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Seth Rollins Returns, Cody Rhodes Departs, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Cody Rhodes, WWE Intercontinental ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, let’s talk about Cody Rhodes, who requested and was granted his WWE release over the weekend.

This is becoming something of a trend, isn’t it? Wade Barrett opted not to sign a new contract with WWE. Ryback went home due to a contract dispute, as well as creative frustrations. And now Cody Rhodes/Stardust is gone, partially due to creative frustrations. He has apparently wanted to ditch the Stardust character for awhile now. But WWE apparently didn’t see that as being in the cards for him. So he made what many would consider to be a bold move, and asked to be let go. And to WWE’s credit, they didn’t keep him against his will.

I’m not sure if Rhodes was ever going to be a top guy for them. But he certainly had the potential to be more than he was. I keep thinking back to those years he spent in the Intercontinental Title picture. Not just bringing back the classic IC Belt, but feuding with the likes of Rey Mysterio Jr. and The Big Show at Wrestlemania. And my God, the number of personas he had over the years. First he was the upstart rookie, then he was with Legacy, then he was “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, then there was “disfigured” Cody Rhodes, and then he had the mustache, and then he was Stardust. He was so versatile in the ways he connected with the audience. I, for one, will miss him.

WWE, StardustI keep thinking back to an article I spotted awhile back on RingsideNews.com entitled “The Lost Generation of WWE.” It spotlights a lot of different guys who might have been stars, perhaps even main eventers, if WWE had given them an honest chance. Rhodes is among them. It’s definitely worth a look.

Getting back to this being a trend, when you look at Barrett and Rhodes calling it quits, Ryback going home, and all the talents who have vented creative frustrations via social media (Zack Ryder, Damien Sandow, Naomi, Cameron, Alex Riley, etc.), the glass ceiling in WWE becomes that much easier to see. That’s obviously some pretty tough glass to break through, folks. And the one guy who can open a door and let you through? Vince McMahon. Once you sign that contract, to an extent you only go as far as Vince McMahon allows you to go.

Is that fair? Nope. Is it a good thing? I’m not so sure anymore…

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Seth Rollins attacks Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules. Title match to take place at Money in the BankWe didn’t get Finn Balor, as I thought we might. But Rollins was just as pleasant a surprise. I’m happy to see he’s staying heel. I’m not sure what a babyface Seth Rollins would look like at this point. Also, before he left, Rollins was one of the few really good heels WWE had. I don’t doubt he can play that role again.

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Roman Reigns was good in this segment. Granted, it did’t require much. All he had to do was walk down there and look menacing. Silent but menacing Roman Reigns is the one I want to see. And when he does speak, I want it short, concise, and to the point.

Sami Zayn def. Sheamus to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Sheamus attacks Apollo Crews afterward. No complaints here. Glad they learned their lesson and kept Sheamus away from the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year. Putting him with Apollo Crews is pretty harmless. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind Sheamus in the ring. But creatively, he’s been stale for the longest time. Even when he was champion, he didn’t have much going for. They need to find something to shake Sheamus up. Otherwise, I’m not sure where he goes from here.

Cesaro def. The Miz to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Considering how good Miz has been since Wrestlemania, and how he won that awesome Fatal Fourway Match at Extreme Rules, I wasn’t a big fan of him losing. But in the long run, I really think it’s more important to give Cesaro more momentum. of course.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016, Chris Jericho, Apollo CrewsChris Jericho def. Apollo Crews to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I loved Jericho’s expression on the way down to the ring. Like a pouty little kid. And those whiney screams when Crews would attack those oversized bandages on his back were great. Just like silent Reigns is the best Reigns, heel Jericho is the best Jericho. I was surprised they beat Crews clean. One would think they’d have Sheamus at least be out there for the distraction. But there’s certainly no shame in losing to Jericho.

Bob Backlund scolds Darren Young for saying “damn” in latest vignette. Is there a reason Backlund and Young aren’t in the same place for these segments? At times there’s a weird disconnect between them. That was especially the case here. If you put them in a room together, they’d be able to play off each other, and there’d be so much more energy. Hopefully we see them try this out in a match soon.

Dolph Ziggler challenges Baron Corbin to another match. Hearing Corbin recite that scripted dialogue was painful. Simply put, the guy needs acting lessons. What’s more, he seemed to have trouble knowing whether to look into the camera or away from it. To his credit, he had the right idea. Wrestlers have been looking into the camera to cut promos for generations now. Why they make these guys look off into the distance is a mystery to me. On the plus side, apparently you can say the word “wrestling” on WWE TV now.

Enzo & Cass, WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Enzo Amore returns after a concussion, is in Big Cass’ corner as he beats Bubba Ray Dudley. It’s great to see Enzo, obviously. But I’m curious as to why they didn’t mention The Vaudevillians. They were in the ring with Cass & Enzo when the injury happened. You’d think they’d want to go back to that, or at least mention it. Cass continues to be solid in singles matches. He just needs some more experience, and hopefully the other pieces will fall into place.

Charlotte (with Dana Brooke at her side) cuts ties with Ric Flair. Being with Charlotte obviously isn’t a bad spot for Dana Brooke. Though Charlotte has become a pretty good mic worker, Brooke has a natural charisma that will hopefully add to her presentation.

Charlotte may have acknowledged the crowd a little too much in this segment. I give her a lot of credit for being able to ad lib. But it drew focus away from the stuff with Flair, which was obviously what this segment was about. But she cranked up the intensity really nicely when it was time for her to get heat.

Once again, they’re pulling some pretty personal strings with Charlotte and her family. I always thought they should have tried something like this with David Flair when he was in WCW. That way, they could have built to a match between father and son. That’s not something they can do with Charlotte and Ric. But despite a few flubs in her delivery, I think Charlotte played the heartless villain really well. I’m curious to see if Flair leaves this regular TV gig with Charlotte, or if they do a feud of sorts.

WWE Raw, May 23, 2016Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Ambrose is on a nice little role, with back-to-back pay per view wins over Chris Jericho. Would I complain about him winning Money in the Bank? Hell no. But do I expect it? Nope.

AJ Styles breaks away from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Styles loses a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match to Kevin Owens. Remember that night Styles and Owens stole the show in the first hour of Raw? This is the spot a match between these two deserve to be in. They proved that tonight. A strong main event, in a period where WWE really needs to try to  build to that third hour. Now that Owens is in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, I expect the feud between he and Sami Zayn to be incorporated into things, which will hopefully add further depth to the match.

I can appreciate the fact that this story with Styles, Anderson, and Gallows is being drawn out. If WWE wants to create their own version of The Bullet Club, it deserves to be a long term, detailed story. Still, it would have been damn cool to see Finn Balor show up at Extreme Rules.

Images courtesy of WWE.

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Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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The Roman Reigns Era Begins, and Other Ponderings From Wrestlemania Week

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Now that we’re back from our little angry time out, we’ve got a lot to cover. So let’s not waste any time…

Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Wrestlemania XXXIIPonderings From Wrestlemania Week:

Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch steal the show at Wrestlemania. Charlotte begins a program with Natalya on RawA Women’s Title Match stole the show at Wrestlemania. A Wrestlemania that featured a Hell in a Cell Match, a multi-man ladder match, Brock Lesnar, and AJ Styles, was topped by a Women’s Title Match. How amazing is that?

Mind you, this is subjective. But in terms of suspense and engagement, this match beat everything else at Wrestlemania. I couldn’t be more proud of Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky. Today’s WWE announcers aren’t very credible. But what JBL is saying about this being a great era for women’s wrestling is definitely valid. What’s more, Natalya is being added to the mix. I’m absolutely thrilled.

And let us continue to rejoice that the Women’s Title is back, and the Divas Title is dead. That butterfly belt was one of the gaudiest looking titles I’ve ever seen. Thank God we never have to see Sasha, Becky, Bayley, or Asuka wear that awful thing. Seeing Lita unveil that new belt on the Wrestlemania pre-show was a really cool moment. Having her their was very fitting.

Wrestlemania XXXII, Triple H, Roman ReignsRoman Reigns received with thunderous boos as he wins the WWE Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, and appears on RawI’m not sure what else can be said at this point about Reigns’ popularity, or lack thereof, with the fans. He and Triple H got booed mercilessly at Wrestlemania, and he was booed mercilessly on Raw. Our top babyface, ladies and gentlemen.

I adored that sign somebody had at Raw, in response to WWE allegedly turning down the microphones at Wrestlemania to hide the boos: “Don’t mute our voices! We pay 4 this!”

Given who earned the right to challenge for the title on Raw (more on that later), it’s been rumored we may get a Roman Reigns heel turn at Payback next month. I’ll believe that when I see it…

AJ Styles wins the right to challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship by defeating Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, and the returning Cesaro. First and foremost, AJ Styles and Chris Jericho were awesome at Wrestlemania. Not quite as good as the Women’s Title Match in my view. But still great. Styles’ loss caught a lot of fans by surprise, but obviously he made up for it here.

AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, April 4, 2016Cesaro has to make up for lost time, but he looks like he hasn’t lost a step. I’m curious if that suit is now a part of his entrance. That Jason Statham look definitely suits him.

While it remains to be seen when Styles will challenge for the title. But the theory is because this is a babyface vs. babyface match, Reigns could turn heel and enlist the help of the Bullet Club, a.k.a. Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Kevin Owens attacks Sami Zayn, keeping him out of fatal fourway main event. Now that there’s no Intercontinental Title at stake, it’s now WWE’s responsibility to tell us why these two men don’t like each other.

The Undertaker def. Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania, in a Hell in a Cell Match that saw Shane jump from the top of the cage. I take no joy in saying this, but this match was a snooze fest. From an execution standpoint, it had a lot working against it, not the least of which was that Shane hadn’t wrestled in so long. Plus, you had two big babyfaces in there, which seemed to leave the crowd unclear on who to cheer for. People definitely loved Shane. But who wants to root against The Undertaker?

The Undertaker, Shane McMahon, Wrestlemania XXXIIThen you have that dive Shane took off the cell. I love Shane for being willing to take that risk. But in truth, this match didn’t deserve a huge bump like that. It was almost a waste.

I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of Shane. In a company that desperately needs marquee talent, Shane is truly over, and truly beloved. There’s as much a place for him there as there’s ever been.

The Rock and John Cena beat down The Wyatt Family at Wrestlemania. The Rock pins Erick Rowan in a six second match. This stuff with The Rock needlessly ate up so much time. I’m not sure why they felt the need to have Rock pin Rowan in all of six seconds, when they could gone right to the beat-down we all knew was coming anyway. Still, it was cool to see Rock spar with Bray on the mic a bit. And yes, it was nice to see John Cena. Given some of the reactions Roman Reigns has been getting, Cena’s reactions look like Hogan’s in the ’80s.

Zack Ryder wins Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania, loses title to The Miz (with his wife Maryse) on RawTo say the least, Ryder’s Wrestlemania win was a shock. But he deserved it. The poor guy has been messed around with by WWE so much over the years, and we know how much WWE loves a good underdog story.

Zack Ryder, Wrestlemania XXXIIThat being said, it wasn’t surprising to see them take the belt off him the very next night. Ryder was only put in that match as a replacement for the injured Neville. He hadn’t even been on Raw regularly. I’m a Zack Ryder fan. I even bought on of his Broski t-shirts when he was hot a few years ago. But the writing was on the wall.

I’m intrigued by Maryse’s return alongside her real-life husband, The Miz. He’s called himself a chick magnet in the past. But actually seeing him with someone as gorgeous as Maryse is bound to draw some heat. I’m down for that.

The League of Nations def. The New Day at Wrestlemania, but after failing to win the tag titles on Raw, Wade Barrett is ousted from the group. The remaining members are then attacked by The Wyatt Family. As it’s been all but confirmed that Barrett is leaving the company when his contract expires in June, this may have been his last appearance on Raw. It’s truly sad that he was never truly able to live up to the potential he had when he made the main roster in 2010. Yes, he was injury prone. But it wasn’t strictly his fault. He was also the victim of some bad booking decisions in 2010, most notably The Nexus’ loss at Summerslam that year. Still, he had a run with the biggest wrestling company in the world, and was able to main event some pay per views with John Cena. That’s something nobody can take away from him.

The Wyatt Family, WWE Raw, April 4, 2016I can only assume this attack by The Wyatt Family means they’re finally turning babyface. Bray is ready, and has been ready for quite some time. However, one thing that was painfully apparent at both Wrestlemania and Raw was how sorely the group misses Luke Harper. Neither Erick Rowan or Braun Strowman have that much credibility on their own, especially after Rowan lost to The Rock in six seconds at Wrestlemania. It’ll be interesting how the dynamic of this group shifts if this is a turn.

Baron Corbin loses to Austin Aries at NXT Takeover: Dallas, wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania, beats down Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Definitely a big week for Baron Corbin. His victory at Wrestlemania was a welcome surprise. From a match perspective, I can’t say I was enamored with what I saw from him. He also looked like he had some butterflies during his promo on Raw. I can’t say I blame him. But he’ll be in good hands going forward, as it looks like he’ll be spending time with Dolph Ziggler.

The Dudley Boyz and The Usos trade wins at Wrestlemania and Raw. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassaday debut after the Raw match. It looks like the Dudleys are getting new dance partners in Enzo & Cass. That’s an awesome pairing in my book. But I’d be open to one more match between the Dudleys and the Usos on Raw. It’d be the perfect chance for our newcomers to interfere and cost them a win.

Enzo & Cass, WWE Raw, April 4, 2016This was a hell of a start for Enzo & Cass, and overdue in the eyes of many. These guys certainly have no shortage of catchphrases. I’m curious to see how well the crowd knows them next week, as we lose a lot of that post-Wrestlemania glow.

Apollo Crews def. Tyler Breeze in his Raw debut. I haven’t seen as much of Apollo Crews as I have other NXT wrestlers. But I was very impressed with what I saw in this short match. He gave a lot of credence to what the announcers were saying about his versatility. It’s not often you see someone who has both that strength, agility, and explosive leaping ability. I only wish he hadn’t knocked of Tyler Breeze. He’s been there such a short time, and already he’s being used as enhancement talent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that,  but damn.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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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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A WWE TLC 2015 Preview – Vanilla Violence

Roman Reigns, Raw, September 5, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

These December pay per views can be weird. Some years they give us amazing stuff, other years they just…exist. They’re the obligatory stop between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. And I can honestly say this show is as blase as any TLC pay per view I’ve ever seen. WWE has indeed put together the best card they can considering the creative choices they made last month at Survivor Series, but that’s not saying much.

The sad thing is, there’s very little to be excited about on Raw or Smackdown these days. Sheamus is fighting an uphill battle to get over as a heel champion. Roman Reigns is fighting uphill to get over as the top babyface. Dean Ambrose has been cast as a supporting player. Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Randy Orton are all out with injuries. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman aren’t there right now. The only thing we really have to look forward to in the near future is the return of John Cena. And to a lot of fans that’s an even worse prospect than Reigns being shoved down their throats.

Nevertheless, they’re doing a show. There’s not much to invest in, and there are only a precious few things that feel special. But yeah…here’s a pay per view, I guess.

Alberto Del Rio, Jack SwaggerCHAIRS MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger

Ugh. What year is this?

Yeah, I get it. Swagger used to be with Zeb Colter, so now he and Del Rio have to fight. But dear God, put them at the top of an hour on Raw or something. It couldn’t be worse than what we’ve been getting on TV lately. Is there even any doubt about who wins this one? Del Rio retains, then Swagger goes back to Superstars, or wherever he’s been since the Real Americans broke up.

PREDICTION: Alberto Del Rio

Charlotte, Ric Flair, Paige, WWE TLC 2015WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige

So the idea here is that Charlotte is picking up some of her father’s “Dirtiest Player in the Game” tendencies, which should lead to a Charlotte heel turn. I like that idea. Charlotte’s a good person to hold that Divas Title right now, and of course she’s an awesome athlete. But it might be interesting to see her cut loose and be a little more creative as a villain. I suspect Ric will help her pull of some sort of screwjob finish and pick up the win. I can only assume continued cheating will put her in Becky Lynch’s path, which will be a good thing.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

The Wyatt Family, The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, RhynoEIGHT-MAN ELIMINATION TABLES MATCH:
The Wyatt Family vs. The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer & Rhyno

Gee, you know when a good time to do an eight-man elimination match would have been? Survivor Series. Fail, WWE. Big fail.

The Wyatts need to win this one. Bray spent much of the year losing to Roman Reigns, and then Bray and Luke Harper lost a big match to The Undertaker and Kane last month. They need to win something to prove they’re still a threat. I like the dynamic the Wyatts have with the Dudleys, though. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them keep the program going with Harper and Rowan going forward. Those two should really be The Wyatt Family’s contribution to the tag team division, with Bray being the singles star and Strowman being the bodyguard. The Dudleys can beat Harper and Rowan if they must. But on this night, the Wyatts, Bray in particular, need to win.

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

The New Day, The Usos, The Lucha Dragons, WWE TLC 2015TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons

This match obviously in line with the tradition of tag team ladder matches. I expect we’ll see at least one big Kofi Kingston spot in here, as well as a big Kalisto spot. Frankly, I’d like to see The Lucha Dragons win this one. But The New Day are on such a roll lately that I don’t see a good reason for them to lose here. They’re practically the only consistently entertaining element on Raw these days, and it seems like WWE knows that. They’re pretty much babyfaces at this point anyway. So if WWE wants to take the titles off of them, they’d might be better off losing them to Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. Or even a throw-together team of Wade Barret & Rusev to get this League of Nations some more heat. But I don’t see much benefit in them losing the belts at TLC.

PREDICTION: The New Day

Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, WWE TLC 2015WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

These guys are a big breath of fresh air. This is the most interesting match on the show, for my money. And ironically, it doesn’t even have any stipulations or weapons in it.

I don’t see any reason for them to put the title on Ambrose at this point. I don’t doubt he’d be fine with it, but he doesn’t stand to benefit much from it. I’d also argue Kevin Owens is a pretty pretty credible heel right now, which WWE desperately needs. It’s to the point where there were rumblings of him going against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. So it’s not necessarily in their best interest to get the belt off of him here. I’m holding out hope that Owens get to defend that title against Sami Zayn at some point. There’s a built-in match they can cash in on at any point.

Prediction: Kevin Owens

WWE TLC 2015, Roman Reigns, SheamusTLC MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Sheamus (c) vs. Roman Reigns

So we’ve got a champion that the audience isn’t really invested in, against a challenger they’re being force-fed. What’s more, WWE had Reigns put Sheamus through a table this week on Raw, so a lot of the bloom is already off this rose.

Still, I suppose the upside is we don’t know who the winner will be here. WWE could easily just switch the belt to Reigns at this point. But my gut tells me they’ll keep it on Sheamus, at least for the time being. As they aren’t booked elsewhere on the show, I imagine we’ll see Wade Barrett and Rusev in this match, and probably Del Rio as well. This will likely lead to Ambrose and the Usos coming out, with chaos to follow. I’m hopeful that the match will at least be entertaining, even if the story isn’t.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

Images courtesy of WWE.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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The Paige/Charlotte Fall Out, Sheamus as Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Reid FlairBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: You’re going to get a lot of complaining from me this week.

WWE got a lot of negative buzz last week after they had Paige say a fairly tasteless line about Charlotte’s deceased brother Reid during their segment. The main event segment, no less. I wrote that what Paige said wasn’t necessarily reprehensible, but some things have come to light since then that shed some new light on the situation.

Firstly, neither Ric Flair nor Charlotte and Reid’s mother knew about the angle. You’d think common sense and decency would dictate that they at least let the parents know about something like that, let alone give them veto power.

Secondly, after WWE got all the heat, they released this statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 2015Essentially they implicated Charlotte, which is pretty sleazy.

I don’t doubt that Charlotte said she was okay with it all. But as we’ve heard from various former WWE stars, the company has a tendency to punish wrestlers who say no to storyline suggestions. It’s not the same thing at all, but Trish Stratus went on record that she once refused to kiss Torrie Wilson on television, and lost the Women’s Title very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, WWE is trying to sweep this situation under the rug. Given how image conscious his company has become, you’d think Vince McMahon, who ultimately has the last word on creative, would have been mindful of the backlash this angle would cause. Particularly when Reid’s parents didn’t know, nor approve.

Sheamus, WWE Survivor Series 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Sheamus cashes in on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, walks out of Survivor Series with the title. A TLC Match for the Championship is made for December. The smart fans weren’t happy about this one, which I get. There was a lot of backlash when Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase to begin with. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least we’ve got a heel champion the fans legitimately dislike.

But you can’t convince me Sheamus is hot as a heel. He was in a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton for months, and then aligned himself with Wade Barrett, who’s been a perennial loser. And the company’s top babyface usually gets booed as much, if not more than he does. That’s why I don’t think there’s any money in Sheamus and Reigns at TLC. We’ve got a cold heel against a babyface that WWE is trying to tell us we should like, instead of letting us choose our own heroes.

Still, the Sheamus era has begun. Hopefully it’s short…

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Roman Reigns, RusevRoman Reigns faces the returning Rusev in the main event. I’m glad Rusev is back, as WWE needs all the depth they can get. But Rusev is yet another cold heel. The last time we saw him he got pinned clean, and took a verbal beat-down from Summer Rae. Whatever happened to the Bulgarian Brute’s balls?

It seems like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev are a group now, which appeared to be the way things were going before Rusev went on the shelf. I wonder if three cold heels can somehow equate to one hot one…?

The Undertaker & Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series. The Wyatts rebound with a win over The Dudley Boyz on Raw. Remember the build-up to Bray Wyatt’s match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania? The buzz was that WWE wanted to keep Bray looking strong so he’d seem like a formidable opponent for ‘Taker. They need to start doing that again, not just with Bray himself, but this entire group. Wyatt spent much of this year losing to The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. We need to reverse that trend and make him look like a winner again. Bray Wyatt is a star. Now he just needs to be booked like one.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 23, 2015I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a tables match with The Dudley Boyz at TLC. The sad thing is, Bubba and Devon have lost most of their big matches since they came back. So after TLC, one of these teams is going to wind up even colder than they are now.

Cesaro reportedly out of action with a shoulder injury. This sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Just when you think Cesaro might finally move up the card a little bit, he gets hurt. It’s bad enough that so many main event level guys off TV right now. But now we’ve got arguably one of the hottest talents in the industry on the shelf too.

The Solomonster pointed out that given the projected four to six month time period Cesaro will be gone for, this might mean he’ll return around the same time as Tyson Kidd. That’s the only upside to this as far as I’m concerned.

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Alberto Del Rio, Zeb ColterJack Swagger confronts Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. This was obviously where they were going before Seth Rollins got hurt, and they had to do the tournament. I understand that Del Rio and Swagger was a built-in match when they started this whole “Mex-America” thing. But Swagger is as much a dead duck as any character they have on that show. Having Del Rio beat him doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s hardly worth more than a one-off match on free TV.

Neville def. Mark Henry. Fresh off of being the only guy pinned on his team at Survivor Series, Neville beats the once dominant Mark Henry on Raw. Makes sense, right?

Henry likely doesn’t mind doing the honors for younger talents. But if they want to do a Mark Henry retirement match someday, they’re going to have a tough time making it mean anything if all he does is lose.

The New Day, WWE Raw, November 23, 2015The New Day celebrate their one-year anniversary on Raw. Damn. These guys died a slow death out there. Much like at Survivor Series, the crowd was absolutely dead for much of this show. You can’t really blame them, given the content of the show they’re watching. But these three have arguably been the most consistently entertaining part of Raw over the last few months, and they just couldn’t get a rise out of the fans. It was downright sad.

In Other News…

TNA lands new network in POP TV. It just goes to show you how many TV networks are out there these days that both TNA and Ring of Honor landed on networks no one has apparently ever heard of.

Still, give TNA credit where credit is due. People continue to write them off, but they keep surviving somehow. Like a lot of fans, I want TNA to do well. They just need to get their feet under them again.

Image 1 from hachland.wordpress.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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