Posted in Wrestling

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.

Posted in Wrestling

Seth Rollins Strikes Gold? Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 18, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s do things a little different this week, and jump right to the main event. We had our WWE Championship Match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, which ended in a double pin. Stephanie McMahon, the Commissioner of Raw, announced Rollins as the winner. But Shane, the Commissioner of Smackdown, was clearly on Ambrose’s side.

After Raw went off the air, Ambrose was confirmed to still be the WWE Champion. Frankly, that’s a surprise, considering they continued to play up Rollins’ comeback story. They even made a point to mention a web site (Bleacher Report?) making him the number one pick in a fantasy draft. Signs seemed to point to him. Either way, I expect him to win the match at Battleground.

So here we go. This opens the door for both become the champions of their respective brands. Tomorrow night in the draft, Stephanie picks Rollins as her top draft choice, and Shane picks Ambrose for Smackdown.

Like a lot of purists, I’m not a fan of there being two world champions. In the end, every other singles title ends up watered down. Plus, the Raw title inevitably ends up being the important one anyway. And isn’t it convenient that this disputed finish just happens to occur on the show before the draft?

Still, dumb ending aside this turned out to be a pretty good show, with two returns to punctuate things…

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Daniel BryanPonderings From WWE Raw:

Mick Foley named General Manager of Raw. Daniel Bryan named General Manager of SmackdownFoley is a surprise pick. I can only assume this choice has to do with the soon to be released Holy Foley reality show on the WWE Network. Either way, Mick is one of the best mic guys that company has ever had, and hopefully he’ll create some magic on Monday nights.

The love that the fans still have for Daniel Bryan blows me away sometimes. And it all happened so organically. He’s like the anti-Roman Reigns in that sense. Bryan’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Cruiserweight Division to launch on RawHere you go. This is where a lot of those guys from the Cruiserweight Classic will go. Here’s hoping they don’t lose interest in it after a few years. The WWE’s incarnation of the cruiserweight division was a joke for the last few years of its existence. It was a mercy killing when it finally ended.

Sami Zayn & Cesaro def. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens. On the subject of mercy killings, one of the upsides to this Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens rivalry likely ending is we won’t have to see that awful punching spot they do. I really enjoy them both, but they do it every week and it looks just as awful now as it did the first time.

WWE Raw, July 18, 2016, Darren Young, Bob BacklundDarren Young def. Alberto Del Rio. So the story with Young is that he wins by accident. I can see Young possibly getting a similar win, and the title, at Battleground. Miz can contest to extend the program, with Young ultimately getting a legit win in the end. Of course, they could just be playing this up for comedy.

Sometimes I wonder how Del Rio feels about the way things have gone for him since he came back. He’s a multiple time champion, and was one of the hottest free agents in the business when they re-signed him. Now he’s just another guy on the roster. Though I suppose having Paige on your arm must help matters.

The Club & The Wyatt Family def. John Cena, Enzo, Big Cass, & The New Day. The in-ring segment before this match was a lot of fun. Lots of different energies and personalities in there, and the crowd ate it up. For the most part, Enzo was on fire. The fun they had in the skit definitely carried into the match.

Somehow I hadn’t connected the dots about there being two six-man tags at Battleground. Does that hurt the show? Maybe. One way they could differentiate them a bit is to have The New Day put the tag belts on the line. I don’t expect them to break Big E, Kofi, and Xavier up. They’ve got a really good thing going with those three, and there’s gas left in the tank. I don’t mean to compare the two groups, but they broke The Shield up too soon, and they don’t want to make the same mistake with The New Day. The Wyatts, on the other hand…

Seth Rollins, WWE Monday Night Raw, July 18, 2016Seth Rollins cuts a promo in the empty arena before the show. Dean Ambrose does a Shield-style promo with a handheld camera. Any time they do something different like this, it’s a good thing. They could easily have put Rollins backstage with Renee Young and had him looking off-camera, reciting his lines. Ditto for Ambrose. But they opted to do something unique. Well done, WWE.

Baron Corbin def. Sin Cara. Apparently The Lucha Dragons aren’t a tag team anymore. Why they opted not to break them up via the draft doesn’t make sense to me. They always play up how teams could be broken up by being drafted to different shows. So why not break them up that way? You also had Kalisto come out to save Sin Cara from a post-match beatdown.

With the cruiserweight division announced for Raw, I imagine we’ll see Kalisto on that show. Corbin will likely be there as well. As he’s no longer teaming with Kalisto, this likely means Sin Cara is Smackdown bound.

Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch def Charlotte & Dana Brooke via disqualification after an attack by Natalya. My guess is they’re setting up this Natalya/Becky Lynch program for one show, and the Charlotte/Sasha one for the other. I was hoping they’d have one Women’s Champion to appear on both Raw and Smackdown. But in light of this situation with the WWE Title, that seems unlikely. The whole division is likely to suffer as a result. Damn…

WWE Battleground 2016, Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Sasha BanksSasha has a mystery partner against Charlotte and Dana at Battleground. Assuming they don’t opt to have Sasha go it alone, this seems like the perfect opportunity to bring Bayley up. She’s likely being drafted anyway, and this is her opening. We’d better get ready for some wacky arm flailing inflatable tube men!

Rusev & Sheamus def. Dolph Ziggler & Zack Ryder. I still can’t get over this push Zack Ryder is getting. In a match that included two former world champions and a monster heel, Ryder came out last. I don’t expect him to win the belt at Battleground, but you never know.

In Other News:

Brock Lesnar flagged for potential anti-doping policy violation prior to UFC 200I’m betting this turns out to be a false alarm. Lesnar reportedly passed multiple drug tests before the fight. Guilty or not, in the wake of Roman Reigns’ Wellness Policy violation, this is a headache WWE doesn’t need. Here’s hoping this is resolved quickly, and we can focus on Lesnar vs. Randy Orton at Summerslam.

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Posted in Wrestling

Brock Lesnar’s Victory, The Final Deletion, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brock Lesnar, UFC 200By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Very happy to see Brock Lesnar get the win over Mark Hunt. The doubters weren’t totally justified in questioning Lesnar’s chances. The guy hadn’t had a fight in years. But he was obviously ready. I don’t know if he regrets re-signing with WWE, but it’s clear his heart is still in MMA. I expect we’ll see him back in the octagon soon.

Lesnar will now carry the momentum from this fight into Summerslam, where we now know he’ll wrestle the returning Randy Orton. The announcement of Lesnar’s opponent happened on Smackdown, actually prompting me to watch the show for once. We heard Corey Graves bring up the fact that these two came up together in the WWE developmental system. I expect that will be a large part of the story they tell as we move toward August. I’m a bit concerned about Orton staying healthy in there with Brock. He’s just come off shoulder surgery, after all. But then again, I had those same concerns about The Undertaker, and as far as I know he came out of it fine.

WWE is going to need as many stars as they can fine once this brand split starts. Make no mistake about it, Randy Orton is one of their biggest commodities.

I also loved how they finally acknowledged the damn fight on television this week. Only after Brock had won, of course…

Bob Backlund, Darren Young, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Darren Young wins a battle royal to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at BattlegroundThe obvious choice to win this match seemed to be Apollo Crews, for no other reason than he was the only participant to get a TV entrance, and they played his music through Miz’s pre-match promo. But Darren Young was a pleasant surprise. And they were chanting his name! Imagine that.

However, I’m curious about the way he won. Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated themselves. Young won by accident. So what does that say about him going into Battleground? Either way, any excuse to get Bob Backlund on live TV works for me.

I’ve come to enjoy Miz’s commentary. He does a nice job putting other talents over. He seemed to be getting instructions to put Corbin over. That’s fair enough. I suspect Corbin will receive much more attention once the brand split takes effect. He still comes off really green. But the best solution for that is experience.

Sheamus def. Zack Ryder. I was blown away when I saw Ryder get a clean win over Sheamus on Smackdown. That, combined with his win last week on Raw, leads one to a stunning conclusion: Zack Ryder is getting a push. Four years after he took the wrestling world by storm with his YouTube show, WWE finally seems to be taking him seriously. I’m really proud that he’s persevered after all this time. The only wrestling t-shirt I’ve purchased in the last decade was Ryder’s Broski v-neck. That’s how much of a fan I was, and still am. A United States Title Match with Rusev seems imminent. Will he win? Probably not. But at least he’s in the conversation.

Kalisto, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Tyler Breeze & Fandango def. The Lucha Dragons. During this match the announcers brought up the idea that tag teams could be split up during the draft. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen very much. Remember when they split the Dudleys up in 2002 for no real reason? And then they put them back together a matter of months later? Yeah, let’s not do that again.

Seth Rollins airs mock interview with Roman Reigns using old interview footage. Dean Ambrose comes out to confront him. A WWE Title Match is made for next week’s RawKurt Angle did something like this to The Rock at the tail end of the Attitude Era. It’s an okay little gag. No harm done, even though they are talking about a legitimate drug test violation.

Seth Rollins came off like a million bucks in this segment. He said that Reigns should be taken out of the title match at Battleground, and the fans cheered. He talked about Ambrose sneaking up on him and taking the belt, which did happen. He was also right that Ambrose couldn’t beat him for the belt last year. Rollins has a legitimate argument to being the uncrowned WWE Champion, and being better than both Ambrose and Reigns.

In Ambrose’s response, however, he came off more threatening than he has in weeks. Jokey Dean Ambrose is fine sometimes. But as the champion, we need to see more of the crazy and dangerous Dean Ambrose. When he’s on, Ambrose is as good as anybody in the company. Rollins, to his credit, played off of that intensity very well. He looked intimidated, as his character should be. As for next week’s title match, I don’t expect the belt to change hands. Battleground, however, is a different story.

WWE Raw, July 11, 2016Kevin Owen gets Sami Zayn ejected from the commentary table before his victory over Cesaro. Zayn attacks Owens afterward. I wish they’d just make this some kind of stipulation match that allows Zayn and Owens to fight all over the arena. I just wish they’d stop doing that lock-up/punches thing they do. It takes me right out of whatever scene they’re in.

The New Day journey to the Wyatt Family “compound.” So…was this WWE’s attempt to outdo the “Final Deletion” that TNA did on Impact last week? If so, they failed.

Let’s go ahead and talk about the Final Deletion. It was a match Matt and Jeff Hardy shot on location, which served as the blow-off for the bizarre program they’ve had in TNA this year. Produced by Jeremy Borash, it was a truly ridiculous spectacle. There was a weird vignette with drones and a hologram, spots with fireworks, and the lunacy fans have come to expect from Matt’s crazy character. It was far from your traditional main event, but that was the point. A lot of fans enjoyed it, and it got TNA some much-needed positive buzz.

All I can say about this, is that it’s good to see people talking about TNA again. What that brand desperately needs is some buzz, and they got it.

Fast-forward six days, and we get this. It looked like WWE’s take on a found footage flick, a la The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. But the shaky camera was just awful. There were traces of the Final Deletion. We had the music, the stuff in the water, Bray using an axe, the car crash, etc. The ironic thing is, had they shot this in a more traditional manner, it would have been a lot more interesting. We’d have been able to follow the action more closely. Also, that didn’t look much like a compound to me. More like an open field.

TNA, The Final Deletion, Matt and Jeff HardyOn the plus side, the image of Braun Strowman rising from the water and roaring was awesome. Literally the best thing he’s ever done. And that final image of the lanterns in the forest was cool. But all in all, this was very derivative. WWE drawing inspiration from something TNA did? In 2016? Who’d have thought?

Enzo & Cass def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification. John Cena makes the save afterward. Of course Cena was there. C’mon, now.

Decent match. I’ve got high hopes the match at Battleground will be one of the better six-man bouts we’ve seen on pay per view in recent years. I doubt it’ll top The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. But you never know. This all obviously leads to another match between AJ Styles and John Cena at Summerslam, and possibly a tag title shot for Enzo & Cass.

Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke. I was really curious to see how Banks and Brooke would match up. All things considered, they did pretty well. Absolutely the best match I’ve seen from Dana Brooke since she got called up. They also gave this match a good amount of time, which I credit them for. We wanted Sasha, and they gave us Sasha. They took their damn time, but better late than never.

Vince McMahon names Shane McMahon Commissioner of Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon named Commissioner of Raw. General Managers to be named next week. First off, Vince’s impression of “sweet” Stephanie was awesome. The funniest thing on this show in weeks.

McMahon Family, WWE Raw, July 11, 2016What happened here isn’t surprising. This looked like where they were going. The heel Stephanie on one show, the babyface Shane on the other. The General Manager thing is a bit odd. Traditionally, you have one authority figure that makes matches, stipulations, etc. So does the GM now fill that role, with Shane or Steph coming in as necessary? It all seems redundant. But maybe it’ll make sense when we see it in action. By the way, isn’t Kurt Angle available these days?

I do, however, think Vince gave us a clue about how things are really going to go once this split takes effect. He made a point to call Raw the “three-hour flagship” of WWE. In the end, Raw is like Vince’s favorite child. Even with the added emphasis on Smackdown, eventually it all comes back to Raw.

 Image 1 from rt.com. Image 5 from denofgeek.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.

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Posted in Wrestling

John Cena Returns, Rock at Wrestlemania, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Rock, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, we’ve got some Wrestlemania news to discuss…

The Rock announced for Wrestlemania XXXIIObviously, this is a big deal. It’s not necessarily a surprise, though. I think we all assumed Rock, would play some sort of role at Wrestlemania. What would be a surprise is if he ended up wrestling. But supposedly that’s not in the cards. While we’re at it, we can file Stone Cold Steve Austin under this same category. Austin recently said on his podcast that he expects to be there in some capacity. Hell, there’s a decent chance they might end up in a talking segment akin to what they did at Wrestlemania XXX.

WWE allegedly courting Bill Goldberg for WrestlemaniaI’m not surprised WWE is looking to bring Goldberg in. The real question is whether Goldberg is up for it. But even if he is, who do you put him with? They don’t have a strong heel to match him up against. A stakes are high.

strong heel that would need to lose, no less. Bray Wyatt has lost enough high profile matches, so he’s out. I can’t say I have any interest in seeing him face Triple H, The Big Show, or a name from the Attitude Era. The only viable possibility that comes to mind is Sheamus, and that’s hardly a dream match. Still, Wrestlemania XXXII desperately needs star power. Goldberg’s involvement could potentially draw some older fans back to the product. But if I were Goldberg, I’d look at how WWE used Sting this year before I made any big decisions.

Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, December 28, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Vince McMahon gets arrested in opening segment, comes back in final segment. Announces Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus for the title next week, with himself as the referee. These days, wrestling fans have as much of a love/hate relationship with Vince as they ever have. But in terms of an on-screen villain, you’re never going to find anybody better. So in that sense, putting Roman Reigns with Vince is a smart creative move. Admittedly, we’re hearing a lot of the same notes we heard during his feud with Austin. Vince gets hit during a title match, Vince goes to jail, Vince makes himself guest referee, etc. They’ll want to be careful with that, considering how much they market the Attitude Era. But a little bit of borrowing is fine.

Of course, they could avoid that risk by simply making Stephanie McMahon the evil boss against Reigns. But for that to work there needs to be a back and forth one-upsmanship dynamic between the two, and that’s not what WWE does with Steph’s character these days. In the last couple of years, they’ve written Stephanie as so evil and domineering that she practically castrates the babyfaces when they’re in talking segments with her. It’s happened to Reigns, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and even Seth Rollins. Nobody ever gets one over on Steph. Hell, one of the best parts of this show was when the guy playing a cop threatened to arrest her. It got a great pop. I’d be game for a Reigns/Stephanie rivalry if it’s booked right.

John Cena, Raw, December 28, 2015As for the Reigns/Sheamus match next week…meh. Sheamus is the closest thing they’ve got to a top heel right now, which is a pretty sad indictment on how they’ve booked various things lately. But at least the

John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio via disqualification. Between Cena and Vince, Raw got a nice boost in star power tonight. Predictably, it looks like Cena is going to be up against the League of Nations as we head toward Wrestlemania. But look at who we’ve got in this group. Wade Barrett, Rusev, Del Rio, and Sheamus. They may as well be called the League of Disgruntled Cena Rivals.

Still, it’s good to have Cena back. I’m not sure absence made our hearts grow fonder. But at least having him back shakes things up a little bit.

Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch. In theory, this should have worked beautifully. They gave these girls lots of time, and to their credit they gave us some great wrestling. I particularly liked when Sasha took that suplex near the corner, and her legs hit the ropes.

But sadly, the match fell a little flat. There were a few timing issues, and the crowd seemed to be in and out of the match. Plus, there wasn’t much of a story between Sasha and Becky. We’ve seen them put together a lot lately, seemingly out of attrition. Either Becky would need a heel to work against, or Sasha would need a babyface. This match could have been really great if it hadn’t been cold. That doesn’t always work. Charlotte and Nikki Bella had a really good match for the Divas Title on Raw a few months ago, and it wasn’t nearly as well executed as this one. But we had the story of Nikki Bella’s record-breaking title reign, so we cared more.

Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Raw, December 28, 2015Also, the announcers missed a big opportunity here. When Sasha finally pinned Becky, she had a handful of tights. That’s cheating, of course. But you’d never know it, as the announcers never acknowledged it. That would have been a nice chance for Sasha, not to mention the match itself, to gain a little intrigue.

Still, a solid effort by both ladies. Better luck next time.

The Big Show returns to Raw, announces he will enter the Royal Rumble Match at number 1. We haven’t seen Show in awhile, and frankly that’s a good thing. Like so many, he’s been overexposed this year. Fans are actually resentful of him. So a step back was necessary for him.

Putting Show in the Rumble at number 1 is an interesting move. You really have to suspend your disbelief in terms of him not easily winning the whole thing. But when you make him the first one in, you can factor in things like cardio and cumulative punishment. If they do go through with him being the first entrant, I’m curious to see how long he lasts. As we’ve all learned by now, a little Show goes a long way.

Neville def. Kevin Owens in less than a minute. I partially see this as justice for Neville’s super quick loss to Sheamus awhile back. I’m not necessarily a fan of Owens taking a quick loss like that, but at least he knew how to play it off like a heel. I loved what he said when he was about to powerbomb Neville on the floor: “I’m gonna break your damn back!”

Incidentally, that fall Neville took off the top rope could have been really nasty. He’s lucky he didn’t hurt himself. And on the subject of guys getting hurt…

Sin Cara, Raw, December 28, 2015Kalisto def. Kofi Kingston, Big E. def. Sin Cara. There’s something to be said about 50/50 booking here. But the real story deals with Sin Cara’s dislocated shoulder. Alas, it seems the Sin Cara injury curse doesn’t care who plays the role…

Frankly, I was amazed Sin Cara not only continued the match, but was able to pull off some of the things he did. That corkscrew cross-body, and then that rolling senton! I mean, what the hell? Major props to him, and here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Obviously this isn’t good news for The Lucha Dragons as a tag team. But it may end up being fortuitous for Kalisto. He had a good match with Kofi Kingston that included some wild martial arts kicks, and yet another big victory for the luchador. In a company where so few guys are on a roll, he’s got a little bit of one going for him. Breaking him out as a unique singles star would be a great way to turn this negative into a positive.

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Posted in Wrestling

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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Posted in Wrestling

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

But more on that later…

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

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

PREDICTION: Stardust & The Ascension

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

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

PREDICTION: Rusev

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

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

PREDICTION: The New Day

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Ryback

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, & ?

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Nikki Bella

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

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

PREDICTION: John Cena

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

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Posted in Wrestling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images from WWE.com.

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