Tag Archives: WWE Armageddon

A WWE Backlash 2016 Preview – The Return of “Brand Specific” Pay Per Views

WWE Backlash 2016, promo artBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Whew boy. We’re back here again, aren’t we? A Smackdown-only pay per view…

History doesn’t look kindly on “brand specific’ pay per views, specifically the Smackdown shows. They’re notorious for being either one-match shows, or altogether bad. For instance, at WWE Armageddon 2004 we got an awesome fatal fourway match for the WWE Title. It was JBL defending against The Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero, and Booker T. But in the hours leading up to it, we got such thrilling bouts as Spike Dudley vs. Funaki, Dawn Marie vs. Jackie Gayda, and Kurt Angle against Santa Claus. Seriously. Look it up.

Why were these shows so bad? To quote Paul Heyman: “Smackdown is the b**ch of WWE,” meaning it’s the perpetual B-show. Smackdown would be fed just enough to be kept alive, while Raw took priority. That’s still the case today. It’s why Raw has three hours and Smackdown has two. It’s why Raw has been called “the flagship” broadcast for so many years. Raw is the show that rocketed WWE to new heights in the late ’90s, while Smackdown is just “the other show.”

But per USA Network, Smackdown has now taken on a renewed importance. In many ways, Backlash will serve as a progress report for WWE’s efforts to make the show a true commodity. But they’re fighting an uphill battle. Not only is John Cena missing from the card, but this roster split is still fairly fresh. Newer, younger stars like Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews aren’t true commodities yet. Thus, roster depth is an issue. At only six matches, the card is also a little light.

Smackdown needs to overachieve with Backlash, lest history repeat itself.

The Usos, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016SMACKDOWN TAG TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos/The Hype Bros.

So the winner of The Usos vs. The Hype Bros. advances to face Heath Slater & Rhyno in the tournament finals. If Slater’s team wins, he gets a Smackdown contract, and is no longer desperate for a job. Slater & Rhyno have a chance to be the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Who’da thunk it?

But he Smackdown tag team division is all about making American Alpha at this point. And how do you make a good babyface tag team? You give them good heels to feud with. In this case, the Usos. Jimmy and Jey are due for a change, and they’re already getting heat for their association with Roman Reigns. What better way to keep those boos coming than by having them not only injure Chad Gable (as they did this week on Smackdown), but cheat Heath Slater out of a WWE contract? What’s more, the Usos are already a decorated team, very much worthy of being called the first Smackdown tag champs. This night belongs to them.

PREDICTION: The Usos

WWE Backlash 2016, The Miz, Dolph ZigglerWWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

When I talked about Summerslam last month, I talked about how Miz had to retain over Apollo Crews, as the latter wasn’t worthy of the title yet. This month, it’s more about Miz. Between the length of his title run and the epic promo he cut on Daniel Bryan, Miz deserves the win here. This is arguably the most momentum he’s had since he was WWE Champion, and they have yet to follow up on what he did with Bryan in any meaningful way. Now isn’t the time to take the belt from him.

Plus, after what happened at Summerslam, babyface Dolph Ziggler is officially a loser. Ambrose said he’d prove Ziggler wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Then he pinned him clean. The guy needs a heel turn, and badly. If I had my way, this match would be the next step in that direction.

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE Backlash 2016, Women's Title MatchSIX-PACK CHALLENGE TO CROWN WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION:
Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss

You know who really deserves to win this belt? Becky Lynch. She’s the personification of “always a bride’s maid, never a bride.” She’s the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” (the others being Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley) to never win the NXT Women’s Title. She’s also been in multiple matches for the Raw Women’s Title, but has yet to win it. All this, despite being a legit star. She’s got a great look, she’s great on the mic, and more than knows her way around a wrestling ring.

But let’s be honest, this is probably Nikki Bella’s night. Why? Because…well, they love her, that’s why. That’s not to discount everything she went through with her neck surgery, and her drive to come back. I’m not even saying she doesn’t have wrestling talent. But I find myself longing for a new face at the top. This is supposed to be the new era, right? Apparently WWE’s fascination with the Bellas never changes…

PREDICTION: Nikki Bella

WWE Backlash 2016, Randy Orton, Bray WyattRandy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt hasn’t had a great year. He’s been plagued by injuries to the point that he’s been of most of the major shows. Backlash is a chance for him to build up some steam again. I maintain Bray should be a babyface. He could be one of the biggest fan-favorites the company has. But that’s a battle for another day. Right now I just want him to win a damn match.

But I don’t see that happening here. Randy took a hell of a beating from Brock Lesnar last month, and the smart bet is they’ll want him in a pay per view title match soon. So a win here would boost him back into title contention. Also, they may just want to see if Bray can stay injury free for awhile before they do something of real significance with him.

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:AJ Styles, Dean Ambose, WWE Backlash 2016
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles

Some have soured on Dean Ambrose as the WWE Champion. I’m still into him, especially after his mic work this past week on Smackdown.

But I get it. It’s AJ’s time. He’s more than proved his worth in the short time he’s been with the company. He’s stolen the show with Roman Reigns and John Cena, proved he can hang on the microphone, and all in all become one of WWE’s best assets. Styles is in a position to become Smackdown‘s franchise player. As a fan, I’d happily tune in each week to see what he pulls out of the hat next.

As recently as a year ago, I couldn’t imagine myself saying this. But here goes: AJ Styles is going to win the WWE Championship. The former heart and soul of TNA is set to claim WWE’s richest prize. Frankly, the sheer joyous outpour from the fans may be enough to turn him babyface. Ambrose, on the other hand, may be looking at a turn to the dark side.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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Undertaker’s Legacy Inside the Cell: What Awaits Shane at Wrestlemania?

Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon, Wrestlemania XXXIIBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

To their credit, WWE pulled a fast one on us by bringing in Shane McMahon as The Undertaker’s opponent at Wrestlemania XXXII. With control of WWE on the line, Vince booked his son against the Dead Man in a Hell in a Cell Match. In response, The Undertaker told Vince: “You know what I do. The blood of your son is on your hands.”

So what does he mean by that?

Since the match’s creation in 1997, The Undertaker has been in 12 Hell in a Cell Matches. His resume includes four WWE Hall of Famers, and 12 former heavyweight champions. He’s spilled blood, sent opponents sailing off the cage, and even sent one poor sap to the fiery depths. This is what awaits Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania. No wonder he’s training so hard.

So let’s look back at ‘Taker’s Hell in a Cell record. If I were Shane, I know I would be…

WWF Bad Blood 1997, Undertaker, Kane, Shawn MichaelsShawn Michaels
WWF Bad Blood, October 5, 1997.

Leave it to these two to set the bar impossibly high right off the bat.

This match has a special place in the hearts of fans for a variety of reasons. It was the very first Hell in a Cell Match, obviously. The finish famously saw the debut of Kane. But as far as the body of the match is concerned, Undertaker and Shawn had great chemistry, as they seemingly always have. They played that cat and mouse game in the cage really well. This match also marked the first time ‘Taker would throw someone over his shoulder and ram them head-first into the cage, as he’s done in various cell matches since. He also hit Shawn right in the head with one of the hardest, loudest chair shots I’ve ever seen. And of course, you have Shawn’s famous fall through the announce table while hanging off the cage. One can argue this match set the bar too high for these cell matches, considering what Mick Foley would do less than a year later. But you can’t deny the entertainment value of this confrontation. Shawn and ‘Taker took what started off as an experimental take on a cage match, and turned it into an instant box office attraction. As most of us know, ‘Taker lost after Kane’s interference. But needless to say, he’d get plenty of chances to redeem himself in that cage.

RECORD: 0-1

Mick Foley, Hell in a Cell 1998Mankind
WWF King of the Ring, June 28, 1998.

It’s the stuff of legends. While it’s one of the scariest matches WWE has ever put on, it’s also the match that has become synonymous with Hell in a Cell. In many ways, it defined Mick Foley’s career.

Most of us know it by now: A fall off the cage, a fall through the cage, two bumps into thumbtacks, and a Tombstone Piledriver. It’s the kind of match you’d never see today, and quite frankly that’s a good thing. No one should have to put themselves through this sort of thing for the sake of entertainment.

Still, the match has an undeniable magic about it. While you can’t overlook the sheer violence of it, it told an amazing story about a man’s refusal to surrender. For better or worse, Mick Foley made himself into a legend with this match.

RECORD: 1-1

The Undertaker, the Big Bossman, Wrestlemania XVThe Big Bossman
Wrestlemania XV, March 28, 1999.

This one’s better off forgotten, quite frankly. There was no way these two were going to live up to ‘Taker’s matches with Shawn or Foley. I’d have gone with something different.

Both ‘Taker and Bossman were heels. But they were doing a story where ‘Taker was trying to play mind games with Vince McMahon, and Bossman was sent in as his enforcer. It was an odd story to tell, considering Vince was still the company’s top heel at the time.

Two moments have always come to mind when I remember this match. The first is one of the low points of Michael Cole’s career. When talking about the dangers of the cell, he said: “You can get a finger caught in there!” Jerry Lawler rebutted: “After what we saw Mick Foley go through, you’re worried about getting a finger caught in there?”

The second is the post-match image of a defeated Bossman being hung from the raised cell. Considering the real-life Ray Traylor is no longer with us, it’s uncomfortable to see.

RECORD: 2-1

The Undertaker, Rikishi, WWE Armagaddon 2000SIX-MAN CELL MATCH:
WWF Armageddon. December 10, 2000.

Now this is how you end a year. Toss most of your top stars in a cage and let ’em fight for the title! One can argue this match was a precursor to the Elimination Chamber. Though no chamber match has ever been as good as this.

The match featured Kurt Angle defending the title against The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Rikishi. Angle eventually pinned The Rock to win. But the moment everyone remembers from this match once again involves ‘Taker once again sending someone for a great fall off the cage. This time, Rikishi was the victim. Prior to the match, Vince McMahon had attempted to stop the proceedings by driving a demolition truck into the arena. The bed of the truck would later be used as a landing site for Rikishi, when Undertaker pushed him off the top of the cage. It was choreographed to look like a chokeslam, but he pushed him. The sight of a 400 lb man falling from that height certainly sticks in your mind.

RECORD: 2-2

The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, WWE No Mercy 2002Brock Lesnar
WWE No Mercy. October 20, 2002.

One can make a solid argument for this being ‘Taker and Brock’s toughest, nastiest battle. It was certainly their bloodiest. WhatCulture.com recently called this match one of WWE’s bloodiest of all time.

This was during the era when Paul Heyman was writing Smackdown, so it’s not surprising that this story had a lot going on. What’s more, Heyman was still managing Brock at this point. ‘Taker’s then-pregnant wife Sara had been used to put heat on Brock and Paul, and make things personal. What’s more, Brock had (kayfabe) broken Undertaker’s hand, which weakened the Dead Man during the match. But on the flip side, ‘Taker was allowed to use the cast as a weapon.

With its sheer violence and bloodshed, this match was one of the earliest to illustrate that Hell in a Cell Matches didn’t have to be about stunts on top of the cage. With the right wrestlers, the really twisted stuff happens inside those walls. While ‘Taker put up as valiant an effort as ever, Brock emerged victorious. Bloody, but victorious.

RECORD: 2-3

The Undertaker vs .Randy Orton, Armageddon 2005Randy Orton
WWE Armageddon. December 18, 2005.

This was a culmination of a year-long program between The Undertaker and Randy Orton. On paper it’s a tremendous main event. But this was the first cell match I can remember seeing and simply going: “Meh.” It was by no means a bad match. But it lacked a certain special something that we’d come to expect from Undertaker’s matches inside the cell.

Still, it had its share of good imagery. Orton was bloodied early on, and there were some nice shots of him getting raked against the cage, and crawling on the mat outside the ring. While it’s not always a thrilling match, it is a nice reminder of just how good Orton was in the early stages of his career. We also had “Cowboy” Bob Orton out there with his son, which added a little garnish to things. A good match, which Undertaker won with the Tombstone. But it lacks a certain something to be called one of his best in the cage.

RECORD: 3-3

Undertaker, Batista, Hell in a Cell, Survivor Series 2007Batista
WWE Survivor Series. November 18, 2007.

As was the case with Orton, Undertaker had been working with Batista on and off since Wrestlemania. But Batista had better chemistry with ‘Taker than I think anyone expected. They were able to being out the best in each other. They stole the show at Wrestlemania XXIII in Detroit, and had been having consistently good matches since. This was essentially their blow-off.

‘Taker put a new spin on an old trick out in this match, placing the thin end of a chair against Batista’s throat and then ramming it into the ring post. Batista later had a nice counter, turning “Old School” into one of his trademark spinebusters. He got a major coup toward the end, hitting his Batista Bomb on The Undertaker through a table. ‘Taker would regain the advantage hitting a Tombstone, and then a second one on the steel ring steps. It had been a battle worthy of their rivalry, until Edge emerged to cost Fittingly, Edge and Undertaker would go on to main event Wrestlemania XXIV, and then find themselves back in the cell almost a year later…

RECORD: 3-4

The Undertaker, Edge, Summerslam 2008Edge
WWE Summerslam. August 17, 2008. 

Undertaker and Edge had done quite a bit leading up to this one. They’d main evented Wrestlemania, they’d had a TLC Match, and now they were trying to cap it off inside the cell. And to their credit, they did just that.

In terms of WWE-style brawls, this match had almost everything. They wasted little time getting to the weapons and chaos. We had steel ring steps, we had a table, we had a chair, and eventually two ladders were introduced. This was almost a hybrid Hell in a Cell/TLC Match. And we saw that vicious heel side to Edge that had emerged since he’d started his now legendary heel run. He even speared Undertaker through the cage wall, and the action spilled on to the outside. Years later, Edge would reveal on Talk is Jericho that he’d wanted to take a Tombstone on top of the cage.

They went for sheer brutality mixed with iconic imagery for the finish to this match. After brutalizing Edge with a chokeslam through two tables, a shot with a TV camera, and “Con-Chair-To,” the Dead Man hit the Tombstone and got the pin. But for the grand finale, ‘Taker would chokeslam Edge from a ladder, through the mat. Moments later, the ring interior would erupt in flames. To cap off a match truly worthy of both The Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell legacy, and the spectacle of Summerslam, the Dead Man had sent his rival straight to hell…

THE RECORD: 4-4

CM Punk, The Undertaker, WWE Hell in a Cell 2009CM Punk
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 4, 2009. 

The first Hell in a Cell pay per view featured an eye-rolling three cell matches. Undertaker and Punk were up first, in what wound up being one of the shorter cell matches ‘Taker has ever been in.

Considering what they’d go on to do at Wrestlemania XXXIX, one has to wonder what ‘Taker and Punk could have done here had they been given more time. But considering what ‘Taker had done in these matches in the past, this was pretty standard by comparison. Granted, they had two more of these matches to go that evening. But come on, it’s The Undertaker…

Still, ‘Taker wound up winning the World Heavyweight Title from Punk that night after a Tombstone. So for Undertaker fans, the result wasn’t something to gripe about.

RECORD: 5-4

The Undertaker, Kane, Paul Bearer, WWE Hell in a Cell 2010Kane
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 3, 2010.

This is another one of those matches that on paper is fantastic, especially if you’re an Undertaker fan. You’ve got Kane defending the World Heavyweight Title against his brother, who has Paul Bearer back in his corner. They’re in a match The Undertaker made famous, and Kane made his debut. They’re free to do just about anything to each other. The pieces are in place for an epic confrontation.

There was nothing epic about this match.

I take no joy in saying that. But this match is a big part of the reason people aren’t clamoring for one last Undertaker/Kane match. These guys were slower than molasses, and in the end just…sad. I’ll give them credit for one thing, though. The finish saw Paul Bearer turn on The Undertaker for what he did to him several years prior in a “Con Crete Crypt Match.” WWE pays attention to continuity when they want to, and in this instance it paid off. It’s just too bad the match didn’t deliver.

RECORD: 5-5

Wrestlemania XXVIII, Undertaker, Triple HTriple H (Guest Referee Shawn Michaels)
Wrestlemania XXVIII. April 1, 2012.

This match was billed as “The End of an Era.” But they could just as easily have called it the Hell in a Cell All-Star Game. The only person who might be considered as synonymous with the cell as The Undertaker is Triple H. Now they were facing off in the cage, with the other pioneer of the cell, Shawn Michaels, as the guest referee. These three simply being in the ring together had an epic quality to it. What’s more, this was ‘Taker’s 20th appearance at Wrestlemania, and the finale of a story they’d been telling at the previous three Wrestlemania events with these iconic stars.

To their credit, they made us believe Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak was truly in jeopardy. Triple H used the steel ring steps, a chair, and his trademark sledgehammer on the Dead Man. But the one spot that really sticks out in this match is the one where Shawn superkicks ‘Taker, sending him straight into a Pedigree from Triple H. When ‘Taker kicks out, Shawn looks absolutely terrified, as if he’s just witnessed something supernatural. He’s one of the best actors the business has ever seen.

And of course, after ‘Taker’s win, the three of them walked up the ramp together, bringing tears to the eyes of many a fan who grew up watching them perform. What a match, and what a moment in Wrestlemania history.

RECORD: 6-5

Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015Brock Lesnar
WWE Hell in a Cell. October 25, 2015. 

Over 18 years after his first cell match, I’m amazed ‘Taker is still having these matches, much less against somebody like Brock Lesnar. But low and behold, there he was. And they even surprised us by getting some color.

More than anything, I remember just how snug these guys were in this match. Lesnar in particular was just beating the crap out of ‘Taker. And early in the match he hits him with a chair shot that’s pretty stiff.

Midway through the match, Brock rips up the canvas and padding on the ring, exposing the wood underneath. That’s something we hardly ever see, and it’s a unique sight to be certain. They played it up, as ‘Taker gave Brock a chokeslam and a Tombstone on it. But in the end, they tied this story up nicely with a bow, as Brock gave ‘Taker a dose of his own medicine. The Dead Man had been gaining unfair advantages over Brock for months by hitting low blows. But on this night, Brock hit ‘Taker below the belt, got an F5 on the exposed wood, and the pin. Not the best Hell in a Cell Match by any means, but it gets points for being hard-hitting.

RECORD: 6-6

Images 1 and 3 from ringthedamnbell.blogspot.com. Image 2 from prowrestling.wikia.com. Image 4 from natureinyourhand.blogspot.com. Images 5, 6, 11 and 12 from wwe.com. Image 7 from pwpnation.com. Image 8 from mediaspo0rt.com. Images 9 and 10 from bleacherreport.com.