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Ric Flair/Halle Berry Creepiness, Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Ric Flair, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Looks like Uncle Ric is in trouble again.

A recent episode of The Ric Flair Show over at MLWRadio.com has drawn some heat for ol’ Naitch. Flair made a comment about sleeping with Halle Berry in 1997, shortly after her divorce from baseball star David Justice.

TMZ reports Berry is quite offended by what Flair said. They got a quote from a Berry rep that, for my money, says it all: “A man doesn’t get to sexualize and lie about a woman he’s never met to better himself or his name. It’s offensive, demeaning and beyond misogynistic.”

Having heard the clip from the podcast, I get the sense Flair was partially in wrestling promo mode when he said this. That’s one of the sad things about Flair. He always seems to be in promo mode, because he’s still trapped in that character. It’s not entirely his fault. We all have fond memories of that playboy persona, and even at 67 years old, that’s who a lot of fans still want Flair to be. That doesn’t make what he said acceptable or less creepy. But it’s worth noting where his mind likely was at the time.

Ric Flair deserves respect and admiration for his in-ring accomplishments. But these embarrassing slip-ups are making it painfully obvious that times have passed him by. I guess it’s not easy being an aging ’80s playboy in a world as politically correct and issue-sensitive as ours has become.

Ric Flair, Charlotte, Raw, November 30, 2015Case in point: This past spring, Ric was involved in the program between Charlotte and Natalya, and accidentally told Nattie to kill herself during a promo on Smackdown. While the show was taped and WWE was able to clip that line, you can find it on YouTube.

All this Halle Berry drama comes at a really interesting time, as lately his name has been brought up on Smackdown quite a bit. John Cena may be about to tie his record or 16 Heavyweight Titles. WWE obviously didn’t feel the need to avoid Flair’s name, and I expect we’ll see him on TV to talk about this at some point.

Bottom line, Flair got attention for his remark. But it wasn’t kind of attention he wanted. Just a sad situation overall.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Kane def. Bray Wyatt via count-out. I maintain this Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton program would have been better off had they let Bray beat Kane at Backlash. Now the poor guy can’t even beat him on free TV. By the law of averages alone, Bray does have to beat someone at some point, right?

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016That shot of an upside down Bray suddenly noticing Orton on the tron was cool. Good acting by Bray. It lent credence to the idea that Orton is inside his head.

It looked like they were going to simply reverse the story they told last week, with Bray hunting Randy this time. Instead Randy trapped Bray in a storage container, and we got some nice grainy footage of Bray in there with the rocking chair. Very found footage. Randy also had a good line: “Lord have mercy…or not.”

Nikki Bella def. Alexa Bliss via disqualification after Carmella interferes. Bliss & Carmella win a subsequent tag match against Bella & Becky Lynch. Carmella was out there on commentary, and was doing an exaggerated New York accent. That only reinforces the whole Real Housewives vibe I’m getting from her. She’s also got a really grating voice when she’s screeching at opponents in the ring. All this translates to big heat with me. The good kind of heat, not Shining Stars channel changing heat. That accent’s not going to be easy to maintain all the time, though. Just ask Lana.

I did, however, get a kick out of Carmella calling Nikki a Kardashian wannabe. Also, nobody compared Alexa to Harley Quinn, and that Twisted Bliss moonsault is still gorgeous. So a good week for the women of Smackdown.

The Spirit Squad, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016The Spirit Squad returns during Miz TV, as Miz pays “tribute” to Dolph Ziggler’s career. One of the highlights of this segment was Ziggler cutting Miz off with: “I’m not gone yet, ass face. Say that again, I’ll knock the hell outta you.” Would it have killed them to just let him say asshole? That’s what he, and everyone in the audience is thinking. You’re on prime time TV, guys. Just let him say it.

Dolph went a little John Cena on us here, talking about kids looking up to him, doing Make a Wish stuff, etc. A bold move, considering Cena’s been doing that promo for years now, and probably busts it out before Thanksgiving dinner.

Hearing him talk about cashing in Money in the Bank the night after Wrestlemania really rang true. That’s the one moment in Ziggler’s career that everybody remembers. Unfortunately, it’s become a testament to this guy’s wasted potential.

On the subject of wasted potential, the big surprise here was the return of Ken Doane and Mike Mondo in their Spirit Squad gear. In an era where WWE is looking to pad their roster a little bit, I’m hopeful these guys can come back and deliver on some of that potential. WWE is actually advertising the return of Curt Hawkins for No Mercy, as if he wasn’t strictly an enhancement guy when he left. Wrestlers who didn’t leave on a great note are getting second chances.

Jason Jordan, Jey Uso, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016Jason Jordan def. Jey Uso. This one wrapped up quickly. A bit of a let down, actually. I’m always anxious to see Jordan suplex the hell out of somebody. Though it’s not like we won’t see him in there with the Usos again. The smart bet is Jimmy and Jey take the belts on Sunday, and we officially transition into a tag title feud with American Alpha.

Jack Swagger def. Baron Corbin by “submission.” Interesting finish, here. Corbin repeatedly reaches for the ropes in rapid succession, his wrist hitting the mat repeatedly, so the ref calls it a tap out victory for Swagger. Not sure if we’ve seen that before…

You know what Baron Corbin needs? A mouthpiece. Ironically, he’s in the same position Swagger was in before Zeb Colter came along. Yes, Corbin is the “Lone Wolf.” But he’s a lone wolf that’s getting eaten alive every time he opens his mouth.

AJ Styles, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose share a ring before their title match at No MercyBoth Styles and Ambrose jumped on Cena when this segment started. It made sense, given who Cena is and how good his mic work was on Talking Smack last week. But did it also made them look insecure? I can’t decide…

John Cena, Dean Ambrose, WWE Smackdown, October 4, 2016When it was his turn to talk, Ambrose went the backstage politics route. The line about “the guy who plays John Cena on TV” was good. There’s been some buzz about both these guys taking time away from Smackdown after No Mercy. Cena’s got his TV show, and Ambrose is allegedly shooting a movie. If that’s true, we lose the most compelling thing on this show, which is the stuff between the two of them. I’ll say it again: They need to work a singles program after No Mercy.

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Hulk Hogan’s Win, Sting’s Retirement, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Hulk Hogan, 2016, trialBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We’ve got a lot to get to this week before we even touch Raw. So let’s dive in…

Hulk Hogan wins $115 million in lawsuit against Gawker, plus $25 million in punitive damages. I’m pleased Hogan won. While he is a jackass, nobody deserves to have their privacy violated so horribly. Particularly by people you think are your friends. Maybe all of this is karma coming back to bite the Hulkster after all these years. But here’s hoping he can finally find some peace.

TMZ reports Sting is retiring from in-ring competition, “The Icon” disputes report. I’m inclined to think Sting’s rebuttal is him wanting to go out on his own terms. Even when the injury happened, Sting was talking about coming back for one more match. If Sting does get back for one more outing, that’s fantastic. But if he doesn’t, that’s fine. Sting has nothing left to prove. At this point his health is what’s important.

Drew Galloway, TNA title winDrew Galloway wins TNA Heavyweight Title. I’m not sure Drew Galloway was ever going to be a big money ball player in WWE (though that’s not to say he couldn’t be), but he was certainly better than the comedy role he had at the end of his run. So seeing him take the TNA Title is a big feel-good moment, and very much deserved.

Bobby Roode and Eric Young leave TNA. This is a big blow for TNA, but obviously they’ve survived worse. In a perfect world, this means two big spots open for guys to elevate themselves. As for Roode and Young, NXT seems to be a likely destination. Particularly for Roode, who I think would really fit in well there.

Pondering From WWE Raw:

Stephanie McMahon and Roman Reigns open the show. I realized something when Stephanie walked out at the top of the show: She has what some call “channel changing heat” with me. She’s been opening the show, and saying the same kind of BS for so long now, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything when I fast-forward through her mic time.

Roman Reigns, Stephanie McMahon, Raw, March 21, 2016I will say, however, that it was that same heat that allowed Roman Reigns to have a good outing here. See him cover the mic while Steph was holding it, and then block her dreaded slap of disdain, was satisfying. Now if only they could get people to cheer him…

Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles after a Chris Jericho distraction. Really good match. These two got about three segments, which by WWE standards is a big time investment. And wouldn’t you know it, the Intercontinental Champion keeps some momentum heading into Wrestlemania. Imagine that!

Terry Funk featured in a pre-tape with Dean Ambrose. This was a really nice surprise. Terry Funk is truly one of a kind. He’s 71 years old, but I’m pretty sure that if they gave him enough money he’d fight Brock Lesnar himself. Hell, a few months ago he had a match with Jerry Lawler, and Lawler threw a damn fireball in his face. Actually, Ambrose might want to buzz Lawler and see if he can get him some fire…

Rusev, Big. E, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Big E. def. Rusev after dueling promos from the League of Nations and The New Day. None of this was bad. It beat the hell out of the five minute beatdown the League gave New day last week. I won’t lie, I got a chuckle out of that shame him/Sheamus line. I don’t see this match being anything special at Wrestlemania. But The New Day will get to be on Wrestlemania. So I’ll tolerate it.

The Big Show cuts a promo about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. A fight erupts with Kane and The Social Outcasts. Not a bad promo from The Big Show. I don’t know whether this was scripted or not, but it came off very genuine. The big guy made me believe. Sadly, that doesn’t happen too often these days.

Byron Saxton said on commentary that whoever wins this thing has the chance to change the course of their career. If that’s true, then it’s not a change for the better. Cesaro win this match two years ago, and wound up shoehorned into a heel turn that killed his momentum. Then last year Big Show won it, and it was forgotten two weeks later. If they want this match to be more than just a time killer, someone has to win it and then go on to bigger and better things.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Chris Jericho def. Fandango. My God! Fandango is alive! It’s been so long since we’ve seen him that I just assumed he’s was dead and buried! Well, he was buried to an extent, wasn’t he?

Very happy to see they’re going with Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles one more time at Wrestlemania. For awhile it was rumored they’d be stuck in the multi-man Intercontinental Title Match (more on that in a moment). But this is the match they deserve, and frankly it’s a match Wrestlemania deserves.

Kevin Owens to defend the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania in a ladder match against Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, The Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara, and Zack Ryder. When this match was made official, I immediately thought of Neville. The poor guy broke his ankle last week, but he kept popping up in segments with Owens. The smart bet is that he was supposed to be in this match.

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016I’m really not a fan of these multi-man ladder matches anymore. I find them lazy from a storytelling standpoint. Plus, WWE relies far too much on these ladder matches nowadays. They all blend together. We’ve already got a big battle royal on this show. What’s so tough about putting two, or even three or four guys together in an Intercontinental Title Match, and putting the others in the battle royal?

Roman Reigns attacks Triple H backstage. They’re being very frugal about sending Roman into arenas. For the past two weeks, he’s been out there for small stretches, only to end up in a backstage fight. And he hasn’t wrestled on television in quite awhile. Not exactly ideal for your lead babyface heading into Wrestlemania. But at least the fights have been decent.

Bubba Ray Dudley def. R-Truth. Goldust and The Usos emerge to back Truth up. A shorter segment, but I can’t complain much about what I see here. I’m actually looking forward to seeing the Dudleys and the Usos go at it. I hope to see these two feud for at least another month after Wrestlemania. For that matter, I’m even looking forward to seeing what Goldust and R-Truth do as a tag team.

Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Vince McMahon announces that if The Undertaker loses to Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania, this will be his final Wrestemania. Did Vince actually say Shane would be ‘Taker’s “most formidable opponent” at Wrestlemania? Let’s hope Brock Lesnar didn’t hear that…

They’re late on this one. This really should have come the week after Shane came back. The Undertaker and Vince should have had an in-ring segment where ‘Taker refuses to do Vince’s dirty work, then we get this announcement. This has significantly less impact. But better late than never.

Also, those video packages they put together about Shane and his training were really good. Why they don’t do that kind of thing more often is beyond me. It’s not like they don’t have the production capabilities to do so. And they were able to add to the story without having either Shane or ‘Taker in the building.

Dean Ambrose, Paul Heyman, WWE Raw, March 21, 2016Braun Strowman def. Dean Ambrose via disqualification. I understand what they were trying to do here. They put Ambrose out there with another giant, and in the same arena with Paul Heyman. But despite those typically intriguing elements, this was a lame duck main event. Case in point: The “this is boring” chants. The upside? They didn’t book Undertaker vs. Strowman at Wrestlemania.

At this point, I can only assume The Wyatt Family will be in the Andre Battle Royal. Having Bray win wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

Image 1 from ABC News. Image 2 from pwmania.com.

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Vince McMahon is Not a Genius. Plus, Ponderings From WWE Raw

Vince McMahon, ForbesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Over the years, WWE has had a grand old time trying to convince people that Vince McMahon is a genius. He’s the genius that took his company global and changed an industry forever. He’s the genius that created pop cultural icons like Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. He’s the genius at the helm of a company that entertains millions. Stuff like that.

But if these last several years have proven anything, it’s that Vince McMahon is not a genius. He’s an intelligent, tireless, ballsy, charismatic promoter. But that doesn’t make him a genius. Albert Einstein was a genius. Thomas Edison was a genius. Vince McMahon? Not so much.

A genius would understand that “legitimacy” by way of sponsorships with companies like Toys R Us and Kay Jewelers doesn’t mean much when the product they’re sponsoring has become so cookie-cutter and stale.

A genius would know that micromanagement from the top only stifles creativity, and leads to anxiety amongst employees.

A genius doesn’t fight with his audience, whether they’re die-hards or casual fans. Ultimately, the fans invest in the performers they want to see, not the ones you want them to want to see.

But hey, what do I know? Clearly I’m no genius…

The League of Nations, Raw, November 30, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Sheamus forms new faction, the League of Nations, with Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett, and Rusev. There’s potential here. A faction like this can allow for Sheamus to be portrayed as a champion that can’t beat challengers on his own, and needs help from his buddies. If I’m the booker, I’ve got Sheamus in the upper card, Del Rio taking the midcard, and Barrett and Rusev as a tag team. There’s also the potential for Del Rio to get sick of Sheamus and turn babyface, which would give him another shot at being WWE’s marquee Hispanic star.

You know who I was thinking about this week? Jack Tunney. Tunney was WWE’s on-screen president from 1984 to 1995. We never saw much of him. He’d show up when they needed to announce a big match, or settle some controversy. We didn’t need to see Jack Tunney on television every week. We certainly didn’t need a Jack Tunney heel turn.

The establishment of this League of Nations group fills what WWE seems to see as a need for tyrannical heels at the top of the card. Now would be a good opportunity to phase Triple H and Stephanie out of their weekly TV roles, and scale them back to as-needed, big moment roles. Obviously the exception would be when they need Triple H to wrestle. But generally speaking, that’d be a good rule of thumb.

Will it happen? Probably not. But we can dream.

Ric Flair, Charlotte, Raw, November 30, 2015Ric Flair prompts Charlotte to feign an injury to defeat Becky Lynch. This was weird. Charlotte pulls a heel move to win a match with Becky, then talks about “tough love.” This prompts Paige to come in and play mind games, perhaps teasing a Becky heel turn.

So were we supposed to forgive Charlotte when she gave the tough love excuse? In all honesty, I initially thought they were turning Charlotte heel, which makes no sense. The one we left this segment sympathizing with was Becky, because her friend dicked her over. I’m confused.

I can only assume this means Ric and WWE have smoothed over whatever problems they had with the Reid controversy a few weeks ago. I can’t help but think of what Flair said on his podcast about not wanting to hurt Charlotte’s career by speaking ill of WWE. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was quick to cooperate with them for his daughter’s sake. Granted, I obviously have nothing to base that on.

Tommy Dreamer returns to WWE to help The Dudley Boyz against The Wyatt Family.  I’ve got no complaints about seeing Tommy, especially during a period where the roster is so thin. I’m guessing leads to a six-man tables match at TLC.

Tommy Dreamer, Raw, November 30, 2015It was cool to see Bubba get the mic, but the initial monologue came off really scripted. I’ll say it again: Micromanagement stifles creativity. Also, with all that talk about “family,” did anybody else think Spike Dudley was coming out?

Another question: Why put Bray through a table on this show? With only two weeks to go before the pay per view, you’d think they’d do that spot with Harper or Rowan this week, then Strowman next week. This felt like an early climax (*ehem*).

Dolph Ziggler def. Tyler Breeze. Decent showing here. Yet another instance of 50/50 booking. Breeze beats Dolph at Survivor Series, Dolph beats Breeze here. Nobody really gets over.

When JBL brought up what a big moment it was when Breeze beat Ziggler, a former World Champion, what immediately came to mind was Fandango beating Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania. By God, what a historic win that was. And as we all know, Fandango went on to bigger and better things…right?

Lana returns to Raw alongside Rusev during “Miz TV.” Rumors of nuclear heat notwithstanding, Lana was back. I’m pleased they took the time to actually explain why she and Rusev are back together, as opposed to pretending nothing happened. And I’ll credit Rusev for rolling with those “We want Lana” chants.

Rusev, Lana, Raw, November 30, 2015I’m not sure what Rusev’s subsequent loss to Ryback was supposed to accomplish, though. Common sense would dictate that you have the reinvigorated Rusev beat Ryback to re-assert his dominance. That one was a head scratcher.

Also, how pathetic was it that they had to mention three times that TMZ that leaked the news of their engagement. Yes WWE, we get it. TMZ knows you exist.

Adam Rose debuts “Rosebush” gossip segment. As I understand, Rose did something like this on WWE.com awhile back. Can’t say I caught that. But if I’m Adam Rose, I’m ecstatic about this. WWE may actually be giving him something to do on a weekly basis. Sure, it’s a pre-tape. But at least he gets to talk.

Sasha Banks def. Brie Bella. So…was Brie supposed to be the babyface here? Even though she was a heel just a few weeks ago? Ugh. Either way, Sasha won. So it’s a victory for our side either way.

In Other News:

Raw, June 1, 2015, Kevin OwensKevin Owens wants to face Brock Lesnar. There’s a built-in match between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at Wrestlemania XXXII if WWE wants to go that route. But recent reports indicate Owens wants to face Brock Lesnar (not to mention The Undertaker) at some point. But at this point, WWE may want to seriously consider putting Owens with Brock. Owens, I think, has a good understanding of what being a true heel is about, and can really make the fans want to see Brock beat the piss out of him at Wrestlemania. Are there better options than Owens? Maybe. But there aren’t many better options…

WWE fires Brad Maddox for using the phrase “cocky pricks” before a dark match. WWE did the real-life Tyler Kluttz a favor with this one. When they put you in a turkey suit to take a Tombstone from The Undertaker in front of millions of people on The Tonight Show, you’ve got a pretty good indication of how much they value you.

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

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