Tag Archives: WWE Brand Split

Big Show’s Big Night, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the wake of JBL announcing his departure from the Smackdown Live announce team, WWE has quickly chosen a replacement for him. And it’s none other than Corey Graves. Indeed, Graves will now serve as a color analyst on both Raw and Smackdown. Nigel McGuinness will take his place on Main Event and 205 Live.

I’ve come to love the work Graves does. In a relatively short amount of time, he’s become the most credible announcer WWE has at their disposal. Fans may not know just how valuable he is until the day we have to live without him. That being said, having Graves on both Raw and Smackdown is not a good idea.

Setting aside the “too much of a good thing” lesson we’ve learned from all these years of three-hour Raw broadcasts, having Graves on both shows dilutes the integrity of the roster split. In theory, Raw and Smackdown are supposed to be two separate brands. It’s not simply a matter of different wrestlers and championships. The shows are supposed to have different looks and feels to them. The announcers are a critical component in that respect, as they literally give the shows their respective voices. Having Graves call both Raw and Smackdown blurs that line of distinction. What’s worse, it opens the door for the further blurring of that line. We’ve already got Corey Graves on both shows, and John Cena has been a “free agent.” Since they’ve gone this far, who’s to say certain wrestlers can’t show up on both shows?

It’s this kind of thing that led to the discontinuation of the original roster split. The integrity had been eroded to the point that there was no point in continuing the charade any longer. It got so bad toward the end that our two Heavyweight Champions wrestling in throwaway matches in the middle of Raw

Graves is an amazing announcer. But there are plenty of other qualified people WWE can call on to fill JBL’s seat. We just had Jerry Lawler back on last week’s Raw. Give him a buzz. Have Lita or Renee Young tag in to bring a female perspective to things. Mick Foley was an announcer on Smackdown several years ago. Could they talk him into coming back? Hell, what about Daniel Bryan? He was awesome on the Cruiserweight Classic. Yes, he’s an on-screen authority figure. But that’s a dynamic we’ve rarely if ever seen. Why not try it?

I’m hopeful this winds up being a band-aid until WWE can find a new permanent announcer. On the plus side, this is obviously a hell of an endorsement for Graves. A well-deserved endorsement at that, and one that seems to indicate WWE knows just how good he is. But let’s not ruin him by oversaturating the airwaves with his voice.

Ponderings From Raw:

John Cena def. Jason Jordan. Roman Reigns come out, and another verbal sparring session occurs. Really strong opener with a nice story. Very wise of them to incorporate that old Smackdown footage of Cena and Kurt Angle. Cena’s facials were strong early on. He looked caught off guard by Jordan’s amateur style.

This was the finish I expected. But Jordan got what he needed. It was his first really strong performance as a single, and perhaps the first time he really lived up to the new role WWE has cast him in.

The word coming out of last week’s segment with Cena and Reigns was that most of it was indeed scripted. Reigns did forget his lines at one point, which prompted Cena’s “It’s called a promo” jab. They played off that a little bit here. But this was clearly designed to have Roman get one up on Cena, just as Cena got one up on him last week. Reigns called Cena out for a fight, and “Big Match John” stepped back. Advantage Reigns.

Both these guys said “I don’t respect you.” Expect that to be a focal point moving forward. WWE has been big on “respect” storylines for a long time.

Sheamus and Cesaro def. Heath Slater and Rhyno. Pretty straightforward stuff here. I’m just happy to see Cesaro and Sheamus wrestling guys other than Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.

The Miz def. Jeff Hardy to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Really good match, with Miz getting a (mostly) clean win. I wasn’t expecting them to change the title, but Miz and Jeff planted that seed of doubt in my mind. That’s how you know you’re seeing two greats. When just for a few minutes, they make you feel like a kid again. When they make you believe.

Enzo Amore, Cedric Alexander, and Gran Metallic def. Noam Dar, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak. Enzo’s promo went too long for me. But the crowd was with him, so I can’t call it a flop.

They need to find something more substantial for Tony Nese to do. I’ve been saying it for months, this guy’s got something.

Bray Wyatt challenges Finn Balor to face him without using his Demon persona. This booking defies traditional logic. Usually they’d start with Bray against Finn, and then move to Bray against the Demon. It reminds me of John Cena facing Randy Orton in a straight up singles match at the Royal Rumble several years ago, after we’d already seen them in virtually every other match under the sun.

Still, this was one of Bray’s stronger promos in recent memory. It probably helps that it’s been a few weeks since we’ve heard him ramble and laugh nonsensically.

Nia Jax and Emma def. Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks. The Raw Women’s Championship Match at No Mercy will now be a Fatal Four-Way between these women. I’m hoping we’re headed for an Alexa Bliss/Sasha Banks double turn. As talented as she is, and as hard as she works, Sasha seems to become more and more of a brat as the weeks ago by. I’m sure much of that is my own evolving perception of her. Though a lot of fans are angry at Sasha right now for calling out fans who stalk her in airports. I won’t fault her for that. Boundaries, people. Boundaries.

Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Sheamus and Cesaro were at ringside to watch Rollins and Ambrose, but they wound up scrapping with Gallows and Anderson. I imagine we’ll see those two teams face off next week. As long as they’re staying clear of Rollins and Ambrose until the pay per view, I’m good. I doubt that’ll end up happening. But I’ll enjoy it for now.

Braun Strowman def. The Big Show in a Steel Cage Match. There was a lot of talk here about Big Show being in the business for 23 years. I’ve been watching this guy for about 20 of those years. So believe me when I tell you: This was the best he’s ever been. Remember, he’s 45 years old.

Let’s start with that pre-match promo. Epic. Positively epic. He had fire. He was articulate, He was passionate. You got riled up because he was riled up. Show has been a good promo for most of his career. But this might have been his best.

Then you’ve got the bumps he took for Strowman. He dusted off the top rope elbow (shown above), which wound up being the highlight of the match. Then he took yet another Superplex from the top. And after the finish, they did the spot where Strowman slammed him through the cage wall. That last one came off a little choreographed. But who cares? Remember, this man is seven feet tall  and weighs over 300 pounds. Any time he takes a bump like that it’s a huge deal. But three in one match? Unbelievable.

You’ve also got to take your hat off to WWE for making this feel like an epic main event. They did a tremendous job playing up the Superplex spot from April, particularly when they interviewed the referee who took that great bump. This really came off like a Godzilla vs. King Kong level confrontation between monsters. And you know it’ll be that much bigger when they inevitably face off again.

Awesome. There’s no other way to put it. Simply awesome. A career night for this 20-plus year veteran.

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A WWE Money in the Bank 2016 Preview – Change Is Coming

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We don’t know much about the upcoming WWE brand split at this point. We don’t know who the general managers will be (though presumably it’ll be Shane on one and Stephanie on the other), we don’t know how the titles or the rosters will be divided, and we don’t know who we might see called up from NXT. But let’s take the time to appreciate the current landscape of WWE. Because by the time Battleground gets here next month, the rosters will be divided. This is our last pay per view with a single, unified roster.

For better or worse, we move onward…

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Dear God, this is still going on. Someone make it stop! Make it end!

Alright, so that segment on Raw where Ziggler kicked Corbin in the balls was pretty cool. But other than that, there’s not much to sink your teeth into here. Just like there wasn’t at Payback. Or Extreme Rules. Or Battleground, if they end up going again next month. I hope Corbin’s learning from Ziggler. Because we at home certainly aren’t getting much out of this.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews

I like this match. I like that it’s actually about something. Sheamus feels threatened by the “new era” wrestlers coming in, and targets Apollo Crews. And they’re such polar opposites that it makes sense for them to dislike each other.

I see Crews stealing a win from Sheamus. With the brand split looming, WWE needs to keep building new stars to hype for these separate rosters. Crews could be a great asset, depending on how they book him.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Natalya, Becky LynchCharlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Natalya & Becky Lynch

It seems like the plan is to do Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the title at Summerslam. If that’s the case, everything Charlotte does until she gets to Sasha should be about building her character. She’s a bratty and arrogant champion, but she needs help to keep the title. They could play that up here by having Nattie and Becky win this match. That could naturally lead to a triple threat match for the title at Battleground.

I’m confused about where Dana Brooke fits into this. On TV they’re planting seeds of dissension between the two. I’m not sure that makes sense, unless they’re either planning to put the two against each other or draft them to separate shows. Frankly, I don’t like either option. Charlotte and Dana are a good team, and I’d like to see them together at least a little longer.

PREDICTION: Natalya & Becky Lynch

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, Rusev vs. Titus O'NeilWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Titus O’Neil

I haven’t been riveted by anything I’ve seen from this Rusev/Titus program. But on paper, everything is positioned the way it should be. Rusev is back to being a a monstrous brute, Titus is the natural babyface, and the more patriotic elements of the US Title are being played up. There’s not much to sling mud at here. I just wish it were more interesting.

Rusev just won the belt back, so I see no point in taking it off him. He needs to be built back up after everything he’s been though in the past year. A successful title defense against Titus will help in that regard.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, The New Day, Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson, The VaudevilliansFATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Enzo & Cass

I’m not crazy about Enzo & Cass being in this match. Like Sasha Banks with Charlotte, I feel like they should be kept away from the titles until they’re really ready to pursue them. This feels like they were just thrown in there because they needed another pair of bodies in the match. They’re better than that.

As I’ve said previously, this match feels like a way to get the belts off New Day without actually beating them. I fully expect either Simon Gotch or Aiden English to eat the pin here, and for Gallows & Anderson to walk away with the belts. From there, it wouldn’t shock me if they wind up actually beating New Day at Battleground, and then facing Enzo & Cass at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2016, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro, Chris JerichoMONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:

Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens. vs. Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Cesaro

WWE wasted the briefcase on Sheamus last year. So there’s extra pressure on them not to waste it here. Thankfully, I don’t think that will be the case. They’ve got two really good candidates in this match: Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. Owens would be great with the briefcase, as it really is a heel’s instrument. But babyfaces have used it effectively, with Rob Van Dam being the best example. Hearing Dean Ambrose on Monday talk about cashing in was simply awesome. I don’t see it happening at this show. But a Shield triple threat is money. Money in the bank, if you will.

But in the end, I think Kevin Owens would be too great to pass up in this role. The mic work alone would be priceless. Let him gloat, let him threaten, let him do all the things a heel Money in the Bank winner should do. The results should make for good TV.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. AJ Styles, WWE Money in the Bank 2016John Cena vs. AJ Styles

So this is a dream match, huh? I never imagined this match being billed as such. But kudos to WWE for playing off the crowd reaction these two got that first night in the ring. They’ve consistently been the most interesting thing on Raw in the last three weeks.

AJ needs to win this match. He lost at Wrestlemania, and he lost two consecutive pay per view matches to Roman Reigns. He needs this win. I doubt he comes out on top in the end. But they still talk about Kevin Owens beating Cena in his first match on the main roster. Maybe one big win is enough. I hope he gets it here.

WINNER: AJ Styles

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, WWE Money in the Bank 2016WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins

In case you haven’t figured it out, Roman is The Guy. That’s what they want him to be, so that’s what he’s going to be. As such, I don’t see him dropping the belt to Rollins, or anyone else anytime soon. But the match itself should be good. It’s Rollins’ first go-around since November. He’s obviously anxious to make an impact.

But going along with what I said up top, let’s appreciate the novelty of having one WWE Championship. By the time Battleground is here, we may have two belts again. They finally got the titles sorted out, and now they may be about to screw ’em up all over again…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.

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John Cena is Back, the WWE Brand Split, and Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE rosterBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve sat on the revelation of WWE’s new brand split for about a week now, because I wanted to collect my thoughts and talk rationally. I’ll be honest, my initial thoughts on the matter were not rational at all. There were a lot of four-letter words, and a lot of nerd rage. I generally try and talk calmly and rationally about this kind of stuff. But I was really disheartened and angry about this announcement at first.

Not because of Smackdown going live on Tuesdays, which is a great thing.

Not because of wrestlers being specific to both shows.

It’s because of the titles, and the prospect of having two world championships again.

Yeah, I know. Geek much? But the championship picture in WWE has a lot to do with how shows are structured, and what a wrestler’s motivation is. In theory, when a wrestler signs a WWE contract, their number one goal should be to win the WWE Championship. Right now Roman Reigns is, as he says, the guy in WWE. Why? Because he’s the champion. He’s got the prize everybody’s gunning for. If you take that prize and split it in two, it ruins the novelty of there being one man at the top of the mountain. If you go for the title and you lose, in theory you can just go for the other. We just cleaned up this mess when the two world titles were unified in 2013. Are we really going to go back to it?

Roman Reigns, Wrestlemania XXXIIWhen WWE did their original brand split in 2002, the WWE Champion and the Women’s Champion could appear on both shows. If they put me in charge of all this, I’d put the Intercontinental Title on one show, the United States Title on the other, and have the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions given immunity to the whole thing. That way there’s added privilege to being the top dog of your particular title picture. Meanwhile, you still have the novelty of, say, John Cena only appearing on Smackdown or Roman Reigns only appearing on Raw.

That’s all I’ve got on the brand split for now. We’ve still got a little while before it comes to fruition. Lord knows there’ll be a lot to say between now and then. I just wish I had more faith in WWE creative to pull this off well.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

The New Day ask Shane and Stephanie questions about the brand split. Why do they always feel the need to say “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” at the start of the show? Isn’t that what the opening title sequence is for? To welcome us to the show?

Shane McMahon, The New Day, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016This seems like it was designed to get people excited about the brand split. Frankly, it was more frustrating than anything else. But it echoed the reports of what’s going on creatively. Nothing is in con crete yet. If that is the case, it seems weird. You’d think they’d have this kind of thing mapped out before they actually announced it.

The New Day def. The Vaudevillians via disqualification after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attack. Okay, so we’re probably getting The New Day against Gallows & Anderson at Money in the Bank. I don’t expect them to win the titles yet. . But their personalities contrast nicely with that of the champs.

The Big Show advises Apollo Crews on dealing with Sheamus. This is the first time we’ve seen Show on Raw in several weeks. I’m pleased he’s sticking to a supporting role for the time being. I imagine once the roster split comes around, we’ll be seeing him on a regular basis again. Show and Crews are both pretty natural on the mic. I just wish they weren’t being given such heavily scripted dialogue.

The Usos def. Tyler Breeze & Fandango with Golden Truth on commentary. The heels take a beating after the match. I was a little bummed The Usos took this one. Breeze & Fandango look good as a tag team. If you elevate them a bit, they might be able to challenge The New Day for the tag belts at some point. I don’t know if you give them the belts. But they can at least have a match, right?.

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, Seth RollinsRoman Reigns calls out Seth Rollins. Rollins teases the crowd. I happened to be listening to one of Vince Russo’s podcasts yesterday. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says. But on this show, Glen Gilbertti (formerly Disco Inferno in WCW) was talking about “the eye test,” i.e. having a casual viewer take you seriously as a wrestler based on your look. Make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns passes the eye test with flying colors. The problem is, what he’s saying rarely sounds genuine. That stuff about “The Man” being afraid to face “The Guy” was just cringeworthy. How’s that for an epic confrontation? The Man vs. The Guy.

So the idea here (I think) was for Rollins to continuously tease the audience with either a promo or a fight, and draw heat by never following through. Not a bad idea in theory. But in an era where a big portion of audience has DVR remotes, it’s probably not the best idea. This was basically a big waste of everyone’s time.

Goldberg appears in epic WWE 2K17 commercial. It’s amazing how these video game commercials are often better than anything on Raw. I still remember how awesome those commercials with The Ultimate Warrior and Sting. Why can’t WWE’s vignettes for new wrestlers ever be this cool?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, RusevRusev def. Zack Ryder. Titus O’Neil confronts him after the match. It’s great to see Rusev return to being a dominant United States Champion, and I’m happy they didn’t feed him to John Cena for a Memorial Day American hero story. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see Titus featured like this. And that punch he threw at him looked awesome!

But no one, and I mean no one, would ever say “Bulgarian Blowhard.” Again, a wrestler falls victim to overly scripted dialogue.

In a pre-tape, Stephanie dresses down Charlotte for how she treated Ric Flair. This segment made me mad for all the wrong reasons. Again Stephanie shouts down one of the wrestlers and gets over at the expense of the talent. And after they’d just aired a video package and shown us tweets about how everyone hated what Charlotte did. We got it. Charlotte did a horrible thing. How was this segment necessary? Also, isn’t Stephanie supposed to be a heel?

Enzo & Cass def. The Dudley Boyz. I was rolling my eyes at how much Enzo was brown-nosing the Green Bay crowd. But he won me over as he and Cass went on. This is the difference between over-scripting, and letting a wrestler get over himself. I was surprised they had the Dudleys lose clean. You’d think they’d have saved this for Money in the Bank. Maybe they put them together again in a Tables Match?

WWE Raw, May 30, 2016, John Cena, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Luke GallowsJohn Cena gets dropped by AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson. This was out of left field. Like a lot of folks, I thought for sure it was going to be Styles going against Gallows & Anderson. But low and behold, here they are together.

While I usually prefer babyface AJ to heel AJ, this isn’t a bad move, per se. We’ll get to see AJ’s personality come out a bit more, and working with John Cena definitely isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. Gallows and Anderson should benefit from this as well. But here’s my question: Can we call them the Bullet Club now? Or at least something other than The Club?

Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte) def. Natalya. Becky Lynch comes out to save Nattie from a beatdown. This duo of Charlotte and Dana Brooke is growing on me. And now it looks like they’ve got a team to face. Rumor has it WWE likes Brooke enough to make her the “female Roman Reigns.” I assume that means they want her to be the face of the women’s division. I say it’s too early to make a call like that. But you never know.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler by disqualification when Ziggler hits a blatant low blow. Corbin didn’t exactly look like a million bucks here. Ziggler simply punted him in the nuts. But Corbin’s a rookie, and Dolph is a veteran. So I guess it’s passable. The bait-and-switch was nice. Ziggler’s use of the headgear was fun.

Cesaro, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, May 30, 2016Dean Ambrose, Cesaro & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio. So are there only six men in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year? If so, I’m fine with that. But WWE.com was hyping up another person possibly qualifying. Did they change their mind?

Moments after Del Rio hits an axe handle on Cesaro and then puts him in a rear chin lock, Jericho shouts “Tear his head off!” About a second later, Ambrose calls “C’mon Claudio!” As in Claudio Castagnoli, Cesaro’s real name. What a weird moment…

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big six-man tag fan. But they do this every year with the Money in the Bank participants. I can’t say this did much for me. But something occurred to me during this match. Chris Jericho is 45 years old, and this will be his fifth Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Not that 45 is ancient by any means, but how he still does this at that age is beyond me. That DDP Yoga stuff must truly work wonders.

In Other News:

Former announcer Tony Schiavone reveals he’s training to be a barista at Starbucks. So in addition to his duties as a sports announcer, writer, and producer, Schiavone wants to be a barista so he can fill most of his time working. I think that’s awesome. I don’t know how old Schiavone’s five children are. But if he wants to spend his extra time providing for them, who are any of us to judge him? Even if that’s not the case, what an amazing work ethic this guy has.

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