Dean Ambrose to Play the Game, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Despite not having Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns, or Brock Lesnar to contribute to their respective stories, Raw was better than usual this week. As the ever popular Dean Ambrose took center stage this week, perhaps that’s not a coincidence. I’unno, he sure looks like a lead babyface to me.

We’re trying a chronological format this week. Unlike Vince McMahon with Wrestlemania, I’m willing to try different things once in awhile.

Pondering From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016, Triple H, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose interrupts Triple H at the top of the show, challenges him to a title match. There’s really no comparison between the reactions Roman Reigns gets, and ones like this crowd gave Dean. What’s more, Triple H/Dean Ambrose is a program we haven’t seen before. While they didn’t have a match, we’ve seen The Authority feuding with Reigns for months now. The fact that Roman wasn’t even on the show this week didn’t do him any favors, either.

It’s really not rocket science, is it? The fans want Dean. But Vince McMahon wants Roman. He may not like it, but that Wrestlemania crowd is going to let him know that loud and clear.

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch ends in a double pin. Awesome match. Probably the most physical women’s match we’ve seen on Raw in years, and certainly the best encounter Sasha and Becky have had on the national stage. And the crowd was really into it, which made things that much hotter. The only flaw, for my money, was that I didn’t buy Sasha simply going limp after that sunset flip from the top rope. Still, they’re obviously shooting for Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky at Wrestemania. That works just fine for me. All three of these ladies have earned the right to be there.

The Miz, WWE Raw, February 29, 2016The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler. The announcers tried to play up the idea that these two have “long-standing animosity.” But a few weeks ago, we saw them riding together on a commercial for WWE Ride Along. Yes, I know kayfabe is dead. But sometimes little things like this matter.

In any event, Miz becomes the latest guy to beat Dolph Ziggler. His descent continues.

Stephanie McMahon cuts a promo on Shane McMahon and the WWE fans. This came off extremely rehearsed. But by scripted promo standards, this was pretty good. It was very personal, which is how this McMahon family stuff should be. When you give Steph something to be passionate and angry about, she can be really great out there. While I wouldn’t call this great, it was certainly better than your standard Authority promo.

Sheamus & Rusev def. The Lucha Dragons. So Rusev pins Kalisto, the United States Champion, to help build momentum for what I assume is going to be a tag title match against The New Day at Wrestlemania. Here’s my question: They had to beat The Lucha Dragons? They couldn’t have beaten say, Mark Henry & Jack Swagger? Hell, what about The Usos? Or if you do have to go against the Dragons, why not pin Sin Cara? I understand Kalisto has a history with the League of Nations. But why pin him when you don’t have to?

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016, Ryback Ryback def. Adam Rose. Like The Big Show and Kane, the Social Outcasts switch between heel and babyface based on who they have to job to. This week, Adam Rose was seemingly a babyface by virtue of being against Ryback. “The Big Guy” is once again being pushed as a monster heel. That, combined with his new ring attire, makes me wonder if WWE has somehow gotten Bill Goldberg to come out of retirement…

Nah. They’ll probably wind up putting him with Kane.

Chris Jericho & AJ Styles def. Big E. & Kofi Kingston. The question of whether we’re supposed to be cheering or booing The New Day is more confounding than ever right now. They’ve got something going with the League of Nations, who are definitive heels. And they’re most certainly entertaining, which indicates they’re babyfaces. But then tonight, they acted like heels against Jericho and Styles. Either way, I suspect an official babyface turn is coming.

Also coming? A Chris Jericho heel turn, most likely next week during this tag title match against The New Day. They’re doing Jericho and Styles at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of how they get there. My guess? Chris Jericho’s sudden but inevitable betrayal.

The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, WWE Raw, February 29, 2016The Undertaker has a very brief confrontation with Vince McMahon. This segment was a huge disappointment. We got nothing in terms of The Undertaker’s motivation heading into this match. That was the one missing piece to this whole story. What motivation does The Undertaker have to be Vince’s “instrument of destruction?” Why should he care if Shane takes over Raw? There’s a lack of depth here that leaves much to be desired. If this were anybody but Undertaker, going against Shane would turn them into an instant heel. I doubt we’ll see a majority of fans booing ‘Taker at a Wrestlemania. But why exactly should they be cheering him here? He’s Vince’s pawn! This was a major missed opportunity by WWE to up the intrigue for Wrestemania.

Bubba Ray Dudley def. Jey Uso. This program with the Dudleys has been good for Jimmy and Jey so far. It gives them a chance to show their toughness, and shake off a little of that white meat babyface vibe. I’m not sure if these four are going to Wrestlemania, but they’ve got a good thing going thus far.

The Big Show def. Kevin Owens via count-out. There was some buzz leading up to Wrestlemania season about Kevin Owens possibly facing The Undertaker, or maybe even his old rival Sami Zayn. Looks like he’s getting The Big Show instead…ouch.

WWE Raw, February 29, 2016Dean Ambrose gets a beat-down from Triple H and the League of Nations, but is granted his WWE Title shot. This is most likely our main event for the WWE Network special later this month. That’s a shame, as it should really be the main event of Wrestlemania. In theory, they could switch the title to Ambrose and have him wrestle Brock for the title. That wouldn’t be the worst main event in the world. But I don’t see it happening. Roman Reigns vs. Triple  H seems to be inevitable. Those guys won’t be in a fun position, though. They’ll have to follow Shane and Undertaker, Dean and Brock, and whatever else WWE throws at us that night. And that’s not even taking the likely unforgiving Dallas crowd into account…

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker??? Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well, Fastlane mostly sucked. And despite consistently entering arenas to a chorus of boos, Roman Reigns is still WWE’s choice for top babyface. So yeah. WWE die-hards have got a lot to complain about as we head into Wrestlemania.

On the other hand, there’s this…

WWE Raw, February 23, 2016, Shane McMahon, Vince McMahonPondering From WWE Raw:

Shane McMahon returns to Raw for the first time in more than five years. Will face The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at Wrestlemania. Let’s give credit where credit is due. WWE has given us a lot of crappy TV lately. But this was a total surprise, and a welcome one to be certain. This was totally out of nowhere. And what a reaction from the fans in Detroit!

This Wrestlemania thing strikes me as something short term. They were in dire need of something big, specifically for The Undertaker. So they concocted this story about Shane having something over Vince’s head, and wanting control of the company. So Vince puts Shane in a seemingly no-win scenario with the future of WWE on the line. While Shane hasn’t wrestled in years, and he was never the most technically gifted wrestler, I have no doubt he’ll give us something worthy of The Undertaker.

But here’s my question: Who are the fans supposed to cheer for? They want Shane to run the company. But The Undertaker is WWE’s greatest, most enduring icon, and he’s synonymous with Wrestlemania. How can they not cheer him? To say the least, it’ll be interesting to see how this story shakes out.

Also, it looked like Vince dropped an F-bomb on the air. That’s hysterical.

Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, WWE Raw, February 23, 2016Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose to face off in a street fight at Wrestlemania. And with this, we’ve got our top three Wrestlemania matches made a good six weeks before the show. Now push and promote, boys and girls. Fill that arena up.

Obviously, plans have changed. They were clearly looking at Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt for Wrestlemania. But it seems they saw the chemistry Ambrose and Lesnar had, and they wisely changed their minds. This has the potential to be a great story about a relentless underdog who refuses to say die, even though the odds seem impossibly stacked against him. I don’t think Brock has ever had an opponent quite like Dean Ambrose, and I’m very curious to see what he brings not only out of Brock, but out of Paul Heyman on the mic.

But again, who do we cheer for? Do we cheer the dominant Brock Lesnar, or the fearless underdog? We have yet another babyface vs. babyface match for Wrestlemania.

By the way, did you see Brock step on Ambrose’s face out there? Yeesh…

Triple H, Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, February 23, 2016Triple H bloodies Roman Reigns to close the show. Really nice to see some color. As much as Roman is wrong for the main event of Wrestlemania, this does make this rivalry feel more like a blood feud, pun intended.

Here’s my prediction for the main event of Wrestlemania: We’re going to get a repeat of Wrestlemania XXII when Hunter faced John Cena. The fans are going to end up cheering for the heel, and booing the babyface. I don’t see how it could be any other way, especially at an event attended by so many die-hard fans. Hunter and Roman have an uphill battle to fight going into Wrestlemania. And I don’t think it’s going to be pretty. Even during Roman’s backstage segments, the Detroit fans were chanting for Dean Ambrose.

Charles Wright, a.k.a. The Godfather, announced for the Hall of Fame. I think it’s funny we didn’t get a video package for The Godfather. I’m not saying the real-life Charles Wright doesn’t deserve an induction, but how does a company as image-conscious as WWE justify inducting a pimp character into their hall of fame? It seems like they’d be better served playing up the fact that hep played multiple roles, mostly notably Papa Shango. Still, congratulations are definitely in order.

The Wyatt Family, WWE Raw, February 22, 2016The Wyatt Family def. The Big Show, Kane, & Ryback. Brock being put with Dean Ambrose may be a blessing for Bray Wyatt. He might actually get to win a match at Wrestlemania, and gain some momentum for 2016. The question is, who do you put him with now? The Big Show, maybe?

The Wyatts losing at Fastlane was a head-scratcher. If they wanted to do an angle where Ryback walks out on Show and Kane, why not do it at the pay per view?

Chris Jericho & AJ Styles def. Heath Slater & Curtis Axel. So…what happens now? Are Styles and Jericho done? It doesn’t seem that way, does it? If Jericho turns heel they might have one more pay per view match left in them…

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A WWE Fastlane 2016 Preview – The Irrevocable Roman Reigns

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kalisto

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch

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

Here’s your bathroom break match…

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

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

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Charlotte

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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

What we have here is an opportunity…

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

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

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

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

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

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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Undertaker vs. Braun Strowman? Five Alternatives For Taker’s Wrestlemania Rival

Braun Strowmann, WWE RawBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Braun Strowman. That‘s their plan for The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXXII? It’s supposed to be the highest attended Wrestlemania of all time, in ‘Taker’s home state no less, and they’re putting him with Braun Strowman. He (allegedly) went from being pencilled in with Brock Lesnar, to John Cena…to Braun Strowman?

This is wrong for a variety of reasons. While he’s been put over as a monster since his debut, Braun Strowman is still relatively green, and not ready, or qualified to be in a match of this magnitude. Also, given time and experience, Strowman could indeed be a money opponent for ‘Taker. They’d be shooting their wad too soon by putting them together here. Hell, they need to build up not only Strowman, but The Wyatt Family in general.

Also, Brock Lesnar is apparently facing Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania. With Braun Strowman, they’d essentially be giving Undertaker one of Bray’s henchmen, while Brock takes on the big dog.

But mores than anything else, even with so many marquee stars on the injured list right now (Cena, Randy Orton, Sting, Seth Rollins), there are so many wrestlers better suited to face The Undertaker than Braun Strowman. Cast in point, the five names I’ve assembled.

Obviously, none of these men have the marquee value of a Brock Lesnar or a John Cena. But let’s go into this under the assumption that the allure of this match is seeing The Undertaker in action at Wrestlemania, and we’re simply trying to give the fans a match worth their money. I don’t think Braun Strowman can do that. But these five can.

Luke Harper, WWE1. Luke Harper

Assuming we must go to The Wyatt Family for an Undertaker opponent, we need to pick a different Wyatt. Luke Harper has over a decade of experience under his belt. Yes, we still have the issue of ‘Taker facing one of Bray Wyatt’s henchmen. But it was Harper who was pinned by Undertaker in the tag match at Survivor Series. Who’s to say Harper, looking to bring glory to The Wyatt Family, doesn’t strike out on his own in the hope of ending The Undertaker’s legacy once and or all. WWE has tried to break Harper out as a singles star before. As it turned out, they jumped the gun, and ultimately ended up putting The Wyatt Family back together. I’m certainly not advocating breaking the Wyatts up again, but a program like this could help Harper establish a persona of his own. Thus, if/when he does break out on his own again, it could mean more. Plus, he’d give ‘Taker a solid match.

Samoa Joe, NXT2. Samoa Joe

Samoa Joe is easily NXT’s best heel right now. And WWE desperately needs good heels. They had to play the Mr. McMahon card to get the fans to cheer Roman Reigns. But in 2016, Vince McMahon is hardly an ideal ongoing bad guy for television. Samoa Joe on the other hand…

Joe’s in-ring skills speak for themselves. This would simply be a matter of getting him on television and ready for The Undertaker. The Royal Rumble would have been a great opportunity, but that ship has sailed. If this is the direction they’re inclined to go in, I say bring up up at Fastlane, and simply say he’s come to take out the best WWE has to offer (or something like that). Bing bang boom, instant Undertaker match It’s not the most convenient option from a storytelling standpoint, but it would make for a hell of a Wrestlemania match, and add a strong heel to the main roster.

Chris Jericho, Raw, January 4, 20163. Chris Jericho

Jericho’s heel run in 2008 was the stuff of legends, and in a company currently devoid of hot heels, an evil Chris Jericho could reap more benefits than ever for WWE. And who better to put him with at Wrestlemania XXXII in Texas than The Undertaker?

For a heel Chris Jericho, a program with The Undertaker would be all about ego. Jericho has never had a Wrestlemania match with the Dead Man. Ergo, in his mind, The Undertaker has been disrespecting him for years by never standing across from him at Wrestlemania. A challenge is laid down, and ‘Taker accepts. From there, it’s all about the promos. And in terms of the match, Jericho could potentially help ‘Taker give a performance league with his bouts with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and CM Punk.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Sheamus4. Sheamus

Despite winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, and the WWE Championship, Sheamus didn’t have a great 2015. He was a lame duck heel, and as such a lame duck champion. Fans were desperate to see somebody take the belt off of him, which is one of the reasons Roman’s title win on Raw was so well received. People just don’t like Sheamus…

So what do they have to lose by having The Undertaker kick the crap out of him at Wrestlemania? He might even establish some credibility along the way. Sheamus was an annoying braggart during his brief run with the title last year. He’d be able to draw plenty of ire by challenging The Undertaker in an attempt to redeem himself after his failure as champion. And if we needed them, the League of Nations could be involved at ringside. Supposedly, Sheamus is currently sidelined with tendonitis in his arm. But I’d wager we’d be able to get him back for at least one big match. And it doesn’t get any bigger than The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

AJ Styles, Royal Rumble 20165. AJ Styles

The Phenom vs. The Phenomenal One. AJ might not have been our first choice for The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania opponent. But he might be the one we need right now.

To their credit, WWE is making a big deal out of AJ Styles. They played him up on their website before he showed up at the Rumble, reacted appropriately when he made his debut, and then let him show off in a match with Chris Jericho the following night on Raw. WWE needs new stars, and they seem to recognize one in the making. And what better way to indicate that AJ Styles is a must-see superstar than putting him in the ring with another must-see superstar at the biggest event of the year?

The story more or less writes itself. AJ wants to take full advantage of signing with WWE by doing something he can only do in WWE: Facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He’s certainly got momentum on his side, and he may only get hotter as we go through Fastlane. And Styles, like Jericho, is one of the few wrestlers in that company capable of giving ‘Taker one more Wrestlemania show-stealer.

The Undertaker, 2015So come on, WWE. We just celebrated The Undertaker’s 25th anniversary. So how about we give the guy somebody he doesn’t have to carry through a Wrestlemania match? In 2017, maybe Undertaker/Braun Strowman will be a viable Wrestlemania match (assuming ‘Taker can still go at that point). But this year? To paraphrase Bray Wyatt: “Anyone but you Strowman.”

Images courtesy of wwe.com.

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A WWE Royal Rumble 2016 Preview – Roman Reigns vs. The World

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I have one simple request heading into this show: That the booking doesn’t prompt the fans to hijack the Royal Rumble Match again. Seriously, after two straight years, a third would just be piling on…

WWE Royal Rumble 2016, Kickoff MatchFATAL FOUR-WAY TAG TEAM STIPULATION MATCH:
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Ascension vs. Mark Henry & Jack Swagger vs. Darren Young & Damien Sandow
Winners earn a guaranteed spot in the Royal Rumble Match. 

Damien Sandow! Damien Sandow! Good God, almighty! It’s Damien Sandow! Yeesh, if you ever needed an indicator that a match has been thrown together to take up space, that’s it. They put Damien Sandow in it. WWE’s most criminally underutilized wrestler not named Cesaro.

I don’t see any reason why the Dudleys shouldn’t win this one. Bubba obviously had a great showing in the Rumble Match last year. And if the rumors are true, and they are looking to give Bubba a singles run, seeing one of the Dudleys eliminate the other would be a great starting point. Either way, the Dudleys have the star power, and they belong in the Rumble.

PREDICTION: The Dudley Boyz

WWE Royal Rumble 2016, The New Day, The UsosWWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

I like the Usos. They’re a fantastic team, they’re believable, they’re a great asset to the roster… But I’m sick of seeing them in the title picture. If The New Day were babyfaces and Jimmy and Jey were heels, it might be a different story. But as far as I’m concerned, The Usos have no business beating The New Day right now.

But my question is, who challenges The New Day once they beat the Usos? The Prime Time Players have apparently broken up. Sin Cara is injured, so it won’t be The Lucha Dragons. It’s too soon for the Dudleys to challenge again. I say it’s time to go to NXT. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassaday seem ready for prime time. And their personalities would clash well with The New Day. Let’s make it happen!

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Royal Rumble 2016, Alberto Del Rio, KalistoWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Kalisto

This match sucks.

I mean, not really. These guys have plenty of experience working together, and have consistently given us really good matches. I’m sure we’ll get more of the same here. But the title is on the wrong person. After Kalisto won the belt from Del Rio, the was no need for them to switch the title back so quickly. As in, the very next night at the Smackdown tapings. If they wanted to switch the belt back to Del Rio, this would have been the time to do it. Instead, they made Kalisto’s win look like a fluke.

Mind you, they could surprise us and put the belt back on Kalisto. That would be the exciting, compelling thing to do. But as this is WWE booking, I don’t see it happening. Del Rio walks away with the title.

PREDICITON: Alberto Del Rio

WWE Royal Rumble 2016, Charlotte, Becky LynchWWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch

This program has been a huge turning point for Becky Lynch. She’s been one of the highlights of Raw for the last two weeks, largely because of her mic work. She’s made herself stand out from the other ladies on the roster, which she desperately needed to do.

That being said, she’s not walking out of the Rumble with the title. Charlotte is walking into Wrestlemania as champion. Ric Flair will undoubtedly play a role in the finish. The only question is, is she wrestling Sasha Banks, or Sasha and Becky in a triple threat match? If I’m booking this? It’s Charlotte and Becky again at Fastlane, and then a triple threat at Wrestlemania. But the good thing about those three ladies is that no matter how you arrange them, chances are they’re going to give you quality wrestling.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

WWE Royal Rumble 2016, Dean Ambrose, Kevin OwensLAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kevin Owens

I’m really hoping Kevin Owens gets the IC Title back at some point. But the balance of babyface wins vs. heel wins is pretty lopsided at this point. So I’m guessing Ambrose wins this one. Oddly enough, this is exactly what happened at TLC. That’s certainly not to say he isn’t deserving. But he almost won by attrition.

I’m holding out hope that Sami Zayn somehow ends up in the mix with Owens before Wrestlemania. Even if it’s not for the Intercontinental Title, those two had an amazing rivalry going on NXT, and it would be a great story to continue at Wrestlemania.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

WWE Royal Rumble Match, 2016, Roman ReignsROYAL RUMBLE MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:

It’s no accident Roman Reigns is the only one in that graphic. Reigns is the centerpiece of WWE right now, and he’s the centerpiece of this match. The big story revolves around him holding on, outlasting all the other wrestlers, and looking strong. And the more star power they can jam into this match, the better he looks if he wins. Especially starting from number 1. That’s why I was hoping The Undertaker would pop up here. Aside from the obvious epic feel he would add to the match, we’ve never seen Reigns toe-to-toe with the Dead Man. There’s potential for a great moment there.

On the subject of greatness, Brock Lesnar is in the Rumble for the first time in over a decade. I don’t see him winning. But I do see him mixing it up with The Wyatt Family, in a fight that culminates in all parties being eliminated. But Brock will go on a violent suplex-spree, make no mistake about it.

AJ StylesAnd then there’s AJ Styles. WWE has gone out of its way to tell us that Styles is on his way. At this point, it’d be a big let-down if he wasn’t in the Rumble Match. Will he win? Probably not. But if he walks out there, it’ll be a magic moment for sure.

I’m of the opinion that one person from NXT should always be in the Rumble Match. Rusev showed up a few years ago and had a decent outing. I’m hoping they do something similar this year. I’m not sure I’d put Finn Balor in the Rumble, because I think he needs a nice build-up before he debuts. But how about Samoa Joe? How about Sami Zayn? Hell, even Apollo Crews. Let’s up the epic!

In the end, I’d be surprised if Roman didn’t win. But the key is how they have him win. Roman Reigns is not Brock Lesnar. They can’t have him destroy everybody. At the end of this match, he needs to be completely spent, having just barely gotten by on the skin of his teeth. Jim Ross actually pitched an interesting scenario on his website in which Reigns gets through the Rumble, only to be presented with a 31st entry…Triple H. Hunter and Roman have to face off eventually. I just hope it’s not in the main event of Wrestlemania. Do it at Fastlane, and let Roman face Brock at ‘Mania.

Either way, Roman becomes a two-time Rumble Match winner here.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Final image from fansided.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Wrestlemania Seeds, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s not a lot to be excited about on WWE TV lately, and unfortunately, the crowds are starting to reflect that. It’s now noticeable on TV. When Vince announced Roman Reigns’ number in the Royal Rumble match, the crowd went “meh.” When the Wyatts, the Dudleys, and Ryback were out there, the crowd went “meh.” Even when Chris Jericho is out there nowadays, the crowds tend to go “meh.” It’s certainly a far cry from the crowds of the ’90s and early 2000s.

I think the bottom line is, things add up. Not just the injuries to top stars, but the inability to create new stars, overly scripted promos, 50/50 booking (ask Kalisto about that one), etc.

Sadly, there’s no quick fix. But it’s not all bleak…

The Wyatt Family, Raw, January 18, 2016Ponderings From WWE Raw

The Wyatt Family interrupt Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, laying out Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. This seems to confirm rumors that Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt are working a program heading into Wrestlemania. I’m not necessarily a fan of them facing off at ‘Mania. This seems like more of a Fastlane match, as a double main event with Roman Reigns and Triple H. Then you have the two winners headline in Dallas. At this point, I think the money is in a Reigns/Lesnar rematch. After all, we never got a clear cut winner last year.

The show opens with a Roman Reigns/Chris Jericho in-ring segment, which becomes a match between Reigns and Rusev, with Jericho as the guest referee. Nothing to write home about here. Reigns was the obvious winner, as they weren’t going to let Rusev beat the top guy in the opening match. It’s a shame Rusev has been relegated to just another guy on the roster. He’s clearly got his character down pat, and is able to inject some nice wit on occasion. Incidentally, where has Lana been since the League of Nations formed?

WWE Raw, January 18, 2016, Chris Jericho, Roman ReignsI was pleased they followed this up with a backstage segment addressing how Jericho was able to spontaneously make a Raw match. That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy him as a matchmaker, though. God knows they need to get Triple H and Stephanie off TV on a regular basis.

Roman Reigns gets the number 1 spot in the Royal Rumble Match. I can’t decide how I feel about this. I get it, and it’s not really a surprise. And of course, we know Roman always has to REALLY strong… But really? Let’s not venture into ridiculous territory, here.

And yes, in this segment Vince McMahon, the chairman of a multimillion dollar corporation, was having trouble popping open various plastic balls. No wonder this show has been in so much damn trouble lately.

The New Day mourn the loss of “Francesca the Trombone.” This little pre-tape was funny. We need to get us a new heel tag team, and fast. The New Day are a lot of things, but they’re not heels.

Becky Lynch, WWE Monday Night Raw, January 18, 2016Becky Lynch gets a shot at Charlotte’s Divas Title at the Royal RumbleFor the second week in a row, Becky steals the show with a passionate, emotionally charged promo. I think we can say she’s officially broken out of the pack, and established her own identity. This exchange between Becky, Charlotte, and Rick Flair was the only damn thing that felt real on this show tonight. I’d love to know how much of that was ad libbed. Particularly the part about her “wheelin’ dealin’, title match stealin’, catch phrase spewin’, obnoxiously wooin’, scenery chewin’, hasn’t a clue-in’, father. That was amazing.

Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio def. Dean Ambrose & Kalisto. I’m beyond disappointed that Kalisto lost the US Title back to Del Rio on Smackdown. Why? Why even give Kalisto the title in the first place? It’s like they somehow realized they had a chance to do something exciting and special with this guy, so they made sure to squash it the very next night. Unbelievable.

On the plus side, Kevin Owens was great on commentary during this match. Most guys are just background noise when they join the announcers. But Owens actually used his mic time to make himself look like more of a prick. His Last Man Standing Match with Ambrose should be a hell of a semi-main event for the Rumble.

The Dudley Boyz, Ryback, WWE Monday Night Raw, January 18, 2016The Wyatt Family def. The Dudley Boyz & Ryback. I’m not sure why the Wyatts and the Dudleys are still being booked against each other. Isn’t there anybody else we could put with the Wyatts to build them up a bit more? Ryback isn’t exactly a new frontier for them, but at least he’s somebody different. The Wyatts beat the Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer, & Rhyno pretty handily. It feels like they’re beating a dead horse here.

Natalya def. Brie Bella. I swear, when those first two notes of Brie’s song hit, my skin always crawls. But hey, at least Nattie got to win.

In the spirit of promoting Total Divas, what this entire match was designed to do, they put Paige in Natalya’s corner. Even though Paige beat up Nattie backstage a few months ago, and may or may not be a heel. Perhaps she’s slipped into Team Bella land, i.e. they flip her back between hero and villain depending on what week it is. And on that topic…

The Big Show punches out all The Social Outcasts. Yep. Smilin’ Big Show is back. And he made absolutely sure this new Social Outcasts group is the reincarnation of 3MB by knocking them all out. No wonder the fans resent this guy so much…

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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

The Rock, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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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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Roman Reigns Wins the WWE Championship, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, Raw, December 14, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much point in wasting time, is there? Let’s jump right into the big news from Raw

Roman Reigns wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after the match is made by Vince McMahon himself. A title change via a match made that same night, as Vince McMahon looks on in horror and disbelief. That’s some classic Attitude Era booking right there. Still, you can’t say it didn’t work. And how ironic that it happened in Philadelphia, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building at the Royal Rumble. A city that, by the way, was behind him tonight.

Aside from being derivative of the Attitude Era, down to Corporation style run-ins against the babyface that Vince despises, I can’t bring myself to complain much about how this was done. How odd was it that this match tonight had more anticipation built for it than last night’s TLC main event?

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015, Stephanie McMahon, Roman ReignsFrom a creative standpoint, this seemed like an attempt to jumpstart Raw following the ratings downslide, and all the ill will built up from the fans. This obviously doesn’t fix all of WWE’s problems. But this was a good show. Most definitely a breath of fresh air.

On the downside (because we’ve got to cover the good and the bad), WWE has developed a pretty consistent pattern of not allowing anyone to show up Stephanie McMahon, particularly men. That trend continued in the opening segment as Reigns took a barrage of slaps from the “Billion Dollar Princess.” He didn’t even put his hands up to defend himself! I understand the ultra-image conscious WWE not wanting to show images of men being physical against women, but can’t Reigns reach out and grab Steph’s arm to stop her? Imagine someone doing that to Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or The Rock. And to top that, he even got kicked in the balls by 70-year-old Vince McMahon later in the evening.

Sheamus: “You think I look stupid? All of you paid to see me tonight, so what does that make you?” Don’t tempt us, pal…

Sheamus, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015In a lot of ways, Sheamus got a raw deal this year, no pun intended. There was very little thrill or intrigue in his Money in the Bank win, and his brief run with the title was hardly worth it. It might have been better just to have him cash in and lose.

Still, I maintain that Sheamus is a talented wrestler, and can still do great things.

Dean Ambrose wins Intercontinental Championship at TLC, defeats Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Kevin Owens seeks revenge. I was surprised to see WWE give Ambrose the IC Title. He doesn’t exactly need it. But having him in the picture doesn’t hurt anything either. As one would expect, he and Ziggler turned in a good match.

Having Kevin Owens chase Ambrose for the title might bring out the best in Owens as a heel. He showed some nice bitterness out there tonight. I’m curious to see what Owens does in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.

Jojo, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015Correct me if I’m wrong, but it would have been really nice to have Owens looking into the camera for that promo segment with Jojo. How much better was that promo with the ECW guys because Bubba and the others were looking into our eyes? I just don’t understand WWE’s hesitance toward that sort of thing.

The Wyatt Family def. Team ECW in an Extreme Rules Match. The right team won here. During the match I tweeted: “The Wyatts need to win this match. No more 50/50 booking.” Very happy the Wyatts got the victory, and actually came off looking like a dominant group. I’ve said it before, the Wyatts can be the dominant faction in WWE if they’re put in that position. Even if it’s just Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper getting the big wins, that’s not an out-of-reach proposition.

That being said, if they want this to continue, I wouldn’t mind seeing Bray Wyatt and Bubba Ray Dudley go at it one-on-one…

WWE TLC 2015, Ric Flair, CharlotteCharlotte retains over Paige at TLC, teams with Becky Lynch for a win on Raw. Ric Flair assists both times. So it appears we are indeed moving toward a Charlotte heel turn, and seemingly a program with Becky Lynch. This opens the door for development on the part of both ladies, so no complaints from me. I also like how they made a point to have Sasha Banks out there, to illustrate that she’s waiting in the wing.

I’m very curious to see who they put Charlotte with at Wrestlemania. It should be a one-on-one match, as opposed to a triple threat, or a fatal fourway. I’d love to see it be Sasha Banks. But Becky would be good in that spot as well.

Alberto Del Rio & Rusev def. Ryback and Jack Swagger. Didn’t even need to watch this one. Jack Swagger is a loser, and Ryback has become a loser. But that’s actually a good thing. Again, they didn’t 50/50 book it. These programs have winners and losers. That’s the way it should be.

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015The Miz “directs” Neville during his match with Tyler Breeze, which he wins. I don’t necessarily mind Miz being with Neville. It did wonders for Damian Sandow…until the story was over. Hell, this Miz/Neville program might even get Damian a little bit of TV time.

In Other News…

WWE hires veteran MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo for Smackdown. Will start when the show moves to USA Network on January 7. This is a really nice get for WWE. Ranallo brings a special credibility of sorts to the announce position. But here’s the thing: If WWE’s product remains as stale as it’s been lately, it won’t matter who the announcers are. Because no one will be watching.

Sting reveals he needs neck surgery following Night of Champions match. Ugh. This sucks. With so many guys on the injured reserve list, WWE could use Sting now more than ever. Furthering the sucktitude is the fact that Sting’s WWE run, which fans waited so many years for, has been such a disappointment. “The Icon” is hopeful for one more match. Count me among the wrestling fans who hope Sting finally gets a truly great WWE match. Or at the very least, a victory.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Zahra Schreiber, Swastikas, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

Zahra Schreiber, swastika, InstagramBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So here’s some advice I never thought I’d have to give: If you’re someone in the public eye, it’s best not to put photos of swastikas or Nazi paraphernalia on social media. I’m just saying.

This week, when fans found old images of swastikas and Nazi symbolism on then-NXT talent Zahra Schreiber’s Instagram account, she downplayed it. At one point, she commented: “The swastika means prosperity and luck. It was around way before hitler turned it into an icon. Take it how you want I could careless. This is too funny.” (sic)

The thing is, it’s not funny. Yes, the swastika does in fact represent more than Nazism. But let’s be honest. When you look at a swastika, what’s the first thing you think of? Schreiber should have been mindful of this when she signed with a company as image-conscious as WWE. I understand she didn’t mean for it to go as public as it did, and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s not some kind of anti-semite. I’m certainly not happy to see anyone lose their job. But WWE was right to let her go when this stuff surfaced. At least for the time being.

Seth Rollins, Zahra Schreiber, NXT Takeover: BrooklynNaturally, this is a pretty sad situation for her boyfriend Seth Rollins to be in. If you’ll recall, this past February Schreiber was involved in the infamous nude pic scandal involving Rollins. And now this happens mere days after Rollins appeared next to Schrieber in the audience at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn.

Still, while his personal life may have looked better, Seth Rollins’ professional life is at an all-time high. In just a few weeks he’s set to work both Sting and John Cena on a pay per view.

Speaking of which…

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Seth Rollins to defend United States Championship against John Cena at Night of Champions, in addition to WWE Title Match with Sting. This almost puts Rollins in an underdog babyface position. From a booking standpoint, I understand the idea of wanting to see Rollins get his ass kicked by two babyfaces. But having to wrestle two main event caliber challengers could very well turn out to be a sympathetic predicament for him. Plus, he’s likely to turn in two great performances, which will up the respect factor among older fans.

Seth Rollins, Raw, August 31, 2015Remember Wrestlemania 2000, when Kurt Angle defended both the Intercontinental and European Titles against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho in a two-fall match? Jericho won the first, and Benoit won the second. Thus, Angle walked into the event with two titles, and walked out with none. It seems like a similar match might have been called for here. That way, Rollins could drop the US Title back to Cena, and then pin Cena to retain the WWE Title. That would allow Sting to escape the match without being pinned yet again, allowing him to keep a measure of his mystique.

But no, apparently Sting is WWE’s most decorated jobber.

Sting opens the show with a promo comparing Seth Rollins to Triple H. Damn. When you haven’t seen a Sting on the mic in awhile, you forget just how good he is. And what’s more, this opening monologue segment is usually 20 minutes or more. The Stinger got a compelling message across in less than 10. Imagine that.

Sting, WWE Raw, August 31, 2015All Sting’s talk about how Rollins isn’t as good as Hunter confirms one of two things. They could be planting seeds for a program between Rollins and Triple H, possibly for as far ahead as Wrestlemania. They could also be setting up a swerve finish for Night of Champions, where Hunter comes to the ring as if he’s going to beat up Rollins, only to cost Sting the match. A Rollins/Triple H program seems more likely. Though I’m not sure Wrestlemania is when I’d want to see it. A Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns match for the WWE Title seems more appealing to yours truly.

Randy Orton and Sheamus absent from Raw broadcast. While they did appear after the show went off the air, it was actually pretty nice to have a break from Orton and Sheamus this week. Until they find these guys new dance partners, they can stay off TV as far as I’m concerned. That’s how stale their friggin’ program was.

Charlotte wins a Beat the Clock challenge to earn a Divas Title Match at Night of Champions. While Charlotte’s pre-match promo was underwhelming, she was the right person to go over here. And based on the disappointment we saw from Paige and Becky, this sets us up for some matches between these three down the road. It wouldn’t necessarily surprise me to see Paige go heel on Charlotte, which would give Charlotte a nice opportunity to develop as an on-air character.

The Dudley Boyz, Raw, August 31, 2015The Dudley Boyz def. Kofi Kingston & Big E. Yeah, The New Day are practically babyfaces at this point. The Tampa crowd was actually chanting “Save the Tables!” with them. It’s amazing how these guys have gone from being booed as babyfaces, then booed as heels, and then cheered as heels. The crowd was chanting for both teams during this match. Wrestling is so weird.

Kevin Owens def. Cesaro. Happy to see Owens get the win here, as I was happy to see him win at Summerslam. Many of us read the rumors that WWE officials were down on Owens because of his weight. But clearly they’re not afraid to put him in high profile matches, or give him wins on Raw. Owens did some nice heel stuff in this match. He went straight for Cesaro’s ribs when he saw they were hurt, he tried to beg off during the gut wrench suplex from the turnbuckle, he taunted Cesaro when he had the advantage, etc. As Jim Ross often says on The Ross Report, there aren’t many true heels left in wrestling. But Owens is working his way to becoming one of them.

Braun Strowman makes his in-ring debut against Dean Ambrose. So this guy’s name has been changed from Stowman to Strowman. I’ll say this much: It rolls off the tongue, easier. What’s more, he’s legitimately creepy. When you’re in The Wyatt Family, that certainly doesn’t hurt.

The Wyatt Family, Raw, August 31, 2015For his first TV outing, Strowman did fine. He played his big man role well, and Ambrose sold really well for him. I’m not sure where this story goes from here. Do we go to a handicap match at Night of Champions, where Ambrose & Roman Reigns face The Wyatt Family? Do they put Reigns against Strowman? What’s next?

Image 1 from pwpix.net. Image 2 from uproxx.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.

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