A Shield Reunion Coming Soon? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s not an accident that Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins are all on Raw after the Superstar Shake-Up. This is it, folks. This is what people have been waiting for. A Shield reunion is coming.

But don’t kid yourselves. It’s going to be all about Roman Reigns.

Despite being booed for minutes on end last week, and despite everyone who cheered when Braun Strowman destroyed him this week, WWE still wants us to cheer this guy. He is positioned as their top babyface, after all. And what was it that got us to cheer Roman in the first place? The Shield. They know it, too. After the break-up, Reigns kept most of his Shield packaging, while Ambrose and Rollins had their presentations tweaked. Again, that’s not an accident.

Now, after everything that’s happened, it seems like a Shield reunion is just about the only thing that could get Reigns cheered. Fans miss this group. While some maintain it ended too soon, I think it ended at the perfect time. Their break-up was one of the great Raw moments of the last several years. Their reunion will be too.

But the mission will remain the same: Get Roman over at all costs. The only real difference will be the old hit they’re playing while they go about it.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

United States Champion Kevin Owens comes to Smackdown. Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and AJ Styles emerge to challenge him. I can’t believe they drafted Owens and Zayn together. Those two needed to be kept far away from one another. They have great matches, but I’m almost tired of seeing them. This feud needed a break. Give them a year or two apart, and then give us more. It’s not like there’s a shortage of guys for them to work with.

I’m happy Styles stayed on Smackdown. He’d have been fine on Raw, but he’s been arguably the biggest reason to watch the show every week. For all the talk about so-called “brands,” AJ has had a lot to do with giving Smackdown a different, more wrestling-heavy vibe from Raw.

Corbin is lucky Owens didn’t eat him alive on the mic. Seriously. It could have been worse than him being attacked by an actual wolf.

How do we know JBL is on his best behavior? He shook Byron Saxton’s hand at the top of the show. On screen, those two had a pronounced bully/victim dynamic.

Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan via disqualification. I don’t like Rowan’s chances without Bray Wyatt at his side. But then again, so many of us (myself included) said the same thing about Braun Strowman when he went to Raw by himself. And he’s become one of the best things about that show. So you never know who’ll surprise you.

The Usos def. American Alpha to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. The Shining Stars attack the babyfaces afterward. Great offensive flurry from Chad Gable during this match. He does a lot of selling out there. But he can take the hot tag when called upon. Another really good match from these guys.

If Primo and Epico de-emphasize the awful travel agent gimmick, they might have yet another chance to reinvent themselves. Talent has never been the problem with these two. It’s always been a matter of packaging.

Mojo Rawley def. Jinder Mahal. Rob Gronkowski gets involved on Rawley’s behalf. The higher-ups definitely seem to have taken notice of Jinder Mahal’s physical changes. While still essentially an enhancement talent, he’s been part of some pretty prominent stuff recently. Most notably the stuff with Rob Gronkowski at the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That obviously continued here.

Mojo really needs to write Gronk a thank-you note. As in, thank you for getting me the biggest push of my career.

Shane McMahon announces the arrival of Charlotte Flair and Tamina to SmackdownThey didn’t do Tamina any favors by building it up as if Charlotte were about to come out. Though in all fairness, she hasn’t been on TV in quite some time. She’ll need to re-establish herself.

Then of course, Charlotte did come out. Surprised she didn’t cut a promo of some kind. If I expect her to move right into a program with Naomi. I’m surprised so many people though Sasha Banks was coming in with her. She’s obviously factored in heavily with Bayley on Raw.

Tye Dillinger def. Aides English. With Simon Gotch having been released, it looks like English is going back to the singing gimmick he used in NXT. Hopefully he gets a fair shot. He’s got a good look.

I like that they’re telling the story of how long it took Dillinger to make it to the main roster. Anytime you can weave that element of truth in there, it’s a good thing. The people are clearly into him. If they play this right, I imagine he could get a US Title run this summer.

Sin Cara, Rusev, Lana, and the New Day are traded to SmackdownThey seem to be repackaging Lana with a dancing gimmick. At least until Rusev comes back. Is she going to wrestle? She’s not that experienced yet, is she?

It seems like they’re waiting to put the New Day on Smackdown until Kofi Kingston heals up from surgery. Fair enough. That act could use a breather anyway.

Shinsuke Nakamura outshines Dolph Ziggler in a confrontation. It might not have been wise for them to write Ziggler a promo about the “shiny new toys” from the Superstar Shake-Up becoming less special over time. Just saying…

They let Nakamura talk this week. Less is more as far as that’s concerned. This segment was a little awkward, as they spent a lot of time just standing there. Yes, the crowd was chanting for Nakamura. But this almost started to drag.

As far as first dance partners go, they don’t get much better than Dolph Ziggler. For now, Nakamura’s in good hands.

AJ Styles def. Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin in a Triple-Threat Match to become top contender for the United States Title following PaybackStyles has seemingly been positioned as a babyface, which is very much overdue. Everything this guy does looks great. Everything. I came out of this match thinking about how good he and Zayn looked out there together, and how good AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens could be. He’s practically the linchpin holding the show together.

Question: If Styles is going to be working with Owens after Payback, who works with Randy Orton? Corbin?

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A WWE: Then. Now. Forever. #1 Review – A Labor of Love

WWE: Then Now Forever #1, Seth Rollins, CoverTITLE: WWE: Then Now Forever #1
AUTHOR: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs, Daniel Bayliss.
PENCILLERS: Dan Mora, Rob Guillory, Schamberger, Fridolfs, Bayliss. Cover by Mora.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: $3.99

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Wouldn’t be much of a pro wrestling/comic book web site if I didn’t talk about this one. While most WWE/comic book crossovers are fairly cringeworthy, this one is pretty damn good. It may be the best one that’s ever been done, save the epically campy Ultimate Warrior book from the ’90s.

Usually, licensed WWE comic books try to make the characters work outside their own environment. In 2010, Titan Comics started publishing WWE stories involving immortals, cultists, time travel, etc. Papercutz also published strange crime-noirish stories involving WWE stars in the fictitious “Titan City.” Then of course, you had the stuff Chaos Comics put out in the early 2000s. Now that was weird.

BOOM! Studios does venture into the outlandish and bizarre. But our main story is character driven, and very grounded…at least by WWE comic book standards. It also does something that, to my knowledge, has never been done before. It’s in-continuity with WWE television.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, 2016Written by Dennis Hopeless, the story takes place in the days prior to the Shield breaking up. Our main character is Seth Rollins, who WWE fans know will turn on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. We look at the brotherly dynamic between the three as they have a high-stakes confrontation with the Wyatt Family. But this brotherly bond will soon come to an end, as Rollins strikes out on his own at the expense of his Shield brothers.

What impressed me the most about this issue was how Hopeless handled Dean Ambrose. He’s not the main character, but the authenticity in his voice gives credibility to the story. Ambrose is an interesting blend of coolness and instability, with just a touch of goofiness. If you go overboard with any one of those, it’s not Dean Ambrose. For the most part, Hopeless nails it. Some of the dialogue is shaky, but it’s still some of the best I’ve seen in a wrestling comic book.

Dan Mora’s art is very expressive and animated. Very fitting for a world like this, with characters this flamboyant and colorful. Not to harp on Ambrose, but there’s a shot of Ambrose’s face right after Seth’s betrayal that actually tugs at the heartstrings. It’s all pretty highly muscled, but that’s hardly a sin.

We’ve got a lot of back up content here. First up is a story about the New Day using their time machine (Remember that?) to “bring hope and cheer to those cynical and despairing times” in WWE history. This is the kind of stuff I expected. As a five-page back up, it’s harmless enough. But if this had been the main story, I wouldn’t have brought this one home. Not my thing.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, Rob Schamberger, Eddie Guerrero, Sasha BanksWWE artist Rob Schamberger has a four-pager showing us a young Sasha Banks watching Eddie Guerrero on television, and then flashing forward to some of her career highlights. We play up the idea of her being a role model for girls, and her being a part of Eddie’s legacy, as Mick Foley mentioned a few weeks ago. In many ways, these are beautiful pages. Especially as someone who watched Eddie when he was alive.

We then go to a two-page cartoon featuring ’80s stars Tugboat and Earthquake. It looks very “Steamboat Willie” inspired. An unexpected, and very creative surprise.

The issue closes with some one-page tributes to stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Dusty Rhodes, courtesy of Daniel Bayliss. Not a huge fan of how ‘Taker was rendered. But most of this is good stuff.

WWE is in good hands with Dennis Hopeless and the crew at BOOM! Studios. This feels like a labor of love, whereas before it often felt like a labor of…obligation. This could be a lot of fun.

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John Cena’s Ultimatum, The Shield (Briefly) Reunites, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s disheartening that despite all the hours of WWE content we get these days, less and less seems to be happening on these shows.

I’ve been listening to the occasional Vince Russo podcast over at PodcastOne.com. A few weeks ago, he and Glenn Gilbertti (the former Disco Inferno in WCW) were talking about what one would theoretically be missing without tuning into Raw every week. So often, these shows seem inconsequential. If you’d missed the episode entirely, you really wouldn’t have missed anything at all. For the “longest running weekly episodic show in TV history,” that’s odd, isn’t it? Where are the moments we’re supposed to be talking about on Tuesday morning? What do we remember, then bring up at school or work?

For the foreseeable future, I want to highlight those moments, or the lack thereof. At the bottom of each “Ponderings,” there’ll be a spot for “Tuesday Morning Talk Points.” Those will  be the moments that make Raw worth watching each week. And if there aren’t any talk points to speak of, that’s an indictment on what WWE puts on their flagship show.

The New Day, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

The New Day open the show with Enzo & Cass. They spent a solid minute talking about Kofi Kingston’s shoes. See, because they were the weird Steph Curry shoes. Because people are talking about those. And WWE is obviously hip to what we’re all talking about. Unless it’s Roman Reigns. They can’t seem to hear all the boos directed at Roman Reigns.

Then they started talking about Xavier Woods’ trumpet. I was mildly surprised to hear them go into Enzo having his hands and lips all over her, and what not. Despite being obviously scripted, that’s not nearly as sanitized as typical WWE dialogue. It was still stupid, and nothing like what I expected an encounter between the two teams to be like. Better luck, next time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & The Vaudevillians def. The New Day, Enzo & Cass. I really wish they’d just call him Enzo, as opposed to referring to him as Amore. It’s needlessly awkward.

Right now, my money is still on Gallows & Anderson to walk out of Money in the Bank with the belts. I don’t see any other motivation for putting four teams in this match other than to create a scenario that softens the loss for New Day. I can easily see The Vaudevillians eating the pin. But you never know.

McMahons, Kane, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Corporate Kane lobbies for the job of Smackdown General Manager. Has Kane been on Raw since Wrestlemania? If so, I forgot all about it. I only wish he’d returned in the mask, as opposed to a suit. I can only assume he’ll be a regular on TV again once the roster splits.

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose reunite in The Ambrose Asylum. Why wasn’t this in the main event spot? Because the third hour loses viewers? That’s a valid reason, I suppose…

This was fine. The crowd was definitely having fun. And once they started cranking up the heat, it got interesting. Rollins definitely shined here. All those long Authority promos might not have been great for us. But they definitely sharpened up his mic skills. He’s so much more comfortable in front of those big crowds nowadays.

It was important that Ambrose bring up the Money in the Bank contract and threaten to cash in at the pay per view. He deserves to be viewed in the same light as these two. Especially if they want to play up how important The Shield was, and one day build to these three reuniting for another run. But for now, I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in a triple-threat as we head toward Summerslam

WWE Raw, June 13 ,2016, Paige, CharlottePaige def. Charlotte. Remember when Paige beat Charlotte last month? And now she’s beaten her again. What does this girl have to do to get a title shot?

So Charlotte gets pinned when Dana Brooke throws her back in the ring, and now we’re teasing tension between those two. These two just got together, and now it looks like they’re already breaking up. Seems like a waste to me.

Sami Zayn def. Cesaro. After Cesaro’s win over Chris Jericho last week, I was disappointed to see him lose here. Especially after Alberto Del Rio’s emphatic win over Zayn last week. Come to think of it, they might have put Cesaro with Del Rio this week. Either way, this one got hot toward the end. I’d love to see these two go at it on a pay per view someday.

AJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for Money in the Bank. This was a good segment. Cena’s ultimatum for Styles, to allow or forbid Gallows and Anderson from being at ringside, made this better than your usual WWE contract signing. Also, Cena put AJ over really well when this segment began. He even name-dropped PWG. That made some of the Twitter marks happy. He also seems to like making little inside references to the Bullet Club, though.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016What I really wanted from this segment was for Styles to elaborate on the “Guys like you bury guys like me” comment from last week. That didn’t happen. But we did get some really nice tension. And I’m not sure how scripted this was, either. That’s to say, it felt like they were really talking to each other, not reciting memorized dialogue. Also, much like the story with Styles and Reigns, there was a nice simplicity to it. Both guys think they’re better, they’ve never had a chance to fight before. So now they’re going to settle the score in a big match. It’s tough to go wrong there.

Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio def. The Lucha Dragons. The stipulation here was that if The Lucha Dragons won, they’d get Owens and Del Rio’s spots in the ladder match. Because, you know, that could happen…

Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho. In theory, Raw should build to that final segment right? But Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose is a feud that just ended, and they had this Shield reunion thing built up for a week. Why not air those little Shield retrospectives throughout the show, and have the Ambrose Asylum segment go on last? We didn’t know what was going to happen in that Shield segment. We all knew what would happen here. A big brawl to close the show. They may as well have advertised that.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Dean Ambrose threatening to win the briefcase and cash in on Reigns and Rollins at Money in the Bank. John Cena and AJ Styles’ contract signing.

Images courtesy of WWE. 

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