Randy Orton’s Refusal, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

Emmalina, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

After Raw’s confusing Emmalina debut, details have started to emerge as to why we saw what we saw.

Pro Wrestling Sheet reports that the Emmalina character was supposed to be “throwback to characters like Sable and The Kat.” But the real-life Tenille Dashwood allegedly wasn’t impressing in rehearsals. She “wasn’t committing enough to the role.”

That’s…fair enough. If she couldn’t pull it off, then they did what they felt they had to do. But this whole thing seemed ill-conceived from the start. First and foremost, Dashwood was miscast in a character like this. The verbal aspect of pro wrestling has never been her strong suit. She should have been given more time to develop her mic skills before they went this way with her.

To that one might say that the verbal skills of someone like Sable were nothing to write home about. This is true. But Sable was also able to be sexual in a way that Emmalina would never get to be. Let’s be honest, Sable and the Kat were stars because they were hot and they showed a lot of skin. When you look at it that way, I’m not sure how you’d create a throwback to that era anyway. Lots of sexy photoshoots? I don’t get it.

Emma, WWEAs a performer, you are responsible for making your character work. The example I always think of when that comes up is Goldust. Dustin Runnels embodied that character and made it work in a way no one else could. But did a character like Bastion Booger ever have a chance? How about Mantaur? Or Beaver Cleavage?

Bottom line: Sometimes you’re the victim of a bad idea. I just hope Emma gets another shot. She’s talented enough, and she deserves it.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

WWE Champion Bray Wyatt opens the show. John Cena and AJ Styles interrupt. Daniel Bryan makes the main event a triple-threat for the WWE Championship. Somebody needed to remind these folks that Bray is supposed to be a heel. Those “You deserve it!” chants were pretty damn loud. I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a huge upside to Bray Wyatt becoming a babyface in the near future. Especially now that he’s the champion.

American Alpha def. The Ascension. The Usos challenge the champions. I wondered if they’d actually give the win to the Ascension here. They’ve been slightly re-emphasized these last few weeks. But of course, the Usos will make for a better match.

dean-ambrose-baron-corbin-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017Baron Corbin brawls with Dean Ambrose before his match with James Ellsworth. Ambrose gets layed out on production equipment. It occurred to me during this segment that a decade ago, the fans might have been chanting “Slut!” at Carmella. I’m split on whether that’s something I miss.

What we saw here, combined with what we got at Elimination Chamber, gives me high hopes for this Ambrose/Corbin program. Ambrose can do a lot to help build Corbin. But here’s my question: Does Corbin need the Intercontinental Title? Questionable mic skills notwithstanding, he seems like he’s on track to main event status without it.

Nikki Bella to face Natalya in a Falls Count Anywhere Match next week. While the match these two had at Elimination Chamber was largely a bore, it had its moments. I’ve enjoyed this program the most when they’ve had those knock-down, drag-out fights. So this should be good.

Mickie James def. Becky Lynch. Some nice mat work early on here. I’d go as far as to say that while Charlotte and Sasha Banks may be better all around performers, Becky Lynch is the best pure grappler of the “Four Horsewomen.” I imagine that comes with being the most experienced. She made her in-ring debut in 2002.

becky-lynch-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017I wasn’t a fan of James losing at Elimination Chamber. But I assume this win will lead to a rubber match with Becky in the near future. Perhaps they didn’t want her losing two straight matches? Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Renee Young interviews the new Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi. Alexa Bliss interrupts, announces she’ll invoke her rematch clause next week. Naomi mentioned it’s taken her eight years to get to where she is now. It’s hard to believe she’s been around that long. But she signed her development deal in 2009. She didn’t make it to Raw and Smackdown until 2012.

I wanted Alexa to be angrier here. She did just lose her title, after all. Next week’s match is a toss-up as far as I’m concerned. These Women’s Championships have been changing hands so frequently, it’s seemingly anybody’s ball game.

Bray Wyatt def. John Cena and AJ Styles in a No-Disqualificaiton Match to retain the WWE Championship. Luke Harper attacks Wyatt before the match. I’ll admit, I got a little nervous when Harper attacked. They might have used that attack to justify a title change.

You’ll notice they’ve already started talking about Cena breaking Ric Flair’s record. To their credit, Mauro Ranallo and JBL did a nice job of playing that up, and making this seem that much bigger. It’s going to happen, folks. Maybe not this year. But it’ll happen.

randy-orton-bray-wyatt-wwe-smackdown-february-14-2017With all the near falls and false finishes, this felt like a mini-pay-per-view match. Happy to see Bray win clean here, just as he did in the Chamber Match on Sunday. It further cements him as the top guy on Smackdown right now.

Randy Orton refuses to challenge Bray Wyatt for the title at Wrestlemania. On Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan makes a battle royal for next week to determine the top contender for WrestlemaniaThis is a nice little twist in the road. I still fully expect Randy Orton to be in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania. But now we may end up with a three-way on our hands. At the very least, I imagine the winner of this battle royal will challenge for the title on an episode of Smackdown some time next month.

While AJ Styles still has no dance partner for Wrestlemania, and this spot could easily go to him, I think this is Luke Harper’s spot. He turned a lot of heads at Elimination Chamber, and they could bill this match as “The Wyatt Family Implodes,” or something like that.

Between this battle royal, the Women’s Title Match, and what I assume will be the Nikki vs. Natalya blow-off, they’ve stacked the card for next week’s show. I’ve got high hopes.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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Bayley’s Big Moment, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Bray Wyatt, WWE Elimination Chamber, February 12, 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bray Wyatt had a good night at Elimination Chamber, as many of us expected. He won the titular match, pinning both John Cena and AJ Styles in the process, to take home his first WWE Heavyweight Title.

This was overdue. Despite his often convoluted promos, the real-life Windham Rotunda has made the Bray Wyatt character an intriguing and valuable commodity from day one. He deserves the chance to be more than a transitional champion. The John Cena/Undertaker Wrestlemania match was allegedly nixed because Vince McMahon wants to play for the long-term instead of the short-term. I’d like to think they wouldn’t put the belt on a newer star, just to turn around a month later and give back to someone who’s been a made man in that company for 15 years now.

The match itself turned out very well, as did the new Chamber structure itself. It seems a little safer, with the metal grate outside the ropes covered up, and more room above the pods. Ambrose and Styles in particular were really dynamic in there. I was surprised to see Corbin rolled up and pinned the way he was by Ambrose. But considering he wasn’t winning, they protected him as well as they could. I’m encouraged by the early sign of a match between the two at Wrestlemania. And some seeds were indeed planted for a mixed tag match involving John Cena, Nikki Bella, The Miz, and Maryse.

Still no apparent dance partner for AJ Styles…

Roman Reigns, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson via disqualification. Full disclosure: I DVRed right through the opening segment with Steph and Roman. You’ve heard of channel-changing heat? Steph has fast-forward heat.

So Gallows and Anderson essentially throw out the rulebook, opting simply to beat the hell out of Reigns instead of win the match. Coming from them, I can respect that. But of course, Reigns gets to be the babyface that overcomes the odds by the end of the segment. Considering he would have to overcome big odds at Fastlane to beat Braun Strowman, I can respect that too. I am, however, going to start counting Superman punches during his matches. Our number here was two. But if you look at his pay per view matches, I think it can get as high as five.

Teddy Long announced for Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Long has been around for over 30 years. This is a cool honor for him. Who knows? Maybe he’ll use his Hall of Fame speech to make a tag team match, playa.

Kofi Kingston def. Bo Dallas. For the uninitiated, Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt are actually brothers. After seeing this segment, I felt for the real-life Bo Rotunda. One night after his brother wins the WWE Championship, he’s getting beaten in what’s essentially a comedy match, which culminates with him getting cereal poured down his gullet. And to think, after the roster split they were actually trying to heat him up a little bit.

The New Day, Bo Dallas, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017The good news is, there’s hope for Bo. If they get him over to Smackdown, they can either put him with his brother, or do an Owen Hart style jealous sibling feud with the two of them. Either way, it’s time to pull that card.

Jack Gallagher def. Noam Dar. Gallagher to challenge Neville for the Cruiserweight Title at FastlaneNot much to say about this one. I noticed Dar has “No Role Model” on the back of his tights. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if next week they said “Alicia Fooooooox.” That’s basically his gimmick, right?

From a personality standpoint, Neville and Gallagher are an interesting match. I’m curious to see how their styles mesh in the ring at Fastlane.

Emma finally re-debut as Emmalina, says we’ll now see the makeover of “Emmalina to Emma.” Well, this is one way to get heat.

After months of those vignettes, I assume this is the last we’ll see of Emmalina. I’m going to withhold judgment until I see what, if anything, they do with her next week. But if they’re simply dropping the whole thing, then this whole thing has been a giant indictment of the WWE creative process. This woman sat at home for months so we could have this?

Emmalina, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017Here’s what I will say, though: When the vignettes started I was skeptical as to whether Emma could pull off a more demanding role from a speaking standpoint. But she was fine here. Granted, it only lasted a minute and a half. But she was better than I thought she would be.

Braun Strowman def. Mark Henry. Strowman and Roman Reigns go at it after the match. When they announced this match, I tweeted that it would probably be a slow one. I wasn’t wrong. But Strowman putting Henry on his shoulder for a powerslam was amazing. Strowman actually did a dropkick of sorts in this match. I didn’t mind it so much. But hopefully he doesn’t make a habit of that.

Roman hit two Superman Punches on Reigns after the match, bringing our total count for the night to four.

Samoa Joe does a sit-down interview with Michael Cole. This was a good line: “For the past 18 years, I’ve laid a path of destruction across the world. And the only reason I wasn’t here, is because they were scared of hiring me.” Though this case, “across the world” mostly means Florida.

Also a good line: “I’m not some Sami Zayn, who’s just happy to be on Raw.” Well, there’s your Fastlane match, right there. I also like the creator and destroyer stuff.

samoa-joe-wwe-raw-february-13-2017Not a good line: “…I beat ‘the Man,’ and I beat ‘the Guy.'” I get the gist of what he’s saying, but that’s just stupid writing.

Joe said in this interview that Seth Rollins would miss Wrestlemania for the second year in a row. I wouldn’t take that as confirmation of anything. If Rollins is indeed going to try and make it back for Wrestlemania, I imagine the story will be about his injury, and whether he’ll be in any shape to face Triple H.

Sami Zayn def. Rusev. Zayn fires back at Joe, resulting in Joe jumping him moments later. Zayn seems to be gradually creeping up the ladder, while Rusev is gradually creeping down. Though at least they played Sami’s win off like a shocker.

Zayn makes a fine replacement for Rollins at Fastlane. This opens up a nice opportunity for him to put on yet another show-stealing performance on pay per view, and up his stock even more.

Akira Tozawa def. Ariya Daivari. I’ve become a Tozawa fan very quickly. If Neville keeps the belt, a title match between the two of them would be something to see. Wrestlemania might be too soon, but you never know.

On the subject of the Cruiserweight Division and Wrestlemania, supposedly Austin Aries has been cleared to wrestle again. Food for thought…

Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Festival of Friendship, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017Kevin Owens turns on Chris Jericho during their “Festival of Friendship.” This was a lot of fun, and it ended with precisely the impact it needed. Jericho hammed it up wonderfully, and Owens’ reactions were great. Even the stupid hat was a nice touch.

In hindsight, the return of Gilbert was inevitable, wasn’t it?

I think Owens smashing Jericho’s head into that sign was meant to be a callback to Jericho smashing Shawn Michaels’ head through the TV several years ago. If you listen closely, you can hear Owens say, “I hate you” just before he does it. The refs putting the towel over Jericho’s head afterward added a bit of drama too. This lived up to expectations. It really did. A fantastic Raw moment.

Cesaro def. Enzo Amore. That pre-match Enzo and Cass promo was a rare miss for the two of them. It didn’t really become one until Cass said that line about marshmallows.

This one went a little long. I might lead to a top contenders match at Fastlane, with the winners facing Gallows and Anderson at Wrestemania. Enzo and Cass would get their big moment there.

Bayley def. Charlotte Flair to win the Raw Women’s Championship. This was surprising. And not necessarily in a good way.

Bayley, Champion, WWE Raw, February 13, 2017Bayley is special. I think most fans would agree with me on that one. She has a connection with the fans, young fans in particular, that you rarely see. Her first title win deserved to be a big moment. As in Wrestlemania big. Instead, they did it on Raw.

Was this a great moment? Absolutely. But it could have been so much more.

Yet again, I go back to Wrestlemania. I’m concerned about what this means for Bayley and Charlotte going into that show. They’re clearly in love with Charlotte being undefeated on pay per view. My concern is they gave the belt to Bayley just to have Charlotte win it back at Wrestlemania. Or worse, at Fastlane. Charlotte is a star, and the best female wrestler they have right now. I’d never take that away from her. But Bayley is a star too, and she deserves her time in the sun.

On the fringe here is Sasha Banks, who ran some interference in this match. It was reminiscent of what Steve Austin did to help Mankind win the title all those years ago. There’s clearly a heel turn in the works here. It’s just a matter of when. Do they have Sasha cost Bayley the title at Fastlane to lead to a multi-woman match for the belt at Wrestlemania?

Not surprisingly, the match itself was good. I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there with the matches Charlotte had with Sasha. For the second week in a row, we got a whiplash spot with Bayley, and turned it into a nice story.

Either way, congratulations are in order. Well done, miss. You deserve this moment.

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A WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 Preview – Bray Wyatt’s Big Moment?

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 2, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Don’t get your hopes up too high for Bray Wyatt, folks.

Do I think he’s going to win on Sunday? Yes, I truly do. But if there’s one thing this company has excelled at in recent years, it’s breaking our hearts around Wrestlemania season. Considering some of the creative choices Vince McMahon has made, is it really that far-fetched he’d pick Cena to go over here? As such, we’d have John Cena/Randy Orton in Match #375 for Wrestlemania. *shudders* Be ready for anything. That’s all I’m saying.

That being said, signs do indeed point to this being Bray’s night, as they further the implosion of the Wyatt Family. It all seems very sudden. But I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. The character has been immensely intriguing from day one. But some of the booking and creative decisions he’s endured over the years have been baffling. From his loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania XXX, to the inexplicable break-up of the Wyatt Family in 2014, to the overall failure to establish him as a top star. Granted, not all of this can be pinned on creative. They’ve put Wyatt in several marquee matches with the likes of Cena, Undertaker, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose. But he’s also been plagued with numerous ill-timed injuries. And while his promo delivery has been consistently good, what he says often lacks focus. While it all sounds good, he’s not really saying anything.

But the potential for superstardom has always been there. And if there’s one thing WWE has desperately needed in the last 10 years, it’s new big-name stars. Putting the WWE Championship on him would obviously a huge step toward making Bray Wyatt the star we’ve always known he could be. Personally, I think he could be a tremendous lead babyface. But one step at a time…

Let’s look at our card for Elimination Chamber.

dolph-ziggler-kalisto-apollo-crews-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017HANDICAP MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto and Apollo Crews

Not sure what their thought process is on this one. The babyface is usually the one at a disadvantage in a pay per view Handicap Match. I can only assume the idea here is to have Dolph cheat to win. That makes Kalisto and Crews look like a pair of jabronis. But that’s not much of a stretch from how they’ve been booked on TV, is it?

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler

nikki-bella-natalya-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

This is the first of three women’s matches on this show. For some, I imagine that’s an acquired taste. But I think it’s cool. It says a lot about how WWE has upped the quality of their Women’s Division in the last two years or so.

After seeing some of the brawls these two have been in, I’m curious to see what they put together here. The promos between these two have been very personal. So I’m hoping we get something nice and physical. I see Nikki coming out on top here. Her role at Wrestlemania is still up in the air. But I imagine they’ll want her going in looking strong.

PREDICTION: Nikki Bella

becky-lynch-mickie-james-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James

I’m not sure what to expect on this one. These two have never worked together, but on paper it looks great. I certainly don’t have any doubts about whether Mickie can still go. It’s just a question of chemistry.

Obviously Mickie is here to put the newer talent over. But I think it’s important to reestablish her as a force to be reckoned with. That’s why I see her going over Becky here. She’ll cheat to win, of course. So we’ll get a rematch. Probably several rematches, actually. That’s a good thing. From an in-ring standpoint, this could end up being one of the best female pairings we’ll see all year.

PREDICTION: Mickie James

tag-team-turmoil-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017TAG TEAM TURMOIL MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
American Alpha (c) vs. The Usos vs. Breezango vs. The Vaudevillains vs. The Ascension vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno

I like a good Tag Team Turmoil Match. But here’s the problem with what we have here: The Usos are the only team in this match that looks like a credible threat to American Alpha. Everyone else is just undercard oatmeal. Even the former champions Slater and Rhyno have lost their momentum. Perhaps that’s the point. To have a lesser team get the belts off Jordan and Gable, and then have them chase. But who? Aside from the Usos, each of these teams is a joke.

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say the Usos take the belts here. They always gave us good matches with American Alpha, and they seem to be the best option here.

PREDICTION: The Usos

alexa-bliss-naomi-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi

The rise of Alexa Bliss as Smackdown Women’s Champion caught me completely off guard. I fully expected them to run with Becky as champion for awhile. But here we are. It’s certainly possible they could surprise us again and give the belt to Naomi. But my gut says Alexa keeps the title. She’s found a new ally in Mickie James, so they can have her come out and screw Naomi out of the victory. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Naomi end up with that belt eventually, though. Perhaps sooner rather than later.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss

luke-harper-randy-orton-wwe-elimination-chamber-2017Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper

I don’t see how Randy doesn’t win this one. He’s challenging for the title at Wrestlemania. Unless they want to make a three-way with Bray, Orton, and Harper. But that seems unlikely. Either way, this is a big match for Luke Harper. The biggest of his career, in fact.

Harper vs. Orton isn’t as intriguing as Harper vs. Wyatt. That’s why it’ll be interesting to see whether Bray is still champion after Wrestlemania. Harper would be a natural challenger for him.

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

WWE Elimination Chamber 2017, John CenaELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin

Look for your usual Elimination Chamber stuff here. Slams on the grate, faces being raked against the chain walls, maybe even someone getting thrown through a pod. It should be fun.

Assuming Bray is winning here, that obviously sets up the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania. But there’s also been some buzz about a mixed tag match at ‘Mania, featuring John Cena and Nikki Bella against the Miz and Maryse. If that’s the route they want to go, they could have Miz do something to cheat Cena out of the title.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what AJ Styles could end up doing at Wrestlemania. I don’t expect we’ll get that answer here. But as Ambrose and Corbin don’t have dance partners either, and the card is already starting to take shape, the answer may be yet another multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title. While they’re usually fun to watch, I hate those matches from a creative standpoint. Chances are the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal will be back on this show. That’s your multi-man match right there. Give us a real Intercontinental Title Match, and give AJ something of substance to do. After the year he’s had, he deserves it.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

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A WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Review – Roman Trolls the Alamo Dome

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well. To be fair, they never said Roman Reigns wasn’t going to be in the Rumble Match.

So let’s take it from the top. Well, almost the top. Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the entire pre-show. I’m still having bad flashbacks from Wrestlemania XXXII, when I sat in front of my computer for seven hours. No thank you. I turned the network on just as the Sasha Banks/Nia Jax match was starting. It was exactly what it should have been, with Sasha fighting from underneath and Nia shutting her down at the end. Gallows and Anderson are also our new Raw Tag Champs, which is a nice surprise. It’s long overdue.

As for the show itself…

Charlotte Flair, Bayley, WWE Royal Rumble 2017Charlotte Flair def. Bayley to retain the WWE Raw Women’s Title. Again, this match was what it needed to be. Charlotte retains after hitting an awesome Natural Selection on the ring apron. It’s not Bayley’s time yet. Considering how great Charlotte has become, it may not be anybody else’s time for quite awhile. Simply put, she’s one of the premiere performers in that company, male or female. What I remember about this match above all is when Charlotte had Bayley where she wanted her, and then looked into the crowd. Her expression and delivery were priceless when she pointed at Bayley and yelled: “This is you!” Rumor has it they want to do a four-way at Wrestlemania with these two, Sasha, and Nia. That’s fine, I guess. But if they wanted, they could rematch these two. I felt like things were just starting to pick up.

Kevin Owens def. Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Universal Title after interference from Braun Strowman. This was a fun fight, highlighted by that bump Owens took into the stack of chairs. I can’t imagine how that must feel. I had wondered about Jericho possibly dropping something down to Owens from the cage. But I wrote it off, thinking it would somehow be more complicated than it was. Ah, the charming simplicity of gravity. I just wish Roman would have sold that brass knocks shot more. Like, a lot more. I understand he’s supposed to be Superman. But even Superman can take a rough one on the chin. Still, both these guys put on a good show. Let it never be said that Roman isn’t a tremendous athlete.

Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, WWE Royal Rumble 2017It looks like they’re going with Roman and Strowman for the next few weeks, which could be intriguing. The unstoppable babyface (in theory) against the dominant monster. As they’re leaving the belt on Owens, there’s a very real possibility he’ll find himself across the ring from Goldberg at Fastlane.

Neville def. Rich Swann to win the WWE Cruiserweight Title. This was the move to make. I always got on Neville’s case about not having any personality. But he’s done a complete 180 as far as I’m concerned. He’s the perfect centerpiece to the Cruiserweight Division right now.

John Cena def. AJ Styles to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. This was clearly the match of the night. Not better than their Summerslam match, in my opinion. But still quality stuff. I’m always amazed by how damn smooth Styles is. From that standpoint, you can see where a lot of the Shawn Michaels comparisons come from.

If I could have changed one thing about this match, I’d have ended it with the AA. It seemed overindulgent to have Styles take that big fall, only to hit him with the move two more times. To me, that’s the equivalent of having someone survive a powerbomb spot through a table, and then pinning them with a regular powerbomb. Why not just beat them on the big one?

John Cena, WWE Royal Rumble 2017Cena tying Ric Flair’s record of 16 Heavyweight Titles was inevitable. One would think there’d be more uproar about him beating Styles. But a lot of people seem to have really turned the corner on him. He’s always going to have his haters. But he’s endured for so long that I think the respect element has taken effect. And after everything he’s done for WWE and the wrestling business in general, he deserves it.

Randy Orton won the 2017 Royal Rumble. This match wasn’t what a lot of us wanted it to be. Once it got in the ring I think we remembered that Undertaker’s been having hip issues, and Goldberg hasn’t wrestled in about a decade. Still, they did their best with what they had. The stuff with Lesnar/Goldberg bit was fun. I’ve come to enjoy this story about Goldberg being the one person who can not only beat Lesnar, but embarrass him. And the crowed dug it. They were chanting for Goldberg before he even got out there.

There was some buzz about NXT star Tye Dillinger being entrant number 10, what with his “Perfect 10” gimmick. So I was happy to see him. But other than that, they didn’t pull any rabbits out of their hats in terms of surprises. No Samoa Joe. No former stars coming in for a big pop. I had my hopes up that they’d bring Sid in, given his role in the 1997 Rumble. He’d have gotten a big reaction, a la Kevin Nash a few years ago. No such luck.

Randy Orton, WWE Royal Rumble 2017James Ellsworth took a brutal looking fall when Braun Strowman threw him out. I was actually amused by the stuff between those two. Strowman was my pick to win, but he looked good out there. Corbin eliminating him was a surprise, though it made Corbin look like a million bucks.

Once Undertaker came out at 29, and we had all the key players in the ring, I started thinking about Finn Balor. I don’t know if he’s ready to go yet. But if he was, that would have been the perfect spot for him. Instead we got Roman Reigns, and many of us let out a collective wretch. You talk about trolling your audience. They had to know Roman would get that reaction. They had to. Then on top of that, he eliminates the Undertaker. The whole thing went over like a wet fart.

I may be giving them too much credit here, but they may have used Roman in that spot to benefit Randy Orton. Orton has never had the kind of smart backlash that Cena or Roman has had, and I think the fans like him well enough. But Randy has been a made man in WWE for years now, and he’s not exactly a new face. So having him win the Rumble Match might have been an eye roller. But compared to Reigns, Orton doesn’t look so bad, does he?

WWE Royal Rumble 2017, Undertaker, Roman ReignsOn the subject of wretch-worthy scenarios, we now have Randy Orton as the Rumble winner, and John Cena as the WWE Champion. If there’s one match we never need to see again, it’s that one. Thankfully, we have an Elimination Chamber Match for the title in just two weeks. Given the direction things have been going with the Wyatt Family, there’s now a very real chance that Bray Wyatt will go in to Wrestlemania XXXIII with the title and face Orton. It would be nice to finally see Bray in that upper echelon. They’ve made so many missteps with that character, and I expect it’ll be nice to see him reach that upper echelon.

As for Roman, it’s looking like he’s got a date with Undertaker at Wrestlemania. From a performance standpoint, I can’t say that thrills me. And if they’re still trying to get people to cheer Reigns, that seems downright stupid. But at least the crowd will be hot for it. If they thought Roman got booed tonight, wait till he’s in there with ‘Taker at Wrestlemania

All in all, a good show. Not quite as good as we were hoping for. Had they delivered more with the Rumble Match, this might have been one for the ages. But it was still solid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts From Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 – Ponderings and Predictions

Elimination ChamberBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Hey, didn’t I just do this two weeks ago?

Indeed, 2015 will see a first for WWE: Three pay per views over the course of six weeks. Anybody else remember the days when it was several months between pay per views? Yes, I understand this is strictly being aired on the WWE Network. But it’s still a pay per view quality show that’s being built toward. I still don’t understand why it was scheduled so abruptly. Unless it’s a matter of being at a building that can house the enormous Elimination Chamber. That was why the February pay per view was changed from Elimination Chamber to Fastlane.

Abruptness notwithstanding, they’ve actually put together a pretty good show here. The Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships are being spotlighted inside the chamber, and we’ve got a really intriguing match between the face of the company and one of NXT’s hottest stars. Let’s dive in…

Neville, Bo Dallas, WWE Elimination Chamber 2015Neville vs. Bo Dallas

I’m guessing this is meant to be an enhancement match for Neville. But it’s actually a great opportunity for Bo Dallas. If he can “maximize his minutes,” as they say, he might be able to up his stock on the roster. I’m not as down on the “Bo-lieve” character as a lot of fans are. Bo plays an annoying, high-pitched character who you want to see get his ass kicked by a babyface. There’s value there that goes beyond the comedic throw-away segment. But in any event, Neville picks up the win here.

PREDICTION: Neville

20150517_elimination_EP_LIGHT_HP_matches_divasWWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige vs. Naomi

It’s great to see Paige back, of course. That means there’s a chance we might see a little bit of decent wrestling here. It actually wouldn’t surprise me if Naomi walked away from this match with the title. My distate for all things Bella notwithstanding, the women’s division needs to be freshened up. If they’re not going to pull Charlotte, or Sasha Banks, or any of the NXT girls on to the main roster, then let’s at least change the dynamics up. Naomi cost Paige a shot at the title a few months ago. Having Naomi win the belt, perhaps with Tamina Snuka’s help, creates an organic “you don’t deserve it” angle with Paige. And then Nikki Bella can go…. I’unno, do a reality show somewhere? Do promotional stuff? I really don’t care. Just get her out of the ring and off the mic.

PREDICTION: Naomi

WWE Elimination Chamber 2015, John Cena, Kevin OwensJohn Cena vs. Kevin Owens

You can make an argument that this is the most highly anticipated match on the card. Mainstream WWE fans have officially been introduced to Kevin Owens, and he’s made a hell of an impression. Eyes are also being directed to NXT and the WWE Network, which is a good thing. This feels like a one-off to me, as Owens has a lot of other irons in the fire. I don’t see him going over here, but I don’t see him losing cleanly either. This feels like a chance to show WWE fans what Owens can do in the ring, and then introducing them to another NXT star who ultimately costs him the match. I imagine that’ll either be Finn Balor (the number one contender for Owens’ title) or Samoa Joe. WWE has booked one of those great scenarios where, while this match will have a winner, at the end of the day there really won’t be a loser.

PREDICTION: John Cena

Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose, Elimination Chamber 2015WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

As much as I love that Ambrose is getting to wrestle Rollins for the title at a big show, I actually wish they’d have saved this match for Money in the Bank. With two Elimination Chamber matches, plus Cena and Owens, plus the fact that this is strictly a WWE Network special, did we really need a WWE Title defense on this show? Why not save it, and give these guys more time to build to a championship match? They still could’ve done something with Rollins and Ambrose. But the title didn’t necessarily have to be on the line. Hell, if you’re just looking for something to do with them, how about Rollins and Kane against Ambrose and Roman Reigns?

Incidentally, are we just dropping the Rollins/Kane feud? They just dropped it after Payback? This network-exclusive show would have been a perfect chance to blow it off.

Rollins goes over here. No big debate over that one. He’s going to make it until Summerslam at least. We’ve got to get him in there with Brock Lesnar.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

WWE Elimination Chamber 2015, Tag Title MatchELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The Prime Time Players vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. The Ascension vs. Los Matadores

Question: Why aren’t Luke Harper and Erick Rowan in this match? We’ve got four babyface teams, and two heel teams. Why not even things up? I’ll tell you this much, I wasn’t exactly clamoring to see Los Matadores inside the chamber.

This match presents a really unique opportunity, but it also seems like there’s a big risk involved. There’ll be a total of 12 bodies in the structure when this match begins, and a total of 14 at play if you count El Torito, and whatever third member of The New Day is hanging around (probably Xavier Woods). So there’s the potential to do a lot of stuff, but it could also become a big mess if things get too crowded. Are people actually going to be tagging in and out during this match? Or is it just going to be a free-for-all?

I imagine we’ll probably see a lot of aerial stuff happening here. There’ll almost certainly be some sort of Kofi Kingston Spider-Man spot, with him clinging to the chamber or something. I imagine they’ll use Kalisto and El Torito for similar things, and that Cesaro will having a strongman spot.

Looking at all the teams in this match, it seems like WWE has a lot more creative options with The New Day, especially given the new life their heel turn has breathed into them. They can work with Kidd & Cesaro and have a great match any night of the week. I’d be interested to see if they have a similar chemistry with The Lucha Dragons. And they might do some nice mic work with the Prime Time Players. So I say let’s give it to The New Day and see where it takes us.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE Elimination Chamber 2015, Intercontinental TItleELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR VACANT WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. King Barrett vs. Ryback vs. ?

Apparently Rusev is out with some sort of ankle injury. This likely nixes their plans do some sort of angle with he, Ziggler, and Lana. Rusev was actually my pick to win here, so the injury screwed up my plans too…

The next in line for a victory is likely Sheamus. They just announced he’s been cast as Rocksteady in the sequel to that abysmal Ninja Turtles movie (I’m a TMNT fan, but that thing sucked.). So there’s some nice publicity value there. Sheamus is also perfectly capable of putting on great matches, which is hopefully what they’re trying to make synonymous with the Intercontinental Title again.

There’s also the chance they could pull a surprise out of their hats and make Rusev’s replacement the champion. But who? The Solomonster pitched NXT star Tyler Breeze, which is interesting. Online reports have pegged Bray Wyatt as a potential replacement, which would be a cool tie-in to Ryback being in the match. The Miz is doing a MizTV segment with Daniel Bryan on the pre-show, so theoretically they could have him suit up for it.

But without knowing who that sixth man is, I’m going with the safe pick. There are certainly worse guys to put the title on than Sheamus. So I’m content with him having it.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

Image 1 from onlineworldofwrestling.com. All other images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Daniel Bryan Repeats History, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Daniel Bryan, WWE Raw, May 11, 2015Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Daniel Bryan relinquishes the Intercontinental Championship roughly a year after he relinquished the WWE Heavyweight Championship. This sucked. It really sucked. It sucked beyond anything that has sucked in recent memory…

It sucks because Bryan had to surrender a championship for the second year in a row. Moreso, it sucks he’s injured again. But what sucks more than anything is that surrendering these two championships tarnishes a portion of his legacy. Perhaps even the fans’ faith in him, and most definitely the company’s willingness to put their faith in him for larger things.

Is Bryan finished in the ring? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, one thing nobody can ever take away from him is the fact that he became a star in WWE. He main evented Wrestlemania XXX, and solidified his status as a bonafide superstar. That will be Daniel Bryan’s enduring legacy as far as WWE is concerned.

John Cena vs. Neville, Raw, April 11, 2015John Cena def. Neville. It was fun to see Neville accept Cena’s challenge one week after Sami Zayn did. Like him or not, John Cena’s been involved in the best match on Raw two weeks in a row. Granted, that might have something to do with the quality of his opponents…

Wrestling pundits seem to be concerned about the direction of Rusev after Payback. I can’t say I blame them. There’s obviously a lot of interest in a babyface turn for Lana. But where does that leave Rusev? High and dry, most likely. And once you turn Lana, what do you do with her? To the best of my knowledge, she’s not training to become a wrestler. So once she’s a fan-favorite, does she find a babyface to manage? Does she sell t-shirts on TV the way Sable used to do? It just seems like a hill that doesn’t need to be climbed. Especially when she’s so good at being a villain.

WWE Announces Elimination Chamber pay per view for May 31, exclusively on the network. This seems extremely abrupt. Why not bring the chamber back at, say…Battleground? It’s still the most bland pay per view WWE puts on all year. Why not spice it up with a chamber match?

Still, apparently the tag team titles will be defended inside the chamber for the first time. Considering how the tag team division looks right now, that might be fun.

Dean Ambrose, Raw 05/11/2015Dean Ambrose def. J & J Security in an handicap match. This felt like a waste of a good hometown pop, especially given the match Ambrose had with Seth Rollins last week. Why not have Rollins and Ambrose main event this week’s show, and have Orton in the main event with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury? Seems like we’d have gotten just as good an opener, and an even better main event.

Bray Wyatt cuts a promo on Ryback. The best part of this whole segment? Bray says something to the effect of: “Ryback must be so inspiring to you all!” And about 90% of the crowd goes: “Ehhhh, not really.” It’s curious that there’s no match between these two at Payback. Did they opt to save it as a special attraction for this sudden Elimination Chamber event? If so, that seems like an odd choice. It’s not like we’ve all been clamoring for Bray vs. Ryback for months.

King Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler after a distraction from Sheamus. WWE is in the market for some new upper mid-card heels right now. Barrett and Sheamus are seemingly in the front of the line for those spots. I can only assume WWE is moving forward with a Seth Rollins/Kane program in the near future. That means Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, and John Cena are all going to need new dance partners in the near future. These two are in a great position to step up and prove themselves.

Raw, May 11, 2015Damien Sandow debuts “Macho Mandow” character. Hey, remember when Sandow cut that babyface promo a few weeks ago? He was gimmick-free, and cut a promo from the heart, seemingly as himself. It seemed like that was the direction they were going to go with him…

Never mind! It’s back to comedy and parody for him, apparently. It makes sense on paper. Sandow got over more than he ever has doing this Mizdow thing. So now they’ve got him in a similar role, apparently to form a parody Mega Powers team alongside Curtis Axel. (It should be noted The Solomonster talked about this premise a few weeks ago. He’s got a great podcast.)

There’s definitely a degree of sadness to this. Sandow has the talent to be taken seriously as a star. But it just doesn’t seem like WWE sees that in him. As a fan, it continues to frustrate me.

Erick Rowan and Luke Harper reunite as a tag team. This left a sour taste in my mouth. Bad memories of The Wyatt Family breaking up. And all these months later, where has it gotten them? Clearly nowhere, as they’ve simply ended up getting back together.

Images from WWE.com.

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