Bobby Heenan RIP, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, the wrestling world mourns the passing of one of its greatest and most hilarious performers. Raymond Heenan, a.k.a. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan passed away Sunday at the age of 72.

I became a wrestling fan, specifically a WWF fan, in 1996. By that time Heenan was already an announcer for WCW. But my brother and I would always rent VHS tapes of the old pay per views. That was my first exposure to Heenan, both as a manager and an announcer. As the internet age began, I became more and more familiar with his range as a performer and the scope of his career. As virtually anyone who has watched his work from that era will tell you, his verbal skills, his wit, and his comedic timing were unparalleled. All these years later, Bobby may still be in a class by himself. And yet, he made such a natural slimy and underhanded villain. It’s no accident that he was put with top stars like Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and so many others.

Heenan’s voice is synonymous with what many consider to be the golden age of WWE. In terms of the company’s global expansion, he was as integral as almost anyone. Like Jim Ross, Jesse Ventura, and other great announcers, his voice is plastered on to moments that are indelibly etched in our minds and hearts. The 1992 Royal Rumble comes to mind (Shout out to Solomonster.), as does the famous Barbershop segment between Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty.

And then of course, you’ve got all his work with Gorilla Monsoon. Whenever I need cheering up, there’s a clip of Heenan cracking Monsoon up that gets me every time.

Much has been said about Heenan in the past two days. But it was @WWECreative_ish on Twitter that truly hit it out of the park, in my opinion…

The key word there? “Elevated.” Bobby Heenan was one of those performers that truly made pro wrestling into an art form, and not just two guys pretending to fight. In his case, it became a comedic showcase on par with just about anything. The fact that so much of it still holds up today is a testament to that.

Thanks for the memories, Brain. We love you.

Ponderings From Raw:

After the Miz interrupts Kurt Angle at the top of the show, a scuffle breaks out between Jason Jordan and the Miztourage. Later in the show, a Six Pack Challenge will determine the top contender for the Intercontinental Title at No Mercy. This segment was really flat. Miz said all those inflammatory things about Kurt being a deadbeat dad, and he just stood there and took it. Why? Because he was waiting for Jordan to come out. I get the whole “it takes more strength not to fight back” thing. But Angle just stood there, barely selling it at all.

Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss. Bliss, Sasha Banks, and the returning Bayley take Jax down after the match. Banks and Bayley then lay out Bliss. Bayley is later added to the title match at No MercyAn abrupt return for Bayley. Not sure I wouldn’t have kept her off TV until after No Mercy. Let’s hope they can keep her from getting booed.

Cesaro and Sheamus win a Triple-Threat Tag Team Match against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, as well as Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Whoever walks out of No Mercy with the belts (I assume it’s going to be Rollins and Ambrose) desperately needs to find new dance partners. It’s been these three teams week after week. How about the Miztourage?

I can’t help but think about Sting whenever Rollins does the Buckle Bomb…

Apollo Crews def. Curt Hawkins. So they’re doing a kind of reverse undefeated streak thing with Curt Hawkins. That’s kind of fun. A the very least it’s something for Hawkins to do every week. 115-0? Damn.

A split-screen interview airs with Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman. Watch Brock during this segment. He’s by no means a great promo or a great actor. But he can be very effective by doing very little. Until the end of the interview, Brock looked about as uncertain as he’s ever been. But then he pulled it out at the end with that line about being backed into a corner.

Roman Reigns cuts a promo on John Cena, name-drops Alex Riley. There was a good amount of buzz from Reigns mentioning Alex Riley here. The story has always been that something happened between Cena and Riley that kept the latter from really going anywhere in WWE. The real-life Kevin Kiley Jr. has never spoken about it publicly. But former WWE talents like Ryback and JTG have alluded to it. It’s very curious that WWE would have Reigns allude to it like this.

Reigns’ line was about how someone that looks like Cena wouldn’t have a chance of making it in WWE because of Cena’s influence. It makes sense if you think about it. Cena would theoretically be insecure about someone coming along and outshining him. Would that have happened? Probably not. But you never know

They’ve been playing to the smart mark crowd quite heavily with this program, which isn’t the approach anyone expected. The stuff about Reigns’ drug test, this Alex Riley thing, the talk about Reigns not being able to do his job, it’s all insider type stuff. I imagine the strategy here is to get the die-hards riled up, so the casuals look in to see what all the fuss is about. It’s an interesting idea. No Mercy will ultimately determine whether it pays off.

Bray Wyatt def. Dustin Rhodes. Finn Balor cuts a promo for No MercyI loved this. A logical way to play off of what happened with these two last week. And it didn’t hurt Dustin that much, as Bray caught him by surprise with the Sister Abigail.

Nice promo from Balor. More menacing than anything Bray has done in recent weeks.

On a related note, WWE has announced the return of Starrcade, which was a big annual event held by the NWA that later became WCW’s equivalent to Wrestlemania. It’ll be a non-televised event in Greensboro on Thanksgiving weekend. You know who competed at a bunch of Starrcade shows? Dustin Rhodes. Hmm…

WWE airs a tribute to Bobby Heenan. I was initially miffed that WWE didn’t do a 10-bell salute for Bobby. But this wound up being better. Cole hit the nail on the head when he said Bobby would never, ever be replaced.

Never.

Braun Strowman destroys Enzo Amore. Neville hits a Red Arrow on a defenseless Enzo. A good portion of the audience ate this up. Did you hear those “Thank you Strowman!” chants?

Neville def. Gran Metalik, nearly unmasking him in the process. Um…were we meant to see that much of Gran Metalik’s face? For all intents and purposes, the guy got unmasked here. Fodder for a future story, perhaps?

Jason Jordan def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Elias, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel to earn a title shot against the Miz at No Mercy. Please don’t let Jordan get the belt. As I said last week, the fans will chew him up and spit him out. Let Miz beat him, so the frustration mounts even more. That’s a much better story.

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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.

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John Cena’s Injury, Sting in the Hall of Fame, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, shoulder surgery, January 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So yeah…John Cena went down with a turn rotator cuff last week, and underwent surgery to repair it. He’ll definitely be missing Wrestlemania.

So let’s tally this up. These are the stars who WON’T be competing at Wrestlemania XXXII in Dallas: John Cena, Randy Orton, Sting, Seth Rollins, Cesaro. There’s also been some buzz about Paige and Sasha Banks being hurt. But to my knowledge nothing is confirmed.

The biggest WWE superstar of the last decade being out of what they were hoping to be the most attended Wrestlemania of the last decade is undoubtedly a big deal. But it’s not the end of the world.

Obviously, Wrestlemania isn’t going to be as stacked as anybody hoped it would be. But as was the case when Seth Rollins went down with his injury, WWE simply has to play the best hand they can with the cards they’ve got. And thankfully, they’ve got better cards now than they did at Survivor Series. Thankfully, Roman Reigns seems to have turned the corner as their new top guy. That’s not to say he’s completely out of the woods, but he’s in better shape now than he was in the fall. If they keep his storyline strong, Wrestlemania should at least have a good backbone. A Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar rematch seems to be the likely main event at this point, especially considering how Raw ended. That works for me. They had a really good match last year, and hopefully they can top it this year.

My question is, who do they put with The Undertaker now? Cena seemed like the man for the job…

Sting, Raw, September 14 ,2015Pondering From WWE Raw:

Sting announced as the first entrant for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Not really a surprise, and he’s definitely deserving. It’s probably been in the works since Sting signed in 2014. But for me, this is a disappointment. Sting never even got to win a one-on-one match in WWE. You’ll notice they didn’t mention THAT in his video package. Ending THAT run with a Hall of Fame induction is about as anticlimactic as it gets. Sting deserved better. The best we can hope for at this point is one more match.

Roman Reigns competes in “One vs. All” Gauntlet Match. Brock Lesnar cleans house, then attacks Reigns. Having Reigns spend most of the ring time with Kevin Owens was a nice spotlight for KO, and hopefully a sign of the faith they have in him.

Obviously this match was done to make Roman look strong. It’s an eye-roller on paper. But at least they didn’t have him lay out all 10 guys before Brock came out.

Paul Heyman’s involvement in this week’s show was sadly limited to backstage segments. That’s disappointing, but fine at this point. We are going to need another classic Heyman promo before the Rumble gets here, however.

The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXXIAll 30 Royal Rumble Match participants appear at the top of the Raw set to start the show. Conspicuous by their absence among the participants were The Undertaker and Kane. They didn’t have to physically be there, but Vince or Stephanie could have easily mentioned them. While things can certainly change, I can only assume this means they’re not in the match. That’s a downer. Their presence in the match would help make it as special as WWE seems to want it to be. In ‘Taker’s case, one can argue the pros and cons of bringing him in just to be eliminated. But eliminating The Undertaker from the Royal Rumble would be a big deal for somebody, and might even help kick off a program for Wrestlemania. They made sure all the members of The New Day, The Wyatt Family, and The Social Outcasts got in. But they can’t at least bring Kane in? What the hell?

It was interesting to see Vince highlight Dolph Ziggler the way he did, mentioning his 10 years of “reaching for the brass ring.” But one week after losing to Heath Slater, what did it really mean?

Kalisto, Alberto Del Rio, Raw, January 12, 2016Kalisto def. Alberto Del Rio to win the United States Championship. I love this. This is something Raw desperately needed. A jumpstart for a new singles star. I’ve been saying for months that Kalisto has what it takes to be the Hispanic star WWE has been looking for. Now he has that opportunity. This is something to look forward to on Raw in the weeks to come.

Becky Lynch attacks Charlotte before her match, cuts an impassioned backstage promo. I’m sure that promo was scripted. But to her credit, Becky made it feel very real. Considering we know so little about her something with such a personal touch, performed that well, really goes a long way.

Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel returns to Raw. At the risk of sounding like every fickle wrestling fan out there, Jericho’s cool factor has, well, cooled. I’m not sure if that’s what he’s going for to lead to an eventual heel turn. But between the vest and the stomach, the stupid “rooty tooty booty” line, the scarf and the jacket this week….I just don’t get it.

Also, Star Wars was number one at the box office before you came back, Chris.

I’m actually really surprised this segment didn’t lead us into a six-man tag between The New Day, Jericho and The Usos. But saving Jericho’s in-ring return for the Rumble, or at the very least advertising it beforehand, is the smarter move.

The Social Outcasts, WWE Raw, January 12, 2016A match between The Wyatt Family vs. The Social Outcasts is interrupted by Ryback. So…are The Social Outcasts babyfaces? Everybody in this group was a heel before, weren’t they? But they acted like underdogs looking for a fight here. Then of course, you had Ryback coming out to attack the Wyatts, following up on an angle last week that no one remembered or cared about. So who benefitted from this segment? Nobody, that’s who.

Sheamus vs. Dean Ambrose goes to a double count-out. Kevin Owens attacks Ambrose after the match. Nothing against either man, but this match didn’t do anything for me. It didn’t really do anything for Sheamus either. At least Ambrose and Owens got to further their program. Sheamus simply looks like even more of a lame duck after this one.

Titus O’Neil def. Stardust. I liked this. Pretty basic psychology. Titus wins, celebrates with the fans (including one kid who didn’t seem into it at all), and Stardust is a sore loser and attacks him. Simple, yet effective.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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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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Roman Reigns Wins the WWE Championship, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, Raw, December 14, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much point in wasting time, is there? Let’s jump right into the big news from Raw

Roman Reigns wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after the match is made by Vince McMahon himself. A title change via a match made that same night, as Vince McMahon looks on in horror and disbelief. That’s some classic Attitude Era booking right there. Still, you can’t say it didn’t work. And how ironic that it happened in Philadelphia, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building at the Royal Rumble. A city that, by the way, was behind him tonight.

Aside from being derivative of the Attitude Era, down to Corporation style run-ins against the babyface that Vince despises, I can’t bring myself to complain much about how this was done. How odd was it that this match tonight had more anticipation built for it than last night’s TLC main event?

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015, Stephanie McMahon, Roman ReignsFrom a creative standpoint, this seemed like an attempt to jumpstart Raw following the ratings downslide, and all the ill will built up from the fans. This obviously doesn’t fix all of WWE’s problems. But this was a good show. Most definitely a breath of fresh air.

On the downside (because we’ve got to cover the good and the bad), WWE has developed a pretty consistent pattern of not allowing anyone to show up Stephanie McMahon, particularly men. That trend continued in the opening segment as Reigns took a barrage of slaps from the “Billion Dollar Princess.” He didn’t even put his hands up to defend himself! I understand the ultra-image conscious WWE not wanting to show images of men being physical against women, but can’t Reigns reach out and grab Steph’s arm to stop her? Imagine someone doing that to Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or The Rock. And to top that, he even got kicked in the balls by 70-year-old Vince McMahon later in the evening.

Sheamus: “You think I look stupid? All of you paid to see me tonight, so what does that make you?” Don’t tempt us, pal…

Sheamus, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015In a lot of ways, Sheamus got a raw deal this year, no pun intended. There was very little thrill or intrigue in his Money in the Bank win, and his brief run with the title was hardly worth it. It might have been better just to have him cash in and lose.

Still, I maintain that Sheamus is a talented wrestler, and can still do great things.

Dean Ambrose wins Intercontinental Championship at TLC, defeats Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Kevin Owens seeks revenge. I was surprised to see WWE give Ambrose the IC Title. He doesn’t exactly need it. But having him in the picture doesn’t hurt anything either. As one would expect, he and Ziggler turned in a good match.

Having Kevin Owens chase Ambrose for the title might bring out the best in Owens as a heel. He showed some nice bitterness out there tonight. I’m curious to see what Owens does in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.

Jojo, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015Correct me if I’m wrong, but it would have been really nice to have Owens looking into the camera for that promo segment with Jojo. How much better was that promo with the ECW guys because Bubba and the others were looking into our eyes? I just don’t understand WWE’s hesitance toward that sort of thing.

The Wyatt Family def. Team ECW in an Extreme Rules Match. The right team won here. During the match I tweeted: “The Wyatts need to win this match. No more 50/50 booking.” Very happy the Wyatts got the victory, and actually came off looking like a dominant group. I’ve said it before, the Wyatts can be the dominant faction in WWE if they’re put in that position. Even if it’s just Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper getting the big wins, that’s not an out-of-reach proposition.

That being said, if they want this to continue, I wouldn’t mind seeing Bray Wyatt and Bubba Ray Dudley go at it one-on-one…

WWE TLC 2015, Ric Flair, CharlotteCharlotte retains over Paige at TLC, teams with Becky Lynch for a win on Raw. Ric Flair assists both times. So it appears we are indeed moving toward a Charlotte heel turn, and seemingly a program with Becky Lynch. This opens the door for development on the part of both ladies, so no complaints from me. I also like how they made a point to have Sasha Banks out there, to illustrate that she’s waiting in the wing.

I’m very curious to see who they put Charlotte with at Wrestlemania. It should be a one-on-one match, as opposed to a triple threat, or a fatal fourway. I’d love to see it be Sasha Banks. But Becky would be good in that spot as well.

Alberto Del Rio & Rusev def. Ryback and Jack Swagger. Didn’t even need to watch this one. Jack Swagger is a loser, and Ryback has become a loser. But that’s actually a good thing. Again, they didn’t 50/50 book it. These programs have winners and losers. That’s the way it should be.

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015The Miz “directs” Neville during his match with Tyler Breeze, which he wins. I don’t necessarily mind Miz being with Neville. It did wonders for Damian Sandow…until the story was over. Hell, this Miz/Neville program might even get Damian a little bit of TV time.

In Other News…

WWE hires veteran MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo for Smackdown. Will start when the show moves to USA Network on January 7. This is a really nice get for WWE. Ranallo brings a special credibility of sorts to the announce position. But here’s the thing: If WWE’s product remains as stale as it’s been lately, it won’t matter who the announcers are. Because no one will be watching.

Sting reveals he needs neck surgery following Night of Champions match. Ugh. This sucks. With so many guys on the injured reserve list, WWE could use Sting now more than ever. Furthering the sucktitude is the fact that Sting’s WWE run, which fans waited so many years for, has been such a disappointment. “The Icon” is hopeful for one more match. Count me among the wrestling fans who hope Sting finally gets a truly great WWE match. Or at the very least, a victory.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Saying No to Del Rio, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw this week, I’d like to debut a new feature for these weekly reviews.

Now more than ever, Raw has entirely too many overrun by six-man tags. Last week we had an appalling three six-man matches in one show. It’s a sure-fire sign of lazy booking, in my opinion. So from now on, at the end of each review we’re going to make a point of counting how many six-man tags were on the show in question. It will appear at the bottom of the review each week.

Alberto Del Rio, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Alberto Del Rio wins United States Championship at Hell in a Cell, with Zeb Colter at his side. Boy, is it difficult to articulate in human English just how much I hated this. What an awful move.

Just to be clear: I don’t hate Del Rio. He’s an excellent wrestler, he still looks great, and he’s done some good stuff for WWE. But he’s also been part of some mind-numbingly boring television. Part of the reason for that is because his personality, for my money, has been so one-dimensional. And yet, because WWE feels like they desperately need a big Hispanic star, Del Rio is back.

So what’s with this Mex-Americans thing? Del Rio condescendingly referred to Neville as an immigrant before their match. So I assume they’re going for a hypocritical heel angle with he and Zeb Colter. That’s a little awkward. But in all fairness, let’s give the angle the story some time to breathe.

WWE Raw, October 26, 2015, Seth Rollins, Roman ReignsAfter defeating Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match, Roman Reigns becomes the top contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. So is Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns our main event for Survivor Series next month, or TLC in December? I ask because the match isn’t listed on WWE.com as part of the Survivor Series card.

I assume they’re putting Reigns back in the title picture to plant the seed for him being involved in a title match at Wrestlemania somehow. I can only assume they wouldn’t be dumb enough to have him win the Royal Rumble Match again, but WWE obviously wants him in a top spot. There’s been speculation about Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, which would be an interesting follow up to what happened in last year’s main event. Either way, hopefully this is part of a long-term plan that takes us toward Wrestlemania in Dallas.

After losing to Brock Lesnar at Hell in a Cell, The Undertaker is carried out by The Wyatt Family. After a speech from Bray on Raw, the same happens to Kane. Bray’s promo didn’t do much for me. We didn’t find out where they took Undertaker, or what exactly was done to him. It was just a lot of lip service about the demise of ‘Taker’s soul. Bray’s motivation here is rather obvious. The Undertaker beat him at Wrestlemania. Much like ‘Taker vs. Lesnar, it’s a simple revenge story that they’re overcomplicating.

Kane, Raw, October 26, 2015And now we’ve got Kane in the mix. Interestingly, after Hell in a Cell ended, Jim Ross tweeted about a possible match for Survivor Series featuring The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, & Sting. That’s a hell of an idea, assuming Sting is ready to get physical again. But I think a more likely main event would be Seth Rollins and The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and if not Sting then another babyface the WWE brass are fond of. Ryback comes to mind. That’d be a hell of a nod to the classic Survivor Series format, and it could tell a great story if The Undertaker is left standing alone against some of the Wyatts.

Tyler Breeze debuts on Smackdown alongside Summer Rae, appears at ringside during Dolph Ziggler’s match with Big E. It’s looking like Breeze is getting a strong start. He’s got Dolph Ziggler as his first opponent, so he’s bound to have some good matches. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s being paired with Summer Rae either.

Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015But you know who else got a strong start? Bo Dallas and Neville. And look where they are now. I don’t want to put a damper on Breeze’s debut, but when some of these guys (or girls) leave NXT, they get lost in the shuffle on Raw and simply become roster fillers. In some cases that’s their fault for not being able to make the most of their opportunities. But in other cases it’s WWE’s fault for simply not knowing how best to use some of these talents. Does Bo Dallas have what it takes to be a big star? Who knows. But they definitely could have made him into something more than a jobber.

So good luck, Breeze. You just might need it.

Paige turns on Charlotte and Becky Lynch following loss to Team Bella. So Paige is officially a heel now, finally finishing the rocky journey that started with her wannabe “Pipe Bomb” promo several weeks ago. The crowd still doesn’t seem to want to boo her entirely. I suspect a portion of the male audience will always be into what she does. But at least now they’ve got her acting like a full-fledged villain.

Kevin Owens, Cesaro, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015Kevin Owens def. Cesaro. The best thing Cesaro can do at this point is continue to have great matches. Like Dolph Ziggler, he must be so good that it’s impossible for WWE to ignore him. Allegedly, Vince McMahon finds him boring. Clearly, San Diego had a different opinion this week.

Stone Cold Steve Austin appears in backstage segment promoting WWE 2K16. Ugh. Why do they do this to us? Why create even the faintest glimmer of hope that somehow he’ll stay?

Six-Man Tally: 2

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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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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