Wrestlemania Predictions: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? Specifically, let’s look at the headline matches for the last three Wrestlemania cards…

Wrestlemania 31: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship. While they actually wind up having a damn good match, the crowd isn’t buying Roman as the lead babyface. So they get out of it by having Seth Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Wrestlemania 32: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship. Not helped by the fact that the show had gone way too long, this match made me contemplate giving up wrestling. Despite going against Triple H and the McMahon family, Roman still isn’t accepted as the conquering hero. The crowd is both tired and apathetic.

Wrestlemania 33: The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns. Going a different route, WWE puts Roman in and old guard/new guard match against the Dean Man. Roman wins, but the highlight of the night is Undertaker’s apparent retirement when the match is over. The next night, Reigns announces “This is my yard now,” to massive boos.

And here we are at Wrestlemania 34. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Anybody want to take a swing at who’s going over?

After all this time, I think a good portion of online smarks have gained a certain respect for Roman. It’s not like he’s out there stinking up the joint. He puts on good matches. I’m sure we’ll get a good match here. But it’s pretty remarkable when you look at all those Wrestlemania headliners back to back, and all the different ways Vince McMahon has tried to make Roman “the guy.”

Ironically, it might have worked if he hadn’t pushed so hard…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, some of the title matches, the matches involving the women, and the WWE Championship Match.)

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

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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015

Barbara Walters, Caitlyn JennerBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s time once again for us to rip off Barbara Walters.

Each year, the iconic journalist does her list of the “Most Fascinating People” of the year. This year, this list was topped by none other than Olympian turned reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. She was joined by the likes of Bradley Cooper, Amy Schumer, Ronda Rousey, as well as American presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Those are all great choices…they’re just not in my wheelhouse, per se.

At the risk of going with a cliche, WWE has had more than its share of ups and downs this year. WWE’s chosen one, Roman Reigns, spent most of the year being rejected by the fans. But even so, Wrestlemania XXXI was the best one the company has put on in several years, and we got a brand new main event star out of the deal: Seth Rollins. With The Authority watching his back, Rollins defended the title most of the year against the likes of Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Sting, among others. But when Rollins went down with an injury in the fall, Reigns would finally rebound and take the title…only to have it stolen from him by Sheamus. But as we saw last week, Reigns won out in the end.

That’s a highly abbreviated version of the year though. For a more in-depth analysis, let’s once again check out WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2015.

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, Roman Reigns1. Roman Reigns

There’s no denying “the Big Dog” had a tough year. For quite some time, he’s been groomed to be WWE’s next top star. But in the modern era, when WWE fans feel someone or something is being force-fed to them, it goes straight into the “reject” pile. For the second year in a row, fans hijacked the Royal Rumble match because Daniel Bryan wasn’t the focal point, and Reigns took the brunt of the abuse. Still, the company stayed the course. Reigns told a hell of a story with Brock Lesnar in the main event of Wrestlemania before Seth Rollins cashed in and swiped the title. Reigns spent much of the year having his every mood scrutinized by the fans. To be fair, much of it was justified. Instead of being allowed to be himself and develop organically, Reigns was heavily produced, and often forced to deliver cringeworthy dialogue. Perhaps that’s why, when he finally won the title, Reigns was cheered by the same Philadelphia fans that booed him out of the building at the Royal Rumble. Vince McMahon and WWE had tried to force a square peg into a round hole all year. And while the struggle isn’t over by any means, seeing Reigns finally get a career win after all he’d been through made for a feel-good moment.

But now the question is: Now that he’s accomplished his goal, where does Roman Reigns go from here? Back to the main event of Wrestlemania, perhaps?

Seth Rollins, Raw, August 31, 20152. Seth Rollins

From an in-story perspective, Seth Rollins was the man in 2015. He left Wrestlemania XXXII as the company’s top heel, and since he went down with a knee injury, no one has been able to fill his shoes. Despite being forced to cut long, drawn out promos to fill time on all those three-hour Raw episodes, his smarmy, whiney persona was ideal for a lead villain role. In addition, Rollins was more than capable of delivering great matches against big names like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton. Those two factors combined drew many a comparison between Rollins and the Shawn Michaels of late ’97 and early ’98. The continuation of Rollins’ on-screen rivalry with Jon Stewart was also one of the company’s biggest publicity grabs of the year.

Like him or not, Seth Rollins became a big money ball player in 2015. The smart bet is that when he returns, he’ll be hearing cheers.

Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, WWE Beast in the East, July 4, 20153. Kevin Owens

The Slammy Award for “Break Out Star of the Year” may have gone to Neville, Kevin Owens was unquestionably the best NXT call up of the year.

Less than a year after the real-life Kevin Steen signed with WWE, he made his main roster debut (as the NXT Champion no less), and immediately began a program with John Cena. Owens went on to beat Cena in his first WWE pay per view match. While he would lose the two rematches to follow, his dry and condescending demeanor combined with his obvious in-ring prowess proved he was more than worthy of a main roster spot. In September, Owens defeated Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship. While Owens has had his share of critics, primarily due to his body type, his success has been undeniable. Roughly a year and a half after signing with WWE, he rose to the top of NXT, won the NXT Championship, was promoted to the main roster for a program with the company’s flag bearer, won the Intercontinental Championship, and has spent the last few months working with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose. Barring some unforeseen and unfortunate turn of events, it’s looking like Kevin Owens is here to stay. And WWE fans are better off for that.

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 20154. Charlotte

Long before the “Divas Revolution” on Raw, there was a women’s wrestling revolution on NXT. One of the names at the heart of that revolution was Charlotte, daughter of Ric Flair. The real-life Ashley Fliehr wowed audience with her natural athleticism, and knack for wrestling. Both fans and insiders knew it was only a matter of time before she made it to the main roster.

On July 13, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch all showed up on Raw to begin what became known as the Divas Revolution. While fans could come to debate just how revolutionary the whole thing was, Charlotte’s talent was undeniable. To a large extent, she became the face of the Divas Revolution. She became the first of the new female talents to strike gold at Night of Champions, besting Nikki Bella to win the Divas Title. Now, fans are starting to see a new side of Charlotte. It seems the Nature Boy’s daughter may be taking after him in terms of cheating to win. This will undoubtedly put her at odds with her cohort Becky Lynch, and lead to more than a few intriguing match ups in the near future. Charlotte is right where WWE wants her to be right now. At this point, it’s simply a matter of growth and maturation.

And while we’re on the subject of women’s wrestling in WWE…

Sasha Banks, WWE TLC 20155. Sasha Banks

Sadly, Sasha Banks comes into this list under that Dolph Ziggler-type banner of talents who should be doing awesome, but aren’t.

There’s an argument to be made that Sasha Banks is the best female wrestler in North America right now, if not the world. As she was winding down in NXT, she had two amazing matches with Bayley for the Women’s Championship, the latter being a classic 30-minute Iron Man Match. Thus, when she arrived on Raw with Charlotte and Becky Lynch on July 15, Sasha had perhaps more buzz surrounding her than any of her peers. And yet she was lumped in with Tamina and Naomi as part of Team BAD, and has stayed there ever since. To be fair, she’s very much the star of the group. But fans have been anxiously anticipating the moment when she breaks away as a singles star. There’s been some buzz lately that Sasha may end up wrestling Charlotte for the title at Wrestlemania, which might just make the wait worthwhile. But until then, we’re left to simply wait and hope…

Sting, Raw, September 14 ,20156. Sting

This was the year wresting fans had waited so long for. At long last, Sting was wrestling for WWE. His first, and perhaps only match for WWE would be at Wrestlemania XXXI against Triple H. It wasn’t necessarily the dream match people were hoping for, but it was epic enough to satisfy their appetite for Sting to have at least one big moment under the WWE umbrella…and then he lost.

On his DVD, Sting said he was fine with losing, as he wanted to go out on his back, per that “time honored tradition” we’ve heard about before. But the fans weren’t looking for that here. The hope was that Sting would win and get his moment in the sun. But alas, it wasn’t to be. He didn’t get his win when he challenged Seth Rollins for the WWE Title at Night of Champions either. Instead, he not only lost, but he injured his neck after taking two buckle bombs. So now, not only has Sting not gotten his moment in the sun, but he may never wrestle again.

At this point, the pertinent question seems to be: Was it even worth it?

WWE Raw, October 12, 2015, The New Day7. The New Day

The Philadelphia fans turning around on Roman Reigns was a big deal. But for my money, it doesn’t hold a candle to the turnaround The New Day has experienced.

When 2015 kicked off, Kofi Kingston, Big E., and Xavier Woods were a lame white-meat babyface group, which the fans were crapping on every week. And justifiably so. The New Day concept had little substance to it. It was essentially just three enthusiastic, smiley guys. It’s still unclear to me whether the eventual heel turn was planned or not. But when that turn came, a whole new life was breathed into this group. As heels, nothing was off the table. They were allowed to be as goofy and flamboyant as they wanted, and that resulted in them becoming a genuinely entertaining team. Ironically, they’ve hearing been hearung cheers for months now. One can argue they’re not even heels anymore. I can only imagine an official babyface turn is forthcoming. The cool thing about that is they don’t even have to change their act. As long as they keep having fun, they should have a place on TV for the foreseeable future.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Sheamus8. Sheamus

Sheamus did not have the year that any of us were hoping he’d have. The sad thing is, it’s really not his fault. It has more to do with creative.

Wrestling fans let out a collective groan when Sheamus won this year’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. I think the consensus as far as Sheamus being WWE Champion was, “Been there, done that.” I’m not sure there was an ideal choice in that ladder match, but Sheamus wasn’t the guy to build that kind of intrigue around. Especially when after Money in the Bank, he went on to have a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton. It seems like fans spent most of the year wondering how WWE was going to get themselves out of the Sheamus situation, as opposed to whether he was going to win the belt.

Still, they went ahead and pulled the trigger on Sheamus at Survivor Series, only to take the belt off of him about a month later. I suppose we can give them credit for trying. But hindsight being 20/20, Sheamus wasn’t the guy to go with heading into Wrestlemania XXXII. That’s not to say he can’t ever be that caliber a star. But he wasn’t particularly hot when he with the briefcase, and he was even less so when he won the title. So I’m not sure what they expected was going to happen…

WWE Raw, November 9, 2015, Cesaro, Sheamus9. Cesaro

An optimist might say Cesaro was on the verge of finally starting to break out as a big singles star when he got hurt in November. A realist, on the other hand, would say it was simply another start-and-stop push. As far as Cesaro is concerned, I’m a realist.

The fans were ready for Cesaro to break out last year at Wrestlemania XXX. But a series of bad decisions put the kibosh on that. This year, he gained some traction after Vince McMahon said on a Stone Cold Podcast that Cesaro wasn’t connecting with the fans, and a backlash ensued. “The Swiss Superman” won the tag team titles with Tyson Kidd, but the team abruptly ended when Kidd was injured. Cesar segued into another singles run, where he gained and lost momentum depending on what week it was. Cesar would be a different kind of attraction, that’s for certain. But if and when WWE decides to pull the trigger on this guy, they’ll have something. Though frankly, the more time goes by, the less likely a Cesaro push becomes.

The Undertaker, 201510. The Undertaker

The Undertaker making this list in 2015? Yup. That’s a thing. But to his credit, he earned it.

Coming into 2015, we weren’t quite sure what was going on with The Undertaker. He hadn’t been seen since Brock Lesnar broke his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania XXX. One theory was that he was done. Given the injuries he sustained in that match with Lesnar, the safer option might have been to hang it up. But ‘Taker did deserve a swan song…

But that’s not what we got in 2015. The Dead Man came back at Wrestemania XXXI to vanquish Bray Wyatt, and then reappeared at Breaking Ground to cost Brock Lesnar the WWE Championship. They followed that up by main eventing Summerslam, and then stepping back inside Hell in a Cell. While ‘Taker ultimately lost his war with Lesnar, he did have a nice night at Survivor Series, celebrating his 25th anniversary with WWE by teaming with Kane to defeat Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Wrestlemania XXXII will feature The Undertaker’s last match. With the event being in ‘Taker’s home state of Texas, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad time. But if this year showed us anything, it’s that at 50 plus years of age, The Undertaker can still go. So if he’s still got as much passion for the business and a desire to perform, who are we to tell him to go? As far as I’m concerned, The Undertaker can stick around as long as he wants. I certainly won’t complain.

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

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Hulk Hogan’s Racist Rant, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Hulk Hogan, modernBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s tough not to feel sorry for Hulk Hogan at this point.

We’re several days removed from a piece of the verbal transcript from Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, of all things, being released. I won’t put it up here, but it’s filled with the N-word, in the context of men his daughter Brooke might have been dating at the time. Subsequently, the media has been all over Hogan, and he has been released from his WWE contract.

Needless to say, that kind of racist language in 2015 is unacceptable in any context. I can’t say I feel sorry for Hogan in that respect.

Where my sympathy comes in is the way fame, and ultimately greed, have destroyed the real-life Terry Bollea and his family. In the past 10 years we’ve seen this man divorced and dragged through the mud by his wife of over two decades, stuck in the center of the infamous scandal involving his son Nick and the Graziano family, exposed via the release of a sex tape, and now this.

Hulk Hogan, Susan G. Komen For the CureOne of the truly sad things about all this is that on the surface, Hogan seemed to have finally arrived at a secure, content place in his life. He’d settled into an ambassador role with WWE, and had developed a public persona that was perhaps more dignified, as he worked with organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and made rare television appearances for WWE.

And now, he’s culturally blacklisted.

In the end, I can only hope that Terry Bollea doesn’t truly hold this kind of racial hatred in his heart. If he does, than he’s truly someone to be pitied. Some things are worth more than one’s professional life or public image…

Thoughts From Raw:

Undertaker and Brock Lesnar absent from Raw. Not a big surprise that neither man was on TV this week. Last week was so good that it’d be a shame to water it down with too many appearances by these guys. For my money, we were actually getting to a point where Brock was on TV too much. Nothing tarnishes a “special attraction” like too much TV time.

The Undertaker, WWE RawSome fans have been lamenting WWE bringing in Undertaker to sell Summerslam, while they cut the legs out from under talents like Cesaro and Kevin Owens. That’s a fair point, to be certain. But does anybody actually doubt that Lesnar vs. Undertaker will attract more fans than say, Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins? If I’m a WWE guy (or girl), I’m taking advantage of those additional eyes on Summerslam, and doing everything I can to stand out from the pack. I won’t deny that the talent pool might be getting a bad hand here, especially considering Lesnar is also a part-time guy. But what other choice do they have at this point than to simply do their best?

WWE announces Summerslam will be four hours long. I’m in favor of this, so long as they use the extra time well. Either give the midcard some extra time to show off, or give some pay per view matches to talents that might not normally get it (See Stardust and Neville below.). As we see with Raw every week, more time isn’t always a good thing. I it gives the show a little more room to breathe, it could work out for the better.

John Cena def. Seth Rollins, Cena suffers broken nose during match. Um, ouch. Hey, on the bright side, nothing adds drama to a match like a little blood. And to his credit, Cena took a moment or two to get his bearings, but then got right back into the swing of things. The guy’s a champion, like him or not.

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015As for the booking of the match, I never understand why they do this kind of thing. The idea is obviously to have Rollins go against Cena at Summerslam. So why put them against each other on free TV? Granted, they’ve wrestled a bunch of times on Raw in the past. But it’s been quite awhile. Why remind the audience they’ll be paying for something they could easily get on Raw?

Sasha Banks def. Paige. Charlotte & Becky Lynch def. The Bella Twins. I’ll say this for the so-called “Divas Revolution,” it has me interested in the women’s segments for the first time in quite awhile. We saw some really nice wrestling from Paige and Sasha Banks in particular tonight. If they ever decided to put two girls in the main event of Raw again, this match could be a great candidate.

To their credit, all these ladies look like they’re trying to make the most of this added emphasis. Naturally, some of them are a bit better equipped for that than others (Read: Paige and the NXT girls.)…

Bray Wyatt officially welcomes Luke Harper back into The Wyatt Family. Like a lot of Bray Wyatt’s promos, this one went on a little too long. Particularly when he started talking about his “pet.” But once he gave the mic to Harper, the segment regained some of its life. Ironically, giving Harper a little bit of Bray’s spotlight is what they should have done before he was set free.

Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, July 27, 2015At this point, it looks like we’re headed toward a straight up tag team match at Summerslam. pitting Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against The Wyatt Family. If they are going to make it a six-man involving Sting, we’ll need to see a new Wyatt Family member added sooner rather than later. Bo Dallas, the real-life brother of Wyatt, seems like the obvious choice. It’s not like he’s doing a lot these days…

Dean Ambrose takes a beating from The Big Show. I liked the underdog chemistry Ambrose had with Show here. If the plan is to add him to the Intercontinental Title picture, I certainly won’t complain. Adding Ambrose to just about anything guarantees a little bit of added fuel to the fire. Good thing, too. The flame on this Ryback/Big Show/Miz was fizzling out quickly.

Neville def. Fandango, Stardust cuts a promo on him. The hero/villain angle between Neville and Stardust could be mildly compelling, I suppose. But was anybody else frustrated with Stardust’s promo? I couldn’t hear half of it because he kept speaking in that hushed tone. C’mon, Cody! You might be working toward a Summerslam match, here! Speak up!

WWE 2K16, TerminatorArnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character revealed as pre-order bonus for WWE 2K16 video game. Let’s just hope they don’t add the Wrestlemania XXXI version of Triple H as Terminator. You remember, right? That was the robot that, for whatever reason, was booked to go over Sting. Hell, even Robocop didn’t do that. And that was in WCW!

Stone Cold Steve Austin to interview Paige on the next “Stone Cold Podcast.” Paige is an odd choice for this spot. There are a lot of much better candidates. Just a few off the top of my head: Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, or even Nikki Bella. How is Austin interviewing Paige going to attract new network subscribers? Where’s the intrigue? It  seems like a waste of a perfectly good network special to me.

Image 1 from bleacherreport.com. Other images from WWE.com.

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Talking Dead, and Other Ponderings From WWE Battleground and Raw

The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, WWE Raw, 07/20/2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Battleground and Raw:

The Undertaker costs Brock Lesnar the WWE Championship at Battleground. Wrestlemania XXX rematch to take place at Summerslam.

How ironic. The way to breathe some new life into Raw was to bring in the Dead Man.

I’m not sure how much fan desire there’s been to see The Undertaker face Brock Lesnar again. A potential Undertaker/Sting match is what’s been on a lot of people’s minds. But for my money, an Undertaker/Lesnar rematch was inevitable, so long as ‘Taker is healthy enough to hang with the ultra-physical Lesnar. From a storyline perspective, Lesnar took something from The Undertaker that he can never get back. Something that defined ‘Taker’s legacy more than anything else he’s done. So at some point, we needed a revenge angle, or at least something with ‘Taker and Brock before one of them left.

Having Undertaker cost Lesnar the match with Rollins at Battleground was probably the best non-finish they could have done. Rollins was leaving with the title either way. And Undertaker’s promo on Raw was excellent. Oddly enough, the best part was that little growl he let out at the very start. Bone chilling.

The Undertaker, Raw, 09/20/2015The brawl between Lesnar and ‘Taker was classic WWE. It’s something we’ve seen a million times. But I won’t complain. Hearing Lesnar shout “I’ll kill you!” at ‘Taker a few times was hilarious. And you know what? I believe him…

Going into Summerslam, my question is: What’s the finish? Who wins? It doesn’t make much sense to have Brock, the biggest babyface in the company, lose to ‘Taker. So I’d have to assume that someone’s going to cost ‘Taker the match to set up a Wrestlemania bout. So we may know more about ‘Taker’s Wrestlemania XXXII match sooner than we thought.

In any event, the presence of a healthy Undertaker brings a much needed epic feel to both Raw and Summerslam. But now the question is, how do they keep some of that momentum going as we head into fall?

Charlotte def. Brie Bella, Paige & Becky Lynch def. Sasha Banks & Naomi. I haven’t had a chance to talk about the “Divas Transformation” yet. So let’s get into it…

Charlotte, Brie Bella, Raw, 09/20/2015Tonight was the first time I had any interest in not one, but two women’s wrestling matches on Raw in quite some time. That’s not because women’s wrestling isn’t interesting or fun. It’s simply that I, like many others, have simply been waiting for good women’s wrestling in WWE. Not to mention some new faces. For months it’s been The Bella Twins, over and over again.

The additions of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch to the main roster have the potential to be a huge breath of fresh air. It’s obviously something NXT fans have been clamoring for over the last several months. It adds a great deal of intrigue to a division that has been void of it for the longest time.

Between her victory in the triple threat match at Battleground, and her solid match with Brie Bella this week, the world has definitely gotten to see what Charlotte is made of. That’s a great thing, as she’s potentially the diamond in the rough here. I’m not sure what WWE is aiming for with these teams of three. But either way, we’re introducing new faces, and attempting to make new stars. It’s hard to find much fault in that, at least at this juncture.

WWE Raw, 09/20/2015, Seth Rollins, John CenaJohn Cena confronts Seth Rollins on Raw. So this is what they’re doing with Rollins at Summerslam, huh? A title unification match with Cena. Eh, that’s fair enough, I guess. Having two midcard titles isn’t the end of the world, but I’ll admit it is a little redundant. It’s a bit of a shame, though. After so many years, the United States Title finally means something. A World Title vs. US Title match actually has a big match feel to it. And now the latter is going away…

I suppose the upside here is that now WWE will have a chance to finally add up the importance of the Intercontinental Title. Though to do that, I suspect they’ll have to get it away from Ryback and The Big Show.

Cesaro positioned as babyface in Raw main event, teams with John Cena and Randy Orton. Gee, we’re only a year and a half late on this one. Cesaro doesn’t fit the traditional WWE superstar mold, in that he isn’t an amazing talker. But what he lacks in vocal skills, he makes up for in wrestling skills. To use a very broad analogy, he’s in the same category as guys like Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, and Daniel Bryan.

WWE Raw, 07/20/2015If they’re looking for a pair of guys to reinvigorate the Intercontinental Title this fall, they need look no further than Cesaro and Kevin Owens. They can do what Daniel Bryan was supposed to do after Wrestlemania, and make that belt the “worker’s title” again.

Bray Wyatt reunites with Luke Harper to defeat Roman Reigns at Battleground. Not a huge surprise, here. After all, Harper and Erick Rowan had already reunited before the latter got injured. Why they even broke The Wyatt Family up to begin with is still a mystery to me. What did these men do as individuals that they couldn’t have done as a group?

The buzz is that at Summerslam it’ll be Wyatt, Harper, and someone else against Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Sting. That’s a hell of a six-man tag, and a chance at some redemption for Sting. Yet another unsolved mystery is why he lost to Triple H at Wrestlemania. What good did that do for either man?

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Ring of Honor and Destination America, Plus, Ponderings From WWE Raw

Ring of Honor, Destination AmericaBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Destination America announces TV deal with Ring of Honor. Show will air prior to TNA’s Impact Wrestling. To say the very least, the news of Ring of Honor airing on Destination America was a shock.

I equate this to TNT announcing that an ECW show would air prior to WCW Monday Nitro. (Obviously that’s a stretch, but you get the idea.) It puts TNA in an extremely awkward position, and doesn’t do anything to dispell the rumors that Impact is being pulled in September. Apparently the TNA talent roster weren’t told anything prior to the announcement, which makes me wonder how much even Dixie Carter and the TNA management team knew.

For wrestling fans who get Destination America, this is great news. But for fans like me who don’t get the network, it’s not so great. I don’t necessarily see this as a huge step up for ROH, considering so many areas still can’t see them. When this announcement was made, I actually tweeted: “So Ring of Honor is going to be on too? Great. This should get them…nothing. Enjoy obscurity, guys!”

TNA Impact Wrestling, Destination AmericaIn retrospect, that’s obviously pretty harsh. Any TV exposure for a wrestling company is good news for wrestling fans. Congrats to Ring of Honor. Take this opportunity and make the most of it!

Thoughts From Raw:

After Elimination Chamber victory, Kevin Owens comes face-to-face with John Cena. So much for Owens’ tenure on Raw being strictly a WWE Network tie-in for Elimination Chamber. If WWE is smart (which depends on what week it is), they’ll keep this guy around. He and Cena have good chemistry, and I’d be happy to see these two take this all the way to Battleground in July.

I think the reason Owens is such a hot commodity right now is because there’s nobody else like him on either the main roster or NXT. He’s got a different look, a different promo style, and a fairly unique presentation. And of course, his wrestling is more than up to snuff. In that sense, he makes for very compelling television.

Raw, June 1, 2015, Kevin OwensAs for this segment, this whole “my son likes John Cena” thing is good enough to take them to Money in the Bank, which, God help us, is less than two weeks away. As Owens got the clean win this week, I expect Cena to get a clean win at Money in the Bank, followed by a rubber match at Battleground.

Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, and Neville announced for Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Kofi Kingston being in this match is actually pretty funny. From an in-story perspective, there’s no reason for him to be there. It’s almost an exposure of WWE’s booking team. They need guys in there who can do high-flying moves with ladders, and Kofi’s a proven commodity in that respect. But when you see that graphic of all six guys in the match, and Kofi’s standing there with a tag title belt, there’s an awkwardness there.

Supposedly more guys are going to be added to this match. I imagine we won’t get more than 8. It might be interesting to see Bray Wyatt involved in a match like this, especially as he’s supposedly in line for a babyface turn. But as for who will win…

WWE Money in the Bank 2015, early ladder match graphicRoman Reigns pulls a 3-peat on Raw, defending his Money in the Bank Ladder Match spot. As Reigns wasn’t in a match at Elimination Chamber, it was a good move to emphasize him on Raw. The San Antonio crowd seemed to be into him, which is nice to see. Hopefully the respect factor is starting to set in, and fans are realizing they changed the course of this guy’s career at Wrestlemania. That’s not to say he deserved the win. But he took the loss in stride.

Hopefully Reigns pulling a 3-peat against King Barrett, Mark Henry, and Bray Wyatt adds to that respect element. They weren’t all fantastic matches, but they guy still put in a long night, to say the least.

Dean Ambrose steals WWE Title from Seth Rollins after being screwed at Money in the Bank. Didn’t they just do this story with Ambrose and the Intercontinental Title during Wrestlemania season? It was an eye-roller for me. Still, it’s nice to see Ambrose walking around with the title. Makes you think a championship win isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Raw, June 1, 2015, Dean Ambrose, Naturally, they’re wrestling again at Money in the Bank, and naturally, it’s a ladder match. Since the ladder match at Wrestlemania, I’m officially of the mindset that WWE does too many ladder matches. They’ve lost their value. They have two pay per views (Money in the Bank and TLC) centered around the damn match. If they absolutely have to have those, then they need to remove all other ladder matches from the calendar year. What’s the point of even having a ladder match if it’s not special anymore?

Ryback wins Intercontinental Title in Elimination Chamber match. This was a big surprise. I’m not sure what this means as far as WWE wanting to make the Intercontinental Title the “worker’s title” again. Considering Ryback is apparently going to defend against The Big Show soon, things aren’t looking good in that respect. But Ryback’s passion is evident when he’s on television every week. So seeing him win the belt has some sentimental value at the very least.

The New Day retain at Elimination Chamber, will likely defend against The Prime Time Players at Money in the Bank. First and foremost, how hot did Titus O’Neil look when he got the hot tag on Raw? That’s a fire I’ve never seen out of him before. Awesome work.

WWE Raw, June 1, 2015, The New DayAs unlikely as it seemed when this act started, The New Day is are now one of the hottest things on Raw, for my money. They’re doing some cool mic work. As much as I’d like to see Titus O’Neil and Darren Young get the win and the titles, I don’t think The New Day is done with them yet. Give ’em until Summerslam at the earliest.

Images 1 and 2 courtesy of destinationamerica.com. All remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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The New WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From Wrestlemania XXXI and WWE Raw

Wrestlemania XXXI, Seth Rollins, ChampionSeth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank during the main event of Wrestlemania, pins Roman Reigns to become champion. Brock Lesnar assaults Rollins on Raw, gives an F5 to Michael Cole. Stephane McMahon suspends Lesnar indefinitely.

Well, that’s one way to book yourself out of a corner.

Actually, it must be said that the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match was not bad at all. It was the match of the night, in my opinion. They built up a lot of sympathy for Reigns (at least in my mind), and established that he is indeed a Samoan Bad Ass. But at the end of the day, Brock Lesnar was the crowd favorite. WWE clearly knew that going in, and booked accordingly. They told a similar story to the one they did with Lesnar and John Cena at Summerslam, but then threw the twist with Rollins in.

Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Wrestlemania XXXITruth be told, if there’s one guy on the roster that deserved that crowning moment, it was Seth Rollins. He’s turned in consistently good, often great work since his heel turn last year. And whether you’re a Roman Reigns fan or not, this loss at Wrestlemania does two very important things for him. First, it gives him more big match experience. Second, it gives him a little more time to cook before they put the title on him.

There was no way they were going to have Brock wrestle on Raw. I knew that thing was a sham from the get-go. What I didn’t see coming was what happened to Michael Cole. If Brock wasn’t a babyface before, he certainly is now. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Cole took that F5 like a man. I’ve got to wonder who pitched THAT to him…

One thing I will say in critique of that Raw segment…JBL and Booker T. couldn’t have been that hurt by an overturned table, could they?

Triple H vs. Sting, Wrestlemania XXXITriple H def. Sting. This one shocked me. After 14 years, Sting finally makes his WWE debut…just to lose to Triple H? That’s pretty lame if you ask me. Still, one would hope that’s not the last time we’ll see Sting in a WWE ring.

The general direction this match took also surprised me. Instead of it boiling down to Sting and Hunter they turned it into an nWo vs. DX thing. It all became a giant Attitude Era throwback. It was fun, I guess. But I thought this was supposed to be about Sting coming to WWE to face the tyrannical leader of The Authority? It seemed like an odd choice to me. But it was Wrestlemania-worthy, to be sure.

By the way, that Triple H/Terminator entrance? Really stupid.

The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker looked as good as he ever has at Wrestlemania. But it seemed like he was definitely feeling it physically. Then again, maybe he was just selling really well. But after the match, he did indeed look up to the rafters and mouth “Thank you.” My instincts tell me he’s got maybe one or two left in him. But then again, people have been saying that for years. Only The Undertaker can tell us for sure. One thing’s for sure, seeing him for the first time in a year was a hell of a Wrestlemania moment.

The Undertaker, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Rock and Ronda Rousey wind up in an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania. This seemed like a set up for one hell of a mixed tag match. Summerslam, maybe?

John Cena def. Rusev at Wrestlemania for the United States Championship, defeats Dean Ambrose in title defense on Raw. Not exactly a surprise that Rusev lost to John Cena. Though as I’d said previously, I’d have loved to have seen Rusev’s streak continue.

Dean Ambrose deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the 48 hours he had between Wrestlemania and Raw. Between the bumps he took in the ladder match, and the match he had with Cena on Raw, he deserves as much respect as anybody on that roster. There’s so much money on this guy, and he’s so unique. I just hope WWE knows what they’ve got with him…

Daniel Bryan, Wrestlemania XXXIDaniel Bryan wins Intercontinental Championship in multi-man Wrestlemania Ladder Match. Bryan wins a title match against Dolph Ziggler on Raw. After all the complaining the internet wrestling community did (myself included) about Daniel Bryan’s demotion on the Wrestlemania card, it’s tough to deny they put him over pretty well. It would have been easy for him to simply get lost in the shuffle in terms of that ladder match. But he came out on top, and had another great Wrestlemania moment. Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t as good as the one he got last year. But it was still pretty good.

In terms of the ladder match itself…meh. I hate to seem so jaded, especially considering some of the bumps those guys took. But we’ve just seen this match so many times over the last decade. At the end of the day, there are only so many things you can do with a ladder. So I left this match feeling a bit less satisfied than perhaps I should have been. The ending with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler butting heads over and over again was pretty ridiculous too.

As for the match Bryan and Ziggler had on Raw, it’s tough to not enjoy these guys going one-on-one. They make a point to show you things you don’t see in other matches, and it’s a real treat.

Sheamus, Raw, March 31, 2015Sheamus returns after Bryan/Ziggler match to fend off Bad News Barrett, ends up heeling on Bryan. I like Sheamus’ tweaked image, although apparently the crowd didn’t agree (“You look stupid!”). I most certainly like his new direction. A Sheamus heel turn has is long overdue. If I had my way, we’d see Bryan vs. Barrett for the title at Extreme Rules, and Sheamus vs. Ziggler, with the winner getting a title shot.

Adrian Neville (as billed as just “Neville”) and The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto) make their Raw debut. So the rumor flying around was that WWE was going to give NXT star Adrian Neville a Mighty Mouse-type persona. It looks like they kinda/sorta went that direction, but thankfully left out the inherent cheeseball elements. We’ve definitely seen wrestlers wear worse things out there than a cape. Great exhibition from Neville. Let’s see where he goes from here.

In that same vein, we saw a hell of a showing from Sin Cara, and especially Kalisto. He had that crowd in the palm of his hand. I want to see more, that’s for damn sure. And hey! Who knew you could have a colorful, marketable Hispanic tag team without turning them into a couple of damn cartoon characters! Does this mean we can finally drop the Los Matadores gimmick?

The Big Show, Wrestlemania XXXIThe Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Wrestlemania pre-show. I’m guessing this match got bumped to the pre-show so we could have the Rock/Ronda Rousey segment. I’m wondering, had it been on the actual show, if Big Show would have won. This match seemed like the perfect opportunity for Damien Sandow to have his big moment. And indeed, he did have a big moment when he eliminated Miz. But for that to be followed by his elimination by Big Show almost waters the whole thing down. Once it was decided the match would be on the pre-show, I wonder if they just said: “Meh. If Sandow can’t win it at Wrestlemania, let’s just give it to Show.”

And what does The Big Show actually gain from winning the Andre battle royal? Nothing really. At least Cesaro got a push (albeit a failed one) out of the deal. Show’s already a top guy, and he’s aligned with the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. So they basically spun their wheels with this one.

Images from WWE.com.

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A Wrestlemania XXXI Preview – The Gang’s All Here

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is it, folks. Wrestlemania is here. Sting is here. The Undertaker is here. Brock Lesnar is here. Still, all things considered, this isn’t the strongest ‘Mania card there’s ever been. We’ve got three squeeze matches, and a main event with a babyface that isn’t exactly a babyface, and a heel that isn’t exactly a heel…

Let’s dive in.

20150320_LIGHT_WM31_kickoffmatch_hpPRE-SHOW MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores

Neither The New Day or Los Matadores feel worthy of this match. With due respect to the talents of those four men, they should have been stuffed into the battle royal.

I’d be okay with either Kidd & Cesaro or The Usos taking this one. But I’m making my prediction based on an unlikely source: WWE just came out with a t-shirt for Kidd & Cesaro. That leads me to believe they’re going to be in the forefront of things for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking the titles will stay with them.

PREDICTION: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_divastag-1The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee & Paige

The Bella Twins are going to take this one. Why? Because WWE loves them for some odd reason. Personally, I respect the fact that they’ve put the effort they have into wrestling. But I just can’t stand listening to them. AJ hit the nail on the head on Smackdown: They’re like the Kardashians. And if there’s one thing wrestling doesn’t need, it’s Kardashians.

Still, at least AJ and Paige got to be featured in a match at Wrestlemania, and they weren’t stuffed into some “lumberjill” match. Then again, plans can always change, I suppose.

PREDICTION: The Bella Twins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_Andre_HPAndre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

You know who should be pissed about this match? The Big Show. He’s been relegated to this match for the second year in a row, but will almost certainly not win. He’s been compared to Andre the Giant his whole career, and how he’s been stuck in a match dedicated to him, but can’t win!

This should be the match where we finally get our Miz/Damien Sandow pay off. If I’m booking this sucker, our last four guys in the ring are The Big Show, Ryback, The Miz, and Sandow. Ryback dumps out Big Show, then Miz gets the jump on Ryback and tosses him out. Then we get our confrontation between “star” and “stunt double,” resulting in Sandow finally standing up to Miz, and tossing him out of the match for the win. This should be a huge Wrestlemania moment for Sandow. The question is, how do they follow up on it? That part sure as hell didn’t work out for Cesaro.

PREDICTION: Damien Sandow

20150309_LIGHT_WM31_Match_BadNewsLadder_HP2LADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper

I know this match will probably be entertaining. But the purist in me doesn’t like it. I’m also not thrilled with the fact that Daniel Bryan got relegated to a squeeze match a year after winning the main event at Wrestlemania. But that’s WWE booking for you…

I’ve read reports that Daniel Bryan will win this one, but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like a Bad News Barrett win to me. WWE likes him, as evidenced by the way they put the belt on him right when he got back. And then they had all these guys take his title away from him, and then he finally got it back, only to have it taken from him again. This all feels like a build up for him to take it back once and for all at Wrestlemania, and then perhaps turn babyface. The fans like this character, and the heel status still seems forced to me. I’m really spinning the wheel on this one, but I’m going with Barrett.

PREDICTION: Bad News Barrett

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_cenarusevWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

In all honesty, I don’t want to see Rusev’s winning streak end. Originally, I was not a fan of his, simply because he was so cold and expressionless out there. But he’s improved substantially, and is one of the company’s best villains right now. That being said, if you have to lose to someone, a loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania isn’t a bad deal. And given the beating Cena just took from Rusev on Raw, it seems like he’s due for a win. And hey, Cena winning the US Title might just restore some of it’s prestige. Lord knows those secondary titles could use a little more shine on them these days.

PREDICTION: John Cena

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HP_OrtonRollinsRandy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

From a pure performance standpoint, this match could steal the show. Randy Orton’s previous Wrestlemania dance partners haven’t always lent themselves to great matches. But with the right ones, he can deliver. His match with CM Punk in 2011 comes to mind, as does his work with Daniel Bryan and Batista at last year’s show. With a guy like Seth Rollins, the potential is obviously there.

The build-up with Randy Orton pretending to join The Authority was decent. Not great, but decent. Hopefully the match makes it all worthwhile. I see Rollins going over here. He’s unquestionably WWE’s most hated villain right now. What better way to keep his momentum going than a cheap victory over Randy Orton? Mind you, he’ll probably take an RKO somewhere in there. But it’ll be his victory nonetheless.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2_takerbrayThe Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

For yours truly, this is the biggest match on the card. I’ve been a fan for almost two decades. So seeing The Undertaker in the ring again is worth the price of admission by itself. He could be wrestling Barry Horowitz (look him up, kids) and I’d still pay to see it.

To his credit, Bray has made the majority of this program work with his verbal skills alone. The only input we’ve had from The Undertaker has been in the form of props and video clips. But Bray made it work. This program, as one-sided as it’s been, has elevated his game significantly.

Obviously, “The Streak” is no longer on the table. We can debate the pros and cons of that at a later date. But either way, The Undertaker could, in fact, lose this match. But I don’t think he will. After last year, the fans deserve to have their faith in this legend rewarded. The Undertaker losing last year left a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth. So now it’s time for him to win again. Will it hurt Bray? Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s career has ever been truly harmed by losing to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Bray will be no exception.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_HPv2Triple H vs. Sting

If what we heard on Raw this week is any indicator, I don’t think there’s any risk of the WWE fans not reacting favorably to Sting. They were really into him on Monday, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.

I expect we’ll see classic Triple H here, not to mention classic Stephanie McMahon. They’ll use underhanded tactics, and probably that sledgehammer, to get the upper hand. Then Sting will have his big babyface comeback, and of course, get the win. There’s no way they brought Sting to Wrestlemania just to have him lose. And as I said this week, I’m hoping this isn’t a one shot deal. A guy like Sting could really help elevate and up-and-comer. But either way, this night belongs to the Stinger.

PREDICTION: Sting

20150224_LIGHT_WM31_Match_LesnarReigns_HPWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

This match is “car wreck interesting.” In other words, I’m intrigued to see whether the whole thing just breaks down into a mess. What it really comes down to is the crowd. That’s the big drawing factor. What kind of reaction is Roman Reigns going to get? As Brock Lesnar just resigned with WWE this week, the die-hards and the smart fans don’t have much of a reason to boo him. And as Wrestlemania is a show that the die-hards come from all over the world to see, things don’t exactly look good for

I expect the crowd to be the main story in this one. I don’t see either Reigns or Lesnar as “ring generals,” so to speak. So I’m not expecting a classic. In terms of it’s outcome, while this match could end up going in a lot of directions, I still see Roman Reigns getting his hand raised at the end. One of WWE’s major priorities these days (thankfully) is making new stars. Whether we like him or not, Roman Reigns is one of those stars. So this moment belongs to him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Paul Heyman plays into this. He’s more than pulled his share of the weight in all of this. But now that we know Lesnar has re-signed, I’m curious to see if their relationship evolves at all. Will Heyman still be at Lesnar’s side once Wrestlemania XXXI is in the books? Or will he find himself a new conqueror in Roman Reigns? Has all of this been leading up to a Roman Reigns heel turn? Now that would shake things up…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Images from WWE.com.

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