Tag Archives: WCW

Wrestling Headlines: RIP Vader, Big Cass’ Release, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Leon White, known to fans as Vader, passes away at the age of 63. Very sad to hear of Vader’s passing this week after a battle with pneumonia.

I started following wrestling on a consistent basis in the summer of 1996, when the big man was feuding with Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. So many of my early fandom memories involve Vader.

But as many longtime fans know, the Vader we saw on WWF television was but a fraction of what Big Van Vader had been in Japan and WCW. This guy’s offense was so tough, so stiff, and so brutal, he truly earned his reputation as a monster. Watch some of the work he did with Cactus Jack in WCW. There’s also a famous match he had with Stan Hansen in Japan where his eye literally popped out of its socket. For better or worse, it was the stuff of legends.

White was fairly open about his recent health issues. In late 2016, he famously tweeted that a doctor had told him he had roughly two years left to live due to congestive heart failure. Given how much press that generated, it’s frustrating that WWE didn’t opt to put him in the Hall of Fame. Still, we can take some solace in the fact that he at least got to be up on that stage to induct Stan Hansen. I can only assume he’ll be inducted posthumously at some point.

Here’s to you, big man. Thanks for the memories.

Big Cass abruptly fired from WWE before Tuesday’s Smackdown. Yikes. We’d heard he had heat with management. But wow…

Supposedly it was a variety of things. Going against Vince McMahon’s direction in a segment a few weeks back, an incident on a tour bus, being intoxicated in public on a European tour. This is totally a guess on my part, but it sounds like the pressures of a singles push were getting to him. That, and maybe some maturity issues.

If Cass wants to continue wrestling, I have no doubt he can find stardom somewhere else. At the very least, he can reunite with Enzo and make some money on the indies. Whether he wants to be associated with Enzo and all that drama is another story.

Kurt Angle “suspends” Ronda Rousey from Raw for 30 days. Not really sure where they’re going with this. Supposedly, Ronda will still be making house show appearances. I assume that’s why they’re saying “suspended from Raw” as opposed to just suspended. Maybe they do a bunch of angles where she runs in from the crowd to try and get Alexa Bliss?

Rusev earns WWE Championship Match with AJ Styles at Extreme RulesI can’t say I expected this.  I won’t complain, though. Glad to see they’re listening to the people. Now the question is, do they buck their track record thus far, and actually let AJ Styles, their WWE Champion, main event a pay per view?

The answer, of course, is no. The multi-man match to decide Brock’s next opponent will go on last at Extreme Rules. But hey, it’s fun to think about, right?

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

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Bobby Heenan RIP, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, the wrestling world mourns the passing of one of its greatest and most hilarious performers. Raymond Heenan, a.k.a. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan passed away Sunday at the age of 72.

I became a wrestling fan, specifically a WWF fan, in 1996. By that time Heenan was already an announcer for WCW. But my brother and I would always rent VHS tapes of the old pay per views. That was my first exposure to Heenan, both as a manager and an announcer. As the internet age began, I became more and more familiar with his range as a performer and the scope of his career. As virtually anyone who has watched his work from that era will tell you, his verbal skills, his wit, and his comedic timing were unparalleled. All these years later, Bobby may still be in a class by himself. And yet, he made such a natural slimy and underhanded villain. It’s no accident that he was put with top stars like Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and so many others.

Heenan’s voice is synonymous with what many consider to be the golden age of WWE. In terms of the company’s global expansion, he was as integral as almost anyone. Like Jim Ross, Jesse Ventura, and other great announcers, his voice is plastered on to moments that are indelibly etched in our minds and hearts. The 1992 Royal Rumble comes to mind (Shout out to Solomonster.), as does the famous Barbershop segment between Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty.

And then of course, you’ve got all his work with Gorilla Monsoon. Whenever I need cheering up, there’s a clip of Heenan cracking Monsoon up that gets me every time.

Much has been said about Heenan in the past two days. But it was @WWECreative_ish on Twitter that truly hit it out of the park, in my opinion…

The key word there? “Elevated.” Bobby Heenan was one of those performers that truly made pro wrestling into an art form, and not just two guys pretending to fight. In his case, it became a comedic showcase on par with just about anything. The fact that so much of it still holds up today is a testament to that.

Thanks for the memories, Brain. We love you.

Ponderings From Raw:

After the Miz interrupts Kurt Angle at the top of the show, a scuffle breaks out between Jason Jordan and the Miztourage. Later in the show, a Six Pack Challenge will determine the top contender for the Intercontinental Title at No Mercy. This segment was really flat. Miz said all those inflammatory things about Kurt being a deadbeat dad, and he just stood there and took it. Why? Because he was waiting for Jordan to come out. I get the whole “it takes more strength not to fight back” thing. But Angle just stood there, barely selling it at all.

Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss. Bliss, Sasha Banks, and the returning Bayley take Jax down after the match. Banks and Bayley then lay out Bliss. Bayley is later added to the title match at No MercyAn abrupt return for Bayley. Not sure I wouldn’t have kept her off TV until after No Mercy. Let’s hope they can keep her from getting booed.

Cesaro and Sheamus win a Triple-Threat Tag Team Match against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, as well as Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Whoever walks out of No Mercy with the belts (I assume it’s going to be Rollins and Ambrose) desperately needs to find new dance partners. It’s been these three teams week after week. How about the Miztourage?

I can’t help but think about Sting whenever Rollins does the Buckle Bomb…

Apollo Crews def. Curt Hawkins. So they’re doing a kind of reverse undefeated streak thing with Curt Hawkins. That’s kind of fun. A the very least it’s something for Hawkins to do every week. 115-0? Damn.

A split-screen interview airs with Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman. Watch Brock during this segment. He’s by no means a great promo or a great actor. But he can be very effective by doing very little. Until the end of the interview, Brock looked about as uncertain as he’s ever been. But then he pulled it out at the end with that line about being backed into a corner.

Roman Reigns cuts a promo on John Cena, name-drops Alex Riley. There was a good amount of buzz from Reigns mentioning Alex Riley here. The story has always been that something happened between Cena and Riley that kept the latter from really going anywhere in WWE. The real-life Kevin Kiley Jr. has never spoken about it publicly. But former WWE talents like Ryback and JTG have alluded to it. It’s very curious that WWE would have Reigns allude to it like this.

Reigns’ line was about how someone that looks like Cena wouldn’t have a chance of making it in WWE because of Cena’s influence. It makes sense if you think about it. Cena would theoretically be insecure about someone coming along and outshining him. Would that have happened? Probably not. But you never know

They’ve been playing to the smart mark crowd quite heavily with this program, which isn’t the approach anyone expected. The stuff about Reigns’ drug test, this Alex Riley thing, the talk about Reigns not being able to do his job, it’s all insider type stuff. I imagine the strategy here is to get the die-hards riled up, so the casuals look in to see what all the fuss is about. It’s an interesting idea. No Mercy will ultimately determine whether it pays off.

Bray Wyatt def. Dustin Rhodes. Finn Balor cuts a promo for No MercyI loved this. A logical way to play off of what happened with these two last week. And it didn’t hurt Dustin that much, as Bray caught him by surprise with the Sister Abigail.

Nice promo from Balor. More menacing than anything Bray has done in recent weeks.

On a related note, WWE has announced the return of Starrcade, which was a big annual event held by the NWA that later became WCW’s equivalent to Wrestlemania. It’ll be a non-televised event in Greensboro on Thanksgiving weekend. You know who competed at a bunch of Starrcade shows? Dustin Rhodes. Hmm…

WWE airs a tribute to Bobby Heenan. I was initially miffed that WWE didn’t do a 10-bell salute for Bobby. But this wound up being better. Cole hit the nail on the head when he said Bobby would never, ever be replaced.

Never.

Braun Strowman destroys Enzo Amore. Neville hits a Red Arrow on a defenseless Enzo. A good portion of the audience ate this up. Did you hear those “Thank you Strowman!” chants?

Neville def. Gran Metalik, nearly unmasking him in the process. Um…were we meant to see that much of Gran Metalik’s face? For all intents and purposes, the guy got unmasked here. Fodder for a future story, perhaps?

Jason Jordan def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Elias, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel to earn a title shot against the Miz at No Mercy. Please don’t let Jordan get the belt. As I said last week, the fans will chew him up and spit him out. Let Miz beat him, so the frustration mounts even more. That’s a much better story.

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Raw ’97: Muhammad Ali or Dennis Rodman?

Shawn Michaels, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The February 3 episode of Raw was, without any sort of hype or announcement, the first ever two-hour edition of the show. This was obviously an attempt to be more competitive with WCW Monday Nitro, and there were clear efforts made to make this feel like a bigger show than it was. They were in the Toronto SkyDome, though at one point you can see it’s way under capacity. And all hands are on deck here.

This show was hyped as “Royal Rumble Raw.” We’d been told the week before that the Rumble match would be shown in its entirety. That’s not what happened, as we merely got highlights. Maybe they decided to stick with fresh content? I guess the idea of airing pay per view footage that’s two weeks old is a little lame.

Vader def. Stone Cold Steve Austin via disqualification. Before the match, Bret Hart attacks Austin from behind. Well, they weren’t going to have one of these guys pin the other before Final Four, right? They want it to look like everybody’s on an even playing field.

Steve Austin, Vader, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Things are noticeably a little angrier on this show, presumably to hype up the drama. Before this match begins, the normally reserved yet heroic Bret Hart comes out and ambushes Austin. After the match, a commercial airs for Thursday Raw Thursday, where all the wrestlers are full of piss and vinegar. Again, even Bret, who yells: “Everybody better get out of my way!” They hadn’t quite found their famous “Attitude” yet. But they were looking for it.

Savio Vega def. Flash Funk. This is the television audience’s first exposure to heel Savio Vega, who turned heel off camera at a house show at Madison Square Garden. At this point, the only difference is a big leather jacket he wears to the ring.

Jim Ross interviews Sycho Sid. During some of these old promos with Sid, they keep his music playing at a lower volume. That’s a great effect. It keeps his mystique alive. Especially as he’s talking about evil. He’s not particularly articulate. But it sounds like he’s saying stuff that’s spooky and cool. So it works.

Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon def. The British Bulldog and Owen Hart in a WWF Tag Team Title Match via count-out. The titles do not change hands. Rediscovering Phil Lafon’s work has been a nice byproduct of this whole Raw ’97 experience. But I maintain what I’ve said before about these two: No personality. Very vanilla. So there’s not much to latch on to.

Owen Hart, British Bulldog, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Owen as he steps through the ropes: “I hate Canada! I’m the only thing good about Canada!”

Crush def. Goldust. Savio comes in with a spinning heel kick to Goldust to cost him the match. There’s heel Savio.

These matches drag. It’s very apparent they’re not fully prepared for the move to two hours yet.

Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart come face-to-face in the ring. Austin attacks Hart from behind. The best thing on the show by a mile. I’ve always remembered one particular moment from this segment. Shawn is talking about not being liked. He says: “Everybody hated Muhammad Ali while he was the world champion. Now everyone refers to him as the greatest of all time.”

Bret later responds with: “Muhammad Ali? I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman, maybe.”

WWF hypes the debut of Tiger Ali Singh. If you’ll recall, the highlight of Singh’s WWF career was getting audience members to lick toe jam and eat boogers. A true success story if there ever was one…

Triple H, Marc Mero, WWF Raw, February 3, 1997Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Marc Mero after a shot with brass knocks. If you watch these shows back, you notice the announcers keep talking about Robin Hood, as they do during this match. It took me awhile to figure out exactly what the connection was.

On January 13, TNT began airing The New Adventures of Robin Hood after WCW Nitro. That night, a match between Hulk Hogan and the Giant began two minutes before Nitro went off the air, and continued during portions of the commercial breaks during Robin Hood. Unique, to be certain. But obvious fodder for jokes.

The Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson def. Farrow and Mankind in a No Holds Barred Match. We saw Ahmed make use of his beloved two-by-four in this match, chasing the Nation off and then hitting Faarooq in the back. We also saw Vader attack ‘Taker in this match before Mankind takes a Tombstone on a chair and loses the fall.

All in all, not a strong show. Even by modern standards. Though that will change next week, as we get to a pretty famous Raw moment involving HBK. Though perhaps infamous would be a better word to describe it…

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Raw ’97: The Rock Pulls Double Duty?

***Pro wrestling changed forever in 1997. From the rise of icons like the Rock and Bill Goldberg, to the Montreal Screwjob, to ECW’s pay per view debut, its impact would be felt for years to come. Personally, it’s always been my favorite year in wrestling. Here on Raw ’97, we’ll take a look back at what was happening on the WWF’s flagship show 20 years ago to the day. We’ll dig up hidden gems, and reexamine moments we’ll never forget.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

sycho-sid-wwf-raw-january-13-1997On January 13, 1997, Raw was still a one-hour show. Just north of 45 minutes, if you subtract commercials. In 2017, when we’re used to three-hour Raw broadcasts, that’s incredibly surreal.

In addition, because they taped multiple episodes in one night, this was an era where you didn’t see all the big stars wrestling every week. You might see them in backstage interview segments, or doing commentary. But not in the ring. In contrast, two weeks ago Raw featured Roman Reigns going against Kevin Owens. This past week? Reigns against Jericho. This coming week? Reigns vs. Owens and Jericho in a handicap match. There’s an obvious struggle to keep things fresh on a week to week basis, particularly with triple the air time.

Bottom line? Sometimes less is more.

Hunter Hearst Helmsly and Jerry “The King Lawler” def. Gloats and “Wildman” Marc Mero via disqualification. Lawler is such a great whiney, cowardly heel. There’s a moment in this match where he’s trying to tag Hunter, but Hunter doesn’t want to get in there with Goldust. So he just whines for his partner to come help. Great stuff.

Honky Tonk Man, WWF Raw, January 13, 2017Honky Tonk Man on commentary: [Hunter] will keep his cool just like OJ Simpson did just today on the witness stand.” Yeesh.

Sycho Sid speaks on location from the Alamo Dome in San Antonio. Sid more or less quotes Nietzsche in this promo. The actual quote is: ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…” Sid goes on to say that both he and Shawn will have to become monsters at the Royal Rumble. It’s a clever concept for a wrestling promo. But wow, Sid and Nietzsche. There’s a tag team for you.

Shawn Michaels cuts a promo from San Antonio. Not much to this one. Shawn essentially rebukes all of Sid’s stuff, and says he’s going to kick Sid’s teeth down his throat. I do like that shot of Shawn with the fans, though. I was surprised he didn’t name drop Bret Hart when talking about facing the winner of the Royal Rumble Match at Wrestlemania. But Vince made sure to connect the two mere seconds later, when Bret came out for commentary. His exact words: “… the man that Shawn Michaels took the WWF Championship from.”

owen-hart-bret-hart-wwf-raw-january-13-1997Rocky Miavia def. The British Bulldog via count-out. Owen Hart came out during this match and stood right in front of Bret, blocking his view of the match. That’s one of the really cool things about this Bret/Owen rivalry. It never really ended. These two had their famous program in late ’93 and most of ’94, and yet here we are in 1997.

They’d done an angle on the previous episode of Superstars where Steve Austin took out Bret’s knee. Continuing on that theme, Austin takes out Bulldog’s knee here. But Owen can’t see it because he’s watching Bret. Bret then goes after Austin. I remember Austin and Bulldog having some kind of bad blood around this time. They kept teasing a Bulldog babyface turn, and a feud against Owen. You can argue that never fully culminated because of what happened after Wrestlemania XIII. Though they did have an awesome match to crown the first ever European Champion, which we’ll cover later.

Hilariously, a few minutes after this match they went back to the footage of Shawn in San Antonio, and Rocky popped up. Vince simply said, “Hey, there’s Rocky!” They tried to cover it up in the next segment, with Honky chiding Vince about seeing Rocky in two places at once. But it’s clearly him.

nation-of-domination-wwf-raw-january-13-1997The Undertaker def. Crush via disqualification. Vader decimates Undertaker before their match at the Royal RumbleThis was back when the Nation of Domination had JC Ice and Wolfie D, a.k.a PG-13, accompany them to the ring. Those two didn’t last long. I missed them when they were gone.

This was also the era where they’d paint a black teardrop on the Undertaker’s face. The teardrop tattoo obviously has murderous implications, and is such a great little detail for the Undertaker character.

Honky Tonk Man on commentary: [Who wins this match] is a tough one for the Honky Tonk Man to call. There’s not a lot of tough things for me. But this is probably the toughest.” Really? This is the toughest thing to call?

Over on Nitro: Diamond Dallas Page famously refuses to join the nWo. Hulk Hogan faces the Giant in a non-title match.

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Kevin Owens Stands Tall, More Cruiserweights, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Lince DoradoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Question: How much content is too much? Is there such a thing?

Last week, we got the announcement of WWE 205 Live, a WWE Network exclusive show featuring the cruiserweights. The show will air after Smackdown on Tuesdays. Mauro Renallo and Corey Graves will call matches featuring the likes of Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, etc. Talking Smack will now move to 11 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Obviously, WWE’s number one priority right now is the network. From a business standpoint, there are few things more important than getting those subscription numbers up. Obviously the network appeals primarily to die-hard wrestling fans. So what better way to entice them than with more wrestling? Called by Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves, no less.

But even the geekiest of pro wrestling geeks have lives, don’t they? Is WWE going to burn out their dedicated core audience by giving them too much? Factoring in RawSmackdownNXT, and now this 205 Live show, that’s seven hours of fresh content a week. And that’s not counting supplementary shows like Main Event and Superstars. That’s also not accounting for pay per views, of which there are now 19. I don’t care how big a fan you are, that’s a lot of wrestling.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsPerhaps its a matter of variety. For years we’ve heard talk about the Raw brand, the Smackdown brand, etc. But in reality, it’s pretty much all been the same stuff. In a lot of ways, NXT changed that. NXT isn’t simply about different talent. There’s a different look and vibe to the entire product. It’s an alternative, and you can only get that alternative by forking out 10 bucks a month for the network. Is 205 Live going to be it’s own unique alternative? What can we see on that show that we can’t see on Raw?

I understand the on-demand nature of the WWE Network, and that you can essentially take in this content at your own pace. But with all this content coming out from WWE, at what point to we stop being surprised that Raw ratings are going down? It’s not rocket science, folks. The more content you give, the less urgent it is to see it. When all we had were two hours of Raw every Monday, we couldn’t wait to take it in. Now there are weeks where we simply can’t take it anymore.

At the very least this show will give the guys who aren’t on Raw every week, i.e Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, and Jack Gallagher another stage to perform on. I just wonder if and how the audience will divide as WWE continues to expand and diversify its offerings.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016After a volatile start to the show, a fatal five-way match is made between Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and the newest member of Team Raw, Seth Rollins. I hate these fatal five-way matches. It’s an awkward number. Somehow four wrestlers work, and six wrestlers work, but five is don’t.

A pretty standard segment for a “Can these teammates get along?” story. I wish we’d had more definitive consequences. Stephanie told them to fight like their jobs depend on it, “Because they do.” Does that even mean anything? They also missed an opportunity to make the winner the captain of the team.

Rich Swann & Sin Cara def. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar. Assuming these rumors of a fight with Chris Jericho are true, it’ll be interesting to see if Sin Cara remains on television. It’s not like they don’t have plenty of cruiserweights. Though he earned mad respect for me after that senton to the outside on Noam Dar.

This was my first exposure to Noam Dar. We didn’t get to see much of him. But a nice little introduction. Brian Kendrick deserves a lot of credit for helping establish some of these guys in front of the mainstream audience. I expect he’ll face Rich Swann for the title at Survivor Series.

Bill GoldbergA retrospective vignette on Goldberg airs. I was hoping they’d do something like this, as they usually do for Brock Lesnar’s matches. These are always good.

Since Goldberg has resurfaced, WWE has made a point to market him as a WCW star, WCW legend, WCW Champion, etc. That’s fair enough. He’s as much a WCW guy as anything else. But he wasn’t just a WCW guy. He was a champion in WWE as well. They’ve almost glossed over that. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering how forgettable most of Goldberg’s WWE run was.

The New Day rally Team Raw for their match at Survivor Series. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson knock off the champions in a non-title match. The crowd really pulled this segment out of the ground. When you’ve got so many guys out there, I understand having to script the dialogue. But this was the same canned verbiage we always get, and it seemed like it went on forever. At least the Scotland fans were having fun.

Imagine my shock to see Anderson and Gallows get the win here. So do they now fight Cesaro and Sheamus to see who gets the next title shot?

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBrock Lesnar talks Goldberg via video package. This one was even better than Goldberg’s, considering how politically incorrect Brock always is. “At Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden, I didn’t give two sh*ts about wrestling.” HA!

This was another awesome line: “I don’t give a damn what his 10-year-old son is gonna think. I’m not gonna show any f@#kin’ mercy on Bill Goldberg.”

Finally, someone on this show has some balls. No wonder Brock is so over. Look at how he talks, compared to how everyone in that New Day segment talked. There are no chains on Brock. He’s allowed to be himself.

The Shining Stars def. Golden Truth to get their spot in the tag team elimination match at Survivor SeriesI zipped right through this one on the DVR. Here’s what I will say: At least they kept the Shining Stars out of the third hour.

Not sure why they did this. To even the babyface-heel ratio on Team Raw? Why? What’s the difference either way? I’d much rather see Goldust and R-Truth in a pay per view match than Primo and Epico. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I don’t know if an act has ever had as much channel-changing heat with me.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016Michael Cole interviews Raw‘s female team. Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox are revealed as the remaining two members. The Scotland fans serenade Bayley.  The crowd didn’t exactly make it easy on them, did they? The girls couldn’t even get their lines out. As off-putting as it may have been, it’s always great to see a crowd that enthusiastic. Especially for the women’s division. Bayley might have been the one person more over in Scotland than Noam Dar.

The Alicia Fox portion of this segment was painful. Not because of Alicia, but because of that Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie reference. They really shoehorned that line in there.

Bayley, Sasha Banks, & Alicia Fox def. Charlotte, Nia Jax, & Dana Brooke. My favorite part of this match was when Bayley and Nia were in the ring together. They have to do some kind of program between them soon.

I’m not thrilled that Charlotte took the fall on this one. After Gallows & Anderson beat the New Day, that means two champions were beaten on this show.

WWE Raw, November 7, 2016, Sami Zayn, RusevSami Zayn def. Rusev to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at Survivor Series. I breathed a sigh of relief on this one. After all the love triangle stuff last year, I’ve had my fill of Rusev/Dolph Ziggler stuff for awhile. Ziggler and Zayn should also have a hell of a pay per view match.

Rusev hasn’t had a great couple of weeks. He lost to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell, he got punched out by Goldberg last week, and now he loses to Sami Zayn. I’m hopeful we can get Rusev back on track as a monster soon.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman in a fatal five-way match. The right person won this one, especially on a show where the New Day and Charlotte were pinned. And he pinned Jericho, which was a nice touch.

To WWE’s credit, they’ve done an excellent job making protecting Braun Strowman since the roster split. I once cringed at the thought of him challenging the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It’s still not a match I’m dying to see, but at least now Strowman is a commodity. Until now he’s just been large.

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Survivor Series Teams Come Together, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WCW Halloween Havoc setBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve never understood WWE’s aversion to reviving some of the themed shows WCW used to do. Especially since the advent of the WWE Network. They would essentially double as commercials for all that archived WCW content. War Games is an obvious example. And of course, every October we miss Halloween Havoc.

I get that the concept of Halloween Havoc is a little hokey. But not more so than the “Trick or Street Fight” we saw between Enzo and Luke Gallows. And some of those old sets were a lot of fun. What’s the harm in at least trying it once?

What’s more, using Halloween Havoc would mean we wouldn’t have to put up with these contrived Hell in a Cell matches every year. Imagine that.

Ponderings From Raw:

Bill Goldberg opens the show, gives the jackhammer to Rusev, and a spear to Paul Heyman. After last week’s rough segment with Brock and Heyman in Minneapolis, it was a relief to see how well this crowd reacted to Goldberg. How he’ll do in Toronto with Brock in the building is another story.

Bill Goldberg, October 31, 2016, WWE RawAfter last week’s rough segment with Brock and Heyman in Minneapolis, it was a relief to see how well this crowd reacted to Goldberg. How he’ll do in Toronto with Brock in the building is another story.

From a physicality standpoint, this wasn’t the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen. But Goldberg hasn’t wrestled in 12 years. Better he stumble on this show than at Survivor Series. Also, if Goldberg does stick around for a second match, he now has a built in opponent in Rusev.

I can’t imagine what must have been going through Paul Heyman’s mind out there, knowing that spear was coming. Goldberg may have been gone for 12 years, but he’s still an athlete. Heyman isn’t.

I really wish that shortly after seeing Goldberg hit a spear for the first time in over a decade, we hadn’t transitioned to a shot of Byron Saxton in duckie pajamas, and Corey Graves in a gaudy Halloween suit. That’ll take the luster off any big moment.

Enzo Amore def. Luke Gallows in a Halloween “Trick or Street Fight.” Graves redeemed himself with that line about poisoning the water hole. Nice Toy Story reference.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsThe sequence with Karl Anderson getting hit with the pie and then taking the kick through the table was well timed. Nicely done.

TJ Perkins def. Brian Kendrick via count out. That landing Perkins took during the head scissor spot was brutal. He’s lucky he didn’t end up worse off.

So does this mean Rich Swann is next in line for a title shot? He did beat Kendrick last week, after all.

Braun Strowman wins a battle royal to earn a spot on Team Raw at Survivor Series, joining Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns. I was expecting Rusev to be in this spot on the team, so Strowman is a surprise. It seemed like he was set for a little program with Sami Zayn. But this works for me. And if they don’t want him to win at Survivor Seroies, they can simply have him get disqualified or counted out.

It’s tough to tell if Strowman has improved since coming to Raw, as he’s mostly been in squash matches. This Survivor Series match might just be indicator.

Rich Swann, Lince Dorado, & Cedric Alexander def. Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, & Ariya Daivari. I was encouraged to hear Graves mention Swann’s victory over Kendrick last week. It appears he is indeed being positioned as Kendrick’s next challenger. Swann’s enthusiasm can be a bit too much for me at times. But I’ll never deny his athleticism and his explosiveness. Here’s hoping we get something good.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, October 31, 2016Charlotte calls out Bayley. Demands she prove she’s not the weakest link on their Survivor Series team. Awhile back, Brian Masque of Forbes.com wrote that Charlotte is already the greatest female WWE star of all time. It’s getting tougher and tougher to argue against that as time goes on. She simply keeps getting better. I didn’t expect her to walk out of Hell in a Cell with the title. But I won’t argue against it.

Just so we’re clear, Bayley is the only character on this show that can get away with calling someone “the biggest jerk.”

Nia Jax def. Bayley. This is what I wanted to see coming out of Hell in a Cell. I don’t know if I wanted to see it the very next night. But it’s nice to see these two together. I’d previously speculated that they might have a great bully/victim chemistry. With this match they proved that is indeed the case.

Cesaro & Sheamus def. The Shining Stars. With their DQ victory over the New Day at Hell in a Cell, Cesaro & Sheamus remain viable challengers for the titles. It looks like this long form story will indeed end with them being the team to finally dethrone the champions. I’d have gone with Enzo & Cass. But I guess this works too.

New rule: If we have to have the Shining Stars on TV, they can’t be in the third hour. After two hours of Raw, I’ve got no patience for this act.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho via disqualification. Seth Rollins makes the save afterward. A strong main event, which for my money had a big fight feel to it. Both the die-hards and the kids had someone to cheer in this one. They were all pretty tired at this point. But it worked in theory.

Rollins will obviously take that last spot on Team Raw. Aside from Strowman, it was pretty easy to call. I see the Smackdown team taking it home at Survivor Series, which finally leads to the big implosion between Owens and Jericho. Unless they stretch it out even further, which I would be okay with at this point. Whatever keeps Jericho on television.

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Will WWE Acquire TNA? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

TNA Impact logoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s about that time, isn’t it? Crunch time for TNA.

Reports have surfaced that the financial well is running dry at TNA again. This time, WWE is reportedly in talks with Dixie Carter to buy the company, acquire the tape library, and cease operations. On the other hand, Billy Corgan is at the table. TNA may end up in his hands, as many have speculated. Either way, TNA’s future will reportedly be decided in a matter of days.

I’ve never felt good about the idea of WWE buying TNA. The purchase of WCW, while great for WWE, was not a good thing for wrestling at large. That competition brought out the best in both companies, and in the end the fans were the true winners. Without WCW, WWE lost a certain drive they’ve never gotten back. While you can certainly argue WWE competes with everything else on television,more major wrestling organizations obviously mean a healthier industry at large.

But to that point, the industry is in a different place today than it was when WCW went under in 2001. For starters, TNA is not WCW. They wanted you to believe they were competition for WWE. But despite involvement from a lot of the same people, and major marquee talent like Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley and the Hardys, that was never the case. That’s why TNA’s attempt to go head-to-head with Raw failed. Both WCW and TNA had big financial backers that enabled them to grow leaps and bounds. But what may have hurt TNA more than anything is that both wrestling personalities and wrestling fans saw it for what they wanted it to be: WCW reborn.

Dixie Carter, Billy Corgan, TNAAlso, while the market for wrestling may be smaller than it was in 2001, the advancement of the internet means wrestling fans get to see more promotions than ever before. Lucha Underground is a distinct alternative, as are Ring of Honor are New Japan Pro Wrestling. We also have smaller promotions like EVOLVE, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, etc. None of these smaller alternatives existed when WCW went down.

I’ve never rooted for TNA to die. But if the time has come to let it go, then so be it. It’s such a tarnished brand at this point, the best choice might be for it to live on through the WWE Network. Consider all the TNA alumni WWE has right now: Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Eric Young, and the damn WWE Champion AJ Styles. You’ve also got content for Hall of Famers like Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T., etc.

Still, I’m not ready to start writing TNA’s obituary yet. Lord knows it’s survived by the skin of its teeth before. One guy who’s probably not rooting for WWE to step in? Cody Rhodes. He was set to make his debut at Bound for Glory on Sunday.

Who knows? Maybe he still will.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Randy Orton hunts for Bray Wyatt. This episode of Smackdown had something Raw frequently lacks: An ongoing story to tie the show together. Wyatt challenged Orton to find him, which lead to a rising action and a climax. By God, actual storytelling!

Bray Wyatt, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016But while things were structurally intact, the opening segment was a dud. Orton’s part of it was fine. But once again, Bray was too cryptic. At certain points, there’s something to be said for coming out and saying exactly what you’re going to do. Bray needs to do more of that, and speak less in metaphor and hyperbole. The gist of it was: Come find me. Is that so hard to say?

The backstage segments of Randy searching for Bray felt slightly reminiscent of the boiler room brawl from Summerslam ’96. There was a creepy vibe with the machinery running, and the announcers staying quiet for the most part. Of course, this felt a bit more like a high school haunted house than a horror flick. That stuff written on the doors (“Predator or Prey?” “I am a god.”) felt very generic. And then you had Erick Rowan getting locked down there. Was that supposed to be funny?

I like the idea of Orton somehow sneaking up behind Bray in that little room he’s always in. But they could have done so much more with that. They just had Bray turn around and take some punches. At the very least, they could have given Orton a cool line. Something to make it memorable, that’s all I ask.

The Usos & The Ascension def. Heath Slater, Rhyno, & American Alpha. Chad Gable has, by and large, had one job these last few weeks: Sell that leg. It’s a tried and true formula. Gable sells, Jason Jordan gets the hot tag. But at this rate, the guy may want to dip that damn thing in cement. It’s the only way it’ll be safe!

WWE Smackdown, September 26, 2016The Usos look good these days, having ditched the face paint for a more “urban” look. I’m hoping they get some mic time before No Mercy. I want to see them as the aggressive antagonists out to kill the high Heath Slater has been on lately.

Carmella & Natalya def. Nikki Bella & Naomi. Carmella is starting to come into her own as a heel. She’s got a Real Housewives of New Jersey kind of vibe on that works in her favor. I don’t have high hopes for the match she and Nikki will eventually turn in. But progress is progress.

Dolph Ziggler agrees to put up his career for one more shot at the Miz’s Intercontinental Title at No MercyThe stars really aligned for this one. Miz and Ziggler in their home state, both sets of parents in the front row, a good story, and a dramatic plot twist. Miz even got a really good video package out of the deal.

I assume this is a course they plotted for Ziggler when he started feuding with Ambrose during the summer. I admit, I thought they’d simply made him a whipping boy for Ambrose, AJ Styles, and Miz. But if this was the plan all along, good for them.

Ziggler can sometimes up the intensity in his promos too quickly. When you crank up the emotion, you often need to take the audience up that figurative roller coaster. When he got to the part about giving so much but getting nothing back, he went a little fast. But he still hit his mark. It rang very true to what die-hard wrestling fans have seen this guy go through for years. And at the end, when he made that offer for just one more shot, you believed him. He may have had tears in his eyes. To his credit, Miz played his part perfectly. The heartless heel preying on the defeated babyface.

The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, WWE Smackdown, September 27, 2016This needs to be Dolph’s ticket off TV for awhile. I’m not sure if he’s legitimately going anywhere, but that character needs a break. The problem then becomes finding someone to put in that upper mid card babyface position. There are names they can build up for that spot. Apollo Crews, Kalisto, God forbid Jack Swagger, or even Curt Hawkins. But right now, the only person who might be primed to fill in for Ziggler is Kane. Anybody clamoring for a Miz/Kane Intercontinental Title program? I didn’t think so.

Alexa Bliss attacks Becky Lynch before her match. Like Carmella, Alexa Bliss is still coming into her own on the national stage. But what we’ve seen so far is promising. I just hope once we’ve got a little more distance from Suicide Squad, she can drop the Harley Quinn look.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose to retain the WWE Championship. Guest commentator John Cena lays both men out afterward. This match did its job wonderfully. It got me hyped for the triple threat at No Mercy. All three of these guys are big match wrestlers, and we’re still riding the wave from the Cena/Styles match at Summerslam. Expectations will be high for this one.

Cena and Ambrose really need to work a singles program. The heat between them feels very personal, and not forced. Ambrose has cut a couple of really good promos this year about how WWE is “his” company, as he’s the one main eventing shows night after night, putting all the effort in. To contrast, John Cena is apparently off house shows now. There could be some really good stuff there if they want to mine that for TV.

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