016Sin Cara & Lince Dorado def. Tony Nese & Drew GulakThe luchadors were fun to watch, here. Perhaps they’re the Lucha Dragons, Version 2.0? On that subject, I’m still bewildered that Kaliso ended up on Smackdown. This cruiserweight division seemed tailor-made for him.

Mick Foley announces Kevin Owens will defend against Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell. Owens and Chris Jericho come out to protest. They got greedy. Two cell matches is usually too much. Three is simply overindulgent. I understand wanting to wait until Survivor Series to add Chris Jericho to the mix. But this match didn’t need the cell. Owens and Rollins are more than capable of holding their own without it.

Is there supposed to be tension between Mick and Stephanie McMahon? Two weeks ago she emasculated and browbeat the poor guy, as she’s done to so many others. But this week she sounded like his biggest fan.

Notice that Jericho said “Team Chris and Kevin,” while Owens said “Team Kevin and Chris.” Some nice subtle foreshadowing there.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson attack Enzo & Cass before a match. It looks like we’re finally back on track with these two. Joyless, heartless buzzkillers. Putting them with Enzo and Cass is a good pairing.

Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, October 10, 2016Roman Reigns & Sasha Banks def. Rusev & Charlotte. Sasha showed some nice fire here. As excruciating as this will be for some to hear, she and Roman don’t make a bad team.

Now that we have three cell matches at the pay per view, it’ll be interesting to see where Roman vs. Rusev falls on the card. My earlier impression was that they’d headline the show. But putting Sasha and Charlotte on last wouldn’t be the worst idea. Although that would put even more pressure on them to deliver.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. The wheels are definitely in motion for a Chris Jericho babyface turn, as they continue to tease making him an opponent for Owens. In a way it’s sad. Jericho has always been a better heel, and he’s been one of the better parts of Raw lately. When he leaves again there’s going to be a big gap to fill.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Dolph Ziggler def. Ken Doane & Mike Mondo. I wasn’t a fan of the decision to put the belt back on Ziggler at No Mercy. Firstly, he’s been the Intercontinental Champion a bunch of times already. What does it really mean at this point? Secondly, Miz was having a great run with the belt. Taking the belt off him could have been a great notch on the belt for a newer star, instead of just giving it to Ziggler again.

Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, October 11, 2016Third and most importantly, Ziggler being forced into retirement would have been a good story. Even if he came back a few months later, Miz could have gloated about it, and gained that much more momentum as champion.

I am, however, happy to see Doane and Mondo back. Whether they’re getting a regular gig remains to be seen. But why not? If they can bring Curt Hawkins back to waste our time at No Mercy, these guys at least deserve a shot.

Smackdown challenges Raw for Survivor SeriesThis isn’t a surprise, and it’s a little disappointing that wrestlers from the two rosters will already be mingling. But better Survivor Series than a show like Bragging Rights.

It’s a pleasant surprise to see WWE trying to reemphasize the importance of Survivor Series. This show has been largely sub-par for years now, and it should be one of the best they put on. Between these matches, and the potential Lesnar/Goldberg match, this should be a memorable night.

James Ellsworth def. AJ Styles, with Dean Ambrose as the guest refereeAJ has some Kurt Angle in him, in that he’s got some goofy tendencies. He hams it up sometimes. That wouldn’t work for most other guys, but he’s so good it works for him.

AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 12, 2016So James Ellsworth just “beat” the WWE Champion. Does this guy have a contract yet? People are obviously into him. And as we learned on Talking Smack, he’s even getting a title shot next week!

Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper def. Randy Orton & Kane. Harper is definitely a welcome sight. With all due respect, he’s so much more credible than Erick Rowan, and he’s a better in-ring talent. I wouldn’t have put his return at the end of No Mercy the way they did. But now he can say he was in the main event of a pay per view, can’t he?

On the subject of credibility, Bray Wyatt really needed that win over Randy Orton. But I’ve got to think it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back in Orton’s favor. They’re going to need a fresh opponent for Styles before long, and he’s the perfect man for the job.

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