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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Wrestlemania 32 Preview – Pushing For Overachievement

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is not what WWE wanted to do for Wrestlemania.

John Cena. Randy Orton. Seth Rollins. Sting. Bray Wyatt (allegedly). Cesaro. Luke Harper. Neville. They’re all out with injuries, leaving a series of gaping holes in the roster at a time when WWE was hoping to put on the biggest Wrestlemania of all time.

What’s more, creative has been a mess. Fans refuse to accept Roman Reigns as the lead babyface, and have been booing him week after week. Considering he’s wrestling for the WWE Championship on this show, that’s a huge problem. To make matters worse, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, two of the biggest stars in the history of the industry, are going to be on this show. But we have no idea what they’re doing.

Simply put, the bar has been set low this year. We’ve been left with a Wrestlemania that we can only hope exceeds our low expectations. Thankfully, considering the quality of the product as of late, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full disclosure: I’ve lost track of what is and isn’t on the pre-show. Considering we never know what could be taken off or put on the pre-show, we’ll simply proceed from the bottom of the card…

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 2016ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

We may as well pick a name out of a hat in this one. In the last two Andre Battle Royals, there’s been an obvious up and coming talent to give the win to. In 2014 it was Cesaro. It 2015 it was Damien Sandow. Granted, Sandow didn’t get it. But who would benefit from winning this year? There are 20 men in this thing, and we know 16 of them. I can only assume two of those free spots will be filled by Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman. Assuming they don’t pull a fast one and have somebody from NXT take it (which I’d be in favor of), I say we go with a pitch The Solomonster gave months ago, and have Mark Henry take it. This will likely be one of his last go-arounds, and it’d make for a feel good moment worthy of Wrestlemania. So given the amount of information we have, I’ve got to go with Henry.

PREDICTION: Mark Henry

Divas Tag Team Match, Wrestlemania XXXIILana, Summer Rae, Naomi, Tamina, & Emma vs. Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox & Eva Marie 

More or less a filler match for the ladies, which is a shame considering we have potentially the best women’s match Wrestlemania has seen in years later on the card. Who wins? It really doesn’t matter. But considering Brie Bella is allegedly retiring sooner than expected, I imagine her team will pick up the win here.

PREDICTION: Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Dudley Boyz, The UsosThe Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

This program has been good for the Usos. The Dudleys, Bubba in particular, or such vile and nasty heels that Jimmy and Jey have needed to crank up the intensity to match them. The best comparison I can think of is when Shawn Michaels worked with Mankind in September 1996. Hopefully these four get a bigger spotlight once there’s more room on Raw after Wrestlemania. As for this match, I see Bubba and D-Von picking up the win. It’s the Dudleys’ first Wrestlemania since their return, and they deserve it. Plus, the Usos will look good on the comeback trail. That is, assuming they stay babyface… (More on that later.)

PREDICTION: The Dudley Boyz

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Ryback, KalistoWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

Frankly, I’d have preferred to see the US Title get the multi-man match, while Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn went at it for the Intercontinental Title. But here we are. While I wouldn’t expect this one to go long, being in a singles match for a title is unquestionably a big moment in the careers of both Kalisto and Ryback. As for who wins, WWE clearly sees potential in Ryback. Perhaps not as much as they used to, but they obviously like him. So I’m putting my money on “The Big Guy” getting a big win. Hopefully Kalisto remains a contender, though. I maintain he can be a big international star in the same vein as Rey Mysterio Jr.

PREDICTION: Ryback

The New Day vs. The League of Nations, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIThe New Day vs. The League of Nations

The cool thing about this match is the Dallas crowd should be firmly in The New Day’s corner. On a night where we’ve got two big babyface vs. babyface matches, and a main event where the hero isn’t going to be cheered, that’s a big plus. I don’t see why Kofi, Big E., and Xavier shouldn’t retain here. Crowds love them, and they’ve just starting their babyface turn. While WWE may want you to think they’ve got a hot rivalry going with the League of Nations, in reality it’s just something for the League to do on the card. Hopefully this is one of their last go-arounds as a group. After this match, we shouldn’t have anything to be sour about.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, StardustLADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:

Another year, another ladder match for the IC Title. As I’ve said before, from a booking standpoint matches like this are often devoid of any creativity. They simply threw seven guys into a ladder match. Hell, Zack Ryder allegedly replaced Neville in this match, and it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference from a story perspective. I rest my case. I’m sure it’ll be a fun match to watch. But man, what a waste…

For my money, this match comes down to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Everybody else is just there to fill space. The Owens/Zayn rivalry is seriously lacking depth right now, but that’s an easy problem to fix. They can simply slap a video package together the way they did with The Undertaker and Shane McMahon last week. And just like that, they up the intrigue. I see Owens retaining here, somehow screwing Zayn over in the end. After that, they can get at least another two months out of rematches.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, WWE Wrestlemania XXXIIChris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

This is the fourth time we’ll have seen these two wrestle since January, so the pressure is on them to pull something fresh out of the hat. On the upside, you’ll rarely find two men more qualified to do that. To Jericho’s credit, he’s dedicated most of his 2016 run to making AJ Styles a star in WWE. How Styles will fare without Jericho helping him remains to be seen (no disrespect). But for now, things are looking up for Styles, as he’s all but guaranteed to get a victory at his first Wrestlemania. And the smart bet is that his won’t suffer the same fate as Fandango after his ‘Mania bout with Jericho.

I’d love to see Jericho stick around a little while as we head into Spring, especially now that he’s a heel again. One would be hard pressed to find a wrestler who wouldn’t benefit from some ring time with him.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky LynchTRIPLE THREAT MATCH FOR WWE DIVAS TITLE:
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

I’m conflicted on this one. Becky Lynch has really taken off as a babyface since January. For yours truly, she’s a sentimental favorite in this match, and a title win would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

On the other hand, Sasha Banks is looked at by many as the woman who could truly stamp this as a new era for women’s wrestling. I’ve even seen reports WWE is rebranding the Divas Title in favor of the Women’s Title after Wrestlemania, with Sasha holding the belt. So in the bigger picture, a win for Sasha may be more important.

But…couldn’t Becky bring back the Women’s Title just as easily? From a character standpoint, I think she’s actually more developed than Sasha is. And for the record, I’m a Sasha Banks fan.

But in truth, regardless of who wins here, the fans are winners. That’s a cliche, but it’s true. We’re getting three quality female wrestlers competing for a championship at the biggest show of the year. In the end, I think Sasha will end up with the belt. But it could truly end up being any of these talented ladies.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Dean Ambrose, Brock LesnarSTREET FIGHT:
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

I know they’re hyping this as a “No Holds Barred Street Fight.” But isn’t a street fight by it’s very nature no holds barred? Who even uses wrestling holds in a street fight?

To my recollection, Brock Lesnar hasn’t been pinned since Triple H beat him at Wrestlemania XXIX. That was three years ago. If Brock loses here, it’s not the end of the world. What’s more, they can have him loses in a way that barely hurts him at all. WWE has had Ambrose ponder the use of a barbed wire baseball bat and a chainsaw against this guy. How much more of a monster can you build him up as?

What’s more, Ambrose is the right guy to win this match. He is ascending, and truly on his way to becoming a top guy. Paul Heyman even said it in his promo on Monday. A win over a mega attraction like Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania could truly catapult him to the next level. At a time where they desperately need new stars, the time is now to give a huge win to someone that the fans favor organically. Dean Ambrose is that guy.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, The Undertaker, Shane McMahonSTIPULATION HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
If Shane wins, he gets control of Raw, and Undertaker can never compete at Wrestlemania again.

Talk about coming WAY out of left field. They slapped this one together pretty hastily, but what choice did they have? WWE hasn’t been bit by the injury bug, it’s been infected with an injury plague. But as far as thrown together Wrestlemania attractions are concerned, this one is pretty damn good. But the question is, can it live up to the hype? And there’s certainly no shortage of hype between Shane’s return, the possibility of a much needed shake up on Raw, and The Undertaker competing in a Hell in a Cell Match at Wrestlemania.

I expect no shortage of craziness here. Vince and Stephanie will likely be at ringside. Shane is probably taking a crazy bump of some kind. We may see action outside the cage, and perhaps even on top. Maybe this is where Steve Austin fits into things. Perhaps a run-in and a Stone Cold Stunner to lead into the finish?

Regardless of what’s on the line in this match, I truly have no desire to see The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania again. I understand his winning streak has been broken, and that beating him wouldn’t have nearly the amount of impact it did two years ago. But he’s still The Undertaker, and this is still Wrestlemania. Changing things on Raw doesn’t necessitate Shane being in the picture, though I admit that would certainly be a plus. Furthermore, who’s to say Shane can’t end up being in charge of Raw anyway? He supposedly has a big secret over Vince’s head, right? What if that secret comes out the night after Wrestlemania, and Triple H and Stephanie resign in its wake, leaving Vince with no choice but to make Shane the new General Manager of Raw?

Either way, there’s a strong possibility that this match steals the show. Or at the very least, proves to be a worthwhile substitute for the presence of all the stars on the injured list…

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

WWE Wrestlemania XXXII, Triple H, Roman ReignsWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

We’ve had some lame duck Wrestlemania main events in the past. But it’s tough to point to any headline match that’s been as in over it’s head as this one. This match represents a year’s worth of effort by WWE to turn Roman Reigns into the company’s top babyface. Simply put? It didn’t work. Now they’ve got him against Triple H, WWE’s tyrannical on-screen authority figure/WWE Champion, and the fans have been cheering for the tyrant.

Ouch.

Simply put, you can’t force-feed a hero to to your audience. Even if you’re Vince McMahon. They really have nobody to blame but themselves for all those boos Roman is going to hear in Dallas. I honestly feel for the guy. It’s not his fault. He’s got his marching orders. What’s he supposed to do? Say no to a Wrestlemania main event, and the top spot in the company?

It’s been said time and time again, but it bears repeating now more than ever: Roman needs to turn heel. They’ve been ducking and dodging it for months now. But unless they’re comfortable with their alleged top babyface being booed out of arenas across the country, the fans need to be allowed to hate him Roman Reigns. And like any heel who is good at what he does, eventually he’ll be cheered.

Roman Reigns, The RockThis needs to be a double turn. Vince McMahon sides with Roman Reigns and costs Triple H the match. This leads to Roman becoming our new heel champion, possibly with The Usos as his run-in buddies. From there, he can feud with the likes of Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, or whichever babyfaces they want to put him with. WWE is desperate for strong heels right now, and nobody is getting more heat than Reigns. The time has come to stop going against the grain.

I can only assume The Rock will play some kind of role in this match. One sure fire way to get heat? Turn on the People’s Champion. I’m just sayin’.

In any event, whether he’s a heel or a babyface, I don’t see any way Reigns doesn’t leave Dallas with the title. Let’s just hope it’s under the right circumstances.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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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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A WWE Fastlane 2016 Preview – The Irrevocable Roman Reigns

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kalisto

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch

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

Here’s your bathroom break match…

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

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

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Charlotte

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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

What we have here is an opportunity…

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

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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

The Rock, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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John Cena: The Future of “Mr. WWE”

John Cena, Wrestlemania press conferenceBy Richard Brown
Guest Contributor

John Cena has long been the poster boy of the WWE. But as we know, nothing lasts forever. With the likes of Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose garnering substantial column inches, how is Mr. WWE coping with such changes?

The 38-year-old Cena made his television debut in the WWE back in 2002 against wrestling legend, Kurt Angle. Since then he’s gone on a meteoric rise to stardom, and is currently the fourth longest serving wrestler to ever feature in the organization. Only Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Hulk Hogan have appeared in WWE for longer periods.

His most successful time in the promotion was arguably between 2006-2010. Cena has won multiple titles and his popularity has extended past his wrestling roots. The promotion has sent the Florida native to the silver screen, bankrolling two films starring Cena: The Marine and 12 Rounds.

John Cena, Vince McMahonWWE Chairman Vince McMahon has a proven record of building stars and turning them into household names. You only have to reference the likes of the aforementioned Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock to see how the pro wrestling business mogul has a track record of developing talent.

Fast-forward to the modern day, however, and Cena is in the latter portion of his career. There’s been an obvious shift in emphasis by the WWE to develop the next Cena in the form of Roman Reigns. After all, Cena won’t be around forever, nor will part-timers like The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. The need to develop the next slew of WWE stars is important for the promotion’s longevity.

But, how is Cena reacting to effectively taking a backseat? What is WWE’s plan for Cena in the coming years?

Like all aging wrestlers, he will undoubtedly be used sparingly. He will likely feature in all the big events, and in significant bouts that appeal to his fan base. It’s also probable Cena will become a mentor for many of the up-and-coming wrestlers WWE acquires, and within its current roster. That’s not to say Cena hasn’t been acting as a mentor for the past decade, as it is widely reported that he’s been mentoring for years and is a very influential figure in the locker room.

John Cena, Sami Zayn, Raw, April 4, 2015Although, Cena is still the biggest star at the company, especially when you consider that out of the top 60 best selling WWE merchandise items, 12 are Cena-related, far more than any other wrestlers on the roster, according to Forbes. The problem is, regardless of the progression of Reigns and other stars, the WWE isn’t ready for life without Cena even if they are lessening his standing gradually.

You only have to look at who was rumored to be facing Cena before Hell in the Cell to see how much his status as a main eventer is diminishing. Win suggested that the top 5 likely contenders to face him for the US Championship were Dean Ambrose, Tyler Breeze, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan or Cesaro. Apart from Bryan, the list wasn’t exactly filled with the pedigree Cena is used to facing.

Luckily for WWE fans, McMahon had an ace up his sleeve. The WWE welcomed back the enigmatic Alberto Del Rio to face Cena. The previously sacked superstar would go on to defeat Cena and win the belt. And while WWE built this up to be a marquee event with the reemergence of Del Rio, it shows that Cena isn’t at the top of the pile anymore.

Numerous wrestling news outlets announced Cena was taking some time away from the ring for personal reasons. While it’s unclear when he will return, this extended absence will hit WWE hard especially with Raw ratings falling.

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015It has also been rumored that due to Cena’s hiatus, they may look to push Ambrose into more headline slots to help develop him alongside the likes of Reigns. While McMahon hasn’t been adverse to “bending a knee” to his major superstars and offering them less demanding schedules, Cena has always been very active.

It’ll be hard for Cena to take a less prominent role in the future. But, he’s always been a company man, and while taking a backseat may not be his most preferred options, the likelihood is he’ll do what’s best for the company in the long run. He’s still a financial asset, and while he’s unlikely to feature or win against some of the WWE’s fledgling wrestlers, expect him to be facing iconic stars in the promotion’s major events in the future.

Images courtesy of WWE.com and bwin.com

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