Posted in Wrestling

Hulk Hogan’s Win, Sting’s Retirement, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Hulk Hogan, 2016, trialBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got a lot to get to this week before we even touch Raw. So let’s dive in…

Hulk Hogan wins $115 million in lawsuit against Gawker, plus $25 million in punitive damages. I’m pleased Hogan won. While he is a jackass, nobody deserves to have their privacy violated so horribly. Particularly by people you think are your friends. Maybe all of this is karma coming back to bite the Hulkster after all these years. But here’s hoping he can finally find some peace.

TMZ reports Sting is retiring from in-ring competition, “The Icon” disputes report. I’m inclined to think Sting’s rebuttal is him wanting to go out on his own terms. Even when the injury happened, Sting was talking about coming back for one more match. If Sting does get back for one more outing, that’s fantastic. But if he doesn’t, that’s fine. Sting has nothing left to prove. At this point his health is what’s important.

Drew Galloway, TNA title winDrew Galloway wins TNA Heavyweight Title. I’m not sure Drew Galloway was ever going to be a big money ball player in WWE (though that’s not to say he couldn’t be), but he was certainly better than the comedy role he had at the end of his run. So seeing him take the TNA Title is a big feel-good moment, and very much deserved.

Bobby Roode and Eric Young leave TNA. This is a big blow for TNA, but obviously they’ve survived worse. In a perfect world, this means two big spots open for guys to elevate themselves. As for Roode and Young, NXT seems to be a likely destination. Particularly for Roode, who I think would really fit in well there.

Pondering From WWE Raw:

Stephanie McMahon and Roman Reigns open the show. I realized something when Stephanie walked out at the top of the show: She has what some call “channel changing heat” with me. She’s been opening the show, and saying the same kind of BS for so long now, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything when I fast-forward through her mic time.

Roman Reigns, Stephanie McMahon, Raw, March 21, 2016I will say, however, that it was that same heat that allowed Roman Reigns to have a good outing here. See him cover the mic while Steph was holding it, and then block her dreaded slap of disdain, was satisfying. Now if only they could get people to cheer him…

Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles after a Chris Jericho distraction. Really good match. These two got about three segments, which by WWE standards is a big time investment. And wouldn’t you know it, the Intercontinental Champion keeps some momentum heading into Wrestlemania. Imagine that!

Terry Funk featured in a pre-tape with Dean Ambrose. This was a really nice surprise. Terry Funk is truly one of a kind. He’s 71 years old, but I’m pretty sure that if they gave him enough money he’d fight Brock Lesnar himself. Hell, a few months ago he had a match with Jerry Lawler, and Lawler threw a damn fireball in his face. Actually, Ambrose might want to buzz Lawler and see if he can get him some fire…

Rusev, Big. E, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Big E. def. Rusev after dueling promos from the League of Nations and The New Day. None of this was bad. It beat the hell out of the five minute beatdown the League gave New day last week. I won’t lie, I got a chuckle out of that shame him/Sheamus line. I don’t see this match being anything special at Wrestlemania. But The New Day will get to be on Wrestlemania. So I’ll tolerate it.

The Big Show cuts a promo about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. A fight erupts with Kane and The Social Outcasts. Not a bad promo from The Big Show. I don’t know whether this was scripted or not, but it came off very genuine. The big guy made me believe. Sadly, that doesn’t happen too often these days.

Byron Saxton said on commentary that whoever wins this thing has the chance to change the course of their career. If that’s true, then it’s not a change for the better. Cesaro win this match two years ago, and wound up shoehorned into a heel turn that killed his momentum. Then last year Big Show won it, and it was forgotten two weeks later. If they want this match to be more than just a time killer, someone has to win it and then go on to bigger and better things.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Chris Jericho def. Fandango. My God! Fandango is alive! It’s been so long since we’ve seen him that I just assumed he’s was dead and buried! Well, he was buried to an extent, wasn’t he?

Very happy to see they’re going with Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles one more time at Wrestlemania. For awhile it was rumored they’d be stuck in the multi-man Intercontinental Title Match (more on that in a moment). But this is the match they deserve, and frankly it’s a match Wrestlemania deserves.

Kevin Owens to defend the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania in a ladder match against Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, The Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara, and Zack Ryder. When this match was made official, I immediately thought of Neville. The poor guy broke his ankle last week, but he kept popping up in segments with Owens. The smart bet is that he was supposed to be in this match.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016I’m really not a fan of these multi-man ladder matches anymore. I find them lazy from a storytelling standpoint. Plus, WWE relies far too much on these ladder matches nowadays. They all blend together. We’ve already got a big battle royal on this show. What’s so tough about putting two, or even three or four guys together in an Intercontinental Title Match, and putting the others in the battle royal?

Roman Reigns attacks Triple H backstage. They’re being very frugal about sending Roman into arenas. For the past two weeks, he’s been out there for small stretches, only to end up in a backstage fight. And he hasn’t wrestled on television in quite awhile. Not exactly ideal for your lead babyface heading into Wrestlemania. But at least the fights have been decent.

Bubba Ray Dudley def. R-Truth. Goldust and The Usos emerge to back Truth up. A shorter segment, but I can’t complain much about what I see here. I’m actually looking forward to seeing the Dudleys and the Usos go at it. I hope to see these two feud for at least another month after Wrestlemania. For that matter, I’m even looking forward to seeing what Goldust and R-Truth do as a tag team.

Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Vince McMahon announces that if The Undertaker loses to Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania, this will be his final Wrestemania. Did Vince actually say Shane would be ‘Taker’s “most formidable opponent” at Wrestlemania? Let’s hope Brock Lesnar didn’t hear that…

They’re late on this one. This really should have come the week after Shane came back. The Undertaker and Vince should have had an in-ring segment where ‘Taker refuses to do Vince’s dirty work, then we get this announcement. This has significantly less impact. But better late than never.

Also, those video packages they put together about Shane and his training were really good. Why they don’t do that kind of thing more often is beyond me. It’s not like they don’t have the production capabilities to do so. And they were able to add to the story without having either Shane or ‘Taker in the building.

Dean Ambrose, Paul Heyman, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Braun Strowman def. Dean Ambrose via disqualification. I understand what they were trying to do here. They put Ambrose out there with another giant, and in the same arena with Paul Heyman. But despite those typically intriguing elements, this was a lame duck main event. Case in point: The “this is boring” chants. The upside? They didn’t book Undertaker vs. Strowman at Wrestlemania.

At this point, I can only assume The Wyatt Family will be in the Andre Battle Royal. Having Bray win wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

Image 1 from ABC News. Image 2 from pwmania.com.

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015

Barbara Walters, Caitlyn JennerBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s time once again for us to rip off Barbara Walters.

Each year, the iconic journalist does her list of the “Most Fascinating People” of the year. This year, this list was topped by none other than Olympian turned reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. She was joined by the likes of Bradley Cooper, Amy Schumer, Ronda Rousey, as well as American presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Those are all great choices…they’re just not in my wheelhouse, per se.

At the risk of going with a cliche, WWE has had more than its share of ups and downs this year. WWE’s chosen one, Roman Reigns, spent most of the year being rejected by the fans. But even so, Wrestlemania XXXI was the best one the company has put on in several years, and we got a brand new main event star out of the deal: Seth Rollins. With The Authority watching his back, Rollins defended the title most of the year against the likes of Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Sting, among others. But when Rollins went down with an injury in the fall, Reigns would finally rebound and take the title…only to have it stolen from him by Sheamus. But as we saw last week, Reigns won out in the end.

That’s a highly abbreviated version of the year though. For a more in-depth analysis, let’s once again check out WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015.

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, Roman Reigns1. Roman Reigns

There’s no denying “the Big Dog” had a tough year. For quite some time, he’s been groomed to be WWE’s next top star. But in the modern era, when WWE fans feel someone or something is being force-fed to them, it goes straight into the “reject” pile. For the second year in a row, fans hijacked the Royal Rumble match because Daniel Bryan wasn’t the focal point, and Reigns took the brunt of the abuse. Still, the company stayed the course. Reigns told a hell of a story with Brock Lesnar in the main event of Wrestlemania before Seth Rollins cashed in and swiped the title. Reigns spent much of the year having his every mood scrutinized by the fans. To be fair, much of it was justified. Instead of being allowed to be himself and develop organically, Reigns was heavily produced, and often forced to deliver cringeworthy dialogue. Perhaps that’s why, when he finally won the title, Reigns was cheered by the same Philadelphia fans that booed him out of the building at the Royal Rumble. Vince McMahon and WWE had tried to force a square peg into a round hole all year. And while the struggle isn’t over by any means, seeing Reigns finally get a career win after all he’d been through made for a feel-good moment.

But now the question is: Now that he’s accomplished his goal, where does Roman Reigns go from here? Back to the main event of Wrestlemania, perhaps?

Seth Rollins, Raw, August 31, 20152. Seth Rollins

From an in-story perspective, Seth Rollins was the man in 2015. He left Wrestlemania XXXII as the company’s top heel, and since he went down with a knee injury, no one has been able to fill his shoes. Despite being forced to cut long, drawn out promos to fill time on all those three-hour Raw episodes, his smarmy, whiney persona was ideal for a lead villain role. In addition, Rollins was more than capable of delivering great matches against big names like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton. Those two factors combined drew many a comparison between Rollins and the Shawn Michaels of late ’97 and early ’98. The continuation of Rollins’ on-screen rivalry with Jon Stewart was also one of the company’s biggest publicity grabs of the year.

Like him or not, Seth Rollins became a big money ball player in 2015. The smart bet is that when he returns, he’ll be hearing cheers.

Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, WWE Beast in the East, July 4, 20153. Kevin Owens

The Slammy Award for “Break Out Star of the Year” may have gone to Neville, Kevin Owens was unquestionably the best NXT call up of the year.

Less than a year after the real-life Kevin Steen signed with WWE, he made his main roster debut (as the NXT Champion no less), and immediately began a program with John Cena. Owens went on to beat Cena in his first WWE pay per view match. While he would lose the two rematches to follow, his dry and condescending demeanor combined with his obvious in-ring prowess proved he was more than worthy of a main roster spot. In September, Owens defeated Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship. While Owens has had his share of critics, primarily due to his body type, his success has been undeniable. Roughly a year and a half after signing with WWE, he rose to the top of NXT, won the NXT Championship, was promoted to the main roster for a program with the company’s flag bearer, won the Intercontinental Championship, and has spent the last few months working with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose. Barring some unforeseen and unfortunate turn of events, it’s looking like Kevin Owens is here to stay. And WWE fans are better off for that.

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 20154. Charlotte

Long before the “Divas Revolution” on Raw, there was a women’s wrestling revolution on NXT. One of the names at the heart of that revolution was Charlotte, daughter of Ric Flair. The real-life Ashley Fliehr wowed audience with her natural athleticism, and knack for wrestling. Both fans and insiders knew it was only a matter of time before she made it to the main roster.

On July 13, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch all showed up on Raw to begin what became known as the Divas Revolution. While fans could come to debate just how revolutionary the whole thing was, Charlotte’s talent was undeniable. To a large extent, she became the face of the Divas Revolution. She became the first of the new female talents to strike gold at Night of Champions, besting Nikki Bella to win the Divas Title. Now, fans are starting to see a new side of Charlotte. It seems the Nature Boy’s daughter may be taking after him in terms of cheating to win. This will undoubtedly put her at odds with her cohort Becky Lynch, and lead to more than a few intriguing match ups in the near future. Charlotte is right where WWE wants her to be right now. At this point, it’s simply a matter of growth and maturation.

And while we’re on the subject of women’s wrestling in WWE…

Sasha Banks, WWE TLC 20155. Sasha Banks

Sadly, Sasha Banks comes into this list under that Dolph Ziggler-type banner of talents who should be doing awesome, but aren’t.

There’s an argument to be made that Sasha Banks is the best female wrestler in North America right now, if not the world. As she was winding down in NXT, she had two amazing matches with Bayley for the Women’s Championship, the latter being a classic 30-minute Iron Man Match. Thus, when she arrived on Raw with Charlotte and Becky Lynch on July 15, Sasha had perhaps more buzz surrounding her than any of her peers. And yet she was lumped in with Tamina and Naomi as part of Team BAD, and has stayed there ever since. To be fair, she’s very much the star of the group. But fans have been anxiously anticipating the moment when she breaks away as a singles star. There’s been some buzz lately that Sasha may end up wrestling Charlotte for the title at Wrestlemania, which might just make the wait worthwhile. But until then, we’re left to simply wait and hope…

Sting, Raw, September 14 ,20156. Sting

This was the year wresting fans had waited so long for. At long last, Sting was wrestling for WWE. His first, and perhaps only match for WWE would be at Wrestlemania XXXI against Triple H. It wasn’t necessarily the dream match people were hoping for, but it was epic enough to satisfy their appetite for Sting to have at least one big moment under the WWE umbrella…and then he lost.

On his DVD, Sting said he was fine with losing, as he wanted to go out on his back, per that “time honored tradition” we’ve heard about before. But the fans weren’t looking for that here. The hope was that Sting would win and get his moment in the sun. But alas, it wasn’t to be. He didn’t get his win when he challenged Seth Rollins for the WWE Title at Night of Champions either. Instead, he not only lost, but he injured his neck after taking two buckle bombs. So now, not only has Sting not gotten his moment in the sun, but he may never wrestle again.

At this point, the pertinent question seems to be: Was it even worth it?

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, The New Day7. The New Day

The Philadelphia fans turning around on Roman Reigns was a big deal. But for my money, it doesn’t hold a candle to the turnaround The New Day has experienced.

When 2015 kicked off, Kofi Kingston, Big E., and Xavier Woods were a lame white-meat babyface group, which the fans were crapping on every week. And justifiably so. The New Day concept had little substance to it. It was essentially just three enthusiastic, smiley guys. It’s still unclear to me whether the eventual heel turn was planned or not. But when that turn came, a whole new life was breathed into this group. As heels, nothing was off the table. They were allowed to be as goofy and flamboyant as they wanted, and that resulted in them becoming a genuinely entertaining team. Ironically, they’ve hearing been hearung cheers for months now. One can argue they’re not even heels anymore. I can only imagine an official babyface turn is forthcoming. The cool thing about that is they don’t even have to change their act. As long as they keep having fun, they should have a place on TV for the foreseeable future.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Sheamus8. Sheamus

Sheamus did not have the year that any of us were hoping he’d have. The sad thing is, it’s really not his fault. It has more to do with creative.

Wrestling fans let out a collective groan when Sheamus won this year’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I think the consensus as far as Sheamus being WWE Champion was, “Been there, done that.” I’m not sure there was an ideal choice in that ladder match, but Sheamus wasn’t the guy to build that kind of intrigue around. Especially when after Money in the Bank, he went on to have a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton. It seems like fans spent most of the year wondering how WWE was going to get themselves out of the Sheamus situation, as opposed to whether he was going to win the belt.

Still, they went ahead and pulled the trigger on Sheamus at Survivor Series, only to take the belt off of him about a month later. I suppose we can give them credit for trying. But hindsight being 20/20, Sheamus wasn’t the guy to go with heading into Wrestlemania XXXII. That’s not to say he can’t ever be that caliber a star. But he wasn’t particularly hot when he with the briefcase, and he was even less so when he won the title. So I’m not sure what they expected was going to happen…

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Cesaro, Sheamus9. Cesaro

An optimist might say Cesaro was on the verge of finally starting to break out as a big singles star when he got hurt in November. A realist, on the other hand, would say it was simply another start-and-stop push. As far as Cesaro is concerned, I’m a realist.

The fans were ready for Cesaro to break out last year at Wrestlemania XXX. But a series of bad decisions put the kibosh on that. This year, he gained some traction after Vince McMahon said on a Stone Cold Podcast that Cesaro wasn’t connecting with the fans, and a backlash ensued. “The Swiss Superman” won the tag team titles with Tyson Kidd, but the team abruptly ended when Kidd was injured. Cesar segued into another singles run, where he gained and lost momentum depending on what week it was. Cesar would be a different kind of attraction, that’s for certain. But if and when WWE decides to pull the trigger on this guy, they’ll have something. Though frankly, the more time goes by, the less likely a Cesaro push becomes.

The Undertaker, 201510. The Undertaker

The Undertaker making this list in 2015? Yup. That’s a thing. But to his credit, he earned it.

Coming into 2015, we weren’t quite sure what was going on with The Undertaker. He hadn’t been seen since Brock Lesnar broke his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania XXX. One theory was that he was done. Given the injuries he sustained in that match with Lesnar, the safer option might have been to hang it up. But ‘Taker did deserve a swan song…

But that’s not what we got in 2015. The Dead Man came back at Wrestemania XXXI to vanquish Bray Wyatt, and then reappeared at Breaking Ground to cost Brock Lesnar the WWE Championship. They followed that up by main eventing Summerslam, and then stepping back inside Hell in a Cell. While ‘Taker ultimately lost his war with Lesnar, he did have a nice night at Survivor Series, celebrating his 25th anniversary with WWE by teaming with Kane to defeat Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Wrestlemania XXXII will feature The Undertaker’s last match. With the event being in ‘Taker’s home state of Texas, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad time. But if this year showed us anything, it’s that at 50 plus years of age, The Undertaker can still go. So if he’s still got as much passion for the business and a desire to perform, who are we to tell him to go? As far as I’m concerned, The Undertaker can stick around as long as he wants. I certainly won’t complain.

Image 1 from theinsidekorea.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Posted in Wrestling

Undertaker/Lesnar Bombshell, Paige’s Weird Promo, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE Hell in a Cell 2015, The Undertaker, Brock LesnarBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Round 3 of Undertaker/Brock Lesnar to take place inside Hell in a Cell next month. Well, so much for Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns getting the main event…

Needless to say, this is huge. Not just because of the match itself, but because it once again places a shroud of mystery around ‘Taker’s Wrestlemania XXXII opponent. After Summerslam, many of us assumed the rubber match would take place in Dallas this Spring. But with this match on the Hell in a Cell card, ‘Taker and Lesnar will have already wrestled (at least) three times by that point. With that in mind, WWE may want to put ‘Taker against a fresh opponent whose box office appeal is as big as Lesnar’s. The only name that comes to mind under those parameters is John Cena. In theory, you could do Sting. But after his loss to Seth Rollins at Night of Champions, Sting looks more like a has-been than ever (and an injured one at that). Cena seems like the most sure-fire option at this point…

Another lingering question: Why didn’t the announcers talk about it on Raw? This is probably the last chapter in what’s become the biggest rivalry of the year. So…maybe mention it? A little bit?

Paige, WWE Night of Champions 2015Charlotte def. Nikki Bella to win Divas Title at Night of Champions, Paige goes heel on Raw. Very happy for Charlotte. Needless to say, this is an honor she deserves.

Paige’s rant on Raw was weird. She seemed to be trying to do what AJ Lee did with her so-called “pipe bombshell” promo awhile back. But instead of putting the heat on a rivalry between she and Charlotte, she just took pot shots at the other girls. Obviously some of that is expected. But why bring in Lana, Summer Rae, who have nothing to do with her? Yes, she came off like a brat, but she seemed to be criticizing the creative team more than her fellow wrestlers. I understand where they were going, and I think they got there. But they overcomplicated it.

Still, I’m very happy to see Natalya get involved in all this. You can’t have much of a “Divas Revolution” without her, in my book.

Sting loses second WWE pay per view outing to Seth Rollins, moments after Rollins loses US Title to John Cena. Ugh. Yeah, we knew this was probably going to happen. But that didn’t make it any easier to see. So now we’ve established that Sting can’t beat Seth Rollins, even when Rollins has already wrestled (and lost to) John Cena, and is in pretty bad shape at the start of the match. From an in-story standpoint, why should anyone in WWE now fear Sting? Some “Icon” Sting has turned out to be, at least as far as WWE is concerned.

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Seth Rollins, StingStill, there were two bright spots here as far as Sting is concerned. For one thing, he didn’t wrestle in the damn t-shirt. I imagine the only thing worse than losing cleanly to an already-battered Seth Rollins, is losing to him in a t-shirt. Secondly, Rollins made Sting look strong, as we knew he would. And never in my life did i expect Sting to do a cross-body to the outside like he did. So I can’t even knock the match from a performance standpoint. It’s just that the booking sucks on this one. I understand WWE wanted to try and grab extra buyrates by bringing Sting back. But having him lose again isn’t going to help anybody in the long run. What’s more, the poor guy apparently hurt his neck during the match.

But hey, at least Sting will always have respect for Triple H

After returning after Rollins’ title matches at Night of Champions, Kane attacks the champion for the second night in a row on Raw. I’m happy to see they’re finally following up on all that Rollins/Kane stuff from earlier this year. Is it as hot as it would have been before? Maybe not. But it’s nice to see it wasn’t completely forgotten about. And Kane putting the mask back on is a nice way to rejuvenate him for a little while. What’s more, I actually found his cheese ball skits on Raw as Corporate Kane entertaining.

WWE Raw, September 21, 2015, The Big Show, CesaroThe Big Show def. Cesaro, cuts a promo on Brock Lesnar. Yep, he beat Cesaro. Because…of course he did. But to his credit, Show made Cesaro look good in the process.

It’s interesting that Show brought up Survivor Series 2002, and him being the first guy to beat Brock. Makes you wonder if Heyman will bring up last year’s Royal Rumble, when Brock literally destroyed Show with a chair. As we all know, WWE history is weird with omissions like that.

Kevin Owens wins Intercontinental Title at Night of Champions, rematch with Ryback on the horizon. I was pleasantly surprised to see Owens take the title. The way he matches up with Ryback is interesting, because they obviously have such different physiques. Having Owens cheat to win the title was a good move, and while I’m game for a rematch, I think it’s got to end there. Let’s get Owens over to Cesaro, and let them work for a championship.

Sheamus def. Mark Henry on Raw. Mark Henry seems content to put people over these days. But watching him wrestle Sheamus, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would be different if he were the one with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Getting him up that ladder would have been a tough task, but a monster heel Mark Henry with a guaranteed WWE Championship match would have been worth it in my book.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Posted in Wrestling

WWE Night of Champions 2015 Predictions – Enough With the T-Shirt!!!

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Oh, Sting. Poor, poor Sting. Still wrestling in that damn t-shirt. In the main event, no less!

But more on that later…

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Six-ManPRE-SHOW MATCH:
Stardust & The Ascension vs. Neville & The Lucha Dragons

I’m happy Stardust and Neville are still doing something post-Summerslam. But this is sort of a nothing match, even by pre-show standards. Cody Rhodes deserves so much better. Neville would too if he could talk worth a damn. Either way, I see “Cosmic Wasteland” getting the win here. I highly doubt creative has any sort of direction in mind for those three, but a win here will at least keep the group alive.

PREDICTION: Stardust & The Ascension

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev, WWE Night of champions 2015Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

This was obviously supposed to be the mixed tag team match they were building to with Lana and Summer Rae. Not sure what they’re doing with Dolph and Lana, unless it’s a set up for a big double turn where Rusev and Lana end up back together, and Dolph and Summer become a tandem. Dolph and Rusev are in an unenviable spot here, because at this point they’ve already wrestled numerous times. I don’t doubt they can pull something decent together. But as a fan, it’s getting tougher to care. Especially because this program was hokey from the very start. As far as a winner, I’ll say Lana makes an appearance here and, intentional or not, costs Ziggler the match. I don’t see her being happy about the shenanigans going on between Dolph and Summer.

PREDICTION: Rusev

The New Day, The Dudley Boyz, WWE Night of Champions 2015WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz

If I’m in charge, there’s no way the Dudleys get the titles back this quickly. Especially since, whether you consider them heels or babyfaces, The New Day have become such an entertaining act. I think in a perfect world, we’d wait awhile before giving Bubba Ray and D-Von the gold again. How about they win it in a tables match at Survivor Series? Maybe even hold off until the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania? But don’t just hand them the belts a month after they’ve come back. Whether they cheat, or another team comes out to help them, New Day rocks at Night of Champions.

PREDICTION: The New Day

Ryback, Kevin Owens, WWE Night of Champions 2015WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Ryback (c) vs. Kevin Owens

In a perfect world, this program would help elevate both guys. And I imagine they’ll have more time to work together, leading to a rematch at Hell in a Cell. But I’m concerned about Ryback’s ability to keep up with Kevin Owens on the mic. I don’t doubt Ryback is working hard, and a lot of the things he’s saying are interesting. But Owens has that understated charisma that’s so different from anybody else on the roster. Things went okay this past Monday, but if Ryback is put in another situation where he has to match wits with Owens, things may not go well.

I see Ryback picking up the win here, leading to a rematch at Hell in a Cell. These two could potentially give us some really interesting TV. At the very least, it’s bound to be better than what we got with Ryback, Miz, and Big Show.

PREDICTION: Ryback

The Wyatt Family, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, WWE Night of Champions 2015The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, & ?

There’s been a lot of great speculation surrounding who Reigns and Ambrose’s mystery partner is, and that’s a great thing. That’s exactly what you want. Names like Baron Corben, Erick Rowan, and even The Rock have been tossed around. Personally, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Chris Jericho getting called in for this. He does have a history with Bray, after all.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I want Reigns and Wyatt to have the cage at Hell in a Cell. Give them the main event as the only cell match on the card, and just let ’em go. Put Ambrose and the Wyatts on the outside if you want a little extra hell raised. I’ve got a feeling they’re going to give Reigns another try for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania XXXII in Dallas. If that’s the case, a solid cell match against Bray would help a lot in terms of “the respect factor.” But to get to the cell, Reigns and his team need to win here. It would help drive home the notion that Bray can’t beat Reigns on his own. This program has had its ups and downs. But they can still finish strong.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, & ?

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Nikki Bella, CharlotteSTIPULATION MATCH FOR WWE DIVAS TITLE:
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Charlotte
If Nikki Bella gets disqualified or counted out, she loses the title.

These two had a great showing on Raw this week. Probably one of the better women’s matches WWE has put on in several years. Can they top it? Probably not. But they can still tell us a great story, especially because this match should be just as hot, if not hotter, than the one on Monday.

I expect the ringside set up for this match will be similar to what we saw on Raw: Brie Bella and Alicia Fox in Nikki’s corner, Paige and Becky Lynch in Charlotte’s. That, of course, opens the door for drama on the outside. It also opens the door for what I hope we get here: A Paige heel turn.

Weeks ago, WWE planted seeds for Paige being jealous of Charlotte and her shot at the title. Ergo, Charlotte has Nikki beaten, and Paige costs her the match. Heck, let’s have her deck Becky for good measure. Going forward, we now have two storylines in the women’s division. We’ll have Charlotte against Paige in a personal rivalry, and we’ll have Nikki against whoever her next contender is. Becky Lynch seems like a likely candidate. But it’s tough to ignore Sasha Banks. Either way, we’ve got a more compelling women’s division than we’ve had in years. Seems to me like everybody wins in that scenario.

PREDICTION: Nikki Bella

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Seth Rollins, John CenaWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins vs. John Cena

I don’t see a reason why Cena wouldn’t get the title back here. We’ve had an extended break from his US Title open challenges, and they’re definitely missed. So in addition to letting us do those again, a Cena win would make Rollins look vulnerable heading into his match with Sting. Rollins has to have some gas in the tank for the main event, so I don’t expect we’ll see these guys go all out the way they did at Summerslam. But needless so say, they won’t stink the joint up.

PREDICTION: John Cena

WWE Night of Champions 2015, Seth Rollins, StingWWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the rather…uninspiring way WWE has handled Sting since Wrestlemania. He inexplicably lost to Triple H, then went away for several months. When he came back, the long trench coat was gone, replaced by merely a t-shirt. He’s been wearing, and even wrestling in the damn t-shirt ever since. Hell, he’s probably going to wrestle this match in the t-shirt. And he’s probably going to lose the match in a t-shirt. They aired those old clips of Sting beating Flair for the NWA Title, and Hogan for the WCW Title. But by comparison, the way Sting is presented today just looks sad. There’s nothing “iconic” about the way this man is portrayed. He just looks like a crazy guy wearing face paint. Now, if they want do something similar to what TNA did with “Joker Sting,” that’s fine, I suppose. But there’s an inconsistency between how WWE wants fans to see Sting, and how Sting actually comes off on television.

The way I see it, the only way Sting wins the title here is if they play the Sheamus card. Sting wins, has a nice moment, then Sheamus cashes in and Brogue Kicks him to win the belt. That’d be fine, but then you have another problem: Sheamus is your WWE Champion. They really booked themselves into a corner with this Sheamus/Money in the Bank thing. You’ll have a pretty hard time convincing me that Sheamus is primed for another WWE Title win. Sheamus has heat, I’ll give him that. But that program with Randy Orton was not good for either man. If you give the belt to Sheamus now, I’m inclined to say people will change the channel. And that’s never what you want.

So what other choice is there but to have Rollins go over Sting? They can make it a screwjob finish if they want. But the fact is, Sting has now lost his first two pay per view matches in WWE, and has yet to actually pin anyone.

Some icon he turned out to be. In WWE, at least…

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Posted in Wrestling

Nikki Bella Reigns Supreme, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Nikki Bella, Raw, September 14, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Raw was a really good show this week. It had one major drawback, which we’ll get to shortly. But overall, a really solid “season premiere.” This show proved that if they want to, WWE can still make Raw main events feel important. Now if only they had announced one particular match in advance…

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

After a DQ finish, Nikki Bella becomes the longest reigning Divas Champion of all time. In the almost two decades I’ve been watching pro wrestling, this was one of the few women’s matches I’ve ever seen that had a big fight feel to it. Part of that had to do with the fact that Nikki has so much heat with “smarks” like myself. So many of us genuinely wanted to see her lose the title. It also has to deal with Charlotte, and how many of us respect what she’s accomplished in such a short amount of time. It also has to do with the build-up. WWE talked a lot about this match for an entire week. And the first two hours of Raw built up to it. There was a tension in the air by the time they got in the ring. We had to see whether Charlotte was going to win the title.

Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella, Raw, September 12, 2015The match itself told a nice story, with Nikki working the arm, which Charlotte sold very well. Charlotte is such a natural athlete that you can’t help but root for her. You could almost say she has the same kind of appeal Cesaro has. And I’ll give her credit, Nikki was as good as she’s ever been out there. She’s not the most graceful woman in the world, but with the right opponent, she’s clearly capable of putting on good matches.

I loved the finish. It built sympathy for Charlotte, got the Bellas a lot of heat, and pointed us toward Night of Champions. And it incorporated one of the Bellas’ trademark tricks as well. Good storytelling, good booking. I don’t say that about WWE often enough, but it deserves to be said here. Congrats to both Nikki and Charlotte.

This match made be believe that we could actually be see a revolution in the WWE women’s division. Is it here now? No. But could it be here in the next several months? It could go either way, but it’s not impossible. They made a believer out of me.

Sting, Raw, September 14 ,2015Sting wrestles his first match on Raw against The Big Show. What a wasted opportunity. Sting’s first Raw match was something they could have built this up for at least a week. How hard would it have been last week to have Triple H or Stephanie to announce this at the end of Raw? No, it obviously wasn’t going to be a five-star classic. But that’s not the point! He’s Sting, and he’s wrestling on Raw for the very first time! We had all week to think about Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella. You’d think they’d give the same advantage to someone like Sting. Sadly, they probably came up with it relatively last minute as a ratings grab. But oh, what it could have been.

The fact that it turned into a tag team match with John Cena and Seth Rollins was fine. But here’s a question: Why did Sting have to wrestle in a t-shirt? Yes, the shirt has a big scorpion on it. So what? He wore his gear at Wrestlemania and he looked fine. What they needed was to cover up his bald spot, and that appears to be taken care of. So what’s the deal?

Sasha Banks def. Paige. The most interesting part of this match was the dueling chants of “Let’s Go Sasha!” and “Let’s Go Paige!” We also heard some of that during the Charlotte/Nikki match. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a chant like that during a women’s bout. Also, a HELL of German Suplex by Paige. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paige turn heel soon. I actually thought it might happen tonight. But it could also happen at Night of Champions.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, September 14, 2015The Wyatt Family appears on Miz TV, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose attack. Rough flub by The Miz, referring to Night of Champions as Hell in a Cell. But he soldiered on, despite some heckling.

So apparently Randy Orton was simply written off TV last week, and may not be the third man on Reigns and Ambrose’s team. So I suppose we’re free to continue speculating. Erick Rowan? Bo Dallas? Chris Jericho?

Kevin Owens and Ryback have an in-ring segment. I loved that they talked about The Secret, and how Owens used it to prod Ryback. That opportunity has been sitting there for months, but nobody capitalized on it. Owens and Ryback obviously did a little ad-libbing out there, which I’m always a fan of. Ryback isn’t always great at it (Did he say “The Master of the Feed Me More?”), but Owens damn sure is. Really interested to see how their styles match up at Night of Champions.

The New Day def. The Prime Time Players to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles. The New Day are babyfaces. Yes, they’re cheating. But they’re too funny to dislike. Xavier Woods is obviously trying to be a Jimmy Hart-type annoying manager with the trombone. But while Hart was annoying, Xavier is entertaining.

Kurt Angle, TNAPonderings From Around the Wrestling World:

Kurt Angle announces he’s not renewing his TNA contract. Yet another tough break for TNA. His past health problems notwithstanding, Angle is one of TNA’s tentpole talents. Not having him around doesn’t exactly bode well for their future. I’d love to see a Cinderella story here. But the brand may be too badly damaged at this point…

WWE reportedly interested in bringing Edge back for an on-air role. I don’t see the long-term benefit of bringing Edge back on a regular basis. Yes, he’s a good talker. But after awhile the novelty would wear off. I am happy, however, that they’re actively trying to prevent themselves from slipping into the annual “autumn slump.” For the past couple of years, Raw has been pretty hard to watch between September and November. An Edge return is an interesting idea, but not the solution they’re looking for.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts appears on The Steve Austin Show Unleashed. If you’re interested in what goes into the craft of wrestling, this is a really fascinating interview. Jake talks about the art of blading, why heels need to cheat, selling, etc. One of the better wrestler interviews Austin has done in quite awhile.

Image 5 from whatculture.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Posted in Wrestling

Sting, Seth, the Statue, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Sting, Seth Rollins statue, WWE Raw, September 7, 2015Sting holds Seth Rollins’ statue hostage, eventually crushes it in a garbage truck. So Sting and Seth Rollins are feuding over a statue? That’s pretty lame, especially for a character like Sting. This could be so much more personal for him, even if they don’t want to get into the dark, scary, “vigilante” stuff. Sting is 56 years old.  He’s trying to win the WWE Championship for the first time, during his first run with the company, coming off a big loss at Wrestlemania. They could easily do something akin to what ECW did with Terry Funk in 1997. Funk was in his early fifties when he won the ECW Title from Raven at Barely Legal. It was one of the most emotional moments in the ECW’s history. It’s a classic tale. The older guy comes back to teach the young punk a lesson in respect. WWE could easily go that route with this story, and it would be even more emotional and effective considering the national scale, how long it took Sting to get to WWE, etc. But apparently this story is about a statue…

Also, does Sting have to wear a t-shirt all the time? How about one of his long coats? The t-shirt makes it seem like he’s trying to cover up his body or something. Even if that is the case, can’t he wear the coat anyway? Needless to say, he’d look a lot cooler.

Charlotte, Nikki Bella, September 7, 2015Charlotte to face Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship next week. Good move. There’s no drama in having Charlotte challenge for the title a week after Nikki breaks the record. But a matter of hours before the record breaks? Now that’s good TV. If WWE wants to be ballsy about this, they’ll put the Nikki vs. Charlotte match in a prominent place on the show. I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to see Nikki in a main event spot. But if they really want to try and make this a “revolution,” it’s worth a shot.

John Cena & The Prime Time Players def. Seth Rollins & The New Day. I was happy with this match, mostly because Titus O’Neil, Darren Young, Kofi Kingston, Big E., and Xavier Woods all got to be in a Raw main event. It’s good to see the Dudleys haven’t completely eclipsed the Prime Time Players since their return. And of course, The New Day can turn babyface any day now. Very happy for both teams.

Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose def. The Ascension. So apparently The Ascension and Stardust are a group now. Cosmic Wasteland. Makes you wonder why Stardust wasn’t out there with them this week. It’s not like he couldn’t have taken a spear from Reigns or something. Granted, even without Stardust, a squash like this isn’t necessarily a great start for a group.

Randy Orton, September 7, 2015So it’s looking like Randy Orton is going to team with Reigns and Ambrose to face the Wyatts at Night of Champions. I’m absolutely, 100 percent fine with that. Why? Because it keeps Randy Orton away from a certain someone…

Randy Orton def. Sheamus. Dear God…why? Seriously, we need a restraining order for this one. Randy Orton and Sheamus must be kept out of the same ring for at least three years, minimum. And while we’re at it, let’s get a similar arrangement in place for Orton and John Cena. This program was an awful idea from the start. Why would we want to see any kind of rubber match?

The Big Show chases The Miz out of the arena, then knocks Cesaro out. Wait…I thought Show was supposed to be wrestling Ryback for the IC Title at Night of Champions? Are we making it a fatal fourway with Cesaro? I’d be okay with that, so long as it ends with Cesaro leaving with the belt.

The Dudley Boyz, Raw, September 7, 2015The Dudley Boyz def. Los Matadores. There’ve been rumors of Los Matadores being repackaged. I can only assume this is part of that. I’ve hated the Los Matadores gimmick from the beginning, not because it was supposed to be kid-friendly, but because it seemed like such low-hanging fruit. Hey, we’ve got two Hispanic guys? Let’s make them bullfighters! I only wish they’d put the damn bull through the table too. Speaking of which, what happens to him now? Does he become a new Dudley brother?

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Posted in Wrestling

The New WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From Wrestlemania XXXI and WWE Raw

Wrestlemania XXXI, Seth Rollins, ChampionSeth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank during the main event of Wrestlemania, pins Roman Reigns to become champion. Brock Lesnar assaults Rollins on Raw, gives an F5 to Michael Cole. Stephane McMahon suspends Lesnar indefinitely.

Well, that’s one way to book yourself out of a corner.

Actually, it must be said that the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match was not bad at all. It was the match of the night, in my opinion. They built up a lot of sympathy for Reigns (at least in my mind), and established that he is indeed a Samoan Bad Ass. But at the end of the day, Brock Lesnar was the crowd favorite. WWE clearly knew that going in, and booked accordingly. They told a similar story to the one they did with Lesnar and John Cena at Summerslam, but then threw the twist with Rollins in.

Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Wrestlemania XXXITruth be told, if there’s one guy on the roster that deserved that crowning moment, it was Seth Rollins. He’s turned in consistently good, often great work since his heel turn last year. And whether you’re a Roman Reigns fan or not, this loss at Wrestlemania does two very important things for him. First, it gives him more big match experience. Second, it gives him a little more time to cook before they put the title on him.

There was no way they were going to have Brock wrestle on Raw. I knew that thing was a sham from the get-go. What I didn’t see coming was what happened to Michael Cole. If Brock wasn’t a babyface before, he certainly is now. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Cole took that F5 like a man. I’ve got to wonder who pitched THAT to him…

One thing I will say in critique of that Raw segment…JBL and Booker T. couldn’t have been that hurt by an overturned table, could they?

Triple H vs. Sting, Wrestlemania XXXITriple H def. Sting. This one shocked me. After 14 years, Sting finally makes his WWE debut…just to lose to Triple H? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Still, one would hope that’s not the last time we’ll see Sting in a WWE ring.

The general direction this match took also surprised me. Instead of it boiling down to Sting and Hunter they turned it into an nWo vs. DX thing. It all became a giant Attitude Era throwback. It was fun, I guess. But I thought this was supposed to be about Sting coming to WWE to face the tyrannical leader of The Authority? It seemed like an odd choice to me. But it was Wrestlemania-worthy, to be sure.

By the way, that Triple H/Terminator entrance? Really stupid.

The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker looked as good as he ever has at Wrestlemania. But it seemed like he was definitely feeling it physically. Then again, maybe he was just selling really well. But after the match, he did indeed look up to the rafters and mouth “Thank you.” My instincts tell me he’s got maybe one or two left in him. But then again, people have been saying that for years. Only The Undertaker can tell us for sure. One thing’s for sure, seeing him for the first time in a year was a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Rock and Ronda Rousey wind up in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania. This seemed like a set up for one hell of a mixed tag match. Summerslam, maybe?

John Cena def. Rusev at Wrestlemania for the United States Championship, defeats Dean Ambrose in title defense on Raw. Not exactly a surprise that Rusev lost to John Cena. Though as I’d said previously, I’d have loved to have seen Rusev’s streak continue.

Dean Ambrose deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the 48 hours he had between Wrestlemania and Raw. Between the bumps he took in the ladder match, and the match he had with Cena on Raw, he deserves as much respect as anybody on that roster. There’s so much money on this guy, and he’s so unique. I just hope WWE knows what they’ve got with him…

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIDaniel Bryan wins Intercontinental Championship in multi-man Wrestlemania Ladder Match. Bryan wins a title match against Dolph Ziggler on Raw. After all the complaining the internet wrestling community did (myself included) about Daniel Bryan’s demotion on the Wrestlemania card, it’s tough to deny they put him over pretty well. It would have been easy for him to simply get lost in the shuffle in terms of that ladder match. But he came out on top, and had another great Wrestlemania moment. Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t as good as the one he got last year. But it was still pretty good.

In terms of the ladder match itself…meh. I hate to seem so jaded, especially considering some of the bumps those guys took. But we’ve just seen this match so many times over the last decade. At the end of the day, there are only so many things you can do with a ladder. So I left this match feeling a bit less satisfied than perhaps I should have been. The ending with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler butting heads over and over again was pretty ridiculous too.

As for the match Bryan and Ziggler had on Raw, it’s tough to not enjoy these guys going one-on-one. They make a point to show you things you don’t see in other matches, and it’s a real treat.

Sheamus, Raw, March 31, 2015Sheamus returns after Bryan/Ziggler match to fend off Bad News Barrett, ends up heeling on Bryan. I like Sheamus’ tweaked image, although apparently the crowd didn’t agree (“You look stupid!”). I most certainly like his new direction. A Sheamus heel turn has is long overdue. If I had my way, we’d see Bryan vs. Barrett for the title at Extreme Rules, and Sheamus vs. Ziggler, with the winner getting a title shot.

Adrian Neville (as billed as just “Neville”) and The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) make their Raw debut. So the rumor flying around was that WWE was going to give NXT star Adrian Neville a Mighty Mouse-type persona. It looks like they kinda/sorta went that direction, but thankfully left out the inherent cheeseball elements. We’ve definitely seen wrestlers wear worse things out there than a cape. Great exhibition from Neville. Let’s see where he goes from here.

In that same vein, we saw a hell of a showing from Sin Cara, and especially Kalisto. He had that crowd in the palm of his hand. I want to see more, that’s for damn sure. And hey! Who knew you could have a colorful, marketable Hispanic tag team without turning them into a couple of damn cartoon characters! Does this mean we can finally drop the Los Matadores gimmick?

The Big Show, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Wrestlemania pre-show. I’m guessing this match got bumped to the pre-show so we could have the Rock/Ronda Rousey segment. I’m wondering, had it been on the actual show, if Big Show would have won. This match seemed like the perfect opportunity for Damien Sandow to have his big moment. And indeed, he did have a big moment when he eliminated Miz. But for that to be followed by his elimination by Big Show almost waters the whole thing down. Once it was decided the match would be on the pre-show, I wonder if they just said: “Meh. If Sandow can’t win it at Wrestlemania, let’s just give it to Show.”

And what does The Big Show actually gain from winning the Andre battle royal? Nothing really. At least Cesaro got a push (albeit a failed one) out of the deal. Show’s already a top guy, and he’s aligned with the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. So they basically spun their wheels with this one.

Images from WWE.com.

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