A WWE Fastlane 2016 Preview – The Irrevocable Roman Reigns

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With so much marquee talent on the injured list right now, so many questions are lingering regarding Wrestlemania XXXII. This was supposed to be the biggest Wrestlemania of all time, with WWE attempting to pack 100,000 people into AT&T Stadium. They’ll sell a lot of tickets to be sure, but 100,000? That was a lofty goal when names like John Cena, Sting, and Seth Rollins were pencilled in. But what about now?

Fastlane will at least tell us what the main event is. We know Triple H will be there. And the smart bet is Roman Reigns will be there too…or maybe not…

WWE Fastlane, Alberto Del Rio, Kalisto2 Out of 3 Falls Match For WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Kalisto (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio

This is a weird match to put on the pre-show. Granted, it’s a match we’ve seen a bunch by now. So it wasn’t exactly a hot ticket before. But now that they’ve upped the ante and made it a 2 out of 3 Falls Match, it seems even weirder to give it away for free. Either way, my big hope going into this match is that WWE lets Kalisto keep the title. It’s never been more apparent how badly WWE needs to create new stars. As I’ve said before, Kalisto can easily be a breakout star this year in the mold of someone like Rey Mysterio. Del Rio doesn’t need the United States Title, but it can do some real good for Kalisto. So I say let Del Rio save a little face by pinning Kaliso in the first or second fall, only to lose in the end. Simply put, it’s the right call.

PREDICTION: Kalisto

WWE Fastlane 2016, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Naomi, TaminaSasha Banks & Becky Lynch vs. Naomi & Tamina

I like this. Not only are we getting some nice closure on Team B.A.D., but the Divas Title Match at Wrestlemania is essentially getting double build-up on this show. Plus, when was the last time we saw two women’s matches on a pay per view?

Sasha and Becky are the obvious victors here. It’s looking like it’ll be Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky at Wrestlemania. After Becky’s performances leading up to the Royal Rumble, she deserves to be in the mix. And to say Sasha deserves the Wrestlemania spotlight is a huge understatement. So I say bring it on!

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch

Big Show, Kane, Ryback, The Wyatt Family, WWE Fastlane 2016The Big Show, Kane, & Ryback vs. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman

Here’s your bathroom break match…

If I wasn’t so concerned about a possible Braun Strowman/Undertaker match at Wrestlemania, I’d have a lot more enthusiasm for this one. The Wyatt Family should be booked as the strongest group in the company, and as they’re obviously going over here, this match is a step in the right direction. What concerns me is what happens after the match. Bray Wyatt vs. Brock Lesnar is clearly happening at Wrestlemania. The smart bet has Brock winning that match. So is all of this build-up for naught? Are the other members of The Wyatt Family simply being build up so Brock can run through them? And what about after Wrestlemania? How do you keep them dominant?

A questionable future notwithstanding, the Wyatts look good for Fastlane. I expect this match will be slower than molasses, but at least the right team will win.

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

Charlotte, Ric Flair, Brie Bella, WWE Fastlane 2016WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Brie Bella

I’m mildly interested in seeing what Charlotte and Brie pull together. I don’t doubt this will be her weakest pay per view match yet, but at least she’ll get a solid win going into Wrestlemania.

Frankly, I’m more intrigued about what might happen after this match. At the Royal Rumble, Sasha Banks showed up after Charlotte’s match. Does that same thing happen this month? Does Becky come out? Or do they both show up? The possibilities are interesting. And of course, Ric Flair being out there only helps in that respect.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Fastlane 2016WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

This one’s pretty easy to predict. Owens is one of the few strong heels WWE has right now, so he needs momentum going into Wrestlemania. He just won the Intercontinental Title back, and now he’ll get a win in this program with Dolph Ziggler. Still, I can’t say I’ve got a problem with seeing these two wrestle again, especially on pay per view. They’ve consistently had good matches, and hopefully they give us their best one yet here.

I’m stumped on who you put Owens with at Wrestlemania. There’d be no crime in putting him with Undertaker. But as the IC Champ it seems unlikely. It almost seemed like they were going to put Sami Zayn with him, which would have been a good match. But it seems like that’s a no go as well. So who? The winner of the Chris Jericho/AJ Styles match might be a solid choice. Owens needs a good babyface to make him the best heel he can be at Wrestlemania. Here’s hoping they’ve got somebody good in mind.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, WWE Fastlane 2016Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

It’s only his second pay per view, and already AJ Styles finds himself in a semi-main event. It’s tough to argue what a good sign that is in terms of how management sees him.

Here’s my big question as far as this match is concerned: Does Jericho turn heel? We know he can do it. But do they want him to? Y2J is somebody they could plug in with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. But does that necessitate a heel turn? Maybe not. I do think, however, that if they want Jericho to wrestle Styles again in Dallas, a heel turn is in order. They could keep it pretty simple: Jericho can’t beat Styles clean, so he either cheats to win, or attacks him after he loses.

My gut tells me AJ walks away win the win here. Styles has been pretty well protected since his debut, and he’s in a position to help the company long after Jericho has gone on sabbatical again. So I say give him the win, and if they want to turn Jericho heel afterward, so be it.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE Fastlane 2016, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Dean AMbroseSTIPULATION TRIPLE THREAT MATCH:
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose
Winner challenges for WWE Title at Wrestlemania

What we have here is an opportunity…

When Triple H tossed Roman Reigns out of the Royal Rumble Match last month, the crowd popped huge. And it wasn’t just because the the obvious choice to win was out. It was because Hunter was left in there with Dean Ambrose.

So here’s my question: Was Vince McMahon listening to that crowd? Are they smart enough to switch things up? It doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility, as much of the focus has been on Ambrose during the Fastlane build-up. We’ve gotten some great stuff between he and Brock Lesnar. Meanwhile, Reigns has faded into the background a bit, perhaps to take some of the crowd heat off of him. But Vince’s master plan, as we know all too well, has been to make Roman Reigns the company’s next top star. It’s a spot he’s more than capable of holding. But you can count me amongst those who say its not happening organically. They’re telling us who the stars are, as opposed to letting us pick our own stars.

Dean Ambrose, WWEWade Keller was on The Steve Austin Show Unleashed this week, and I’m going to echo something he pitched. I say put Dean Ambrose with Triple H at Wrestlemania, and let an angry and bitter Roman Reigns challenge The Undertaker. Now you’ve got both a main event and a semi-main event fans can get excited about. Plus, the smart bet is fans won’t boo Dean out of the building during the main event. Chances are that won’t be the case with Roman.

Simply put, this match is WWE’s opportunity to change direction in a fairly smooth manner. Justified or not, a large portion of the fans simply don’t want to cheer Roman Reigns. So why struggle with your audience? Give Ambrose a chance. Establish him as a main event star, give the audience the pleasure of booing Roman, and go from there.

That being said, should we expect plans to change? No. They’ve had a bunch of opportunities to turn Reigns heel, and they’ve passed on all of them. Whether we like it or not, Vince wants Roman Reigns to be the guy. So at Wrestlemania XXXII, expect him to be the guy.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

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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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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