Tag Archives: World Wrestling Entertainment

Raw ’97: It’s All About the Title

Shawn Michaels, WWF ChampionBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The January 27, 1997 edition of Raw was essentially about two things: Ahmed Johnson’s feud with the Nation of Domination, and more importantly the WWF Championship.

I’ve always been of the opinion that the most important thing in a wrestling promotion should, more often than not, be the Heavyweight Championship. That’s what motivates your characters. That’s what everyone aspires to have, and it’s what everybody shows up for. Steve Austin famously said that if you’re not trying to become the WWF Champion, then you shouldn’t be in the company at all.

This show has a great segment that’s centered around Shawn Michaels being the champion, and everyone vying to take what he has. What’s more, he says he’s willing to do anything it takes to keep it. Before you even inject the various personal rivalries into the scenario, you’ve already got instant drama.

Too often in today’s WWE, I think they take the “chase” factor for granted. More on Raw than Smackdown. We need to know how important that Universal Championship is, especially because it’s so new. Kevin Owens, though cowardly and underhanded, needs to be seen as the man on Raw. Instead, he’s simply one of a few top guys holding a prop.

Is it fair to compare anyone to Shawn Michaels in the mid-’90s? Of course not. By my point is more about how things are booked and written on television. I look forward to contrasting what was happening with the WWF Championship at this time in 1997, compared to what’s happening with the two Heavyweight Titles now.

ahmed-johnson-wwf-raw-january-27-1997Crush def. Ahmed Johnson. In 2017, Ahmed Johnson is more or less a punchline. His unintelligible promos. Those weird things he wore on his legs. Reportedly he wasn’t the safest guy to work with either. But I get what they saw in him at the time. He was a big, scary dude. When he would get mad, he was intimidating as hell. He had a presence, too. Crowds reacted to him. The real-life Tony Norris was actually the first black Intercontinental Champion, which gives him a place in history.

The story here was that Savio Vega had joined the Nation of Domination the previous Saturday at a house show in Madison Square Garden, turning on Ahmed. This was obviously off television. As this show was taped along with the previous week’s show, Savio didn’t appear to follow up on that.

I was surprised to see Crush win this one. But Vince and the King protected Ahmed by telling viewer that he’d taken a beating at the Garden on Saturday, and then wrestled on WWF Superstars the previous day. From a storyline perspective, it made sense that Ahmed was worn down. They sold us on Crush’s Heart Punch finisher too.

Time Stamp: Lawler says Ahmed is having a “New England Patriots kind of day.” The Patriots had lost to the Green Bay Packers at Super Bowl XXXI the night before.

Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, WWF Raw, January 27, 1997Shawn Michaels speaks for the first time since regaining the WWF Title. Rematch with Sycho Sid announced for Thursday Raw Thursday. Final Four participants confront the champion. Once again, it’s all about the WWF Championship. Everyone is dying to win it, and the man wearing it will do anything he can to keep it. I love this segment.

The essence of Bret Hart’s side of this segment is that he tells Shawn to do whatever he has to do to come into Wrestlemania with the title. One of the things he says is, “I don’t want you to injure yourself.” Considering what Shawn does on that Thursday Raw Thursday episode, that’s so ironic it’s almost laughable.

On the subject of irony, hearing Undertaker talk about facing Shawn at Wrestlemania is almost chilling. Notwithstanding what they would do together at Wrestlemania XXV, Undertaker would be Shawn’s final opponent in the main event of Wrestlemania 13 years later. Aw man, and they’re promoting Wrestlemania XIII here. This is spooky.

As the wrestlers talk about Wrestlemania here, Vince interjects twice to remind them not to forget about Shawn’s title match with Sycho Sid. Good business on his part.

owen-hart-clarence-mason-british-bulldog-wwf-raw-january-27-1997The British Bulldog def. Doug Furnas, despite Owen Hart accidentally striking him with his Slammy Award. Owen and Phil Lafon are out there, having wrestled each other earlier in the night. Owen’s green track suit was certainly an interesting choice.

The sunset flip reversal spot Bulldog and Furnas ended this match with is the same one Bulldog and Bret Hart ended their classic Wembley Stadium match with in 1992.

Clarence Mason is associated with both the Nation of Domination, and this team of Owen and Bulldog. This used to be a fairly standard thing. Bobby Heenan’s multiple “clients” in the ’80s come to mind. We have so few managers today. But the ones we do have likely wouldn’t be with multiple wrestlers like this. The one rare exception is Paul Heyman, who a few years ago was with Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel, and Ryback simultaneously.

The Clarence Mason character, played by a real-life attorney, is clearly a product of his time. Johnny Cochran had become a household name in the ’90s, thanks to the OJ Simpson trial. Clarence Mason wasn’t nearly as charismatic as Cochran was. But we got the idea.

vader-mankind-wwe-raw-january-27-1997The Godwinns def. Vader and Mankind via count-out. On the subject of managers, Paul Bearer was put with Vader after helping him beat the Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. That’s an odd pairing that’s even odder when you throw Mankind in there.

We’ve heard Mick Foley, and other wrestlers talk about taking Vader’s punches in the corner. In this match, you can see exactly what they’re talking about. The big guy gets Phineas Godwinn (later known as Mideon) up against the buckles and pops him in the head repeatedly. And this was in the era before they were so mindful of concussions. On top of that, Vader later takes an unprotected chair shot to the head from Foley.

Ahmed tries to attack the Nation with a two-by-four moments before Raw goes off the air. For some reason, a two-by-four always seemed to be Ahmed’s weapon of choice. I damn sure wouldn’t want to be around this guy when he’s got a weapon…

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WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Predictions, Plus Ponderings From Raw

seth-rollins-wwe-raw-january-23-2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As Raw has been…less than thrilling lately, I’ve opted to emphasize on Royal Rumble predictions this week, and scale back on Raw coverage. Looking at the results, I didn’t miss much anyway.

Our most notable news item is that Seth Rollins is no longer in the Royal Rumble Match, having lost it to Sami Zayn. Triple H’s music played, and he got beat off the distraction. I assume he’ll find his way back into the Rumble somehow, most likely by beating somebody up and taking their spot. Other than some small updates to the Royal Rumble card, that’s about it.

It looks like they’re doing an extra-long pre-show, with Raw putting in two matches. I imagine Smackdown will put in at least one. For my purposes, I’m sticking to the stuff that’s been announced for the main show.

So let’s dive in!

Rich Swann vs. Neville, WWE Royal Rumble 2017WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville

On paper, this is the strongest pay per view match we’ve seen from the Cruiserweights, as it features the two strongest personalities in the division. Neville’s heel turn has been a very pleasant surprise. So pleasant in fact, that I think he needs to take the belt here. Outside of Neville, the Cruiserweight Division doesn’t have any really strong heels. So if you make him the centerpiece to the division, you can put him with the various babyfaces like Swann, Cedric Alexander, TJ Perkins, and Jack Gallagher. All the while, they can keep building their other heels. To me, it makes all the sense in the world.

PREDICTION: Neville

WWE Royal Rumble 2017, Charlotte Flair, BayleyWWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Bayley

As much as I liked the Raw segment with all of Bayley’s poems, this program is sort of…meh. When Bayley wins her first championship on the main roster, it needs to be a big moment. We’re not primed for a big moment yet. So Charlotte needs to win here.

If they want to keep this going until Wrestlemania, which they very well could, I want to hear more about the differences between these two. The genetically superior athlete vs the die-hard fan from San Jose. I liked Charlotte’s line last week about when Bayley was being a fangirl, she was winning state volleyball championships, or something like that. More of that, please. As Bayley has already pinned Charlotte a few times, we can’t make this that much of an underdog story. But we can make it a good childhood dream story. I’d certainly rather see this match in Orlando than a multi-woman match of some sort.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns, WWE Royal Rumble 2017NO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Chris Jericho will be above the ring in a shark cage.

People got pretty excited when Owens won the Universal Title in August. Rightfully so, as he’s a hell of a talent. But the five months Owens has spent with the title haven’t exactly represented a creative high for Raw. The opposite, actually.

It’s not his fault, of course. He’s made the best of his situation, turning his partnership with Chris Jericho into a highlight of Raw each week. But his programs with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have been tepid at best, because neither of them are particularly hot as babyfaces. Reigns is loathed by much of the audience, and Rollins was awkwardly turned face after Finn Balor went down with his injury. That damn injury threw a serious monkey wrench into Raw‘s main event scene.

I say we give the belt to Reigns. Like him or not, he’s the man in that company right now. So he may as well have it, especially as we get closer to Wrestlemania. Taking the spotlight off Owens will give him something fresh to do creatively, and it’ll likely give us our long awaited Owens/Jericho feud. Despite losing the belt, this is a good move for Owens.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

AJ Styles vs. John Cena, WWE Royal Rumble 2017WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena

This one can go either way, as you’ve got the Elimination Chamber Match next month. If they want to put the belt on Cena, they can do it here or they can wait a month.

I think they’ll probably give it to him here, so he can avenge his loss to Styles at Summerslam. As is the case with Reigns, a lot of people aren’t going to like that. Especially because this win allows Cena to tie Ric Flair’s record of 16 Heavyweight Titles. But let’s be honest: We know he’s going to do it eventually. At least this way he’ll get a hell of a match out of it. And it will be a hell of a match, folks.

Allegedly, the John Cena vs. Undertaker match is now off the books for Wrestlemania. So the direction for both these men heading into that show is largely unknown. But I can’t bring myself to complain much about that. The element of surprise is something the wrestling industry misses badly. All I can say is, they’d better have something good cooked up for these two.

PREDICTION: John Cena

Royal Rumble Match 20172017 ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

This match is always best when you don’t have an obvious winner. Not only do we not have one this year, but this is the most stacked Rumble Match we’ve had in quite some time. The Undertaker, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar by themselves make this a hell of an attraction. Throw in the full-timers like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, and Randy Orton, and this could be really good.

Want some statistics? As of this writing, the 2017 Royal Rumble Match features four previous Rumble winners. We also have 10 former Heavyweight Champions. Those 10 men have held a combined 45 Heavyweight Championships in WWE and WCW.

So who’s probably not winning? Goldberg and Lesnar jump out immediately, as they’re working each other at Wrestlemania. Chris Jericho is in that same category, as he’ll likely work with Kevin Owens. Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton are likely out of the running as well, as they’re almost certainly working together. Granted, you can put a title in any of those programs. But you don’t need to.

They could easily give this to the Undertaker. But again, does Undertaker need a Royal Rumble win? Not really. He’s the Undertaker. He’s one of the few who could credibly and believably get a title shot simply because of who he is. Though they could go for a feel-good moment anyway.

So who does that leave? Baron Corbin is a dark horse candidate, but I don’t think he’s ready. Ambrose? Probably not. Miz? No. Finn Balor’s name is out there. But I’m not ready to get my hopes up for him. Ditto for Samoa Joe. So who does that leave?

Braun Strowmann, WWE RawHere’s an answer that may divide the fanbase: Braun Strowman.

WWE likes Braun Strowman. They always have. I can see why. He’s big,  he’s credible, and he’s got a very distinct look. He’s like giant monster with a face like a small child. He’s a monster-baby. More importantly, they’ve done a great job with him since the brand split. He’s been destroying everyone. He has yet to be pinned. It took a combined spear from Roman Reigns and Bill Goldberg to take him down.

The downside? He’s green. He made his wrestling debut in late 2014. While he’s been improving as of late, he’s still very much in the learning phase of his career.

But there was once another man who came in with relatively little experience, destroyed everyone, and shot to the top. That man’s name is Bill Goldberg, and he became a bonafide superstar.

Look at the three biggest stars in this match: Goldberg, Lesnar, and Undertaker. They’re all part-timers who will never again be on TV regularly. Strowman, on the other hand, is one of the only full-time Raw guys that isn’t in that tepid category. If they get behind him and protect him, he can really be somebody.

If I knew for sure Finn Balor was going to be in this match, I’d go with him. But without confirmation, I’ve got to go with Strowman. He’s an investment their future. And keep in mind, just because they go with him here, doesn’t mean he has to win the title. There are ways they can get around that…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

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Raw ’97: Bret Hart vs. Vader, Sid Powerbombs Pete Lothario

***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.***

Terri Runnels, flash, Shotgun Saturday NightBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The January 6, 1997 edition of Raw was heavy on footage from Shotgun Saturday Night, which had premiered less than 48 hours earlier. Broadcast from the Mirage Nightclub in New York City, this was the episode where Terri Runnels (playing Marlena at the time) famously flashed the Sultan. And as we saw repeatedly during this Raw show, Ahmed Johnson gave D’Lo Brown the Pearl River Plunge on the roof of a car.

This was an attempt by the WWF to present something edgier, supposedly in response to ECW’s popularity. The original incarnation of the show, broadcast from nightclubs and what not, only lasted six weeks before it essentially became just another syndicated WWF show. I’ve got fond memories of those first several Shotgun episodes. In hindsight, it’s an obvious precursor to the Attitude Era. It’s a shame they never tried anything like that again.

Mankind def. Owen Hart. Chances are you’re going to hear this a lot as I watch these old shows: I have no memory of this match. Specifically, Mankind beating Owen. Not that it was so far-fetched. But Owen was my favorite wrestler at the time. You’d think I’d have at least a faint recollection of him going down via the Mandible Claw. This was also a heel vs heel match, an interesting way to start the year.

What I came away from this match thinking about was Owen’s spinning heel kick. He threw a couple of those here. That used to be a trademark of his.

Owen Hart, Mankind, WWF Raw, January 7, 1997Lawler on commentary: “I hope Jose [Lothario] is not gonna come out here, is he? … Are all his veins still clogged with those refried being and tacos and enchiladas? I heart they took an x-ray of his heart and there was a big jalapeño blocking his aorta.”

Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon def. Razor Ramon and Diesel. Keep in mind, this is January of ’97. So we’re not seeing Scott Hall or Kevin Nash as Razor and Diesel. This is Rick Bognar, and the man who would be Kane, Glen Jacobs.

This one was a dud for me. More or less a throwaway match. More entertaining was the Honky Tonk Man joining Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler on commentary. This was when he was looking for a protege, who would later turn out to be Billy Gunn as Rockabilly.

WWF Champion Sycho Sid is interviewed in the ring by Jim Ross. HBK emerges to do commentary during the main event. Sid apologies for what he’s going to do. The famous Royal Rumble show from the Alamo Dome in San Antonio was coming up on January 19, and Sid was set to defend against the hometown hero Shawn Michaels.

On a recent episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, the former WWF producer revealed Sid was at one point discussed to be Hulk Hogan’s successor as the top babyface. But Sid allegedly turned it down to stay heel. That’s a fascinating idea, especially when you look at Sid’s mic work. As we see in this promo here, Sid has a great presence and a commanding delivery. But I don’t think one would ever mistake him as the most articulate guy in the room. I think his best mic stuff was always short and sweet.

Bret Hart vs. Vader, WWE January 6, 1997For some odd reason, Shawn came out in jeans, boots, and a bathrobe. The things you can get away with when you’re the Heartbreak Kid…

Vader def. Bret Hart. This was another one that took me by surprise. I remember Vader pinning Shawn, and even pinning Undertaker. But I had no idea he’d ever beaten Bret. Not a clean victory,  mind you. Bret took a stunner from Steve Austin in the aisle. But Bret getting pinned after a Vader Bomb is still surreal. Had things worked out differently for Vader in the WWF, this match might have happened on pay per view.

At this point, it seems like they were still building for Bret vs. Shawn at Wrestlemania XIII. That didn’t happen, obviously. But Shawn’s agenda during this segment is clearly to talk smack about Bret, and their history dating back to Wrestlemania XII. There’s also a lot of talk from Vince about Bret being a marked man in the upcoming Royal Rumble Match. Bret was reportedly in line to win at one point, which isn’t difficult to see.

Shawn on commentary: “[Bret] is telling everybody he’s a brain surgeon and an angel. Believe me folks, he ain’t no angel. And if I could come clean, I would. But I know [Vince] will smack me in the face if I do.”

Sycho Sid, Pete Lothario, WWF Raw, January 6, 1997That’s really interesting to hear, considering the marital infidelities Bret talked about in his book. I can only assume Shawn and the other wrestlers knew.

During the main event, Sid grabs a camera man, and films himself powerbombing Jose Lothario’s son Pete on a table. Pete Lothario. There’s a name from the past for you.

Again, short and sweet with Sid’s mic stuff: “I’m sorry to do this. It’s going to hurt me to do this. But I’m going to have to.” Shawn legitimately sprinted to the back, adding to the drama. As a kid, I remember thinking Sid wasn’t somebody you wanted to mess with. That’s probably still the case 20 years later.

Over on Nitro: Rey Mysterio Jr. beats Psicosis. The Giant gets beat down by the nWo, but gets a chokeslam in on Vincent.

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The Undertaker Rises? Plus, WWE Battleground 2015 Predictions

The UndertakerBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The question of whether Battleground is worth watching largely boils down to this: How much credence do you give to a rumor?

This week the rumor mill is aflame with word that The Undertaker, (Yes, The Undertaker!), will be showing up at Battleground to start an angle for Summerslam. Adding fuel to the fire are the number of mentions ‘Taker has gotten on WWE TV lately, including this past week on Raw when Paul Heyman taunted Kane for being “The Undertaker’s baby brother.”

A potential Undertaker appearance obviously heats Battleground up tremendously. And let’s be honest: Battleground is, and always has been, a fairly useless filler pay per view. This year’s show has a bit more going for it, with the much-anticipated match between Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins, and the rubber match between John Cena and Kevin Owens. But the undercard was so cold that icicles were forming around my TV screen. These past few months, WWE as a whole has been almost unbearably stagnant and boring.

Wrestlemania XXX, The UndertakerAn Undertaker appearance has the potential to give the show, and WWE as a whole, a much-needed shake up. But if I’m still on the fence about watching Battleground, I’m not letting a rumor push me one way or the other. You set yourself up for tremendous letdown that way. TELL me ‘Taker’s going to be there, and you’ve sold me. Hell, he’s even got a built-in opponent waiting for him…

But more on that later. First, let’s sift through the mediocrity…

WWE Battleground 2015, King Barrett, R-TruthPRE-SHOW MATCH:
King Barrett vs. R-Truth

I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but it’s worth noting again: Does Barrett have to wear a crown and robe to the ring? Yes, it’s been done in the past. And yes, we all know he’s English. But he just looks so…stupid! Where did they buy that stuff? Target? I can only assume Barrett is winning this one. But does it really matter at this point? Despite their many talents, both of these men seem to be permanently relegated to jobbing or bad comedy skits.

PREDICTION: King Barrett

WWE Battleground 2015, Prime Time Players, The New DayWWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day

The Prime Time Players are great babyface champions, and I’m a big fan of theirs. But The New Day had a good thing going as heel tag team champions. When they dropped the belts, they lost a lot of momentum. So it seems like the right thing to do here is put the straps back on Kofi, Big E., and Xavier. If they’re looking for something to do with the tag belts at Summerslam, I wouldn’t be opposed to a 2-out-of-3 falls match, similar to what they did with Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. In the end, The New Day having the titles makes for more compelling television.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Battleground 2015, Randy Orton, SheamusRandy Orton vs. Sheamus

*yawn*

Look, I’m sorry! But these guys just don’t do it for me. From a character perspective, they just don’t have a lot of chemistry. They’re not exactly magic in the ring, either. That’s not a slam on either of them. But at this point, when they’re together it’s like Nyquil. I’m never one to count out a pleasant surprise, but…well…let’s just get this one overwith. I’m going with Orton here, as traditionally the guy with the Money in the Bank briefcase tends to lose a lot before cashing in. Plus, this is kind of a filler match anyway, right? So in the end, does it matter who wins or loses?

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

WWE Battleground 2015, Roman Reigns, Bray WyattRoman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt

These two have a nice hero/villain chemistry, so I enjoy seeing them work together. I just wish their program was a little more focused. At first it looked like it was going to be about Bray getting in Reigns’ head by talking about his family. Then they moved away from that, and it became about Wyatt simply wanting to keep Reigns off the top of the mountain. These past few weeks have been more about general mind games. For the sake of both Reigns and Wyatt, I wish this program had more meat to it. I can only assume they’re going to take this to Summerslam. So we’ll go with Wyatt as the winner here, for the sake of giving Reigns the revenge motive next month.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WWE Battleground 2015, John Cena, Kevin OwensWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
John Cena (c) vs. Kevin Owens

I imagine this must be frustrating for fans who live to loathe John Cena. WWE intentionally pushed him to the middle of the card to make room in the main event picture for guys like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. But this feud with Kevin Owens has pushed him right back into the upper card.

At the end of the day, this whole John Cena/US Title scenario has always been about elevating the championship, and the individual who beats Cena for it. So as far as I’m concerned, there’s no way this program doesn’t end with Owens getting the title. The question is, do they pull the trigger now or at Summerslam? These two have been working together several months, but I can’t say I’m tired of them yet. Plus, there is a way to add a fresh new element to this rivalry: Cesaro. Cena and Cesaro have have two really good matches on Raw recently, so he’d be a natural addition to the proceedings. Given the quality of matches these two have had recently, you’ve got to think a triple threat match be a heavy candidate to steal the show.

As for Battleground…I say give it to Cena via a Cesaro interference that costs Owens the match. That way they can start paving the road to a three-way at Summerslam. Another loss won’t hurt Owens. Especially if he’s due to come out on top in the end.

PREDICTION: John Cena

WWE Battleground 2015, Seth Rollins, Brock LesnarWWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

This was easily the match I’d have picked to headline Summerslam. The fact that they bumped it up to Battleground might very well be an indicator The Undertaker is returning. There hasn’t necessarily been much fan interest in a Wrestlemania XXX rematch with Brock. And as the biggest babyface in the company, that match might put Brock in an awkward position. Still, I’d pay to see it. It’d also be easy to put ‘Taker with Rollins, as he’s the biggest heel in the company.

But with or without The Undertaker, I see Rollins going over here. If they’re going to switch the title, it’s going to be at Summerslam. This match is either part of a build up to some sort of gimmick match main event next month, or it’s a blow off to put either Lesnar or Rollins with ‘Taker. Either way, there’s little benefit in putting the title on Lesnar at Battleground.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Cena and Cesaro Go Again, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Cesaro, Raw, 07/06/2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

John Cena def. Cesaro in latest open challenge. What more can we say about John Cena and Cesaro at this point? They’ve now given us two awesome matches on back-to-back episodes of Raw, and this week they main evented the show. It’s just a shame that as far as Cesaro is concerned, it may all be for naught.

There aren’t many men on the main-event roster capable of delivering consistently great matches the way Cesaro does. But ultimately, that’s really not what WWE is looking for as far as their top-tier talent is concerned. WWE wants to create characters that can have box office, merchandising and licensing appeal. And no matter how many great matches Cesaro has with John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, or whoever they put him in the ring with, he doesn’t fit their mold for what a top talent should be. Does that mean he can’t be a top talent? Of course not. In the eyes of many, including mine, he’s earned his right to at least have a shot at it. But WWE clearly doesn’t see that in him right now. It also doesn’t help that WWE wants their main event stars to go out there every week and deliver extensive monologues. Clearly, that’s not Cesaro’s strong point. Cesaro’s passion, his uniqueness, is on display in the ring. It’s just a shame that’s not really where WWE always looks when choosing who gets those main event slots.

Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, WWE Beast in the East, July 4, 2015Kevin Owens loses NXT Title to Finn Balor in Japan, attacks Cena after Raw main event. Not at all a surprise to see Owens lose the title to Finn Balor. That has seemingly been in the works for awhile now. The question is, do they pull the trigger at Battleground, and put the United States Title on him? I’d say eventually the answer will be yes. The question is, do you hold off on doing it until Summerslam? If I’ve got the book, they’d hold off another month, and try to put Cena and Owens in some kind of gimmick match to blow this off. Whether they can find a creative way to extend the program another month is a different story entirely.

Brock Lesnar intimidates Seth Rollins two weeks before Battleground, destroying J&J Security’s new Cadillac with an axe. Seeing Brock pull out that axe was chilling. For a moment, I honestly believed he was going to chase Rollins out of the ring with a friggin’ axe. But of course, the axe was meant for the car. Fair enough, I suppose. On one hand, it’s cool to see Lesnar wielding a weapon like that. On the other hand, Brock Lesnar is someone who destroys people with fists and suplexes. It’s more fun to see him to that kind of stuff, especially now that he’s a good guy.

Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Raw, 07/06/2015I’m still getting used to Paul Heyman cutting babyface promos. Granted, he hasn’t changed much about his delivery. He’s simply not going out of his way to insult people. But the fact is, the character is a fan favorite now. I can only assume this is temporary, and that Heyman will turn on Brock at some point. Heyman is in his element when he’s a heel. He’s always been that way. So I’m looking forward to the day he gets to show his true colors again.

An apparently healed Rusev brutalizes Dolph Ziggler. So now Rusev is back, right? Does this mean we can put him back with Lana and finally move forward? Maybe that’s why I’m so short tempered with this angle. We can see the destination a mile away. I know people really like Lana, but she’s out of her element without Rusev. She’s not a wrestler, and I don’t anticipate she’ll be a wrestler any time soon. So I don’t see how she can be a franchise player for them.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE 2K16Stone Cold Steve Austin announced for the cover of WWE 2K16. They’re on a roll with these video game commercials. Last year they had Sting, now this year they’ve got Steve Austin digging up the old “Smoking Skull Belt.” Awesome stuff. It’s pretty tough to go wrong with Austin. I imagine that’s something they’re keeping in mind for Wrestlemania.

King Barrett def. R-Truth. Can we have Barrett not wear the damn crown and cape anymore? I understand that he’s a heel, but that look isn’t helping him. Can’t we do something a little more subtle? Have him put a crown on his tights or something. He doesn’t literally have to go out there and dress like a king every week, does he?

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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John Cena and Cesaro Steal the Show, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Jamie Noble, Seth Rollins, Raw, June 29, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Raw has been extremely frustrating in recent weeks. More frustrating than I can ever remember it being in the nearly 20 years I’ve been watching. It’s becoming tough to get through, even the help of a DVR. Even Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman haven’t been able to up my enthusiasm.

It’s not one specific thing that irks me right now. I’m sure if you talk to a lot of fans, they’d tell you a lot of the same things…

– The show is too damn long. Everything is so stretched and prolonged for the sake of time that it actually becomes boring.

– We don’t need a 20-minute monologue at the start of every show to get us invested. We’re already invested. We’re watching the show! And the casual fans that are tuning in at the top of the show are likely so bored by the long-winded promos and bad acting that they’re changing the channel anyway.

Mr. McMahon, Raw, Attitude Era– The Authority storyline has gone on too long. The whole “evil authority figure” story has been old hat since Vince McMahon himself perfected it in the late ’90s. Before the Attitude Era, we didn’t need an evil boss to drive the show forward. We just let the stories unfold. Why can”t we do that now?

– I hate to be this way, because I have no desire to see anyone out of a job. But this show desperately needs new faces. Big Show, Kane, Randy Orton, The Bella Twins, etc. These guys are all treading water. I imagine part of the reason NXT is so hot right now is because there are so many talents down there that fans haven’t seen before. Meanwhile, on the flagship show they’re still seeing certain talents that have been around for nearly two decades! We desperately need to mix things up.

Like the last several episodes, this week’s Raw was largely forgettable, and tough to get through. There were, however, a few bright spots. I’ll happily talk about them here.

Cesaro, John Cena, Raw, 06292015John Cena and Cesaro steal the show in US Title open challenge match. Cena and Cesaro have always had great chemistry. They’ve had some awesome matches, and while this wasn’t their best outing, it was definitely a breath of fresh air. I was pleasantly surprised to see Cena diversify his arsenal here. Mind you, that springboard stunner still looks like crap. But at least he’s trying. And in this match he definitely succeeded.

It’s tough to believe that in 2015, we’re saying a John Cena program is the creative highlight of a Raw. But these US Title open challenges, along with the story he’s telling with Kevin Owens have made him one of Raw’s MVPs in recent weeks.

As for Cesaro, this poor guy just can’t catch a break. Whether it’s the Wrestlemania battle royal last year, or being a tag team champion this year, the guy is becoming the poster boy for start-and-stop pushes. But if tonight proved anything, it’s that Cesaro deserves to play a prominent role on WWE television.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, 06/29/2015Bray Wyatt continues to target Roman Reigns, saying he’s the yin to Reigns’ yang. It seems like they’re trying to create a Batman/Joker dynamic here. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reigns and Wyatt certainly fit those molds.

In his promo this week, Wyatt kept emphasizing: “Anyone but you, Roman.” That’s interesting, as that’s essentially the attitude the fans had toward Reigns at the Royal Rumble. I’m curious to see if Wyatt acknowledges that, and if so, how Reigns responds. It doesn’t look like they’re going the “family man” route anymore. That’s fine, so long as they know where they are going with this angle…

Sheamus def. Neville. I was as disappointed with Sheamus winning the Money in the Bank briefcase as a lot of people were. But he does have pretty good matches. I don’t have high hopes as far as how things will be if/when Sheamus cashes in and wins. But at least it’ll be something different.

Raw, 06/29/2015, Sheamus, NevilleAs for Neville, he’s usually fun to watch. I’m not really a fan of when he does those back flips in the ring for no real reason. But he’s starting to carve out a little niche for himself on the roster.

And that’s it. From a three hour show, I was able to list just three things I found appealing. Keep in mind, I’m usually a pretty optimistic wrestling fan. But right now, the show is just not good. Here’s hoping the build for Summerslam reinvigorates things.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Dusty Rhodes, Brock Lesnar, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Dusty RhodesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Obviously, Dusty Rhodes is on everybody’s mind this week, and rightfully so. In an industry where words like “legend” and “icon” are thrown around far too loosely, Dusty was truly both. His mic work was some of the best ever, and his matches with the likes of Ric Flair are forever etched into the annals of wrestling history.

Thanks for the memories, Dream. What a life, what a man.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Battleground 2015, Seth Rollins, Brock LesnarBrock Lesnar returns, will face Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship at Battleground. Battleground, huh? They’re making this match for Battleground? That’s an odd move, in my book. The inevitable match between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar seemed tailor-made for Summerslam. I can only assume they’re getting the initial encounter out of the way at Battleground so they can make the Summerslam rematch bigger. Cage match, maybe? In a perfect world, it’d be Hell in a Cell, but they can’t necessarily do that because of the Hell in a Cell pay per view in October.

Either way, it’s great to see Lesnar back, even if he didn’t do anything but stand there. I’m pleased they didn’t have Paul Heyman say anything this week. This way we can build the anticipation for whatever he’s going to say next week. But even if the build up is lackluster, I imagine the match will be spectacular, even if it does involve some sort of BS finish to get us to Summerslam.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Kevin OwensKevin Owens beats Dolph Ziggler in an open challenge, later powerbombs Machine Gun Kelly off the stage. I was worried about Owens coming off like a babyface earlier in the show when he threw out that open challenge. But he pulled a great heel move by slipping in that it wasn’t for the NXT Championship. But then he leaned babyface again when he attacked Machine Gun Kelly. Yes, I know that’s technically a heel move. But let’s be honest: Nobody likes musical performances on Raw. It never works. So Owens doing that stunt with MGK did more to raise his popularity than hurt it.

So here’s what I’m thinking: Owens loses the NXT Championship to Finn Balor at the big Japan show in July. Then he goes on to win the United States Title from John Cena at Battleground, and essentially take the torch. It seems like the most logical thing to do from here. Then again, WWE hasn’t always been big on logic…

WWE Raw, June 14, 2015, Bray WyattBray Wyatt costs Roman Reigns the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, cuts a promo with a photo of his daughter on Raw. I was wondering why they showed that awful Fatherhood.gov commercial with Roman Reigns, the Samoan Bad Ass, singing “I’m a Little Tea Pot.”

But in light of what we saw with Bray, it makes a little more sense. If they are indeed doing an angle with Reigns’ daughter, it could go a long way in terms of allowing the fans to build a more personal connection with him. On the other hand, it could turn into a lot of hokey, stupid crap. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr. had some awesome matches in the mid 2000s. But that whole storyline about Eddie trying to get custory of Rey’s son was awful. Lots of bad acting, lots of contrived storytelling. It was just bad. So just let’s hope this ends up helping Reigns instead of hurting him.

Randy Orton mixes it up with Sheamus and Kane. Yeah, I switched to the NHL play offs during the Orton/Kane match. How many times have we seen these guys wrestle over the years? No thanks.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, SheamusI found myself phasing out when Orton attacked Sheamus too. I just feel like I’ve seen all this stuff. Coming out of Money in the Bank, I actually would have preferred they put Sheamus with Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton with Bray Wyatt. Those are two programs I could have sunk my teeth into. At least at first glance.

On the subject of Kane, I’m still surprised they haven’t put the mask back on him and turned him babyface for a match against Rollins.. It seemed like that was the direction they were going in.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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