A WWE Extreme Rules 2020 Preview – Prelude to a “Horror Show”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As much as they’ve been shoving the whole “Horror Show” thing down our throats, I really don’t mind the name itself. It suggests they’re taking a bit of a step outside the box creatively.

But here’s my question: What is it about this year’s Extreme Rules that makes it a horror show, per se? Is it the way they’re going to shoot the matches? Is it that we’re going to see a spooky “Swamp Fight” between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt? Is it that they’re advertising someone’s eye being gouged out? A combination of all that, perhaps?

I just hope they have some kind of idea. I hope it’s something. One of the few upsides to this COVID-19 situation is that it’s forced them to flex a few more creative muscles. So c’mon, WWE. Give us a damn horror show!

Now, let’s dive in…

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Apollo Crews (c) vs. MVP

Part of me really wants MVP to win the title here. He’s more a manager now than anything else. Thus, he hasn’t been positioned as a threat to Crews, or anyone for that matter. But he’s so good on the mic, and it would be such an interesting story to see him win the title back after all these years.

Still, the ones you want to push in this equation are Crews and Bobby Lashley. I suspect that’s the match we’re getting at Summerslam. If that is indeed where we’re going, Crews should win here.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Nikki Cross

After that fire we saw from Nikki Cross in her brief verbal exchange with the IIconics several weeks ago, I was excited to see her get this shot. She’s not winning, of course. But I’m excited to see her featured on a pay per view.

So it doesn’t look like Bayley vs. Sasha Banks is the match for Summerslam. I can only assume then that they’re saving it for Wrestlemania XXXVII. Let’s hope they actually get to have that match in front of a crowd…

PREDICTION: Bayley

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka (c) vs. Sasha Banks

Ultimately, the destination for Sasha Banks is going to be (or at least should be) Bayley and the Smackdown Women’s Title. Granted, that’s not to say she couldn’t take a little detour with the Raw belt. But I don’t see it happening. One way or another, Asuka is the star of the Raw Women’s Division, and she’ll stay that way for at least a little while longer.

The upside? The last time these two had a high profile match together, they tore the house down. Hopefully they have an opportunity to do the same here.

PREDICTION: Asuka

EYE-FOR-AN-EYE MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins

I don’t like this Eye-For-An-Eye stipulation at all. The idea is that you lose when one of your eyes gets extracted from its socket.

Yuck. In more ways than one.

I liken this to those Inferno Matches that Kane used to have, most notably with the Undertaker. It’s a compelling idea on paper. But in practice, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you look at it from an in-story perspective, booking this stip looks needlessly brutal and cruel. But from a showbiz standpoint, it almost exposes wrestling. Because you know nobody’s actually getting their damn eye taken out. And in case it needs to be said, that’s a good thing…

I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this. I assume there’ll be a bunch of shenanigans involved with Rey’s son Dominic, Murphy, Austin Theory, etc. In the end, I think Rey gets the win. Not just because the good guy should win in this scenario, but the image of Rollins with an eye patch is mildly amusing.

PREDICTION: Rey Mysterio

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

Regardless of what the stipulation ends up being, this match is designed to do the same thing as McIntyre’s bouts with Rollins and Lashley: Build Drew up as a credible champion. Dolph is the guy WWE always turns to when it’s time to shine someone up. While I don’t think Drew needs Dolph’s help in that respect, he certainly couldn’t have a better dance partner to meet that end.

Drew wins. No big surprise there. To me it’s more a question of who they put him with at Summerslam. He needs to be up there with a big marquee name. That means it’s got to be either Brock Lesnar again, or Randy Orton. As Orton is hot right now, I’m putting him with “the Viper,” and saving Lesnar for further down the road. Dare I say, Hell in a Cell?

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

SWAMP FIGHT:
Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

I’m not sure what their plans are as far as “cinematic” matches on this show. But obviously this one would lend itself best to that treatment. I’m picturing something shot like the Boneyard Match, with some of the spooky tricks used in the Firefly Funhouse Match.

My understanding is the Universal Title is not on the line in this match. Thus, Bray Wyatt can win and justify a match between Strowman and the Fiend at Summerslam. Bray should win anyway. The swamp is, in theory, his home turf after all.

So is this going to be a “Three Faces of Foley” type thing with Bray Wyatt? We already see him swap back and forth between his smiling, sweater-wearing persona and the sinister Fiend. Is the only swamp-dwelling, “Follow the Buzzards” Bray Wyatt a personality he can switch into as well? I’m not necessarily opposed to that. But that Bray Wyatt had a tendency to choke in big-match situations. Just ask John Cena…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Owen Hart Chronicles: Dropping Gold to HBK and Stone Cold

***Everyone has seen Owen Hart’s matches with his brother Bret. But Owen had the talent, charisma, and ability to hang with anybody. That’s what we’re here to illustrate. These are “The Owen Hart Chronicles.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You know what’s really surprising? This was not the main event of the May 26, 1997 edition of Raw.

Consider who we’ve got here. We’ve got our Tag Team Champions Owen Hart and the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, two company mainstays who’ve held the belts a long time, and also have both secondary titles.

They’re facing Shawn Michaels, one of the company’s biggest stars, who’s coming off a controversial injury. (This was when he “lost his smile.”) His tag partner is Stone Cold Steve Austin, the hottest rising star in the industry, and thus far one of its great untapped talents.

But what got the main event slot? A talking segment with the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. I love both those guys, but c’mon…

You can very much tell we’re in the era of pay-per-view quality matches being put on free TV. Given all the build-up that went into this could easily have been second from the top on an In Your House. Especially given the story of Austin and Michaels being reluctant tag team partners trying to take something from the Bret Hart and his group, the Hart Foundation.

Not surprisingly, Owen starts it out with Austin. In theory, you’d want to big deal out of Shawn’s entrance into the match, so you keep him on the sidelines at the beginning. Oddly enough, that’s not what ends up happening. Shawn’s entrance gets a tepid response. Owen, of course, is in there to start the match at a fast pace.

As is becoming a pattern here, despite being in the main event of Raw, this match isn’t necessarily about Owen specifically. Or in this case, Owen and Bulldog. The story they’re telling is about Austin and the returning Michaels teaming up to face the Hart Foundation at large. So even though the smaller story is about the Tag Team Titles, it’s Owen and Davey’s job to shine up their babyface challengers and make them look like the big heroes they are. Both men do that very well. What this essentially becomes is a glorified exhibition for Stone Cold and HBK.

Watching this match back in 2020, there’s an elephant in the room. A little more than two months after this match, Owen famously botches a piledriver at Summerslam and alters the course of Austin’s career. So there’s an added weight when those two are in the ring together. Perhaps it’s just hindsight coloring the match, but as good as they both were, to me it never seemed like those two had a lot of chemistry…

The finish to this match surprised me. Shawn superkicks Davey when the referee is distracted with Owen, allowing Austin to get the pin. I’m not sure why, but the whole thing came off very rushed and awkward. Not at all how I remembered it.

Lost in all the storyline hoopla was the fact that this match ended a roughly eight-month Tag Team Title reign for Owen and Bulldog. I don’t know that history remembers their team as much as it should. They were damn good. Certainly as good as any team you’ll see in any promotion today.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Owen Hart Chronicles: May 6, 1996 – The Utility Player (feat. the Undertaker)

***Everyone has seen Owen Hart’s matches with his brother Bret. But Owen had the talent, charisma, and ability to hang with anybody. That’s what we’re here to illustrate. These are “The Owen Hart Chronicles.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Why don’t we talk more about Owen Hart’s matches? Why is he primarily remembered for the work he did with his brother Bret in the early ’90s, and less the work he did with other wrestlers?

I think much of that has to do with how the WWF higher-ups viewed Owen. Obviously he worked great as a villain for Bret, and then later as Bret’s “lovable brother” in the Hart Foundation. But when he wasn’t in Bret’s orbit, I just don’t think they saw him as a top star, whether a heel or babyface. As evidence, I would cite them not going further with him in 1998, despite the Hart family being very much in the spotlight.

It seems like the WWF saw Owen as a midcard utility player. Need to plug somebody in against your champion on a go-home show for a pay per view? Owen will give ’em a good match. Need a midcard heel tag team? Put somebody with Owen. Or in this case, does one of your top babyfaces just need a solid exhibition? Owen can do that too.

Case in point, this match between Owen and the Undertaker from the May 6, 1996 edition of Raw. This may have been the only televised singles match these two ever had. You’ll see several tag matches where they’re both involved. But they rarely had a reason to wrestle one-on-one. The Dead Man was usually busy slaying giants like Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy, Mabel, etc. But I think these two could have made magic together.

The story of this match was definitively about Undertaker and Goldust, and their upcoming Casket Match at In Your House: Beware of Dog. Goldust (accompanied by Marlena) is on headset, and actually learns it’s going to be a Casket Match on the air. To his eternal credit, the real-life Dustin Runnels does some amazing character work here. They were still playing the gay card pretty heavily with the character at this time. It doesn’t necessarily age well by modern standards. Though it’s objectively hilarious when Goldust comes on to Paul Bearer.

Owen is sort of the Larry Fine of this match. Your attention is focused on Moe and Curly, i.e. Undertaker and Goldust. But if you take a moment to focus on Owen, his subtle reactions are great. Watch him when the bell rings. He slinks around the ringside area, too apprehensive to get in there with ‘Taker. Then you’ve got his selling of the “supernatural” stuff. The zombie no-sell, the big choke, etc.

Once the match really gets going, Owen works the knee. But he also takes a couple of big moves from Undertaker, including a shove over the top to the outside. The finish comes when the Dead Man reaches over the ropes to grab Owen, who’s been distracted by Goldust. In one smooth motion, Undertaker pulled ups him up and over the ropes, and into position for a Tombstone Piledriver. Owen actually gets the so-called “Super Tombstone, where ‘Taker jumps into the air and lands on his knees, as opposed to simply dropping down. I can’t imagine putting that much trust in someone. That move looks scary as hell.

Whether you’re looking at Owen, Undertaker, Goldust, or even Paul Bearer, there’s greatness to be found in this match. You have to look a little harder to see some of it. But it’s definitely there.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Howard Finkel’s Greatest Ring Announcements

By Rob Siebert
A NEEEEEEEWWWWW Father

So I’ve had a week to process the death of Howard Finkel. A man who, let’s be honest, was the single greatest ring announcer of all time. This might be an apples to oranges comparison. But to yours truly and many fans who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s as I did, Howard Finkel is to ring announcing what Jim Ross was/is to play-by-play. He was that good.

Over the last several days, WWE has compiled some of Finkel’s greatest moments and pushed them out to YouTube. Let’s take a look…

First of all, there’s no “arguably” about it. “The Fink” was the absolute greatest.

Secondly, the “Dean of WWE Ring Announcing.” I kinda like that…

This next clip is one of my favorites, and quite possibly Finkel’s last truly great announcing moment. If only Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler hadn’t ruined it for the audience at home by being so damn disrespectful. But for the fans in Madison Square Garden that night? It must have been magic…

Frankly, I think that tweet we saw from Vince McMahon said it all…

Rest in peace, Howard, and know that you were loved by a great many.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Silent Wrestlemania Recap – Undertaker and AJ Steal the Show!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Well, alright then. Wrestlemania XXXVI (or as I call it, “The Silent Wrestlemania” happened.

Was it weird? Definitely. Awkward at times? Oh  yeah. But was it bad? No. Not even remotely.

I tweeted this yesterday, and I’ll reiterate it here: I think the world needs Wrestlemania now more than ever. So as long as it was done on a volunteer basis, Vince McMahon was right to carry on with the show in whatever form it took.

So thank you to all the wrestlers, producers, crew members, and everyone that made these shows possible.

Night One

Cesaro def. Drew Gulak.
Admittedly, I didn’t see this one. Was busy during the pre-show. But hey, technically Cesaro got a singles match at Wrestlemania. A win at that.

Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors to win the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.
Was surprised they kicked off the main card with this one. Not sure if they’d have gone that route if there was a crowd. But they put on a good match.

As far as I know, Asuka and Kairi Sane were the first wrestlers of the evening to play to a crowd that wasn’t there. Since Asuka did commentary on Raw that night, it seems like these two have been asked to be louder and more obnoxious. If that’s the case, they were successful.

Elias def. King Corbin.
True story: I fell asleep during this match. No disrespect to either man. It had been a long day. I went back and watched it though. Went a little long. At least Elias actually had a match at Wrestlemania, as opposed to in-ring skits. Then again, both those skits were with John Cena. Maybe he was better off before…

Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler to retain the WWE Raw Women’s Title.
Good match. Wrong finish.

The psychology was right in this one. It felt like a fight. Loved the spot where Shayna whipped her head-first into the announce table. But ultimately, Shayna lost to a version of the Bret Hart “pin yourself by not releasing the hold” spot. It’s a good spot. It’s just a shame Baszler has already lost a big match to that same pinning combo. Yup, Kairi Sane beat Shayna for the NXT Women’s Title almost the exact same way at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV.

Between this loss, the way she lost (though that’s minor in the grand scheme of things), and the fact that an alleged killer like her couldn’t win the Women’s Royal Rumble at the number 30 spot, Shayna does not look good coming out of this.

The upside? Becky continues to dominate. Plus, my guess is these two aren’t done. And there’s plenty of room for Shayna to get even more vicious.

Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Intercontinental Title.
These two were the first to really take advantage of the fact that we could actually hear the wrestlers talking to one another. That played to Sami’s strengths as an annoying heel. In the end, the right guy won. There’s still a lot Sami can do as the Intercontinental Champion.

You’ve got to wonder what Shinsuke Nakamura was thinking. It wasn’t long ago that he was challenging for the WWE Heavyweight Championship at this show…

John Morrison def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles.
I give these three a hell of a lot of credit for doing a spot-fest like this without any fans in the arena. It just wasn’t the same without the crowd reactions. Although those ladder shots did sound that much more painful.

Creative finish with John Morrison plummeting to his doom, albeit with the titles in hand. Fitting for the weirdest tag team title match in Wrestlemania history.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins in a No Disqualification Match.
You can argue this was the best match of night one. (More on that in a moment.) It made Owens look like a million bucks. As Raw continues to be in need of top babyfaces, that’s the best outcome they could have hoped for.

Braun Strowman def. Bill Goldberg to win the WWE Universal Title.
Yeah, this sucked.

I’m pretty sure we saw a total of two moves in this entire match. The Spear from Goldberg, and the Powerslam from Strowman. I understand Goldberg is somewhat limited in what he can do, and that this match came together on short notice. But c’mon. This was the best they could put together?

In hindsight, it was silly for me to predict a Goldberg victory no matter who he was wrestling. He does short term deals. That’s his thing.

Alright. So here we have it. Braun Strowman is the Universal Champion. I’d argue it’s about two years too late. But it happened. Now it’s all about the follow up.

The Undertaker def. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match.
Damn. He did it again. The son of a bitch did it again. The Undertaker stole the show at Wrestlemania.

He didn’t do it alone, of course. I’ve said that we’ve reached the point where they need to use smoke and mirrors to give us a quality Undertaker match. In this case, he not only had one of the best workers in the world in AJ Styles, but the entire WWE production juggernaut backing him up.

But even so, he did it again.

Before I go any further, WWE really needs to send Matt Hardy a thank you note for this one. They deny him his ability to work creatively, prompting his departure from the company. But then Undertaker and AJ Styles have a Wrestlemania match that captures the world’s imagination using the cinematic style he essentially pioneered.

I suppose whether you call this the show-stealer depends on your definition of what a wrestling match is. Jim Cornette, for instance, would not call this a wrestling match. The cinematic presentation, the music, the special effects. It was more like a short film. I saw someone on Twitter last night ponder if this is the future of the wrestling business. I hope not. I say you can only get away with something like this once a year, if that. But if you can do it, and it works…

Not only did this give us back the dominant, tough-as-nails Undertaker that we’ve missed, it told a great story. My favorite part isn’t a particular spot or stunt. Rather, it’s when Undertaker has Styles, and he’s taunting him with things like, “What’s my wife’s name?” and “You wanna talk about how old I am?”

I don’t think you could have done this in an arena. In that sense, the current circumstances worked in their favor. But one way or another the Undertaker, along with AJ Styles, has stolen the show at Wrestlemania. In 2020. Who’da thunk it?

Night Two

Liv Morgan def. Natalya.
Nice moment for Liv, I suppose. Though I doubt anything comes of it.

Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Title.
If you don’t count Undertaker vs. AJ Styles as an actual wrestling match, then this was the best match of the weekend. It should come as a surprise to no one that Charlotte Flair is involved. For my money, her matches 2016 and 2018 were both show stealers.

What made this match stand out to me was the tension in the air. This Charlotte/Rhea thing hasn’t been going on that long. But if you came into this cold, you’d think they’d hated each other’s guts for years. There was just this nasty, hateful, vicious vibe in the ring. I loved it.

Does it suck that Rhea Ripley lost? Of course it does. But if you’ve been paying attention, you knew it was coming. Charlotte Flair is the poster girl for their “Women’s Revolution.” She was the inaugural Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania 32. She broke Asuka’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 34. She was shoehorned into the main event of Wrestlemania 35. Notice a pattern?

However, as I speculated, these two were able to have an amazing match. And that benefits Rhea much more than winning a standard one does. Her star is still on the rise. So have no fear.

Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley.
What does it say about this match that the only thing I could focus on for awhile was the fact that Lashley was wearing pants instead of trunks.

Loved the closing spot here, the attempted Spear from Lashley into the Black Mass Kick for the win. As Lana was the one who called for the Spear, does that mean we’re headed for a Lashley/Lana split?

Otis def. Dolph Ziggler.
This match pulled off a rarity. It had the right ending but the wrong winner. Otis needed to get the girl in the end, and he did. I can only imagine the pop that kiss would have gotten in front of a crowd.

The problem I had with this one is that Dolph is one of the most decorated wrestlers WWE has had in the last two decades. Otis on the other hand, is a tag team wrestler who’s only recently made it to the main roster. Ziggler should have won. Perhaps by cheating. So Dolph wins the battle, but not the war.

Incidentally, why was Mandy dressed to wrestle? Was it just one of those “always bring your gear” kind of things?

Edge def. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match.
I give both these guys a lot of credit for this one. They beat the absolute piss out of each other in front of ZERO fans. Lots of creativity on display here. In terms of fighting all over the performance center, this was exactly what you wanted it to be. I can’t say I disliked much of what I saw.

Having said that, I couldn’t believe they let Orton choke Edge with the gym equipment. It’s been a long time, but that absolutely screams Benoit. Especially because those Dark Side of the Ring episodes aired so recently.

That being said, we need to talk about something I’ll call the Lesnar/Goldberg principle. They might have had the best built match going into Wrestlemania 33. And it lived up to the hype. But they only needed about five minutes to deliver on that. It was quick, high impact, and about as concise as you could ask for. They stole the show that year.

My point is, just because a match has such an amazing build doesn’t mean it needs to go 30 to 45 minutes. Whether a match is good or not usually has nothing to do with it’s length. Triple H’s big matches tend to have a problem with this.

The Lesnar/Goldberg principle. One to live by.

The Street Profits def. Angel Garza & Austin Theory to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.

The story here ended up being Bianca Belair, who saved Ford and Dawkins from a post-match beatdown. I assume will be with the Street Profits on Raw from here on out. Works for me. She’s earned her main roster spot. Becky Lynch is also going to need new challengers in the near future.

Bayley def. Sasha Banks, Naomi, Tamina, and Lacey Evans to retain the WWE Smackdown Women’s Title.
This is another one where hindsight is 20/20. I predicted it would come down to Bayley and Sasha. But for whatever reason, WWE avoids that match like the plague. Or in this case, Coronavirus.

I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of time they gave this match. The Smackdown Women’s Division may be cold right now. But they gave these ladies a decent-sized canvas to create on.

Also…no, Michael Cole. Team B.A.D. was not a huge part of the Women’s Revolution. Just like Team P.C.B. wasn’t. And Team Bella damn sure wasn’t.

“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. John Cena in a Firefly Funhouse Match.
Coming into this match, I was expecting something akin to the Boneyard Match, only it would take place in some sort of demented funhouse setting.

That’s not what we got. In fact, in over two decades watching this stuff, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like what we got. It was more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a wrestling match. It’s like they got together and said, “Bray Wyatt is crazy. So let’s just go nuts. Let’s throw shit against the wall.”

I’ll give you this much, I enjoyed its devotion to continuity. They really dove into history for this one, picking apart both characters.

I can’t say I enjoyed the Boneyard Match then turn around and say I didn’t like this one. For all intents and purposes they played by the same rules. But whereas I’d be game for seeing something like the Boneyard Match once a year, this is the kind of thing you can only do once maybe every five to 10 years.

Drew McIntyre def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title.
To my dismay, this match basically followed the same formula as the Goldberg/Strowman one. Hit the finishers a bunch, then have the challenger go over. In both matches it’s like they just wanted to get it over with.

Still, this one had the right outcome. Drew got his moment, unconventional though it was. One of the highlights of night two was him reaching out to the camera and saying, “Thank you.”

Congratulations, good sir. Your moment doesn’t look like anyone else’s, but it’s yours. So be proud. You earned it. You deserve it.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Undertaker’s Best Promos: The Dead Speak!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

For my money, on Monday the Undertaker cut one of his best promos in years. If you haven’t seen it, you should see it.

So watch it.

In recent years a lot of fans have been clamoring for him to return to his American Bad Ass/Big Evil persona. That’s the closest we’ve gotten to it in a long time. In the right context, this Undertaker is every bit as menacing and intimidating as the Dead Man persona.

Like fine wine, the Undertaker improved with age. Critics, podcasters and “pundits” have talked about his matches with Kurt Angle, Batista, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, among others. Mind you, the first of those matches took place in February 2006. The real-life Mark Calaway had been wrestling for almost 20 years, and played the Undertaker for about 16 of them.

But what about the Undertaker’s mic work? His “character work,” so to speak. At the start of his run he was given a mouthpiece: Paul Bearer. The formula for an Undertaker/Paul Bearer promo was pretty simple. Paul would do most of the talking in that unsettling high pitched voice, and ‘Taker would chime in with something spooky at the end. But at that point he was playing the character like a zombie, or Frankenstein’s monster.

Below is a perfect example, and actually one of my favorite times we heard the Dead Man speak…

But after years at Paul Bearer’s side, and six years of growing and evolving the character, he clearly became more comfortable on the mic and began to take a more commanding presence in his promos. At times it was almost to the point where Bearer would simply speak to compliment what Undertaker would say.

Case in point, this little gem where he talks about a match on Valentine’s Day…

In 1996, the Undertaker/Paul Bearer tandem was split up. The Dead Man was left to fend for himself on the mic. Some nights were better than others. But on certain shows, he could make absolute magic. Especially when he had the production team behind him. These promos for the Buried Alive pay per view that fall are the stuff of legend.

Holy crap.

The changes continued into 1997 and 1998. The introduction of the Kane character, and the revelation of the Undertaker’s storyline family history would humanize the Dead Man in ways we’d never seen. In rare occasions he’d be in street clothes, albeit still black. As they built to an Undertaker/Kane match at Wrestlemania XIV, he would have to talk about his parents, his childhood, etc. The emotional needs of the story required a kind of acting that would prove challenging for anyone not trained traditional theater.

In the scene below, we see him talking to his deceased parents at their grave site. Y’know, that standard wrestling promo you’ve seen a thousand times…

But pre-produced Undertaker was not the same as arena Undertaker. That’s not to say he was bad. But a spooky, undead character obviously lends itself to more quiet settings. When you’re among screaming fans, it’s obviously very different.

Here we have a fairly famous “worked shoot” promo from 1998. He’s dressed in plain clothes, but allegedly that’s because his gear was lost in transit. It’s not the most polished mic work you’ll ever see. But the substance of it is great. I love the “slayer of dragons” line.

I’m not in love with this next one. But certain elements of it are very strong. Most notably Undertaker not looking into the camera as he’s threatening Vince McMahon. Mind you this is 1999. Years before WWE wrestlers were told not to look into the camera. This was done for effect. Then you’ve got the music, the lighting, the hood. It’s just a great looking piece of television.

Then came the American Bad Ass. In 2000, all the talk about taking souls and eternal damnation was over. After 10 years, the Undertaker was simply a tough-as-nails biker, looking like he might kill somebody at a moment’s notice. We’d seen a humanized Undertaker before. But I’d argue this was the first time we heard the Undertaker talk like Mark Calaway.

Even the Rock wasn’t safe.

The American Bad Ass would morph into Big Evil. The difference? As Bruce Prichard once said, “Semantics.” Although I suppose you could argue the American Bad Ass was a babyface, and Big Evil a heel.

By the time Wrestlemania XIX rolled around, ‘Taker wanted a match with Ric Flair. And he was going to get it. By any means necessary…

In hindsight, the really bone-chilling thing about this segment is that he references not only the future Charlotte Flair, but the late Reid Fliehr.

This next one from April of 2002 was special. Not just because of its delivery, but because they put the Undertaker with the recently-returned Hulk Hogan, and they let him talk about the elephant in the room. They let him talk about his first WWF Championship win in 1991 and say, “I beat you.” For so long, it had been taboo to reference Hogan unless it was some kind of joke or parody. But now he was back. And as you’ll see, he was fair game.

Big Evil was around until the end of 2003. By Wrestlemania the following year, the Dead Man was back. And yes, he would wear gold again. Specifically, the World Heavyweight Championship, a.k.a. the “Big Gold Belt.” He wore it three times between 2007 and 2009.

Here he is on Smackdown in 2009 after taking it CM Punk in a Hell in a Cell Match the previous Sunday. My favorite part of this promo is that he puts the belt over, and explains why he wanted it so badly. He even calls it “the Holy Grail of everyone who steps foot in this ring.”

At this point, what we were getting was a Dead Man/Big Evil hybrid. Lots of talk about souls, graves, etc. But at times, we’d see flashes of Big Evil.

Earlier that year, Wrestlemania XXV had taken place. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had that classic match, and started what would ultimately be a four-year saga that in time would include Triple H.

Once Triple H got involved in 2011, we started to see in-ring segments between all three. What resulted were some of the best, if not the best back-and-forth promos of all their iconic careers. There’s a tension in the air that you can’t script. It has to come from the performers and their chemistry.

I present to you, Exhibit A.

A year later, Triple H and the Undertaker would face off again. This time inside Hell in a Cell, with HBK as the guest referee. But initially, Hunter refused to face the Dead Man again.

What’s interesting about this segment is that it’s one of the rare times we see Undertaker come from a place of vulnerability. He’s been waiting a year for this opportunity, and he needs Triple H to say yes.

You wanna talk tension? That line about Shawn being better isn’t remotely as effective out of context. But with these characters and this dynamic, it’s huge.

Fast-forward to 2015, and we’ve got the Undertaker coming for Brock Lesnar after the Streak was broken at Wrestlemania XXX. I was so dissatisfied with that initial promo ‘Taker cut on Brock. It made him look like a sore loser. If they’d simply done something like the promo below, and included something about revenge and ‘Taker having nothing left to lose, it would have been perfect.

This next segment contains, in my opinion, the Undertaker’s last really good promo. Until last Monday, of course.

There’s not much to it, really. It’s ‘Taker declaring himself for the Royal Rumble Match. But it’s always stood out to me for two reasons. First, I love the “29 holes for 29 souls” line. Secondly, and more importantly, look at how he acts toward Stephanie McMahon. At this point (and perhaps to this day), nobody stood up to Stephanie like that.

But what could she do? He’s the Undertaker.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Silent Wrestlemania – Previews and Predictions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This sucks.

It’s not WWE’s fault, of course. But boy this really sucks.

Wrestlemania at the Performance Center. Wrestlemania with no fans. Wrestlemania with “social distancing.” All because of this damn Coronavirus.

Still, despite some awkwardness, I’ll credit WWE with making the best of an awful situation. They’ve gimmicked up some of the marquee matches, presumably to make them look different. They’ve split the show into two nights, which some would argue should have been done years ago.

The promos overall have been much better. Edge and Randy Orton, for instance, did some of the best mic work of their careers. Even the Undertaker got in on that action this past Monday.

But of course, problems persist. Several wrestlers, most notably Roman Reigns, have either opted out or been forced off the show due to complications related to the Coronavirus. So some of the matches I’m laying out here may not be the ones we end up getting. It should be noted that, as far as we know, this entire show has already been taped. So these matches have already occurred.

That being said, let’s take a look at what I call the “Silent Wrestlemania.” We’ll start with the matches that have biggest question marks hanging over them. Beginning with a match that might have main-evented the show…

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bill Goldberg (c) vs. ?

As he’s immunocompromised due to his history with Leukemia, Roman Reigns has opted out of this match. Can’t say I blame the guy. Plus, let’s face it: It’s not like he’ll never get another title match at a Wrestlemania again…

So now the pressing question becomes, who do you plug in to replace him? Who’s worthy of challenging Goldberg in a marquee Wrestlemania match for the Universal Title?

There’s been a lot of buzz about Braun Strowman taking that spot. He’s certainly the biggest star they’ve got who isn’t already booked for a match. But I don’t know that he’s ready for that big a match. WWE is still trying to rebuild him after all those months of bad booking.

Bray Wyatt is another popular theory. As the show takes place over two nights this year, they can have him wrestle Cena one night, and Goldberg on the other. If that’s the match, the Fiend should definitely get the belt back.

One name I haven’t heard very much is Sheamus. He was mowing down opponents before everything was shut down, and getting babyface reactions in the process. He’s a dark horse candidate. But one that might give Goldberg an interesting match.

In the end, unless they decided to make Bray Wyatt the challenger, I think you give Goldberg the victory here. Let him retain so he and Roman can have their “Spear vs. Spear” match whenever things get back to normal. Plus, Goldberg’s mystique revolves around him winning, and winning decisively. This would be a nice little notch to add to his belt.

PREDICTION: Bill Goldberg

TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison vs. The New Day vs. The Usos

Yeah, this one’s not happening either. At least not as advertised.

Apparently the Miz showed up to a taping sick, which was one of the things that prompted Reigns to bow out. So obviously, Miz is now out too.

What they do here largely depends on who they had at the building when this was taped. They could have plugged an NXT guy in there to be Miz’s replacement. Matt Riddle comes to mind. He one half of the NXT Tag Champs, but his partner Pete Dunne is stuck overseas due to flight restrictions.

But I would think the more likely solution is to simply have John Morrison defend the titles by himself. The New Day and the Usos are no stranger to big matches like this. So let them do their thing, and then Morrison can sneak in the back door and swipe the belts.

PREDICTION: The Miz & John Morrison

Elias vs. King Corbin

Because they’re splitting the show into two nights, they obviously need to pad the card out a little. Which is ironic, because there’s usually such a struggle to get everybody and their mother on to the Wrestlemania card.

In any event, that’s how Elias vs. King Corbin winds up on Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon is high on Corbin. Plus, he just knocked Elias off a balcony on Smackdown. So barring a surprise appearance by someone like Jeff Hardy, Corbin takes this one home.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

I’m not sure this was the kind of big Wrestlemania match Bobby Lashley had in mind when he came back. But hey, it could have been worse. He could still be stuck with Rusev.

Allegedly, had they not gone with Drew McIntyre as this year’s Royal Rumble winner, Aleister Black was on deck. That should tell you all you need to know about who’s winning this match.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

Dolph Ziggler vs. Otis Dozovic

Ziggler sent out a really depressing tweet on Monday: “15 years in the making & I am less than 1 week away from having as many singles matches at #WrestleMania as Michael Cole”.

Oh, what might have been…

There are bound to be shenanigans in this match. Mandy will obviously be out there. You’ve got to believe Tucker will be in Otis’ corner. Bobby Roode and Sonya Deville could be in the picture as well.

Dolph Ziggler should win this match. Despite never having had a singles match at Wrestlemania, he’s won all kinds of singles titles. Otis, on the other hand, is still relatively new to the main roster,and has spent most of his career in a tag team.

But here’s the rub: Dolph should win the match, but Otis should get the girl. Whoever is pulling the wool over Mandy’s eyes should be discovered, and she should leave Wrestlemania with Otis. Now if only there were fans in the building to give that moment the epic pop it deserves.

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Kairi Sane has been highly conspicuous by her absence these last few weeks. Heck, this year in general. So Asuka has had to do virtually all the heavy lifting on the Kabuki Warriors’ side of the build-up to this match. Reportedly, she’s been at home with her husband in Japan, having recently been married. She will however, be part of this match. Hopefully to take the pinfall.

Yes, when they’ve both been around, the Kabuki Warriors have proven to be a nice shot in the arm for WWE’s otherwise pitiful Women’s Tag Team Division. But it’s time to switch the titles. I say give them back to Alexa and Nikki, and then have them actually jump across brands to defend them. Rematch the Kabuki Warriors on Raw, then go against Sasha and Bayley on Smackdown. Clearly they’re looking to put stars on NXT. And now that everything is at the Performance Center, there’s no better time to defend the belts on that show. You’ve got some of the best talent in the world. Use it!

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

FATAL FIVE-WAY MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina

Originally, this was announced as a Six-Pack Challenge. But this match was another victim of Coronavirus paranoia. Carmella would have been a natural participant, but apparently opted out of the show altogether. Dana Brooke was to have been in it, but she wound up in quarantine. Ergo, we have a Fatal Five-Way.

This is yet another instance where they should have simply let Bayley and Sasha wrestle. My guess is it comes down to those two anyway. And what the heck? Let’s put the belt on Sasha and see if she can hold on to a main roster championship for once. That naturally leads into a feud with Bayley, which it feels  like we’ve been waiting on for decades.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

Austin Theory. Y’know, the guy who lost to Tyler Breeze last week? Yeah, he’s got a tag title shot now.

Not that it makes much of a difference. They’re working to establish the Street Profits as Raw‘s top tag team. No reason to have them drop the belts here, even if it were Andrade with Garza.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Well I’ll be damned. Sami Zayn is the Intercontinental Champion. I didn’t expect it. But I won’t complain about it. It does suck, however, that Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro have to essentially serve as his henchmen.

There’s no reason for them to put that hideous looking new IC Title on Bryan. His M.O. these days is obviously to help get other talents over, a la Drew Gulak. So he’ll give Zayn the biggest win of his career, and then I’m guessing he goes away for a little while. He’s about to welcome a second child into his family, after all.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens

It feels like these two were put together out of attrition. Neither had an organic opponent, so they were put together.

Still, there’s been some decent mic work leading up to this one. Particularly Rollins’ promo about being responsible for the Performance Center, NXT, etc.

The fact that Rollins brought up Owens’ Wrestlemania record makes me think they’re giving Owens the win. Raw needs top babyfaces right now. Drew McIntyre is obviously being groomed for the top spot. Aleister Black seems like a natural pick for that role. Owens is too. So let him get a big moment here.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

NXT WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Keep in mind, they wanted Charlotte to be the one to finally beat Ronda Rousey at last year’s Wrestlemania. Becky was not supposed to be in that match. So despite how backward it seems, Charlotte Flair is walking out of Wrestlemania with the NXT Women’s Title.

Still, all is not lost for Rhea Ripley. For my money, Charlotte been in two show-stealing matches at Wrestlemania. The first against Sasha and Becky, the second against Asuka. If she and Rhea give us that caliber a performance, it almost won’t matter who wins. Especially if Charlotte cheats to win, or Rhea hangs in there with her and just comes up short.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

BONEYARD MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

“Graveyard Match.” That’s what they’re trying to say here. I think AJ even said something to that effect recently.

This is a match I’ve been asking for since Styles first came in. Who could possibly be better equipped to give Undertaker a good match? Granted, I was expecting the match to take place in a ring. In a big arena. In front of people…

I stand by what I’ve said previously. There’s no reason for the Undertaker to lose at Wrestlemania ever again. Yes, the Streak is long dead. But an Undertaker victory is a feel-good moment. Almost a rite of passage. So let him have it.

One thing we’ve definitely learned this year? If you want a Wrestlemania match with a WWE legend, just attack their wife. Apparently it works really well.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

I know a lot of people didn’t like the biting angle they did with Shayna. But I loved it. I thought it made Shayna look like a vicious predator willing to do things Becky hasn’t seen before.

There was some buzz recently about Vince McMahon supposedly not thinking Shayna Baszler is worthy of this spot. First of all, she most certainly is. Secondly, who else could they have put with Becky? Rhea Ripley, I suppose. But that ship has obviously sailed. No one else was ready for her. And frankly, if Shayna doesn’t win the belt here, I’m not sure who they put with Becky next. It’s Baszler’s time. Plain and simple.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

FIREFLY FUNHOUSE MATCH:
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena

Without the crowd, it almost feels like a waste to even have Cena this year. Could he have given us an IOU for Wrestlemania next year?

I’m sure this will be something akin to the House of Horrors Match Bray had with Randy Orton a few years ago. Again, I like that they’re mixing the card up so not everything takes place in an empty building.

The outcome here should be pretty simple. Cena won at Wrestlemania XXX. The fans all knew it at the time. And as Bray has never really been the same since, I’d say we’ve been vindicated. So let’s correct that mistake and put him over here.

Now if only we could correct the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar match from that night as well…

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Edge vs. Randy Orton

Edge may actually be right about making Randy Orton better. This is undoubtedly the hottest Wrestlemania match he’s been in since the main event against Batista and Daniel Bryan.

In terms of having the best build-up, this match wins and it’s not even close. It sucks that Edge’s first Wrestlemania back has to be in an empty Performance Center. But all that quiet has allowed him to cut two of the best promos of his career. Hell, Orton even had one of his best. This has been a great story. The veteran star comes back and gets betrayed by his former partner.

While Undertaker vs. AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena are taking place in constructed sets (at least that’s my assumption), I’d wager this match is the one that goes all around the Performance Center. Something like the brawl Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa had on NXT a few weeks ago. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Beth Phoenix cameo in here somewhere.

As for the winner, is there any doubt?

PREDICTION: Edge

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

In a way, Roman Reigns pulling out of the show is a blessing in disguise. There was some early buzz about Reigns and Goldberg supposedly getting the main event spot. Nothing against either guy. But that would have been really, really wrong. Roman headlined four Wrestlemania cards in a row. Let someone else have a turn.

Whether it’s in a jam-packed venue in Tampa, or an empty performance center, it’s important for Drew McIntyre to main event this show. Even though the show is way too long nowadays and the fans are usually tired and cranky by the end, the main event of Wrestlemania still means something. If WWE is serious about wanting to make Drew McIntyre a star, there’s no better way to anoint him as such than having him headline this show. In theory, anyway. Roman Reigns never quite got that big coronation, did he?

Barring Vince McMahon changing his mind as he’s famous for, and opting to give Brock another surprise Wrestlemania win, I don’t see any reason why McIntyre shouldn’t win this match. I don’t care who’s in the building. This is his night, and it’s his time.

PREDICTION: Drew McIntyre

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Adventures, Lois Lane #9, and..Other Stuff…

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So yeah…how’s your quarantine been?

Like every other business on Earth, the comic book industry is being hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, comic shops will receive no new issues this week. What exactly will happen with digital releases remains to be seen. But Image, IDW, Dark Horse, and Oni Press have all opted out of digital releases until print issues return to stores.

As for me, “social distancing” kept me out of my comic shop this week. My issues are being shipped to me, but they won’t arrive until….today. Because of course.

But in the spirit of wanting to put something in this space this week, I’ve done some digital shopping of my own. I put some issues in my cart that aren’t the most recent, but that piqued my interest. First among these was Lois Lane #9, which for some reason has alluded me for several weeks now…

As for what’ll be in this space over the next several weeks, all I can say is something will be here. Even if I’ve got to review comics from decades ago. But next time, we’ll get into the issues I’m about to get in the mail. Such issues include Batman/Superman, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters, andI Can Sell You A Body, and more.

TITLE: Lois Lane #9
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: March 4, 2020

Batman shows up in this issue, seemingly for no reason other than to pad the story. Still, it is good to see Rucka writing him again. Even like this.

As the cover suggests, there’s an immigration angle here. If, like Batman, it were shoehorned in for no reason I’d take issue with it. But Rucka weaves it into the mystery of who is out to kill Lois. So it works for me.

Also, do yourself a favor and Google “Jessica Midnight.” Just a heads up.

TITLE: Star Wars Adventures #31
AUTHORS: Michael Moreci, Cavan Scott
ARTISTS: Arianna Florean, David M. Buisan, Valentina Taddeo (Colorist), Charlie Kirchoff (Colorist), Jake M. Wood (Inker)
RELEASED: March 18, 2020

I’ve had my eye on this title, as it was recently announced it’ll contain stories set after The Rise of Skywalker. But apparently that’s not until May…

What we get here is perfectly serviceable. First is a story about Rey flying an X-Wing for the first time. I assume that’s meant to foreshadow what she does near the end of Rise. Then we get a back-up about a young explorer in wild space. Frankly, the back-up intrigued me more than the main story did. We haven’t seen much (or any?) of wild space, have we?

TITLE: Outlawed #1
AUTHOR: Eve L. Ewing
ARTISTS:
Kim Jacinto, Espen Grundetjern (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Pepe Larraz and David Curiel.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

This book is here to set the table for yet another Champions relaunch. After the most recent relaunch ended this past October with only 10 issues. I mean…alright? If you’re sure.

This issue feels very Civil War-ish. A big explosion during a battle involving the Champions prompts the government to adopt a law prohibiting those under 21 from acting as superheroes.

This issue on its own didn’t do much for me. But I really liked the Mark Waid/Humberto Ramos Champions line-up. So if this kicks off a good story for them, I’m all in.

TITLE: Marvels Snapshots: Sub-Mariner
AUTHOR:
Alan Brennert
ARTISTS:
Jerry Ordway, Espen Grundetjern (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Alex Ross.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

I’ve got the unique perspective of reading Marvels at the same time all this supplemental material is coming out. It’s a lot to take in. But the process has been fun.

Though he comes from Atlantis, virtually a different world, this issue shows us Namor is just as vulnerable to the scars of war as his human cohorts. Set shortly after World War II, and told from the perspective of his love interest Betty Dean, this “snapshot” shows us how Namor both is and isn’t human. Ordway and Grundetjern set the period brilliantly with their art.

TITLE: The Resistance #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR: J. Michael Straczynski
ARTISTS:
Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Rahzzah.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

Good lord. This one might actually be too timely. Read at your own risk as far as triggers go.

Quick summary: A deadly virus sweeps the planet, killing hundreds of millions. Then suddenly, it goes dormant. In response, a new American president is elected that promises to keep the pubic safe if the virus returns. But some of the survivors have inexplicably acquired superpowers. So what the hell happens now?

This sparked my interest enough to read more. Much of what we see here feels disturbingly realistic, particularly in terms of how the public reacts to certain things…

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

 

WWE Elimination Chamber Preview – You Call THAT a Main Event?!?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Last year, the events of Elimination Chamber wound up changing the course of Smackdown for most of 2019. Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan put on a performance inside the Chamber so captivating, the audience demanded more. And thus Kofi was suddenly thrust into a WWE Championship Match at Wrestlemania, where he ended up taking the belt home and having yet another match-of-the-night performance in the process.

The kicker? Kofi wasn’t even supposed to be in the Chamber Match to begin with. He got tagged in when Mustafa Ali got hurt. That whole “Kofimania” story developed organically. And it all started at this show.

If you’re expecting something like that to happen on this year’s show, I’d temper your expectations. Like, a lot. While anything can happen come showtime, in 10 years of doing this Elimination Chamber pay per view, this is easily the weakest card they’ve ever assembled. None of the marquee Wrestlemania matches are represented here. No Brock Lesnar or Drew McIntyre. No Goldberg or Roman Reigns. John Cena and Bray Wyatt? Nada. Randy Orton and Edge? Nope. But I mean, Drew Gulak is on the show. That counts for something right?

If I had put my hard-earned money down for tickets to this show, I’d be pretty pissed off right about now…

Daniel Bryan vs. Drew Gulak

I kid Drew Gulak. He’s a fine wrestler, and had a nice run as 205 Live‘s shooter champion before being sent to Smackdown. I can only assume Bryan asked to work with him, much like he did with Mustafa Ali.

Keep an eye on this one. On paper it doesn’t look like much. But these are two ring generals. I expect they’ll surprise us with what they turn in. As for who wins, I’m sure Bryan wants to put Gulak over at some point. It could very well happen here. But my gut tells me Bryan wins this round.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo

While I can’t take anything away from his in-ring talent, personality-wise Humberto Carillo does absolutely nothing for me. Which is why I don’t necessarily take pleasure in predicting he’ll walk out of Elimination Chamber with the US Title.

While there’s never a good time to get popped for a wellness violation, Andrade didn’t do himself any favors by racking one up about a month into his first title run on the main roster. Despite still holding the belt, he seems to be in the doghouse. We’ve seen these two wrestle a million times on Raw, with and without the title on the line. So why do it again here if not to switch it to Carillo?

The real question, however, is what happens to Andrade after Elimination Chamber?

PREDICTION: Humberto Carillo

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, & Sami Zayn

I haven’t had a chance to say it yet, so allow me to get this off my chest: That new belt is trash. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the classic IC Title design. It was probably the best looking belt they had. Why they felt the need to once again fix something that wasn’t broken is anybody’s guess.

I’m assuming the way this works is, hypothetically, the person that scores the fall on Strowman would be champion. Isn’t that usually how this kinda thing goes?

Either way it’s a moot point. Strowman’s whole character was built on him bulldozing multiple guys in a single match. Granted, those were job guys. I wouldn’t have made any of these guys cannon fodder. But here we are. While I don’t think it’ll be a squash by any means, Strowman retains and moves on to somebody new at Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Murphy

I said it before Super Showdown: Rollins and Murphy were put together to give Murphy a rub, and weren’t in it for the long haul. So there’s no reason to put the titles back on them here. I’m fairly certain this match is only here to do two things: Kill time on what has essentially become a pointless filler show, and to give Kevin Owens a chance interfere and then challenge Rollins to a Wrestlemania match. With the latter, at least it moves a story forward.

PREDICTION: The Street Profits

AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black

If that tag match exists so Kevin Owens can interfere, this match exists so the Undertaker can interfere. It’s really just a question of whether Black gets to beat Styles. I’m assuming he does.

I was pitching an Undertaker/AJ Styles Wrestlemania match as far back as 2016. I hate to say it, but we’ve long since reached the point where we need smoke and mirrors to produce a good Undertaker match. AJ is perfect for that. If anybody can give ‘Taker one more quality Wrestlemania match, it’s him.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos vs. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party

There’s an argument to be made for putting the belts on Ziggler and Roode here. They can use this match to further the Otis/Mandy Rose storyline by having Ziggler and Roode screw Heavy Machinery out of another big win. Then Otis and Tucker beat them for the titles at Wrestlemania. From a storytelling perspective, I’d actually prefer that direction.

But then why give the belts to Miz and Morrison at Super Showdown? Why not just let the New Day keep them another few weeks?

With that in mind, I can only assume Miz and Morrison retain here. I can’t complain about that, as I like them as a team. But the Heavy Machinery idea just seems more…efficient?

PREDICTION: The Miz and John Morrison

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH TO DETERMINE CHALLENGER FOR RAW WOMEN’S TITLE AT WRESTLEMANIA:
Natalya vs. Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Ruby Riott vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan

So this is the main event, right? It almost has to be. It’s got a Wrestlemania title match attached to it.

Wow. So Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan will be able to say they main-evented a pay per view.

I assume the story of the Riott Squad all being against each other now is the reason Morgan and Logan are in this match, but Kairi Sane isn’t. Unfortunately, the Riott Squad thing doesn’t work. They were villains. We weren’t invested in them enough to care about them in a high stakes match like this. What’s more, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have put them back together when Ruby returned. Liv is done with the whole Lana storyline, and Sarah Logan has done a whole lot of nothing since they broke up. So why not?

I find it interesting that they supposedly called off the Chamber Match that Roman Reigns was supposed to win because it was too predictable, and yet they’re still giving us this match. Shayna Baszler is the only one of these six who should even be sniffing the Raw Women’s Title. In fact, I’d have her be the last one out with no eliminations up to that point, just so she could lay waste to the entire field. Have her tap out four opponents, narrowing it down to her and, say, Asuka. Then we get two ultra-dominant former NXT Women’s Champions fighting for the right to face the Raw Women’s Champion at Wrestlemania.

In the end Shayna wins, of course. Ideally, she would have won the Women’s Royal Rumble. But what’s done is done.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Super Showdown Preview – Goldberg vs. Wyatt (and Maybe Corbin?)

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Haven’t written much about wrestling lately. But it’s not like there’s a shortage of happenings. We’ve got AEW in the mix on Wednesday nights, NWA Powerr on YouTube, and of course WWE doing WWE things. Including traveling to Saudi Arabia for a pay per view this Thursday.

Or, as CM Punk might call it, “sucking blood-money covered dicks.”

Regardless of how you feel about WWE and the Saudis, the matches on these shows seem to be growing in importance. Case in point, at Crown Jewel in October, Bray Wyatt beat Seth Rollins to win the Universal Championship. Now we’ve got rumors swirling about whether Bray will still be champion coming out of this show. That isn’t the only title that seems to be on shaky ground going into the show.

So let’s get sucking. (Ew…)

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins & Murphy (c) vs. The Street Profits

As Rollins and Murphy won the titles so recently, normally I’d be inclined to say there’s no way they’re losing them so soon. But in this case, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dawkins and Ford fly back to the states with the belts. This Rollins/Murphy tandem has a limited shelf life. It seems like they’re primarily together to elevate Murphy’s status, which is fine by me. But the titles are coming off them sooner rather than later. While the Street Profits aren’t necessarily ready from a character perspective, stranger things have happened. Plus, putting the titles on them would set up for the obvious feud with AOP, who could then become the dominant monster champions.

Having said all that, I think it’s too soon. So by hook or crook, Rollins and Murphy retain.

PREDICTIONS: Seth Rollins & Murphy

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison

I think I can finally say it: I’m over the New Day. Kofi Kingston had a good thing going as a main event guy, and people have been waiting for Big E. to break out on his own for years now. I’m hardly the first person to suggest this, but how about we have Big E. turn on Kofi? You want a Wrestlemania match? Put those two against each other with Xavier Woods as the guest referee.

So yeah, I’m going with Miz and Morrison on this one. A nice little comeback for a team that’s already very well-decorated. I’ve said previously that Miz needs Morrison more than Morrison needs Miz. But having watched Morrison’s return, I’m not so sure anymore. He needs someone to either talk for him or someone to talk alongside. Who better than Miz? This win will be a nice feather in Morrison’s cap as he continues to reestablish himself in front of the WWE audience.

PREDICTION: The Miz and John Morrison

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Bayley (c) vs. Naomi

Poor Bayley.

You’ve got Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler in a blood feud (literally) over the Raw Women’s Title. Then you’ve got the story of Rhea Ripley calling out Charlotte Flair for the NXT Women’s Title. And then Bayley is just…there. That title? It just exists. That’s all.

It’s not her fault, though. That Smackdown Women’s Division is about as tepid as day-old coffee. I mean, who have they got for her on that show? Lacey Evans? Just did it. Carmella? Love her, but no thanks. Ember Moon? Injured. Sasha Banks? MIA. Alexa Bliss? Been there, done that, never want to go back. Though maybe if they threw Nikki Cross in there for a three-way…

Naomi has got the shot because we’re still in the honeymoon period of her return. While I’m glad to have her back, I don’t see any reason to give her the belt here. They can build a compelling women’s division around a heel Bayley. It’s just that the storytelling hasn’t been there. A Wrestlemania title match against Sasha Banks might be a necessary kick in the pants. But that’d presumably be the end of Sasha’s heel run. That gets a hard no from me.

Maybe new blood is the answer. We’ve heard a lot of talk about Bianca Belair potentially jumping to Raw. But Smackdown could really use someone like her right about now.

TUWAIQ TROPHY GAUNTLET MATCH:
Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles vs. Andrade vs. Bobby Lashley vs. R-Truth vs. Erick Rowan

They sure do love to throw around meaningless titles and trophies at these shows. The Best in the World Trophy, the Best Tag Team in the World, that WWE World Cup tournament. Now this. A “Tuwaiq Trophy.” Alright then.

I can only assume AJ Styles is winning here. Supposedly he’s working with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. This match may exist for the sole purpose of giving him a big victory to set him up for the Dead Man. Incidentally, Undertaker is rumored to be among the talent headed to Saudi Arabia. So if all the talk about that match is true, it may come to fruition as early as after the bell here.

So who’s the enduring, underdog babyface you build around for this match? In recent years we’ve seen them do that with guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Kofi Kingston. Who’s going to go the distance, only to fall just short of the victory? We haven’t got a lot of options here. It’s either Rey Mysterio or R-Truth. As Truth is a comedy act, it’s got to be Rey. He goes in there and slips past most (if not all) the other heels, only to be flattened by AJ at the end.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

STEEL CAGE MATCH:
Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin

I certainly hope Corbin has been learning from Roman Reigns through all this. That way, at least something good has come of it. I haven’t been as inclined as others to simply hate on the whole thing. But by God, just let it end. Like Matt Hardy, it simply will not die.

Roman wins. Because why wouldn’t he?

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Ricochet

In all likelihood, this match will be in the main event spot. But because so many have written it off, we’ll put it second from the top.

It’s kind of a shame. This is the biggest match of Ricochet’s career, and he’s essentially being laughed out of the arena before it even begins. Although win or lose, simply being in a title match with Brock is a great thing to have on his resume. It might even be an awesome match. We all know how well Lesnar works with the smaller guys.

But yes, Richochet has to lose here. As talented and worthy of the spotlight as he is, he’s only in this match because of the part he played in Brock’s elimination from the Royal Rumble Match.

Speaking of which, I wouldn’t count out a Drew McIntyre appearance after this match. But we certainly don’t need it. He’s not scheduled to wrestle, and I don’t see the point in flying him across the world just to have a staredown with Brock. And given the trouble they had flying home from Crown Jewel, it’s probably best he stays behind anyway.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Goldberg

The Fiend returns to the site of his title win, and Goldberg returns to the site of his humiliation.

I kid Goldberg. But man, these Saudi shows aren’t to kind to him. First he and Undertaker stink up the joint, and now he’s losing to the Fiend.

What’s that? Goldberg might win? He could once again walk into Wrestlemania with the Universal Title? Maybe rematch against Bray? Or even face Roman Reigns?

No. Just stop.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. But I’d be blown away if they put the belt back on Goldberg. From a storytelling perspective, what’s the logic there? They’ve resurrected Bray Wyatt’s career, making him one of the biggest and best characters in the business. He’s been champion for months now. Why have him hold it this long, just to drop it so close to Wrestlemania? And to Goldberg, of all people. Yes, this match has really nice marquee appeal. But look at Goldberg’s last few matches. He lost to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Then he lost to the Undertaker. He followed that up with a win over Dolph Ziggler at Summerslam. And now he’s (presumably) about to lose to Bray.

The attraction that is Goldberg revolves around him destroying his opponents and winning. Naturally, at this stage in his career you want him to put people over. But is he continues to lose so many consecutive matches, don’t you diminish his value? Ironically, Bray used to have this problem. He’d go on TV, cut these spooky promos, and then lose again and again and again.

Ill-advised or not, I’ve got to go with Bray Wyatt on this one. If they really want to do Goldberg and the Fiend at Wrestlemania, they aught to do a DQ or a count-out finish here. If he has to lose again, at least do it at the biggest show of the year.

But if they really want to use Goldberg at Wrestlemania, and stay with me on this one, what about Baron Corbin? We’re all dying to get Corbin away from Roman Reigns. And so many people went out of their tiny minds last year when he beat Kurt Angle in his retirement match. So put Corbin with Goldberg and add the stipulation that if Goldberg loses he can never wrestle again. Because of what happened with Angle, there’ll be reason to believe they’ll do something similar here.

But in the end it’s a spear, a jackhammer, and a Goldberg victory. See? Doesn’t that feel better?

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.