New Day’s Rough Night, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Stone Cold Podcast, Vince McMahonBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week I stumbled across a story from StillRealToUs.com, titled: “Are Wrestling Podcasts More Interesting Than Wrestling Right Now?”

Sadly, the answer most weeks is yes. But there’s also no shortage of quality wrestling podcasts out there right now, by wrestling personalities and fans alike.

These are the shows I check out on a weekly basis. If you’re not listening to at least some of them, you’re missing out. Most of these come to you from PodcastOne or MLW Radio.

The Art of Wrestling, with Colt Cabana.
The Steve Austin Show
 The Ross Report
 Talk is Jericho
 The Jim Cornette Experience
Something to Wrestle, with Bruce Prichard
The Solomonster Sounds Off

WWE Raw, December 12, 2016, New DayPonderings From Raw:

The New Day def. Sheamus & Cesaro, and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. I loved the announcers saying that Anderson and Gallows might be the favorites to walk out with the belts. I’m pretty sure the only team those guys can beat is Golden Truth. The biggest surprise in this match is that Anderson didn’t take the losing fall.

Cesaro had that great little sequence where he downed everybody. He even does his own little version of a 619 nowadays. Apparently it’s called the “Swiss One Nine.” So much damn star power.

This seemed rather anti-climactic. Thankfully, as we found out, it wasn’t the end.

Braun Strowman def. Curtis Axel. After refusing once again to grant him a match with Strowman, Mick Foley offers to trade Sami Zayn to Smackdown. I like this story with Zayn and Foley. It makes sense, him being the compassionate GM and all. It’s interesting what some quality build-up will do. They could have thrown Zayn and Strowman together as a filler match on Raw, much like they did with Axel here. But now I actually want to see the two of them in the ring together.

Jack Gallagher interferes in an Ariya Daivari/Lince Dorado match. Gallagher announcing he was going to interfere in the match reminded me an Attitude Era moment with Edge and Christian. They were on commentary with JR and King, and said they were going to do a “run-in.” Funny stuff. Gallagher is starting to build some steam. He even got the crowd to chant “Scoundrel!”

Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, December 12, 2016Seth Rollins host “The Rollins Report,” with his guest Kevin Owens. Roman Reigns backs Rollins up against Owens and Jericho The main event is made. Just what we need. Another talk show segment.

I had a feeling the second tag title defense was coming. But I liked that. They’ve built this record up for weeks, and they milked it for all it was worth. It’s good storytelling.

We later got a backstage segment where Foley made the second tag title match with New Day, Owens, and Jericho a triple threat tag with Rollins and Reigns. They’ve needed to do some kind of backstage segment with the former Shield members for awhile now. Something where they flat out say they’ve got a common enemy, and aren’t getting back together. This was almost that segment. Every time those two are in the ring together it feels like a Shield reunion that isn’t happening.

Brian Kendrick def. TJ Perkins. Crowd was a little too quiet on this one for my taste. I was originally a Rich Swann skeptic. But he’s clearly taken Perkins’ spot as the top babyface in the Cruiserweight Division.

A video package airs hyping the final confrontation between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. The big takeaway from this segment is that the Roadblock match is the last match between these two. For now, at least. That’s what we desperately need from these two right now. Some damn closure.

WWE Roadblock 2016, Sasha Banks, Charlotte FlairIt’s looking like they’re going to give these two another pay per view main event. While I maintain that this feud has gone on too long, I say why the hell not? They’ve earned it. Especially if this really is their last one for awhile.

Bayley def. Alicia Fox. It was either going to be Alicia or Dana Brooke. And when it’s Bayley against either of those two, odds are Bayley is going to win. That’s the trouble with having so few women on your roster. This stuff gets easy to call.

Rusev and Big Cass brawl. These Rusev/Lana talking segments always go a little long for my taste. But maybe that’s the point. So it’s Big Cass and Rusev at Roadblock.

After advertising the debut of Emmalina, her debut is announced as “premiering soon.” The more they this off, the more it seems like they’re going to do a Brodus Clay type thing with Emmalina. He was hyped as this awful monster, but then came out as the Funkasaurus. Are they going to swerve us again with Emma? Or is she just stealing Eva Marie’s gimmick?

Speaking of Eva Marie…

Mick Foley grants Sami Zayn a 10-minute match against Braun Strowman at RoadblockSo what we had here between Foley and Zayn was a sort of mentor/student dynamic. I can dig that. The 10-minute stipulation is interesting. Does Zayn get anything if he wins?

WWE Raw, December 12, 2016, Sami Zayn, Mick FoleySo the thing that set Zayn off was when Foley suggested that trading him to Smackdown for Eva Marie would be an even swap. I wonder how the real-life Natalie Coyle feels about that.

The New Day def. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins to become the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history. That awful moment when you realize Roman Reigns has the chance to be the Universal Champion, United States Champion, and one half of the tag champs. Also, once of the announcers really should have noted that Reigns and Rollins were tag champs during their Shield days.

Mrs. Primary Ignition came in for this match. She’s got a very broad knowledge of pro wrestling. At one point she said, “I don’t even know who’s on the whose team.” A fair point. These multi-team matches can be confusing.

Nice touch having Xavier Woods wrestle in this match, as opposed to having Big E. and Kofi work both matches. It made sense, which is sometimes a lot to ask of this show.

The Philadelphia crowd was still tuckered out for much of this one. Such a shame. This was a big match. Congrats to the New Day. I think one of the reasons they’re so fun to watch is that the real-life friendship between them is so evident. Cameras don’t lie.

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

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

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponderings From Smackdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finn Balor Arrives, Charlotte and Sasha Kill It, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Dean Ambrose, WWE ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was really surprised to see Dean Ambrose get the win at Battleground. Rollins seemed like the favorite. But I’m not complaining. Ambrose’s win in the triple threat, in addition to his pinfall victory over Rollins on Smackdown, sends an important message: Dean Ambrose is a main event player, and a World Champion.

Ambrose was advertised for the Stone Cold Podcast in two weeks. That’s another strong endorsement. This guy also has quite a story. He apparently grew up in public housing, and dropped out of high school to train as a wrestler. I’d love to see Austin get into that with him.

The downside to all this? Ambrose isn’t going to be WWE’s only Heavyweight Champion for long…

Ponderings From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley announce the creation of the WWE Universal Championship. Seth Rollins to face winner of main event.  *sigh* Well, here we go. Two world titles again. More belts inevitably water things down. But oh well…

And my God, what an awful name. The Universal Championship? They’re basically saying: “Oh yeah? You’ve got a world champion? Well we’ve got a Universe champion! And the universe is bigger than the world!!!!” Give me break.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Finn Balor def. Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro to advance to the main event. I was really surprised to hear Cole run down Finn Balor’s resume, talking about the titles in IWGP, the NWA, and all that. JBL has done that kind sort of thing. But to hear it from Cole, who like it or not is the voice of the company, adds a certain weight. This sort of thing would never have happened as recently as three years ago. All this “new era” stuff is hokey. But it’s not entirely untrue.

Rusev and Kevin Owens worked well together in this match, developing a temporary partnership. They both have a good grasp on their personas, and were firmly in character. I have no desire to see them as a formal tag team. But if they were to team again in the near future, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.

It made sense for Balor to take this one. But I was rooting for Cesaro. As many of us saw, he cut a little “worked shoot” promo on the WWE Network after the draft, venting about his frustrations. There’s still time for them to capitalize on that. But tonight would have been the opportune time. At least he wasn’t pinned, unlike the damn United States Champion.

Nia Jax def. Britt Baker. A good ol’ fashioned enhancement match. Not thrilling to watch, per se. But it’s an effective start for Nia Jax.

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho, Sheamus, and Sami Zayn to advance to the main event. So I know I’ve said this before, and that I’m not the only one, but…can we please just turn Roman heel already? Let the long national nightmare end. You’ll never find a better, more organic time to turn him heel than now. The guy just came back from a drug policy violation, was pinned in his second straight pay per view main event, and the fans are still booing him!

And if you’re going to turn him heel, you won’t find a better opponent for him than Sami Zayn. The “Underdog from the Underground” garnered a lot of great sympathy as he was getting beat down by Reigns. But alas, Reigns is still a superhero.

Also, how hilarious was it wen Reigns went for the spear, and Jericho simply threw a kick and stopped him dead? Maybe I’m biased…

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson trash a New Day celebration. Corey Graves: “Gallows and Anderson aren’t concerned with balloons and cereal. They’re worried about checks and championships.” Great line.

That video package they aired for the New Day was delightfully cheesy. It seems like a long time ago that these guys were heels. And if there’s one team that’s fit to pop their positivity bubble, it’s Gallows & Anderson. Is this why they didn’t get a title match earlier in the year? Because they were waiting for Summerslam? That works for me.

Neville, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Neville def. Curtis Axel. So they’re calling Axel “Mr. Irrelevant” now? At least it’s factually accurate. How far he’s fallen since becoming a Paul Heyman guy.

The re-introduction of the Cruiserweight Division bodes well for Neville. The poor guy has zero personality. But he’s got incredible explosive athleticism. He can easily be the centerpiece to the whole thing.

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte to become the new WWE Women’s Champion. I found myself tempted to tune out a bit during this match. One would’ve thought they were saving Sasha’s win for Summerslam. But nope. Couldn’t.  They got me. I tip my hat to both these ladies. They’re truly great.

Charlotte’s flexibility is amazing. When Sasha got her in that straitjacket hold, the angle of her back was cringeworthy. And the double knees off the apron? Beautiful. We had a great story about the champion being in jeopardy. That is wrestling, folks.

These ladies scared the crap out of me twice in the span of about two minutes. On the subject of bent spines, Sasha’s landing after that dive to the outside was brutal. One can only wonder much adrenaline it takes to keep going after that. Then Charlotte goes for a moonsault on the outside, with only one person to catch her.

Sasha Banks, WWE Women's ChampionIt’s interesting that they switched the title tonight. I can only assume it was to create some extra buzz around Raw now that the brands are split. Either way, this was a long time coming. The fans have been ready for Sasha to take the top spot since she came up to the main roster at about this time last year. To say the very least, she deserves it.

The timing is interesting too, what with Bayley making her first main roster appearance last night as Sasha’s partner.

Corey Graves joins the Raw announce team. JBL moves to SmackdownGraves had a great first night. He felt more like a sports analyst, as opposed to JBL’s cowboy caricature. His time has finally come.

Braun Strowman wins an enhancement match. Braun Strowman is on his own now, which I’m afraid means we have to endure yet another generic giant. I actually would have preferred another attempt to make Erick Rowan a single.

Enzo & Cass def. The Shining Stars. Did Enzo & Cass skip some dialogue before the match? It seems like Cass jumped right to the “S.A.W.F.T.” catch phrase.

Finn Balor def. Roman Reigns to advance to SummerslamWell, so much for Balor being a cruiserweight. This is as big an endorsement of a new star as we’ve seen in a long time. In his first night on the main roster, Finn Balor beats the man who was (and perhaps still is) pegged to be the new face of the company. Balor is immediately established as a main event player, and a new star. Seth Rollins against Finn Balor at Summerslam? I’m in.

Finn Balor, WWE Raw, July 25, 2016Now the question becomes what to do with Roman Reigns. He’s obviously being de-emphasized for the time being. Say, I wonder what Sami Zayn is doing at Summerslam

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Finn Balor debuts. Sasha Banks wins the Women’s Title in an awesome match.

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

The Brock Lesnar Blunder, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFCBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a company as self conscious about their image as WWE.

You’ve got Brock Lesnar, who in addition to being a WWE star is one of the biggest attractions in MMA history, under contract. You allow him to have one more fight, and it becomes a huge mainstream news story. You find yourself with a huge opportunity to rub shoulders with an organization that has the mainstream attention and legitimacy you so desperately want. So what do you do?

If you’re WWE, you don’t even mention it on television. Not a promo, not a commercial, not a mention from the announcers. Not one word.

Then on top of that, Stephanie McMahon does an interview with Business Insider and says…

“We are not supporting the fight necessarily but…it’s not a competitor to us and the more that our superstars, that’s how we refer to our talent, the more they do outside of WWE, the more awareness it generates and the broader the audience can be that is then brought back into our properties. So we recognize the value of that.”

Stephanie McMahon, WWEDo you? Because you haven’t said a word about it on television. They’ve had weeks to figure something out. They couldn’t have slipped in a mention? Why even let Brock fight if you’re not going to use the extra exposure to your advantage? It’s downright bizarre.

By the way, Brock had the perfect response to Steph’s comment about “not supporting” the fight: “I don’t care what she thinks.”

Ponderings From Raw:

The show begins with a Fourth of July food fight. Honestly, to me the only thing interesting about this was that Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio were standing together when the segment started. Aren’t they still enemies?

Rusev def. Titus O’Neil to retain the United States Title. Did they have to dress Titus O’Neil like Uncle Sam? How hokey can you get…

“Go ahead, celebrate with your hamburgers and little weenies.” Great line. And the right result for this match. The dominant champion wins with his finisher.

Enzo & Cass interrupt the Social Outcasts, defeat Bo Dallos & Curtis Axel. The crowd didn’t react nearly as much as they should have to Enzo reciting all the presidents like that. Bob Backlund must be proud.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, CharlotteCharlotte and Sasha Banks come face to face once again. This was really good. Charlotte came off very natural, and every bit as conceited and self-centered as she needs to be. From a talking standpoint, Banks wasn’t as strong. But she still held her own. And of course, she came out on top in the end. They also didn’t stay out there too long. It took just the right amount of time. Lovely work from both ladies.

WWE Champion Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz. WWE should be careful about how they book Dean Ambrose while he has the title. He needs to look strong, and not like a fluke champion. Clearly, he’s not their first choice to be WWE Champion right now. But champion or not, Ambrose will be one of the top stars on Raw or Smackdown. Having him win the title was a great step toward establishing him not just as a player, but a major player. But they need to keep him strong. Putting him at the top of hour two isn’t the spot I’d have him. In a champion vs. champion match, no less.

Still, at least he won. I’m not a fan of champions getting pinned. But if somebody has to beat the Intercontinental Champion, the WWE Champion is the man to do it.

Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler. Steve Austin said on a podcast recently that one of the things wrong with Raw nowadays is there’s no continuing plot thread that holds the show together. They’re just throwing matches out there. That’s a great point, and one of the factors in the ratings plummeting for that third hour.

Seth Rollins vs. Dolph ZigglerThis match had backstory, at least. The idea was these guys may end up on different shows after the draft. So Ziggler wants to prove himself against Rollins just in case. Fair enough, but it would have been nice to see Dolph make that challenge. And of course he lost, because that’s what he does.

Also, Ziggler’s transformation into ’90s era Shawn Michaels is almost complete. He just needs to grow out his chest hair. Better get on that.

Vickie Guerrero returns, vies for Smackdown Chief Operating Officer job. You’ve got to give Vickie credit. Her mic skills weren’t rusty at all. She was never a great performer in the purist sense of the word. But she got more heat than most of the wrestlers she worked with.

So they’re not calling them general managers anymore. Instead, they’re chief operating officers. Isn’t that Triple H’s on-screen role? So what does he become now?

Golden Truth def. The Vaudevillians. Has anyone ever had that kind of “follow the bouncing ball” entrance before? Golden Truth might have made history tonight…

Hopefully The Vaudevillains will get a jumpstart when the roster splits. They may be getting TV time, but they’ve lost the cruel edge that set them apart. That’s not good news.

WWE Raw, July 4, 2016, AJ Styles, John CenaJohn Cena calls out The Club. Enzo & Cass come to his defense. A six-man tag is booked for BattlegroundStyles talked about Cena “burying” him again in this promo. At least tonight we got a bit of insight into what he means by that. He talked about the “powers that be” who didn’t want him in the company. The implication seems to be that Cena can get WWE to push Styles out of the title picture. I wish he’d just come out and say that already.

I wish The Club hadn’t done the whole mount and punch routine for so long during the beat down. The fact that Cena didn’t come up a bruised and bloody pulp crushes your suspense of disbelief like a bug.

So Enzo & Cass are aligned with Cena now. I’m not sure what that’ll do to them in the eyes of the Cena haters. But I’m interested to see how they match up with The Club.

Becky Lynch def. Summer Rae. Happy to see Becky and Natalya getting a pay per view match. They both absolutely deserve this time in the limelight. For that matter, so does Summer Rae. She’s been part of a few bad storylines. But she’s a good performer, and can be a solid asset to whatever show she’s on after the draft.

The Wyatt Family, WWE Raw, July 4, 2016The Wyatt Family invites The New Day to their compound. This has turned out to be the feud I never knew I wanted. The whole positivity vs. darkness story really works.

I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get a confrontation at the Wyatt Family compound. It seems like a no-brainer to me, and maybe an opportunity to learn more about who these guys are. This would be a cool selling point for Battleground.

The Big Show and Zack Ryder survive a “Team USA vs. The World” elimination tag match. An utterly skippable main event. Why not put this at the top of the first hour, instead of the damn WWE Champion? On the plus side, WWE seems to have embraced Zack Ryder as their new resident underdog. That’s not a bad spot to be in. I just wish we hadn’t had to sit through this match for his latest feel-good moment.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: NONE.

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

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

Roman Reigns, AJ Styes, Lingering Questions, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Fully Loaded 1998By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been listening to Vince Russo’s podcast lately. For those who don’t know him, Russo was a writer for WWE during the “Attitude Era.” He also wrote for WCW during its final days, and TNA for much of its existence. I definitely don’t agree with everything his says, i.e. his pitch for Sami Zayn to be portrayed as a former cab driver. But he’s got a unique perspective on the industry.

Last week, he talked about the go-home Raw for WWF Fully Loaded in 1998. The main event for the pay per view was Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Undertaker against Kane & Mankind. The story was about whether Undertaker and Kane were secretly working together, and if Austin was walking into a trap. One of the things Russo mentioned was the questions that were thrown at viewers. Was The Undertaker aligned with Kane? If so, what would become of Austin? And what about Mankind? Would an alliance mean victory for Vince McMahon?

It had never occurred to me how important questions are in a big wrestling storyline. They invite the viewer in, and generate intrigue. Fittingly, we’ve got a lot of questions heading into the main event of Payback this weekend. Is AJ Styles working with Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows? If so, will they cost Roman Reigns the title? Will The Usos play a role at all?

If this is indeed a “new era” for Raw, WWE (the announcers in particular) needs to pose more questions to the audience. The Attitude Era wasn’t just about foul language and sex appeal. There were some great stories told. In the end, that’s really what we’re here for, isn’t it? They’d do well to remember that this Sunday.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Vince McMahon to decide who’s running Raw at PaybackHopefully this will strictly be between the McMahons, as I’m keen for Triple H to stay off TV for awhile longer. For that matter, I’m keen for Stephanie to do the same. This Authority have been doing the same thing for two and a half years. We need a break. I’m not sure how they’ll rationalize giving the show to Shane, considering he lost to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. But as we’ve seen, ration isn’t WWE’s strong point…

AJ Styles def. Sheamus. This one went on a hair too long for me. But it did what it was designed to do. They kept AJ strong heading into his title match at Payback, and they furthered the intrigue with Anderson & Gallows. I can’t complain.

The New Day, The Vaudevillians, and Enzo & Cass share a ring. I was glad to hear Aiden English say the line about The Vaudevillians representing a better, bygone era. He said it on Smackdown as well. Like many wrestlers on the main roster, they didn’t get a great introduction on television. At least not on Raw. So we needed to know why these guys are dressed in those costumes. My money is on them winning at Payback.

That pop Enzo & Cass got was great. The luster isn’t off these guys yet, and hopefully it won’t be for quite some time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows def. The Usos. Did anybody catch that line from Michael Cole about Anderson & Gallows being “part of a club” in Japan? I guess they’re not allowed to say Bullet Club, even though that’s what everybody’s thinking. The fans were even chanting “Bullet Club!” tonight.

It had been several years since I’d seen Gallows wrestle, and I’d never seen Anderson in the ring. Gallows’ agility and his striking came off well here, as did what we saw of Anderson’s leaping ability. Not a thrilling match, per se. But again, it did what it needed to do for the larger story.

It’ll be interesting to see if and how The Usos’ role evolves here. As unlikely as it is, If Reigns does indeed turn this Sunday, we could see an interesting role reversal. Think about a six-man tag featuring Roman Reigns, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows against AJ Styles and The Usos. I’m not enamored with six-man tags, but I’d watch it.

A Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens retrospective video airs. Zayn is attacked by Owens after a win over Rusev. I loved this. It should have been done weeks ago. This Zayn/Owens rivalry is something WWE can go back to a number of times in the years to come, because it has depth to it. And tonight we finally got to see some of that.

Rusev, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, April 25, 2016Lana was with Rusev on Raw for the first time in quite awhile. I can only assume they wanted to avoid fans chanting for her during segments with the League of Nations. But they’re a good combo, and it’s good to see them back together. Also, does Rusev look leaner to anyone else?

Apollo Crews def. Stardust. This match had a surprisingly good backstory. That stuff about Dusty Rhodes helping Apollo out in NXT could have been great material for a larger story with Stardust. He could have been Crews’ first pay per view opponent. The announcers said Crews dedicates every match to Dusty. If you were Cody Rhodes, how would you react to that?

Chris Jericho comes out on top after Dean Ambrose calls him out. One of the great things about Dean Ambrose is that he’s not just great on the mic, he’s different on the mic.  His rhythms, his cadence, and his whole demeanor are unlike anyone else in the industry. He may not have come out on top here, but he’s a hell of a player. I maintain he deserves a shot at that top babyface spot.

Natalya def. Emma. Was the crowd chanting “We want Lana!” during this match? If so, that really sucks. These ladies didn’t have a lot of time, but what they gave us was pretty good. Emma has definitely improved from a charisma standpoint. But there’s still room for improvement. I hope we see more of her on Raw. The more time she works on this heel persona, the better she’ll get.

Chyna memorial graphic, WWEWWE airs tribute to Joanie Laurer, a.k.a. Chyna. This was classy. It doesn’t make up for WWE more or less blacklisting Chyna after she left the company. But it was a nice video. Chyna’s autobiography was called If They Only Knew. But when you see how much love and respect Laurer had from her peers, what comes to mind is, if only she knew.

Dolph Ziggler ambushes Baron Corbin before his match. Whatever Ziggler and Corbin did was secondary. Because before the ambush took place, we got a few seconds of DAMIEN SANDOW on Raw. Last year he was one of the most over guys on the roster. Now? We’re lucky if we even see him on TV. And of course, he didn’t even get to wrestle. What a damn rib.

The Miz runs down the Cesaro Section, nearly goes for the big swing. Miz’s promo started off rocky. But once he started talking about the Intercontinental Title and the so-called nerds in the Cesaro section, he really got on a role. I’m almost sorry Cesaro had to interrupt. I’m a Cesaro fan, but his end of this segment came off heavily scripted. Still, practice makes perfect, I suppose…

Roman Reigns def. Alberto Del Rio. Anderson & Gallows attack Reigns after the match. Reigns and AJ Styles trade blows. I’ve been meaning to say this for awhile: “The Phenomenal Forearm” is a dumb name for a finisher. Was that really the best they could do?

Okay, so it’s obviously not going to be Styles, Gallows, and Anderson teaming up at Payback. So if Roman isn’t turning heel, then what? Let’s ponder that, shall we? Been keeping up with NXT lately…?

Samoa Joe, NXT ChampionSamoa Joe wins the NXT Championship from Finn Balor at an NXT house show. This was a huge surprise, obviously. WWE hasn’t done something like this in years. Why do this on a house show rather than a Takeover special? No idea. Perhaps that will be revealed in time. This does open Balor up for a main roster spot, presumably to do something with his old Bullet Club buddies Anderson and Gallows. Personally, I think he’s got at least a little time left with NXT. But I expect to see him on the main roster sooner rather than later. If Reigns isn’t the third man in WWE’s version of the Bullet Club, the smart bet is on Balor.

WWE announces John Cena’s return for the Memorial Day edition of RawThis is definitely good news, especially with Bray Wyatt falling victim to the injury plague. Cena is the biggest star of his generation, and WWE is dying for some star power right now.

Image 1 from onlineworldofwrestling.com. Image 6 from whatculture.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A Wrestlemania 32 Preview – Pushing For Overachievement

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is not what WWE wanted to do for Wrestlemania.

John Cena. Randy Orton. Seth Rollins. Sting. Bray Wyatt (allegedly). Cesaro. Luke Harper. Neville. They’re all out with injuries, leaving a series of gaping holes in the roster at a time when WWE was hoping to put on the biggest Wrestlemania of all time.

What’s more, creative has been a mess. Fans refuse to accept Roman Reigns as the lead babyface, and have been booing him week after week. Considering he’s wrestling for the WWE Championship on this show, that’s a huge problem. To make matters worse, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, two of the biggest stars in the history of the industry, are going to be on this show. But we have no idea what they’re doing.

Simply put, the bar has been set low this year. We’ve been left with a Wrestlemania that we can only hope exceeds our low expectations. Thankfully, considering the quality of the product as of late, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full disclosure: I’ve lost track of what is and isn’t on the pre-show. Considering we never know what could be taken off or put on the pre-show, we’ll simply proceed from the bottom of the card…

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 2016ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

We may as well pick a name out of a hat in this one. In the last two Andre Battle Royals, there’s been an obvious up and coming talent to give the win to. In 2014 it was Cesaro. It 2015 it was Damien Sandow. Granted, Sandow didn’t get it. But who would benefit from winning this year? There are 20 men in this thing, and we know 16 of them. I can only assume two of those free spots will be filled by Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman. Assuming they don’t pull a fast one and have somebody from NXT take it (which I’d be in favor of), I say we go with a pitch The Solomonster gave months ago, and have Mark Henry take it. This will likely be one of his last go-arounds, and it’d make for a feel good moment worthy of Wrestlemania. So given the amount of information we have, I’ve got to go with Henry.

PREDICTION: Mark Henry

Divas Tag Team Match, Wrestlemania XXXIILana, Summer Rae, Naomi, Tamina, & Emma vs. Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox & Eva Marie 

More or less a filler match for the ladies, which is a shame considering we have potentially the best women’s match Wrestlemania has seen in years later on the card. Who wins? It really doesn’t matter. But considering Brie Bella is allegedly retiring sooner than expected, I imagine her team will pick up the win here.

PREDICTION: Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Dudley Boyz, The UsosThe Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

This program has been good for the Usos. The Dudleys, Bubba in particular, or such vile and nasty heels that Jimmy and Jey have needed to crank up the intensity to match them. The best comparison I can think of is when Shawn Michaels worked with Mankind in September 1996. Hopefully these four get a bigger spotlight once there’s more room on Raw after Wrestlemania. As for this match, I see Bubba and D-Von picking up the win. It’s the Dudleys’ first Wrestlemania since their return, and they deserve it. Plus, the Usos will look good on the comeback trail. That is, assuming they stay babyface… (More on that later.)

PREDICTION: The Dudley Boyz

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Ryback, KalistoWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

Frankly, I’d have preferred to see the US Title get the multi-man match, while Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn went at it for the Intercontinental Title. But here we are. While I wouldn’t expect this one to go long, being in a singles match for a title is unquestionably a big moment in the careers of both Kalisto and Ryback. As for who wins, WWE clearly sees potential in Ryback. Perhaps not as much as they used to, but they obviously like him. So I’m putting my money on “The Big Guy” getting a big win. Hopefully Kalisto remains a contender, though. I maintain he can be a big international star in the same vein as Rey Mysterio Jr.

PREDICTION: Ryback

The New Day vs. The League of Nations, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIThe New Day vs. The League of Nations

The cool thing about this match is the Dallas crowd should be firmly in The New Day’s corner. On a night where we’ve got two big babyface vs. babyface matches, and a main event where the hero isn’t going to be cheered, that’s a big plus. I don’t see why Kofi, Big E., and Xavier shouldn’t retain here. Crowds love them, and they’ve just starting their babyface turn. While WWE may want you to think they’ve got a hot rivalry going with the League of Nations, in reality it’s just something for the League to do on the card. Hopefully this is one of their last go-arounds as a group. After this match, we shouldn’t have anything to be sour about.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, StardustLADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:

Another year, another ladder match for the IC Title. As I’ve said before, from a booking standpoint matches like this are often devoid of any creativity. They simply threw seven guys into a ladder match. Hell, Zack Ryder allegedly replaced Neville in this match, and it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference from a story perspective. I rest my case. I’m sure it’ll be a fun match to watch. But man, what a waste…

For my money, this match comes down to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Everybody else is just there to fill space. The Owens/Zayn rivalry is seriously lacking depth right now, but that’s an easy problem to fix. They can simply slap a video package together the way they did with The Undertaker and Shane McMahon last week. And just like that, they up the intrigue. I see Owens retaining here, somehow screwing Zayn over in the end. After that, they can get at least another two months out of rematches.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIChris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

This is the fourth time we’ll have seen these two wrestle since January, so the pressure is on them to pull something fresh out of the hat. On the upside, you’ll rarely find two men more qualified to do that. To Jericho’s credit, he’s dedicated most of his 2016 run to making AJ Styles a star in WWE. How Styles will fare without Jericho helping him remains to be seen (no disrespect). But for now, things are looking up for Styles, as he’s all but guaranteed to get a victory at his first Wrestlemania. And the smart bet is that his won’t suffer the same fate as Fandango after his ‘Mania bout with Jericho.

I’d love to see Jericho stick around a little while as we head into Spring, especially now that he’s a heel again. One would be hard pressed to find a wrestler who wouldn’t benefit from some ring time with him.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky LynchTRIPLE THREAT MATCH FOR WWE DIVAS TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

I’m conflicted on this one. Becky Lynch has really taken off as a babyface since January. For yours truly, she’s a sentimental favorite in this match, and a title win would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

On the other hand, Sasha Banks is looked at by many as the woman who could truly stamp this as a new era for women’s wrestling. I’ve even seen reports WWE is rebranding the Divas Title in favor of the Women’s Title after Wrestlemania, with Sasha holding the belt. So in the bigger picture, a win for Sasha may be more important.

But…couldn’t Becky bring back the Women’s Title just as easily? From a character standpoint, I think she’s actually more developed than Sasha is. And for the record, I’m a Sasha Banks fan.

But in truth, regardless of who wins here, the fans are winners. That’s a cliche, but it’s true. We’re getting three quality female wrestlers competing for a championship at the biggest show of the year. In the end, I think Sasha will end up with the belt. But it could truly end up being any of these talented ladies.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Dean Ambrose, Brock LesnarSTREET FIGHT:
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

I know they’re hyping this as a “No Holds Barred Street Fight.” But isn’t a street fight by it’s very nature no holds barred? Who even uses wrestling holds in a street fight?

To my recollection, Brock Lesnar hasn’t been pinned since Triple H beat him at Wrestlemania XXIX. That was three years ago. If Brock loses here, it’s not the end of the world. What’s more, they can have him loses in a way that barely hurts him at all. WWE has had Ambrose ponder the use of a barbed wire baseball bat and a chainsaw against this guy. How much more of a monster can you build him up as?

What’s more, Ambrose is the right guy to win this match. He is ascending, and truly on his way to becoming a top guy. Paul Heyman even said it in his promo on Monday. A win over a mega attraction like Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania could truly catapult him to the next level. At a time where they desperately need new stars, the time is now to give a huge win to someone that the fans favor organically. Dean Ambrose is that guy.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Undertaker, Shane McMahonSTIPULATION HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
If Shane wins, he gets control of Raw, and Undertaker can never compete at Wrestlemania again.

Talk about coming WAY out of left field. They slapped this one together pretty hastily, but what choice did they have? WWE hasn’t been bit by the injury bug, it’s been infected with an injury plague. But as far as thrown together Wrestlemania attractions are concerned, this one is pretty damn good. But the question is, can it live up to the hype? And there’s certainly no shortage of hype between Shane’s return, the possibility of a much needed shake up on Raw, and The Undertaker competing in a Hell in a Cell Match at Wrestlemania.

I expect no shortage of craziness here. Vince and Stephanie will likely be at ringside. Shane is probably taking a crazy bump of some kind. We may see action outside the cage, and perhaps even on top. Maybe this is where Steve Austin fits into things. Perhaps a run-in and a Stone Cold Stunner to lead into the finish?

Regardless of what’s on the line in this match, I truly have no desire to see The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania again. I understand his winning streak has been broken, and that beating him wouldn’t have nearly the amount of impact it did two years ago. But he’s still The Undertaker, and this is still Wrestlemania. Changing things on Raw doesn’t necessitate Shane being in the picture, though I admit that would certainly be a plus. Furthermore, who’s to say Shane can’t end up being in charge of Raw anyway? He supposedly has a big secret over Vince’s head, right? What if that secret comes out the night after Wrestlemania, and Triple H and Stephanie resign in its wake, leaving Vince with no choice but to make Shane the new General Manager of Raw?

Either way, there’s a strong possibility that this match steals the show. Or at the very least, proves to be a worthwhile substitute for the presence of all the stars on the injured list…

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Triple H, Roman ReignsWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

We’ve had some lame duck Wrestlemania main events in the past. But it’s tough to point to any headline match that’s been as in over it’s head as this one. This match represents a year’s worth of effort by WWE to turn Roman Reigns into the company’s top babyface. Simply put? It didn’t work. Now they’ve got him against Triple H, WWE’s tyrannical on-screen authority figure/WWE Champion, and the fans have been cheering for the tyrant.

Ouch.

Simply put, you can’t force-feed a hero to to your audience. Even if you’re Vince McMahon. They really have nobody to blame but themselves for all those boos Roman is going to hear in Dallas. I honestly feel for the guy. It’s not his fault. He’s got his marching orders. What’s he supposed to do? Say no to a Wrestlemania main event, and the top spot in the company?

It’s been said time and time again, but it bears repeating now more than ever: Roman needs to turn heel. They’ve been ducking and dodging it for months now. But unless they’re comfortable with their alleged top babyface being booed out of arenas across the country, the fans need to be allowed to hate him Roman Reigns. And like any heel who is good at what he does, eventually he’ll be cheered.

Roman Reigns, The RockThis needs to be a double turn. Vince McMahon sides with Roman Reigns and costs Triple H the match. This leads to Roman becoming our new heel champion, possibly with The Usos as his run-in buddies. From there, he can feud with the likes of Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, or whichever babyfaces they want to put him with. WWE is desperate for strong heels right now, and nobody is getting more heat than Reigns. The time has come to stop going against the grain.

I can only assume The Rock will play some kind of role in this match. One sure fire way to get heat? Turn on the People’s Champion. I’m just sayin’.

In any event, whether he’s a heel or a babyface, I don’t see any way Reigns doesn’t leave Dallas with the title. Let’s just hope it’s under the right circumstances.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Roman Reigns to Rumble, Chris Jericho Returns (Again), and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, January 4, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Roman Reigns def. Sheamus. Vince McMahon announces Reigns will defend WWE Championship in Royal Rumble Match. On paper, this Royal Rumble thing is awesome. It changes the chemistry of the Rumble Match completely. This is bound to draw comparisons to the 1992 Rumble Match, when Flair won the title. But now we actually have an active champion defending his title in the Rumble, which has never been done before. And if WWE does want to take the title off of Reigns, this allows them to do it without him losing much face.

They can also pack the Rumble with a lot of big names, and dangle the very real possibility of a title change. We know Big Show is in the match, though apparently not number one, as he seemed to indicate last week. I can only assume Brock Lesnar’s return next week will involve him announcing his entrance into the match. I can only assume John Cena will participate. They can even throw The Undertaker in there…

Roman Reigns,  January 4, 2016My question is, what if we get to the Rumble and the fans aren’t behind Reigns? If Brock is in there, they’re bound to side with him. God help them if fans hijack the Rumble for the third year in a row. And whatever they do, they’d better not mention Daniel Bryan’s name. At all. Like, for the entire month.

Also, it must be said that Jason Solomon over at The Solomonster Sounds Off pitched this weeks ago. One of my favorite podcasts, by far.

As far as the match went, it was classic Stone Cold/Attitude Era storytelling. The lead babyface against the ref who won’t count. But in the end, the babyface gets the win. Reigns doesn’t act like Stone Cold, but he’s benefitting from a lot of the same stories Austin did. And of course, the crowd wasn’t even half as hot as the crowds in those days.

Chris Jericho returns to Raw, interrupting The New Day. It’s always nice to see Chris Jericho. But my God, what was the deal with that vest? It made him look like he had a gut. And Chris Jericho does not have a gut. He does DDP Yoga!

Chris Jericho, Raw, January 4, 2016The point of this segment was to announce Jericho’s involvement in the Royal Rumble Match. Now that the title is on the line in the match, the more big name stars they can throw into that match, the more credence it has as perhaps the most must-see Rumble in years. It would be nice for Jericho to stick around until Wrestlemania. But even if he doesn’t, he serves a valuable purpose.

Becky Lynch grabs the tights to get a win over Charlotte. So wait…last week Sasha Banks, a heel, beats Becky with a handful of tights, but the announcers can’t be bothered to mention it. Now this week, Becky beats Charlotte with a handful of tights, and they do acknowledge it. I get what they were doing here with the whole “fighting fire with fire” thing. And if they’re trying to correct last week’s mistake, then good for them. I doubt that’s the case, though. Simply put, it’s backwards to point out when a babyface cheats, but totally ignore it when a heel cheats.

WWE Raw, January 4, 2016, Becky Lynch, CharlotteI’m on the fence about Ric Flair being at ringside with his daughter every week. He’s one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen. He’s always going to overshadow her on some level. I get that they’re going for a “Daddy’s Girl” type character with Charlotte now. But we understand that Charlotte is Flair’s daughter without him having to physically be there with her every week. Wouldn’t it be more effective for Ric to be with her strictly on special occasions?

Kevin Owens def. Neville, gets elbow dropped through a table by Dean Ambrose. Ambrose came off surprisingly white meat on commentary for this one. It was nice that he put over Neville as well as he did, though.

Kevin Owens continues to be the best heel WWE has. I’ll give Michael Cole and the announcers some credit here, as they told the story about Owens being bitter about losing the title to Ambrose, and beating up Neville as a result. They also gave us a nice image with Ambrose next to Owens on the crushed table. This isn’t a hot feud, necessarily. But the talent of the players involved makes it very intriguing.

WWE Raw, January 4, 2016Titus O’Neil def. Stardust. Obviously, they’re aiming to push Titus as a single star again. But this time they seem to have the right idea, pushing him as a babyface, as opposed to a heel. Titus is extremely likable and charismatic. This feels much more organic.

Heath Slater def. Dolph Ziggler with help from Curtis Axel, Adam Rose, and Bo Dallas. I’m happy for Heath Slater, and for the contingent of fans that have wanted this for him for quite some time. But damn…Dolph Ziggler. This guy is still one of the most dynamic, charismatic performers they have. And he just lost to Heath Slater, and his newest group of jobbers. Terrible. Just terrible.

So we’ve got this new group, the Social Outcasts. We’ve also got the League of Nations and The New Day. That’s a lot of heel factions, and it seems like one of them’s got to go. My vote is for the League of Nations.

In Other News:

AJ StylesWWE reportedly signs AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson away from New Japan Pro Wrestling to compete on NXT. For hardcore fans, this is huge news. Especially in the case of AJ Styles, who is arguably the best wrestler in the world right now, and the biggest name in wrestling never to sign with WWE.  Long time WWE fans will also remember Doc Gallows from his previous run as Festus/Luke Gallows. I hate to admit that I’m pretty ignorant about Nakamura and Anderson, though I’ve heard wonderful things about the former.

This will undoubtedly be a huge shot in the arm for NXT, and hopefully allow names like Finn Balor and Samoa Joe to move up to the main roster in the near future.

Image 6 from pwpix.net. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Raw Ratings Decline, Buff Bagwell, and Other Wrestling-Related Ponderings

Stone Cold Steve Austin, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’re a little bit further from Raw this week. So we’re broadening our horizons a little bit…

Steve Austin talks WWE being “very constricted.” Stone Cold Steve Austin, perhaps the biggest star in wrestling history, recently told FOX Sports that he feels for the talent in the WWE system right now, because of how constricted it is. While he said he didn’t mean to bash the current product, he commented that it’s a “very rigid system and it’s very political.”

Hey man, you don’t have to tell us. It’s pretty damn obvious if you watch the product. It’s also pretty damn obvious if you look at the ratings, which sank to yet another all-time low this week.

There isn’t one specific thing that’s causing the ratings drop. You can blame it on the annual autumn slump, the three-hour format, scripted promos, the wrestlers’ inability to connect with the audience due to some of those constrictions Austin mentioned. But if I had to pick one specific thing to point to, it would be WWE trying to fight with their audience yet again.

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIIt’s not just about Roman Reigns, and WWE’s struggle to get fans to accept him as a top guy. That’s a major part of it, but it goes beyond that. It’s WWE’s refusal to adapt to things that happen organically in an attempt to give viewers what they want. Case in point: The Daniel Bryan situations that have developed during the past two Wrestlemania seasons. Fans were clamoring to see Bryan in a top spot. But WWE needed to have it’s proverbial arm twisted to make it happen at Wrestlemania XXX, and last year they simply dug their feet in and said no.

Whether intentional or not, the message WWE has been sending fans for the past several years is: “We decide who the stars are, not you.” And that takes a lot of the fun out of wrestling. While we’re clamoring for guys like Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, and Damien Sandow to get a fair shake, WWE is digging their feet in with the likes of Roman Reigns, The Bella Twins, and even long-established stars like The Big Show and Kane. I’m not taking anything away from the talent those individuals have. But isn’t listening to your audience an integral part of being any kind of entertainment company? We demand, you supply. But for the past several years, most of our demands seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The WWE machine may have gotten behind Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena, but it was the fans that made them stars to begin with. If you take that element of democracy and audience satisfaction away, then what’s the point of tuning in to begin with?

Based on how ratings have looked lately, it seems I’m not the first person that has occurred to.

Buff BagwellBuff Bagwell: “Jim Ross ruined my career.” On the subject of Austin, he spoke to Marcus Bagwell, a.k.a. Buff Bagwell, on last week’s episode of The Steve Austin Show Unleashed. Among the highlights was Bagwell blaming Jim Ross for ruining his career, spreading a story about his mother calling off some live events for him, and refusing to rehire him after he was released from WWE in 2001.

Bagwell seemed to be in pretty good spirits during the interview, which is nice. But I think it’s rare that one person is entirely responsible for ruining someone else’s career. Plenty has been said about Bagwell’s backstage demeanor at both WWE and WCW. While I’m sure not all of it is true, that much smoke means there’s usually fire of some kind. And I’m sure that disastrous WCW main event between Bagwell and Booker T didn’t help matters.

By the time this comes out, I’m sure JR will have responded via his own podcast. But in the end, what good did it do Bagwell to throw a beloved wrestling announcer under the bus like that?

Ponderings From Raw:

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns officially announced for Survivor Series. Happy to hear this is taking place at Survivor Series, as opposed to TLC. I imagine we will indeed see these two in a TLC match in December, but it’ll be a Survivor Series rematch. I don’t see any reason why Rollins shouldn’t carry the belt to Wrestlemania at this point. Why not? Last year Rollins stole the title in the main event, so this year let’s have Reigns or Brock Lesnar get revenge.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 2, 2015Bray Wyatt claims to have “harvested the souls” of The Undertaker and Kane. The Wyatt Family look stronger than ever. When you look at Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman standing behind Bray Wyatt on TV, it’s believable that these guys could run roughshod over the entire roster.

But here’s the bad news. This promo about “harvesting souls” or whatever, really didn’t mean anything. So Bray has inherited ‘Taker and Kane’s magic pyro powers? What a load of crap. And the thing is, Bray’s delivery was still solid. So had he actually been talking about something that connected, this would have been a great promo.

The Usos return to action, join Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Ryback to defeat Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and The New Day in the main event. There’s your tag team title match for Survivor Series, right there. If WWE is smart (which is debatable), they’ll extend a program between The Usos and The New Day through the end of the year. But much like Rollins, I don’t see any reason to take the gold off The New Day before Wrestlemania.

Sin Cara, Sheamus, Raw, October 2, 2015The Lucha Dragons def. Sheamus & Wade Barrett. Putting Sheamus and Wade Barrett together as a tag team was a smart idea. Both of them were floundering as singles, but together they make a pretty formidable addition to the tag team division.

I’m pleased to see The Lucha Dragons being re-emphasized. For my money, if WWE wanted to look for new Hispanic stars, they didn’t need to throw a bunch of money at Alberto Del Rio. If Sin Cara and Kalisto were pushed in the right way, they could easily have appealed to that demographic until WWE found a new singles star. Hell, they may not have had to look far. Kalisto fits that Rey Mysterio mold. And he can do things in the ring that Rey hasn’t been able to do in years.

Paige def. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Brie Bella to become the top contender for Charlotte’s Divas Championship. This match was more about the journey than the destination. The story surrounding the Divas Title is obviously about Charlotte and Paige right now. I was pleased to see Sasha and Becky get some mic time here. Becky in particular, as she’s largely been overshadowed by Charlotte. Some time on her own would do her good.

Also, a memo to Brie Bella: Please refrain from shouting “Brie Mode!” during your matches. Brie Mode is not a thing. It never will be. Thank you.

Image 1 from theslanted.com. Image 2 from flairultra.tumblr.com. Remaining 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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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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