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.

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

Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens in a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Rusev, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016It’s that time of year, folks. School is back in session. The leaves will soon be changing colors. The Halloween shops have started opening. Monday Night Football is back on the air. Autumn is here. Which for WWE fans means the “autumn slump.”

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to call it that, but I’m not the first talk about it. The autumn slump refers to the downturn in TV quality we tend to see between September and December. In the past few years, the autumn slump has brought us a Big Show/Randy Orton program for the WWE Championship, Sheamus winning the WWE Championship at a time when his career was lukewarm at best, and what may have been the 100th John Cena/Randy Orton feud.

And so once again, WWE must try to avoid the autumn slump, and persevere through competition from Monday Night Football.

They’re not off to a good start…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Mick Foley, and Stephanie McMahon open the show. Coming off the finals of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament last week, I was hoping they’d open with the cruiserweights. Instead, we got yet another long-winded talking segment. A fairly cold start to things, which led to a cold match between Seth Rollins and Rusev. Even Kevin Owens, who’s usually very natural, came off highly scripted here.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016Meanwhile, we still have no idea why Triple H interfered in the Universal Title Match a few weeks ago. Even Reigns brought up Hunter’s absence. Steph did “guess” at his motivations later in the show. But we still don’t have any answers from Triple H. Perhaps those answers will come at Clash of Champions.

Seth Rollins vs. Rusev goes to a double count-out. As good as both these guys are, I’ll admit I had this match on mute most of the time. What was at stake? And in the end, they had a non-finish. Again, such a cold, cold start.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara. Not the match they needed to go with at this stage of the show. Both guys were perfectly serviceable. But again, not much to latch on to between these two. I found myself utterly bored.

Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Charlotte & Dana Brooke. It took them almost an hour to give us a match that actually had something going on in it. Though were hardly perfect here. I can only assume they’re still trying to turn Dana Brooke into a babyface. To what end I’m not sure. Not only is she a natural heel, but she’s on a roster with two widely popular female wrestlers like Sasha and Bayley.

Dana Brooke, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016So…does Dana cost Charlotte the title at Clash of Champions? They made a point to put the title on Sasha several weeks ago. I assume the reason Charlotte won it back was because they didn’t know how long Sasha would be out with her back problems. Perhaps now they simply go back to their original plan with her.

Bo Dallas wins another squash match. Just when you thought the show was about to pick up… Ugh.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. Their Best of Seven series is now tied at 3-3. I must have rewound my DVR and watched that finish four or five times. Not because it was so spectacular, but because for a moment I thought Sheamus flung himself into an uppercut in the balls. Winning with your feet on the ropes is one thing. An uppercut to the balls? That’s something else.

The New Day, Enzo & Cass, & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & the Shining Stars. The in-ring segment at the top of the hour wasn’t so bad until the Shining Stars came out. As talented as they are, Primo & Epico are about as appealing as a wet fart. After that, everything went downhill. Did Big E. actually say the New Day came out because they had nothing better to do? From the minds of creative geniuses, ladies and gentlemen…

WWE Raw, September 19, 2016, Cedric Alexander, Rich SwannLike most of what we saw tonight, they were just killing time with this stuff. Nothing of consequence at all.

Brian Kendrick def. Cedric Alexander, Gran Metallic  and Rich Swann to earn a Cruiserweight Title Match at Clash of Champions. Once these guys started working, it became painfully obvious they should have opened the show. While the majority of what we saw on this show still would have sucked, we wouldn’t have started with a bad taste in our mouths. The entire vibe of the show could have improved.

A few weeks ago we saw Titus O’Neil absolutely murder a pre-match scripted promo on live television. While Foley’s time out there wasn’t as bad, like Titus you could see him struggling to remember his lines. Yet another illustration of how over-scripting hinders what we see on Raw every week.

The obvious favorite to win the Cruiserweight Classic was Kota Ibushi. But Ibushi opted not to sign with WWE, so he was eliminated by TJ Perkins in the semifinals. Still, the announcers made a point to mention him more than once. So I imagine the door is still open for him.

Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander, WWE Raw, September 19, 2016The only part of this match I didn’t like was Rich Swann flipping around the ring for no reason. They tend to call that “showboating.” Neville does the same thing in his matches. It’s overkill.

Frankly, I’d have had Cedric Alexander go over in this one. But the story they’re telling with Kendrick is a good one. And for what it’s worth, Kendrick has experience in WWE pay per view matches. All in all, a very good start to the Cruiserweight element on Raw.

Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens in a steel cage match. At least Reigns won by escape. He didn’t pin the champion. That’s not to say it won’t happen. The way things are going, it’ll probably happen next week…

Corey Graves named the Owens/Zayn simultaneous punching spot during this match. “Hockey fight.” Is that what it’s supposed to be? It still looks awful…

Kevin Owens had the quote of the night, telling Rusev to “Machka something!”

By wrestling standards, I suppose that dive by Rollins off the top of the cage wasn’t incredibly risky. He had both Owens and Rusev to catch him. But after all the injuries we’ve seen this year, and what just happened with Finn Balor, it’s especially unwise to tempt fate these days.

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Mick Foley Returns to Promoland? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, there’s a nasty rumor circulating that WWE threatened to fire Paige if she didn’t break off her relationship with Alberto Del Rio. There’s obviously some truth to it, as the two of them were drafted to separate shows. Now Del Rio seems to be done with the company, and we have no idea what the future holds for Paige after her recent violation of the wellness policy. Coincidentally, her violation was announced just a day before Del Rio got popped as well.

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t mess with people’s relationships. It’s bad karma. It also seems to be bad for business. Live and let live.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahonPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley goes back to “Promoland” for Raw‘s opening segment In one of his books, Mic referred to the headspace he got into for big wrestling interviews as Promoland. Though it may have been written for him, I’d like to think this segment represents a return to Promoland for everyone’s favorite Hardcore Legend.

I loved this. Stephanie played the alpha female role, as she always does. But Mick didn’t cower. He humanized her with a sweet story, prompting Stephanie to melt a little. Some of that harsh exterior melted. And that last line about Steph possibly being a “really good liar and a really bad person,” was awesome. There was no screaming, no threatening of violence, no menacing stare, or any of the stuff we saw in some of his classic promos. But this was truly some of the best Mick Foley verbiage we’ve seen in quite some time.

Seth Rollins interrupts Kevin Owens’ victory celebration. Rollins really shouldn’t have said “bull crap.” It made him sound like a grade schooler. Just saying “bull” might have actually been better.

Still, Rollins brought a nice intensity to this segment. He actually got up in Steph’s face and got pissed off for a change. And once again, Steph wasn’t exactly fighting back. She certainly wasn’t emasculating the male stars as she’s done in the past. It was a refreshing change of pace to say the least.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Stephanie McMahon, Mick FoleyAlso, why is it called Clash of Champions and not Clash of the Champions?

They followed this up with a backstage segment in which Chris Jericho called Owens the “longest reigning WWE Universal Champion in history.” That was a great line.

Bayley def. Charlotte in a non-title match. If you listen to The Steve Austin Show or The Ross Report, you hear a lot about the importance of selling. With that in mind, I paid extra attention when Bayley sold her left knee after the half Boston crab. Really nice work.

So what happens after Charlotte and Dana Brooke break up? That’s obviously where they’re going here. Do they turn her babyface? I don’t know if I buy her in the hero role quite yet. She’d likely be better off going back to NXT at this point.

Bo Dallas returns to Raw, winning a squash match. Apparently a recent arrest for intoxication hasn’t adversely effected Bo’s career. Hell, it seems to be helping! He might want to ditch the singlet that says “outcast,” though.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho. Now that Rollins is transitioning into a babyface, it’s time for a new theme. CFO$ and Downstait seem to be on the case.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Rollins’ athleticism should never be taken for granted. That diving somersault off the top rope into a neck breaker? Awesome. That frog splash? Excellent. The sad thing is, those moves would likely all mean more if they’d just made him a babyface when he came back. The transition is indeed underway, but he’s in that awkward middle ground right now. It could have been so easily avoided.

Sheamus goes up 3-0 in the Best of Seven Series against Cesaro. As was the case in the Charlotte/Bayley match, I kept an eye on the selling of the injury. In this case, the focus was obviously Cesaro’s match. We had some really nice storytelling here, with Sheamus focusing much of his offense on the back. The five backbreakers in a row were a great sequence. I’d have been perfectly fine with the match ending there. The Brogue Kick was almost redundant at that point.

The announcers talked about the winner getting a championship opportunity. But which championship? Does it go without saying it’s the Universal Title? I wouldn’t mind seeing Cesaro challenge Owens.

The Shining Stars def. Enzo & Cass. Big Cass got a real nice shine from last week’s main event. He and Enzo are still an amazing package deal, and he’s still nowhere near ready for a singles push. But he’s little more ready than he was last week…

The Shining Stars, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Of course, a loss to Primo & Epico doesn’t exactly help his case. These two have absolutely nothing to talk about other than their Puerto Rico shtick, which is long since stale. Can’t we give them anything else to say?

Nia Jax won a squash match. They established here that the jobber was a friend of Alicia Fox, and it looks like they’re finally giving Nia a mini-program. One I suggested last week, no less. They had a little backstage segment later in the show where Nia jabbed Fox about Total Divas and reality TV. Fox actually said the line: “This isn’t reality.” Hm…how about Summer Rae? Didn’t I suggest her too?

Gallows & Anderson spoof The New Day. I actually enjoyed Gallows & Anderson’s “Ringpostitis” gag, as stupid as it was. But I’m ready for them to get down to business. These guys should be the ultimate killjoys, not stealing from Edge & Christian’s playbook. Actually, this whole thing felt like they were struggling to kill time.

Darren Young def. Jinder Mahal. So Jinder Mahal has had three matches since he’s come back, and he’s lost three times. Good on ya, man…

Titus O’Neil was on commentary for this match. Any time that happens, I can’t help but remember him cracking up Cole and Lawler a few years ago. Great stuff. But if they really wanted entertainment, they’d let Bob Backlund do commentary.

WWE Raw, September 5, 2016, Braun Strowman, Sin CaraAlso, can we not act like Bob Backlund is this frail oxygenation? He’s probably stronger than a lot of the active wrestlers.

Braun Strowman def. Sin Cara via count-out. Whaddaya know? Like Nia Jax, Braun Strowman gets a break from squash matches! Strowman also got a nice little story here about ripping off the jobber’s mask last week. I was wondering if Sin Cara would lose his mask as well. Perhaps that’s still in the cards.

Sasha Banks returns, teases retirement, will face Charlotte for Raw Women’s Title at Clash of ChampionsSasha wearing less make up was a nice, subtle change. She wasn’t dressed as the Boss. She was just herself. As she talked about the progression “Women’s Revolution” in WWE, I absolutely adored her for the line: “No more stupid butterfly title.”

I’d love to think this wasn’t scripted for Sasha. She really opened up and let that passion come out. She really got us too, didn’t she? We’ve seen a few retirement speeches on Raw in the last several years, and this felt like one of them. But let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have had her tweet about “bad news” if she was really retiring. I, for one, am very pleased her final chapter hasn’t been written yet.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, September 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. I’m very encouraged that they haven’t forgotten about Zayn beating Owens at Battleground. That puts Zayn in the title picture. He’s by no means in the center of that picture. But at least he’s there. This one didn’t top the Battleground match, but it was a worthy main event. The right guy won, with the champ going over. Though Owens may not be so lucky next week…

Mick Foley announces Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for next week, giving Reigns a chance  to enter the main event at Clash of Champions. Charlotte got pinned this week, and now next week Owens is in a position to be beaten by Reigns. I don’t like that they’re starting to pin champions on TV again. Those belts need to mean something. It’s bad enough we’ve got so many of them again. But if the champions and the titles aren’t protected, what’s the point of any of it? Here’s hoping we see the reappearance of Rusev next week, costing Roman the match.

Then again, that means the US Title is once again in danger of leaving Rusev’s waist, which I’m not a fan of. But let’s take it one week at a time, folks.

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Conor McGregor Slams WWE Stars, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Conor McGregorBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Conor McGregor pisses people off. It’s just what he does. They should make that into one of those Geico commercials. I’m surprised it took McGregor this long to get under the skin of wrestling fans. They’re a lot that loves to be pissed off about one thing or another…

On a conference call for UFC 202, McGregor called WWE wrestlers “pussies,” and later tweeted the following:

I don’t know if McGregor means any of this or not. Some people think he and WWE are looking to do business together. If that’s the case, he could be a better heel than any they’ve got right now. It would obviously generate a lot of outside interest as well.

Work or shoot, the statement itself is ludicrous. Wrestlers and fans alike should be secure enough in what they love to let this McGregor thing slide off their backs.

WWE Raw, August 8, 2016, Chris Jericho, Kevin OwensPonderings From Raw:

Chris Jericho w/Kevin Owens def. Enzo Amore w/Colin Cassaday. Jericho and Owens are a great team, and they make great villains for Cass & Enzo. One of the newest, biggest heels in all of WWE may very well be Jericho’s goatee.

These four now have a tag match set for Summerslam, and I’d love to see it open the show. I can’t imagine the kind of pop Cass & Enzo will get in Brooklyn.

John Cena & AJ Styles appear during a commercial break. Apparently, after the Enzo/Jericho match, AJ Styles came out and said he was only there because prior to the brand extension, he was advertised to be at the show. From there, he and John Cena had a quick fight which ended in an AA from Cena. Nice little treat for the crowd. But hopefully they don’t make a habit of this sort of thing.

Braun Strowman won an enhancement match. I went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and when I got back the match was over. No surprise there. So here’s my question: Is this a Braun Strowman babyface turn?

Darren Young def. Titus O’Neil with a handful of tights. In terms of 50/50 booking, it doesn’t get more pure than this. Titus wins with a roll-up and a handful of tights last week, now Young wins with the same move. I’m pleased they had Backlund conveniently looking elsewhere when the pin happened. So now do we have Young keep cheating without Backlund noticing? For a character as off beat as his, that’s conceivable.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo on Finn Balor. Rollins lines about “slaying the beast,” having “crushed the face that runs the place,” and “conquered the Roman Empire,” were really good. I was also happy to see an uninterrupted in-ring promo. For the sake of changing things up, that’s nice to see.

Cesaro def. Sheamus. These guys always put on good matches. I just wish he hadn’t won with a damn roll-up. We see so many roll-up finishes on these shows. They can do better than this.

A retrospective airs on Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton’s history together. Well, here we go. They finally talked about it. Lesnar and Orton’s history together in Ohio Valley Wrestling, and their parallel journeys to WWE stardom. I have to say, I got a kick out of hearing that Jim Cornette soundbyte. I imagine Cornette never thought he’d hear his own voice on that show again.

There was some really good stuff here, most notably the idea of Orton being a star, and Lesnar being a megastar. The notion that Randy Orton is “just another guy” is the antithesis of what the WWE marketing machine has wanted us to believe for over a decade. It adds a whole new dimension to this program. This is one of the few times I’ve ever hoped for a live contract signing. I’d love to get Randy Orton in the ring with Lesnar and Heyman, and see who says what.

Neville & Sin Cara def. The Dudley Boyz. On the subject of being “just another guy,” the Dudleys seem like just another team on the roster. To say the least, that’s not how they should be portrayed. They certainly shouldn’t be beaten by two guys teaming together for the first time.

Bubba Ray Dudley, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016It was interesting that they focused on Bubba’s face after the loss. He looked pissed. Could this be the start to a Bubba Ray heel singles run? They don’t have much to lose at this point.

Neville had a mystery partner for this match, who turned out to be Sin Cara. Forgive me for not being enthralled. Did Sin Cara mean to jump through the ropes to the outside? It was awkward. But it didn’t look like a botch.

Roman Reigns interrupts Rusev & Lana’s wedding celebration. How ironic. WWE punished Rusev & Lana for leaking the news of their engagement online. Now they’re exploiting their wedding for TV.

This segment moved like molasses. It just went on…and on….and on. We get it. They’re in love. Roman comes out. Somebody goes in the cake. Next please.

On the  plus side, Roman get cheered when he came out. It wasn’t a great reaction, but at least he wasn’t drowned in boos. He also seemed a little more charismatic. He was due for some lighter material. The best part of the whole thing? Rusev throwing cake at Reigns as he walked up the ramp.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. Brooke is now banned from ringside at Summerslam. I would have been interested in Sasha having Bayley at ringside to counteract Dana Brooke. But this works too. I don’t expect Charlotte and Sasha to top what they did on Raw a few weeks ago. But it’ll be cool to see them try.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, August 8, 2016Via video package, Finn Balor gives Seth Rollins a lesson in Irish mythology and demons. This was important. The audience needs to know why Balor wears the body paint. This was a nice crash course. The piece was also very well produced. The way Balor was sitting, the smoke, the eye contact with the camera. All excellent.

Luke Gallows def. Kofi Kingston. I actually thought the “Ringpostitis” skit was funny. It’s got Vince McMahon’s fingerprints all over it, which usually spells doom for an attempt at comedy. But Anderson & Gallows had great delivery. As for the match, that’s a pretty big win for Gallows. How many singles titles has Kofi won? And Gallows pinned him in about two minutes.

After a brief segment with Daniel Bryan, Mick Foley makes a US Title Match between Rusev and Cesaro. Rusev retains after interference from Sheamus. Roman Reigns spears the champion. Since he’s been back, Bryan really looks like he’s having fun. Especially on the Cruiserweight Classic shows. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Rusev gains momentum with a big title defense. Cesaro deserves a big win, and the US Title. But with no build up, and the show going past its usual overrun, tonight wasn’t the time. Nor, for that matter, was it time for Rusev to drop the title. They’ve built him back up as a monster, and you can’t just slay the monster on any given night.

On the plus side, Sheamus’ feud with Cesaro now has a personal edge to it.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, August 2016Over on Smackdown:

Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler come face-to-face in the ring. This was the creative highlight of the show. Ambrose was really strong here. Ziggler fired off what we expected. The rant about being undervalued, stealing the show, etc. But Ambrose, surprisingly, no sold it. The closing line, the money line, was “You’re gonna find out you’re not as good as you think you are.”  As far as I’m concerned, that is now what their match is about. Is Dolph Ziggler as good as he thinks he is? Unfortunately, the smart bet is Ambrose is going over here. So what happens when Ambrose wins? A heel turn for Ziggler?

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